Saturday, November 11, 2006

What About God is Totally Understood?

What About God is Totally Understood?

On the inside supplementary booklet of the Van Halen Live: Right Here, Right Now album there is a quote by Loren Adams. He said, “What is understood need not be discussed.” Now I have no idea why Van Halen put that quote in their album, however, it does make a great topic for discussion about God.

When it comes to what is actually understood about God, there are all kinds of things that come to mind that are not arguable. Things like God’s love, his omnipotence, his omniscience, his omnipresence and his sovereignty. But even in those ideas we can’t fully understand. We don’t know what it’s like to be omnipotent so we can’t even relate to that. We don’t know what it means to be omniscient. As humans, we can’t understand what it means to be omnipresent – all places at the same time. So that leaves the topic of God’s love. Do we really understand God’s love? It’s a great discussion!

Think about it, the word says in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” Even though we may relate to the concept of God’s love, we have no idea what everlasting life is. Some people believe that God loves everybody and wants to save them from their sin but if they don’t believe in Jesus they go to hell. Some believe that there is no hell. Others believe that Jesus died for the sins of the world and eventually everyone will be saved. Oh, oh, I hear sabres rattling.

So, back to the quote on the Van Halen album. When it comes to real Christianity, let's stick to what we DO UNDERSTAND and not surmise things. We do understand loving our neighbor as ourselves. We do understand give as God directs you. We do understand what Jesus outlined on the Sermon on the Mount and the fruit of the Spirit.

So let's not keep discussing those things. I close with a quote from Nike..."Just Do It."

Saturday, October 14, 2006

"F" Bombs

Where I work I get to see a lot of people in the run of a day. They come into the show room or I see them at a job site and there they are, gruff, tough and sometimes angry construction workers. Angry or not, I think I've heard more "F" bombs in the past week and a half than I have in the last ten years.

One of the young men who favors the "F" bomb comes in quite often in need of more materials for his business constantly. As I walked away from the store with my brother for lunch one day, he drove by greeting us smoking a marijuana cigarette saying he'd see us later. To say the least, this man is what we'd call a "lost soul". I wonder how churches would respond to this man.

As I see this man on a regular basis, I get to know him. I find out things about him that explain, a little bit, how he got to be the way he is. Things like his parents both grew pot, or the fact that his grandmother gave him his first age 8! I have conversations with him about stuff that may matter a little bit instead of small talk. I do all of this and don't even mention God or Jesus or anything. I just, well, care a little bit about him as a person. Do I want him to know the freedom, peace and grace that comes from knowing God through Christ? Of course. But that's not my point.

My point here is that the Church needs boots on the ground. What I mean by that is that we need to get people out of the church buildings and into the work place, the play place, the marketplace and be salt and light there. Not only that, the hurting world needs discipled people who are educated in the teachings of Jesus to be out there. Furthermore, it can't be done under the guise of a program. Ask any pastor or religious program director about their latest "thing" and you'll get quotes on how many people were there, how "rockin" it was and how much money was made. Are these evil things? No of course not. Neither is show business. They just have nothing to do with discipleship.

Touching a hurting world can't just be scheduled. That's why we all need to be prepared to be the Jesus to the people we meet when and where they are at, not at some program for the public. So get out there. Be a real disciple and practice the teachings of Jesus. As Brian McLaren says, "be more concerned with conversations than with conversions" and I think we'll all be a better kind of salt and light.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Chicken Legs

The year 2006 for me has been a year when I decided to get back into a routine of participating in various activities for the purpose of being physically fit. My wife graciously bought me a gym membership for Christmas and I've been faithful in my pursuits. It wasn't just another New Year's resolution gone down the drain.

One of the things I notice at the gym is that there are many, I mean MANY people who show up there and do what I think is absolutely absurd. They work one part of their body so it will be big and strong. In the end, the human landscape is quite deformed. You see huge chests and shoulders, then scanning down you will see large midsections and then...chicken legs! The sad fact is that these people have decieved themselves into thinking that a big chest or big arms looks cool or masculine and ignore altogether total body fitness. I don't care who you are, if you have twenty four inch biceps and can't handle fifteen minutes on a treadmill you're not fit. Who are they fooling? Then again, who am I Mr. Universe? Not yet anyway.

