Thursday, November 24, 2011

Ten Things I'm Thankful For

In no particular order, this is a non-exhaustive list of things I'm thankful for on this Thanksgiving Day.

1. Peace. I'm finding more and more that I don't understand the world I live in. It's harder than ever to stand for righteousness, and my heart is heavy when I see the hopelessness around me. I often feel overwhelmed, discouraged and beaten at the same time. So I'm grateful for Christ's peace "which passes all understanding." I can always turn to the One who understands far more than I ever will.

2. Minnie. That's my new dog. I never thought I would allow an animal back in the house. But after just a week with her, I don't know what I would do without her. She's truly a wonderful companion.

3. Pam. I told you this is in no particular order, right? I'm grateful for an understanding, forgiving wife. More grateful than she'll ever know.

4. Coffee. Duh!

5. Pancakes. Double Duh!!

6. My Church Family. I was warned by countless naysayers that ministering in that church would be next to impossible. Challenging, yes. Impossible, no. A blessing, without a doubt! There's truly nowhere else I would rather be.

7. Music. It's rare that I don't have music playing somewhere near me at all times... in my car, at home, or in my office. It makes me wonder just how glorious the music will be in Heaven, where God's praise is continually being lifted.

8. Vision. The vision, dreams and destiny that God has laid before me excites me to no end. It keeps me from dwelling on the past and instead moving ahead toward greater goals. Rather than longing for what was or can no longer be, I look forward to what will be. Romans 12:1-2 is absolutely the best way to live!

9. Mentors. Most of you don't even know who you are... but I have Pastor friends that I truly respect. I read your books, your blogs, I listen to your sermons and I pray for you. You mentor and challenge me from long distances even though I might see you only once a year at a conference or section events. I probably won't tell you in person what you mean to me, so for now... thank you for your ministries.

10. Surrogates. My Mother and Father In-Law, my very good friend I call "Mom," a couple very special teens from my old youth group and my Godchildren fill the voids that circumstances have created in my life. I'm grateful to God for putting you into my life. You make it richer.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Gospel According to Linus

Epic. Heartwarming. Legendary. There aren’t enough words to describe that feelings that are dredged up every time I hear Linus’ recitation of the Christmas story from the book of Luke in “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” The Creator of Peanuts, Charles Schulz claimed that Linus represented his “spiritual side.” Schulz, who was brought up in the Lutheran faith, was part of the Church of God as a young adult and then later taught Sunday school at a United Methodist Church. Truly, he was a man who once loved the Lord.

Yet later in life, Schultz abandoned Christian ideals. He said, “I do not go to church anymore... I guess you might say I've come around to secular humanism, an obligation I believe all humans have to others and the world we live in.” Secular humanism totally abandons the idea of faith, and seeks to find “truth” through science and philosophy.

But Schulz admitted he really wasn’t sure what a secular humanist is. He chose to believe in what he wasn’t really sure of.

I think of some of the people I’ve admired in my life. I love the music of John Denver. He was raised a Lutheran by his parents. However he disclaimed the one true God as he aged. He explored various philosophies, particularly Far Eastern models. He was into EST, always believing in a higher power but never claimed to be part of any religious organization. My favorite singer, Bobby Darin, brought up and baptized in a Bronx church, is said to have been cursing God on his deathbed using words I won’t repeat here. And it breaks my heart to know that one of my heroes, Thomas Edison said, “To those searching for truth - not the truth of dogma and darkness but the truth brought by reason, search, examination, and inquiry, discipline is required. For faith, as well intentioned as it may be, must be built on facts, not fiction - faith in fiction is a damnable false hope.”

It’s interesting how things haven’t changed. Since the days of the early church, and even from the time the Israelites built a golden calf in the desert, people who have known the truth and have seen the very real evidence of God have just been walking away, searching for something else, and never finding the true peace that can only be found through Jesus Christ. Watch this from Acts Chapter 17:

While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols. So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there. A group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to dispute with him. Some of them asked, “What is this babbler trying to say?” Others remarked, “He seems to be advocating foreign gods.” They said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection.

The philosophers just loved to sit and argue, never actually reaching any conclusions. In fact, the Bible goes on to say, “All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.” Today I believe those same Athenians and foreigners would be married to their computers and I-Phones, exchanging the latest ideas, and searching anywhere but the right place for the truth. Yet the book of Acts points out that one group sought answers from word of God.

Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. Many of the Jews believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men.

This is what I find fascinating. They didn’t just accept the word because it sounded good. They searched the scriptures to find out if Paul’s preaching was on the level. The Bible isn’t true just because it claims to be. I could write a book full of lies in just a few hours and claim it’s true. No, the Bible is true because it’s an historical, verifiable account of the creation of the world, the genealogy of Jesus Christ and the Jewish nation, an accurate and exciting account of the birth of the early church, and most of all because the living word of God has been changing lives for centuries. No other book can honestly make that claim.

