Tuesday, December 25, 2012


Last year on my way to Christmas Eve service, I remember listening to the local Christian radio station while sipping on a cup of coffee and trying to clear my head of the typical Christmas commercialism onslaught. I was listening not necessarily for the "Christian" music, (I'm not a big fan of contemporary Christian music), but they were playing Christmas music all throughout December and being Christmas Eve, I was feeling festive. Everything just seemed right with the world and that nostalgic Christmas atmosphere filled my car as I drove. The sun was setting, casting an orange, red and purple aerial landscape that transported me to on of those peaceful moments that you wish you could bottle for later use. That was until the DJ made this comment. "You know, tonight you're going to see a lot of CEOs at church,  Christmas and Easter only.  Let's make sure that we put our best foot forward and make them feel at home.  This may be the only time you run into these people, so let's show them what the love of Christ is all about."     

Sounds OK at first, right? What's wrong with that? Well, just for a moment, I'd like you to think about that statement. Especially if you're a follower of Christ, think about these words. Imagine that you are not a follower of Christ. Imagine that you're one of these "CEOs", and on your way to church with your family. Imagine that you decide to tune into the local Christian radio station because you've heard someone at work talk about it. Imagine that you're a mom or dad, and beginning to think that you're family needs something more spiritual in their lives. You're not sure what, but you're looking. You've been thinking about church more and more, and the Christmas Season has been convicting your spirit just a bit more. The New Year is coming up, and you're going to finally start visiting some churches; maybe with some Christian friends that invited you. Maybe you and your family have drifted away from church for a while, and you've finally decided to give it another shot. You might be a little nervous, but before you even walk in the front door, you've been called out. You've been put on the spot. They're talking about YOU.

You just heard yourself labeled as a "CEO". That was YOU the DJ was talking about.You've wife gives you one of those looks. Your husband sighs and glances back at the kids in the back seat. Your teenager says, "So, I guess we're one of those CEOs, huh?" You're one of "those" people. And when you walk into church in a few minutes, you and your family are going to be on center stage. You'll get the red carpet treatment because you're one of "them". Are you going to have to wear a name tag that says CEO? You're not going to feel too self conscious, are you? Thinking of turning the car around and just going home?       

You may have heard comments like this and didn't give it a second thought. I could have easily heard this and allowed it to go in one ear and out of the other. But for some reason, it caused me to pause and think about how the Church appears to the rest of the world. How do I appear to my non-Christian friends? What do they see from outside the walls of our buildings? What do they see in the neighborhoods, workplaces, homes and shopping centers? It caused me to stop and ask myself why we need to be reminded of things like this DJ referred to? Why does Christmas and Easter have to be when we "put our best foot forward"? Shouldn't we be doing this every day of the year? Should statements like this seem strange to our ears because it's a given for how we live our lives?    

Don't get me wrong, Christmas and Easter are wonderful times of the year.  In the Christian faith, they are considered holy days, and are times of conviction and reminding of what our faith is built on. But here's my point:  If we put on a show for people on 2 specific days of the year, will they be disappointed in what they see the other 363 days of the year? Should they see something different? Something real? Should our celebrations be consistent or just pseudo-worship on the "promotion" days? Is this really showing them the love of Christ, or are we just performing to get the "CEOs" in the front door? Is this the kind of mindset that we should have toward those that are outside the doors of our church?

Yes, I believe 100% that as believers in Christ, we are called to share our faith with those that don't know the gospel. We are all called to be on mission and spread the Good News to the entire earth. But what does that mean in a real and practical way?  Is it something we turn off and on, or is it something organic?  Something we live 24/7 because it's who we are, not what we do? Is it something irresistible to others to the point that there is no question of who we serve and what our faith is all about?   

If you are unfamiliar with the early New Testament Church, read the first few chapters of the book of Acts. The Church depicted in Acts 2 was a group of people that were "living" their faith in Jesus Christ. In Acts 2:42-47: "They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.  Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts,  praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved."  

