Friday, October 27, 2006

Moral Filth

Today I was doing a Bible study with a group of junior high students after school.  It is a great time of eating cookies and drinking sodas in a park across the street from their middle school.  We get together every Friday afternoon, it is one my highlights in my busy week.  We are currently reading through James.

I have read through James a thousand times.  But today God showed me something I have read over and missed.  Isn’t that amazing how your eyes see something new in the middle of familiarity?  

James 1:21 says, “Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.”

Today moral filth became visible to me.  Do you see it?  What is moral filth?  Moral is the ability to know or sense right and wrong.  Filth is something dirty, foul, disgusting, and unclean.  So what is moral filth?  It is something that is ok in the world’s eyes but unclean in God’s eyes.  Abortion is ok in the world’s eyes.  Premarital sex is ok in the world’s eyes.  Astrology is ok in the world’s eyes.  Most pornography is legal.  Greed and covetousness is ok in the world’s eyes.  But all these things are not ok in God’s eyes.

Verse 27 is a bookend for this idea: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

Don’t get polluted by the things that the world says is ok.  Seek truth through the Bible and live for God!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Stages of Grief

Stages of Grief

Psalm 46

[1] God is our refuge and strength,
    an ever-present help in trouble.

  [2] Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
    and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,

  [3] though its waters roar and foam
    and the mountains quake with their surging.

  [4] There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
    the holy place where the Most High dwells.

  [5] God is within her, she will not fall;
    God will help her at break of day.

  [6] Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
    he lifts his voice, the earth melts.

  [7] The LORD Almighty is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress.

  [8] Come and see the works of the LORD,
    the desolations he has brought on the earth.

  [9] He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth;
    he breaks the bow and shatters the spear,
    he burns the shields with fire.

  [10] "Be still, and know that I am God;
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth."

  [11] The LORD Almighty is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress.

On Jan 17, 1994 Southern California was awakened at 4:30am to a fierce earthquake.  This was the first major earthquake under an urban city in Southern California since 1933.  This was the Northridge earthquake and it was a magnitude 6.7.  57 people died and 9,000 people were injured.  Over 20,000 were left homeless.

The Earthquake lasted between 10 and 20 seconds.  The shaking from this earthquake was felt as far as 85 miles away.  

The scoreboard at Angel stadium had to be torn down because of damage it sustained during this quake.  11 major roads had to be closed due to the damage from the earthquake.  25,000 buildings were damaged.  

When we face grief we are shaken, sometimes shaken to the core.  The actual event may only last but a few seconds but there is a lasting effect.  And there is damage.  Once the shaking has settled we must survey the damage.  

In our lives we will go through the grieving process way too frequently, we face grief everyday.  When we enter into the process we want out as quickly as possible.  Some are capable of getting through the process quickly while others may take longer.  Some prefer to go through the grieving process alone and others may require and desire that they grief in the company of others.  I do not have a pill to magically get you through the process.  But realizing there are steps may help you get through the process faster or with less anxiety.  

In my life I have my moments of grieving:

A broken 7th grade relationship
Cut from baseball team
Missed promotion
Columbine in 1999
CW Perry’s death in 2000
The 911 attack in 2001

Some times the thing that drives us back to church is because we are grieving.  People have come because they are experiencing a deep, fundamental grief, remembering losses that had caused them deep and transforming pain, and anticipating perhaps the finitude of their own lives.  Death, pain, and suffering are a part of every person's life and it is this search for answers that throws us into the embrace of God.  What is there beyond all this?

Types of grief
Divorce, separation, breakup
     Missed opportunity, promotion
     Financial Crisis
     Empty nest, children moving away
     Health crisis

Psychologist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross developed the five stages of grief

  1. denial

  2. anger

  3. bargaining

  4. depression;

  5. acceptance

A simple example of this is:

Imagine that your car has broken down and the battery is dead.  

DENIAL --- What's the first thing you do? You try to start it again! And again. You may check to make sure the radio, heater, lights, etc. are off and then..., try again.

ANGER --- "I should have junked you years ago." Did you slam your hand on the steering wheel? I have. "I should just leave you out in the rain and let you rust."

BARGAINING --- (realizing that you're going to be late for work)..., "Oh please car, if you will just start one more time I promise I'll buy you a brand new battery, get a tune up, new tires, belts and hoses, and keep you in perfect working condition.

