Friday, May 31, 2019

Self Image

Balance is often tough to find in life.  It seems that our personalities lead us to err on one side or the other of every issue.    We either talk too much or not enough.   Ether we are so impatient and in a hurry that we don’t take time to get things right or we are slow enough to drive people crazy with our thoroughness.  We either cry every day or don’t cry enough to be emotionally healthy.  I could go on and on.

Another way that we tend to err is self image and what we think of ourselves.   Some of us struggle with a low self-image that was planted into our psyche by people from our past.  Others have an exaggerated view of themselves.  

Paul addresses how to handle our self-image in Romans 12:3.  He says:

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.

So, what’s the key to a balanced self image?  Sober judgment and measuring ourselves based on how much faith God has given us. That’s an interesting measuring stick.

So, instead of measuring yourself by the voices of others, or your own internal voice which may not be accurate, how about measuring yourself according to God and the faith he’s given you.   Not a bad idea.

(P.S.  Did you know that I was raising money for Patrick Henry Family Services -- going to the gym 100 times for at least 20 minutes to raise money for our great programs.   Check it out here).  

Thursday, May 30, 2019


When you think of the "patterns of this world” what comes to mind?

Here are some things I think about when I think about the world we live in in our culture:

1) The world thinks that things matter. The one with the most stuff wins.

2) You gotta put yourself ahead of everyone else. Nobody else is going to take care of you. Look out for number one.

3) Outward appearance is extremely important. You gotta be buff, beautiful, tan, and well dressed to be worth anything.

4) Small talk is preferable and you need to learn how to do it well.

5) Speed is everything —fast food, microwaves, anything instant is way more important than delaying gratification.

And that is just a few…

Do you think those are the things that Paul was addressing in Romans 12:2? It reads:

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is-his good, pleasing and perfect will.

It appears to me if we are reading it correctly that if we choose not to to conform to those patterns, we can be transformed …

How? By renewing our minds. Thinking differently. Looking at things from God’s perspective.

Then and only then can we find out what God wants for us.

Thoughts to ponder on a Thursday.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

So.... here's what I want you to do

Ever have those days when you feel especially on top of things?  Or have you ever written something or had a speaking engagement where you concluded to yourself, “I knocked that one out of the park?”

My guess is that the apostle Paul was having one of those days when he wrote the section of his letter to the Romans that we now call chapter 12.  There is so much good stuff packed in there that it’s hard to take it all in.

He starts it this way (in the message)

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him.

You may have memorized it in the NIV which says, "Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.”

Or in the King James which says, I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service..

Regardless of the translation the point is clear — God wants all of us — every minute of our lives — to be a living sacrifice.  He doesn’t want us to hold back.

And the interesting part is that Paul suggests that it’s our “reasonable service.’  Paul’s saying that after what Jesus did for us, would we, should we, offer anything less?

So today — take your life and place it before God as an offering.  See what a difference that makes.   

(P.S.  Did you know that I was raising money for Patrick Henry Family Services -- going to the gym 100 times for at least 20 minutes to raise money for our great programs.   Check it out here).  

Thursday, May 16, 2019

A Response to the 2018 Report on Foster Care in Virginia

In 2017, the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission directed its staff to study the foster care and adoption services delivered by Virginia’s local departments of social services and supervised by the Virginia Department of Social Services.  The report, named Improving Virginia’s foster care system, was released on December 10, 2018.   News reports called it “Devastating.”

Key concerns that were listed in the report include and the need for more children to be placed in family settings, the high number of children that age out of the foster care system annually in Virginia. (54% as opposed to a national average of 25%) and the fact that Va children are significantly less likely to be reunified with birth parents than other states which begs the need for prevention.

In reviewing this information, I can’t help but ask questions that begin with , “What if the church…..”   By the church I mean us, you and me, God’s people, not buildings or congregations, but the bride of Christ, the hands and feet of Jesus, God’s plan for making a difference in the world.  With that in mind, I ask myself:

What if the church decided that taking care of children was the job of the church not the government?

