The Place Where Everything Changes

As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing.

Luke 10:38-40

Have you ever been so busy that you missed something significant—right in front of you? I was on a flight to India, and our group missed a domestic connection from Mumbai to Nagpur, yet my baggage made the connection…in other words, my baggage would be sitting in the airport for hours in Nagpur before I got there. My companions and I got a later flight and, due to the fact that I had been up for about 32 hours, I was fatigued and unusually distracted about my luggage. But we finally arrived in Nagpur.

When we arrived, there was an extraordinarily large crowd of people just outside the passenger-only area at the airport. The crowd was cheering and jumping up to look over each other at the people coming off the plane. I wondered what all the commotion was about!

I found out later that a Bollywood star was on our flight (Bollywood is India’s equivalent of Hollywood in the US)! It was then that I remembered seeing the flight attendants paying special attention to a single row of seats on the plane just ahead of me, which I didn’t think much about in the moment…and I missed the opportunity to meet them!

Think of this: Jesus. Is. In. Their. Home.

Luke tells us that Jesus was in the house of Mary and Martha. Think of this: Jesus. Is. In. Their. Home.

And while Mary sat at his feet, listening to him teach, Luke tells us that Martha was distracted by her duties.

In the original language, this word distracted carries the idea that she was overburdened and anxious.

Sounds a lot like our time. Distracted. Overburdened. Anxious. Martha is so stressed and upset with her sister that she starts giving orders:

Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.”

Luke 10:40

Martha is so stressed out that she’s making demands of Jesus! 

“Of course,” she may have thought, “I’m doing it for the right reasons. I’m serving Jesus!” But, the truth is she is stressed out and overwhelmed by what she thinks is important.  

Why is Martha overwhelmed? By the expectations she has placed on herself. Then Luke gives us Jesus’ response to her demand:

But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Luke 10:41–42

Jesus tells her “Martha, you are burdened and stressed about things that are unnecessary! Instead of being concerned about the non-essential, be concerned for what is essential. Mary has discovered it. Join her. Spend time learning from me.”

While Martha is stressed, Mary is at rest.

While Martha is stressed, Mary is at rest. This is where peace is found. This is where hope is found. This is where reality is defined: at the feet of Jesus. Everything changes at the feet of Jesus.

Maybe you’re like me? I’ve been distracted and anxious several times this year.

Would you join me for a moment—right now—just to take a breath? Then, push away from whatever you’re doing to consider Jesus’ words. But instead of Martha’s name, put your own name here. Today, in your distracted-overwhelmed day, Jesus is saying:

“My dear _________, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Those who sit at my feet have discovered it, and it will not be taken away from them.”

Take this moment to thank him for his ongoing presence, his peace and his power to live His life through you. And, in those moments to come—when you are stressed and overwhelmed—remember:

Everything changes at the feet of Jesus.

Lift Up Your Eyes

A few years ago I was teaching and had trouble focusing…I felt so distracted, and I began to wonder what was wrong. It wasn’t until I was reading to one of our girls one night (I was reading The Lord of the Rings) that I realized “I can’t read the print in this book!” 

So I went to an ophthalmologist and after the exam, she said “Congratulations, you have 20/20 vision!” I asked her, then why am I having trouble reading a book to my daughters? She told me, “Well, you have what we call Presbyopia“—and then she began to explain what it does. 

As she was explaining, my mind went active: “Ah…Greek…Presbyopia…” presby = old, elder; opia = eyes.  After she finished, I mused outloud “Wait…I have old eyes?!”  She nodded.  

So, she prescribed some glasses for me and after I got them it was like seeing life in Ultra HD: crisp vision everywhere! 

What a gift! I could actually see, drive and read better.  

And, what’s true with our physical vision applies to our spiritual and relational lives as well. 

If we can’t see God’s purposes for our lives clearly, we set ourselves up to stumble in our relationships throughout life. 

So, Jesus taught his followers to give them clarity—really, God’s perspective in relationships, and in every area—to walk through life. 

In Luke 6, Jesus describes how to deal with some of the most challenging kinds of relationships: 

27 “But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. 28 Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, offer the other cheek also. If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also. 30 Give to anyone who asks; and when things are taken away from you, don’t try to get them back. 31 Do to others as you would like them to do to you. 

32 “If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that? Even sinners love those who love them! 33 And if you do good only to those who do good to you, why should you get credit? Even sinners do that much! 34 And if you lend money only to those who can repay you, why should you get credit? Even sinners will lend to other sinners for a full return. 

