Wednesday, December 4, 2013
This post was originally published on this blog in December of 2011, and I believe the message is still relevant today:
It is always fascinating to me that when we talk about the manger we focus only on two groups of men that came through the little door on that special morning - the Shepard’s and the Wise Men. Of course we know that Mary and the baby Jesus was there. However, I believe that we miss some sufficient men that would influence the course of history by their presents that night. Let’s think about a few men that were around that night, or very close there upon.
The first guy present that night was a man that had already been in the presents of God (the angel of the Lord had visited him), and he has agreed to be the step-father to King of King, Lord of Lords, and the “Great I Am.” Now, I don’t know about you but the thought of raising the Son of God would scare me. What if I made a mistake!, what if I taught him the wrong thing!, what if he could read my mind (like God can)!, what if something happens to Jesus!, what will God do to me? Yet, Joseph sat there that night beside Mary, holding her hand, encouraging her, and takes part in the greatest miracle in history up to that time. We don’t know anything about Joseph as a father, beyond Jesus being 12 years old. The scripture is silent about the influence he had. However, I’m sure that it was significant. He held Jesus hands as he learned to walk, encouraged him to say his first word, watched over him playing in the field, helped him learn a trade, and maybe even taught him to read the scripture. I have to say what a man, having raised two (what I believe) great children, I can only say I hope that can I do a good job.
The Second guy present that night was the Inn Keeper. Please understand I know that the scripture does not say it was a man but provided the costumes of that time, it is a great possibility that it was. He is often criticized for his actions of not opening a room for Mary, but we don’t know all the details that happened that busy week with the census. I want to believe in my mind that throughout the night he was in and out of the manger, bringing the blankets, water, and maybe even kindling the fire. I’m not sure if there is remorse for not providing more or contentment that he had done all he could. But one thing would be clear, despite the lack of scriptural reference, his life was forever touched that night.
The third (Guys) was a group men that I view as the common man- - a group of shepherds working hard, providing for their families, and taking care of the sheep. As they were working, it says the angel of the Lord appeared and told them about Jesus’ birth. They came running, they came to see, they came to worship! Then they went and told everybody they could what they saw and heard that night. Can you image a group of shepherds being invited to the hospital to witness the birth of the Prince Charles or one of the Saudi Royal families? Not only was they invited, they were allowed to see Jesus up close and personal!
The Fourth (Guys) was a group of men that I view as the elite, educated, and of wealth. They traveled hundreds, if not thousands, of miles to see Christ; they came bearing gifts worthy of a king --gold, frankincense, and myrrh. However, what is amazing to me is that God knew the need and provided the needed resources for a trip to Egypt (to escape the killing spree of Herod). Think about these men’s arrival in Bethlehem; it would have to rival that of Kings, or even the president. Everybody was talking about these guys. Yet, the scripture says, they came and worshiped the King!
The Fifth guy never saw the baby Jesus. However, he attempted to change the course of history. He rejected the legitimacy of Jesus being King of Israel. Even though, he himself sat on the throne of Israel by appointment of the Roman government, and not birth right. He was the first person to outright reject the Messiah. He set out on a mission to stop the Christ from fulfilling the mission that God had set in motion. He died never seeing the Christ, but would earn a spot as one of the most treacherous men in history all because he missed understanding the significance of Christ Birth.
As I close, I have a question today especially to men, which man/group best represents you? Is it Herod?, The Wise Men?, The Shepard’s?, The Inn Keeper, or maybe you feel like Joseph? Regardless, understanding that we may not have been at the manger the first Christmas morning, this Christmas morning with it falling on Sunday will we be worshipping him in church --reflecting on the alter (manger), or will we be at the toys’ alter worrying about the batteries or if the clothes we bought fit, or will we just claim he doesn’t exist?
Remember gentleman … Jesus is the only Reason for the Season!!!!
Friday, November 22, 2013
On November 22, 1963 I was three years old, had no clue what a president was, or how important books would be come in my life. That forever changed the world. President John F. Kennedy, who was 46 years old, died a violent death at the hands of Lee Harvey Oswald as the world watched. On the same day, Clive Staples Lewis, aged 64, and commonly referred to as “C. S. Lewis” died at home of health complications.
Clearly history has been good to both of them; their influences have been felt throughout the past 50 years. For better or worse, Kennedy’s policies on the Viet man war, Cuba, Space, and domestic policies set the stage for where we are today as a nation. C. S. Lewis, who considered himself to be a simple lay theologian, influenced the nation in realms: education, writing, and Christian apology.
Today, we solemnly celebrate the deaths of those two great men who changed the world. I sometimes wonder what the world would be like today if both of these men had lived. Would the world be much different? I believe that both would have made a significant impact. JFK was on the verge of some great foreign policy breakthroughs around the world and had his domestic policy been implemented, the landscape of America would have changed in unimaginable but positive ways. Further writing by C. S. Lewis could have illuminated the greatness of Christ by following up on his work, Mere Christianity, or by creating another fictional world.