As early as 1 BC in the Roman Empire, infanticide was common.  Babies were discarded and left to die in sewers and on the street and it was the norm.  Until the outbreak of Christianity when suddenly someone was speaking out about and suggesting that infanticide was wrong.  But they didn’t stop there.   They took these babies into their own homes to care for them.

Fast forward about 1800 years when orphanages became a popular way to take care of orphaned and abandoned children.  The majority of these orphanages were started by the church… not only as financial contributors, but as caretakers of the children.   Many of the orphanages did not have paid staff, but small groups from local churches would be assigned time that they were to send volunteers to care for the children.

Fast forward again to 1909 when the White House had its first conference on children and determined that children should live in families as opposed to in institutions.   Thus began an ever-changing, ever-developing, increasingly inefficient and ineffective Child Welfare system where the government has taken over the responsibility of caring for children and we, the church, have stood back and watched it happen.  While many amazing Christian parents have been foster parents over the years, they are bound by the restraints of a system that becomes more tightly bound in bureaucracy by the year.

Fast forward one more time to today when the “devastating” report on foster care has shown that the government is failing our children.   It’s time for us to recognize that just as it was our job as the Church to rescue babies thrown into Roman sewers, it is our job to step up and care for children that are being lost to a system that results in over half leaving childhood without a family.   

So, what would it look like if the Church decided that this was our job?  Imagine a world with me if….

local churches provided sufficient and meaningful support to their families so that the number of Christians willing to adopt a child out of foster care exceeded the number of children available for adoption?  In 2015 there were 10,952 churches in the state of Virginia and only 1519 children available for adoption.    This means that if one in every seven churches had one family willing to adopt one child we would meet the need with a few families waiting in line for the next child to be adopted.

there were so many Christian families willing to infuse the state foster care system that our overwhelming presence there was the salt and light needed for the system to change?

families and churches worked together to ensure that a fewer number of children entered foster care in the first place?   There are many ways to assist in this work, including Safe Families for Children, which involves churches in hosting children during crisis periods in their lives in order to develop relationships with their families and attempt to keep the family together.

the government, private agencies, Christian individuals and churches worked together to come up with solutions of how we can take care of our children to ensure that every child is with a thriving community, supported by a faithful community?

So I ask myself, and I ask you, “What if we decided this was our job?  What if we decided that the need was urgent and worthy of our immediate and sacrificial response?  What if we took this issue personally and just like the early Christians, not only spoke out against the evils of the current situation, but stood up and did something about it?

Just because we can’t see babies who have been thrown into the sewer doesn’t mean children who need us don’t exist.   It’s time for the church to wake up, return to our roots and be the visible difference in the world when it comes to vulnerable children and families.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Even when it doesn't makes sense?

Have you ever studied the book of Ruth?  There are a lot of cultural nuances that I won’t explain, but let me summarize.

A man leaves Israel because of a famine with his two sons and they go to another country.  One of them marries Ruth and he dies, along with his father and brother, before they can have children.  Her mother-in-law is heading back to her homeland and Ruth insists on being loyal to her and go back with her, leaving her own home and parents.  Naomi, her mother in-law, argues with her and says — you need to go back live with your parents if you want to find a husband.   I’m too old to have another son and have you wait for him to marry you.   She is basically warning Ruth that if she leaves and goes with her, that she is giving up her hope of having a child.

But, committed to what she feels is the right thing to do, even if it didn’t make sense. Ruth leaves and, as it turns out, her loyalty to Naomi is what attracts Boaz, her next husband to her.   The result?  Ruth gives birth to a son who is a direct ancestor of David, and thus Jesus.

It didn’t make sense for Ruth to throw away her chances at marriage and children to do the right thing and be loyal to her husband’s family, committed to carrying on his family name.  But it worked out that Ruth was able to be part of making history because of her choice.   Ruth never knew that she would be listed among the ancestors of Jesus the Messiah, but her commitment led to an incredible outcome.

Are you trying to make a choice between something you are thinking is the right thing to do and something that would benefit you personally?   Is God asking you to put yourself aside in order to do the right thing?   If so, you may never know the outcome in this lifetime, but choosing the right thing over the right thing for you, even when it doesn’t make sense, could change the world