35 “Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked. 36 You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate.  (Luke 6:27–36) 

Why should we be generous? Why should we love each other? Why do we not look for ways to get back at others? Because that is how God treats us

Jesus is saying “Get God the Father’s perspective on life: Lift up your eyes and see what God is doing.” 

His sun rises and his rain falls on the just and the unjust. And if God is kind, compassionate and generous to even the ungrateful and the wicked, you—be like your heavenly father.  

One of the features about our time is to see the problem as “out there…” 

  • “the problem is the police; the problem is the system; the problem is racism; the problem is our government; the problem is the republicans; the problem is the democrats; the problem is Corporate greed“…it’s always something else. 
  • If we’re not willing to see that we are at the root of the problem, we will miss what God wants to accomplish through you in our world. 

About 100 years ago, the Times of London sent out a question to some of the brightest thinkers of their time. The question was: “What is wrong with the world today?” 

One of my favorite authors, Chesterton, responded to the question: What is wrong with the world today? by writing, “Dear Sir, I am. Yours, GK Chesterton. 

  • Change doesn’t start somewhere else, it starts with you. 
  • The easiest thing in the world is to point out all the problems around us. We live in a broken world, and it’s easy to spot brokenness. 
  • Instead of pointing out the problem in something or someone else, you be the change. 

Here is what Jesus taught his disciples. He said: “If you’re willing to listen—here’s what you do…

  • Love your enemies
  • Do good those who hate you
  • When someone slaps you on one side of your face, offer the other side.  (Who does that!?) 
  • Give to others—especially those who hate you—expecting nothing in return 
  • When you give something to someone, let it go. Don’t demand it back.

—That’s not natural; it’s supernatural—

You may feel like saying “Jesus, are you asking me to be a doormat and just let people walk over me?” 

Jesus clarifies for us: “No—I’m asking you to be like your heavenly father who is generous, kind and compassionate to those who are totally ungrateful and wicked.” 

Let’s get personal: Jesus is saying “These are the things your heavenly Father has done for you. Now, as you follow me, pay that forward to others, so you will truly be children of your heavenly Father.” 

But let me ask you this question as I finish: 

What would happen in your workplace if a couple of people began treating everyone at work this way? Would that change your work place? Yeah: It would transform your workplace relationships. 

What if a committed core of people in Tacoma began living this way; treating each other this way? Loving people who are hard to love. Serving people who don’t deserve it. 

What Jesus is teaching is nothing short of radical. 

“Who lives like this!?” 

Imagine what could be if we got ahold of this and began living it out in our city.  It would turn Tacoma upside down. 

Love your enemies. 

Don’t just talk about change—be the change. Lift up your eyes and watch what God begins doing in the lives of the people around you. And it all starts with Christ. 

Be watchful; lift up your eyes—see what God is doing—and join your Heavenly Father in it. He is kind and generous to everyone.

Disappointment

Have you ever experienced disappointment? 

Disappointment…discouragement. On the edge of despair?

You may have been disappointed by a trusted friend—maybe it was a family member—it could be work-related…or maybe you’ve been disappointed in yourself. 

The air in our world now is thick with disappointment.

  • People are disappointed because some police have violated their oath to protect and to serve. 
  • Police are disappointed in their politically appointed leaders, because instead of supporting them during this difficult time, some leaders have thrown their own agencies under the bus. 
  • Protesters, who wanted to bring attention to an injustice are disappointed their message isn’t being heard because their protests were highjacked by people whose goal is to destroy property and lives.   
  • People whose homes and businesses are being destroyed are disappointed that their property is destroyed from the violence.

Martin Luther King said “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” When we see injustice, we have an obligation to call it out…and rioting and looting are a part of injustice. 

So, disappointment is thick in the air.

Jesus’ own disciples experienced disappointment, but Jesus used it as a teachable moment to help them refocus on what is most important. 

Luke describes how Jesus called his first disciples to follow him. 

A crowd was gathering that day, to hear Jesus, on the shore of the sea of Galilee and Jesus, trying to avoid the crowd, stepped into one of the boats along the shoreline. 

Sitting down, Jesus asked Peter who owned the boat, to push off from the shore, just a bit so he could speak to the people. 

Then, after he finished teaching, he said to Simon: 

“Now go out where it is deeper, and let down your nets to catch some fish.” 

Peter tries to explain to Jesus that they had been out all night—the best time to fish—and they caught nothing. 

Disappointment.

Neither he nor his brother Andrew, nor his co-workers, had caught a thing all night!  There are few things more frustrating then pointless work; fruitless labor; spinning your wheels. Lots of work, no payoff. 

