Lessons From The Bouncy House

As a parent, I see a bouncy house as a huge air inflated, germ infested, loud, injury waiting to happen. However, all my kids see is FUN!  Recently, our church had a block party complete with, you guessed it, bouncy houses.   My kids were overjoyed with excitement, particularly my 4 year old.  Joy (my 4 year old) was ready to conquer all of the bouncy houses.   She quickly ran from one to the next with excitement overload, as she couldn’t decide which one she wanted to try first.   She knew nothing of the lines of children who were politely waiting their turn. She ran right to the front of the line as if they had all been waiting just for her.  Each time I would pick her up and take her to the back of the line and instruct her that she needed to wait like everyone else.

Lesson One: Waiting Is Hard.

For some reason, my daughter thought she was entitled to the front of the line.  She thought, in her little 4-year-old mind, that it was her party and everyone else

IMG_1086was just an extra.  As a parent, most of my days are spent trying to teach my children a lesson that I am still learning.  Here is the lesson: this is not your party and the world does not revolve around you. From the time we are born we have a selfish inclination to want to put ourselves at the front of the line.  We would rather others wait than we wait.  To follow Jesus means you let others go first. The Bible teaches us to do nothing from selfishness or conceit, but in humility we should think of others as more important than ourselves.   The good thing about waiting is that if you take the time to look around, God has probably put you in line with people you can make friends with.  The wait may be better than the bouncy house.

Lesson Two: Obstacles Are Part Of Life.  Tackle Them With Excitement.

I loved watching Joy continue to get knocked down and bounce right back up and keep going.  She has always been very resilient.  She tried to climb the wall of the obstacle course and fell multiple times.  She smiled and giggled and got back up and tried again.   I know that life is no bouncy house.  Over the years I have also learned that so much of life is not about the obstacles in our lives, but about how we respond to them.  Life is really hard.  Life is better for those who can keep getting up and moving forward.  I wonder if you and I might make more progress in life if we had a different attitude towards obstacles.

Joy did not let the obstacles slow her down or discourage her, and neither should we.  We should know that on this crazy bouncy house called life we are going to fall, get knocked over and even get run over.   Get up.  Smile.  Move forward.

Lost your job, get up and find a new one.

Lost your hope, it may be right over the next obstacle.  Keep moving forward.

Friends let you down, find some new ones.

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You get the idea.

What is the obstacle of life today that is knocking you down?   Identify it, acknowledge it, make a plan and move forward.

For the Christian, the Bible gives hope and meaning to the obstacles we face.   It says, “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance.  And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.  And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.”

Lesson 3: You Might Not Want Help But You Need It

Her favorite bouncy was the obstacle course.  This was a big one with lots of little areas she had to go through and climb over.  I was nervous about Joy going on this obstacle course because she is small for her age and she has Down Syndrome, both of which Joy is completely oblivious.   I didn’t want her to get hurt as older and bigger children raced through the course.   I did what I often do.  I sent her big brother (Ty) with her to make sure she would make it through safely.

Joy is very headstrong and stubborn.   She would not quit, but there were a couple of barriers that no matter how hard she tried she wasn’t going to get over them.  She didn’t want help but she needed it.

She couldn’t quite make it over a certain wall so her big brother gave her a gentle nudge (yeah right, more like a mighty shove).  This was enough to help her make it to the next obstacle.  It does something to a father’s heart to see one sibling helping another.

There are times in our life when we all need help!

When the obstacles of life come along and we get stuck, we need a gentle push, or a helpful hand to pull us through.   Sometimes we need a mighty shove!  So many people get stuck and can’t move because they don’t have anyone to help them along.  They’ve chosen to isolate themselves and they think they can make it through life by themselves, but they can’t.

None of us can.

My little daughter with special needs will always need help, but so will all my other children.  They will all experience hurt, disappointment, setbacks, fears, and the hardship of life.  This is why family is important.  This is why a church family is important is as well.

The Bible says “Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.”

It blows my mind to think that we are more connected than ever and yet people feel lonelier than ever. The suicide rates in the US keep going up as more and more people find themselves hopeless.  We all have a deep need for the help of others but most of us are too prideful or afraid to ask.  God hardwired the need for friendship and community into every person.

