Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Some Young Punk Wrote the Book of Hebrews

Here's some more from a recent Sunday morning at my church. 

This episode with Isaac was just one example of Abraham’s faith. We read other biblical writers referring to Abraham’s story. One example is in Romans. Another is found in Hebrews, whom I think had to be written by some young punk. We don’t know who wrote Hebrews but my money is on a young punk.

Hebrews 11:12 is the proof. He's talking about the people of God who lived by faith when he comes to Abraham. As you may know, Abraham is the guy that God called when Abe was a spry 75 years old. Good ol' Abe moved to another land and kept trying to make babies with his wife Sarah, simply because God said He would give Abe a new land to call home and he would become the father of a large nation.

And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore. ~Hebrews 11:12

You can almost hear the author cry out, 'Dead Man Walking!' as he talks about Abraham. Yeah, Abraham was a bit older than the average dad, but its all perspective. We may not hear of 75 year old fathers, but Abraham wasn't far removed from a time when such was not the case.

If you turn over to Genesis 5, you will find the riveting story where we learn the ages of Adam and the next 7 generations, when they had their first baby boy and when they died. Yeah...riveting.

If you actually sit down and focus on the numbers, it's kind of interesting. Adam had Seth when he was 130. Even if you account for Cain and Abel being around 20-30 when 'the incident' happened, that means Adam became a father first at around 100 years old.

Seth was 105 when he had Enosh.
Enosh was 90 when he had Kenan.
Kenan was 70 when he had Mahalalel.
Mahalalel was 65 when he had Jared. I imagine there was some unrest when this happened. Only 65? Are you sure you're ready to be a dad, Mahalalel? After all, you're only 65.

But then Jared waited until 162 to have Enoch. That's more like it. Become stable and live a century and a half before settling down and having a family that will depend on you.

Oh, none of this accounts for how long they lived. Adam lived to be 930. He became a grandpa at 235. At least he was still young enough to get down and play with the grandkids. I'm sure Eve appreciated that.

Of course, Seth became a grandfather before he turned 200. Imagine the energy he still had!

Why do I tell you all this? Flip on over to Genesis 11 and you can read the timeline between Shem, son of Noah, all the way to Abraham. While Shem had his kid at 100 years of age, the next 5 or 6 generations started their families at ridiculously young ages. They were all in their 30's. Who starts a family at that age? (never mind the fact that I was 26 when I started mine.)

But Terah was at least a more respectable 70 years old when he had Abraham.

But for anyone reading this over the age of 75, rest assured we don’t get our ideas about age and usefulness from this young punk writer of Hebrews. God had plans for Abraham and I believe God has plans for everyone, no matter their age.

This simple truth here is that Abraham was not deterred from his goal. Everything he did, however imperfectly, was based on his faith, which gave him a singular goal in chasing after God.

Monday, July 28, 2014

You Have Faith and Nobody Cares

Believe it or not, my church keeps letting me talk in Big Church. Here's part of what I had to say. 

I was talking with Jimmy this week and he said "oh, you believe in God? Well woopitydoo"

He didn't seem impressed that I was a believer in God. He said as much, believing in God is not the goal. He scoffed at the notion of belief in God having any merit. Satan believes in God. But we don't see very many people using Satan as a model for how to live.

Ah, Jimmy. You might already recognize some of my thoughts as reflecting those of James, the brother of Jesus. I have heralded the letter of James as one of my favorite books in the Bible. This is not because it is easy. It’s because James is forthright. He doesn’t mince words. He presents us with reality and then tells us to deal with it.

I can remember in college, getting involved in a guy’s small group on my dorm floor. I mentioned my fondness for the book of James, so it didn’t take long for us to turn to James 1:26. I read out loud how anyone who considers himself religious, “yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue” is deceiving himself “and his religion is worthless.” Knowing my penchant for having a sharp tongue, I took a hard swallow and commented that I didn’t remember James being so convicting.

I believe James to be an equal-opportunity offender. Whatever your vice is, Jimmy has something to say about it. Let’s read some of what he has to say to us;

What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?
So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.
Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.” But I say, “How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.”
You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror.

James 2:14-19

It should give us pause to consider that a belief we state (I believe in God), often without thinking about it, is something that causes trembling in other beings that God created.

