The Red Lantern

While living in Alaska I was exposed to “The Last Great Race.” That is the phrase used to describe the dog race across Alaska named the Iditarod. Racers start in Anchorage and travel almost 1,000 miles to the city of Nome. There are actually two different routes that they take on alternating years. While it is not a big event for the Lower 48, it is huge in Alaska. It makes front page news in the paper and school children track the race and its participants. During my time in Homer I learned a lot about the race and dog racing in general.

One interesting fact about the race is that they give out a special “Red Lantern” Award each year. This award is given to the person who comes in last in the race. It started as a joke in 1953 during the Fur Rendezvous Race. It then was passed over to the Iditarod. Today, it is a symbol of perseverance and mushers feel a sense of pride and accomplishment when receiving it. Those who do not finish the race receive nothing, but for those who travel the 1,000 miles in the cold, snow and wind there is pride in just finishing the race.

I love this tradition. Most of us will never finish first. We will never be considered the greatest. We will not have our picture plastered all over the front of newspapers and magazines. Most of us are called to simply keep doing what God called us to do. We attend Church, serve faithfully, love our spouse and raise our children faithfully without recognition. Sticking to our task is not glorious but incredibly important. I honestly believe more “Red Lanterns” should be given out than MVP awards. God does not call us to be the best at anything He calls us to be faithful.

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God’s Chisel

Ike showed this video to our teenagers on Wed. night at RUSH youth group. I thought it was great and several of the teens had very positive comments to me afterward. It is a little longer video at 9 minutes, but I think it was be some of the best minutes you spend this weekend.

Enjoy. (and You’re Welcome)

Make Two Lists

Last week business guru Seth Godin had a great post entitled “Make Two Lists.”

One list highlights the lucky breaks, the advantages, the good feedback, your trusted network. It talks about the accident of being born in the right time and the right place, your health, your freedom. It features your education, your connection to the marketplace and just about every nice thing someone has said about you in the last week or month.

The other list is the flip side. It contains the obstacles you’ve got to deal with regularly, the defects in your family situation, the criticisms your work has received lately. It is a list of people who have better luck than you and moments you’ve been shafted and misunderstood.

The thing is, at every juncture, during every crisis, in every moment of doubt, you have a choice. You will pull out one (virtual) list or the other. You’ll read and reread it, and rely on it to decide how to proceed.

Up to you.

Repeating Myself

Today is my 400th post. I have been blogging again for a little less than 2 years after a 3 year break. Previous to that I blogged for about 4 years and put together around 1,000 posts. Unfortunately in my ignorance I lost them all when I deleted my blog to start this new one. Oh well, it gives me a chance to write new material everyday without relying on the past. I say that and then I read back through some of what I have written in just the last 2 years. While rereading what I write I quickly see that I repeat myself quite often. In fact, I have a tendency to repeat myself over and over.

I once preached a sermon and then in the afternoon I asked my family what they thought. My oldest said, “That is like the seventh time I have heard that same story.” He was right. I have used it in evangelism class, membership class, Sunday school class, with friends and in sermons. I use it in numerous settings because it conveys an essential truth in a memorable way. So I use it over and over again.

I have come to the conclusion that repeating myself is not a bad thing.

1. Truth needs repeated. Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7. He preaches a very similar “Sermon on a Plain” in Luke 6:17-49. Truth needs to be told over and over again in different settings to different people.

2. Most of what we hear is forgotten. I often think about the 10,000 plus sermons I have heard in my life. I have forgotten most of what was said with only a few really sticking in my head. I think of one sermon I listen to about yearly and every time I hear something new. Maybe I just forgot that I heard it?

3. Repetition helps me to articulate clearly I try to learn from preachers, but also comedians. I am amazed how they will repeat a joke over and over. They will try different setups or different locations in the act. They keep tweaking a bit until it gets the maximum impact with the best laughs. The gospel is not comedy but it requires the same public speaking skills. Repeating material helps me to learn the best way and place to articulate my faith.

