Welcoming Lost Dogs Home

A few months ago I saw something that’s stuck with me: I was driving home from Target and saw a man walking up to his dog on the side of the road and he grabbed it by the collar and dragged it home.  It was a quick thing I saw, since I was only driving by, and I don’t know any context, but as I drove by I found myself getting upset with that man.  As I asked myself why I was getting so upset, it hit me: The man should have been excited to have found his dog and gladly welcomed his lost dog home.

In Luke 15:4-7 Jesus tells this parable,

“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ 7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”

When we go astray and are lost in our sin, we need to remember that we have a good shepherd who hunts us down and welcomes us home.  But, all too often, we feel ashamed of our own lostness and our sin, so we run farther away and hide from God (like Adam and Eve did in the garden).  The trouble with playing Hide & Seek with God is you’ll never win!

God is not like that man I saw on the side of the road, who grabs us angrily by the collar and drags us home to scold us for running away.  Of course, God disciplines those He loves in order to teach us not to run away, but He does so because it’s better to be home than to be lost… and that’s the type of discipline I think we could all use.

So next time you find yourself running away from God and getting lost in sin, obey the Holy Spirit calling you to repent and return to Christ Jesus who has sought you out and paid for your sin already.

What’s the Deal With ‘Chatroulette?’

In case you haven’t heard of Chatroulette, it’s an online website where people can log in for free to use their computer’s web-cam to “chat” with random people from around the world.  You get randomly paired up with someone else (hence the “roulette”) and choose whether or not to chat with them or move on and get paired up with someone else.

One of Chatroulette’s big dangers is that there’s no filter for sexually explicit material.  It’s not uncommon for nudity on the site and for people to ask ask the person their chatting with to lift up their shirt or pull down their pants.  By and large, the majority of people rumored to be on Chatroulette are guys in various stages of undress… acting “inappropriately” (yes, that means what you think it means).

For this reason I’ve never checked out Chatroulette myself, and I encourage all parents to be very aware of the dangers of letting your son/daughter log onto the site.  I have talked to a number of teenagers about the site, and a few of them have said they’ve checked it out and saw exactly what I described above… but they thought it was a fun and harmless way to pass time while they were bored.

Teens, really think about what you’re exposing yourself to.  Do you believe this is really healthy, harmless fun?  You know better, you know it’s not good… that’s why you wouldn’t dare hop on Chatroulette with your mom/dad in the room!  As Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” If this is what you’re dumping into your heart, take a wild guess what’s going to consume your thoughts and eventually your behavior?

Parents, we need to take our responsibility to protect our sons and daughters from being exposed to this filth.  When sexuality and nudity is seen as “entertaining” and as a “fun way to pass time” then we know we’re playing catch-up!

Install filters on your computers at home and add Chatroulette to the blocked list.  Talk to your teen about the site and ask for his/her opinion on it.  Talk to your teen about sexuality and purity and the role of modesty.  But remember to “talk” and “discuss,” please don’t lecture or get agitated with your son/daughter disagrees.

We need to remember that the world in which our teens are being raised is constantly bombarding them with an opposite view of sexuality.  We need to take a consistent and proactive approach to correct the perverted view on sexuality our kids are being taught while helping our kids understand that sexuality is a good and natural and healthy gift from God.  If you aren’t talking to your kids about sex and sexuality then you are leaving them defenseless against the message our culture is teaching them, please take the risk of uncomfortable conversations… it will be worth it.

Sermon Summary: God-Sightings in 2010

When I was a teenager I really didn’t like history.  I didn’t see how it was helpful and made any difference: all those events happened too long ago to really effect me today.  But when I look at the Bible I see a picture of God’s sovereignty which gives meaning to what’s written in yesterday’s history books and today’s newspaper.  God is actively at work in our world, do you look for His fingerprints all around you?  Here are three events that happened in 2010 that I believe we can learn from.

The earthquake in Haiti shook the country on January 12th.  It is estimated that 230,000 people died 300,000 were injured, and 1,000,000 were made homeless.  Hospitals and government buildings laid in ruins.  But in the midst of these ruins the Haitian people sought salvation in Jesus Christ.  Rather than being shaken, their faith was solidified and it became clear that God’s glory was put on display in the midst of their suffering.  This doesn’t make the tragedy any less tragic, but it infuses suffering with meaning.

So many of us are tempted to believe God only blesses us when we are comfortable and at peace, but that’s just not what the Bible teaches.  Instead, we should be like Job who, after losing his children and wealth and health, said “Shall we accept good from God but not trouble?” (Job 2:10).  Likewise, James 1:2-4 encourages us to, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”  Faith in Jesus Christ is not a shield to deflect pain and suffering, it provides the strength to endure them.  Haiti and Scripture both teach us that God displays his glory in the midst of suffering

Second, a mine collapsed in Chile on August 5th, trapping 33 men almost half a mile underground.  People from around the world sat around their televisions on October 12-13 as all 33 men were successfully rescued through a rescue shaft that had been drilled.  The Chilean people came together and declared, “This will not be a success unless all the men are rescued.”  We were captivated by the national solidarity and the miraculous rescue.

As I watched on tv, God brought Psalm 40:1-4 to mind: “I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the LORD.  Blessed is the man who makes the LORD his trust, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods.”

The rescue of these miners is such a wonderful illustration of what God has done for us through Jesus Christ.  We were trapped by our own sin and awaiting our death, unable to rescue ourselves from the pit of sin and death. “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved” (Ephesians 2:4–5).  Are you relying on the Jesus Christ as your rescuer, or are you trying to dig yourself out in vain?

Finally, I love the foreshadowing provided by the Winter Olympics & World Cup Soccer.  The nations come together despite all their differences (language, politics, religion, culture, traditions, etc.) and they focus on what they have in common: Skiing or Figure Skating or Soccer.  This is a beautiful picture of what heaven will be like for the people of God – all the peoples coming together and worshipping Jesus Christ together as their common King and Rescuer, Lord and Savior.

We read in the Book of Revelation, “The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it (the New Jerusalem)” (Revelation 21:26).  This is a verse many may pass over, but it reminds me that we will still have ethnicity in the New Heavens & New Earth.  The glory and honor of our respective cultures will be brought into eternity with us – we will not all be the same (but I do believe the curse of Babel will be reversed, and we’ll all understand each other!).  One of my favorite images in all the Bible comes in Revelation 7:9-10: “After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”

There is no room for racism or discrimination in the Church (and if there is racism in you, get over it… because you’ll be spending A LOT of time with people who don’t look like you after you die).  Sending and supporting missionaries is essential to being faithful churches and Christians, but in our American culture today there are great opportunities to do missions without changing your address: Host an exchange student; get involved in an ESL program; befriend your neighbors or coworkers who come from different cultural backgrounds; witness for Christ wherever you’re at (especially if your job leads you to travel a lot).

God is active in our lives and in our world.  I hope that you are daily pursuing Him and paying attention so that you may recognize his fingerprints which surround you.