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Posted on Apr 21, 2015 in Blog, Culture, Featured, repost, Truth

Louder does not equal true

Louder does not equal true

I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to talk to someone who speaks a different language. But, as has often been mocked, there is this thing that happens. When you don’t know the language, you talk louder thinking that will help the person that speaks a different language, understand.

I’m old school. I am only 35, but I’m old. Why do I say that? Because I believe in truth.

I’ve noticed a problem. There are things that are simply untrue that are being shouted.

Just because a lot of people say something doesn’t make that the truth. Even if the majority of people agree, that doesn’t make that true either. In fact, it doesn’t matter how many people agree with you, if you’re wrong – you’re still wrong.

I hate this idea that is emerging that someone who clings to a belief in the Bible is wrong. Why? Well, just look at how many people don’t believe it.

Let’s take evolution for example. I don’t believe in the whole amoeba becoming human thing. But, especially in the western world, that is the accepted belief. There are a lot of people who believe it. But, just because a lot of people believe that’s what happened, doesn’t mean that’s what actually happened.

I can shout “This is a shoe!” as loud as I want, but if I’m holding a rubber chicken, It’s not the truth. Even if I can convince hundred, even millions of people that the rubber chicken is a shoe, that doesn’t mean the rubber chicken is a shoe. Only shoes can be shoes. Only rubber chickens can be chickens.

It doesn’t matter how many people believe in an idea. Volume doesn’t make an idea truth. And idea is truth when it is true.

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Posted on Feb 13, 2015 in Blog, Culture, Featured, Lost Virtues, repost, Truth

The Apple Is An Axe: The Problem With A Morally, Self-Serving Culture.

The Apple Is An Axe: The Problem With A Morally, Self-Serving Culture.

Our culture has changed.

I don’t know if you knew that. But, life in the western world is drastically different from what it was 30+ years ago. Some of the changes have been good. We have made progress in a lot of ways. But some of the things that have been classified as progress are not.

Particularly our approach to morality.

We have made a drastic shift, the long range implications of which are extraordinarily dangerous.

What is the shift? It lies in where the authority of morality originates. In Bible-based, Christian worldview, the authority of morality is God and God alone. The only authority human beings have is based in our ability to understand and apply God’s written word to us in the Bible.

Where, in our current construct of ethics and morals, is the authority of morality? It is within human beings. No longer do we look to God as the moral authority. Instead, we have decided we know better. That, if there is a God, He exists only to blame bad things on and to beg for help in a crisis. But, who is God to tell me how to live my life?

What is the major problem with this shift? Well, there are a few.

First, human beings are always changing. At least in our ideas, as well as other ways. Can you imagine building an ideology around something that is constantly changing? If I were to base my morality on my own life, we would be sunk as a culture. Not only have I made mistakes, but as my understanding of truth has grown, so has my understanding of how live according to that truth. If I built an ideology around what I believed 20 years ago, it would have been entirely different than what I would build today, which would be different from 20 years from now. If I don’t have enough perspective to construct an ideology that is big enough to last for my whole life, how can I build an ideology that is big enough for the lives of the rest of society?

Second, it’s easy for charismatic leaders to manipulate followers. If morality is based on popular opinion, then morality will be decided by whoever controls popular opinion. Who controls popular opinion? Those with enough charisma to be in the front of the room. Somes this is not the case. But most of the time it is. We don’t listen to people without it. And we give too much credit to those who possess it. Charisma does not equal wise or insightful. It simply means they have the ability to get and keep your attention. How many disasters have, at their foundation, a charismatic leader who had a flawed ideology?

Third, there is no objective way to decide between two conflicting points of view. What happens when what I think is right collides with what you think is right? What happens when what I think is wrong collides with what you think is wrong? What happens when what I think is wrong collides with what you think is right? If there is no authority outside the situation, who gets to decided who is right?

Fourth, there is no accountability. When morality is based on what is right for me, there is no way to impose consequences for actions that you have decided are wrong. Just because it’s wrong for you, doesn’t mean it’s wrong for me. Even if it affects you negatively, I have no obligation to be concerned with how my morality affects your life. You cannot hold me to your standard, neither can I hold you to mine. Therefore, if my right affects your right negatively, my only obligation is to my own rightness.

