The gift of life…

The tragedy that took place in San Bernardino this week is an injustice beyond comprehension. I am saddened for the family and friends of the victims. I cannot even imagine their grief.

Children were robbed of their childhood. Parents were robbed of their children. Spouses are now single. Siblings are missing their brothers and sisters. Friends are painfully aware of their loss.

Why?

I will never fully know the motivation of the two killers.

What?

Life, the most valuable asset of humanity was taken! Stolen! Robbed!

A stranger used a weapon and with it ended fourteen lives and injured many, many more.

That extraordinarily selfish act is an extreme example of human depravity, presumption, arrogance and selfishness.

The opposite end of the human spectrum is humble, selfless, unconditional love. And when the spectrum of humanity ends, eternity begins. Eternal love is so unbelievably amazing it is inexpressible.

This Sunday, we are going to study the effect of that eternal, inexpressible love. As opposed to one of the most selfish acts in history, God has given us the greatest gift of all through the most selfless act in history.

My thoughts and prayers are with the victims…I am so sorry. As I look ahead, I want to spend my life sharing the gift of eternal life.

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Musings on the #refugeecrisis

Refugee CampAs a pastor of New Life CityChurch, I feel very blessed to have deep relationships with people representing each generation, multiple races, diverse education and experiences and various socio-economic standards.

I want to do something to help people in need…whether they are wealthy or poor, orphans or children with healthy parents, homeless  or homeowners, refugees or citizens of the USA. I would say that nearly all of my Christian friends and many of my non-Christian friends would agree with my desire to do something.

However, a quick read of my facebook and twitter feed could make you doubt that. There is an obvious divide among my Christian friends on what to do…and some of the divide can be characterized by generation.

So this morning, my close friend, who is a Baby Boomer and I, a Gen X had a respectful  conversation about the #refugeecrisis. We each wanted to hear…and not just be heard.

When we finished, I liked Mike and Jesus even more…

We heard each other sharing our love for people …for all people…of all generations.

…for men and women representing “The Greatest Generation”, many who fought for the freedom I often take for granted…for men and women representing the “Baby Boomers”, many who have worked tirelessly to build wealth and opportunities that I often take for granted…for men and women representing “Generation X”, who are growing as world leaders in business and politics and are also busy and tired raising kids, saving for college and planning for the future…for the men and women representing the “Millenials”, many who have limited experience but represent the brightest minds and greatest leaders for our future who are deeply compassionate and are making a difference in our world…for the youngest people representing “Generation Z”, many who are still learning to read and write and will grow up into a world that is changing exponentially.

After more than an hour, multiple tensions came into focus:

  • Different generations have different perspectives…this is a good tension as long as we don’t digress to attacking the worth of a person based on their ideology or generation
  • There is a tension between my role as a citizen and my role as a Christian…when my faith in Jesus and my security as a citizen become co-dependent, each is at the risk of the other
  • There is a tension between my own gratitude for the sacrifices of others and obligation to make similar sacrifice…many who are older than me have already risked their life for mine, while some younger than me are prepared to risk their own lives

So how do these tensions relate to my view of the Syrian Refugee crisis? Over the past several years Leigh-Ann and I have built friendships with several refugees from the Middle East. Some with children with similar ages to our children, the only difference is that our children were born in Kansas City while their children were born in Baghdad with constant bombings. Others spent time on the payroll for Saddam Hussein and were even trained in his army. Oh, and they also hold to the Muslim faith. These relationships make it difficult for me to want to shut them out or be fearful…I actually like them…and they cook incredible food :). Leigh-Ann and I would love for them to know the Jesus of the Bible, not the Jesus of social media. One thing we do know is that we may be the only Jesus they ever see…and that is sobering.

When it comes to the current crisis, there is no easy next step. But if you’re interested, here are a few suggestions:

  • Learn more about Jesus (even if you have gone to church for a long time), love Jesus and live for the honor and glory of Jesus.
  • Listen…then listen more…resist forming opinions about individuals until you give them the benefit of listening to them.
  • Look for the faces behind the rhetoric…faces of people who are searching for happiness and fulfillment, just like you and me.
  • Love your family, your friends and a very wise Person once said to even love your enemies.
  • Pray…a lot.

Jesus said it best in John 13:34–35, ” A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Familial justice…

Every now and then our kids get into a situation that calls for an unbiased arbiter. Mom and Dad have many roles in a family and judge is one of them.

When I am called on to fulfill this role, I typically pray for the wisdom of Solomon and then begin to gather information. I call for each child in question to describe the situation from his/her perspective.

From the bare facts, those stories are usually pretty similar.

The next step is to discover motive. This is where stories typically become quite different.

