Just My Opinion

Today is Halloween. Depending upon your religious upbringing…this day can mean any number of things to you. To many it is a seasonal holiday and a time to decorate houses and yards with pumpkins, haystacks, and scarecrows. To others (mostly children) it is a time to dress up in costumes and go door-to-door asking for candy. Some like to break out the horror movies and darker decorations in an attempt to scare folks. There are some who avoid the day at all costs…with the assumption that it is one of Satan’s most unholy days of the year. If we are honest…there are even those who DO view this as some sort of dark holiday on which they practice whatever it is they practice. I am not writing this to tell you which of these groups is right…or wrong.

I have read many historical articles detailing both the pagan and Christian roots of the day we now call Halloween. If you are interested in that…Wikipedia has a pretty good entry that goes through the evolution from its earliest days to the modern day commercial holiday that is has become. As a Christian who is not opposed to folks dressing up and having a good time I think it is important for me to at least acknowledge that there are pagan origins (the feast of Samhain) that pre-date Christianity. I do not deny that but I think it is also important to recognize that the overwhelming majority of people who will dress their kids up tonight and go trick or treating are not deliberately (or even accidentally) paying tribute to pagan gods or goddesses. They are getting candy and having fun.

I am 43 years old and have always had fun at Halloween. I have wonderful memories of dressing up in those cheap, plastic dimestore costumes made by Ben Cooper. I can still smell the plastic and feel the little elastic string that went behind my ears. I still love the little peanut butter candies wrapped in black and orange paper that will rip your teeth right out of your gums. I remember going to haunted houses sponsored by local Jaycees chapters. I can recall being terrified of the classic Universal monsters…especially the Creature from the Black Lagoon.

As a teenager I graduated to the bloodier slasher movies that were popular at the time. I have dressed up as Jason Voorhees (Friday the 13th), Michael Myers (Halloween), and Freddy Krueger (A Nightmare On Elm Street). I am not necessarily defending those films…but as a sixteen year old I had no malicious intentions when I put on the masks. I was just having fun. Perhaps I will deal with the morality of horror movies at a later date…but for this post I only want to show that there was nothing inherently evil with donning costumes. I will say that I do not think it is proper for me to dress in those things now…but I am getting to that.

I do admit that my attitudes and beliefs have evolved somewhat over the years. For one, I now have children. I am very conscious of what they are interested in. I am also very involved. My kids know that there are some things that are off limits…even on Halloween. I am not a fan of devil costumes, or demon costumes, or even the psycho killer costumes that I used to wear. I don’t want my kids wearing some of them. My daughter (even though she is only 8) knows that some of the more “racy” costumes that they market to little girls are a no go. My boys know that there are some monsters that we just don’t dress up like.

Some may think I am being hypocritical by making such distinctions and they are entitled to do so. They see no difference in Frankenstein’s monster and Leatherface (Texas Chainsaw Massacre). Honestly…I see and understand their argument. On a surface level they are correct. Both are fictional characters created to elicit scares. I get it. However…even the most vehement supporter of horror movies (and I have been one of them) must admit that the content of Frankenstein is a far cry from that of the recent remake of Texas Chainsaw Massacre. But to many…there is still a lot of gray in that area. I guess that is why a lot of people avoid it altogether. I have no problem with that either.

It comes down to this…I have decided that in my walk with God…there are many things that are permitted. But…not all of these things are beneficial (1 Cor. 6:12; 10:23). Ever since I got serious about my faith several years ago I have tried to keep that in mind. I know my faith and my salvation are not contingent upon what others think about me…but the effectiveness of my ministry and my witness can be. Is it wrong for me to put on a hockey mask and lumber around with a machete on Halloween? Probably not. But what will those who know I am an elder and a minister think about me if they see me doing it? Some think that it doesn’t matter. I used to think that. I had no problem exercising my freedom in Christ…even if it made others think less of me. I’m not there anymore. Like I said earlier…people do not affect my faith or my salvation if they do not like what I am doing. But I do not want to give false impressions or make others think that I am immature.

I don’t hold others to that conviction. This is where my faith journey has led me. There are others out there who are MUCH more conservative on this issue than I am. I still let my kids dress up. I still let them go out trick or treating. They understand what it is all about. Today is Halloween. I don’t know how you observe it…if you do. The only thing I really have to say is whatever you do…even if it dressing up and goofing around…do it such a way that God is honored. That is just my opinion.