Fifth, the complete devaluing of human life. Ironically, in our pursuit of serving our own humanity, in the end we destroy it. How? There is no inherent dignity in human life anymore. The value of human life is based on what it does for me. If human life gets the way of my way of life, it must be removed or belittled. My life is important, but the importance of your life is based solely on whether your life helps or hinders my life. If your life hinders my own, the value of my own life surpasses the value of yours. Therefore, your life must become subservient to mine.

Myth: We can build a better society by deciding, as a society, what is right and wrong. Why is this a myth? Let me ask this: have you ever been around someone who has a really dominating personality, but had some really bad ideology? I have. And I know that it can be quite a challenge to reign in their dominating personality at times. And, because of their personality, they have tremendous opportunity to take people with them into bad ideology.

Who do you think will have the most influence in morality decided by society? Will it be the humble and wise person who doesn’t speak up or will it be the loud and unwise person who has a charismatic personality? Every form of government I can think of, even those in science fiction TV shows hundred if not thousands of years in the future, can all be manipulated by a strong personality.

What is the alternative?

The alternative is an authority outside our current situation. Just like a judge and a jury are supposed to be unbiased in court, there needs to be an authority that is outside the current situation, so as to offer and unbiased solution.

Before we go on, I want to speak to what you’re probably thinking. Can’t judges and juries be a moral authority because they are removed from situations? The truthful and honest answer to that question is, no. Judges and juries are human beings. They too are affected by the ideology of others. If they weren’t, their rulings would never change. There would be no bias, and they would always make the right decision.

This is why authority must come from the outside. This is why we don’t get to decide what is right and wrong. We don’t have the perspective to be able to see far enough down the road how what we are deciding today will affect those who have to live by it tomorrow. And we don’t have the unbiased ability to decide what the true right thing is, because we will always be biased towards what benefits us the best, personally, first.

This is why we need to go to the one who built the operating system. Imagine the operating system of the world is Apple’s iOS. And imagine each of us are apps on an iphone. Now imagine that an app decided that the iOS is wrong, so it decided that it wasn’t going to abide by the rules of the operating system. Not only that, but it was going to start telling the other apps that iOS is wrong and that each app gets to decide what is right. Then, they all decide to tell iOS how iOS is wrong and what iOS needs to do to adapt to each apps belief of what is right.

This is absurd right? Why? Because it defies logic. An app on a phone is subservient to the operating system of the phone. A program on a computer is subservient to the operating system of the computer. A falling apple is subservient to the law of gravity. A thrown football is subservient to the laws of physics. Everything in a system is subservient to the creator of the system. Even the iOS is subservient to the creator of the iOS.

God made the system we live in. He built the operating system. We play a part in the way things operate, but we didn’t create the system. Nor can we decide to change it. Only one being gets to make that decision, and that is God. I can decide that I don’t like gravity, and that I don’t want it to exist anymore. “Gravity is no longer true!” I shout to the world around me. I may even be able to get some people to believe me. But my belief in gravity does not change the veracity of its existence. My belief in God does not change the veracity of His existence. My belief in the system He created does not change the veracity of the system. Just because I don’t think truth is absolute, does not mean it isn’t. I may choose to break the rules, but that does not release me from the consequences of breaking them.

I can say an apple is an axe. But, that doesn’t mean I’ll be chopping down the apple tree with my “axe”. Calling a computer an apple does not mean I can make a pie out of it. An apple is an apple. A computer is a computer. An axe is an axe. A tree is a tree. God is God. God’s truth is truth. It does not require my belief in it to be truth, it still is, whether I believe it or not.

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Posted on Jan 30, 2015 in Blog, Church, Culture, Dear Leader, Featured, Leadership, Lost Virtues, repost, Truth

How Do We Save The Church?

How Do We Save The Church?

There’s a great blog/podcast for church leaders that I love to follow, Carey Nieuwhof. One of the posts he wrote just before Christmas (http://careynieuwhof.com/2014/12/impending-death-rebirth-cool-church/) really resonated with me. As I’ve been involved with the discussion, I have also realized that I have a lot to say about this particular subject.

So, I thought I’d share it with you.

But, before I begin, let me be clear. I believe in the church. And I don’t like it when Christians tear down other Christians…when churches tear down other churches. This is not going to be that kind of a post. There’s plenty of content like that out there. It won’t take you long to find it.

