Monday, June 10, 2013

13 Minimum

I've been thinking about this post for a long time now, trying to decide just what I wanted to convey and how I wanted to express myself. I frequently have thought that I don't want to step on any toes, and I want to with wisdom encourage those who are reading. But the more I think through this, I stop worrying so much about your toes. And though I want to encourage, I also want to admonish.

To do this, I am going to use what I'm familiar with. I can only share with you my own personal compassion, convictions, and experiences. And even though I've been thinking about this for some time, this post arose from a desire to vent and therefore I make no promises regarding its coherence and brevity! *Fair Warning*

My topic today is simple....

13 years.

Why, you might ask, did the concept of 13 years frustrate me enough to want to verbally vent in the form of a blog post? Because one year ago I returned from Uganda having made a very important commitment to a 5 year old. And when I do the math, this commitment will last (yes, you guessed it) 13 years!

You see, in Uganda the school calender is year round beginning in January with three terms that conclude in November/early December. Children begin school in what they call baby class, then they complete middle and top class before attending primary 1-7. Next there is secondary 1-4 (much like our high school). Then students who wish to attend University must complete what is called A-level which is two years. So if you do the math, that is up to 16 years of school and that's excluding college. (To those school aged readers: Makes our 12 year system look a whole lot better, right?)

All of this to say, that at 22 years of age, I made a commitment to a five year old to guarantee her ability to complete 13 more years of school. Thirteen years from the time I made that commitment I will be 35 years old. Kind of puts things into perspective doesn't it?

In our society, we are so very quick to give. This is evidenced by the immense outpourings after natural disasters. I heard recently that an entirely separate fund had to be created on behalf of the Boston Marathon Bombing victims because so much money was coming in from kindhearted people all over the nation. This, however, does not tell the whole story. In a few weeks, the fund will not be news worthy, this post will be forgotten, and those one-time donations will be just that, one-time. For true lasting impact, we need to grasp how important committed, long-term giving is to the projects we love.

My hope is that you'll find ways to be loyal supporters of the causes that touch your heart most. Sacrifice should be difficult. If it wasn't, it wouldn't be sacrificial. If your giving doesn't hurt, give more. I don't think you'll ever look back on your life and think "I wish I'd given less..."

Sunday, March 3, 2013

One of Those

In the American Christian vernacular Satan isn't a figure we spend too much time talking about. Actually, talking about Hell is kind of taboo in our culture despite our deeply rooted Christian heritage. According to the most recent polling I could find from 2009, USA Today says that only 59% of Americans believe in Hell compared to the 74% who believe in Heaven.

These statistics are baffling. From what I've read, Hell is clearly distinguished in the Bible as a real thing, and Satan appears more than once. (Refer to the book of Job in the old testament and Matthew 4 in the New) Though I don't know the statistics, I would assume that even fewer people believe in demons. Again, demons and evil spirits are frequently mentioned in the bible.

So why do I bring this up? Why talk about something American Christians are clearly uncomfortable with. Well, because I think it's relevant. I think that sometimes it's necessary to confront the things that make us uncomfortable in order to grow. That said, this blog isn't to try to convince people that Satan, Hell, and demons exist. Actually, I want to encourage you with something that is pushing me to live a life in Christ. And by living a life in Christ, I'm referring to knowing him intimately as my friend and Savior.

The heading in my bible over one of my favorite stories in Acts is "The Sons of Sceva." In case you're not familiar with this passage it begins by describing that God was doing some extraordinary things through Paul in his ministry. Things like healing the sick and casting out evil spirits. Then it says,

"Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists undertook to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, 'I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims.' Seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva were doing this." -Acts 19:13-14

I'll pause there. I want to point out that I could write multiple blogs on the power of the name of Jesus. So powerful, that even Jews who didn't believe in His authority, saw what speaking the name of Jesus could do. But this is a topic for another time. I'll continue,

"But the evil spirit answered them, 'Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?'" -Acts 19:15

Let's break that down. Part 1: "Jesus I know." All throughout the Gospels, it is the demons who have no problem recognizing who the Son of God is. This part is pretty self-explanatory. The demons know Jesus, and don't you forget, they tremble at the mention of his name. Part 2: "Paul I recognize." Think that through for just a second. They (demons) know Paul's name. They recognize him. They know that when he speaks the name of Jesus, he comes with the authority found in Christ. Paul was someone who the demons knew by name.

Part 3: "but who are you?" It's a good question. Are you someone that the demons know by name? Another way to put that, are you living your life in such a way that your relationship with Christ is evident to everyone including the enemy?

In Matthew 7:21-23, Christ gives a chilling warning that I think we would do well to heed.

"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophecy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.'"

The sons of Sceva had it half right. The name of Jesus is powerful. But they lacked the most important part.

1) I want to be one of those people who Satan and the demons know by name.
2) More importantly, I want to be one of those people who lives in an intimate relationship with Christ.

My question to you, "but who are you?"

Monday, January 14, 2013

Remember Your Creator

The words of Eccelsiastes 12 have recently made a rather lasting impression on me. They begin with instruction, and continue into an inevitable and grim picture of our last moments. I've had the wonderful privilege of working with the youth at my church on Sundays for the past few months and I'd wager that may be the reason this passage jumped out at me.

Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, "I have no pleasure in them"... (Eccl 12:1)

This is my heart for our youth,
this is my heart for our young adults,
this is my heart...

It reminds me of a passage in Psalms that Lord recently introduced me to. It's funny how He does that sometimes. In this particular instance I think He was calling me out on my commitment to Him. You see I'm not of the opinion that the God of the universe desires for his creation to show up and fill a pew on Sundays, attend one, maybe two bible studies throughout the week, and consider that preparation enough for an address on the streets of gold. Take David for instance, the psalmist wrote,

"when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night;" (Psalm 63:6)

I don't know about you, but the image I see here is of a lover thinking of his love as he begins to drift off to sleep. And I'd bet that love is the first thing on his mind when he wakes. Kind of puts some perspective on that simple "now I lay me down to sleep" prayer doesn't it?

My point:

What if we learned in our youth, the importance of knowing, really knowing, our Creator "before the silver cord is snapped, ...and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it"? (Eccl 12:6-7) What if we obeyed the command of Ecclesiastes 12:13, "fear God and obey his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man"?

What do you think this should look like in your life? Do you know your Creator in the intimate way David spoke of in his Psalm?