25 October 2009

Flood Victims Deal With More Than Just a Flood

As many of you know, I have been in the Atlanta area helping with the flood relief efforts. I can't believe how devastating this flood has been for so many. The statistics that I have heard are that in Austell, GA nearly 50% of the residence can no longer live in their homes. That is astounding! Another statistic that I heard was that less than 10% of those affected had flood insurance. That leaves a whole lot of people that lost everything, or most everything with little hope for rebuilding any time soon. FEMA has pulled out, along with many other organizations, which leaves people even more hopeless. People are hurt and afraid and are very concerned about what lies ahead.

Meet Janice! We went to her house last week to clean up the drywall edges and spray for mold. It was an easy job because they only had a foot or two of water on the first floor. In a very short time we were finished and standing at the front door to talk and pray with Janice before we left. As soon as Alex, our team lead, mentioned Chaplains that were available to council, she began to cry. As our team ministered to her she wept and wept. All we could do was tell her that we loved her and that God loved her and it was going to be OK. We asked her how we could specifically pray for her. She told us that just two weeks before the flood she had buried her brother. She had twin sons who were both in Europe awaiting deployment to Irag. Her one son's wife filed for divorce the day he arrived in Germany and Janice is now taking care of two of her grandchildren. Now comes the flood and they lost everything on the first floor of their house, they had no flood insurance. As she spoke I choked back tears as my heart was broken for this woman and her situation. We talked to her for about ten minutes and prayed for her, gave her a Bible and walked away. There was nothing more we could do.

This is just one story of the dozens that I have heard since I've been here. Janice and her husband only had the first floor damaged. They could still live in their house. As I drove away I started to think, "What about all the other people who lost everything? What are they going to do?" My heart began to break even more. That night, in a large group setting with other volunteers, I told Janice's story. This time I couldn't choke back the tears. It is so hard to see this first hand and not have it effect you emotionally. People are hurting so bad and their seems like so little we can to, but our God is bigger than this. Our God has empowered us to bring hope to the hurting and that is what I am doing. Janice is one of many people who I have been able to be a part of giving hope to. There are many, many more just like her. We can't forget that these people's lives cannot be put on hold because of this. They must keep living and with that, things still happen in their lives. Amongst the everyday situations and happening they have the flood to deal with. The situation on TV may look small, but it is everything to those affected by it.

I know at some point I have to leave here. I don't want to, my heart doesn't want to. My goal is to stay another two weeks in this area. This would put me at almost a month here. With staying another two weeks comes a big cost. I am asking that you prayerfully consider helping financially with this effort. All money raised will go directly to flood relief expenses, as well as giving what I can to help others continue the work here. It is a difficult road ahead for many, but I know that together we can help ease some of the stress and give hope to the hopeless. Please stand in prayer with me as I not only help people rebuild their homes, but also rebuild their lives. Thank you so much for your prayers and support, I wouldn't be here without them.

If you would like to give financially please visit RightSideUpMinistries.org to find out how you can give a tax deductible gift.

11 October 2009

Absolute Truth as I Know It!

I was thinking about something the other day while I was looking ahead to my coming birthday. Have you ever heard anyone say "I refuse to turn 40," or "I will forever be 28"? We have all heard someone say something like this, but we know it's not true. It can't happen. The thought of us staying forever any age, or refusing to turn a certain age is ridiculous. No matter how many times we may think or say these things it doesn't make them true. No matter what we say or do we are still getting older and older every day. Why do I bring this up? To show that there is such a thing as absolute truth. No matter how much we want to say truth is subject to our own interpretation or belief system, there is such a thing as absolute truth and this proves it.

We are surrounded by absolute truths everyday. Here's some examples I've seen in my life. 1) Look at the law of gravity, what goes up must come down, if I jump off a building I will hit the ground. And depending on how high I jump from, it will probably be a pretty hard hit. 2) Every day I look in the mirror and say, "Go away gray hairs, your not wanted here," yet every so often I notice a substantial increase in gray hair. 3) Morning comes everyday and with it comes the sun. We can't change it no matter how many times we confess we are not morning people. 4) No matter how much easier it is to say, "funner" is not a word. It is either "fun" or it is "more fun", but it cannot and never will be "funner". These are some things that can't be changed no matter what we say, think or do. Much like wanting fast food to actually be fast, or wanting people in the express lane at the grocery store to actually have less than 15 items. How about customer service being about the customer? I could go on and on, but I'll spare you the rant for now.