If you have made it to an obstacle in life and you keep trying but keep getting knocked down, it’s time to ask for help.

Start with your family. If you have someone in your family that will help you, reach out to them and ask for help.

There is another family that is often stronger then blood relatives, it’s a church family.   Many times people are estranged from their own family and don’t feel they have anywhere to turn.  If you find yourself in that situation go to a local church. Meet some people.  Find a friend.   A loving church is the best place in the world to find real community.

I would love to meet you at Christ Place Church.  You can find out how to find some friends here www.christplace.com

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While You Are Waiting

In the culture of 2018 no one likes to wait.

We don’t want to wait for…

…Our Food.

…Coffee.

…Pages to load on our phone or computer.

…The Doctor to finally see us.

…Our children in the car line.

…Sickness to leave us or our household.

…Waiting on a new church building to open.

None of us like to wait and no matter how many upgrades we make in our life and our technology, waiting is a large portion of our life.   We don’t like to wait on the small things listed above but it’s even harder to wait when you’re waiting for something major like…Screen Shot 2018-09-11 at 9.55.45 AM

…Mr. or Mrs. Right to come along.

…Finally getting that career job you have been working towards.

…Finishing school for good.

…Healing from a major setback.

…Waiting for a loved one to return home from military service.

Something I often miss that God reminded me of this morning is that while we are waiting He is working.  Waiting time does not have to be wasted time.   If we will take our impatience and turn it into being intentional we may have our most useful moments while we wait.

In the 17thChapter of Acts Paul was run out of a city for preaching the Gospel.  He went to Athens to wait on Silas and Timothy to join him to continue their missionary journey.  He was just waiting.

“17:16 While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was deeply distressed when he saw that the city was full of idols.”

So while Paul is just chilling out waiting for his brother to continue the work God had called them to, he starts looking around the city and realizes that the city needs what he has to offer, Jesus.   Paul cannot do nothing so he uses the gifts he has been given and starts to engage this culture in teaching, preaching and reasoning from scripture.  From Paul’s waiting time we get some of the greatest scripture on knowing how to address unbelievers.  Paul starts where they are and takes them to Jesus.   While Paul was just waiting he decided to use his time for Jesus and he saw many people come to faith, “some people joined him and believed, including Dionysius the Areopagite, a woman named Damaris, and others with them.”

While Paul was waiting God worked!

Let me encourage you today. If you are waiting on something, look around and see what you can do for the Lord while you wait.  If you do something effective while you are waiting it almost feels like you are not waiting.  It almost feels like you’re living!

While you are waiting on your food in you car can you pray for the people in front of you?  Can you make a phone call to encourage a discouraged friend?

While you are in the coffee line can you say hello to the person behind you and make a new friend? Maybe even buy their coffee?

While you are in the car line waiting on your babies, can you pray for their souls and the teachers and friends that are influencing their lives?

While you are waiting on Mr. or Mrs. Right can you go do some big things for God that maybe you won’t have the freedom to do after you find that unicorn spouse?   Go spend a year or two on the mission field in a foreign country?  Who knows, you might meet your spouse there?

While you are in the doldrums of finishing school can you work your part time job like it mattered? Work as unto the Lord so that when you get your degree you have not only gotten a degree but you have also developed a work ethic?

While your healing can you grow in your faith?   Can you read your Bible and pray more?  I find that when the Lord takes me out due to sickness that I really need the down time to focus on my relationship with Him.

Don’t waste your wait!!  Today as you find yourself waiting can you be mindful to pray this little prayer, “Lord, what would you have me to do while I am waiting?”

Then, look around and be obedient.

The best thing about waiting can be whom you are waiting with.  If you are waiting with good conversation then it almost feels like you are not waiting.  This is why road trips with friends can be so much fun.

While you wait you are going somewhere with Jesus, talk to Him.   Prayer is the most important thing we can do while we wait.

 

 

Down Syndrome, From Gut Punch To Gratitude

Have you ever been hit really hard in the stomach?   It is a terrible mixture of pain and the lack of ability to breathe.   This is what it felt like the first time I got a good look at my fourth child when she was born.