DEPRESSION --- "Oh God, what am I going to do. I'm going to be late for work. I give up. My job is at risk and I don't really care any more. What's the use".

ACCEPTANCE --- "Ok. It's dead. Guess I had better call the Auto Club or find another way to work. Time to get on with my day; I'll deal with this later."

In Judaism, the first year of mourning is broken down in five distinct phases:
  1. The first phase is the time between death and burial

  2. The second phase is the three days that follow, when the family is given space to grieve privately

  3. The third phase is called shiva , a weeklong shared mourning with family, friends, and community members

  4. The fourth phase (which includes the shiva) is a 30-day period after the burial, in which the bereaved person eases back into life

  5. The fifth phase is the remembrance of the first anniversary of death, at which time the headstone is placed, and things return to normal, relatively speaking

I like to use the acronym SARAH to help us deal with disappointment and grief.  

Shock and Sadness

There is a disbelief that this has happened.  You ask questions of why? How? What could I have done?  You walk in a fog, disconnected to the world.  It feels like a dream.  

In John 11 we read about a man named Lazarus who was sick and dying.  His sisters were concerned for his welfare so they sent for Jesus to come and heal Lazarus.  Unfortunately Jesus does not arrive in time and Lazarus dies.  

Finally Jesus does arrive.  Lazarus has been dead and buried for four days.  They were at a time of shiva.  The community has come to help the family in their grieving process.  Jesus notices the sorrow that Lazarus’ sisters are going through.  Jesus sees the mourners gathered to comfort the family and Jesus is moved.  This was probably the closest thing to a family Jesus had away from his own family.  

In verse 35 we read and see Jesus’ humanity and that even Jesus grieved, “Jesus wept.”


Anger becomes the next step in the grieving process.  Anger happens in the grieving process for numerous reasons.  Plans are changed.  Life is different.  People are disappointed or embarrassed by the situation they have been thrust into.  

There are feelings of bitterness, rage, or hatred.  Uncontrolled anger can lead to hurtful words and physical or psychological abuse.  It becomes a reactionary time.  Think back to 911, people wanted revenge quickly.  President Bush was quoted on September 14, “This nation is peaceful, but fierce when stirred to anger.”

Going back to John 11 did you notice that Lazarus’s sisters were upset?  Both Martha and Mary tell Jesus, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

Our frustrations can even turn towards God.  Our disappointments and embarrassments are attributed to God.  He let me down.  We stop blaming ourselves and blame God.  You may ask, "Where is God in this? Where is his love? His powerfulness? His compassion? Is this really God's will?"

In Job we read about the death of his family, the loss of his business, and his health under attack.  For you and me we would say the worst or the end had come.  His wife’s anger rages and she tells him to curse God and die.

     Listen to Psalm 22, do you hear Jesus’ anger on the cross?

          (1) My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from the words of my groaning?

(12) Many bulls surround me;
strong bulls of Bashan encircle me.

Roaring lions tearing their prey
open their mouths wide against me.

I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint.
My heart has turned to wax;
it has melted away within me.

My strength is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth;
you lay me in the dust of death.

Dogs have surrounded me;
a band of evil men has encircled me,
they have pierced my hands and my feet.

I can count all my bones;
people stare and gloat over me.

They divide my garments among them
and cast lots for my clothing.

Wrapped up in sadness, shock and anger are depression, denial and bargaining.  All of these stages require time to enter and exit from.  Sometimes the person grieving will return to these.  Anniversaries are notorious for prompting memories of a loved one or of an event or a missed opportunity.  But we are constantly on the move towards recovery.


At the top of my bell curve I have reflection.  Notice it is at the top of the curve.  We have the opportunity to stay on the side of sadness, shock and anger, depression, denial and bargaining or we can move forward into acceptance and happiness.  

Reflection gives us the opportunity to stop and survey the situation.  We have endured an earthquake of emotions.  What is the lingering damage?  Am I recovering?  Am I still angry?  Can I move on with my life?  Have I forgiven others?  Do I need to ask for forgiveness?  

