Friday, November 28, 2008

Considering Christmas

We’ve enjoyed a little time off from work and plenty of turkey, dressing, pies and televised sports. Some of us braved the crowds and shopped for bargains on Black Friday. Christmas is quickly approaching.

There will be office parties, cards to mail, trees to cut and gifts to buy. Before you get too carried away check out the video below.

Consumerism does not equal happiness, memories or meaning. The video said it well.

This Sunday, November 30, marks the beginning of Advent, a season where Christians celebrate the coming of Christ. Join the conspiracy and make Advent more about Christ than consuming; more about helping the poor than hoarding more stuff; more about worshiping God than focusing on self.

Let’s intentionally engage Christmas rather than be overcome by it.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Being Prepared for Life & Death

November 6, Levi Pocza (pictured), a 7th grader at Redmond Jr. High, collapsed in his P.E. class. After checking his pulse and determining that Levi was in crisis, Levi’s teacher, Chris Broderick, and school principal, Prato Barone began administering CPR while office staff called 911. Football coach, Scott Hagerman, ran to get the school’s AED (automated external defibrillator). He had recently undergone training to be re-certified and knew exactly how to use the device.

Levi’s heart was shocked with the AED and CPR was continued when about 8 minutes later emergency personnel arrived and took over. Levi was taken to the hospital and had another arrest in route. The rest of the story is that Levi survived and because of the quick response of school personnel Levi suffered no brain damage. You can read more of the story in the Redmond Reporter here.

I’m grateful for Levi and his family that this story had a happy ending. I’m grateful for trained and quick responding school personnel and emergency personnel. All worked together to save a precious life.

But I’m also grateful for Scott Bulger, a friend of mine. You ask, “Who is he? He’s not mentioned in the story.”

I belong to a service club called Rotary. A few years ago Scott was deeply moved by the death of another student named Sean Shipler who could have been saved if there had been an AED accessible. Scott came to our Rotary Club and said, “Let’s work to make sure that another child doesn’t die simply because there is no AED available.” My Club was catalyzed into raising funds with the goal of putting an AED into every high school and junior high school in the Lake Washington School District, and we did.

At the time Mariner’s pitcher Arthur Rhodes was a neighbor of Scott’s. Rhodes collected a bunch of Seattle Mariner’s autographed memorabilia and we raised a lot of the money by auctioning off baseball stuff.

There were several other projects that raised the necessary funds but the point is, there were a lot of efforts and volunteer hours and monies raised years before a Redmond 7th grader collapsed and needed an AED. Thus I’m reminded of the importance of emergency preparedness or disaster preparedness and just LIFE preparedness.

My friend Scott knew that someday there would be another student that would experience a cardiac arrest and need an AED and he did something about it.

I know that someday EVERY ONE OF US will have our heart stop beating and we will be ushered from this life and into the next. We will stand before a holy God for a day of accountability. Some will hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into your reward.” Others will hear, “Depart from me for I never knew you.”

Becoming a follower of Jesus Christ is the “AED” for a heart and destiny that is in God’s hands. I’m praying today for my readers, that you will give attention and effort in advance for the day that is surely coming for us all.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Why believe in a god?

The ad campaign by the American Humanist Association caught my attention. Entering the holiday season they are calling for all to “Be good for goodness’ sake”. They contend that being good doesn’t have anything to do with whether there is a God.

Immediately my thoughts disputed the message of the advertisement. With the speed of a reflex I said out loud to myself, “Without God there is no standard of goodness. You can’t have goodness for goodness’ sake.”

But rather than being totally dismissive without further reflection I decided to try to understand why humanists believe that there can be goodness and virtues without a standard that defines it, namely God.

According to their website and manifesto they contend—
1. Ethical values are determined by human needs.
(Human dignity and inherent value are “good” because humans need it to be so.)
2. Life fulfillment emerges from participating in serving humane ideals.
(Humanists rely on the “rich heritage of human culture” in identifying those ideals.)
3. Humans are social by nature and find meaning in relationships.
(Again, the conclusion that relationships are important comes from observation.)
4. Working to benefit society maximizes individual happiness.
(Seeking a “just” distribution of the world’s resources renders justice as defined by scientific observation of society.)

Reading through their manifesto and mission statement left me tired. I kept thinking, “This is a lot of work to eliminate God from the determination of human dignity, values, ideals, and the importance of community and justice." For the humanist these matters have come to humanity by an unguided evolutionary process.

One glaring problem is that these matters are not shared by all humans around the world. Humans, minus God, in many Eastern countries don’t value compassion for example. When tsunamis or earthquake strikes, China or India or other countries could be humane and respond to many needs but it is almost always those of the West who do. Why? Because in the West, humane ideals and world view have been strongly influenced by Judaism and Christianity.

Those in the Judeo-Christian tradition derive all those matters from the Person of God. Such matters are not mere decrees from God but self-disclosure of His own character and values.

I still contend and would say to the humanist that goodness, ethics, values, worth, etc. must have a standard or defining source (i.e.; the person of God). Left to humanity, whatever is the prevailing “wind” of the day in whatever culture brings a determination of what will be considered societal norms. That is relativism.

