Friday, October 21, 2011

Important Things

What is important to you?  Can you name them?  Starting with the least important, what are they?  It probably would take awhile to come up with the list if you had to begin with those that are least important.
What if you had to narrow it down to the top 5?  Try it.  Count them off on the fingers of one hand.  The top 5 most important things in life.  I have to say...don't give me the Sunday School answer.  Be honest, after all, God knows what they are; you can't fool him.

I'm telling you, this is harder than it sounds.  I had a hard time figuring out my top 5!  There were several items that didn't make it that should have.  I suspect that even my stated top 5 may not really be my top 5.  Why do I say that?  Because as a friend once stated, our powers of self-delusion are strong.  I easily delude myself.

What would it take for me to instantaneously determine what was really important to me?  What would happen if suddenly I knew that I only had one hour to live?  60 minutes.  3,600 seconds.  Tick-tock.  Tick-tock.  The seconds are ticking away.  59 minutes left.  Then 58.  Soon I'm down to 50.  In the time it takes to get a shower, get dressed and get out the life is over.  I doubt very seriously that I would continue to watch the latest episode of Law and Order SVU or even my favorite football team in the playoffs.  The yard work would stop.  The internet surfing would be really unimportant (though I could see me hastily typing a goodbye to all my face book friends).  I doubt anyone at the end of their lives ever regretted not watching more TV or not arguing with their spouse more.

What would you do in your last few minutes?  What ever you would do is probably really important...the unfortunate truth is that you probably don't give those enough focus now.  I would guess that most of us would focus on one, our relationship with God, and two, our family and closest friends.  The question is, is that where our priority is this minute?  I say that God is the most important part of my life, but do my actions bear that out?  Would those who know me best, agree with that?

Think about it.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

A Tribute to Karen Brown Ferguson and her son, Cole.

What do you say to someone who has just lost the love of their life?  What do you say when a child's life is tragically ended?  What words matter when a wife, son, brother, daughter, friend and mother are with us one minute and gone the next?  How can you make sense of this?  Don't feel bad for struggling to know how to react... we are with you in that!  Over the last week, as people responded from literally all over the U.S., we struggled with these very questions ourselves.

Jesus, in John 10:10 says this:  The thief comes only to kill and steal and destroy.  

I was convinced prior to the events of Monday, October 10, when my sister-in-law, Karen, and my nephew, Cole were taken from us of the truth of this statement.  I have seen the effects of the thief in my own family, my friends' families and in lives of people in our church.  I have witnessed the destruction of marriages, relationships, and careers.  I have seen hopes and dreams disappear like a cold glass of water in the middle of a drought.  All at the hand of the thief.  I have even preached about it.  I am convinced of the truth of this statement even more now.

Some would rather blame God.  Everything happens for a reason, they say.  God doesn't make mistakes.  As if it is preferable that somehow God had some purpose in mind for this tragedy.  I still say that God didn't do this.  Who did then?  The thief did.  He is known by other names: Satan, devil, accuser.  The trigger-man may have been someone who walked among us, for sure, but the thief was there, nonetheless.  He tempts and twists and plants seeds of hurt and blame and condemnation that take years to cultivate and grow.  And just like James says, when sin is fully grown, it gives birth to death (James 1:15).

By the way, I do think everything happens for a reason.  That reason is called free will.  The thief knows that.  And he uses it against God and against us.  I think one day that we will understand the importance of free will to the nature of God.  I believe at the very least, it is the only way love as a concept and as a reality can truly exist.  God has to allow free will for me to have the opportunity to respond to him in love.  Free will has to exist for you to love God in return for the love he has shown you.  God wants us to choose to love him because he knows that is the best thing for us!  His love is best!  David said it this way:  your love is better than life!

Here is where we pay tribute to Karen and Cole.  They had already chosen to love God back.  Years ago.  The thief did alot of damage.  He hurt them and he hurt our family.  He cut us deep.  There are scars that will forever be visible.  But he didn't destroy us.  He may have taken their physical lives, but he couldn't touch their souls.  Those belong to God.  He may have watched their last physical breath leave their bodies, but Jesus had already guaranteed their eternity.  You see, they had free will also.  And their exercise of free will was to honor God with their lives.  Hope, faith, commitment, and love was the path they chose.  Praise God for that!  Mourn their passing, but know without a doubt that the thief was limited in what he could do.  We will never forget their examples.  Examples of hope, faith, commitment and love.

God loves you, too.  Do you love him back?  He will allow you to choose.  He will never force you to choose HIM over the world.  He isn't that kind of God.  I thank him for the examples they lived out.  And I believe we will see them again.

Thank you, Karen for being the mother, wife, sister, daughter and friend that this world needed to see.  Thank you, Cole for being such a godly young man, when it must have been so hard to take what life 'dealt' you.  You did so, oh so courageously.

We love you and miss you already.