Friday, July 25, 2014

How to Survive a Sharknado

I saw the title and knew, even if I delayed doing so at the moment, I would come back to request this book. How to Survive a Sharknado by Andrew Shaffer is a book based on the awesomely awful movie, Sharknado.

Full disclosure: I saw the last 20 minutes of the movie and laughed. If I had time to give away, I might consider going back and making fun of the rest of the film.

The book is a how-to when unnatural disasters strike. We need to survive the inevitable, right? The Red Cross may be around when hurricanes and tornadoes strike. But who is going to help you when those tornadoes are filled with hungry sharks. Or how do you expect to survive when a hurricane comes loaded with monstrous robot pigs (a boaricane for those taking notes)?

The facts, as presented by Shaffer, are that it is up to us. So, chapter by chapter, he takes us through attacks from Mother Nature, the Earth and monsters you only wish were mythical. I'm prone to side with him on the plausibility because, after all, it's a great big (scary) world out there.

I enjoyed this because each end-of-my-world scenario is presented with physical dimensions, likely targets and the chance for survival. They also include a story of when we first realized this could be a problem. Shaffer writes with such deft humor that, had one not known they were reading satire, they might have Googled information on a story their Facebook feed obviously missed. (I'm not saying I did that more than once.)

I know this book will be proudly displayed at home or office for all to see. I will do this...because I care.

Here's some links for more info.

Just so we're on the same page, I received this book for free from my good friends at Blogging for Books. They give me books and ask that I say something about the book, which I have now done. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Problem With Children's Ministry Resources (But Not Really)

I'm looking at different children's curriculum resources for our children's ministry programs. It's not a task I enjoy. I sit on my youth ministry mountain and look down and make many assumptions about the things that happen in children's ministries.

I have so very many thoughts while swimming through an ocean of options. 

First of all, why are there so many options. Are you telling me children's classes are more than some kind of juice, a box of goldfish and a song with motions? Why do we even need a book to tell us how to do this?

Should there really be crafts? If the church thinks this stuff is so important, they should invest in a hallway of refrigerators for all of this art to go on. 

Why do all the advertisements for these resources show happy adults down on the floor with puppets and glue sticks and well-behaved children? If I used their curriculum, would my classrooms be magically transformed?

Then we get to the curriculum itself. It seems to me that Adam and Eve knew something was up even before the Fall, because they are always standing behind bushes or trees. No shame? Then why aren't they running around, unhindered, in any of the pre-Fall pictures we have of them? 

And what would happen to children's resources if we didn't tell any stories involving animals for an entire quarter? We might actually have some explaining to do. 

In the end, I simply hope people realize there is room for sarcasm when it comes to my involvement with children's ministries. Otherwise, I may get some letters about this post.

Monday, July 21, 2014

There Can Only Be One

On a recent vacation, we had the chance to be contestants on Double Dare Live. Children of the 1980's will remember the Nickelodeon show Double Dare, a quiz and challenge show that pitted families of four against each other. It was a test of mental prowess. It was moms and dads and children pushing themselves to the physical brink. It was a great excuse to get messy from the gallons of green slime this show produced. 

As a child, I remember yelling at the screen as these inept families failed time and again. I was positive my family, led by me of course, could conquer anything that came our way with the ease that would make us look like Olympians tasked with simply running in a straight line. 

Now would be my opportunity to prove that the beast I imagine within actually existed. Since it would be messy, my wife declined. And since you had to be at least 8 years old, that left my youngest out. 

Teams required one adult and one child, which left me with a predicament. In order to participate, you had to fill out casting cards, complete with team name and a description of your unique abilities.

I filled out one card for my oldest daughter and myself. Then I filled a second card for my son and I.  I would leave the decision up to Nickelodeon.

As the time came for teams to be selected, my kids asked me what would happen if both our teams were called. But I knew the truth. Only one team could be called.

I think that a lot of people are living life as if both teams can be called. Good and evil. Light and dark. Right and wrong. But that is sheer nonsense. When applicants are being interviewed for an opening, nobody assumes that everyone will get the job. When parking cars, nobody tries to fit two cars into one spot. 

So why do we think like this when it comes to spiritual matters. All of the sudden we believe we can have our cake and eat it too. (Why people would want cake around when it's much more enjoyable to eat said cake is beyond me.) 

