Strength to Press On

I love Colorado. Especially this time of year, when everything is green.

I grew up in Colorado, but growing up here, I didn’t appreciate it as much as I should have. I started to appreciate it a lot more in my later teenage years, but soon moved away. The 10 years that I was away, I lived in and traveled to amazing and (sometimes) beautiful places in Europe, but all that time I dreamt about the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. The only problem I have with Colorado is there’s not enough Hungarian-speakers here ūüôā ¬†When I moved back to Colorado, I determined to appreciate and enjoy the grandeur and beauty of this place as much as possible.¬†

Today, as I was biking outside of Lyons with a friend, I started reflecting on a regret I have: something I would change if I could roll back time. It’s not a major one – and it’s certainly not too late to correct.

Here it is: If I could roll back time, I would have done more things as a younger man to train myself in endurance. It’s not that I don’t have endurance, but I wish I had even greater endurance than I currently do – and I wish I had started training myself in it earlier in life. Had I done so, my endurance level would probably be higher than it is now.

Endurance is key to success in climbing mountains, biking, snowshoeing, backpacking and hiking. It’s also key in many areas of life. Paul the Apostle encouraged us to “run with endurance the race which is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1). The race he was speaking of was the life lived following after Jesus Christ and pursuing God and his will.

At church on Sunday I shared this quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer: “Christianity is less about cautiously avoiding sin than about courageously and actively dong the will of God.”

That race isn’t a 100 meter dash – it’s a marathon. And marathons require endurance.

Endurance is something that can be¬†gained,¬†it is something can be cultivated, something you can train yourself in – and we would all do well to do so. Having a successful¬†marriage requires endurance. Having success in raising a family, in doing a ministry – it requires endurance. Anybody can have a burst of energy and make a “flash in the pan” – but in order to regularly produce lasting fruit over a sustained period requires endurance.¬†

I also believe the promise of God’s Word, that to those who seek after Him with their whole hearts, God will give the grace and endurance to run this race and finish it well.

Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, ‚ÄúMy way is hidden from the LORD, and my right is disregarded by my God‚ÄĚ? Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:27-31 ESV)

The Best Place to Own a Home in Colorado

Firestone, CO

According to NerdWallet, Firestone, CO is the best place to own a home in Colorado.

This article on the Firestone town website boasts that Firestone is 30 minutes from Denver, Boulder and Fort Collins. Curiously, they don’t mention that Firestone is also a short 30 min drive from everyone’s favorite Northern Colorado city: Greeley ūüôā However, Firestone clearly has closer ties to Longmont than to Greeley, even though Greeley is their county seat.

My wife and I considered a home in Firestone when we were looking for a place to live in Longmont. We could have bought a nicer house for less money in Firestone than in Longmont, but in the end, my wife doesn’t like rural areas and we were afraid that if we lived in Firestone we wouldn’t have many visitors because people wouldn’t be willing to make the drive out. For some people that might be part of the appeal! Whether it’s true or not, we may never know.

However, with Firestone being right in the middle of everything in Northern Colorado, it would go to figure that living there you spend a lot of time in the car no matter where you want to go.

Another factor in why we moved to Longmont rather than Firestone is because I wanted to be as close to the mountains as I could afford – so we specifically wanted to live in Northwest Longmont, near to MacIntosh Lake, Rabbit Mountain, Lyons and Estes Park.

What do you think? ¬†Any Firestone residents out there who want to chime in and let us know the joys and/or difficulties of living in “the best place to own a home in Colorado”?

Marijuana Legalization and Christianity

This week a Gallup poll came out which showed that for the first time, a majority of Americans favor legalizing marijuana. In fact, in the past year, the support for marijuana legalization surged from 48% to 58% of those polled.¬†Here in Colorado, we live in a state that has had medical marijuana legal for years and which voted last November to legalize its recreational use as well. Not to mention that here in Boulder County, whether it’s legal or not, people in this area have been smoking a lot of pot for a long time and will continue to do so. A friend of mine who just moved to BoCo wrote this about how prevalent marijuana use is just in his daily commute. Just the other day I was talking to someone about Lyons High School (thinking ahead for our kids); they said it’s a good school – but that it’s known for the kids there smoking a ton of weed.