So what about Christian spirituality and how it relates to chicken legs, have you ever thought about that? Go ahead and visit some churches (if you have a territorial, competitive pastor he may frown upon that) and see what I mean. Many churches have different emphases in their ministries and it is affecting their overall "church health". There are some churches that focus totally on spiritual manifestations. There are some churches that focus on people submitting to authority (it's usually the pastor saying that one). Still other churches make foreign missions their top priority while others make God's prosperity to the believer their emphasis. Are we getting healthy churches out of this approach or are we left with the Body of Christ with chicken legs?

It happens in other ways too. Look at the compartmentalization of church ministry. The Bible shows us that we're a connected body, a family if you will, yet we separate our ministries into "men's ministry, women's ministry, children's minstry, youth ministry etc." These are NOT evil. They are NOT bad things to have but the potential for working one muscle more than the rest is great.

I sense that there is a movement afoot that gets back to our roots and pays attention to the whole body. Spiritual health is more than just money in our pockets or submitting to authority or a men's or women's Bible study. As a matter of fact, spiritual health has little to do with any of those things.

Spiritual health comes from being connected to a body that is healthy. It comes from ingesting the right food, and being involved in activities that promote good spiritual health. I have a suggested list of activities to help you become spiritually healthy. It's a summary of the teachings of Jesus and Paul the Apostle. You'll find that if you do these, you won't be dealing with spiritual chicken legs!

- freely you have received, freely give
- submit yourselves one to another
- love one another
- take care of widows and orphans
- love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength
- love your neighbor as yourself
- pray without ceasing
- obedience is better than sacrifice
- avoid the appearance of evil
- husbands love your wives
- wives love your husbands
- repent
- a soft answer turns away wrath but grievous words stir up strife

You'll find that these aren't relegated to a religious obligation. They can be performed anywhere at any time.

So if you are a "chicken legs", get out there and start getting spiritually fit. You'll find your endurance gets better as well as your strength. Who knows, maybe you'll inspire someone to do the same.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Am I Stupid, Crazy or Just Have Faith?

I have recently resigned and finished serving almost three years at one of New England's fastest growing evangelical churches. The church grew 733% in five years and averages about 1500 attendees per weekend, up quite a bit from 12 people 13 years ago. While there I was able to be involved in starting a small group ministry, an internship ministry, a young adult ministry and was very involved in the worship on Sunday mornings as worship leader. I had the privilege of sharing my life with others, seeing fruit for my work and enjoyed the dynamic staff and the camaraderie of my peers. For a vocational pastor, it was living a fairy tale in some ways.

Now that is all gone.

Now as a vocational minister of almost 15 years, I was supposed to move on to another "ministry job". I was supposed to go and look for a church to pastor, start small (the big churches don't have vacancies that often) and build something so it could thrive and survive on its own. It was expected of me by many to take a church of 50 or 60 and go from there. I mean, that's what pastors are supposed to do right?

I didn't do what people expected.

Now I'm in a situation with no job (that means no paycheck anymore by the way), no house or apartment, a wife and two children and I didn't do what I am "supposed to do". No, I did the unthinkable. I prayed, listened to God a lot and followed my heart. I searched the longings of my soul to figure out what it was God has crafted me for and what I wanted to do. What did I do you may ask? I decided to sell most of my earthly belongings, send my wife and kids to eastern Canada while I prepare to fly to western Canada to land a job, a place to live and carve out a new life for us.

We are starting over.

Yes, starting over, my life, career, location, EVERYTHING! I will be relocating 3000 miles from where I've been my whole life. Some may think that I'm stupid or crazy. You need to know that this is one of the biggest acts of faith that I have ever trusted God for. In this whole process I've learned to trust God for EVERYTHING! Finances, debt elimination, a place to live in the relocation process, job prospects, family provision and so on and so on. Each and every time we had an obstacle in our path, we have found that God always had an answer for it. I've not had a worry in the process so far. My wife is scared stiff, 100% supportive, but scared stiff. Me, I'm still in awe of the adventure of it.

