A lot of Christians are pretty scared or at least worried these days because of the advancing agenda of the homosexual rights movement. It is more than being distressed about a societal trend of sin, of which we have many, it is a fear that our favorable treatment as Christians in America is under threat. Well, it is. Christians, or those responsive to "Christian" points of view, used to control most of the levers of power. We forget this these days, but there was a time when the "enemy" of the "Christian" establishment wasn't the homosexuals but the Catholics and other religions. Protestants were the proponents of the separation of church and state, concerned that catholics would wield power and answer to Rome. Public schools used to be able to teach protestant perspective and any Catholic who complained was pointed to the fact that their religion was private. In other words, protestants used to have a pretty strong influence on civil society, defining its codes, its laws, and its practice. I'm not saying that was a bad thing, but it has lulled us into a false understanding of what it means to be Christians. Jesus told us that we would be hated because of Him. He told us that the world hated Him and it would hate us just as much. He told us that if they had killed Him, what should we expect? (Matt 10, Mark 13, John 15). When "we" were in a position of favorable treatment from the governement, it allowed us to forget this clear and repeated message from Christ. We began to believe that we are entitled to protected treatment from the government. That it is the governments job to make it easy to be a Christian without cost, sacrifice, persecution, or danger. We have started to focus on hating sin and sometimes sinners and not worried about being hated. We don't like being hated.
Hate is coming, and is already here. We need to be careful not to just turn into people who whine because the world, even a nice American world, hates us. We also need to make sure that they hate us because we teach Christ, not because we have become campaigners against any specific sin over sin in general. Some Christians, including pastors, seem to act as if our job is to rid the world of sin. I can't even rid MY life of sin! I struggle with sin every day. No matter how many logs and spinters I remove, I have more. I can still call attention to sin in society, but I'm not going to eradicate it, whether through legislation, or public pressure, or anything else. The only rememdy I know for sin is the blood of Christ. Is that what we are pushing? Are all our efforts aimed at removing sin from society by announcing the grace and mercy of Christ?
It is fearsome to be hated, but as Christians, we need to remember that we are being given a tremendous opportunity. Instead of moaning, crying and yelling at the push and shove we are getting or afraid of getting from society, perhaps we should once again listen to what Jesus told us.
"But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and will persecute you, delivering you to the synagogues and prisons, bringing you before kings and governors for My name's sake. "It will lead to an opportunity for your testimony. (Luke 21:12-13)
Jesus told us it was coming and He told us that it was an opportunity. This is our chance. If our goal is to personally stamp out sin in the world, we're going to fail. But if our goal is to proclaim Christ so that people will hear and some will respond, then these are good times. My message is not how bad any one sin or group of sinner are. Yes, there are sins that are bad for our society. Some of these sins are currently being voraciously attacked by Christians. Others are not. Those who are attacking with fervor homosexuality are not using the same terminology to attack divorce, extra-marital sex, or even lustful thoughts. Sin is sin and it is bad for society. The only remedy I know is Christ.
So I preach Christ, and Him crucified, risen and coming again.
I may get hated for it, but Jesus told me to tell people about Him. He is going to deal with sin and when He does, he is completely, 100% effective. He's going to deal with all of it. I'm not looking forward to being hated by the world, but it is part of belonging to Christ. My message is Christ, crucified.
Don't be afraid, Christian. Jesus has overcome the world.
Having a house full of kids does not tend to add to the neatness of a home. Even though we work every day to make sure they take care of what they get out, there is always something, either a craft, a sock, an errant toy, etc. Crabbing after them every minute just to keep things spotless is not a path to joy either.
This made me think of our church. When you have a lot of people there, and a lot of growing going on, things may get messy. I don't refer to whether the church is clean, but rather to how "put together" it is. I think we have a messy church. We don't run our services with pinpoint timing or high polish. We aren't a well oiled machine in terms of organizational structure or programming. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not talking about being lazy or disorganized out of careless indifference, I just mean that when you put a whole lot of people together and let them grow and be real, it will usually lack polish. That's because real life and real people rarely fit into neat, clean, and orderly.
I'm thankful for that in our church. I am thankful that we pride the real over the impressive. I think it is important that above all else we be real and concentrate on people ahead of any "product" the church might produce. Sure, we could have auditions for special music and only let those who are impressive "perform". We could pass a dress code to make sure everyone keeps up appearances. We could shuffle all the kids away so that no errant cry interrupts our quiet atmosphere. Better yet, we could just make it clear that families with small babies are not welcome in the service. We could work hard to put on a flawless, impressive performance. It would be much "neater." Would it any longer be real? Would the hurting, the broken, the "messy" person feel any sense of belonging in such an artificial environment?
Like I said, I am thankful that we have a messy church. We have pastors and leaders with struggles. We have noisy children. We have lots of boots tracking in mud and lives that aren't always pretty to look at. When people share, its not because they're impressive, but because they wanted to offer what they have and are to Jesus. We are a messy people and we have a mess of people. Like our home, God is constantly cleaning and we are working on taking care of our "mess", but we are spiritual children, and our church is home. Home sweet home.
Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything--all she had to live on." (Mark 12:43-44)
I just wanna be happy. Isn't that what everyone wants? I watch so many people building their lives around the pursuit of happiness. Some of these friends have eschewed God in favor of what they see as a simpler formula for being happy. "Do what makes you happy." Wow, sounds so simple and easy. If something doesn't make you happy, don't do it. If it does, do it. Seems too simple to fail. And so much better than all the stupid "religious" stuff in the Bible. The whole 'god' thing complicates things too much and actually interferes with happiness. Well, maybe, except... Many of the friends I have that are following this are also living some interesting lives full of stresses they hate. They frequently express anger and frustration, sometimes very strongly, at the people/things in their lives that they blame for their failure to be happy. They also keep changing course. This guy/girl will make me happy. Wait, I'm not happy anymore, I need to divorce/break up with them. Now this one will make me happy...for now. I need to change jobs because I'm not happy. This is better. Wait, I'm no longer happy in this job. You get the idea. What makes me happy today may not make me happy tomorrow. What I think will make me happy might not work out like I thought it would. Rich Mullins has a cool song called "Maker of Noses". He talks about how the world wants things to work out and be happy and they give this advice
They said boy you just follow your heart But my heart just led me into my chest They said follow your nose But the direction changed every time I went and turned my head And they said boy you just follow your dreams But my dreams were only misty notions
So Rich draws a conclusion of what is a better, more stable approach to life
But the Father of hearts and the Maker of noses And the Giver of dreams He's the one I have chosen And I will follow Him
There are even people who call themselves Christians who are pursing the same goal. They claim Christ but what they are really living for is comfort and happiness. It is these Christians who talk it more than do it that get thrown in your face by people eager to refuse the guidance of the God who cares. And there is no point in arguing.
Happiness is a lousy god to serve in your life. It takes a lot of work to arrange your circumstances and then the circumstances can be changed so quickly and easily without warning. You cannot always have control. Paul said he had learned, in Christ, the secret of being content in all circumstances. That's the recipe for joy.
Like Rich says, the Maker of noses is the one I have chosen and I will follow Him. Doing so for the last 43 years (even imperfectly) has led to stability, peace, and joy. I am thankful that my direction doesn't change every time I turn my head. I'm not always happy, I don't have to be, but I have peace and joy. You know what? Peace and joy can make you happy!
<edited and reposted from post on 5/5/10 >
Its been awhile since I've dropped off a pile of links. As one of my professors used to say, these are points of interest. They may not be of interest to you, but they are of interest to me, therefore they are points of interest. You may or may not find some of these links useful or helpful. I was interested. They are in no particular order.
Ever wonder about the "Auld Lang Syne"? http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2012/12/auld-lang-syne-what-does-it-mean-again/
Provocative Title, but good advice on privacy. Get Naked in Person, not on Facebook
Scientists find what they didn't expect at the edge of the universe
That will do for now. Enjoy.
I had to renew my driver's license today. At first I thought I was going to be able to do it online, but then I got the rather jarring reminder of my stage in life as I had to go into the DMV to have an eye test. No biggie, my first born son and I took the trip to Mexico, Maine to renew my license and grab some quick Subway. Fun time together.
I wanted to further do a bit of review and inventory taking. Turned 43, marked my 6th anniversary as senior pastor at Bean's Corner, in the middle of my 17th year serving at Bean's Corner, 24th year at Camp Berea. The most important stats; in year 14 of being a husband, in 10th year of being a dad.
At Home: Home is my favorite place to be. Sarah and I treasure any evening that we don't have anything to have to go to. It is a rare week that I can't stay home at least one night if not two or even three. Working out of my home office means I'm around during the day to step in if needed with the kids and to be there for a quick help, hug, or anything. The TV is rarely on except when everyone else is in bed and I take a little down time (although I'm trying to curtail that and read more). We do have family movie night now and then and Sarah and I will sometimes sit on the couch and watch something. Occasionally the kids can watch a little TV. Bob the Builder is popular as are science specials (they would watch the one on whales every day if we'd let them). When the kids are done with school, they love to build with legos or lincoln logs. They work well together (most of the time). They love to make things (so much so that we have to sneakily throw some things away or we'd be buried) and #3 especially loves to listen to music and sing. It is also routine to find everyone curled up somewhere each reading a book. Daughter is burning through Anne of Green Gables that she got for Christmas. Probably have the book finished by tomorrow. Sarah and I don't fight much but we do laugh a lot. After a lot of years of work, it is pretty rare we can't talk out differences or hurts before they get to the aggressive stage. Makes home pretty peaceful and I am so thankful that she is such an amazing friend and companion. Even this early winter as she has struggled with health issues, she amazes me with her ability to minister to others and care for our family.
Church: Church is my second favorite place to be. I sit back in utter amazement at what God is doing at Bean's Corner. New people regularly walk through the door, and they aren't coming from another church, they just decided that they should start going to church. We have seen new members added every year and more people are getting involved. The kids are learning and growing and the adults are too. New ministries are being created. I am so thankful that so many are stepping up. There is no way I could helm all this stuff. People are taking ownership and following God's call. Having a team of pastors and deacons all working together, holding each other accountable, and growing is such a blessing. Knowing that in my weak areas and rough spots that there are godly men that I can turn to for help and support, well, that's invaluable. I know for sure that I am not responsible for the wonderful things and amazing growth that is happening at church. It is God's church and the work is completely His. It is that understanding that makes each week so much fun. I'm not under pressure, I am excited to see what God is going to do next!
Well, I could go on and talk about Camp, but this is getting long and most of you probably stopped reading two paragraphs ago. :) I just wanted to stop and take some personal time to look back and share my thoughts on my life with any of you who wished to listen. God has blessed me, first with salvation, and then with many more blessings. Some blessings are harder and take more work than others, but all things work together for the good, for those who love God and are called according to His purpose. Thanks for reading!