Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A Congressional Warning for the Church

Was it just me, or did most of the people in attendance at President Obama's speech on Tuesday night look like they'd rather have been ANYWHERE except for there? When the cameras panned the crowd, the congressional leaders looked like they were either asleep, mad, uninterested, or all of the above. And then there were the half-hearted standing ovations. Except for Speaker Pelosi who seemed to be a little too excited at times, no one really seemed too enthusiastic about those either. Every year when our president gives his annual speech before Congress, I find myself really disturbed by the behavior of our congressional leaders...maybe because it reminds me so much of the church.

I'm not so much talking about the asleep, mad, uninterested, and unenthusiastic part...although you should see the view from the front that I have on Sunday mornings! What actually bothers me about the behavior of our congressional leaders is their lack of unity at this event. Standing ovations (or any ovations at all) are totally dependent upon which party the President represents. Last night, the Democrats were up on their feet several times, and the Republicans sat there like a bunch of grumpy old men (with some grumpy old women sprinkled in). What happens in that room each year represents the political divide in our country, and it reminds me of the lack of unity present in our churches today.

From the Psalms to the Epistles, the Bible makes it clear that followers of Christ are to live in unity:

Psalm 133:1-3
Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! For there the Lord has commanded the blessing, life forevermore.

Romans 15:5-6

Live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Could it be any clearer? Regardless of our differences, we are to live in harmony with one another. Period. That means that our personality differences, our economic differences, our racial differences, and even our doctrinal differences are to be trumped by our love for one another. There is absolutely no biblically justifiable reason why we should not love one another.

Let us heed the warning our congressional leaders inadvertently sent us on Tuesday night by their juvenile and foolish behavior. May we - the church - stop acting like them and start loving one another regardless of our differences.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Would You Be Willing to Sacrifice That?

I would love to be able to blog more often. I really enjoy writing, and I enjoy the conversation that it provides (both through the blog and through personal contact). However, I'm usually consumed with writing on a weekly basis. Between writing a weekly sermon, writing for the weekly Men's Fraternity, and working with the elders on amending the church's constitution, my writing "well" is usually dry by the end of each week. However, I'm not preaching for the next two weeks (thanks, Jesse!), so I hope to have some time over these next two weeks to allow you to witness something with me that I think is quite incredible.

My brother-in-law (Michelle's brother, Michael) is set this week to donate one of his kidneys to his father-in-law (his wife's dad, Howie). Howie has already received a donated kidney several years ago, but it's been slowly failing over the past couple of years. If he doesn't receive a healthy kidney soon, he will die. Howie's two children were tested to see if they were a match. His son is not, and his daughter (Michael's wife, Heidi) is, but she had some complications during her latest pregnancy that eliminated her from being a donor. On a whim, Michael decided to get tested, and amazingly, it was discovered that he's a match.

I don't know the process that Michael went through internally that led to his decision to offer his kidney to Howie, but I'm sure it was a struggle. Last night, Michelle and I talked about who we would be willing to give a kidney to, and both of us decided that it was a no-brainer that we would be willing to give one to one another or to one of our children. However, we both let out a nervous laugh when we considered the prospect of giving a kidney to one of our in-laws! We love our in-laws, but we both decided that it would be a tough decision on whether or not to give a kidney to one of them. Simply put, the fact that Michael is willing to go through the excruciating pain and is willing to deal with the on-going health risks of living with one kidney is pretty amazing.

Michael has been following Christ for about three years, so I'm sure that his relationship with the Lord factored in to his decision. I wonder if I would be willing to obey the Lord if He asked me to give a kidney to my father-in-law. I would certainly hope so, but I can honestly say that it would be a hard decision to make.

The transplant was supposed to take place today, but the doctors have decided to postpone it until tomorrow or Thursday. On Saturday, I'm flying out to Connecticut to be with Michael, Heidi, and their three kids. I figure if Michael can sacrifice a kidney, I can sacrifice a week of my time to serve his family while he's recovering.

Please pray for Michael and Howie. Pray for a safe transplant to take place, and pray that both men will recover without complications. The donor usually has a rougher road to recovery, so please pray especially for Michael. Also, pray for me, that I would be a blessing and a true help to Michael's family while I'm there.

Check back often over the next two weeks as I hope to share more about this incredible act of generosity and sacrifice.