My wife had a great delivery and I was the proud father with the camera recording.   Our new baby girl cried and the nurses quickly whisked her over to clean her off.  That’s when I saw her face the first time, that is when I felt the gut punch.  Immediately I knew in my heart that my new daughter was different.  With her little swollen face and her protruding tongue it was clear to me that she had Down syndrome.  I knew the second gut punch would be coming in just a few seconds.  The second gut punch would hurt worse than the first.  It would come when they brought my new baby back to my wife.  My wife is a nurse and I knew that right away she would see what I was seeing.

She held our sweet baby and looked at her and I saw her reaction as she felt the gut punch as well.   She said with a quiver in her voice,  “It looks like she has Downs.”  That day, over 4 years ago is still very vivid in my mind.  It was a hard day.

There are some scenarios that happen to other people but you never think they will happen to you…

And then they do.

We were now parents of a little girl named Joy who had Down syndrome.  The initial shock passed quickly and we realized that Joy was a gift from God perfectly knit together in her mother’s womb.  She was no accident.   God gave us a little treasure that would change our future and the future of our family and extended family.

Fast forward to present day.

Our little Joy is such a bright light in this world.   I look forward to her hugs and excitement every morning.  She has made us all more caring, accepting and generally happier.

She touches lives all over the world with her smile and charisma.   She is funny, happy, determined, opinionated and oh so caring.

To be real honest Down syndrome is not something we think about that much in our family.  Joy is just part of our lives.  She is just like all of our other children.  Some things take her longer to learn but every milestone she hits is a mighty accomplishment that our family celebrates.

The day that Joy was born I shed a lot of tears for the loss of the child I thought I was getting.  I cried because there were so many unknowns about the future.  I still have tears come to my eyes on a regular basis but it is for different reasons.  I have tears of Joy in my eyes.  I have such gratitude and thankfulness to God that he would entrust my family with such a precious gift.  I have tears that well up when I think about just how much love and value Joy adds to so many lives.  Who am I that God would entrust with one of His most precious treasures?

Our family wants to help the world understand that Down syndrome is not a sentence to a life of misery but a sentence to a life of love.   We want to spread awareness of the great abilities of the precious people in this world who happen to have Down syndrome.

If you have read this far then you must care about Joy and about children like her.  Today is World Down Syndrome day and I want to tell you about one little boy who has Down syndrome named Justin that you can help.

Justin is an awesome little guy who lives in an orphanage in China.  He doesn’t have a family to love him.   He does have a family that wants him.   Some very dear friends of mine are doing all they can to adopt Justin and bring him home.  They need help to do this.   International adoption is very expensive and they are trying to raise the resources to bring Justin home.   Would you consider, on this special day making a real difference in the life of one little boy who has Down syndrome.   If you can give to help with this adoption it would mean the world to this family and to Justin.  Here is the link to the Go Fund Me Page.

https://www.gofundme.com/7fvje8-we-are-adopting

Also if you could share this blog and help raise awareness for this need it would be greatly appreciated.Screen Shot 2018-03-21 at 9.00.23 AM.png

The Glamorous Life Of A Pastor

If you are considering a call of God on your life to be a pastor or Christian leader, I would encourage you to count the cost and then remember that Jesus is worth it all.

If you are wondering if God is calling you into a vocational ministry role then maybe this will help you.

I had a lot of dreams growing up of what I wanted to be. As a small child I wanted to be a professional football player.   Size and skill would not make that possible. Then, I set my sights to be an artist or a comedian. I loved to draw and make people laugh. That didn’t work out either, but there was one career that was never on my radar.

I never wanted to be a pastor.

Not that being a pastor was a bad thing, I just saw pastors as people that weren’t real people. They had to live differently than everyone else. Growing up, my pastor was well known in the community, a strong leader and a wise sage all rolled into one.  His career was not like other people who had normal jobs. He was set apart. He was my pastor. He was an honored man. The calling to be a pastor would have been like the calling to go to Mars. It just wasn’t something I saw myself ever doing. It wasn’t something I could ever see myself as worthy of doing.

