Saturday, March 28, 2015
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.
Thursday, March 26, 2015
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.
Sunday, March 22, 2015
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.
Friday, March 20, 2015
The Restoration Ministries worship team is going to be joining with some of the singers from our worship team to lead our music this week. I’ve just come from listening in on the rehearsal and I can tell you it is going to be fantastic!
I’m so excited about what I’ve just heard that I can’t hardly wait till Sunday.
Hmm, let me think about it… it will be about 35 more hours!
And I have the privilege of delivering the fourth message in our series on Heaven. The message is titled: What Will We Do In Heaven?
You will not want to miss the service this Sunday!
Love and blessings,
First Church of God
4600 W. 111th Street
Oak Lawn, IL
Service times: 9am or 11am
Sometimes we find ourselves in situations in which it is very difficult to do what we know is right.
A simple example of this with which everyone can relate is truth telling. We have all been in situations in which we knew the truth and we knew that speaking the truth was the right thing to do and, yet, speaking the truth was going to be uncomfortable.
This is why doing what is right is noble, courageous and, even, impressive.
(And in some areas of life doing what is right can be downright rare.)
In Christianity we understand that consistently doing what is right will require power we do not possess—the power of the Holy Spirit.
You might ask, “Could I pray and ask the Holy Spirit to give me strength to do the right thing?”
Yes. In fact, that would be a wise prayer for all of us.
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” –Jesus, Acts 1:8
“I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13
Thursday, March 19, 2015
Recently, someone told me a story about putting hard feelings aside and making an effort to mend a long-time broken relationship with a family member. It was encouraging to hear. Fortunately, this effort at restoration was successful and a relationship that had been broken for many years was restored. In this particular story—although the person who initiated the restoration did not realize it when he reestablished contact—the timing was very good. Had he delayed the opportunity for this type of healing would have no longer been possible.
I realize we cannot reconcile with people if they are unwilling to reconcile. It requires a willingness on the part of all those involved to repair a damaged relationship. We cannot force people to enter into fellowship against their will. But hopefully, as far as it depends on us, we will be willing to offer the hand of peace, fellowship, grace and love.
Saturday, March 14, 2015
Like most folks I have been an observer and consumer of mass media virtually all of my life. Additionally, I have had some, limited, experience over the years that has given me a little bit of an inside peek into the creation and production of mass media and I have learned a few things.
Please understand I freely admit I’m not an expert in the world of mass media, but I’m going to go ahead and offer a few opinions on some lessons learned. Obviously, you can feel free to agree or disagree with the lessons I’m sharing. Or, you may simply turn off your computer and take a nap.
WHAT I’VE LEARNED ABOUT THE MEDIA
· Media content can be edited in such a way—even using actual audio or video of a person or event—that a person can appear to be saying something he/she did not actually mean to say. This type of editing is not as unusual as we might expect. In other words, we consumers need to be careful because the old adage, “seeing is believing” is not necessarily true in the world of mass media.
· Almost all media outlets have a point of view or bias, even if they pretend to present a completely impartial point of view. It is usually helpful to know their point of view when considering their content. Even if we agree with the bias of a particular media provider (for example, I totally agree with the clear bias that is presented in Sponge Bob cartoons) it is still nice to be aware of the bias because it will allow us to have a better and more honest understanding.
· Much of the media content which is intended to appear totally spontaneous is not as spontaneous as we are led to believe.
· Major mass media providers are businesses and they only survive, from a business standpoint, by reaching as many people as possible. In addition to this reality, competition for our limited attention is greater than ever. So, it is very common for media content to be presented in such a way that it appears more sensational than it really is. If this means the truth is stretched a little bit, then it is considered to be a necessary reality of life in the media world that the truth is compromised.
· The fact that there are many more sources of media content is frustrating to the old time media providers—frankly, they’re ticked—they used to have a fairly captive audience, so to speak. But more options are a good thing. It gives the average consumer the opportunity to be better informed. Of course, we may take advantage of the opportunity or we may not, but at least the opportunity is there.
· Major media providers regularly utilize research from the field of psychology to know how to push our buttons; be persuasive; maximize their ability to get and hold our attention; and, frankly, manipulate us. So, if you occasionally feel like you are being manipulated by the media, well, there’s a good chance you are. (By the way, doesn’t a nice cold Mountain Dew sound good right now?)
· Learning some of the simple, basic rules of logic will help us identify the logical errors that are often used in the media. When some of the basics of logic are known, it is interesting to see how frequently emotional tactics and logically invalid arguments are presented.
· One time a reporter misquoted me in a newspaper article in such a way that it created a false impression of the church where I am the pastor. (I do not need any outside help in creating trouble for myself, thank you. I can handle that all by myself.) It was not possible for me to correct this misquote in a way that would significantly change the false impression that had been established. That was a frustrating lesson. So even when we read a quote, keep in mind, it is possible we are not reading an entirely accurate quote.
· The influence of the media on our lives is profound. The influence is so powerful that if most of the major media providers push an issue, ideology, belief, point of view, etc., long enough it is likely—after a while—to be accepted by the majority of people. Over time, the media even influences the deeply help moral beliefs of large numbers of people. This is an incredibly significant form of power. It helps when we are aware of the power that is being wielded.
· Mass media is a way of providing information to large numbers of people and this can be very good and helpful. I realize this post may come across as fairly negative. Believe it or not, I am actually not suggesting mass media is entirely negative. It is not. It offers us some genuinely beneficial forms of help. The fact that we can push a button and have a virtually limitless source of information and entertainment is extraordinary. I like it. But, as usual, it’s always helpful for consumers to be knowledgeable and informed about that which they are consuming.
Wednesday, March 11, 2015
I felt a strange nibbling and pulling under my leg. I don’t know about you, but I don’t typically experience that type of sensation. Were these the peculiar symptoms of some new medical condition, I wondered?
No. It turns out the sensation was the result of my dog, Lucy, trying to pull a chair pad out from under me while I was sitting on it.
I sternly said to her, “Hey, what are you doing?”
Then she gave me the innocent puppy dog look as if to say, “What? I don’t know what you’re talking about. I’m simply trying to live my life and accomplish some meaningful objectives.”
She considered my question to be an overreaction and wondered if, perhaps, I needed a time out.
In the meantime, Rachel found the fact that Lucy tried to take the pad out from under me to be wonderfully amusing. She laughed and laughed.
It is very satisfying to be able to provide some amusement for the household.
There is a part of us that craves routine. We like to know what’s coming next. We like to have the structure, dependability and sense of security that comes with having some basic routines in life. This desire is normal and there is nothing wrong with it.
And yet, the downside to the routines is that sometimes life itself can begin to seem stale. We may come to a point at which we feel like we are in a rut doing the same old things day in and day out. Bored. Unchallenged.
It is important for us to be willing to follow God out of our routines, in other words, out of our comfort zones. Remember, the life God has for us is full and meaningful. Jesus described being alive in God’s kingdom as an “abundant” life.
Believe me, I’m writing this post as a challenge to myself, as well. Let’s be willing to look up and follow God on some new adventures. He still has some wonderful, exciting, powerful, helpful and meaningful living in store for us.
Saturday, March 7, 2015
HERE ARE A FEW RANDOM THINGS I’VE LEARNED FROM SPENDING TIME IN HOSPITALS
Even if the patient is conscious, alert and intelligent he or she needs an advocate—a family member or good friend who asks questions, listens, consults, pays attention to what is happening and, in general, helps look out for the patient.
Many people, even if they are not particularly religious, are willing to be prayed for when they are in the hospital. (In fact, for some people, a serious medical issue helps them understand they believe in God more than they realized.)
Even though medical advancements have been significant and have brought us to an impressive place, there is still much we do not know.
Medical diagnosis and treatment requires the insights of objective scientific research, but it still involves an element of subjective judgment, as well.
There is no such thing as a “minor surgery” for the person who is being operated on.
If you are healthy it is not unusual to take your good health for granted. Until…
Many people could never work in the medical field because they would find it to be too personal, serious, gross, physically disturbing, and emotionally heavy. So be kind and appreciative of those who do work in the medical field. Not everyone is capable of offering the kind of care they give.
If you are wondering whether or not you should visit someone who is in the hospital but you’re inclined to think, “I don’t want to bother the person.” Go visit.
When you are in a room with a patient try to pay attention and do not step on any tubes.
If you are a patient, the care you receive and your perception of the care you receive will typically be better if you are kind, patient, courteous, friendly and respectful of everyone who works at the hospital
God is still the Great Physician even for those who do not believe it.
Wednesday, March 4, 2015
We went out to eat on Sunday evening at a nice restaurant downtown called Wildfire which is known for preparing a pretty good steak. Nadia’s aunt, Mary, takes us there several times a year because she loves going out and because she enjoys seeing my Taco Bell etiquette on display at something other than a fast food joint.
As I ordered my steak, I requested French fries and I looked across the table and noticed a wry grin on Mary’s face. She saw me looking at her and shook her head as if to say, “You’re doing it again, aren’t you?”
You see, Mary knows what I’m up to. She knows that I intentionally order French fries rather than any other type of potato because the restaurant will provide ketchup for the fries. This prevents me from making an embarrassing request for ketchup to go along with my steak.
I know. I know. I can hear the horrified gasps even though our computers do not have an audio connection. (My ears are very good at picking up horrified gasps.) Yes, I put ketchup on my steak. I’m sorry for being broken in such a troubling and barbaric way.
Mary is more cultured and refined than I am, however, she is still entertained by my uncivilized ways. Believe it or not, it can be sort of fun for a classy person to watch a primitive guy in action.
She said, “So, you’re getting fries, huh?”
I smiled and said, “Yes. They have really good fries here.”
With amusement she said, “You’ll have some ketchup then, I suppose.”
Acting surprised I said, “Oh yeah. That’s right. Now that you mention it, I guess they will bring some ketchup with my fries.”
Mary and the rest of my family then caused a slight distraction and when I turned to see what was happening they moved to another table.
The steak was terrific.
...And the ketchup was pretty good, too.
Sunday, March 1, 2015
Last night I had a very brief moment in which I was looking out the front doors of our church into the dark night sky as the snow was falling and I realized this: “I’m going trust God.”
You say, “For what specific issue are you trusting God?”