Category: Hope

He Is For You

He Is For You

Right now I think it’s easy to wonder, Is God paying attention? What’s on his mind?

The words, music and facial expressions in this powerful collaboration by dozens of churches in the UK provide and answer: He is for you. It’s the same message wherever we live.

I encourage you to take a few minutes and allow this message, The Blessing, to wash over you.

Hope for 2011

Post from the Past: 9 years ago I wrote a post entitled Hope for 2011. As Beryl and I entered a new year once again I realized that the core message of this post still fits. On one level, I’m surprised that my hopes for 2020 remain much the same as 2011. But on a […]

Hope for 2011
Children of Light

Children of Light

We are entering the Season of Light, the Light Festival, the Christmas season when so much of the world decorates trees, wreathes, streetlamps, and even homes, with spectacular displays of light. Even those parts of the world that may not traditionally be Christian do so. There is an evident way in which the world loves light.

Yet truthfully, there is an equally evident way in which the world loves darkness. The apostle John made that clear when he wrote: “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.” (John 3:19)

It’s a sad irony: Jesus, whose birth is the center of this season, declared himself to be “the light of the world.” (John 8:12) But, though much of the world might willingly accept him as a man born two millenia ago, so much of the world rejects him as the divine light. 

I love the biblical theme of “Light.” One of my favorite verses about it is Eph. 5:8. I’m stirred by the author Paul’s language, yet doubt that I fully understand it’s theological depth. “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light.” 

When I teach on this verse with men, I use contemporary language to make its startling impact clear: “If there was one word that accurately describes who we were at one time, it’s the word ‘darkness.’ We were filled with, defined by and controlled by darkness. Darkness is who we were.”

Strong words. But the rest of that verse is even more startling! Again, in my words to men, “But now, because of our relationship with Jesus, if there is one word that accurately defines who we are it’s…light! Can you believe it?! Light! Light is who we are now!” 

Yes, of course, we are still extremely aware of our shortcomings, our struggles with temper, our vulnerability to temptation, our tendency toward selfishness, but the condition of our souls is now…light. How can this be? Three crucial words, “in the Lord.” This fundamental, eternal transformation in the nature of our souls is due to Jesus.

Jesus’ life and his death changed everything for us and about us. Everything. Even though we may be discouraged by our continuing tendency to act “darkly,” the truth about us is we are light. This is shockingly wonderful news, but there’s more.

In the last phrase of verse 8, Paul makes his final point, “Live as children of light.” In today’s language he might say, “So for goodness sake, since this is true about you, live like it!” The redemption of our souls is taken care of, now we should live in such a way that reflects that truth. Not just for our benefit, but so others see light in our lives. Paul makes this clear in the verses that follow 8.

But Paul wasn’t the first to give believers this same charge. Jesus, who in John 8 referred to himself as being the light of the world, says to his followers, “You are the light of the world…In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matt. 5:14, 16) We, who were once defined by darkness are now defined by light. Further, Jesus who is the light of the world, uses the exact same words about us who follow him! Remarkable.

This Christmas, the Season of Light, we celebrate the miracle of Jesus’ birth as a vulnerable child. Let us also celebrate the stunning truth that his life and death are so transformational for us that we are now light-bearers for him. We are children of light. A world in darkness desperately needs to see the light we bring this Christmas season.

American Exceptionalism: Random Male Violence, Part II

In my previous post, Random Male Violence, Part I I began to unravel the mystery of why the random violence we regularly encounter happens in the U.S. on a level unlike any other country. Our soul searching requires that we recognize that we are developing wounded males. But all countries have wounded males.

There’s another inescapable reason random mass slaughter happens within American borders so much more than anywhere else— the ease with which anyone, regardless of capabilities, mental health or training can get their hands on assault rifles—weapons of mass destruction. The solution to this issue has proven exceptionally difficult to find, but I don’t think there is any question that this is a central part of the problem.

American Exceptionalism: Random Male Violence, Part II
American Exceptionalism: Random Male Violence, Part I

American Exceptionalism: Random Male Violence, Part I

Once again we wrestle with piercing feelings of grief, bewilderment and anger. Yet again a young American male has unleashed his wrath against a vulnerable group of students. Our hearts ache, our heads shake and our minds reel. How can this keep happening? What can we do to make sure this never happens again?

We’re familiar with the spectrum of suggested causes as well as solutions—it’s a mental health issue, it’s a gun access issue, it’s a cultural issue. It’s all of those to some degree, but in my opinion it’s a horrific case of American Exceptionalism.

I love my country, but I really dislike the way that term is typically used. It implies that American culture is first and best, as if we’re all in a global competition for a mythical cultural gold medal. Having traveled to more than 60 countries over the years I’ve experienced qualities in every one of them that are admirable as well as unfortunate. Mine included.

