Sandusky: One of Us

Jerry Sandusky

Monster. Pedophile. Deviant.

These are the words that are used to describe Jerry Sandusky after allegations of his sexually lewd behavior surfaced. Truly, this story, if corroborated, is troubling on so many levels.

And first let me say, that my heart and prayers go out to all of the children, their parents, their future wives and their future kids.

If the allegations are true (even Penn State’s acting president called them ‘victims’ not ‘alleged victims’) then the hatred and vitriol that Sandusky faces seems justified. Perhaps the monikers of ‘monster, pedophile & deviant’ are deserved.

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Steve Jobs: My Thoughts

Okay, I admit. I’m a fanboy.

Steve Jobs (Credit: apple.com)

I’m writing this post on a MacBook Pro and will read it later on my iPhone. Steve Jobs and I have had a “relationship” for nearly 10 years, despite the fact that he probably doesn’t know who I am. (Although, come to think of it, he does have my credit card information…)

I’d known about Jobs’ health issues for many years: pancreatic cancer in 2004, leave of absence and liver transplant in 2009, leave of absence and resignation in 2011. His death was something that I was not only anticipating, but also expecting. When Steve Jobs died on October 5th, it shouldn’t have surprised anyone.

And yet it surprised everyone.

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My Last Blog Post Ever

It’s the end of the world as we know it… and I feel fine.

As you may have already heard, Harold Camping has been getting his small army of volunteers to spread the word that the world is going to end tomorrow, 5/21/2011, at 6am. So, naturally, this will be could be probably won’t be my last blog post ever.

My first reaction is to dismiss this. In fact someone first mentioned something back in November when they heard an ad on Star 99.1. And I didn’t think about it again until I heard it on ESPN radio, where they were mocking the guy about a month ago. I didn’t think about it much because I feel like the more that we pay attention to these things, the more they don’t go away.

But then, somehow, it’s hit the mainstream media. It’s on about every news outlet. Even the CDC released a tongue-in-cheek Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse primer just 4 days ago.

So, if CNN is talking about it, then I perhaps my mentioning it in my blog won’t make a remarkable difference in the amount of attention that this is getting.

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Cashing In a Confrontation

Recently, I preached on gossip. The 2-part sermon series can be found here and here.

One of the issues that arose was How do you approach someone about an issue without appearing judgmental? Recently, I also had a conversation with someone (actually I was present during a conversation that my wise wife* was having) who was talking about confronting someone with a character issue.

* It always bothered me that people always introduce their wives in public forums as ‘beautiful wife’. It bothered me for a couple of reasons. Is she that insecure that she needs public displays of compliments? Are we that unobservant as an audience that we wouldn’t have noticed until you mentioned it? But the real reason that it bothered me is because it reinforces the subtle and sinister stereotype that a woman’s worth is only wrapped up in her beauty. (I was this close to blogging on the obsession with Princess Kate). I know, I’m strange, but this is how I think.

Her concern, and really the concern of most people in these situations, was Is this really the loving thing to do? What if they don’t receive it well? Will it do more harm than help? Again, my sage spouse (who also happens to be ravishingly beautiful… =D) brought up most of the good points. I only added one thing that I wanted to share with my you, my reader readers.

You have to think of a confrontation as a transaction. It is a transfer of funds. But the currency isn’t bills or coins, but love and acceptance. Basically, when you have to speak truth into someone’s life, you are cashing in whatever love and acceptance that you have build up with that person previously. And if you have enough currency, then they will receive what you have to say.

But, if you don’t have enough currency with them, if they haven’t felt enough love and acceptance built up in the relationship, then they will probably reject what you have to say, regardless of its truth. So, one of the implications of this is that we should be conscious of the currency we are building up with people. Because if you don’t invest in a relationship and wait until you need to confront someone, it’s already too late. Very rarely will that conversation end up in a good place. “Who are you to tell me that?” “You don’t even know me…”

When confrontations occur, so much of the focus is on what is said and how it’s stated. And rightfully so. But don’t forget about the currency of the relationship.

Osama Reflections

Here are my reflections on the news of Osama Bin Laden’s death.

Relief – Relief that the visionary figurehead of countless terrorists throughout the world won’t be able to proliferate his message of hate and violence.

• Extreme Disgust – Once I jumped on facebook, I saw post after post celebrating the death of OBL. Some, like the Daily News (5/2 cover) used the phrase, “Rot in Hell.” No matter how evil this man was, the thought of relishing over someone’s life being snuffed out, let alone his eternal damnation, was just over the line for me. A quote from DA Carson is helpful here:

He is an evil man, and he must be stopped, but he is a man, and we should take no pleasure in destroying him. Vengeance is the Lord’s alone.

Do not offer the alternative, “Should we weep for Osama bin Laden or hold him to account for his genocide and prevent him from carrying out his violent intentions?”

