The Ferguson Tragedy

One cannot help but to see the tragedy that is Ferguson, MO. That is exactly what it is. It is a tragedy. It is a tragedy that a young man stole a box of cigars. It is a tragedy that as someone was being apprehended for that crime, not to say Mr. Brown was guilty, but at the very least being questioned, a fight broke out between he and a peace officer. It is a tragedy that in this scuffle that a police officer felt his life was being threatened. It is a tragedy that the police officer felt that shooting Mr. Brown was his only alternative. It is a tragedy that Brown’s family had to bury their son at the age of 18. And it is a tragedy that this police officer will now how to live with the fact he took a human life for the rest of his life. Tragedy is the only term that should be used to describe these events. In the wake that followed, tragedy again comes to mind. It is a tragedy that people thought that the best way to protest was to go on a crime spree. It is a tragedy that the media has used this story as a ratings boost. It is a tragedy that certain political advocates used this as another opportunity to get their 15 minutes of fame. It is a tragedy that racism is still an issue in this country. It is a tragedy that most seem to want to react before the facts are revealed because it was a white police officer with a gun and a young, unarmed African-American.

I don’t know what happened. I wasn’t there. I didn’t see the scuffle. I don’t know if warnings were issued. I don’t know the nature of the gun fire. I don’t know who the aggressor was. And this post really isn’t about who was right and who was wrong that night. It is more about who was right and who was wrong in the years leading up to this event and the days that followed.

The finger of blame on this night in question cannot be solely landed upon either the police officer or this young man. Yes, they both could have reacted differently I am sure. But, there are many others to blame for what happened. Where was mom and dad when Mr. Brown needed him the most. That is, where were his parents when they were supposed to be shaping their son into a law abiding, god fearing, authority respecting citizen of these United States? I understand that his parents are there now. But where were they when he was six? Four? Thirteen? I don’t have the answer to those questions. But, Solomon once said, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it (Prov. 22:6).” While I realize that many children have steered away from mom and dad’s council, what Solomon is trying to say is that the general rule is that children grow up to be what mom and dad raised them to be. This can be done either by instilling hate, sin, etc into their heart by teaching them to be racist or that our society is built upon the concept of oppression. Or this can be done by not being involved in the raising of our children. Sure, we can be there when tragedy strikes, but what about before the walls come collapsing down. Too many parents today are expecting TV, the streets and schools to be raising and educating their children. Parents, get involved in your kids life while you have the chance. Play with them. Sit down and do school work with them. Read to them. Open God’s word together. Give your children hope by helping them to see that there is something more to life than what this world has to offer. I also have to ask, where was the church in all of this? Sure, there are preachers out there now proclaim social injustice. I don’t even know if that is what happened, but there sure believe that the only reason this young man was shot was because he was an African-American. Maybe he was, maybe he wasn’t. The bigger issue is why weren’t there more preachers standing on street corners trying to help these young men repent and turn unto God. And as a preacher, I know that finger gets pointed strongly at myself. Too many preachers, too many Christians don’t want to go into those neighborhoods. They don’t want to share the gospel with that wicked of this world. They don’t want to do this because they are uncomfortable, because they prejudge. I have visited churches all across this country and one thing I almost always see is white, middle class people making up a vast majority of the churches. I once lived in a town where the minorities made up nearly 40% of the population. In the church in that town, not one minority was found. Has it that possible? Because the gospel is often shared with the person we see in a mirror. My friends that has to change. If young men such as Mike Brown are going to have any hope, the church, Christians are going to have to change their approach to evangelism. Our Lord and Savior shared the gospel with all who would here. He preached to the despised tax collectors. He preached to the religious leaders. He preached to the staunch patriots called Zealots. He preached to the poor and beaten down. He preached to the wealthy. He preached to the lepers and he preached to even the harlots. He even preached to those Samaritans the Jews hated so much. I realize that we don’t all live in Ferguson. Nor, am I calling for us to move there. I am, however, encouraging you to look to the “Ferguson” in your town. Go to those that are in desperate need of guidance, council, and hope and bring it to them. If this kind of tragedy happens in your home town, let it happen despite your best efforts, not because he continued to turn a blind eye to the troubled youth of America.

Advertisements

A Christian’s Response to Depression

depression

Let me first state that Robin Williams was likely my favorite comedian when I was a child. If he had a new movie come out, I begged my parents to let us watch it. Even his films that didn’t do well, I enjoyed watching them. Good Morning Vietnam, Hook, Aladdin, Mrs. Doubtfire were all instant classics in my book. But, when he donned a beard and got real serious, he could move you. Dead Poets’ Society to this day is a top ten movie in my book. So captain, my captain, you will surely be missed.

