Category Archives: Faith

Technology and the Heart

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I had a great opportunity recently to speak to the young adult community at Hope Church.

In this message I unpack two paths…

One is an example of utter Self Centeredness…Rebellion against God that leads to a life of futility, isolation and misguided fear. The other is a picture of what a God Centered life can look like. One that can lead to true purpose, community and love.

As I think about the Self Centered Path, is the world really any different than that is was back in the time of Babel? Now the whole world can connect more easily than ever…we can “make a name for ourselves” more easily than than ever….technology gives us more access to information, comfort and convenience than ever before.  With all that we have at the touch of a finger or the sound of our voice, do we feel any less futile…less isolated …less fearful? Do we long any less for Purpose, Community and Love than we did thousands of years ago?

If your want to find purpose, community and love then I urge you to ruthlessly pursue and practice inefficiency, inconvenience, and even discomfort when it comes to seeking purpose, community and love…First with God then with People.

There was nothing efficient, convenient or even comfortable about God’s love for us. In Fact….Throughout history we have turned our backs on God consistently. Yet he continues to reach out to us persistently…Roman’s 5:8 reads… But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. You would think that with all that humanity has been through…we would learn that we can’t find purpose, community and love without God…Even so…It seems that each generation tries to build it’s own new and improved version of the tower of Babel.

…Nevertheless…Jesus still died for us so that we could have a relationship with him…a relationship with God is not always convenient. It is not always efficient and it is not always comfortable but it always brings purpose…community…and love…

Let’s apply this principle to our relationships with people that we care about.

I am not talking about the hundreds or thousands of friends and followers that you have on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. When you really care about someone, true relationships are rarely efficient, caring for someone is rarely convenient and I can’t think of one time when I have ever heard anyone say that they were comfortable going through difficult times like conflict, loss or illness with a close friend or a loved one.

So What is our voice activated…connected world of social media and technical convenience incapable of affecting when it comes to our Heart? It can’t give us purpose…It can’t deliver community and it can’t give us true love. Only God can bring about these things through Christ…

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There’s No Fear In Love

As I take a few moments to pause with God at the start of my day, today’s “verse of the day” at BibleGateway.com really caught me this morning.

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 1 John 4:18 NIV

 

In the context of this verse we find John, the disciple of Jesus, talking about how God’s love is complete in us so we don’t have to fear judgement in eternity. He goes on to explain that if we live in fear, we are not complete in Christ. Christ first loved us, even in the midst of our fear so if we claim to love Christ but hate our brother we are living out a lie. You can read it for yourself in 1 John 4:7-21.

I know that the “judgement of God” feels like it is a long way off and that most of us feel that we have a great deal to fear right now. Perhaps we are missing John’s point…and please don’t miss it…If Christ’s love is strong enough for things as huge as “the judgement of God” and “eternity” then it must be strong enough to teach us how to live without fear right now.

I used to think that apathy is the opposite of love. Now I believe that the opposite of love is fear. We cannot love if we are controlled by fear…and many of us live in fear.

Many reading this will think to themselves, “I don’t live in fear, bring it on.” I have a side arm with at least six reasons why I am not afraid.” If you believe that you don’t live in fear then try this little test. The next time someone cuts you off in traffic, examine how you feel toward that person at the moment. If your first inclination is to pray for that person then you are beginning to understand what it means to live without fear.

I know…It seems naive and maybe even a little silly to think that way. The world can be a dark and ugly place…and after all…”the guy made me angry.” “What does me being angry at a person who cut me off in traffic have to do with me living in fear?!”  It is in these little things like praying for the people who annoy us where we find the very radical ways that Christ calls us to love others. If we can’t do the little things, how can we be trusted with things that really matter? Furthermore, I believe that if we dig at the core of even the little things that frustrate us and make us angry we will find fear. I, therefore, believe that if we examined the core of much of the evil hatred in our world, we would find fear.

So what do we do to conquer fear and live in love? The answer for the Christ follower is to practice. Paul writes in Galatians 5:25, “if we live by the spirit, let us keep in step with the spirit.” Many of is think that living by the spirit is only a mystical idea. It is actually a very practical idea that requires will and physical effort. So lets bring this home as and make practicing love over fear very practical.