With that said, I also think we need to be honest about the current state of the church. I don’t think we are doing ourselves any favors by trying to hide what is going on. The church is in decline.

Fighting for our former position in society will do us no good. It will not help if our interest is in “being seen as a Christian nation again.” I understand the desire. I do. But it is sideways energy.

And it is not the way for us to gain influence in our society. But, we’ll get to that in a bit.

Fighting for the former means. 

I have always thought it should be the job of the older and wiser members of a church community who have the depth of understanding to be able to set preference aside. Never setting aside mission. But, set aside their personal preference because they understand the means are the vehicle for connecting with the next generation. I have no problem with a fight to keep the church on mission.

But too often the fight has nothing to do with mission.

too-often-the-fightToo often the fight is centered around personal preference, and it is mission that gets sacrificed. And when mission is the thing that gets put on the back burner, there is a whole pressure cooker of preference that it just waiting to blow beans all over the ceiling. (I may or may not have experienced first hand what happens when the pressure regulator comes off while pressure cooking beans…just as I may or may not have seen someone mop the ceiling.)

When preference takes over, we forget that the point of the church is the fulfillment of the great commission. This is our function. This is what we are designed for. When the means with which we accomplish that mission become more important than the mission itself, there will inevitably be fights, bickering, backlash, power grabbing and eventually division, strive, discord and ultimately the loss of influence in society.

Yes, there are other functions and activities that the church is supposed to do besides the great commission. But, if you’ll read Paul’s words carefully, you’ll also notice that the point of those functions is for the building up of the body. Those are the things we do to prepare us to do what we have been built to do.

This is where my concern for the church is exacerbated. This isn’t just a bump in the road for us. There is potential massive decline ahead of us. The baby boomer generation has begun to retire. Generation X is a smaller generation, by number, and have, in large part already left the church. And if we thought the church was struggling now, just imagine how it will be in 10-20 years when many of the boomers are gone. Now is the time to sound the alarm.

This means that our hope (as it has always been) lies solely is in reaching the next generations.

Too many churches have caused too much pain and sent a lot of people away from the church. For those who left because their preferences weren’t being met, I’m not that concerned. But for those who left because they didn’t want to be around those fighting for preference, I am greatly concerned. And as long as we’re focused on fighting to preserve what was relevant for us, we make the gospel and the church all about the preferences of those who are already in. And I don’t see that anywhere in scripture.

May I be frank for a moment and speak to my fellow Christians who are clinging to a means instead of mission? For the sake of the next generation, please let go. Please find it in yourself to become the support for the leaders of today’s church who are trying to reach the church of tomorrow. Don’t make their life miserable by clinging to your means. Make their life joyous by fighting for mission.

And if you’re a leader who is clinging to the means of of the past, for the sake of the mission that you once believed in – the mission that was at one time the passion that drove you to pursue ministry – please either get back on mission or get out of the way. (That may sound a little harsh, but I’m a pastor so I feel a little more freedom to speak sternly to my co-laborers.)

But, the pendulum has swung too far.

Just as the church has been greatly sidetracked by an outdated means of ministry, there is a completely separate faction that has swung to the opposite extreme. The extreme of cool.

Relevance is important. But cool does not equal relevant. Sometimes those are the methods that are relevant. But if the end goal is to be cool and hip, then we’ve lost track of mission too.

All the lights and video in the world will not necessarily make you relevant. If you don’t focus on mission, it doesn’t matter how cool your church is because you won’t be changing lives. You’ll just be attracting a crowd.

And there have been just as many casualties of cool as there were of outdated means. The church has sacrificed a great many souls on the altar of cool. If you are pursuing the coolest thing because that’s what’s cool, you’re not doing much better. And we will drive off just as many people.

What is the answer? How do we regain our influence?

It’s really quite simple. If we want to be heard, if we want to have influence, if we want to see a move of God, all we have to do is what we’ve been told to do. The mission.

We’ve lost our influence because we have exchanged mission for preference. We’ve lost our influence because we’ve sacrificed mission for our own selfish pursuits and pleasures. We are no longer credible because we’ve elevated ourselves over the work that Jesus did. I don’t know about you, but I’m so far from perfect and have made far too many mistakes to be the one who decides what the mission should be. We cannot allow ourselves in our imperfections to overthrow the mission. And if we can’t get back to that, we will never be heard.

