Baltimore

Credit:  Newsweek

Credit: Newsweek

My December 11, 2014 Perspectives article was titled “Ferguson.” The article reflected on the protests, demonstrations and looting in Ferguson, Missouri, following the decision of a grand jury not to indict the policeman who shot and killed an unarmed teenager, Michael Brown.

Those protests, demonstrations and looting spread from Ferguson to places as far away as Oakland, Cal. and New York City. Stores were burned, valuable items were looted, bridges were blocked and mayhem was unleashed.

Sound familiar? The same things happened this week in Baltimore. Violent activity, riots, fires and looting resulted in charred cars, burned buildings, hospitalized police officers, looted and damaged businesses. One activist vowed to “shut this city down.”

A state of emergency was declared and National Guard troops were brought in. Parts of Baltimore looked more like a war zone than a place where people live, work and play. The damage and destruction were inflicted by, among others, gangs and high school students.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan appealed for peace and declared that further lawlessness and violence would be neither condoned nor tolerated. Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said: “Too many people have spent generations building up this city for it to be destroyed by thugs who, in a very senseless way, are trying to tear down what so many have fought for.”

The catalyst for this scenario of senseless, dastardly, destructive, lawless and violent behavior in Baltimore was similar to that which precipitated the same kinds of raucous demonstrations that devastated the city of Ferguson several months ago. In each case a young African American man died in the wake of police response to what appeared to them to be unlawful activity.

In Ferguson it was Michael Brown, who was shot and killed. In Baltimore it was Freddie Gray. The only details of the cause of his death available at the time this article was written are that he was not buckled into the police van in which he was riding after being apprehended and that he did not receive timely medical attention. More details will surely be uncovered in the future.

In the meantime, I’m convinced that, along with original sin and satanic influence, there are several significant root causes of the behavior manifested in Ferguson and now Baltimore:

  • High rates of unemployment in poverty stricken areas, especially among young males.
  • Breakdown of the family and thus the absence of spiritual, moral and ethical values.
  • Difficulty faced by police officers in making split-second life and death decisions.
  • A growing spirit of distrust contributing to greater interracial division in America.
  • Disrespect and disregard in some circles for law and law enforcement officers.
  • Lack of personal responsibility and respect for authority, law and order.
  • Three out of four homes in certain areas have no father in the home.

My December 11 article concluded with these words: “It will take a miracle for what happened in Ferguson never to happen again!” We still await that miracle.

Lord, have mercy!

Five Things Your Kids Will Remember About You

FamilyThis past week I came across an article by Dave Willis titled Five Things Your Kids Will Remember about You (www.patheos.com/blogs/davewillis/the-5-things-your-kids-will-remember-about-you/). The article was followed by encouragement to share it with others.

As parents, we tend to stress about things that don’t matter all that much. Our kids probably aren’t going to remember every detail of our home decor, or how perfect our landscaping looked or whether our refrigerator was stocked with name brands or generics. Let’s focus on what really matters. If you want to know what your kids will remember about you, here it is:

1.  The times you made them feel safe (or the times you made them feel unsafe).

There’s a vulnerability and a need for protection in the heart of every child. Your kids will remember those moments you chased the monsters from under their bed or held them after a nightmare, but they’ll also remember the times your temper became the monster they feared. Our kids are probably going to see us angry sometimes, because that’s part of life, but make it your mission to make your children feel safe and secure at all times when they’re with you.

2.  The times you gave them your undivided attention.

Kids measure love primarily by our attentiveness to them. The times you stop what you’re doing to have a tea party or go outside to throw a ball or jump on a trampoline with be memories etched into their minds and hearts forever. Take the time to do the little things with your kids, because in the end, they’ll be the moments that matter most.

3.  The way you interacted with your spouse.

Our kids are forming their views of love in large part by watching how we treat our husband or wife. Strive to have the kind of marriage that makes them excited to get married someday. Give them the security that comes from seeing their Mom and Dad in a committed, loving relationship with each other.

4.  Your words of affirmation AND your words of criticism.

A child’s heart is like wet cement and the impression made early in life will harden over time. They’ll base their sense of identity, capability and even self-worth largely upon the words you speak to them in those formative years. Part of our job as parents is to correct and discipline, but even in correction, let your words be full of love, encouragement and positive reinforcement.

5.  Your family traditions.

Kids love spontaneity, but they also have deep need for predictability. They’ll remember with great fondness the “traditions” you establish whether it’s a weekly family movie (or game) night, a place you regularly travel for family getaways, the way you celebrate birthdays and special events or any other special tradition. Be intentional about creating some traditions that they’ll want to pass on to their own children someday.