It’s really interesting how God has a way of guiding your path. Growing up I went to church because my mom and dad loved Jesus and that’s just what we did. We never missed. I didn’t particularly like going to church, but when I was around 15 my Sunday School teacher, who was also one of my high school football coaches, told me one day out of the blue, “Hermann, you going to be a preacher one day.”

The seed was planted.

I had never once thought in my life about being a preacher but that little statement would be a mustard seed planted in my heart that would be watered in the coming years.

When I was 16, I begrudgingly went to church youth camp at my mom’s request.

It was at that camp that God really captured my heart.

It was during that week of my life that I gave God my “yes” to whatever He wanted from me.

It was at that camp that I heard that still small voice of God watering the seed of faith that was planted a year earlier from my coach.

I talked to my youth pastor and told him I thought God might be calling me into ministry.   He committed with me to pray about it. I spent a year praying and asking God if that was what I was supposed to do. I returned to High school with a new passion to honor God with my life. I became friends with a guy I had known all my life but never really liked.   His name was Carson. That summer Carson had a very similar experience at a different youth camp and was committed to being a pastor.   Carson and I played football together against each other and we became inseparable friends. It’s neat how God does that.   We helped lead our local Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Youth group, and we even started a morning bible study at the local McDonalds for other students to attend.

As time went by we went to junior college and Bible College together. Now I am 20 years down the road since those days in high school.   Thanks to God’s mercy, Carson and I are both still Pastors. Carson is the pastor of a church in Wrens, Georgia and I am a staff pastor at a great church in Flowery Branch, Georgia.

Ministry is not at all what I had in mind at age 16. When I said yes to the call to ministry I thought I was saying yes to be a preacher.   I wanted to boldly proclaim the word of God, like Billy Graham, and see thousands of people respond in faith to my great preaching. Well, it didn’t take long to find out that ministry is much different than what I had in mind. I have always loved to preach but preaching is a very small portion of what happens during the week.   Preaching is what every pastor is passionate about and would do for free.

The ministry is so much more than preaching.

It’s hard.

It can be brutal and not many people last.

The average tenure for a pastor in America is less than 2 years! Ministry is not for the faint of heart.

Here are some things I have learned over the years of what ministry really looks like. If you are contemplating a life of serving Jesus in vocational ministry then you should take time to read this list and see if God has gifted and wired you to represent Him in vocational ministry. This is what they never told me.

No one told me that I would have to visit the house of a 12-year-old boy whose mother had just been murdered and try to help him find some kind of comfort.

No one told me that people would appear to love me and my family but would turn to despise us because I might do something that they didn’t agree with.

No one told me that Church people are mostly loving and amazing but there is a small pocket in every church that are mean as angry snakes and they will spew their venom towards the pastor. You still have to love those people.

No one told me that I would get to name a baby on a mission trip in India.

No one told me what it would be like to preach at churches in Haiti that were overcrowded and dark and dusty.

No one told me about having to beg a customs agent to let the mission team I was leading into Canada because of a misunderstanding.

No one told me what it would be like to be in the room of a person who is dying and looking to you for comfort and words of peace.

No one told me about how hard it would be to preach the funerals of those you deeply love.

No one told how much joy I would feel when I got to marry young couples that I had known for years.

No one told me the joy of watching those couples I married start families and teach their children about the love of Jesus.

No one told me about the endless phone calls, visits and emails to try to help plug people into the church.

No one told me how ministry would affect my family. No one told me that when people spoke ill of me it would hurt my wife twice as much as it hurt me.   No one told me that my children would always have unrealistic expectations set on them by others simply because their dad was a pastor.

No one told me how hard it would be to visit a couple that I love who just delivered a stillborn child.

No one told me what it would be like to be sick in India and try to preach through sickness in a foreign country with an interpreter.

No one told me how hard it would be to see friends who you went to Bible College with become a statistic of pastors who didn’t make it.

No one told me how it would feel to know of 1000 needs and only be able to help a few.

No one told me what it would feel like to be robbed while on a mission trip in a third world country.

No one told me that my life would consist mostly of meetings to further the work of the ministry.

No one told me that my best work would not be done in the pulpit, but in the trenches of having hard conversations with people who needed someone to be honest with them.

