Today begins another week of summer camp that we promote and invest in kids going to. This week it is the Middle School and High School going to Tri-State Camp in Missouri. If you have been around our church for any amount of time you know we are crazy about camps. We invest about $2,000 a year into camps from our budget. I have the privilege of being the Camp Director for our 8-13 year olds for the past 17 years!! We have 5 Board Members from Junior Camp who are members of our church and 2 Board members on the Tri-State Board. We invest both monetarily and time wise into camps.
So you may be wondering why? Why so much time, energy, effort, and money for summer camp? Why is it a big deal every year?
Two words: impact and influence.
As a pastor I am always looking for ways to have the maximum impact and influence into the lives of our students. We have them only a few hours every week and that is if they come both Wednesday Night and Sunday Morning. That is not a lot of time to have impact and influence. Now, we use that time effectively but it still doesn't leave a lot of time.
Summer Camp is different. Students can unplug and leave the environment of home behind. We get them for many hours not just a few. And we have a chance to impact and influence them. And that influence and impact can change a life.
Just this past year I received a call from a camper who remembered a conversation at camp over 10 years ago. That conversations opened a door and it was remembered 10 years later!! When is the last time you have seen impact and influence like that.
So Thank you!! Thank you to those of you who give every Sunday. You make camp possible. We couldn't do it without you. Thank you to those who go and serve. You give up a week of vacation when you could be sitting on a beach somewhere you are at camp serving. May God give you great blessing for your service. Thank you to those who serve on Board and help plan camp every year. You commit a lot of time to make camp work.
Please pray for those at camp this week. Impact and Influence is at its maximum level this week. May God do great things in the life of the campers and staff
1 Corinthians 15:53-57
This is the passage of Scripture which flood my mind on this morning after. The reality of loss sinking in. Death is a topic we would all would like to skip. But when the reality hits your family the subject becomes unavoidable. It is in those moments you know what your really believe and what your foundation is built on.
Jesus told a story of two men building a house. One built on a rock and the other on sand. BOTH men faced the storm. The rains came and with the downpours came floods. However, the foundation became the difference. The house on the sand crashes and breaks and is destroyed. However, the house on the rock stands. It is not destroyed but survives. The rains hit it hard and flood waters pushed against it, but it remained!!
The scriptures you read above supply some of the foundation to which our family has built upon. A foundation that includes truths like: Humans are eternal because we were made in the image and likeness of God. This means everyone lives forever somewhere. Humans were supposed to live here forever but sin forever changed that. With sin came death both spiritual and physical. God did not leave us alone to figure out our sin. He sent His one and only son to come and walk in this broken, fallen world. He died the death we deserved and Rose Again for our salvation conquering sin, death, hell and the grave!! Putting your trust in Jesus brings assurance that your sins are forgiven and eternal life has started. When you breath your last here eternal life continues in the presence of Jesus: 'to be absent from the body and at home with the Lord'. All these truths have formed a foundation in our family
Irene's sickness caught all of us by surprise. We had no idea and neither did she how sick she really was. But to be told you are facing death is a hard thing to hear. However, she knew her Savior. She trusted in Him. Jesus rose from the dead!!! Death was not something she feared.
I am sure she saw it in her mom who 17 years ago she stood at her bed and watched her breath her last. She saw someone who trusted Jesus and death was not to be feared.
Foundations are everything. And when the storms come you find out very quickly what you have built on. Today is not an easy day. Sorrow and grieving is not taken away but it is understood as offering a farewell to someone knowing you will see them again.
Perhaps you have seen this picture. It has appeared on Facebook postings all the way to the Nightly News cast. A Private moment before a wedding made public and making an impact.
While there are many lessons we can learn from this simple story I would like you to think about one perhaps you missed. The private matters. I have no doubt the ceremony was planned to be recorded and photographed in many ways. Pictures would be posted on Facebook and Photographs hung on the wall in their home. But a PRIVATE moment is the one which was photographed that will never be forgotten. A quiet moment before the ceremony to pray together. And it is this private moment which is making news for all the RIGHT reasons.
