God and Athletics

October 28, 2011

I am going to start this post out with a small confession. When I tell you this some of you may just stop reading right there. It may just be too much for you. You may think something like “That’s it! Now I cannot trust anything this guy says anymore.” As you think that you may move your mouse to the right side of this this post and click “unsubscribe” (Oh, you are not subscribed? Well go ahead and check that out!). Alright, here it is: I am not a baseball fan.

Let me rephrase that: I am not a fan of sitting on my couch and watching baseball. I love the play the game. I love to head out to third base or left field and let the fly balls head my way. I even don’t mind actually going to a game. Although I think the last game I went to was during the season of the great Mark McGwire/Sammy Sosa battle. I remember it being fun though.

All that being said, I had last night’s game on from about the bottom of the fourth until the end of the game. I was not really paying attention except to look up every once-in-a-while to see how the score was progressing. Once the 9th inning came around I was completely into it. It had been such a back and forth that I wanted to see who finally came out on top. I was on the edge of my seat (or I would have been if I had not been sitting on the floor) when, not once, but twice, the rangers were one out away from winning the World Series.

Now here is the kicker. I found myself wanting to pray for a certain outcome. I was so caught up in the moment that I wanted to ask God for some divine intervention. I don’t really care about baseball (last night’s game was especially good though)!

That made me think about those whose life revolves around baseball. I’m not talking about the guy in your Sunday School class who wears his Cardinal’s shirt on under his button up and he didn’t bother turning it inside out so you can still see the logo through his thin dress shirt.

I mean people who live and breathe baseball. They cannot imagine their lives without it. They need baseball. Baseball is the most important thing to them.

Now I am not trying to pick on baseball. Let’s broaden the topic to anything that we place higher than God. There are so many things out there that can do this to us. Here is a small list of ways to check if you are placing more emphasis on something or someone other than God.

Getting mad during the Sunday morning worship. Do you get upset when the service runs a little over because you will be missing your game that happens Sunday afternoon? I can guarantee that what God can do in your life through the preaching of His word or through taking the Lord’s Supper together is way more important than catching the opening kickoff. In the age of DVR surely you can start recording and then catch up once you get home (unless you are like me and do not have a DVR).

You ask the preacher to cancel the Sunday Night service. I’m sorry but there is not a game in the world more important than having another opportunity to share or listen to the gospel.

You buy a bunch of tickets but give no money to the local church. It is said that we can tell where our hearts are by how we spend our money. Where is all of your money going? If we are grateful for what Christ has done we should desire to give so that the church can keep doing more work that God has given her to do.

You find time to catch all the games but there is just no time to read the Bible. It is so important for us to be getting into God’s word. This is how we learn His will and one way the Holy Spirit works in our lives. We need to find some time on a regular basis to be getting in our Bibles.

Now all that being said, I do not hate sports. I think they can be a lot of fun and a great time to rally around our teams with friends. I have no problem with going to games, playing sports, or coaching little league. In fact I will probably be watching the last game of the World Series. Let’s just be careful to not make these recreational activities more important than our Lord who has saved us.

What other things would you add to my list? What other activities do weplace higher than God?

Let’s Meet Together!

October 26, 2011

I spoke at FCA this morning at the local school. It is so amazing to me that so many students come to these meetings. There were fewer students today than the last two weeks that I have been there though. Maybe they heard I would be speaking. Even with fewer students there were still 25-30 teens present. That just blows me away! When we did See You at the Pole here, there were 100+ students there!

It is encouraging for me to see so many teens involved in Christian activities. I realize that not all of them necessarily take their faith seriously and they are all at different points in their walk with Christ, but that is what’s so cool about it! If they are present, at least they are able to hear the Word of God being presented.

Seeing all of them together makes me think about how important it is to have a Christian community. God did not intend for us to go through this life alone. Jesus told us there would be problems along the way and that is one reason why it is so important for believers to continue meeting together. I’m going to tell a story and then list some reasons to keep meeting together.

