Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Compassion International

I had the great privilege on Sunday night to work at the Compassion International booth at the Robbie Seay concert in St. Louis. For those not familiar with this organization, they are a Christian, child sponsorship organization that provides funds to assist children living in extreme poverty around the world. Individuals can sponsor a child for a monthly donation and the money goes to provide food, clothing, education, and other needs of the child and their family. It's a little different than some similar organizations in that you are able to regularly correspond with the child you sponsor and develop a relationship with them. It's an outstanding, reputable, and very well run organization.

My family and I started sponsoring a child living in Columbia in July and it has been a wonderful experience so far. As I've discussed in a previous blog, God has really been causing me to think a lot about the church's role (and my role as a part of the church) in the world, especially as it relates to this issue and other areas of social justice. So when I had the opportunity to volunteer at an event to talk about Compassion and to assist others in sponsoring a child, I jumped at the chance and I'm so glad I did.

It was so exciting to see people's hearts moved and to talk with so many people about Compassion and the work they are doing. We ended up signing up 15 people to sponsor a child, which is incredible. But it was also hard to look at all the packets of children that are still waiting to be sponsored. There is just so many people around the world living in such terrible conditions, that it almost overwhelms me to think about it.

Sometimes I wonder why I spend my day and so much of my energy at a job that just feels rather pointless at times. I feel like I could be putting my skills and talents to use doing something more to further God's kingdom and help those in need, but I just don't have the time because my job keeps me so busy. Don't get me wrong, I like my job and have no plans to leave anytime soon, however it's just not where my real passion lies. I do believe God has me where I am for a reason, but I can't help but wonder if the direction God has been stirring my heart lately is leading to something else. It's difficult to be patient and unsure of the future, but God's timing and plan is always perfect.

So for now I will try to be available when other opportunities like this present themselves. Perhaps that's what all this is about anyway, learning to be available when God calls, no matter how big or small the calling seems to be. Perhaps God is more interested in our hearts and our response to Him than anything else. In the end it's really the work of Christ in peoples hearts and lives that makes the difference anyway, not our actions.

God Bless.

If your interested in more information or would like to sponsor a child, please visit Compassion at www.compassion.com.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

God's Provision

I was reminded again today of how merciful God truly is to us. It's amazing how He provides us with what we need even in the small things in life. We were on our way to my son's football game today, which happened to be an away game about 20 miles from our house, when we ran over something on the road and ended up with a flat tire. By God's grace, his coach happened to be in the car behind us and saw what happened. When we pulled over, he pulled over with us. It turned out that at that point the tire was not flat, but had a large screw in it. We decided to head on to the game and get the tire fixed afterward since the hole seemed to be sealed by the screw. However, just in case it went flat on the way we decided it would be best for my son to ride with his coach figuring that if something happened he could still get there in time for warm ups.

This turned out to be the right decision since we got about another mile and the tire went completely flat and we pulled into a Walgreen's parking lot. When I got ready to change the tire I realized that my jack was missing (still not sure what happened to it). Again God provided. My wife went in to see if anyone in Walgreens had a jack we could borrow. While she was inside, a young girl, who had had a flat a few days before, came over and offered for us to use her jack. Shortly after that my wife came out with someone else who also had a jack and offered to help. Between the whole group, we had the tire changed in about 5 minutes and we were on our way to the game. We even ended up getting there 15 minutes before kickoff. Had my son stayed with us he would have missed 45 minutes of his warm up.

After the game we found an auto and tire shop that was open and had the tire fixed in about 20 minutes. I know this was not some earth shattering event in the whole scheme of things and we've certainly dealt with some much bigger issues over the last year, but it was just so evident to all of us to see God's provision every step of the way. I'm reminded as I write this that if God is so faithful in these small things in our lives, how much more so in the larger things.

This certainly doesn't mean that things always turn out the way we would like or that life is not difficult, because it certainly is very difficult at times. Sometimes we wonder why God allows bad or even terrible things to happen to us and often there is no explanation. But God does not promise us that we will never go through hard and painful times, in fact the Bible clearly states that we will, but He has promised that He will always be with us as we go through the dark times of our life. When we go through these times we should remember back to the times when God provided in the past and trust that He will provide for us again. God is always faithful even in the midst of our doubt.

God Bless.

More Thoughts on the Election

The bickering continues. The Left seems determined to destroy Sarah Palin simply because she is a conservative, Christian woman and the Right seems determined to destroy Obama simply because he is a liberal. I don't have a problem with challenging someone on their position on the issues, but when one side starts going after the others' family or simply making stuff up about the other candidate, that just shows they don't have any ideas of their own. A candidate should give you a reason to vote for them, not against someone else.

Remember how the Left loved McCain when he was running against Bush in 2000 because he was a maverick republican. Now the same people state a McCain administration will be another 4 years of failed Bush policies and they suddenly don’t like him anymore. This strict adherence to a political party drives such hypocrisy it’s no wonder nothing ever gets fixed in this country. I just want to see both sides have an honest debate about what they truly believe and present their plan to the nation without all the personal attacks and rhetoric. Then let the American people make a reasoned decision based on that.

Unfortunately, I think many Americans are more interested in the celebrity gossip and name calling than an actual discussion of the issues. If both candidates and their spokespeople would agree to not engage in this kind of rhetoric and simply stick to the issues, I’m sure the ratings of all the network and cable news shows would decline, but at least we would know what they really believed and then those that voted would be the people that are actually familiar with the issues and have made a reasoned decision.

I’m really disturbed by the fact that many people will vote for Obama simply because he is a great speaker or that many will vote for McCain simply because of his military service and the sacrifice he made for our nation. These are fine qualities to be sure, but not a reason to vote for someone. I love to listen to Obama speak and it would be refreshing to have a president that can put two sentences together. And McCain’s story is amazing and I would be proud to have a man like that as president of the United States. However, we should never vote for someone without truly understanding their position on the issues and unfortunately we just don’t get enough of that.