Is relevance important? Yes. Is it more important than mission? I don’t think that’s the right question.

The question is, does the great commission require relevance?

18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

At first, my answer to that question was, “no.” But upon further study I have found that I was wrong. It’s not explicit in the text, but it is implicit. In a few ways.

1. All authority in heaven and on earth. 

If Jesus has been given all authority in heaven and on earth, aside from the apparent, could it not also imply that Jesus’ authority coupled with Jesus presence empowers us to accomplish the mission in whatever method is necessary?

I’m not talking sinful methods. I’m not talking manipulative methods. But, within what is useful for building the kingdom, doesn’t Jesus’ authority cover all manner of preference?

2. Make Disciples

What is necessary if you’re going to make disciples? You have to have people to disciple. If the people who are available for us to disciple can only be reached through a method that is different than our own preference, doesn’t that mean we need to change our method to even have the opportunity to disciple them?

Our most important task as followers of Jesus Christ is to make disciples. It is not to make ourselves comfortable. If making disciples requires us to be a little uncomfortable, then our job is set comfort aside so that we may receive the title of “good and faithful servant.”

3. Teach them to obey. 

A part of making disciples is teaching. We have to teach people to obey Jesus’ commands. Does this require relevance? Well, have you ever tried to get children to listen to a long lecture? Have you ever tried to teach adults using sock puppets? I have. And because of that, I know that relevance is a requirement of teaching. Even more so if we are teaching for the purpose of obedience. It’s one thing to teach to dispense information. It’s something else entirely to teach for obedience.

I think the gospel is the most relevant message of all time. Its relevance transcends time. Christ died to save sinners. It doesn’t matter where you live, it doesn’t matter what language you speak. It doesn’t matter how old you are. If you’re a sinner, Christ died to save you.

If the gospel is the most relevant message of all time, why have we worked so hard to disguise it beneath to many layers of personal preference?

How do we save the church?

I hope that’s an alarming statement. It should be alarming because the church technically shouldn’t need to be saved. And yet it does. It needs to be saved from its continued pursuit of tarnishing the gospel of grace with things that have nothing to do with it.

But, the church needs some help.

I could be wrong. Definitely been wrong before. But it just seems that the trend is intensifying and with people not feeling societal pressure to be religious, they wont’ put up with irrelevance for much longer. They’ll just be done.

With the decline we have seen in the church’s influence, we don’t have the luxury of being irrelevant. We coasted for a long time because we had influence. But, those days are gone.

If we are going to change the world we live in, we have to live as those who are different. We have to have been changed by grace. We have to believe in the mission and give our lives for it. Our lukewarmness is what has made us unpalatable to the unbelieving world around us.

I guess the question is, do we believe enough to put mission first? If not, we have some repentance ahead of us.

And if we’re not willing to repent of our preferential ways, we should neither be surprised when our churches shut down.

We don’t get to forsake the mission. The mission is the most important thing. And we must do everything we can to fulfill it. Even if that means giving up things that are precious to us. Even if that means putting our preferences aside. Because, is it really worth holding on to your preference if it keeps someone from hearing the most relevant message of all time?

If we saw the mission of being the church as the most important thing, I don’t think we would care what the means are that we use to share that message. But by either fighting to retain what was relevant to us when we found Christ, but is no longer relevant to current and future generations or by dismissing the need for relevance as worldly we silence our own voice.

The saving grace for the church is to speak up. But not with protests and preferences. The way we speak up is to live out the mission. The way we speak up is to make the great commission the most important thing for us and our churches. Setting preference aside, let us press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of us.

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Posted on Jan 21, 2015 in Church, Culture, Featured, Humility, Leadership, Lost Virtues, repost, Unity

Believing the Bible Does Not Make You A Fundamentalist

Believing the Bible Does Not Make You A Fundamentalist

There’s a group of idiots out there. Most of us know who they are. They’re known as Westboro Baptist. They protest everything. They first got their bad rap because they protested the funerals of fallen soldiers. Seems like a great idea right? Let’s protest the people who fight for the right for us to protest.

Now, it seems they protest everything. They’d probably protest Jesus if He was walking on the earth today.