I heard a sermon preached once by a guy named Stephen Walton. He told a story about a time when he was serving in the army over in Iraq. They had stopped a truck to check it and make sure everything was okay in it. Stephen got up in the truck and found a leather book. When he asked the man what the book was, in his broken English the man replied “a Bible.” Somehow they both got around to letting each other know they were both Christians. At this news the Iraqi man hugged Stephen and sobbed on him saying it had been so long since he had come across another believer. This man lived in a completely non-Christian environment and the effects had worn him out. He longed for another Christian to see! (Stephen and his wife Alisa will be going to Ireland for mission work in November 2011. You can check out their mission and ways to support them by clicking here.)

So why should we keep meeting together?

Because the Bible says we should. Alright, let’s start with the easy one. In Hebrews 10:25, we are told not to be”forsaking our own assembling together as is the habit of some” . The early Church met together daily. Why is it so difficult for us to plan out 1 to 2 hours a week to meet together? This should be a special time. We are meeting together with others who believe the same as we do! How exciting is that?! The world hates our beliefs. Our beliefs are not tolerant or they are too extreme so they push back and argue with us. That should not be the case as we meet together. We get to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord! We celebrate the forgiveness we have because of His sacrifice! Keep meeting together because God thought it was important enough to put in His word!

Meeting together encourages us. I pointed out to the FCA youth today that they have each other and should be there to help each other. Sometimes we feel like we are the only Christians at school or work or in our families. It can be discouraging to think that nobody has the same convictions or that nobody believes like us. That is another reason we keep meeting together! We are encouraged by other brothers and sisters in Christ. They can keep us going strong. They understand what it is to be a Christian in this world and can encourage you to keep it up as you encourage them as well.

Meeting together challenges us. This one goes with the previous one. As we encourage each other, we also challenge each other. We think up ways to challenge each other to share our faith, or to stand up for what it right. We can share stories (which is encouraging) and then challenge one another to make the same kind of stands. We want to keep moving forward and it is much easier to do that when we have a friend to help us along that path.

Those are only three reasons we need to keep meeting together. God loves us so much that He provided a way for us to stay on the right path. It is still not always easy but it is much easier to do with someone by your side. We were not meant to go through this life alone. We were meant to share the good and the bad with others around us.

So keep it up! Keep meeting together. Don’t let the meeting together lose it’s meaning. Challenge each other; encourage each other. Christ’s light shines brighter when more of us are working together!

What other reasons do we as Christians keep meeting together? Have ways are you aware of meeting together helping you?

In this book, Stephen Mansfield delves into a very popular public figure: Oprah Winfrey. Mansfield understand the very huge impact that Oprah has had on our culture and tries to answer the questions of how she got to be where she is. He looks into her past, telling about her childhood and many of the trials that faced her as she rose to a prominent place on our television sets. He then takes a look at what Oprah believes. Mansfield comes right out in the beginning letting his reader know he is a Christian. He says he will try to be as objective as possible but there may be times when he is not. He does give his opinion completely in italicized sections of the book.

This book was amazing! Oprah has interested me for a long time. I have often wondered why she is so popular and why so many people follow her. “She is just another person just like me,” is often what I thought. After reading this book I have found that her being “just like me” is part of her charm. The book was very informative about what Oprah really believes and Mansfield did a great job at pointing out the flaws and even the dangers in these beliefs. I greatly appreciated that He was not out to attack Oprah and trying to get his reader to hate her. He was out to help the reader understand her more and even to prepare the reader for conversations we may have with those who believe at Oprah does. I would suggest this book to anyone!

I received this book free from Booksneeze.com!

I have two younger brothers, and the youngest is five years younger than me. What I am about to tell you does not leave the room. My youngest brother was sometimes picked on by his two older brothers!

It was never an all out “we are going to beat you up” kind of thing (well not from me anyway!). It was the kind of thing most families do. You know, the ol’ “You hold him down, and I will keep tapping his chest with my finger over and over.” Wrestling around was a normal activity around our house. I am reminded by my wife that it still is when we go back to my boyhood home.

My brother and I picked on our youngest brother because he was smaller. We could get away with it because he was not strong enough to hold his own. We need to be so careful that we are not, intentionally or unintentionally, doing the same thing in life.

We are all different places in our Christian walk. Some have just recently accepted the grace of God and have become united with Christ. Others have already begun to meet hard places in their journey and their faith is being tested. Yet others may be seasoned with age and have a very strong faith. No matter where we are in the journey we must remember to act in love.