The next time someone cuts you off in traffic force yourself to pray for that person. Now I  don’t mean that you should pray for that person the way that Jaron and his long road to love suggests. I challenge you to force yourself to really pray for God to bless that person’s day. Everyone has a story. You will not lock eyes with anyone who hasn’t, is, and/or is about to deal with some sort of drama or tragedy on their lives. So pray for those people who cut you off in traffic. You don’t have to be weird and try to say “God Bless You” to everyone and you don’t have to be friends with everyone. However, you might be surprised. God may bless them through your prayers, but God just may change you in the process. You may just take one step away from fear toward love. To live without fear, is to live in and practice the radical love of Christ.

 

 

 

Workplace Ministry

I often here people say that the church is really a business and should be run like a business. I must admit they have a point. Some of the basic principles of a business plan or even the accountability of a P & L are just good practices. Churches would do well to apply them appropriately to ministry.

However, I wonder if we have this whole church/business thing turned around. I wonder what would happen if instead of asking how we can run our churches more like a business, we started asking how we could treat our work places more like a ministry?

I am not talking only to bosses and business owners. Every person who believes in Christ has the power to be a minister of Christ right where they are.

So this question is for all of us who call Christ Lord. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, How can we make our work places be more like ministries?

I you are wondering how to answer this question, you could start by learning about your main purpose on Earth.

Purpose and Privilege (an invitation to love and to purpose)

The  purpose of his physical presence on Earth was so crystal clear in his mind that given the opportunity for fame, Jesus withdrew. Given the opportunity for power, Jesus withdrew. When he was given the opportunity to defend himself when He was falsely accused, Jesus withdrew. The only time Jesus didn’t withdraw was when he had opportunities to love God and love us faithfully, passionately and fully.

But what was Christ’s purpose on Earth? After-all the Bible says he did come to seek and save the lost. The Bible also says that Jesus died for us. Was it Christ’s mission to die for our sins that drove him to withdraw from everything else? Let’s apply this question to our own lives. What is our purpose on Earth. As Believer’s in Christ, the Bible clearly tells us to, “Go and make disciples.” Shouldn’t that commandment be our primary goal on Earth.

As humans we are so hungry for purpose. Our search for meaning in our lives is a billion dollar industry. We want to do something, “we were born to do.” We want to be someone who makes a difference. We long for fulfillment and meaning. All of these desires are not necessarily wrong. However, with all of our striving, I wonder if our perspective on the subject of purpose is more than a little off. I wonder if we don’t often confuse the ultimate purpose of our existence with the opportunities we are privileged to fulfill. I believe that it is possible that we often mistake purpose with privilege.

For example, I passionately believe that Jesus died for my sins. It was His right to atone for our wickedness even before he entered our world. It was His privilege to lay down his life for our debts when he walked among us. Jesus alone is the one person who could do this for us. It was His choice to make. As much as this single act of Christ was central to our Christian faith, I believe that the primary mission of Christ, his purpose if you will, is not limited to the redemption of humankind. It was his right and privilege to save us. However, I believe that His primary purpose was, and is, and will be forever, to passionately love his father, (to be one with God), and to radically love us, (the way a husband should sacrificially love his bride).

Every action of God that occurs through His Son Jesus flows from his central purpose of love. Imagine, the creation of the universe, the creation of our world, the creation of every living thing as an overflow of God’s love. He has that much Love.  It is through this central purpose of love that He is our Lord and Savior.  It is through this central purpose and for this central purpose of love that you and I were made.

Yet, we search for purpose and meaning. We long for fulfillment. We yearn to do the things were “born to do.” Candidly, I do believe that it is healthy to learn about how we are wired. God’s word is clear, we all have certain gifts and abilities to contribute. Every single person has the potential to add value that is consistent with their own God given design. However, the things we get to do with the best hours of our lives do not define our purpose,  they embody our privilege. I believe that in the great sceme of things, we as humans really only have one purpose that matters, that is to love. Everything else is a privilege we get to do to support our primary purpose.

