where’s the passion?

Tomorrow marks the beginning of Holy Week, sometimes referred to as Passion Week. Beginning with Palm Sunday and extending to Easter, we recall the Passion of Christ, the road He walked that led Him to the cross. It’s a great time for Christ-followers to get re-focused on matters of faith and worship.

Leading into this season of ministry, there are many times that I ask the question, “where is the passion?” Obviously, Christ cared enough and was committed enough to do whatever it took to save us. But it seems, at times, that there is a lack of response on the part of those of us who have been saved. Allow me to explain:

On any given Sunday, during music and worship, I am amazed at how many people have no response. I mean they either just stand or sit there, expressionless, unmoved. They don’t sing, or in any other way engage in the music. I realize one can worship by listening but there is no getting around the idea that we are told in scripture to sing, clap our hands and worship God. Outward worship is simply a way to express love for God, it is a “spilling over” of what is in our spirits. I wonder, do these people sense anything in their hearts? Are they, in any way, moved in their spirits? Sometimes I preach about God’s love, His sacrifice, His intense desire to know us…and there are times when there is no response. In these times, I have to ask, “where is the passion?” This explains why the average Christian will not be in a local worship gathering at church tomorrow.  Recent research indicates that church attendance doesn’t mean what it used to for Christ-followers. Where is the passion?

The real issue isn’t with what is happening or not happening in corporate worship gatherings. I think Sunday is just a snapshot of the rest of life. I believe that the cares of life have acted like wet blanket on a fire. Stress kills passion. Pain has a way of burying it. Distractions prevent us from feeling and discouragement prevents us from expressing love for God.

One of the more disconcerting parts for me is, people don’t seem to hold back in their passion for other things.  Tonight’s NCAA Basketball Final Four will blow up Facebook and Twitter. This certainly is a season of political posturing – most people will gladly let you know where they stand on the issues. But spirituality has become taboo for many people in our culture – including those who have been saved from hell by God. It just shouldn’t be this way.

I am asking you to reconsider your approach and response to God, especially during Passion Week. He gave everything for you. How does that make you feel? Can you contain those feelings on the inside without outwardly expressing them in some way? God doesn’t need your passionate worship, but He wants it – and certainly deserves it.

Tomorrow, I will preach a message at Cross Community Church entitled: Pasión por la Vida. It will describe how passion for eternal life for you and me drove Jesus to the cross. And I plan to challenge the people of our church to be passionate in their response to the Passion of Jesus. Join us if you are able.

don’t believe the mac hype

Less than a year ago, I “upgraded” from a PC to a MacBook Pro. Based on everything I had read and heard, I expected superior performance, excellent costumer service and longevity unparalleled by a PC. My buddies told me the operating system was more intuitive. I assumed my nerd friends knew what they were talking about. I was wrong.

My experience has been that the much more expensive MAC is not an improvement over the old laptops I owned. My Mac is already bogging down to the point that I have to reboot in the middle of operations at least once a day. The little spinning color wheel has become a nearly constant companion.  It’s a blast watching my typing appear slowly, one-letter-at-a-time, minutes after I have actually typed them.

One of the worst parts is the geniuses at the Apple store in the mall are an arrogant lot. My first experience after the big promises were made (at the time of purchase) was a bit humiliating. The little guy basically scolded me for making an appointment to come in to learn more about my Mac. He said (in a condescending tone and squeaky voice), “only come in if you have a problem. And to save us time, make a list BEFORE you come in.” Well, excuse me Apple Boy! I assumed that when I paid $2,000 for a machine, the seller may be willing to offer some assistance (as promised). I was wrong. Regarding current service: the fact that I should even need to go in this early in the game is a red flag. I don’t plan to go back unless it quits altogether – which seems to be a real possibility. And yes, I paid extra for the AppleCare service program. Got me again!

I guess the TV commercials weren’t legit. I am no cooler now than when I was a loser PC user. I got suckered. Shame on me for believers the marketers.

My advice: If you’re working on a PC, stick with it. If you’re a Mac user and interested in buying a slightly used and somewhat dysfunctional MacBook Pro, hit me up.