Paul writes about this in Romans 14. There was some arguing going on in the church in Rome. Some were having problems with their Christian brothers and sisters eating meat that had been sacrificed to idols. They were not partaking in the idol worship ceremony. The meat that would be left over would be sold in the marketplace the next day and some Christians were buying it. Paul here says that there is nothing wrong with eating the meat but he understand that some brothers (the weaker) will still not be able to eat it because it will shake their faith.

The same kinds of things happen today. What should our response be?

Do not put up a stumbling block! These weaker brothers may have lost their faith or it may have been seriously shaken if they were pressured to eat the meat with the others. In the same way there are things that may shake the faith of other Christians around. If another Christian has a problem with something we eat or drink or maybe even something we watch, then we do not invite them to that activity. It is a sin to them! To ask them to join would be to invite them into sin. Be aware of the things that bother your brother or sister’s conscience.

Act in love always. Our response to the weaker brother should never be “Well you just need to get over it!” Just as anything you consider sin (or that the Bible specifically calls a sin) would be wrong to do, it is the same with the. To act in a way otherwise is to trivialize what that person considers sin. Do not put your brother or sister down just because you want to continue drinking wine. I have been known to have a beer or a glass of wine now and then, but if a brother or sister’s faith was on the line, you had better believe that I would not drink it anymore! Verse 19 says, “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.” We are to build up, not tear down. Even if that means giving up our “rights.”

Do all you do to bring God glory. Paul writes that whether someone eats meat, or they consider it a sin, we do it all to bring God glory. Take some time and check your motives. Are you partaking in the activities in which you partake to bring God glory? Or are you doing these things just because they have always seemed cool and you can now finally do them? As we are told, whether in word or deed, we do it all for the glory of God.

What is a weaker brother or sister to do? Please do not be afraid to talk with a brother or sister whose actions are bothering you. If it is causing you to stumble, maybe with a past sin or a present one, go to that brother or sister and let them know. As the other brothers and sisters are to check their motives, make sure you check yours as well. Go to them in humility and let them know you are doing this because you have been tempted to fall, or have fallen to sin as a result.

We are all to help one another out. Nothing I do on this earth is as important as our heavenly reward. Paul also writes that we do have the right to do anything, but do we always do it? NO! Once our “rights” cause a brother or sister to stumble they are no longer our rights.

Live in love! Encourage your brothers and sister in Christ to live pure lives before the Lord. Do not cause someone to stumble.

Are you willing to give something up for the sake of a brother or sister? How difficult would it be?

Christians and America

October 18, 2011

It’s that time again. What time is it? Well let’s set the stage. It is October of 2011, which puts us at just over a year until November of 2012. For you hunters out there I can already see the wheels turning, but I am sorry to say this has nothing to do with hunting season 2012.

It’s time for Campaign Ads and Presidential Debates! That’s right ladies and gentlemen we are just over a year away from the election of 2012! I can already feel the excitement growing. My wife and I have discovered that by living in the boot heel of Missouri we are going to pick up all kinds of campaign drama (That is, if we watch TV). We have already seen a few ads and we will see more because we pick up stations from Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Arkansas. Oh boy, we are going to know the bad stuff about all of the candidates running.

Last night I read from Romans 13. It got me thinking about some of a Christian’s responsibility to government. Now this was written during a time when Nero was emperor of Rome. This was not a good guy. He would drive he chariots around at night but needed lampposts to do it so he would dip someone in pitch, crucify them, and light them on fire. This is the kind of leader who in in power at the time of this letter.

Check out what Paul says “Every person is to be in subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.”   Did Paul realize that Nero was in charge? Surely this stopped being true after Nero burned the city of Rome and blamed it on the Christians! No, I don’t think so.

So where does Romans 13:1-7 take us? What is our response to be then?

Pray for the governing authorities. I am not talking about that bumper sticker that says something like “Finally a prayer I can pray about Obama: 109:8” Which says “Let his days be few; let another take his office.” Listen, I understand that some people like President Obama and others do not. But do you know what your response as a Christian should be no matter what side of the political fence you ride? Pray for him! Be in prayer for the upcoming election.

