What are you gonna do? Shock the world.

In my post about Todd Bussey’s influence on my life, I said that he will probably shock the world in Florida. That was intentional.

Here’s why…

Shock the WorldIn high school, my summers were pretty jam-packed. Thanks to Scouting, we had a trek at Philmont and Summer Camp to look forward to. Marching band consumed many days and nights as we tried to put together a top-notch show that would (hopefully) rival those of Castle and Reitz. And our family would always squeeze in a family vacation during the Summer, too.

It was wall-to-wall action with little downtime. And it was just the way I liked it.

“Here I raise my Ebenezer…”

One of the first events of Summer was our church youth group’s annual trek to Summer in the Son at Kentucky Christian College (now known as Kentucky Christian University). Friendships were forged. Faith was challenged. Bonds were strengthened. We “koinonia-ed” all over the place. Lives were changed at Summer in the Son. When I look back on my faith journey, I see several Ebenezers – key landmarks that remind me of where God intervened in my life.

One of these Ebenezer Monuments occurred during the main worship service. A speaker, whose name I cannot remember, shared a story that changed the direction of my life. I’m going to do my best to retell it. Please note that I have made up the names and dates of this story. It’s not because I’m trying to protect the innocent. It’s simply because I heard this story back in the early 1990s and details like names and dates in this story are honestly a bit of a fuzzy memory. But I promise. It’s a good story. And it changed my life. It went a little something like this… Continue reading “What are you gonna do? Shock the world.”

9/11, ISIS, and a different response (aka the post I don’t want to write)

The Greatest of These is Love

I’m going to be honest here. I’ve been struggling with writing this post for quite some time. I don’t really feel like I have any real answers here. And I like answers. I like to have my posts tied up in a neat little package with a nifty bow to present to you, dear reader.

I also hesitate to post this because it feel like I’m choosing to be a little naïve. And nobody likes to appear naïve.

And maybe I’m struggling with this thought that’s been rattling around in my head and my heart because…well…I don’t LIKE these thoughts. But I have to share them. I have to get them out. You might not like them, either. You might want to call me an idiot. You might want to call me crazy. That’s OK. I’ve been called crazy before. Or maybe you’ll choose to never read any of my stuff again. I hope that won’t be the case. But I might understand if you choose that response.

I remember how it felt to watch the planes slam into those Towers. I remember the horror of watching the buildings collapse. I remember wishing for *those* people and anyone who agreed with them to be sent straight to the pit of hell. Like all other Americans who watched in disbelief and terror that horrible Tuesday morning, I will never forget. I will never ever forget.

Here we are, 13 years later, and how far have we really come? We have killed countless terrorist leaders, including Osama himself, but the President addressed the nation a few nights ago, declaring that “We will hunt down terrorists who threaten our country, wherever they are.” That sounds an awful lot like his predecessor, who said, “Make no mistake, the United States will hunt down and punish those responsible for these cowardly acts.” Doesn’t it?

We’ve been doing an awful lot of hunting these past 13 years.

We’ve also done a lot of punishing.

Regardless of your political persuasion, I think we can all agree that there have been a lot of successes in the ongoing fight against terrorists.

Yet here we are again. We’re in another knock down, drag out with a ruthless terrorist organization. They rose up out of a crippled terror group. And once ISIS (or is it ISIL?) is destroyed , what’s to stop more terrorists from rising up in its place? It’s like the Hydra – you cut off one head and two more sprout up in its place.

Then they’ll strike at us.

We’ll strike back.

They’ll get revenge.

We’ll punish.

And it will go on and on and on.

We are stuck in a never ending cycle. The pursuit will not end. The hunt will not be over. When will it stop? Will it ever stop? I remember during the initial days of the commencement of the War on Terror that we were warned that this effort could take decades – maybe even generations to accomplish.

What if we responded in a different way?

And here’s where I struggle. I don’t know how we, as a State, could implement any other approach than a military response. These monsters are terrorizing civilians, murdering babies, and beheading journalists. They must be stopped. Period.

But I also keep hearing these quotes bounce around in my head and heart:

“An eye for an eye makes both men blind.”
– commonly attributed to Gandhi

“Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?”
– commonly attributed to Abraham Lincoln

“But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you.”
– Jesus (Matthew 5:44)

“Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you…”
– Jesus (Luke 6:27)

“…the greatest of these is love.”
– Paul (1 Corinthians 13:13b)

So that’s where I’m stuck. I don’t want to respond with love. I don’t even know how to respond to this kind of evil with love.

Like I said, I don’t have a pretty bow to wrap around this one. There’s no Brady Bunch or Family Matters ending here where everything magically comes together at the end of the post. Responding with love could mean that more people are murdered and oppressed and abused in the immediate future. That’s not good. At all. Things are messy right now and a response like this could make things even messier.

And I don’t like that one bit.

But doing the same thing we’ve been doing but expecting different results…that sounds like the common definition of something. Doesn’t it?

