Jun 29, 2009

Man in the Mirror

Though I recognize his unique talent, I've never have been a Michael Jackson fan; since Johnny Cash died I've been lost. But I do confess that sometimes I've found myself humming "ABC, 123..." or "Billie Jean." And "Thriller"... when I saw the video I was really impressed. At the time he released "Thriller" he was a faithful door-knocking Jehovah's Witness; granted, he tried to conceal his identity when doing his door-knocking. Who could blame him?

All the hype regarding his death has really saddened me. Not so much that he is dead but the tragic circumstances of his life. One thing uniquely stood out in all the news I've heard; I heard it Sunday afternoon on the Michael Medved Show (re-broadcast) on WKYX (while I was waxing my wife's van!). MJ told one of his spiritual advisors to record some of their conversations with the intent of publishing them someday so people would better understand and appreciate his spirituality. And during one of the sessions he explained to his mentor that the reason he worked so hard to be the best he could be, the reason he was so driven, was because he wanted people to love him. He even felt that he had to excel to get his own family to love him. He did all that he did to obtain the approval of others. Tragic. An impossible goal. Something not even Jesus could accomplish.

But here's what I learn from all this. I am now resolved to try harder, to be more intentional about letting people know that I love and approve of them. No one should have to work to earn another's love. Sadly, celebrities frequently receive lots of attention, but very little love. "This is love: not that we love God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another" (1 Jn. 4:10-11). Even many of us who are no celebrities understand the loneliness in Jackson's life. Such a sad thing.

So what have you learned from the life and death of Michael Jackson? Has something been heavy on your heart?


Jun 26, 2009

The Ants Alarm

Anyone else know the feeling? You're surrounded. Everywhere you turn, they are claiming new territory. You realize it won't be long before there will be nothing new for them to discover. So, they make themselves at home, and set up camp. Your mind starts to race. Strategies begin to take shape. You at least think to yourself, if you haven't already said it aloud..."they won't take me alive!" There are only a few things that tend to more easily break me out of my pacifist shell...and ANTS are near the top of the list.

Apparently this particular tribe of wandering ants had good VBS teachers, because they seem to be familiar with their Bible stories. I can just envision them cresting the gentle slope between my tile and baseboards as they gaze out over what they want to claim as the 'promised land.' It's like my kitchen is Canaan and at first they just send out a few scouts to get a feel for what they are up against. You know, three or four scurry across the counter. A few more across the floor. They fool you into thinking they may be harmless because after all they are just a few. And then they wait...just long enough for you to assume they are gone. But in an instant, the moment you leave just one measley plate in the sink...the smell of 'milk and honey' invigorates the sleeping beasts and the troops move in.

Now they really are everywhere and I feel the disorientation start to settle in as the 'antsraelites' march round and round my kitchen. Only this is where they begin to get their Bible stories wrong because they are not being silent. They are mocking me. Okay lest you think I've really gone off the deep end, they aren't actually talking to me, but they are mocking me nonetheless. At this point the pacifist in me is really starting to lose the argument. So the other night when I came home late to find the not so hospitable ants with torches and trumpets preparing to take up permanant residence, I concluded that something would have to change...there would be a different end to this ancestral story!

I found my weapons of choice in the valley of walmart and returned to proceed with my own strategic counter-strike. I thought I successfully knocked back their initial defenses and so I decided to go to sleep...albeit now a little more happier of a camper. That is until 6:30am this morning when the smoke alarm started going off....LOUD! I ran into the hallway expecting my kitchen to be in ashen ruins with the ants singing their familiar victory refrain, "the ants go marching 1 by 1 hurrah, hurrah!" But...there was nothing...no smoke...no rubble...no plundered ruins. The alarm had quickly shut off, so I went back to bed. Ten minutes later the alarm sounded again. Back in the hallway...nothing....nada....zilch. Back to bed, this time a little more angry and frustrated than before. Another ten minutes pass and the alarm sounds once again. I make up my mind that this time I'm changing the battery. So I find a new one, grab the step stool, pull out the old battery and replace it with the new one. As I'm re-inserting the alarm cover back into the ceiling...I'm not kidding about this...a few ants come scurrying out of the alarm and head toward the wall! What? Conspiracy! These wiley ants found a way to really get me by rigging the alarm to wake me early from my sleep! If it wasn't before....it's ON now!

