Friday, January 25, 2013


Sermon preparation always seems to be the means by which my brain gets a jumpstart.  It forces me to dig into Scripture a little bit deeper and my imagination can generally go wild as I think through the many applications to my life and life in general.  It also amazes me how God seems to lead the leadership of our church to the right place in Scripture from which to preach in order to have the maximum impact.  Maybe I am being presumptuous, but the maximum impact that I am assuming is assumed because that’s the kind of impact that it generally has on me.

We have been in the book of Daniel since the beginning of the New Year.  The name of the series has been appropriately called, “Uncompromising Faith.”  As you read through the journey of Daniel and his friends, it’s hard not to hear and see the uncompromising nature of their faith.  Last week, we were in Daniel 3 and the verse that really stuck out to me was verse 18 where Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego say that even if God does not save them from the furnace, they will still continue to worship Him alone.

It’s my turn to preach this week and I am preaching from Daniel 6.  Daniel is older and established in his faith as well as his role as the third highest ruler in the land.  He has made enemies, which is bound to happen whenever we hold to our convictions, and those enemies come together as a group to plan and plot against Daniel.  What exactly motivates them to do so is uncertain, but I am sure that we can fill in the blanks as we think about possible motivating factors: jealousy, rebellion, frustration, their own lack of conviction, and countless other possibilities.

Having just celebrated Martin Luther King, Jr. day, I began to dig around a little bit to get more information on MLK.  I have had one of his biographies on my shelf by David Garrow called “Bearing the Cross” that I have not read.  I stumbled upon it as I was reading Philip Yancey’s “Soul Survivor” and he made reference to it.  Between those two books, I discovered that MLK had sort of accidentally fallen into the civil rights movement in the beginning.  He was the new pastor in town in Montgomery, Alabama right when Rosa Parks famously held her bus seat after a long and tiresome day.  The African American leadership within the city needed a leader and they compromisingly chose this young, new pastor.  The rest is history.

It didn’t take long for King to gain enemies, much like Daniel.  He received all kinds of threats and legitimately worried about his well-being as well as the well-being of his family.  While his family slept, he sat at his kitchen table, contemplating whether or not he should back down, he recounted in a sermon, “And I discovered then that religion had to become real to me, and I had to know God for myself.”  He felt that God was calling him to stand for righteousness, justice, and truth and that he would never be left on his own, God would always be with him by his side.

Years later, Martin Luther King’s life was stripped from him at the age of 39 while standing on the balcony of a Memphis hotel.  While certainly not perfect, King stood for his convictions despite the inherent risks involved.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German Lutheran pastor.  He was a student of Karl Barth and was influential in the Confessing Church movement in Germany.  Bonhoeffer’s career seemed to parallel the conflict taking place in his home country of Germany.  He had opportunities to teach in London and the United States in the mid 1930s.  While in the safety of the United States, he was convinced that he should leave that safety and travel back to Germany to take a stand against the Nazi regime.  He wrote:

"I have come to the conclusion that I made a mistake in coming to America. I must live through this difficult period in our national history with the people of Germany. I will have no right to participate in the reconstruction of Christian life in Germany after the war if I do not share the trials of this time with my people... Christians in Germany will have to face the terrible alternative of either willing the defeat of their nation in order that Christian civilization may survive or willing the victory of their nation and thereby destroying civilization. I know which of these alternatives I must choose but I cannot make that choice from security."

Bonhoeffer went back to Germany and joined a movement to assassinate Hitler.  He was caught, arrested, tried, and executed at Flossenbürg concentration camp just 2 weeks prior to the United States liberation of that camp.    

Martin Luther King, Jr., Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Daniel and his friends all chose conviction over safety.  They chose to stand up for what they believed in rather than stay safe.  While Daniel and his friends remained safe and untouched in the midst of trying and dangerous situations, King and Bonhoeffer lost their lives.

Among those who led the Confessional Church movement in Germany was Martin Niemöller who is famous for his quote, “First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out -
Because I was not a Socialist.  Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out -
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.  Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out -
Because I was not a Jew.  Then they came for me--and there was no one left to speak for me.”

At some point in our lives, we will be faced with a situation in which we will need to stand up for convictions that we hold.  The cost for standing up for those convictions will most likely be high, but will it be worth it to us?  What happens when we remain silent in the midst of conviction?  Do those convictions really count?  It’s becoming harder and harder to stand firm with convictions, especially when those convictions seem to be counter-cultural.  At some point, we might feel that the words spoken by Niemöller hit very close to home, especially if we remain silent in the midst of conviction.

Monday, January 21, 2013


Between my own personal growth, seminary requirements, and other professional training that I have been through, I have had to do a number of psychological and personality assessments.  There are some people who find these incredibly helpful while other think that they are a sham.  Having seen their influence in my own life and their helpfulness in viewing others around me, I would find myself in the first group.  While they are certainly not to be taken as “gospel” and the end-all-be-all of self-understanding, I have always found them helpful.

If you have never taken any personality profiles or assessments, I would encourage you to do so.  Personally, I have taken the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator multiple times, StrengthsFinders a number of times, as well as various others like the PI and others.  A week before my wife and I were married, nearly 12 years ago, we went through a seminar and workshop that involved both the Myer-Briggs and the StrengthFinders assessments.  It seems like a day does not go by where we make reference to it with ourselves or with others with whom we interact.  If nothing else, they have been an incredibly helpful tool for us to understand each other.