Marijuana is here to stay. It’s already been legalized in this state, and will soon be regulated. Interestingly enough though, I have heard almost NOTHING from Christian leaders on this topic. I have, however, heard a lot of people talking about it – including Christians, saying things like:¬†If marijuana becomes legal and readily available in the same way that alcohol is, then is there anything wrong with trying it out? If you can buy it in a shop and it becomes socially acceptable, then is there any reason to not occasionally indulge?

Up until now, pastors have been telling people they shouldn’t smoke pot because it’s illegal, and the Bible instructs us to honor the laws of the land we live in (Romans 13). But now – guess what: game changer! Marijuana is no longer illegal!¬†Drinking alcohol in moderation is more or less acceptable in most Christian circles these days – so if marijuana gets put in the same legal category, then is it okay to treat it the same way?

These are real questions that people – including Christians – are considering. If Christian leaders aren’t talking about what people are actually thinking about and talking about, then we have become irrelevant and are not engaging people and bringing God’s word to bear on the time and place we live in, as we are called to do.

So, what should be the Christian response to the legalization of marijuana?

What does the Bible say?

The Bible doesn’t say anything about marijuana – just like it doesn’t say anything about tobacco or chemical weapons or genetically modified food. But there are principles the Bible lays down which apply.

The “don’t do it because it’s illegal” argument is soon to be off the table, so what should our position be towards recreational marijuana use? The Bible doesn’t say anything about marijuana in particular, but it does speak about mind-altering drugs – in Greek: farmakeia – which were used recreationally rather than medicinally.

Also, the Bible tells us not to be drunk, but to be filled with the Holy Spirit – i.e.: Don’t be under the influence of substances, but be under the influence of God’s Spirit.

The differences between marijuana and alcohol

More and more people are speaking up about how much safer marijuana is than alcohol. You never hear about people committing violent acts because they are stoned. Marijuana has also not been shown to cause long-term brain damage as alcohol has.

But the difference between marijuana and alcohol are that you can drink alcohol without getting intoxicated. It’s possible to drink wine (like Jesus did) or beer with a meal to enjoy the flavor without getting drunk. No one smokes marijuana just for the flavor – the very point of smoking it is mood alteration.

Will marijuana legalization change anything?

It’s clear by now that adults are going to smoke marijuana whether it is legal or not – which is why more and more people are saying, ‘why not tax it and regulate it then?’. It has been estimated that up to $40 million dollars in tax revenue could come in from recreational marijuana sales in Colorado, which would be earmarked for schools. Regulating marijuana, they point out, could also kill at least part of the black market for it, which inevitably leads to violent crime.

Certainly marijuana use would increase once it’s legalized – as people who were once worried about doing something illegal would no longer have to worry about that. Also, and this is a concern for me – it would make it more accessible to kids, because they would no longer need to find a dealer, they will just have to find a friend with an older brother who is willing to buy it for them – just like with alcohol and tobacco.

I smoked pot when I was a teenager, before I gave my life to the Lord when I was 16. I have family members who smoke pot regularly, and I don’t want my kids to smoke pot. I don’t want them to check out or get intoxicated to cope with life or to have fun – whether with alcohol or marijuana or any other substance.

Legislating morality and the real issue

There are plenty of things the Bible instructs us not to do that are legal in our society, such as adultery, fornication, drunkenness, sorcery, etc. Christian maturity means being able to discern and choose for yourself, from a heart-felt response to God’s grace rather than needing to have someone hold your hand and dictate to you what to do.

There are plenty of ways to harm yourself which are completely legal. You can go buy some glue and sniff it and get high – legally. There are also ways to harm yourself, however, which are illegal, such as chemical food additives, cocaine, certain medications, meth, etc. which we consider detrimental to society and harmful to people, which we have banned and we don’t give people legal avenues to indulge in.

For us as Christians, the point is clear: marijuana is intoxicating. We should not be intoxicated or controlled by substances, but by the Holy Spirit. It’s pretty cut and dry.