"Pray, and let God worry." - Martin Luther

In light of starting over, people are realizing that I am not currently returning to vocational ministry. I'm going to work a job and provide for my family and serve the Lord with my gifts in ways that I've wanted to before but couldn't always do so previously. It is puzzling to some because they have this sense that I'm "called to the ministry" and should be a pastor. But I don't know why people think this as the Bible clearly teaches that ALL ARE CALLED TO THE MINISTRY. Being a pastor has absolutely nothing to do with being hired by a church to manage and administrate. That's being a manager and administrating. Being a pastor has everything to do with being up close and personal with sheep, knowing who they are and living where they live. Hey, shepherds even smelled like their sheep. You can't smell like sheep let alone feed them if you aren't in proximity to them.

So in a nutshell I feel like I'm discovering more of who I really am and what I'm really about. Isn't that what we all long for? Look at the statistics of those who hate their jobs and feel stuck in life. Do those people really know who they are and what they really want? Do they have an incling or even a plan as to what they want and how to get there? I feel like I do and it feels great!

"Make no small plans. For they have no power to stir humanity's blood." - Daniel Burnham, a 19th-century architect

So get out there and dream and dream big! Don't let anyone tell you what you can and cannot do. Listen to the voice of God and go for what your heart desires, even if people think you're stupid or by faith!

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Spiritual GPS

Brian McLaren, who is an author and a pastor in the Emergent Church movenent, spoke at Vision New England's annual Congress event in February of 2006. As a person in an organization there promoting our ministry, I couldn't wait to get the chance to duck in on his session and hear what he had to say. There are a couple of things he said that really stuck out for me. One of which I'll share now and one a bit later in another posting.

While Brian was speaking, he said these words that resonated within me. He said, "When you have a lot of change in a short amount of time, the old maps no longer show us reality."

Now he, nor I, is not referring to the Bible as our map that doesn't show reality, rather, it's the accepted ways of doing things. How we get to the ends we're trying to achieve sometimes changes. This is illustrated adeptly in the Rand McNally Road Atlas. It's updated every year. Why? Because the roads and routes whereby people have taken for years to get to work, vacation etc. have changed greatly in some places. Where I live, the infamous "Big Dig" of Boston has changed everything in how to get into the city, to the bus station, to the airport etc. The old maps really don't reflect a picture of reality anymore. I remember going to the bus station to pick up my sister-in-law in Boston. It was the first time in a couple of years where I had to go to the bus station. It was frustrating because I couldn't go the way I used to. That way didn't exist anymore!

So what does this mean for Christian spirituality in today's day and age? Well first of all it doesn't mean that the message changes one bit. God loves us, is willing and ready to punish sin and forgives us based on his wrath being satisfied through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ is still the way it is. But, we must admit some things have changed.

1. How people hear has changed. We can no longer assume that people know and understand who Jesus Christ is. In this generation, we are dealing with a people that are totally ignorant to the concept of the biblical Jesus. We can't just tell them Jesus loves them. They don't even know who Jesus is. There must be a relevant explanation of Christ.

2. What people respond to in regard to the plea of another human being has changed. It was once popular to have a long bench known as a "mourner's bench" or "sinner's bench" in churches. At the end of a very passionate and lively-delivered sermon, there would be a place for all who would walk the aisle and confess their sin in front of the church. In doing so they would be saved.

3. The definition of "Christian" has changed. If you were to look at George Barna's web site ( and see the statistics, you'll find that while many people define themselves as "Christian", most of those people do not exhibit or practice any of the behaviors that a disciple of Christ would exhibit. In this day and age, it can be confusing when you can live how you want and say what you will and call yourself a Christian, meanwhile, exhibiting none of the behaviors of what Jesus would call a disciple.

It's time we all get a spiritual GPS! A GPS simply takes information from a satelite above and shows the up-to-date map so the user can travel quickly and efficiently. If one misses a turn, the information from above shows alternate routes and guides the user back on track.

It's time we get synched up with the things above so we can effectively travel the routes that God has planned for us. While some believers will insist that the road they used to use is the best way to go, reality is telling everybody else that that road doesn't even exist anymore.

