We're happy (most of the time)
Todd Rhodes over at Monday Morning Insight has an interesting post of a survey that recently labeled Pastors as the people being the happiest out of all professions. This conclusion was drawn from surveys of job satisfaction. I won't steal the thunder or link love (go read his post) but I will say that while Pastors were the "happiest" of all professions, the least happy were... Laborers.
I see a direct correlation between "happiness with a profession" and the "perceived impact" that profession makes on the lives of people in society. As you glance through the happiest people you find people who are freed up to love/serve/protect in ways that make a clear impact in people's lives. As you look at the least happy you will see task-minded jobs. These are things that have to get done for society to function but aren't particularly full of impact.
Two take-aways for today.
1. Be appreciative for what you do, even when it stinks. God has blessed us with the ability and opportunity to serve the Kingdom this way.
2. Be extra thoughtful with those who serve you. Go out of your way to ask the wait staff how their lives are going. When you see someone cleaning a building, stop to thank them and comment how the clean facility always keeps your mood high. Those on the "least happy" list need extra encouragement so they can see how their job impacts us all on a daily basis.
Link to Happiness post
Burnin' down the house
This morning I decided I wanted to test out some new mocha stuff that I purchased the other day. The instructions required me to warm milk. So I grabbed a cup from the cabinet over our microwave and filled it with milk and put it in the microwave. As I walked into my living room I heard a "Crackle,Pop,Crackle" and thought "OHH CRAPPP!"
I ran into the kitchen to find my microwave on fire... fortunately it was on the inside and contained... but sure enough it was on fire... I began to look around the kitchen for our fire extinguisher. I remembered moving it around as if it was an annoyance (after all I had never had to use one in my life!). I recalled sticking it in our cupboard above the paper towels. Grabbing the extinguisher I did my best impression of the movie "Backdraft" and began beating down the flames. Fighting the fire lasted all of 5 seconds as the blaze succumbed to the power of my 3lb fire extinguisher.
Although I was concerned with the fire, I felt comfortable that it was able to be contained inside of the microwave. The biggest problem I had was the clean up process afterwards. I didn't realize how much power was in one of those things... and frankly I only used a few seconds of spray... I can't imagine what my house would have looked like if I released the whole can.
Anyway... I'm thankful that it wasn't worse... but boy was that crazy.
This is something that won't likely get much airtime.
3 bible printers are killed in Turkey. Link
Celebrating God's work through a friend
My friend Robb Overholt from Epic City Church has gotten several posts dedicated to him recently on this blog. For good reason. I've been excited to see the transition God has been doing in his ministry.
Last week Robb's church held an art show in Norfolk. Hundreds of people came out and it was obviously a great testament to what God has been up to.
From that art show came a dialog with an editor of a local paper in our area, Portfolio Weekly. Check out the article online here.
I stumbled on this funny clip of an old lady doing a "Mash Up".
It reminded me of observing the car wreck of some traditional churches trying to do a 'blended' service.
Check out the Link: The Mash Up
Faith and Faithfulness (part 2)
In my last post I talked about my experience reading Hebrews and the lesson of faithfulness. I spoke about how I am concerned that we ignore those who exibit lives of faith but don't yeild their blessing in their lifetime. We only lift up the lives of faith that seem to show immediate results. In the era of the blog and mobile posting we have an up-to-the-second culture that wants results NOW. We go to conferences of people who experience the perceived immediate gratification of their 'faith'. While these are one side of the coin of faith I believe there are other lessons we as the church should learn.
I heard a conversation while studying that struck a chord. As I'm having these thoughts about faith and faithfulness I hear these two guys who sit down at a table near me. Apparently they are old friends and one recently got a job at Regent University. One guy is down on life and honestly has a crappy attitude (which I'll likely post about later) and the guy with the new job is encouraging him and attempting to push him in the right direction. While the guy trying to help said a lot of things that I agreed with and while he had much more patience than I did, I felt that some of his advice was a little skewed and frankly speaks to my concern for our view of 'faith'.
The guy needing help says "How do I know that God is in that plan?"
The response: "The door will be open." "If the door isn't open then you know it's not of God."
We've all heard this before. Chances are (fIf you're like me) you've been in a crunch for time or in a super 'spiritual' mood you've even given this counsel. But is it true? Are we to live our lives believing that God only wants us to walk through doors that are open? Is it possible that some open doors are gateways to destruction while some doors that are closed at the present time need the key of 'faith' to become opened? Is it possible that some doors are crutches and God calls us to take on challenges that aren't easy? Or is the Christian life the same as the American I-want-it-now-don't-tell-me-no-or-that-I-have-to-work-hard-for-it type of life?
