Saturday, July 14, 2012

Penn State: A lesson on doing the right thing

I listen to a lot of talk radio while I am commuting back and forth to work each day. Since I like sports, I especially like to listen to ESPN radio.  The big topic this past week has been the Penn State investigation into the Jerry Sandusky situation. Now for those of you that don’t pay particular attention to the news you may not have heard about this, but Jerry Sandusky was recently tried and convicted for molesting young boys that were in his care. 

Now who is Jerry Sandusky? Well he was a very well respected football coach for the powerhouse Penn State football program which was led by Joe Paterno. Who is Joe Paterno? He is the NCAA Division 1 leader in victories for college football. A coach that led Penn State football program for over 40 years and by all outside appearances was a man of integrity and character. For those that follow college football Joe Paterno was Penn State. He was larger than life; elevated to a spot by society that very few people reach.

Jerry Sandusky was a long time well respected assistant coach for Penn State. A linebacker coach that helped Penn State gain the moniker of “Linebacker U” for the linebackers that it turned out.  Today, Jerry Sandusky is a felon after being convicted by a jury of his peers for molesting children, some on the campus of the university.  I am not going to spend much time on Jerry Sandusky except to say that what he did was despicable and gut wrenching and that he will have to answer for his sins just like the rest of us will some day. 

I do want to focus on another aspect of this story though that is starting to blow up in the media.  Penn State requested, and paid for, an investigation into how this abuse could have been happening since 1998 and not been discovered.  Penn State in an attempt to clear their name of any wrongdoing hired Louis Freeh, former director of the FBI, to lead this investigation.

This week that report was released and it has revealed that there was in fact quite a bit of knowledge of this abuse. Through emails, notes and other evidence it is clear that there was indeed a cover up, denial and a look the other way mentality.  From the President, to the Athletic Director, and even to Head Coach Joe Paterno himself, these men were aware that there was a problem and were in a position to do the right thing and didn’t do it.  Why? Why didn’t they help these innocent victims out?

That is what I want to focus on now because I believe there is a warning in all of this for everyone.  See if we are honest with ourselves all of us our susceptible to making the same types of decisions that Joe Paterno and the other leaders at Penn State made if we aren’t careful. Please don’t misunderstand me! I am not specifically talking about child molesting. I am talking about everyday decisions that we all face at times. Now maybe you’re saying I would never do that! Well, I hope you’re right and God Bless you if you are always capable of doing the right thing.  For most of us though we never set out to do the wrong thing. In fact, sometimes we don’t even realize at the time that the choices we make are the wrong ones. Keep in mind that this was a series of decisions over thirteen years that didn’t become public until last fall.  Doing the wrong thing doesn’t always lead to immediate consequences for our choices.   

For Joe Paterno his decisions and lack of action over the course of thirteen years severely tarnished and diminished everything he built over 40 plus years as a college football coach.  The greatest football coach in history is now being remembered for allowing a child molester to go unchecked in his program. For those outside of the Penn State football program his earthly legacy will be known more for this than for his coaching achievements.

So why didn’t they do the right thing?  One of the things that came out of this report that I think is telling is that there was concern about the negative impact this would have on the program.  There were two chances early on to do the right thing and stop the problem, once in 1998 and again in 2001, and the leadership didn’t take action. Why?   There were the factors of greed, the impact of money, of self preservation, of outright ignorance to seriousness of the situation.  Feel free to add your own adjectives to this list, but there wasn’t one single factor.

From the outside we look with disgust that these people could have acted this way. But, let me ask you; if you had a coworker, a good friend whose kids came to your house that you had worked with for 20 years, and you found out they were embezzling money from your employer, would you turn them in?  If your friend is cheating on every test that they take at school are you going to let the teacher know? If your brother or sister is shoplifting at the local department store what are you going to do?  When you cash your check at the bank and the teller gives you an extra twenty are you going to give it back?  Are we going to claim deductions on our taxes that we don’t really deserve?  

See we know what the right thing to do is because we’ve all been taught right from wrong.  The conflict comes when we begin to let the worldly things influence us.  As is the case of Penn State, longtime friendships clouded the water.  Instead of doing the right thing they looked the other way hoping it would go away.  Money and greed affected their judgment. Penn State makes millions of dollars per year from their football program and negative publicity might affect that.  All of these are poor reasons for not doing the right thing but that is what happened.  They made a choice to do the wrong thing instead of the right thing!