These were people consumed by their faith in the risen Christ and could not contain it for one minute. They lived and breathed their faith in Christ. Yes, they preached the gospel and spoke truth to thousands of people, and the Bible tells us that thousands were coming to know Christ every day. It was literally an explosion of faith and the growth was astronomical. Truly, a revolution had begun in Jerusalem and the world would never be the same.

But this was not conditional. It was not a "one or the other" kind of thing. They were living an irresistible life that made others see that truth. Reality. Their words were backed up by their lives and actions. There were no "special" times to share the truth of Christ. It was Good News, not BS. There were no better times than others, because they were just living and sharing what they believed. No one told them to put their best foot forward when they walked outside, went to the Temple or market place. Both of their feet were the best and were always moving forward. They didn't see CEOs. They only saw people that they wanted to love as Christ loved them. The love they felt could not be contained. they loved because THEY were loved, not because they were told to love every once and a while.      

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Advent reflections: 4th Sunday - 12/23/2012

“But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God.
You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus.
He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.
The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
Luke 1:30-33 (NIV)


Sometimes it is in our darkest hour that we finally hear the words from God, “Do not be afraid.” We often go about our days, rushing from one place to another, feeling as though we are spinning our wheels. We attempt to conquer our to-do lists, but they end up longer than before. We pay one bill, and two more come in the mail. We finally “get there”, wherever that may be, only to realize that we are utterly and completely lost. This is the point that many of us know all too well:  the point of complete exhaustion. The point when we feel as if we can’t take another step. We can’t handle another responsibility or deal with another disappointment, and then…

Through the silence. Through the pauses for a deep breath. Through the anxiety and fear. We 
hear it. “Do not be afraid.” You’ve heard it, haven’t you? The voice of God? The voice that calls out to you when you feel as if the final wave has crashed over you, and no amount of strength will bring you to the surface? You hear it. “Do not be afraid,” and suddenly, when you least expect it, you feel the peace that goes beyond your understanding. You realize that He is there, He loves you and you have found favor with Him. 

It’s easy to imagine that Mary may have been in a place like this. She had been going about her life as usual, trying to make ends meet and prepare for her marriage to Joseph. From what we know of this young couple, they didn’t have it easy. Life was not without struggles and fears and they had both probably accepted that their future would be bit of an upward climb. Needless to say, the Bible tells us that Mary was afraid when the Angel Gabriel appeared to her. But rather than first announcing to her that she would become pregnant, and that her baby would be God’s only Son, he focuses on Mary’s immediate need first. One of God’s children was afraid and He comforts her in the way only He can. “Do not be afraid.” 

Lord, we thank You for comforting us when we need You the most. As the Angel Gabriel told Mary to not be afraid, let us hear those same words when we face fears, uncertainties and troubles in life.  Amen  

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Where Was Your Fucking God?

"Where was your fucking God when those kids were being shot up?" I was asked this question this week in reaction to the shooting in Connecticut. Behind the question was much anger. Behind the question was sadness. Behind the question was a lack of faith and frustration. Behind the question was a human being, hurting and feeling just like all of us. I can imagine that many pastors would dismiss a question like that. Many would receive this as a personal attack or an attack on Christianity. Some might be offended by the language and refuse to acknowledge the emotion. Some might become angry and launch a counterattack, spouting various scripture verses that give the typical "Christian" answer. I felt none of this. For in my friend’s pain, anger and helplessness, I felt the same things. So, I chose to "feel" with him. 

"I don't have an answer for you. The world is a fucked up place." was my response to him. I shared with him that my faith has been shaken. I shared with him that I was angry as well and asked God the exact same question. He didn't need a theological dissertation and didn't need me to regurgitate Bible verses that gave him no consolation. He didn't need me to get angry with him and he surely didn't need me to judge him. He didn't need me to ask him to watch his language and didn't need me to negate what he was feeling. Like any of us who witnessed the horrors of Sandy Hook Elementary on Friday, he was angry, sad, discouraged and experiencing doubt. His feelings were real. They are real life. 