Unfortunately for the ants, they are about to realize they are living out the wrong Bible story. Instead of the Antsraelites overtaking the promise land of my kitchen, they are about to get a crash course on the story of Gideon. Put it simply God will place his hand of blessing upon Gideon (played by me) and prove again that God is mighty to save (in this case 1 against "thousands") by destroying the "midiants" once and for all! I like that story...

Yes, I know it is silly. But, sometimes it is important to sit back, relax, and enjoy the simple reminders in life that God is still God, he is still in control...even if ants invade every corner of my life!

May God uplift your spirits this week, and restore to you a joy to live for him in all things, big and small.


Jun 22, 2009

Picking and Choosing What I Believe and Practice

Scot McKnight recently published The Blue Parakeet, a book that challenges Bible believers regarding how they read the Bible. After a powerful testimony regarding God answering his prayer to send the Spirit into his life and how this led to his passion for reading, the author takes his reader on a brief tour of how Christians pick and choose what they believe and practice. He writes: "What I learned was an uncomfortable but incredibly intriguing truth: Every one of us adopts the Bible and (at the same time) adapts the Bible to our culture. In less-appreciated terms, I'll put it this way: Everyone picks and chooses. I know this sounds out of the box and off the wall for many, but no matter how hard we try to convince ourselves otherwise, it's true. We pick and choose." While McKnight grants that "picking and choosing" must be done, he wants the reader to ask what guidelines or principles of interpretation allow the picking and choosing as we apply the text today. Are we free to pick and choose and it pleases us?

McKnight then offers some illustrations of picking and choosing: Sabbath-keeping, tithing, foot washing, charismatic gifts, surrendering possessions, and contentious issues. Here's one that struck me as interesting. Leviticus 20:13a prohibits homosexuality and Lev. 20:13b requires death for the offenders. How does one pick and choose which parts of this verse to apply today? Do you believe 13b should also be applied today?

So I'm curious about your experiences with picking and choosing religious practices today? How have you seen this done? How are you doing it?

Jun 19, 2009


The theme at Palmetto Bible Camp this year was "Heroes!" We explored the book of Judges and learned how even when the Israelites turned from God to pursue their own way, God graciously raised up a judge (hero) to lead the people and turn them back to Him. One of the important ideas was that God could use anybody for his purposes. In fact, more often than not, God chose to use the weak to shame the strong, and the foolish to shame the wise. Over and over again, He would stack the odds against himself simply to show that He was a God who could take the ordinary and do something extraordinary. Still today God is searching for modern day heroes to rise up and answer the call He has on their lives. You may think you are not good enough. God says you are. You may think you are not strong enough. God says you are capable. You may think that there is nothing special about you. God says you are perfect...and He has something extraordinary in mind for you!...If you are simply willing to be used by Him.

No matter our age we have all types of heroes in our lives...

From superman, to Martin Luther, and Corrie Ten Boom to Mother Teresa. From Martin Luther King Jr. to Bono, and our service men and women to our school teachers. From mom and dad, to little league coaches, and ministers/pastors to young people with special needs.

It doesn't matter who we are, where we've been, or what we've done to this point in our lives. God has a word to speak to all of us and it is both good and bad news. The good news is that even we can be heroes! The bad news is that God expects us to be heroes! Okay you're right, "bad news" isn't an appropriate description. The only thing bad about it, is when we refuse to open ourselves up to be used by God as everyday heroes. It may be BIG, or it may be small.

Either way God is waiting for you to rise up and be the hero He has already prepared you to be!

Jun 17, 2009

Accept One Another (Rom. 15:7)

How are we to accept those different from us? Can whites, blacks and others really accept one another? Or, can Christians who differ with one another over a hundred and one issues really accept one another? Who must give ground? Who will lose ground? Is this just some pie in the sky admonition from the Apostle Paul, that we accept one another, one far easier to debate than to practice?

