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Wednesday, January 31, 2007

O Lord, you are so good, so ready to forgive, so full of unfailing love for all who ask for your help. Psalm 86:5 NLT
Nobody knows me better than myself (nobody besides God, that is). Aside from Him, no one understands the secrets that haunt my heart and the times that I let everyone down…including myself. It is times like those where I catch myself wanting to do the one thing I least need to do. I attempt to back away from God, to hide in shame because I have once again found my character and resolve to be lacking something. Adam and Eve did the same thing when they sinned in the Garden. Instead of running to God, they hid from Him. The verse above reminds us that the greatness of God is not limited to His power, His awesomeness or His strength. We love to talk about those things because they give us great confidence because we know that He can handle anything. But, when I think of God's greatness, I think about how a Holy God can be ready to look at my weakness and still extend his love to me. Does He have to? No. Should He? Perhaps not. But, as the old children's prayer says, "God is great, God is good…" and He is good because He chooses to love and chooses to forgive. Now, what do you and I do about that? Here's a couple of things to think about:
What things in your life do you most keep from others? What "secrets" are you afraid that others might find out about?
How would it feel to know that God forgives all of your secrets, even the worst failures, if you will just trust Him?
What thing do you most need to trust God with today, knowing that He stands "ready to forgive…full of unfailing love?
Is there something you need to confess to God, repent from doing and talk with another about? Make a commitment to take this verse literally today and do whatever it takes to trust God with your "hidden parts" of your heart.

Friday, January 26, 2007

A couple of thoughts as a parent of two kids this morning. Frankly, I'm scared to death for their sake. To place this conversation into context you have to understand that I come from a generation where "M*A*S*H" was considered racy fare due to the presence of well placed expletives and an even more well placed "Hot Lips Houlihan". I remember the first time I ever saw anything resembling pornography was in the 9th grade at my high school. One of my classmates had ripped a page from his dad's Playboy and folded into his books to bring to school. Call me sheltered; call me whatever you want. But I can tell you that my attitude towards women and sex and intimacy is in worse shape today because of what we are exposed to in our culture. And it makes me fear for the well-being of my children. YES, I do want to shelter my son from those images. I'm not ashamed to admit that. And, quite frankly, some dad, somewhere is going to thank me on behalf of his daughter for doing that. Yes, I do want my daughter to remain pure and untainted for as long as she can. Some man, somewhere, some day will be glad I did. And...if they aren't. Who cares? As a parent I recognize that somebody has to do something to protect my kids from some of the following:
  • F/X channel has a new show called "Dirt" which, incidentally, is probably where it belongs. Already they have shown two males interacting in appropriate ways in a public place (I'll try not to get too graphic with my description here because I want my blog to be family friendly. If you need more details, write me.) Today, they announced that the star (Courtney Cox) and her friend (Jennifer Aniston) will be participating in a similar lesbian tryst for the season finale. This is just filth. And it's even stupid for the show. In an attempt to get more viewers, they are appealing to a segment of the market that makes up less than 4% of Americans. How stupid is that?
  • The halftime show of the Super Bowl. Do you realize how funny it would have been to suggest such a thing just 5 years ago? But, beginning with the wardrobe malfunction of 2004, the halftime show has caused the FCC to take notice and parents to hold their breath as they viewed what should be a family friendly evening of entertainment. There was Mick Jagger singing his sexual overtones and, then, this year's entertainer--Prince. You remember him? The artist formally known as Prince. The one who regularly sang of sexual escapades. He's the one who wore yellow pants to the MTV awards show with his cheeks hanging out for the world to see. He's become a Jehovah's Witness now, which makes him "safer" according to CBS's reckoning. Are is this more of an indication of how morally depraved our culture has become when the man who sang "Little Red Corvette" (no, it was not a song dedicated to die-hard Chevy fans) is considered safe, family friendly entertainment?

These are just a few examples of what concerns me. But can I tell you what concerns me even more? That the church quite often becomes just as enthralled by what Hollywood and Madison Avenue feed us as the rest of the world. Ask your church friends what their favorite shows are and you will likely here names such as "Grey's Anatomy", "Desperate Housewives", and "Sex and the City". These are shows that frequently thumb their collective noses at morality and promote there willingness to highlight sin. We've lost our minds...more importantly, we are losing our hearts to a generation of sex and immorality, filth and "enlightenment". I, for one, hope that this is one area where my kids stay ignorant. I pray, for their sakes and the generations that follow, someone in the church will ignite a fire that leads to a more holy bride and a stronger commitment to real purity--not the kind that's played on TV.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

I just left the sports page of the Atlanta Journal. Catching up on my favorite teams again. Biggest news out of Atlanta today was the latest "mess" with Michael Vick--quarterback of the Atlanta Falcons. I won't go into all the details of what he did or did not do. His situation is not what stirred my thoughts today. Rather, I went to the blog on the Falcons beat page. I spent a few minutes reading the response from fans. Frankly, I was disturbed. I know, it's just the sports page and it's not the best place to gauge the intellect of Atlanta (don't believe me? Read a sports blog some time). But it was a great place to catch a glimpse of a wide range of opinions. What I saw was further evidence that there is no longer a moral compass for many Americans. Beyond that, it has been taken down, stomped on, and crushed beyond recognition. Anyone who dares to suggest that there is a standard for right and wrong in our land is belittled relentlessly. It's quite scary.

