Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Dread

Attitude is everything.

Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life, Proverbs 4:23.

The enemy wants to hijack my heart, making me expect and anticipate bad things. This world is evil, but the devil wants me to believe that I face this evil world alone and unprotected. Somehow, I fall for this trick over and over.

Jesus has promised us that he is with us always, even to the end of the age. Paul tells Timothy that God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, of love and of self-discipline.

It is up to me, with the help of God, to guard my heart, my attitude. When I believe that God has good things for me, even today, I trust him even when the going gets hard.

No trouble has ever come on me that God has not redeemed, either in the short run or the long run. I can trust him with my schedule, my conversations, my safety, my future. I'm not an orphan. I have a Father, and he walks with me through all the shadows of death.


Friday, March 30, 2018

Good Friday Brokenness

We call it "good," but that term never quite captures the spirit of the day. I can think of plenty of other names for it:
Sad Friday
Somber Friday
Justice Friday
Mercy Friday
Grace Friday
Holy Friday
Costly Friday
Atonement Friday
Agony Friday

But somehow the Church decided that this is Good Friday. On this day, I always feel like I should have done more to prepare for Easter. The occasion leaves me feeling like I have not done enough.

Clearly I am missing the point. Good Friday is the day when Jesus did it all. I will never do enough. Of course I am unworthy, sinful, needy, lacking.

For me, for us, Jesus willingly died on the cross and paid for our sin.

My responsibility is not to prove myself worthy of his sacrifice, but to receive the gift of his sacrifice.

I feel as though I need it now more than ever.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Weather or Not

It's snowing. Again. Sometimes here in NC we get enough snow to get tired of it, but never get enough to shrug it off. So, when snow comes, we hunker down. Only the brave souls with 4WD take their vehicles out...like I did today. I had to get a haircut, which surely qualifies as genuine, necessary travel.

All winter the 6:30 news has covered storm after storm, shutting down highways and airports. It is news because, well, we should not have to stop our plans for something as primitive as weather. After all, surely we have more than conquered nature, so that we can plan our lives without weather interruptions.

That seems to be our attitude today. "OMG, the weather was so bad that it changed our plans!" This must be a very new attitude for humanity, the belief that weather is a non-factor in most daily routines. I mean, we have to have everything planned out, don't we? And usually we can work around weather contingencies. Who plans an outdoor wedding without a Plan B?

But we have built an illusion that we have conquered weather for all intents and purposes. Only the most extreme meteorological event could impinge on us. And so we can be the masters of our supply chains and board meetings. We can plan out our lives and strategies without seriously believing that anything is outside our control.

But James reminds us,  Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. (James 4:13-14)

When everything depends on us, we can control everything. Before we conquered nature so thoroughly, we had a little more humility. People actually let the weather dictate their schedules. Fishermen and farmers still do. Maybe we could learn a little from them.

It's still snowing.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Something is Wrong


We all knew it was coming. We knew there would be another shooting. At a school. Or a church. Or a concert. Or a nightclub. Or a post office. It was just a matter of time.



Sure, we are shocked. But are we surprised? This is just the world we live in. And the country we live in. What shocked me most was the number of school shootings this year. The year is barely six weeks old, and there have been eight school shootings resulting in death or injury in 2018. Eight.

Here we go again with the politics. We need more gun laws. We need better law enforcement. we need metal detectors…everywhere. We need more vigilance to catch unstable people. We need counselors to help troubled youth and troubled adults. We need to spend money on…something. But this is just the surface of the problem. There is something deeper.

Something is wrong.

Has there ever been a society in which innocent people were routinely targeted by member of that society? What leads people to be so depressed, angry, lonely, rejected, despondent, frustrated that they plot and carry out mass murder?

Something is wrong with the soul.

Too many people fail to see the value of human beings—others and themselves. Too many people have no hope. The mass shootings are only one example of the flagging American soul. The #MeToo movement reaches back decades with disturbing stories of abuse. Men have been objectifying and mistreating women for more than a generation. The rabid support for abortion in some circles stuns me. Laws must allow women to choose whether or not their fetus is a baby. It will have rights if I say it does.

Our society has been heading down this path for quite some time. It is not a problem of laws or politics or funding. 

Something is wrong with the soul of America.

Somehow we have strayed from the belief that “all men are created equal.” Along the way we have forgotten that “all men” includes Native Americans and Africans. It also includes all of mankind, not just the males. We have also forgotten that these equally created persons are all “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.”

