Paul says we Christians are running a race. Here's what I'm looking at on my run toward Christ.

Monday, April 25, 2016

My Near Molestation Story

I don't remember how old I was, my mom says about four or five, but I do remember much about what happened...

My friend Marshall and I were about the same age and we were playing upstairs in my room at our house in Spencer, Iowa.  It was not unusual for my friends and I from around the neighborhood to play in one of our houses; the block was full of kids around my age and we all spent lots of time together without our parents hovering over top of us like is common today.  I don't remember what we were doing, probably playing with Hot Wheels or Ninja Turtles, but I do remember what happened next...

Marshall and I were standing near my closet door when he pulled down his pants.

"Suck on my penis,"  he said.

I told him no because that was weird.

"Okay, just kiss it then,"  he replied.

I didn't.  I don't remember why, but even as a really young boy I knew that wasn't right.  So, I went downstairs and told my parents.

Marshall and I never really hung out after that.  We would occasionally throw a ball across the street that separated us, but my parents never let Marshall and I hang out again.  They told me that some adult had done something to Marshall and that it wasn't Marshall's fault, but he now dealt with the desire for someone to touch him like that again.  I didn't get it then, but soon later I understood.

I don't think about this story much, but when I do I'm struck by how close I was to having my life changed.

Why do I tell this story?  Well, there are a couple of reasons.

1) Parents, Teach Your Kids About Sexual Things Early.

I don't think you need to have the complete birds and the bees talk at age five, but parents must teach their children something.  Why didn't I do that to Marshall?  Why didn't I stay and let Marshall do that to me?  I don't know for sure, but I believe a lot of that had to do with my parents teaching me.  They didn't give me "the talk" at that age but they taught me about what parts were private and what parts weren't.  When I got older they taught me more and they tried to teach me before the locker room would.

Parents, you wouldn't believe how many kids have my story except without the relief at the ending.  As a youth leader I've talked with too many kids that have had sexual scars before puberty.  Kids who have been molested and even raped as little children.  Don't wait to educate your child in the way you want them to be educated.  There was no reason for me to know at that age that I was one decision away from a sexual scar, and your child won't either unless you teach them.

2) The capacity for great sin lives in us all.

Children that are molested often molest others.  I was this close to being a statistic.  Who am I to say that I wouldn't struggle with the desire Marshall had?  What might I have become if God didn't spare me from this foray into sexuality?  I can tell you that this incident makes me more forgiving to those who have been abused and repeat the awful cycle.  I still get infuriated when I hear about it and then it's as if God whispers in my ear, "You aren't any better than them except that I spared you."

I got this same feeling when I visited the concentration camp in Flossenbürg, Germany.  I expected to go in and think, "What monsters the Germans were."  But then I stayed with great German families on the trip before I visited the concentration camp.  When I left Flossenbürg I was leveled by the thought that I could have been a Nazi soldier.  The capacity for that type of evil lives in me, my sin could run that black because the same root of sin lives in me and the German soldiers.

Regarding my story I've wondered why I was spared what Marshall wasn't.  I wrote about that five years ago and I still don't know the answer.

I just want you to remember that we as Christians must be a forgiving people because the capacity to sin and sin big time lives in us and but for the grace of God we would be exactly like those we're tempted to hate or look down upon.  Also, remember that God offers forgiveness to all those like Marshall and those like the person who hurt Marshall in the first place.  And finally, parents "train up a child in the way he should go" and you will save them from much pain.  Don't assume your sweet, little angel is too young to give instructions and warnings to.  Parents of young kids, talk to your children and educate them about how to stay safe from sexual scars today.

(Me around the time of this story, although I may be a little older in this photo)

Monday, April 18, 2016

Known to be Saved, Known to be Lost

April 12th was the anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic.  I came across a story from that fateful night that I want to share.  The story is an excerpt from a piece in the Baptist Press from 4 years ago written by Douglas W. Mize.

Please read this incredible story today.

