It is Monday and yes I have had to remind myself of that a few times. My wife and I returned late last night from our trip to Tampa. This was not a vacation trip, even though we were without the kids. It was an opportunity to be with the Christian and Missionary Alliance family. I walked away excited about what God is doing among us.
Over the course of the next few days I will be unpacking some things I heard from God. This is always such a refreshing time for me and I know that I received some pertinent items from God. Today my mind races with many thoughts. My hope is that it starts to settle a bit in the coming days. I think a few more pots of coffee will help with that. To be honest, ministry has taken a real sharp turn since our church fire. It was nice to get away and gain some perspective.
As I reflect today, I am incredibly thankful to God for His kindness toward me. I also am praising Him for the many who leave all they have to go to the ends of the world to carry the message of the Gospel to those who so desperately need it. In fact, it is always such a moving experience to watch the missions parade on the final day of our time together. They walk around holding flags and banners indicating the countries they serve in. To God be the glory!
So, thank you God for loving me enough to call me to serve. Also, thank you God for calling willing servants to the field. May God’s work continue in my life and in the many others on mission with Him. It is truly a privilege to serve the King.
It is always a special moment when high school students publicly stand up for their faith. I have had students tell me about the harassment they receive from their peers and teachers when they reveal what they believe about Jesus or the Bible. In the public schools it seems like there are efforts to limit any expression of faith whatsoever for fear that someone might be offended. But the truth is that in this day and age of tolerance, no one should ever be offended. That is not what tolerance is all about.
A valedictorian at a high school in South Carolina made a statement when he ripped up his approved speech and said the Lord’s prayer instead. The reaction was amazing as people cheered as he read it. Naturally there are groups upset with this, but I don’t understand why. If he would have recited something from Buddah, Oprah Winfrey, Deepak Chopra, or some other new age figure, they would have been excited about his literary knowledge. But, sharing something Jesus said, well, that is too divisive I guess.
Listen to it and decide for yourself. As for me, I am proud of this young man for not being afraid to stand up for what he believes in because it represents more than just something he does; it is his identity.
What do you think? Is this out of line? Why?
In about a month I am taking a group of 16 teenagers on a trip to St. Louis for a conference. There is so much that goes into trips like this that it is hard to believe it is actually that close. As with any retreat, there are always real concerns that I have for these events. This conference brings in something like 7,000 high school students to one location which makes it quite dynamic. This is enough to scare most people from coming within 100 miles of the city due to the many perceptions of high school groups. I know that there have been instances of groups getting into trouble and even adults encouraging it. I don’t believe it has to be that way if adults are proactive and truly acting like adults.
There was a story in the news this week of 100 students ejected from a plane while on some school trip. They would not comply with flight crew instructions and were kicked off. The school administrator said, “it does not appear that the action by the flight crew was justified.” Really? So we are to believe that they just kick people off the plane because they don’t like them? I find it to be discouraging that someone working alongside teenagers would not be able to help them see the need to comply with instructions. I find it even more disturbing that they did not respond to directions. That mean old airline and its rules I guess.
I realize that there will always be people who push the limits a bit. I just let my group know in advance that there are always issues with some groups and that our group will not be that group. Taking students on a trip is always a risk. My policy is to let them know right away that they are expected to respect other people and honor Christ in their interactions with people. If they can’t do that, then they can go home at their parent’s expense. I don’t know about you, but if I had called my mom and told her I needed to come home while on a trip like this I would have been scared for my life. There are consequences for actions and the sooner people realize that the better off they will be. Adults need to wake up and stop making excuses for their poor leadership. Teenagers are more than able to behave appropriately; they are not the out of control mass of humanity so many people believe. They are people who desire to be challenged and will respect boundaries like anyone else. There is no reason to make a scene or blame an airline for having rules. The rules are not the problem here.
I guess my concern is that we are getting too affirming of disrespectful behavior. Our children deserve higher standards than that and will thank us for it later. It is time to lead not excuse.
Growing up in Wisconsin I have experience many sudden severe storms. The majority of them just run together in my mind because there were so many of them. However, I do remember vividly the night of the tornado that ripped through Oakfield, Wisconsin, a town that is located about an hour from where I grew up. It was rated F5 at that time, which was the strongest rating. That night I remember the storms because there was a constant thunder heard. It was obvious that this storm had a lot of energy and we just waited and watched to see if it would impact us or not. Another vivid storm was one when I was living in Minnesota. I recall watching the clouds spin outside when the hail started falling. It started small and quickly grew to baseball and then softball size while we ran for shelter. This storm took out the window of my car and caused a couple thousand dollars worth of damage to it. It broke windows on buildings and killed birds, leaving dents in the ground. That night there was another F5 tornado, this time in Siren, Wisconsin, devastating the town. If you have ever driven through towns after a tornado you get a real sense of how overwhelming it really is and how quickly things change for people. We had a similar reaction when we visited Wadena, Minnesota right after their EF4 tornado a couple of years ago. We lived there for a short time and wanted to see it first-hand. It was an emotional experience for us.
As I think about it, these storms stand out because of the sudden and incredible destruction they brought. They were violent, unexpected, and life changing for so many people. They were close enough to me to be felt, while avoiding the direct impact. Every time there is something like that we take time to see what happened and thank God for protection. We also pray for those who lost their homes and look for ways to help. The storms bring these things to bear for us.