For society in general, it’s a question of whether or not it would be helpful or harmful to have more intoxicated people everywhere and to make a mind-altering drug more accessible to children than it already is.

Colorado Flood, the church & charity work, and the question ‘why?’

Flooding in Longmont – September 2013

Just last month, to the surprise of everyone in our community, Longmont and our surrounding area was the center of a national disaster when rain in the mountains filled up our rivers and flooded the towns along Colorado’s northern Front Range. At one point 7000 people in Longmont were evacuated, 2000 people in Lyons and 4000 in Boulder. Hundreds of homes were affected, the town of Lyons was shut down and cut off. Roads and bridges were washed out, cutting us off from nearby towns.

Churches in the community rallied volunteers to distribute food, house evacuees and help clean up and rebuild. It was an amazing thing to witness.¬†Our church meets in a building that became an evacuation center, with up to 300 people making it their home for over a week. Since we weren’t able to have Sunday services because of that, we took the opportunity to work with the City of Longmont, who asked our congregation to help them set up a disaster recovery center in the Twin Peaks Mall. So that Sunday, in place of our usual service, our church met in an empty retail space at the mall; there were no chairs, so we stood and had a short Bible study and prayer and then got to work. Together with another church from town, we set up what became the first and largest disaster recovery center in Colorado and the epicenter for the relief efforts.¬†We also organized work teams who went into The Greens neighborhood to muck out basements that were full of contaminated water. We helped people save photos and heirlooms that had been covered in mud and sewage. We also set up a disaster relief fund and are now working with a relief organization, Calvary Relief, to help with efforts in Lyons.

As good as all this sounds, I had someone ask me a few days into it:¬†Why is the church putting so much effort and energy into this? Isn’t the government taking care of things?¬† ¬†In fact, this question came from a man who had traveled to our area to help with the relief efforts! ¬†He was asking me what the point and purpose of all of this work was. At the root of his question was a fundamental question of what ‘the church’ is and what we exist to do. In other words: ‘what is our mission?’ and ‘does this fit into our mission, or should we leave this for others to do and focus on our mission?’

That isn’t a bad question actually. As I mentioned in my previous post, everything we do begs the question ‘why?’. Why should the church spend money and human resources on helping with disaster relief, when so many others are doing it already? ¬†Should the church be focused on helping people in temporal ways – or should we be focused on helping people spiritually?

One answer that has historically been given, is that if you don’t meet people’s physical needs, then you will lose the opportunity to minister to their spiritual needs – thus, the reason we should do humanitarian work is so that we can open the door to talking to people about spiritual things. ¬†After all, Jesus did say: ¬†“For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?”

Another take on it is to say that the church exists to represent the values of the Kingdom of God in this world in order to bring glory to God and to please God by acting according to His heart of love towards the people He created. Jesus said: “let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”¬†He said:¬†‚ÄėTruly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

So, on the one hand, it could be argued that if we as Christians uniquely have the message of eternal life in Jesus Christ, then our number 1 priority should be saving people’s souls rather than trying to make their lives be more comfortable here and now. Any one of the many NGO’s can help rebuild; shouldn’t we focus on preaching the Gospel so they can be saved eternally? On the other hand, it could also be argued that we are called to love our neighbor as ourselves – and I know if my house was flooded and I was displaced, I would want some help! After all, didn’t Jesus meet people’s temporal needs by healing them and feeding them? ¬†Didn’t the disciples in the Book of Acts care for people’s temporal needs by feeding widows and collecting offerings to assist the poor?

What do you think?  Should the church do charity work, and if so, why?

I’ll tell you this much – if we don’t show people we love them in practical ways, we are misrepresenting God. We need to preach the Gospel, which is the power of God for salvation to all who believe, but we also need to serve and take care of hurting people. Striking this balance is something that Christians have been debating, and even dividing over for centuries.

In a recent sermon, I defined the mission of God as a mission of redemption and restoration of all things affected by sin, and that our mission as Christians is to join God in His mission.

What do you think?  Should the church be involved in charity work? If so, why? and to what degree?