Archive for the ‘Christianity’ category

Opening A Door

January 23, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                  January 23, 2015

                                                  

I watched a video online this week that my wife had forwarded to me that brought me to the edge of tears. It told a story about a young man who had lost his dad, and then he and his mom used from a small town to a city. His mom thought a change in setting would ease some of her son’s pain as he dealt with his father’s death. His new high school was substantially larger than the one in his small town.

It’s hard being the new kid in a setting where people have their friends already, their peer groups, and their places of standing. That is, high schoolers know the pecking order…who to give space to, who to chum up with, and, hard as it is to say, who doesn’t matter that much.

This young man, Josh, started to be picked on and bullied. He had pictures in his locker of his father that got torn down. Sometimes insecure students will do unbelievably cruel things to others…just because!

In the midst of new surroundings and a journey of grief Josh started opening doors for people. He would arrive at school early and hold the door open for other students coming in. In between classes he would hold the hallway door open as students rushed from class to class. After a while some of the students started noticing. He started being referred to as “the door guy.” More and more students started saying “thank you” or they would give Josh a high five! More students became familiar with his story and were taken back by his wounded heart that was still looking at doing simple acts of kindness.

Such a simple thing! Opening a door!

Josh began speaking to groups of elementary and middle school students about bullying and overcoming. He developed his new gift of public speaking…and continued to open doors!

I so often hear people say they have nothing to offer, that they don’t know what their gifts are and how they can serve. There’s a tendency to make it a grandiose thing that is out of their reach. They wallow in their defeat and sense of worthlessness.

Josh’s story hit me, because almost all of us can open a door for someone. Seeking to help is a personal decision, not a talent. Every person can be a benefit to others. Telling a cashier that you hope he has a good day, shoveling your neighbor’s sidewalk, donating a book to the library, mentoring a fatherless child, praying with a parent in a hospital waiting room, or…simply opening a door!

Opening doors doesn’t require training, or to be certified. It’s simply a choice that we avoid or welcome.

 

Church Selfies

January 20, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                       January 19, 2015

                                                     

        “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3)

Selfies are the new self-expression! What did we do before photo-taking cell phones! Not many people back in those old days…ten years ago…were into the habit of taking their instamatics and snapping themselves in multiple places and numerous facial expressions.

In case you’ve been a cave for a while, “selfies” are snapshots someone takes with their cell phone…of himself/herself. Usually they end up on the person’s Facebook page for people to admire. They aren’t bad, but there are some people who are a little bit overly focused on themselves.

I’ve noticed recently, however, that there are a growing number of churches that are a little bit stuck on themselves. They turn the camera toward themselves and fill up space and time with “selfies” of how awesome they are.

Don’t get me wrong! There are multitudes of churches that are seeking the face of God instead of the click of their own faces. It’s these churches that still give me hope. They are congregations that understand that it’s not all about themselves, and are committed to being agents of mercy, listeners of heartaches, and doers of the Word.

In terms of “church selfies” I’m not talking about advertising and publicity. I’ve got no problem with congregations advertising about themselves on Facebook, in the newspaper, on radio, and even mass mailings. I’m talking about a kind of religious arrogance that conveys visions of churches that are a step above everybody else.

Recently I heard of a congregation that conveyed to their denominational reps that they had it all together…that the representative could focus on all those other churches that weren’t on that first name basis with Jesus like they were. When Paul wrote to the church at Philippi he says “put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage.” (Philippians 2:3, The Message paraphrase; Eugene Peterson) It’s hard to put yourself aside when you’ve got the camera turned towards yourself.

There are a number of churches that are more concerned with how they look than how people are seeing Jesus in them. They are more obsessed with primping than proclaiming, posing rather than praying. Modern-day Corinthians…obsessed with themselves at the expense of others. (Read 1 Corinthians 11)

As a rapidly aging pastor I would much rather have someone in front of me that I can be authentic with. They don’t have to have their hair all in perfected placement. They don’t even have to have hair! The older I get the more I need people who have a little mud on their clothes and crap on their shoes. When I feel like my life is falling apart I need to know the person sitting beside me has experienced some “Woe is me” moments. Someone who can be selfless instead of ready for the next selfie; a church that isn’t afraid of repentance and forgiveness that are primers for praising and celebration.

But that’s just me! I’m admittedly ancient and have a hard time taking selfies of myself…not because I’m so humble, but rather because I’m not as smart as my phone!

One last burning question! When you’re about to take a selfie of yourself do you utter those words “Say cheese!”

Viewing Being Blessed

January 12, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                       January 12, 2015

                                          

A friend of mine that I’m fortunate enough to be the pastor for recently wrote to me to tell me  how appreciative he is of me, and he went on to say that “God has blessed me in so many ways.”

It got me pondering the whole idea of “being blessed.” How seldom do we realize that we have been blessed? Notice I said “seldom”, because in thinking about it I believe that most of the blessings in our lives so unnoticed. Since I am a 60 year old male the appropriate word might best be “clueless.”

