Archive | April, 2013

We need the Gospel!

19 Apr

I’m sure by now you’ve heard of the tragedy in Boston. It now looks as if the perpetrators will soon be accounted for, humanly speaking. Human justice is definitely a good thing, and I want to see it continue, but situations like this bring about a sense of awe and wonder for me. The wonder goes a little like this:

First, you have the wretched souls dripping with utter depravity who symbolize all that is corrupt in the world. To senselessly go about and try to injure others is heartless and evil. I cannot fathom the mind that wants to do it, yet shortly after the smoke has cleared, we have news agencies speculating that it is a right wing extremist. Those on the right are taking offense, because they are certain it is a group of Muslim terrorists. Now both of these positions are rife with sinners, to be sure, I find it ironic that both sides will point fingers until one side is given “vindication” and proven correct in their assertion.

This is the second part of the situation I view. Those who will sit down and cast judgment on others. Now, to be sure, these depraved people who attacked the marathon runners, baseball fans, and general populace of Boston, are villainous. They are guilty, but there seems to be something about the sins of others (particularly others that we find loathsome) that makes us joy or revel in their demise. This, to me, seems to be a necessary step of our growth. Can we want justice as God wants it, yet allow the Lord to take vengeance (Romans 12:19)?

Finally, there are those who are earthly heroes. The stories we hear about fellow humans that give us goose bumps and make us swell with pride. I heard Jim Rome speak on the radio yesterday about Paul Norden, who was the man we saw in the wheel chair missing legs being run to the hospital. At the hospital, his life was saved and when he first woke up, still loopy from the pain-killers, he was able to draw a sketch that allowed the FBI to use computer programs on their millions of hours of footage to narrow it down and find video of the suspects sooner. This is a man who acted selflessly.

As we were talking about this story to our children, my wife was able to point them in the correct direction by saying that we hope that man finds the Lord also. Jacob postulated that he may, in fact, already be saved (Matthew 7:16-20). Jacob may be correct, but Kelly was quick to point out, that it is impossible for us to be good enough to save ourselves. Paul Norden saved many lives, and it would be an honor if one day, I could meet him, shake his hand, and interview him. Yet the reality remains that his works are not enough to save his soul.

That is my rather large take-away from tragic events. I think of a song that Greg leads us in during worship that says, “No one is good enough to save himself. Awake my soul tonight to boast nothing else! I trust no other source or name; Nowhere else can I hide. This grace gives me fear; And this grace draws me near!” We all need a rather large helping of the gospel. This is why, if you are free tonight or tomorrow morning in the Orlando area, I urge you to attend my church’s conference, where we can hear about living in the grip of the gospel. In a depraved world, the gospel is our only hope!

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Wanna be My Friend?

13 Apr

We want to be liked. We want to feel needed. George Costanza is laughable in his attempt to get his best friend’s girlfriend to like him, while completely ignoring his own girlfriend. And while that is something all outsiders can look at with their belly fully engaged in the laughter process, the fact is that many of us do small versions of this in our every day life.

I honestly have gone through life and never noticed this phenomena on myself until recently. I have an acquaintance that for one reason or another doesn’t care for me. As shocking as this is to you (and my own ego), it just seems to be a fact backed up by years of data. Yet, I find myself going overboard to try to please him, rather than just let it go and realize that there are a couple other people who like me.

It isn’t about agreement. My list of friends is not limited to those who agree with me on every single issue that might come up. In fact, I have befriended democrats, those who dislike sports, SEC and Big Ten fans, people who like rap music, those who love to celebrate birthdays, those who are vegetarians, and even the occasional non-Christian. Some people agree with me on all of those things, yet still can’t seem to find the common ground of friendship with me. I find myself trending towards conversations that harp on agreement, and it feels forced.

Friendship is almost impossible to quantify or formulate, and I think I may give up. Maybe I am old and crotchety enough, that I should begin to revel in those who don’t like me. Perhaps, I should take solace in the fact that even Jesus wasn’t liked. The only problem is Jesus was perfect, and I know that some of my foibles are some of the things that cause me to be disliked. Yet, I feel that even if I could completely mortify those actions, I would still not receive a 100% approval rating.

I feel that when I finally grasp that friendship is not agreement on everything, but rather the gift of being determined to not let the disagreements cause an elimination of that friendship, then I will have a more firm knowledge of who my friends are. Yet, the question remains, at least in my mind, “Can I overcome those who, for reasons I cannot fathom, are not (nor do they want to be) my friends?” In my own way, I struggle as much as Costanza, and I don’t like it.

