Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Commencement Wisdom

During May over six million students are expected to graduate from high schools, colleges and universities.  These teenagers and twenty-somethings will reach a milestone and have a new beginning for themselves.  If you know of a graduate here are a few pieces of commencement wisdom to pass along.       

Rejoice and celebrate your achievement.  Years have been invested to get to this point.  Do not let it slide by without enjoying the moment.  Celebrate!     
Resolve to never give up.  There were challenges in reaching this day and there will be challenges tomorrow.  Researchers say that there will be over 20% of high school students and over 40% of college and university students who will never reach graduation.  You did.  You overcame.    
Recall the people that helped you make it.  No man is an island to himself.  Thank the people who helped you along the way.  Henry Ward Beecher once said, "Gratitude is the fairest blossom, which springs from the soul.”
Release the heartache connected with the journey.  Your celebration may be bittersweet.  Maybe a loved one or close friend has passed away and their absence is heart-wrenching.  Maybe there is some relationship conflict sucking the joy out of the air.  When you receive that diploma or degree, vow to release the pain and step into the future.     
Remember Almighty God.  A wise King once said, “Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth” (Ecclesiastes 12:1).  It is very easy to forget God when we are young.  A sense of adventure, a desire to question and the journey towards independence can all lead there.  Yet, He has a way of keeping us in-check.  It is often found in those times of adversity when our determination and ability cannot fix the situation.  We realize we are at the mercy of time, chance or others.  God uses these moments to teach us that we need the intervention of someone outside of ourselves – Him.     
As you reach this milestone, be resolved to depend upon God with all your heart.  He is real and trustworthy.  May you become a follower of Jesus, God’s only Son, and may He bring you hope for today and your future.   

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

#NoMorePro**nity!

The other day I was listening to a talk radio show when I heard the host say, “What the h__ll do they think they are doing?”  I said to myself, “I don’t want to listen to language like that!” and changed the channel.  Then one evening I was watching a TV show and one of the characters said, “Just quit b__ching about your friend and go talk to her.”   There I was again changing channels. 

According to an Associated Press survey from several years ago, 64% of Americans confess to using profanity.  Personally, I think it is higher.  Let me ask, should this be seen as a problem in society?  It should be because it demonstrates that nearly a super-majority of America’s population has a Mt. Everest-sized character problem.  Here are three evidences that profanity is about character.  1)  Anger-driven.  When someone rattles off a series of expletives cutting people down like a weed-eater - it is about character.  2)  Vulgar humor.  When someone feels compelled to include gutter-language in every joke – it is about character.  3)  Thoughtlessness.  When someone spews forth their sewer-mouth around young children, true ladies and gentlemen and in general public settings (like social media) – it is about character.   

I want to challenge us as a society to raise our standards.  Let us start a hash tag campaign #nomoreprofanity to raise awareness of this issue and use positive peer pressure to encourage people to change their language.

Jesus is a model for raising standards through His famous Sermon on the Mount.  He once said, “Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.”  (Matthew 5:37)  This means to keep our language simple and clean and if we have a problem with profanity it is because we have a problem with our heart. 

Changing how we speak can be difficult, if we do it on our own.  However, if we call upon Jesus and ask Him to change our heart, then He will touch our lips too.  May Jesus be our hope for today and our standard for living.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Who is Jesus?

The Quran says about Jesus, “Christ Jesus the son of Mary was (no more than) a Messenger of Allah, and His Word” (The Quran 4:171).  The Jehovah’s Witness New World Translation says He was “a god” (John 1:1). Notice the small “g”.  Rabbi Shraga Simmons says that, according to Judaism, “Jews to not accept Jesus as the messiah”.

The existence of God is denied by millions.  However, world religions, historians and most people agree in the existence of Jesus.  Agreement gathers around what He did calling Him a good man, miracle-worker or powerful teacher.  Interestingly though, when we move from “what Jesus did” to “who He was” division begins. 

The main point of tension is this statement - Jesus is the one true God in human flesh.  Despite centuries of heated disagreement such a statement reveals who He really is.  It all started with Jesus who once said about Himself, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9), or in other words, “When you see me, you see God.”   

Again, most people also agree Jesus died, but why did He?  Those who actually conspired to put Him to death tell us it was because He claimed to be God.  They once accused Him saying “you, being a man, make yourself God” (John 11:33).  His fierce opponents did not realize how they were helping the world to know who He truly was.  Jesus ultimately died because He claimed to be God, which He did openly for all to see and hear.  Then three days later He rose from the dead validating everything He spoke of.        

Why does this point of Jesus being God matter, because it changes everything.  What if an atheist who agreed in the existence of the historical Jesus also believed He was God?  It would change everything.  What if a Muslim who accepted that Jesus was a great prophet also believed He was God?  It would change everything.  What if a Jew who agreed that Jesus was a great teacher also believed He was true Messiah?  It would change everything.  Most importantly though, what do you believe?  A good man cannot forgive your sin.  Only Jesus can.  A miracle-worker cannot remove your guilt and shame.  Only Jesus can.  A powerful teacher cannot redeem your life from the pits of despair.  Only Jesus can.  Believe in Him with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.  May Jesus be your hope for today.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

What is True Love?

What is love?  One search engine on the Internet indicated over one billion searches have been made for that question.  The music group Foreigner hit number one on the charts several years ago with their song “I Want to Know What Love Is”.  No matter if we are single or married, or young or old, we want to know what love is.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it as “a feeling of a strong or constant affection for a person”.  What if that feeling slips away over time?  What if that feeling is for more than one person, especially after we are married, then what? 

The Scriptures say, “Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it.  If a man offered for love all the wealth of his house, he would be utterly despised” (Song of Solomon 8:7).  God speaks of love in this particular context as a strong romantic affection between a man and a woman.  It might be when you think about and want to be with that person, and are mysteriously drawn to him or her.  Let us call this desire.  There is good desire (or affection) and bad.  When we have this desire for someone outside of marriage, it is bad.  It should be kept within the boundary of the husband and wife relationship.  When desire turns into immoral lust, it is bad.  We know it is lust (and not true love) when we are driven by our insatiable dreams and our physical obsession for another person.  The test of bad desire is, “I want for me.”  The test of good desire is, “I want so I can serve and bless another person.”

How can we find real love?  It starts with the author of love Himself, God.  He created the first man and woman, brought them together and presided over their marriage.  The Scriptures say “God is love” (1 John 4:8).  How did He demonstrate that love?  When He sent His Son, Jesus, to suffer and die upon a cross for you and me that we might call upon Him for the forgiveness of our sins, it was real love. 

Genuine love starts at affection then moves on to sacrificial service.  It is not about what I am getting, but what I am giving.  It is not if I am saying the right words, but if I am listening with the right heart.  It is not about what I am feeling, but how I am serving.

May God be your hope for today as you seek for and live out true love.