It seems Habakkuk 2:4 is Paul's "lesson text" on which he builds Romans. It might even be argued that Romans is a divine commentary on that Old Testament text. Literally, Paul's word order is "The righteous by faith will live" (Rom. 1:17). The first eight chapters of Romans fleshes out the theological meaning of that text, chapters 9-11 discuss the intricacies of the relationship between Jews and Gentiles, and chapters 12-16 show how the text applies on a day-to-day basis as one lives out life.

Without going into depth, let me summarize by saying that the key ingredient in the life of a believer is faith, specifically, faith is belief that God has accomplished our salvation through the death and resurrection of Jesus; at least this is the way I read Romans. But here's what we might want to consider. It is not through law-keeping that we live; it is by faith. It is not through works that we live; it is by faith. It is not through 100% agreement that we live; it is by faith. It is not through believing exactly the same thing that we live; it is by faith. It is not through approaching Scripture with the same methods that we live; it is be faith. Paul wrote that it is "by faith" that we live.

We can accept one another because we all live by faith, not because of all the things I listed above. So as I reflect on Habakkuk's statement and Paul's explanation of it, I'm wondering how you might fill in the blank: It is clear that by faith we live, therefore it is not by _____________ that we live. What do you think? How would you fill in the blank?

If all of us increase in our faith in Jesus, so also we will increase in our mutual ability to get along with and accept one another.

At least that's what I think. --Terrell Lee

Jun 11, 2009

Sir Campalot

We weren't a huge camping family when I was growing up, although we did do it from time to time. When I was around 10 or 11 I was involved in an organization called "Indian Guides" which I guess is similar in many ways to Boy Scouts. We had a few camping outings here and there, but it was enough to know "tent-camping" probably just wasn't my thing. However, as I got a little older I was introduced to a different philosophy of camping...SUMMER CAMP! Now I could do that. Some of my best memories as a teenager involved spending a week or two of time in the summer at Central Florida Bible Camp. It probably has a special place in my heart too because one summer after a wonderful week at camp I came home a different person than I was before and that night I knew I wanted to be baptized and give my life over to following Christ.

Now fast-forward a few years and I still love the summer camp experience. For all the stress, planning, organization and responsibility that goes into taking a group of kids to camp, it is well worth all of it to witness them sharing a week with other kids who want to grow in their relationship with God and be challenged in their walk with Christ. There's just something different about summer camp that you can't experience in other places (of course there are pros and cons to that--but the good by far outweighs the bad). Seeds are planted. Friendships are cemented. And hopefully, lives are forever changed!

I know once we return home this week I am going to be worn out, exhausted, and dog-tired. But there's no other place I'd rather be, because I know God is working on and in the hearts of all our young people and I eagerly await for the day when each of them return a different person than when they first came.

What camp memories/experiences have made a difference in your life over the years?


Nature vs. Nurture

It's the old nature vs. nurture issue again. Why are we the way we are? Personally, I believe both nature and nurture are a part of who and what we are. Theologically, it's a pretty hot debate and has been for hundreds of years. Likely, it won't go away soon. Let's consider one application of the debate, sexual orientation.

Is one's sexual orientation because of nature or nurture? Personally, I believe it's nurture though I can't prove it to everyone's satisfaction. One commonly hears a homosexual talk about always having had the sexual feelings he has, that he cannot remember having heterosexual feelings. It's not uncommon for one's sexual orientation to be established by as early as three years of age, meaning that a homosexual is telling the truth about not remembering any heterosexual feelings. If nurture leads to one's sexual orientation, what does that suggest? Might one be a victim of some things beyond his control? Someone who gets mugged in a dark alley might find himself conditioned (nurtured) to fear dark alleys. Supposed a little girl is abused by a man and becomes conditioned (nurtured) to trust only women and cannot have relations with men.

Blogging doesn't allow for every angle to be addressed adequately. But one thing above all is important: what is an appropriate Christian response to homosexuality? Regardless of why or how one develops or is born with her sexual orientation, it is always right to respond to every human being with love, kindness, grace and compassion. Hateful rhetoric, fear, crude joking, wrong assumptions and volatile speech do not bless and are not loving responses. I suggestion that all humans deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, whether one agrees with their values or practices. I can maintain my personal convictions, disagree with others, and be kind and polite at the same time. At least Jesus was that way in his interactions with others.

