Tag Archives: Bible

My Goodness

All my life I have been encouraged to be a good boy (or a good man).  Growing up, I must have heard the command to “be good” a thousand times, whether it was just before visiting a friend’s house or the local library.  After I was particularly incorrigible as a child, I was warned that I might be dropped off at the “bad boy store” by my frustrated mother – in hindsight, I recognize the absurdity of the reality of this establishment, but at the time the notion that I could be chattel for this nefarious business worked well in keeping me on the straight and narrow.  However, I was not always a good boy.

As I grew up into manhood, I have tried to be a good man.  I think I have succeeded, to a greater of lesser degree.  However, “the bad man store” may have a new item for sale.  In my defense, the event I am about to describe occurred during the Patriots game on Sunday.  As I was watching the game (the outcome of which at the time was still in question), trouble came to our house.  As she was making sure our youngest was ready for bed, my wife hit her head – hard – on the upper bunk of the boys’ bed.  While there was no blood, there was a bump.  It least that is what I was told.  I had little compassion and provided no care.  I was not a good husband or a good father.  I was wrong, and I sincerely apologize to my wife for my lapse in judgement.   I am not always a good man.

When I became a follower of Christ, I tried to be a good Christian.  I have a long list of good and godly behaviors – with appropriate measures of church attendance, charitable giving and acts of service – but I am not a good Christian.  I am in danger of being shipped off to the “bad Christian store” because my practice of the faith is incomplete, my priority of Christ’s lordship is inconsistent and my passion for the gospel is anemic.  I continue to sin.  I continue to fail.  I do not pray as much as I should nor share my faith as frequently as I should.  I am not always a good Christian.

But who can discern their own errors?  Forgive my hidden faults.    Psalm 19:12

My problem is that I am lulled into believing that I am (overall) good.  I compare myself to others and I see myself as measuring up pretty well against the competition.  But, as the Psalm above states, I am unable to rightly evaluate my own goodness.  I need forgiveness for the things I cannot see in myself.  I need the truth of God to be my standard and not my own heightened sense of self.   In comparison to the standards of the Scriptures (which are beneficial for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness), I am, by nature, a bad boy, a bad man and a bad Christian.

But that is not how God sees me: because I have trusted Jesus as Lord and Savior, I have been justified (declared not guilty by God through His acceptance of Christ’s sacrificial satisfaction of God’s wrath) and sanctified (anointed, appointed and equipped to accomplish His will).   I am seen by God as good, and that motivates me to demonstrate this divinely imbued goodness.  It also motivates me to remember that this goodness is not from me, but from the one who redeemed me so that I might do some good.  I thank God that He enables me to be a good person, a sinner saved by His grace.

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Triumph Over Tragedy

My heart remains heavy as I process the events of Sunday morning in Sutherland Springs, TX.  According to numerous news sources, a man parked his truck at a gas station, walked across the street with a number of weapons and then opened fire on those around and within the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs as they gathered for the 11AM worship service.  Twenty-six men, women and children were killed and more than 20 others were injured, leading to the pastor’s wife, Sherri Pomeroy, saying, “Most of our church family is gone….”   The only word I am left with is this: tragic.

In the aftermath of this ever-increasingly common tragedy, numerous ‘shapers of culture’ (celebrities, politicians and media consultants) have said many things about many topics, and I am not sufficiently knowledgeable about the details of this event nor of its legal implications to offer my commentary.  What I do know is this: there is no place on earth where we will be perfectly safe.  We deceive ourselves if we think that churches or schools or country music concerts make those therein impervious to danger and risk.  We are being unrealistic if we imagine that locks and detectors keep us far from harm.

(Jesus asked,) “Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them – do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem?  I tell you, no!  But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”   Luke 13:4-5

The bad news is this – bad things happen every day.  Disease of the body and disease of the spirit is present in every place humanity dwells.  There are earthquakes and hurricanes that devastate vast areas.  There are wildfires and droughts that destroy lives and livelihoods.  There are acts of violence that damage souls and bring death to innocents.  There is little we can do about these things and nothing will prevent them from happening should they seek our demise.  The bad news is that we cannot prevent what is evil from being evil.  The bad news is that we are not safe.