No one told me of the heart wrenching conversations I would have with so many couples who were on the brink of divorce that were looking to me to help them keep it together.

No one told me how hard it is to deal with suicide, how hard it is to help a family that is so destroyed and broken and angry all at once.

No one told me how hard it would be to know the words to say to comfort broken people when I was the first on the scene after tragedy struck.

No one told me about the joy I would experience to see middle school students that I had the chance to invest in grow up and serve Jesus.

No one told me about the frustration and helplessness you can feel in a church business meeting.

No one told me of the joy I would receive when I would go to the hospital to meet new babies that were born.

No one told me about how much fun it would be to work together with people I love to see a big vision come together.

No one told me about the satisfying joy of seeing a family changed by the power of the gospel.

No one told me of the countless hours of study and continuing education it would take to be a pastor.

No one told me how I would wake up each day energized to go to work knowing that the Gospel I carry can change a person’s life.

No one told me that I would get to work with some of the world’s most awesome people.

No one told me how much the church would love and embrace my family and meet our every need.

No one told me how amazing it is to baptize a new believer.

There was so much I didn’t know…I couldn’t know.

I could go on and on for days about the up and downs of this hard calling to ministry.   I was told not to get into ministry unless God would allow me to do nothing else.   I was told not to do it unless I was sure I was called. The life of full time vocational ministry is not always easy, but it is always worth it!   I would not trade it for the world.

I am so grateful to be called Pastor.

If you are considering a call of God on your life to be a pastor or Christian leader, I would encourage you to count the cost and then remember that Jesus is worth it all.

I have had many people ask me, “What is it that you do during the week?” Well, come spend a week with me and I will be glad to show you.

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Maybe A Tweet Won’t Solve Mass Shootings

As everyone else in our country, I have been heartbroken and burdened over the latest school shooting in Florida that has left 17 dead. One of the most heartbreaking things in regards to this shooting was the lack of shock I felt. There have been so many mass shootings in the last few years that it has made me somewhat numb, almost expecting another one to happen.

To match heartbreak with frustration, enter social media. In a matter of minutes there is no lack of political pundits and celebrities chiming in with simple solutions to a complex problem. The answer to ending mass school shootings is gun control, they say.   With emotional pleas from broken hearted parents who have just lost their children they say if you just ban “assault rifles” then all of this will stop.

I wish it were that easy. I wish congress could just pass a law that bans a certain type of firearm and then all the killings would end.   However, if you grew up in the country, like me, then you know a semiautomatic weapon is what the media is referring to as an assault rifle. Pretty much every hunting rifle could fall under the category of assault rifle. The AR-15’s that the media likes to show pictures of just look more menacing because of the tactical shell in which they are cased.   Wood hunting rifles that look less ominous can carry the same magazines and shoot just as many bullets in just as fast a time. To ban ‘assault rifles’ would mean that you ban pretty much every gun but a single shot, and I don’t see that happening.   But if it would end children getting killed in our schools then I would be for it.   If that were the simple solution…but it’s not.

The problem is much more complex and the answer to solving it much deeper than a law.

Young deranged white men do most mass shootings. I am sure all of these young men have some level of mental illness, but mental illness, like a cancer to the body, can be fed and fostered in a number of ways.

I think the problem goes deeper than just these young white deranged men.   I think it flows broader into frustrated and angry young men in general. The man crisis in our culture is hitting critical mass and the fall out is not pretty.

We are reaping the harvest of a fatherless generation and I am afraid we are not yet at the tipping point.

As University of Virginia Professor Brad Wilcox pointed out back in 2013: “From shootings at MIT (i.e., the Tsarnaev brothers) to the University of Central Florida to the Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy in Decatur, Ga., nearly every shooting over the last year in Wikipedia’s ‘list of U.S. school attacks’ involved a young man whose parents divorced or never married in the first place.”

It’s not just these young white men who are struggling, they just find a way to show their angst against the world in a very public way by hurting as many innocent people as possible.

The effects of fatherlessness are epidemic in most communities in the United States.