At least that's what I think. --Terrell Lee

Jun 5, 2009

Compartment-Sized Jesus

We live in a world that pulls us in so many directions. A world that entices us to participate in all kinds of activities. A world that invites us to become different people depending on the circumstances. Before long we may feel divided. We feel the pressure to be one person at work, another at home, and still another at church. Sometimes our environment demands that certain aspects of our personalities come to the forefront in order to be more productive or successful. Every day our culture makes it easier to be comfortable in the compartmentalization of our lives, from the way our society functions, to the way we "do" church, and on down to the daily activities of our lives. Generally, we just think it works better if everything were to fit in nice, neat, clean boxes. Then when the time comes we wade through our stack until we find the one we are looking for... Let's see, this box is for my job. This one is for weekends at the lake with friends. This box is for school. This one is for home. Ahh, here it is...this dusty one is for Sunday morning.

Paul talks about it in terms of old and new (Colossians 3). We used to live a life that was easily divided by worldly values and priorities. But now that we are clothed in Christ the old is gone and the new has come. We put to death the old way of trying to compartmentalize our lives to suit our own desires. Instead, this new life is full of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, peace, thankfulness, and love. Sometimes I think we get confused by the "clothing" language. Clothing to us still suggests that we are in control of what we wear. If it is cold outside we might put on a jacket. If it's warm maybe a t-shirt and shorts. We choose to put on or take off our clothing however we see fit. I think Paul would suggest that being clothed with Christ is a way of life, it's like new skin. You can't take it on and off...if you are clothed in Him, you are done shopping for life!

See, Jesus makes it difficult to compartmentalize our lives. It isn't possible to follow him one or two days a week. He demands my soul, my life, my all. We're not perfect. We will mess up. But He wants every moment, every breath, every movement of every day to be surrendered to living for Him. Unfortunately we still try to stuff Jesus into a compartment of our own construction. He probably sits back and shakes his head. He loves us even through our attempts to shrink-wrap him. But he loves us in a way that continually calls us to more...more love, more surrender, more faith, more trust, more selflessness...more room for Him to do more in us than we could ever ask or imagine!

May we live each day with Jesus as our tailor...


Jun 3, 2009

Where Goes My Money?

Two five-day passes to Disney World cost about $450. For that one gets access to all the shows, rides and daily May/June thunderstorms. Food comes extra so rather than spending $2.50 for a bottle of water, Fred (our ugly green cooler) carried ours. Add to this some more expenses like airfare and car rental and you can see that a Disney World vacation is not for the unemployed.

More than 65,000 people work for Disney (in Orlando alone) on its 47 square mile piece of former, swampy real estate. Cinderella, Belle, Aurora, Mickey, Donald, Goofey...they're all there. We have autographs. And I have an image of a four-year-old granddaughter who staired at many princesses in disbelief that she was finally seeing the "real" ones with her own eyes. Her expression was priceless. Did I mention a birthday party in Cinderella's castle where we met Snow White and Jasmine? Or Animal Kingdom where we met Pochohantas? And, ever hear of the "hidden Mickey's?" And, no, Walt Disney's body is not frozen on-site in a cryonic chamber full of liquid nitrogen awaiting the day when medical technology can re-animate him.

My son-in-law mentioned how happy people seemed to be in giving up hundreds, yea even thousands, of dollars (depending upon your taste and preference). For me, the expression on my granddaughter's face was absolutely priceless, metaphorically speaking.

This was my third trip to Disney World; it's a small world after all, you know. And I have no regrets. We planned, saved and executed right on schedule. My wife didn't travel much when she was a kid. She'd heard there were 50 states but was only personally aware of TN and KY. Therefore, traveling and seeing are important to her. So we drop the bucks and go! No regrets.

I'm curious. On what do you unroll the bucks with no regrets? Maybe it was just a one-time thing or maybe it is a hobby that you enjoy. Sometimes the experience is worth it.

At least that's what I think. --Terrell Lee