However, there is good news.  While we cannot prevent bad things from occurring, we can prepare for them, so that death by whatever circumstance cannot rob us of our relationships and our life.  We have nothing to fear since we can claim the promise Jesus has made to all those who trust in Him

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.  The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.  Do you believe this?”   John 11:25-26

While it is true that life on earth is not safe, it also true that the God who loves us has provided us with blessings that can never be taken away.  There are blessings beyond this physical realm – redemption, restoration, reunion and resurrection – that no act of violence or “act of God” that can rescind.

I hope and pray that the odds fall in your favor, that life-taking evil does not visit your camp.  I also hope and pray that should your last day on earth occur much earlier than you planned, you will have prepared for this eventuality and placed your full faith in the One who provides life after death.

Image by DAVID J. PHILLIP / AP

Setting the Standard

For those of you discouraged by a 4:32PM Sunset in Boston on Sunday, you will be glad to know that an 11-member panel, created by the Massachusetts Legislature last year, spent months examining the pros and cons of effectively establishing daylight saving time year-round and eliminating the practice of setting clocks forward and back twice every year.  Their decision: move the Commonwealth into the Atlantic Time Zone (aligning ourselves with the Canadian provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island) if all the Northeast region (including New York) agrees to change their time zone with us. 

This strikes me as nothing more than a hollow victory.  The commission’s trouble with “going it alone” is that transportation, broadcasting schedules and sporting events could all be adversely affected.  I, for one, could get used to The Tonight Show at 12:35AM, football at 2PM and early flights from Logan at 7 in the morning.  It would be a challenge calibrating ourselves with the rest of the country, but I would be willing to try.  But, because it is nearly impossible to buck the cultural norms, we in the Northeast will not experience a sunset after 5PM until February 4th; the groundhog may see the sun before I will during my drive home from work.

And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.  2 Timothy 2:24

Speaking of cultural norms, we were discussing the above referenced verse of scripture and my wife remarked at how difficult it is to keep the little details of this passage.  If you think changing your Time Zone is counter-cultural, try not quarreling or being kind to everyone or releasing resentment.

  • Anyone familiar with social media knows that quarreling (or fighting) is our national pastime: there are posts (and then comments about those posts) that are divisive and combative, attacking the “opposition” both personally and indiscriminately. A follower of Christ ought not engage in these senseless squabbles.
  • If you are a driver, you know that kindness is in short supply. I realize that someone allowing me to turn into traffic is unrealistic, but I do wonder if honking the horn as the light turns green or passing on the right (through unoccupied parking spaces) on a single lane street or ignoring the ‘right lane must turn’ sign and weaving to the left at dangerous speeds are necessary.  A few verses after the above passage, Paul tells Timothy that he should be gentle with those who oppose his teaching; a follower of Christ should be restrained in exercising whatever power that follower has.
  • Life, no matter how it is lived, will contain times of deep disappointment. All but one team finishes the season without a title.  Every person will find oneself in one sort of line or another, and whatever line you find yourself in, the other one is moving faster…and has fewer bitter and angry people occupying it.  A follower of Christ should release resentment as soon as it is sensed.

God has called us to – and equipped us for – better than our culture prescribes.  No matter what time we find ourselves in, we are called to be counter-cultural: peaceable, kind and hopeful.  I suspect those godly attributes will be highly regarded during the long nights ahead.

Truth Unmasked

There has been a series of conversations at our house about what costume our 9-year-old son will be wearing on Halloween.  He has decided that his costume will be made from a cardboard box (he feels that it is tradition: in past years, he has been a Lego®, a birdhouse, a television, and a clock).  Beyond that, the options are incalculable: he could go out into the neighborhood disguised as a board game, a rocket ship, a refrigerator or a hundred other ‘boxy’ things.  For one night a year, my son will get the opportunity to pretend that he is someone or something else.

When he gets older, he will get the opportunity to pretend that he is someone or something else all the time.  Lord willing, he will learn how to fashion and wear a mask to disguise his true self in the business world, the social spaces and marketplace.  We all, as we mature, put on masks to protect our frail vulnerabilities and preserve our fragile sensitivities.  We all learn that there are things about us that we choose to keep to ourselves: we temper our opinions, our preferences and our accomplishments to avoid being rejected by those around us.  We all wear masks and pretend that we belong.

