Thursday, June 23, 2011

The New Barbarians

Jeremiah 10:23 - "Lord, I know that a man’s life is not his own; it is not for him to direct his steps."

1 Corinthians 16:13 - "Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; act like a man; be courageous; be strong."

I have wondered about all the bizarre incidents happening in restaurants, namely, vicious fights erupting between groups of people. Why is this happening? Why are groups of young people “flash mobbing” stores and people? Flash mobbing is when a group of people target a store or a person. They come in as a large group, intimidate, steal, threaten, and beat the store owner or people they have targeted. Then they melt quietly back into society.

The sociologists of our day (and politicians) site the usual excuses for these barbarians. Lack of a good education (we spend more money on education per pupil than ever before), lack of government job funding (also known as “make work” projects) and lack of equal opportunity are sighted as the causes. I disagree.

I feel the problem is the lack of fathers in our families; a lack of real men. Marriage rates have dropped significantly (people cannot make a commitment or keep one). The illegitimate birth rate has skyrocketed. It has been quoted to be 74% in the black community. In the white community, the illegitimate birth rate is lower, but the illegitimate birth rate is growing faster in the white community than any other group. The problem may be in the large cities for now but eventually it comes to the country.

I ask a question, “Christian men, what are we doing?” I have been in 35+ different churches over the last 11 years; I only find three with ongoing men’s programs. Most churches have had women program but now they are disappearing also. When I say programs, I should say Bible studies. Programs imply committee meetings, organization headaches, etc., Bible studies are faster, quicker and easier to do.

I have found that in Bible studies I have been involved in Western Minnesota that people lack commitment. We are too busy to find time for Bible studies and time to participate in our family’s lives. Yet we find time to make illegitimate babies, drink, raise hell, and not make serious commitment to our families and communities, much less a Bible study.

The Russian writer Dostoyevsky said, “When there is no God, then all things are permissible.” The truth being said, we are living in times when all things are permissible. Moral restraint is a thing of the past; now all is permissible. We have few, if any, men on fire for God; therefore, no fear or accountability to our God.

When God is no longer welcome in our churches, homes, or in our priorities, we all suffer. Our families suffer; our community and nation suffers. Oh, it is easy to point our finger at other people but what am I doing?

What should we as Christian men do? We need to stand up and live out our calling to be a man; be the man God called us to be—servant leaders, watchmen and defenders of the faith.

Let’s start with ourselves because on Judgment Day God will come and ask us “What have you done?"

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Praying without being afraid…

Genesis 3 records the fall of man, namely Adam and Eve eating bad apples. Yes, they were “bad apples” weren’t they?

The God of the Universe comes looking for them in the cool of the day. (Genesis 3:8“Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden.”) It implies the God of the Universe had an intimate, “walking side-by-side” relationship with man in the garden.

Adam and Eve disobeyed. They get into the fig-leaf bikini making business; they hid and God comes looking for them. They have disobeyed the Lord’s command. They are in deep trouble and God says “where are you?” They suffered consequences for their disobedience but it amazes me how gentle God was with them in spite of their sin.

Where are you? Many of us have prayer lives that are distant and erratic. I believe we don’t pray because of two reasons (there may be more). Number one, we are afraid of God; and Number two, we don’t think it makes any difference.

Genesis 3:21 says: “the Lord made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.”  They didn’t ask for clothes; God saw there need and supplied it without their asking. What a God!

How many times has God provided for us—clothes, food, water, life and breathe without our asking or appreciation? How many times have we come safely to the end of a day and we didn’t find time to thank Him and we sleep safely through the night without a thought. Where are you?

Yes, we may be afraid of God but He provides for us even when we are ungrateful and inattentive brats. When we approach God, we need to come in awe-some reverence but not crawling in the dirt with fear. Since the beginning of time, God has desired relationship (personal and close) with us.  Where are you?

God thought so much of restoring that relationship that God provided the way for us to come completely, totally back to Him. That way was and is His Son Jesus.

Because of Jesus Christ, His death, sacrifice, suffering, and His resurrection victory over sin and death, we can come before God the Father without crawling in the dirt.