Between their protesting of funerals and LGBT rallies and events, they’ve become pretty disliked amongst a lot of groups of people. They probably argue that Christians aren’t supposed to be liked. They probably think they’re being persecuted for their faith. The reality is, they’re being persecuted for being idiots.

Bible-ThumperBut, that’s not really the reason I’m writing this post. I’m writing this post out of a bit of frustration.

“Why are you frustrated, bro?” (I like to call myself bro, it makes me feel relevant.)

The reason I’m frustrated is that I, as a Christ follower and Bible believer often get lumped into the same category as the Westboro Bigots. And it’s unfair. And inaccurate.

The fact that I believe in the Bible does not make me a fundamentalist. It does not mean I want to thump those who don’t agree with me over the head with my bible. It doesn’t mean I want to protest Gay pride parades and shout hate speech.

But, too often, those of us who believe what the Bible ACTUALLY says are lumped into the category with those who distort its message.

Do I disagree with those who say I must condone beliefs and practices that are counter to what the Bible teaches? Yes. Do I hate them? No. Will I treat those I disagree with in an ungodly and unChristlike fashion? No. In fact, I will do my best to love those who disagree with me as Christ would love them. I may fall short from time to time, just as I fall short at loving those with whom I agree. But, will do my best to love.

So, to lump me in with haters just isn’t fair.

Because of this practice, we have silenced the voices of those who probably understand best what the Bible teaches. And so, those would approach the conversation with love are left in this weird middle place. We don’t agree with the radical Westboro idiots. But, neither do we agree with those who say we must compromise on what the Bible teaches.

I can believe the Bible without being a fundamentalist. In fact, I tend to think there are a lot of problems with fundamentalism. I think there are problems with any view of Christianity that minimizes loving your neighbor to elevate proving your stance.

We cannot form doctrine in response to cultural pressures. We should seek to discover what the Bible says when we are presented with cultural issues, but our aim should seek to discover the truth of God’s word not to react to what we think is wrong because the voices of culture around us are so loud. We should have a passion to know God that drives us to discover every possible way we can apply His truth to our lives and our world. 

We must always form doctrine out of the truth the Bible actually speaks. If the Bible doesn’t say it, we cannot infer it. Where the Bible isn’t clear, we cannot insert a definitive statement. We can use our best judgement to say, “The Bible doesn’t make this clear, but my best answer in light of God’s word is…”

And we must be lovers of God and his word so that we can rightfully form a belief system that represents the entirety of God’s thought. Our desire for perfectly logical systems cannot trump what the Bible says and doesn’t say. We cannot approach the Bible to find proof for our way of thinking. We cannot approach the Bible to prove our theoLOGICAL system is the right one. If the bible contradicts our theology, our theology must change.

My hope and aim is to start being a voice of humility, honesty and authenticity in this dialog. And I hope more of us will find the courage to add our voice to this discussion and others like it. Just because we disagree does not mean we are released from our command to love.

And a word to my fellow, non-fundamentalist, Bible believing Christian brothers and sisters. We must first be known by our love. This is how the world will know that we follow Christ, by our love for one another. There is no room for us to begin with hatred and slander. It’s just not an option. Let your life prove wrong those who claim we are haters simply because we disagree. But, we must learn to bring a much needed voice of reason to these crucial conversations. Especially when they are happening within the church. To be silent is not an option. But if we approach our disagreements with humility, honesty and authenticity, we will be able to be a part of the crucial conversations that are going to shape the next generation of Christianity.

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Posted on Nov 5, 2014 in Blog, Culture, Humility, Leadership, repost

The Two Things Millennials Must Fix Now: WAKE UP!

The Two Things Millennials Must Fix Now: WAKE UP!

Before you get all judgey with your self-righteous indignation, you need to know that I am a millennial. Just barely, but I am one. I’m kind of in between being a millennial and a Generation-Xer. So, when you hear these words you need to hear that I am not just the speaker, but I’m also the audience.

Now that I’ve said that, hear me on this fellow millennials: We have got to grow up and we’ve got to do it fast. I interact with us on a daily basis, and what I see in who we have are, whether we were raised that way or we’ve become that way, is terrifying. We’re on the verge of destroying the world and we don’t even know it. We’ve got to grow up and we’ve got to act fast.

Now that I’ve pained such a happy picture for you, let me explain.

