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March 11 / March 18

March 4, 2018 - Our Priorities

Wow, what a ferocious week of news and discussions on "gun control". Even if you are not interested in this debate, you can't help hearing it this week. After the horrific shootings in a Florida school where 17 people were gunned down, this has been pretty much the talk in our country 24/7. People are debating furiously on social media and that includes a lot of hard and angry bantering between Christians. On my Facebook page there are a ton of debates. I have thus far resisted in getting involved in them but have found some comments to be really wise and others really disturbing. As Christians, how do we address this... should we address this even? Is this a political issue, a freedom issue, a crime issue, a constitutional issue... and perhaps even a moral issue? I personally have never owned a gun and do not plan on buying one anytime soon. As a proud American, I believe in the 2nd amendment. As a proud Texan I think our gun laws are good laws. Law abiding citizens exercising their rights to own and carry firearms are not the problems. As a former New Yorker, almost all the gun crimes I have known of were perpetrated by criminals who used illegal weapons. Banning them did not eliminate them from their hands. My son who is an NYPD sergeant said to us, "We have made it illegal to have drugs, and that hasn't stopped criminals from having and selling plenty of them. Criminals will always have guns." But should Christians have guns? Should we support gun ownership? Should Christians own any weapon at all? These and a hundred more questions have been and will be asked of us. What do we say?

No, in a two paragraph blog that is put out on Sunday mornings, I can't imagine answering any of these questions and certainly not convincing anyone who may be opposite my convictions. This debate in our country will continue and the sides will just be split further apart. However, I do want to share one story with you. On January 8, 1956, Jim Elliot and four other missionaries to Ecuador were killed. They were attacked by a small group of Auca Indians with spears. The missionaries had guns to defend themselves, but they made a choice to not shoot at their attackers because they did not want to ruin any chance of the gospel being shared with them. So they died for the gospel sake, and eventually the whole Auca tribe gave their lives to Jesus Christ. This was not a "gun" issue. No one questioned why the missionaries had guns. It was just normal to have them in the jungle. It was not an "American constitutional" issue. They were in Ecuador. It was not even a "rights" issue. Sure they had a right to defend themselves. This was a "spiritual" issue. These men were the servants of the living God, bringing the precious gospel message to the lost. So they did what they did, and many were transformed because of it. Paul writes these powerful and personal words in I Cor. 9:19, "For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more... (to Jesus Christ)" As with all highly charged emotional issues in our country, it is important that we always keep the most relevant issue, the message of God's love on the top of our priorities.

March 11, 2018 - Time

"Well good morning!" If you are reading this before or during worship, then you got the memo. If you are reading it afterwards, you probably forgot that today is Daylight Savings Time (DST)!!! Whose big idea is it for us to spend so much time adjusting our clocks every year? Once upon a time there may have been one or two clocks in a home, but now we have at least one in every room, and most likely multiple ones. It's hard work resetting them all. Well, we can thank the Canadian residents of Thunder Bay, Ontario who on July 1, 1908, were the first to turn their clocks forward by an hour to start the world's first DST period. And the rest is history. Now why would we continue to do such a thing? As usual, it's all about money. Sure, some would say that we get more sunlight so people can enjoy life more. Some claim it will save on energy consumption. Some even tell us that it's better for the family... we can go home earlier, have an outdoor BBQ with the family before the sunset and so forth. Now all these things may be possible, but there is little evidence of them. What is certain is that the stores can remain open longer and the resulting "shopping" has netted an extra few billion dollars annually (Nat'l Assoc. of Convenience stores). I bet you didn't know that DST is there to get you to go shopping. Most people just thought that we would have "more time".

Who wouldn't want more time? One of my favorite songs was penned by Jim Croce and it begins with, "If I could save time in a bottle...". There are not too many things more precious than time, and you definitely cannot bottle it. It is fleeting and you can never get it back. Try as we may, we can't lengthen it by even one second. The only things we can do are to enjoy it and to spend it wisely. God created time and he allotted the amount he chose for each one of us. Ecclesiastes 3:11 says, "He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also set eternity in their heart..." Our time is a precious gift from God. And the great thing is that he has offered eternity for those who believe in him which cannot be measured. DST may give us an extra hour, but it will punish us by taking it away later this year. Eternity has no expiration. We can spend it with the God we love; surrounded by the people we treasure, and enjoy the promises of the glory of heaven. Who wouldn't want that? I can't wait!

March 18, 2018 - Truth

Spring is upon us! After a tough winter, most everyone is looking forward to the spring months. Flowers are blooming, birds are chirping, and trees are budding... oops, that's not so good because of Houston allergies. No matter, we are all excited for the new season. The official date of spring is March 20... but, who decided when spring will be? Well, depending on which culture, there are different dates. The Chinese actually follow their calendar and spring began on February 4. There are countries that follow a "meteorological" method and just start spring on the 1st of the seasonal month, which would make it March 1st. Then there are those who follow the "astronomical" method. They look for the vernal equinox which is the day that the sun gives 12 hours of light with increases each day thereafter. That they call the first day of spring. We follow that methodology which makes it March 20th. Are you significantly confused yet? I thought so. But who really cares about the details? All that matters is sunshine, warm weather, beautiful gardens, and spring break! It seems that the specifics don't matter as much as the experience.

Now it is perfectly fine to love the experience of spring and many other things as well. Yet it's not necessary to know all the tiny details of how things work. But it can be a bit dangerous if we take it deeper into other parts of life and begin to use "experiencing" as a guidepost for life choices. Basing life on just feelings, experiencing from the 5 senses, and what "appears to be good" is not enough. Ultimately we need to be guided by truth. There's a new phrase popping up and is being embraced by a lot of people. It is called "My truth". It is defined as, "Pretentious substitute for 'non-negotiable personal opinion'. This is often used by academics as a convenient phrase for avoiding arguments because people can contradict your opinion but not your 'truth.'" (Urban Dictionary) So for those folks, reality doesn't matter. Facts don't matter. Even other people's thoughts and opinions don't matter... as long as you believe in yourself. How dangerous is that? It's like if suddenly there is a cold snowy day in April and I decide it must be winter because that's "my truth" for the day. Maybe that's why people have such diverse thoughts about God and who he is. God told Moses in Exodus 3:14, "I AM WHO I AM." No matter how you are feeling, what you have heard, where your life experiences have taken you, God is still the same God of the Bible. Facts and details do matter. Our experiences in life do not have to include throwing truth out the window, especially not Biblical truths. Now let's get back to enjoying these beautiful spring days and be thankful that God took care of all the details.