Its actually quite entertaining at times to hear the differences…

“He wouldn’t listen.”

“She was bossing me around.”

“He broke (insert one of thousands of cheap toys and trinkets here).”

The next step is to call for witnesses…this is when it gets even more entertaining/difficult. Actually calling the witnesses is easy, deciphering whether they are staying loyal to alliances or actually telling the truth is never easy…especially if the star witness in the case is a two year old who can be bought off with a single piece of candy.

The plot thickens…now Mom or Dad have to consider extortion, coercion and even blackmail. As difficult as this sounds, in the end, the familial justice system typically works pretty good, punishment is served, prayers are offered and life gets back to normal.

This Sunday, we will study from Romans 4:1-8, where Paul is working though a situation with similarities to our family court. In these verses, we are to the part where the witnesses are called.

As opposed to my example of a two year old who can be bought off, the Apostle Paul calls two star witnesses to the stand: the patriarch Abraham and King David.

From a Jewish perspective, they are the best. And they each testify through their lives and writings that the only way for people to become “right” with God is through faith.

11008482_10152739238436589_2131081993180645089_n gavel on white background

Are there people in there?

Yesterday I went for a run.

It has been way too long and I knew all the food I planned to consume later in the day would sit much better if I did some preventative maintenance.

While running, I decided to listen to a podcast (which was awesome in case you were wondering…you can listen/watch here: http://www.lifechurch.tv/watch/the-artisan-soul/).

When I finished running, I went upstairs and took out one ear bud and left the other in my ear so that I could finish the podcast.

That is when my two youngest boys came over and sat on my lap. Isaiah asked if he could put the ear bud in his ear…then Ian wanted it in his ear.

By the second or third round of listening, Isaiah pulled the ear bud out and looked at it and asked, “are there people in here?”

I had never considered that before…

I thought about that question and then did my best to answer him…though I don’t think I did so well, because this morning after day 2 of running, Ian our youngest came over to me, put the ear bud in his ear and said, “I have people in my ear.”

Well, kind of, but not really. And how do you explain a recording to a toddler anyway…? Interestingly enough, the boys will continue to think there are people in ear buds until they are successfully taught otherwise.

Hmmm, I wonder what else they have imagined that needs correction?

Communication is a significant part of our lives…but not significant enough. In fact, much of the pain and violence that we witness can be attributed to either a lack of communication or miscommunication.

This Sunday my sermon will be from Jeremiah 29:1-14 and will attempt to answer the question, “What can happen when a church pursues the success of the city?”

Imagine how non-believers would react if they knew we cared about the success of our city. What if we simply asked to listen to their needs, dreams, heartaches and hopes?

What if we asked for clarification instead of assuming we know everything?

The recent reports from Ferguson, MO are evidence that people are desperate to be heard. And whether we know it or not, we are all desperate for the hope that comes from Jesus.

I hope you can join us Sunday. Now off to find the people trapped in my ear buds.

@KCPolice Part 2

Last week I shared some of my favorite tweets from the KC Police department about the Kansas City Royals. About 30 minutes after I hit send, I was out in my car.

I was deep in conversation on the phone.

I was driving into a road construction zone.

I was following the car in front of me…and I was catching up.

Until….

I noticed a Kansas City Police Officer waving me over to the side of the road.

He wasn’t just waving…he looked like a third base coach in the bottom of the 9th inning waving in the winning run.

In a moment, it all made sense…I was being pulled over.

The normal speed limit was 45MPH, but since it was a construction zone, it had dropped to 25MPH…I was going 38MPH.

I quickly pulled up my email on my phone and said something like this to the officer, “you won’t believe this but I am a pastor and I just finished sending an email out to the congregation about how much I love the tweets from the KC Police department.”

He looked at me…then looked at my phone…then looked back at me and said, “how can I give you a ticket after that?”

To which I quickly replied, “you don’t need to officer.”

To which he replied, “I will take your ticket this time, but please don’t tweet anything negative about the KC Police.”

Deal…

I want to go back to the part of this story where the officer was waving me over to the side of the road. He made himself so obvious that even if I tried to miss him, it would be impossible not to notice.

Similarly, God has made Himself known to us through His Creation. It is impossible for us not to notice.

This Sunday, I am excited to share from Romans 1:18-20 about the fact that God has revealed Himself so clearly that the only way to miss Him is to purposefully turn away…this choice is tragic.

I really hope you can plan to attend the service at 10:45am. In addition to the worship and sermon, Pastor Dave will have an interview with Gabor Gresz who is from Budapest, Hungary.

It’s going to be a great day, but first, GO ROYALS!!!!
Troy