Thursday, October 30, 2014

I'm Going To Stop Complaining Long Enough To Be Thankful

Sometimes I grumble and complain. It’s embarrassing to admit but I’m just being honest. I realize this complaining is part of being human but that doesn’t make me less embarrassed about it. Often the complaining does not happen verbally, rather it is an internal complaining to God which happens when I conjure up ideas in my mind of how things in my life are supposed to be.  (I know this sounds insolent but, fortunately, God is even patient and kind with punks like me.)

But if I stop and think carefully I realize I am actually blessed in many ways.  Furthermore, I have been the recipient of many blessings I never earned and do not deserve.  In other words, God has been very gracious to me.  I’m not just saying this, it is the truth.

I write this respectfully and lovingly hoping you might be able to recognize that in spite of life’s problems—very real problems—God has been gracious to you, too.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

I've Been Thinking About Heaven

A day is coming for all of us when we will make an extraordinary transition.  Our life will end here in this earthly realm, however, I am totally convinced our existence will not cease.  In the book of 2nd Corinthians this is written about as being absent from the body and present with the Lord.  (See 2 Corinthians 5:8)

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin was writing about the concept that we have a non-material soul and put it this way, “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience.”  That is a simple but profound statement which deserves our thought.

I’m writing these things because heaven has been brought to my attention, lately, through some of the interactions I have had.  (I’ve noticed that as I get older I think about heaven more frequently, as well, for somewhat obvious reasons.) I am grateful for this earthly life, it is a wonderful gift and I love it (especially the parts involving chocolate), but I am also grateful that I have assurance in my heart about what comes next.

“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” Colossians 3:1-2

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Is That For Here Or To Go?

It happened again.

I walked into a fast food joint all by myself.  At the counter, I ordered over $18 worth of food.  This included a jumbo hot dog, a double-cheeseburger, a bowl of soup, a large order of cheese fries, some drinks and an extra-large pizza.

The clerk said, “Does that complete your order?”

I said, “Yes, it does.”

(Okay, I’m just kidding about the extra-large pizza, but I’m serious about the other stuff.)

The clerk said, “Is that for here or to go?”

At this point in the story I’d like you to pause and allow that question sink in for a moment.

“Is that for here or to go?”

I remind you that I was standing at the counter all by myself.  In other words, the clerk looked me over as I stood before her and thought there was a possibility I would stay at the restaurant, sit down at a table and eat this entire order.

I can’t wait to tell this story to my cardiologist.

Can We Stand Firm When We're Not Being Applauded?

Ministers, like all other people, desire applause.  I include myself in that statement. Sometimes, however, the cause of Christ will not be applauded.  Ministers [You know what? It’s not just ministers, make that all Christians.] have to be ready to stand for the cause of Christ when it is not being applauded by the culture in which we live.  My prayer is that I/we will be able to do so.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Long Slow Line

Rachel and I went to an annual children’s Halloween event called Spookview which is held at the park district building by our house.  I’m relatively certain this event is specifically designed to provide kids with some Halloween fun and to cause me pain and a mild degree of torture.  At the event we got into a very long line that was advancing at a snail’s pace while waiting for what basically amounts to a short ride around the park district property on a golf cart.

(Yes, I’m known as something of a thrill-seeker!)

At one point, I told Rachel, “Stay in line.  I’m going to run to the bathroom.  Don’t lose our place in this long, slow line.”

She nodded her head and said, “Alright.”

When I returned to the line I did not see Rachel.  I looked around in every direction thinking, “What’s going on?  Where is she?!?”

Then I heard her walking up behind me.

I turned and, pointing to some picnic tables, she said, “I was just sitting over there until you came back.”

I sighed deeply and we got back into the long, slow line again… at the very end of the line.

I’m happy to report that we spent forty-five minutes standing in line for a 3 and a half minute ride on a golf cart involving an outstanding view of my backyard.

Thrill seeking.

The Joy of Serving Others

Most of us feel some resistance to the idea of serving people because we have been conditioned to believe that one of the primary objectives in life is to rise to levels of prominence which ensure that we will be the one who gets served rather than being the one who serves. Surprisingly, though, serving others turns out to be one of the ways in which we genuinely experience purpose, joy, meaning and satisfaction in life.

