Monday, March 26, 2012

Object lessons abound

The media has been all abuzz the past week over the shooting death of Trayon Martin.  Those who embrace the media spotlight have given their opinions and have tried to call attention to a variety of issues.  Unfortunately, this young man's death will now become a media circus rather than a flash point of change in our culture.  Rather than be another pundit to give my two cents' worth, I found one vibrant topic in all of this:  The Hoodie.  There was a Million Hoodie March and Hoodie Sunday in some churches yesterday and the Miami Heat took a team photo with all of the players wearing hoodies.  This one piece of garment has become an object lesson - Some would say it is an object lesson in bias and how people wearing hoodies are misjudged.  Others would say it is an object lesson that shows if you look like a gansta, don't be shocked when you are treated like a gangsta.  The rhetoric is becoming heated and will probably get much less civil in the next few days and weeks.  However, on a national scale we are seeing an object lesson on safety, trust and truth.

On a much smaller scale, our church had an object lesson on Sunday evening.  Steve and Janie Sue Wertheim from Jews for Jesus presented the "Christ in the Passover" to our congregation.  The Passover Meal is an object lesson God gave His people to help them understand and trust Him more.  Perhaps the most vivid object lesson for us was the eating of the horseradish "sandwich" made with matzo.  Last night at bedtime, I could still taste the horseradish because I am not used to such hot food.  This taught us that we should remember the pain and tears of slavery.  However the afikomen is perhaps the most powerful object of the entire meal.  It is the piece of matzo that is broken, wrapped in white linen, then hidden for a time.  The children then try to find the afikomen and redeem it for a prize.  Jesus was broken for our sins, wrapped in white burial linen, buried for a short time and then redeemed for us.  When we have the Lord's Supper, Jesus tells us to remember Him whenever we have this ordinance.  It is an object lesson to remind us of the price which was paid for our redemption from sin.

In Romans 5:8, God tells us of the greatest object lesson every given to mankind.  This passage says "God demonstrated His own love for us in this way;  while we were still sinners Christ died for us."  Those outside the church wonder why we have crosses in our church, wear crosses around our necks and make such a big deal about the cross.  The cross is an object lesson of God's love for us.  While we were turning our backs on God, God was busy turning His heart towards us.  The cross is a reminder that Jesus became sin so that we might become the righteousness of God.  Without the cross, there is no salvation.  No one is good enough nor righteous enough to earn a spot in Heaven.  We all come to salvation in the same way:  Receiving God's gift of eternal life in Jesus.  The cross become an object lesson of what only God can do and has done.

This same Jesus expects those who purport to be His followers to be object lessons to the rest of the world.  He tells us in Matthew to "let you light so shine before men that they see your good works and glorify your Father which is in Heaven."  We become an object lesson, not by wearing a cross or a hoodie with catchy Jesus sayings on them.  We become an object lesson by allowing Jesus to invade every aspect of our lives and slowly change us to mirror His love, dedication and peace.  A classic hymn reminds us "They will know we are Christians by our love."  America today is in desperate need of that which only Jesus can provide.  The Church has lost a hearing because the Church would rather imitate the world than Jesus.  But when we follow Jesus, the world takes note (Just like in Acts 4:13 which says of the disciples "They took note that these men had been with Jesus").  What kind of object lesson are you showing to the world today?

Monday, March 19, 2012

Can we get an elevator at church because these steps tired me out?!

A quick scan on-line of the health status of most Americans is frightening because we are an overweight and unhealthy country:
  • Obesity is the #2 cause of preventable death in the United States
  • 60 million Americans, 20 years and older are obese
  • 9 million children and teens ages 6-19 are overweight
  • Being overweight or obese increases the risk of health conditions and diseases including: Breast cancer, Coronary heart disease, Type II diabetes, Sleep apnea, Gallbladder disease, Osteoarthritis, Colon cancer, Hypertension and Stroke
  • Overweight prevalence is higher in boys (32.7 percent) than girls (27.8 percent). In adolescents, overweight prevalence is about the same for females (30.2 percent) and males (30.5 percent).
  • The prevalence of obesity quadrupled over 25 years among boys and girls
  • 58 Million Overweight; 40 Million Obese; 3 Million morbidly Obese
  • Eight out of 10 over 25's Overweight
  • 78% of American's not meeting basic activity level recommendations
  • 25% completely Sedentary
  • 76% increase in Type II diabetes in adults 30-40 since 1990 Obesity Related Diseases 
  • 80% of type II diabetes related to obesity
  • 70% of Cardiovascular disease related to obesity
  • 42% breast and colon cancer diagnosed among obese individuals
  • 30% of gall bladder surgery related to obesity
  • 26% of obese people having high blood pressure 
Unfortunately, these same statistics are as true in the Church as they are in our entire culture, maybe more so.  In 2006, Leah and I attended the Southern Baptist Convention national meeting with over 15,000 messengers (Many of whom were in full-time ministry).  A health booth was set up for the messengers and the findings were shocking:  65% of those in attendance had health risks that would be considered dangerous because of unhealthy lifestyle habits (Lack of exercise, overeating, high stress, eating unhealthy, etc.).  It is time for the church to address our health for one simple reason:  We are to be good stewards of all God has entrusted into our care, even our bodies.