Over the last week there have been countless articles, commentaries and tributes to the late Robin Williams. I have spent hours reading over the reports concerning his death. I have heard people speculate about why he may have made such a decision to end his life. In the past week there were rumors of financial hardships, disease, and of course depression. I have read numerous different responses among God’s children to this tragedy. I have read some that tried to debate whether or not he was eternally lost. I have read some that felt that he took the easy way out. I have read some that felt he was stupid, foolish and even selfish. The more that I read those types of articles and comments, the more I felt conflicted. How can a person who is supposed to be God’s child be so devoid of compassion? This was a man, whose life, was falling apart. Sure, we might argue that his problems wouldn’t have had that affect upon me, but the reality is, it did have that affect upon the late Robin Williams. His battles with drug abuse, disease, and financial insecurity (let us not forget his latest effort to get back on network TV was hardly the hit Mork and Mindy was) overwhelmed him. And many so called Christians used this as an opportunity to kick a man, and ultimately his family, while he was down.

The more I thought about this tragedy, the more the story of Job came to my mind. Job lost everything. In a single day all of his possessions were taken away from him, and to make matters worse, as this was being reported to him, he was informed that a great storm struck his son’s home and all ten of his children died. He was clearly devastated. He dropped to his knees, and worshipped God. He went to the only one that could give him strength at such a time. Then, not long afterwards, he was stricken with boils from head to toe. Job, now sat in the ancient equivalent of the city dump. He sat among ashes and broken pottery, finding comfort using the busted pottery to scrape the boils on his arms and legs. In the chapters that follow we find a man who is broken. We find a man who is depressed. In Job 3:21 Job stated that he longed for a death that did not come. To be honest, I don’t blame him. Little was going right in his life. He was overwhelmed. He had no rest from the trials he faced. And now, he felt death was better than this kind of living. No, Job didn’t take his life. But like Robin Williams, and countless others he have suffered through depression death is on the mind. As Job’s friends try to “comfort” Job they blamed him for his heartaches. They blamed him for his children’s death. They claimed that only a really bad sinner would ever suffer like this. After reading some of the responses to Robin Williams’ death that is exactly what I am hearing. “How dare he.” “This is his fault for not seeking help.” “Let this serve as a lesson to all who think that suicide is the answer.”

Where is our compassion? Are we so naïve to think that berating a person suffering with depression will help them get out of it? Did it for Job? No. No it didn’t. The more his friends attacked him, the more Job’s depression, frustration and hopelessness set in. Did Jesus attack people that were suffering? No, no he didn’t. In fact, he did just the opposite. He reached out with compassion. Perhaps the most powerful miracle I see in Jesus’ life was an occasion in which he healed a leper. Jesus healed lepers all the time. Even this one mentioned in Matt. 8:2-3 seems like a blip on the radar. The Sermon on the Mount had just come to a conclusion and we are about to read the story of the great faith of a centurion. It almost feels natural to skim read this and quickly move on to the next story. But, there is something very special, very powerful about this miracle. Verse 3 says that not only did Jesus heal him, but that to do so, he reached out and touched him. So what you might think. Why does it matter if he touched him, said the words or through water upon him? Because, lepers aren’t touched. Lepers were required to stay outside the cities. They were supposed to cover their mouths and cry unclean every time a person came near unto them. While the text doesn’t tell us how long he had been a leper, what I do know is that once he contracted leprosy you always had it, unless a prophet healed you of it. This man’s life came crushing down upon him. One morning he woke up, his arm itching and saw the 1st white hair. I can’t imagine the horror that must have come over him. I don’t know if he tried to conceal it. What I do know is that that, he could expect to never feel the embrace of another human being again. No wife, no mother, no child would hold him now. He was alone. Jesus reached out and touched him. He didn’t just heal his skin that day, he gave him something much more. He let him feel something he would have longed to feel again. The comforting hand of a person that loved him. Today, I think people who suffer from depression are much like lepers. It is the disease that brings shame to the suffer. They don’t want other people to know. They conceal it. They try to hide it. Once it is discovered that they have it, they are shunned. People treat them like a second class citizen. Whereas a person suffering from strokes, cancer, or Alzheimer’s receive a ton of support. My friends, a person suffering with depression doesn’t need your harsh criticisms. They don’t need to hear how you wouldn’t be depressed if walked in their shoes. What the need is a tender embrace. A little love. Compassion.

What is Your Legacy? (Continued)

Most of our knowledge of the past comes from studying what they left behind. We look at their art work. We look at their publication. We look at how their homes were built. We look at their tools, their weapons, etc. We hope that by piecing together all of this information we can learn about who they are, what drove them, what their hopes, dreams, fears, etc could have been. Recently I watched Star Trek the Voyage Home and saw it from another perspective. What would people think of how we live? I laughed as I listened to Bones blast “modern” medicine. I chuckled as he spoke of how modern doctors were barbaric and living in the dark ages. It was quite amusing to see Kirk explain to Spock how to talk as if he grew up in the late 20th century.

I realize that this is just a movie. But, it made me wonder what people 500 years from now or 1000 years from now would think of our society. With the Internet and other means of recording information, future archaeologists certainly would have an easy time seeing what makes us click, what our fears are, and what we dreamed of. Just watching our televisions programming would give a very interesting picture concerning who we are. We are a sex crazed society that loves violence. Most of our television shows center around either violence or sex. You would be hard pressed to find a number 1 rated show that doesn’t. Two and Half men centers around the sexual exploits of two men. Many of our “cop drama” shows center around both sex and violence. Even “game shows” center around sex, you don’t have to look any further than Family Feud or Survivor to see that. Our commercials also give an interesting insight into who we are. Not only are we sex crazed, but we have all sorts of commercials based upon enhancing our sex appeal. Perhaps it is the clothing we wear, the right product we could buy or the medication we could take.