“For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don't use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.” Galatians 5:13

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Canadian Parliament Shooting - Thankful For First Responders

A reporter shot some video footage, looking down a large hallway, inside the Canadian Parliament Complex, today, as multiple shots by a gunman (gunmen?) were being fired. In fact, as the sound of the shots ring out it is apparent that the person stops holding the camera for the correct framing and ducks for cover behind a wall.  It is compelling video.

I was impressed—as I was watching this footage on the news—by the law enforcement officers, with guns drawn, running down the hallway toward the sound of the shooting.  Most people would, wisely, be running away from the sound of the gun play.  These folks were running toward the sound of the gun play.  Oh, I realize they are trained to do this and it is their job, however, it is still a remarkable action.

I felt thankful, once again, for the tremendous men and women who respond on behalf of the safety of others during these types of emergency crises.

It's Really True That Money Can't Buy Happiness

Research has shown that after a person achieves a certain minimal amount of money—basically enough money to pay the bills and not be in constant financial stress—having additional money beyond the minimal amount will not significantly increase the person’s happiness.

So, think of it this way:  If you live a fairly comfortable middle class type of lifestyle and you are not in a position in which you are constantly worried about whether or not you will be able to pay your bills, then winning a $100 million dollar lottery might bring some temporary happiness—and a few more toys—but it is unlikely that it will significantly increase the joy and happiness you experience in life.

“It is good to have money and the things money can buy, but it’s good too, to check up once in a while and make sure you haven’t lost the things money can’t buy.” 

(Origin of quote unknown)

Monday, October 20, 2014

Failure Is Part Of Growth And Development

In order to perform at a high level we have to be willing to try things we haven’t been able to do before. This is uncomfortable and puts us in a position where we might fail.

Most of us have been trained to see failure as something to avoid or to cover up. This view of failure makes us reluctant to even try. I can look back and recognize that there have been many times in which this has been true for me.  I have been reluctant to try certain things because trying meant failure could happen.

It is helpful for us (this includes me) to remember that failure is part of all significant growth and development.

“While the best methods of development are constantly changing, they’re always built around a central principle: they’re meant to stretch the individual beyond his or her current abilities.”  Talent Is Overrated, Geoff Colvin

Friday, October 17, 2014

Love Involves Risk and Vulnerability

If we really love others we are doing something that is risky and vulnerable. 

I know that comment seems cynical.  I don’t intend for it to be taken that way.  I’m simply expressing a reality of life.  There are risks and vulnerabilities involved in loving others because people are imperfect.  Sometimes we hurt each other.  Sometimes we irritate each other. Sometimes we misunderstand each other.  Sometimes we do things that make others genuinely angry.  More painful still, sometimes we extend love and it is not returned.

Followers of Jesus are called to go ahead and love others, despite the risk and vulnerability.  In fact, it’s strange to think that the most perfectly loving person who ever lived was executed.

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”  Colossians 3:12-14

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Houston Demands That Pastors Turn Over Sermons

At first I thought a post I saw regarding this matter was a joke but it appears to be true.  The city of Houston is demanding that pastors turn over sermons and other communication related to a city legal matter that is called the “bathroom bill.”  I’ve attached a link to this post which provides additional details regarding this story.

Part of me thinks: I wish people at City Hall wanted to go over my sermons. I’d be mildly excited at such a development.

But another part of me thinks about these questions: Does the city government of Houston believe it has the authority to control what a pastor says at the church?  What leads them to believe they have the authority to control what a pastor says at the church? Is this how governments begin to exercise control over churches?

I know this is fairly obvious to point out and there are many potential situations in which this would be much easier said than done, however, I’ll say it, anyhow:  A pastor is called by God and the first priority of the pastor is to be obedient to God. This involves—among other things—lovingly, honestly, responsibly preaching and teaching the truth of God’s word.

If being obedient to God gets the pastor in trouble with the government—and I do not say this with bravado, I say it with deep concern and seriousness—then the pastor must be willing to deal with those consequences.