I believe that God is leading a bunch of people in a path of discipleship that looks like it's off the beaten path and it may well be, however, in time we'll see that it's the path God intended. I believe we'll see people using methods, venues, all kinds of places to bring people into the knowledge of Jesus Christ that were unheard of 50 or 60 years ago, maybe even 5 or 10 years ago! But it's OK. As long as we stay connected to the Giver of the information above, he will lead us and guide us into all truth.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Pluto Isn't a Planet and Other Things We Didn't Know

On August 24, 2006, the International Astronomical Union met in Prague. This union is a vast group of distinguished men and women who have devoted themselves, their entire lives, to the observation, study, understanding and discovery of all things astronomical. If it's in space, they're interested in it.

During this year's general assembly, some interesting things happened. One which was the re-defining of what a planet is. To some this may be immaterial, however, it has some ramifications and, as we will explore, some spiritual parallels.

A planet must a) be a celestial body that orbits the sun b) posess enough gravity to pull itself into a spherical shape c) have "cleared the neighborhood around it".

One may say, "well what's the big deal?" Well, the big deal is, when I was in school we had nine planets. All I've ever known was Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto. However, according to the new definition, Pluto is no longer a planet! Now we have eight. What am I going to tell my kids? Not only that, according to the new definition (with Pluto being a dwarf planet category body now), there have been discoveries of other celestial bodies beyond Pluto that fit Pluto's description of "dwarf planet". The astronomical "landscape" (if I can say that) is changing. What we've always known and understood can no longer be accepted as it was anymore.

I take opportunities like this to think about the spiritual questions this type of thing raises. I, like many other people, have been raised in a religious, Christian culture. For centuries the "norms", the rules that define what a Christian is or is not, the accepted thoughts and acceptable teachings from what we think we know and understand of the Bible, have been put in front of us in text books, self-help books, Bible lessons, Christian radio and TV programs and Sunday morning sermons. My question is not, "was that all wrong?" but "is there more out there we're not discovering?"

Jesus came to the religious people and REDEFINED what a servant of God was. I contend that he even came to redefine for our clarification who God was. He re-drew the lines and in doing so, people discovered that there was a lot more to God and being a person of God than they thought. Yes, Jesus even challenged the orthodoxy of the day. The right teachings that came from the spiritual leaders of the day, founded by Moses, given from the hand of God were all challenged by Jesus. Jesus was telling them essentially that there were now eight planets, not nine like they were taught!

So, yes there will be people who will always think that Pluto is a planet. They will say that it's always been a planet so why change it now? It was good enough to be a planet when my parents were kids and when I was a kid so why can't it still be a planet now? They may even ask, "who are they to redefine what a planet is anyway?" In the same manner we will always have people who want to hold onto old religious norms. It was good enough for them so it's good enough for me. Besides, who are you to change anything?

I think we should look at it a bit differently. The people who are re-defining what a planet is or isn't aren't trying to limit or hurt anyone. They are exploring the vastness of the universe and finding out new things. In fact, in their process of defining and re-defining they are actually refining their knowledge. It is based on what always was that they didn't know yet!

So for all of you on your quest to know God more, don't be afraid to explore. Don't be afraid to ask questions and observe. In doing so you'll find that many things that you may question that you thought were rock solid about your faith (i.e. Pluto is a planet) will lead you to discover new things about the heart of God that you'd never known had you not gone through that process.

So love Jesus, obey his commands and explore the vastness of God.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Lessons From the Grave Part II

This second part in a series, has come from the hearts of young adults who had a unique experience recently. In our series "Lessons From the Grave" where we looked at people who are dead and gone and what their lives teach us, we concluded with a trip to the cemetery where we all were faced with the reality that one day, the dead poeple talking will be us.

What will be the lessons we leave after we're dead?

So each person took some time to walk, sit, ponder and pray. Then they finished this sentence on paper, "I want to be remembered as..."

They took their papers and put them in a mock casket set up in the cemetery just for them. This is what they wrote.

I want my legacy and life lesson to be that of someone who loved the Lord God first and loved his neighbor (family, friends, and strangers) as himself, and who poured out his life serving God and serving others and breathing life wherever I went. Loving people out of places of brokenness back to life. A man whose character and integrity and compassion were never in question. If any man wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me- (Matthew 5) by being this man, He did not change the entire world, but he changed the worlds (spheres of influence) he was in. He breathed hope, courage and life into an otherwise dying world. He loved Jesus!