The right answer is yes.

~ Love in Hard Places (Crossway, 2002), 143.

• Pride – As details emerged about the actual raid, I became extremely proud of our armed forces. As my thoughts turned to my brother-in-law serving a tour in Afghanistan with the Marines right now, I was once again reminded of the value that our brothers and sisters in arms provide. We do need them on that wall.

• Vindication – I lost one of my best friends in 9/11. And I can’t help but feel a bit of vindication for Andy’s life being taken. I took comfort that Bin Laden won’t be able to take any more lives like he did Andy’s.

• Faith – 9 days ago we were all thinking about Easter and the theories of the Resurrection. Here you have a visionary and controversial leader that was killed. And in the three days since his death, there hasn’t been any murmurs from Al Qaeda that Osama is still alive or that he has been raised from the dead. Can you imagine what it would take to propagate a lie that Osama was resurrected? How much coordination would it take? And if you only had 3 days to do it? Now, how plausible is it that the helpless, hapless disciples were able to hatch the greatest scam in the history of mankind in only 3 days? Makes you think that perhaps what these disciples believed was actually true.

Church Confusion

There are plenty of things that make the job of a pastor difficult*. These are well documented. But one of the difficulties is confusion.

* I love my job.

Pastors are called to build their church. Not the dozen churches in his town. Not the hundred churches in the surrounding towns. Not the thousands of churches within driving distance from his church. Just his church.

But pastors are also called to build the Church. The universal Church made up of all believers, all places, all time. So, he is called to build up the dozen churches in his town and the hundred churches in the surrounding towns… and the thousands of churches within driving distance. Not just his church.

Just his church. And not just his church.

Confusing, eh?

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Water You Talking About?

Today is Blog Action Day 2010. And bloggers everywhere are joining in to bring awareness of the plight of so many across the globe.

Our church has teamed up with charity: water in 2009 and 2010 to raise over $13,000 to bring clean water to the nearly 1 billion people that are without access to it.

More recently, I gave up my birthday to raise money awareness both for charity: water (through One Day’s Wages). I was able to raise $1,660. [I’m glad, because I never got that much on my birthday!]

For your enjoyment, here are a few facts that you might not have known, regarding the problem of water in the world, from change.org.

Water is everywhere, right? Actually, for such a plentiful resource, clean water is surprisingly scarce. Less than 1% of all fresh water is readily accessible for direct human use, representing only 0.007% of all water on earth. Bet you didn’t know that. Check out five more clean water facts and find out what else you didn’t know:

1. Unsafe drinking water and lack of sanitation kills more people every year than all forms of violence, including war. Unclean drinking water can incubate some pretty scary diseases, like E. coli, salmonella, cholera and hepatitis A. Given that bouquet of bacteria, it’s no surprise that water, or rather lack thereof, causes 42,000 deaths each week.

2. More people have access to a cell phone than to a toilet. Today, 2.5 billion people lack access to toilets. This means that sewage spills into rivers and streams, contaminating drinking water and causing disease.

3. Every day, women and children in Africa walk a combined total of 109 million hours to get water. They do this while carrying cisterns weighing around 40 pounds when filled in order to gather water that, in many cases, is still polluted. Aside from putting a great deal of strain on their bodies, walking such long distances keeps children out of school and women away from other endeavors that can help improve the quality of life in their communities.

4. It takes 6.3 gallons of water to produce just one hamburger. That 6.3 gallons covers everything from watering the wheat for the bun and providing water for the cow to cooking the patty and baking the bun. And that’s just one meal! It would take over 1.8 billion gallons of water to make just one hamburger for every person in the United States.

5. The average American uses 159 gallons of water every day – more than 15 times the average person in the developing world. From showering and washing our hands to watering our lawns and washing our cars, Americans use a lot of water. To put things into perspective, the average five-minute shower will use about 10 gallons of water. Now imagine using just 10 gallons to bathe, wash your clothes, cook your meals and quench your thirst.

Want more info? Our friends at Water.org just put together a handy resource guide for Blog Action Day 2010 bloggers where you can learn even more about water access in the developing world.

While these facts may be grim, there is hope for real solutions as more and more people around the world are waking up to the clean water crisis. Earlier this year, the UN declared access to clean water a human right and groups like Water.org and charity: water continue to work tirelessly to bring water access to the developing world. Take a moment to register your blog and grab an action widget, and get ready for an amazing day of blog activism.

So, blog away and raise awareness.

A Miner Perspective

On ss-101012-chilean-mine-rescue-02.grid-9x2August 5, a mine shaft in Chile caved in, trapping 33 miners almost 1000 feet underground*. Yesterday, after 69 days, they began rescuing the 33 miners one-by-one. The magnitude of the effort to save them cannot be understated. The story can be followed here.

