Archive for the Faith Category

Thank God!

Posted in Christianity, Faith, God, Jesus, Religion on November 26, 2008 by Scott

Great column on Thanksgiving from Leonard Pitts, Jr., who writes for the Miami Herald:

I was crammed into a middle seat. The guy in front was practically in my lap, and I had my arms drawn in tightly as I pecked furiously on the keyboard. God glanced over. ”What are you working on?” He asked.

”A column,” I said. “About you, in fact.”

He lifted an eyebrow. “Oh? What did I do now?”

”Well, not you per se,” I admitted. ‘It’s about this atheist group, the American Humanist Association. They stirred up folks in Washington, D.C., recently by running a billboard on the buses. It said, `Why believe in a god?’ ”

God was curious, so I passed Him the computer. Just then, the plane lurched violently. The guy next to me spilled his drink and muttered a curse. God paid no attention. When He finished reading, He passed the computer back. ”That’s not about me,” He said. “It’s about defending their right to free speech.”

”Sure,” I said. “What else would I do?”

God shrugged. “Why not just answer their question?”

“What do you mean?”

”Well you know,” He said, “you’ve got that Thanksgiving holiday coming. Might be appropriate to remind people of whom they’re thankful to.”

I considered it. ”That could be a good idea,” I said.

He gave me a look. ”OK, OK,” I said, “all your ideas are good. But you know, proving you exist is a heavy-duty philosophical chore. I suppose I could go with the complexity-of-life argument, talk about how if people see something as unremarkable as a cardboard box they assume it had a maker, but if they see something as intricately designed as a person — or heck, an amoeba — some folks say, Oh, it just . . . happened.”

God was unimpressed. ”I don’t need you to prove I exist,” He said. ”I am the great I am, remember? Besides, that billboard doesn’t ask for proof of my existence. It asks, why believe? Isn’t that a fair question?” He gave me an expectant look.

I see, I believe

I looked past Him, out the window. We floated above a deck of clouds, the sun falling toward the horizon, the whole world the color of gold. It was like poetry in midair. I said, “I believe because I’ve seen you. And because I’ve heard you.”

The plane jolted again. Two rows behind, a baby started shrieking, hitting notes I’d have sworn were impossible for a human larynx. The man ahead of me shifted heavily in his seat. My tray table pressed hard against my stomach.

God gave a smile that I couldn’t read.

”It’s not all poetry in the sky,” He said. “Where you see poetry, somebody else sees only a flaming ball of gas circling the earth, light refracted through crystals of ice and pollution in the air. Where you see eternity, someone else sees an ocean. Where you hear my voice, someone else hears thunder.”

”What are you getting at?” I asked.

”What do you see then?” He said. “What do you hear when no one else sees or hears? When you walk in places where no one knows your name? When you curse the brokenness of your own life? When flood and famine strike the wretched and the vulnerable? When the diagnosis is cancer? Do you see me then? Do you hear me then?”

It took me a moment. ”Sometimes,” I said finally. ”Not always.” I thought about it a second, then added: “But I’m always trying.”

”Why?” asked God.

I looked past Him. The sun seemed to be sinking into the clouds. The sky was growing dark. ”Because nothing else makes sense to me,” I said.

God smiled.

The captain announced that we were about to land. We were asked to shut down and stow our electrical equipment. The guy in front returned his seat to its full upright and locked position. The baby kept squalling. Moments later, the plane touched the tarmac. It had been an awful flight, and I was glad to be home.

”Thank God,” I whispered.

”You’re welcome,” He said.

Forgiveness

Posted in Christianity, Faith, Relationships, Religion on November 25, 2008 by Scott

warrickdunnWarrick Dunn’s mother, Baton Rouge police corporal Betty Smothers, was killed on the morning of January 7, 1993, in an ambush at a local bank.

Two years later, the man who killed her, Kevan Brumfield, was sentenced to die.

In October 2007 Dunn visited Angola State Prison and spoke with Brumfield about a moment that changed his life like no other.

“I didn’t kill your mother. They got the wrong guy.”

He listened to Brumfield explain how, because of the life he had lived, he would have probably been dead by now if he hadn’t been arrested for this crime that he now claims he didn’t do … but to which he confessed.