In my early days of ministry I was afraid of repeating myself and now I embrace it. I think it helps me and I think it helps my listeners or my readers. So if the same material comes from me on repeated occasions it is not completely because of senility but part of my nature in presenting the gospel. Wait, have I written this before 🙂

In the Name of the Lord

One of the marks of the younger generation is the fact that they want to make a difference in their world. I suppose this is true because they watched the generations before them live in greedy materialism and end up unhappy, divorced and suicidal. As a result, many young people really want to have an impact in the world. It sends them to a food pantry, doing fundraising for organizations and all kids of community service. Honestly, I could not be more proud to say that many of these people are in the Church I lead. Through the last 10 years some amazing things have been done for others by people I know and serve. The difference they are making is truly remarkable. Today I want to praise all those who give, serve and love others.

Unfortunately I do want to say one word of caution to go along with that praise. I hope the next generation of Christians understand that we are to do good “in the name of the Lord.” I think this is enormous issue that needs to be talked about by the Church. I think it is possible to give and serve others and do it for completely selfish reasons. I often see it done because we want to feel good about ourselves. People feel guilty about their affluence and they want to balance the scales by giving to others. They give so that they can be a good person.

A Christian is the exact opposite. They recognize that we are not good people, BUT are forgiven by Jesus Christ through his work on the cross. Nothing more, nothing less. Then in turn we go to serve others in the name of the Lord who forgave us. Each one of us is a wretch who was served by Jesus through his death on the cross when we did not deserve it. Then we go out and act like he did by serving selflessly. We serve not to get right but because Jesus made us right. That is a huge difference.

The People in My Life

Recently I have been thinking about all of the relationships in my life. I have also been looking at the relationships that other people have in their lives. I believe that we all need a number of relationships in our lives to help us grow and mature as people and especially as believers. Here is the list of people I think we all need.

1. A Supporter – We all need someone who believes in us. For many of us this person has been a parent or family member. We all need someone one in the stands cheering our name for even the smallest of accomplishments.

2. A 100% Honest Person – All of us have blind spots in our lives. Many other people notice those issues we have but will never say anything for fear of hurting us. We all need someone to speak truth into our lives. 2 Timothy 4:3 “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.” Timothy needed to watch out for people who will not listen to the truth.

3. A Person Who Loves Us Unconditionally – All of us long for love. It sends us home for the holidays or out on dates or even into the destructive relationships if we feel a little bit of love. I ultimately believe this is fulfilled in Jesus, but I think each of us needs this physically present in our lives also. We need someone who will care about us not matter what happens.

4. An Encourager – When life gets rough we need someone to put their arm around us and help us back up. We need someone who sees the good in us. Someone who will stand beside us while pushing us on to better things. A good teacher can be an excellent example of this.

5. A Friend – All of us need someone to talk to, to do activities with, to share our lives with in an enjoyable way.

I know this is not an exhaustive list. I guess I keep thinking about the fact that we need people in our lives who will be there during the hard times and people who are willing to say the hard things. We need the truth spoken to us in love. Now maybe for some people we have relationships in our lives that one person or one couple people fulfill numerous roles for us. For example, we have a parent who loves us unconditionally, while supporting and encouraging us. I know that we need ALL of these relationships in our life. I continually see people’s lives wrecked by having an incomplete list of people they need. Many people who have no one to speak truth into their lives. They live without honesty and it leads to destruction. Others have no real love in their life and it makes them have false ideas about themselves.

All of this has me thinking about the relationships I have in my life. Do I have everyone I need? What could I do to add more and better relationships?

But then I take a long look in the mirror and ask, “What kind of a person am I?” Sometimes I don’t need more friends, sometimes I need to be a better friend to others.

Great Reading on the Web

I always like to post links to blogs that I am reading that made an impact on me. Here are a few –

1. “One thing I Want My Kids to Remember”

2. “How I found my high school football coach” – a great story about making an impact without knowing it.

3. “Seven ways the pastor’s family comes under attack.”

4. “10 things I wish everyone knew about the Bible.”

5. “Young People Need a Yoda” This post has a great little 11 minute video about leading young people. It is a must listen for anyone who works with the next generation.