Thursday, April 30, 2009

What's going on in the world??

Funny thing about Facebook: you connect with people you haven't seen in years, and you get the occassional out-of-the-blue question.

Happened to me this week. Friend from High School, whom I haven't seen or heard from since 1985, sent me this question (keep in mind I know nothing of his background or religious involvement, or lack thereof):

I hope you don't think this is a crazy question .... but, since you are a bible scholar, what is your take on what is going on in the world? I know we haven't talked in over twenty plus years, and if you do not feel comfortable answering this question, I understand

So I answered...and here it is.

Hey. Well, first off, wouldn't really consider myself a scholar at anything. Just so you know where I'm coming from...and not coming from, too!

I'm not a "these are signs of the end times" kind of guy. OK, so if the Cubs were to get to and win the World Series, I might start looking for the heavens to split open. I'm sure there are those out there who are talking gloom & doom, etc. Not just because of the crappy economy or the never ending flood of bad news that seems to be all we hear.

Though I don't go down that road much, as a Christian I do remind myself often that we have to always be prepared for whatever might come. I vividly remember watching the towers fall back in '01, and my heart sank for lots of reasons. Lots of the same questions that many of us had flooded my mind, but I couldn't help but think about the specific people in those buildings who just went to work that day like they had hundreds of days before, no inkling that it would be their last.

I heard a preacher from LA talk about that day, and how he got home late that night after dealing with so many people and so much emotion. His wife told him he needed to talk to his own children and help them too. So instead of just telling them that everything would be fine, not to worry, he told them this: "We have little control over how we die or how things will end. The only thing we have control over is how we live our lives." Well, that stuck with me a good bit. I suppose because there is so much truth in it. We only have control of how we live our lives, and no say in how or when it ends. So as a Christian, what does that mean for me? I just try to live in a way that I suspect Christ would (it's not that easy...if it were, more Christians would do it!).

The Bible does talk about worry, and in a nutshell it simply says 'don't do's not good for you.' Funny, many think the Bible is just a bunch of rules and they want nothing to do with that sort of life system. But God lays those sorts of things out because he knows us pretty well (he created us, after all) and knows what's in our best interest. Example: divorce. Yes, it does happen, and the Bible has some things to say about it. God says that he hates it (pretty strong words). Now, is that a rule designed to screw up our lives? Or is it God saying He hates it because He knows how much hurt, anger, bitterness, etc. that can come from it, not to mention the carnage of our children that get stuck in the middle and have all sorts of baggage to deal with, etc....(Writing this having no idea if you've gone through offense or preaching, just an illustration). I have lots of friends who have been through it, its always messy, and no one wins. I see why God hates it...

Anyway, there are certainly a lot of things going on in the world that I can't explain. But my absolute conviction is that we've created most of the mess, and with God's help we can fix some things. But my even bigger conviction is that God hasn't abandoned His throne...he's still on it. He's bigger than bailouts, Israeli & Palastenian skirmishes, presidents we may or may not like, tyrant dictators, recessions & mortgage crisis', and Oprah :) And he cares enough to hear me out when I talk to him, too. (I can't get anywhere near Oprah....)

Scripture does say that if God's people will humble themselves and pray, God will heal their land. My hope is that God's people will do their conviction is that God can do his. Don't know if that makes any sense or answers the question, but it just sort of all came out.

Lemme know what you think.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Sour Grapes?

ONE hot summer’s day a Fox was strolling through an orchard till he came to a bunch of Grapes just ripening on a vine which had been trained over a lofty branch. “Just the things to quench my thirst,” quoth he. Drawing back a few paces, he took a run and a jump, and just missed the bunch. Turning round again with a One, Two, Three, he jumped up, but with no greater success. Again and again he tried after the tempting morsel, but at last had to give it up, and walked away with his nose in the air, saying: “I am sure they are sour.”


Came across this from Aesop's Fables, quoted in a book I'm currently reading called 'Made to Stick.' Immediately thought of some of the conversations/blogs/comments/friends that I've interacted with in the last couple of years, and how I think this applies to some of those thoughts.