There are two things we are doing that go hand in hand, and when they are played out, they aren’t sustainable. What are those two things? Entitlement & Abdication. Let me define my terms.

By entitlement, I’m talking about the mentality that we are entitled to anything that we want. We think we have a right to everything our heart desires. Entitlement is “the belief that one is inherently deserving of privileges or special treatment.”

By Abdication I mean this: failure to fulfill a responsibility or duty. This is the concept that the locus of our responsibility is outside of us. Everyone around us is responsible for everything in our lives.

I’m sure you see it, but just in case you don’t, here is how the two play hand in hand. We believe that we are inherently deserving of privileges and special treatment and that it is someone else’ responsibility to give it to me. It’s someone else’s responsibility to take care of me and ensure that I get the special treatment that I deserve.

If you’re a millennial, what you’re probably thinking now is: here’s another conservative, old school pastor who thinks we should be moving culture back to what it was like in the 1950’s. You can think that, but the fact that you’re reading this article on a device through technology that wasn’t available more than a decade ago should give credence to the fact that I don’t want to go back to the 50’s.

My aim in writing this is to do my part, to take responsibility you might say, to help up see our faults and to find a path we can walk that is sustainable.

Maybe we just need to stop and think about it logically for a moment. If I am inherently deserving of special privileges and treatment and it’s someone else’s responsibility to provide that for me, what happens when all the people who are currently providing these things die? I know it’s morbid, but it’s a fact of life. Our parents will eventually die. I know this with certainty. What’s going to happen when the people who provide for our special treatment are gone? Who is going to provide for you?

I’m guessing you’re probably thinking that it will be the government’s responsibility. Let’s just say that the American government runs at the highest level of efficiency and is able to use every penny of every dollar with extreme financial prowess. That’s hard to say and imagine, I understand, but let’s say it anyway. What is the primary source of funds for our government? Taxes. Right? Well, if all the people who are doing the work right now die off, who is going to be left to pay taxes? If all the people who are responsible to provide for my special treatment disappear, who is going to be able to pay the government the taxes they will need to provide for my lifestyle?

This is where logic should kick in. If it’s the government’s job to provide for my special treatment, and no one works which means the government doesn’t have any money, how is the government going to be able to provide the treatment I deserve? That’s where loans come in, right?

Okay, so we have currently borrowed 17 trillion dollars. That’s $17, 000,000,000,000.00. One trillion is one million times one billion. To give you some perspective, it’s roughly (on average because the distance is always changing) 1,267,200,000 feet between the earth and the moon. Feet, not miles. A dollar bill is about 6″ long. If you were to stretch dollar bills from end to end, you would have to go back and forth between the moon 6,707+ times to get to 17 trillion. You could literally pave a highway between earth and the moon with dollar bills.

And that’s just what we’ve currently borrowed. If people stop working and our government has to borrow more money than they do now, we’ll be able to drive our cars to Proxima Centauri. It’ll be like the autobahn, except it would take us 85 years to get there if we were going as fast as the Orion-type craft.

What will eventually happen is we’ll go bankrupt. There is only about 60 trillion dollars in the world. And our country has blown through a third of that money. Once we go bankrupt, we will no longer be America, we’ll be the possession of some other country. And, there are no other countries with an economy big enough to support our lifestyle. Which means we’ll lose our entire way of life.

This is the wake up call I’m talking about. If we don’t stop our entitlement and abdication, we will literally destroy the world. I’m not talking politics. I’m not talking conservative versus liberal. I’m not talking left versus right. I’m not talking Republican versus democrat. I’m talking common sense and logic. If we don’t stop this crazy notion that the world exists to give me special treatment and it’s everyone else’s responsibility but mine to do that, we’re finished.

So, we need to grow up. We need to own our faults and start working proactively to correct them. We need to use our brains and think about the truth of the matter, not what we want the truth to be. Because no matter how much I want to be a giraffe, I never will be. No matter how much I want to be Randy Jackson, it just ain’t gonna happen dawg.

Now, what about you? Are you just sitting there, ticked off and spraying your computer screen with chewed up Cheetos or are you going to get busy fixing what we’ve broken? It doesn’t do any good to blame anyone for it. There are a thousand places to put the blame, but that’s not going to fix our problem. We are going to fix our problem. In fact, we are the only ones who can fix our problem. It’s our responsibility. It falls on our shoulders. The only way we can get the special treatment we think we deserve is if we get out there and earn it for ourselves.