Blessings are like Honda Civics. There are so many of them on the road these days you come to a point where you don’t notice them. (I drive a Civic!) It becomes necessary for me to take a step back and view my life, do a personal review, and then slow down long enough to notice how I am abundantly blessed.

It seems that in our culture “being blessed” gets connected to something of personal gain. A promotion at work, a new girlfriend (I’m not referring to myself!), an unexpected tax refund, or the birth of a new child or grandchild…being blessed is equated with something we can clearly quantify. Believe me, there are blessings in those things just mentioned, but most blessings are misunderstood or simply missed!

This past week a dear man from our church who has been dealing with cancer was missing from our Saturday morning men’s Bible Study. It was in missing his presence that I realized how blessed I am to have him as a part of my life. Oddly enough, there is a blessing for me in the fact that I’m so concerned about him.

I talked to my dad on the phone yesterday. We are separated by about 1400 miles, but I was immediately blessed to hear his voice…the familiar eastern Kentucky accent, the few minutes of rehashing the UK Saturday basketball game, the same chuckle that makes my heart leap with joy. As I was talking to him I was not thinking about how blessed I am. It was only later on in the evening that it came home to roost with me.

Last night Carol (my girlfriend for the past 36 years) and I spent time together. We went to a pizza place close to us and enjoyed dinner there, traveled on to Target to get a few things she needed for upcoming events, while there we talked to the young man who lives across the street from us who informed us we was leaving for the Navy next month, came back out to the Civic that was covered with snow, and traveled slowly back home immersed in conversation, laughter, and blessing. As I sit here typing this now I realize what a multitude of blessings were a part of those couple of hours.

This morning in the overnight blanket of six inches of white stuff Carol asked me to drive her to school. Once again, I realize how blessed I am that she needed me to driver her, blessed to know that I am the one who eases her heightened level of anxiety in times like this.

I’m sure that I will go through much of this week anchored back into my tendency to be a clueless guy, but at least for a few moments today I’m recognizing the magnitude of my blessing.

Known and New

January 2, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                           January 1, 2015

                                               

I don’t know when it was that I discovered that stovetop burners can be hot, or how to tie a neck tie, or cars only run on “E” for so long. What I do know is that at some point in my life journey the status of each of those situations went from unknown to known. Each went from confused to clear.

Much of life is learned from experiencing it. We become wiser, often as the result of really dumb decisions.

-If you stick your finger in the light socket bad things happen!”

     -Never call your fifth grade teacher “an old bag!”

     -Never tell a young lady you are trying to impress that her body proportions are full in one place and small in another. When she switches which part of the body you’re inferring is small and which part is plentiful… it will be your last date with her.”

     -The airlines doesn’t care that you were held up in traffic. No matter what your situation, they ain’t waiting for you!”

      -Don’t say ain’t when you think you might be meeting your future in-laws!”

These are just a few of the things that I now know. Experience is sometimes a teacher with a snap to it.

I enter a new year with a volumes of knowns that I no longer need to question. I know I have three great kids, each with unique talents and characteristics that I’m thankful for. I know I love and am loved my a wonderful woman who joined me on a marriage journey thirty-five years ago. I know that I have great friends in various locations around the country, and I know that friendship, unlike NBA basketball, is never over-rated.

I know that I am loved by God and made free to be by the cross of Christ.

I know that the Body of Christ gets trash-talked and cast aside by as many cynical self-absorbed Christians as non-Christians; and that very few believers understand what it means to be a community of faith. Perhaps these last “knowns” are the result of pastoring for a few decades, and are now known as I gaze upon the wounds of leading sheep.

January 1 is about about new. It marks that beginning point of another leg of the journey. It’s a dividing point between what was and what may come. As I look at “new”, I’m pondering what new knowledge I’ll encounter this year, what new developments will dot my life that cause the picture to become clearer? What new revelations will God bring forth that leave me with my mouth wide open? What new glimpses of his hand of mercy and grace will cross my path? What new understandings of scripture will I marvel at as it meshes with my personal experiences of life?

It is always important for the student to approach a new chapter with a sense of expectancy and excitement. Like a child opening Christmas presents there will be those gifts that cause our hearts to giggle with glee, and there will be the present that holds a new pair of jeans…essential, and yet about as exciting as a new cooked spinach recipe.

I walk ahead knowing that I’m never alone, and that He knows me intimately.

We Don’t Know!

December 30, 2014

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                    December 30, 2014

                                                     

        Nothing quite causes unrest and frustration more than three words: We don’t know!

People who are looking for the answer or final solution find it hard to truly hear those words. You can blame it on the times we live in…and the devices of our time.

For example, I can look at a device wrapped around my wrist and instantly discover how many calories I’ve burned off during my workout.

I can look at the side of a box to find out how many grams of sugar are in the bowl of cereal I’m munching on.

I can go to the Channel Guide on my TV to find out what is playing at 9:00 tonight on the Sci Fi Channel.

I can go on-line to see the balance in my checking account.

