I’ve always been a HUGE fan of St. Patrick Day. No, not for the Guinness Green Beer. Though I can’t say I’ve ever tried it, so who knows. Some of you may know that March 17th is my birthday so that probably explains a lot. That’s why I always feel exempt from having to wear green on St. Patrick’s Day. But the real reason for my fondness for this day is its name sake, St. Patrick himself and the beautiful Irish folks that he gave his ministry and life for. What do we know about Patrick? Well there’s a lot of legend and lore surrounding him, but what we do know is that somewhere around 400 AD he was taken prisoner from Great Britton by Irish raiders and enslaved. Eventually Patrick made his way back to Britton after experiencing a Christian awakening of his own and later sensed a call to return to Ireland to share Christ with his captors in the 420s. History tells us that God used Patrick in a mighty way to leads countless Celts to the love of Christ. The picture that we have of Patrick is a man who was profoundly committed not only to Christ, but to the people of Ireland as well. He loved God and he loved the people.
Well we’ve come to the conclusion of another year. I’ve thought about a number of ways to close things up for 2012. I’ve pondered a few ways to kick off 2013, but nothing really resonated. Then I came across this video link below. It has some huge application for my leadership friends and followers of Christ in general. There is also implication to the American society as a whole. The take away challenge I’d give from this clip toward the New Year is to intentionally invest in the lives of others. The particular challenge would be for older godly men to purposefully take 2013 as a year to build into the lives of two or three younger men with the hope that they would do the same in years to come. This is so fitting for the Church and the culture at large today. The answers that our world is looking for are not found in government, but in Christ and the Kingdom mentality He called us to. The answer is to actually do what Jesus said . . . “go and make disciples.”
I remember reading about Johannes Kepler in High School and know he was a smarter man than me. But of course that’s not hard to imagine especially when it comes to math and science. But I came across his name again while studying for my sermon this week. Indeed, Kepler was a brilliant mathematician and astronomer. You may not know this, but he was also a serious minded man of faith and follower of Christ. While Kepler was credited in discovering new planetary movements and even today has departments of NASA named after him, he also gave serious effort to finding of the Star mentioned in Matthew 2:2. This was the Star that led the Biblical Wiseman to Bethlehem on their search for the birth of Jesus. Like Galileo, Newton, and other brilliant scientist of old, Kepler didn’t take the path of many modern scientist who choose to reason away the divine. He didn’t hold that science explains away God; but rather that science was just another tool to explore the magnitude of God and figure out this great creation of God we call the cosmos.
It’s Monday morning after the evil tragedy in Newtown, CT and I’m still somewhat at a loss for words. It’s funny as I work with words on a regular basis. But sometimes they just don’t come. I’ve not been glued to the news and I’ve actually just shut it off a few times. You see, I know what they’re going to say. No, not the specific details that are coming out, I don’t know those, but I know the bottom line. The story will be the same and I just want to cry when I hear the fine points of little children being cut down in a safe school classroom in a quiet community. The story will be the same that has been played out in all kinds of places in all kinds of scenarios since the day Cain struck and killed his bother Abel. I just saw from a friend’s email that the story was played out again last night in another shooting. The story of evil in the world will be the same. While the magnitude will rise and fall; the story of evil will always be the same.
I’ll be honest. This election season has been a hard one for me. It was just over four years ago while planting a church in Northern California that I made the firm decision to never run for political office. While that commitment has been relatively easy to keep, the question of debate has been quite another story. The last 2012 Presidential debate has come and gone. But many of us are still debating with our friends, enemies, and even sometimes with our own souls. Debate is a great principle in our culture. However, it seems to be a whole lot easier to simply debate than actually do something. It’s easier to debate about what the government should do than actually getting out and doing something ourselves.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not turning Amish here and as noted in a post from a while back, I do believe that sometimes folks are called into public policy molding just like someone might be called into law enforcement. The great William Wilberforce from the UK is a prime example. But as a Christ follower we are all to be Salt and Light in our world even if we are not in public service or making public policy. We are called to be his hands and feet from wherever we stand on the political debates. So while this debate could take off in innumerable directions, let me simply ask what it is that we are all going to do ourselves instead of expecting someone else to do for us. Consider these to begin with:
Although I often talk about Deb and the kids on Face Book, I don’t usually write much about my family here on the blog. Maybe I should. But something interesting went on over the past few days which I suppose warrants a change in practice. John, my oldest son, was asked by his High School English teacher to write a short paragraph along with the rest of the class describing what they use as their moral compass to live by. Fair enough. But then she finished her assignment by stating that they couldn’t answer the assignment by talking about “God or something like that.” When I was taking John to his Cross Country meet later in the day he told me that for the first time he was “disobeying” one of this teachers. I asked for an explanation and then got the whole story. John did write something in accordance with his convictions and I’ve included that below from Deb’s blog where she also wrote about it. I love the way Deb described our oldest son in all his glory. (Actually, he gives all that to God) But read on and ask yourself, “when was the last time I made a stand for Christ?” Yup, that’s my boy.