My new motto: Once you go Mac, you’ll want to go back.

some things can’t be fixed

I came across a story recently that is hard for me to shake. My goal is not to make some kind of a spiritual statement. I simply think it is beneficial to sometimes wrestle with uncomfortable issues and unusual social phenomenon. And some things are better left to God.

Bruce Reimer (pictured) was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada on August 22, 1963. He was a healthy male with no remarkable features except that he was an identical twin. His brother Brian was also a normal, healthy baby boy.

When the boys were 7 months old, their parents decided to have them circumcised. In an unthinkable medical disaster, Bruce’s penis was mutilated by the slip of a heated needle.  The damage was irreversible and his parents were told that he would never have sexual relations as an adult. In agony, his parents decided that the best course of action was that the boy should undergo a sex-change operation. Fifteen months, later, doctors castrated him and fashioned a vagina from the skin.  His parents changed his name to Brenda and began to treat Bruce as if he were a girl. Doctors injected Brenda with female hormones.

While Brenda wore girl’s clothes and played with dolls, her brother Brian was a typical little boy. They seemed to have adjusted well to the challenges and were developing normally as brother and sister. It as not until the children reached upper grades in elementary school that trouble began. At that point, Brenda began to insist on playing sports with boys, playing with guns and acting like her brother. Other children in school called her “cavewoman” because she walked and talked like a boy. She insisted on urinating while standing. She got into fights. The experiment began to unravel.

At age 14, Brenda suffered from depression and anxiety and began to contemplate suicide. Her parents felt obligated to inform her of the medical mistake and their resulting decision to perform the operation. This seemed to bring some relief to Brenda. At last, life began to make sense. Brenda made the decision to take testosterone shots and later, had surgery where doctors partially reconstructed a penis. Brenda changed her name to David.  At age 25, he married a woman and adopted her children. In 2004, David’s depression got the best of him and he committed suicide. A strange and tragic life came to end.

Again, there isn’t much of a spiritual point here. It just seems that there are some mistakes that people simply cannot repair.  Think on that for a while.

you’d better guard your heart

I love the wisdom of The Proverbs. Tonight in our Community Group, we are reading and discussing Proverbs chapter 4. My favorite verse in this chapter is 23: “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” (NLT) It speaks of the priority of heart-health, and I don’t mean taking care of your ticker.

The reason we need to guard our heart is, it gets hurt. It gets bruised. It gets crushed. Normal wear and tear on your spirit can wear you down and your heart can really ache.

How do we get our hearts hurt?

People disappoint us. We get lied to. Someone proves themselves disloyal. We fail. Sometimes, you just get tired. Life is full of disappointments and let-downs. You get passed over for the promotion. A relationship ends. Someone you love dies. These are the painful realities of life. No one can completely avoid it – hearts are fragile and they break.

So it is vitally important for you to protect your heart. Don’t just offer it up for anyone to take pot shots at. Guard it.

Guard it by watching the right stuff and reading healthy things and listening to stuff that will build you up. And maybe most important: be sure that you have someone who is looking out for your heart. Someone who loves you and will do anything to protect you. Guard your heart.

Don’t try to be a hero and survive if your spirit is crushed – you are strong but you’re not that strong.   If your heart is broken and you allow it to go untreated, it will turn to stone. Self-preservation will take over and you will not allow others close enough to hurt you again.  Once our hearts turn hard, the pain only intensifies. You were not created to live with a crushed heart.

When (not if) your heart gets crushed, remember that God is close to those who have a broken heart (Psalms 34:18) and He wants to heal you (Isaiah 61:1, Luke 4:18). He wants to remove your heart of stone and replace it with a new tender heart (Ezekiel 11:19, 36:26).  He wants to love you back into wholeness.

Guard your heart…why? Proverbs tells us …”For it determines the course of life“.

Your future well-being is on the line. And God has some wonderful plans for you! Be sure that you are ready for it! Guard your heart!

think layers

Our relationship with God is designed to grow. We are in a building process. We should not have to start from scratch every day. This requires consistency to the process and loyalty to God.