Time Keeps On Ticking….

geo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

November 11 is rapidly approaching and with it comes the first major move I have taken since leaving Mississippi back in 2009. I made that trip broken-hearted and disillusioned. I drove those 900 + miles not knowing what the future held for me and not really caring if I ever set foot in a church building again. I was leaving my second ministry in the span of fourteen months and I seriously wondered why God was putting my family through the crap that we were going through. I was convinced that I would never work in/for a church again.

Four and a half years have flown by and now I am beginning what I hope/pray is my first long term ministry. There is a wonderful group of believers waiting for me to arrive. They have already made us a part of their family and we are excited to be joining them in what may be one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to in my life. I cannot wait to see what God has in store for us at Granville Center Church of Christ.

As I sit here I cannot help but think back on my life thus far. Sometimes I feel much older than I am but usually I find it hard to believe that I am 43. It doesn’t seem possible that 22 years have passed since I married my wonderful wife. I look at the kids and I remember vividly the day that each one of them were born. How can it be that my oldest (Geo) is 17 and will be graduating from high school in a few short months? Will Chris (our middle son) really turn 13 in December? And I still cannot believe that Jamie…our baby…is 8. She was born two weeks before we went back to Bible College.

It doesn’t seem possible that my uncle Neil has been dead two years this Friday. It doesn’t seem possible that my grandfather has been dead over 25 years. My sister, Katherine, died 35 years ago this past Saturday. Time truly slips through our fingers.

I don’t say all this to be morbid or because I am depressed. I am actually excited and rejuvenated. I mention all these things to remind myself that I don’t really have much time. I have probably (most likely) lived over half of my life. I wasted a lot of it doing things that had no eternal consequences. I cannot get that time back…but…I can make the most of every minute I have left. In twelve days I will be driving a U-Haul truck packed with all of my worldly possessions up I-95 (and other roads) until I reach my new home. I KNOW that in a blink of an eye I will be looking back and saying, “I can’t believe it’s been that long since we moved to Pennsylvania.”

I don’t like Steve Miller’s music but he was right on the money when he sang, “Time keeps on slipping…into the future.” We’re not promised tomorrow. We should cherish the days that have passed us and plan for the wonderful things that await us tomorrow. But in the meantime…we need to live today like it is our last. It very well might be.

Why I Still Go To Church

In THIS excellent article for relevantmagazine.com, Christine Organ gives five reasons why she still supports the local church.  As a minister I am continually discouraged by the numerous articles and polls that give reasons why people do not (and should not) continue to go to church. The author of this article even mentions a recent POST on another site that attempts to explain why many people have abandoned the local congregation. I have read that article and I think there are some valid issues raised…so…I am hoping that these sorts of  articles will actually get people to talk about the issue. I think we in the church NEED to talk through these things…especially if we are serious about reaching out to the ever-changing world around us.

For now I want to mention Ms. Organ’s reasons as stated in her essay.

1. Shared spiritual practices enhance spiritual connection.

2. Church provides a safe and mature environment for spiritual and religious education.

3. Church reinforces social and civic accountability.

4. Church provides a spiritual framework for my kids.

5. Spiritual community feeds my soul.

I take comfort in the fact that Ms. Organ, a self-proclaimed “doubting, skeptical, pragmatic, optimistic believer” has not given up on the church. In her opening paragraph she honestly states that there are many reasons not to attend. Anyone wishing to find an excuse not to go can find one easily. Ms. Organ acknowledges that there are valid reasons and that many of them are relevant to us. However…she boldly declares that she still wants (emphasis hers) to go to church. I can relate.

I have been going to church since I was a week old. This is not an exaggeration. My parents hauled me in to church from the very beginning and up until I was a young adult…I rarely missed a Sunday morning, Sunday evening, or Wednesday night service. Going to church was not an option…it was what we did. Suffice it to say…I have seen a LOT of things that are wrong in the church. I have collected plenty of excuses on my own. There have been times in the past when I gladly used some of them. But…thankfully…I have reached a point in my life where I (like Ms. Organ) can honestly say that I want to go to church. I will even take it one step further. I NEED to go to church.