One of my greatest heros is man named Reggie Tucker. Reggie and his bride Mary run Orange Mound Outreach Ministry (OMOM), a church/community center in the Orange Mound community of Memphis, Tennessee. Reggie puts his life on this line daily for the kids in that community. His ministry provides affordable housing to families to promote a stable environment where kids can grow. Twice a week he holds church services for young people in the community so that they can be grounded in God’s word. It is not an uncommon practice for Reggie to meet with gang leaders in the community in order to help a kid get out of a neighborhood gang. Last week he and a group from OMOM even installed siding on one of ministry’s houses.  Reggie is a tough, driven, fighter for Christ. However, I bet if you asked the kids in Orange Mound how they see Reggie, they would say that they see love. Reggie knows that his purpose is not to hang siding, preach the bible, raise money, etc. He knows that his purpose is to love those kids in Orange Mound. He knows that the best way he can love those kids is introduce them to Christ, teach them how to live like Christ, and teach them how to love like Christ. Every other activity that Reggie works on in the context of his ministry, and in Reggie’s case his life, is a privilege that he gets to do to support his ultimate purpose.

I wonder what the world would be like if we all looked to love instead of vocation in order to fulfill our purpose. I am sure that we would still have doctors and lawyers, plumbers and carpenters. I am sure that we would still need people who are willing to do all the dirty jobs that need to get done. And I am sure that we would need people to be passionate about the things they get to do with the best hours of their day.

Additionally, I don’t think that a world driven by love would be free of conviction and conflict. However, imagine a world driven by love, where everyone acknowledges that to fulfill love is to fulfill our greatest purpose. Where everyone sees all the activities of their lives as potential privileges that they get to do in order to support their purpose. I wonder if a world like that would be filled with people who are more tolerant, less self righteous and less self centered. I have to believe that a world driven by the purpose of love would be an amazing place to live.

I close this post with an invitation discover true purpose. Jesus said,

37 “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-40 (NIV)

I fully acknowledge that the words above are commandments from our most high God. According to Jesus, they are the greatest commandments of all. However, God loved us so much that he sent his only Son to die for our sins. God paid a tremendous price so that we would be able to celebrate with Him forever. With God’s great love for us in mind, I would like to present the two greatest commandments from our most high God not as austere decrees to fulfill His holy requirements, but as an invitation to His holy love and to his holy purpose, and so I end with these words as a return path to God’s invitation to love and to purpose.

– To find purpose is the find love –
– To find love is to find Christ –
– To find Christ is to find God. –
– To find God is to love others. –
– To love others is to love God. –
– To love God is to fulfill our purpose. –

AMEN and AMEN

 

 

 

 

 

A Legacy of Love and Justice

When I think of the heroes like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. from our past who have paid so much for the freedoms that we take for granted, I am overwhelmed with gratitude. Why is Martin Luther King Jr. such a hero to me?

 

I can tell you that it is not because he walked on water, because he didn’t.
I can tell you that it is not because he was a savior, because he wasn’t.
I can tell you the it is not because he was perfect, because he wasn’t.

Martin Luther King Jr. is a hero of mine precisely because he was merely human. A mere human who from the basement office of a humble church started a revolution. A mere human who let nothing stand in his path of faithfulness for the cause of justice and for a dream of equality and reconciliation.

Dr. King is a hero of mine not just because he died for a dream that was bigger than all of us. The life he lived is also a symbol to me of the lives of so many others from his generation who paid in blood for many freedoms we take for granted.

Yes, we have such a long way to go. Perhaps it will take generations for us to realize how absolutely foolish and pathetic it is for us to allow something like melanin and money to incite such injustice and division that continues to scar the legacy of humanity.

Today I pray that we don’t pause to grieve about the distance we have yet to travel for the cause of justice and righteous. The road to justice will be there tomorrow. Today, just for a moment, I pray that we pause to thank God for the distance we have traveled, and for the faithful souls who, like Martin Luther King Jr., paid for the freedoms we do have, in blood.