In my heart, I know where God was last Friday. I know that He exists and why these things happen. I know all the verses that theologically make sense of these events and I have a good idea of how this world works in relation to God. In reality, I know that these kinds of things have happened in the past and will happen again and again. And I know that every time they do, we will feel the same emotions. My intention is not to give an answer for why bad things happen. We've all asked this question, and in reaction to the events in Connecticut, many people have written blogs and posted ideas of why this happened and what the solution is to avoiding tragedy like this in the future. My intention is that as a follower of Christ, I want to be more like Him. And in my reflections on who He was and who I think he is, I ask myself the cliche question, "What would Jesus do?" Since I am not Him and he is just as much a mystery to me as He is my God, I can't answer that completely. What I can say, with 100% assiduity assurance?, is what Jesus would not do, and have an idea of what He might do instead. 

Jesus would not allow the events in Connecticut to make Him angry with people and their reactions. Instead, He would weep with those who are weeping. Jesus would not shut down and retreat Himself from the world, but would surround Himself with others that felt pain as well. Jesus would not choose to contradict Himself and encourage more violence, but would repeat His call for us to love our enemies. Jesus would not choose to hate the gunman, but continue to hate evil as He encourages all of us to do. Jesus would not choose to point His finger at others in blame, but would ask us all to point the finger at ourselves. Jesus wouldn't react in fear, but would trust in His Father in heaven and encourage us to do the same. Jesus wouldn't arm Himself, and He wouldn't judge someone if they did and would understand their fear. He wouldn't criticize gun control advocates, but would encourage them to make their points known with love, not anger. He would not blame the problems of the world on a lack of prayer in school, but ask parents why they don't pray at home. Jesus wouldn't play politics, but would remind us promote His Kingdom, where politics will not exist. Jesus wouldn't ask where His Father is or why He has forsaken the world, but would respond as He did when He faced torture and death; "Thy will be done."  

"Where was your fucking God?"  He was in a first grade classroom at Sandy Hook Elementary, taking bullets from a semi-automatic gun while embracing scared little kids. He was also with the children in thousands of other schools protecting them. He was preparing parents for overwhelming pain and He was giving courage to first responders. He was also with parents that were thanking Him that their children were safe. He was watching in shock, as we all began to realize the magnitude of this tragedy and He was welcoming those that died into His Kingdom. And He was with those who had no idea what was happening. He was weeping on the streets of the inner-city where other children were being shot and He was in poverty stricken places of the world where children are starving to death. He was also with those enjoying a late breakfast or early lunch. He was with you and me. He was with our children as well. He was there. He is there. He will be there.                     

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Advent Reflections: Day 14 - 12/15/2012

“But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.”
Titus 3:4-7 (NIV)


A gift given in love, is a gift received in love. Nothing is more exciting than giving the perfect gift that has been selected with love as its motivation. When it’s received and opened, that love is realized by the one receiving the gift, and fulfilled in the gift giver. In a cyclical pattern of giving, gifts are a catalyst of the love that we have for one another. What better way of describing the birth of Jesus Christ into the world than a “gift” to mankind?

Jesus was the encapsulation of God’s kindness and love. The gift of salvation, lovingly given to us, not because of anything we did to deserve it, but because His love outweighed any possible prerequisite. As with the gifts that we give each other at Christmas time, God expected nothing in return. We had to pass no test, or earn the right to receive our gift. The gift of salvation and eternal life in Christ were given in love and nothing more. All we must do is complete the perfect cycle of giving and receive God’s gift in love.

This Christmas, as we search for that perfect gift, let us do so with the love of Christ as our motivator. Let us spend time with each carefully selected gift, reminding ourselves of God’s deep love for us. A love so deep that He sent His Son, who appeared in Jesus, born on Christmas day. 


Lord, we come to You today, thanking You for the perfect gift in Your Son, Jesus Christ. May each and every gift that we give this Christmas, be given with the same love that you express to us, in us and through us. 