Except, we cannot wear the masks all the time.  They chafe upon us and distort our vision.  They prevent us from expressing our emotions and enjoying nourishment.  So, we take them off and show ourselves to those we love and to those who love us.  In those moments we find comfort and strength in being know as we truly are.

Beside all this, there is one who knows us, whether we don our masks or not; the one who created us knows us completely.  We cannot hide our thoughts from Him.  We cannot keep our opinions from Him.  We cannot shield our motives from His eyes.  It serves no purpose to wear a disguise in His presence, as He see through our cardboard boxes and knows who we are.  There is a word in the New Testament that describes our attempts at pretending we are someone or something else, a word which literally means ‘a play actor’: hypocrite.  It is this word that Jesus uses to describe those who perform a role in public places to protect themselves:

“So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others.  …  And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others.  … When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting.”  Matthew 6:2, 5, 16

One night a year is sufficient time to wear a costume and pretend that you are a superhero or a celebrity or a washing machine.  Perhaps you will need a disguise at the next corporate outing or family reunion.  You need not wear these things just to make people like you.  You need to know that the One who made you knows what is behind your mask, and loves you just as you are.

No More Doorbells

There is an ongoing effort by Millennials and Gen Zers (those 35 and younger) to eliminate doorbell usage.  They argue that these bells, chimes and buzzers have become: a) unnecessary, since most young people now use their cell phones to text or call and announce their arrival at your door; b) dangerous, since one might be seeking entrance into the wrong residence, which might be followed by incurring the wrath of frosty (and often annoyed) neighbors; and c) panic-inducing, since we all know that ‘no one’ uses the doorbell anymore, we can only imagine what awful form of old person or sales rep is the cause of that startling and unexpected buzz or bell.   I have experienced this change in practice myself every time the pizza delivery person calls from the car in front of our house or my teenage child’s friend texts from our front porch.

The world is constantly changing.  Fifty years ago, you’d expect people to occasionally knock on the door or ring the bell; people would “drop by” unexpectedly, so the sitting room or parlor or living room needed to be always ready for guests and mother had a tin of cookies hidden for “company”.  Now, no one comes to visit unannounced, partly because people today are so rarely home (what with work and the gym and the kids’ sports and PTA meetings) and partly because people today cherish their privacy (we let others know about us through social media or over coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts, not through visitors being allowed to rummage through our medicine cabinet or magazines).  We know the rules of the cul-de-sac: if the garage door or the window shade is down, do not ring the bell unless you’ve been invited over.

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him.    Luke 10:38

It seems to me that since we no longer want people to come to our home unannounced, we ought to consider the practice of inviting them over for a meal, a cup of coffee, a game, a party or a chat.  Perhaps you could have family dinner with a college student you met at church or watch the Patriots play with the older gentlemen across the street.  Perhaps you could have coffee with the mother of one of your child’s friends while they played video games or let the single mom you are friendly with when you are both at the grocery store wash a load of clothes in your machine while you talk about “This Is Us”.  Be like Martha and open your home.

One last thing about “dropping by” and doorbell ringing: remember that October 31st is Halloween, and if you have a bell, let it be rung.  Take advantage of the fact that kids in costumes will be ringing your doorbell eleven nights from now.  Introduce yourself to the parents you haven’t met and give out the big bars to the little children – especially if the neighborhood knows yours is a Christian home.

Staying In the Game

The Red Sox are rebuilding, again.  On Monday, they exited the playoffs with a season-ending loss at the hands of the Houston Astros.  On Wednesday, the organization and the field manager parted ways, effectively ushering the hometown team into a season of transition and change.   Rumors have already begun about trades and free-agent signings; only time will tell who will stay, who will go and who will join the team.  Despite their recent successes (winning the American League East Division title for the last two seasons and winning the World Series five seasons ago), the team’s inability to advance beyond the first round of the playoffs was unacceptable.  The front office personnel at Fenway Park has decided that the answer to “what have you done for me lately?” is “not enough”.

