As Charles Dickens opened his classic novel, A Tale of Two Cities, he wrote, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” He went on to explain the contradictions of his own culture. Here we are generations later, and we can easily say the same thing. Our culture is filled with wonder, technology and advancement, as well as suffering, misunderstanding and false narratives. One group of our culture that finds itself right in the middle of all of this is those who are transgendered. For many, the idea of being transgender is not only foreign but perhaps even highly doubtful. For others, being transgender feels natural and needs not only recognition but respect as well. This truly poses a dilemma of understanding and acceptance for many on all sides of the matter. So, how do we, how should we as Christians approach such a sensitive and passionate part of our world? Where should we stand? Why should we stand there? How should we approach those with whom we may disagree?
The world is full of provoking and it is NOT A GOOD THING. First, there is the provoking that takes place among children by way of demeaning and bullying those who seem weaker or different. Then there is provoking on an adult social level as those on various sides of issues regarding personal freedoms and beliefs poke and prod one another. And let’s not forget the provoking on a political level as those on opposite sides of the aisle name call and cast aspersions at one another. Basically, provoking stinks! Now that we have proclaimed that provoking is a problem, there is a verse in the Bible that tells us to provoke one another in a good way. So, how does that work? What are we supposed to say or do and how are we supposed to do it? Can there be a positive place and purpose for provoking?
Whether we think about it or not, we all leave a legacy behind us as a result of our life and experience. Sometimes that legacy can be rich with wisdom, accomplishment and example, and other times our legacy can be a sad tale of unfulfilled potential, broken dreams and a trail of “if only” and “why didn’t I?” The thing is, we choose much of what our legacy will look like! What if you thought about your legacy in the context of leaving something behind of great value to your grandkids? Aside from material things to give them physical comfort in life, what would you want them to learn? What would you want them to know so that their lives could blossom with fulfilled potential and with true contentment? Even if you don’t have grandchildren, let’s suppose that you do and are writing them a letter with words of wisdom…what will you say?
It is the Christmas season. It is a time for happiness, giving, receiving and appreciating. There was a time not so very long ago when the main focus of the Christmas season was the birth of Jesus as the world’s Savior. We are past that now, thanks to our political correctness, and Jesus is very much an afterthought of the holidays. Well, here today Jesus is NOT an afterthought. He is NOT a divisive figure who offends people by his mere existence. No, here today Jesus is recognized as the Savior of humanity, the centerpiece of God’s plan and the King of Kings. As we honor the birth and life of Jesus today, we will do so by highlighting some personal conversations he had with various people he encountered throughout his three-and-a-half year ministry. In so doing, we will tell a story that is rarely told. Merry Christmas!
Human nature is a funny thing. We live in an age of instant gratification, an age of virtually no waiting for anything. We send a text, a tweet, a message or we post, and our expectation is for an almost instant answer or follow or response or reaction. What we want we not only assume we can get, we assume we can get it immediately in just the right color, brand and style. Getting and having have become so easy and expected that we have begun to overlook the value of patience, waiting and doing without. Human nature IS a funny thing. In this age of abundance, we are experiencing a very high rate of dissatisfaction and unhappiness. Why? One reason is that we have all but forgotten the preserving and healing power of gratitude. It’s really simple - for happiness and contentment to flourish, they require gratitude to be their constant companion. Let’s take a look and see how it all works…
So, if you are a little kid it’s time for the excitement of “trick or treat” – costumes and candy. If you are older it’s time for parties, horror movies that look and feel so real they make your skin crawl, the undead, dark spells and generally unfettered behavior. Yup, we are talking about Halloween and all of the trimmings that come with it. Here is the thing – no matter what age you are, when Halloween comes it is also time for a strong and convincing dose of witchcraft. That’s right – no matter what age you are, witchcraft is not only entirely mainstream, it is enticingly mainstream and very much within reach. So, is this something to be worried about? Are we dealing with some big, dark and deceiving practice or is it all just harmless home-brewed storytelling?
It was just a few weeks ago the events in Charlottesville, Virginia, sparked a firestorm of vitriol and reaction throughout our country. What happened, what didn’t happen, who reacted and how - all of these things became the fuel for more protests and more protests against the protests and reaction of a very negative kind everywhere you looked. Let us be abundantly clear on one point – those who would paint themselves as any form of supremacist, white or otherwise, are servants of a deep and destructive darkness. Period. Those who take the law into their own hands and use violence and threats as their primary tools to eradicate all whom they consider supremacists are also choosing to borough down that dark hole as well. NONE of this is good! All of this provokes hatred, and rightfully so. Shouldn’t we as Christians hate such evil? Yes we should. The bigger question here, however, is HOW do we engage our hatred for evil in a Christlike manner?
Christians like most other people are creatures of habit. Although society has engineered dramatic changes in how we handle our lives, for many Christians the act of going to church remains a staple in their lives. We go to church to do what? Traditionally we have gone to learn about God, to have fellowship with those of like mind, to get away from the rat race of our lives and to remind ourselves about how to live in a Christlike fashion. Traditionally we have gone to church to reaffirm our faith – to strengthen ourselves to better stand for our core beliefs. As I said, times have changed...now it seems as though many of us go to church for different reasons. In many instances church has become a place of neighborly activity, social acceptance, goodness, activities entertainment and fun. Church is now a nice place to go to feel good about myself. So, are these changes unhealthy or bad? What’s wrong with feeling good about myself? What makes a church a really good church?
241 years ago the course of world history changed, for on July 4th, 1776, the 13 colonies adopted “The Declaration of Independence” and proclaimed themselves to be The United States of America. Since then these United States have risen to become a world power and have been the source of many amazing world innovations. One innovation that seems to never be talked about or even noticed is this country's profound contribution to recognizing, appreciating and preserving the wonders of the natural landscape. Nature. It covers the world with its intricate complexity, its unfathomable beauty and its breathtaking majesty. For most of us, our park system doesn’t feel like an innovation; rather it feels like a common, scarcely noticed commodity – yeah, we have National Parks – cool! Today we stop for a moment and ask how did these National Parks come to be, what was the motivation for their existence and what does all of this have to do with Almighty God?