Monday, October 28, 2013

You Are Not Alone

How I want to imagine myself.

You are not alone.

Hebrews 11:30-12:2
30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they were encircled for seven days. 31 By faith the harlot Rahab did not perish with those who did not believe, when she had received the spies with peace.

32 And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah, also of David and Samuel and the prophets: 33 who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. 35 Women received their dead raised to life again.

Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection.  
 36 Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted,[f] were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented— 38 of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth.

39 And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, 40 God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

You are not alone.

I. Love. These. Verses. Read them again! Bask in their power!

Feeling down? Abandoned? Hopeless? Like you can't move anymore?

Feeling like you will never finally beat that sin? Like you're too far down the rabbit hole to turn back?

Feeling a little too proud of yourself? Like you don't need anyone else?

Feel like there is no one cheering you on? Like no one cares about what you are facing and going through?

Read those verses again! Feel the power and encouragement flowing from every letter!

All the patriarchs, all the kings, all the prophets, all the saints, all of those "Bible Heroes" that walked with God are cheering us on toward the goal! We are surrounded by those who made it! They cheer and plead and pray and hope that we will make it and stand strong to the end!

Reading these verses this time changed how I view the world around me. Will it change yours? God's people from all the ages want us to be One People under One Creator. They want you, just as they themselves are, to be a child of God. By becoming His child, you no longer have to be alone. Even if you can't see it with your eyes, the true reality is that they are there.

As a Christian I am not alone.

And neither are you.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Stinky Things Happen

Not me. Just found a pic on Google.

At around 1:30AM this morning, I woke up to the sound of our 4-year-old crying loudly. This has happened plenty of times before, usually as the result of a nightmare or just waking up in the dark and getting scared. Being the spouse with night duty, I usually go in, put his covers back on, give him a kiss and go back to bed.

Tonight was not a normal night.

Tonight he had managed to pee out of his pullup (how is a question I do not have an answer to). This is a boy who has had dry pullups for nearly two weeks. Now his pants, shirt, and sheets were wet. Being the loving father that I am, I changed his clothes, grabbed his pillow, and put him to sleep on the couch in his underwear (that was his last pullup, by the way). Thinking it was all over, I went back to bed.

It is not over.

It is, in fact, still not over.

Around 3:30AM I woke to another, though similar sound. It was the sound of our 18-month-old crying. This I am used to. It happens a couple times a week. No big deal, right?

Turns out he had managed to pee out of his diaper. His pants, shirt, and bed were all soaked. So I changed him, took him to my wife lying in bed, changed his sheets, and put him back in.

He's crying (though he just now stopped) as I write this.

I am officially awake. I went to bed at nearly 11PM last night. I usually get ~6 hours of sleep, which is the sweet spot for me (especially when it is a continuous 6 hours). Tonight was full of interruptions and ended with me getting something around 4 hours of sleep.

Sometimes stinky things happen.

Sometimes they also lead to 4AM blog posts.

You see, I may be tired, I may not be functioning at my highest level, and my morning may be all messed up. I am sure that my morning is going to be a bit out of whack, and the rest of the day is going to seem kind of long. I also may need a nap this afternoon.

But I honestly don't really care.

The reason I don't care is because I am doing one of the things that my God has put me here for: taking care of my children. The reason I don't care is because I am able to serve my wife in this way. The reason I don't care about the lack of sleep and whacked out day is because at the end of the day I recognize that in so many ways, God is the same kind of Father to me.

When I am crying about a situation I cannot change, when I am scared because of the surrounding dark and yes, even when I get myself into a mess that shouldn't even be able to happen in the first place, God is there. He doesn't turn around and ignore my cries, He doesn't ignore what I am going through. He comes in, picks me up, comforts me, and helps me get back to the restful place I should be.

He can do the same for you, too, if you will let Him.

Sometimes I think we need to be reminded that when we say "Our Father in Heaven," then that is exactly what He is. He cares for us, loves us, and wants what is best for us. Sometimes that means coming to us and holding us, sometimes that means letting us cry it out so we can get the rest we so desperately need.

Perhaps this is God reminding me that He really is my Father. Perhaps, if you look, you can see and be reminded that He is yours, too.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Covert Attack

If you're over the age of 25, you probably remember at some point seeing one of those 3D image pictures that looked like a bunch of lines and colors until you focused just right. To jog your memory, they looked something like this:

(You can see this on the computer, by the way. It's a bird.)

These pictures were neat, and I have always like them. I thought it was cool that behind all the noise of the picture you saw at first was another image. In order to see that other, hidden image, you had to act like you were looking through the picture, beyond what you saw at first.