At the age of 53 I can only look back and wonder what if, but sadly, none of us will never know.
One last question to ponder … If you passed into Heaven today, what will they be saying about you on November 22, 2063?
Monday, November 11, 2013
As I sit at home this morning, I’m reflecting not only on the Men and Women that have given their lives for our freedom, but also on those that are currently sacrificing to serve in our military. I’m also reflecting on those that gave and then step so quietly back into our society, to continue their lives as fathers/mothers, sons/daughters, and grandchildren.
As I sit to write this I have to remember that I’m at the place today in the ministry because of one of these wonderful and gracious veterans. In 1953, my father joined the United States Air Force, to serve as a civil engineer and heavy equipment operator. He would go on to have many different challenges as he served over the next 20 years. He would be involved in Search & Recuse, Air Force Police, closing bases, and things he just wouldn’t talk about. I loved to sit for hours and listen to him tell stories about his experiences in countries like Spain, England, Japan, South Korea, Pakistan, and even here in the states.
I was born in 1960 and had the privilege (yes, I do look back at my childhood as a privilege) to travel out of the country twice with my father, once to England when I was 4 and 5 years old, and once to Taiwan when I was 10 and 11 years old. They are both experiences I will never forget. I even enjoyed living at two different Air Force Bases in Michigan, which is an experience that I wish every other young person could have.
Please do not misunderstand me, it was not all great growing up, especially when dad was overseas for 18 months to two years at a time. As a child you’re not really sure how to process him being gone, you only hold on to the fact that dad loves you and will be home soon.
You’re asking yourself what does that all have to do with now. The places I lived, the people I met, the values I was taught, and the respect I share for others all have a major impact on the Message I share today. Through all this time traveling around the world, and living on bases here at home, one thing remained consistent, no matter where we were, we were attending the Base Chapel or a church in the community.
In 1973 my dad retired from the Air Force as a Technical Sergeant and he continued to teach me the values of life, to respect others, to work hard, to go after your dreams, and to serve God wherever he calls you. Dad passed away in 2009 at the age of 77 just three days shy of his 78th birthday. At the grave side the Honor Guard gave a 21 gun salute, they gave the family the folded flag, and they gave a United States Air Force Veteran the Honor he deserved.
In my heart and mind I know that my father sum’s up what a real veteran is: A man or women that serves their country with honor and distinction for the time they are asked, then serves their family, community, church, and country where asked as life continues.
With all that being said I can only say on this Veterans Day … Thanks Dad for being willing to serve your country, family, church, and community.
I love and miss you TSgt Donald E. (Gene) Allen, Sr.
From 1969 - 1971 while living with my father who severed in the U. S. Air Force, we lived in Taiwan and went through a couple of major Typhoons, the devastation was unbelievable. My heart is broken today as I hear and read the news that is reporting the death toll in the Philippines could top 10,000. I have several individuals and pastors that I have chatted with from the Philippines on Facebook and LinkedIn over the past several years. Many have reported having great revivals throughout the country; we can only pray that the lives they touched with the Gospel were those that step into eternity this past week. As I wait to hear from them, I realize there is only three things we can do (1) as a united Church Body we can and must pray (2) give what the Lord lays on our heart to give through the charity of our choice (3) talk about what has happen there in the Philippines with our family and prepare our plan of action in case we ever face similar tragedy.
Sunday, November 10, 2013
Something’s can’t be re-made:
I recently sat down and watched (for the fifth time) the new Wild, Wild West movie with Will Smith. I realized that even after watching it so many times it still is not as good as the original. Have you noticed that Hollywood is in re-make and re-write mode? They are trying to make the classics we grew up with in the 80’s and 90’s new and improved, and in my opinion some things just need to be left alone and accepted as is …
I was thinking recently of all the movie remakes, and realized that the church is no different. We have begun to accept a lot of the world’s philosophy of what church should look like, what the message should sound like, what the view of the Cross should be, and the acceptance of all beliefs. Churches can and do re-invent themselves. They can change the worship style, or a new pastor may bring a new teaching or preaching style, or they may make the sanctuary more comfortable. Some even may start serving coffee. I’m not talking about the superficial changes.
I’m talking about the church that has begun to change it CORE BELIEFS, and has walked away from the foundational truth of scripture. Many churches today have begun to accept an all-inclusiveness belief system. We see this almost daily on television, in newspapers, and through blog post. Pastors make statements such as “Hell does not exist”, “there may be other ways to Heaven”, “are we sure Christ is the only answer?”, or my favor sell-out statement is “are we sure that is what scripture meant?” The reality is you CANNOT RE-WRITE SCRIPTURE. It is a fact of life. As much as you and sometimes even me would like to rewrite parts, the original is still the best. It is the God inspired foundational truths from Genesis to Revelation, and even those that have added to it, totally re-written it, or even denied its existence as the Word of God will never change that fact!
Remember, as much as the world wanted Will Smith to be James T. West, the actor Robert Conrad will always be the real Mr. West. The same is true in today of the message of Christ. No matter how much someone wants to change the scripture, the original words of God himself will always remain true.