I want people to remember me by a person with a life that lasted a good life with God and friends and loved ones by my side always. To remember I was unique, equal, one.

I want to be known as a woman after God’s heart. (Lord help me to know you inside and out and help me to follow you whole heartedly until I see you face to face. Amen.)

1) a follower of God 2) a loving person 3) and instrument of God 4) a preacher of the gospel 5) a helper 6) a caring and understanding person 7) a fighter 8) a winner 9) a wise person 10) kind and respectful 11) someone who fears God 12) a dream maker 13) a peace maker 14) God’s chosen one 15) a leader

I want to be remembered as a wonderful and hard working mother that has always and will always do anything for the only one in my life that I would die for and that would be my daughter. Without her, I’m nothing, as well as without “God” I’m nothing. One day I hope to take care of the sick and be great at it. That is my goal for this life.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Lessons From the Grave Part I

This part, in a series, has come from the hearts of young adults who had a unique experience recently. In our series "Lessons From the Grave" where we looked at people who are dead and gone and what their lives teach us, we concluded with a trip to the cemetery where we all were faced with the reality that one day, the dead poeple talking will be us.

What will be the lessons we leave after we're dead?

So each person took some time to walk, sit, ponder and pray. Then they finished this sentence on paper, "I want to be remembered as..."

They took their papers and put them in a mock casket set up in the cemetery just for them. This is what they wrote.

I want to be remembered as a dedicated servant to God. I want my children to remember me as blessed. I want not to be remembered by the measure of what I had tangibly, but by what I had intangibly, my undying love for Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior. I want to be remembered as a great woman of God. This is my prayer in Jesus name. Amen.

I want to be remembered as a healer; a heart mender and a thought provoker. I have healing of my own to do.

I want to be remembered as a servant of God who was not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, a hard worker who was dedicated in all she did, a person who put their best foot forward, a woman of tenacity, a ‘Titus II’ woman and a God fearer.

I want to be remembered as a man after God’s own heart.

I want to be remembered as a person that God used to heal the hearts of the broken hearted. I want to be remembered as a great and powerful woman of God. A person that God used to bring his Word to all needed people in the world.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

I Came, I Saw, I Still Believe the Bible

I did it. I went and saw the Da Vinci Code. I took 36 other people with me. Awful I know.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

The Da Vinci Code is Here

It's so sureal. It's so stereotypical. I can't believe it's happening. While Dan Brown's fictional novel "The Da Vinci Code" is just that, a fictional novel, the soon breaking movie is attracting all kinds of attention. It seems to be affirming one thing loud and clear so I must ask the question, "Are American Christians against everything?"

Recently I saw a well-known and reputable Christian author and now attempted Christian television show host lambasting the book. Not only was he critical of the book's obvious spurious description of early Church history, but he even went so far as to get nit picky at how the book was written. He turned literature critic and told his audience that it was a badly written book. He asked why anyone would even want to read it since it was so bad. His comments smacked of being derogatory and sarcastic, hardly becoming of an international writer and author. Hal Linsey meant well, but I think he went a bit too far.

So there are two camps in Christianity right now. There are "the Da Vinci haters" who will protest the book, the movie and refuse to watch it. Not only will they refuse but they will chastise all those who would do such a thing. Then there are
"the Da Vinci hopers" that hope the high profile of the movie will bring about a national dialogue on Christian spirituality. So in what camp are you?

Since I am the world's foremost expert on my own opinion (and that's just my opinion), I thought I'd give you my opinion. I heard the talk. I then went and read the book. I am going to see the movie. This issue led me to do a five week discussion study with Velocity young adults on the issue. What we decided to do was take this culturally relevant topic and use it to our advantage as disciples. When we get a chance to discuss Christianity with anybody, why not take it? When we get a chance to offer an explanation of the truth about Christianity, why not do it?

The way I see it, if someone is actually considering having a faith in Jesus Christ, who are they more likely going to turn to, someone ranting about a fictional novel or someone who wants to intelligently listen and offer an explanation to their questions? I want to be a candidate for the latter. In the meantime, is protesting this book and movie going to spur anyone to even consider having a faith in our Savior or perhaps would reflecting the lifestyle of Jesus get the job done?