To all my elder brothers and sisters who gave the best days of your lives for the cause of freedom and equality of all human beings regardless of nationality or color of skin, we thank you. To think, it was only one generation ago that you paid so much.  Yes, we have a long way to go, but I hope we can all acknowledge that your sacrifice was not in vain. I pray that my generation can be faithful enough to honor your legacy of love and justice by carrying the dream forward to our children.

Lessons I learned from Dr. John Perkins Part 3 (Whole Gospel)

This post is devoted to my dear brothers and sisters in Christ who are living out Matthew 28:18-20. Today I am particularly mindful of Rev Mike Neal and his bride Dee of Glorious Light Church in Chicago Illinois. I am also mindful of Reverend Reggie Tucker and his bride Mary of Orange Mound Outreach Ministry, in Memphis, TN.  You are living stones that are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. Be encouraged, the world, seeing your faithfulness will have no choice but to give glory to God. The way that you share the love of Christ is too powerful to be ignored. You are excellent examples of the kind of people who seek to bring about Godly Justice through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I also dedicate this to the saints at Glorious Light Church and Orange Mound Outreach ministry. Your royal priesthood is not in vain.

Radical Devotion to the whole Gospel

I have experienced two different extremes in the current church world when it comes to loving God and loving our neighbors by bringing about Godly justice on earth. On one extreme I know pastors who teach God’s word and preach discipleship. Their job is not to clean up neighborhoods or get involved in politics or social work. Their purpose is to teach God’s word and equip saints. Before I continue, please don’t detect anything negative in my description of this extreme. Their purpose is not necessarily the problem, however, more about that later, I am getting ahead of myself here, lets continue with the other extreme. For now let’s just say that the fulltime task of radically devoting yourself to equipping saints so that they are prepared to equip other saints is an awesome thing to do.  Now lets get to the other extreme.

On the other extreme you have pastors who devote their lives to justice. They see that primary role as to be Jesus with skin on. They may not even feel the need to teach God’s word at all. Their gospel is social, yet personal…real…gritty… “hands-on.” They believe that God’s word will be revealed through their devotion to let the light of Christ shine. Their heart breaks for the lost. They judge no-one and accept everyone because they remember that they were once lost fools themselves. They aren’t afraid to get involved in politics, healthcare, education or any other social institution plagued by injustice.

In response the these extreme view points on God’s great commandment to love him with all our hearts and to love others as we love our selves, some people believe that the response to these extremes is moderation. There in lies the problem. There is no “balanced” or “moderate” approach to loving God and People.

I learned from Dr. Perkins that faithfulness to the whole gospel requires radical devotion to both extremes. Radical devotion to God’s word means that we love God with all of our being. Radical devotion to God means that we don’t stop at believing that His is a just a devotional book. Radical devotion to God believes that his word is a “play book” for our lives, that we are not just to believe His word, but that we are also to do his word as well. Therefore, we can’t have radical devotion to loving God without radical devotion to loving others.

This flies in the face of the latte centered consumer driven world we live in today where we have replaced the pursuit of truth with the pursuit of comfort. The reality is that the world has always pursued comfort at the cost of truth. Let’s just say that the church cannot afford to do this. Every believer in Christ needs to know that their full devotion to pursuing the righteousness and holiness of God must be match by their pursuit of the compassion and justice of God. These two concepts are as one with God. He did not save us so that we get to fulfill our own passions on earth. He saved us so that we could share in His passions on earth and throughout eternity. Full devotion to God is not something he wants from us, as if we could ever pay him back for his blessings he has poured on our lives through Christ. Full devotion is what he wants for us.

Dr. Perkins lives out this kind of full devotion to Christ. He is unapologetic in his declaration that Jesus is Lord and that all scripture is God breathed. He is also unwavering in his radical devotion to seeing God’s love and justice lived out on earth as it is in heaven.

What if every believer lived this way?…

 

Lessons I learned from Dr. John Perkins
– Part 2 (Jesus Is The Way)

Humanity longs for justice. Humanity longs for Righteousness and Goodness. Humanity longs for reconciliation. Only Christ’s death on the cross offers enough to pay humanities insurmountable debt of injustice. Only Christ can give us a mutual foundation to stand on. Only Christ can transform our hearts toward each other.