"When pastor and preacher John Harper and six year old daughter boarded the Titanic it was for the privilege of preaching at one of the greatest churches in America, Moody Church in Chicago, named for its famous founder Dwight L. Moody. The church was anxiously awaiting his arrival not only because of the pending services, but to meet their next pastor, as Harper planned to accept their invitation. Harper was known as an engaging preacher and had pastored two churches in Glasgow and London. His preaching style was suited for an evangelist as testified by the words of another local pastor. "He was a great open-air preacher and could always command large and appreciative audiences. ... He could deal with all kinds of interrupters, his great and intelligent grasp of Bible truths enabling him to successfully combat all assailants."
When the Titanic hit the iceberg, Harper successfully led his daughter to a lifeboat. Being a widower he may have been allowed to join her but instead forsook his own rescue, choosing to provide the masses with one more chance to know Christ. Harper ran person to person, passionately telling others about Christ. As the water began to submerge the "unsinkable" ship, Harper was heard shouting, "women, children, and the unsaved into the lifeboats." Rebuffed by a certain man at the offer of salvation Harper gave him his own life vest, saying, "you need this more than I do." Up until the last moment on the ship Harper pleaded with people to give their lives to Jesus.
The ship disappeared beneath the deep frigid waters leaving hundreds floundering in its wake with no realistic chance for rescue. Harper struggled through hyperthermia to swim to as many people as he could, still sharing the Gospel. Harper evidentially would lose his battle with hypothermia but not before giving many people one last glorious Gospel witness.
Four years after the tragedy at a Titanic survivor's meeting in Ontario, Canada, one survivor recounted his interaction with Harper in the middle of the icy waters of the Atlantic. He testified he was clinging to ship debris when Harper swam up to him, twice challenging him with a biblical invitation to "believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved." He rejected the offer once. Yet given the second chance and with miles of water beneath his feet, the man gave his life to Christ. Then as Harper succumbed to his watery grave, this new believer was rescued by a returning lifeboat. As he concluded his remarks at the Ontario meeting of survivors he simply stated, "I am the last convert of John Harper."
When the Titanic set sail there were delineations of three classes of passengers. Yet immediately after the tragedy, the White Star Line in Liverpool, England placed a board outside its office with only two classes of passengers reading, KNOWN TO BE SAVED and KNOWN TO BE LOST. The owners of the Titanic had simply reaffirmed what John Harper already knew. There are people who know Christ and will spend eternity with God in heaven and many others who will not.
For us, 100 years after the Titanic, may we be as zealous as Harper was with every opportunity to share Christ with the perishing."

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Jackie Robinson, Paul McCartney and the Church

Tonight on PBS is night two of a two part documentary by legendary documentarian Ken Burns about Jackie Robinson.  This is a must watch, it is incredibly good.  The way Burns tells the story of the man who broke baseball's color barrier is so moving and accurate.  Burns brings the story to life and shares the important role that Jackie's wife played in his life.  I highly encourage you to watch either tonight or whenever it is re-aired.

While watching a documentary like this one can't help but think about the ugliness of racism and pointless division.  One can't help but be thrilled by the strong Christ-like character Mr. and Mrs. Robinson showed in the midst of the ugly trials they endured.  And one can't help but wonder how we're doing now.

So, how are we doing now?  Particularly, how is the Church doing in this matter?

Now, I'm hardly in a position to talk about a strategy to improve race relations or the like, but I do want to make a couple of observations and ask a couple of questions.

Martin Luther King Jr. said this, "We must face the fact in America, the church is still the most segregated major institution in America.  At 11:00 on Sunday morning when we stand and sing and Christ has no east or west, we stand at the most segregate hour in this nation.  This is tragic."

The stats back up Reverend King's statement even today.  So, we're not doing as good a job as we need to be doing.

I understand that some of you live in areas where there just isn't racial diversity, coming from Springville, Iowa I understand that.  But how is your church doing with diversity in any form?  Is your church full of like people?  Or is it white and black skinned people, white and blue color workers, left wing and right wing voters, rich and poor people... is there any diversity in your church?  Any institution can exist and even thrive with a homogenous group of people, one of the miracles of God in the Church is that it will continuously exist and thrive with intense diversity.

The Olympics are nearly upon us and this year they are in Rio.  Four years ago they were in London and they were spectacular.  Four years ago I was deeply moved by the opening ceremony.  Sir Paul McCartney was one of the performers and he sang "Hey Jude".  As he sang "Hey Jude" people from all over the world sang along (I've included a video from this performance below).  The whole world was drawn together by a Beatles song.  People sang in their culture's garb, with their language's accent to a Beatles song.  I was moved because it seemed a foretaste of Heaven when a similar scene will take place.  I was also convicted because a Beatles song was doing a better job of breaking down barriers than most of our local churches.

"After this I looked up and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb."  Revelation 7:9a

The Gospel will bring together people from every type of background without distinction.  It WILL do this guaranteed.  The question is, will your church participate in this now or not?  It is not enough to simply not be a bigot.  Do people from outside your church look in and wonder what could possibly bring that odd grouping of people together?