I need the love and support of fellow believers. I have seen God’s people step up during the darkest times in my life and comfort me when I thought there was no comfort. I have sat at the feet of some incredible Bible teachers and have seen my knowledge of God’s word increase due to their efforts. I am continually encouraged by those in the church. As I begin this new phase in my life I have had folks in BOTH congregations reach out to me and my family. People I have known for less than a month are welcoming us into their church, their homes, and their lives. They have already made us family and we are not even there yet. How can I not want to be a part of that?

I kind find any reason under the sun to not go and be a part of God’s family. If I look long enough I will find imperfect people making mistakes. If I dig deep enough I will find some teaching or tradition that I do not agree with. If I let myself…I can find every reason there is not to belong. But there’s one thing I can’t change. Jesus died for His church. Jesus loves His church. Jesus still uses His church to reach out to the lost and dying in this world.  Jesus love me too…and I want to love Him with everything I have. THAT is why I still go to church.

Monday Morning Rewind 10/28/13

I will go ahead and tell you…this post was not my idea. When I told some friends that I was going to give this blogging thing a serious try…I received lots of suggestions to help make it successful. My good buddy Tony H told me that a lot of bloggers have certain topics they address on set days. His wonderful idea was to use Monday as a look back at the previous weekend. Since my current goal is to post something meaningful Monday through Friday…I have two whole days that go by without any sort of comment from me. Things happen during those two days and it could be fun to talk about some of them. So…here we go.

1. This past Friday night I attended “Late Night With Roy” in Chapel Hill, NC. For those who are not familiar…this is the annual kick-off to UNC’s basketball season. The team comes out and acts silly for about an hour and then they play a scrimmage game. I have been a Tar Heel (it is two words) fan for as long as I can remember. I have been to many of their games…including a wonderful win over the Dook (yes…we spell it Dook) Blue Devils. I saw the 2005 championship team play. I saw the 2009 championship team win their first two games of that tournament…including Tyler Hansbrough’s free throw that broke J.J. Reddick’s scoring record. I even stood on Franklin Street the night that team won the title. It was madness. This past Friday was another memorable UNC event because it was my first “Late Night” and I attended it with my brother, his wife, and my oldest son. This may be my last chance to do something like this “in person” for a long time so it was extra special.

2. This past Saturday marked the last day of Stoneybrook Christian Church’s 2013 Upward football season. For the past twelve weeks we have been practicing and trying to teach these kids how to play football and (most importantly) honor God with their lives. For the past eight weeks we have been playing games. My team finished up 5-2 (we missed one week due to weather) and I could not be more proud of those kids. They played their hearts out every week and they showed good, Christlike sportsmanship whether they won or lost. So…I want to give a big shout out to my guys: Chase, Connor, Graham, Jayden, Jeremy, Justin, Ryan, Seth, and Solomon…you guys are awesome. It was my privilege to be your coach. This was my first year coaching and I enjoyed it immensely. Those guys were a huge part of it and I will always remember it.  It was also very special because I had my oldest son (I call him Geo) coaching with me. Watching him work with those kids made me proud. He knows the game, he knows how to teach the game, and he knows how to coach it. I could not be more proud.

3. I taught the adult Sunday School class at Stoneybrook for the last time. There are four of us (John, Chuck, Steve, and myself) who rotate teaching. It has been a privilege to share in the responsibility of teaching God’s word with these fine men. It has also been a joy just to be a part of the adult class. I am the youngest one in there but they have never made me feel like a kid or looked down on me because I was the young guy. I truly appreciate that.

There are probably more personal things that I could put up here…but those three stand out. I imagine the next couple of weeks will produce even more as I make the move from North Carolina up to Pennsylvania. There are so many things happening all at once and I am just trying to pay attention and savor each one of them before they are gone.

A couple of non-personal events that took place over the weekend. These are mostly for me to remember what was going on in the world as my life was unfolding.

The Dallas Cowboys lost by one point to the Detroit Lions as Calvin Johnson racked up more yards than our entire team. Yes…I am a Cowboys fan. The only consolation in the loss is knowing that Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos totally destroyed the Washington Redskins. Yes…I realize that is probably petty…but hey…they enjoyed our loss too.

Lou Reed (founder of the Velvet Undergound) died at the age of 71. I was not a fan of Mr. Reed…in fact, the only song of his that I even know is Walk On The Wild Side. Even though I was never into him or his music…I do recognize the impact he made on rock and roll. Two of my favorite bands (U2 and R.E.M.) were influenced by him…so he did affect the things I listen to.