After listening to Brumfield for a while longer, he  decided he wanted to tell him how that night changed his life.

Tears started to well in his eyes when he realized that he was laying it all on the line for a guy who had killed his mom. As he looked around the room, he realized everyone else in the room had tears in their eyes, too — Brumfield included.

“If you didn’t do it, I don’t know why you are here today, but I know why I am here today. I am here because I need to forgive somebody… It is time for me to forgive…”

Dunn realized that rather than seeking the answers to all of the questions he had for years, it was time to forgive.

What a great story….sometimes we don’t need to the answers, we just need to forgive.

When No One is Watching

Posted in Christianity, Church, Faith, God, Jesus, Religion on November 24, 2008 by Scott

watchingThey say the test of character is who you are when no one is watching.

PGA golfer JP Hayes proves that there is still honesty and integrity in sports.

During the second stage of the PGA Tour qualifying tournament last week, Hayes discovered that he had unwittingly used a prototype golf ball not approved by the United States Golf Association.

No one would have known. But Hayes, honoring the tradition of a game where the players police themselves, turned himself in and was disqualified.

On his 12th hole of the first round, Hayes’ caddie reached into his golf bag and tossed a ball to Hayes, who played two shots — a tee and a chip onto the green — and marked his ball. At that point he realized the ball he was playing was not the same model with which he started the round — by rule, a two-stroke penalty.

“I realized there was a penalty and I called an official over,” Hayes said, according to the newspaper. “He said the penalty was two shots and that I had to finish the hole with that ball and then change back to the original ball.”

On Thursday night, Hayes realized that the errant golf ball might not have been on the approved list.

Hayes had a choice: He could have said nothing and kept playing, with no one aware of his mistake. Or he could turn himself in and let his mistake cost him a 2009 PGA Tour card. He chose the latter.

Hayes, 43, is refusing to blame his caddie for the error, saying he should have spotted the errant ball because it did not have a model name on the seam.

Had Hayes kept the error to himself he likely would have gained millions…at least hundreds of thousands.  His take on the error?  Now he can spend more time with his family.

Wouldn’t it be great if instead of being known for being against things we stood for honesty, integrity, character, personal accountability, love and caring about others more than ourselves?

What if we realized that there is one who is always watching? Maybe then we would behave differently.

Fanatics

Posted in Christianity, Church, Evangelism, Faith, God, Jesus, Religion on November 23, 2008 by Scott

How about this?  85,000+ fanatics screaming and jumping as the Sooners beat Texas Tech.

Imagine if we got that excited about spreading the Gospel, serving others, and following God.  What kind of difference could we make then?

Who’s Fault Is It?

Posted in Christianity, Church, Culture, Discipleship, Evangelism, Faith, God, Jesus, Missional, Politics, Religion on November 12, 2008 by Scott

blameNo…not the election.

Who’s fault is it that we have become reliant on the government to solve our societal issues?

Christians have become a pawn in the political process and we allowed it to happen.

Meanwhile, our society is full of people who need help – the homeless, young women considering abortion, kids who are starving, families breaking apart, and more.

And where are we?  Canvassing for our favorite politician so that they can cure everything that is “wrong” in our country.

Pastor Greg Matte of Houston’s First Baptist Church puts it this way:

…government policy has stepped into theology. The beginning of life and definition of marriage are theological issues, not political… We redefine family and look to government as the lone savior – and here we sit.

Baby Boomers moved from biblical values to “do your own thing” which included raising their kids to enjoy a lazy Sunday morning instead of church.

We now raise our kids on the sporting fields while shoe polishing our SUVs each weekend with “Go Team! On to the ‘ships!” instead of teaching the difference between eternal rewards and plastic trophies.

All valid points.  So, now what?

Roxanne Wieman at Relevant Magazine has some great ideas:

We do not rest our hopes for change on a political party or candidate…. in January when Obama takes office, we get up and we continue our sojourn to follow Jesus. We live our votes for life, for justice, for peace, for equality.

We comfort our friend who tells us she’s considering abortion. Then we gently tell her why we believe life in the womb is precious. We help her find alternative options … and we stick by her side all through the pregnancy and birth and after. She is not a statistic or a faceless evil to us.