As Christians it should always be our desire to do the right thing. The Bible speaks to us about doing the right thing.  In James 4:17 he says, “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.”  That’s pretty straight forward; it’s a sin to do the wrong thing and sometimes doing nothing at all is in fact doing the wrong thing.  We tend to think of a sin as an act of commission, but in the case of Penn State we can see that it can be an act of omission too. 

There are other scriptures that deal with doing the right thing too:

Galatians 6:7-10, 7 Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. 8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. 9 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. 10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”

Micah 6:8, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

Ecclesiastes 12:13-14, 13 The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. 14 For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.

H. Jackson Browne, once said that “Our character is what we do when we think no one is looking.”  As Christians our character should resemble that of Christ more and more as we mature and pursue his ways regardless of whether someone is watching or not.  Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

That is our key to doing the right thing. If we walk in the light, and we pursue Christ and his ways, doing the right thing becomes a conscious choice for us as we follow Jesus. Right and wrong is like black and white but the world and Satan wants us to operate in the gray area.  For thirteen years Penn State made decisions in this gray area and many innocent children were hurt, legacies were changed and reputations tarnished.  As Christians we need to stay out of the gray area and begin doing the right thing all the time. God’s word gives us plenty of instruction on doing the right thing.  There may be an earthly price to pay at times for doing the right thing, but the reward in heaven will far exceed any difficulties we might experience here.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Paul's perspective on Conflict resolution

Well it’s been a while since I have written anything. Life has been busy as the kids are getting older and I haven’t really felt lead to write too much.  Over the last several months though, God has opened my eyes to some things and laid some things on my heart that I will be sharing over the next several months.  Today I wanted to share some thoughts on some scripture from 2nd Timothy.

14 Alexander the metalworker did me a great deal of harm. The Lord will repay him for what he has done. 15 You too should be on your guard against him, because he strongly opposed our message.16 At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them. 17 But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it.  2 Timothy 4:14-17

As we all know life isn’t always smooth.  Life is always changing and conflict is a part of our daily lives.  We have conflict with our spouse, our kids, our families and our co workers. Christians experience conflict like this too but we also have conflict with people that oppose what we believe.  Sometimes opposition comes from people inside the church and sometimes it’s comes from the outside. Conflict isn’t something that should come as a surprise to the Christian though; rather it should be expected because if we are going to be someone who professes and lives out our faith daily then we are going to also be a target for criticism.

The Apostle Paul knew this well. Almost everywhere Paul went conflict awaited him. But Paul endured and he never let conflict get in the way of his task of proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ.  In Paul’s second letter to Timothy He gives Timothy some great advice that we should all take to heart. I know that it's easier said than done sometimes, but if it worked for Paul then it will work for us too.

Notice in V14 of the Scripture above that Paul says, Alexander the metalworker did me a great deal of harm”.  Here Paul is nearing the end of his life and he is thinking about this man that he has obviously had a previous conflict with. Now the Bible doesn’t tell us much about Alexander, but we do know that in Paul’s mind Alexander has hurt him and his ministry deeply.  But here is the critical thing for all of us in handling conflict. Look at what Paul goes on to say in V14, “The Lord will repay him for what he has done”.

Now our normal reaction when conflict arises is to react or to defend our position, or in some cases to get our payback. I know I have failed many times in this way.  But Paul is saying, step back, calm down, and don’t worry about it. Let God take care of it! God will repay the person for what they have done.  Paul stayed focused on his mission of advancing the gospel, and he knew Timothy would face similar opposition too, if not from Alexander then from others like him. See there is nothing Satan would rather us do then get bogged down in a war of words with those that oppose us.

For every person that has committed themselves wholeheartedly to Jesus Christ there is going to be conflict. Get ready for it! Expect it! Embrace it even!  Jesus said in Luke 6:26 a, “Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you”.   If you have no conflict in your life because of your claim to be a Christian then are you really standing tall in your faith? If there is no hardship, no opposition, no struggle because of our faith in Christ then we need to take a look in the mirror and see if we are truly moving forward in our faith or if we are dead in it.  Paul understood conflict well, and his commitment to overcome it and to march on proclaiming Christ meant that he had to leave the resolution of that conflict in God’s hands. Paul is telling Timothy, “Be ready for this because it’s going to happen, and this is how you should handle it”.