The St. Louis Cardinals won Game Three of the World Series on a crazy (controversial) call at third base. HERE is the recap if you haven’t seen or heard about it. The series is currently tied 2-2 and I am truly hoping that they win it all. I’ve never been a big Red Sox fan. Nope.

And that is a brief recap of my weekend. I hope you had a good one as well.

I Think I Spilled Jesus….

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

Matthew 7:1-5 (NIV)

Vince Antonucci once shared a comment overheard at Forefront Church of Christ’s Tuesday night service (at the time it was held in a pub) and I can’t get it out of my head now. A visitor to the service accidentally knocked over one of the communion cups and made the comment that she had “spilled Jesus.” At face value it’s a pretty funny saying. I don’t know whether the lady was trying to be funny or if she was serious, so I give her the benefit of the doubt. Vince suggested that it would be a great title to a book and I’m starting to think that he’s right.

We (as Christians) have Jesus dwelling within us. His Spirit should move and guide us. How many times have I carelessly (or deliberately) disregarded His presence in my life? How often have I taken what He’s given me (and it cost Him dearly) and just knocked it over? Do I really believe there was some sort of sacrilege committed when a little cup of grape juice got spilled…of course not. However, I do recognize that there have been times in my life when I not only dropped the cup…I knocked the whole tray to the floor. I think that’s where grace comes in.

I have children and I can’t count the number of times that one of them have knocked over a cup and spilled their beverage all over the floor, table or car. My usual reaction is to proclaim my disgust…LOUDLY. There’s not much grace in that is there? If Jesus can watch me mess up as much as I have and STILL forgive me…I need to seriously reconsider the way I hold others accountable.

We’ve all knocked over the cup. We’ve all spilled Jesus. The great thing is that He’s right there to clean up the mess.

 

Take To The World…Even If It Is Only Next Door

Titus 3:14 (NASB)
Our people must also learn to engage in good deeds to meet pressing needs, so that they will not be unfruitful.

Why is it that so many of our churches fail to meet the needs of those around them? I’ve been in congregations that were seemingly on fire for overseas mission work. They preached Matthew 28:19-20 incessantly and seemed to ignore the fact that there were thousands right in their own community dying outside of Christ.

I’ve heard people suggest that TRUE mission work can’t be done within local congregations because it doesn’t involve cross cultural situations. They think that the ONLY way a church here in America can be mission minded is to support foreign missionaries. Don’t get me wrong, I fully support the work of those that go overseas and preach the Gospel of Christ to those in other countries. My sister has been serving in Ghana, West Africa for several years and I am thrilled that she chose that avenue to serve God. However, I don’t think that negates the fact that our own country is white and ready for harvest.

I’m convinced that we should be community minded when it comes to our churches. So many of us ignore the folks around us until it comes time to case the neighborhood in preparation of V.B.S. How many churches go out into the community and get their hands dirty? How many churches only cater to the folks within a certain economic or ethnic group? Why are American churches the most segregated part of our society? Is that what the body of Christ is supposed to look like? Do we only reach out to those who look/talk/act like us?

I once heard a missionary from Jamaica speak and he challenged those of in the audience to look at our communities and see what needs to be done. He told us that we do need to support foreign workers but not at the expense of those around us every day. He reminded us that with the knowledge of Christ comes a great responsibility. We can’t know the truth and not share it. To do so is to ignore the will of God.

The ways we minister to our own towns can be very simple. It may be that we volunteer time in a homeless shelter or soup kitchen. It may be that we start a food pantry or volunteer the use of our buildings to community groups. We need to look and see where the needs are. We need to be fruitful in the places where God has placed us. We need to shine our lights where ever we find ourselves. As I am about to begin a new ministry in a new place with a new group of people…it is my hope and prayer that we think outside of the four walls of the church building. I pray that we will be an active part of our community and that those outside of Christ will see us…living among them…and want what it is that we have.