It's my view that this friend could have given more biblical counsel by seeking out his buddies motives and encouraged his friend that many times God wants us in places that seem bleak so he can shine. God doesn't always shine through your Rolex.... Most of the time he shines through your sweaty brow and dirty fingernails.
We're pretty proud as a people when we think that the only doors God wants us to walk through are the easy ones as though God is simply our cosmic butler.
I believe our faith is what unlocks doors. I believe God is honored by our faith and that God gets glory through our faith. Too many times we go to one extreme or the other... we either underestimate the favor of God or we underestimate the faith of his people. I don't think God is the only one who locks doors in our lives.
Sometimes we need a swift kick of the Holy Ghost activated by faith to knock down the obstacles in our lives. After much discernment obviously :)
God has been kicking my tail lately with a lesson on Faith. I don't mean faith in the sense of trusting God to do something, I mean in the sense of FaithFULLness. Yes I know it's spelled with 1 "L".
I took time today to go and read the entire book of Hebrews straight through. No I'm not preparing a sermon. During my time I read for understanding. I read it fresh like as if I was being taught again for the first time. With my pen in hand I went through and circled, underlined and wrote in the margins every time something stuck out... Obviously it's well marked up b/c Hebrews can kick your theological butt. Anyway by reading it through continuously in one sitting you see patterns you can't see by preaching it over the course of 20 weeks or by preaching topical lessons over each sentence. You see a theme and a spirit of the letter. What's funny is that at the end of Hebrews 12 Paul says it was a 'short' letter.
So in reading about faith I'm hit with this thought of faith as not a series of one time beliefs or claims but more of a 'faithfulness' type of faith. It's nothing earth shattering but for me this old/new lesson kicked my tail again. Paul sets up about 10 chapters reminding them about the basics and then wham in chapter 11 he kicks in the reader's teeth with some fantastic examples of not only simple acts of faith but the faithfulness of some people. In addition he gives several verses of ink to people who (because of their faith) experienced the worst oppression, nomadic existence and martyrdom. All in the name of faith(fullness).
I'm not sure why the church is silent today about championing those who lives great lives of faith but saw no immediate gratification. I read tons of blogs and books about the bright side of faith but see very little in the way of championing people who had incredible faith but who's results weren't seen in their lifetime.
In my next post I'll tell you about two guys who sat next to me in the coffee shop and their conversation which reinforced my concern of how we teach lessons of 'faith'.
This year in our region we are celebrating the founding of Jamestown as the first permanent English settlement in modern-day America. It's good for tourism and a nice milestone for people to remember that we're part of something bigger than ourselves.
But Christians are at it again...
Don't get me wrong, I love Christians... I'm married to one... and I am one! I even Pastor a local Christian church. But sometimes I can't help but to view a segment of our Christian friends as "out to lunch".
This week all over our area we now have these cheap crosses made of corrugated plastic dotting every major road and intersection. On the front are the dates 1607 and 2007. Also on them it says "Reclaiming America for God". I have some problems.
1. They're ugly.
2. They remind me of crosses set up for where people have died in car accidents.
3. The dates look like dates on a tombstone. (Did America die this year?)
4. My well meaning Christian friends need a history lesson.
[To skip history, scroll down to the next header in red]
The lesson I wish my cross-planting Christian friends would consider.
While certainly most of the people who came over from Europe came with a faith, most did not come with the intention of establishing "freedom of religion" for God's glory. Those who came with a faith for the most part were still loyalists to the Church of England. The state-run church. There were those who came seeking a separatist position (protestant view) but to think that America was founded on some sort of unifying faith in Christ is crazy. It was settled by various groups who held various views. It's not as if our forefathers were unified in some one Christian faith.
People came over in the early years for various reasons. The ones who came for religious reasons weren't interested in freedom of worship... they were wanting freedom for their style of worship at the exclusion to others. In essence many of them wanted a continuation of the state run church. Their difference was just to cater it to their liking. Cafeteria Christians existed even back then.
True "freedom of religion" as we think of it today didn't exist early on. This "heretical" attitude came because of a maverick named Roger Williams who was insane enough to hold a few truths and stand for them.
He was booted from the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1635 for his beliefs... below is a copy of the court's decision:
Whereas, Mr Roger Williams, one of the elders of the Church of Salem, hath broached and divulged divers new and dangerous opinions against the authority of magistrates and…yet maintaineth the same without retraction, it is therefore ordered, that the said Mr. Williams shall depart out of this jurisdiction within six weeks now ensuing…
Mr. Williams holds forth these four particulars;
1st. That we have not our land by patent from the King, but that the natives are the true owners of it, and that we ought to repent of such a receiving of it by patent.