I am thankful the God does not have the same business plan as the Red Sox.  I am grateful that a few seasons with less-than-optimal results (despite a modicum of success) does not disqualify me from being part of His team.  I rejoice that when my production or power has waned, He will not replace me with someone who could do better.    As opposed to a sport where, in 2017, a batter is nearly as likely to strike out (21.6% of all plate appearances) as get a hit (22.8% of all plate appearances), it is remarkable that the Lord allows us to miss the mark so frequently without relegating us to the bench.

…as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.   Psalm 103:12

While most of us have never played baseball professionally, we all have our list of failures.  We all have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God.  We all have stepped out of bounds and trespassed against one another.  We all have made mistakes, lapses in judgement, erred and fouled up.  We all have reasons why our dismissal would be warranted.   We all have places in our track record where our disappointments greatly outnumber our successes.  What does God offer us when we are in the midst of these less-than memorable moments?  He offers us yet another chance to get it right.

The struggles of life and the challenges of baseball are surprisingly similar.  I have never faced a 100mph fastball, but I imagine that making contact with the curveballs of life is equally difficult (considering how often I have swung and missed them).  I have struck out relationally, flied out morally, grounded out conversationally, and fouled out professionally.   I have never stood in front of the Green Monster at Fenway, but I have misplayed routine interactions and lost my focus while fielding temptations.   Through it all, God has encouraged and corrected me, discipled and guided me, so that I would do better the next time.

The results of following the Red Sox and following Christ could not be more different.  As a lifelong Red Sox fan, I am used to saying, “wait until next year” – when (hopefully) the big bat arrives, when the ace pitcher performs and when they win the pennant.  As a Christian, I am used to saying, “forgive me” (as I strike out, underperform and fail) – which results in (certainly) His restoration of my soul and refreshment of my spirit.   I will take God’s comfort over a hometown championship any day.

Bright and Burning

Yesterday was quite a day of sports in our neck of the woods – the Boston Red Sox, the New England Patriots and the Boston Bruins were all in action.  It is a wonder to see all these professional athletes utilizing their talents, gifts and natural abilities.  What we do not witness while watching these games is all the time spent of training:  hours in the batting cages and fielding ground balls, innumerable sessions of weight-training and blocking drills or countless mornings of ice time practicing their slapshots.   We celebrate the excellence of the players on the field or rink, knowing that those who are playing have worked harder than we can imagine in order to get to where they are.

The same is true for musicians, writers, plumbers, surgeons, sales representatives and every other vocation (and avocation, as well).  Our effectiveness in any endeavor is dependent upon our efforts in honing the requisite skills for the task.  It is not enough to have a gift – whether you are a piano prodigy or a math whiz – if you never put in the hours practicing your craft.  That is why the Apostle Paul writes the following words to his protégé Timothy:

For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.     2 Timothy 1:6

Sometimes we are tempted to think that the spiritual gifts that God bestows upon us are effectively different than all the other gifts He gives us, but according to Paul, that is just not true.  We need to fan into flame any and every gift we’ve been given by God.

That phrase – ‘fan into flame’ – is a hapax legomenon (it only appears once in all of scripture) and therefore is really difficult to contextualize.  It is a single Greek verb formed by the combination of the roots forms of again, living and fire.  It means to make a fire live again, to be rekindled or a flame to be revived.  It is not the process of starting the fire, but maintaining it.  When my family goes camping, it is my job (as the dad) to start the fire and I involve the kids in the process of keeping it going.  When it comes to spiritual gifts, God’s job is to start the fire.  Our job is to do what we can to keep it robust – adding more wood to the fire, blowing on the embers, making sure it is not quenched by rain.

Whatever gift, talent or natural ability you have been blessed with, let Paul’s words encourage you to fan that fire into flame.  Work at your craft so that your passions never simply smolder.   Commit to practice what you are already good at so that there is more sizzle than smoke.  Do not neglect the spiritual gifts you have been given; practice them.  Whether it is preaching or prophecy, helping or hospitality, leadership or giving, or any of the other gifts mentioned in Romans 12:6-8, 1 Corinthians 12:8-10, 28 or Ephesians 4:11, do whatever is necessary to rekindle and revive the fire that God started within your soul.   Maintain whatever God has begun in you.

