Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Youth Pastor Indicted. . . Good Intentions and Poor Judgment. . .

I'm sure the campfire would burn long into the night if it was surrounded by youth workers sharing stories of the risky, dangerous, and downright stupid things they had done over the years. . . all in the name of ministry. I know I could keep a campfire burning for days with the litany of stories recounting my own stupidity. There were those famous electric chairs, snow-tubes tied to the rear bumper of my car, and a whole lot more. And if I had stayed in local church ministry rather than starting CPYU back in 1991, my list of stuff would be even longer. Not only that, it might have caught up to me as a shift has been made into a more dangerous and litigious culture.

The big youth ministry story here in our central Pennsylvania world is one that features a grand jury indictment handed down last Friday against the Glad Tidings Assembly of God Church  in nearby Middletown, and 28-year-old youth pastor Andrew Jordan, who's been charged with false imprisonment and simple assault.

In a nutshell, here's what happened:

Monday, July 30, 2012

Age, Arthritis, and Making a Difference. . .

I've come to the conclusion that if we aren't thinking theologically, we're missing out on some valuable lessons, some much-needed perspective, and a deep sense of relief. Some people say that our calling is to view all of life through the lens of a biblical world and life view. I agree. Today, on the anniversary of the day God chose before all eternity for me to be born (July 30, 1956) and the anniversary of the day I went over my handlebars and was changed in so many ways (July 30, 2010), I'm searching for perspective.

Twenty-six years ago today my dad said something to me that has stuck with me ever since: "I can't believe I have a 30-year-old son!" Today, he's saying the same sentence with the 30. It's now 56. With those words, my dad made me aware of the fact that life does not go on forever. Time marches on. We get sick. We get hurt. We age. Eventually, we die. I needed to hear those word then. In my mind, I was still ageless, invulnerable, and seemingly without a care in the world. I'm now two-years older than my dad was when he said those words. . . and time has flown.

Once more, I was reminded of this when I picked up the paper today to read an article on "Keeping old parts working." Twenty-six years ago I would have turned past that article without giving it a thought. Today, the arthritis in my joints (due, I'm told, to the wear and tear of enjoying a lifetime of work and play and shared by anyone over the age of 50!) made me pause, hoping to find some helpful pointers that might remedy some of the wear and tear I feel in my body. 

Hey. . . overall I feel great! But as I ponder another anniversary in light of the biblical story, I know that the sin of humankind (all of us) has resulted in aches, pains, aging, and physical death. But I also know that through Christ I have hope. . . hope in this life as I'm carried through aches, pains, aging, and physical death. . . and hope for that day when all things (yes, even me) are made new. What a relief! Until then, I'm a part of a living church that is called to live out the redeeming love of Christ through our redemptive presence in this broken world.

On this day of being reminded of where I am, why I am here, and where I am going, I want to invite you all to celebrate God's redeeming presence in your life by reaching out and exercising redemptive presence in the life of one needy person who shares my birthday today. I would like to invite you to make a difference in the life of one child through Compassion child sponsorship. To learn more about sponsoring a child who's birthday is today, simply click on the Compassion banner below. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Penn State, The NCAA, And Us. . . Some Thoughts. . .

Rewind one year. Put yourself back in that time and place. Now that you’re there, think about college sports, the NCAA, Penn State football, Joe Paterno, and the issue of child sexual abuse. Now, fast-forward 12 months to today. Who would have imagined? Who could’ve imagined? Today, we’re forced to think more deeply (or at least we should be) to think about how the good thing of sport that we should enjoy with playfulness has become an ultimate thing. . . an idol even. Today, the NCAA and its leadership is seen as either hero or goat. The Penn State football machine is breaking down.  Joe Paterno has been dead for six months. . . and was disgraced both before and after his passing. Finally. . . and this is a good thing. . . the issue of child sexual abuse (perpetrators and victims) is on our radar like never before. Once again, Bob Dylan was right. The times they are a changin’.

The response to the latest developments in this ongoing story were immediate and strong. The NCAA held their press conference yesterday morning to announce that they had issued sanctions. . . and the sanctions were strong. The responses to those sanctions – both positive and negative – have been even stronger.  I’ve read responses that span the spectrum from “serves Penn State right” to “the NCAA can rot in hell.” As a Christian, I realize that my response needs to be carefully crafted and articulated in ways that are thoughtful, theologically-informed, and culturally-aware.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Depth Needed: Responding to A Theater Shooting, Lady Gaga, and Everything Else Wrong With the World

"Satan Afflicting Job" by William Blake
I don't think there are easy answers, but that doesn't mean there aren't answers. I've been thinking about that all week since our pastor, Michael Rogers, preached a challenging sermon on the first chapter of Job. Somehow in the midst of all the craziness, all the loss, and all the unexplainable heartache, Job was able to fall on the ground and worship God while saying, "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I shall return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord" (Job 1:21).