In other words, we have forgotten that people matter. We so personalize our own rights that we forget the value of others. Our selfishness becomes magnified when we find likeminded people and stop listening to dissenting points of view. People who disagree with us are just stupid. Maybe they don’t deserve to live. The world would be better off without them. We can “otherize” people very effectively. Ask any hate group. 

The soul of America needs compassion, hope, forgiveness, love, justice, redemption. Our country needs the Good News.

God help us.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Stop me, Coach!

We forget to stop. Sometimes we choose not to stop. We know we should, but maybe we are addicted to action.

That's why we are doing a series called "Stop." Stopping is a lost art these days. How can you take a break? It seems like we only stop for a day or two when we have a good snow.

We were actually designed to take regular breaks. God made us that way. He even gives us one day out of seven to let go and remember that he's in charge. No one can live without rest. Life has natural rhythms. We function better when we work with those patterns.

Jesus tells us that we can know his rest. He even promises to rest us, if we will come to him. (Matthew 11:28) Think of a basketball or soccer coach. Why does he pull players out of the game and sit them on the bench?
  • For an attitude adjustment
  • For strategy instruction
  • To deal with an injury
  • To rest and prepare for a big moment
  • To remind the player to listen to the coach
  • To remind the player to be a team player
  • To give another player time to lead
God rests us for all the same reasons. But we choose to ignore that call to rest. And we become worn out, cynical, discouraged, selfish, preoccupied, dull. The world cannot possibly go on without us. We don't need to rest. We like to be busy. Rest won't work with our schedule. Rest really isn't necessary.

But is life without a break really life? Life with no rest fills us with all the shallow things. It leaves us wanting more value, more meaning, more depth. We only get that when we take a step back.

Wouldn't life be great if you knew that you were never more than 6 days away from laying down every burden? That cadence of rest gives you the drive and the depth you need for real living.

And what is life without real living?

Let's Stop. Join us for the last two messages in this series.
January 28: Stop and Receive
February 4: Stop and Give

Saturday, January 13, 2018

The Need to Feed

Sometimes you notice something for the first time. I have read this passage countless times, but generally I have just blown past Jesus's question here.

45 “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? 46 It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. --Jesus (Matthew 24:45-46)

Yeah, yeah, be a good disciple, blah, blah, stay ready for Jesus's return.

But, have another look. There are some servants of the Lord who are charged with feeding the other servants. This is a huge responsibility. Surely those of us who have food also have a clear call to feed those who don't. We need to "give them their food at the proper time."

It's hard to miss the point here. Jesus expects his servants to take care of each other, specifically by providing food. So, let's get busy.
  • Food pantries
  • Famine relief
  • Help with healthy eating
  • Community gardens
  • Friends for dinner

Jesus uses food to communicate his love. So let's step up and share his love with heaping plate of spaghetti and a dozen glazed doughnuts!

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Opioids and Hope

Seems like everywhere I hear about the opioid crisis. People are addicted. More people. This is a different kind of drug crisis. Two years ago I had never even heard the term opioid.

So yesterday I attended a meeting about addressing the opioid crisis. I'm beginning to learn what this is all about. The opioid crisis looks like the perfect storm of societal trends coming together to allow an epidemic of addiction like we have never seen.

Here's what I'm learning, and I haven't fact-checked this stuff, so don't quote me as an authoritative source. Some time in the 1990s pharmaceutical companies created a new type of drug that can be used to treat chronic pain. They said that it was not addictive. Boy were they wrong. But doctors began prescribing these drugs because, well, they don't want their patients to be in pain. If pain can be eliminated with a pill, then let's do it. And patients gave their doctors glowing evaluations because who knew that you could have *that procedure* so painlessly?

Meanwhile, the public buys into two dangerous beliefs:

  • No pain is profitable. All pain should be eliminated if possible.
  • Whatever your physical problem, there is a pill for that.
Well, now doctors are realizing that pain meds are causing too many problems. And new regulations limit the during for which a doctor can prescribe opioids. So people can't get their scripts for these pills, and have to look for the meds elsewhere. On the street the illegal stuff works just as well, and it's cheaper. Dope dealers see the growing market, and want to make sure the supply meets the demand.

Mix all these ingredients together, and you get something toxic. That's where we are. It will take a lot of cooperation to turn this around. We need help from law enforcement, drug companies, hospitals, doctors, community organizations, churches, and first responders. At least we are beginning to work together.
There is hope.

Today I saw a friend for the first time in about 15 years. He tells me that two of our mutual friends are dead from drug overdoses. This is hitting home.