[Basically that it's not right for us to slaughter the natives and steal their land. If we're Christians who want to witness to them we should buy their land at a fair price. He went on to prove this in how he established Rhode Island.]
2nd. That it is not lawful to call a wicked person to swear, to pray, as being actions of God's worship.
[The government shouldn't force actions which are left to the work of the Holy Spirit. As today, the thought was to get people to ACT Christian and they'll BE Christian. Roger Williams saw problems with this (as do I)]
3rd. That it is not lawful to hear any of the ministers of the parish assemblies in England.
Basically he was a seperatist. He believed the church here shouldn't answer the the Church in England. Up to this point there was 'congregationalism' where Puritans wanted to remain connected but different. Basically they felt they could purify the church from within whereas the Separatists believed the Church was completely screwed up and it wasn't going to turn around... so it's best to separate. One of the charges against Williams was that he didn't believe the Church in England had authority over the parishioners in America.
4th. That the civil magistrate's power extends only to the bodies and goods, and outward state of men…
Basically the local church has religious liberty and the state magistrates shouldn't be dealing out church discipline. Let the authority of the church be separate from the authority of the state. Church handles church discipline while the state handles state discipline.
If you've read this far, I'm proud of you.
[End of History Lesson]
Why do I spend my time on this post? Why do I get frustrated at the well meaning Christians? It's because I'm tired of ignorance in the Church. I'm tired of the cross denominational back biting and I'm tired of people thinking that days gone by were so much more pure and people back then were so much closer to Jesus. They weren't. They are as sinful as the early church and they are as sinful as people of today.
Christianity hasn't ever been 'easy' and it won't be in the future (Hebrews 11:36-38 anyone?) Were there some well meaning Christians who came over to sincerely spread the gospel? Sure. But were there some completely wacked out people who wanted to prostitute the church as a cover for spreading England's dominance? You betcha.
I don't get why Christians try to hold tightly to a slanted view of history. Are we afraid of telling people that many who came to the colonies weren't saints? Are we afraid that God will be tarnished if we tell people that in truth many settlers came over with an arrogant attitude and killed off the natives to steal their land instead of trying to buy it from them? That they believed their right to the land came not from respecting property of the natives but rather by the decree of a foreign king? Are we afraid to admit that people lived here before Christopher Columbus and you can't 'discover' something that is already inhabited?
I think of Paul on Mars Hill. He comes to Athens and says "You guys are religious. So am I. Let me tell you about the god you worship." Many American colonists came over seeing themselves as a second version of the children of Israel... who were given permission by God to take violently the land before them. Many viewed the natives as either potential converts or potential enemies. If they didn't convert quick, they would be killed. Now... don't get me wrong... there were many Christian martyrs who came in peace in those days. But lets be honest and tell the whole story. God is big enough to handle the truth. Even ugly truth as people who meant well but were operating short-sighted and in their own sinful desire.
I don't want to go around putting up crosses to spread a lie that America was founded on completely pure motives. The truth is that even in the puritan colonies people were forced by law to worship. I don't believe that a regulated and forced act of worship is God's idea of salvation. Salvation is by GRACE through FAITH, not by Might makes Right. I suppose for some Christians we'd like to go back to the "good old days" of colonial evangelism where you either go to church and do as the state says or you get kicked out of your land or even killed. Where's the faith in that? Is that an attitude I want to promote as the attitude I wish to "reclaim"?
I guess it's also easier to put out crosses on roads in the cover of darkness than it is to share the gospel face to face in the daylight. I guess it's easier to put out crosses and gloss over history than it is to say that America and Christian people have misread God's play-book over and over again. We may do well to present the facts as they happened and stop trying to make up a version that seems more like a fairytale. I believe we'll gain more respect from those whom we say we're trying to reach with the love of God.
Okay.. I'm done. I feel better.
Social Commentary: Don Imus
I've been holding back my thoughts on the Don Imus story most of the week. I do however believe I have a take that I have not heard much in the MSM or blog world. It's a take (I believe) that is balanced and objective. I do not share Don Imus' views on mostly anything but as you will read I believe he's being unfairly pigeon-holed in this case and I wish to add my voice to the national conversation. I must also warn you that this may be my longest post ever. Read at your own risk...
