Abundant Life

Are you living an abundant life ?

Screen Shot 2015 04 19 at 7.59.03 PM 300x214 Abundant LifeWhat do you remember about April 19th, twenty years ago?   For most Americans old enough to remember, that day is a day that “lives in infamy” like September 11th and December 7th. Most Americans remember that day as a day of tremendous grief and sadness, for we watched in horror as scenes of the Oklahoma City bombing unfolded on the television screens before us. And we found ourselves asking the question, “What kind of perverted ideology would justify such indiscriminate evil and violence?” The most enduring image from that day was captured in the Pulitzer Prize winning photo of Firefighter Captain Chris Fields cradling one-year-old Baylee Almon in his arms. That heartbreaking image is unforgettable. Yet, I had an entirely different experience on that day, twenty years ago.

On that day, twenty years ago, over 1200 miles away, I had the privilege to cradle in my arms another infant. You see, the morning of April 19th, 1995, Janice was giving birth to our youngest son, Jonathan Zachary. For our family, it was a day filled with great joy and hope, and gratitude to God for this wonderful new life. As Janice and I held our newborn son that day, we wondered about his life and his future, and our thoughts were filled with hope and optimism. What gifts and talents would he have? What would his personality be like? Who would he marry? What would be his life’s work?

So, on April 19th every year, I am reminded of both great tragedy and great joy. The juxtaposition of these two conflicting realities is sometimes hard to reconcile. Yet, in many ways, I have come to understand that this is actually a picture of life. We would all like life to be simple and to go smoothly all the time. However, life often doesn’t work this way. I have found that typically, at any given moment in my life, there is a mixture of both good and bad at work. All that is happening is not good, and all that is happening is not bad either. We often get both, running alongside one another like parallel tracks, at the same time.

We live in a broken world, but thankfully, we have a savior who has not left us alone to face it. He encouraged us to pray daily, “Let My kingdom come, and My will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven.” He asked us to pray this way, precisely because His will was often not being done “on earth as it is in heaven.” So, pain, trial, difficulty, even tragedy are a part of life on this broken planet. However, one of the keys to enjoying the “abundant life” Jesus spoke of is learning to love God and rejoice in His blessings, often in the midst of trials and pain. That is, great pain and great joy can, and often do, exist together. And I have learned to take the words of Paul to heart (Phil. 4:8), “whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report…dwell on these things..” There is so much negativity in the world that wants to capture our attention, but Paul encourages us here to “dwell on” those things that are lovely, pure, admirable and of “good report.”

So, today, as I remember the Oklahoma City bombing, and as I pray for those still directly impacted by those events, I also celebrate life. I celebrate the life of my son, Jon.    And I thank God for his life, and his future that is still yet to be written.

Help your child understand their life purpose

Last week, the Believe Me movie was released in theaters. The premise of the movie is that the main character needs to find means to pay for his final year in college and does so by creating a fake Christian ministry and steals money through it. Along the way, the leaders of this fake ministry partner up with a Christian Youth Organization. The movie pokes at many of the Christian stereotypes.

While this movie has been labeled as unfair by some Christians, the directors (who are Christians) claim that they really are wanting to get down to the question of “why”. Why do Christians believe these things? Which beliefs are sincere, which are just part of being a “good Christian”?

While the themes in this movie are important considerations to make before watching, they bring up important conversations. This week, Barna Group released new statistics about teens who participate in church. According to the study:

  • Nearly three out of ten teens had an adult mentor at the church.
  • Teens who participate in church are nearly four times more likely to understand their purpose in life.
  • Teens who have remained active in their church attendance are three times as likely to say that they learned to view their gifts and passions as part of God’s calling.
  • Teens who remain active in their church attendance are much more likely to believe the Bible contains wisdom for living a meaningful life (65% versus 17%).

Often, culture picks and pulls at Christian culture. While the media may often insinuate that church and faith have a negative impact on teens, the current studies are showing that this is not the case. Actively participating in church are very positive steps in the life of a teen.

While Believe Me takes some liberties in conveying some of the stereotypes within the church- in the end, the heart behind it is to leave viewers considering what really is important in Christianity and in faith. It is important to note that Christian culture is different from Christian values and benefits. Challenging teens to take ownership of their faith rather than simply fitting in with Christian culture can be a great step for teens making strong foundations in life.