Archive for the ‘America’ Category

I was hungry and you formed committees.

I was thirsty and you preached sermons.

I was naked and you said, “That’ not in the budget.”

I was sick and you sang another chorus while internally debating traditional verse contemporary style of worship.

I was lonely and you rushed to the restaurant to get the best booth.

I was in prison an you held another congregational meeting.

I tell you the truth: whatever you did to the least of these, you did unto me.

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When we look at the world around us, we can see so much pain and suffering. It gets depressing just watching the news these days. We hear of another rape, another murder, another robbery. We see another terrorist act, another casualty in the war. We see suffering all around. Many of you can recall where you were the exact moment a tragedy such as the Oklahoma City bombing or 9/11 occurred. Bad news is all around us. Tragedy often seems to be around every corner. Human suffering invades our lives on a continual basis.

We live in unstable times. We can recall the things that once seemed so safe and how they now have been scarred. Recall the group of people shopping in a mall when someone opened fire and claimed innocent lives. The tragedy that took place at a college campus when an alienated student went on a shooting rampage. What about the people attending a worship service that is suddenly interrupted by gun fire  – it wasn’t in a communist country it was in the heartland of the United States. We live in a time of uncertainty. And the people cry out, “Where is God?” They say, “If God is such a loving God, then why did this happen? Why did He allow it? Why didn’t He stop it?” We live in uncertain times. Each day people face tragedy: loss of a loved one, unemployment, bankruptcy, victims of violence, homelessness, hunger, poverty, and the list could go on and on. And they cry out, “Where is God? Does He care? Does He even exist?”

I have faced some tragedies of my own and I have found myself asking the same questions at times. I think back to driving in the car on Christmas Eve from Oklahoma City to Muskogee after leaving my grandfather’s funeral. Christmas Eve was always such a special time in our family and yet this one carried with it the loss of a dearly loved man. I think back to those times when I felt so rejected by people. I think back to the kid who was one of the leaders in a gang who said he wanted to make a change. When he asked if I could meet with him the next day, I responded yes and as I went to the housing project where he lived and hugged the kids in the neighborhood who were my friends and talked with parents, uncles, and siblings I hear gun shots and there lies the gang member who said he wanted a better life…And I cried out, “Why?”Why didn’t I make a choice to take him home with me the night before to get him out of the neighborhood? Why did God let this happen?” Tragedy has a way of slapping us in the face and daring us to respond.

Bad news is all around us. Not much has changed over the last couple of millenia. Since the beginning of sin, people have questioned why. Since sin entered the world, bad news has been showing its ugly face. And it is in those moments of bad news that we need hope. It is in the midst of tragedy that we need peace. It is in the eye of the emotional storm that we feel helpless to control that we need to experience the calm, gentle breeze.

God looked at this world and saw the hurt and pain that seemed to have overtaken us as a people. He sent prophets to the people and he sent various messengers, yet God still seemed so distant. He still seemed so far away. God knew the perfect solution. While He would still use people, He would do something that would truly impact the world. He came into the world and walked and talked and lived among us.

Luke 2:8-11 states: And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.

This time of year is a reminder that God made a decision to come to this earth in the form of a baby named Jesus. He could not sit by and watch His people suffer, he responded by becoming flesh and blood and moving into the neighborhood. He went through the trials we go through, he suffered like we suffer – that is good news. And although tragedy still occurs, we know how to deal with it because He put on flesh and blood and taught us how to live. He understands what we go through. Have you experienced the death of a loved one, he understands. Have you ever been abandoned and betrayed by a friend, he understands. Have you ever put all your effort into helping someone only to have them reject you, he knows what that is like. That is good news for us. We have a God who understands pain. That is the Christmas story, that is God being proactive. He put on flesh and entered the world as flesh and blood so you and I could have a more peaceful life. This isn’t about nativity scenes, it’s about a God who gave himself as a gift.

Jesus life was spent serving others and bringing them hope, peace, and good news. One of my favorite sayings of Jesus is this: “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.” DO you need some rest? The world is full of bad news. Wouldn’t you like to take a rest. That tragedy has been heavy on your heart for so long – wouldn’t you like for him to carry it for you? That guilt and shame has taken your peace for too long now – wouldn’t you like to rest? God’s response to this suffering world is an invitation to rest. We live busy lives. We have appointments and deadlines. We have stress and burdens. We get tired and want to rest, but we say we must continue. We think we must keep carrying this weight, we must stay stressed. We feel that life is meant to be stressful, but Jesus offer rest.

When I look at the tragedies around me I wonder, “Where are you, God?” His response is that he is right here offering me some rest, but I look everywhere else. Don’t you think you have looked everywhere else long enough? Wouldn’t you like to rest in Jesus?

I have three questions for you to think about . Feel free to respond on this post or just to quietly answer these for yourself:

What personal hardship has affected your life?

How has it changed your life?

How do you need God to respond?

I am not a fan of politics. I never have been. However, I do keep up with politics. I feel it is important to vote. I love living in a country that I am free to express myself in. I am free to vote for any candidate I choose, and for that I am thankful. I am thankful to our country’s founding fathers who laid a foundation that still stands today. I am thankful for the many men and women who give themselves in service to our country. I pray that those who gave their lives for the freedom of our nation will not be in vain. I love America. I weep for America. I pray for
America.

