In our modern tech age, natural disasters like the massive and frequent tornadoes that have swept through the South over the last year allow human beings the instant ability to connect as well as sympathize with the plight of the victims. I, for one, sadly sat in front of the TV watching the news footage of James and Judy Hodges, an older Alabama couple that had their home destroyed TWICE in less than 12 months by twisters – click here. A house where he was born and they were married.
When these devastating natural disasters occur (and those that befall our personal life through death, disease, disability) mental, emotional and physical fatigue can set in. Often, the inevitable questions also arise: Where was God? Why did God allow this to happen? As Mrs. Hodges said, “There’s always a plan. God sees the big picture. We don’t”
To follow up on her resolve, it’s vitally important to point out that the tornadoes of life come to us all, often times unexpected and they don’t discriminate on whether or not someone is a “good person” (Matthew 5:45). We live in a fallen world due to the decisions and choices of mankind that was given free will by God (Ecclesiastes 7:29). Sin therefore impacts everybody; evil, pain and suffering, whether inflicted from fellow man or nature is all part of the package. Be it a natural disaster such as that described above or a personal tornado like physical, marital or financial distress, unexpected loss of a loved one – the trials, tribulations and storms of life are coming to you if they haven’t already.
A biblical world view is so vital in carrying us ours trials and tribulations. Keep in mind, nobody worked harder, served more and led a sinless life like Jesus Christ. Yet he was pummeled, bloodied, beaten and died a horrific, suffering death at the age of 33. Further, 8 of his original 12 disciples died martyr deaths ranging from beatings to stonings to being hung on a cross upside down (Peter). So we need to understand that it’s not the quantity of years that’s important but the quality with which we live our lives in how we serve God and others whether from a hospital bed or a playing field.
The good news is that God has given us the ability through His Spirit to bear up and not only survive but thrive when the tornados of life come our way. I’ve been told and firmly believe that life is 10% what happens to you and 90% what you make of it. Toughness, resiliency and resolve are traits that develop under the toughest of circumstances (James 1:2-4). But we can only endure IF WE CALL ON HIM to give us the strength we need. God’s blessing is ALWAYS there waiting for us in the end (Romans 5:3-5) but many people don’t make it across the finish line because they’re not focused on the real prize (Philippians 3:14).
And finally, God allows disaster to come our way to draw us closer to Him. To this day, I’ve never seen a bigger crowd for a church service then I did at the Wednesday Night Service on September 12th, 2001. Cars lined up down the street further than any Christmas or Easter Service I’ve ever seen. Why? Because even in the midst of a tragedy like 9/11, God was moving and stirring in the hearts of people. So when tragedy comes next, we need to comfort, weep and wrap our arms around each other in sorrow. But we also need to step back, look up and say “OK God, strengthen me, help me to move forward as well as rebuild my life. May your glory shine through me and all the while help me to stay focused on you.”
April 30th Posted in: Christian Living with No Comments
“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” 1 Peter 1:8
‘Taste Great!” Less Filling!” Who from my generation can forget the Lite Beer commercials so prominent during every sporting event from the 1970s and 80s? It seemed back then like every happy-go-lucky celebrity, comedian or sports figure from Rodney Dangerfield to Dick Butkus was engaging in the slapstick comedic commercials in arguing whether Lite Beer’s most virtuous quality was whether it tasted great or was less filling?
Either way, I couldn’t wait to grow up to find out for myself. Drinking looked fun, social, innocent, no downside, no drunkenness, no throwing up, no unplanned pregnancies, no date rapes, no death, maiming or destruction, no obesity and every other health problem associated with abuse, no alcoholic parents, no domestic batteries, no crimes committed, no trail of tears. Fast forward to today and in addition to the comedic marketing, we see commercials seeping with sex as every male and female depiction is one that comes from the cover of GQ or Playboy; nobody bloated or overweight. So not only is drinking depicted by slick marketers as care free, it’s also used as a sexual driver, especially amongst young males.
The problem with all of this is who beer companies, like cigarette companies before them, are marketing to – and that’s our youth culture. Dismiss out of hand any mention from the alcohol industry to “drink responsibly” or “don’t drink underage”. This is insincerity in its purest form meant to pacify groups like Mothers (or Students) Against Drunk Driving.
Statistics show that underage drinking is a $23 billion (20% of total revenue) a year business. Not to mention that teen drinkers become adult drinkers and 10% will become alcoholics in further enriching the alcohol companies. As for the mixed message of “drinking responsibly”, the alcohol industry would fail to function as we know it, with plummeting profits if not for serious binge drinking and alcoholism. If every consumer would just have a “beer or two” instead of 6, 8 or 10 every time they went out, many of these companies and drinking establishments would cease to exist let alone have millions of dollars a year to pay for advertising to corrupt our youth.