I like to talk about the Church. What its doing well, where it appears to miss the mark, and how we can learn from those who are doing some things well....and learn from others who are missing the mark. So I listen, read, visit, and chat with lots of folks about the subject. And sometimes, I venture outside my pre-conditioned box w/in which I grew up and was trained and continue to serve to this day (a movement, btw, that I have no problem claiming...I'm a card-carrying member and proud of it).

Seems as though I have a good number of friends and acquaintances who take a "baby AND the bathwater" approach to certain limelight pastors and churches. Sure, they have laundry lists of reasons - some of them based on doctrine, preference, or just plain dislike.

Or could it be sour grapes?

I'll be the first to admit that I've wondered what life must be like as a leader at one of 'those' churches - Willow, Southeast, Northpoint, Saddleback, et al. Perhaps even crossing the line of envy on occassion. And usually I look forward to the chance to learn from what the leaders at these places have to say. Part curiosity, part learner. And no, I don't just buy everything they're selling and run off to implement it into my life/church/organization.

Maybe its just the type of crowd I run with, but there seems to be a lot of bashing going on. Almost that 'if its successful, they must be compromising something.'

But I keep coming back to the question: Is it simply sour grapes? Are we quick to point fingers at that which, apparently, we can't have? Is it possible that in our insecurity, we complain about not having a seat at the big-boy/big-church table? And does our insecurity lead to openly ripping other brothers and sisters in Christ who are doing, in many cases, amazing things in and for the Kingdom? And instead of starting an Anti Rick Warren/Bill Hybels/Andy Stanley blog and finding all the feet of clay we can find and hurling our attacks, shouldn't we instead be focusing on the lost around us and figure out ways we can bring them to the Throne? Kind of like those aforementioned guys are doing?

Look, most of us have no idea what it must be like to walk in the shoes these guys have been given. And just because their style doesn't jive with ours, and they may come across as smug, as a CEO, or a know-it-all....we're not walking in their shoes. Just how might that heavy load of leadership responsibility change any of us.

So, I for one and going to stop calling the grapes sour. I'm not going to throw stones at those whom God has chosen to do high-impact, national level ministry. Maybe I'll even pray for those guys from time to time. I'm sure its not as easy as some of them make it look. In the meantime, God has equipped little ol' me with some special skills and abilities. And he gives me the privilege of joining His team and using them for His glory.

"And that," quoth me, "will be my contentment."

Monday, April 20, 2009

Love the Sinner?

Interesting article in USA Today (click here). Interesting on a couple of points...

1) Anything that gets God in the conversation is/can/should be a good thing.

2) There needs to be more people saying things like this in particular. If for no other reason than to balance out all of the 'hate' that seems to get most of the media microphones.

Your thoughts??

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Feeling Old

Along the way I've discovered that there are certain benchmarks in my life that have made me feel, well....old.

I remember the first: buying my first lawnmower. I don't know why, but that made me feel so 'adult'. Afterall, you just don't go buy a lawnmower when you are a kid, a college student, or a newlywed living in an apartment. So I felt old.

Though there have been others, the most recent is my oldest son being turned loose to - gasp - drive a car! And if that wasn't bad enough, it coincided with his new JOB! at our local culinary bastion of seafood, Long John Silvers (OK, so its part Long John's/part A&W). Nonetheless, he's driving and he's working.

And dad suddenly feels old.

The good news is, I couldn't be more proud of him. He's certainly not perfect. But he's turned out to be a very impressive young man. He's freakishly talented (all sorts of music), treats people with respect and kindness (siblings excluded...I hear that doesn't really kick in for a few more years), and seems to be paying attention to God and His will.

Oh, and last night I felt a little older still....he sends me a pic from his cell phone of him standing in Times Square, where he is with his kick-butt choir to perform in Lincoln Center. Here is an audio of the actual choir, one of the songs they're doing that they recorded a while back.