My Ultimate Christmas Playlist: Labor of Love

Labor of Love

Andrew Peterson has an amazing way with words. In Labor of Love, which he wrote for Behold the Lamb of God, he beautifully takes the whole concept of a calm, serene, silent nativity and turns it upside down. Andrew Peterson reminds us that the birth of baby Jesus probably wasn’t as clean and calm as we like to depict in our pretty Nativity decorations.

There’s a whole lot more that I can say about this and how we view Jesus’ humanity. But that’s probably for a different post. For the time being, I’ll just let this song speak for itself.

This recording of Andrew Peterson’s Labor of Love is from Point of Grace. I think they do a fine job performing it. If, however, Andrew Peterson ever comes to your town with a performance of Behold the Lamb of God, drop everything and go. Trust me. It will be worth it.

Trying to make sense of all this

Grieving Angel via flickr
Grieving Angel via flickr

Heartbroken
Angry
Sad
Frustrated
Furious
Outraged
Confused
Afraid
Grateful
Fearful
Worried
Dumbfounded
Vengeful
Infuriated
Hateful
Heartbroken

Heartbroken

Heartbroken

If you’re like me, these words only scratch the surface of the wide range of emotions experienced in the wake of today’s tragedy.

No. Tragedy doesn’t feel like the right word. It isn’t strong enough. But it’s the best I can come up with. So it’ll have to do. And in the wake of this horrible tragedy (there’s that word again), I have a few thoughts to share. Not because I think I have anything profound to say. In fact, I think I have very little to say that’s of any value. But I also feel like I need to get these things out because…well…I just need to get them out. I pray you’ll forgive me if what I say isn’t all that refined or profound. It might not even be coherent.

We need Jesus

I have a friend who says that events like today help solidify her belief that there is no God. I certainly understand that. When you look at how broken things are and how utterly unexplainable something like this is, then I can see why you might conclude that God either doesn’t care or He doesn’t exist. I get it. I really do.

I just disagree.

The world sure feels like it’s spiraling out of control. People are broken. We’re surrounded by darkness. As a society, it feels like we’re on this bus that’s speeding towards a brick wall and we’re showing no sign of slowing down at all. I don’t think this means that there is no God or that He doesn’t care. I firmly believe this shows that the world needs a Savior. The healing, life-changing power of Jesus Christ is what this world needs.

I’m not talking about a political rule. I’m not talking about some establishment of a worldwide neo-Constantinian Christendom. I don’t think that’s the answer. This isn’t a political issue. It isn’t a gun control issue. It isn’t even a morality issue. It’s a Jesus issue.

I’m talking about a world where the Holy Spirit guides the hearts of women and men and children and the darkness is pushed back by the light. I know this won’t happen this side of the New Heaven and New Earth. But that doesn’t mean we can’t pursue that, fighting against the enemy every step of the way.

Now more than ever, the world needs a Savior. The world has a Savior. We just need to show Him to everyone.

This is why we have Christmas

Christmas isn’t about Christmas trees. It isn’t about getting together with family. It isn’t about the cookies or the candy or even the presents.

Christmas is about a world that was dark and full of broken people. Christmas is about God wrapping Himself in flesh and piercing the darkness with the light of His love as displayed in the life and ministry of Jesus. And because of that we have hope. Because of that we know there will one day be peace. Not just an absence of fighting and violence (which would be awesome), but real, true, lasting PEACE.

 Why didn’t God stop this?

I don’t know.

I really don’t.

I can’t explain why this happened, other than the fact there’s real evil and bad things happen to good people.

But here’s two thoughts that have continued to resonate in my heart and soul this afternoon and evening…

  1. When the world was falling down around King Jehoshaphat, he prayed this prayer:

    “God, we don’t know what to do. But our eyes are on You.”
    – 2 Chronicles 20:12b

    This should be our prayer every day. Especially in the midst of tragedies like today’s.

  2. I had the honor of preaching in Santa Claus, Indiana, recently. In one of the messages I shared, I said this while discussing the night that Jesus was arrested:

    The short answer is ‘Yes.’ God is in control. Why do things like this happen? I have no idea. I just…I really don’t know. I can’t claim to know because I’m not God. But here’s what I do know. God is right there, picking up the pieces alongside of us when things spiral out of control and the world feels completely dark. The Gospel of Luke gives a few more details from this story. In it, he mentions that after telling Peter to stop, Jesus touched the man’s ear and healed it. In the midst of creation’s darkest hours, Jesus was there. He was there picking up the pieces and healing someone who was part of a group that was about to kill him. God was in control then and He’s in control of things now. And He’s the One working towards bringing healing towards our broken world and our broken hearts.