Just asking.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The DaVinci Code is Coming

It took the book sellers world by storm and it's about to hit theatres in May. The DaVinci Code will entertain and thrill Americans and people world-wide. What will you think of it? I ask that question for a good reason.

I'm in the process of reading the book and I must remind myself, as should others who have read it or are reading it, that it is fiction. It is classified, advertised and sold as a work of fiction (not true, fantasy, made up stuff). Although it is a fictional work, it's content make people of faith think about a lot of things.

This fantastic story interwoven with nuggets of truth with an unmistakable religious watermark beneath it all may cause some to question their faith. It may cause some to probe for the truth. It also may cause some to doubt or continue in their skepticism. The reactions will be as numerous as there are readers/viewers.

I urge all people of faith to take in the movie and if possible, prepare themselves for what I belive will be the inevitable. People are going to ask questions about Christianity that we should be ready to answer.

So crack open your Bible. Catch up on some history. Separate fact from fantasy and help people come to the knowlege of the truth should you be asked.

Oh yeah, and by the way...enjoy the movie!

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Mom, Do Your Thing!

A lady in my church has several children all in their adult years now. Two of her daughters live in state and her son serves in the armed forces overseas. One of her daughtes in particular is what people would call "not serving the Lord". That means she's not actively following the teachings of Jesus Christ nor cares to at this time. For a mother who raised her kids to do so, that is heart-breaking but she has nothing but love for her nonetheless.

One day this particular daughter called. She was hoping to buy a house and apparently it was a long shot. She was hoping that she would be able to buy this house. So, she understands her mother believes in, hopes in and trusts God and actually talks to him. She calls her mother and says, "Mom, do your thing." In other words, she was saying, "Mom, pray for me." To make a long story short, she got the house, mom feels gratified and God gets the credit.

I share this with all of the moms (and dads) out there with wayward kids. Keep doing your thing! Don't ever stop praying. Don't stop believing. Don't stop loving them. So long as your kids know that they can call you at any time to pray for anything, it's a good thing. And if they are calling for prayer as they walk in their way without God, they are actually admitting that what you are doing is relevant. If it wasn't they wouldn't ask you for it.

This particular day one wayward daughter asked for prayer for a house. It worked. Who knows what they may ask for prayer for next. It just might be the thing that changes their life!

Keep doing your thing.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Lost Part II

When I was younger I had the privilege of being one of 90 young people chosen to participate in the Arctic Indoctrination Course with the Army Cadets. This is a Canadian program sponsored by the Canadian Armed Forces. At fifteen years of age I was hiking trails amid peaks thousands of feet in elevation on Baffin Island. Crossing the Arctic Circle was one of the highlights as it seemed to put a "period" on the end of the statement that said I was trying to do something. I was on top of the world...literally!

But before I ever did that, a friend of mine named Wayne did something stunning. At his budding age of fifteen, he was the youngest American to traverse Greenland on foot from East Coast to West Coast. He may still be the youngest American to do so. His story is stunning. I'll attempt to do it justice.

As Wayne was the photographer for the excursion, his responsibilities lie with cameras, film and the maintenance thereof. They broke camp one day and skied off to their next way point somewhere in the middle of Greenland. A couple of hours into the day Wayne was horrified as he realized he forgot his camera bag at the previous camp site. What good is the photographer if he has no camera? So, with that thought, Wayne sets out BACK to the previous campsite on a beautiful sunny Greenland day.

Greenland has a landscape of white with little or no horizon for reference points. Wayne's reliance on his compass was important as that would keep him on track. Fortunately he had the ski tracks from where he traveled to follow back. Enter snow storm. Wayne finds his camera and heads back only to be caught in a blinding snow storm. He's fifteen. There's no landmarks. There's no ski tracks. He can't see. He's lost.

Spiritually speaking, we've probably all been where Wayne is. We can't see the old landmarks to keep us on the "straight and narrow". There are things in life that are assailing us and causing conditions that hinder our walking forward. In essence we may feel lost. I want to encourage you to do what Wayne had to do. Learn to rely on your's right! Our compass is the word of God. It is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path. It shows us the way to go. Even when we can't see very far in front of us, it's there. It's true. It's right. Trust it.