While not specifically mentioned in the article, you and I would surely want to amplify this list, perhaps in the family traditions category, by adding items near and dear to our Christian heart. Examples might include reading Bible stories to our children, teaching them to pray, to worship, to sing, to share, to forgive, and to have compassion on the needy, the lonely, the outcast.

This will hopefully be helpful to you and your family. Many blessings!

P.S. Addendum to Entrepreneurial Ministries and Conferences:

  • Best Practices in Ministry Conference additional Web site: www.cclphoenix.org/bpm.html
  • Grace Place Wellness Ministries (Lugar de Gracia in Spanish) (www.graceplacewellness.org) was founded in 1999 by John D. Eckrich, M.D., to keep church workers and their spouses healthy, joyful, vigorous and balanced in body, mind and spirit to effectively serve the people placed in their care. This ministry and its leaders have served thousands of Lutheran church workers, leaders and their families in America, Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America.

Entrepreneurial Ministries and Conferences

ConferenceIn the early years of my ministry, programs and conferences sponsored by districts of our national church and also by the national church itself were designed to provide ideas and materials for use by the local congregation. That was then. This is now.

While our national church and some districts still offer such programs and conferences, growing congregations and visionary leaders are initiating ministries and hosting conferences that impact churches across the nation and even around the globe. Today I’m highlighting some of them.

In preparation, I contacted the leaders of each of these ministries or conferences, requesting one long or two short sentences briefly describing their purpose and focus. Those descriptions are posted below my signature. Here are the ministries and conferences, listed alphabetically:

•  Best Practices for Ministry www.bestpracticesforministry.net
•  Dwelling 1:14 www.dwelling114.org
•  FiveTwo www.fivetwo.com
•  J2e3 www.J2e3.com
•  LCMS Mega Church Conference
•  MinistryFocus ministryfocus.org
•  Mission of Christ Network www.MissionofChrist.org
•  Pastoral Leadership Institute www.plinstitute.org

Congregations and individuals with a vision for intentional, strategic, faithful and fruitful Gospel proclamation through word and deed are finding encouragement, support and inspiration through these and other entrepreneurial ministries and conferences. Read the descriptions below and check them out for yourself. I believe you’ll be blessed by what you discover!

Entrepreneurial Ministries and Conferences:

Best Practices for Ministry www.bestpracticesforministry.net is a free conference sponsored by Christ Church Lutheran (that’s not a typo) in Phoenix for those who love the local church, the lost and the LCMS. Last year’s conference had over 1,500 lay leaders and pastors.

Dwelling 1:14 www.dwelling114.org is a ministry that helps leaders disciple their people to join Jesus on His mission in the places they already live, work and go to school. This simple lifestyle is described in Greg Finke’s book, “Joining Jesus on His Mission.”

FiveTwo www.fivetwo.com is a network that fuels sacramental entrepreneurs who start new to reach new. To reach the millions of lost people in the U.S. and beyond, we need a variety of new ministries and the men and women wired to start them.

J2e3 (Jesus to Everyone, Everywhere, Every Day) www.J2e3.com Missions Summit will be held May 4-6 at Concordia Lutheran Church in San Antonio, Tex. Featuring inspiring speakers who will share best practices of missional efforts that effectively reach the lost, the purpose of J2e3 is to send you to be Jesus to everyone, everywhere, every day.

LCMS Mega Church Conference is a fellowship of the senior pastors of congregations of our Synod that have, on average, over 1,000 people in weekly worship. These pastors and their wives meet annually and also offer support and encouragement to one another throughout the year.

MinistryFocus ministryfocus.org is a grassroots organization within the LCMS, established in 2013 to eliminate systemic barriers to the proclamation of the Gospel. To achieve our mission, we provide certain “tools” that are commonplace outside the church, that within the church provide energy and focus for sharing the good news of Jesus Christ.

Mission of Christ Network www.MissionofChrist.org is a lay-led pastor advised tax-exempt organization whose primary objective is to multiply intentional Gospel proclamation worldwide through existing networks of Christian people groups, congregations and organizations. This includes age appropriate local, national and international short and long-term mission work integrated with long-term discipleship internationally and in your home congregation.

Pastoral Leadership Institute www.plinstitute.org trains and invests in leaders for a changing world. PLI believes pastors and spouses gain confidence and courage to lead in community so that fear and isolation are defeated and ministries can best reach lost and broken people with the Gospel of Jesus.

