Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Living a Greater Story

Pop culture is full of sermons.  Dead Poet’s Society taught my generation to carpe deim.  This might be the only phrase I remember from 2 years of high school Latin.  We were taught by Rudy that if we try hard enough that we can accomplish anything, including playing for a second rate college football program like Notre Dame.  Hoosiers, Sea Biscuit, and almost any other sports movie ever made laud the achievements of the hard trying underdog.  In our society we eat this sort stuff up.  Frankly, I have just named 4 of my favorite movies, Notre Dame bias aside.

These movies teach us some really good things.  We need to see each moment as an opportunity to do something great.  We need to press beyond the artificial boundaries that we all seem to be limited by each day.  We need to hear sometimes that we should ignore the people who bring us down or tell us we cannot do something.  We need to hear that greatness comes from the heart.  These are all good points and worth considering.  I am still left with a question, “Why?”

Why should we attempt to excel at all areas of our lives?  In Dead Poet’s Society the teacher played by Robin Williams says that his students must seize the day because eventually they are all worm food.  Um, I hate to be critical, but he basically told his students that the achievements of the past are mostly doomed to anonymity, and somehow this inspired them to read poetry.  I tried to like poetry one time, but I guess I am just not that sophisticated.

When I reflect on my existential crisis, I come to a decidedly different conclusion.  Most of the people reading this probably have a similar world view to me, in that we believe that we live for a greater hope.  We live for a greater purpose.

I have been reflecting on what I want my life to be about.  The vain part of me wants to be remembered for being the best at everything!  I want to all of you to look at me and think if only I could be that guy.  However, the logical implication of this is that my life would be lived only to serve my own ego.  It would mean that my story ends with me.  That is it, and Robin Williams would ultimately be right, I would end up being worm food.  This kind of life would lead to resignation not inspiration.  It reminds only me of the vanity and meaningless of life.

The Lord tells a different story.  He says that my life has tremendous meaning.  He tells me that what I do does not end with me; rather it has eternal consequences that reach far beyond what I could possibly imagine.  There is one caveat though.  I must realize that my life is ultimately not about me.  I must live to find my place in a larger story.  I am not the main character in the great narrative of life.  Jesus is.  When he becomes the main character, everything I do takes on eternal significance.  Every small, insignificant action takes on eternal meaning.

Hebrews 11 tells us of the wall of faith.  The one thing that all these people have in common is that the story did not end with them.  The story is yet to be fully told.  We need to live always pointing to the great unfinished business of redemption.  One day the Lord will come back and finish the story.  But until then we must tell our “by faith” story.  We must live in obedience to our role in the story.  Our lives might ultimately be forgotten.  Our legend might fade.  But we can sow the seeds of eternal significance.

Hebrews 12:1-2 reminds us that we are running a race.  We do not look for victory, but we look to Jesus the “author and perfecter of our faith.”  We are not destined to be worm food, we are destined for glory.  Let us live up to that glory.  Let us live in the greatest story ever told and live in anticipation of the final conclusion of that story.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

A Tribute To My Mom on Mother's Day

The mother’s voice is the first voice that a child ever knows.

- It is the first voice that comes to comfort when pavement proves to be harder than your knee. 
- It is the voice that reminds you that you are worth something whether or not that girl you like realizes it or not. 
- It is the voice of wisdom that guides when your life is at a crossroads. 
- It is often the voice of your conscience reminding you what is right and wrong, and always calling you back to the right. 
- It is the voice of instruction reminding you of the tenets of faith and life.
- It is the voice of soothing words of peace that calm the raging storm that brews inside our hearts.
- It is the voice that bids you to get up and keep going, even though life has beaten you down and crushed you into the ground.
- It is the voice that rejoices with you when you find that special one to live your life with.
- It is the voice that your whispers comfort to her grandchildren in the earliest stages of life.
- It is the voice that tells you that you can do it, even when the rest of the world doubts.
- It is the voice that is full of pride when you become what God always intended you to be.

Most importantly it is the voice of prayer that pleads with God Almighty, the Creator of Heaven and Earth for your very life.

