Discovering Spiritual Truths & Celebrating God's Grace in the Every Day Happenings of Life.
What does it mean when buildings collapse?
This question has a harrowing relevance for today—seven days after the collapse of the Champlain Towers condominium in Surfside, Florida. 16 people now confirmed dead. 147 still missing. Families torn apart. Future plans obliterated. Lives destroyed by a terrible catastrophe. The stories and images being reported by the news are heartbreaking for everyone. Although families and rescue workers still cling to hope, that death toll will inevitably rise. More bad news lurks. Then further fallout as blame is cast, justice demanded, and heads start to roll. It is in the face of such shocking tragedies that the questions of ‘why’ arise. Why would God let this occur? Why didn’t He intervene? Why these innocent people? Why do bad things happen to good people?
Believe it or not, a strikingly similar event is referenced by Jesus in the 1st century, “… Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem?” (Luke 13:4). We don’t know anything more about the event Jesus alludes to. However, the people He spoke to know firsthand what He is talking about.
Strike Three! You're Out!
A story is told about a little league coach who pulled one of his young players aside and asked him, “Do you understand what cooperation is?” The boy nodded yes. Then the coach asked, “Do you understand that what matters is that we win together or lose together as a team?” The little boy again nodded yes. “So,” the coach continued, “when a strike is called or you’re out at first, you don’t argue or curse the umpire. Do you understand that?” Again, the little boy nodded. “Good,” said the coach. “Now go over there and explain it to your mother.”
It happens, doesn’t it? In the heat of the moment, when emotions are flying and tempers are hot, it’s tempting to sometimes lose your patience and just unleash on whoever is around you. And quite often, it doesn’t even matter what the issue is. Did you see this story on the news? A fist fight breaks out at a Kentucky championship T-ball game. Embarrassing. Yet this is hardly a once-in-a-blue-moon occurrence; and not something found only down there in those southern states. This past weekend, my family spent time watching my daughter’s recreational league softball team make their way through the year-end playoffs. In two separate games, against two different teams, we encountered obnoxious parents who were a bit too forcefully yelling at the girls on the field and screaming (even cursing) at the umpires. I remind you, this was a 10-year old recreational league for crying out loud! Yet at both games girls and parents were left in tears. At least one of them insisting she didn’t want to play anymore. Coaches left fuming. Umpires understandably offended and annoyed. Sadly, stories like this are much more common than you think. Coaches and parents raising fists, exchanging insults, and hurling threats because of severely misguided priorities. What is this world coming to? Such fools people are in the face of inconsequential things!
Far too often our social media news feeds highlight the shocking sins committed by a person for a reason so ridiculous it is hard to even fathom. It is silly the things that get us riled up as adults. Of course, you and I are just as guilty. It may not be a Little League baseball game for us, but what about when permanent marker shows up on the countertop or a new scratch appears on the car door? We’ve all blown the proverbial gasket and boiled over at relatively mundane and unimportant matters before. Oh, how many times God must just sit in the throne room of heaven shaking His head in repulsion at the misguided people He created? But back to our original illustration… the greatest tragedy is that the anger and resentment by over-the-top parents or coaches is when it is then reciprocated by the children. The rage of parents and overzealous coaches often filters down to the young athletes themselves. If the adults cannot control themselves, the likelihood of players following suit is inevitable. Soon young competitors are overstepping and ridiculing the umpires and referees themselves. This is a cautionary tale. Is this “winning is everything” really a message we want to instill in our children? Children take their cue from their parents, coaches, teachers. So what are we teaching them? What attitudes and priorities do we model?
Old Testament hero, Moses, reminds us what we should be stressing. “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These words I am commanding you today are to be upon your hearts. And you shall teach them diligently to your children and speak of them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as reminders on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorposts of your houses and on your gates.” (Deut. 6:5-9) Forget about winning baseball or softball games. The most important thing we should be teaching and modeling for our children—no matter how old they are—is a reliance and faith in the trustworthy, unchanging Word of God. This is the issue that matters most. Thank God there is grace for when we parents and grandparents misstep and forget that truth. May God grant to all of us a desire to diligently teach our loved ones to love the Lord.