If we read Philippians 1:20, we see that Paul gives us a statement which should be a guiding factor in this area.  I will pose it as a question:  "Is Christ exalted in my body?"  Is he exalted in what we eat? we exercise? we handle stress?...the care of our bodies?  Before you read this and think I am admonishing you to build a "hard body" like Hollywood shoves on us as the ideal body, this is my explanation of the healthy body:  A body that honors God is the body which allows us to do the ministries God has set in place for us.  Ladies, you definitely don't need to aim for the body of a runway model.  Men, you definitely don't need to aim for the body of a Hollywood action figure.  Our aim should be bodies which allow us to serve God with energy, endurance and vitality.  We are trying to build the body of Paul not the body of Adonis.
Having a healthy body breaks down into two distinct, yet totally symbiotic areas:  (1) Diet and (2) Exercise.  Studies show that most Americans eat out too often, drink too much coffee/soda/energy drinks, drink too little water, eat too few fresh veggies/fruits, eat too much fatty foods/fat and eat too much unhealthy carbohydrates.  So the key is not to eat less, but to eat healthier and smarter.  When people want to lose weight, what is the first thing they change in their diets?  They decide to eat more salads.  That's not healthier and smarter because now you are denying your body the protein, healthy carbs, fruits, other veggies and nutrients needed to give increased energy.  Starting the day with a healthy breakfast and water is the beginning point.  Eating five small meals during the day rather than two or three large meals is a beginning point.  Lasting change happens when we change our lifestyle.  II Timothy 1:7 reminds us that God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love and a sound mind.  He will give us the discipline to change our lifestyle so we eat healthy and smart rather than just eating less.

Hand-in-hand with our diet is exercise.  We must begin to have consistent exercise.  Once again, we exercise smarter and healthier, not just more.  When we want to get in shape, what do most people do?  They buy a gym membership and hit the gym hard for two weeks.  Then that membership is rarely used and the body suffers.  Stop trying to run a marathon on the first week.  We start where we are at physically and exercise consistently.  Thirty minutes of a brisk walk six days a week is better for our health than hitting the gym hard three times a week.  We can take the stairs instead of the escalator or elevator.  We can park a little father away from the store.  We need to proactively plan exercise into our lifestyle.  This is called self-discipline, which is the fruit of the Holy Spirit.  There is an exercise plan at a web site called "Body for Life" which is based on a twenty minute exercise routine with four peaks during that twenty minutes.  Here is the link:

This is just one example of a consistent exercise regimen that will help deliver a healthy body.  If you go to this site, don't buy into the hype about trying to have the six pack abs.  What is our goal?  To be able to serve God's purposes with energy, endurance and vitality.

I am certainly not an expert on diet and exercise, but I do my best to keep my body in good shape so I can do all God has set out for me.  I never want to be disqualified for a ministry opportunity because I wasn't in good enough shape.  My goal is to honor God with my body.  I have simply passed on to you some things which have helped me as I continue to try to be a good steward of the body God has given me.  I hope and pray that this Sip will inspire you to change something in your lifestyle so you will become healthier and more productive for the Kingdom.  If you will make some diet and exercise changes and stick with them for four months, your life will never be the same.  May God bless you as you try to beat the pressure of our culture and live a healthy and productive life.

Monday, March 12, 2012

God's Agenda

I am not naturally very organized and will l procrastinate unless I force myself to be proactive and plan ahead.  I am easily distracted by the things I want to do and put off the things I need to do.  If you don’t know what I’m talking about, then I hope this blog will give you insight into those of us with that mindset.  I had a fantastic work role model in my father, Frank Goslen.  He was an insurance adjuster for a private company called Southeaster Adjustment Company.  When he was at work, he was all business and he expected his co-workers to do the same.  He ended up owning two branches of the firm and expected his employees to work as hard as he did.  I know this personally because when I was in high school, he hired me as the part-time Maintenance Engineer (Fancy title for janitor).  Every day after school, I came into his office to clean, organize, mail, file and anything no one else wanted to do.  My Dad cut me no slack and the first few days I worked at the office, I realized that I had better: (1) Be on time and (2) get my work done (3) making sure I put quality into my work.  There was no room for errors and he would get on my case whenever things weren’t done according to those three standards.  So if I was going to get a paycheck, I was going to earn it.

That mindset has spilled over into my own personal work habits.  I arrive early to work so I can accomplish as much as possible in the early hours before anyone else calls or gives me work to do.  I also come to work EVERY day with my list.  This list is a compilation of everything I need to get done, plus quite a few things I hope to get done.  If the list is checked off by the end of the day, I go home with peace of mind feeling I have been "successful".  Even now, my list is sitting right beside me on my desk, always a present reminder to stay on task.