But we should realize the truth by now. There can only be one. That fateful day at the Nickelodeon Resorts, the Chuck Norris Ninjas were called. That would be the team name my son and I chose. My daughter and I were not called, which I knew would happen. Only one correct answer exists for each question. 

And once the competition came, there could only be one winner. As it turned out, it was not the Chuck Norris Ninjas

Friday, July 18, 2014


Holy cow! I only thought I was amazed by our universe. But after reading Indescribable by Louie Giglio and Matt Redman, now I am seriously overwhelmed by space.

From the size of stars to the immense gaps in space between objects, I am in way over my head.

But why create stretches of the universe that will never be seen? Why be content for distant galaxies to go completely unnoticed for thousands and thousands of years? It is a mark of extravagance in the heart of our Creator God. God is not like us. 
Of course, when you start talking about how big everything is, you have to discuss how small we are.

Maybe, just maybe, we’re not that big after all. But it’s not for lack of trying, is it? In the early days, people tried to build a tower that would reach the heavens. Talk about self-confidence. And, in every generation since, we have worked to elevate our names and build things as if we could really garner fame that lasts.
I absolutely love that idea. 

This book is filled with awe-inspiring photos taken from Hubble and several other sources. The short chapters and the pictures make this an ideal book to share with a family at a meal, which I have done a few times. 

But this far more than a book about space. I could quote Giglio and Redman for pages, giving all the amazing facts and figures they shared. Yet at the heart of this book is a desire for us to realize how awesome God is and how much He loves us. They even note how the Earth is actually in prime location for viewing the rest of the universe. Who knew?

God knew.

The world was so intrigued by the universe that it sent a space shuttle. God so loved the world that He beat us to it and launched His own mission, sending His only Son.
This is a book I would highly recommend. Go get a copy!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Obedience. So Little Fun. Still Required.

I am sitting at camp. It is the end of the week...almost. I have handed out instructions all week. Besides being the speaker, I have also been a counselor.

Some of the things I have instructed have been obeyed immediately. Others, not so much. But here is what i have learned.

Obedience is easy...until we are asked to do something we do not want to do.

It's  time to eat. It's time to play. It's time to sing your fave song. These are easy.

I need you to listen to me. It's time to sleep. It's time to not retaliate when some other camper decides to make a bad choice. Now obedience is not so easy. 

And here is the thing. The campers all say they want to be good. They day they want to be obedient. But truth is found in action.

And the truth is that I am no different than any of these campers. Obedience is easy for me, until I am asked to do something I do not want to do.

Obedience often interrupts the fun we are having. 

Pranks seem to go hand in glove at camps. I actually had a group of girl campers cross my path. While I suggested they should return to their cabin, they suggested I not stop their plans. 

Camp pranks may be harmless and I may be a scrooge, but the essentials don't change here. Authorities are everywhere in our lives.  And for those who follow Christ, obedience to these authorities is expected.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Things I learned at Camp

We took a team to Northern Michigan last week to serve at a camp. Here's what I learned.

  1. You really can't take enough mosquito repellent. Not only is the mosquito the state bird up there, they are vicious blood suckers who must be working for vampires. So much blood loss.
  2. While 7-8 hours of sleep is enough for a normal day, it is not enough for a day at camp. When they schedule a nap time, you do whatever it takes to get a dozen boys age 7-12 to silence themselves. If nothing works, pretend you don't see the boys climbing out the windows while you catch a few winks. 
  3. You can catch a 9-year old boy a lot easier after a nap.
  4. While taking a shower, wash with one eye open. Those mosquitoes (and friends) are everywhere!
  5. It's best to guard your more sensitive spots at all times while hanging out with young boys. 
  6. Tether ball is hazardous to your health. Just don't do it.
  7. Northern Michigan lakes are not to be entered. Even in mid-summer, they are brrrrrrr.
  8. Going off a slide is the easiest way to enter cold lake water.
  9. Going off a big slide can be painful upon connecting with cold lake water. 
  10. Using a blob with the daughter you outweigh by 80 pounds can be both terrifying and satisfying. 
  11. Seriously, those mosquitoes. 
What have you learned from your time at a camp?

Friday, July 11, 2014

God's Mission is Not Dead!

