Is there REALLY a need for going to church? A man once told me that he loved to go hunting on Sunday mornings because he felt closer to God while sitting in a tree stand, surrounded by creation, than he did while sitting in a pew surrounded by Christians. The man's claim seemed disingenuous, but the general sentiment he shared is one I think is rampant in our post-Christian culture and even among Christians. Do Christians have to go to church? Likely, a vast majority of people would say "no," but that vast majority would be wrong. Here's why...
Does God really answer prayers? Is the whole business about God simply a coping mechanism for people to get through tough times? While it might be nice, does it really make a difference to believe in God, pray to God, or do what the Bible says? Yes, is my obvious answer, but maybe not in the cliché ways people often expect from a pastor or believer. Here's why...
I listened to a father speak of his heartbreak over his son. His son was convinced he was destined for failure. The boy was capable of achieving good things, but often chose to not even try. He felt worthless. The parents felt powerless. Nothing the father or mother could say seemed to change the boy's mindset. Even if an A was scored on a test, the boy was not convinced of his ability. The father and mother were not sure what to do to help.
Is it possible some are destined for failure?
Three men and their stories may help us know this Easter.
Christmas definitely hired a better PR agent! We like Christmas better than Easter. The Christmas story is happy and there's lots of anticipation and presents. Easter is bloody and gloomy. We like happy. We avoid bloody. Yet, our preference of Christmas over Easter is encouraged by misunderstandings of both holy days. What did we miss?
It's that moment when you realize your life is not quite what you expected. How did we get here? Perhaps a tragedy brings it to the surface: watching a loved one die in front of you; your job is pulled out from under you; the diagnosis is worse than imagined.
Perhaps it was more gradual. Life just evolved into a disappointment. It's like our life showed up and was not dressed for the occasion! Where do we go from here, and where is God in all this?
Christians are abuzz about the fact that Michael Phelps is talking about God and the book Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. Hopefully, Michael truly has found a purpose larger than winning another medal. Celebrities are often heralded for these things, but sadly, it is easy to be skeptical. Many celebrities have made their faith public only to later be entangled in scandal. Yet, maybe they reflect the unfortunate norm in many churches...
I am a former police officer. Half of my three years of service was spent in a community where 50% of the population was African-American. The remaining portion of my service was in a community that was 85% Caucasian. This short time in law enforcement showed me that skin color has no bearing on the level of depravity in a human. I engaged criminals of every ethnicity, and I helped victims of every ethnicity. Sin is not an ethnic condition but a human condition. Why has the racial tension exploded in this nation? How should followers of Christ respond?
Visiting folks in the hospital always raises the question about God and healing. Does God heal, and if so, why does it seem to occur so rarely? Is God's power waning, or does He just not care? I've prayed for healing over many people both at home and in the church. Why do I not see "miraculous" healing more often?
Jesus once asked an invalid, "Do you want to be healed?" (John 5:6) This may seem like a silly question, perhaps even rude, but maybe it reveals more about both God and us than we realize.
Interesting how packing to move has shed light on Syrian refugees and ministry. I had to wrap up a large framed poster of a photographed lion that hangs over my desk. My wife had it framed and matted for me before we moved to New Orleans ten years ago. The lion is galloping toward the camera. Eyes locked. Locked on you, or through you? Will the lion eat you, or is he on his way to something? The quote framed with my photo: "Aslan is not safe, but He's good."