But perhaps the most damning evidence against us is our self absorption, clearly seen in the “selfie.” (I am not saying it is wrong to take pictures). Cameras have been around for a long time, but over recent years the snap shot of one’s self has really taken off. People take pictures of themselves doing silly things, eating food or what really bothers me, in provocative stances. And not only do they take these purposefully eroticized photos they send them to friends, strangers and post them on Facebook or whatever social media outlet is popular right now.

I am afraid for this generation. When people looked back upon my grandparents’ generation, they called them the greatest generation that ever lived. When people look back upon this generation, what will they say?  Will they saw we made the world a better place?  Will they say we forfeited our future for passing moments of pleasure?  Or will we leave behind a legacy that future generations will argue over which generation was truly the greatest?

Lessons Learned from Remodeling My Bathroom

This past year my wife and I, being home owners, that it was time to remodel the bathroom. We had heard the rough estimates around that stated that a bathroom remodel could run as much as $10,000. We figured that would be a little high because we have a super tiny bathroom and we don’t have expensive taste. When we started to receive estimates that number was pretty accurate. So, we decided we would do it ourselves and save some money. What we were not ready for was the trials that came.

In the title above I stated that there were lessons to be learned. I could easily say the lesson learned was patience and bring this little post to a conclusion. As we started tearing out the old shower surround we learned that however installed the shower never waterproofed it. My shower area was saturated from the last shower, I had mold in the walls, rotten wood, and to make the project more “fun” the plaster was moldy and just crumbling off the walls. The more I tore out the more I realized this project was going to test my patience. To be honest, there were times in that first couple of days I just wanted to write the check and pay someone else to do it. The project is not yet done and so there are still days I want to write a check and have someone else do it. I have indeed had to be patient, but that is not really the biggest lesson I learned.

After tearing into this bathroom I saw several jobs that were done incorrectly, improperly and flat out dangerous. (I even had a light that was never wired correctly. How it never set a fire is beyond me. The wires themselves were clearly running hot as they were discolored.) I know why they did it this way. It was faster, cheaper, and got a “finished” product with little hassle. But, faster, cheaper, a little work is not always a recipe for success.

This got me thinking about the way in which people try to “work on” their faith. They try to throw things together in the simplest, easiest way they can imagine and their faith is desperately failing them. “Foxhole” religion is one that instantly comes to mind. There used to be a saying that there are no atheists in foxholes. I know that is not entirely true. But the point was not whether the proverb was 100% accurate, but that in a time of great distress it is not uncommon to find a person turn to God. As the book of Jeremiah comes to a conclusion many of the Israelites were calling out to God. They were pleading for his mercy. They wanted to know that he hadn’t forsaken them. But, had they listened to Jeremiah’s message all along, they would have known that God even told Jeremiah to stop praying for these people (Jer. 7:16; 11:14; 14:11). It was not that God didn’t love Israel. The problem was that God grew tired of Israel’s never ending cycle of obedience, apostasy, oppression, repentance, deliverance, and then repeating. Since the days of the judges that tripped over the same mistakes over and over again. God wanted Israel to break the cycle. To do this, he had to break the cycle himself. Judah would not be delivered from their enemies this time.

Sometimes in order to rebuild we must 1st tear down. I had hoped that I could just rip out the old shower surround. I was wrong. I had hoped that I could just remove some of the rotten plaster. I was wrong. The entire area around the shower has to come out. I had to redo all the plumbing. I have to redo the electricity. For some, their faith is much the same. When they learn that they built their faith with worthless things, they have to break themselves down to their very core and start again. In I Cor. 3:11-15 Paul spoke of being tried by fire. Each man builds his faith upon the foundation of Jesus Christ. However, not everyone builds with that which withstands the tests of time, trials and tribulations. Some, they end up being broken down to their very core. Broken down so hard that all they have left is Jesus Christ. This is not a bad thing. When this happens you end up stripping away all that never should have been there in the 1st place. It is not necessarily pleasant when you first start, but in the end, there is great reward.

One more lesson I learned. Learn from mistakes. Now that I have this bathroom stripped down, I know that I need to do the job correctly. It does not do me any good to fail to waterproof that bathroom. It would be foolish to put up new walls only to let it rot again. When it comes to my faith, I must repent. Repentance is not just saying you are sorry. It is a making an about face and changing course. Let me put it in an easy to understand scenario. If you stepping outside and tripped over a bag someone placed just outside your door what do you do? Most of us would pick up the bag and put it where it belongs. How many of us would leave the bag alone? What would you do if you tripped over it a second time? A third? Fourth? Why we would think of such a person as being incredible ignorant to continue to trip over the bag. Likewise, it would be incredibly foolish to continue to trip over the same sin in our lives and do nothing about being better.