Disappointment. Especially when you have expenses. 

But, because of Jesus’ request, Simon reluctantly puts his nets back in the water. Here is how Luke describes what happens next: 

And this time their nets were so full of fish they began to tear! A shout for help brought their partners in the other boat, and soon both boats were filled with fish and on the verge of sinking. 

When Simon Peter realized what had happened, he fell to his knees before Jesus and said, “Oh, Lord, please leave me—I’m such a sinful man.” For he was awestruck by the number of fish they had caught, as were the others with him. 10 His partners, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, were also amazed. 

Jesus replied to Simon, “Don’t be afraid! From now on you’ll be fishing for people!” And as soon as they landed, they left everything and followed Jesus. 

Luke 5:6-11

Peter was disappointed and disheartened. Disappointment can bring discouragement, and we wave-off the help or suggestions of others. We even come up with multiple reasons why the suggestions won’t help. 

Peter could have done this. He was tired, he was disappointed, he was discouraged. 

But, here is the key: Peter did what Jesus asked him to do.  And when he did, he experienced what only God can do: the miraculous. The blessing is in the doing.

But this is interesting—when the miraculous happens—when he experienced God’s power in his life, he also experienced fear. He said, in essence: “Oh, Lord, please leave me—you don’t know how bad I am.”

But Jesus reassures him: “Don’t be afraid. From now on you’ll be fishing for people.” 

You know what Peter discovered in all this? Jesus never disappoints. When Jesus calls you to follow him, It’s not about our past; it’s not about our abilities. Jesus simply wants our availability. And when we follow his lead, he shows us that he never disappoints. He is dependable. He is trust-worthy. 

But I think these final words are the most challenging for us: “They left everything and followed Jesus. They left the catch for someone else to process. They left boats, nets and everything that had been a source of security for them. And here is what they discovered: Jesus never disappoints. 

Let me ask you this final question: What is there in your life that is keeping you from following Jesus, unreservedly?

Usually this is the first place to start. Think about this: • When God speaks to you, what is that area that comes to your mind and makes you think “Lord, you don’t know my life—you can’t use me, I am a bad person.”? 

Whatever the area is, that is a good place to start. Set it aside. Set it aside and follow Christ. And when you do, here’s what you’ll discover: Jesus never disappoints

Churches Defying Covid-19 Restrictions: Courageous or Foolish?

This past week two churches—one in Louisiana and the other in Florida—were in the news because they defied federal and local health guidelines to practice social distancing and help curb the spread of the Coronavirus. 

The pastor of the church in Baton Rouge, Louisiana summed up their position by telling a news outlet in March that the coronavirus was “not a concern…The virus, we believe, is politically motivated…We hold our religious rights dear and we are going to assemble no matter what someone says…We will exercise our constitutional right to assemble.” 

These are not the only churches doing this. And part of the equation, for some, comes down to this: “Who are we going to trust, God or men?” Some have even led with scripture verses as their justification to gather in worship. 

While I admire courageous leaders, I cringe at bad leadership. Is it simply a matter of church vs. state, or faith vs. cowardice? And how do followers of Christ deal with this “new normal” while we work through this pandemic? 

We know that there have been times throughout history that countries have outlawed Christianity. But that’s not true of our time, here in the United States. In Washington state, where we are located, Governor Inslee updated his “no physical meetings” rule with an exception for media crews and staff (as “essential services”) to meet at churches to provide an online service experience for church members, while we collectively work to flatten the curve of infection. 

So, instead of positioning this as a church vs. state, or a question of faith, the better question is “How would Jesus respond to this to-meet-or-not-to-meet dilemma?” The good news is that we don’t have to guess; he gives us a very clear example. 

Just before Jesus started his ministry, he fasted 40 days in the desert. At the end of this time, Matthew, Mark and Luke tell us that he was tempted by Satan. While there were several ways he was tempted, Luke describes the final temptation: 

Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, to the highest point of the Temple, and said, “If you are the Son of God, jump off! For the Scriptures say, ‘He will order his angels to protect and guard you. And they will hold you up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.’”

Luke 4:9–11

So, Satan calls Jesus’ faith into question: “Do you have enough faith to do this, Jesus? Are you going to trust God or not?” And the fact that Satan did this in Jerusalem—the City of the great King—carried with it certain “constitutional” privileges as Messiah. This was, by rights, Jesus’ city. 