I found this interesting, “Two of the strongest correlations with gun homicides are growing up in a fatherless household and dropping out of school, which itself is directly related to lack of an active or present father. There’s a direct correlation between fatherless children and teen violence. It’s no coincidence that, much like the number of fatherless children, the number of mass shootings has exploded since the 1960s. Throughout the entire 1960s, six mass shootings took place. That number doubled in 1970. Heck, 2012 alone saw more mass shootings than the sixties did.”

Without a father young men have no direction. When young men have no direction and purpose they move to extremes. They cut ties with what is traditional masculinity. They embrace a homosexual lifestyle or become transgender. There is a clear correlation with the rise of both of these lifestyles to the rise of fatherlessness.   They grasp for their need to fit in and they don’t know how. The other extreme is to become violent, join a gang, become a criminal, or in extreme cases become a mass shooter. When men grow up with no father for an example they fill in the gaps on their own.

Everything in culture tells these men that they no longer have a place.   In fact, for young white men the message is clear, you are the enemy. They are told that they are the problem. They are told they are part of the white patriarchy that oppresses everyone else. For fragile unguided minds that are already inclined to mental illness, they start to believe it, then they learn to hate the world, hate themselves, and hate being. They are full of anger and rage and instead of just ending their own lives they want to hurt others in the process. They want to be remembered as they feel they have been marginalized all of their lives.   So they hurt others. They hurt as many as they can.

Fatherlessness is not the only factor involved. There are a number of other factors that I think we would be foolish to overlook:

Games – Most young teenage boys (especially white ones) spend countless hours shooting people virtually in very realistic games. It becomes second nature to them to pull the virtual trigger.

Movies and Shows – Have you heard of this little thing called Netflix?   Countless hours of watching shows that have become increasingly more sickening, brutal and graphic.   Young men are drawn to these shows about death and murder. There are tons of programs out there that actually show how real crimes were committed.   Again these are fertilizers to a sick mind.

Social Media – Tells young men they do not measure up and allow them to connect with extremist groups that will fan the flame of their sickness. The rise of ‘alt’ left and ‘alt’ right groups has only increased the evil and hatred in the world.

Atheism – Atheism says you are the source for your morality. The Bible teaches that every person is born as a sinner. At our core we are not good, but evil. The cure to evil is repentance and faith in Jesus. As Christians we live in pursuit of a holy life as defined by the life of Jesus. He is our model and example. For the Atheist he is only accountable to his on set of morals, whatever he chooses.   These morals are shaped by whatever he is putting into his mind (I.E. Games, movies, shows, social media) and deems as moral. We took God out of schools and have warned teachers not to mention faith.   I imagine there are so many kids who could have found a better way, if only schools were allowed to offer it.

The devaluing of human life – We live in a culture that legally kills almost 400,000 babies a year.   This permeates a society that says the highest value is whatever I desire, even if it means taking the life of others.   If a mother can take her own child’s life then why should anyone else be limited?

Radical Feminism – This ideology teaches men that just for being born they are to be hated and despised.

This list is not meant to be exhaustive. I am sure there are a number of other factors that contribute to each mass shooting. I am sure each case has many individual nuances.

In my opinion the one big smoking gun is not the gun, it is the absence of a loving and guiding father in the home.

How do we stop mass shootings?

The answer is pretty simple, cross cultural, and long term.

This is a simple Bible answer: Don’t have sex until you’re married (this ends the need for abortion). When you are married, love your spouse.   Stay married even when it’s hard.   Raise your children to love God first and love their neighbors as themselves. Don’t leave when things get hard!

The answer may just be the family!

Screen Shot 2018-02-17 at 5.21.29 AM.pngI can remember maybe 15 years ago hearing Dr. James Dobson saying something to the effect of, “when you destroy the family, you will destroy society as we know it.” The prophesy is unveiling before our eyes.

Why Change?

I’ve been fortunate to experience many cultures in the world. Most of the places I’ve been were on mission trips. It’s a humbling and frightening experience to go to a place a long way from your home and meet people you’ve never met before that think very unlike you.

I think the most dissimilar place I’ve been is India. The smell is the first thing you notice when you get off the plane. There is always the smell of smoke in the air (this is also true of Haiti). All the food is very spicy with tons of curry powder.   The people of India have a head bobble that is not up and down but kind of all around and it can mean a number of different things.   The people are so humble that few of them look you in the eye. Most of the people I met lived in extreme poverty. Many of the people had actual physical idols that they worshipped in their homes.   There are millions of gods that are worshipped in India. The roads are chaotic, filled with cars, bikes, people, cows and anything else you can imagine.   It’s hot, really hot.