As believers in Christ, we can’t transform the human heart, we can’t afford the debt that justice is entitled to fulfill. We don’t even have the power or the right to truly be reconciled with each other. A stark reality of human existence is that sometimes an apology is not good enough to make things right. Only God and His choice to work through Christ has the power to make things right.

So what can we as followers of Christ do then…If I understood Dr. Perkins correctly, our first role in fulfilling Godly justice is to fullfil our role as ambassadors of Christ. As ambassadors of Christ, we are entrusted with the ministry of reconciliation. There is no higher calling than to help people in their journey toward reconciliation with God. (2 Corinthians 5).

The most amazing thing about learning this from Dr. Perkins was that if there is anyone who is entitled to justice, he is. Beaten and tortured within an inch of his life several times, experiencing the death of his brother, experiencing the death of his son. Through all that he has gone through, Dr. Perkins chose to believe in the transforming power of Christ. His faithfulness to Christ has allowed God to bear a tremendous amount of fruit through him. People who were once in brutal opposition to Dr. Perkins like Thomas A. Tarrants III, later formed deep bonds though Christ. Communities have been transformed through his passionate commitment to bring credibility to the love of Christ through holistic, “on-location” ministry where he physically lived out God’s great commission in Matthew 28:18-20.

Many of us have heard the message of holistic ministry. Many of us have heard the gospel preached as the hope of the world. Here’s the deal. Dr. John Perkins does not walk on water. I don’t want to build him up into something he is not. He is just a sinner with flaws like the rest of us. However, after knowing his story and looking into his eyes and listening to him proclaim the love of Christ for all people, I can’t help but be overwhelmed by the thought, this is how God wants all of us to be. What a legacy. What an example of Christ for the world to emulate. What a life, well lived.

I am sure that Dr. Perkins doesn’t remember me or our brief time together several years ago. I only mention this because I don’t want anyone to think I have any special connection to this great man. May this post simply be a testimony to how the faithfulness of one man can rock the world for Christ.

Additional Reading.

The Amazing Journey of John Perkins – A great post on the life of Dr. Perkins –

Book – He’s my Brother – Former Racial Foes Offer Strategy for Reconciliation
John Perkins (Author), Thomas A. Tarrants (Author), David Wimbish (Author)

Epilogue

While Dr. Perkins centered on the transforming power of Christ and God word through  the Bible and through Discipleship  He also knows that caring for the physical needs of people is required for ministry to be fully effective. I’ll be writing about what I have learned from Dr. Perkins regarding his views on “Godly Justice” in my next post…

 

This Moment…This Merry Christmas Moment

A promise, a prophesy, an assurance of hope to a people in desperate need for a deliverer. The people living in the tiny nation of Judah during the time of Isaiah were rare indeed. Through they were ultimately just as fickle and unfaithful as their family members to the North, in the midst of a world who worshiped many gods, they believed that the The Lord (Yahweh) was their God, and that the Lord (Yahweh) is one. (Deuteronomy 6:4 ESV). They were surrounded by threats of invasion from Assiria. In this context of uncertainty and in a momentary act of desperate faithfulness, they turned to God. Part of God’s answer was an ultimate  מָשִׁיחַ,  Mashiach, messiah, anointed one.

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6 NIV) 

 

Over 700 long years later we find…

…”shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.  An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”  (Luke 2:8-14)

I can’t image what it must have been like for these poor Jewish shepherds living in ancient Palestine. Did they still hope for a Savior in their day. After-all many generations of people died without seeing this “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. It was common at the time to read from the book of Isaiah during Shabbat and many claimed to be Messiah before Jesus was born. Yet, this day, an angel appeared, piercing the early morning darkness of an otherwise ordinary Judean day. Yet this day, an angel appeared, not to the elite in society, but to common, dirty, simple Shepherds. “THE MESSIAH IS BORN TO YOU!” I imagine that the explosion of praise to God that burst forth from the heavenly host was only matched by the wonder in the hearts of these shepherds. Could it be? THE MASHIACH? THE ANNOINTED ONE? HERE? NOW?  “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” (Luke 2:15).