Notice in V16 that Paul tells Timothy that nobody stood up for him during his conflict either. Have you ever felt like you were by yourself on an island when a conflict came up?  Paul knows this feeling too because when Paul was opposed, Paul's supporters deserted him.  Jesus understands this too! When Jesus was arrested His disciples scattered! The reality is that humans will fail each other almost every time. We just do. We get scared.  We aren’t there for each other when we should be. We say the right things, but do the wrong things. We are flawed, selfish and sinful creatures that will make a mess of life when we are left to our own devices.

 In spite of all of this though, Paul goes on to tell Timothy what he wants done, “May it not be held against them”.  It is as if he is telling Timothy, “I know your flesh might be telling you to teach them a lesson, but don’t. Let it go”. It was Paul’s’ prayer that God would not hold this against them, and his hope that because of how they chose to handle the conflict that these Christians would be strengthened so that they might be able to stand strong in the future. Many times we get so focused on the conflict in our life that we forget that there are people in our periphery that are observing us to see how we handle difficult situations.  Are we going to blow up, or are we going to handle things the way Christ desires for us to?  Paul gives us the key to handling conflict the right way, it is up to us whether we choose to follow his lead.

I will leave you with this. When the inevitable conflict comes your way remember what Jesus said in Luke 6:22-23, Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. 23 “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets.”

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

A tribute to Mothers!

Mother’s day is quickly approaching and I thought I would share some memories, thoughts and a few quotes that I found for Mothers day. I hope that perhaps some of what is written below will cause you to pause and reflect on your own Mother and give thanks to God for her life.

Let me start by saying that anything I write on here will be an insufficient and futile effort to show the amount of love and respect I have for my Mother. It is hard to put into words all the things that my Mother has meant to me, but I will give it a try.

When we reflect on our childhood we all have memories we can think about and smile. In my case, I chuckle rather loudly at a several of them. I can remember several times growing up that I faked being sick so I didn’t have to get on the bus, only to have Mom put me in the car and chase down the bus when she realized I wasn’t really sick after all.

I remember in kindergarten, the one and only time I ever won anything, when I got to bring home the class hamster at the end of the school year. Mom was so happy for me too!! In fact, she was so happy that she referred to it as “the rat” after it got out of its cage during the first week.

There were the times being sprayed down with the garden hose to get the mud off before we could come in the house. Of course, there are the many times when she took care of us when we were sick or hurt too. Mom was always a great sport and she always knew just what to say at just the right time to make things feel better.

I know that I have made my Mom proud many times in my life because she has told me so. I also know that I have disappointed her many times as well, of which she has never told me. Although she never said so,  I know that I hurt her with words that cut like a knife and with actions that went against everything she ever taught me, but my Mother never wavered in her love for me. A Mother’s love knows no boundaries and I am sure I am not the only one with this kind of story.

These motherly traits are God-given and the Bible gives us many instructions in regards to Mothers. This one in Proverbs 6:20-22 (ESV) sums it up for me. It reads; My son, keep your father’s commandment, and forsake not your mother’s teaching. Bind them on your heart always; tie them around your neck. When you walk, they will lead you; when you lie down, they will watch over you; and when you awake, they will talk with you.

Thank you Mom for raising me in the way of our Lord. Although I strayed away from Christ for a season or two, your example and your teaching were where I found my bearings when Christ began drawing me back to Him. Thank you for being that godly example to not only your three children, but to your grandchildren and all of those that know you.

I would be remiss if I did not pay tribute to my wife Katie as well for her godly example to our children. The example you are setting, and the teaching you are giving our daughters, will serve them well long after you and I have reached our heavenly home. Thank you for being a great Mother!

To all the Mothers out there and I wish you all a very Happy Mother’s Day! What you do every single day for your families is priceless and often goes unnoticed but you make a difference! God bless each and every one of you!

A mother is a person who seeing there are only four pieces of pie for five people, promptly announces she never did care for pie. ~Tenneva Jordan

I remember my mother's prayers and they have always followed me. They have clung to me all my life. ~Abraham Lincoln

When you are a mother, you are never really alone in your thoughts. A mother always has to think twice, once for herself and once for her child. ~Sophia Loren, Women and Beauty

A mother is the truest friend we have, when trials heavy and sudden, fall upon us; when adversity takes the place of prosperity; when friends who rejoice with us in our sunshine desert us; when trouble thickens around us, still will she cling to us, and endeavor by her kind precepts and counsels to dissipate the clouds of darkness, and cause peace to return to our hearts. ~Washington Irving

A mom forgives us all our faults, not to mention one or two we don't even have. ~Robert Brault

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Everyday should be an Easter Celebration

I have thought about Easter this week more than I can remember. I know I should think about it all the time, but I would be lying if I said that in the past I always have. I woke up this past Monday and went to work like any other week. We had ball practices, and Life group and other things to attend as well. It was a busy week like it always is at our house.  All I know, is that seems like it’s real easy for us to fall back into the routine of life and forget about what we celebrated last week on Easter Sunday. If we are not careful, Easter becomes just another "holiday" in our life.