Finishing up our week at camp today. I want the students to hear how they are an important part of God's plan. Here's part of what I'm sharing.

Pete and John were just headed to church, but you never know what's going to happen when you go to church. After all, this is God we're talking about, the too-big-to-be-contained, amazing-beyond-your-imagination, God.

As Acts 3 records it, they come across a beggar. It seems like an intelligent place to beg, with all the compassionate people coming and going. It actually makes me wonder why more beggars don't hang around churches these days. (I'm afraid the lack of beggars around churches may say more about the Church than the beggar.)

The beggar asks for money. He did so without looking up, perhaps to avoid the awkward stares of people who would rather not give. Peter asked the beggar, who also happened to be crippled, to look him in the eye. The beggar does so, hoping for some money. Peter kills that dream rather quickly, saying, 'I don't have any money, but I will give you what I have. In Jesus' Name, walk.'

He helps the beggar up, who decides to jump around, giving praise to God. He's in church, so it raises some eyebrows and things get interesting from there. (You can check out Acts 3 for the rest of the story.)

'But I will give you what I have.'

We read this story and only see that what Peter had to give was greater than money. But what if what we have to give isn't seen as greater than money? What if the beggar had looked at Pete and said, 'All things considered, I'd rather have the cash.'?

What if, for inexplicable reasons, the beggar decided money was worth more than the ability to walk? And what if Peter and John decided to withhold anything else, deciding that only money would make a difference to this man?

Then Acts 4:4 would not have been written. See, after the miraculous healing, Peter, ever the opportunist, decided to preach to the onlooking crowd. It actually becomes quite a spectacle and gets Peter and John arrested by those priests who felt their own power was more important than God's. But after all of that, we read this;

But many who heard the message believed; so the number of men who believed grew to about five thousand. ~Acts 4:4

That's 2,000 more than the previous update we're given on the number of Christians. It didn't happen because people gave a lot of money. It happened because one guy said he would give what he had.

Our attitude should always be, 'I will give you what I have.'

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

God's Holiness is Not Dead!

I may have posted this here on my blog before, but I'm up at camp teaching and I'm using this story as part of a lesson on God's holiness.

I'm teaching my kids the Lord's Prayer. It leads to some fun conversations. We're purposely taking our time discussing the different aspects of this prayer. How it begins is interesting.

Our Father in Heaven
Hallowed be Your Name
I want them to really own this prayer. Too many of us only know this as the prayer we say during a service. Depending on your tradition, you say it during communion, after the pastor prays or some other set period of time. But Jesus wasn't giving us something we could all say in unison.

So we read the prayer. Then I asked them to imagine, to use their imaginations, much like I want you to do now.

Imagine I invited you to my home. Upon entering, you saw that I had a giant picture of myself placed prominently in the living room. As you might guess, it's a glamour shot. Once you came in, I also told you there was one house rule. It was simple. I rule. Oh, and you should tell me I rule. (In case you're wondering, I am using the 80's version of the word rule.)

What would you think of me? While some of you would not be surprised at this scenario, my kids correctly labeled me arrogant. Then I asked them why this was okay for God. Why is it okay for God to teach us to pray and begin with telling God how awesome He is?

In a moment that made me realize I am not, in fact, speaking to a wall when I speak to my kids, my son answered, "Because God actually IS awesome!"

Truth. Word. Yes. Yes. Yessssss!

For God to tell us that He is worthy of our adoration is simply true. For God to tell us anything else would be wrong. It is not humility for God to deflect our praise. He is God. He is awesome! Therefore, He is worthy. His name is to be hallowed.

This is why we begin our prayers with telling Him so.

God is holy! It is up to each of us to accept this truth and to live our lives like God wants. Because God wants us to be holy.

God is not dead.
God’s call to live right is not dead either.

Monday, July 7, 2014

God's Not Dead!

I am up at camp this week, teaching a bunch of kids and teens. I'll be posting some of what I'll be sharing with them. Pray for me and my whole team as we serve.

I think there are a couple of reasons to believe anyone. First, if what they are saying is true. Second, if they can back it up. So how do you prove that something someone says is true? Wouldn’t they have to tell you what they are going to do ahead of time and then actually do it?