Friday, December 14, 2012

How long, O Lord? Thy Kingdom Come

I have no words of wisdom for what we've all witnessed today. Several people have asked me what I feel and my response has been just what anyone's response would be. I'm angry, sad, pissed off, sickened, afraid, shocked, discouraged, broken, etc. It sucks. I don't have any answers and to be honest, I'm glad. I don't want to offer any answers for the horror that has occurred this morning in Connecticut. I don't have any desire to be heard for my opinions right now. I don't care to express my views on gun control and I don't what to share what I believe about prayer in school. I don't want to offer my opinions on the moral state of our country and I don't care to share my view on any political connections to what has happened.  Overall, I have no opinions to share other than I hurt with you. I stand with you in your anger and I walk with you in your confusion. Like you, I ask why, and expect no reply.

What I will say is that this tragedy has only strengthened my resolve that the Church is the only hope this culture has today. As I have said countless times, and many folks have let me know how sick they are of my rhetoric, our main responsibility as followers of Christ is to forward the Kingdom of God. I believe with everything that I am that the realization of God's Kingdom is the only solution to the evil of this world. The Kingdom covers over violence. It alleviates pain, sadness and isolation. It heals, comforts and brings peace in times of fear. The Kingdom of God feeds the poor, clothes the naked and shelters the homeless.  It comes along side those that suffer and it loves them unconditionally. It guides the lost and puts others needs before our own. It has no need for more money, nicer cars, bigger homes or the advancement of careers. It covers the evil that exists and permeates this world. It protects little children and shields young men from killing them.

For the most part, the Church in America has failed. We have failed culture and we have failed each other. We've failed, refused rather, to bring God's Kingdom to fruition. We've contorted ourselves to mimic the culture around us to the point that culture sees nothing relevant in the Body of Christ; the Church. We all want to blame someone or something when we witness shocking events such as today. That's a human instinct and I get that. But rather than looking for some entity or scapegoat for the evil that angers us, perhaps we should look within. Perhaps the blame rests more on what we have failed to do, rather than what someone else has done. Perhaps we should look in the mirror instead of outside the window.

How long, O Lord? Thy Kingdom come....     

Advent Reflections: Day 13 - 12/14/2012

"But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law,so that he could adopt us as his very own children.”
Galatians 4:4&5 


For only a moment, recall as a child how difficult it was to wait for Christmas. All the festivities, decorations and favorite TV shows were all well and good, but nothing compared to the big day! As the weeks passed and anticipation grew, you found it more and more difficult to contain your excitement!  By the time Christmas Eve had finally arrived, you could scarcely keep your attention focused on anything else! One thing filled your young mind and nothing else would satisfy the anticipatory exhilaration that wanted so much to be released! And that one thing was…the presents!  

Let’s face it. We do our best to teach children the true meaning of Christmas, and they listen. They might even be listening right now as we join together. They understand as best they can, but ultimately their minds are more consumed with tearing into those brightly wrapped packages placed neatly around the Christmas tree! But to their frustration, as with most things in life there’s always at least one rule. You can’t open presents until Christmas Day, or maybe Christmas Eve if you’re lucky! And if you have children, you know how difficult it can be to enforce this rule.

But why do we enforce this rule of waiting until Christmas? Why the zealous postponement of such a spectacular event? Because it’s just not the right time. The waiting and anticipation is part of the joy of Christmas, and so it is with love, that parents encourage their children and prepare them as they wait.  God’s children had to wait. Waiting was an aspect of life that the Hebrew people knew very well. Years of living in slavery, captivity and oppression kept them focused on the one day when God would finally send the gift of salvation to His chosen people. That day would soon come in the birth of Jesus Christ; the first Christmas Day. And as with our children, God’s children waited with great anticipation. The Bible makes a point to remind us that “when the right time came, God sent his Son”. It could not have come one second sooner, and would have been impossible to occur anytime later. God sent Jesus into the world at just the right time.  

As we conclude our time together, let us quiet our hearts in trusting patience in God. The right time will come.  Until then we wait, knowing that God’s plan of perfection is complete.    


Lord, it is so hard to wait. Sometimes it feels as if all we do is wait. But in the silence of this moment, remind us to trust in You, find our patience in You and rest in the truth that Your time is always the right time. Amen