Second Chances

3 Apr

It’s that time again, where I am forced to look forgiveness in the face. I think we all are forced to dwell on what forgiveness looks like every now and again in our lives. There are times where we are looking at it because someone has wronged us and is not repenting. Sometimes we evaluate it, because that person who wronged us is requesting our forgiveness and we’re not sure what that should look like. Finally, we sometimes need to evaluate forgiveness, because we are in need of it ourselves.

While all of those are times when our life itself mandates that we look at forgiveness. Sometimes, there are situations to which we aren’t parties that we get to observe from afar. Recently, I have been introduced to such a situation. Coach Rice of Rutgers has apparently been physically and verbally abusive to his players. After seeing the video, I saw an interview with the Athletic Director, where his boss stated the punishment was a three-game suspension, a fine, and a few other things.

Honestly, my initial reaction was one of disgust. When you are dealing with young men, specifically, young men who are relatively powerless to answer back or retaliate, treating them poorly is a sign of character. There are some actions which mandate removal from the situation, regardless of what may come later. Mike Rice needs to be taken off the job immediately and the rest of his salary never paid, in addition to any punitive action against salary already paid.

I say this as someone who recognizes that he was hired to do a job. He did things that indicate he did a poor job, perhaps even fine-able elements. He also does not deserve to keep his job. How can I come across as so unforgiving when I myself have been forgiven? Do I not believe in forgiveness? I think to answer that I need to give my complete definition of forgiveness, then my picture of what restoration needs to look like.

First, I believe that forgiveness involves the release of your irritation over someone that wronged you. It does not include forgetting what that person has done so that it may never be remembered or considered. I can certainly (easy for me to say, as that isn’t my son who’s having the ball thrown at his head, otherwise, I might feel like LeBron) forgive him for his actions. Nevertheless, I would certainly not be looking to hire him to coach my basketball team anytime soon.

Are we the land of new opportunities? Yes, and no. Looking at the Final Four this year, we see Rick Pitino with the best team and probable national champions, despite the fact that he has a stormy past. Last year’s champion was coached by John Calipari, who has gotten into trouble in multiple locations for violating the rules. I think both of them have been able to revive their careers, largely because they are winners.

Therein is the rub. America is the bastion of second chances if you provide some sort of proof that you can be successful. Sports are as easy an environment to measure success as exists in the world today, but this is not exclusive to sports. Good preachers who are inappropriate (or get divorced) get second chances at other churches or sometimes even in the same church. Good CEO’s who are fired get hired again later. Even Hank Lawson got a second chance as a doctor (though, he may have made the correct decision in the first place).

I believe you would be hard-pressed to name a single profession where success at any level does not warrant you a second chance. The problem is that we do not, as a culture, give second chances to people if their shortcomings lead us to believe that they will not be winners, we are very quick to be sanctimonious in our statement that we will not allow them the opportunity again, which leads me to believe that we aren’t so good at forgiving and then attempting restoration, but rather we’re bad at having a memory of that which was bad, if it will work out for our own benefit (monetarily, winning, prestige, power, or whatever else we are seeking).

So, what do I think restoration should look like? First, it should always begin with trying to heal the faulty reasoning or action that precipitated the need for forgiveness. If that is not done, then everything else is meaningless, because similar to parenting, behavior modification itself is not the only thing that is important. Second, it is vital to realize that restoration is not about mirroring the current situation. To imply so would be to eliminate the growth God had for us in that situation.

We have to recognize that without the painful need for situations in which forgiveness is needed on one side or the other, we would not grow. Growth can be painful, but it is necessary. The maturation of my life from son of Paul and Ann to Husband of Kelly was not without its rough spots. Nevertheless, to not make those steps would have eventually been even more painful. “The day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

When things blossom there is a resemblance to the pre-blossoming existence, but it never looks exactly the same. How short-sighted and foolish of us to believe that a post-forgiveness existence would look exactly the same as the pre-forgiveness existence! Life is predicated upon several small moments. And, while You can never step into the same river twice, we must accept the fact that our further development will change. To properly forgive, we must be willing to accept that. We must further accept that our restoration, however different or painful we feel it is, is ultimately for our good. If we can’t go through life with that belief, we are not ready to even begin a forgiveness process.