Too often we think the public matters and it does, but few get into trouble in the public. Where trouble happens is in the private. The part no on else sees. And here is a private moment which might do more for the cause of Christ then many public moments.
Because the private was in order this couple has a powerful platform to talk about the public. They can talk about their marriage and why prayer was so important. They can speak out marriage and the military. They can speak on many different issues. Why? Because the private was in order.
Make no mistake the Private Matters. So what does your private life say about you??
Our culture is a culture where dishonor is glorified. The rebel is in and obedience and respect to ones parents is definitely out of step with the norm. Most kids movie shows the family dog having more of a role than the parents. The Kids run the show and the parents, teachers, and principals are complete and utter morons. And with all this influence we wonder why disobedience and rebellion are running wild in our homes, schools and churches.
As a pastor it is hard to watch this generation destroy itself through rebellion. There parents are waving a stop sign and pleading with them not to make certain decision and go down certain roads and to no avail. With there smug "know it all" attitude they go out and begin destroying their life. And then at some point come crawling back to the same parents asking for help. It is getting old.
There is a reason God tells us to "Honor our Father and Mothers". God longed for His children to be set free to live free. But God knew the wisdom of the parents would be set aside and lead them to more and more slavery. The Israelite's had this pattern. They would disobey and beg God to rescue them. They refused to listen to the generation before them and it lead to destruction. The entire kingdom was divided after King Solomon because his son refused to listen to wisdom.
Freedom comes from honoring. Dishonor your parents and you do it to your own peril. Perhaps we need a close examination of how we are treating our parents and see if we are on the road to destruction?
Paul writes the following to the church at Thessaloniki. "13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep." 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14
Watch "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" and you will see what it looks like to grieve with no hope. This is a movie which came out a few years ago starring Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock. Or perhaps watch the episode of Glee where Cory Monteith (Finn) dies and you will see what grief with no hope is like. However, for the person who trusts Christ grief has hope. Why? The Grave is Empty. We don't have to go around and grieve with no hope. To trust Christ is to find life, true life both now and in death. Death was defeated that first Easter. The Resurrection changed everything!!!
So what does this look like? Perhaps you have lost a child, a parent, a grandparent and you are filled with grief. You know they had a relationship with Jesus but the shock and pain of death has been too much. Sometimes we need to see a story in order to help us with our story. If you click on this link it will take you to a video. Zac Smith was a Staff member at New Spring Church in South Carolina. He battled cancer and lost. He leaves behind a wife and 3 kids. This a 20 minute video but I hope it will help you to see a follower of Jesus grieve with hope. http://newspring.cc/blog/stories/the-smiths
May God help us as we understand eternity and grieve as people who have hope because Christ is Risen!!
Last summer I attended a conference in which an interview was conducted with Mark Burnett. If you have ever watched Survivor or The Apprentice you see his name at the end of the show as the Producer. He talked about the struggle of getting a network to show "The Bible" miniseries. He also told us that when something becomes popular Hollywood jumps on board. Think about it. How many zombie and vampire movies have there been in the past few years. Enough said.
So here we are in a time when the Bible or Biblical themed movies are becoming increasingly more present. In fact there will be 5 faith based movies released in a 4 month span starting with Son of God and ending with Mom's Night Out. But we must understand that not all movies are created equal. We need to be wise in the way we approach each film and we must be able to think critically about each one.
This past weekend my family decided to pass on Noah in favor of God's Not Dead and I will explain why. I read many reviews about Noah and read some very disturbing things which have since been confirmed by more people I know who have seen the movie. On the other hand everyone I know who has seen God's Not Dead has raved about it. So what is the real difference between these 2 movies? Truth. While it is true there is little written about Noah at least be truthful to what is written. From the Rock People to Tubal Cain hiding on the Ark they got much wrong. I have had people tell me I don't know what I am talking about and I can't expect Hollywood to get a Bible Story right. Is that where we are right now. We want so badly to be on the big screen we don't care how the story is butchered to get us there? We should not be surprised. An proclaimed Atheist did this movie so we can't expect someone who doesn't even believe in God to tell God's story. God's Not Dead on the other hand reflected biblical truth and told a good story in the midst of that reflection. So we are going to have to pick and choose and do so wisely.