I believe You dear God. I believe in the Mashiach, Yeshua. Although we don’t know the actual day of his birth, we mark this day in remembrance. Out of all the world religions that claim pathways to You. The hand of grace that You extended to us by sending your Son to earth over 2000 year ago is unprecedented, undeserved and unsurpassed throughout history. I believe that it is true that, “You sent Your only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:26).

Our world today follows after many God’s just like the world followed after many gods in the time of Jesus and world followed after many gods in the time of Isaiah. We don’t think that we are pagans, yet we follow after our gods of money, power and fame well enough.

Thank you God, for showing us that your capacity to love us is greater than our capacity to sin. Help us turn to You God. Help us strip away those irrelevant traditions and world views that keep us from you. Help us see you, our one true God. You are Fearsome and Awesome and Good…and I love You.

Oh how I long for the world to love you. Not all will choose you. And through we don’t deserve You, I pray that you would continue to extend your hand even deeper into our hearts and minds.

There are people who claim that they are simply waiting to experience you before they believe…Rock their world. There are people who are wounded by religion…Show them true relationship. There are people who are lost in their own pride and pursuit of significance…Show them their futility. Their are people who are crippled by sin and shame…show them your grace and mercy.  There are people who live in deep spiritual and physical pain…Show them your tenderness and your healing power.

You made every one of us. Our very souls were breathed into us by You and now we mark this day, this amazing moment in history when you entered our world, felt human pain, faced human sin and experienced human death. Yet you conquered it with Godly power and perfection. And you did all of this for us, as a sign of your love and to make a way for us to be together forever. No god has ever reached so far, promised so much and delivered so completely.

For this I praise you my Awesome God…and I thank you for Christmas Day…

Let it be so…Let it be so…

 

 

 

Be Still… A Thought and A Prayer for 2013

He says, “Be still, and know that I am
God; I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”

Psalm 46:10

 

From the average guy like me, to a revolutionary theologian like Martin Luther, I don’t know of many verses that are quoted and frankly, “miss quoted” more than this little verse above. It is a gem of a verse that is nestled in the midst of a trio of Psalms, 46-48. People much more learned than I, recommend that these psalms be taken in the same context. A context that God is truly awesome, and even if the whole earth is completely destroyed, He will last forever. He will be with us and we will be with Him. He will establish a future that we can count on.

Too often we use this verse as a way to calm our busy lives when really it is not so much that we lead busy lives, in truth, we lead fearful lives. Humanity is a timid race that consistently bounces between self righteousness and self doubt. Perhaps if we ever learned how to reduce the level of self and increase the level of God in the equation, maybe then we will be able to focus on righteousness and turn our backs on doubt.

But the purpose of this post is not to drone on with flowery words that sound deeper than they really are. My hope this Christmas is to capture a very practical picture of this from an eye witness example of Jesus on earth. The example is taken right out of the Bible, Mark 4:35-40.

35 That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” 36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”  

 

39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. 

 

40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

Mark 4:35-40 (NIV)

Every generation of humanity has experienced more than its share of injustice, pain and abject poverty. Like the men in that boat with Jesus we often find ourselves turning to God in panic and fear. We cry out to God to save us from certain death.

Candidly, our world is in a life or death struggle. The picture of a little boat in a big storm is not just a quaint little Bible story for kids at Sunday School. Our world is in a typhoon of trouble and with all the pain we endure we often think that God must be sleeping to allow such injustice.

Dear God, help us remember what you have already shown us throughout history. Help us remember that, through Christ, You are our refuge and strength; our ever-present help in times of trouble. Help us remember that, one word from you can make the earth melt. When you say “Quiet, Be Still!” even the greatest storms are no more.

Many are losing hope that you can bring peace to our world. Perhaps we will not experience peace until Jesus returns to this planet someday. In the mean time, please help us see that you are in this boat with us. After thousands of years we are still afraid. After all that you have done, we still have no faith.