But there are some things in life that have a grayness to them, that aren’t instant answers. Those three words…”We don’t know!”, cause eyebrows to be raised and fears to be heightened. They are three words that have become like a foreign language to our culture.

“We must know! We have to know!”

I recently was sitting with a family in a hospital waiting room waiting to hear from the surgeon about the difficult procedure the loved one had undergone. As we waited the text messages kept bombarding family members.

       “How did it go?”

       “Is he in recovery?”

       “What did they find out?”

       “How long will he be there?”

The spouse patiently responded to each one “We don’t know!” The waiting for word and the pressure from those who weren’t there to know was raising her own level of concern. Patience quite often takes a detour around hospital waiting rooms.

Last week my wife and I were inquiring about the purchase of a hot new product that we were looking to buy. The store was out of them. I found myself getting a little agitated when the salesperson’s respond to when they would get some more in was “We don’t know! Maybe next week…maybe a couple of weeks!”

The answer wasn’t immediate…and so I was up against a brick wall. The bricks did not feel good against my desire to move forward.

I often get spiritual questions that I can’t answer. The questioner looks at my response of “I don’t know!” and is taken back. I’m a pastor. I’m suppose to know.

But I have no idea how God created angels, or what kind of fish it was that swallowed Jonah? Why do good things happen to bad people…and bad things happen to good people? Why does one person get cured of cancer, and another die a slow painful death?

Life is filled with questions that I am clueless about answering.

Most of my day is spent in “the immediate.” That is, I can immediately know without wondering. It’s the moments of wondering that are uncomfortable, and yet they are also the moments that are usually tinted with the presence of God.

 

Receiving The Gift

December 23, 2014

 

“ For God so loved the world that he gave…”

We know what the rest of the verse says. It talks to Jesus and his mission and purpose.

But the mission had to be ignited with God’s attitude of giving. He gave and gave and gave.

What if the Holy God who created us didn’t want to give? What if he was content to sit on his throne and exclusively receive? Most of the false gods that people have worshiped through the ages are like that. Sacrifices were offered to appease the gods. People were terrified about the possibility of making the gods angry.

The One and Only true God, however, could not help himself. He gave. He gave his Son. And he continues to give. His”grace is sufficient for you.” (2 Corinthians 12:9) His peace “transcends all understanding.” (Philippians 4:7) 

    “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)

God was not a one-time giver. His gifts are on-going and life-changing.

So what do we do in return? What can we give God? Romans 12:1-2 summarizes it.

    “Offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God- this is your spiritual act of worship.” (Romans 12:1) 

Give God this day, and then give him the next day…and then the next. Worshiping him involves that capturing and giving of each day, each moment, to be used for the glory of God.

Have a blessed Christmas!

Hope-Praying, Peace-Living

December 23, 2014

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                           December 23, 2014

                                                

     Two days from Christmas and there’s an empty feeling within me. I’ve had my share of fudge, chips, and Christmas cookies…so it isn’t my tummy that is empty. The emptiness is tied tightly to the events and conversations of our world these past few months. It feels like a tearing apart of lives, communities, and relationships.

Two days ago a professional football player stomped on the ankle of an opponent who was lying on the ground. In the news conference afterwards when he was asked about it he denied any wrong-doing.

Film doesn’t lie!

But this isn’t about the brutality and abuses of the National Football League…although that could be a long list even after being checked twice! That picture is a visual for what is going on in our world these days.

A scorn for the person who is down…or the person who is helping the downtrodden…like the ninety year old man who has been arrested a couple of times in a Florida city for feeding the homeless.

A disregard for someone in a different uniform. The hostility of ISIS towards anyone who doesn’t convert to their understanding and practice of Islam. Slaughtering the men and boys of a village and posting the film on the internet.

Denying wrongdoing. A Florida State quarterback, who has a golden arm, had charges dismissed this week by the university. In reading the news reports the situation seemed to be handled a little suspiciously by the school, and the quarterback has denied any wrongdoing. Odd that it has taken almost two years to get to this point…or, should I say, two football seasons later.

In other words, what seems to be important to our culture is not having people around who make us feel uncomfortable, stepping on those who disagree with us, and football championship trophies…and the millions that got with it.

Perhaps I’ll narrow-minded in my view. After all I was raised in southern Ohio, but I’m troubled by the strange priorities, avoidance of responsibility, and the exaltation of athletic talent.

What can I do about it? Live my life with compassion, mercy, and selflessness.

Be hope-praying and peace-living.

Pray for the hopeless and pray against hopelessness! Pray with hope, even when things look like they are being ripped asunder.

Live with peace and in peace. Be a person of peace even the hate-filled seem to be winning. Commit to peace for the journey, not just for a moment, and yet know that the journey consists of many, many moments, each a step towards a better tomorrow.

Hope and peace are two of the greatest gifts from our heavenly Father, and yet they are often put back on the shelf like flawed products that have no appeal.

Lord, help me as I strive today to be a pray-er of hope and an example of peace! Amen!


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