Can’t Buy Me Love

The poets Lennon and McCartney once wrote:

Can’t buy me love, love
Can’t buy me love

I’ll buy you a diamond ring my friend if it makes you feel alright
I’ll get you anything my friend if it makes you feel alright
Cos I don’t care too much for money, and money can’t buy me love

I’ll give you all I got to give if you say you’ll love me too
I may not have a lot to give but what I got I’ll give to you
I don’t care too much for money, money can’t buy me love

Can’t buy me love, everybody tells me so
Can’t buy me love, no no no, no

Say you don’t need no diamond ring and I’ll be satisfied
Tell me that you want the kind of thing that money just can’t buy
I don’t care too much for money, money can’t buy me love
Owww

Can’t buy me love, everybody tells me so
Can’t buy me love, no no no, no

Say you don’t need no diamond ring and I’ll be satisfied
Tell me that you want the kind of thing that money just can’t buy
I don’t care too much for money, money can’t buy me love

Can’t buy me love, love
Can’t buy me love

 

The apostle Paul (of Tarsus…not Liverpool) quoted pagan poets when preaching in Athens so I am going to assume that it is okay for me to borrow from The Beatles in order to make a point. I can’t know exactly what those guys were thinking when they penned this little ditty but I do know that it goes against what many think and feel.  A lot of people believe that they can buy love and affection. There are varying degrees of this in different relationships but I think that every one of us have been guilty on some level. What young man hasn’t spent money buying candy or flowers or stuffed animals in an attempt to win the favor of fair maiden? How many husbands have crawled home with a gift…hoping that it would warm the heart of a furious wife? Let’s face it…we are conditioned to believe that if we spend enough money…we can influence the emotions of others. To some extent…I guess it is true. The only problem is that a relationship built upon material things is only as good as the things purchased.

I think a lot of us view our relationship with God in the same way. Francis Chan writes:

Why do so few people genuinely find joy and pleasure in their relationship with God? Why do most people feel they have to either pay God back for all He’s done (buy His love) or somehow keep making up for all  their inadequacies and failures (prove their love)? (Crazy Love, p.102)

I admit…I have been there. I spent a good part of my life believing that if I got enough check marks in the “good” column (go to church, read my Bible, pray, give my money, etc) and they outnumbered the checks in the “bad” column (don’t go to church, lie, cuss, etc) then I would be fine. I would achieve some sort of balance in my heavenly account and I would be okay in the end. The obvious problem with that strategy was that I NEVER had enough “good” check marks and the “bad” ones kept piling up. Instead of going to bed at night and dreaming about the big pile of righteousness I had stored up…I would lay awake terrified…knowing that I hadn’t done enough…knowing that I would go to hell if I died. I knew the Bible taught that we cannot win our own salvation. I knew it was a gift of grace…given to me by a loving God. I knew all that stuff…and I still tried to buy God’s love. Romans 3:23 makes it clear that none of us are good enough…no matter what we do. Yet…we still keep trying.

Jesus loves us…regardless. That should be our motivation for Christian obedience. We don’t obey so we can be saved…we obey because we ARE saved. Fortunately, God understands that we are weak. That is why He sent His Spirit to live within us. Let’s be honest…we cannot love God unless He helps us to. Chan also writes:

Something mysterious, even supernatural must happen in order for genuine love for God to grow in our hearts. The Holy Spirit has to move in our lives. (Crazy Love, p.104)

We…I…have to pray for God to fill me with love…not only for others…but for Him as well. He knows this…and He is willing to do it. All we…I…have to do is ask. He has already demonstrated His unfailing love for us in the ultimate sacrifice…He became a man and died for each one of us. Even if we were possible to buy His love…none of us could afford it. We cannot do anything to pay that back. All God expects of us is to accept it and then live like we believe it.

Jesus spent a lot of time in debate with the religious leaders of His day. They were outwardly righteous and went to great extremes to show it. They were legalistic and judgmental. Their entire relationship with God was built around the faulty idea that they could do enough to win Him over. Jesus shook them up. He reminded them that  God cares more about the intentions of our hearts than He does with the offerings and sacrifices. They failed to see that. We…at times…still fail to see that.  It is my prayer that we let go of that mentality. Let us recognize the truth that we cannot do anything to make God loves us. He loves us IN SPITE of who we are and what we do. That should be our motivation. Let that spur us to obey and love one another.

 

 

Filters

As I mentioned yesterday, I am currently reading That’s A Great Question: What To Say When Your Faith Is Questioned by Glenn Pearson. Pearson’s basic premise is that we all see the Bible through various filters. We have presuppositions and opinions that we bring to the table before we ever begin to actually read it…and those filters affect the way we react to the message.