There have two massive tornadoes in the last couple weeks in Oklahoma. Some reports are saying that the one in El Reno and Moore were two of the largest tornadoes ever recorded. The El Reno tornado was just over 2 miles wide at its widest point which would make it the widest ever measured. That is unbelievable! There is incredible power in these storms. Of course we heard of lives lost and lives changed forever. These things are beautiful when in an open field and devastating when in a populated area. All of the research that has gone into storm prediction and warnings cannot stop them or redirect them away from people. They come at times when they are least expected and leave a path of destruction in their wake.
These events highlight the fact that we do not control the storms around us; but we do have a God who is over all of it. It teaches us to live life with intention because we do not know when things will change. It also brings us together in ways that maybe never would happen otherwise. Neighbors help each other and churches step up to serve communities. It is during the storms of life that the peace of God which transcends all understanding is more vividly felt. God is never surprised by these things and never leaves us in them. We serve a God bigger than even the strongest of storms, whether actual weather events or just hardships of life. God is ready to offer peace in the midst of the storms of life. May those who suffer today receive it.
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.- Philippians 4:7
Isn’t it interesting that the people who really ought to be able to celebrate Memorial Day are not able to? There are those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom we honor on this day. They have already paid it all giving up promising lives for freedom. There are those who are currently serving in combat zones for our freedom right now. They fight so that we don’t have to. They are not able to take a break from their work to have hot dogs with their families. We are thankful for them and for their families.
We take a lot for granted as a society. We might have a great experience at some restaurant 100 times and never pay anyone a compliment. Then on visit 101 there is an issue with the food and every social media website hears about it. We will make them pay for their sin. How about the freedom we enjoy? Do we ever take it for granted? I know some parts of the world don’t live in such a peaceful environment. And with our recent terrorism we are all the more mindful of how quickly things can change. May we never take it for granted.
So, while we love the official start of summer and all that goes with that. We must also remember that the freedom we enjoy was not free.
Of course we can’t forget about the sacrifice made for our eternal well-being without which all of this world wouldn’t matter anyway. It was Jesus Christ who paid the ultimate sacrifice in dying to set us free from the power of sin. We owe Him everything. Every morning we are alive should be another opportunity to praise His name and live in Him.
So, today as you celebrate, thank God for this great country we live in and the people who fought for what we have, but don’t forget about Jesus. He died for us and now we are called to live for Him. Make this memorial day about more than eating hot dogs and dreaming about summer. Make it an opportunity to praise the God who saves!
In the aftermath of the tornadoes in Oklahoma, we have heard a few sad and moving stories. As a parent, I try to put myself in the place of someone who had no idea where their child was. One victim I read about in today’s paper was in third grade like my oldest. So, it is horrible to try to grasp the grief in this.
At the same time, these events highlight how close we all really are, despite all the disunity in the culture today. A woman finds her dog in the rubble and we are moved with compassion for her. I told my wife I just wanted to give her a hug. A student was reported as giving her jacket to a younger student who was shivering in the immediate aftermath at the one school. What a tender moment of self-less love that really was. Elementary school teachers putting themselves out there in order to save the lives of their students is above and beyond the call of duty, yet there seems to have been no hesitation about it. Then there are the people who have shown up to help find people that they do not know. A few days earlier they might have walked right past them in the store; today they look for them in rubble. I think that says something about humanity and our identity as God’s children.
In Jesus’ ministry before the resurrection, He showed to us what it meant to live a life of service. He came to serve and did so everywhere He went. He encountered suffering people and served them where they were at. He showed compassion and love to outcasts of the day. This was quite the statement considering He left the throne to come. He humbled Himself greatly.
We see Jesus at work in very obvious ways in the midst of disaster as people show love to strangers. These people are now in the place of ’the least of these’ like we see in Matthew 25 and need help. They need water, clothing and shelter and look to others for those needs. People step up and give out of what they have to help others. This is no doubt the ministry of Jesus Christ among us.
God is at work and we pray for more of His glory to be made known in this.
The eyes of the nation are on the state of Oklahoma today because we all can relate to the brokenness on display there. These events break our hearts because we know how quickly things can change for any of us. Storms make us recognize how little control we actually have in life and this life is valuable because we are made in God’s image. So, these events bring out that camaraderie we have with other people whether we know them or not. We mourn because lives were lost and weep with those who weep.
We also take comfort in these tragedies because while we have no control over things, God has ultimate control. In the midst of pain He displays His glory and grace in ways He might not have otherwise. It is hard to understand, but we are called to have faith in our unfailing God. We don’t have to see how it all ends; we just need to trust our God who does. C.S. Lewis said it like this in the book “The Problem of Pain”, We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
If we are left to our own understanding and ways we will reject God every time In fact, when things are going really well is when we see people take larger steps away from God. Yet, it is in those times of weakness that we learn to lean a little more. It is in those times of pain that we see the hopeless state we are in and how we do need a Savior. It is there when we throw up our hands in surrender and praise knowing that we serve a mighty God that is never surprised by anything that happens. We serve a God who understands that in is the ultimate problem with this world and has given us a way out of it through Jesus Christ.
What is a proper response in this? We pray and look for ways to help. We also praise God because He sees all, knows all, and redeems circumstances like this for His glory. As Jesus ministers to people, they know that there is a God who loves them and has a plan in their lives.
Interestingly enough, in the wake of all that went on in Oklahoma last night, God was using a show on NBC to display His glory and grace. It really could not have been planned better because of the statement it made to people watching. Here is a clip from the television show “The Voice.” Yes, this was broadcast on network TV last night. Praise God!