Fasten Your Seatbelts

Members of my family recently had occasion to fly ‘home’.  Whenever anyone travels the friendly skies, others will invariably ask, “Was it a good flight?” What we are typically wondering is if it was bumpy or smooth – was there the dreaded turbulence.  Patrick Smith is a commercial airline pilot, contends that the number one producer of flight anxiety in his passengers is that pesky turbulence.  We who have never attended flight school, assume the plane’s ability to remain aloft is at risk.  But in an article he wrote for Business Insider, Smith argues that from the perspective of the pilot, turbulence is often a mere blip:

For all intents and purposes, a plane cannot be flipped upside-down, thrown into a tailspin, or otherwise flung from the sky by even the mightiest gust or air pocket.  Conditions might be annoying and uncomfortable, but the plane is not going to crash.  Turbulence is an aggravating nuisance for everybody, including the crew, but it’s also, for lack of a better term, normal.  From a pilot’s perspective, it is ordinarily seen as a convenience issue, not a safety issue.  When a flight changes altitude in search of smoother conditions, this is by and large in the interest of comfort.  The pilots aren’t worried about the wings falling off; they’re trying to keep their customers relaxed and everybody’s coffee where it belongs….  In the worst of it, you probably imagine the pilots in a sweaty lather: the captain barking orders, hands tight on the wheel as the ship lists from one side to another.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

That pretty much sums up the way life is: a great majority of us are cowering in our seats, concerned about things that will never happen, while the few who know the truth carry out their duties, unaffected by the reality of their circumstance.  We fret over our kids climbing trees and our lug nuts coming loose.  We worry over lightning strikes and dog bites.  We lose sleep over the national debt and the Red Sox prospects in the playoffs.  Instead, we would rest easier if we trusted those who have the expertise to handle these matters to handle these matters.  We would be less anxious if we let the pilot fly the plane.

My heart is not proud, LORD, my eyes are not haughty; I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me.     Psalm 131:1

My problem, and the problem of my fellow inhabitants on earth, irrespective of demography, is that we concern ourselves with matters ‘above our pay grade’.  Beyond the troubles of turbulence during our flights (or elsewhere), we regularly engage in forming opinions on matters about which we have little or no knowledge, the things that only God can fathom.  Imagine the peace we would gain when we do not concern ourselves with great matters of God – the lengths of grace, the depth of  mercy, the fullness of compassion, the vastness of forgiveness – and simply trust the one who is an expert in these things too wonderful for us.

As we travel, we will be required to endure bumps and tossing caused by the winds we encounter.  At those very moments, we need to trust the One who directs our path, the Lord Almighty.

Playing Games

I have come to a startling revelation:  children today do not play, or at least they do not play like we did when we were kids.  At a recent curriculum night, my youngest son’s teacher informed the gathered parents that their children’s fourth-grade class will be participating in a weekly program that will teach how to play well at recess and how to follow the rules of recreation.  At our church’s yard sale, my middle son’s friend brought home a number of board games that we had for sale because he had no games at home.  Certainly, children today are engaged in sports and video games, they do not know how to play.  They know how to compete, whether it is tracked on scoreboards or screens, but are ignorant of play.

What did we do to our children when we were encouraging them to win (e.g. on the field) or finish the task the fastest (with Legos, for example) while at the same downplaying the joys of simply ‘having fun’?    Somewhere along the way we forgot the fun of recreation and substituted it with competition and amusement.  We neglected to pass on the benefits of being renewed, or recreated, when engaging with others in play and began to emphasize the goals of skill acquisition, winning and superiority when engaging against others on the ballfield or the playground.  Sadly, the question we ask our kids at the end of these endeavors is no longer, “Did you have fun?” but rather, “Did we win?”

There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his.   Hebrews 4:9-10

This is not God’s purpose for us – to compete with each other until one stands victorious and the also-rans fall to defeat.  God’s plan and purpose is for our lives to have periods of rest.  He worked into His creation a break from work (toil, labor and struggle) every seven days.  God’s understanding of rest is not for us to sleep for an entire day (as there is time for sleep every day), but to fill one day a week with recreational (what will recreate us) activities.  We all need to take time to be creative and be recreated.  We all are designed to take time to read for pleasure, cook for fun, exercise our minds and bodies for refreshment and play for the sake of enjoyment.