If your mom said she was going to make you lunch in a half an hour, you could start looking at the clock. But if an hour passed and still you had no lunch, you would know 2 things. First, now you’re really hungry. Second, your mom is a liar.

Or, you might come to find out that your mom didn’t have any peanut butter or jelly in the house. So, even though she wanted lunch to be true, she had no power to actually make it happen.

So now let’s apply this to Jesus. I can tell you that He told people He was God. When they asked for proof, He told them if they killed Him, He would rise again from the dead. He said He would do it in 3 days! Well, how do you prove this? Let’s kill Him and see if He actually rises from the dead!

3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. ~1 Corinthians 15
Let’s be clear about this. Paul was writing that Jesus rose from the dead and that more than 500 people saw it. This isn’t me saying I saw a flying unicorn, but he flew away, so you’ll just have to believe me. This is like saying I saw a flying unicorn and so did 500 other people. You can ask any one of them and they will tell you it’s true.

With the story of Jesus rising from the dead, these 500 people said, ‘Even if you threaten to hurt us, and kill us, we will stand by this truth. We saw Jesus alive!’

But Jesus wasn’t the only one to rise from the dead. Let’s talk about some of these other people who rose from the dead.

1 Kings 17 - Elijah and the Widow.
There was a famine in the land. God tells Elijah to go and live with a widow and her son. A widow is someone whose husband has died. She doesn’t have a lot of money. In fact, when Elijah asks for some food and water, this widow tells Elijah, ‘Actually, I was about to make some bread for my son and I. We were going to eat it…and then die.’

She’s telling Elijah they don’t have enough food left. But Elijah tells her, ‘That’s nice. But could you make me some first?’ She does and God starts providing enough food for them every day.

But then one day her son dies and the widow gets really angry with Elijah. So Elijah takes the boy and goes to pray for him. He even lays on him a few times and the boy comes back to life.

2 Kings 4 - Elisha and the Shunammite's Son.
There was another story of a woman and her husband who had no children. Another prophet, Elisha, would stop by whenever he travelled that way. So this woman and her husband built him a guest room. Elisha wanted to thank them, so he told the woman she would have a son. She replied, ‘Don’t get my hopes up.’ But Elisha said it would be done by the power of God. Sure enough, this couple had a son.

Several years later, the boy dies. The woman is very upset with Elisha and reminds him that she didn’t ask for a child. But Elisha goes in and prays for the boy and lays on him and this boy rises from the dead.

2 Kings 13:20-21 –
Elisha was a pretty special prophet. He is recorded as doing a lot of miracles while he is alive. But eventually he died. When people died back then, they would place their bones in a cave.

We then have a story about how these guys from Moab would come to Israel and just steal a lot of stuff. One time, while they were coming to steal, some Israelites were burying a friend who had died. But they saw the raiders coming, so they wanted to get away quickly. So instead of taking their time, they just took their friend’s dead body and chucked it in a cave. Then they took off running. It just so happened to be the same cave that Elisha was buried in. When this dead guy’s body touched Elisha’s bones, the dead guy comes back to life.

Elisha's dead body raises another dead guy to life! Can you imagine the guy who died and how he reacted? Imagine waking up next to a dead body. I imagine he freaked out and started running as fast as he could from the cave. In fact, I imagine he ran so fast, he probably passed his friends, who were running from the raiders!

Then we have some in the New Testament.

Acts 9:32-43 - Peter raises Tabitha
There was this lady named Tabitha who was known to help people. She died. But a bunch of her women friends decided that wasn’t okay. So they sent for Peter, who was doing some healing nearby. Guys, I want you to imagine a room full of crying women. They’re showing Peter the stuff Tabitha made to help people. And they’re crying. A room full of crying women. Peter, like any guy, decides he’s heard enough. ‘Okay, okay, I’ll wake her up. Just stop crying!’ He throws all the women out of the room, looks at Tabitha and tells her to get up. She does.

Acts 20 - Paul and Eutychus.
I love this story because Paul was a preacher. He was leaving the next day, so he decided just to preach for a long, long time. They were on the second floor of a house. It was well past bedtime and this one guy, named Eutychus, was sitting in an open window. Apparently Paul wasn’t very interesting, because Eutychus fell out of the window and died. But Paul wasn’t done preaching, so he goes down, raises Eutychus up from the dead, and then goes on to continue preaching until morning! Are you kidding me?