A few random thoughts

  • Did I hug my kids tighter today? Of course I did. You hugged yours tighter today, too. All of us were reminded to hug our kids every day. Don’t take them for granted. We cannot take them for granted. Ever.
  • Can we be real for a moment? If I believe that Jesus died for all humanity because He “so loved the world,” then that means that the shooter is a soul that’s precious to Jesus. Jesus died for him, even though he did something monstrous and horrendous and subhuman. Don’t get me wrong. There’s a part of me that kind of likes the thought that he’s receiving punishment right now. The other part of me is disgusted with that part part of me that’s happy with this. Does that make sense? Love is supposed to win. I’m supposed to be celebrating grace. But sometimes it’s just so stinkin’ hard. Because I really don’t want to celebrate grace right now. I had a similar struggle when bin Laden was killed. Yes. I want to have my cake and eat it, too.
  • Kaitlin Roig needs to be a household name. She is a hero in the truest sense of the word. I don’t care if anyone remembers the murderer’s name. Everyone should know hers!
  • I remember when it felt like Ronald Reagan spoke directly to me after the Challenger disaster. I think President Obama did something similar today. I don’t give a lick about your political leanings. Put them aside and listen to him.

Love God. Love people. Hug your kids. Do good. I said it before and I’ll say it again. This isn’t a political issue. It isn’t a gun control issue. Those are just surface issues, in reality. This is a heart issue. So let’s push back the darkness by allowing the Light to shine even brighter through us.

Throwing money at the problem

The Good SamaritanI went to a seminar yesterday. It was on the other side of Indy and the seminar started at 9 in the morning. That meant I got to drive on 465 through the morning rush. I had forgotten how much I hate driving the Indy Interstates during the rush hours. Don’t get me wrong. I realize it’s not LA or Atlanta or some other major metropolis. But that traffic just drives me nuts on 465 in the morning. Glad I don’t have to deal with it every day.

I’m still digesting and processing many of the insights I gleaned from yesterday’s seminar. It wasn’t like any of the concepts were new. In fact, I have been trying to articulate some of these concepts for years. It was refreshing to hear my thoughts finally given a voice by some people who are much better communicators than I. I came away rejuvinated (although my rear end was sore from all that sitting) and ready to make some tweaks here and there in regards to how I approach serving within our community. Several key thoughts stuck out, but like I said – I’m still digesting.

There was one statement, though, that offended me. It was towards the end of the day and the speaker shared some insights from the Parable of the Good Samaritan. He commented about how the Samaritan did all of these things for the victim: bandaged his wounds, gave him something to drink, and took him to an inn. It was only after doing everything else for this man that he opened up his checkbook and gave him money. “Far too many times,” he said, “the first thing we do is throw money at the problem when it should really be the last thing we do.” Because just giving money and walking away keeps the problems at a safe distance. Doing all of that other stuff…providing for a person’s basic needs…requires us to get a little messy sometimes. People are messed up. And when you get involved in people’s lives, sometimes that mess gets on you. It’s a whole lot easier and much safer to just throw money at the problem and walk away.

I was offended. But not at the speaker. I was offended at myself. He was talking about me. It’s much easier to think a problem will be solved, a need will be met, a person will be ministered to and see the piercing light of God’s love if we throw money at the problem. That way, I can keep the mess at arm’s distance.

Approached by a homeless man on the street? Throw money at him.

The HIV/AIDS crisis in Africa has reached pandemic levels? Throw money at it.

A central Indiana community was devastated by flooding? Throw money at it.

Don’t get your hands dirty. Keep the mess at an arm’s distance. Fortunately, Jesus didn’t do that.

Jesus chose to give up His rightful place at the Father’s side and became a person. He chose to place Himself within the confines of flesh, muscles, blood, and bones. When He walked, He kicked up dust just like everyone else. When He entered a home the caked-on mud had to be washed off His feet just like everyone else’s. He felt pain. He cried. I’m sure He had a runny nose from time to time and His armpits stunk like everyone else’s. He didn’t keep humanity at arm’s distance. He didn’t merely perform a few miracles and think everything was OK. And He most certainly didn’t merely throw money at the problem. In fact, He addressed the heart of the problem by spreading out His own arms and died so that I might live.

Yeah, things can get a little messy when you deal with messed up people. But, really – what gives me the right to try to keep them at arm’s distance? Yes, giving money (and other possessions) away is important. But I can’t stop at that. I need to be a little more messy.

Our family has been sponsoring a child through Holt International for a few years now. I need to be more proactive in building a relationship with that child.

Maybe getting more messy will mean something as complicated as building a house with Habitat for Humanity, serving food at Muncie Mission,  or going overseas like the Amazing 80 team is in February.

Or maybe it will mean grabbing my rake, walking across the street, and raking my neighbor’s yard.

Maybe it will mean volunteering to watch another neighbor’s kids while she gets some much-needed rest.

I don’t know the specifics yet, but I do know I can’t just rely on throwing money at the problem anymore. It’s time to roll up my sleeves and get a little bit messy.

This entry was written as part of Blog Action Day