Our children work hard; they are engaging in toil, labor and struggle at school and with extracurriculars for hours at a time.  We, as parents and as a society, must encourage them to engage in play, not to win but to recreate.  Kids need to build things ‘without the directions’, ride bikes ‘without a destination’, and enjoy board games ‘without a decision’.   Kids need to see these things modeled as well – to see us reading, riding or rolling just for the mere pleasure of being together and growing together.

I wonder what would happen if we began playing games with our children for only an hour – playing for a time and not a triumph.  We could break out the Monopoly board and set the timer.  There would be no winner and no loser, just an hour of interaction and conversation.  Would we be frustrated by the lack of closure?  Perhaps, but I think it would pass.  Would we benefit from the process of recreation instead of competition?  Probably.  Let me know what happens if you try.

A Twenty Year Shift

This Sunday afternoon, in celebration of my 20 years of service, Calvary Community Church will be putting on a luncheon in my honor.  While I loathe being the center of attention, I am grateful for the gesture of love and appreciation.  The irony of this event is that, while it recognizes that I have been pastoring the same church for two decades, I have not actually been pastoring in the same ministry for 20 years.  In a post a few weeks ago, I wrote that most of the congregants have changed over my tenure.  But that is not the only thing that has changed since 1997.

Our culture, and therefore our church’s ministry, has changed in the last few years.  Some of these changes have been stylistic – from organ accompaniment to piano or from singing with hymnals in hand to projecting digital images of lyrics – but some of the changes have been profound:

  • Our society was changed by terrorism (September 11, 2001) – our world, including our expressions of faith, changed when planes crashed into the World Trade Center Towers, the Pentagon and a field in rural Pennsylvania. Some were drawn to God, some were repelled.  But ministry changed…we were no longer invincible, no longer safe, no longer favored.  New questions were raised and doubts about God’s benevolence and power surfaced, leaving the church to offer hope to the newly hopeless.
  • Our society redefined tolerance (November 18, 2003) – our moral landscape changed when the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts upheld a lower court’s ruling in the case of Goodridge v. Dept. of Public Health, thereby legalizing the marriage of two consenting adults without regard to gender. The law of the land (ultimately upheld by the Supreme Court of the US) thus conflicted with the traditional interpretation of the Bible and local congregations were required to again consider questions thought inconceivable to prior generations.
  • Our society was given untethered access to technology (June 29, 2007) – our understanding of media and knowledge changed when Apple released the IPhone, allowing anyone with the resources to afford the phone and the service plan access to the internet virtually anywhere. Seemingly overnight, we went from transferring information conversationally to transferring it electronically.  We heightened our levels of awareness and distraction with our ability to record and transmit everything.  We began engaging in social media and neglected social interaction.  The church, whether it was ready or not, was required to engage with the digital world while maintaining its historically relational and textual characteristics.
  • Our society embraced a new form of activism (September 17, 2011) – our involvement with the world around us changed when people gathered for Occupy Wall Street, ushering in a new style of activism that blended the orchestration of peaceful assembly with the spontaneity of a flash mob. Diverse groups of individuals were able to communicate their dissatisfaction with cultural oppression en masse, without designated leadership, and have their voices heard.  This led to other groups (e.g. Black Lives Matter and Women’s March) raising awareness of the plight of the disadvantaged.  The church, who has championed the cause of the downtrodden for centuries, is now beginning to embrace this social activism as young Christians lead the saints into a world where there is justice for all.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.  Hebrews 13:8 (NIV)

In a few weeks, I am going to participate in a young man’s Ordination Council (a gathering of denominational leaders who interact with a candidate’s statement of theology, challenging the candidate to think deeply about their philosophy and content of ministry).  I remember my Ordination Council in 1999.  I was so young, so naïve, so sure of what I believed.  Then, over the past two decades, the landscape shifted in profound ways.  However, no matter how the culture may change, the Christ remains the same.  The message has never wavered, whether it is recorded in ink or pixels.  A culture worried with terrorism and wearied by intolerance has been washed in the Blood of Jesus.  A culture steeped in technology and straining for justice has been saved from sin through the sacrifice.  The church has changed over the past twenty years – as the adage goes, “You could not step twice into the same river” – but the Gospel remains the same.  And so we shall continue to share the good news until all have heard it.