In all of the diversity of this place the thing that stood out to me so clearly is all the things I had in common with the people of India. Finding common ground was not hard and when I met the people face to face I felt a great love for them. In order to tell them the message of Jesus I had to contextualize it.

I had to figure out a way to explain the Gospel message in a way that they could understand.

When I was preaching I couldn’t use the same American jokes. Those jokes didn’t make sense to them. They have a certain way to dress that is not like how I would normally dress. Our team prepared for months in advance learning little things about the culture so that we would not offend our hosts when we were there. At first it was uncomfortable to me because I had to change my preferences in order to connect with these wonderful people. I never really liked the food in India, but I ate it because our hosts, who had little to eat, gave it sacrificially. In the end, the value of the relationships I gained and the souls that were saved far outweighed the light and temporary afflictions I faced as a result of changing things that were preferential and normal to me.

This is really just what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9: 19 “Even though I am a free man with no master, I have become a slave to all people to bring many to Christ. 20 When I was with the Jews, I lived like a Jew to bring the Jews to Christ. When I was with those who follow the Jewish law, I too lived under that law. Even though I am not subject to the law, I did this so I could bring to Christ those who are under the law.21 When I am with the Gentiles who do not follow the Jewish law, I too live apart from that law so I can bring them to Christ. But I do not ignore the law of God; I obey the law of Christ. 22 When I am with those who are weak, I share their weakness, for I want to bring the weak to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some.23 I do everything to spread the Good News and share in its blessings.”

When we think of change in the context of being a missionary then it seems obvious that a change in our behavior and approach is needed. When we think of change in the context of the culture in which we live we cling to our preferences.

Why?

I can think of a couple of reasons:

First, we know that when we go on a mission trip it is usually short term so we endure change for a small season knowing we will go back to what is normal. 

Second, and maybe more telling, we don’t see where we live as a mission field.We stop contextualizing and we just live. We stop reaching out to our culture and we start cursing the culture for being lost.   We want them to be like us. We see our American Christian subculture crumbling before us. This frightens most long time Christians who’ve grown up in the south.   Because of this we see our changing culture and the people in it as the enemy instead of the reason for the church.

I don’t like change unless it’s change I like. That may sound a little funny but here is what I mean.   There are some changes I like but all the changes I like are the changes I dictate in my life. I usually don’t like change when I feel like I am losing something that is out of my control.

I have heard it said that people don’t fear change they fear loss.

I work at a church and I see this pretty often. Our church has been in a season of change and some people don’t like the changes. These are good people, many of who I look up to. These are Godly people but they like what they like and sometimes changes are just hard.

It is hard to like something and have it taken away. (certain traditions, musical style, buildings, programs, musical instruments, lighting, even names, etc…)

It is hard when the church is the central hub of your spiritual and social life and it changes on you.

It is hard when your preference is no longer the church’s emphasis.

These are all hard things, so…

Why Change?

The answer is pretty simple. We change in order to attempt to better reach people for Jesus.

Changing to chase a fad is a reckless.
Changing to copy someone else is shallow.
Changing out of personal preference is superficial.
Changing to water down the message is sinful.  
Changing to upset people is wrong.

When it all gets down to the simplest level we change in order to honor God and reach people. As a Christian when we come to Christ we enter a season of change called sanctification. It’s the process of us becoming like Christ.

Less of me, more of Him.
Less of my wants, more obedience.
Less of my plans, more of His.

This whole process is very uncomfortable. Like the caterpillar struggling to free itself from its cocoon, we struggle to be more like Christ.

We change in order to reach people but where is the line?   When is the change too much? When do we need to be afraid that the church is just becoming like the culture instead of reaching the culture? These are very important questions that church going Christian people should be asking.

I believe there are at least two simple lines.

The first is the scripture. Churches must never compromise or violate the scripture in order to reach people. The message never changes. If the church begins to water down the gospel then the church is in trouble.