My point in this is that as a believer in Jesus Christ it is my obligation- my mandate, to tell people about Him. Many people tell me that "what is true to you isn't necessarily true for me." How can that be? Either Jesus is Lord or He isn't. There is no in between. I started to get really angry by this response. So much so that I started to wonder if I really could "forget I'm a Christian for the moment," then I could "take matters into my own hands" and take care of some business. As much as I would like to I can't. I can't for two main reasons. 1) I am a wuss! I can't fight my way out of a wet paper sack, never could. I would get my butt handed to me the first time I tried to "take matters into my own hands." 2) It wouldn't do any good to "forget" I was a Christian, because absolute truth prevails, I am one! I'm caught in my own argument. Pretending to forget doesn't change the truth. Rather than resort to any crazy hypocritical tactics I decided to come up with a great analogy to convince others of absolute truths. After all, nothing beats a great analogy!

So I decided that I would approach this from two angles. 1) I tell people that they don't need to believe something is true for it to be true. You don't have to believe that the air we breathe is produced by trees from the air we exhale, which they inhale, then exhale our air, in order to make it true. It's true whether we believe it or not. How cool is that? God made it so our waste was another's essential who's waste becomes our essential again. All I can say is sweet! 2) I also tell people they don't need to see something to know it is there. Many people like to use the brain as an example, but I have a hard time believing I even have one some times. Man can I do stupid stuff...anyway! So an example I like to use is the sun. An absolute truth I mentioned earlier is that the sun comes up everyday. It does, right? How do we know? Because we can see it. What about a cloudy day? I can't see the sun anymore, does this mean it didn't come up today? Or better yet, what about in Alaska where the sun doesn't come up for days, or even weeks in the winter time, does that mean it exploded and doesn't exist anymore? We know the answer is no, the sun didn't stay down, nor did it explode. The sun exploding and us still being alive is a ridiculous thought because if the sun did explode it would be like -2,000 degrees and we probably wouldn't survive that temperature drop. Well, maybe you would, or Rambo, or Mr. T, but not me. Right now I'm struggling with the low 40's at night, like I said, I'm a wuss!

Again you might be saying, "WHAT'S THE POINT?" The point is this, I don't need to see God to know that He exists. I don't have to doubt if He is there or not, even in the hardest times or the biggest storms. Why? Well, it's just like the sun. I have seen it enough in my life to know it is there whether it's covered by clouds or not. The same is true with God, I know He's there whether my life is covered with clouds or not. My moment of salvation, my born again experience, my moment of faith in Christ, the very second I became a new creation I experienced enough of God to last my life time. If that was the only time I saw Him in my life it would be enough. If He never made Himself known to me again like that I would know that He was there. Have you ever had a sun burn, I mean a real bad one? You know, the kind that blisters bubble up and pop and your skin peels a gagillion layers? I have, and I can tell you that I will never doubt the sun again because of that. You will never be able to convince me there is no sun because I've felt the power of it. You will never convince me that there is no God and no Jesus because I have felt the power. I have been brought up out of hell in my life and brought to a new level. It's an act only God could have performed. Because of this I know that God is an absolute truth.

Another absolute truth I know is that Jesus loves you. I don't care where you've been in your life, where you might currently be, or how many horrible things you have done in your life, He still loves you. I said it before and still believe it to be 100% true, Jesus loves you more that He despises your sin! The Bible tells us that there is nothing that can separate us from the love of God- ABSOLUTE TRUTH! If your struggling with this God thing it's OK. God isn't going to leave you because your struggling with Him. In fact, I would dare say that He may be using this blog to tell you something right now, HE LOVES YOU! So if you've been thinking about this absolute truth thing like I have I hope this helps. If you have it down, well, I apologize, this is all I have for now. This is absolute truth as I know it.

06 October 2009

Atlant Needs Our Help

On October 12th I am leaving Kalamazoo, MI and heading to Atlanta, GA to help in the flood relief efforts. I am raising money for the trip and to give to the church that is organizing the relief efforts. I am raising $2,000 for the trip, $1,000 to cover the ministry and my expenses for 2-3 weeks and $1,000 to give to the church. If you are interested in helping in this effort please go to www.rightsideupministries.org for more info. You can also see what is happening at www.hopeatl.com. If you are unable to help financially please pray for Right Side Up Ministries and the people of Atlanta. Thank you for your support.

03 October 2009

Why Change?

