There are days that I'm fatigued. Every tragedy and crisis requires emotional energy. Bad news is a burden assumed by the head and heart. At some point, compassion fatigue sets in. We turn numb to violence, pain, and death.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims . . ." It is a pre-packaged catchphrase that rings hollow because we can't find words that really help. So what do we do when we're fatigued by bad news?
My congregation just launched a capital campaign. And we typically do a stewardship emphasis in November. Money and the church. It’s a sensitive topic. So why should a Christian give to their local church? How does a congregation talk about money?
The giving of a tithe or offering is revelatory. It says something about you. For the Christian, sacrificial giving is:
“The ship is safest when it is in port. But that’s not what ships were made for.”
There is a time to harbor and rest. And then there is a time to set sail and face the pounding surf. It is easier to dock at the port in a static state of comfort and ease. It's crushing when the compass points you to a white-capped field of landless horizon.
Sailing is perilous, and so is the Christian life. The Great Commission (Matt. 28:19-20) and Great Commandment (Matt. 22:37-39) set our rudder toward the tempest. Love takes us into open seas that require the sailor to be relentless and brave.
Are you suffering for a call God has placed on you? Has he pointed you in the direction of gale and gust?
Set your face to the wind.
For you know the harbor from which you come and the Captain who leads on. Hold fast to his promises. "Fear not." "I will never leave you." "I am with you always." He is our Refuge and Strength in times of trouble, our Harbor in the sea.
Rev. 1:17, 2:3
In the 20th century, most American citizens shared a Christian affiliation. It was assumed that your neighbors at least knew the basics of the Christian faith. In this context, any further questions of faith were referred to a professional - a pastor, priest, elder, or professor. There was little need for the average person to articulate, in their own words, the heart of their faith in Christ.
Not so in the 21st century. In our day, such articulation is critical. Missional movements have been founded on the rapid sharing of the Christian message along the relational lines of everyday people. For every St. Paul, there were thousands of Jewish and Gentile converts who shared the heart of their faith in Jesus of Nazareth.
Can everyday Christians respond to these questions?
"What do you believe?"
"Why does it matter?"
"Why is Jesus so important to you?"
In answering these questions, four skills are critical for Christians to speak their heart in an increasingly non-Christian context.
Today's parents of children and young teens are the first parents in human history whose kids have known smart phones and tablets from infancy. The iphone came out in June of 2007. It has completely changed the way we gather information, relate, and spend our time.
A big question is "When do we get our child a phone?" Having recently outfitted our 13-year-old, I'll share our approach. I recognize that some will think we're too strict and others will think we're too loose. This is not meant to be law. My hope is simply that it's useful as you consider your own circumstance, whether you're a tween, parent, grandparent, or guardian.
Serving Christ can be agonizing. Jesus said it himself, "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake . . ." (Matt. 5:10).
Especially for those working in called ministry positions, there is a weight. A burden. A cloud of pressure derived from spiritual forces under responsibility which has eternal consequences.
You've asked, "How much difference am I making? Should I go on? Should I give up? "
Here is some help from 19th century English preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon. The following is from his Lectures to My Students.
Although he also traveled by water, walking was the primary mode of transportation for Jesus of Nazareth. As a child, we know Jesus journeyed with his parents to Egypt. Outside of that, most of his life took place in a small territory in Palestine. His public ministry spanned a region no further than 100 miles.
I love these four words from John 9:1: "As he passed by . . ." A great many events in the gospels happened, “as he passed by,” along the way. On the road. In the marketplace. Out in the countryside. By the city gate. On the shoreline, by the water. In a home, at the dinner table. Very little of Jesus' ministry took place "at church," in the temple. Jesus’ ministry happened while he walked, “as he passed by.”
Speed is an ultimate asset in our culture. We have a lust for expediency. Orders from Amazon come faster. We eat fast food. Microchips in computers and phones get exponentially faster. (See Moore's Law.) We want to make money faster, retire faster, finish a degree faster, get projects done faster. Life is done in a rush. We get to the end of a day and it’s a blur. We think, “I did a lot today, but what did I do?”
My assumption is that you are hard-working and busy. You like to get things done. You feel good when tasks are accomplished. You take pride in your vocations. You are rarely accused of being lazy.
If this is accurate, you need to work on being unproductive.
My dear friend Mark was ordained into the pastoral ministry on Sunday in the Chicago area. As is the custom, the newly ordained pastor speaks the benediction at the end of the service. Just before that, Mark paused: "I'd like to share a few things."
He proceeded to speak words of love and thanks to family, mentors, and those gathered. He was sincere and heartfelt. And in front of the entire congregation, he cried.
I was watching 60 Minutes on Sunday night. (Yes, I'm an old man.) There was a segment on an upcoming documentary about Pope Francis. 60 Minutes interviewed the unique choice for this project, German “art house” director Wim Wenders.
Wenders is a lapsed Catholic. He’s known for his eclectic body of work which includes U2 music videos and “Buena Vista Social Club,” a documentary about a group of aging Cuban musicians. I was interested in Wenders' perception of the Pope, for he would not be enamored like a devout Catholic. Nor did he seem to bear the stinging criticism of an anti-religious secularist. He made two observations of Pope Francis that struck me.