But Jesus doesn’t take the bait. This is genius:  

Jesus responded, “The Scriptures also say, ‘You must not test the Lord your God.”Luke 4:12

Jesus had every right to take that step. But it wasn’t a lack of faith, or a lack of courage. If Jesus had jumped off, he’d be saying “God, I’m intentionally putting myself in harm’s way…now you need to keep me safe.” 

Jesus called it testing God. So rather than putting himself in harm’s way, Jesus wisely declined Satan’s offer to “prove” his faith. He didn’t presume on God but chose wisdom. 

According to Jesus, putting ourselves in harm’s way and expecting God to keep us safe isn’t faith, it’s folly—it’s not courageous, it’s presumptuous (the result of pride). 

Meeting together is essential to spiritual growth (Hebrews 10:24-25) , and today we have so many more creative ways to meet, that there is no need to “put God to the test” by putting ourselves—or others—in harm’s way during this pandemic. Recently we’ve had a great time live-streaming our services on Facebook as well as utilizing Youtube. 

In fact, there are a whole list of platforms to meet with others to pray, discuss and worship. A few of them include: GoToMeetingHangouts(by Google), SkypeZoom (Note: The free version of Zoom may only allow 40-minute sessions) and Webex. Simply create a free online account through one of these video conferencing platforms, and you’re on your way.  

What other creative ways/platforms are you using to meet with during this time of social-distancing?  Share it below and let’s share the wealth! 

Re: Corona Virus

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” —Philippians 4:6-7

While we wrote this for the CenterPoint Family, I hope this is helpful for you, wherever you are. —Bill

Fear is one of the enemy’s most popular weapons he uses against us. If he can inject worry, anxiety, and fear into our lives, we can forget that our Heavenly Father loves us and always has his best in mind for us. Paul the Apostle told us that God’s peace would carry us through the difficult times. In other words, you can either 1) pray or 2) worry, but you can’t do both at the same time!

Let’s be honest…it’s not always easy to replace fear with faith, especially in uncertain times. It comes down to a choice: Will I allow fear and anxiety to control my life, or will I choose to guard my heart and focus my mind on what is true?

We may not be in control, but we can trust the One who is.

We may not know the future, but we know the God who has already written it.

With the current fear surrounding the recent COVID-19 outbreak, I thought you would like to know that your leaders at CenterPoint are praying for you and working to ensure your safety. Conferring with friends who are medical professionals, they assure me that the panic sweeping the world is not based on fact, but upon fear. Is there a danger? Of course. But not at the level of attention being given to it. Don’t allow the drama-driven news cycle to stoke panic in your heart! Stay informed and aware, but reject the fearmongering.

For up-to-date information relating specifically to the spread of COVID-19, you can visit the Pierce County Health Department website: https://www.tpchd.org/healthy-people/human-coronavirus.

That being said, we’re working to make CenterPoint an even safer place to hear the life-changing message of Jesus Christ. We have recently made hand sanitation gel available in the lobby, and have installed hand sanitizing stations throughout the church building. We encourage you to use them. In addition, as a precaution, we will cancel any food-related events for the time being. We also encourage and expect all our members to practice good personal health habits and take any necessary precautions out of love for each other. Wash your hands for 20 seconds. Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue. Get the proper amount of rest, nutrition, and fluids when at home. Keep your mobile devices and other surfaces clean, and regularly disinfect them. If you begin to feel sick, please notify your healthcare provider and avoid going out in public, so as not to potentially infect others. And definitely let us know, so that we can pray for you.

If an outbreak occurs in Pierce County, we will find a creative alternative to offer worship services, small groups, prayer, and fellowship through the internet. We have had audio available for years and, if necessary, we could stream the entire service online in real time.

Finally, a charge: when you read the early history of the Church you discover that it followed in the footsteps of the Lord Jesus, who cared for the sick and hurting. His example of compassion has carried the Church through centuries of sickness, suffering, and poverty. History describes how followers of Jesus—at risk to their own lives—have cared for sick and dying people during extreme epidemic and pandemic conditions. We have an opportunity to take his words seriously when he said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35).

May that be our heart’s cry as we find ways to serve Tacoma, our community and the world during this time of fear and uncertainty. 

Praying for God’s grace and peace to you.

Blessings,
Pastor Bill

Life in the Pits

A friend recently told me—tongue in cheek—that most of us are in one of two places: we’re either going through a challenging time right now, or we will be in the future. 

But it is true: life brings us the unexpected, and if we’re not careful these unexpected events can take us down and take us out. 