It helps to consider your life with God as a wall that is being built. Good materials, the right tools and sound construction principles are required, if your wall is to stand.

I love the way Peter states it: “Add to…”

2 Peter 1

5b “make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (TNIV)

He is saying that if we have faith but stop there, we will fail. If we add goodness and knowledge but leave out self-control, our wall will fall.  Get the concept?

Think layers. Keep “adding to”.

Here are few challenging questions for you to consider and answer if you like:

Is your relationship with God stronger today than it was last year at this time? How about last week?

Which of the 8 elements listed above may you be lacking?  How may you add that element(s)?

What layer do you plan to “add” today? How will you do that?

Verse 8 explains that, if we layer these items in our lives, we will be effective and productive.

Now read verse 9: “But if any of you do not have them, you are nearsighted and blind, and you have forgotten that you have been cleansed from your past sins.”

That explains why so many of us struggle – we are making no spiritual progress!

Think layers!

critics are a dime a dozen

Today’s post is a bit of a rant. Allow me to vent, just a little.

Again today, I saw some shining examples of people who get a kick out of shooting holes in the efforts of others who are doing God’s work. There seems to be a steady supply of “experts” whose sole purpose is to expose what others are doing wrong. I will use this as my format to request that unless you are doing something better than what someone else is doing, please leave them alone.

No, I didn’t get criticized today. But some good friends and organizations that I support did. Our efforts to reach the lost and minister to the hurting will ALWAYS be met with criticism. It happened to Jesus, I suppose we should be honored when it happens to us. But we don’t feel honored – we feel frustrated! My experience is, those who are always telling me a better way of fulfilling the mission of Jesus, do nothing to fulfill the mission themselves.

Here are some over-generalized statements on how I feel: Armchair quarterbacks are all talk and no action. People who tell guitar players they are too loud, can’t play one song. Those who tell preachers their theological mistakes don’t have the guts to preach even one message. Those who criticize the efforts of missionaries to spread the love of Jesus are too lazy to lift a finger for the Gospel’s sake. I know several who qualify for the above generalizations!

Elbert Hubbard said, “To escape criticism: do nothing, say nothing, be nothing.” Kind of like our critics, huh?

I love how Jesus responded to the Pharisees when they criticized Him for healing the sick on the Sabbath.  He simply ignored them and got on with the healing. Awesome!

Anyone interested in personal and spiritual growth understands and embraces the value of constructive criticism. We all need that. But none of us need the aggravation that comes from perpetually negative critique.

Friends, don’t let some naysayer discourage you. Do what God tells you. And forget the knuckleheads who are doing nothing.

Ok, thanks for letting me get that off my chest. Oh, and if you disagree with me on this, keep it to yourself. We are too busy doing God’s work to care what you think! 🙂

she’s running!

I am still kind of in shock and very proud that my wife Letha has accepted the challenge to run a 5K. If you know her, you know that her passion to help orphans is one of only a very few things that could motivate her to run in a race. If you know her (and me), you are also aware that the only time she runs is when she’s chasing me.

Here’s the deal, our non-profit organization to help needy children, International Orphan Support, is sponsoring a huge run/walk event on May 12, the day before Mother’s Day. The Run For Love 5K is a big event: a certified course which has never been run before, accu-chip timing for those serious runners, awards given to various competitors, corporate race sponsors … this is the real deal. But it’s also a friendly, family oriented event where people can come just to stroll the 5K  (3.1 miles) course through beautiful woods, trails, across a wooden bridge and under a canopy of true old South Florida trees.

I am asking you to do one of three things. Please consider:

1. Sponsoring my wife as she runs. The fundraising website we are using and her link is: crowdrise.com 

2. Participate by running or walking. If you live in the Palm Beach County area, you’ll love this location. The race registration site is active.com

3. Pass this info along to your friends on facebook, Twitter, Google+ and even to people you talk to.

All proceeds go to homes that minister to orphans in third-world countries. For details about International Orphan Support and our work with children, please go to our newly designed website at iorphan.cc.

Thanks y’all! Let’s get this thing done for the kids!