Monday, September 29, 2008

Where Is God When The Chips Are Down?

It's so easy to believe that God is with us when things are going well. We readily acknowledge that he loves us and always has our best interest at heart. We say things like "He has all the hairs on our head numbered" and "if God is for us, who can be against us".

Then when things get a little tough our tendency is to be like "Oh God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me!" That's right, we even get religious enough to pray in King James.

Why do we do this? And where is God when the chips are down?

Maybe the answer actually has a lot to do with the chips. Not Lays or buffalo. In case you were wondering, "When the chips are down" is a reference to betting. What do we do when the chips get low and we are losing? How do we respond and react?

Well that depends what kind of hand you have. If you have a royal flush, which is the best poker hand possible, then you bet it all and don't sweat it because you can't lose. If you are holding a pair of Kings you might have some confidence but most people would still sweat it, especially when the chips are down.

Well as of today, the chips are officially down. The Blue Chips that is. While our economy has been shaky to say the least, today we saw the largest single drop in the Dow in history. As a result, there are many people who are struggling and some that are surely asking the question "God where are you?"

So what do we do when the chips are down? Well to go back to the earlier illustration, it depends on what you are holding. What is it that you are trusting in? Do you have a sure thing? If our trust is in anything other than Christ, it's time to sweat.

If our hope and trust is in Christ alone then we simply cannot lose. Now this might sound like the trite, idealistic answer but I don't think so. I think it is actually very realistic and it is times like these that show us where our treasure truly is.

I mean what is the worst case scenario in a situation like this? You might think "well our economy collapses and we see times equal to the great depression." That could be a realistic concern I guess, but again, where is our trust? I can't help but think about the fact that even if I were to lose my house and what little savings I have, I would still be better off than how some brothers and sisters live on a regular basis.

At our church, we are currently in the process of helping to build a home for a family in Guatemala. They are followers of Christ, in fact the father is a pastor, and they currently live in a shanty that you can only imagine if you were to see it. They rarely are able to eat meat with their meals and often have only one meal a day. This is everyday life for the Mundo family, who believe in and serve the same Jesus as I do.

So, where is God when the chips are down? He is still on the throne, in complete and total control, reminding us daily that this world is not our home. Our hope and trust should be in Him and if that is the case we simply cannot lose.

Don't get me wrong, like everyone else I enjoy the luxuries that we experience in the good old U.S. of A, and there is nothing wrong with that. However, when our hope and joy in life are tied to that, then we are in trouble.

Like Christ himself, believers throughout history have struggled and faced trying times. In fact, I think there are no better words in times like these than that of the Apostle Paul who wrote in his letter to the Philippians:

Philippians 4:4-7
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

This command is not circumstantial and neither is the promise found at the end. May Christ alone be our hope and as we fully trust in Him, may he be our peace. Even when the chips are down...

Monday, September 8, 2008

Church In Your Skivies

So I was thinkng about going to this conference that is kind of noted for being on the cutting edge of where things are going in the church. It has a reputation for being the conference to go to if you are a part of the next generation of leaders among Christians.

So I go to the website and couple of things catch my eye. First off, they have this promotion where you can sign up once a day to win a free plane ticket anywhere in the U.S. and they pick a winner like once a week up until the time of the conference. Although I went ahead and signed up, because I am a sucker for free stuff, I have to admit this raised some questions in my mind.

Why give away plane tickets to get people to come to your conference?

I wonder what you could do with the amount of cash spent on 5 plane tickets anywhere in the U.S.? ($2,500?)

Another thing that I noticed is that the conference was a little bit pricey by my standard. Now I am admittedly cheap when it comes to these things but 3 bills for a conference plus gas and hotel for a couple days adds up quick. If you take a couple people you are dropping $1500 fast. But I guess if this is the conference to be at and if you really want to be on the cutting edge then maybe it's worth it.

So I decided to check out the speakers. To my surprise the conference that has been noted for being a forerunner among next generation christian thinkers and leaders, had a lineup that was more like a typical Willow Creek leadership conference. Can you say sell out?

For starters I see Jim Collins (author of Good to Great) among the main speakers. Now that's fine I guess, but I didn't start a business, I planted a church. Not to mention I have already heard him speak at a Willow Conference, which left me asking the same question. And listen, I know that all truth is God's truth and blah blah blah so save it. I'm just saying this doesn't seem like anything new to me.

So all that to say I decided to save God's money. But as I said earlier, I did sign up for the free plane ticket. Well, apparently I didn't win that, but I got the consolation prize...a personal phone call from some confernce pusher trying to get me to buy their stuff.

After some hey bro's and small talk, I told him that I wasn't planning on going and he asked me why. I went on to explain my disappointment with what was being offered and that I would be saving God's money this year. He was real quick to let me know that they had a real hot up and coming leader who was going to be speaking and he was a name that I was going to be hearing a lot from in the near future. So he asked me if I had heard of this guy. "He pastors a church that has grown to over 3,000 in two years!" like that is everyone's goal and this guy should be my super hero or something. I felt like saying...well I probably shouldn't write what I felt like saying, let's just say I overcame the temptation.

What in the world is going on with the church today? Is it all about who is the biggest and how to grow the fastest? Adding video venues seems to be what's "hot" now so let's all jump on that band wagon or better yet why not stay home in your pajamas and just watch it on the TV or internet. Honestly that is what I would rather do. Why get up on Sunday morning and go somewhere to watch TV when you can do it at home in your skivies while eating donuts and checking in on Sportscenter during the boring parts?

Really, what's next? Holographic virtual pastors? Drive through communion windows? ATMs in the church, oops too late that one's already been done!

Ok, now I am rambling or maybe venting, so I guess I should stop. There just comes a point where you say enough is enough, will someone stop the madness? And just as soon as it seems like you find someone who will take up the mantle, they either sell out for the cash or start believing crazy stuff like Bin Laden is going to be in heaven or that Oprah is actually a prophet of God!

Deep breath.

Alright I better pray, God keep me humble and help me to simply do all that you have called me to do in the midst of the madness. May we never think we are better than anyone or that we have all the answers. May we respond to wolves, critics, frauds and fanatics with the same love that you showed those that you encountered. And may we represent you well as we just try to figure this all out. Thank you for your love and grace which we all desperately need.