In Jewish tradition there is a mourner’s prayer called the Kiddush.  After a great loss like the death of a spouse or a child, you might expect a person to lose faith in God, or to cry out against God's injustice. Instead, Judaism requires a mourner to stand up every day, publicly, in front of 10 adult men, and reaffirm faith in God despite this loss.  The theme of the Kiddash is the greatness of God.


Now acceptance does not mean that life has returned to its former state.  In the case of someone dying, acceptance does not bring someone back to life.  Acceptance does not get you a promotion.  Acceptance does not rebuild the Twin Towers.  

Acceptance begins the stage in our lives when we can move on.  Our lives have changed and we must adjust.  It is about acknowledging the loss and learning to live with the loss.  

     We may need to grant forgiveness to someone who has wronged us

     We may need to ask for forgiveness from someone we have wronged

We may need to show repentance from a sinful life we have lived that might have led to our grief.

Read 2 Samuel 12:13-22, David was willing to accept God’s judgement

Happiness or joy

     What does happiness look like after grieving?  How about sleeping through the night?  
How about remembering a lost one with a smile?  How about the willingness to date or fall in love again?  

Happiness can be the reality that our loved ones are being cared for by God.  

Revelation 21:1-4  

Consider the prodigal son story.  A father has allowed his son to leave the family unit.  He grieves the loss of his son.  He waits daily at the window for his son’s return.  Finally after months, or years, of waiting his son returns home.  The son has lost everything.  But the father is overjoyed as he is reunited with his son.  

Happiness is realizing that we need Jesus to get us through our times of grief.  Happiness is realizing that Jesus got us through our time of grief.  Happiness is realizing that Jesus never leaves us.  

Philippians 4:12-13 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

James 1:2-4 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

We are growing.  In the process of grieving we grow.  We grow in our faith.  We grow in our knowledge of Jesus.  We experience spiritual maturity.

Support groups are everywhere to help people who are grieving.  It is part of God’s plan that we help others who are grieving.  Remember the third phase of mourning?  Sitting shiva is where family, friends and the community would come together to share in the grieving process

There are some in our church who have recently had a loved one die, they need your to sit shiva.  

There are some in our church that are sick, they need your to sit shiva.

There are some that are facing divorce, they need your to sit shiva.

There are some that are facing financial hardships, they need your to sit shiva..

Some are grieving the situation our church is going through, they need your to sit shiva.

2 Corinthians 1:3-7  Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,  who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.  For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.  If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer.  And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Youth Ministry

Today was a happy day and a sad day. Isn’t it wild how in one day you can experience both feelings?

This morning I called one of my college friends/students and asked what he was doing today. I needed to check out a beach for a planned 8th grade retreat. I had never been to San Mateo campground and wanted to see how far from the beach it was and what the campground actually looked like. The campground looked like a great place for a bunch of 8th graders. Turns out it is a long walk (hike?) to the beach.

We figured we were at the campground let’s take a walk to the beach. What made the hike awesome, despite the distance, was the time of conversation I had with Brett (my college friend/student). He is an amazing young man with ideas and dreams on what church should look like. We shared different ideas, asked questioned and just enjoyed each other’s company. When it is all said and done maybe that it was church should look like: sharing ideas, asking questions and enjoying each other’s company. Sometimes it is awesome doing youth ministry!

After my trip to the beach I went to the memorial service of a young lady. I did not know the girl personally but I had seen her around. She had a great smile that was infectious! A letter was read by a young boy that did not know her but sought her out at school just to see her smile. It seems that it always made him feel good, especially when he was down. Many of her friends were in my former youth group. They spoke glowingly from the platform of this beautiful young girl and her love for others and for Jesus. It made me sad to watch as students that belonged to my former youth group mourned the passing of this young lady. Even though I was there for them at the memorial service it felt like I had let them down. I wouldn’t be around to help them through this. Sometimes doing youth ministry can really suck!

I am thankful that I was able to leave one church to work at another on good terms. The students were sad to see me leave (and I was just as sad to leave) but are very welcoming when I am around. My home still gets TP'ed by my former students. Sometimes doing youth ministry is just weird!

Lord help me to be the best youth pastor I can be. Help me to see the good in all situations. Continue to use and grow me.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Martin Luther King Jr.