This week was different for me though and I found myself asking; What now? What needs to change? What should I do different in my own life? I tried to put myself into the shoes of those that followed Christ when He was crucified. I am sure they were asking the same types of questions. What now? Do we return to fishing and tax collecting? Do we stay together or do we go back to our home towns and live like everyone else? Every thing these Christ followers knew was turned upside down in the course of just a few days. Now for us, we have the luxury of history so we understand that Christ died and was resurrected, but for those early Christians they didn’t have the comfort of knowing that. It was a time of chaos and soul searching.

On a week just like this past week, Jesus met two guys on the road to Emmaus who needed Him to bear His“resurrection power” on them so they could overcome one of the saddest weekends of their lives. They were traveling home from Jerusalem, trying to comprehend the events they had just witnessed. They had to  be asking themselves....what now?  Jesus knew their hearts were aching and He wanted to bring His resurrection power to bear upon them and in Luke chapter 24 we see this story starting in Verse 17.

Jesus asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”

They stood still, their faces downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” “What things?” he asked.

“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.”

He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.

When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”

They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.

So the question for all Christ followers is; What now? Jesus has revealed Himself to us too and He has given us His resurrection power as well. We know and understand what He did for us on the cross. So what are we going to do with this ressurection power we have? The scripture says these two men “got up and returned to Jerusalem at once” to tell the others that Christ has risen!! They didn’t make any excuses as to why they couldn’t tell their friends.  They didn't hesitate to return; they went at once to tell the others about Jesus.

You and I should be doing the same thing. We have resurrection power every day of the year, not just on Easter. We cannot treat the ressurection of Jesus as an event that we celebrate only once a year! It should be celebrated in the life of a Christian every single day in our speech and in our actions.  See we know that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the most powerful event in history. Everything that we believe, all that our life and worship is all about, is based upon the foundational truth that Jesus Christ rose from the dead. That is something to be thankful for everyday, that is something for Christ followers to claim, and that is something to share with the world every single day.  Be bold and courageous for we serve a Risen Christ!

In Christ,

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

What does it mean to be Content?

What does it mean to be content? The dictionary defines it as, "being contented or satisfied or accepting one's situation or life with equanamity and satisfaction". Synonyms are "satisfied, happy and joyous". For me contentment used to be when I had all of my family together, or after a nice meal and a nap, or generally any time when my life wasn't particularly stressful. Contentment in my life centered around good health and good things.

After a recent mission trip to Belize I really had to evaluate and study this word content, because God's idea of content and mine were two different things. I had to start asking myself, "Am I really content with my life"? I live in a country that is not content with anything. We want the newest, biggest, fastest, shiniest, next best thing. When what we possess or wear is considered out of date by our society we get rid of it and get something "newer or better". Unfortunately, we take this approach with everything in our life and I am as guilty of that as anyone.

Americans are the opposite of content. As a society we are overwhelmingly discontent. We zealously pursue earthly things only to find that when we reach our goal it offers no long term satisfaction. So we pursue the next thing, and the next thing, and we chase after these mirages of happiness only to find that the cycle of discontent continues to repeat itself.

We chase after the next greatest exercise program, diet fad or health care product guaranteed to add years to our lives. It's the world of biggie size, super size, no interest, 90 days same as cash. We work long hours to chase the promotion that we believe will change our life.....and then it doesn't. See the point? We are discontent and we live in a world that throws a million things at us telling us that what we have isn't big enough, new enough or good enough to make us happy.

I have wanted to go on a mission trip for several years and was blessed recently with the opportunity to go to Belize. I thought I was going on this trip so I could help people. After all isn't that what God calls us to do; to serve and love our neighbors? This is true, but God also knows what we need as well and He knows exactly how to deliver the goods. The team I was with did some wonderful things to help others, but the people we came in contact with helped me more than they will ever know. To say this was a life changing trip for me is a huge understatement.