Then there are the people Jesus raised from the dead. I want you to imagine these stories with me. These people had seen Jesus do amazing things (make food out of nothing, walk on water, heal major illnesses) so some people took it one step further and asked if He could raise people from the dead.

Jairus's daughter: Matthew 9:18-26; Mark 5:21-43;Luke 8:40-56
We have a story of Jesus being called to help a sick girl. Along the way, it appears that Jesus gets distracted by a sick older woman, who had been bleeding for 12 years. Here’s what happened;

Jesus and His disciples are walking amongst a huge crowd and there is no room to swing your arms without hitting people. This woman sneaks up on Jesus and just touches His cloak, hoping that will heal her. It does! But Jesus feels some power go out. So He healed this woman without even talking to her. But Jesus stops and looks around, and asks who touched Him.

His disciples think He’s crazy, because everyone is touching Him. It’s a crowd! But Jesus insists He knows someone touched Him with purpose. So the woman admits it.

While Jesus and this woman are talking, the family of the sick girl come by and tell Jesus the girl died. They don’t need Him to come over, because nothing can be done about death.

Jesus says, “Bah! Come on boys!” He gets to their house and says the girl is only asleep. When everyone laughs at Him, He kicks them out. Then He raises the girl back from the dead and gives her back to her family.

Lazarus: John 11:1-44. 
Perhaps one of the most famous resurrection stories is when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. Lazarus had been sick and then dead for 4 days when Jesus arrives. Jesus tells them to remove the stone. Before they obey, they argue. “Dude, Jesus, the body is going to smell.” But Jesus insists and so they obey. Jesus calls out and tells Lazarus to come out. Sure enough, Lazarus comes walking out!

Besides the smell, can you picture the looks on everybody’s faces there? ‘That dead guy is walking! It’s a zombie apocalypse!’

There are also modern stories of people rising from the dead. I read of a 95-year old Chinese woman who had died. The custom was to let the body sit in a coffin for a few days before the funeral. The day before the burial, her neighbor went to check on the coffin, and the lady was gone. "I slept for a long time," she reportedly told her fellow villagers. "After waking up, I felt so hungry, and wanted to cook something to eat." Apparently, a doctor said, the tradition of waiting days before burial saved her. Another custom — the ritual burning all of a dead person's possessions — did not work in her favor.

A South African man in his 60s passed out after an asthma attack last July. Thinking him dead, his grieving family called a private funeral company, instead of paramedics. After spending 21 hours in a refrigerated morgue, the man woke up surrounded by corpses and started to scream. Two workers heard the noises and panicked. "They thought it was a ghost," said Sizwe Kupelo, spokesman for the local health department, "and they ran for their lives." The entire mortuary team returned together later and freed the undead man.

A Venezuelan man, Carlos Camejo, was declared dead after a highway accident in 2007. Before his wife could arrive to identify the body, medical examiners began an autopsy. Camejo who had been declared dead woke up in the morgue in excruciating pain after medical examiners began an autopsy. They cut into his face, and were surprised as fresh blood poured out. They quickly started sewing the incision, and Camejo regained consciousness. "I woke up because the pain was unbearable," Camejo told a local newspaper. When his wife arrived to identify him, she found Camejo waiting for her in the corridor.

These stories are all amazing. And they are true. But none of these stories tops a man raising Himself from the dead. In every story, God worked through some man to raise another person up from the dead. But Jesus raised Himself from the dead. Only God can do that!

So, when we have a guy who raised Himself from the dead, we should probably go back and listen to what He says we should be doing. When someone can control life and death, it might be a good idea to listen to what He says.

Jesus controls life and death. And He told us the most important rule was to love God and to love people. God’s not dead!

Friday, July 4, 2014

What's Stopping You?

Sometimes we talk about the Apostles as if everything was kittens and rainbows for these guys, as if everything they touched turned to gold. Yes, they had amazing displays of the Holy Spirit power. But let’s not pretend there weren’t obstacles to their mission, which, by the way, is also our mission.

It is interesting how the book of Acts begins and ends. In Acts 1 we have the disciples barely wanting to start their mission.