Turns out life is a lot like that.

There is a show that just came featuring preachers from L.A., California. Originally I had no intention of ever watching a single episode. It's one of those fake reality shows where they get some suckers to allow themselves to be filmed throughout the day and then squash all the disparate parts together in order to make a storyline. This time, however, the suckers they got were men who lead congregations of thousands of people in the name of God.

Unfortunately, I felt that I did need to at least watch the first episode, which I did alone while everyone else was asleep. The reason I watched it was because I saw a trailer that one of my ministry friends was commenting on. Feeling that I should at least know what is going on, I went ahead and watched it.

I will admit right here that it is very, very hard not to be judgmental while watching this show, especially as a minister myself.

By the time I got to the end of the show, however, I wasn't angry, upset, or even frustrated. I was just kind of disappointed and a little bit frightened. You see, the men and churches portrayed on this show were wrong in so many ways. From the lavish houses to the Bentley, Ferrarri, Land Rover, etc they were wrong. From the "look at me look at me" phrasing to the obviously very expensive sets and stages they were wrong. From the "say this prayer and be saved," to the health and wealth teaching they were wrong.

But in the end, that's not what bothered me the most. Allow Admiral Ackbar to tell you what I really felt like in the end:

(Admiral Ackbar, spotting traps since 1983)

The real problem has less to do with how these preachers and churches portray themselves. The real problem is the attack on Christianity as a whole that this show opens up. By propping these men up, with the lives that they lead and the messages they speak, as leaders in Christianity, it opens up an enormous attack on real Christian faith.

Now I did some research on this show. The producers are both people who grew up going to churches, and who think it is a great way to "reach people." Whether or not they believe what they said in the interview is not for me to decide. I will even give them the benefit of the doubt that they do believe it.

Unfortunately, just believing something is good does not make it so.

Because what you mostly see on the show is a bunch of extremely wealthy men telling people what they want to hear. You also hear soundbites like this:

“The Bible says ‘I wish above all things that you prosper, and be in health, even as your soul prospers.’ I believe that.”

That quote, right there, filled me with rage.

The man speaking obviously has no idea who Jesus really is. The verse (3 Jn. 1:2) is so taken out of context and used so poorly as to make it sound like God is saying He wants us to have material health and wealth more than anything. Really?

First, the verse does not say "I wish above all things," nor is it a quote from God. It is John writing to Gaius, and basically telling him that he hopes everything is going well. It has nothing at all to do with God saying He wants us to be rich in this world.

But back to the covert attack, because in war there is no such thing as friendly fire.

Purposefully or not, the attack comes in this form:
1. Men are propped up as leaders in the Christian movement based on congregation size, money, and power.
2. Showing these men in the midst of their wealth and power, and filming them rationalizing their great material goods.
3. Portray this as "real" Christianity, because after all, these men are "leaders" in Christianity.
3a. Watch people turn away from Christianity in disgust at what they see.
3b. Spread a false message of Christianity further than it has ever gone before.

It is not the fact that these men have money that is the problem. It is the how they portray that wealth to the masses. When you drive around in a Ferrari (minimum $100,000 used) or a Bentley (minimum $135,000 used) and live in a mansion or home costing millions, you automatically remove yourself from the common people. It's not the money, it's the use of it. And when you, as a minister, waste enormous amounts of money on stuff that you do not need or stuff that puts a barrier between you and those who desperately need Jesus, that is a problem.

I will add an addendum here that one of the men (the Bentley driver) seems to regularly go to Compton where he grew up to reach out to gang members. I applaud that. Even then, however, I have to ask how much good could he do with the money he has wasted on extravagant creature comforts when that money could likely be used to create an enormous ministry for the very people he wants to help?

I hope I do not sound overly judgmental or apocalyptic, but I do believe it is important to speak out against this in the beginning instead of just pretending it doesn't exist. Fact is we are attacked every day not head-on, but covertly in an effort to wipe out the truth about Jesus Christ and the Gospel that He preached. Make no mistake, the world hates us (Jn. 15:18-19; Matt. 10:22), and it will do whatever it can to get rid of us. 

It will even use those who think they are doing something good in order to turn it against Christ and His people.

So please be aware of what we are really facing. Sometimes we will face a head-on attack, and will have to fight in that way. More often, however, we will be faced with what looks like a straight attack, when in reality it is a feint for something else. Be faithful and endure to the end. We follow Christ and Christ alone, and we need to be sure to show it in our lives every day in order to combat the war that constantly surrounds us.