Yes, we Americans have demonstrated an outstanding technological ability to fly humans to the moon or to instantaneously connect and communicate with others half a world away. But honesty also compels us to admit our exceptionalism in incarcerating the highest number of citizens per capita of any nation in the world.

In grief we must also admit the exceptional acts we regularly face—young males who randomly unleash deadly violence against their own kind. Even a short-list of the locations where slaughter took place over the past 19 years evokes memories and emotions that should never entirely fade: Columbine, Orlando, Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, Aurora, Las Vegas, and now Parkland. (See my previous post, Our Spirits Groan.)

Each stands out in its own uniqueness of location and horror, but they share two common characteristics: the perpetrator was male and he was an American.

Of course, other nations have violent young men, but they tend to slaughter those who are different from themselves. They go after those of another religion, ethnicity, tribe or political persuasion. In the US our violent males slaughter randomly.

Why does this happen here and not elsewhere? My opinion is that American culture produces young males who are profoundly self-absorbed and entitled. (See my previous post, Brilliant Jerks.) At the same time they are deeply uncertain of their own significance and place in a dramatically changing cultural and economic landscape. And, they often pick up the message—whether through bullying, macho posturing, gangs, or violent video games— that the solution to disagreement and conflict is often best settled through some form of violence.

I had intended to start writing this blog last weekend, but found myself gripped by both sadness and anger at the violence recently unleashed in Parkland, FL. Having decided to take a break and see a movie, I was stunned at what appeared in the very first frame: this quote from author D. H. Lawrence, “The essential American soul is hard, isolate, stoic and a killer.” It was all I could do to keep from gasping out loud at how horribly accurately this described exactly what I was grieving.

Man, how much I want to disagree with that statement! I know so many wonderful, connected, compassionate, life-giving men. And, Lawrence had a different, late 19th-early 20th century, American era in mind when he made that statement. But I have to also acknowledge the extent to which this quote fits today. So many young males in American culture are tough, alone, emotionless…and can so easily turn into killers.

In his book Guyland, author Michael Kimmel identified an American sub-culture of males, ages 16-26 whose key qualities are privilege, narcissism, entitlement and self-centeredness. They are convinced that they are the center of the universe, that they are the most sought out marketing demographic (unfortunately, they’re right), that they set the social rules, and that everyone else who wants to fit in, women above all others, needs to accept and adhere to those rules. As long as a male in that demographic succeeds, he’s in. If he doesn’t measure up by the group’s or his own standards, he’s out.

Some of those young males who find themselves “out,” simmer with anger and shame until they decide to resolve things in violence. Some of them grow older and never find a sense of community or significance, until the lava of hidden resentment suddenly erupts with deadly consequences. Then they become a headline.

Courage and humility require us to face the awful circumstances we repeatedly see in American culture. In the next post, American Exceptionalism, Part II, I’ll explore factors that indicate what some solutions might be.

Our Spirits Groan

We see the news updates on our phones and can hardly believe what we are seeing. We turn on the TV and shake our heads, wordlessly, stunned at the carnage we once again witness in our broken world.

A morally lost 64 year-old man has killed more 50 and wounded more than 500 attenders of an outdoor concert in Las Vegas. He’d probably never met any of them. The audio of machine gun fire, along with the video of thousands running, crouching, weeping, is almost more than our hearts and minds can handle…

Our Spirits Groan
At Last!

At Last!

“What was the highlight of 2016 for you?” our Christmas party host asked around the dinner table. Beryl and I had the same responses, “First, the birth of 5th granddaughter, Gemma. Very close after that…the Cubs winning the World Series!!”

“Really?” some asked. “A sports event was a highlight?” Clearly, they were not aware of the cosmic significance of the event. At least not of its impact on the Glass clan. Why did this rank as a highlight of the year? Because it was of far more significance than just another sports event. For these three reasons:

Family Tradition Passed On

My dad, born in 1922 on the South Side of Chicago, staunch White Sox territory, was a rabid lifetime Cubs fan. He lived 90 years and never saw them win the Series. That’s a sports drought. Nevertheless, my siblings and I all picked up Cub fever from my dad. Of course, I passed the same affliction on to my kids. Thankfully, our son- and daughter-in-law have followed suit.

I fell in love with the North Siders in 1969; the year the Cubs put their entire infield into the All-star Game. The game roster didn’t allow additional room for two future Cub Hall of Famers. In the middle of August they had a 9 game division lead over the New York Mets. No matter; by the end of the season, they lost by 8 games.

