Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Slow Fade

"It's a slow fade when you give yourself away.
It's a slow fade when black and white turn to grey...

People never crumble in a day,
Daddies never crumble in a day,
Families never crumble in a day"
-Slow Fade, Casting Crowns

How did I get here? Have you ever asked yourself that question when stuck in some sin that you just can't seem to get out of? This song cuts me right to the heart. To be honest, I almost cried the first time I heard it. The description of the song in the liner notes is just as convicting: "This song was inspired by the spreading cancer of moral failure in the fathers of this generation. As believers, we must guard our hearts and understand that no one crashes and burns. They just slowly fade away one little compromise at a time."

Look around and this becomes painfully clear. One brother in my congregation was just recently caught in the act of adultery by his wife. Another was just caught looking at pornography by his wife. Both bring up the question, what else is going on in my brothers' and sisters' lives that I don't know, that no one else sees. But I can't be self righteous either. I also need to ask myself, what little compromises am I making? My temper, my language, my lack of patience and kindness- where will they lead if I just let them continue? How slowly will I fade?

"[L]et us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles..." (Heb 12:1)

"When tempted, no one should say, "God is tempting me." For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death." (James 1:13-15)

"Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more." (Eph 4:19)

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Give God a Valentine

I was asked to give the contribution talk this morning and I thought I'd share it here too...

I saw on the news that last year the average person spent $123 on Valentines Day and this year given the economy it was expected to drop to $102. That sounds like a lot, but if consider dinner on top of the flowers, candies, and cards you can see how that would add up quick. I bring this up because it points out how we spend a lot of money on silly things while we struggle to pay the bills and make ends meet. (not that Valentines Day is silly, but the efforts we go though to impress our loved ones with things is)

Brothers, how much did you spend yesterday? We justify it because it’s only once a year, but I hope we show that love our spouses more than just once a year, Amen? Just like I hope we demonstrate our love for God more than just on Sundays. How do we show our love to God? Well, just like our wives, he likes to be given things. No, not stuffed animals that sing Elvis songs when you press its paw. But he wants us to sacrifice to him. Things of value, things that demonstrate that he is more important than what we give him. Just like Valentine’s Day, our spouses are worth much more than that box of candies, but what message would it have sent if we didn’t get anything at all and just sat with our arms crossed, huffing at the suggestion of spending money on Valentines Day? Are you sitting now with your arms crossed huffing at the suggestion of giving part of your hard earned income to God?

In Matthew 19, beginning in verse 16, we read of a rich man who asked Jesus what he needed to do to get to heaven. The answer shocked him, verse 21, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." And the man walked away sad. Jesus isn’t telling us to sell everything we have and give it away to the poor, but don’t let that stop you. What he is telling us is to love him more than our possessions or our wealth. Give him a valentine today.

Monday, February 09, 2009

What Have You Done For Me Lately?

I recently turned 33. I joke that I want a big party in a couple of months when I can celebrate that I'm a third of a century old. A friend of mine teased me by asking, "Jesus saved the world when he was 33. What have you done?" Ouch.

Yesterday I also celebrated my ninth "spiritual birthday," the anniversary of my rebirth in baptism. In the same way, Jesus saved the world in his third year of ministry.

Looks like I have my work cut out for me.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Our Money Says, "In God We Trust"

This story breaks my heart. I can’t imagine what must have been going through his mind while looking at his children and committing these heinous acts. I’m sad that we live in a society that is so driven by wealth and status that not only motivated our present economic crisis, but also has left so many hopeless in its wake. I consider myself blessed. Both my wife and I are gainfully employed with relative job security. Our children are healthy and our mortgage isn’t totally screwed up (only just a little). But I do worry about what would happen to my family if something were to happen to me. To some degree I worry about the loss of income, but I worry more about the emotional pain of loss. If both my wife and I lost our jobs would I feel completely hopeless to the extent that I have no hope, even for the future of my children? That’s the part of this story I just don’t understand.

I’m also sad that we live in a culture that is overly self-focused. I’m guilty of this myself. I don’t know my neighbors like I should. I’m sad though that others feel they can’t turn to family or friends for support even if their neighbors are strangers. At least through my extended family and my spiritual family I believe I could manage through the hard times. Catastrophic loss of income? I don’t really know. I know many families in my church are hurting right now. I’ve had several neighbors move because they can no longer afford their homes. My heart goes out to them, but I also know that a loving God will take care of them, even if not in the ways they hope.

El Roi, Yahweh Yireh, the "God who sees” and “the Lord Provides” encourages me through his word: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance." (James 1:2-3) And "we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us." (Rom 5:3-5) I pray that my circumstances may be a blessing to someone in greater need, be they family, friend, neighbor or stranger.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

God and Sports, Revisited

Today is the big day. Super Bowl XLIII, pitting the Pittsburgh Steelers, led by Ben Roethlisberger, against the Arizona Cardinals, let by Kurt Warner. I've talked about Kurt's faith before and debated whether God plays favorites in sports. But I recommend this article from last week that sums it up pretty well.

Aside from that debate, however is a more serious question. How many people are skipping church today (at least on the West Coast) to watch this game? How many people are skipping work? How many will tune out their families tuning in to the game? Church competes with the NFL for a few months out of the year and for many, it is very tempting to skip worshiping our Lord in heaven in order to cheer on a team that we never played for, don't have ownership in, and likely don't know any of the players personally. It's a very impersonal devotion, complete with animal sacrifice (the tailgate or home bbq), ritual (face painting, favorite jersey), and prayer ('please, please, please make this 55 yard field goal!'). Die hard fans are more likely to know the names of the 11 starters on offense than the names of the 12 apostles.

So while we consider Kurt Warner and Ben Roethlisberger's faith, we should also look inward at or own. Are we bigger fans of the Super Bowl or super fans of the Lord above?