Proper Vision

I must have eaten a lot of carrots as a kid because I have always had good eyesight. My 20/20 vision has always been something I’ve been proud of. Many of the people I know have glasses or use contact lenses. Not me. I have never needed them. The only glasses I use are the sun-kind. That bright ball in the sky is quite harsh on my baby blues so I try my best to protect them.

But with that said, as I am writing this, I am wearing glasses.

Let me explain.

Recently I purchased a pair of “blue light” glasses. The claim of these glasses if that they will cut down on the harmful blue light that screens give off. I spend a tremendous amount of time looking at my computer or phone screens and I was finding myself getting a ton of headaches as a result. So now, I wear them when I am looking at a computer screen for an extended period of time. It has only been a few days, so it’s still to be determined if they will actually be a help.

So, as I fiddle with new glasses on my face, I have been finding myself thinking more and more about vision. And boy, do we need to see clearly at this time.

I can’t help but think of the irony that just a few months ago many pastors, including myself, were turning phrases such as, “2020 is the year of clear vision for our church.” Little did we expect that we would be hit with something none of us could see coming.

But we still need vision. We still need to keep looking forward. We still need to pray that God would give us clear eyes.

Because we need His vision moving forward as we move to figure out how and when to reopen our churches, how to celebrate birthday parties, how to do weddings and funerals, and how to connect and love our neighbors well.

Just as I am trying to use these new glasses in order to take away the harmful “blue light” we need to pray and ask God to help us see things through His lenses. When we allow God to take away the things that might causes us harm (our pride, presuppositions, political bent, fear, etc.) that is when we can see clearly and then act with discernment.

As we walk into these next few weeks and months let’s consider the following;

  • Is what I am about to post on social media honoring to God?
  • Is what I am about to post on social media going to help or harm the cause of sharing the Gospel?
  • Do my words and actions reflect the heart of Christ?
  • Am I willing to extend grace to people who view things differently than me?
  • Am I willing to admit if I am wrong?
  • Will I help where needed, or will I just point and blame?
  • Will I complain about my circumstances, or will I allow God to use me in spite of them.

The road up ahead is anything but clear.

We need to pray for God to guide us, to give us wisdom, and to see things the way He wants us to see them.

Easter Is Not Cancelled. Jesus Is Still Alive.

Easter is going to be…. different this year.

Typically, churches gather together and pack out their buildings in order to celebrate Resurrection Sunday.

Typically, my own church will have a Sunrise Service, followed by a full breakfast, followed by another bigger Worship Service.

Typically, I will stand in front and loudly proclaim, “He is risen” and that is always met by an even louder response from the congregation of, “He is risen indeed!”

Typically, between services families will gather in front of one of the big trees outside and take fun family pictures.

Typically, kids will be given some sort of goody at children’s church.

Typically, we all will dress just a little bit nicer and I’ll say, “I wore a tie because, ya know, its Easter after all.”

Typically, we will see new visitors, family members from out of town, or people who normally only come to church twice a year.

Typically, families will gather with extended family for a big lunch or dinner that is just a tad too stressful to put together.

Typically, Easter Sunday is full of fun, loads of smiles, hugs and handshakes, and plenty of “Amens!”

But this isn’t a typical Easter. Most, if not all of those things will not happen for millions of believers this coming Sunday. Our typical Easter celebrations are no longer reality.

So, let me tell you about a few things that do remain reality.

Jesus is alive.

The tomb is empty.

Death has lost its victory.

Sin is defeated.

The free gift of eternal life is available.

God is in control.

The harvest is still plentiful.

The workers, unfortunately, are still few.

The Gospel is still the best news ever.

This Easter may not be typical, but Jesus is still alive. And that profound truth changes everything about today! My prayer is that in the midst of losing all of our typical traditions we will be able to see Jesus even more clearly. And as we see Him clearly, we will clearly make Him known!

The Time Is NOW

Things are getting pretty crazy out there. It seems as though every few hours there are reports of new cases of the virus. Various governments continue to announce new restrictions in order to “flatten the curve.” Social media is filled with opinions and hot takes. And the U.S. Surgeon General recently told us, “this week is going to get bad.”

People are scared. People are worried. People are frustrated.