  • A friend of mine lost his job recently. He showed up early to work and stayed late. He got raises easily and quickly. He enjoyed it and thought everything was going well—until he got the pink slip. They let him go. He couldn’t believe it! He was angry and wondered if it was racially motivated. How would he support his family? “Why did God allow this?” 
  • I got a text from a lady who is a good friend. Her boyfriend unexpectedly died overnight. She is in shock. We talked and prayed. She wondered “How could God do this to me?” 
  • Another friend shared with me that their spouse unexpectedly left them for a younger partner. They said “Why would God allow this to happen?” 

Loss. Anger. Hurt. Betrayal. Life in the pits. 

Many times in life we find ourselves in a pit. We may have stumbled into it ourselves, or we may have been pushed in. 

This is what happened with Joseph. This month we’re walking through Joseph’s life-story in our Certainty in Uncertain Times series. Joseph’s life goes from childhood innocence to betrayal, human trafficking and imprisonment. Unfair and undeserved. 

But in his story, we see a glimmering thread of God’s presence woven throughout—even in the darkest times. 

As a youth, Joseph was a favored son of his dad. He also had a couple of dreams. In both of these dreams his older brothers bowed down to honor him. And he seemed to enjoy sharing these dreams. A lot. 

One day his brothers, tired of his arrogance and privileged upbringing, threw him into a pit while they decided whether to kill him or sell him into slavery. They discussed his fate over lunch and ultimately decided to sell their own brother into slavery. 

Next he is taken into Egypt where he is sold as a slave to a high-ranking government official. Through these hard experiences, Genesis tells us over and over again, “The Lord was with Joseph.” He goes from slavery to an unjust prison sentence and through it all we’re reminded, “The Lord was with Joseph.” (Genesis 39:3, 21, 23). Through every hardship, we’re reminded that God is present—He was with Joseph in his suffering. 

Usually when we’re in a pit experience, we have a hard time getting perspective. We miss what God is doing through our situation. But this is so important to remember: in these “pit” experiences—especially in adversity—God is with you. He is present in the pit. 

When these “pit” experiences happen, what should we do? 

Most of us are in one of 3 places today: 

  1. The first is this: Maybe you have never had a “pit” experience. If this is you, you may be very, very young—or very blessed! Most of us have had trying, difficult “pit” experiences but it is possible that you haven’t. 
    • What now? If this is you, it is time to prepare for the future. The best way to prepare in this time is to grow in your faith, in two areas: Worship and Service. By focusing on God’s goodness in regular, weekly worship and using your gifts to serve others, it changes us from the inside out, making us more like Christ. Put yourself in a position to grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ now. Prepare.
  2. The second place is this: You are in the “Pit” now. This is the place we never thought we would be, and certainly never want to be again. Sadly, for some, a “pit” experience can isolate us from others. We avoid people, insulating us in our loneliness. But God never intended for you to do life on your own. He made you to live in community with others. In fact, if we’re going to ever get out of the pit, it will take the strength, skill and help of others. 
    • What now? The one good thing about being in a pit is that it forces you to look up. If you are in a pit, the best thing you can do is to reach out to trusted people who can help give you a godly perspective. Put yourself into an environment where others can encourage you and walk alongside you. The best place for this stage is in a small group relationship. At CenterPoint we call these Growth Groups…they are a place where we can grow and get perspective together. 
  3. The third place is You’re out of the “Pit.” You were in it, but now that is behind you. The upside of coming out of the pit is the practical experience you’ve gained. The downside is that because of the pain of your pit experience, you may do everything possible to never end up in the pit again—in other words, you eliminate all risk. You find it hard to trust, to take steps of faith.  
    • What now? If you’re out of the pit, it’s time to take a risk: it’s time to pay it forward. It’s time to help others hear what God did through your pit experience. It is one thing to read about what God did 3,000 years ago (in Joseph’s life), but it’s another to hear what he’s done in your life recently. Don’t miss the importance of this. Sit down and think through what God has done—how He was with you in that pit. Write it down; think it through and be ready to share it the next time that God opens a door. He has a powerful way of bringing the right message to someone else at the right time. And when you’re prepared, he will use your life story

The good news is that Joseph does get out of the pit—and redemption is written all over his story. 

My friend who lost his job, found another job 3 months later. Not only were the hours better, but it was his best paying job ever. He said “I never would have found this job had I not been let go from the last place.” 

Here is how James (Jesus’ little brother) encourages us in the pit: 

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. James 1:2-4

God is still writing your story. Let your faith and trust in him grow. Don’t let the pit take you down; instead consider it an opportunity for great joy. 

What have you found helpful to encourage others who are in the “pit”?