In Belize, there is an open love for Jesus Christ that is much less obvious in the States. There are two things we don't publicly talk much about in America; God and politics. If you choose to talk about them you can be sure a debate will follow. In Belize they talked openly about God, and we saw signs promoting Jesus Christ many times. This led me to ask myself why at times I can be so reluctant to profess my own faith. Matthew 10:32-33 reads, "Whoever acknowledges me before others , I will acknowledge you before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven". We are not called lead a quiet life with a quiet faith. We can't hide our light under a bushel! We are called to be bold and profess Jesus Christ before men!

Extreme poverty was apparent in Belize too, but even though a little more money would make their daily lives easier, the people were content with what they had. They found their joy in Christ and their family units. They didn't find it in the possessions that we accumulate. Their daily life was not consumed with running kids all over the place to do all the extracurricular activities that American kids are involved in today. Their priority list was God, family, education, and then all the other stuff. This is the order that all Christians need to have, yet we mess the order up so easily when we get focused on worldly things.

Being content with our lives depends on where we have God on our list. Accumulating more stuff will not lead to contentment. Serving Him with what He gives us is our call. Whether we have a little or a lot, we can serve Christ! The people of Belize opened my eyes to that. There are no more excuses for why I cannot serve Jesus Christ wholeheartedly. Being content with our life comes through a sincere relationship with Jesus. Matthew 6:20 reads, "But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal." I challenge you to take a look at your own life. If you are ahead of me on this journey of faith, God bless you! I will look to you for encouragement. If you are struggling with taking this next step of service and submission to our Savior please know that I am right there pushing upstream with you. We serve a risen Christ! Let's be content and serve Him together!



Sunday, April 17, 2011

I'm Baaacckkk! Not sure if that is a good thing or not but I have missed writing. Writing my thoughts down is quite a release for me. Sometimes we have all these thoughts and feelings floating around in this space between our ears and writing it down helps to get it out. Writing it down helps me process things, and there is a lot to process right now. I will share some of these things in the next several days and weeks as I get back into blogging again. A mission trip to Belize as well as a youth event built around service will be part of that. I will also share some of the struggles that Katie and I are going through right now as we seek out what God is calling us to do with our lives and how we serve Him. It is a scary process when you say to God, "here is my life and I will follow you" but we are growing every day in our faith and we welcome God's continued molding of our life. Till next time.....Blessings!! In his Grip, Greg

Friday, July 2, 2010

God at work here!

There is a little saying that we say sometimes in our church where one person says, "God is good all the time". The response is "All the time God is good!" It's an easy thing to forget because we get so focused on our own needs, but God is good all the time and He is working even when we can't see the immediate results. This past week God has shown my family once again just how good He is. Sometimes it is really easy to see God working in our lives, and other times it seems like nothing is happening, but recently my family witnessed it from both perspectives.

My brother and his wife have been trying to have children for a decade now. First they tried with all the normal things that doctors try; shots, invitro and the likes. Then the last seven years have been the emotional roller coaster that is called adoption in this country. I have watched Mark and Stacy endure the ups and downs that only someone suffering the same heartaches and disappointments can understand. My heart ached for them and I never seemed to have the right words to say either.

Life isn't fair and I don't understand why God seemingly allows kids to be born into families that don't want them, when there are families in this country that would love to have them. What I do know is that God is painting a bigger picture than what I can fathom and He is in control and knows what is best for us.

See God was at work here in ways we never imagined. About 14 days ago Mark and Stacy received a phone call about a little baby that was ready to be adopted and three days ago they brought him home. This little baby was born on March 3rd and weighed 1 lb 11 oz. Survival rates are not high for a child born at 26 weeks, but this child came home weighing 7 lb 3 oz and is 20 1/2" long. God had a plan for this child before we ever heard of him, and God had a plan for Mark and Stacy too. He was working in a mighty way and even though we couldn't see it, God saw the future and said this is the child I want you to have! God IS good all the time!

I am so proud of my brother and sister in law because even though it was difficult season for them, and they both struggled at different times with the "whys' of the matter, they always trusted God and He delivered in His good time. All the time God is good!

Please keep them in your prayers as they start this new life as a family. Philippians 4:19 says, "And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus"

Blessings to all and remember our soldiers past and present during this 4th of July weekend!