So, for our family to see the Cubs actually in the series, then win it, was stupendously historic. Millions of Cub fans all over the world felt the same way. Like them, we mourned the lives of loved ones, in our case my dad, that had been lost before they ever saw a Series win. And like many thousands in the vicinity of Wrigley Field, my two sons, Alec and Conor, wrote their names and memories in chalk on the brick wall of the stadium set aside for that significant purpose. Conor wrote: “Make someday today.” Alec quoted my dad’s favorite cheer: “’Atta way!” Family tradition passed on.

Hope Fulfilled

By now many readers know the details of the years of futility for the Cubs. But for the unaware, a quick summary: the last time the Cubs had even been in the Series was 1945. The last time they won it was 1908; the longest span between championships of any team in major league sports, any sport.

With horrifically painful playoff failures in 1984 and again in 2003 the expectation, or at least nauseating fear, of failure hovered over every Cub fan in these playoffs.

This time, when the Cubs fell behind Cleveland 1-3 in series wins, the pit in every Cub fan stomach ran deep. When in the final game the Cubs blew 5-1 and then 6-3 leads, as Cleveland tied it up, every Cub fan silently had the thought, “Oh, so this is how they lose it this time. This will be the most painful story.”

So for the Cubs to come back from a rain delay, that visibly sapped the enormous amount of momentum Cleveland had built, to win in extra innings, the explosion of hope fulfilled in the hearts of Cub Nation was indescribable.

Unbridled Joy in Community

Long before the Cubs made it to the series, our family decided that if they did make it we’d all head to Chicago to watch the games together. We savored every game with our kids and granddaughters.

Alec, Conor and I decided to watch the final game (played in Cleveland), come what may, at a sports bar three blocks south of Wrigley Field: Sheffield’s. We were in the neighborhood long before the pub opened, soaking in the once-in-a-lifetime feel of electricity in the whole area.

We walked into Sheffield’s as they opened at 11, and waited endlessly (there are only so many chips, sandwiches, and beverages you can consume in one setting; we found the limit) for the 7:00 game time.

When Cubs’ lead-off batter, Dexter Fowler, hit a deep fly against the Indian’s pitcher, who had totally dominated the Cubs twice already in the series, Cub fans battled split-second emotions of “Holy cow, this can’t be…can it?!”…wait for it…“It is! It is! It’s a home run!”

Chaos ensued. (Watch it here.) That one stroke indicated that the summit of what seemed like a virtually insurmountable mountain a few days before, and even at the start of that last game, might actually be in sight.

When Cubs third baseman, Kris Bryant, threw the final out in the 10th inning and the game was won, Sheffield’s exploded in complete pandemonium. The three of us screamed, hugged and bounced for an unknown length of time. We high-fived countless new best friends.

Then we joined the massive throng filling the streets heading to the Wrigley shrine as if on a spiritual quest. I don’t know the official number in the streets, but it was the largest crowd I’d ever been in. It was certainly hundreds of thousands, or more.

The utter exuberance and camaraderie shared by complete strangers, and even by the 4000 police in the streets, was simply indescribable. Community, joy, transcendence.

It may have been just a sports event to many people. It went far beyond that for the Glass Family. No doubt about it, it was a highlight of the year. In fact, it was a highlight of a lifetime.

I just wish Dad could have been there.

 

What is Required of Us?

white-houseBeryl and I just dropped off our election ballots in this campaign season featuring two very controversial candidates.

Like most Americans, we have found the issues surrounding the main candidates to be so divisive that we found it extremely difficult to determine who to vote for. As a result, I won’t pretend to simplify it by saying who I think anyone should vote for. I respect everyone’s struggle as a personal one.

But, in the cases of you who have yet to vote, I would like to mention how Beryl and I processed things, in the hopes it may help you reach your own decision.

A Spirit of Sadness

A Spirit of Sadness

img_3554Today I’m filled with sadness.

This doesn’t often happen to me. I try to go about life with a spirit of gratitude and joy. Yet, I have known for several years now that the tragedies we encounter on almost a daily basis—whether personal, related to family or friends, or on a global scale—pierce me on an increasingly deeper level with each passing year.

I first noticed this deeper piercing a few years ago when I read of two local college girls, home on a brief break, gassing up a father’s SUV for a trip into the mountains, whose vehicle was hit by another car pulling into the adjacent gas pump. One of the girls was in the gas station buying snacks; the other pumped the gas, standing between her SUV and the gas pump. The collision caused a spark which became a conflagration that burned the girl alive. Paralyzed bystanders could only watch in stunned horror.

All of us have witnessed or felt deep sadness in the world around us, in the lives of friends, or our own families.