So, you may wonder what ever happened to Wayne. Well, he basically trusted his compass while not being able to see anything in front of him as he skied. In his words he said, "I didn't know I was back at the camp site until I saw it three feet in front of me." Yes, you just may not be able to see where you're going until you actually get there.

Trust the compass.

Lost Part I

I like to read. I'm not one that devours ten books a month but I have a nice library but I have enough to keep me busy. What I like to read mostly is non-fiction. You know the true stuff that's supposed to encourage you, shape you, transform you and challenge you. Things that will help me in my work, things that will give me the right formulas and the right paradigms to transform me into the person God wants me to be.

Well I've read a duzy this time. I've been reading a couple of books actually. Books by authors that are Christian, claim to 'love God' and want to teach his ways. For the first time in a long time the material I've been reading isn't 'cookie cutter' religious writing that echoes what my denomination wants me to believe or teach. It is not the kind of material that gives you warm fuzzies either. What I've been reading has forced me to recognize that most of what we do in American church on Sunday mornings is about one thousand years old! Now I'm in this quandry. Are the teachings of Jesus enough for us to live by or do we actually need the layers of religious sediment that have accumulated for years?

I have recently had this overwhelming feeling that everything I have ever believed about going to church, God, religion, tradition etc. etc. is totally meaningless bunk. For the first time since I began following the teachings of Jesus in my adult life, I have had this nightmarish feeling that everything I've ever known about God and his love and grace were wrong, and because of that, I missed the boat. I'm doomed to damnation. It's like I'm being buried alive in religious knowledge. I feel, well, a bit lost.

So what does a guy like me do in scenarios like this? Well, the only thing I know to do is go back to where I started. I need to retrace my steps. It's not that I don't believe anymore. It's not that I hate certain traditions or American Christianity. I think it's really about being desperate for a new and real experience with God agian. The kind that cemented my commitment to him the first time. The kind that was unforgettable like with Moses or David.

So, if you are feeling lost, don't give up hope yet. Go back to what you know. Start again and be renewed. Let's do what Jesus said to the Church of Laodicea and "return to our first love."

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

She Was Only Three

In 2001 we all remembered where we were and what we were doing on September 11. That fateful day when three planes were hijacked and used for weapons of mass destruction on American soil will never be forgotten.

I was watching the news the evening of September 11, 2001 still in shock from what happened that morning. While watching I didn't notice my then three year old daughter come in the living room. Just as she did there was repeated footage of one of the planes hitting the World Trade Center tower being shown. Her reaction..."Daddy, the plane popped!"

She was only three. That was five years ago and it still affects her. How do I know? In seven and a half hours my family is boarding a plane to Arizona and she is all excited about it. As she was talking to her mother and me about flying again she said these stunning words, "I hope the plane doesnt' pop." That is the first time in five years she has ever mentioned what she saw on the news that afternoon. She was only three years old and her little mind had etched in it for ever that horrific event. She was only three years old and the seeds of fear have been planted in her life.

The Bible says for us to "guard your heart for out of it are the issues of life." In other words, what we injest mentally, what we let in through the "eye gates", what we listen to and tolerate in our lives, it all affects us. It affects us to the point where we may not realize at the moment, but what we're taking in will rear it's ugly head down the road. I know people divorcing because some playful pornography on the side at one time became a life-controlling habit. I know, we all say it won't hurt or affect "me". We're exempt from that. Right. I know people who are dead because they drank and drove. I know people in jail because they liked to sell Ecstacy to kids. It was going to be the last time then they were going to quit!

It is so important to guart our hearts from the things that would poison us, desensitize us or ruin us. How do I know? My daughter has never forgotten 9/11/01. It affected how she looks at flying in an airplane.

She was only three years old.

Where Have All The Bread Crumbs Gone?

You have seen the movie or read the story where a particular character is traveling through the woods with a few provisions for their journey. They are scared that they may not find their way back since they are not familiar with the territory so they get a great idea. They decide to leave bread crumbs on the ground to mark the trail. The drama intensifies as little woodland creatures come and eat the bread crumbs and the trail is lost. There are no more reference points. They know where they started but don't know how to get back.

