- 2019May 17
As we move merrily through the month of May, we enter the season of flowers blooming, students graduating, and thoughts of growth. These days are filled with change, and life feels as if it is spinning rapidly into the future, leaving us to marvel at the beauty of it all while considering what was and what will be.
As of this month, I am now the father of not two but three high school graduates. Which is tough to grasp, because it doesn't seem very long ago that they were all just little kiddos: learning to walk, learning to ride a bike, watching Bear in the Big Blue House on my lap, or sitting in car seats that had way too many straps which were utterly confusing to an otherwise intelligent man such as myself.
Behind these graduates are two more children that will reach graduation in a blink of an eye. I know how quickly this will go, because I remember the old folks talking about how quickly life speeds by and thinking they were crazy. Don't be fooled, a few years on the other side of 40 is enough to prove to me that the old folks were right
I am a 'words' guy, and ever since I graduated high school in the waning years of the 20th century, I have been intrigued by the fact that graduation is officially called Commencement. Most of us think of graduation as an ending; a final send off after years of hard work. But the title 'commencement' gives a completely different connotation.
Commencement is not an ending - Commencement is a beginning.
As my graduates begin this road to the future, I am reflective, considering what I did right and what I did wrong leading up to this point. Looking back, there were many bright moments: we did family devotions regularly, we made time for fun, made time for learning, and made time for growing. I really believe that they will leave this home knowing that we made our family a priority, made our faith a priority, were committed to pouring in to them, teaching, playing, laughing.
Still, I wish there were more of those moments.
I will always cherish the memories of pushing a stroller, then pushing a swing, then pushing a bicycle. I will always remember times of taking walks, playing dress up or stacking Legos.
I will dearly recall time spent praying with them, reading the Bible with them, reading stories with them, having conversations on any topic, and getting to know them as they grew through each stage of their lives: as a toddler becomes a kiddo becomes an adolescent becomes a high-schooler becomes a young adult.
And as I consider those moments, I can know that this is not an ending. To the contrary, it is just now beginning, just now commencing. Commencement, by definition, is merely the start of all I was preparing them for in the first place. Commencement is the fruit of raising them up not as children, but as future adults. It is a glimmering reward, the championship race for which they have been preparing. Conditioned, practiced and ready, let them now boldly step to the starting blocks, let them take a deep breath and fix their eyes on the finish line.
As each of my children reaches Commencement, the wonderful thing is I get to continue to be a part of their race. Just as it brings a tear to my eye, it also brings a smile to my lips. As Dad, I get to transition from everyday parent to guide, mentor and coach as they make their way through the often maddening maze we call adulthood. I now take on the role of a listening ear and an advisor. The race is long, and I will run beside them when necessary, yet more often I will be there to cheer from the stands as they take on the struggles of life, overcoming each hurdle before them with the knowledge and wisdom they have gained over the years.
They will each begin their own race: they will find their own way, fight their own battles, follow their own calling, and take their own path. And after all the years of training them for this moment, my joy is in watching it all unfold. Let the runners take their marks, and let the race commence.
- 2019May 16
6 On another Sabbath, he entered the synagogue and was teaching, and a man was there whose right hand was withered.
Luke chapter 6 recounts a fascinating encounter between Jesus, a man in need of healing, and the religious scoffers.
The encounter begins with Jesus teaching in the synagogue. Jesus regularly went into the synagogue to worship, and it was the place where people gathered to read the Scriptures, pray, and encourage one another. On this particular day he was teaching, and among those listening was a man 'with a withered hand'.
Our hands are among the most utilized part of our body. We use our hands to build, to hold, and to create. We aren't told why, but for some reason this man's hand was deformed, and he had lost those abilities.
A WORLD IN NEED OF HEALING
Especially for those of us who work as pastors, Sundays can become routine. Just like Jesus, we are teaching and leading on Sundays. Yet it is important to remember that there are certain to be those among us with physical and emotional sicknesses. There are those among us in need of healing. We may be able to see this hurt plainly, or it may be well hidden. But the pain is indeed there.
In Luke 6 we are not told what Jesus what teaching. The important part in this instance was not what he was saying, but what he was doing. Teaching is vital, yet it is what we do and how we do it that backs up that teaching.