In one of my classes this semester I was given the assignment to read Martin Luther King’s letter from the Birmingham jail. I must confess that I had never read this document before. When I was in elementary school, and junior high this was not history. This was current affairs, but growing up in a predominately white suburban neighborhood this seemed miles and miles away. It could have happened on a different continent. We were isolated, purposefully or accidentally from the events.

Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial "outside agitator" idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.

Have we gotten any better at exposing ourselves and our culture to affairs of injustice? The world has gotten smaller, not larger. We have the abilities and resources to act, not just in times of natural disaster but anytime there are a people oppressed.

I had always wondered why the protest marches and sit ins? Why not just negotiate? Dr. King makes a great point in his letter, because it builds tension. Later he writes that freedom is never given willingly be the oppressor.

Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself, and that is what has happened to the American Negro. Something within has reminded him of his birthright of freedom, and something without has reminded him that it can be gained. Consciously or unconsciously, he has been caught up by the Zeitgeist, and with his black brothers of Africa and his brown and yellow brothers of Asia, South America and the Caribbean, the United States Negro is moving with a sense of great urgency toward the promised land of racial justice. If one recognizes this vital urge that has engulfed the Negro community, one should readily understand why public demonstrations are taking place. The Negro has many pent-up resentments and latent frustrations, and he must release them. So let him march; let him make prayer pilgrimages to the city hall; let him go on freedom rides-and try to understand why he must do so. If his repressed emotions are not released in nonviolent ways, they will seek expression through violence; this is not a threat but a fact of history. So I have not said to my people: "Get rid of your discontent." Rather, I have tried to say that this normal and healthy discontent can be channeled into the creative outlet of nonviolent direct action. And now this approach is being termed extremist.

But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Was not Jesus an extremist for love: "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you." Was not Amos an extremist for justice: "Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream." Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel: "I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus." Was not Martin Luther an extremist: "Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God." And John Bunyan: "I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience." And Abraham Lincoln: "This nation cannot survive half slave and half free." And Thomas Jefferson: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that an men are created equal ..." So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we viii be. We we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremist for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvary's hill three men were crucified. We must never forget that all three were crucified for the same crime---the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment. The other, Jeans Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment. Perhaps the South, the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.

I wonder if Dr. King were still alive today would he be happy with the progress. Is life better for the oppressed? Are inner city neighborhoods on an equal playing field with white neighborhoods? What should we be doing? What should the church be doing?

Let me take note of my other major disappointment. I have been so greatly disappointed with the white church and its leadership. Of course, there are some notable exceptions. I am not unmindful of the fact that each of you has taken some significant stands on this issue. I commend you, Reverend Stallings, for your Christian stand on this past Sunday, in welcoming Negroes to your worship service on a non segregated basis. I commend the Catholic leaders of this state for integrating Spring Hill College several years ago.

But despite these notable exceptions, I must honestly reiterate that I have been disappointed with the church. I do not say this as one of those negative critics who can always find something wrong with the church. I say this as a minister of the gospel, who loves the church; who was nurtured in its bosom; who 'has been sustained by its spiritual blessings and who will remain true to it as long as the cord of Rio shall lengthen.

When I was suddenly catapulted into the leadership of the bus protest in Montgomery, Alabama, a few years ago, I felt we would be supported by the white church felt that the white ministers, priests and rabbis of the South would be among our strongest allies. Instead, some have been outright opponents, refusing to understand the freedom movement and misrepresenting its leader era; an too many others have been more cautious than courageous and have remained silent behind the anesthetizing security of stained-glass windows.

Further into his letter Dr. King talks about the church rejoiced at the opportunity to stand firm for their faith.

There was a time when the church was very powerful in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Whenever the early Christians entered a town, the people in power became disturbed and immediately sought to convict the Christians for being "disturbers of the peace" and "outside agitators"' But the Christians pressed on, in the conviction that they were "a colony of heaven," called to obey God rather than man. Small in number, they were big in commitment. They were too God intoxicated to be "astronomically intimidated." By their effort and example they brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide. and gladiatorial contests.

One day the South will know that when these disinherited children of God sat down at lunch counters, they were in reality standing up for what is best in the American dream and for the most sacred values in our Judaeo-Christian heritage, thereby bringing our nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the founding fathers in their formulation of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.

