Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Passionate or Passive

My mother often has some wonderful ideas. However, just like me, some of those ideas that she and I think are wonderful, seem strange to others. One idea, that she came up with years ago, was a solution to the problem of homelessness. While we had a snow delay at an airport out west, she made the comment that you could live indefinitely in an airport. Homeless people could have a roof, a safe place to sleep, and just as much charity from people as they would on the streets.

We began to think of all the reasons that it wouldn’t work. We couldn’t come up with any back then. However, we decided after 9/11 that it is a near impossibility in today’s world.

This week I saw a headline that really captured my attention. It read, “Japanese man makes Mexico City airport home.” I had to read the story. Here are some excerpts from the AP News story.

For reasons he can't explain, the Japanese man has been in Terminal 1 of the Benito Juarez International Airport since Sept. 2, surviving off donations from fast-food restaurants and passengers and sleeping in a chair.
At first, he frightened passengers, and airport authorities asked the Japanese Embassy to investigate why the foul-smelling man refused to leave. Now, he's somewhat of a celebrity, capturing Mexico's collective imagination with nearly daily television news reports on his life at the food court.
"I don't understand why I'm here," he said through a visiting interpreter originally hired by a television station. "I don't have a reason."
The embassy can't force him to leave, and since his visa is valid, all Mexican officials can do is wait for it to expire in early March.

I guess mom was right after all. (Don’t they usually always turn out to be right?) This man says he really has no idea why he is still there. He is simply enjoying the celebrity status.

When I was a banker, I had one employee who was possibly one of the most intelligent young men I managed. He was very bright, but very lazy. He did only what I asked him to do. He was smart, but had no initiative. His passions were not in his banking career, but in a career singing and playing his original songs on his guitar.

While I have no personal problem with someone having dreams of a career in music, he was doing no good at the bank. I eventually had to ask him to resign because of poor job performance. His passions and interests were elsewhere. He was like this Japanese man in the airport. He had no idea why he was with the bank.

Many of us feel the same way about church. We are just there. We first came for a reason that we have long forgotten. Our presence is observed, but there is not much life, only activity. We do only enough to get by, but no more. We are smart and can do the work that needs to be done, but many Christians are phenomenal underachievers.
Jesus did not suffer on a hill so you could be a slacker. He did not experience death so you could expect life on earth to give you handouts. He did not defeat the grave and rise again on that glorious morning so you could “go through the motions” of a passionless existence. Jesus said, “I have come that they (you) may have life, and that they (you) may have it more abundantly.” There is more to life in Christ than most of us ever experience. Won’t you pray and ask our Father to show you how you can serve Him better and with passion? He will be faithful if you will hear His voice.

Write this to Sardis, to the Angel of the church. The One holding the Seven Spirits of God in one hand, a firm grip on the Seven Stars with the other, speaks: "I see right through your work. You have a reputation for vigor and zest, but you're dead, stone-dead. "Up on your feet! Take a deep breath! Maybe there's life in you yet. But I wouldn't know it by looking at your busywork; nothing of God's work has been completed. Your condition is desperate. Think of the gift you once had in your hands, the Message you heard with your ears—grasp it again and turn back to God. (Revelation 3:1-3 The Message)

Thursday, November 20, 2008


Many of you have asked me if the information is true that is circulating on the internet about Pepsico donating $500,000 to PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians And Gays). Well, I am sorry to inform youthat it is. I did a bit of research and found a great deal of information on their own website about such things. (follow this link and click on the 4th line down. http://www.pepsico.com/PEP_Diversity/diversityNews/index.cfm#Goldman)
If you would like more information about this transaction and what you can do to make your voice heard, follow this link. http://www.afa.net/Petitions/Issuedetail.asp?id=333

Negative Equity

A husband came home from work after a very long and terrible day. Everything had gone wrong. He said to his wife, “I’ve had nothing but bad news at the office today. If there is one thing I don’t want, it is more bad news.”

His wife gently replied, “In that case, you’ll be glad to know that three out of four of your children did not break their arms today.”

There are people who can see the positive side of things right away, and make others feel good about whatever the circumstances are. Conversely, there are others who cannot find a bright spot in any situation. These people tend to spill out negative comments, give off negative body language, and try to rally others to see the bad in things, situations, or other people.

My family of four went to see Clemson University play Duke last Saturday. It was homecoming weekend, and we had a great time walking around the campus and looking at the homecoming floats before the game. My kids (ages 7 and 4) were very excited to go to their first Clemson game this year.

We found our seats, got settled in, and my wife went to get the kids some hot dogs. They were just finishing the food when we stood for the National Anthem, the Clemson Alma Mater, and cheered as the tigers ran down the hill to take the field. The kids loved it when the balloons were released, and the band played Tiger Rag.