By your mercy, dear God, like you have done in the past, please help us overcome our unbelief, (Mark 9:14-25), so that we can experience what it means to truly “be still” and know that you are God. Our hearts are where the storm exists, God. Please help surrender our hearts to you.

Because of the works of your Son, I am thankful to be able to ask this of You.

Please let it be so.

What If… This Christmas

As Christmas day draws near and we come to the close of another year, I find myself reflecting a great deal on all that has happened in our world over the past 12 months. This has been a remarkable year. From social and political revolutions to amazing feats of athleticism to terrible accidents and natural disasters to senseless acts of violence to making the invisible victims of injustice…visible. We have watched as oppressed people around the world tasted freedom for the first time. We witnessed a young woman fight for her rights to be educated. We experienced the dramatic and personal tensions of a heated presidential election. We looked on as a man broke the sound barrier during an amazing 24-mile jump from the stratosphere and as one human race, we all died a little with each horrific mass shooting that occurred around the world.

Throughout our struggles for meaning, purpose and peace, even in the face of extreme tragedy and pain, I never cease to be amazed at the tenacity, drive, passion and relentless will that has surged from the human spirit throughout history.

What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason! how infinite in faculty! in form, in moving, how express and admirable! in action how like an angel! in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the world! the paragon of animals! And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust? Hamlet, Act 2, Scene 2

I really am amazed by all that humanity has accomplished almost in spite of itselt. And I have no doubt that, left to ourselves this “quintessence of dust” has an almost unlimited potential to overcome any tragedy and accomplish incredible feats of greatness. But therein lies that challenge, doesn’t it? It is in that fateful word almost.

As humans we long for perfection, we long for beauty, we long for justice, we long to find the center of all that is good. Yet we seldom find it. There is something missing. As we enter this Christmas season, I am not making a preachy plea for religion and I am not painting some romanticized view of Christmas. Furthermore, in light of the very recent mass shooting that occurred at Sandy Brook Elementary School in Newton, Connecticut, I find myself questioning all hope for any future of peace on our planet. Nevertheless, I still ask the world to consider one idea.

I think it is reasonable to accept that while humans can know both good and evil, they can’t always choose good. Perhaps there have been one or two individuals throughout history who have come close, but even they would say that even their choices in life have not always been good. Even the best people in history would most likely say that they even made choices that were hurtful or harmful to others. So with the tension of our age old struggle between good and evil in the background, here is the idea.

What if for just a moment, you considered the idea that there is a real God who created everything in the universe?  What if just for a moment, you striped away all religion and tradition?  What if, just for a moment, you forgot big words like theology and divinity?  What if you buried all the baggage that humanity has piled up seeking God and seeking to use Him for their own gain throughout history?  What if you kept just the bare essence of His words and finally, what if, just for a moment, you believed that this real God also knows good and evil? Except, this real God only chooses good..all the time.

With this idea in mind and everything else stripped away, it would just be you and God. Now that it is just you and God I can get to the significant questions. What if the longing that is at the center of the soul of all humankind really is for God…to really know Him…to be known by him?  What if God really longs for us the same way we long for him? And finally…What if God’s way for us to connect really is through the crazy idea that he would send His Son to earth to overcome our inability to always do good, to teach us how to love, to fulfill justice by dying for our sins and to overcome death by being raised back to life from the grave?

It’s all crazy to consider, I know. But what if, with all the baggage stripped away,  the concept of God and Jesus are more than just a nice idea. What if the stories are true. We know that humanity can do great things all by ourselves. But I wonder what we might accomplish if God were really at the center of our actions. Please don’t get me wrong, I have no desire for society to go back into the dark ages where the world was led by superstition and fear. Candidly if we are honest with ourselves, with all the senseless violence in our world, have we ever stopped following superstition and fear?With this in mind, isn’t it ironic that with all of our great accomplishments throughout history our longings for justice and peace seem to be just as strong as ever.

What if this Christmas we took God at his word? What if, without all the fog that has clouded our view of God throughout history we simply believed that Jesus is the only way for people living in darkness to see a great light and to have a light dawn for people living in the land of the shadow of death, Matt. 4:16

What if … This Christmas…