"...and I will dwell in the House of the LORD forever!"

Monday, November 29, 2010

“I”=“Insane”

We frequently refer to our youth as the “Leaders of Tomorrow.” With fear and anxiousness, we think about who will be our leaders in the coming years, but we love to critique the habits and the education of these young people! It’s often said that the younger generations, “Don’t understand the importance of hard work, have everything handed to them, and walk through life as uneducated and unrealistic dreamers!” I usually disagree with that evaluation of our youth, but this time I might actually have to jump on the bandwagon. West Potomac High School in Alexandria, Virginia is doing away with “F’s” (Fail) on report cards. That’s right, it will be impossible for their students to fail classes! What’s their alternative? “F’s” will be replaced with “I’s” (Incomplete). An “I” will let students redeem themselves because they can learn the lesson, get caught up over the next year, and then be given a satisfactory grade acknowledging the fact that they “mastered” the material! In first grade, we got “E’s” for effort, but even effort doesn’t always cut it! Why don’t we give them “R’s” for RIDICULOUS!

Now, the administration of West Potomac High School does offer a convincing rebuttal. They say, “Students learn better when the learning is not complicated by grades.” Possibly, but the only reason they would learn “better” is because they don’t worry about failing! And if that’s the motivation, I’m not sure the students are actually “learning.” Grades give stress, but stress pumps adrenalin that makes students work hard! When the students grow up and enter the real world, they can’t tell their employers, wives, husbands, children, or the government, “Please erase any standard that evaluates my performance. It causes me stress, and when I have stress, I don’t do my best work!”

I pray that we never forget that even on the Day of Judgment, we can receive an “F.” God is gracious, He is full of bountiful mercy, and He gives us every opportunity to succeed. However, if we don’t do what He asks, and if we don’t work hard for Him, God will say, “You have failed!”

I suggest we remember the advice that Paul gave the young preacher Timothy. “Study to show thyself approved…” We must prepare for our evaluation, because the only “I” we will receive is when God says, I, and only I, am the Lord,” And that “I” is COMPLETELY SANE!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Behind the Uniform

As we walk through the church doors, we’re always greeted with the same question, “How are you today?” When churches ask that question, do they really want to know? Some churches would say “yes”; unfortunately, some churches would say “no.” Truthfully, people probably won’t be honest. They say, “I’m fine, how are you?” but they walk away thinking, “Can’t you tell I’m not?”

Churches aren’t the only ones who neglect to be “real.” Recently, commercial pilots around the country were surveyed to see what they thought about air travel and the passengers they transport. These were just a few of my favorite responses:

1) “Some FAA rules don’t make sense to us either. Like the fact that when we’re at 39,000 feet going 400 miles per hour, in a plane that could hit turbulence at any minute, flight attendants can walk around and serve hot coffee. But when we’re on the ground on a flat piece of asphalt going five to ten miles per hour, they’ve got to be buckled in like they’re at NASCAR”

2) “Please don’t complain to me about your lost bags or the rotten service. I simply fly the plane, and my retirement was taken to subsidize your $59 airfare!”

3) “We don’t make you stow your laptop because we’re worried about electronic interference. It’s about having a projectile on your lap. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to get hit in the head by a MacBook going 200 miles per hour!”

4) “Passengers want their pilots to be rested and ready, but the truth is we’re exhausted. The hotels they put us in are in bad neighborhoods, they’re loud, they’ve got bedbugs, and there have been stabbings in the parking lot. Our work allows us to be on duty for 16 hours without a break. That’s more hours than a truck driver. And unlike a truck driver, who can pull over at the next rest stop, we can’t pull over at the next cloud.”

Did you realize that’s what pilots felt? Behind the Uniform, they’re much different than we think!

If the church really is a body, working as a unit, connected by the blood of Jesus, let’s do more than casually ask, “How are you?” Let’s say, “We want to help and know you better!” Get behind the “Sunday Best Uniform” and GET REAL!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Solving the Puzzle

Do you ever watch Wheel of Fortune? I’ve never enjoyed the show governed by a wheel, but something happened last week on Wheel of Fortune that grabbed my attention. Contestant Caitlin Burke solved a 27 letter, 7 word puzzle, with only the letter “L” and an “apostrophe” as clues! With Burke’s amazing accomplishment, she received a Caribbean vacation, but also the awe of Pat Sajack, who was completely astounded. It’s not completely unusual for contestants to solve puzzles without many clues, but when they do, the puzzles are much smaller! But a 27 letter, 7 word puzzle; who does that? Some have said that Burke cheated! Was the puzzle solved through cheating or intelligence? I’ll let you be the judge!

But when it comes to religion and understanding the nature of God, sometimes it seems like we are faced with an unsolvable spiritual “puzzle.” Everyone has their own opinions, interpretations, and ideas. Post-Modernism argues that to find the solution, “Solve the puzzle by forming your own image of what it should look like, and make the pieces fit together anyway you can.” As students of God’s word, we know that’s not right. So we respond, “Well, it’s not too difficult to solve the spiritual puzzle. God has given us His word to follow, and with the help of the Holy Spirit, we can understand it correctly.” However, when the world hears our solution for solving the spiritual “puzzle”, they see us like Caitlin Burke and say, “It can’t be that easy. You need MORE clues to solve THIS puzzle!”