You will have other chances to choose this spring. Heaven is for Real is getting a lot of buzz and I imagine a large opening weekend. We have to think through critically the story being told to see if it is accurate and true to Scripture. Yes there are places to take artistic creativity and freedom, but not when it changes the heart of the story.
So may we be careful in our desire to make the big screen to not compromise the heart of the story. May we ask questions and think critically rather than acting like mind numb robots going to a movie because a Bible character is in it. And May we recognize we don't need to improve God's story we simply need to tell it to a world in darkness.
I normally don't comment about TV shows but I think it necessary to comment on culture and what I watched last night. My wife and I sat down and watched a show we have seen for the past several years called "Little People Big World". TLC announced just a couple of weeks ago there were marital issues which lead to a separation and I am certain it boost ratings last night. I was so frustrated I needed to promise to not speak till the end of the show. So let me tell you why I was so frustrated and why this was another blow to Marriage.
1) We are working on the marriage but doing nothing
I couldn't count how many times Matt and Amy Roloff talked about working out and trying to find a plan but they were doing nothing. For 6 weeks they lived in separate houses. From all indications neither one of them has spoken to a pastor, or counselor about what is going on. They have done Nothing and yet both claim to be working on it. If your marriage is in trouble ask for help, fight for your spouse not against her, but don't claim you are working when you are doing nothing
2) This was not a surprise
For the past several years it was clear there were issues. They seemed to be staying together for the kids and had what I will call the typical American child centered marriage. The only reason the marriage exists is for the children. The children run everything and life centers and circles them. When they leave there is nothing left. On top of that you had 2 individuals going their own way. This is not the biblical picture of the 2 becoming 1 flesh. The 2 stayed 2 and never merged. I also wonder how many people tried to point things out and help them and all the while they ignored the advice. Many saw this coming and if Matt and Amy didn't then they refused to listen to people.
3) They had a Wedding but did little work on the Marriage.
This became clear when the Roloff's went into the wedding business. They held big elaborate ceremonies on the farm with couples spending tens of thousands of dollars. This is another trap of many - too much investment in a ceremony and no investment in a marriage. The most important day of marriage is not the first day rather the last day. Are you faithful "till death do us part'"? We invest thousands on the first day but none into making it through a life.
Now after all the criticism we need to pray for Matt and Amy. As public as their story is a redemption would be a great story. And nothing is hopeless with Christ. A friend of mine said there are no bad marriages but there are difficult marriages. But with Christ what is broken can be restored and what a testimony that would be.
So if you are marriage - How is your marriage going? Are the 2 becoming 1? If you are in trouble - ask for help.
If you are considering marriage think about what you are planning for. Do you want a big ceremony or a marriage to last a lifetime?
We need a big restoration movement in marriage and with God's help it will be done.
I hope some of you were able to watch the debate between Ken Ham and Bill Nye at home last night. I am sorry we had to cancel the showing at the church but it was really not conditions in which to be out. I really enjoyed the debate and wanted to share some thoughts with you from my perspective.
1) No God
King David wrote nearly 3,000 years ago "the fool says in his heart there is no God". It was very evident last night Bill Nye does not believe in God. He was dismissive of creation itself and mocked the idea of the Bible being accurate after all these translations. But the case against God is normally a heart case and not a head case. Notice David said the fool says in his heart not his head there is no God. Why is that? Because the decision to deny God is an emotional decision not an intellectual one. At one point Bill Nye even said "I can't understand how a fish is a sinner". That was an emotional response. Bill Nye often called himself a reasonable man and everyone who believes in creation is not reasonable. But he is emotional and I think you will find something in his past which caused him to check out on God. This is why I often say the Starting Point of Faith is Who is Jesus. The starting point is not Creation or Evolution it is Jesus. Once you find that Jesus is the Christ who came and died in our place and rose again for our salvation who believe what he taught. Jesus taught creation. You have to operate from Jesus and go from there. I pray that will happen for Bill Nye
2) No Science
Bill Nye and many like him refer to creationist as not scientists. Bill Nye talked about how we need scientists because we need to innovate but you can't innovate if you believe in creationism. NON-SENSE. I would say we are not innovating right now any way. We have lost our way as a nation when it comes to science. Ken Ham tried to define observational and historical science. I appreciate him doing that to explain the difference. But did you notice Bill Nye's response to this was there is no difference. He even claimed creationist do not take Aspirin. I was told in Science class Science is what is observable, measurable and repeatable. The Big Bang was not observable. Creation is not observable other than we have the account of God. There is a difference between historical and observational science.
