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Playing It Safe

“Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” Helen Keller

More times than not, when the subject of my Holy Land trips come up in discussion, someone will ask me, Aren’t you afraid to travel there?” My natural inclination is to laugh, not a nervous laugh like I am uncomfortable to answer the question, but a deep belly laugh like somebody just gave the punch line to a tremendously funny joke!

In spite of the incredible experience a trip to the land of the Bible has given to millions of pilgrims safely many people view such a trip with fear and trembling. I suppose that is the price we pay to have the all knowing, all seeing 24/7 news outlets showing every event, mostly bad ones, in every part of the world, all at the same time. We are no longer able to discriminate between different geographical parts of the world. A hurricane in Florida means the whole state has been demolished. A war in Iraq means every Middle Eastern state is a location of insurgent violence.

Simple truth, no American tourist has been killed in the nation of Israel in over sixty years. None. Zero. Nada. Yet when I returned from my most recent trip I came home to a community trying to figure out why a teacher was shot two times in the chest as he answered his own front door, why a nurse was found murdered in the security and privacy of her own trailer home and why two German tourists were robbed and shot dead in our own serene and beautiful Sarasota.

What is the most dangerous place on our own church campus? The darkened back parking lot? No! The hidden places on our campus where the homeless sometime sleep? No! Crossing Main Street’s traffic on Wednesday night to get to prayer meeting? No! The children’s play ground? Yes! We have had more injuries requiring medical attention and even surgery by children enjoying the playground!

I share all this with you to simply say, life is a dangerous place and many times our perceptions get all messed up of what is safe and what is truly dangerous. If you live your life based upon perceived fears you will miss the best part of life. I am not suggesting that anyone live recklessly or ignorant of the dangers that truly exists, but I am encouraging you to live the Jesus life. He traveled fully trusting the Father to provide for Him, even if that path took Him to the cross. This past Sunday we celebrated God’s greatest act in the resurrection! I sure am glad Jesus didn’t play it safe!

Each year, on the last Monday in May our nation pauses to remember those of America’s past and present who have given the full measure of devotion in defense of this great land. Here is a short introduction to Memorial Day’s earliest beginnings….

“Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation’s service. There are many stories as to its actual beginnings, with over two dozen cities and towns laying claim to being the birthplace of Memorial Day. There is also evidence that organized women’s groups in the South were decorating graves before the end of the Civil War: a hymn published in 1867, “Kneel Where Our Loves are Sleeping” by Nella L. Sweet carried the dedication “To The Ladies of the South who are Decorating the Graves of the Confederate Dead” (Source: Duke University’s Historic American Sheet Music, 1850-1920).
While Waterloo N.Y. was officially declared the birthplace of Memorial Day by President Lyndon Johnson in May 1966, it’s difficult to prove conclusively the origins of the day. It is more likely that it had many separate beginnings; each of those towns and every planned or spontaneous gathering of people to honor the war dead in the 1860’s tapped into the general human need to honor our dead, each contributed honorably to the growing movement that culminated in Gen Logan giving his official proclamation in 1868. It is not important who was the very first, what is important is that Memorial Day was established. Memorial Day is not about division. It is about reconciliation; it is about coming together to honor those who gave their all.”

(from www.usmemorialday.org)

Please take a moment this Monday to pause and remember those who have exemplified for each of us the highest form of personal sacrifice.  Many are the men and women who have laid down their lives for us so that we might have this day and all of our days to live in the greatest nation upon God’s green earth.

Some might ask why all the fuss?  Why pause to remember? The reason is found in the latter part of President Abraham Lincoln’s address at Gettysburg. Lincoln wrote, “…that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

May we never forget!

At a time when the country seems to making a swerve to the left of center on many economic and social issues something very interesting and significant is occurring in how Americans view the issue of abortion. Check out the recent Baptist Press article reporting on a brand new Gallup Poll denoting this new shift in public viewpoint.

In a related item check out this advertisement that will be running during the American Idol finale next week.

Check out this latest pewforum report. I am sure this will get all the secularists up in arms.  Let me know if you see any irony when you get to the end of the article. Yeah, the student secularists group helped to build homes, but they did it with a Christian social ministry group called “Habitat for Humanity.” Could it be because there are no “Secularists Who Build Homes” organizations.

“Man is immortal, until his work is done.” St. Augustine

One of the great losses that postmodern man endures is the loss of God- given purpose. For those who find no evidence to the reality of a God who is both intimate and awesome, incarnate and holy, meaning literally becomes what you make of it.

Let me be clear, this does not mean that one cannot have a sense of purpose without God, but purpose which does not emanate from revealed purpose will constantly be in a state of flux, subject to the present circumstance, need or felt emergency. Godly purpose is founded upon the redemptive purposes of God’s character; constant, consistent and eternal.

Man without God, seeks for purpose within one’s own finite world, limited by perspective. Because none of us can ever get very far outside of ourselves, our purpose tends to collapse upon itself, becoming worldly and incestuous!

When we are connected to the realization, that God is at work in the world and laboring continually in redemptive enterprise, we become aware of something far, far greater than ourselves. God expands us to a greater, deeper purpose that sustains, renews and transforms!

Within the Greek New Testament, we find two words that are often translated as “time.” “Chronos,” from which we get the idea of specific time or chronological time. The other word is “kairos” which is harder to translate with only one word. It is best translated as, “at the right time,” or “in the fullness of time.” We know intuitively that both of these concepts rightly define time.  This same phenomenon reflects upon the idea of purpose as well.

We all have physical, temporal, finite dynamics of purpose. The trash needs to be taken out, the dog walked, the house cleaned, an income to be earned, but if these are the only purposes available to us we are just biding time, fulfilling endless tasks until our time upon the planet is up.

Biblical faith argues for a deeper kind of purpose. An “at the right time” kind of meaning, the meaning behind the meaning. It is this second type of meaning that gives life its substance. It is this kind of meaning for which you were created. The sad truth, many live their whole life and never find such meaning. What a tragedy and shame! Jesus said that “He came to give life and to give it more abundantly.”  Life does indeed become more abundant when it is lived with redemptive purpose!

The best part of being a pastor is found in that incredible moment when God breaks through and somebody gets “it.” Like an athlete who remembers forever catching a touchdown pass or making the last second basket to win a game decades ago, I continue to remember these wonderful moments when Christ entered the mind, heart and spirit of those who, with simple faith, have believed!

Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

John 20:29