We love beyond racial, gender and sexual lines. We reject stereotypes. We embrace individuals. We work for reconciliation.

We do not talk about “that side of town,” we live there and work there and mentor there. We are a part of educational reform, and ESL, and rehabilitation.

We recycle. We reduce our imprint. We consciously make our purchases, recognizing the global implications. We strive to “live simply that others may simply live” (Ghandi).

We personally pray for our soldiers in Iraq, for the citizens of Iraq, for our leaders who are making tough decisions that affect millions of lives. We really do pray, and we believe our prayers matter.

We continue to work hard in the jobs God has given us, saving our money and stewarding our resources. We tithe. We donate. We volunteer.

We continually challenge each other to deepen our understanding of whole life ethics and Jesus’ call to follow Him.

Rather than sitting around and “grieving” the election results like James Dobson, it’s time we stop blaming the government, look in the mirror and heed the words of Jesus:

Mark 12:30-31 “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

John 13:34-35 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

If you really want to make a difference in the issues that plague our society, that’s where we start. It’s time to stop going to church and time to start being the church.


Saving Christians

Posted in Books, Christianity, Church, Discipleship, Evangelism, Faith, God, Jesus, Missional, Religion on October 29, 2008 by Scott

In their new book, Jesus Wants To Save Christians, Rob Bell and Don Golden examine the disparities between the message of Christ and the message of the modern, Western Church.

From Relevant Magazine:

“To preserve prosperity at the expense of the powerless is to miss the heart of God.”  (Rob Bell)

In what ways do you believe the church in America has “preserved prosperity” at others’ expense?

Perhaps one obvious question a church can ask herself is “What percentage of our budget is spent on us and what is spent on others?”

The Church has missed the heart of God by speaking out against abortion while keeping silent about war. Both are forms of violence used to preserve prosperity. Abortion is prenatal war against the powerless child. War is postnatal abortion that destroys innocent life. The kingdom is life for the fetus and life for the civilian. The church embodies this life in a world of expedient and preemptive killing.

It can be difficult to understand the plight of the powerless when we have so much, what can church leaders do to help connect their communities with the heart of God for those suffering right now?

The most powerful thing we’ve seen is when people make a friend from outside their bubble—through a tutoring program, a job skills training class, a Habitat for Humanity build project-when “the poor” has a name and a face and personality for you, everything changes.

As the title of the book suggests, Jesus Wants To Save Christians. In your opinion, what are the biggest things we need saving from?

Boredom. Which is really despair in its non-caffeinated form. And boxes. Where we live in fear and where we put those who unsettle us.

You describe the plan of God for the church to be a gift to the world. Many people today would say that the church is anything but. What are some crucial changes that our churches need to make to become a Eucharist that is broken and poured out for the world?

1. Master the art of doubt. Faith needs it to survive.

2. Surrender the compulsive need to constantly remind people that according to your worldview you’re going to heaven forever when you die and they’re going to burn in hell forever.

3. Celebrate the good and the true and the beautiful wherever and whenever you find it regardless of the label it wears or the person it comes from or the place you found it. All things are yours.

4. Remember that the tax collectors and prostitutes loved to feast with Jesus and the religious establishment gossiped about him and dissected his teachings and questioned his commitment to orthodoxy and eventually had him killed. There’s a lesson for us there.


The Last Drip

Posted in Christianity, Faith, Jesus, Religion on October 27, 2008 by Scott

Seth Godin writes about those on the front end of something who see the first drip

It is almost always about the accrued power of a thousand drips, drips that accrue, drop by drop until they overwhelm the status quo and break through, starting a flood.

The first drip is very exciting, of course. Everyone lines up to cheer.

It’s the last drip that’s lonely. Most of the time, everyone has long left the building, lost interest and moved on to celebrate some other first drip…

Think of this in terms of a new believer.

Typically a lot of people are around for the first drip.  You might call it a celebration.  At some churches, people line up and shake their hands, give them a hug, treat them to lunch, etc…

But what about the next drip?  Or the one after that when they really need someone/something – when they realize that their new life isn’t easy? Where are we at then?

Chances are we moved on to celebrate some other first drip.

But its the drips that follow… “drop by drop until they overwhelm the status quo and break through, starting a flood.”  Its worth the wait.