I can tell you this, those of us who do will be the ones everyone else looks to get us out of the mess we are heading toward. So, let’s prepare now, and let’s be the ones who decided to fix what we broke.

WAKE UP!

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Posted on Oct 30, 2014 in Culture, Featured, Humility, Intentional Living, Pain and Suffering, repost

Why Not To Take Your Own Life

Why Not To Take Your Own Life

I haven’t wanted to say anything about this story. As a general rule, I don’t talk about issues such as these because I find that they do more to divide people than they unite us. And considering the plethora of opportunities that exist for such divisions, I haven’t said anything about a lot of them. But, when I saw the headline of this article scrolling through my Facebook feed this morning, I knew I had something I needed to say. Then when I watched Brittany Maynard’s latest video, I felt it was a necessity to speak up.

Why-not-to-take-your-own-lifeLet me preface all of my comments with this, I can’t imagine the horrible pain and suffering Brittany is going through. I would never pretend to understand how she feels. And even though my position as a pastor has afforded me the opportunity to walk with some through difficult circumstances, I have never walked through what she is walking through on a personal level. When she speaks of the suffering she experiences, the seizures, the headaches, the lack of recognition and I’m sure a plethora of other pains and turmoil she has had to endure, I can’t even begin to imagine how strong the desire for it all to end must be. And God help me and my family if we ever have to endure something this painful and tragic.

I also want to make it clear, I am not trying to stir up any controversy. I’m not trying to take advantage of a popular topic to gain popularity. I am trying to speak, what I see in the Bible as well as in the natural order of things, to be truth.

But, this morning I saw the headline: “Ore. woman postpones planned suicide, still feels well” something went off in my head. And it is to that I must speak up.

In Brittany’s most recent video, she says: (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1lHXH0Zb2QI)

“If all my dreams came true, I would somehow survive this.” – Brittany Maynard.

In the article on KGW.com, there is this quote: (http://www.kgw.com/story/news/local/2014/10/30/brittany-maynard-postpones-oregon-assisted-suicide/18167099/)

“I still feel good enough and I still have enough joy and I still laugh and smile with my family and friends enough that it doesn’t seem like the right time right now,” she said in a video on her website The Brittany Maynard fund.” “But it will come, because I feel myself getting sicker. It’s happening each week.”

What I fear about not speaking up is yet another area of life in the Northwest and our entire western culture, that becomes clouded by the exercising of broken people making broken rules to fix a broken world. There are so many issues that we need to address, but they have become taboo for Christians and especially pastors to talk about.

Where does it end? I know there are laws to deal with this issue, but once we take steps in this direction, it could easily become a much bigger issue than being terminally ill with a disease such as cancer. There are those who struggle with mental illness who would describe their lives with as much pain and sorry, if not more than what Brittany has endured. How can we say that Brittany’s physical pain is any more justifiable than the emotional and mental pain some people endure? There are hundreds of other qualifications that can be added to this issue that cloud the water to an inextricable level.

But, it’s not even just that. I believe that Brittany’s life is a gift. I believe that having been given the opportunity to exist, she has received a great gift from our creator. I don’t know Brittany, to know how she feels about the gift she’s been given or to know where she is on her spiritual journey. I would like to know. And, honestly, part of my hope in writing this is to get that opportunity. I am a Pastor at SixEight Church in Vancouver, WA. I would love the opportunity to discuss this with her. I maybe help her understand the gift she has. I doubt I will get that opportunity, and if I do, it seems that the ball is already rolling pretty fast down hill, but you never know.

And that’s exactly the point. You never know what’s going to happen. It is not for us to know, only for God. And only God sits outside of our lives and situations. Only God has the vantage point with which to judge when a life should begin and when a life should end. That is how He designed it. That is how he created this world to function.

Even though you are having to endure the greatest pain you have ever known, God can use that pain and adversity to shape you and those around you. Just as Brittany may not be healed of this disease and her pain may never cease, whatever pain you are dealing with may last the rest of your life. But what if God has a plan to use that pain to sharpen you into a tool He can use to accomplish great things for His Kingdom?