This may surprise you, but Neil Armstrong and I actually have a lot in common. Well ok; maybe not a lot. But we do have some similarities. I like to tell people that I was born the year that the US landed on the moon. In fact my birthday was March 17th 1969 just a few months before Armstrong’s historic first step. Obviously Armstrong liked to fly and he actually earned his flight certificate even before he had his driver’s license. I can’t claim that kind of accolade, but I still love to fly. Even though I’m in my early 40s I still try to stick my head into the cockpit to look around every time I board a plane. Neil became an Eagle Scout in 1947. I entered the ranks of the Eagle Scouts in 1985.
But I think the real connection that I have with Armstrong is that we are both men who believe in a God who created the universe. The news media has said very little about this and honestly it may just be because Armstrong worked very hard to stay away from the camera and the public eye. But Armstrong acknowledged the existence of God and what many people are not aware of is that both he and Aldrin took communion with each other before leaving the Apollo lem module and stepping out onto the lunar surface on that historic day.
We can and should learn much from this humble leader in American History. We should learn from his example of hard work and dedication. We should learn from his example of exploration and visionary spirit. But I also believe a huge lesson for us today is to remember that God and science are not opposed to one another.
Well I wasn’t super happy this past week with my cholesterol check. Apparently the number 196 is not very good. At least my Dr. friend didn’t like it. He said that 200 is the beginning of the danger zone and obviously I’m not too far removed from that number. So I took my beating and was told that my exercise routine needs to get longer and my diet needs to get smaller. No, I was not thrilled at the results. Beyond just not liking the idea of having a growing gut I recognized that if my cholesterol grows there can be health risks which will hold ramifications for my family. In short, I need to get healthier not just for me, but for them. After ruminating a bit it became clear that there are also spiritual implications to this bodily discussion.
It was never so clear as the day the young couple walked into my office. They were in their early 20s, not yet married, with a wonderful little daughter at their side. I had spoken with the mother on the phone but had not yet met the father. So this was our first meeting together. As they came in, the young man addressed me as “Father” from his Catholic tradition to which I gave him a fun laugh, a big hand shake, and we set down to talk. The reason for their visit was to ask if I would baptize their little girl of two. In essence, the mother was Methodist and they wanted someone in between to do the spiritual deed.
After some fun introductory conversation I dove into the “theological stuff.” I tried to make two main points. 1. The Bible does not teach infant or toddler baptism and it is actually the product of Catholic doctrine which did not originate until about the 4th or 5th century. The little girl was not aware of her sin or her need to come to Christ. 2. That there was nothing special about me which would raise me to a “Holy Father” status. I tried to point out that while we do see leadership roles in the Church, the Bible does not make a distinction between the “Holy” Christians and the regular Christians. “We have ALL sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” I quoted to them. But no matter what slant I tried to bring into the discussion, it was clear that I was getting nowhere. I tried to point them as individuals directly to Jesus and Jesus alone. I gave them a Bible in modern English and encouraged them to read the gospel of Mark and then call me back. I never heard from them again even after I tried to follow up.
So what was so clear that day?
Ever doubted your faith? You know; it really is ok to answer that question. Most of us experience some form of doubt when it comes to God and the Kingdom of Heaven. Atheist, agnostics, and authentic Christ followers have questions about the Divine which can’t always be answered in a nice cookie cutter fashion. With that in mind we began a short series at The Crossings this past Sunday entitled, “Oh God, Help My Unbelief!” The launch pad for our study comes from Mark 9:24 with a man who struggled with his belief. The man had tried everything and prayed feverishly for a son with horrendous sufferings. Jesus came, healed the boy, and encouraged the man’s faith. But what about you and me and our questions? What about the times when Jesus doesn’t seem to swoop in and save the day? What about the times when we doubt?