There are things that I hold as very important. Those things shape me and make me who I am as a person. Many of those things are labeled as politics. I must admit that I honestly struggled with this election. I struggled with who to vote for. I received lots of forwarded emails from friends and family that talked about why or why not to vote for a particular candidate. Most of the time when I researched the accusations, they came back false. I quickly dismissed those and began to wonder and pray about who I should vote for and not who others thought I should vote for.
Early on, I was really excited about Barack Obama. His work as a community leader who spent himself on behalf of the poor was something I really respected. He seemed like a man I could support. He understood challenges. He is a bi-racial man and if you work among bi-racial or African American people, you understand the challenges they face on a daily basis. I have spent most of my adult life working among poor minority families and I understand they have stuggles. I have a son who has black skin and I see the stares and hear the comments and my eyes are open to the struggles of minorities that are often sterotyped simply because their skin is darker than mine. I respected the fact that Barack Obama overcame those issues and was working to better people who were in poverty.

As for John McCain, he was not my first choice as a republican candidate. I prefered Ron Paul or Mike Huckabee. But I respected McCain. How can you not respect a man that was a P.O.W. and has done so much to serve our country? But I do not like the fact that he left his wife. Yet, in all honesty, we all fail and make mistakes – huge mistakes sometimes.

Let me say some of the things I believe and that ultimately swayed my vote. While like any other person I am concerned with the economy, I could not base my vote primarily on the economy. Something about that goes against my conscience – I never want to make a decision solely based on money. I am pro-life. I beleive that abortion is not the answer. I beleive that life starts at the moment of conception and therefore to have an abortion is take a life. I understand there are circumastances that people need to wrestle with and that I find myself wrestling with in regards to abortion. What if a person is raped? I still beleive we should not punish the child – and I understand that I have never been in that situation. What if the mother will probably die if the child is not aborted? I understand those situations are going to be tough, but ultimately I believe that abortion is taking a life.

I beleive that homosexuality is a sin. I do not know how a person can read the Bible and come to any other conclusion. Yet, I also believe that if a person is a homosexual (they are attracted to a person of the same gender) that it is not a cause for me to treat them harshly. While it is a sin, so is having sex outside of marriage – yet we seem to be more forgiving of that than homosexuality – Why the double standard?

I beleive that all people deserve to be loved and treated as being created in the image of God, yet I do not want to allow that to turn into accepting every kind of lifestyle. I love the homosexual person because God created them. Yet, I do not accept that lifestyle and do not believe God accepts it either. So I do not want to support a candidate that will compromise and make it seem perfectly acceptable for a homosexual lifestyle. Does that mean we mistreat them? No. Does that mean that we do not allow the homosexual person to be a part of our society? No. It means that we love the homosexual person with a true, authentic, genuine, Christ-like love while not compromising and being acceptable of the homosexual lifestyle.

So, you may have guessed that I voted for McCain. I will say it was not as easy as it has been in the past. I did not see a lot in McCain that would change the current situations we are facing as a nation. I loved the message of change that Obama kept talking about. Yet there was never any specific examples of the change. It seemed as though he really believed in the change, yet I question whether things will be any different. I think it is unfair that the very people who kept talking about Sarah Palin’s lack of experience (I agree) overlooked Obama’s lack of executive experience as well. Those who said Palin never answered a question directly (and, once again, I agree) overlooked the fact that it seemed Obama rarely answered a question directly either.

So, as a man who loves all people I want to congratulate Obama. I am so glad to see that we have come so far in regard to race. I love diversity. That is part of what I love about the United States. We have so many different cultures and different people groups, yet we are all people. God does not look at the outward man and neither should we. One of my American heroes is Martin Luther King, Jr. I wish he could have lived long enough to see a man of dark skin become president. I still believe in his dream. And every time I look into my son’s eyes I believe it even more. So, I celebrate the fact that our country is learning to overcome racism. While I do not agree with Obama on the issues, I can rejoice in the victory that we are learning to get along.

Let me conclude (as this post is getting extremely long) that as a Christian, my hope and trust is in God. No political system will ever solve the greatest problems we face as human beings. No political system has ever cured world hunger. No political system can make everything right. But God can! When we seek afted God, we can make a difference. When we give God total control, then true change will take place. So I must be honest and ask myself – do I vote for helping the poor? That vote is not for a presidential candidate, it is for getting off my couch and going to the poor and serving them. Do I want to see a world where people are free from homesexuality? Then I must learn to stop holding picket signs and start loving the homsexual person with a deep, Christ-like love and perhaps they will see I actually live out what I claim to believe. Do we value the sanctity of marriage? We fight to make sure that marriage is not granted to homosexuals, but do we fight just as hard to protect families from divorce? Divorce rates are just as high among Christians as they are among non-Christians. Do we value life? We fight against abortion, but do we treat people with the love and respect they deserve as being created in the image of God? Do we spend ourselves on behalf of the poor? Are we reaching out to all people in the name of Jesus? Are we showing love? Do people look at us and say, “I want what they have,” or do they look at us and say, “Those people claim to follow Jesus, but they are so full of hatred.” Are we showing Jesus to the people around us? While I think it is important to vote on election day, I think it is so much more important to live out what we claim to beleive every day. Are you pro-life? then honor the life of each person and treat them in a Christ-like manner? Do you want to see poverty come to an end? Then spend your life on behalf of the poor and marginalized? Do you want to see all people have a voice? Then speak on behalf of those whose voices are not heard. Don’t just say it – LIVE IT!!