This past week the sadness has surfaced for me more than usual:

  • The father of a friend, both genuine Christian men, took his own life to free himself from the agony and embarrassment of depression.
  • A very close friend, who has experienced traumatic deaths of several friends, was told by his counselor, “I think a spirit of sadness has settled in your heart.” He cried for the first time in 6 years.
  • A friend Beryl and I became close to over the summer returned to her home in Europe facing family issues of terminal illness and challenging relationships, in the midst of her own questions about God’s existence.
  • 7 high school students committed suicide in my town within the last year. A few were from Christian families. One had gone through the Passage to Manhood program I provide for dads and their teenage sons.
  • As I opened my laptop to start writing today, a calendar alert popped up reminding me that my dad passed away 4 years ago today.

This series of events or reminders has left me with an aching pit in my stomach and tears in my eyes. I’m no longer surprised by the tragedy that surrounds us. But I’m still deeply saddened by it.

You may have seen me write it or heard me say it before, but it bears repeating: This is simply not the world our hearts were made for. In the beginning God created us with profound longings for deep relationships and an unshakeable sense of significance and worth.

He designed us with a longing for:

  • Hearts- that know deep, fearless intimacy and connection with friends, a spouse or family
  • Souls- that live in a constant, transcendent relationship and presence with God the Father
  • Minds- that learn and grow in wisdom and knowledge, and that provide fruitful impact
  • Strength- bodies that are healthy, alive, and serve us well in our daily lives and efforts

When our fore-parents, Adam and Eve, distrusted God’s grace and goodness, and chose instead to believe the Deceiver, all was permanently changed. In addition to the knowledge of Good, mankind was now condemned to the overwhelming consequences of the knowledge of Evil:

  • Hearts- broken, sad, and hungry; looking for love in all the wrong places
  • Souls- filled with spiritual thirst, but turning our backs on God, the Source of living water, digging substitute “broken cisterns that cannot hold water.” Jer. 2:13
  • Minds- that pursue superficial knowledge that puffs up, separates us from those who think differently, or causes us to renounce the possibility that there might be a Supreme Being, who though mysterious, is real
  • Strength- bodies that age, fall apart, succumb to pain, disease and death

It’s enough to make you weep. Today it was enough to make me weep.

It made Jesus weep. When he saw the grief experienced by those who lost their friend and brother, Lazarus, he wept. As he walked with friends toward Jerusalem, heading toward abandonment by friends in Gethsemane and separation from God at Golgotha, he wept again.

Perhaps more than any other chapter in the Bible Romans 8 brings a deeper perspective on the sadness that surrounds us:

  • Creation waits in eager anticipation…was subjected to frustration…and survives in bondage to decay v. 19-21
  • All of creation groans as in the pains of childbirth v. 22
  • We, who have the Spirit in us, groan inwardly as we await redemption v. 23
  • The Spirit goes to the Father on our behalf with groans that can’t even be expressed with words v. 26

Everything around us, and in us, groans with the tragic consequences of the selfish, distrustful choices of mankind at the beginning, and even since.

So what do we do? Live in agony? Face every day and each new disappointment with yet another set of tears? End it all? Or, ignore the pain, pretend it doesn’t exist or matter, and live in a state of numbness or search for pleasure? There are many who choose one or more of the above options. Some are friends; some are loved-ones. Sometimes we do the same.

The good news is we can reject either extreme response, and choose instead to live with an honest acceptance of both. We can honestly acknowledge the sadness around us while choosing to be hope-filled and joyful at the same time. We grieve with those who grieve; including ourselves. But we keep our eyes on the end of the story. Those very same verses in the middle of Romans 8 are preceded by this,

         “I consider our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” v. 18

Our honest acknowledgement of suffering around us fills us with compassion for those who are personally struggling. We can sit in silence with them and enter into their pain without dispensing superficial advice…because we know what pain, and insincerity, feel like.

Our intentional embrace of grace, hope and even joy fills us with a spirit of encouragement that can feel like a drink of cold water to a parched soul.

2 Cor. 1:3-7 makes it very clear that there is a direct link between suffering, compassion and the ability to provide comfort for others who suffer. When we embrace all of the above, we can become “wounded healers” in Dan Allender’s insightful language.

The spirit of sadness that sometimes fills us with grief or despair can lead to a harmful end for us or others we love. But when carried along with a spirit of joy and hope, we can bring honesty and comfort. Just like Jesus did.

Romans 8 ends with these words of hope:

       “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

        For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any

       powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God

      that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” v. 38, 39

None of us are invulnerable to the pain and tragedy of life. But nothing, nothing…nothing…can separate us from the hope we have in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

Beneath the Surface of Addictions

This is a fascinating, brief insight into what is going on with addictions of all types. Yet another reason for men to get out of the man cave and experience authentic community. “It’s Not the Chemicals, It’s Your Cage.” For more info on, or help with, sexual addictions go to xxxchurch.com. Craig Glass My greatest […]