Voices fade, diminish, and even disappear, but no matter how far or how distant that voice becomes – It is always the voice telling you that she is proud of you, that you are worthy, that no matter what comes she knows you can do it!

Mom, thank you for your voice!

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Attack on Christianity in America

Fear tactics are effective motivators for people. If you watch television commercials closely you will see that sex or fear (or sometimes both) are being used to compel you to buy something. Politicians use fear to try to frame the opposing candidate as the one who will bring down America. Even the title of this blog post uses a well-known fear to get you to read. Nothing riles up Christians quite like our religious liberties being attacked. We often say, “Our rights are going way!” or “We are being persecuted for our faith!” News channels and politicians capitalize on the fear that these things create in Christians. These are two ideas that I find frankly laughable.

It is true that our society, government and power structures are becoming more hostile to true Christianity. It is hard to read the news today and not observe that. Obama is trying to require Christian Institutions to provide something that is inherently against their stated ethics. A small group in California was being fined for having regular meetings in their home. For Christians these are just but of few more signs of a society growing in hostility towards faith, and in particular Judeo-Christian faith.

I want to offer a slightly different take on these things and provide a little historical perspective. Most people know that Christianity started as a small sometimes persecuted faith. The Jews, the Romans, and most local societies persecuted Christians. They were persecuted because they would not participate in the rituals of that society. They were persecuted because they made radical claims about Jesus. They offended the current philosophies and world view of the day. They caused businesses to dry up because they converted people away from idol worship. Societies will tolerate almost anything until you attack their money or their peace.

In the early 300s Constantine legalized Christianity and made it the state religion. For many this was and is a great day for Christianity. Finally, Christians would not be persecuted and the faith would spread unabated. However, this moment marked actually one of the biggest attacks on Christianity ever conceived. Christ became mingled with the State and Christians became the puppets of whatever government institution wanted to use them. As time passed, Christians sought to grab temporal power instead of recognizing the tremendous spiritual power available through Christ and the Holy Spirit. They sacrificed real power and truth for a pitiful and weak substitute.

For roughly the last 1600 years Christianity and the State have been mixed together in stranglehold that has largely removed the life and power from real faith. I am largely speaking of Christianity from a Western bias; this is not the story of Christianity in the world-wide theatre.

As I observe the growing hostility towards Christianity in our society, I cannot help but be a little relieved. I think this marks a sign that Christians are finally beginning to be the true salt and light they are supposed to be. The truth of the message of Christ is beginning to be more dominant again. Christians are refusing to be the puppets of the government or a certain political party. What does the puppet master do with a puppet that is no longer of any use? He disposes of it. Christians must continue to stand strong against the manipulative attacks of our society, corporations, government and political parties. We must not be their pawns; rather we must seek to walk in perfect harmonious step with Christ. We must do only what we see the Father doing!

Now some of us get fearful at the infringement of religious freedom in America as it relates to Christianity. I believe this reveals in us a certain weakness of faith. We erroneously believe that the world institutions can destroy the true Church. We often see Jesus as the Savior, Friend, Lord, and Brother, but do we really see Jesus as the KING!! Do we really believe that? He is the King!! No scheme of satan or of man will have any success against the King, the TRUE KING. We need to adjust our view of Jesus and the power of His Kingdom as it manifests on this Earth. Worldly institutions are hostile to true Christianity because they recognize the true spiritual power of Christ and not the weak temporal power of government! So as our faith is being attacked, be at peace and rest in this fact: This is good news and evidence that God’s Kingdom is at work in this world and we are right in the middle of it.

So let us not be fearful, because we serve the only true King and His Kingdom is powerful. It conquers the world systems, time, nations, hearts, minds, and souls. Our King is a conqueror in His way, not ours. He does not use military might to usher in His Kingdom, He uses love. He is not a destroyer of life; He is a destroyer of sin. His Kingdom will not pass away! Let us face this world and this time in remembrance of the real King.

Lord grant us the faith and endurance to handle this. May we always represent your grace and forgiveness as we encounter hostility and derision. Make your presence obvious in all those who follow after you. May your Kingdom come and may your will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.