But, we live in America and I fully support the right of Humanists to convey their message. I’m just answering their question; “Why believe in a god?” Without God it is only a matter of time when what is called good is essentialy evil.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Blessed be the Name of the Lord

There is a powerful biblical passage from Job 1:20 that has for years moved me deeply. Job (pronounced Jobe) was a righteous man who honored God with every aspect of his life. He was also a very blessed man with 10 children and many grandchildren. He held vast possessions and wealth. Then in one day Job lost it all through horrific circumstances.

In response to his losses Job said,
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
and naked I shall return there.
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away.
Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

Obviously there is a lot of theology in Job’s confession that space here doesn’t allow me to address. Even though the story clearly tells of Job’s calamities being caused by Satan, Job recognizes that in God’s sovereign power nothing happens without God allowing it to happen, thus Job correctly declares that the Lord gave and has taken away.

Apparently in the unseen world there is an ongoing effort by Satan to discourage humans from believing in the goodness of God and therefore dissuade humans from following God. Every time a believer understands that and worships and glorifies God in spite of their painful circumstances, often others can look at that person’s faith and trust and be moved closer to God.

Matt and Beth Redman have written one of my favorite worship songs based upon the text from Job and the theology of God’s goodness in spite of circumstances titled “Blessed Be Your Name”. The song is embeded above.

Tuesday night I was in a worship gathering of about 500 people and we were all singing this song in worship of God and in testimony of our trust in Him. Three rows in front of me was a man in his 30’s that I’ve seen often at these gatherings but I’ve never met him. He has cerebral palsy and is limited to a wheelchair and has great difficulty speaking. In this midst of everyone singing “Blessed be the Name of the Lord” I happened to notice him singing with all his heart. With arms flaying and head awkwardly gyrating he was confessing in song that God is good, even though he has spent his entire life with the painful limitations of CP.

It’s one thing for me to testify that I believe God to be a good God. I have my health, a wonderful family, all the possessions I need and a meaningful purpose to my life. However, to me it was a 100 times more powerful that my acquaintance three rows in front of me knew and experienced God to be good.

Blessed be the Name of the Lord.

Monday, November 10, 2008

A Word about Loyalty

Jeffrey Scott Shapiro wrote an article in last Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal that has me reflecting. Shapiro’s title, “The Treatment of Bush Has Been a Disgrace” is subtitled, “What must our enemies be thinking?”

Shapiro opines that our enemies must be thinking that we have little character and resolve.

Shapiro gives a number of examples of disloyalty toward President Bush that most of us have read or seen. I had not heard of the petition in San Francisco signed by 12,000 to rename a sewage plant after George W. Bush. He called it classless disrespect of the president and I agree.

I’m really not talking politics in this post. I’m talking about the virtue of loyalty. Any fair minded person could list things that President Bush has both done well and poorly. His approval ratings are some of the lowest in history but the point is that the highest office in America still deserves respect. Disagree with and even oppose the President but remember that his office is the most challenging and pressure-packed in the world. By the way, Shapiro is a former John Kerry intern.

David, who would later become king of Israel, would not let his band of loyal supporters rise up against the current King Saul, even though Saul had dealt treacherously with David (see 1 Samuel 24). Even though David was a young and ambitious man, David “got it” about honor and loyalty.

You may be in a work situation where your supervisor acts in disloyal and dishonoring ways. You may be in a marriage with a partner who seems to be working against the health of your relationship. You may have an acquaintance that requires a lot of grace to be around.

I’m not advocating that anyone act like a doormat and let others walk on you or be spineless with no opinions or differences. I’m calling for civility, respect, and an end to bitter words and feelings.

Perhaps you’ll join me in reflecting on that today.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Slaying the Financial Giant

Over the next few weeks I’m giving talks at Meadowbrook Church that I call “Slaying Giants”. My premise is that we all face significant challenges that in the least distract us from life’s purpose and joy and for many, oppress, intimidate and defeat us. Click here to see the whole series.

This past Sunday I, not surprisingly, used the David and Goliath story as a model regarding how to slay other “giant” types in our lives. Click here to listen to the talk.

This coming Sunday I’m specifically addressing a giant called “Finances”. I plan to bring into the national and personal financial conversation some biblical and practical points that I hope will be helpful in overcoming this giant.

So, when I attended a breakfast meeting this morning and the featured speaker was a professional financial consultant, I was all ears to hear what she had to say. I was saddened, but not surprised, that the core of her message was that setting and reaching financial goals is the means by which we secure our lives.

I’m a believer in setting and striving toward goals and do so in multiple areas of my life. But friend, there are a lot of people that have reached tremendous financial goals and they lead some of the most insecure lives you’ll ever see. Money is not security. Money is not status or identity. Money is not happiness. Money is money.

Money is a tool. Use it well and it becomes a “servant” with which you can buy needed resources or help in meeting the needs of others. Use it poorly and you become its servant, always slavishly trying to get more.

For David and ancient Israel, defeating Goliath was not what made them secure. There were other giants out there. Goliath had brothers. Rather, having a relationship with the living God was and is what provided security and a foundation for life.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Prayers for President-Elect Barack Obama

Congratulations to Barack Obama. In keeping with biblical teaching let us pray for the President-Elect, the selection of his cabinet and transition team, and for God’s presence, protection and guidance for our nation.

Romans 13:1-6

“Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be set free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing.”