Pearson suggests that there are two categories of filters for people who fall outside of the historic Christian faith: those which add to the Bible, and those which take away from the Bible. There are different types of filters found within the two categories as well. Under the first you find: the filter of new revelation, and the filter of outlandish speculation. The second category contains three different filters: the filter of atheism, the filter of antisupernaturalism, and the filter of selective Christian theology.

I am just now getting into Pearson’s descriptions of the filters and how they affect one’s view of the Bible. I am reading through the book slowly (for me) so that I can really think about what he is saying. I have re-read a couple of sections and made notes. I am really interested in what Pearson has to say and I am trying to absorb what I read so that it will be useful to me as I minister to others. Pearson makes a great point when he reminds us that: “Each of us (emphasis his) operates with presuppositions that affect our conclusions about the Bible, God, and Jesus.” (location 444 in the Kindle version)

I have to remind myself of that often. I was raised in the church…the independent Church of Christ…the eastern North Carolina flavor. There are certain things that were instilled in me at a very early age that still affect the way I read the Bible and the way I live out my faith. Baptism (by immersion) and the weekly observance of the Lord’s Supper are a HUGE part of my belief system. In the past I looked at other Christian groups (often judging them) by the way they practiced (or didn’t practice) those two things. That was a filter through which I saw Christianity. I have known people who honestly believe that the King James Version of the Bible is the ONLY acceptable English translation. That is one of the filters through which they view other believers. To many of them, those who do not use the KJV are not only using perverted versions of the Bible, they are in danger of going to hell. The filters through which we view things are very important.

I know that I have my own filters. Some of them are stronger than others. Some of them need to go. In chapter 2, Pearson talks about looking at “Jesus Unfiltered” in the Gospel accounts. I am trying to do that more and more but let’s be honest…it is hard to set aside your presuppositions. It is hard to read about Jesus and not see the Sunday School flannelgraph figures from my childhood. It’s hard to embrace the grace and mercy Christ brings when there are years of hellfire and brimstone sermons still echoing in my head. There are so many filters distorting who Jesus is. It is my prayer that this book will not only help me with my personal filters, but it will also help me minister to others through the various filters they have been using.

Monday Morning Rewind 10/21/13

I successfully met my blogging goal last week. This week I am shooting for five posts. Someone suggested that the first post of the week could be a rewind or a look back at the weekend…I think that is a good idea so I am going to attempt to do that here.

For the past eleven weeks Geoffry (my oldest son) and I have been coaching a bunch of third graders in Upward football. If you are not familiar with the program it is a Christian based flag football league that emphasizes various Christian character traits during practice and on game day. More information can be found at their official website (www.upward.org). This is the first time I have ever attempted to coach football. I did co-coach soccer and tee ball many years ago when Geoffry was younger…but I was always an assistant coach. This was a much different experience and I have enjoyed it…for the most part.

For starters, managing nine third graders at one time can be challenging. The first three weeks are spent teaching the fundamentals of the game and trying to learn all the crazy rules that come with flag football. The field is only fifty yards and there are “no run” zones that dictate passing plays. It is a six man game with substitutions made on offense and defense AND at the start of every quarter. It can be a tad bit confusing if you have never done it before. I will give Upward credit…they have developed in depth and easy to understand coaches aids. By the time the first game rolls around most of it makes sense.

I have been extremely fortunate having Geo (that’s what I call him) helping me. He knows football. Between watching it on TV and playing it on X-Box…he understands formations and play calling…so I let him handle that aspect of the game. He has done very well. He’s old enough that the kids listen to him but he’s young enough that he’s cooler than me…the old guy. Anyways…I have had fun this season. We missed one game due to the weather. We also missed another game (Geo and I) when I was up in Pennsylvania meeting our new church family. Upward really doesn’t focus on scoring and record keeping but I would be lying if I said that no one did that. We do try to teach good sportsmanship but we watch the score. I know our record. I would be willing to bet that every other team knows as well. FWIW…we are 4-2 with one game left.  We won the first three and then dropped two in a row. We did a little better this past weekend and won again.

