Sunday, February 23, 2014

Discipleship: Hey, How The Heck Does This Thing Work?

A man wanders off into the desert and soon becomes lost.  For days, he travels in the direction he is sure will lead him back home.  Unfortunately, each additional step only brings about the certainty that he is hopelessly lost with no clue of how to escape his dilemma. 

The outlook is grim.  No water, no food, no shelter, and no idea what to do next.  A terrible sense of despair begins to consume the man as he realizes without help, he will likely succumb to this harsh environment in the not too distant future.

Just when all hope seems to be lost, a figure appears in the distance.  The figure is walking in his direction.  Could it be?  Are his eyes playing tricks on him?  Eventually the person makes his way to the man and announces he has come to help.  Overjoyed, the man grabs hold of the ragged figure and hugs him tight.  Finally, rescue has come.  Soon the man will be home with his family again.

“So, which way do we go to get out of this horrible desert”, the man asks. 
The stranger replies, “Oh no dear friend, you must discover that for yourself”.
The man, now very confused responds, “But, I thought you were here to help?”
“Oh I am, indeed help is what I bring”.  Slowly the stranger pulls out a small bag.  “Inside this bag is a machine that will give you everything you need to survive in this desert.” 
“But why can’t I just follow you out of this desert?” The man replies. 
“Oh, I have no time for such things.  I must be on my way.  More lost souls, more machines to give out”.  The stranger hands the man the bag and before he can utter a single word in objection, the stranger disappears.

“Well, at least I have this wondrous machine” declares the man.  Slowly he pulls the strange looking device from the bag.  Immediately he realizes he has no clue how the machine works.  The man peers into the bag, but to his dismay, it is empty.  No instructions, no guide, nothing.

For several hours, the man works feverishly, trying to discern how the machine functions.  He pushes buttons, turns levers, and flips switches.  Over and over again, the man tries every possible idea he can think of, but to no avail.  Frustrated and completely defeated, the man throws the machine to the ground and cries out in a loud voice, “WHY?  WHY EVEN BOTHER GIVING ME THIS GIFT IF I CAN’T GET IT TO WORK?  WHY?”

Days turn into weeks, and weeks become months. 

In time, a ragged figure appears in the desert.  And there by a pile of sand worn bones he finds…a machine. 

“Pitiful fool, if only had used the machine”.  The stranger quietly walks away wondering how many others failed to use his miraculous gift.

Matthew 28:19 "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit"

Teach and man to fish and he’ll eat a lifetime.  Give the man a pole, tackle, and then walk away.

He’ll likely starve...or something like that.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Want to Teach? Hope You Have Big Feet!

If you’re a teacher, you’ll get this.  If you’re the parent of a student, you need to know the facts. 

Question:  If you moved to another country as a young child, and did not speak the language, what chance would you have of passing a standardized test in that country, even if you could understand the basics of that language?  You sit in class all year, the teacher works hard to help you, but he/she has a room full of students that must be taught "the standards".  You're intelligent, you do your best to pay attention, but the language barrier is just overwhelming and as you’d probably expect, you fail.
Surprised?  Of course not.  Not many educated adults could achieve success in this type of setting.
Now, pretend you are teacher here in America.  Let's say you have several students in your class that struggle with English.  Most can get by conversationally, but all struggle with context and meaning at some level.  Even though these barriers exist, these students are expected to achieve the same level of success as your native English speaking students using the exact same writing and content standards.  If they do not, you dear teacher have somehow failed.  Your "scores" prove your failure and may be used to make "decisions" regarding you and your school.  Not only did you fail, your school risks being judged as not being "adequate". 

Now slip back into the shoes of a child that does not completely grasp the language being used to instruct students in class.  Do you deem it to be reasonable or fair that you are being held to the exact same standards and expectations as your classmates? 

Do you believe your teacher is somehow to blame because you did not achieve success? 

Is it possible for a teacher with 30 students to overcome the hurdles of broken homes, poverty, language barriers, special needs, and still somehow ensure each and every student is able to meet "standards" that are one size fits all?  No problem…if you’re Jesus.  I’m afraid the rest of us have feet that are far too small to fill those enormous shoes!

Bottom line:  I am an educated man.  I "get" most things presented to me, but if you put me in a classroom  where everything is being presented in French, Spanish, German, or any language other than English, I can guarantee you I would fail miserably regardless of what the teacher does to help me. 

Houston, we have a problem.  It is not a local problem, nor can it be “fixed” at the local level.  If it was, you can bet we could and would fix it.  The problem finds its root at the state and more importantly federal level.  Our educational system in this country is wounded and bleeding and the Feds are handing out Band-Aids to deal with cut arteries.  The state takes the Band-Aids because they want the goodies that come with the Band-Aids, you know money.  And what about local school systems you ask? Ah yes, well they are handed the Band-Aids (with less and less of "the money") and told "make this work and by the way, good luck"!

I've illustrated only one of the many challenges local school systems and educators face in this country.  A country where legislators are hell bent on standardizing every aspect of our educational system under a national umbrella that is held in the iron tight grip of…the federal government.  Surprise, Surprise!

Over the next few weeks, I will be addressing the results of what this nationalistic approach to education is doing “to” and “for” the students of this country.

So, hang on tight…it’s going to be a bumpy ride!  

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Top 10 Good Things Obama Has Done For This Country

1.     ..................................never mind.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Question: Should I listen to Joel Osteen? Better Question: Should I Listen to You?

A friend of mine recently posted a comment about his change of heart regarding the validity of the ministry of Joel Osteen. I have to say that find it fascinating even amazing that so many believers are so very enamored with the words of men. Honestly, there are occasions in which I do enjoy messages from various “professional guys” who teach and preach from the bible, but I have come to recognize they are only men. Are their words inspired? Do they indeed speak on behalf of God? Maybe…maybe not.

Here is my response to my friend (plus a wee bit more):

At the end of the day, all men who choose to speak publically on behalf of God are just normal people. They are no better or worse than the average Joe believer working 9 to 5. They may exhibit great eloquence when speaking or seem to somehow be "elevated" spiritually, but they are only men. The greatest men I have ever known or had the pleasure of receiving wisdom from were common men. Not pastors, not evangelists, not "professional ministers" of any shape or form. They were all just average guys who all shared one common trait...humility. True humility. The kind of humility that caused them to pause before declaring anything on behalf of our Lord.

I’d take the time to name them, but you’d likely have no clue who they are. The list includes an accountant, a business man, a mill worker, and a sharecropper. Some would be considered more “successful” than others in the eyes of this world, but all had one thing in common, serious humility. In fact, most had no clue they were being used by God to shape my life. Yes some were successful, most not so much, yet to me, they were all giants.

If you think about it, Jesus was an average Joe. If fact, most of the folks around him missed out on much of what he had to say because he wasn’t a “somebody”. You often find the Pharisees and teachers of the law asking, “Who is this fellow?” Why? Jesus wasn’t a “big name” at the time. He was just Jesus, the carpenter’s son.

Can’t you hear the people? “Yeah he says good stuff and even seems to have power, but he’s just a normal guy, a carpenter. Who cares what a carpenter has to say? The “big name religious guys” say we need to crucify him…better stick with them. After all, we know they speak for God”.

Be careful who you give an ear to, but also be willing to recognize that all men have potential for good and bad. I'd dare say that most men, regardless of their “position” in this life, would not want you prowling around in the closets of their lives. You might not like what you find, but of course, we all have our own "closets" don't we?

So, should anyone listen to Joel Osteen? Well, if you care to, why not? I figure he’s no worse or better than the other guys that choose to speak.

Still, we might do well to remember what Elijah came to understand. God generally speaks in a still, small voice.

Anything beyond that might just be noise.

PS – If you saw this as some type of attack against “professional ministers”, you are likely one of the many who are mindlessly enamored with said individuals.

AND, you missed the point of this post…entirely!