It was only after the game started that I noticed the man directly behind us. He was there with his family. He was very loud and extremely obnoxious. He was wearing a Clemson shirt, but was criticizing everything they did. When Clemson made a bad play or even just an unsuccessful 2nd down pass, he was yelling bad things about the quarterback, and the team.

The interesting thing about this man, was that even when Clemson scored or made some spectacular run or catch, his only comment was, “Well it’s about time!” There was no way for the team to please this person. When they performed badly, he screamed at them, and when they performed well, he screamed.

To make matters worse, I noticed that after a while his wife and kids were doing it as well. I also realized that they were all drinking canned sodas, which they do not sell at the concession stand. There is a rule against bringing in food or drink from outside the stadium. Not only was he teaching his family to be negative, but he was also teaching them that it’s ok to break the rules that you don’t agree with.

God has given us so much to be cheerful about. When we spend our time and energy tearing others down, it may make us feel good about ourselves, but it gives others a very dim view of us. Nobody wants to be around people who are negative and criticize others. Why then, does this seem to be a regular occurrence in most churches?

The wisdom of old says, “If you can’t say something nice about somebody, then don’t say anything at all.” How true those words are. Are you really living out the love of Christ when your language and attitude are filled with negativism? Make it a matter of prayer and ask God to help you see how your words and deeds affect others and their view of you and your Christian walk. Then follow God as He leads you to eliminate such negativity from your life. You, and all who are around you, will be much happier.

Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift. Don't grieve God. Don't break His heart. His Holy Spirit, moving and breathing in you, is the most intimate part of your life, making you fit for Himself. Don't take such a gift for granted. Make a clean break with all cutting, backbiting, profane talk. Be gentle with one another, sensitive. Forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4:29-32 The Message)

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Fruit Loops

If you are like me, I’m sure there are passages of scripture in the Bible that you don’t quite understand. After spending years studying the Bible from cover to cover, both on my own and in formal training, I still wrestle with certain things the Bible says. I’m not talking about books of the Bible like Revelation, or the last part of Daniel that seem to confuse most people. I’m talking about the straight-forward scriptures that seem to make no sense.

A good example of this for me is found in Matthew 21.
Now in the morning, as [Jesus] returned to the city, He was hungry. And seeing a fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it but leaves, and said to it, “Let no fruit grow on you ever again.” Immediately the fig tree withered away. (Matthew 21:18-19)

This passage always seemed a little odd to me. The way it reads seems to indicate that Jesus was ready for some breakfast, but the fig tree did not have anything for Him to eat. Therefore, He just destroyed it. Upon a first reading, it seems as though Jesus was not a morning person and used His divinity to exact revenge on a poor tree. Who hasn’t wanted to be able to do this to someone or something that made us angry? (I had a similar incident at Hardee’s in Greenwood this week, but I didn’t burn the building down.)

What is really going on in this passage? Jesus was human, so He experienced hunger. If you read what happened before this passage, you’ll find that the day before He had been busy. He rode into Jerusalem to shouts of Hosanna, and He ran the moneychangers out of the temple. In other words, He worked up an appetite. By morning, He was ready for something to eat.

Also, this was right at the time of Passover. It was spring. The fig tree, if it was healthy, should have had its spring fruit ready for harvesting. When Jesus saw that it did not, He cursed it. Why? Not because He was angry with the tree, but to teach the Disciples who were around Him a lesson. Jesus never missed an opportunity to teach.

Did you know that you are like the fig tree? If you are a child of God, then you, like the fig tree, are supposed to bear fruit. What kind? Galatians 5:22-23 instructs us that the fruit of the spirit is, love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

It was a reasonable expectation that Jesus should find fruit on a fig tree in the spring. It is equally reasonable to expect us to show the fruit listed above if we are truly following Him. We are not to be His in word only, but also in actions. We must love as Jesus loves. We must have the joy and peace that come from submitting to the Father’s will. We must be patient, gentle, kind and good to all as Jesus exemplified in His life. We must be faithful to who we are in Christ. We also must control our evil desires and resist temptations that come our way, as Christ has taught us.

If we are a tree that has the most beautiful leaves, but have no fruit, then we are nothing more than a house decoration with no function or purpose. Jesus cursed and withered the tree, because it was simply taking up good soil to do nothing but look good.

Is that what we are doing in our churches? Are we simply taking up space, but never even showing signs of any real functional fruit? Are we rooted in a shallow relationship with Christ that will never yield a harvest?

There is a world that is hungry for Christ. When they come to you will you be found with fruit or will they have to look elsewhere?

Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them. (Matthew 7:15-20 NKJV)