School is Starting…and Sadly, So is the Violence

I came across this story on AOL today, and it really disturbed and saddened me.

Horrified Students Witness Fatal Shooting

It leaves me with too many questions and not enough answers.  What possesses a teenager to get so angry and violent as to bring a gun to school and shoot a fellow classmate, presumably because they are different?  Where did he get the gun?  Did his parents know he was filled with this much anger?  How must the parents and family of the boy who was killed be feeling about now?  What's to say this can't happen at the schools at which my sons attend?   Did the boy who was killed know Jesus as his Savior?  Does the boys who did the shooting know Jesus?  Will he come to know Him as a result of this?  What are churches doing to get the life changing message of how Jesus can transform a life out to a world filled with violence, pain, grief, loss, hopelessness?  Will there be a team of people at a church in Knoxville equipped to share the message of grace and hope with those impacted by this tragedy, and then, will they make the efforts necessary to get out and actually do it?

We could blame the media, exposure to violence, and many other factors for what happened.  Ultimately, it is a heart issue, and a mind issue.  A heart that is filled with the wrong things, and a mind that was conformed to the world and not tranformed by being renewed.  Ultimately, only Jesus can change this, and we get the privilege to share with the world how they can know the Jesus that can do this!  Awesome!!


More Hunger

It seems like many of my posts as of late have been about the global hunger and food crisis.  It appeared again on the front page of the USA Today.  Maybe it concerns me because it seems that Scripture says that when we minister to those in need, we are ministering to Jesus Himself.

31"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 32All
the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the
people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the
goats. 33He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by
my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since
the creation of the world. 35For
I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you
gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'

the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and
feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'

 40"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'

he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed,
into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I
was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you
did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after

 44"They also
will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger
or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?'

 45"He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'

 46"Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life." (Matt 25:31-26, NIV).

How can we not be moved to compassion when we see images such as these:

Hunger in Ethiopia:  The New Famine

We cannot stand by and let the world suffer.  We must ask God what He would have us do to make a difference.

The Pretenders

A few years ago there was a TV show on the was called "The Pretender".  It centered around a character by the name of Jared, who was kidnapped as a child and his kidnappers used and developed his skills so that he could become whoever or whatever he wanted in any situation.  One week he was a race car driver, another a doctor, another a member of the Coast Guard.

What I wonder, and fear, is that in most churches on Sunday mornings, we have congregations filled with pretenders, or,  as Brendan Manning refers to them in the title one of his books,  "Posers, Fakers, and Wannabes".

I believe that our churches are filled with posers, fakers, wannabes and pretenders every Sunday.  Our churches are not safe to be real and share our hurts, our fears, our sin, our pain,  our sorrow, our trials and our temptations without being condemned, ostracized, and cast out, so we hide behind a smile and our supposed goodness because we fear what people might do to us or say about us to our face or behind our backs.

It reminds me of the song by Casting Crowns, "Stained Glass Masquerade"

Is there anyone that fails

Is there anyone that falls

Am I the only one in church today feelin' so small

Cause when I take a look around

Everybody seems so strong

I know they'll soon discover

That I don't belong

So I tuck it all away, like everything's okay

If I make them all believe it, maybe I'll believe it too

So with a painted grin, I play the part again

So everyone will see me the way that I see them

Are we happy plastic people

Under shiny plastic steeples

With walls around our weakness

And smiles to hide our pain

But if the invitation's open

To every heart that has been broken

Maybe then we close the curtain

On our stained glass masquerade

Is there anyone who's been there

Are there any hands to raise

Am I the only one who's traded

In the altar for a stage

The performance is convincing

And we know every line by heart

Only when no one is watching

Can we really fall apart

But would it set me free

If I dared to let you see

The truth behind the person

That you imagine me to be

Would your arms be open

Or would you walk away

Would the love of Jesus

Be enough to make you stay

Are we happy plastic people

Under shiny plastic steeples

With walls around our weakness

And smiles to hide our pain

But if the invitation's open

To every heart that has been broken

Maybe then we close the curtain

On our stained glass masquerade

I come to wonder whether our order of worship, our events, our ministries, our routines are there in part because it is much easier and more comfortable to go through the routine than to be genuine with one another.  More than anything else, I long to see the church be able to be so real with one another that we rally around one another when we struggle rather run away from each other.

Paul wrote that we are to "Carry one another's burdens; in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ" (Gal  6:2, HCSV).  We aren't too good at burden bearing…stone casting..yes, tongue lashing…yes, soul smashing…yes, but not burden bearing.  Maybe we'll get this down some day.  We can only hope.

A Picture of Heaven

I am sitting here watching the opening ceremonies of the Olympics.  The parade of nations is taking place, and I am reflecting on how this parade is just a small picture of what God had in mind for heaven when it says "And they sang a new song:  You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals; because You were slaughtered, and You redeemed people for God by Your blood from every tribe and language and people and nation.  You made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they will reign on the earth (Rev. 5:9-10, HCSV).

It brings to mind several thought.  First, it reminds me of how, despite our differences, we are all very much the same.  God has created us in His image.  Each person is loved dearly by God.  They have hopes, dreams, desires, fears, concerns, and a soul that needs Jesus, despite the differences in language, politics, and geography.  It is on God’s heart to draw the nations to His throne so that they all may worship, and it should be on heart to be a part of God’s plan by being His kingdom people and do whatever is necessary to see all nations come to know the glory of the mighty God we serve.  Are we willing to do what it takes.  It is so much bigger than any church body, any mission organization, and the status quo won’t reach 4 billion people lost and dying without Christ.  The same little programs and ways of doing thing will just get us more of the same, which is too many lost people dying and too many saved people sitting watching the lost people die.

I Can’t Even Begin to Fathom…

I’ve been reading articles about the problems in Zimbabwe lately.  I cannot begin to fathom the rate of inflation in that country.  Depending on the article, it seems to be between 1.5 million to 12.5 million percent.  In perspective, one article stated that a loaf of bread now costs what 12 cars did a decade ago.   The actual math on that statistic is mind boggling.

We seem to freak out when gas prices fluctuate a few cents a day…how would we respond when money became so useless that a loaf of bread cost $180,000?

I struggle to think through practical ways to be able to assist those that are in such dire straights.  How does one go about helping those with so little, except that we start by looking at ourselves and figuring out what we are wasting that others could use to survive and then find ways to take the savings and send it to those in need in such a way that they would get it.  Anyone have any good ideas?