Seasonal Woes

Today, I read this fascinating article that analyzed which cities in America were the “saddest.” The most interesting aspect of the study was this: some of the most idyllic locations were the most depressed. Despite lots of good weather and sunshine, not to mention the occasional party locale, certain places boasted high rates of suicide, unemployment, and use of antidepressants.

What does all this have to do with Advent? It’s simple really: we long for paradise. We move places that seem to promise happiness because there are jobs or beaches or mountains or beer or whatever. And yet, when the casino lights fade, we find ourselves alone. Broken. Empty.

And then Christmas comes. And for many, this only accentuates the woes. The loneliness seems lonelier. The brokenness seems even more broken.

Yet, hope remains.

Then the seventh angel sounded; and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever.” And the twenty-four elders, who sit on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying, “We give You thanks, O Lord God, the Almighty, who are and who were, because You have taken Your great power and have begun to reign. And the nations were enraged, and Your wrath came, and the time came for the dead to be judged, and the time to reward Your bond-servants the prophets and the saints and those who fear Your name, the small and the great, and to destroy those who destroy the earth. And the temple of God which is in heaven was opened; and the ark of His covenant appeared in His temple, and there were flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder and an earthquake and a great hailstorm. – Revelation 11:14-19

If we believe that Christ came in the flesh; that He was born in Bethlehem; that He lived and fellowshipped with others; that He died on the Cross and ultimately rose again… well, then a passage like the one above is very good news.

We won’t ever find paradise in a place here on earth. We have to seek God, and then an amazing thing happens: every place has the potential to be a little piece of paradise. Here. Now.

That’s good news indeed. And a welcome thought from someone who lives in the most depressed, and yet most sunshine-filled state, in the country.

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Constructive Criticism

If you do not know the cost then you do not have a plan that will come to fruition. – Dr. Clark, Liberty University 2010

Its hard for me to digest the comment above. I don’t doubt the validity of it. And yet, it frustrates me to have a vision so simplified. To clarify, Dr. Clark was commenting on the fact that I have no idea how much money will be needed to make a Bible school a reality. I realize the dilemma this presents, which is why I can’t deny his assessment. Still…something about it sticks in my craw.

A cabin on Little Marco Island that I think would be a perfect start.

I guess much of my problem is an issue of starting. Oh I’ve taken a few steps towards bringing Emerald Haven to life (like this website for instance). I’ve researched properties that meet the vision of the school that God has given me (with flexibility in that search since that vision is more about setting than location). I’ve even put together an outline trying to map out the purpose behind the school (although the first draft is in need of revision). When it boils down to it though, there is little I can do in accurately assessing the “cost.”

I’ve never had a head for numbers, and I doubt God forgot that when He placed this fire inside me. Which leads me to a couple of thoughts:

1) God is going to miraculously give me a business mindset. Somewhere buried in the recesses of my brain is the knowledge needed to plan this thing out to the last detail, and God is getting ready to flip that DNA switch at any moment.

2) Someone else is needed for this project. While eventually a full staff will be needed, what I’m talking about is a right now need. Someone who doesn’t see numbers a fog blocking the way is being prepared to come alongside me and help get this mission started.

3) God doesn’t care so much about the numbers at present. He is simply waiting for me to remember who is in control.

If I were a betting man, I’d put money on number 3.

It reminds me of something from my youth. Our youth group held a car wash in order to raise money to go to Colorado. The previous year, we had gone to Ravencrest’s summer camp by the grace of God (since He had provided the funds through various donors) but in our eagerness we wanted to help out this time around. It rained the entire day, and several of our clients were members of our group. Ultimately, we made less than we spent I think. But rather than feel dejected, there was a relief to it. Our pastor asked us, “are you ready to let God do this? Or do we need another car wash?” Such a simple sentiment, but it lifted the burden from us (or at least from me, I can’t vouch for the other members of our group) and God provided us with all that we needed to take 40 beach kids to the Rockies. It’s a lesson I have often ignored, but never forgotten.

Really, this is where I think I’m at. Whether or not anything ever comes of this effort, it’s not about me and it’s was never meant to be. God will bring Himself glory when and where He chooses. If it’s through Emerald Haven, then praise His name. And if it’s not, then I’ll praise all the same.

Without a doubt, to God be the glory.

Is Biblical Illiteracy really the Church's Dirty Little Secret?

San Antonio, Texas, Pastor Randy Frazee says a recent study revealing how little Christians know about their own faith, let alone other faiths, is good news.

"It’s a good wake-up call for us. It brings to light one of the challenges for the contemporary Christian church," the senior minister of Oak Hills Church explained…

You can read more about Pastor Frazee’s response to the survey I posted about previously by going here.

But I need to state that I disagree with him. Perhaps he and I would fuss over word choice, but I think the recent survey showing that Christians know little about the Bible and the God who inspired it is a very bad thing. This isn’t a contemporary problem either. This is the very thing Luther and Tyndale tried to overcome. But clearly, the problem remains.

I also don’t think its any secret that Christians in America know little about their faith. It’s probably a worldwide epidemic, but I’m only familiar with the American strain. It’s embarrassing and heartbreaking, but not a secret.

This, of course, brings me back to opening a Bible school. It’s my hope to one day open a Bible school on the Emerald Coast of Florida, to serve as a place where laymen and women can devote themselves to a one year program of study that presents them with the Bible and encourages them to draw close to God.

I think we have to start with the basics, namely, Jesus the Christ. I think our Lord’s words provide a special clue to this:

And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:18-20)

Its important to note that He didn’t say “All authority has been given to My Words (or the Bible or the Scriptures or any other variant therein).” Authority has been given to Jesus in heaven and on earth, and without that authority the Bible is just another book. Learning about the Bible without encountering God is hollow. That’s the crux of a Bible school: Encountering God through His Word.

Is there really anything else?