I’ve always found the alcohol industry’s use of beer commercials to be the perfect analogy to how Satan uses sin. The devil never comes at us showing the dark side to sin: the death, destruction, bad marriages, and broken families. He doesn’t show us the devastated communities that result from sheepishly following him down a dark road. A road that he decorates like the false facade of a movie set to look good, tempting, fun and appealing because after all, Satan doesn’t come after us like a roaring lion but rather by masquerading as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14).
So what’s the answer in how we prepare our own children and our students? For one, I don’t think scare tactics work like when they show you a version of “Blood Flows Red On The Highway” in Driver’s Ed. But it’s extremely important to have an intimate, involved relationship with the youth within our sphere of influence so we can engage them in deep, meaningful discussions to counter the glamorous messages their being bombarded with so they can develop a realistic point of view when it comes to alcohol. All of which brings up the question on whether or not Christians should drink, even if it’s in moderation and not to drunkesness. For me, the question is why would we want to support any industry with even $1 of our money that, at its core, that has such a negative, unbiblical impact on our culture while sending mixed messages to our kids? And most importantly, we need to model a biblical lifestyle. When our kids see the Peace of Christ lived out in our marriages, homes, relationships and how happy we are without alcohol in our lives, they’ll be more likely to avoid or turn away from that lifestyle themselves.
April 23rd Posted in: Christian Living with No Comments
“Wisdom calls aloud in the street, she raises her voice in the public squares; at the head of the noisy streets she cries out, in the gateways of the city she makes her speech”, Proverbs 1:20-21
My wife and I vacationed in New York, staying in midtown Manhattan, in July of 2004. I was 33-years-old and, growing up outside of Chicago, I thought I knew what big city life was all about. But I soon realized there’s a reason they call New York ‘The Big Apple’. New York is like a typical American city, but on a massive dose of steroids! While definitely a place worth visiting, I would have no desire to ever live there.
Walking the streets of Midtown, really at any time of the day, borderlined between intense and psychotic. You had to hustle everywhere you went, least you get run over by another pedestrian completely unaware of anything or anyone outside of the two inch self-protective bubble of invisible insulation to protect them from the mayhem around them. It occurred to me that you could literally mug somebody, run five feet ahead weaving between the crowds and literally disappear while your victim lay helplessly and unseen by anyone off to the side. For anybody that knows my wife, you know that she’s a Starbucks fanatic. While we found Starbucks on every corner, most didn’t come with seats to sit down, socialize and enjoy your coffee because nobody sat still long enough to do so.
All of which brings us to the verse in Proverbs and how we – in our disjointed, hectic schedules combined with all distractions of mass media, social media, fill in the blank, you name it – create our own little self-protective bubbles that keep us from hearing the true Wisdom that we read about in Proverbs. In Midtown, it’s basically impossible to hear anyone calling “aloud in the street”. In our own lives, we often fail as well to hear wisdom, despite it “(crying) out” all around us. This is a crucial point in mentoring and leading the youth culture around us that’s become largely disillusioned with all the noise around them.
So the inevitable questions arise: What have we constructed in our own lives and what distractions keep us from hearing and attaining wisdom? What kind of model are we to our youth in properly filtering out noise and distractions that prevent us from hearing wisdom? Take some time today, and everyday, to be still, to listen and learn the wisdom that God is waiting to instill in us.
April 17th Posted in: Christian Living with No Comments
“…What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” James 4:14
It’s amazing the prospective I gained once I hit 40-years-old last summer. Really for the first time, I realized just how short life is. When you’re 30 years old, looking back 25 years seems like long, long ago. But at 40, that same time period really doesn’t seem like that long ago.
When I turned 40, my mind really started playing games with me. I started looking at my past, while reminiscing about sporting events I vividly remember, movies I saw in the theater from 20, 25, even 30 years ago. Memories that are vivid and don’t seem like that old. I then projected forward, thinking to myself, “30 years from now I’ll be 70-years-old!”
All of which begs the question, what does it all matter and how should we be living our lives? The answer for me, is constantly asking myself what will matter in 50 years when I’ve likely passed on from this earth? What I’ve found is an incredible proper perspective in approaching the challenges of life this way. Will a financial crisis or a pay cut that negatively impacts my retirement portfolio matter in 50
years? No, so let’s move on. Will petty disagreements or differences in opinions with my spouse or those around me
matter in 50 years? No, so let’s move on. I think you get the picture – don’t sweat the small stuff and when you look at life through God’s eyes, it’s all small stuff.
So ultimately, what will matter in 50 years? I think that answer is two-fold: the legacy you leave behind for the next generation. We’ve all been impacted by the influence from teachers, parents, relatives neighbors – some of whom who are no longer here – and the influence their predecessors had on them. And that legacy is lasting! The second part of that answer is your right relationship with God and your eternal security because in 50 years, whether you’re on your way out or already gone from this life, that will matter most!