Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Colors Vampires Wear

I just had a conversation with Rachel about the colors vampires wear.

I did not bring up the subject and, actually, I don’t recall how it even started.

The whole issue was surprising because I thought a vampire could wear any color but it turns out that is not the case. She told me certain colors “work” [that’s her word] for vampires and other colors won’t work.

This information was new and puzzling.

As the conversation continued, it occurred to me that I might try to wear some vampire colors—you know it would probably help me to add some striking or evocative qualities to the way I look and dress. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to be a vampire. But I think it’s high time for some personal flair… a little pizazz. You know what I mean?

But Rachel told me, “You don’t know how.”

“I don’t know how to wear vampire colors?” I asked.

“Right,” she responded.

“Can’t I just wear the colors?” I asked. “Isn’t that all there is to it?”


So unfortunately, it looks like I will have to remain frumpy and unstylish.

Friday, April 17, 2015

We Should Be Willing To Put Our Cards On The Table

Everybody has a point of view, a way of thinking, a way of understanding reality. This is sometimes called a worldview. Because we all have a worldview—even if we don’t know the term or have never taken the time to specifically think about the concept—we will tend to have biases and, often, even an agenda of some sort when it comes to many subjects.

(Be extremely careful about the person who vehemently claims—perhaps while jumping up and down—that he is a completely neutral purveyor of nothing but objective facts.)

The fact that everyone has a worldview does not bother me. I understand this is how it will be with us humans. For example, I will readily admit I have an agenda. I’m a Christian minister. I believe Christianity is true. I would like for people to embrace Jesus. I believe this will be what is best for them.

What does bother me is when certain people or institutions pretend they are above the fray, so to speak. In other words, they want to give the impression they are presenting objective, unbiased facts and simple logical conclusions when in reality they are very intentionally, though surreptitiously, promoting a particular agenda.

This is a form of dishonesty and deception which happens in the media and, sadly, even in the scientific world more than some people may realize. For example, the practice of disguising an agenda as a scientifically settled issue can be a way of attempting to force a conclusion on a matter without even allowing legitimate discussion. It is an extremely unscrupulous and cynical tactic.

Again, the fact that human beings within the media, the scientific world, or anywhere else, for that matter, have a worldview and, therefore, an agenda is not what bothers me. I get it. I’m old enough to recognize this reality about people. What bothers me is when they very intentionally pretend to have no bias or agenda.

We should be willing to put our cards on the table.

Sgt. Joe Friday used to say, “just the facts, ma’am” when he was talking with a witness. But I notice Joe always had a little bit of a wry grin when he said it. Joe knew people and, therefore, he knew it was not likely he was going to hear “just” facts. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Thank You Curt and Lorrine Nielsen

As I was looking through old photo albums at the church to prepare for our 50th anniversary at the Oak Lawn location I came across this picture of Rev. Curt Nielsen and his wife, Lorrine.

Curt was the pastor at the First Church of God in Oak Lawn from 1974 until 1991. Curt is a wonderful man of God. He was a terrific pastor and mentor to me. It is impossible to even describe the deep, profound and, yes, eternal impact Curt and his family have had on my life and the life of my family.

I thank God for this man and his family.

Thank you Curt and Lorrine for faithfully serving God, my life has been changed because of the way God worked through you.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

I'm Sorry For Apologizing Too Much

Someone told me I need to stop apologizing all the time. He said, “It’s embarrassing and unseemly that you apologize about everything. You need to stop it.”

I’ve given a good bit of thought to this matter and my friend is right. His words were a valid and helpful form of correction.

So, I just I want to formally announce that I am sorry for apologizing too much.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Five Simple Things I've Learned About Social Media

1)  Online relationships are not a suitable replacement for in person relationships. I know this is somewhat obvious but it seems that it may not be totally obvious to everyone.

2) Social media is neutral.

I have a friend who believes that social media is inherently bad. I disagree with his assessment. In my opinion social media is, basically, neutral. It is a communication tool. In that sense it is like a telephone, or a letter sent through the mail, or even a radio broadcast.

Is it possible for social media to be used in bad ways? Yes, of course it is.

But it is possible for social media to be used in good ways, too.

Is it possible for people to waste time on social media? Yes, of course it is. But people have been extraordinarily accomplished at wasting time loooooong before social media ever came along. Social media is not responsible for the fine art of time wasting.

(In high school, way before social media existed, I was an expert at wasting time.)