3) No Answer
The most troubling part of the evening was the No Answer to the big questions by Bill Nye. He doesn't know what caused the Big Bang. He doesn't know how matter can have consciousness or intelligence. Those are big questions which in Evolution go unanswered. It leads to no purpose. I liked when Ken Ham point out that Bill Nye wants the joy of discovery with a life that ends in nothing.
Those are just a few of my observations. I hope you will share yours. And mostly I hope it will open up a dialogue to people understanding where we came from.
I have been noticing a trend in the last couple of years and I was reminded of this again yesterday. Sometimes we get stuck as we get older with Christmas Gifts. Maybe it is with your adult children or even your spouse you might get stuck. Sometimes we get too traditional. We think we have to buy something we can wrap and place under the tree for Christmas Morning. But what if you thought outside the box and did something different this Christmas. Now, I am not the most creative person in the world so go beyond these suggestions and use your imagination.
1) Give a Gift in memory of a loved one
One of the hardest things at Christmas can be when a loved one is no longer here and they are so many specific traditions tied to that person. Christmas can be a difficult time of experiencing loss all over again. One of the things you can do is give a gift in memory of that person. Perhaps to their church or another place they volunteered at. It will help foster a more positive time instead of just reliving the pain of the loss.
2) Ask for the Gift of Being Together
For several years now people have told me they asked family members to come to church. This was their present. They want their family to know and experience the love of God and the true meaning of Christmas. However, many times invitations are given but they don't come. However, to make it a gift to come has worked quite often. They see the experience as a gift to the person they love. Makes a lot of pressure for the pastor but a great gift.
3) Start a new tradition as a family
Traditions all have a starting point. Why not start a new one this Christmas? It just might be the thing you continue to do for years and years. It also might help you reconnect to the story of Christmas in a fresh new way.
You are all far more creative than me. Use your creativity and lets stop doing things just to do things.
For the last few weeks we have been taking some time looking at familiar Christmas carols and the truths they remind us about Christmas. It is impossible to have enough time to cover all of them. This season is so rich in truth.
Let me give you a few thoughts covering songs we have not covered on Sunday Morning.
1) It came upon a midnight clear.
The phrase I hear over again is the "Angels Sing". That night the Angels sang. They had the privilege to announce the arrival of Christ to earth. A birth which deserved a heavenly proclamation. If angels sang at his birth he tell us there is something special here. Christ has come. God has come to the earth for a visit and the world will never be the same.
2) O Little Town of Bethlehem
Quite often God uses the most unlikely thing to do something great. When David became King God did just that. He took the youngest and the last and the least and made him King. And from that point God made an incredible promise to David. It would be David's line in which the Messiah came. So God used David's hometown. There were better cities and grander cities for Christ to be born. But God chose the lowest and the last and the smallest to make a point. What other town do you know is this small and yet the world knows it exists. God elevates the humble.
3) The Little Drummer Boy
Obviously there were no drummers in the stable that night, but the theme of the song is about giving what we have. The little boy had a drum so he played it for Jesus. He gave his best. He gave all he had. Do we do this? Do we give our best to Jesus? I am afraid many of us give what is leftover. Jesus deserves our best. Take what you have and give your best.
The point of this series is to get us to stop and think about the songs we sing at this time of year. They are filled with deep truth and meaning. Slow down. Let the words penetrate your heart and life.
Jesus Follower, Husband, Father, and Pastor and trying to keep those in the right order....