Sometimes I just get tired. If anything, the word journey better describes the walk with Christ more than a happy walk in the park. It gets hard at times. It gets fatiguing at times. A marathon, or maybe a triathlon, is more descriptive of what authentic Christianity is like, rather than a Caribbean cruise. Yes, I get tired sometimes. It is tiring to continue to pray for years and not see the results my heart longs for. It is just downright oppressive at times trying to calmly and lovingly speak toward Biblical righteousness in a culture that wholly embraces abortion, homosexual lifestyles, and philosophical relativity. It gets disheartening to see more and more people who wear the name of Christ in Western Europe and America drop Biblical morality like a bad losing streak in favor of liberal cultural and political correctness.
My last surviving grandparent crossed over the river into the other side of eternity yesterday afternoon. Granddad Stephens was 97. When I think of the legacy that my grandfather left, I almost always think of the song, “Leader of the Band” by Dan Fogelberg. Granddad Stephens had a natural talent for music and he pursued that as his career in life retiring as a High School band director not far from where I grew up. Maybe more importantly though, along with my grandmother, he brought music into the lives of his children and even down into my own soul today. Granddad, I know that like King David of old, is now playing and dancing in HIS presence. For the rest of our family who are left behind, we are thanking God and remembering the good things that have been built into our lives by granddad hands. He left a legacy.
The reality in this situation is that we all have an opportunity to leave a legacy. Whether we like it or not, unless we move to the desert by ourselves, we’re going to leave some kind of imprint, good or bad, on those around us. The question is what kind of legacy will we leave.
This past weekend I participated in a great men’s retreat north of Philadelphia. I’ve only been on the east coast a handful of times so it was great to make new friends with a common bond of Christ. We drew closer to Christ, grew in our walk, and shared stories from our own pilgrimages. With the coming of Memorial Day this weekend I was struck with the power of some stories from older guys who lived through the Viet Nam War. I was born in 1969 so I have no real memory of that tragic chapter in the history of the United States. But these men know quite a bit about that season and still carry scars today. It was in one of our final discussions of the weekend that part of their pain became very clear to me. Like the vets from the Korean War; these Viet Nam survivors were and are forgotten along with so many who died there.
I only played basketball for one year in elementary school and royally stunk at the game. Not my favorite sport. So it’s probably no surprise that I’m picking up the news feed a bit late on the media controversy of Jason Collins coming out with a gay lifestyle and the subsequent commentary of his Christian colleague, Chris Broussard. I saw the opening news frenzy and reactions yesterday but really didn’t pay too much attention. This morning however, I received an article link from a friend which is worthy of note when looking at the larger picture. There are at least two observations we can make not only from the article, but from the discussion itself.
Sometimes Boris would drive me nuts. I mean really drive me nuts. Ok, sometimes I suppose he just ticked me off if we’re being honest here. I remember well the afternoons that Boris would come into the office of the small college we rented from in Moscow, Russia. We’d play chess and discuss everything from politics, to Christianity, to philosophy. I liked playing chess with Boris because he was just about the only Russian over the age of 12 that I could actually beat. The reason Boris pushed me to the edge sometimes was because he clearly had little interest in discussion for answers and discovery, but rather just for the sake of being argumentative. Boris longed for the Communist to retake the government in the national elections of 96. Boris quoted Paul McCartney with as much reverence as the apostle Paul. Boris referred to both Vladimir Lenin and John Lennon with equal admiration while joking about Jesus. Boris would deny the credibility of the Bible while all the time never acknowledging the proofs I’d give for its inerrancy. Boris just liked to argue and I suppose that’s probably normal for a young man in his late teens and early 20s. I’m sure I’ve got my own history of annoying folks with my arguments as well. So if you’re out there Boris, please know that I really do love you and miss you.
One of the criticisms of Christianity that Boris would level at me periodically was the supposition that Christianity was simply not practical. Maybe he was contrasting me to the Bolsheviks of old or something. But for whatever reason he had that idea, I tried to illustrate to him that Christianity is anything but impractical.
Well this stinks! Ever felt that way before? Ever said that out load before or even thought it under your breath with only yourself and God as the audience? Yup; me too. We’ve all been there. The truth is that life does stink at times and those who appear to constantly live above the fray and claim no pain are probably not dealing with reality and know a Christianity other than what I know. When I read the Bible I don’t see perfection, at least not on this side of eternity. No, I don’t see “health and wealth and lack of problems.” I see . . . stink. I see real life in the Bible and the kind of life that we experience here in the 21st century. While the Bible was inspired by God, it was written through human agents who breathed the same air and problems we face today. They were human and at times their lives stunk as well. Elijah felt suicidal. David wept bitterly. Paul spoke of anxiety regarding a dear friend near death. Even Jesus, God in flesh, spoke of the problems of his age and ours and the fact that just like they hated him, they would hate his followers as well. Yes, I see loads of stink in life and in the Bible, but I also see hope.
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.
Today is International Women’s Day which is a big thing in parts of the world like Europe. The first time I heard about this celebration was when Deb and I lived in Russia back in the mid 90s where IWD is a huge deal. The roots of this movement began in the early 1900s on the heels of the industrial revolution where women experienced great oppression and unfairness. In 1908, some 15,000 women marched through New York City demanding shorter hours, better pay, and voting rights. This movement continued in other countries and the first official day of celebration was held in Austria in 1911 and followed in the US with the 19th Amendment in 1920. On this day of celebration I’m remembering some influential ladies in my life and am thankful for them, but I’m also a bit saddened at the agenda of the modern feminist movement. Is this because I’m opposed to women’s suffrage and really am a chauvinist at heart? No. Rather, it’s because I am totally for women and sense that what has arisen out of this healthy and right call for equality has now morphed into a recipe for tears. The problem that many may not grasp is the mistake of equating equality for sameness and thus a drive to purposefully remove any difference between the genders.
I recently came across an interesting blog post simply titled; Church Planting is Dead! I don’t know Kevin or anything beyond his bio, but he’s got some good points in the discussion on the ever changing face of church planting and kingdom expansion. I’ve done some time in the trenches of church planting so naturally I believe this subject should be a huge priority. Even in the established ministry here at The Crossings I’ve begun to lay the initial ground work for sending out planters and daughter churches. It’s a big deal.
In the post the Kevin notes various changes like the present phenomena of launching multiple campuses or sites by mega-churches opposed to planting autonomous churches. That subject is indeed another debate for another time. Here however, Kevin focused on individual people rather than on methods. His point being, in one sense, that every Christ follower can be involved in church planting. I agree with that assessment and would take the thought one step further. The key to really ushering in church multiplication and kingdom expansion is just going back to serious discipleship and not more machinery.
Back in 2008 a great preacher from Nor Cal introduced me to Matt Harding dancing around the globe and I loved the clip from the get-go. It was a reminder to me of how big and beautiful God’s creation is as seen through diversity and nature. Even now it reminds me of Revelation 7 where the apostle Paul spoke of the future and fulfilled Kingdom where a “great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, was standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb.” Today while doing some research I saw that Matt created a new clip for 2012 and I was just as pleased. While I like the music better in the 2008 video, it was cool to see places like Moscow, Helsinki, Manchester, and other spots around the US and the greater globe where I’ve been. Either way, the picture is the same. An awesome God, who created a colorful globe, filled with majestic people, and a profound message of divine love to take be taken to the world over. My, what a wondrous world we live in.
PS, if you could visit any of these places, where would you go and why?