My take is this:
I grew up in Baltimore, most of my friends were black. The associate Pastor of my church is a black man. I dated cross-culturally and I continue to have friends in the black community as well as members of the church I pastor who are black. Our lead worship artist is black. When I got to LU I ran with a mixed group of friends and again I hung out with a lot of black friends. I even rapped (yes I'm white) with a Latino and some other black guys... guys I call friends. I grew up on welfare, I was a minority in most of the schools I attended... I could go on and on... point is... I'm coming at this from a prospective and an understanding of the culture that is as much entrenched as I could get apart from genetics.
First I completely agree that his comments were uncalled for and inappropriate for him to use on a radio station where he knows his audience is over 10 million listeners and mostly white. In my estimation he shouldn't have called out Rutgers at all... What he was doing (as he and nearly all societal commentators do) was giving his impressions (as a 67 year old white man who has been around for a long time) in sort of a compare/contrast mode. Remember... they were talking about two teams who are BOTH mostly African American.
He pointed out the differences between the two. His words were uncalled for and offensive and likely reside in a deep recess of his mind. This man is in his late-60's... MLK died in 1968 when Imus was 28... I'm certain there is some left-over bigotry in there instilled from his childhood but I don't see him as being anti-black... His professional career doesn't point in that direction and frankly I believe he's being thrown under the bus for a dumb and insensitive comment.
Look at the man...His politics lean very left and his guests range the spectrum... he openly supported Harold Ford Jr. (D-TN) for his failed Senate bid this time around OVER A WHITE GUY... he's not racist... Is he insensitive... old-school... non PC... loose with the tongue... yes... but racist? No.
What I see in this case is that Imus should have taken the opportunity to sincerely and fully apologize (as he appears to have been doing)... but then get off of his heels and speak to the social commentary he inadequately referenced during that conversation.
He tried to do this to a degree on Sharpton's show... but it was evident that Sharpton smelled blood.
If you saw the interview on YouTube.. Sharpton had like 40 people from the press... and a Huge picture of himself - with his arms spread open - against the wall from where the live camera was shot on Imus... He cut Imus off repeatedly and tried to intimidate him left and right... I think Imus should have been more articulate with the fact that he's coming from a perspective of the real world where people make assumptions and judgments about you based on how you present yourself... he was wrong to use the terms he used but if anything his comments weren't directed towards an entire race... they were directed toward what he described as a tattooed and angry group of women who didn't present themselves as the Tennessee players did. Rightly or wrongly, Imus saw the Tennessee team as a more professional looking group of young women. They have personalities like Candice Parker who light up a room with their smile and charm on TV interviews... Tennessee has a ton in their favor with regard to 'image' as they have a widely successful and loved head coach... a powerhouse team in the women's spotlight and more national exposure than nearly any team in the women's game... Rutgers doesn't... therefore their image was judged based on this game by this old man.... it doesn't mean he is a racist who needs to be banned.
Whether he is right or wrong in that commentary has less to do with the issue at hand than does the question of whether what he said was primarily racial. The argument that is raging right now is whether Imus is a racist who needs to be fired forever or did he say something about a group of 15 women that was uncalled for and over the line. Was he racist or was he stupid? My vote is for stupid. I do believe he should be punished... and he is... but the longer this goes on the more ridiculous it becomes. Imus has had a long history of caring for the black community and he has many friends in that community who know his heart. He was stupid but who hasn't been?
After taking time to sincerely address the situation and reach out to the Rutgers team and families (since it was a comment made about them and not a race of people...) What I believe Imus should have done was go right back at his critics (mainly Sharpton and Jackson) about their own personal public failings... I personally am over this pious attitude they display whenever someone else screws up... Sharpton became famous because he accused men of raping a young black woman... The evidence showed this was completely fabricated and unfounded... Sharpton never apologized for dragging these men through the mud... Jackson has a child out of wedlock whose mother he was paying off secretly for years out of his Rainbow Push coalition coffers... NEITHER of these men have Pastored a single sole... yet they both use the title "Reverend" everywhere they go.... AND CHURCHES LET THEM IN THE PULPIT to spit their self promotion and marketing.
At the end of the day Don Imus was wrong, ignorant and stupid but he has been sincere in his repentance and shown embarrassment by his own insensitivity. At the end of the day society is giving a pass to the people trying to destroy him and I believe society is not thinking about what actually was said and the context in which it was said... people have jumped onto a racist bandwagon without looking at the driver or at Don Imus' past leading up to this.
Sharpton Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tawana_Brawley
Jackson Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karin_Stanford
I have yet to use this blog for much of anything apart from church-related writing or insights about my family. I have another side that is very vibrant. I'm a student of culture, politics and government. For instance, this morning I picked up "Bowling Alone" by Robert D. Putnam and "The Theocons" by Damon Linker. I read much wider than the Christian circles and to a degree I've refrained from expressing that side of myself on this blog. I think I'm going to change that.
