Sunday, June 30, 2013

How People See Me

Not long ago, I crossed paths with a man I didn’t know, but he recognized that I was a local minister, so he hurriedly threw his cigarette to the ground and stamped it out. 

“Did you put that out to show respect for me?” I asked.

“Yes.” He said, looking like he thought he might be in trouble anyway. 

“That was nice of you,” I said. “But next time you don’t have to do that.”   

I don’t like the look of apprehension that comes over someone’s face when he first sees the preacher—like I’m looking to find something wrong with him and scold him over it.

I want each of you who read this to consider two things. First, when people duck their heads and show fear at the sight of me it makes me feel very lonely, although I understand why they do it. 

Second, if you see me as a representative of Jesus, remember that like Him, I’m glad to see you—you’re a pleasure to know. 

A friend once came to visit me in a town where the people had had enough time to get to know me. He walked with me through the local shopping center and watched as I greeted the many people I knew.

“These people all have a similar look when they cross your path,” he observed. “They don’t just look glad to see you—they look relieved to see you.”

I can’t think of a nicer compliment for a minister to receive. And it’s something I aspire to, wherever I go.  

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The World Needs You to Grow

In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. 

You need milk, not solid food! Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about cleansing rites, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And God permitting, we will do so. (Hebrews 5:12; 6:1-3). 

The world needs you to grow. However, many of us have stayed at the same level of spirituality that we were on when we were children. In fact, we insist on it.  

Sometimes we’re jolted out of our torpor and forced into a growth cycle by a crisis, such as an illness, or powerful loss, or even the threat of illness or loss. But as soon as life evens out, we’ll scurry right back to our childhood set of beliefs and no real growth will have lasted, and then we’ll leave our “religion” in the back of a drawer somewhere that we can take out to look at when there’s time.

Meanwhile, the world slides further into gloomy, confused chaos. If only there were some new insight. If only there were deeper wisdom to share.

It’s there but most of us haven’t found it because we quit growing. We repeat the same litany of thoughts that we heard in church when we were five years old.

There’s so much more to Christ that we could claim for ourselves and then share. There are deeper levels of joy, hope, peace, beauty, wonder, power, love, healing, and wisdom that people could find if we led them through our own personal growth.

When you signed on follow Christ, you signed on to be one of his helpers. You signed on to make things better in this world. Jesus pointed to the people and said, “They are harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” And then he prayed for God to send forth reapers for the harvest. (Matthew 9:35-38).

You and I, we are supposed to be the answer to Jesus’ prayer. But to do it, we need to keep growing.

The world needs you to grow. 

Let’s get more specific. Your children need you to grow. So do your grandchildren. And your friends, neighbors, and your colleagues. They need you to grow so that you can help them grow.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Who Knows What?

“Whoooaa!” I hollered to the little boy who careened around the corner and tried to be-bop past me.  I reached out and scooped him into my arms. It was VBS and I was patrolling the hallways, alert for opportunities just like this.  

“Where are you supposed to be?” I asked.  

He looked at me like I was a typical grownup asking one of those typical crazy questions.  

“I don’t know,” he explained. “You’re supposed to know that.”

He was right. So I helped him find his place.  

Kids are smart and they know more than we give them credit for, but they also need to be told stuff, shown stuff, and helped down life’s pathway (or the church hallway).  They need to hear our stories, feel our love, and be fed, clothed and sheltered.  

And if we’re the grownups, we’re supposed to know how to do that.

I know it sounds pretty basic, but grownups can get pretty rattled and unsure of themselves. And we find out we’re not off the hook once our own kids are grown. Next are the grandkids.  But not only that, I believe we adults need to address ourselves to the needs of all children.  

The little boy said it plainly:    

“You’re supposed to know that.” 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Personality Profile--Sort Of.

According to the Myers-Briggs Personality profiles, I’m probably an ENFP, which sounds like a sports radio station to me. But in actuality the letters stand for traits that are especially strong in me. 

This personality type is bit of a performer, loyal and places extremely high value in relationships, is interested in many things, willing to negotiate, focuses on ideas, concepts, and possibilities, improvises, cares about people, get bored easily, gets annoyed with details—I’d list more, but I’m losing interest….

Somebody said Mark Twain was one. He once said—and this tickles me: "I have been told that Wagner's music is better than it sounds."

He also said, "Who prays for Satan? Who, in eighteen centuries, has had the common humanity to pray for the one sinner that needed it most?" It’s an out-of-the-box thought, and my personality profile suggests I like those kinds of things.  So I’m thinking it over.

It is further stated that Oscar Wilde had a similar personality type. He once wrote, "A dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world." 

That last statement? I kinda love that one. 

This is not really a formalized essay. I just felt chatty.  My profile says I’m like that.  :)  

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Hell Factor

What if the threat of hell no longer existed?  Would there be any point of spreading the message of Christ?

It’s a question worth asking because frankly, hell just doesn’t scare people anymore. And maybe that’s okay, because sustained fear is not a great motivator.  Oh it’s good for the short term urgent stuff, like running from wild rhinos, but on a daily basis it doesn’t work so well. In fact it makes us crazy and if it gets bad enough we go to the doctor for medication. 

It certainly doesn’t inspire nobility. 

Think about it. Do the following statements really make any sense?

I’m going to feed the hungry, tend the sick, and love my neighbor because I don’t want to go to hell. 

I sing joyful hymns to God because I don’t want to go to hell.

In prayer, I share the depths of my soul with God because I don’t want to go to hell. 

It doesn't surprise me that our society turns a deaf ear to a fear-based religious message. And that’s a problem because avoiding hell has always been our big selling point. If people aren’t motivated by fear anymore, why become a Christian?

“Okay Pastor. If there is no fear of hell, what motivates people?”

Great question. Glad you asked. Consider the following as a partial reply:

How about finding wholeness where you experience the full activation of your being? How about trading self-indulgent misery for adventurous living for the sake of goodness?  How about finding a strength that sustains you even when you feel your weakest?   How about finding hope and values that guide you? How about living in a Presence that completes us, unites us, and heals us?

Is all this laid at your feet the moment you accept Christ into your heart? Well, no. But the path is set before you. And you can leave certain baggage behind, one of which is fear of hell.   

"There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love." (1 John 4:18).

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Without Ceasing

“Pray without ceasing.” (1 Thess. 5:17)

If this is a command, it's impossible to obey—one more thing that makes us feel shame--without ceasing.   

But what if we turned this around and concentrated on how God is present without ceasing, going beyond conversation to deep communion with our spirit?

Think of the God who is always in touch with the deepest part of us, guiding us, healing us, whispering to our hearts his word of affection and wisdom.

This isn’t a command. It’s a gift without ceasing.

The psalmist said it this way:

You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.

You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely.

You hem me in behind and before,
    and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too lofty for me to attain.

Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.

If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.

                                                                              --Psalm 139:1-10