“Little League baseball is a very good thing because it keeps parents off the streets.” (Yogi Berra)
Jesus Over Junk Food
There are times during the day when we need a snack. Maybe we skipped a meal, or maybe we just need a little pick-me-up. So, we scour the food pantries and scavenge through our desk drawers. Fueled by our hunger, we look for something to silence the quiet grumblings of our stomach and satisfy the cravings of our taste buds. What is your go to snack? A granola bar? A banana? A cup of yogurt? Do you prefer salty or sweet? All things being equal (which sadly they are not), I would grab a cookie or candy bar every time the pangs of food deprivation hit me. If only ice cream cones and peanut M&M’s were just as healthy as baby carrots or celery sticks. But we know better. Unfortunately, the junk food that is most appealing is also the stuff with the least amount of nutritional value.
[ree-kal-uh-breyt] verb (used with or without object): 1. to correct or adjust the gradations or settings on (a measuring instrument, sensor, or other piece of precision equipment). 2. to reexamine (one’s thinking, a plan, a system of values, etc.) and correct it in accord with a new understanding or purpose.
Recalibrate. This is the word that’s been on my mind these past couple of weeks. In Luke 10:38-42 we encounter the familiar story of Martha and Mary. Jesus and his band of disciples show up for a surprise visit. Can you imagine? This was not a shared Google calendar event and there was no text message to provide a heads-up of their pending arrival. Facebook events were not a thing back then, so no way for this traveling teacher to RSVP. No warning at all. Just a knock on the door and suddenly Martha had a house full of at least a dozen guests. Martha gets to work “preparing the house”—cleaning, searching for bedding, and making food. These are all good, hospitable things. You and I would have acted similarly if we were in her shoes (or sandals). But not so with the one she probably thought she could rely on the most. Her sister, Mary, simply sits down and listens to Jesus. Are you kidding me? What a lazy bum! Get off your butt and get to work! At least, that was Martha’s initial and understandable reaction. Truthfully, it would have been mine too. Fortunately, she took a better approach than giving her slacking sibling a piece of her mind. An exasperated and frustrated Martha comes to Jesus and says, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
Here’s what I’m thinking about doing. As the summer months kickoff, I’m thinking about telling my wife that I am going to take the summer off from her and the kids. Don’t get me wrong, I obviously still love her and the kids too. They are still really, really important to me. Honest! It’s just that there are some other things I want to get done this summer also—and sometimes they cramp my style. Places I want to visit and things I want to do; having a family can just slow me down from checking things off of my bucket list. Don’t worry. I will reassure her that I’ll see her again in three months. Plus if there is some sort of major emergency, I will probably check in with her for an hour or so. I may even make an exception for a week or two in August so we can do some sort of obligatory family vacation. But other than that, it’s “Sayonara baby!” Think about it... for the next three months I’m not going to waste any of my resources—time or attention, energy or money on my family. Just three glorious months of no one to make happy but me. No more coming home, spending time with family. No more cleaning. No more dishes. No more laundry. No more conversations. No chauffeuring kids to games or piano lessons. I am going to spend 92 straight days doing whatever I want, whenever I want.
Sounds ridiculous, right? Of course it does. This is not really going happen. I would never do such a thing; and my wife would not let me. 😉 Even the suggestion of taking a summer off from your family sounds neglectful and absurd. Which wife in her right mind would tolerate a husband living in selfish solitude golfing and fishing the summer away without her? Yet the irony here is how easy it is to take the summer off from God. Seriously! Sure we may not see it that way, nor do we always do it intentionally, but the summer months often lend themselves to a less than consistent worship schedule. As our summer schedules fill up we can find ourselves tripped up by Satan and slacking in our “remember the Sabbath” duties. Vacations and trips to the lakes or down to the Jersey shore are the norm during the summer—but that doesn’t mean our worship habits should take a back seat.
God will understand you taking a well-deserved vacation. He told you to “rest” on the Sabbath, as He knows you need a change of pace in order to recharge your batteries. Exodus 20:8-10 says, “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God.” God didn’t tell you to ignore worshipping Him for months at a time, but instead, find ways of worshipping him as you take a break from the busyness of your daily life. Maintain God as a priority in your life, not just when it is convenient. So on Sundays over the summer whether you’re in town or somewhere else—go to church. Be immersed in His story. Seek out a place to worship God and be fed by the holy goods that only He can give. Worship is the place where God promises to meet us and give us His life-giving, forgiveness-granting goods. Church is the place where God gospelizes and graces His people.
“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrew 10:23-25
Pastor Steve Vera
King of Kings Lutheran Church
145 Route 46
Mountain Lakes, NJ 07046
In-person, 9:00 a.m.
Sunday Worship Service
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