I look forward to the day when everyone will be accepted as they are for who they are. May the love of Jesus compel us all to reach the poor, lost and oppressed. These poor souls are our neighbors. Jesus says love your neighbor as yourself. Again the world has gotten smaller, our ability to help has grown, has our willingness? Is the church willing to help or turn away?

Read Dr. King's letter from the Birmingham jail

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Spreading the Gospel

I have been so blessed to have met so many people who devote their lives to serving the Lord. Many are involved in missions. I enjoy getting letters from them filled with their successes, hardships and prayer requests. My grandmother loved when her church would have missionaries come and visit. She would call or visit with me and tell me all that these missionaries had seen and done. I really think she wanted to be a missionary. Although she never became a missionary in Africa or any foreign land, she was a missionary to many of her children and grandchildren. If it were not for her influence in my life and her relationship with me I might not have become a Christian myself. Thank you Grandma!

Today I got a letter from an acquaintance in Africa, Simon Guillebaud. This young man’s life was influenced through his relationship with his grandma. It is a rich legacy that he is a part of. Simon works in Burundi, a very volatile area in Africa. Watch Hotel Rwanda for a history of what happened in that area.

My grandmother never got to go to Africa physically but she sent tons of money, support and prayer to the missionaries there. Her only request was that the Gospel be spread. Many of us may never get to go to Africa but we too can help spread the Gospel through our support. Below is a letter I received from Simon sharing a part of his past and his prayer for the future of his ministry. I pray that we can help Simon spread the Gospel.

Dear amazing cyberspace community!

It blows my mind what has come out of this email network, from the very first day I arrived in Burundi. It was 23rd January 1999. It was my first email ever from Burundi, I had found an internet café, and wrote to everyone I knew who had email access (about 50 contacts at the time) highlighting my need for a computer. That morning, a friend in London had woken up and prayed: "Lord, I've got this computer I don't need. Who do you want me to give it to?" He logged on and got my message requesting a computer!!!

The following weekend, I made my first evangelistic trip with the Scripture Union team upcountry. It was a disastrous outing with four breakdowns, so we missed most of the meetings. I returned angry and discouraged that so many people had missed out on hearing the gospel simply because we did not have a vehicle which worked properly. SU was in debt, but had huge potential to be used for God's glory. So I sent out an email asking for prayer for two things: i) to get SU out of debt, and ii) to buy a truck for evangelism around the country. In response to that email, I envisaged $25,000 coming in over the following month. What happened? A cheque for $8,000 arrived, earmarked specifically for a vehicle, and over the coming month $25,000 came in. God answers prayer.

I could go on, but the above are just two examples of how many of you have been caught up in this exciting adventure of seeing God's kingdom come in power in Central Africa.

This is not a prayer letter, but an update and a further call to arms. Do not bother reading further if I am barking up the wrong tree.

I returned before Christmas from a fundraising trip to the United States in time for Zac's birth (he's a little beauty, by the way, extremely loud both ends!). The fundraising was for Scripture Union to build a conference/training centre which will generate funds and make SU self-sustaining. I would love you to pray into that, and do click here so that you can really understand in more detail the vision and purpose of what we are aiming at visit: "". This is GLO's biggest immediate project.

I am anticipating the following request being relevant to only 1% of you, which would be c.75 people. I have always seen part of my role as envisioning, inspiring, and challenging people to dare to believe that casting their all on God is the safest risk, the most exciting adventure, and the most logical step to take if Jesus is who he claims to be.

As our work has expanded so dramatically over the last seven years, I have been getting sucked into activities which are neither in line with what I have been gifted to do, nor ones which I can get myself excited about. I am an evangelist, a pioneer, and out in Burundi my role has become progressively more and more to identify the best people and empower and enable them to achieve their dreams for Christ. I am not good at fundraising or project-proposal writing or being a businessman - in fact I hate those things, whilst recognizing how crucial they are! But I often meet people who offer me their skills and want to be more involved. The time has come to formalize this and maximize the potential. I want to invite any of you who feel your skills could be used for God's glory in Burundi to become, if you like, GLO Associates, or Regional Reps.