And it is possible for people to use social media in ways that optimize the use of their time, particularly when it comes to communicating a message.

3) If you are really angry and feel compelled to post something to express your angry feelings it would be wise to wait a few minutes. In some cases, it might even be wise to wait a day or two. Remember anything that is posted online can be retrieved again, even if it is deleted. Think about it like this: Don’t post anything you wouldn’t want every person you know (including those who are not online) to see, including your mother, your boss, your grandmother, your pastor/priest/clergy, your children, your grandchildren, the Nobel Prize Selection Committee… you get the point.

4) For some reason, many people seem to be willing to be more caustic, abrasive and mean-spirited online than they would typically be in a firsthand, personal encounter. It is best not to sink to this level.

5) It is easy to get fooled by content which is posted online. We have probably all seen examples of people re-posting—with righteous indignation—an article which verifies a point of view they espouse. They post with an attitude like this, “See? I told you people this was happening. This article substantiates what I’ve been saying all along!”

And then someone in the comments section points out that the piece is fictional. It is satire from a site like The Onion. Earlier today I heard a very smart man (a philosopher with two PhDs) talk about being fooled by content he had read online. Be cautious when it comes to online content. Whenever possible, check the source.

You’ve probably seen this line, it is a good reminder: “Everything you read on social media isn’t true.” – Abraham Lincoln

Dan Marler
The White House
Washington, DC

(Remember, it’s helpful to be cautious and verify what you’re reading.)

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Victory Over Death, Jesus Is Alive!

Jesus claims to be the giver of life, true life, abundant life, eternal life.  He says things like this:  “Life is found in me!” 

Well, He can only be the giver of life, if He has experienced victory over death, himself.

It just happens to be the case that victory over death is what we proclaim at Easter.  Jesus is risen from the dead!  He has experienced victory over sin and death!  The grave could not hold Him!  Evil could not defeat Him.

He’s alive!  And because Jesus lives, you and I can live!  We can have life in Him.

Praise God for the resurrection of Jesus; for the truth of who Jesus is; for forgiveness of sins; for the hope we have in Him. Praise God for life! 

Happy Easter, Jesus is alive!

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Fear And The Time In Between The Crucifixion And The Resurrection

Fear stinks.

Oh I know, there are situations in which fear serves a useful purpose. If a hungry lion escaped from the zoo and he’s been following you on the walking trail for the past couple of minutes you should have some fear or else you’re not taking the situation seriously enough.

But oftentimes fear is not good. Some people live with an unhealthy sense of dread and fear which prevents them from living life and doing the things they need to do and want to do. They live with a basic sense that they are alone, helpless, vulnerable and with the sense that whatever happens next will probably not be good.

I’m thinking about fear today because in between the crucifixion and the resurrection of Jesus it seems pretty likely His disciples were caught up in fear. Jesus had given them words of reassurance. He told them what would happen. He even said these specific words to His disciples, “Do not be afraid.” Jesus made it possible for them to experience peace and assurance but they tended toward fear instead.

It happens, doesn’t it?

In between the crucifixion and the resurrection, it looked dark. It seemed that, perhaps, evil would prevail. There was tremendous sadness, disappointment and confusion. I suspect some words to this effect were spoken: “What just happened? This is not how we thought this would go.”

Fear seemed reasonable.

Remember, though, it is not God’s intention that we live in fear.

Do not be afraid. Darkness doesn’t win.

God loves you. He loves you completely and perfectly. He loves you more than you can imagine. This is the truth. The more you know and genuinely recognize this truth the less fear you will experience.

And remember, even when things look grim, the story is not over. Easter is coming! 

Friday, April 3, 2015

Thinking About Jesus' Death

The way Jesus died is horrific.

The fact that He had to die for things I have done is sad, upsetting and, even, embarrassing.

That’s why I am so thankful the larger story is one of Good News and hope!

Today we think about Jesus’ death. It is right for us to do this; it is a necessary part of knowing and understanding the story. But even as we ponder the sad realities of this day, we know that Sunday is coming.

I am grateful that for those who trust in Christ even the somberness of Good Friday is entered into with the knowledge that there is, ultimately, hope, joy and… Victory!

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Doing God's Work... Is It Worth It?

In God’s kingdom we are meaningfully, joyfully, purposefully engaged in the work the King has called us to do. The King’s work is challenging but it is not burdensome. And His work is always good and right. It is work that matters. The work the King calls us to do is of eternal consequence.