As much fun as I have had…I really don’t think I would want to do this again…at least not with this age group. Don’t get me wrong…these kids have been awesome…their parents have been great…it has been a positive experience…it’s just not something I am cut out for. I volunteered to do it this year because my work schedule allowed for it and we really needed coaches. It is not something I was passionate about or even wanted to do. I signed up out of a sense of obligation. I am glad that I did it though. Like I said…my kids have been awesome. They have gotten better as the season has progressed and they have been good sports whether they won or lost. I am more proud of that than anything else. We have our last practice tonight and our last game this Saturday. I am excited and I hope we come out and play well. I want to end this thing up right and have a lot of fun. But I won’t lie…I’ll be glad when it is over.

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I am currently reading this book.

That’s A Great Question: What To Say When Your Faith Is Question

I got it for my Kindle Fire for free. I started it yesterday and I am really enjoying it. Glenn Pearson isn’t a professional theologian (he is Executive Vice President for Georgia Hospital Association) but he is intelligent and has a deep respect and knowledge of Scripture. He writes in a style that is understandable without being watered down. I have finished up the introductory chapters and am about to begin the “meat” of the book. I hope to share my thoughts as I make my way through it.

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I think I am going to develop a sermon series based upon Kyle Idleman’s book Gods At War. We just finished up the small group study last night. I would like to dive into it a little more deeply and I believe it is a topic that everyone can benefit from. We all have things that we sometimes place before God. That’s idolatry and it displeases God. I have been challenged by Idleman’s book and the study we did.

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I think that is going to do me for this morning. I have some ideas for my posts for the rest of the week and I need to flesh them out a bit. Stick around…hopefully I will keep this thing up and running.

Ungrateful?

I have been doing some reading (and along with that…thinking) about being thankful. I am trying to go ahead and get a good start on the first two sermons I will preach at Granville Center Church of Christ. The first one will be on Sunday, November 17 and the second will be the following week. That puts them right there during Thanksgiving so I felt that a two sermon series on being thankful would be timely and appropriate. I have chosen 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 to be my starting point.

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (NIV)

As I have pondered those three short verses (always keeping their original context in mind) I have come to the conclusion that I am not as thankful as I should be. In fact…I am probably guilty of being ungrateful for the things that God has blessed me with.  The passage I quoted above is taken from a letter Paul wrote to encourage a group of believers who were distressed. It is part of his closing remarks as he explains that Christ’s return will be soon. He pleads with them to remain “children of the light and children of the day” and to avoid the acts of darkness. He challenges them to be different from those in the world…those who have chosen to walk in darkness. Salvation, he reminds them, is found in Jesus and they should not lose hope. His final instructions mention acknowledging those who work hard, living in peace with one another, and warning those who fall astray. They are to do good to all. That is when the above passage comes into play.

Even when dire situations arise, believers are to hold to what is good and reject what is evil. Romans 12:9 echoes this when it says:

Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. (NASB)

The truth is…many of us, when faced with difficult circumstances, do the exact opposite. We look for the easy answer or the quick exit, even if we know it is not what God would have us to do. We look to the world for the solution and often compromise what we claim to believe. I know that I have been guilty of it.  To top of it off, we gripe and complain about the problems we are encountering, even when we are the cause of many of them. We point fingers and place blame and do everything BUT what God has told us to do.

Let’s be honest, it is not easy to be joyful when things feel like they’re falling apart around you. It is hard to give thanks and be positive when it seems like the world is out to get you. Casting Crowns released a song a few years ago called Praise You In This Storm. The chorus goes like this:

And I’ll praise You in this storm
And I will lift my hands
For You are who You are
No matter where I am
And every tear I’ve cried
You hold in Your hand
You never left my side
And though my heart is torn
I will praise You in this storm

As difficult as it is to maintain this attitude, I believe that is exactly how we should respond. There have been too many times in my life when I was ungrateful for the things that God had done for me. I used my problems to excuse myself from being thankful in all circumstances. I cursed the negative things going on around me and neglected to recognize the blessings I was being given, even in the storms of life. In most of those times I stopped praying. That is dangerous. I believe you can directly connect the amount of praying you do with the thankfulness you have in your heart. A life lived without prayer quickly becomes ungrateful. Bitterness and hatred spring up when things go wrong. What’s worse is that God is not recognized and given praise when they DO go right.

Paul understood this. He had every earthly reason to be bitter and jaded, but he praised God and was thankful…even during persecution. He understood that regardless of what happens here on earth, we can find our hope and joy in the fact that Jesus died to bring salvation. That is reason enough to give thanks. When that becomes our motivating factor…we have no reason to be ungrateful any longer.