HOWEVER, God usually has a different agenda for us list people.  We need to be careful or we get so fixed on completing the listed tasks that we miss the real ministry opportunities.  People are on God's agenda, not mundane work topics.  I don't find any Biblical reference to this, I just personally think God enjoys disrupting my agenda.  He wants to see if I am willing to follow Him and enter a relationship with someone or if I am so busy doing "church things" that I won't have time for people.  

It kind of reminds me of the parable Jesus told about the busy church workers.  You probably know it better as the parable of the Good Samaritan.  A Priest and a Levite had the opportunity to help this fellow in need, but they were too busy with religious stuff to get involved.  I'm sure they justified looking the other way just like I justify looking the other way.  I'm sure they were on their way to an important meeting, training session or time of teaching.  Helping this man in need certainly would have made them unclean in regards to the Law and cost them invaluable time and energy.

Am I the Priest or the Levite?  Am I so caught up in my own list, things to do, important tasks to help someone in need?  If someone calls me while I am rushing to get things done, will I stop and give them my full attention or do I try to multitask?  When I see someone who appears to need a friend, do I stop or am I busy rushing off to the next important assignment?  I look at the example of Jesus and He was always being interrupted by needy people.  His disciples even tried to shield Him from having to deal with the nuisance of little children.  Yet, Jesus was always approachable and willing to let god direct His agenda.

What about you?  Can you put the list aside and allow God to control your day today?  Maybe, just maybe, we will have the opportunity to impact eternity and give someone a sip from God well of life-giving water.

Monday, March 5, 2012

And the Winner Is...

When I was in high school, computer programming consisted of punch cards because no school could afford a computer or had a room big enough to hold one.  High tech for that day was a typewriter with the erasable material on a spool.  When the first personal computer came out, those on the cutting edge told us it would save us time.  Cell phones are supposed to save us time, but now we seem more accessible than ever.  People today rarely can live without cell phones, but that instant access makes us feel unimportant things are important.  E-mail was supposed to save us time, but now our in-boxes are filled with useless forwards and Trojan horses carrying viruses to destroy our computer.  For every minute my computer saves me, it seems to add three for the upkeep and maintenance of that computer.  

This technology revolution has really altered church worship services today.  Most churches are now depended on technology to project words to songs, notes to the sermon, even the Scripture passages because people don't bring their Bibles.  Of course, some of you in the digital revolution have several translation on your smart phone or Ipad.  Think about what would happen in your church on Sunday morning if the copier would not work, the projection was not available and you were unable to print sermon notes of Sunday School lessons?   And the winner is...?  Would technology win or would the Holy Spirit win?  I believe the answer to that lies in whom we trust.  If we have become so addicted to technology that we have to put on a "show" each Sunday or the people won't come, then we are already trusting the wrong God.  What if the band were unable to perform and all we had to praise God with were our voices?  What is there were no overhead songs or no hymnals and we could only praise God with the songs we know by heart?  What if we could only read the Bible we actually brought with us.  What is all the wonderful bells and whistles of technology were unavailable to us this Sunday?  Would technology or the Holy Spirit win?

I bring up this point because that is sort of what happened at Hillcrest this past week.  Most folks who came to church probably had no idea what had happened because we have leadership who are not dependent on technology, but are able to minister with no technology.  Technology is a fine tool, but too often we have allowed technology to make lazy disciples.  We are unable to deal with the depth of Scripture because we need to have a great show.  We need the words to every song and every Scripture.  We want to sit in our pew and be entertained (Although we would never admit that) or we will be bored or stay at home.  When I first got to church this morning, I was literally running around trying to get my technology to work.  My sons were in a room next door laughing and playing while I was stressing, which added to my stress.  After I got upset at them for not realizing my dire situation, the Holy Spirit spoke to me and said "Stop it!"  It was time to for me to give up on technology and get in step with the Holy Spirit.  My Sunday School lesson was "limited' in my mind, but my students heard about being missionaries.  The worship service was a time of seeing God move in people's lives because they came to worship the Lord, not technology.

One of the bane's of technology has been that we now are unable and unwilling to interact and have strong interpersonal connections.  This is sad but true.  Many who are under the age of 30 have very limited social interaction and are unable to express feelings, faith or needs in a healthy way.  This past Saturday, our youth put together lunches and then went to the San Pablo Dam Road to pass those meals and water to the homeless on the street.  They passed out over 20 meals with a touch of love from Jesus.  This is what Jesus did.  He didn't hide behind technology, but was always out getting "dirty" by hanging out with people.  Once again, the Church today faces a huge battle.  And the winner is...?  Do we visit our neighbors, know our neighbors and proactively spend time with people.  Do we welcome guests who come to our church?  Do we visit members of our church we haven't seen in a while?  Who is the winner in your life?


Jesus said in Matthew 25. "That which you have done to the least of these brothers of mine, you have done it unto Me".  When we forgo technology and share a touch, we actually touch Jesus.  Get out today and touch someone in the name of Jesus.  Facebook, Angry Birds and e-mail will still be there when you get back.  Who will the winner be in your life?