Brokers of Hope: The Gilroy Tragedy

This week another senseless shooting happened in Gilroy, California. While shootings at large events grab our attention, the truth is that there are lesser known shootings happening somewhere in our country on an almost daily basis. 

What makes this shooting, and others like it, so disturbing is the apparent randomness of the shooter.

Reports came out of the festival that, while he was shooting, someone yelled, “Why are you doing this?” The reply they heard was, “Because I’m really angry.” 

But thanks to quick thinking of police officers on scene, they quickly engaged the shooter and lives were saved. While the gunman was hit by police fire, the medical examiner found that the shooter turned his own gun on himself as well, ending it all. 

What makes these large event shootings particularly sad is that what is supposed to be a community event becomes a community tragedy.  Now, five days later, the investigators are still sifting through the information looking for a motive.

One of the reasons we want to know the why is so we can bring some kind of closure or solution to this kind of tragedy. But, in many cases, we may never know why and are only left with questions. 

Jesus wasn’t a stranger to senseless violence. At a time in history when his country was occupied by a foreign power—and the night before he went to the cross—he said this to his followers:

“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Jesus is saying that in the unexplainable tragedies of life (the many trials and sorrows we experience), “…take heart” because, as he said, “I have overcome the world.” In other words, death is not the end. Ultimately God’s purposes will prevail and evil will not have the final word. There is more to this life than this life.

If the last book of the New Testament, Revelation, teaches us anything it is that while situations around us may be heart breaking , there is a light at the end of the tunnel. And that light is a beautiful, renewed world. A place where evil and despair will never have a place.  

It appears that this shooter was angry enough to despair and end his young life. While some may despair and give in to hopelessness, Jesus’ followers have the answer to despair: it is Jesus himself. I often wonder what would have happened if a youth pastor had connected with some of these young shooters? What a difference it would make if they were able to see beyond themselves and understand that they were created for something more—much more. 

We are brokers of hope.

While tragedy may cross your path, take heart—Jesus has overcome this world. Death isn’t the end, and this life is only a dress rehearsal for the next.

So, while despair may have a grip on some, each of us can be a broker of hope.

No one can turn back the clock on these shootings. But as followers of Christ, we have the opportunity to bring comfort and hope into a bleak situation: by comforting those who are grieving; to truly sharing in their loss; by weeping with those who weep. And, in so doing, point people to Jesus. This life is not the end. There is more to come.

Don’t miss your opportunity to bring hope to those you know—even in the face of senseless tragedy. We are brokers of hope.

Good Friday: Four Examples from Jesus in Dealing with Critics

If you’ve ever wondered What would Jesus do?—even in the most extreme of circumstances—here is what he did:

Ever had a critic…or two? We are tempted to think that if we did things better, or never made mistakes, we would never have critics. But it fascinates me that even Jesus—the son of God—had critics. Despite his abilities to heal, help and lead, people still criticized him. So, what can we learn from Jesus as it relates to dealing with critics?

Today is Good Friday, the day we remember Jesus’ death on the cross. I was reading through this specific passage on Good Friday from Luke 23 today, and some powerful examples from Jesus’ life come to light. If you’ve ever wondered What would Jesus do?—even in the most extreme of circumstances—here is what he did:

If you’ve ever wondered What would Jesus do?—even in the most extreme of circumstances—here is what he did:

  • After Jesus was arrested, he was beaten and then accused of sedition before the Roman governor Pilate, who asked “Are you the King of the Jews?” The reason Pilate asked this was to see if he was responsible for uprisings against the occupying Roman army. Jesus simply told the truth. While he never incited a riot, he replied “It is as you say.” He didn’t qualify, he didn’t nuance, he was simply honest. Under the pressure of a political powder-keg, Jesus spoke the truth.

In a pressure-filled situation, Jesus spoke the truth.

  • After he is nailed to the cross, the soldiers around him cast lots to see who would get his garments. Apparently, this garment was woven without seams…a rare, valuable piece of clothing. So, as Jesus is on the cross with nails piercing his wrists—torquing the nerves in the carpal tunnel area and sending a constant, fiery sensation throughout his body—he watches his executioners gambling for his clothes. He is naked, in excruciating pain and his only possessions are being carried away. In spite of all this he says “Father, forgive them. They don’t know what they are doing.” In an excruciating, spite-filled situation, Jesus forgave. 

In an excruciating, spite-filled situation, Jesus forgave.