I wonder if American Christianity is like that sometimes? I ask that because when I look back to our reference points (the things behind us that show us where we were), they don't lead us all the way back to where we started. If we as Christians were to go back to the reference points of Colonial American Christianity, we would have to only allow church members of Congregational churches to vote in local government issues. We would have to follow the Puritan behavior of putting people in stocks and bonds for missing church. These and a host of other practices are nothing that the modern American Christian would endorse ( I certainly hope at least!). But we have to be honest here. Although we have dismissed aforementioned practices as uneccesarily punitive, we look to the same reference points and take so many cues from them in American Christianity.

We laud the "cutting edge pastors". We flock to mega churches and are amazed at how they've succeeded. We buy books on leadership and go to converrences so we can become cutting edge and have a mega church too. As we go to these mega churches and see the cutting edge pastors, there is one common element. It goes something like this. You go into a building, you sit in a seat. You hear/sing a song and have an opening prayer. You hear more songs then some announcements. You then get talked at by the professional clergyman and pray a prayer then you go home. The way we do church in America has essentially been the same for 500 years! How's that for cutting edge?

I submit to you that our reference points that we are using aren't going back far enough. People who limit Christianity's scope to the discovery of the Americas or even European Christianity in Medieval times aren't going back far enough.

It is time that pastors, teachers, every Christian, go back to our roots, our first reference points, and re-learn what following Jesus is all about. It's not about our religious sacred cows. It's not about our church buildings. We must be concerned with one thing and one thing only...the teachings of Jesus Christ. If we neglect the importance of Jesus to Christianity, we do so at our own peril. If we ignore what the founder of the greatest movement in history said and taught and DID, we lie to the people we are trying to influence.

Is it possible to follow the crumbs back to where we started? Yes it absolutely is. All we have to do is know and understand what Jesus said. Sure some of the crumbs have been eaten, scattered or covered by some wild things in the dark woods, but if we keep looking and stay on the trail, we'll find that these crumbs lead us right back to the Bread of Life.

Godspeed on your journey.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

So, Can Christians in America Make Up Their Minds?

Several years ago there was a rucus in Christian circles in America about Disney. It's a multi-billion dollar company that many Americans grew up loving. From the Mickey Mouse club to the animated classics, we all knew about the wonderful world of Disney.

Something happened years ago that made many Christians angry. Disney embraced the homosexual community, highlighted their lifestyle in their theme park, as a parent company they ovesaw the production of movies and such that were not even close to "family-friendly". The Christian community responded with vocal outcries and boycotts. It was news-worthy in many parts of the country. Church leaders decried the heinous material produced by daughter companies in Hollywood and Christian groups rallied against the entertainment giant to stop their pro-homosexual agenda.

Enter Narnia. You know, the movie based on Christian author C.S. Lewis' "The Chronicles of Narnia" children's book series? Maybe it's just me but the same people who were marching on Disney with picket signs, boycotting the theme parks and entertainment and railing against Michael Eisner and company, these same people have done a 180 degree turn, are publishing materials, having small groups, preaching sermons and driving forward campaigns for people to go out and see this 'wonderful movie' that is so full of Christian symbolism. Yes, it really is full of Christian symbolism. Yes, Narnia is a great movie. But come on people, make up your minds. You are either against Disney or you are for Disney. We look foolish when we can't make up our minds about what we're against. What is the world going to think of us? It is inconsistient. It is confusing. It is hypocritical.

I have an idea. How about as Christians we do what the apostle Paul said. "Whatsoever things are just, true, lovely...if there be any virue, if there be any praise, think on these things." If you find a movie, a song, a product etc. enjoyable, buy it! If it meets the criteria of the apostle Paul as stated above, just enjoy it. We don't have the time to boycott each and every company that we may disagree with because they support some cause that we're against. As a matter of fact, if we were to do some digging, we'd be surprised at how much corporations that we financially support through our purchases, support things that we'd have nothing to do with.

I beg all of the wonderful American Christians out there. Please, let's make up our minds!