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September 2010 entries

Choose to Live

The only thing consistent about me is inconsistency. I often go two weeks without composing anything. Now here it is less than twenty four hours and I'm writing on this blog again. I had to. I just read this story in a book and it is so true I had to share it.

This man named Mike was a great encourager to everyone around him. Daily he would ask others how their day was going. When they asked him in return he would always respond, "If I were any better I would have to be twins."  He said he made a choice each morning to make the day a good day. (Sound familiar to anyone?)

One day Mike had an accident at work where he fell 60 feet from a communications tower. A friend asked him what went through his mind as he lay on the ground unable to move while waiting on help. "As I lay there on the ground," he told his friend, "I remembered I had two choices. I could choose to live or I could choose to die. I chose to live."

"Weren't you scared?" the man asked weeks after the accident. "Yes, but the paramedics were great. They kept telling me I was going to be fine. But when I got to the emergency room I began to be scared. The faces of the doctors said "Here is one dead man.""

"So what did you do?" his friend asked. "Well, when the nurses asked me 'Are you allergic to anything? 'I told them 'yes'. They abruptly stopped working on me and said 'You are, what?' 'Gravity', I said. Over the laughter, I told them 'Listen, I am choosing to live. So operate on me as if you were operating on a man who is alive, not a man who is dead."

Living well must become intentional. Don't stop dreaming of what your life can be. You may never become all that you dream of, but you'll never achieve anything taht you don't dream of. What choice will you make?   

Distraction Number One: Temptation

I've had a few people want me to put in written form what I spoke of last Sunday at Dallas Bay. I guess there may have been too many distractions to get it all. (You would have to be there to know what I mean.)

God has called you, saved you, sanctified you and will someday glorify you.  He has much invested in you. If all you got at salvation was fire insurance then the most reasonable thing to do would be to immediately take you home. I assume since you are reading this post He did not. He has left you to carry your cross. (Luke 9:23) Things that are uniquely yours to accomplish. He has also place you and your uniqueness in the body of Christ. It is in the context of the church that you are to do what only you are equipped to do. (I Cor. 12: 18) Since the enemy has lost the battle for your soul he takes an alternate route. His objective is to distract you from your purpose, and every believer's ultimate purpose is to glorify God. He does this in two ways. One by temptation and two by worry. 

In I Samuel 11 we have the familiar story of King David falling into the devil's trap with Bathsheba. It was in a time when he was exhausted from battle. (I Samuel 10) It is often when we are tired that we let our defenses down. Coupled with the fact that it was spring David should have his defenses ready for an attack from the enemy. Instead he allowed himself to fall prey to his own llusts in his weak condition.  This man after God's own heart lost his focus and his purpose.

How do you keep from falling prey to your own lusts and thus give in to temptation and lose sight of your purpose? First recognize the temptation is a spiritual attack. If the girl and the opportunity both look too good to be true. They are! In a moment of weakness the enemy will offer a cheap substitute to our real purpose for living. Paul says, "we walk in the flesh, we do not war in the flesh." (II Cor. 10:3) 

Second Paul instructs us to rely on God and not on our own strength. Our weapons are "not carnal, but mighty in God..." (II Cor. 10:4) No one has the strength with themselves to fight against the distraction of temptation, particularly when they are tired.

Third Paul says to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ." (II Cor. 10: 5) I was struck by the fact that he didn't say to kill or destroy those thoughts. We are rather to take them captive and give them to Christ. We are to redirect those thoughts for good. God did not change Paul's zealousness for faith when He met him on the road to Damascus. He simply redirected his energy to promote Christianity and not destroy it. Remember God wants to use what is uniquely you to further His purpose in the world. If not, the most expedient thing is to just take you home. So when you feel the enemy try and distract you with temptation let that same energy drive you to your knees before God. In time the distractions will become less frequent as the devils learns it only drives you closer to Christ.      

Looking for God in All the Wrong Places

It appears to me that God shows up in places where I least like to look for Him. And look for Him I do. But I like to look for Him in places where I wish to find Him. I want to see Him in a standing room only Sunday morning worship service; particularly if I am speaking. I wish to see Him when I am feeling well and well fed. I expect Him at birthday parties and wedding anniversaries. I seek Him at the Thanksgiving table and at the base of the tree on Christmas morning. But over and over He fails to appear where I expect Him to be. 

I have seen Him though. Although I am not expecting to see Him where He is and most often I don't want to be there either. I last saw Him in a hospital room where a good friend was ill. He showed up in my study while I talked with a fellow who's life seems to be coming apart at the seams. And there was that time just a few days ago He was standing in the grass next to an off ramp holding a sign that read' "Out of Work Can You Help Me?" I noticed He was standing in the next aisle as I happened upon a member purchasing personal items for a trip to the Mayo clinic for some potent chemo. 

God shows up in some of the darkest places. I guess He shows up where He is most wanted and needed. I think He is in all places at all times, but light is harder to see in the light. It's in those dark places where He shines so brightly.   

Why Do College Kids Leave the Church?

Last night our youth pastor and myself were on our monthly radio program and tackled the topic why teens leave the church. This is our fourth month doing a monthly broadcast and this subject generated more phone calls than any other. I was really surprised by the response.

Most studies show about 2/3's of high school students who attended church did not return when entering college. Inquiring minds want to know why. Is it the church's fault? Some people want to lay the blame at the foot of the steeple. There probably is enough evidence to show that the church has some blame to share about college students who become Sunday morning no-shows. We have mistaken large youth groups with successful ones. To get large youth groups many churches have relied on entertainment or shock value. By the time kids become college age there are plenty of venues that can entertain them better and people willing to shock them more profanely. But all the blame is not the church's.

Others blame society. Society isn't helping matters any, that's for sure. But I contend society is our kids. Blaming society is like blaming the mirror for your appearance, it is only a reflection of who you are. But if by society you mean peer pressure, there is certainly enough evidence of bad behavior being fostered by the bad behavior of others. Still the the desertion of young adults from church is more than societies influence.

I have often blamed the family for the scarcity of twenty-somethings at church. There is validity in my thinking. Often young adults are inconsistent in church because that is what they have observed at home. If the high school student sees their parents make church a low priority they are likely to do the same as college age adults. Lord knows there are plenty of things for them to get involved with. Still I think one factor is often overlooked.

Personal responsibility is one of the benefits and burdens of freedom. When young men and women break the apron strings, or as in some cases have them broken for them, they find a road in front of them that forks in every direction possible. Without the experience to choose well they often take the easiest or most popular route. Road signs marked "Get Rich" and "Have It All" often intersect with "Casual Sex" and "Party Hearty." Unless they have learned from a mentor that these signs lead to dead ends they strike off to "experience life." It is not until they have exhausted each road do they come to realize that what the world offered was temporary pleasure at best. Those infrequent and fleeting highs were less numerous than long periods of intense pain and hopelessness. Solomon tried to live life this way and came to conclude "It was like chasing after the wind. It was just futility."

Thankfully God's grace is sufficient for these times. We see more families return to church after they have begun careers or started families. They have tried out the world's ways and found the world was lying to them. The philosophy of faith begins to become more understandable and real when you have tried the others. I am grateful that the Father is standing on the edge of the porch eying the horizon looking for them to come home. And when they do he runs to meet them and welcome them home. Where the world only offers pig pens and table scarps the Father gives us a warm bed and throws us a party. Oh to have the wisdom of age and the energy of youth. I guess I'll have to settle for age and wisdom.