Don’t be afraid. Pray because prayer is the process of how we develop a close personal relationship with the God of the Universe. Don’t be afraid of Him. He forgives our sin and forgets it…; He provides for us even when we don’t ask and yes, He answers our prayers. He fulfills His promise of Hebrews 11:6“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”

Oh, we are the blessed sons and daughters of the One and only God, the Most High. What a blessing and privilege.

Thank you, Father; thank you, Jesus…come Holy Spirit.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Skulls of Stone

In the height of the good times, a young couple bought a house for $265,000. The good times rolled on and the house rose in value to over one-half a million dollars. Then…the bottom fell out.

The real estate market bottomed out; the house value crashed down to $200,000 and they were or are “underwater” on the house. Underwater means you owe more on your house than it is worth. As the economy struggles, and continues to struggle, their business was generating less and less money.

People encouraged them not to make their $2100 a month house payment; the logic being if you stop making the payments, pocket that money yourself, in two years you would have $48,000 in your pocket to put down as a down payment on a new house. You see, the banks and government are so far behind in processing paperwork that if one is foreclosed upon, it will take almost two years to get evicted from your “underwater” house. It’s like a “in tough times, you can have your cake and eat it too” syndrome.

But, this couple could not do this. They felt they made a deal and no matter how hard it was to continue to pay the mortgage, they did. God some way made sure they had enough money each month to make the payment. In good conscience, they made all the payments; much to the chagrin and ridicule of co-workers, family, and friends…

Then one day a letter arrived from the bank; the envelope was marked “Important”. Reluctantly, the wife opened the letter which said “Interest Rate Adjustment”. Her heart sank; upon closer examination, the interest rate dropped from the high 6% range to the high 2% range. Yes, the interest rate dropped and as a result, the monthly house payment dropped by one half.

How did this happen? Because they have a business (self-employed), they did not qualify for a traditional loan. They had a loan with the capability to have the rate adjusted (usually up). Their variable interest rate was tied to an index of T-bill rates which are some of the lowest in history that is why their interest rate and payment dropped.

I asked the wife, “What did you do when you read the letter?” She said, “I cried—God is so good.” She told me she should have known better than to be so surprised; God has and continues to move in their lives. God blesses obedience; He has in this case. We live by grace, God’s undeserved merit. We all know that but why are we such slow learners? I guess we have skulls of stone.

Thank you, Lord, again.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Living Like Scarecrows in the Melon Patch

Jeremiah 10:5: “Like a scarecrow in a melon patch, their idols cannot speak; they must be carried because they cannot walk. Do not fear them; they can do no harm nor can they do any good."

When I was young, we built a scarecrow for the garden. It didn’t work; about two hours after we built it, we noticed a crow sitting on the scarecrow’s head. Upon closer examination, the crow pooped on the head of the scarecrow. I’m sure he did it with disdain.

I believe we as Christians have become scarecrows in the melon patch in many ways. If we attempt to talk about spiritual things with other Christians in a public setting, more often than not, people prefer not to be bothered by such talk. Yes, we stand stoically while the world poops on our heads.

Has our faith become so totally personal that it is not socially acceptable to discuss it under any circumstances, much less live it out? When someone dies, we seldom comfort; we send cards. When a child graduates, rather than advice we send money. When couples intend to divorce, we hold back and uncomfortably say nothing because it is not our business. Yes, we’ve become scarecrows in the melon patch and yes, the crows to poop on our head.

Does the world take us seriously? I think not. Jeremiah said in Jeremiah 10:5: “Do not fear them; they can do no harm nor can they do any good.” “Do no harm”?— we cannot even sin with gusto.

With the Lord’s help, we must wake up from our slumber. Honor and lift up the Lord with our life. Yes, not just words but action.

Jeremiah 10:6-7 says: “No one is like you, LORD; you are great, and your name is mighty in power. Who should not fear you, King of the nations? This is your due. Among all the wise leaders of the nations and in all their kingdoms, there is no one like you.”

Yes Lord, there is no one like you. You have been kind and gracious to us in spite of our spiritual indifference. Be patient with your stoic and wandering sons and daughters.