That is why the time for selfishness is over. The time for hoarding goods is over. The time for “I told you so” is over. The time for “this is so annoying” is over. The time for preference is over.

It’s time to talk about Jesus.

Talk about Jesus to anyone and everyone you know. Talk about Jesus to your church friends. Talk about Jesus to your family. Talk about Jesus to your non-believing friends.

Please. Just. Talk. About. Jesus.

For those who need hope…Hope can only be found in Jesus.

For those who need peace…Jesus is the Prince of Peace.

For those who need joy…Jesus is our Joy.

For those who need answers…Jesus is Truth.

For those who need life, now and forever…Jesus is Life.

Do not waste this time. God has you alive and breathing right now for a reason. Who will you impact? Who will you share this good news with? Who will you be a good neighbor to?

I don’t mean to make this post sound so direct, but our current situation calls for it. I wanted to end with a quote by Martin Luther that I have seen floating around lately. It is timely, but also a good reminder that we, the church, have been in this sort of situation before.

“I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance inflict and pollute others and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. If God should wish to take me, He will surely find me and I have done what he has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others. If my neighbor needs me, however, I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely, as stated above. See, this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God.”

May the church rise up in this time, and may we be found faithful.

Built To Last

“They just don’t make ‘em like they used to!”

Have you ever heard that phrase before? It’s usually said by a weary homeowner who has just gone through the process of replacing something expensive. Recently, I was having this exact conversation with someone who was frustratedly telling me about how companies used to guarantee their products, sometimes even for life. Refrigerators, dishwashers, heaters, and so on, all of these at one point would last for double-digit years at the minimum. Now, expect to replace those items in half that time or less. Our conversation left me pondering why. Why aren’t things built to last anymore?

A few months ago, when I was on the Greek Island of Lesvos (read why here) I saw one of the most magnificent sights I’ve seen. I have been blessed to travel to many places. I have seen incredible natural wonders and impressive manmade structures. But this. This took my breath away.

There, seemingly untouched by tourists, in the middle of an olive grove, accessible only by a footpath or a half-a-car sized dirt road was the sign the simply read, Roman Aqueduct.

I quickly snapped the picture shown above and then just as quickly put my phone away to just simply soak it all in.

The structure stands an impressive 600 meters tall (1969 feet) and was built in the late 2nd century. In its day it would carry 127,000 cubic meters of water a distance of 22 kilometers each day. While it certainly isn’t functioning today and is only a remnant of what it once was I couldn’t help but think, “now that was built to last.”

If that was built to last, then why isn’t my refrigerator?! The answer is sadly simple. That’s not a good business model. Many companies have gone under with the business model of “built to last.”

In our consumeristic culture where newer is always better and materials and production are dirt cheap, it makes no sense to build something that will last a long time. A disgruntled and yet repeat customer is preferred over a happy but one-time customer.

That’s a problem, but here is the greater problem…we have come to accept it. We have come to realize that doing repairs just isn’t worth the work when it is easier, and often cheaper, to go get a replacement.

And I’m not only talking about refrigerators anymore.

This thinking has crept into our mindsets concerning our relationships, faith in God, and how we view the churches we attend.

“Why fix it? Just walk away. Go find someone new. Go worship somewhere else. Go follow a God that doesn’t require quite as much from you.” These are the things that we are up against.

Nothing seems built to last anymore.

Please understand, I am not advocating against change. Change is a good and necessary part of all life. But I am advocating for a renewed commitment to the people in our lives, the churches we go to, and the God we follow.

Let’s build our relationships to last. When times get hard don’t run away. Don’t cash in for a new model. Fix what is broken. Work together to find reconciliation and honor God together.

Let’s build our churches to last. When times get hard don’t run away. Don’t cash in for a church that will meet your consumer needs better. Ask God to use you to fix what is broken. Work together to share Jesus’ love and to make His name great.

Let’s build our faith to last. When times get hard don’t run away. Don’t settle for a cheaper version of grace. Ask God to fix what is broken in you. Trust in Him and do not lean on your own understanding.

There is only one cornerstone, only one solid rock. The only things that we can build to last are the things built upon Jesus.

Matthew 7:24-27