Tuesday, May 26, 2009

What Would You Die For?

Our military are trained for one thing and one thing only -- protect our nation from all dangers. Often that means mortal combat and soldiers will lose their lives. Our fallen combatants understood they might have to offer their lives, and still they went into battle.

The first responders of this nation are often called upon to put themselves in harms way -- knowing they may have to pay the ultimate price for their service. Still, they enter burning buildings, speed down highways enroute to disasters, and brave hazardous conditions to rescue strangers.

Our police officers carry firearms as a standard part of their uniform. They know that at any moment, with any traffic stop, with any domestic disturbance call, they may be called on to use deadly force to serve and protect. Officers willing to use deadly force understand they, too, are in danger and may be called upon to offer their lives.

First-century Christians worshipped Christ -- often at the risk of their own lives. They devised an elaborate system to stay under the radar of the Roman government. They knew Rome wanted to exterminate the Christian faith, and the only way to accomplish this was the annihilation of its believers. The choice was to deny Christ or face death. They followed Christ.

Our military, the first responders, our police officers, and first-century Christians all belong to a community that understands men who are called upon to offer their lives need to be surrounded by men who encourage, support, and are willing to make ultimate sacrifices themselves. A band of brothers -- united together and all called upon equally to offer the same sacrifices -- help each other face the future with bravery.

Many of us in North America do not know what it means to face the threat of death in our job or our faith life. Most of our occupations do not place us in mortal danger, nor do we face death to worship, pray, and witness openly to Christ.

Do we take advantage of this freedom? Do we share Christ? Do our lives witness to our words? We may not be called upon to die for our faith, but are we willing to suffer some embarrassment or ridicule to share our faith? Are we willing to risk being made fun of as we pray in restaurants, thanking God for His blessings, or share words of witness with another? Are we willing to stand apart from the world around us and speak against injustice, immorality, and sin? I confess I miss opportunities.

I need encouragement from my brothers in the faith who will strengthen me with their resolve, support me in my trials, and willingly stand with me in a common fight. How about you?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Guest Rant

I may not go to church on Father's Day. I've been a father for 31 years and, frankly, I haven't been at very many Father's Day worship services that I much appreciated. That will probably raise the hackles on the necks of some of the pastors and others out there. But it's the truth. I don't like going to church on Father's Day. And I just might not go this year.

And this will probably further aggravate you-the primary reason I may not go to church is the sermon. I'm pretty sure what it will be. It will be about how fathers shirk their duties and really need to step up to the plate and be the fathers God calls them to be. I know that, because that's what it is always about. You see, in my experience, Father's Day in church is the exact opposite of Mother's Day in church-and it's not just because the sexes are different. On Mother's Day we get a sermon about how valuable mothers are in the lives of their children. We may hear about Timothy's mother and how she provided spiritual nourishment for him. We might hear about Mary under the cross, her heart breaking over her Son's death. But, you can rest assured that we'll hear about the value of mothers and how wonderful they are. And I don't disagree with that at all.

But, in my 31 years as a father, I can't remember a single Father's Day sermon that treated dads the way we treat moms on Mother's Day. I have left church every single time feeling beaten up and condemned because I couldn't live up to the standards given in those Father's Day messages.

I'll go to church 51 Sundays a year, sing the songs with gusto, revel in the forgiveness secured for me by my Savior, commune with His joy and peace in my heart, and leave uplifted, restored, and encouraged. But on this one Sunday, I really don't want to be there-don't want to get spiritually flogged one more time. Yes, curiosity and commitment will probably get the best of me and on June 21 I'll probably be in church-though I won't want to be there. I guess I'm daring my pastor to surprise me. Let me know my service as a father has been a valuable service. Remind me my own heavenly Father forgives, encourages, and empowers. Help me feel good about this important role God has me play in the lives of others. For those of us who have taken up the mantle of fatherhood and done the best we can, tell us about it. Go ahead! I dare you!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Lessons Learned Fishing With My Dad

All the talk about a fishing tournament got me to thinking about my dad. My dad is in heaven now, but he's still nearby in my thoughts. He would have been one of the first to register for the fishing tournament because he loved to fish. He would go alone, with his friends, with his sister-in-law, with his dad, with his children, just about anybody except mom. Mom would eat the fish, but never catch them.

I still can hear the birds singing as dad and I sat on the banks of the channel waiting for the bobber to go under. I can smell the water and feel the sun on the back of my neck, as dad sat next to me and taught me fishing lessons:

1. Be patient - not every cast will catch a fish.
2. Be kind to the environment - pack out your trash.
3. Storms are okay - fish will bite in the rain.
4. Use the right bait - if fish are biting worms, don't give them minnows.
5. Plain poles can catch just as many fish as fancy ones.
6. If the fish don't bite - don't blame the fish.
7. Speak softly - loud noises can scare fish away.
8. Casting across the channel doesn't always guarantee more fish - sometimes the best cast is the one that lands closest to you.
9. Don't rock the boat - you could fall in.
10. Sit down, be quiet, and pass the worms - you need bait to catch fish.
11. Not every fish caught is a "keeper" - sometimes you have to throw them back to let them grow.
12. If you cut yourself, pour some beer on it - the alcohol will sting, but it will be better for you in the long run.

The older I got, the more dad shared different things. He offered advice about dating, job interviews, how to double clutch a manual transmission, what to look for in a used car, how to apply for a loan, and why church is important. Today I may not fish with my dad, but his lessons have worked well for me. In fact, I find it interesting that most of his lessons applied to so much more than fishing. I think he had a plan.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Why I Don't Have A Fish On My Truck

In ancient Rome, it was against the law to openly declare oneself a Christian. So the practice developed of scratching a fish symbol in the dirt to indicate one followed Christ. Even today the fish symbol is displayed to indicate that one is a Christian.

When I purchased my pick-up truck, I thought for a while about putting a fish symbol on the back to tell the world I am a Christian. I soon abandoned the idea.

I am the type of person who has no patience with rude drivers -- ones that tailgate, cut me off, or stay in the far left lane when they should be merging. I have been known to be "hot on my brakes" when a driver is too close. As you might imagine, I love the smell of burning tires. I have been known to salute the driver who cuts me off. I have also been known to practice the "box-out" theory to prevent a rude driver from getting ahead of me after I have waited in line.

As you can tell, I really don't have much patience with rude drivers -- the ones who think their time is more valuable, the ones who like to put others at risk in order to gain one car length, the ones that swerve from lane to lane in order to get to their destinations five minutes earlier. So, I opted not to put a fish symbol on my truck. I probably wouldn't make a real good witness for Christ.

But then it hit me the other day! Since when does being a Christian mean giving up all rights and power? Is Christianity all about being a doormat for others to just walk over and take advantage of? To my memory, I have always had justification to be upset at rude drivers, Why shouldn't I declare to the world Christians have power? They have rights, and they can show righteous anger!

What do you think? Should I put a fish symbol on my truck or just keep my American flag?