Many of you are far too busy and tied up with other things; but others are itching for more involvement and this could be for you. This could mean just a couple of hours a week. Your roles would be a mixture of networking on GLO's behalf, maybe coming out and seeing the amazing stuff going on so can you 'sell' what we are doing, enlisting more pray-ers for the work, writing to trusts and grant funds, doing local fundraising, you name it, let's do it! That would enable me to be freed up from what is not the best use of my gifts or time. If that's you, I can't wait to hear from you.

Burundi is one of the most exciting places on the planet right now. We are seeing peace come after twelve years of horrific war; there is a deeply-committed Christian President leading the country; the churches are growing fast, and there is a new move towards unity; I am one among many Christian nutters, dangerous people who are willing to lay down their lives for the Prince of Peace.

So, amazing cyberspace community, let's rock Burundi and take this to a new level! Thanks to everyone for their prayers, which underpin all we do. God bless you all. Have a dangerous 2006,

Simon Guillebaud

Visit Simon’s web site and see what is happening through his ministry. If you can help financially great! If you have access to ways, thoughts and ideas to help support this ministry email Simon or me. Let’s help spread the Gospel!

Monday, January 09, 2006

What are you longing for?

From my sermon on January 1:

I was lent a book by one of my Tuesday Pizza Night friends. The book is titled, “The Holy Longing” and was written by Ronald Rolheiser. In this book he examines three people and their spirituality; Mother Teresa, Janis Joplin and Princess Diana. I want to examine two of these lives.

Mother Teresa’s purpose in life was to please God by loving the unlovable. All of her energy and time was dedicated towards helping the sick. In the end I am sure that Mother Teresa wished she could have done more, saved more people, increased public awareness, raised more money.

Janis Joplin was a spiritual woman as well. Unfortunately Joplin’s energies were not focused on God, they were hardly focused at all. Her time and energy went in all directions and eventually created a life of excesses in performances, drugs, alcohol, sex, and through all these excesses she neglected a time of rest. She was always on the go. Joplin ended up dying at the early age of 27.

Janis Joplin wrote a song called "Mercedes Benz" that reflect the excesses she enjoyed and desired to have:

Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz ?
My friends all drive Porsches, I must make amends.
Worked hard all my lifetime, no help from my friends,
So Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz ?

Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a color TV ?
Dialing For Dollars is trying to find me.
I wait for delivery each day until three,
So oh Lord, won’t you buy me a color TV ?

Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a night on the town ?
I’m counting on you, Lord, please don’t let me down.
Prove that you love me and buy the next round,
Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a night on the town ?

Mother Teresa was able to focus on one thing, not many. Janis Joplin could not focus on the one thing. Like many of us we want to be focused on one thing but we are drawn to feel every sensation that is experienced by all sinners. Choosing one thing means rejecting many other choices.

Consider that getting married to one person means rejecting many others.

Having a baby requires us to focus on one and to give up other personal focuses

And praying means that we have to miss TV or visiting with friends

For many of us we will never be a Mother Teresa or a Janis Joplin. We will never be fully focused on one thing like Mother Teresa: God and the poor. We hopefully will never have the opportunity to enjoy all the excesses that Janis Joplin did.

You may be saying to yourself, “Rick I cannot be a Mother Teresa and I am definitely not a Janis Joplin. Can’t I just live somewhere in the middle?”

I will admit that it would be very hard to be as dedicated as Mother Teresa. But, she did set an example for us to follow. She was not divine, therefore we can become like her.

In the book of Revelation we read the words of Jesus to the church of Laodicea:

Revelation 3:15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! [16] So, because you are lukewarm--neither hot nor cold--I am about to spit you out of my mouth. [17] You say, `I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.' But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.

Jesus says either be a Mother Teresa or a Janis Joplin but don’t be in between.

Thursday, January 05, 2006


On Friday night, January 13, West Community Friends Church has been given the rich honor of hosting Generation.

What is Generation?

Generation is a collective group of Christian High School and Middle School students worshiping Christ together. There is no one demoninational representation at Generation. Just students sharing, enjoying and loving each other and Jesus.

On this night we will enjoying a time of worship to start the evening. After that we will be watching Invisible Children. If you do not know about this organization you should see their movie. You can also get information at They are sending someone out to answer the students questions. I have viewed this movie, and I know the students will have tons to ask.

I am so thankful for the group of youth pastors in the Corona, Norco and Riverside area that are willing to bring their students to this night. I will post pictures and thoughts on this night.