Head Shakers, Breath Takers, Heart Breakers

NYXA number of recent news stories, events and experiences have produced for me what I believe can be accurately called head shakers, breath takers and heart breakers. I’ll list a number of them and you can decide for yourself in which category you would place them. Here we go:

  • Internal Revenue Service tax forms that are complicated, convoluted and confounding.
  • Reports of people who fraudulently access federal government funds, often frivolously spending the hard earned money of taxpayers who comply with IRS regulations.
  • Reports that the University of Texas paid nearly $10 million to buy out the contracts of their recently fired and newly hired football and basketball head coaches.
  • Reports from various world hunger organizations that 17 million children suffer from severe acute malnutrition and that at least one million of them die every year.
  • National arguments and protests surrounding Indiana and Arkansas legislators’ attempts to agree on religious liberty legislation.
  • Concerns expressed by some that Religious Freedom Restoration Acts would encourage discrimination against specific segments of society, such as atheists or homosexuals. Never mind that discrimination is freely demonstrated against Christians every day.
  • An agreement struck by the United States and other nations designed to restrain Iran’s nuclear facilities and capacity.
  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s comment on the Iranian agreement: “Such a deal would not block Iran’s path to the bomb. It would pave it. It would increase the risks of nuclear proliferation in the region and the risks of a horrific war.”
  • A German airliner’s co-pilot who locked his captain out of the cockpit and proceeded, intentionally and deliberately, to take the lives of all passengers and crew by crashing the plane into rugged mountainous French terrain.
  • Medical reports that this co-pilot had suicidal tendencies, yet succeeded in camouflaging what would surely have disqualified him from the incredible responsibility borne by the thousands of pilots who fly millions of passengers around the world every day.
  • The brutal slaying of 142 students, three policemen and three soldiers by al-Shabab, an Islamic jihadist terrorist group, during a 13-hour massacre at a university in Kenya.
  • Al-Shabab’s subsequent warning of more attacks in retaliation for killings by Kenyan troops fighting al-Shabab in Somalia. They said: “Kenyan cities will run red with blood.”

You could add some shakers, takers and breakers of your own. In a very sobering sense, it’s no surprise that such realities occur, especially breath takers and heart breakers. We live in a broken world where Satan “walks about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8)

In the midst of that fallen world, this past week those of us who bear the name of Christ rejoiced at the anniversary of his death defying resurrection! Someday, in the new heavens and new earth, righteousness will dwell and death will be no more. (2 Peter 3:13) I’m hoping that means no more head shakers, breath takers or heart breakers!

Spring Break and Holy Week

CrossesSpring break and Holy Week each attract millions of people annually. That’s where the similarity ends. Consider the following differences and disparities between the two.

Several newspaper and TV reports this week have focused in a graphic way on recent spring break activities. Video clips have shown raucous and even lewd behavior of young people by themselves or in small groups in the midst of huge crowds of barely clothed humanity.

In almost every case mass consumption of alcohol is involved. One method of such volumetric booze delivery is a beer-filled plastic funnel attached to a tube that goes straight into the mouth of the consumer. Another shows scantily clad young women and men chug-a-lugging gin or vodka straight from the bottle. Other methods might be both more creative and destructive.

Tragically, those reports include news of seven young people being shot last weekend in Panama City Beach, Fla. During February and March up to six million young people visit that small town of 12,000, which has been dubbed “the Spring Break Capital of the World.”

Other reports are of young spring breakers who have died from excessive alcohol consumption or drug abuse. Contributing factors include a large number of under-age drinkers and widespread availability of heroin, together with an increasingly popular club drug called Molly.

Contrast that dangerous and deadly scenario with the meditative, reflective, penitential mood of Holy Week. Celebrated by billions of Christians worldwide, this week’s events include Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday, the Festival of the Resurrection.

Scripture and worship throughout this week will focus on the passion of Christ, including:

  • The Passover in the upper room, with Jesus initiating the Lord’s Supper
  • The suffering and arrest of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane
  • His trial and sentence of death before Roman authorities
  • His crucifixion on a hill named Calvary, also called “the place of the skull”
  • His embalming by faithful women and burial in a borrowed tomb
  • His miraculous resurrection from that grave three days later!

Spring break focuses on the unchecked and uninhibited natural inclination of mankind toward self-gratification. Holy Week’s emphasis is the sacrificial act of Christ for the forgiveness of humanity’s self-centered failure to live life according to the purpose for which God created us.

Terry and I join each of you, especially this Holy Week, in thanking God for his Son Jesus! Soon we’ll all be saying: “Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!”