The second is sin. Churches must not engage in sinful activities in order to reach sinners.Jesus modeled this perfectly.   He was constantly around sinners yet without sin. Jesus preached to all who would listen, but only those who repented in faith became children of God.  The church must open wide the doors for the message to be heard, but only those who repent and believe become part of the church.

The Apostle Paul was a man that knew about changing. He went from a Jew of Jews to a man called to reach the Gentile (Pagan) world.   I am sure he had to do things that he never thought he would have to do. His life was constantly changing as he went from one area to another.

He was willing to do whatever it took to reach people for Christ. I know he was often criticized. Paul himself said, “There is a wide-open door for a great work here, although many oppose me.”

It is hard for all of us to accept change but we must be willing to ask the question of ourselves, “Am I struggling with the change because it is a deviation from scripture or leading our church to sin or am I struggling with change because I am losing my preference?”

It is ok to be upset that you lose something of the past that was precious to you, but remember that to live in the past prevents a better future.Screen Shot 2018-02-06 at 6.16.21 AM

Let’s struggle together as we see God’s church reach more people with the Gospel.

 

My Daughter Rides The Short Bus

People who ride the short bus are strong. They have to overcome challenges that typical children do not have to overcome.

The short bus is the bus that carries children with special needs to and from school. It’s short because each person on the bus needs some individual attention so the numbers of students on the bus are limited. When I was a kid growing up we made jokes about the short bus. When someone would do something senseless we might say they rode the short bus.

I never thought about the actual people on the short bus.

This week my daughter started riding the bus…the short bus.

You see as a kid I just did what all the other kids did. I made fun of those on the short bus. Those with special needs and those who are disabled are easy targets for ridicule by foolish young children.   What we don’t understand we fear or mock.

Oh how my perspective has changed. Now I am a dad who has a daughter that rides the short bus.   The short bus is different for me now. It is not filled with people to be made fun of; it is filled with treasure, the treasure of precious lives.

You see my daughter is ‘special.’   My daughter, Joy, has Down syndrome.  I feel like Down syndrome is such a misunderstood word in our culture.   Joy is so much more alike than different.

She is so wonderful I can’t adequately explain her. She wants to sit in my lap every morning and eat little bites.   She brings books and puzzles to me each night to read and put together. She loves to sing and loves to dance. She loves when her sisters chase her around the house. She loves piggy back rides from her big brother as he runs as fast as he can with her on his back shouting, “Yay!!” She wakes up early before all of her siblings and she knocks on the door (because is has child lock that she cannot get out of) and she will yell, “DADDY!” until I go and let her out. She is very independent. She’s beautiful and loving. She is sooo loving. Last year in her preschool class she won the award for, “Best Hugger.” When her preschool class performs she steals the show with her sparkling personality. Parents of other kids her age that are in her class tell me often how their child loves Joy and constantly talks about her. I wouldn’t change a thing about Joy (well maybe her obstinance).  She is so much more than a rider on the short bus.

Having a daughter with special needs has really taught me to look deeper into people then what is on the outside, or what diagnosis they have.

Having a daughter that rides the short bus has opened up my mind and heart to see the incredible people inside the short bus.

People who ride the short bus are strong. They have to overcome challenges that typical children do not have to overcome. Some of their challenges are physical, some are mental, some are emotional, and some have all three.

Mrs. Judy drives our short bus. She is a kind and loving woman. She has tried to get Joy on her bus for over a year, but truth be told, I just didn’t want to give her up. The bus would make my life easier but it means I don’t get mornings in the car with Joy. She told me she would put off retirement another year if I would give her Joy.   Wow! Mrs. Judy gets it!   She sees such value in each and every life that she carries on her “special” bus.   She gives her heart and soul into investing into those little children. The first day Joy rode the bus Mrs. Judy had new clothes for her that she bought her (not your typical bus driver).   Judy is a gem, but I believe she would tell you that those children give her more than she could ever give them. They give her their love.

I am so thankful for the Short Bus.

Can I give you a challenge today?   Will you be careful to see every person as valuable?

The Bible teaches us that we are all made in the image of God. Every person has so much value and worth…if we would just take the time to see it.