* That’s about the distance from the Empire State Building Observation Deck to the ground.

The weeks following today’s rescue will be filled with a mixture of elation, relief, rest and gratitude. I imagine it will be days, if not weeks, before any of the miner’s lives get back to any semblance of normal. In fact, one of the miners, only 19 years old, has written a letter stating that he believed God had a purpose for him to be down there and his life will not be the same afterward.

However, imagine, if you would, that many days from now, one of the miners decides that he actually prefers his life in the mine shelter and finds a way to climb back down the mine shaft and plans to live the rest of his life down there. At first, there would be curiosity and probably ridicule. However, eventually, there might even be outrage over the gargantuan effort it took just to extract him from that very shelter in the first place. Eventually, however, I think sadness would be the prevailing sentiment that would rule the day. How could this man, who was rescued from that prison, still desire to live in it?

It is with the same ridicule, outrage and sadness that we must view ourselves when followers of Christ return to a life of sin. You see, we have been rescued from a pit of darkness from which we could not rescue ourselves. However this pit was not just 1000 ft deep. And we were not just at risk of death. And it wasn’t just 69 days. The pit we were trapped in is our sins… and it rendered us spiritually dead.

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins.
~Ephesians 2:1

Having been rescued from that pit of death and raised to life, through Christ, how could we return to a life of sin? God rescued us by climbing into the pit and saving us. And the new life that we have been given is to be lived for him… for his glory.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
~ Galatians 5:1

So, remember, you have been set free by a God who rescued you and who died in your stead. He did it to rescue from the pit of death called sin and he also did it to give you a new abundant and fulfilled life. So, live with a new purpose and new perspective. And stop climbing down the mineshaft again.

I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
~John 10:10

A Kurt Response

I don’t really watch too much TV. I’ve never watched American Idol. Never watched Survivor. And I’ve never watched Dancing With the Stars.

However, one of the compelling reasons to watch DWTS (if I were to watch it) is to see former Sports stars dancing. This season, Kurt Warner, former QB of the NY Giants (what? he played for other teams, too?) who has been to 3 SuperBowls and won 1 (Sure makes it seem like it was with the Giants, huh?) is on the show.

Kurt Warner has an amazing story. [Both worth clicks!] But what makes it even more amazing is the way that his faith has really carried him through this amazing LifeStory. Here is just one example: a game that they play when the Warner family goes out to eat. Faith in action!

Well, apparently, he has received some criticism from Christians about his decision to do DWTS. Well, apparently, he’s written a letter that has circulated around the tubes of the interweb that let us read, in his words, the reason for doing DWTS. Enjoy!

Hey y’all, hope this letter finds you well.  Life has me crazy busy and I miss having the opportunity to connect with all of you.  But, I find myself with a little extra time on a flight to STL for a couple events & wanted to use a little of it to share with you something that God has placed on my heart recently.
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9/11 Reflections

WTC

This is a revised repost of my 2004 post about my reflections on 9/11. Read and reflect.

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Like It Was Yesterday

With today being 9.11, I thought it would be an appropriate time to chronicle my experience on that dreadful day. I’ve talked about it before, but I’ve never written it down with words. And, honestly, I don’t want to forget.

The earliest memory I have of that day is fighting with my now-wife-but-at-that-time girlfriend (Theresa). We both don’t remember what we fought about, but we both remember her going to work in Brooklyn in a sour mood. I was set to leave the house in the morning to go meet Carol Chun to go engagement ring shopping. As I was leaving the house (I already had my shoes on), I woke my computer from sleep to see if I had any AIM messages waiting for me. Usually at that time, I don’t. And usually, I don’t check. However, that day, I did have a message. It was from Jonathan McCurley.

“Is it true? What’s happening?”

Of course, I had no idea what he was talking about. After I asked him, he told me that a plane had flown into the World Trade Center. I turned the TV on and saw the burning buildings. It was after 9:00am.

I had a few friends that worked on “Wall Street.” I tried to get in touch with them, but couldn’t because “all circuits are busy”. I couldn’t get in touch with Theresa either. With her commute going through Manhattan to Brooklyn, I was concerned about her. Through my AIM, I was able to talk to Jeannie An, whose calls to Theresa were going through. We communicated through Jeannie for most of the day. Eventually, I called Gene at Columbia. This was probably around 2pm. He told me that all Bethany Wall Streeters were accounted for except for Andy. (9/11 is also Gene’s Birthday)

At this point, I did not consider death an option for Andy. Partly because of naïve faith and partly because I knew that the damage was central to the WTC. Then, the call from Michele came.

It was during that conversation that she told me that Andy didn’t work around the WTC, he worked in the WTC. I knew he had recently taken a new job, but I hadn’t realized yet that his office was in the North Tower.* Naivete and ignorance were quickly replaced with panic and dread.

