Friday, September 30, 2005

With A Rebel Yell

Ok, so I know I’m a little late with this one. I’m not a news hound so I often miss out on what’s happening in the world. But the other night I was up late and I happened to catch a bit of ABC’s Nightline. I turned on the TV as Journalist Ted Koppel was interviewing Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Together they were discussing Evangelist Rev. Pat Robertson’s call for the assassination of Chavez. In case you haven’t heard about this (Like I hadn’t until recently) this is how it goes…

“On August 23 Religious broadcaster Pat Robertson suggested on-air that American operatives assassinate Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to stop his country from becoming "a launching pad for communist infiltration and Muslim extremism. ‘We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability,’ Robertson said Monday on the Christian Broadcast Network's "The 700 Club." ‘We don't need another $200 billion war to get rid of one, you know, strong-arm dictator,” he continued. "It's a whole lot easier to have some of the covert operatives do the job and then get it over with."

Hmm…. Does this sound wrong to anyone else out there? I know that I for one don’t really want to be part of a faith that will call for the assassination of another child of God. Now I’m sure that Chavez isn’t the most saintly person out there. Rev. Robertson calls him a ”Strong-arm Dictator” However, before we go and assassinate world leaders I think that we should look at both sides. I’ve copied and pasted a bit of the transcript from the interview that I saw. Just before this segment Ted Koppel asked Chavez to describe himself. One of the words he used was a revolutionary, so Koppel is asking Chavez about that,

“-KOPPEL: A revolutionary has to be in revolt against something. What are you revolting against?
-- CHAVEZ (THROUGH TRANSLATOR):I've been in revolt for years against ignominy, against injustice, against inequality, against immorality, against the exploitation of human beings.
One of the greatest rebels, who I really admire: Christ. He was a rebel. He ended up being crucified. He was a great rebel. He rebelled against the established power that subjugated. That is what rebellion is; it's rebellion out of love for human beings. In truth, that is the cause, the cause of love: love for every human being, for every women, for every child, for every man, for every brother.
I believe you to be a brother. I don't see you as above or below. I don't feel superior or inferior to you. We're on an equal basis. Your cameraman, your photograph are equal. The men and women who are seeing you, who are seeing us are equal. They're true brothers.”

Now I am sitting in my living room thinking to myself, now there is a man who understands the message of Christ. To be a Christian means to stand against injustices and to stand for love. Many of the prophets wrote in the Old Testament that God’s judgement would fall on the people BECAUSE they neglected the care for widows and orphans. God’s judgement would fall because they refused to revolt against, “Ignominy, against injustice, against inequality, against immorality, against the exploitation of human beings (Chavez).” Instead the people of Israel went with the flow and followed the example of the nations around them. Much like we are doing today in America.

Now I freely admit that I am not an expert in politics. And I know very little about Rev. Robertson and even less about Hugo Chavez. But from what I HAVE seen has made me sick with embarrassment for those of us who are Christians in America. The fact that I could be associated with a man like Robertson makes me shudder. To make matters worse this isn’t the first time Robertson has made Christians look like a bunch of hate filled redneck idiots.

Which brings me back to Chavez. “It's rebellion out of love for human beings. In truth, that is the cause, the cause of love: love for every human being, for every women, for every child, for every man, for every brother.” Now those are words that I can stand along side of. That is a cause that I can stand for. Those are words that if spoken from a pulpit would have me saying AMEN!…or at least I’d say amen if I was in a more charismatic church. But Chavez inspires me to do more for the cause of justice and to make more of a stand for the cause of human rights. So along with Billy Idol I’ll raise my Rebel Yell and say let’s stand together and work for the cause Chavez speaks of, let us revolt against exploitation, injustice, and immorality. Let’s revolt against the status quo. Sources: The Associated Press and ABC Nightline

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Run Till Ya Drop

There is a disturbing trend in our churches today. It’s called being too busy. I’ve noticed it in the lives of the youth I work with, the lives of my professors while I was at school, the lives of my parents, and the lives of pretty much everyone I know. We are living in a culture that allows us to do anything we want. There is no end to the options for us to get involved in. We can volunteer for everything from being a deacon in our church, to being a youth leader, to giving respite care, to coaching little league. Whatever your interest there are a hundred different things that you can spend your time doing.

Advertisers have noticed this. There is this new commercial on TV for a vitamin supplement. The whole commercial is people walking around juggling things (e.g. a cell phone, a book, and a bottle of cleaning solution) they walk around juggling all the things in their lives. The whole message is, “We know you don’t have time to eat right, so take this little pill instead.” Does anyone else notice the problem with this? Instead of sitting with our families and having a well-balanced meal we run off to the nearest fast food chain, take a pill (to make up for the lack of nutrition) and run off to hockey practice, or our P.T.A. meeting.