Keep doing good. This set of verses says that we should not be afraid to do what is good but that we should be afraid to do what is evil. Again this was said during a time that Christians were thrown into the Circus Maximus. It was a game to go watch a Christian fight for his life. That still did not give Christians a reason to stop acting the way God commands us to act! Even if we will be singled out, even if no one will take us seriously and will single us out and attack us, keep doing good! We are in good company if we suffer. All of the Apostles died because of persecution except John who was exiled. Take courage to know that even if you do suffer for good, so did they. So did Jesus.

Be involved. Now this set of verses ends with telling the readers to pay their taxes. Jesus also talked about “rendering to Caesar what is Caesar’s.” Even if you do not agree where your tax dollar is heading, there is a command to pay. I do not particularly like to get involved in the world of politics. I would never run for office (and not only because I am not qualified). Some Christians, though, feel the call of God leading them to go beyond simply paying taxes. If that is the case, then follow God’s calling.

Remember real change happens from the ground up. If you are dissatisfied with the government, then get involved in the lives of the people around you! The reason we have the people in power today is (God has placed them there) because we, as a nation, have voted for them. They did not rise to power all on their own! Want to change the power? Change the lives of those you know. Proclaim the Truth wherever you are, whatever you are doing! The Holy Spirit will not return void.

Now I do not want to come across as though I believe being a Christian is a political thing. It is not. Being a Christian is way more than that. However, I do realize that many people are frustrated with the world we live in and they wish it was different, so I thought we could take a look at Scripture and see if there was a response we were to have. There is! May you honor God in the upcoming year as we draw closer to the election of 2012.

How do you plan to honor God as we approach the election? Are you currently praying for our leaders?

Perspective Changes Things

October 17, 2011

I have recently moved to a new town to answer the call for the Student Minister position of a congregation in Southern Missouri. It is turning out to be a great decision! As part of this job I have office hours to do, which works out perfectly because I have an office. I really like this room.

It doesn’t have any windows to the outside world (but that is probably okay since I would just get distracted and if  I am really craving sunlight the door to outside is real close). The last Student Minister had painted the bottom half of the room a purpulish color, and the top half grey. Why these two colors together? Who knows! When I moved in there was a beautiful desk that was built into the wall and a beautiful shelf (it was all made by a man who comes to the church). Even with its flaws (mostly the paint) I LOVED this room. To me it stood for the work I would accomplish. The lives that will change as a result of God working in them. It was a place to get studying and planning done.

It did not seem to resemble that to many other people who passed by. I repeatedly received comments about how empty the room was. They made remarks about how this or that needed to happen so that it would look like an office.

It is amazing how perspective changes things! Have you ever found yourself viewing a situation differently than those around you? Perhaps you decided to move to a place where you do not yet have a job secured but everyone else has told you it was a bad idea. Maybe your family is pushing you to start a family but your view on life is just a little different. There are so many examples and I am sure if you take just a moment to think about it you will think of an example in your own life, either past or present.

God’s perspective is a bit different as well. It is actually incredibly different. Let’s take a moment to look at some examples.

God loves His enemies. Think for a moment about your life before becoming a Christian. You did not do the things a Christian would do. You did not live according to God’s word. In fact you lived opposed to it. In the book of Romans 5:10 Paul goes as far to call us enemies, “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” Instead of just killing us off or letting us all suffer in Hell, God put a plan into action to save us. To save His enemies! He LOVED us so much to send Jesus to die (John 3:16). He did not despise us, He did not just tolerate us, He loved us.

God forgives wrongs done. How easy is it for us to hold onto what someone has done to us in our past? We feel that if we actually forgive them then they have won. Forgiving them would be letting that person off the hook somehow. God does not see it that way. The Bible says that every single one of us has sinned yet Jesus still died for us. Jesus died so that we could be forgiven. We still need to admit that we have sinned and we need forgiven. God is just waiting though, it is not as if He is holding it up away from us. He completely forgives! He gives us an opportunity to start new and not have to feel guilty any longer for those sins. They are erased.

God is just. This is a difficult one sometimes to accept. God has a way of doing things that we do not completely understand. We do know that we need to accept His ways and follow after Him. If we do not then we will be judged accordingly. Sin separates us from God. As we have already seen, it puts us at odds with God. There is life after death (we are taught that in the Scriptures), and when someone does not follow after God in the ways He has laid out for us that person is condemned. So often it does not seem fair, but really it would be unfair of God to go against His nature. It would be unfair for Him to abandon His holiness because mankind is too self-absorbed and full of pride to accept His ways.