As I grew up in church and heard the message, it was always the same:
· Jesus Christ is the living, co-equal Son of God (He is and always will be God) … Co-existing part of the Trinity (God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit)
· Jesus Christ was born of a Virgin
· He lived a sinless life
· He willingly went to the Cross at Calvary for my sins (and paid the debt for sin that I, nor anyone else could pay)
· He conquered death on the third day, as he arose from the grave.
· He ascended into heaven to sit at the right hand of God the Father, and to be the Judge of my decisions. He alone will (In HIS all-knowing authority) judge my heart and determine if I spend eternity with HIM in Heaven or separated from him in Hell.
· Simply, put … without a personal relationship with a Loving Savior named Jesus Christ, and acceptance of what HE did at Calvary, the belief in HIS resurrection, and acknowledgement of these facts, I a person cannot spend eternity in Heaven.
IT MAKES NO DIFFERENT HOW I RE-WRITE THE STORY … THE TRUTH OR FACT OF THE MATTER IS GOD WROTE THE STORY, AND ANY REMAKES CAN NOT OUTDO THE PERFECTION OF THE ORIGINAL.
Saturday, October 19, 2013
This week another mega church’s pastor (Pastor Ron Carpenter of Redemption World Outreach Center) gave a heart wrenching confession that a member of his family suffers from Mental Illness. There will always be critics who that think the pastor should not air his dirty laundry. Others think it is a cop out by the pastor to overlook sinful behavior. On the other side of the coin, there are those that will continue to pray for all pastors and support them with God’s love. Regardless of your view of Pastors, there are three facts we must always keep.
- They are human and have emotions, feeling, struggles, and pain.
- Their families are not exempt from pain, mental illness, or sin.
- It is not my job, as a parishioner, to place any pastor on a pedestal or to tear him down.
I have been active as an alcohol and drug counselor, pastoral counselor, and have worked in a mental health hospital for over 20 years. I have learned that mental illness and addiction is not about my opinion of who should or shouldn’t have it.
God is not interested in our condemnation of a pastor for going public that his wife or child suffers from mental illness. God is interested in how we support and encouragement each and every individual going through a crisis. Finding out that a family member has been diagnosis with a mental illness is a crisis, it is no different than being told a family member has a chronic disease, like cancer, heart failure, or any number of physical conditions. God wants us to support them in whatever way we can.
These same individuals, that condemn Pastor Ron Carpenter and Pastor Rick Warren, are the same individuals that will complain when they hear the pastor is out sick with gall bladder or heart attack and were not told.
As a pastor, counselor, parent, husband, and friend, this is my view of what should be happening in the church:
- The pastor should be allowed to be human and to share their own personal prayer needs and their family’s with the parishioners.
- We all should be willing to listen and encourage our pastor, just as we expect him to do so for us.
- We all should be praying for our pastor daily and not just in a time of crisis.
- None of us should criticize what we don’t understand. We would never complain when a pastor shares that his wife is undergoing heart surgery or treatment for breast cancer. Why would we criticize when a pastor announces that his wife is being treated for depression, bi-polar disorder, or schizophrenia? We all need to understand that people who have mental illness need the same support as someone with a physical illness.
It is time for the church start acting like the carrying compassionate individuals we claim to be. I personally applaud Pastor Carpenter and thank him for his willingness to share his own personal growth and the growth of the church, worldwide.
Thursday, October 10, 2013
A REAL MAN can wear a University of Michigan
Jersey, even in Ohio!
Before you believe this is an off the cuff statement, you need to understand I grew up in Flint, Michigan and I have never cheered for another team except the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. I get excited when Michigan State, Western, Central, or Eastern Michigan do well, but for me it comes down to “MICHIGAN WINNING IT ALL”. This applies not only to Football (which I love to watch), but also basketball and the other dozens of other sports they have at U of M.
The rivalry between the University of Michigan and Ohio State is so intense that it actually sometimes feels like it carries over into other parts of any individual life. The color of clothes you wear, the places you go, the people you hang out with, and what you are willing to talk about. I have heard of fan’s be attacked outside of the stadium at both Ohio State and U of M for wearing their teams colors in the wrong town, they have been cussed out, and have even heard of cars being spray painted if they had the other teams decal on it.
Now you ask what does this have to do with “BEING A REAL CHRISTIAN.” A lot actually, as I believe that it is ok for me to wear my U of M jersey in Ohio (and if you hang out with me for more than a couple of days you will see me in either my polo, jersey, or hoodie), I believe it is ok for my express my love for CHRIST in the same way. However, there are others that would disagree, and take offense to it just like some the people I know take offense to my U of M wardrobe.
What makes you a Real Christian!
- Personal relationship with Christ
- Prayer time (not a spare tire religion)
- Reading the Play Book (THE BIBLE)
- Listening to the Coach and other leaders on the side line (God the Father, Jesus, and Holy Spirit)
- Being a participant in the game (yes even fans can be a participants in the game. They can jeer, shout, and they praise the players. In other words encourage those on the field.