Tuesday, June 30, 2015

One Line Too Many

This first photo depicts 42 people in line to buy drugs from a man in a Chicago neighborhood last week; this in broad daylight, mind you.

 This second picture is what we need to see more of, on the streets of Chicago.

Although I hate to see any homeless person having to wait in line for food, I would much rather see this than
that first picture. The more I spend time in the city serving to the community through my church and through the Night Ministry (www.thenightministry.org), my eyes have opened to see what the Church should really be doing.

And with all that America has gone through in the last couple of weeks, and with some countries seeing us as no longer one nation under God, the opportunity exists even more.

The opportunity has always been there for the Church to move outside it's four walls and reach the community, perhaps this is why America has fallen, we've forgotten who Christ has called us to be,a light within the darkness. Now is not the time to react but to act with God's love.

Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon. - Isaiah 58:10

and are confident that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness,
- Romans 2:19
For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.
- Ephesians 5:8
Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” - John 8:12

But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;
 - 1 Peter 2:9

Hmm, there sure are a lot of scriptures on light and darkness. Actually there are over 25 verses throughout the Bible on light and darkness. Do you think God is telling us something here?

Saturday, June 20, 2015

What About the Little Girl?

Over 1,100 lives have been killed in the city of Chicago this year, and we are only in the month of June.
Last year's total surpassed 2500 people. Chicago made national headlines last 4th of July, where 82 lives were lost and 14 killed, all in one weekend. Yet no protests, no riots(not that I condone that kind of thing), no outcry from people in surrounding suburbs around Chicago, not much community involvement from churches outside the city limits. It's unfortunate that if it doesn't involve racism or controversy, it gets swept under the rug from the media, but most importantly from we the people on social media, we stay silent.
  One thing you need to always remember,

The media sensationalizes extreme violence to the point where we forget those in our own backyard whose lives have been lost to violence.

I am saddened by the 4 year-old girl who was shot in the head in the city a few weeks ago while outside her
home, as her family celebrated her siblings graduation.

I am saddened by the photo of the mom in the city, coming home from work and trying to get past police to view a body bag lying on the street as she cries out, "Let me through, I need to see if that's my baby!"

I am deeply saddened by the nine lives lost in Charleston this past week. Who would have thought this could happen inside a church during Bible study?

What do all these have in common? Your probably going to answer gun violence or hatred. But, how about something greater, evil?

 Evil is all around us, which is why the Apostle Paul instructs believers to put on the armor of God daily.

 10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
- Ephesians 6:10-13

 So, if we are going to recognize and be vocal about social injustice and all that it entails in racism and hatred, we also need to recognize that it takes more than words, it takes action, and we can't diminish one's death just because it didn't make it on CNN or Fox. All lives matter. If it matters to God, it should matter to us.

I hate the fact that we ignore all of the other lives lost to violence and approach social media with our own agenda with what is right and what is wrong with our society. We tend to capitalize on the greater extreme violence in our society, yet forget that each and every soul matters: white, black, Democrat, Republican, male, female, homeless, drug addict, etc.

It's okay to fight for social justice and equality, but let's fight for something more, something greater.
Let's fight for all mankind! Let's be the church that God intended for us to be. A Church of all believers, united together as one.

Abraham Lincoln once said, "A house divided cannot stand." I think this applies to the Church also.
Dang, all you have to do is look around you and see what kind of nation we have become.

I love Ephesians chapter 4 because Paul is talking about us walking in unity,

Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each others faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future.

,about using the gifts given to each of us:
11 Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. 12 Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. 13 This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.

and finally reminding us,
 Let us tell our neighbors the truth, for we are all parts of the same body.

If you feel strongly about seeing changes within our crazy culture here in the U.S., are serious about social justice and everything it entails, and you go to church; get your church involved within your community. 
There is no better opportunity for the Church than right now. What are you waiting for?




Tuesday, June 16, 2015

One Last Moment of Joy, of Peace

"In the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years."
- Abraham Lincoln
Upon seeing a photo displayed in a museum taken of President Lincoln just before his assassination, I noticed the man literally looked like he was 90 years old. Abraham Lincoln was only 56 when he unfortunately died from a gunshot by John Wilkes Booth. Yes, you may know the story and all of the accomplishments of the man we like to call Honest Abe, but here is something more for you to think about.
While spending a day with my buddy Brian at the Lincoln Museum in Springfield, Illinois, I came away with more than any history text book could ever reveal. One display showed a photo of Lincoln from 1860 when he was elected President, and each year after that up to his untimely death in 1865. The first photo showed him looking like a young college student, then the photo of him in 1865 you could see how vastly he aged in a five year period as President, he looked like a grandpa.  Before and during his presidency, Lincoln had to deal with the issues of slavery and the Civil War. His goal was a unified country as he spoke highly of democracy, "A house divided against itself cannot stand."
Lincoln and his wife Mary had four children, three of them never reached adulthood, passing at young ages from various diseases. This took a toll on them even before Mr. Lincoln began his presidency.
Abraham Lincoln lived a tumultuous, but illustrious life, and his term as President was at best not an easy one. I caught a glimpse of his final moments with his wife Mary before his life was taken, here in a message written by Mary and displayed at the museum:

After General Lee's surrender, Lincoln found some time to relax, and for the first time in ten years felt he could laugh freely again. As he sat with his wife in Ford's Theater, Lincoln smiled and breathed a sigh of relief.
Equally content, Mary held his hand and at a few minutes before ten, hugged him.
Just a few short minutes later, Lincoln's life was taken from him. I found it ironic that here, a man who gave so much for the cause of freedom, a man who endured three of his children's deaths, who aged so quickly in such a short span, was able to experience a moment of joy, love, and peace with his wife in his final moments.
No such words could describe this any finer than Amazing grace.


Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Nice Job, Mr. Steve

Imagine you are driving by a grade school and you see over 200 kids standing in a line on the playground to get someone's autograph. Who is it? Justin Bieber? Taylor Swift? Hmm, maybe Katy Perry? Oh I know, that guy from the Zoo Keeper movie, you know the one, Kevin James?

Nope. Nada, one. It was the custodian! Yep, the custodian at the school. The students call him Mr. Steve and they all love him because he is always talking to the kids, smiling at them, and helping them out when they are in a jam. And, according to Mr. Steve, all of the children respect him. Hmm, there's a lesson all of us adults could learn. And from grade school kids, nonetheless!

Last week, Mr. Steve, a father of four, said he signed all 104 of the second graders' yearbooks after lunch -- in addition to 200 more from other classes.

"I walked through the playground to get through the building and they saw me and started running," he said. "You get one, you get all of them. Once they got a line I sat down."

The photo of him signing their yearbooks instantly went viral, and is almost up to 1 million hits.

In this tech savvy world, where the media likes to gives us all of the bad or controversial news just for ratings, it is nice to see something good for a change.

Boy, if we could all take a lesson from these children, seeing the good in others and showing respect, the world would be in a better place.

Kudos to Mr. Steve! And thank you kids for showing us how it's done. 

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Honor, Commitment and Sweet Victory

General MacArthur once asked of God,

 "Build me a son, O Lord, who will be strong enough to know when he is weak, and brave enough to face himself when he is afraid, one who will be proud and unbending in honest defeat, and humble and gentle in victory."

One month ago I had written a post called "Athletes Lives Matter", and within that story I shared about Josh Hamilton, a baseball player who was shunned from his team for having a sobriety relapse. Josh was sent packing from the Anaheim Angels back to his former team the Texas Rangers, where he was an all-star at one time. The Rangers had been there for Josh like family as he battled through both drug and alcohol addictions. Once they heard he was having problems again with his addictions they took him back, acknowledging he not only needed help, he needed a family to stick by his side.

Today Josh Hamilton is having a resurgence as a ball player with his team, helping them win a bunch of games this past week with his timely hitting. He won one game by hitting not one, but two home runs.  And his team has a winning record for the month of May. Returning to his home team is paying dividends for Josh.

"He's been good since he got back home and saw the fans behind him. He's gotten more confidence and that's all he needed", says one teammate.

In reference to MacArthur asking God for young men who are not just honorable but humble, this is who MacArthur wanted on his team. There is strength in unity when everyone is on the same page.

In the film Love and Honor, a team of young men are doing battle in the Vietnam War, but for one soldier the only thing he is worried about is himself staying alive for his girl back home. Although I am pretty sure that is on the mind of all the men who were fighting that war, and the wars of today, there is something built within these men to fight for each other to stay alive, I believe it's called honor and commitment.

When this particular unit is given a week of R&R, and upon the lovestruck soldier getting a letter that his girl is dumping him, he illegally goes back home to win her back. The soldier's best friend decides to go back with him, just to make sure he does return to the war so he is not sent to Leavenworth Prison for being a deserter.

Back home things don't go as planned and the soldier decides he doesn't want to go back to the war, he would rather retreat to Canada. After hearing one of the men in their unit died from his injuries saving them, things begin to really change and the words honor and commitment come into play. 

I find it ironic that after the Anaheim Angels got rid of Josh Hamilton for his relapse, they began a losing streak, while Josh got his life back in order and the team that stuck by his side is now winning.

  Where there is unity there is victory.