*Andy didn’t need to get into work until 9am. The first plane that hit the North Tower hit at 8:46am. I always thought how ‘fortunate’ it was that the plane didn’t hit after 9am, because the amount of people in the building would have been significantly more. But, why, you wonder, was Andy in the building at 8:46? Because the week prior, he decided to start going into work early in order to work out.

At the time, I wouldn’t say Andy was my best friend, but he was my closest. I spoke with Andy over IM or on the phone almost every day. He was there on my blind date with Theresa. He gave me computer advice, worship advice, relationship advice. And now he was missing.

Later that evening, around 7:00pm, I had an A-team (Administrative Team) meeting at my apartment to plan for the Intown Open House that Saturday. We spent the next 3-4 hours planning our Open House for the college students. I was fully engaged in our conversations and honestly, quite impressed at my poise and composure when one of my best friends was still missing.

However, at around 10pm, we were discussing trivia questions for the Open House. I was sitting at the computer and looking at the TV with the scenes of the plane running into the tower over and over. [You remember how many times that happened that day? Some said that it was the most photographed event in history.] From where I was sitting, in order to focus on the events on the TV, I had to gaze past the table where we were discussing our Open House. Poetically, I realized that summed up what I was feeling in my heart. I could no longer focus on the things down here. I had to focus on what was going on up there. I could not stay in Atlanta. I had to be up to NJ.

The meeting ended and I was finally able to reach Theresa by phone. I didn’t trust my decision making myself anymore, because I knew I wasn’t thinking straight. She said that if I need to come up, then I need to come.

The next morning, Wednesday, I packed up my car to head up to NJ. It was about 11am when I turned the key to my ignition. My battery was dead. I knew I had about at least a 12 hour drive to NJ (Google Maps has it at 15hours). I was starting to feel anxiety if my drive got pushed back too late. I called my friend, Fuhlim drive me to the shop, where I got a new battery. As I was about to leave, Fuhlim offered to drive me up to NJ in his car. Perhaps he didn’t trust the way I looked or didn’t trust me driving in my car. Either way, we left around 2pm and didn’t arrive until probably after 5am Thursday morning (we got rerouted through West Virginia around the DC area).

I spent the next two days traveling to NY and NJ hospitals exploring any feasible option that Andy made it out of there alive, there simply weren’t many unidentified bodies. Sadly, there weren’t many remains that were found.

That Saturday, I ended up leading a practice of a praise team that Andy was leading. It wasn’t until that morning that I turned the corner and came to grips that I wasn’t going to see Andy alive ever again. I’ve always said that the hardest thing about his death was that it wasn’t a sudden realization, but it was a slowly diminishing hope. Basically, I had to make my own personal decision that Andy was dead. Some decided before me and some decided after me. But when I decided, I decided alone.

The next day, Sunday, I was asked to lead praise in Andy’s stead for Bethany EWM. It was the hardest worship service I’ve ever experienced in my life. Earlier that morning, in front of 250 youth group students (for whom Andy was a teacher), I tried to explain the unexplainable, to comfort the uncomfortable and encourage the faith of the unencourageable.

This is the gist of what I said:

During this past week, I prayed and prayed that the numerous rescue workers spending countless hours sifting through the rubble would find Andy. I prayed that Andy would be saved and rescued and found alive. And that’s when I realized that Andy was found. He was found underneath a heap of rubble that crushed him to the point of death. But, this rubble was far more widespread than the WTC. You see, Andy was crushed underneath the weight of the heap of his sin. But, God, the tireless rescue worker did not sleep, nor tire in his pursuit of Andy. And God saved him and rescued him and made him alive. We are under a heap of sin as well. Do you believe that God can rescue you from the weight of your sin?

In times like this we are tempted to find the tallest building still standing and climb to the top and shake our fist at God and curse God. After all, I can’t comprehend how a good God would allow this to happen. How can a just God allow such injustice? In fact, these questions cause many to doubt God’s goodness and justice. What we are essentially saying is that because it doesn’t make sense to me, I can’t believe it. In other words, God must make sense to me. However, the biggest injustice in the history of the world is Christ dying a sinner’s death–my death–when he was himself sinless. If we can readily accept the grace that is so incomprehensible to us, we cannot in the same breath reject the seeming injustice that we don’t understand.

These are lessons that still teach me today and every year on this day, I am reminded of them.

Do you know what the real tragedy is?

Not Andy. Not Andy at all.

When I was driving to hospitals near Bayonne, I remember seeing the great billow of smoke rising from Downtown NY. Crossing over that bridge, I said that I hope that the rescue workers save all the non-Christians first. Pull them out first even if the Christians have to die, even if Andy has to die. Why? Because the Christians have a hope of glory. The real tragedy is all the people that rejected Christ that died in that building that day that never got another chance.