A few brave souls dared to suggest that immoral choices by a superstar made him unfit to be a role model for our kids. They even suggested (gasp!) that superstars needed to be reigned in and given the same standards for living that the rest of Americans abide by. You would have thought that they had suggested that Oprah Winfrey was a mere mortal (another subject for another day). Seriously, what has happened in our nation when lawbreakers are heralded as something our children should aim to be? The escapades of the Brittneys and the Brads, the Jessicas and the Michaels (you know who I am referring to) make little difference to me other than the fact that they represent the sad state of our land. It's become more appropriate to worship a frail human soul in Hollywood or a fragile super athlete in New Orleans than it is to worship the Savior who died for us. I can paint my body, shave my head, drink the Kool-Aid--all in the name of fame and celebrity status--and all is right with the world. But let me suggest that there is only One who is worthy of worship and I become the most vile of all beings--an intolerant, ignorant and impoverished soul. I scratch my head and scream for some explanation. I am greeted by more head scratching. Where did we sign over the rights to our sanity? When did we sell our souls to free agency and top 10 lists?

Can I ask for some common sense here? Is it too much for you and I to drop back, take a look at ourselves and begin one heart at a time to restore some bit of order to life? God help us if we don't. I can see the Oprah for President stickers right now!!!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so...
Alot of people have asked me what the last 2-1/2 years of my life have been like--especially in regards to my faith. I mean, let's face it, you give your life to ministry (first as a student minister; then, as a pastor) it kind of makes people believe you have some kind of special protection in place over your life. So, when your wife and son are taken by a car accident and a medication error at a hospital, what does that do to your faith?

Honestly, it shook it really hard. There were long days and even longer nights of re-examining everything I had ever held to be true. Was there a heaven? Was my wife there? What does the Bible really mean when it says that in everything we should give thanks or that "in all things" God can work out something good? Did I really believe that? If not, then where did I start over to put together a faith system around which to build my life.

I have to tell you that my beliefs are completely different now than they were before that April afternoon. Probably not in the way that you would think. They are stronger. You see, I had always believed many of the things I did because my parents had told me to. Many of the tenets of my faith were built around truths that had come from a role model or a Sunday School teacher or a pastor from my past. And, as much as I loved all of them, many of them had never had those tenets challenged by real life. They held to those truths because they had no reason to doubt them. I held to them for the same reason until that day. Now, I find myself holding on to them because I have seen them blasted by reality. I have seen the "storms" that so many people refer to and have seen the foundations of my faith hold up. The God that I thought I knew on April 3rd, 2004 has shown himself to be the God that I know in a more profound way on January 17th, 2007.

Now, don't mistake my confidence. It did not come without doubt. It did not come without me telling God how unhappy I was with Him. It did not come without tears and shouts and screams and long discussions. But it came...and that is what I hold to. No matter how dark those nights became or how lonely I might get, God was still God and His love for me was still true. I just had to be still to feel it. That's my word for you...keep moving. Keep fighting God, keep questioning God, keep struggling with God but don't ever move so far away that you cannot see His face when He comes. Because He will come!! He will show Himself to be faithful and true. This I know. Not because the Bible told me so...but because real life has shown it to me.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Today, my son turns 12. I can hardly believe it. It is amazing how quickly this journey has taken place. What a neat journey it has been. Watching his development and the changes that he has gone through has been an incredible roller coaster ride. I can't count the number of times I wished that I could spare him some of the hard knocks and trials that he has to go through. But, just like his dad, he has a little stubborn streak. (okay, maybe more than just a little--just like his dad). But there's another reason why I can't just "pour" my experience into him. Some things are just better learned the hard way--fire is hot, girls don't always make sense, you can't stick scissors into the outlet at the middle school without getting into trouble (Okay, that lesson was more mine than his but that's another story). You can teach and you can warn and you encourage but they are lessons best learned by personal experience.
Sound familiar? Maybe not for some of us but, for most, it's a lot like the lessons that we learn in our faith journey with God. Is He wise? Absolutely. Could He teach us these lessons with words or warnings? Perhaps. But some of the lessons of faith and life are best learned by journeying through the furnace itself. The experience must be yours before the wisdom can be. I try to keep that in mind with my faith and with my son. I can't walk life for him. And I can't save him from all that life will throw at him. But just like the Father, I can be here to offer him grace and mercy and safety when he needs it. I must let him go and grow and do what he will some times so that he will know for himself what life is all about. Besides, how do you tell a 12 year old what 120 volts of electricity feel like? Now, where did I put thoses scissors?