  • As a large crowd watched on, there were two men crucified on either side of him; thieves who were being punished for their crimes. One scoffed “If you’re the Messiah, get yourself down and get us all out of here!” The second thief said to the first “You’re facing death and all you can do is make a joke of it?” He then turns to Jesus and says “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus ignores the scoffing, but responds to the second man, saying “Today you will be with me in Paradise.” Jesus ignored the scoffer but assured the seeker. He spoke hope into a seemingly hopeless situation.

Jesus spoke hope into a seemingly hopeless situation.

  • Finally, at noon a darkness came over the land for a 3-hour period. There were earthquakes and the sound of splitting rock. At that time Jesus said “Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands.” Then taking his final breath he died. In his final moments, Jesus doesn’t despair, he doesn’t lash out verbally at the soldiers, he doesn’t whimper. Instead he focuses on what is most important: he entrusts himself into God’s hands. People may fail you, but God never will. His final words were words of trust in his Father.

Jesus’ final words were words of trust in his Father.

Chances are that you and I will never face this kind of torturous, life-threatening scenario. But in the shadow of Jesus’ death, four things stand out:

First, under accusation he spoke the truth: his words reflected reality. Second, in great pain he forgave the unforgivable. Third, before an audience of critics, he didn’t respond to his critics but spoke words of hope to the receptive.  Fourth, with his final breath he entrusted himself to the only One who can ensure our future: God the Father himself.

I hope today, in every difficult situation, you can rely on God’s goodness by speaking what’s true, by forgiving others (even if they never forgive in return) and by speaking hope into a hopeless situation.  This is possible as you continue to entrust yourself to your heavenly Father who is good—even when our present situation may not seem so good…because remember, Sunday’s coming.

Happy Good Friday.

Be Jesus: Be the Calm in the Chaos

Instead of flaming and shaming people on social media, there is a better way.

If there is a word that describes our time in history, it is chaos. There have never been more voices on social media, TV or radio, screaming for your attention. Now, more than ever, anyone can make their voices heard. And the chaos is increasingly unsettling.

As followers of Christ, we have a unique opportunity to be Jesus’ representatives in our world (2 Corinthians 5). How are we, as believers, supposed to act (or react) in the toxic mix of political/corporate shouting matches? What if—instead of adding empty words into the chaos of rhetoric and angry noises—we lead by our actions?

Peter, one of Jesus’ closest disciples, wrote to a group of Christians in the first century, who were trying to figure out how to live this new life. Right after he helps these new believers see what Jesus’ lifestyle looks like in families, he writes this:

Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude. Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will grant you his blessing. (1 Peter 3:8–9)

To Peter’s readers, the idea of having a “humble attitude” would have been radical. Humility was not how things worked in the Roman empire: personal honor was first and foremost! Revenge was the Roman way. Payback was real; humility was weakness. Personal honor was a commodity that you accumulated at the expense of others…and so it still goes today! We broadcast our own points on social media and say things we would never say to a person face to face. We flame them and shame them. We communicate our outrage that such a person could ever even think “that way,” and then dismiss comments from others who object to us by telling them, “you don’t know what you’re talking about.” The image we project to the world is our new idol…in other words, our culture is drowning in self-worship. And you can’t get away from it by saying “I don’t care what you think about me, my image or my opinion,” because it’s just more hot air, more empty blustering and posturing—more pride.

We broadcast our own points on social media and say things we would never say to a person face to face.

By contrast, Peter’s words give us a completely different approach, something that is counter-cultural, both then and now. He encourages his readers to be of one mind: harmonious; striving for unity.

Will what I’m posting promote oneness in the body of Christ?

He tells them to be sympathetic: understanding what others are going through, feeling for them, and allowing them to speak without judgement.

Do I understand what this person is going through?

Peter also says, “Love each other as brothers and sisters”—and this is the crux of the issue: when we love each other, we will give others the benefit of the doubt. When we love each other, we are ready to overlook an offense. When we don’t love others, everything we hear about that person now is another reason we don’t like them. In the absence of love there is suspicion, skepticism, jumping to conclusions.

Will this post show my love for them and others?

Then he says to be tenderhearted: not only overlooking an offense, but willing to forgive it and move on with Jesus’ mission.

Am I willing to forgive? Or have I already hardened my heart?

The apostle then tells his readers to keep a humble attitude. Where did Peter get this? From Jesus. Imagine this kind of humility: leaving the perfection of heaven to be born in the squalor, disease, hunger and thirst of 1st Century Palestine. In humility, the Son of God emptied himself and became obedient to death. And he did it all to bring us into his family. And now, we have the privilege of being his hands, his feet, and his voice to a world in chaos—a world that desperately needs the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Am I keeping an attitude of humility? Or do I just want my words to be heard?