When you go through suffering, when you endure pain, you gain credibility – especially if you handle it well. Some of the people I admire the most are those who have suffered greatly but still honor God with their lives and thank Him for His blessings. I know someone right now who is suffering that way, and the way She is handling this adversity is speaking volumes to me and our community.

But, when you decide to end it all, you rob yourself and those around you of that opportunity. You may feel right now that there is nothing worth living for. But, can I, perhaps a total stranger, implore you to look a little harder. You may be all alone right now, but that doesn’t mean you will always be alone. And maybe God wants to use this suffering to lead you across someone else’s path. And maybe it’s that crossing of paths that will lead to your ability to endure for the long haul. And maybe you crossing their path is what gives them their reason to live.

There is so much about what’s going on in our lives that we don’t understand. There is so much we will never see from where we sit, because we are in the middle of the situation. But, just as an offensive coordinator has the ability to adjust the plays he calls because he’s sitting up in a booth where he can easily see the changes the defense is making – God sits much higher than us and has the ability to see how what we are doing right now is going to affect the lives os those around us.

Can you imagine what would happen if Brittany changed her mind? There are millions of people who know her story. But can you imagine what would happen if she decided to endure because her life is a gift? There would be millions of people who would see and want to know why. And that would give her an amazing chance to tell those people about God and why, even though it will be the hardest thing she and her family have to go through, to tell the world about how God has a purpose for every day of her life and she wants to honor Him with that.

Psalm 90:14-16 says:

14 Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love,
    that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.
15 Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
    for as many years as we have seen trouble.
16 May your deeds be shown to your servants,
    your splendor to their children.

May your deeds be shown to your servants. Not only does this tell us that God’s ways are higher than our ways and that we never fully understand what God is doing, but it is teaching us to make the most of every day God has given us.

Where do I see that? In Psalm 90:12:

12 Teach us to number our days,
    that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

And what about Psalm 139:16:

Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.

Teach us to count the days. Teach us to make the most of every opportunity. There are so many opportunities ahead of you. No matter who you are or where you are, there are opportunities in front of you. All you have to do is start looking for them. All we have to do is to follow the example of Christ on the cross. Who endured the greatest pain and suffering so we could have the hope of eternal joy beyond our time of pain and suffering on this earth. Your life was worth so much that He gave up his own so you could walk in a redeemed and restored relationship with the creator of this universe.

To see those opportunities, we must learn to walk in humility. We do that by following in Christ’s example: (Phil 2:3-8)

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very natureGod,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross!

What if our purpose is not solely wrapped up in what we can get for ourselves out of this life, but instead is intricately tied to all the people around us. What if, instead of making our whole existence about ourselves, we valued those around us more than us? What if we had the same mindset as Jesus who made himself nothing, endured great pain and humiliation all for us?

Whatever turmoil you find yourself in, not matter how deeply you wish to end your life on this planet, can I encourage you to make the most of every day you’ve been given? Can I implore you to stick it out? That the life you live is a gift from the God of this universe, and to cut that life short is to cut short the purpose for which you’ve been created. You are worth so much. You have so much value to our God. He created you in His image, which means you have intrinsic dignity, worth and value.

You are amazing and you have been amazingly made. Your value is not determined by how cool you are, how many friends you have, or (even as I have argued in this post) because of the difference you can make in the lives of those around you. Are those important? Except for being cool, yes. Being cool isn’t important, that’s just dumb to worry yourself about that. Regardless of those things, you have worth and value because you are made in the image of an amazing God. All the other stuff aside, you are amazing because of whose image you are made in. And that’s reason enough to endure.

The fact that my phone just went crazy announcing an amber alert for my areas speaks to the truth of this matter. Life is important. Life has value. And when a life is in danger, we should fight like crazy to save it. Brittany’s life has value. The life of these missing children have value. The fact that murder is illegal around the globe speaks to this fact as well. Life is valuable. It’s a gift. When I think of your life, I think of it as being precious. When I think of my wife and the gift her life is to me and my family, it’s precious. When I think of my children, I think of them as being precious gifts to me and this planet. Life is a gift.

Death is a certainty for all. So it’s what we do with our lives that matters. Our lives should be about life, not death.

To quote the greatest movie of all time: “You see, George, you’ve really had a wonderful life. Don’t you see what a mistake it would be to throw it away?”

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