Brokenness and heartache are all around us. As we get older, life doesn't seem to get better. It seems to get harder. Sometimes we forget that there's a battle raging all around us. . . and even in us. In his sermon, Michael quoted one of my heroes of the faith, Abraham Kuyper, on this reality of spiritual warfare: “If once the curtain were pulled back, and the scene behind it came into view, it would expose to our spiritual vision a struggle so intense, so convulsive, sweeping away everything within its range, that the most fierce battle fought on earth would seem like mere child’s play by comparison.”

Pondering this reality can make us (and it should) especially sensitive to evidence of the battle that we experience, see, and hear in our daily comings and goings. A story that broke about Lady Gaga earlier this week is one example.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Bicycles, Tacks, a Crying 14-Year-Old, and Sportsmanship. . .

I often wonder if our culture's most revered golden calf is sport. Of course, you can build a case that money, sex and power are the most seductive idols we face, but even that trio combines to tarnish what sport can and should be. Consider overpaid and self-indulgent athletes and those who aspire to grow up to be just like them. With the Olympics just a few days away, maybe it's time to prepare ourselves to watch the games while making a conscious effort to discern how competitors, fans, and cultures alike engage with sport in ways that we should, and in ways that we shouldn't. Some sporting things I saw and heard last weekend reminded me of just how important this exercise is. 

On the upside - or an example of what sport should be - was Sunday's Stage 14 in the Tour de France. I've been watching this bike race for years and every year I become more fascinated at all that's involved in bicycle racing. The stamina and fearlessness of the athletes, the complexity of the strategy, and the drama in the race all combine to make it very, very interesting. Unless you've watched the Tour, it's easy to assume that the race is all about everyone trying to be the fastest to finish line. Not so. The teamwork and strategy is amazing. And even if you're not a fan of bike racing, watching on an HD TV affords views of some spectacular French scenery, architecture, and history. 

I was watching Sunday's Stage 14 when tires started to get punctured. The announcers began to wonder out loud about sabotage on the course and the possibility of tacks.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Tom, Katie, and Christian Celebrity. . .

We live in a day and age where our culture is the sea that plays host to a perfect storm of divergent systems that have come together to create a kind of idolatry that we might not even recognize. In fact, sometimes I think we’ve come to love getting tossed around in these waves. After all, we do have a sinister and powerful bent towards these things. It’s a perfect storm related to and promoting the pursuit and worship of celebrity. Why do you think we can't get away from all the "breaking news" about Tom and Katie? 

The explosion of media outlets has elevated the rich, famous, and those whose “15 minutes” has extended indefinitely to the forefront as our heroes and role models. YouTube and other social media encourage and allow those who worship celebrities to pursue and build their own audience. Excessive self-love – aka “Narcissism” – has moved from vice to virtue as high-profile celebrities more often than not selfishly embrace and promote themselves, thereby modeling for followers young and old alike a path we too often embrace. We value style and appearance rather than depth and character. And, in a day and age where we talk about ourselves as “brands” rather than persons. . . well, we go all out in marketing ourselves to build our “brand.” If you spend any time watching culture, you know these things (and more, sadly) to be true. 

But it’s not just happening “out there.” Let’s be honest, the same perfect storm is raging in our Christian culture. 

Monday, July 9, 2012

Profiling the Abuser. . . .

This headline caught my eye in yesterday's Lancaster Sunday News: "Profile of an abuser." The article was written by a local pastor, Steve Cornell, who is also a correspondent for the paper. Cornell says that in today's world, parents who entrust their kids to camp counselors, coaches, school teachers, youth workers and the like have a real dilemma, a dilemma he says can be answered by educating people about how shrewd and crafty abusers really are. I agree.

For me, the Jerry Sandusky trial is just the latest in my own journey since having my eyes opened to just how deceptive people with an agenda can be. Whether it's the serial abuser, the pedophile, or the adult who engages in emotional and/or sexual affairs with vulnerable young charges, well-crafted and carefully-maintained deception seems to be a common-thread among those who become masters at cultivating, grooming, and taking advantage of victims.