Does this last point bother you? Are you wondering about those who have never heard about the saving news of Jesus? If it has stirred your heart then what are you doing about it? How can someone sit and do nothing if it really bothers them? If it troubles you that someone may not get to spend eternity with God because they have not heard then do something about it! GO! As we are told in Scripture “the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.” Help your fellow workers and tell the world about God’s wonderful love! Tell them that God loves them even though they have not loved God and He will forgive their wrongs. He can make them new! “Make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

How has it changed your life to be forgiven? What are you doing to make sure others know about God’s forgiveness for them?

God Does Not Get Brainfarts

October 13, 2011

Going from writing basically nothing for a few years to posting a blog 4-5 times every week is not as easy as it may look! There have been some days that I almost didn’t post (and maybe shouldn’t have) because I was having such a difficult time putting my thoughts together. Some days the content flows naturally, just like it has always been waiting there for me to type up. Other days it is like riding a bike up a steep hill on the highest gear!

Sometimes I just get what can only be described as brainfart. It is like those frustrating moments when you click on a link on your computer and nothing happens. The cursor turns into a little blue circle and spins around, but that is it. You then have a starring contest with the screen to see who will blink first (If this has never happened to you, please come trade me computers). That is what brainfart is like. No matter what I do, I cannot get my brain to think in fluid thoughts, or sometimes even in complete sentences.

When this happens to me, it makes me think about God. I think about how small I am when I compare myself to Him. I know that God doesn’t get brainfarts.

We hear, in Genesis about God creating the world. God made it all. That is intense. All that we can see God made it! The earth, sky, and sea. God made the animals that walk on the ground, birds that fly, and fish that swim. He made the bugs and each plant. When I think about the earth and it’s complexity, it blows my mind to know that God made it all. What an imagination!

Last night at youth group we talked a little bit about the power of God. Think for a moment about the biggest storms you have been through. I think about all the tornadoes that hit this summer, especially the one that hit Joplin. Around here there was a large ice storm that left many without power for weeks. I love to watch thunderstorms. The deep rumble of thunder and the beautiful displays of lighting show such power. But as powerful as all of that is, God is more! It is all part of His creation.

I also think about humans. God made us in His image. We are able to display power and imagine and make complex decisions. Yet with all that mankind has done and will continue to do, we are just part of the creation. There is one who is even more great and powerful (now that is a humbling thought).

God is awesome. There are no words to describe. We can try, but they do not completely do the job. He is just too great for words! God continues to do great works today. He continues to use His creativity through His creation.

Beautiful sunsets

Newly fallen snow

The changing leaves of autumn

A Newborn child

Colorful flowers in the spring

Snow topped mountains

Star-filled sky as seen away from the city

God gives us all of these things, and so much more. He did not just provide them once and then left us to remember some distant time in our lives. He gives us new sights all of the time.

It is great to know that we have a God who loves us and wants us to enjoy His creation. It is an awesome thought to know that we have a God who does not get brainfarts.

What are your favorite things about God’s creation? What qualities of God do they remind you?

Walking in Step With Jesus

October 12, 2011

My wife and I go for a walk almost every evening. We live in town now so we put Noah in the stroller and we just go out and walk around the neighborhood. Going for walks during this part of the season is an especially beautiful activity. All of the leaves are changing on the trees, the sun is setting and usually there is a slight breeze. As we walk, we are given an opportunity to talk. We talk about what has happened during our day, or just thoughts we had. We make plans about upcoming events or discuss ministry.

One thing I have noticed during these walks, Jenny goes faster than I do. She blames it on the fact that she is walking both of the dogs and they pull her, while I am pushing Noah who is perfectly content just sitting and waving at all the cars that drive by (and some things he must be imagining because we don’t see them). Whatever the reason, our strides become different, and when that happens the conversations start to dwindle. When Jenny starts to move ahead but continues to talk I cannot understand what she is saying. I have to speed up or ask her to slow down so that the conversation can continue.