A CHURCH IN NEED OF SIGHT
7 And the scribes and the Pharisees watched him, to see whether he would heal on the Sabbath, so that they might find a reason to accuse him. 8 But he knew their thoughts, and he said to the man with the withered hand, “Come and stand here.” And he rose and stood there.
As a church, what are we looking for? What are we watching and why?
Our social media/controversy driven society is watching for the next scandal, the next outrage, the next offensive thing to be said or done. We are not looking for truth, we are looking for an opportunity to advance our agenda.
The Pharisees, who knew the laws of God better than just about anyone, were not looking for ways to help, but ways to accuse. They were looking for ways to call out Jesus as doing something technically unacceptable, while missing the much larger point that a man was being miraculously healed. They ignored that something good and miraculous and healing was happening and instead chose to focus on the details that they didn't agree with.
Are we guilty of this?
Do we miss the big picture by scrutinizing details?
Are we so worried about what 'those other people' are doing that we are not taking time to look for ways to bring peace and healing? It is so important that while we know the truth, we also know the grace that flows through that truth.
A QUESTION WE CANNOT AVOID
9 And Jesus said to them, “I ask you, is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to destroy it?” 10 And after looking around at them all he said to him, “Stretch out your hand.” And he did so, and his hand was restored.
Of course, Jesus knew what they were up to. He knew that there would be trouble for doing the right thing. Yet he did it anyway. But first, he asks them a question they cannot answer.
Are we going about doing good or harm? Do we seek to save or destroy? There is a subtlety happening in the question, as Jesus later, states that Satan comes to "steal, kill and destroy" (John 10:10), using the same word.
Jesus does the opposite; he sees an opportunity to heal and he takes the opportunity. And a miracle occurs.
Jesus is acting here as the good shepherd who cares for his sheep, and equates those in opposition as wolves who are inadvertently doing the work of evil under the disguise of doing good.
May we never fall into such a destructive trap.
THE CORRECT RESPONSE
11 But they were filled with fury and discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus.
So these men just saw Jesus miraculously heal a person. His hand didn't work and now it does. Their response is not astonishment and songs of praise, but anger and talk of revenge.
How absolutely heartbreaking.
Why is it that people who should know better, people who are leaders in the church and in the community, would rather see harm than healing? Why are religious people out to get other religious people?
Is it to prove a point? Is it to hide their own sin under the guise of piety? Is it just another fruit of legalism? Probably all of the above, but the clear commonality is legalism.
Legalism and its rotten fruit are the death of many churches and many souls.
The correct response to seeing the work of God happening among us is to rejoice and give thanks for it. If we, like the Pharisees, find ourselves at odds with other believers through whom God is working, we do well do consider why.
If we find ourselves at the receiving end of lifeless, soulless, meaningless, legalistic piety, it is in our best interest to shake the dust off of our feet and continue to go about the work the Lord has for us to do.
- 2019Apr 16
So it appears that some college students are "shaking" at the thought of the Vice-President speaking at their school.
Now...regardless of your politics, something is dreadfully, terribly wrong when 21-year-old college graduates are 'shaking' at the idea of listening to an American politician give a speech. There are indeed things that cause me to shake - but listening to a guy talk isn't generally one of them.
© Taylor University
Back in my day, if any sitting VP spoke at my college I would have been excited about it. It's interesting and unique, if nothing else. Of course, I was raised in a different era when people generally expressed thoughts openly and held public discourse without getting triggered and such.
In spite of that, let's not forget that there are MANY, MANY young people with brilliant minds and strong characters. As an educator I have come across many such young people, and know that this generation holds great potential for great things.
Don't doubt that.
The truth is that this generation is indeed under attack. Not from Mike Pence. Not from Donald Trump. Not from AOC or Bernie. They are under steady attack from the one who has been attacking the hearts and minds of humanity since he convinced Adam and Eve that God didn't really have their best interests in mind.
The thought of Satan vying for the hearts of an entire generation? That makes me shake.
Yet our battle is spiritual, and so must be our weapons.
Let us pray steadfastly for and with the younger generations.
Let us show them patience and share wisdom.
Let us be an example of strong adulthood, and invite them to join us.
Let us live out our faith and reason in a real, meaningful way.
Let us refrain from complaining about them, but rather work to understand them and help them to see through the fog and confusion we have allowed to cloud their path.
This is how we start fighting back.