God doesn’t mind questions, because He already has the answers. They’re in the book He wrote – The Holy Bible. When we go looking toward human reason for the answers, we’ll always be left wondering. It’s why my heart breaks for my country and the moral state we find ourselves in. We’re shaping God to fit our mold, instead of allowing His word to shape us. If we would truly and honestly examine scripture in context, we would soon realize that He is Jehovah, the one true God, and His word is true, unchanging, and more relevant than it has ever been. In that sense, Mr. Edison was right - finding the truth does take examination, inquiry and discipline. That's what the Bereans did. It's what we ought to do.

And in searching for answers by asking the Creator, we are much less likely to wander from truth.

Thursday, November 17, 2011


Yes, I know what I said just a few weeks ago. But I've quickly discovered that I can't get used to not having a pet around the house. So... I'm picking up "Minnie" and bringing her home this afternoon. She's a sweet dog, and we look forward to making her part of the family. :)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Re-Inventing God

I didn't sleep much Friday night. I was extremely troubled and upset by a Facebook rant from a young lady who was part of my Youth Group a few years ago. She posted her opinion that there's "nothing wrong" with two members of the same sex "loving" each other and having sex. She went on to say, "If you don't like it, then you can go to f---ing hell!"

Lovely. And they call me a hater.

Listen, I'm NOT here to debate homosexuality. Repeatedly in His word, God calls it a sin that leads to death. He didn't leave room for debate. Yet that's the problem. So many people today including Christians, are trying to re-shape God into who they want Him to be, rather than who God wants them to be. I'm tired of hearing, "Well, I don't think God would do this," or "A loving God would never do that... not my God!"

Quite frankly, it doesn't matter what you or I think. What matters is what His word says. Read the historical account of Israel in the book of Exodus. When they followed God's laws, the country prospered. When they ignored Him, trouble followed. It's a simple formula, really. But somehow we've reversed the roles. We want to play God, and mold Him into our image. We accept that what television, radio, the internet, our friends, books or magazines tell us is all okay. Just shack up instead of getting married. Hey, party like a rock star... you've worked hard all week. Get your girlfriend pregnant and then leave. It's her problem, not yours. Smoke 'em if you got 'em! We'll just reshape our opinions of God so it matches our lifestyles.

Please. God gives us a clear choice. Psalms 50:14-17 says, “Sacrifice thank offerings to God, fulfill your vows to the Most High, and call on me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me.” But to the wicked person, God says: “What right have you to recite my laws or take my covenant on your lips? You hate my instruction and cast my words behind you."

Have we forgotten that God is about love? He's a just God. He rewards those who earnestly seek them. And because He is a just God, He won't allow unbridled sin to go unpunished. Seems pretty fair to me.

What really bothers me is that in the name of reshaping God's law to suit her own beliefs, this young lady has become embittered and angry. Conversely, it's what also drives protesters in the name of Christianity to hold up placards and angrily shout, "God hates you!" Both are absolutely, completely, 100% wrong. Hatred only breeds more hatred. Re-inventing scripture plays right into the hands of the enemy. A correct interpretation of the Bible re-shapes our hearts toward caring , praying for, and loving each other.

I fell asleep crying and praying for that young lady and her friends. Why? Because I believe Jesus cries for her, too. I pray for my friends (yes, I said friends) who are caught up in wordly beliefs that lead away from the cross, because I love them.

Sorry if you think that makes me a hater.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Here Comes the Pillow Monster!!!!

I'm kind of selfish when it comes to my kid.

For years, I've struggled to come to terms with what I've "lost" because of his disability. I could go on forever about not being able to fully communicate with him, to tell him how much I love him, to play ball, tell jokes, or help him with homework. At different times I've felt lost, robbed, deprived and angry. But then I consider what I've gained. I've made a whole group of friends I never would have met otherwise. I've been given incredible opportunities to study leadership, influence lawmakers and lend a helping hand to other parents with similar experiences. And most of all, my son was the defining influence in my decision to press closer to God. I am where I am today due in large part to this thing we call autism.

Last night I preached about servanthood from Philippians 1:3-8, and what it is that a church can and should expect from their Pastor. I love to serve others. My joy comes from seeing others succeed, and knowing I played a small part in their success. I want to serve God wholeheartedly and help my church family in their faith walk. So I've come to realize that I need to apply that same servant attitude to my son. It's not about what I can get from him, but what he can get from me.

Tomorrow he has the day off from school. I found myself wondering what I can do to keep him occupied. So I made a mental list of the few things I know he enjoys... breakfast, car rides, Burger King, KMart and playing "Pillow Monster." (Don't ask). I'm slowly learning that my joy will come not from what he returns to me, but from what little I can give to him.

As long as my asthma inhaler is close by during Pillow Monster, I think I'll be okay.