I want to get more of a foretaste of Heaven here and now.  I want my church to experience more heavenly diversity than it is now.  I mean, there is more today than just a year ago in my church, but I want more.  Pray with me that our local churches have greater diversity and look more like Heaven today.

Monday, April 4, 2016

You Write Your Eulogy Today

Have you ever been to a funeral and heard a eulogy that wowed you?

Eulogies are such interesting things.  Someone has just a few minutes to share the very essence of the person who has died.  In these few minutes they share what was most important to the deceased and most evident about the person everyone is there to mourn.

What would someone say in your eulogy?  What do you want to have said in your eulogy?

Think about these questions because they will deeply impact the way you live.  I have often said, "You write your eulogy today."  Someone else will physically pen your eulogy but they will write what you live.

Columnist David Brooks wrote a book called The Road to Character which is briefly summarized in his column "The Moral Bucket List".  I've not read his book but one idea from his aforementioned column, that I originally heard in an interview, stuck with me.

"It occurred to me that there were two sets of virtues, the résumé virtues and the eulogy virtues. The résumé virtues are the skills you bring to the marketplace. The eulogy virtues are the ones that are talked about at your funeral — whether you were kind, brave, honest or faithful. Were you capable of deep love?

We all know that the eulogy virtues are more important than the résumé ones. But our culture and our educational systems spend more time teaching the skills and strategies you need for career success than the qualities you need to radiate that sort of inner light. Many of us are clearer on how to build an external career than on how to build inner character." 
-David Brooks

You write your eulogy today.  What does your say?

If you want yours to say, "She was always there for us", then be there for someone today.  If you want yours to say, "He was faithful in everything,"  then be faithful in what you do today.  If you want yours to say, "He was a loving father," then make the choice to be a loving father today.  If you want yours to say, "Her faith was central," then make your faith central today.  If you want yours to say, "He was an honest man," then chose honesty over ill-gotten gain today.

Character is not something we get on our deathbed.  Character may be remembered on our last day, but it is built in our day-to-days.

"A good name is more desirable than great riches;
to be esteemed is better than silver or gold."  Proverbs 22:1

A good name is hard earned, but easily destroyed.  Character is not built overnight, but often crumbles overnight.  If you want a good name you've got to desire it every day and protect it with integrity.

Someday your eulogy will be read.

What will it say?

Write the eulogy you want today.

Friday, April 1, 2016

April Fools Day- A Repost

April Fools!  This is a post I wrote back in 2012.  Hope you enjoy it.

April Fools' Day

I was torn today about what to write.  It is Palm Sunday and it is April Fools' Day.  One might assume that given what I write about I would choose Palm Sunday, but I like April Fools' Day.

When I was growing up my little brother and I always pulled a prank on my sister for April Fools' Day.  One year we changed things up.  One April Fools' Day we did nothing to her all day.  She had to have been wondering when the prank would come, but it never did.  We didn't even speak of April Fools' Day.  She went to bed most likely assuming we had forgotten to prank her or that we'd finally grown up.  She was wrong.

When Maggie went to sleep Patrick and I set our alarm for 11:30.  We woke up at 11:30 and went around the house quietly changing all the clocks to 8:00.  We got dressed and grabbed our book bags.  Then at 11:45ish we, in a panic, woke up Maggie.

"We're late for school!  Hurry, brush your teeth!  We don't have time to shower!  Grab my keys and start the car so we can go!"

She shot out of bed and hustled to get dressed and brush her teeth.  She was half asleep and in a stressed out panic.  I tossed her the keys to my 1988 Pontiac Le Mans, which was a stick shift.  She ran outside in the pitch black night and tried to start my car.  She couldn't though because she didn't know she needed to push the clutch.  She turned the key over and over.

Patrick and I just laughed.  We woke up Mom and Larry because we were laughing so hard.  Then at 11:59 we ran outside and yelled "April Fools'!"  She obviously was pissed and hit us both and went back to bed.

Patrick and I thought that was the best prank ever.

April Fools' Day always has us on the edge.  Sure, it is fun but we have our guards up and don't know who to trust.

Thank God that He never plays April Fools' Day pranks.  You can take Him at His word 24/7 365.  When He says, "Never will I leave you nor forsake you."  Take it to the bank.  When His Holy Word says, "...Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." You can trust that He won't say, "April Fools'!"

Put your guard down.  Trust in the Lord.  Believe His promises for you today.