Because of the nature of the world, however, the King’s work will not always be recognized as good and right.

It bothers me that God’s work is not always understood to be good. Frankly, it probably bothers me more than it should. I want “good” to be perceived as “good.” In my mind this is how the world is supposed to work. How could “good” be perceived as “bad,” and “bad” be perceived as “good?” That’s crazy! What kind of world is this?!?

But human history shows us this will happen.

(The Bible told us this would occur, as well.)

I have to admit on occasion there is a thought that enters my mind. The thought goes something like this: “Since people will often not recognize the work of God as something good maybe it would be easier to just stop doing it. Why bother? Why risk the hassle? People don’t get it anyhow.”

Please understand, I’m not saying this is good thinking. I’m not proud of these kinds of thoughts, I’m simply admitting there are times in which they come to mind.

Fortunately, God—through the Holy Spirit—provides encouragement, help, grace, good counsel, inspiration and strength. And it is possible to keep on going. And I’m not talking about continuing on with a sense of despair, rather we continue on with a sense of joy and victory.

I write these words to encourage you and to encourage me. Let us keep doing what God has called us to do. Let us remain faithful because He is faithful. Let the King find us happily, productively engaged in His work—in kingdom work! Serving the King won’t always be popular, but it is always right and it is worth it all!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Remembering My Friend, Teresa Pearson

The memorial service for my friend, Teresa Pearson, is today, at 1 p.m. at the church.

Teresa was such a sweet, tender-hearted person that if you weren’t watching carefully you might not notice her tremendous grit and determination. She was a remarkably resilient person. She did not give up, even in conditions in which the typical person might say, “You know what? I’m done. Count me out.”

Based on my last couple of conversations with Teresa—as well as a lifetime of friendship with her—I think she might want me to give you all this reminder: You  can take what life dishes out on this side of eternity because of the truth of Jesus; because of the strength of the Holy Spirit alive in you; and because of the eternal reward that awaits those of us who put our faith and trust in Him.

Teresa is enjoying that reward right now, experiencing a joy that will never diminish and a sense of awe in the presence of the Lord that will never grow weaker as the moments go by.

I join with all of Teresa’s friends as we rejoice in her promotion to the major-league worship team.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Even Though Life Can Seem To Be Very Predictable... We Are Still Not In Control

Life can be incredibly routine. In fact, sometimes people go for years living a daily routine that is so similar and so predictable that one of life’s key problems can seem to be it is just plain boring.

These aspects of daily living can be misleading, however. They may tempt us to believe we have more control over life than we actually do. But what often happens is after a lengthy period of predictability some event comes along like a sharp strike to the solar plexus giving us a stark reminder that, actually, life is not as predictable or controllable as we thought.

The truth is that there is one person in control.

It is possible for us to know the one who is in control. And that is tremendously helpful when the sharp strike to the solar plexus comes along.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Popularity Can Be Perilous

When a minister achieves popularity, fame and success it can be a good thing in the sense that it can open doors to the message the minister proclaims. It can mean the minister is enabled to reach far more people. There is the potential for the popularity, fame and success to be positive.

(By the way, popularity, fame and success are tremendously appealing. If any minister tells you he/she has absolutely no interest whatsoever in popularity, fame and success there is a 99.99999 percent chance you are not being told the truth.)

However, popularity, fame and success can also be incredibly troublesome for a minister because, at the end of the day, ministers are people. We are human. (You’ve noticed that already, haven’t you?) This means we are susceptible to human temptations, just like everyone else.

A powerful temptation for the popular minister is to want to do and say things that will increase the popularity—or, at least, to not diminish the popularity. The desire to increase or maintain the popularity is a very dangerous reality because it is of primary importance that the minister is obedient, first and foremost, to God. The most essential objective for the minister is to do and say what is pleasing to God. But Christian history, common sense and real life experience tells us that sometimes doing and saying what is pleasing to God will not be what will maintain popularity.

When popularity, fame and success have been achieved it is incredibly difficult for the minister to ever willingly do anything which would jeopardize that status. This is likely to mean the minister may alter God’s truth in order to make it culturally acceptable or just to make it “feel good” for those who are listening. That is a perilous position for a person whose primary goal is to do God’s bidding.

Lots of ministers all over the world will be speaking today. My prayer is that all of us—myself included—will be concerned most of all with pleasing God and accurately proclaiming the truth of His word.