A brief example to contextualize this is in order.  My wife is a fairly strong “P” in the MBTI (Myers-Briggs - Perceiving) while I have generally been a strong “J” (Judging).  One of the strongest examples of this to make it understandable is that, as a J, I need closure.  I can’t leave a lot of things left open and undone or it will frustrate me.  If I lose something, I need to find it “right now.”  If it’s midnight and something is unfound, I will search high and low for it.  As a P, my wife can be a lot more free about things like this than I can.  If she loses something, she just figures that it will turn up.

In nearly 12 years of marriage, we’ve both come to understand the other enough that the difference has caused us to be more compromising and complementary to each other (at least I think so).  Case in point was last night, my wife brought our middle child to a birthday party and when we met up later on, she was unable to find her phone.  She didn’t seem too disturbed by the fact that she couldn’t locate it while I was ready to go out and tear the car apart to see if it turned up.  My wife, in all her graciousness, asked me if I wanted her to go outside (in the dark) and look for the phone in the car.  I told her that we could wait until morning.

This morning, I called the place where the birthday party was to see whether someone had turned in a phone.  I was ready to drive by the parking lot to see if I saw anything on the ground.  My wife just continued to go about her other responsibilities.  While I was on my way to search the parking lot, my phone rang and I saw that it was my wife’s cell phone.  I answered and she told me that she had found it in the diaper bag, which she hadn’t even had with her.  Scratching my head, I realized that I had thought to look there last night, but it seemed illogical that it would be there.  Just goes to show me that I need to go with my gut.

Anyway, I guess I can chalk another one up for the P’s of the world.  Getting frustrated about a lost item has never really benefitted me while my wife’s patience will probably help her live longer.  All this to say, at the end of the day, I think we understand each other better.  In psychological terms, we do our best to be self-actualized.  Today will come and go and there will be more days ahead of lost things, my wife and I will continually to be different people, but we can better understand each other when we see how God knit and formed us together.  Like I said, these profiles and assessments have been helpful to me and my wife.  If you haven’t taken any before, I encourage you to check them out, I would be surprised if they didn’t help you in some way or another to understand yourself and those around you as well.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Seize the Day

It seems that I've been reminded more and more lately of the importance of seizing every opportunity that comes my way.  Life has a way of doing that to us if we pay attention.

I remember when my wife was pregnant with our first, everybody and anybody would feel compelled to share that their now 20 year old was a baby once.  They blinked and all of a sudden he or she was grown up.  Around the same time, I was sitting with a musician friend of mine who shared about the little opportunities that he would take advantage of with his own boys who were in high school at the time.

All of these things seemed to take root in my mind as they were told to me.  In fact, it seems that a day can't go by without me being reminded of all of those collaborative words every time that I consider staying at work later than I need to or disengaging by sitting in front of the TV when my kids are open and free, young and at a place where they will never be again in their lives.

Early on in their lives, I began to check in on them countless times through the night.  With our first, I would always check to make sure that he was breathing.  I honestly still do that with him and his siblings.  But I love to watch them sleep, listening to the gentle breathing (sometimes snoring) of these little souls who have been entrusted to me.  I have done my best to stop and pray over each one of them on a nightly basis.

I feel like I've probably quoted Ferris Bueller too many times, but if the shoe fits, right?  Life moves pretty fast.  You don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.  I've also begun to appreciate the fragility of life more and more and it feels like every time that realization hits me, I have a choice.  I can either live in fear about what I or someone that I love might face, or I can continue to seize the opportunities that come to me never knowing whether I will have another chance.

I was reminded of this again this morning as I "suited up" to go play in the snow with my boys.  I knew that the snow would not last, so I figured that we needed to seize the opportunity.  I also knew that my boys wouldn't always want me to come play with them, so there again, seize the opportunity.

So, as you face your day, think about the opportunities that might arise throughout your day.  Take advantage of them, I'm sure you won't regret it.

Get up early and watch the sun rise.
Hug your family just a little more.
Kiss your special someone a little longer.
Turn off the TV and start a conversation.
Get off of Facebook and pick up the phone.
Take a drive.
Go for a walk.
Practice random acts of kindness.

At the end of the day, I'll be surprised if you're not smiling.

Monday, January 14, 2013


I keep trying to find some time to get rest and it seems fairly elusive.  Not only have I been seeking physical rest, but mental and emotional rest as well.  I've always been a firm believer in holistic approach towards health in ourselves, and while I certainly don't excel at it, the consciousness of it at least helps me to be aware and strive towards it.

After a fairly draining week and weekend last week, I told my wife that I was waiting to see our rainbow.  I've written before about rainbows in my blog here.  From a biblical perspective, the rainbow is a powerful symbol of God's promise and provision.  After the flood, when Noah and his family left the ark for the first time since they had entered it, God gave them a rainbow as a promise that He would never again flood the earth to the same degree and severity.

In my request for a rainbow, what I was really saying was that I was ready for some kind of promise that all that we have been through and had to deal with over the past few years could stop and we could begin to experience some peace and rest.  I laughed to myself as I recalled a song that I sang during Advent this past December called "Rest (Song of the Innkeeper)."  The chorus repeated the line, "I need rest."  It seemed somewhat prophetic to me.

I am reminded of Jesus' words in John 16:33, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."  Where am I looking for peace?  What is the definition to me?  Am I envisioning some kind of utopian life where everything is perfect and no trouble ever befalls me?  Jesus never promised that to me or any of us.  He did promise that He would never leave us or turn His back on us if we are called His children.

This morning, when I walked outside with my son to the bus stop, we looked up in the sky and saw a rainbow.  It took me a minute to remember the request that I had made, and while I certainly don't think that the rainbow was meant only for me, it sure brought a smile to my face.  Troubles will still come, the rain will fall, but I know that there are still promises of God to cling to and hold on to.

Happy Monday!