Hopefully it will not bother my readers but I hope the readers will take this as another dimension of this human being you know from my thoughts on church and family. As I come to some of these topics I will try to remind myself to include in the title a directional arrow of some sort so you know that a post like this may be coming. If you want to imagine that I don't have views on current events, government or politics, just ignore the post in your feed reader :)
Great Morning and some Resurrected Lives
Our service this morning was grand. We had a great return from the Egg Hunt last week as well as several families making their 2nd visit with us. God has been great to us.
Last Sunday one of our guests had a few tears rolling down her cheek as she exited the lobby. She spoke with some of our folks but I wasn't near by so someone came over to me and said "Pastor Tally... did you meet _____?" "I said yeah... she looked like she was having a great time." This person continued "Yeah... she's talking to someone in the lobby and she's crying because she couldn't believe she wasn't judged here." Apparently this woman came into the church as a result of our Easter Egg Hunt. She thought "I'll give them a shot." She brought her children and wore a shirt that exposed her tattoos and she kept her nose ring in. This woman was crying because, as I understand it, none of our people stared at her or made her feel anything but loved. She was ready to write us off but she couldn't. THAT ROCKS!
Then this morning I wrote here on the blog about how I wanted God to send someone to hear the Resurrection message today. I spoke of someone who really couldn't see Mercy through the tears of pain. Today I met another woman who's come off of the Egg Hunt. She came last week and this week brought her daughter and grandchildren. This woman is in her mid 50's. I noticed she had returned today so I talked with her and asked her about her story... how long she's been in the area, etc. She started out by telling me that she is disabled and hasn't worked since 1990. She explained some other issues and I said "For all you've been through I'm honored that you're out and with us today." She said "Yes, me too. I had two days this week where I was laid up on my back and couldn't move." We spoke some more and I excused myself. Wouldn't you know it... this woman gave her life to Jesus Christ today. The world looked bleak and she is downtrodden... but God spoke to her heart through Easter Eggs and a church foolish enough to love everyone.
The woman who cried last week in the lobby was back with us today. After service I noticed her speaking with our nursery workers. She was asking how she could plug in and help in the future. She wants to stay! She wants to make her spiritual home here with us.
Can I tell you how jacked up I am???
I pray God's best for you and your church this Easter. Thanks for your prayers and together may we all lift up the name of Jesus today and everyday.
Recently I was told of a woman who responded to the phrase "Happy Easter" with a dagger of a statement. She said "Easter is a day for bunnies and eggs. If you could see my adult child who sits at home with mental and physical ailments there is no way you can tell me there is a merciful God. Easter means nothing to me."
O' how I wish I could talk to that woman.
This morning I'm watching TV and a famous televangelist (yes they still exist) said "The reason you don't have healing is that you don't understand the laws that govern healing. The reason someone next to you is blessed and you aren't is your problem."
I can't believe it. I pray that woman doesn't turn on that program today.
As I head over to teach this morning and tell the resurrection story I pray that a woman like I speak of shows up. I pray our lay people love her and I pray the Word of God stirs in her heart. I'm asking God to reveal himself in the life of every man, woman boy and girl in our building today. I'm praying for Resurrected lives. The power of God is able.
Spending Good Friday in a Warehouse
Tonight I plan on spending my evening in a warehouse. Not just any random warehouse but the one converted to host Epic City Church. I know I've been pimpin' their church on this blog for a while... but I genuinely like it. Robb, their pastor and a friend, broke my heart by moving their service to Sunday mornings... some lame excuse about wanting to maximize their outreach or something.... so I'm going to have fewer opportunities to experience the Epic. Tonight I'm going to try and take in one such opportunity.
Epic has gotten some press this week for an art show they are putting on tonight. If you only knew what they've gone through you would feel as jacked as I am about this show tonight. This is a church on a mission to reach a segment of our society that often gets ignored by organized religion. They aren't just talking smack... they're doing it. So if you're one of the 1.6 million people who call Hampton Roads home... you can catch me tonight at the art show at Epic.
Story Link: Art show offers a renewal of community spirit in Norfolk's Ghent
Have any of you out there done a mass DVD duplication? By mass I mean about 500-1000. If you have I would love to hear from you.
Ideas, suggestions and company recommendations are all welcome.
Just for fun
This morning we had a great turnout from the hunt on yesterday. It looked like our guests enjoyed themselves and many of them commented to various people that they planned to be back. Keep praying for us as we prepare for next week!