Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Not just what we say but how we say it!

The spouse of a well-known presidential candidate chastised a popular political pundit on the basis of a statement the pundit made, where she voiced her wish that terrorists had killed the candidate rather than to have him continue to annoy this pundit with his particular political philosophy. This followed the outburst of another acid-tongued pundit who a few months ago, lamented out loud that the vice-president of the United States himself escaped harm in a terrorist attempt against his life overseas.

I know of Christians from different political perspectives who, while having strong political stances which might be considered either "liberal" or "conservative," would always demand that the points of view that they espouse be presented in a Christian way - seasoned with grace - as the Apostle Paul admonishes Christians to speak. The problem is that we as Christians are becoming less concerned about how we present the truth and about how others who hold to points of view with which we agree present the truth as well.

The way we speak truth is as important as the very truth we seek to communicate. The Bible is replete with warnings to take be careful about the way we speak. In the book of James, we are told to be "Quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger" and we are reminded that while the tongue is a small part of the body, it is able to cause great evil. James further states that the tongue betrays what is in our hearts and that just as a water source will either produce clean or polluted water, so the tongue will produce the evidence of a clean or polluted heart.

It's time for Christians to call political people into account for the way they make statements as well as for the statements themselves. We shouldn't feel any obligation to support someones statement because of a political point of view we may share, when the way they represent that point of view does not represent the most important title we hold as followers of Jesus Christ.

So, my fellow Christians, stop glorying in your political party and start giving God the glory by distancing yourselves from ANYONE who misrepresents any ideal you hold dear by presenting it in a way that would displease the One Whom you serve. Until next time...


Thursday, June 21, 2007

A Little Help From Our Friends

This week, our congregation was blessed to host a Sports Camp conducted by 30 Youth of the First Baptist Church of Lewisville, Texas. This group came to the Detroit area eager to work and ready for anything. During the evenings, they form a concern choir of well over 120 people, putting on performances throughout the Metro Detroit area at homes for troubled youth, senior citizens centers, and local churches - even a few places as far as an hour from their base of operations! During the day, they break up into four teams and conduct Sports Camps like the one they held for us. They even stopped in various cities during their 3-day bus trip here to do one day events and concerts during each travel day!

Missions like this are of incalculable value for a smaller church like ours. We have been blessed since our beginning by brothers and sisters from other cities taking to heart the Great Commission call to serve the Lord all over the world. It was wonderful to see young children being encouraged to try new sports and make new friends in a safe and secure setting where they also experienced the unconditional love that is the hallmark of true Christianity.

There was nothing fancy about the work this wonderful team did. They came armed with loving hearts, willing hands, and a little time that made a world of difference throughout the metro Detroit community. When they left they didn't just leave behind memories, they left ALL the sporting equipment they brought with them so that we could share the joy in future events we will hold to minister to the community on our own.

The Beatles were right when they said "I get by with a little help from my friends", and I thank the Lord for friends like First Baptist Church, Lewisville, Texas. I think with friends like them, we'll do more than "get by" - we'll actually surge ahead in the work the Lord has given us to do. Until next time,


Wednesday, June 13, 2007

A Song For Fathers

In preparation for Father's Day, I began scrolling through my mind for some songs we might use for a church PowerPoint presentation highlighting good fathers and godly manhood. I was somewhat surprised when the songs at the forefront of my mind that related to fatherhood all pointed out the downside of "Dear ol' Dad." The Temptations "Papa Was A Rolling Stone" jumped into my mind first about a father who never met the responsibilities of his household but instead, spent his life hustling and occupying different beds for his own gratification. I then thought of Gladys Knight and the Pips song, "Daddy Could Swear, I Declare!" about a sharp-tongued father who was never at a loss for words or venom to accompany his words as he let his tongue fly with reckless abandon. I finally thought of Harry Chapin's working man's lament, "The Cat's In the Cradle" which tells the sad and oft repeated tale of a dad so engaged in his work that he fails to engage his family, thus unintentionally modeling a lifestyle of family alienation that his son will emulate to perfection.

It bothers me that I can't think of many good songs about dads from the top of my head, and that these snapshots of problematic fatherly examples were readily available in the forefront of my mind. As a son who has reached adulthood with my own children - two grown, one in adolescence and one toddler, I have many thoughts about fatherhood from a parental and child's perspective. I have found in my own life that it is easy to criticize your dad. As young children, we place our dad's on such a high pedestal - a near super-hero status - only to learn of their humanity as we grow more mature and sometimes, we continue to hold them to superhuman standards, not giving them the understanding and compassion that they truly need, especially as they get older. I think that as a dad who is oh so human, it has helped me give my dad a very precious gift that I hope my children will also give to me - Some Slack.

A year or so ago, I heard an interview with Bruce Springsteen in which the legendary rocker reflected on his evaluation of his father. "The Boss" very wisely commented that many of his teen-aged and young adult evaluations of his father were terribly inadequate, because he didn't have an appropriate context from which to see the problems his father dealt with and the complications that made his father's struggle and day to day survival a truly remarkable feat, though it went totally unappreciated by Bruce. Bruce's wise words gave me a greater appreciation of him as a person and challenged me to re-evaluate how I judged my own father in some of his failures and struggles.

So, as I continue to search my brain for songs that exalt the virtues of fatherhood, I will also make it a point to remember the good things my father has done for me over the years. I will celebrate his victories more than I criticize his failures and remember to give him praise for modeling fatherhood to the best of his ability. My dad wasn't perfect and still isn't, but he sure is great and I am thankful for the role he has played in helping to understand the importance and impact of being a good father. I encourage you to praise your father if you can, and if you've had a difficult relationship with a father who has been less than stellar, I encourage you to pray for him and ask the Lord to touch your father's heart and transform your father's life as only God can. Never forget that God is in the business of transforming lives, even when it seems hopeless. Here's to fatherhood. May the Lord give us more Father's with His heart and some new songs to sing to their example and to His glory. Until next time,


Wednesday, June 6, 2007

No Words Required

It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak up and remove all doubt.

These wise words are attributed to Abraham Lincoln and were a favorite quotation my mother used in dispensing wisdom to me. This week, in our church's one-year through the Bible reading program, we studied the remarkable man Job, who experienced a series of personal tragedies and losses that seem to be too much for anyone to bear. Job lost all of his children, all of his property, all of his wealth and his health. It seems that only his wife was spared and she spent a significant amount of time chastising him for maintaining his trust in God.

After his suffering had reached its apex, a few of Jobs friends show up to comfort him in his distress and to search out the cause for his unbelievably bad fortune. Their initial reaction actually proved to be their finest hour - they said absolutely nothing and merely sat in quiet contemplation with their friend. It was only when they tried to offer counsel and speak words of explanation to solve the riddle of his suffering that they strayed into foolish speculation and off-target analysis.

Sometimes, when we seek to comfort friends who suffer, we are tempted to find some pearl of wisdom that will solve all the mysteries of the ages, explain the cause of their suffering and offer the one bit of advice that will motivate them to dust themselves off and rise above their adverse circumstances and march triumphantly into a new and bright future. The reality is that these efforts usually fall short of our lofty expectations. We shouldn't be seeking to be saviors, but rather friends and comforters.

The case of Job's friends teaches us that our primary concern for a suffering friend should be comfort and encouragement, not detective work and judgement. If you find yourself in the position of Job's friends, remind yourself of the power and beauty of silent comfort. You'll be amazed at the effectiveness of holding a hand, wiping away a tear, or just being available as a visible reminder that someone cares. Don't be put off by awkward silence - Silence really can be golden and the most valuable gift you can offer a friend in need. Until next time,