In my devotion, the verse of focus was Genesis 5:24. Let me quote it here for you, “And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.” What an amazing way to be remembered! Enoch walked with God. Some people are remembered for the great things they accomplished or for the sins they committed, not Enoch. Remember Enoch? He walked with God.

As Christians, we are called to do the same thing. Jesus speaks of a narrow gate and path that we are to walk. The disciples walked everywhere with Jesus and learned from Him. They would walk and talk. They walked by a fig tree and Jesus taught them a lesson. They walked to this city or that city with Jesus teaching them all along the way.

As the teacher, it would make sense that Jesus would set the pace for their travel. The disciples were following Jesus around, not the reverse. It would be up to them to fall into step with the Master. The same is true today.

We are not to set the pace for our lives! We do not read about the disciples deciding together that they were going to go a certain way, and hope that Jesus followed them. The verse in Genesis was not “God walked with Enoch.” The idea is the God set the pace and direction. We have a purpose in life, and that is to bring glory to God, to seek after Him. It is ridiculous for us to think that we are going to do something and that God is going to bless it simply because we feel it is a great idea. What egotistical narcissism! It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. I have thrown off myself and now am living for Christ. I walk with Him. He sets my pace.

Everyday we walk with Jesus. Sometimes walking just become habit. We walk passed the same trees, we see the same houses along the road. Even then, we walk with Jesus. Even when nothing “exciting” happens, we walk with Jesus. We cannot pick and choose the days. “Well Thursday I have some pretty awesome stuff to be doing, catch ya later Jesus.” Our commitment to our Lord is daily, no matter what. If we do not walk in the drudgery, how can we expect to walk when things get tough, or when things are going well and we “do not need” God? Everyday we pick up our crosses and follow Him.

As we walk, we learn. Jesus lived a life walking, talking, thinking, and acting the way God desired. His life was not about Himself but about the Father (John 4:34). Our entire lives must be about our walking with the Lord. Jesus teaches us how to have an entire life wrapped up in the Father. We must learn from His example. Even in the drudgery of life, we walk and we learn.

It is an honorable word to have said of you. “You know Brandon? He walks with God.” I want to bring a smile to my Father’s face. I want to know Jesus and walk with Him wherever He leads. I must keep in step with His movements. It’s not easy, but when I am there, it is the most amazing experience. I desire to be in His word, to meet with His people. It is not a chore. It is a blessing to do these things because I am walking with the Lord.

Are you in step with Christ? What are you doing to make sure you are walking with Him?

People Who Leave a Mark

October 11, 2011

I have been doing a great deal of thinking about the person I am today. I have been asking some questions about why I have become this man, what has helped to shape me? Making this evaluation led me to think about the people who have helped to shape me.

Hopefully when I ask the question “Who has had an impact on your life?” faces pop into your mind. Hopefully you have a few people that you can recall. For a moment I want to take a look at four individuals who invested in my life. I would consider these four to have had the biggest impact on the way that I am living my life. Hang with me through this, this is some good stuff.

My Father was an incredible example of what it meant to be a godly man. My dad is in no way perfect but watching him pursue his relationship with Christ and seeing him love my mother along with loving my brothers and I, allowed me to see the importance of family. He did what he needed to in order to take care of all of us. He served the church without putting his family on a back burner. He encouraged me to pursue the things God wants from me. He celebrated the good and mourned the bad with me. My father is an incredible man.

The Youth Minister I had during my Senior year greatly affected my decision to go into Youth Ministry. I knew that I was called to ministry but I had not put my finger on exactly what field of ministry. He invested time into me and showed me that he genuinely cared for me and wanted to be there to talk and help me process my confusing high school life. I admired that and began to see the importance of loving people.

My Youth Ministry Professor invested more than an education into my life. He was a great professor but that is not the greatest influence he had on me. He and his wife did our marriage counseling for Jenny and I. They were completelyhonest with us about marriage. They wanted so much to set us up for success and to help us be prepared for the journey ahead. It was the most amazing 12 sessions (that’s right 12!) I have ever sat through. We discussed, laughed, asked questions, and pushed back. This man’s passion to be a godly husband has helped me to be a better man in marriage.

