Welcome to the Pastor’s Blog, because you’ve probably been thinking that sometimes Sundays are not enough. I use this blog to share photos of the family, post sermons, and provide devotional thoughts throughout the week.
Twice the New York Times has endorsed President Obama during his campaign for the presidency and has championed multiple planks of his agenda. However, this past week there was a seismic shift and parting of ways of sorts with the editorial board saying that the Obama administration had “lost all credibility.”
According to the New York Times, their frustrations have been mounting due to the increase of public scandals such as the IRS investigations regarding their tactics of intimidation, the multiple investigations about wiretapping the press and the misinformation concerning the events surrounding the terrorists attack in Benghazi. However, the latest smoking gun uncovered this week regarding the massive overreach in gathering data on ordinary Americans was seen as a flagrant assault on American civil liberties.
First, a report serviced exposing that the NSA (National Security Agency) had been collecting phone records from millions of Verizon subscribers. Then a Washington Post story wrote of a government program called PRISM was letting the NSA and the FBI tap into servers of 9 top internet firms, “extracting audio, video, photographs, email, documents and connection logs that enable analysts to track a person’s movements and contacts over time.”
What does this mean? Well, this process which has come to be known as data mining, has enormous implications. The government now has the capability and is using it to infringe upon American freedom, to invade our privacy, overstep their authority and intrude into the lives of average citizens.
Growing up it seemed to me that my Father was always traveling for his job. It would not be uncommon for my dad to be out of town. Now as a kid, I did not really calculate how often that happened, but it was often enough for it to seem pretty normal when I saw my dad heading back to the airport. What those days taught me was this, my mom was an extraordinary and competent woman.
In our home, my mom had to tend to 4 children with diverse and demanding needs. However, beyond all the baths, laundry, grocery getting, the bpj preparing and passed the wiping of noses, eyes and bottoms, my mom’s capabilities were awe inspiring. For example, she handled all the finances in our home. Back in the day when people had to pay bills by writing out paper checks by hand and not have access to online accounts, my mom managed all that. She was the one that dealt with the banks. She was the one that held service providers accountable. She was the one the taught us how to pinch a penny and how to stretch a dollar. She was the one the one that made everything function and work.
On top of that, she cut hair as a licensed beautician and even found time to establish her own business baking and decorating cakes. To this day (and I am not just saying it because she’s my mom), no one can bake a cake like my mom can.
My mom told me once, that she didn’t sweat; she glowed and glistened. Well, that’s just wasn’t true. My mom is not afraid of work and as a result she has always worked hard in life. So I have seen her wipe that sweat from her brow as she has slaved over bushels of beans she was stringing, the yards of mulch she was slinging or the rooms of the house she was cleaning.
Our home was a traditional American home, but it was biblical home. As defined in Scripture, my parents functioned as God had biblically ordered things; my dad was the head of our home. He led and guided our family. And that was exactly how my mom wanted it. She loved it when Dad was home! She loved his leadership because it was so evident that my dad loved his family. Later I would mature and learn that the Bible calls this “submission.”
As we all already know, on April 15th bombs exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. I heard the news through a flood of text messages, twitter feeds and Facebook updates. Each response seemed to be somber and offered in hushed tones of confusion and anxieties while echoing a prayer for the city of Boston.
No doubt, earlier that day, friends and families gathered from all over our nation to support their loved ones who would compete in one of our nation’s most distinguished contests and would participate in one of the most memorable events of their lives. This day was supposed to be the culmination of months if not years of preparation. This day was the day that they had been striving for in relentless pursuit. They had disciplined their bodies. The dedication had paid off. They had qualified for the big event. This perhaps was the crowning achievement of their lives.
I can imagine the euphoria in the air. The anticipation of personal achievement focused every mind and captivated every heart. They had sacrificed so much of their life for this moment. They had given up much in terms of time and resource to be able get to Boston to participate and as well as be in Boston to celebrate. Nothing else seemed to matter for nothing else was view.
As young as I can remember, there was this urge inside of me that wanted more from life. I had this desire that pushed me to want more. This unrelenting feeling was there when I was a kid fighting for more Christmas presents or a bigger piece of chocolate cake, but I remember it gaining momentum when I was a young teenage boy. It was this internal impulse that was seemingly always there telling me that I needed more out of life. So I remember struggling to get my hands on more things. I strived to enjoy more experiences. I found myself always seeking to be more accepted. I wanted to be more accomplished. I wanted that which I did not have yet, but what was most frustrating to me was that I was not even sure what that was. I just wanted something more.