Do you remember Acts 1? Jesus tells them to wait in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit. Instead of asking what that might be like, they ask when he’s going to come back. Jesus gives them the equivalent of ‘Don’t worry about it!’ Then He ascends right before their very eyes. Then they stand there with jaws dropped, like a bunch of Gomer Pyle stunt doubles, until an angel has to ask them what they are standing around for.

When the Holy Spirit comes on the disciples in Acts 2, it becomes a line in the sand. Goobers no more, the disciples become a force to be reckoned with.

And as we go through the early chapters, everyone is trying to stop the disciples from preaching about Jesus. Disciples are being arrested and killed. Even some young guy named Saul is taking it upon himself to travel around and arrest Christians from other cities.

Then Saul encounters Jesus, becomes Paul and it would appear all Heaven breaks loose. History tells us of how the disciples went all over the place, with a special focus on Peter going to the Gentiles and Paul travelling all over.

By the end of Acts, Paul is under house arrest in Rome, a long way from Jerusalem (Google Map). Acts 28 tells us he preached the word of God everyday and "nobody tries to stop him."

Going from a message that everyone tried to squelch to a message that nobody even tries to stop is quite a deal. You might even call it an act of God. I want to pause here and make sure you're with me, kind of like a children's cartoon character who asks questions and waits for a response. 

Fast forward to today. I hear lots of people talking about our rights to pray and our freedom of speech. I hear concern that we might once again be shoved to the side of the American way of life and be inhibited from sharing Jesus with our friends and neighbors.

“The Revolution was effected before the War commenced. The Revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people; a change in their religious sentiments of their duties and obligations … This radical change in the principles, opinions, sentiments, and affections of the people, was the real American Revolution.”
This quote is by John Adams, commenting on the First Great Awakening, a revival that took place starting in the 1730's, before the Revolutionary War.

This quote is used, along with others, to prove that the United States was founded on Christian principles. When contrasted with headlines in more recent history, it would seem that religious freedom is under attack. From being free to refuse certain types of legally recognized marriages to the tax status of Christian schools, hospitals and charities, it appears the ability for Christianity to have an equal voice in the public square is becoming diminished.

Doomsday prophets are pointing to Revelation and assuring us that our basic rights will disappear next and that the end times are upon us. They might be right. What do I know?

But since when did Christians ever depend on what the world was allowing in order to complete our mission?

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Have You Heard the Whole Story?

I don't recall the sermon, or even the point of the sermon (which makes me exactly like most people who listen to my sermons), but I remember what happened afterward.

In that particular sermon I had included a story about David, the mighty King David, being a murderer and an adulterer. I came off the stage to my own children, Jacie and Luke, who were in shock. "King David murdered a person!?!"

Yeah, I would have loved to have some extra company over that day for lunch. Sitting over a crock pot of yummy Sunday warmth, while explaining to my kids how David, the man after God’s own heart, had eyes that wandered and had blood on his hands. Can you pass the carrots?

This isn't a rant about how we do children's church, because the Bible is so full of stories, I won't apologize that many stories focus on the positives of God and the people who follow Him. But my kids had somehow slipped by learning of David the lusting murderer.

This happens easily enough with teaching children. We focus on the fuzzy animals that got on Noah’s Ark, while glossing over the mass genocide happening outside in the rain. We talk about how the prophet Daniel got the big lions to play nice, while skipping over the part where the lions crushed the bones of Daniel’s accusers,… and their wives and their children. Yes, and we discuss David, the shepherd-boy who would be king, only giving brief mention to the parts that give movies an R-rating.

More recently my family was, once again, talking about the whole Goliath episode. Guess what else my kids didn't know about...the sword David used to cut off Goliath’s head! Does anyone remember the old SS song? Only a boy named a David, only a little sling...Well, this new info would make for an interesting new verse to be sung by children.

'And one giant sword went in Goliath's throat and David cut off his head...the sword went back and forth and back and forth.....'

You get the idea. (Yeah, we'd have to get a whole new set of felt board characters to tell some of these stories completely.)

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. ~Deuteronomy 6:4-9

That was a mission given to parents. One of the obstacles we have to completing our mission is not telling the whole story. Now, you might want to wait until they are out of diapers to tell them all the gory parts, but I do believe there is a reason we have these kids until they turn 18. 

Tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth!