Has anybody noticed that there is an election coming up on Tuesday? It is pretty much all you hear on the news. Are you sick of the commercials? Well, November 6th is just around the corner. It will be an important day... whether you be a democrat, republican or undecided... and I believe everyone should vote... but let me ask you a question. One way or the other, will this election fix what is ailing us as a country?
I want you to imagine for a second that we elected all the right people to all the right offices... Congress, governor, school boards, city council, president... all the right people in all the right offices. And, they instituted all the right policies, all the right legislation. We got every proposition on every ballot exactly right.
Do you think that would usher in perfection into our society? Would the hearts of the fathers be turned towards their children? Would every marriage now be a model of faithfulness and love? Would greed and pride be legislated out of existence? Would our workplaces all become models of harmony, neighborhoods and schools places free of prejudice and full of servanthood? Would human beings now at last be able to master our impulses around sexuality and anger?
To get personal with you... if we got all the right people in all the right offices to enact all the right legislative policies, would you finally be the woman or the man that you know God called you to be?
Now, to be real clear, we ought to be engaged in the political process, we ought to be educated about it, we all ought to vote on Tuesday, we ought to be in prayer for it. That's a real good thing. And we should do it in a way that is civil and respectful because sometimes people in churches don't always do this.
I saw a cartoon one time. A guy is standing at the pearly gates before Saint Peter and Peter says to him, "You were a believer, yes, but you skipped the not being a jerk about it part." We should be involved in the process in a way that is respectful.
But, here's my point. No human system has the ability to change the human heart. T.S. Elliot wrote, and I think it is incredibly true... "The problem with the human race is we want a system of order so perfect we do not have to be good."
We want some kind of arrangement, economic policy, political process. We want a system of order so perfect that we can skip the personal responsibility part... and there is no system like that! We need another kind of administration, one that can effectively address the condition of our hearts. There is one possibility, only one. It's not a political party or movement... it's a Savior. And our greatest defining moment will not be on November 6th, 2012... it will be in the everyday moments of life both before and after this election. And I believe that God is much more concerned with that process than the political one.
I have a great concern as a pastor. It is a difficult subject to tackle for sure. It certainly won’t make me popular. The subject of concern for me is something that is widespread. So many people who profess Jesus… even pastors… spend hours and hours engaged in this particular activity and I think it causes great harm. What is this point of concern? It is what we watch on TV.
Now before some of you start with the “amen’s” and “halleluiah’s” I want you to know that I am not talking about watching the E Channel or shows like It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia (because that would require that I not watch them anymore), I am talking about cable news shows. That’s right… cable news shows. I think these shows are much more damaging to the heart and soul than anything that could be seen on Grey’s Anatomy or re-runs of Will and Grace. The hate and venom is so overwhelming I find it difficult to watch the television news these days and more times than not, I end up with a huge knot in my stomach. Watching the cable news programs I hear so much hate and we the viewers, are encouraged to join them in the hate sessions. I guess this is what Orwell referred to as the "2 Minute Hate", but perhaps he didn't see that it would grow into the "24 Hour Hate".
I just recently heard that old phrase “garbage in, garbage out” as someone was talking about what we watch on TV… it wasn’t in reference to cable news though. But I often hear people state their opinions on subjects from the downfall of America to the character of a government official and it seems their thoughts mirror, nearly verbatim, what I just heard on some news program. They hate this one or love that one with such fervor, such energy and fully believe they are stating their own opinions, it seems most don't even recognize that they are echoing Shawn Hannity, Glenn Beck or for those of you on the left, Bill Maher and Keith Olbermann. But it’s the fervency of the ‘Christians’ who follow the former that is so concerning to me. I hesitate to use the words mind control, but sometimes I wonder what else it could be, perhaps they call them “programs” for a reason. I can't figure out why we listen to this angry blather? Is there just a part of us that loves to hate? Do we seriously believe that by condemning and mocking others we become a stronger nation?
I guess what I find most disturbing about these media driven hate sessions, is that many of the hosts claim that they are Christians themselves and use that as support for spewing hateful comments. And then the viewers gather behind the hosts (sometimes at rallies), hearing the word Christian, but not seeing the bitter fruits of the hater's actions.
To use the very tired mantra of the Christian sub-culture… WWJD? What would Jesus do? He told us to love our enemies, right? Would he be one of these blowhards on TV? Would he watch them? Would it sadden him? Jesus disagreed vehemently with the secular government system in his day… but we have no record of Jesus saying anything hateful about them or holding rallies. If crowds were what he wanted that would have been the way! How is this not more harmful than Oprah? We saturate our minds with the self-proclaimed Christian hosts of the cable news engaging in demeaning and hateful tirades. The message hits us loud and clear that if we do not agree with them, we are deserving of such attacks.
Recently, an even more frightening thought hit me, would millions of Christians across the world accept a Jesus offered to them by the way of the media? Would people just trust and believe these scripts? I know as far as I am concerned, if the mainstream media introduced Jesus, I would look in another direction (much like I do with Christian radio and TV), but what about the majority? How easy would it be to manipulate the faith of millions?
The doublespeak is all around us, but we do not see it. Many believe it is wrong to watch a TV show with questionable humor or violence or sexual innuendos, but OK to get fired up and down right angry and hateful watching a “news” show. We have learned the way to support our opinions is to hate, mock and name call. I see it spill over in the church all the time. The contradictions seem so clear to me… but so many don’t understand my concern.
I figure I have enough smarts that I don't need the news to tell me how I should feel, just simply give me the facts and keep all personal or corporate commentary to yourself. I remember a year or so ago, when I was spending far too much time watching all the news, I kept thinking, "How can this be all there is?" I couldn't understand how these 24-hour stations, which claim to be international had to continuously repeat the same news, the same headlines and have the same arguments. How could it be that when they are covering the world, they run out of information? There are billions of people on this Earth and yet, no news? That's when the subtle knowledge filled my mind that something was occurring that I was not supposed to see. It is only about ratings and ad revenue… it’s not about sharing the news.
Aren't our lives stressful enough between jobs, kids, ringing cell phones and responsibilities that the last thing we need is to have our blood pressures skyrocket by exposing ourselves to hate-filled and fear-based media programs? A few months ago I had saved several quotes by the likes of Bill Maher, Glenn Beck and Ann Coulter to prove my case about how hateful this world has become, but the funny thing was, while researching hate, I became ill. So I proved my own point to myself, not only is hate and anger not a proper spiritual ideology, it actually harms us physically!
That is about all I have to say about that… I need to watch something mindless now. I wonder what is on Bravo?
The news is buzzing with reports of the death of Osama Bin Laden by U.S. Special forces. The cheers at the news of his death have been loud, the declaration that justice has been done is everywhere.
I hapen to be in New York City for an Orchard Group board meeting today and I saw the NY tabloid headlines as I walked passed news stands on 6th avenue this morning. The New Your Post declared, "Got the Bastard!" The Daily Post front cover read, "Rot in Hell!"
As I continued walking toward the Orchard Group offices on Broadway, I reflected on these headlines and the death of Bin Laden... and I couldn’t help but make a connection to Rob Bell’s book Love Wins. Whether or not you agree with Rob (and I do not for the most part), his basic premise is that there are second chances to accept Christ and end up with him for all eternity. Finally, God’s love will have his way with us.
This all sounds wonderful until we bump into Osama Bin Laden. Here is someone that people want to have "rot in Hell" for all he has done, they don’t want any second chances. Where is the justice in Bin Laden dying, getting to Hell and 15 minutes later seeing Jesus Christ, his love and wanting it, accepting it and being released from his punishment into an eternity with Christ? “He needs to pay for his crimes” is the cry we might very well hear from the lips of Americans and from the lips of all who suffered from his atrocities. Let "good people" get a second chance... but not Bin Laden.
However, when you think about it, this is exactly the scandal of grace. That people like Bin Laden, people like you and me can be accepted not because we are good, but because Christ took our punishment in his place. If Bin Laden, like the thief on the cross, would have given his life to Christ before the bullet came toward him he would have heard the same words as the thief on the cross, “Today, you will be with me in paradise.” This is absolutely scandalous and it is absolutely the hope and wonder of the gospel.
This reality also makes us wonder all the more at the cross and what Christ must have suffered there. We know what people want for someone like Bin Laden, we know the kind of punishment that is deserved, we also know that people like Bin Laden have become followers of Christ and had their sins taken on the shoulders of Christ. What was it like to bear that level of wrath against sin on the cross? What was it like to bear the wrath of God against our sin on the cross? It is good for us to remember that as horrified as we are by what Bin Laden did, so what we have done in the eyes of a holy God is also a thing of horror and deserving of punishment, a punishment taken by Christ.
The scandal of grace is that another pays for our sins, even the worst of our sins, even the sins of the worst of sinners. So will Bin Laden get a second change to experience this grace? Rob Bell seems to think so, but I’m not sure after reading his book that his case has as strong of merit as he wants it to have. But even without that second chance grace remains a scandal... and the only hope we have.
Wow! What a powerful evening of conviction. Tonight I was moved by two individuals that personify Jesus in their words... but more importantly their lives. Dick Alexander and Mary Kamau convicted us to move beyond words to action in making a global impact.
The evening began with a question and answer with Mary. I had not had the fotune of hearing her story before tonight and I was both inspired and moved. Mary Kamau is a Kenyan citizen and is the founder and director of Missions of Hope, International in the Mathare slum of Nairobi. Along with her husband Wallace, she has established 10 school serving the needs of thousands of orphaned and vulnerable children.
Mary remind us that meeting physical needs and spiritual needs should not be an "either or"... but a "both and". She pointed to the life of Jesus as that example, pointing people to God's amazing love AND healing and relieving their physical hardships. Thousands of people have been rescued out of poverty, prostitution, HIV Aids and given the opportunity for education and a better life AND have discovered the love of Christ through the Kamau's efforts.
Dick pointed out that Mary and her husband could have chosen to walk away and turn their backs on the slums because they had received University educations and where doing very well, with many opportunities... but they did not. When asked why, Mary responded, "Because of the love of Jesus Christ and my people". Her interview concluded with a standing ovation and a “thank you for not walking away!
Following a couple of songs by the worship team (amazing talent on that stage this week BTW) Dick Alexander came back up to share his message. As a side note... Whenever I listen to Dick Alexander speak I remember a saying, "Empty barrels make the most noise". Dick may have a softened voice due to vocal cord damage... but he is full of great wisdom and compassion.
After what seemed like 2-3 minutes of complete silence Dick began to speak saying, "That moment of silence was for the 2.5 billion people in the world that exist on less than $2 a day, the 40 million people in the world with HIV- Aids, the 24 thousand children in the world who died just today largely from preventable causes, the 24 million slaves in the world (the most ever in all of humanity) and the 2 billion people in the world that have still yet to have the opportunity to hear about the life changing love of Jesus Christ."
So what do we do?
Dick read from Luke 4:18-21 and pointed out the example of Jesus' action. Jesus met both the needs of the physically oppressed and the spiritually oppressed.
As American's we have so much. Even in the midst of a recession we can still eat meals… we still have a roof over our heads and medical care. We are wealthier than 98% of the world’s population if we can say that about our circumstances!
So what do we do?
We need to follow in the footsteps of Mary Kamau... the footsteps of Jesus Christ… and be a part of the solution. Good intentions are not enough! Good intentions won’t feed a child, won't plant a church and won't save a soul.
So what are we going to do?
We all received a card challenging us to fulfill Luke 4:18-19 with our actions. What will you do? Let us know by responding to this post...
I will go beyond what I am doing in global ministry by:
-going short-term or long-term to serve on a mission field.
-regularly pray for_________________
-increase my financial giving to_____________
-I will ask my church to go a step beyond what it is doing in global ministry.
My father passed away today very peacefully and without pain with his family by his side (my mother, my 5 siblings and some of their spouses, several grandchildren and myself). It was a moving time as we all shared personal memories of my father and shared in a time of prayer. It was special. My dad is now with Jesus. I can’t begin to express my gratitude for all of your support and prayer. Please pray for safe travel for Stacie and the kids as they fly out on Friday. I can’t begin to express my gratitude for all of your support and prayer through all of this. I am an incredibly fortunate man.
Arrangements are as follows:
Saturday May 1st
Visitation- 2-4 PM
Services- 4 PM
Newcomer Funeral Home
East Metro Chapel
190 Potomac St.
Aurora, CO 80011
My father will then be buried with full military honors
Ft. Logan National Cemetery in Denver, Colorado
He was a U.S. Navy veteran in World War II and a U.S. Air Force veteran in both Korea and Vietnam.
I am not sure why, but it is generally hard for me to listen to Christian radio or Christian music in general. I absolutely know that music is a very subjective thing. So one person's opinion in regards to music does not invalidate another person's preference for what music they like or don't like. But I find it personally difficult to listen to most Christian music.
It is weird to me, as when you flip through radio stations you can almost instantly tell that a song is a Christian song when you get a quick sound byte. It seems for some reason that in so many Christian pop songs, with male singers they use this sort of whispery and breathy voice. I am not sure why the whispery breathy male voices are popular, but they certainly seem to be more the norm in so much of Christian pop.
The music usually is so very similar sounding to me, like they are all the same studio musicians. Maybe they are using the same musicians. I don't know. But it is odd that you can scan the radio and in an instant often tell a Christian radio song when one comes on. And I do not believe it is the Spirit moving in me, letting me know it is a Christian song. I think it is the whispery breathy male vocals and music that instantly scream out it is a Christian song.
For many of the songs, especially praise songs meant for corporate worship, there is also the pattern of the slow build up, climactic and building up repeating chorus which indicates it is the time to raise our hands (I’ll address the whole hand raising sacred cow at a later date), then a dramatic drop to quiet - then a big pumping ending.
Also, all the different Christian pop songs seem to basically have the same lyrics over and over and over again. Mostly about Jesus dying on the cross. Now I fully and absolutely believe that this is the heart of the gospel. But the Bible is filled with so many things, not just all verses on the resurrection. I wish there were more lyrics in songs that sang about other things about Jesus and the Kingdom and following Him.
I get asked often about what Christian music I listen to, and I always go blank as I really don't listen to too much. Generally, Christians I meet are perplexed by this. How can a pastor not listen to Christian music? Well, I guess it all depends on what you define as Christian music. I believe there is so much music out there in the secular music industry which you can focus and hear about God in the lyrics, the stories etc. - so I don't try and divide lines to what is Christian and isn't. But, I am sitting here listening to a song by The Fray and I began thinking about all this. I am procrastinating doing something, so this just allowed me a fifteen minute procrastinating break.
My opinion about music is entirely subjective as I said, and I know there are millions who love Christian music and I don't think anything is wrong with that whatsoever. In complete disclosure, there are some Christian bands and artists that I do like. I like David Crowder Band. I like the music of Ethan and Ryan (the guys that lead worship for the campuses of the church I lead… they are amazingly talented and Godly men…but they also don’t have a whispery/breathy voice). In general though, I am not a fan of Christian music.
Blogs are sort of journals of thoughts - so I am only expressing some thoughts and opinions, not based on anything but personal preference. Maybe there are others who also have a hard time listening to most contemporary Christian music too (CCM). I don't know. But I am not trying to start a debate on any of this. Just blog-thinking-out-loud!
I’m thinking the side of the milk carton will read something like this: Missing: A very pretty 37-year-old mother of two… Last seen with a copy of Eclipse. If found, please return her to her husband. He promises to never go through his fantasy football draft during dinner again. He won’t ever try to rationalize the benefits of video games with the computer widow watching from afar.
I have to say I never saw this coming. One minute, she was a blur, working as our Children’s Minister at Church… cleaning the house… helping kids with homework. Now she’s missing, buried under a blanket on the couch. It’s forced me to think of several ruses to get her to snap out of it. For instance…
“Hey honey, Scarlett Johansson is here to take me out to dinner. We should be home before 11 p.m.”
“The kids are playing with Silly String in our bedroom, and I can’t stop them because I’m trying to finish my message for Sunday.”
But… to no avail.
Over the past three week I have become a book widower. My wife is addicted to the works of Stephanie Meyer and her Twilight series. I’m finding that this is now a reading plague and it has infected many of my wife’s friends and women in my church…thus creating dozens of other book widowers.
(MEN… IF YOU ARE ONE OF THESE UNFORTUNATE WIDOWERS… I WOULD LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU… MAYBE WE CAN FORM A SUPPORT GROUP?)
Stacie began reading these books while I was completing 14 straight days of evening meetings. You know the saying, “When the cat’s away…” but the “cat” has returned and he wants his wife back!
To make matters worse… just a little while ago… my wife told me that she knew what we could do on Monday (our day off together)… "we could watch the movie!" First the books and now the movie?? Damn you Stephanie Meyer! How dare you take away the mother of my children… my bride of 15 years!
For those of you guys who are unfamiliar with Stephenie Meyer, she is a 34-year old stay-at-home mom that decided a few years back to write a book about teen-aged vampires called Twilight. Before long this first book rocketed to the top of the NY Times Best Seller list. New Moon and Eclipse soon followed and they were both best sellers as well.
Now I do not have any problems with my wife reading… I suffered through the Harry Potter craze just a couple years ago… but men if your wife/girlfriend is reading these Twilight books you should be concerned for two reason:
Or, as I like to call them, Jerk Face #1 and Jerk Face #2. Edward is Bella's deep, intense, passionate boyfriend. Jacob is the funny, charismatic, forgiving friend who would do anything to make Bella his. They both possess magical powers that are far superior to any of the sweet lines the rest of us guys learned in the 80’s (except for maybe trying to sing “you lost that lovin’ feeling” like Tom Cruz in Top Gun… that one is still a classic). In other words, both Edward and Jacob are much, much more interesting than any of the husbands or boyfriends of the women who read the Twilight books.
Men… we should be very, very concerned. By my estimation… approximately 92% of women who read these books wish their husbands/boyfriends were more like Edward or Jacob in some way.
The other 8% have a crush on either Jack, Sayeed, or Sawyer from Lost. If your wife/girlfriend reveals that she has a crush on either Sawyer or Sayeed, you’re in pretty good shape. It is highly unlikely that she will ever meet a surly con artist or a former Iraqi Republican Guard torture expert… let alone be swept off of her feet by them. But if your girl has the hots for Jack, be very, very afraid. There are a lot of divorced, desperate 30-something doctors out there trolling outside of Bath and Body Works looking for vulnerable women whose husband/boyfriend just did something incredibly stupid and insensitive, such as forgetting that today marked the 1,000th day since your first date.
Since most women would like their men to adopt at least a few of the Edward/Jacob qualities, I'll lend a hand to my helpless male readers who have not yet read the books but would like to make it sound like they have. If you ever find yourself in any of the situations below and your wife/girlfriend is a Twilight fan, the following quotes will be pure gold:
(LADIES: PLEASE HELP US OUT AND POST COMMENTS TO LET US KNOW WHICH OF THE FOLLOWING QUOTES YOU LIKE THE BEST)
-If she thinks that you drive too recklessly: "Honey, please trust me as much as Bella trusted Edward when he had to break all known traffic laws to get her out of Forks and away from Victoria. If he can drive Bella's pickup truck that recklessly, then I should be able to steer with my knees while texting with my right hand and using my left hand to hold my Slurpee."
-If she ever says on a very warm day: "I feel so hot right now" you should respond with, "My body always feels hot to the touch....kind of like Jacob's." You can then raise your eyebrows like Magnum P.I., flex your pecks (to the best of your ability), and put your arm around her.
-If she ever says on a very cold day: "I feel so cold right now" you should respond with, "My body always feels cold to the touch....kind of like Edward's." You can then raise your eyebrows like Magnum P.I., flex your pecks (to best of your ability), and put your arm around her.
-If she is insecure about her looks and repeatedly asks you if she is pretty, stroke her hair and gently say: "Sweetheart, you always look beautiful...in a Bella sort of way." Note: After using this line it may take a while for the bruising to heal.
-On your next anniversary, write the following in your card: "I am eternally grateful to know that we can be together forever. I am even more grateful that I did not have to sink my vampire teeth into your neck and suck out all of your blood to make it happen." Believe me, she'll dig that one.
-After numbing your lips by sucking on a Popsicle, ask her: "Have you ever wondered what it feels like to kiss Edward?" Note: She will be utterly helpless when you close your eyes and lean toward her.
Well, guys, there you have it. Be sure to check the comments to see which of the quotes will score the most points with your wife or girlfriend. In the meantime, do everything possible to act like an undead vampire and/or a teenage werewolf while keeping the love of your life away from Jack from Lost. If women only knew how hard it is to be an ordinary man with no supernatural abilities!
Has anyone seen my wife?
What a week! Wednesday night our furnace went out... it was -2 degrees in Pittsburgh mind you... a great time to lose heat! I spent most the night and next day doing the following: ...talking with an emergency repair man that could not fix our problem until the next day (turns out we have an "irregular furnace with tough to find parts") ...continually attempting to keep a fire going in our fireplace... going to Wal-Mart at 1:30 am to get some space heaters... running into a member of my congregation who wanted to chat at 1:30 am at Wal-Mart... locating some kerosene at a little past 2 am to fuel the large space heater I purchased at Wal-Mart ... calling the fire department because our CO2 detector was beeping (long story)... having the firemen (who looked like they were 12) walk through our house with their meters at around 3:30 am to tell us nothing was wrong... monitoring the thermostat that got down as low as 45 degrees... turning on all our faucets to a slow drip so they would not freeze (except for the shower in our master bath... forgot that one)... answering the phone at 6:30 am when the Seneca Valley School District called a 2-hour delay (thanks for not doing it the night before like all the other school districts in the area)... preparing to take a shower to get ready for the day only to discover that the shower pipes were frozen in our master bath (because I forgot to turn that faucet on)... thawing pipes in master bath... visiting with furnace repair man in my basement... rushing to a meeting at the office while looking like I did not shower (because I didn't)... visiting again with repair man in my basement... begin work on messages, reports, letters, budgets etc while at home wearing two sweaters... visit again with repairman in my basement... look for a new place to have journey group that usually meets in our home because we still have no heat... visit yet again with the repairman in my basement... breathe a sigh of relief when our furnace gets fixed at around 6pm on Thursday... decide not to go to journey group at someone else’s home because i can't make my eyes stay open... and then after not sleeping for 36 hours... go nighty night.
So how was your week?