Being in my home town has its advantages. The biggest one is that I know where to go and what there is to do. A few days ago I went to a park that I have been going to for years. It was a beautiful, sunny day outside and I thought it would be nice to go outside to read. When I arrived at the park I walked around for a while then headed to my favorite reading bench. It sits in the main part of the park on a little island in the creek that runs through the park. When I came around the bend I saw that it was occupied. My heart sank. What was I to do? I can't just change reading benches! can I?

At this moment I realized something, I don't like change. I'm a traditional guy. If it works, why fix it. Let me give you some examples- this very park use to have this awesome triple decker rocket ship to play on- it's now gone- I don't like that. The old Tiger stadium was replaced by a new and more luxurious Comerica Park- I don't like that. Baseball changed the pennant race to a two round play off system complete with wild card teams- I don't like that. Hockey changed rules to protect the goalie and took away the two line pass- I don't like that. My favorite coffee shop that I have been going to for over a decade is still in business and still brews amazing coffee- I do like that. The bench I like to read in the park is still here after decades- I really like that. You see, I love when things stay the same and I resist change. I understand the need for change, but I still don't like it.

Here's what I understand about change. The park people took the rocket ship out to build newer and safer stuff for the kids to play on. The Tigers built a new stadium with hopes of generating more money and bringing more people to the games. Baseball changed the pennant race to accommodate an expanding league and to generate more post season income for playoff teams. Hockey changed its rules to protect players and to help speed up the excitement of the game. Change makes sense in my head, but my heart doesn't like it. Our society is constantly saying "out with the old, in with the new". We live in a time when the quickest to change is the one who stands to make the most money. It seems we can't change fast enough.

Ironically, I feel completely the opposite when it comes to the church. I am drawn to churches that break away from tradition and start something new. I love ministries that think outside the box and reach people where they are. When we talk about church traditions I cringe. I am reminded of the scripture where Jesus says that our traditions, the traditions of men, make the Word of God powerless. It saddens me to see churches put more emphasis on tradition than they do in the love of Christ. Churches that once had thriving congregations are now reduced to a mere shadow of their former existence. All because of a refusal to change with the times. There is this strong misconception that if you change with the times you have to change your message or water down the Gospel. This couldn't be further from the truth. I recently heard a pastor say that you need to keep the same message, but change the package. It's like you changing your wardrobe to fit the current style, but you on the inside are still the same. I believe this is true for the church. In our lightning fast society that is ever pushing the speed envelope with faster food, faster computers, faster internet, and faster ways to shop. With these constant changes in our society, it is increasingly important for the church to change as well.

Have you ever seen a cereal box from the 1950's? Compare it to the same cereal box today and you'll see a radically transformed package that fits today's advertising trends with the same product on the inside. The Bible is as relevant today as it ever has been, but if we don't change the packaging we aren't going to be effective in today's society. People need the Gospel of Jesus. They need us to reach out to them in a way that speaks to them. At one time "turn and burn" may have had some results, but love always prevails. Showing people guilt through sin may have worked in days past, but today people need to know that Jesus loves them more than He despises their sin. I once read a witnessing survey that asked this question:

What do people need most today?

a) time

b) money

c) love

d) other

It amazed me to hear peoples responses. Money and time easily topped the opinion poll. The fact is that money, time, or whatever else people are focused on are things they use to fill the hole that love should fill. They are only surface issues that point to a deeper root problem. Just like trying to get rid of weeds in your lawn, if you only deal with the surface issue and pull the weed then it will grow back every time. If you go after the root of the weed you can stop the weed from returning. If we want to see change in our society and in our world we need to get to the root of people's problems. We need to show people what is really missing in their life. I know Christianity has done some stupid stuff in the past in the name of God, and I'm sorry for that. If you have been hurt by a Christian who wasn't walking in love I apologize. Jesus told us what the greatest commandments are- love God- love others. Do you see the common word between the two? It's love. If Christians live those two commandments to a radical extent I believe we will see results that far out weigh what any law can do.

What it comes down to in the end is this- if the church doesn't change its packaging and it doesn't love people where they are it will fade out. A church can change its packaging, but if it does it for any reason other than love it still fails. Be challenged today to show radical love to those around you. Step outside your comfort zone and love the unlovable. Give those without hope a reason to be. This is what I thought about today when my reading bench was occupied.

How do you feel about change? Does change scare the bejeezies out of you too?

Oh yeah! I ended up getting the bench and reading my book. What an awesome day!

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