Writing or sharing a Facebook post is so easy, and so is commenting on a post with a little jab or a sharp rebuke…but this kind of interaction never changes hearts and minds. It is, however, effective at dividing, at distracting, and at muddying the message of the gospel.

For this reason, with Jesus as our example and scripture as our aid, I would ask that you—men and women of God—ask yourselves these questions before posting anything on social media:

1. Will what I’m posting promote oneness in the body of Christ? Am I preserving the unity of Jesus’ people? Or am I trashing it?

2. Do I understand what this person is going through—do I have the ability to sympathize with that person?

3. Will this post show my love for them, and for others? How can I uplift that person?

4. If there is a perceived slight (from others toward me), am I willing to forgive? Am I being tenderhearted? Or have I already hardened my heart?

5. Am I keeping an attitude of humility? Or do I just want my words to be heard? Do I rush to defend my position/reputation?

By the way—there is nothing weak about living out Peter’s words. It will often take the power of God’s Spirit to avoid getting into an argument—or perhaps posting an empty, inflammatory remark. Anyone who lives this, knows it’s true.

So, in all the chaos we see around us, YOU be the calm. Be Jesus in your world. Be Jesus, especially on social media.

The Transforming Power of Gratitude

When I was about 6, my parents asked me to send a thank you note to my grandparents for a birthday gift they sent to me. I thought that was a pretty good deal—I get a present in exchange for a card! What I didn’t know then, is the life-changing power of gratitude.

Many leaders know the power of showing gratitude to encourage those in their organization. They know their organization will go further, faster in an environment of gratefulness. But I’ve seen this principle at work at every level in various places around the world.

Gratitude

In my last blog post I told you about the organization Serve the Children.  On my first trip with Serve the Children I went to a children’s residential home in Central India. The driving force in this school is a woman named Nalini, whom the children (and adults) all call “Mommy.” Many of these children are the “untouchables” and come from the poorest of the poor in India. Some were found abandoned, literally plucked from the streets. Mommy has a daily schedule for the children, which includes chores, school time and homework, but when visitors come, there are always thank-you-crafts to make.  When visitors first arrive, all the children come to show their appreciation by waiting at the gate and cheering their arrival.  Each night, after the chapel time, every child files by these visitors to say “Good night uncle, or auntie, or Didi (sister) or Dada (brother). “Thank you for coming” is what they are communicating every night.  On our first visit my birthday fell toward the end of our two week visit.  Every child wrote a hand-made birthday card; some put flowers in them.  Then after the evening chapel time, they presented these gifts to me one by one.  It brought tears to my eyes.

The reason I had traveled to India was to serve these children—through teaching—but their gratitude for my coming served me in ways that I never imagined.  As we left they all gathered around the gate to say goodbye and thank you for coming. Mommy is creating in them an attitude of gratitude that will serve them well for the rest of their lives.

Gratitude.

I was at a Veteran’s day assembly this week at a local elementary school that CenterPoint supports, and I watched for 45 minutes as the children (and their instructors) told the many veterans who were present how much they appreciated their service to our country. Not only did they sing songs of thanks, but they invited these active or inactive veterans to come to the front, share their name and branch of service, then presented each one with a gift and continued to sing in thanks for their time of service. My heart was filled with thanks for the service of these brave men and women who set aside a time in their life to serve others.

Gratitude.

In many churches we have a time in the service which happens either weekly or each month, called “communion.” An older name for this the Eucharist.  This word means “Giving of Thanks”. We have set aside a time in our worship for no other reason than to say “Thank You” to Christ for providing us with something we could never provide for ourselves: his redeeming work on the cross.

Gratitude.

One of the greatest ways we can help create an environment of change at every level is a simple thank you.  Whether you work in a place of oversight in a large organization, are a “one man” operation, or are in the process of rearing your own children, don’t miss the power of this message: Giving thanks is powerfully transforming.  In my experience, it is not the thinking about gratitude that is transformative, but the actual showing of gratitude that is life-changing.

The best way to create children or employees who give throughout life, is to lead by example.  Don’t miss the opportunity to show gratitude to those in your sphere of influence, and encourage those in your oversight to follow through in gratitude to others.  It will transform your family or your organization.

Every day you have the opportunity to show gratitude for all of those who come around you to make you successful in what you do.

At CenterPoint we truly believe Jesus’ words, that it is more blessed to give than to receive.  Take the opportunity to give thanks to someone this week.