I realize there are some teachings in scripture that are pretty “heavy.” At times, we need the help of scholars to piece the “clues” together for us. Even Peter gave this evaluation of his fellow inspired colleague Paul, “His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort…” (2 Peter 3:16) But Karl Barth, one of the most respected and prominent theologians to ever live, brought the “puzzle” into focus for us! In 1962, Barth was lecturing at Princeton, and he was asked, “After everything you have studied and learned, how can you summarize the theological meaning of life?” Barth answered, “Jesus loves me, this I know. For the Bible tells me so!”

At the end of the day, we can solve the “puzzle” by dwelling on that famous song from our childhood! “Jesus loves me, this I know!” That’s the most profound thing I’ve ever heard!

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Passion of Pontiac

With a tough economy, we have witnessed many products go by the way side. This month, Pontiac will strengthen that statistic. The last Pontiac was built in May of 2010, and there are only two dozen unsold Pontiacs lingering at dealerships around the country. One of them is a G5 coupe near Little Rock, Arkansas, which has sat on Greg Orr’s lot for more than 700 days. I wouldn’t label the G5 in “high demand.”

It’s hard to believe that one of America’s famous car lines will no longer cruise the road. Pontiac has been a stable company with an 84 year history, but Pontiac has also faced many problems. When Pontiac began in 1926, it built cars for working class Americans. This strategy was profitable until 1950, but in the 1950’s, Pontiac sales dropped off a cliff. GM revived Pontiac by connecting its “image” to auto racing. Pontiac became known for muscle cars that drag-raced after Friday night football games and roared across movie screens! Remember the Firebird Trans Am that raced through the 1970’s famous movie, “Smokey and the Bandit”? This repertoire for racing boosted sales to $1,000,000 in 1968. Today, in 2010, sales haven’t even reached $250,000! That’s less than 1% of the 2.2 million cars and trucks GM has sold.

You might ask, “What happened? How did this muscle car money maker minimize to muck?” I think Bill Hoglund, a retired GM Executive who led Pontiac during its “hay day”, said it best, “There has been no passion for the product. The product had to fit what was going on in the corporate system.” When the car industry made the switch from power to practicality, Pontiac decayed in the dust. Sure, Pontiac tried to keep up by changing its personality, but in doing so, it also changed its passion!

I’m afraid that many Christians follow in the steps of Pontiac. When we “miss the mark”, it’s not because we have forgotten Christ, it’s because we convince ourselves that we need to look like everyone else, and in doing so, we lose our passion! I’m so glad that Paul reminded us how to keep that from happening! “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…” (Romans 12:2) Like Pontiac, when we decide that our Godly “image” is no longer effective, that’s when we make our biggest mistake! That’s when we lose our passion!

God has given us the promise of Jesus, and with that promise, we should be passionate people! But when we lose our passion, that’s when we lose our promise! So take a lesson from Pontiac. Protect your Passion!

Monday, November 1, 2010

“Get Your Facts Right!”


Llano, Texas is filled with historical structures and symbolism. It’s no mistake that the Marquee on the square portrays this motto: “The Way Texas Used To Be!” In some ways, when you drive through Llano, Texas, it feels like you’re driving back through time!

A few weeks ago, Natalie and I toured the old Red Top Jail that sits by the Llano River. It was built in the 1890’s, and it was actively used until 1980! As you walk through the narrow metal doors, it’s almost like you can see the shadows of the town drunks and hear the voices of bank robbers. Narrow and steep stairs climb to the third floor where the gallows are still located (Though they were never used). You’re consumed with the aura of yesteryear. Throughout our tour, the information we received from the tour guide seemed a little bit “fishy.” I kept saying to myself, “I’m no Llano history buff, but that just doesn’t sound right!” The tour ended in the living quarters of the warden and his family, but the climax of the confusion also came to the surface. The tour guide pointed at some pictures on the wall and said, “These are the pictures of some of the wardens of Red Top Jail.” I walked up to the pictures, and I quickly realized that these were pictures of William Travis, James Bowie, and Santa Anna. I turned to the tour guide and asked him a question, just to clarify that I didn’t misunderstand what he was saying. “So you’re telling me that two Alamo heroes, and a Mexican President and General, served as wardens of the Llano jail?” With no hesitation, the tour guide replied, “Yes, I believe so!” William Travis, James Bowie, and Santa Anna must have been men of many talents!

This little incident got me to thinking, “I sure hope we tell the story of our Savior correctly.” I hope we don’t confuse what Jesus did with the things He didn’t do; what Jesus believed, with the things He didn’t believe! After all, Jesus said that He was, “…the way, the truth, and the life.” (John 14:6) I hope we don’t turn His crystal clear integrity into a haze of lies.

Can we know EVERYTHING about Jesus? Obviously we can’t be certain about every detail. But when people press us for information about the things which are unknown, I pray that we will rely on the words from the “disciple whom Jesus loved” when he wrote, “Jesus did many other things. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.” (John 21:25) You see, this plea for ignorance keeps our integrity intact!

Let’s hold onto that plea, because it would be terrible to hear God say “My child, GET YOUR FACTS RIGHT!”