Not knowing what I really wanted, was problematic. I can remember going to my parents seeking their support and guidance, but I found myself not knowing how even to articulate the overwhelming sense that I was not satisfied in life. I did not want to come off ungrateful for what my parents had provided me. They had worked hard and have given their children a home that most, frankly, have never known or will ever experience. Yet, I could not fully explain that which was going on inside of me for I did not fully understand what I was missing. I just knew though, I needed more.
If we were to slow down to consider it, the heart of man is a part of every conversation. The heart of man is a part of every relationship. Everything from our lives comes from our hearts. “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” The Bible makes it clear: We live, we parent, we lead, we relate, we romance, we confront, we react, we respond, we instruct, we manage, we love and we problem solve all from the heart. Every arena of life is impacted by the heart for everything passes through the heart; everything.
That means the heart is essential to our being. It is not just a vital organ that pumps blood to the rest of our body, it is the operational seat of every man and therefore essential to the whole of man.
Over the last several weeks during our morning worship gatherings, I have taken those in attendance on a journey to preserve and protect their heart from the enemies that assail them. Week one, we identified guilt as an enemy that overloads us with overwhelming pressure regarding things in life we have done wrong and have lived to regret. Guilt accuses us and makes us cry out, “I owe you.” Guilt is that burden that leaves us emotionally crippled and internally bound after realizing our shortcomings. We learned that the only way to overcome this enemy that attacks us is to confess. Again, it must be said, confession is not just coming clean and owning up to our mistake, confession is positioning our life to make the wrong right as exampled by the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Jesus is alive. That is why congregations gather. That is why we Christians sing. That is why believers give tithes and offerings. That is why preachers preach the good news. That is why the church authentically worships together; Jesus is alive and our public doings as followers of Christ is our worthy response to the gospel message that changed everything.
Think about it for a moment, if Jesus is who He said He was and if Jesus did what He came to do (which was to die on the cross for our sin while conquering death and the grave through His resurrection), then nothing else can compete for nothing else compares? Therefore, there is only one resolution for us to keep this year. Our life must be worthy of the gospel of Christ.
Therefore, we need to recognize our 1 hope. For this to be properly considered, let’s first expose that which is not our hope. Our hope does not rest in what we do or what we can achieve. In other words, our hope is not wrapped up in our worthy pursuits or accomplishments as people.
The Bible says that man’s best possible achievements are as filthy rags. (Isaiah 64:6) That means we cannot save ourselves by our own doings. In fact, there is nothing we can do to cause God to love us more. There is nothing our hands get do, our heads can think or our hearts can pursue that will cause God to love us anymore than He already does. Now don’t miss understand, there will be rewards for what we do for blessings are birthed out of faithfulness. For example, a husband that loves his wife as the Bible indicates will have a wonderful marriage. However, make no mistake, our faithful walk does not cause God to love us more. He loves us as much as possible for He gave us all that He could give; He gave His only begotten Son.
At the same time, that would also mean that there is nothing we can do to cause God to love us less. There is nothing that our hands could touch, that our heads could ever think or our hearts could pursue that would cause God to love us less. But once again do not miss understand, there will be harsh consequences for the mischief we cause for pain in life is birthed out of faithlessness. For example, if a father is abusing his son, there will be enormous repercussions based upon the horrific actions of the father. However, such dysfunction does not cause God to love less. God does not like when we sin for sin will hinder the relationship between God and man, but the fact is He loves us in spite of our sinfulness to the degree that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
This New Year represents a new milestone in our church’s history. The year 2013 identifies our forward progression as a church for it marks our 40th anniversary. Therefore, with great satisfaction we remember the experiences and achievements of the past for we hold them dear. We must reflect on the journey, recount the many blessings, renew old friendships and celebrate the greatness of our God.
The ability to remember is a wonderful gift that God has given us. For example, in a flash I can be a young man all over again. I was a mere teenage boy when I came to this church. I can remember the first time I attended a worship service here. The meeting was held in the gymnasium. The church had converted the gym into its sanctuary while our current sanctuary was being built. There was such anticipation that day, (my first day in attendance). I will never forget the memories along with those feelings I had during my early days here at Fairfield West.
In an instant my memory can take me back to relive life changing moments. I can remember graduating college, surrendering to the ministry, leading people to Christ, organizing events, participating in worship, interceding in prayer, walking in God’s truth to list only a few. Memory is a wonderful gift for we can fall in love again, get married all over again, and raise our children once again, accept Christ again, commit to mission again, give again. We can do all that through the memories that are fixed in our mind. Time cannot rob us of those experiences because of the blessing of memory.