Now my point isn’t that we are a fat, lazy society that doesn’t eat well. My point is that we don’t take the time to even eat with our families. Is it any wonder that our society is riddled with divorce? It doesn’t matter if you are part of the church or not, the divorce rate is practically the same. I would venture to say that our divorce rates are so high because we have generations of people who have been pushed to be involved, in church, in their communities, and in sports etc. All of these people never learned the importance of saying NO! We have this superman complex where we think that we can save everything and everyone. Or perhaps even more disturbing is the thought that we think that everyone NEEDS US to save them. Well the fact is the world will get along just fine without us. If we died today people close to us would mourn our passing, but within a week life would be back to normal. And in a year… we would be replaced.*

I think that we should learn a lesson from my brother’s hamster Gyp Gyp. You see my brother’s hamster started running one night, and he kept running, and running, and running, and a few days later it died. Well I don’t think that anyone has ever died from being involved in too many things, But I DO know that marriages have suffered and broken, people have been burnt out, stressed out, and have wanted to withdraw into seclusion “Just to get away from it all for a while.” People drink, smoke, gamble, play too many video games, and watch too much TV, have headaches, high blood pressure, and fatigue and some will even commit suicide because of the stress of their life. We run, we get involved, and we burn out. We are like a match held upside down and the flames just burn up everything in the matter of a few seconds.

Now back to Gyp Gyp. The poor thing just ran itself into exhaustion and died. Do you ever feel like your running around on the hamster wheel of life? Maybe we all need to listen to the words of my father. He said, “Stop running. Look at what God is doing. Listen to God.”

It is interesting that in a time before high speed internet, instant mac and cheese, microwavable popcorn, and all the other “instants” we have today St. Augustine wrote,

“O Lord thou hast made us for thyself and we are restless until we find our rest in thee.”

Do you want to save your marriage? Your sanity? The few hairs on your head that haven’t turned grey yet? Well then stop running. Learn to say no! Learn to chose a few things and get rid of the rest. And make time for the things that REALLY matter; you’re spouse, your kids, and ultimately God. Because after all if we don’t find rest in HIM, then we aren’t actually resting at all.

As for me? Even as I write this I can see in my own life times when I should just sit on the couch for a few more minutes with my wife, but I feel like I should go and set up for our youth night, or I should get running because I have a meeting to go to. It’s hard to realise that the youth band can practice without me and that if the power point isn’t set up “just so” life WILL go on, and that meetings are NOT the most important thing life. So like that old philosopher Red Green says, “I’m pulling for you, we’re all in this together.” Why don’t we slow down for a minute and just enjoy the life God has given us.


*(my foot note) I am not talking about the immediate families. For those people the loss of a loved on is a tragic experience that takes quite a bit longer to heal from. And often there is a hole forever. My heart goes out to you who have experienced this.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Say NO to "Inbreeding"

As I am reading Jesus Christ Disciplemaker by Bill Hull I am struck by one profound and simple thought. Hull says that, “A disciple finds and teaches disciples.” The problem that Hull points out is that we (the North American church) have a problem with inbreeding. Now I don’t mean that all of our cousins are marrying each other (although this could be debated about some of our Mennonite churches J just kidding) The problem is we are discipling the same people over and over, and then we have “Forty trainers” and no one new to train. As a result most of our church growth comes from drawing people from other churches. We’re not making new disciples, we’re just recycling old ones.
Now I realise that this is hardly a new observation but maybe it’s one that needs to be made again. The men that Jesus chose as his disciples weren’t believers when He first took them along. A prime example of this is found in Mark 4:38-44, “Jesus Himself was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke Him and said to Him, "Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?" And He got up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, "Hush, be still." And the wind died down and it became perfectly calm. And He said to them, "Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?" They became very much afraid and said to one another, "Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?" (NASB) Now somehow I doubt that if they knew who Jesus was they would lack faith in Him. Also I think that the disciples words “Who then is this” give us a glance into their view of Jesus. They wouldn’t ask this question if they knew who He was, and what He was capable of. Nope the Disciples were just a bunch of crazy unbelievers who Jesus called to follow Him.
Which brings me back to my point about our churches. We spend so much of our time and money training leaders and training people to get involved and lead, but are we missing the example that Christ left for us? What if instead of putting the mighty resources of the church into training believers, we took unbelieving atheists and had them follow us and listen to us talk and teach? Well maybe an atheist is a little extreme… But what if instead of always training our Christian brothers and sisters, we asked people who haven’t made a commitment to observe our lives and our doctrine the way Jesus asked the Disciples to observe Him? Maybe it’s just crazy, or maybe it’s a good way to combat the “inbreeding” of our churches today.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

All New to Me

So in the last four months I've gotten married, worked at camp with my wife, moved to a new town, and started work as a youth pastor in a new church. So I figured with all these new things that are going on in my life I would try one more new thing, a blog. Now I really have no idea if anyone will ever read this, or if it will even be worth reading, but thought that I would at least give it a try. So here we are starting a blog... I sure wish that I could start us off with something profound, or maybe even something that is really insightful and deep. But I can't... all I have is a quote from my favourite movie of all time. I should say that while this is spoken by an Irishman I believe that the same is equally true for a Scot :)
"In order to talk to his equal an Irishman is forced to talk to God." -Stephen (Braveheart)