The Preacher at the first church to employ me invested much into my life. He wanted to see me succeed. We did a devotion together every morning before getting to work. He made it a point to ask how I was doing and made sure to help in any way he could. It was a bit intimidating at first, but the way he continued to encourage me, helped me to see he was not just doing this because it was his job but also because he cared. It became a friendship I valued.

What is it about these individuals? Why do they stand out? Each of these men invested something into my life and after thinking about it for a while I have come up with 3 main reasons these men stand out in my mind.

They genuinely care about us. There was nothing superficial about my relationships with any of these men. They were there to help me sift through some difficult situations in my life and encouraged me to be a better man because of them. They didn’t just help me because they had to, but helped me instead because they wanted to. It was the time they took out of their busy lives and their plans to make sure I was doing alright. If you think about it, that is the same with you.

These people want us to succeed. They come along side us out of their genuine care to make sure that we start out and stay on the right track. It was not for their own glory. It was to make sure that we were set up for success, to make sure we could handle the difficult situations that would come at us later, and we would pass those tests with flying colors.

Christ is the Lord of their lives. This was very important for me. I could see that these men aspired to do great things, to have an unblemished character and they were able to do it because of Jesus. They could stand firm against temptations in their own lives and help me in mine because of Jesus. He is their guide.

I’m sure if you think about it you can find individuals in your life who have displayed some of these qualities as well. Maybe there are other characteristics that have caused them to be able to be the leaders you needed at a certain period in your life. For whatever reason we all have individuals who have helped to shape us into the people we are today.

Who has helped shape your life? What was it about them that stands out to you? What did they do to help you?

The Columbus Day Dilemma

October 10, 2011

“In fourteen hundred ninety-two Columbus sailed the ocean blue.” Today in the USA we celebrate Columbus Day on the second Monday in October. We spend the day commemorating Columbus’s terrible navigating skills. It was in this time period, over 500 years ago, that the mistaken labeling of Native Americans as Indians began. We now know we do not live anywhere close to India and somehow the name has stuck.

I have learned, through basic Google searching, that many people do not celebrate Columbus Day anymore. Even some places in the USA have changed the name to things like Native American Day (South Dakota), Berkeley’s Indigenous Peoples Day, or Discoverer’s Day (Hawaii). There are so many mixed feelings today about Columbus Day and it’s significance.

It cannot be denied the terrible things that happened in the early part of this country. So many unspeakable events that took place. In the name of Manifest Destiny European settlers moved in and took anything they desired, not giving thought to the people it may affect. Natives in this country were not even viewed as being as human as the white European. That seems to be written throughout our history. We did the same thing with slavery and women. Anybody we we perceive to be less than us, we treat them as such and what a terrible outcome it continues to have in this country!

In Donald Miller’s book Blue Like Jazz (you can read his blog and get information about his books here), he tells the story of being in college during a campus-wide festival of sorts. Miller and a group of friends decide to make a confession booth. This booth would be a place where Miller and his friends would confess and apologize to guests for not being good examples of Christ. When the first guest comes in it takes him a while to understand. Finally Don Miller says

“There’s a lot. I will keep it short, Jesus said to feed the poor and to heal the sick. I have never done very much about that. Jesus said to love those who persecute me. I tend to lash out, especially if I feel threatened, you know, if my ego gets threatened. Jesus did not mix His spirituality with politics. I grew up doing that. It got in the way of the central message of Christ. I know that was wrong, and I know that a lot of people will not listen to the words of Christ because people like me, who know Him, carry our own agendas into the conversation rather than just relaying the message Christ wanted to get across. There’s a lot more, you know.”

Crazy right?! What a completely revolutionary idea! Confessing for our shortcomings? Confessing that we do not always act like Jesus and it hurts people. Confessing we are not perfect and not making excuses for it.

I am not saying that apologizing now to Native Americans (or even the people in your life right now) will magically fix all the wrong that has been done to them, but it is a start! Confess when you mess up and then change. Don’t do that anymore. Get it out there, apologizing for our sins to others, and then stop sinning like that!

I have heard it said that “The only thing we learn from history is that nobody learns from history.” Let’s put an end to that. We may not be able to change what has been done but we can create something different for the future. Stop treating others as if they are less than human, and instead treat them with the love of Christ.

What is keeping you from speaking and living the love of Christ to others?