The hundreds of millions of dollars that are wasted on this kind of campaigning is just sickening. What I would like to see is both candidates travel around the country together engaging in civil debates where people from all sides of the isle are invited to participate. Some could be more formal debates, while others more of a town hall format. Eliminate the personal attach ads and simply produce ads that state the candidates position on issues and their vision for the country. Campaigns could be run on a third of what they are now and that money could instead be better spent on things that would actually help people.

I realize this may just be my idealism talking, but I can’t help for longing for something better than we currently have.

God Bless.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

AIG Bailout

Since I work in the insurance industry I’ve been following the recent financial problems of AIG and Lehman very closely. Being in the industry and doing a lot of business with AIG, I completely understand the ripple effect on the economy, and the insurance industry in particular, if AIG would have been allowed to go down. From an economic theory standpoint I understand why the Fed did what they did. However, since when is it the federal government’s responsibility to bail out a company in financial peril due to their management’s incompetence?

I realize it’s been done before, i.e. the S&L’s in the 80’s. But if the government is willing to bailout AIG, why not all the small businesses that go under everyday in this country? The founding fathers are surely rolling over in their graves. It's not as if there was some natural disaster and the government is helping them get back on their feet. Their problems were solely caused by poor management decisions, nothing else. Yes, it would have effected the economy in the short run, but in the long run the market would have adjusted and been in a much stronger position than it is now.

Don’t get me wrong, I feel for the people on the front lines who could lose their jobs in cost cutting measures because of their management’s inability to understand their own business. But it’s sickening to me that the CEO’s and senior management of these companies will leave with multi-million dollar “golden parachutes.” What exactly are they being rewarded for, running their company into the ground? If we did our jobs that poorly, we would be fired and certainly not receive a bonus on the way out. In addition, now the American taxpayer has to foot the bill to the tune of an $85 billion loan. Do you suppose if AIG becomes profitable and pays back the loan and interest that we’ll see some of those profits? I’m not counting on it.

God Bless.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

World Poverty and the Church

The older I get, the more and more amazed I am at how God works in our lives. This last summer has been, in many ways, a very difficult summer due to some family health issues. Yet at the same time God has been really stirring my heart and causing me to look at my life from a different perspective. I'm finding that things I seldom gave much thought to now move me emotionally in a way the never used to.

God has really softened my heart to the plight of people living in extreme poverty and those suffering through tremendous atrocities like war, terrorism, and genocide and horrendous natural disasters like the recent hurricanes. It's much stronger than just even feeling sympathy for these people; it tends to weight very heavy on my heart. I'm still working through just exactly what it is God is doing and wrestling with why this has become such an emotional issue for me in the last few months, but I'm trying to respond when situations arise that give me the opportunity to do something to help however small it may be.

I feel stronger than I ever have that the church, especially in America, with all the resources that are available to us should be on the forefront of these issues. Yet we often get too wrapped up in our own lives to even give it a second thought. I am just as guilty of this as anyone else so I am not pointing a finger, but something needs to change. If we fail to help those truly in need, we have failed to keep the commandment to love thy neighbor as thyself. Jesus spent most of his ministry healing the sick, feeding the hungry, and loving people where they were at. I think about what I put my energies into and it's seldom any of those things.

At Cornerstone Music Festival this year, I was really challenged by this and, at the urging of my oldest daughter, we decided to start sponsoring a child through Compassion International in July and even though it's not much and it's only one child I feel that God will use it and who knows what impact one child could have.

I have also been presented with an opportunity to help support a documentary an acquaintance at my church is making on the subject of world poverty. The name of the project is called "Give a Damn?" and is currently in production. The filmmaker will be traveling through Africa trying to live on a dollar a day, which is the average daily wage in many third world countries. I would encourage everyone to visit their website at www.giveadamndoc.com for more information on this important film and please consider supporting this project.

The church's mission is to spread the gospel. But spreading the gospel is much more than preaching the salvation message. Our mandate is to care for the poor and suffering. God has truly blessed us in America, but we are called to be good stewards of his blessings and do all we can to care for those here and around the world that are in need. I pray that God would continue to work on all of our hearts and never stop challenging us.

God Bless.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Election

Well, the election is in full swing and I'm tired from staying up too late every night the last few weeks watching the convention coverage for both parties. I was already tired from staying up late watching the Olympics every night and then we went right into the conventions. Part of my problem is that I not only watch the speeches, but I also love all the pre and post speech discussions. I know it drives my wife crazy when I keep flipping from Fox to CNN to MSNBC, but I'm simply fascinated by the political process and love all the debate.

Unfortunately, most of what's going on now is just silly personal attacks between the candidates and no real discussion of issues. This is what turns most people off from politics and is really sad. I am a McCain supporter, but I don't have anything personal against Obama, I just simply disagree with him on many issues. Actually, in many ways, I don't completely disagree with where he wants to go, I just disagree with him on how to get there. There are a few fundamental issues like abortion and higher taxes that would prevent me from voting for him, but I believe that overall his intentions are good and that he really does love this country.

I consider myself an independent conservative with a few liberal leanings, i.e. gun control and the environment. I just can't call myself a republican as I feel they have drifted too far from the idea of small government and really have done nothing about the issue of abortion in this country, which are supposed to be core beliefs of the party. I also have trouble with the so called "Christian Right". I am a Christian and my relationship with Christ is the most important thing in my life. But I can't understand how the Christian Right can be so gung-ho for war and care so little about the issue of poverty around the world. Seems backwards to me, but that's a topic for another day.

The thing I like most about McCain is that he isn't and has never been a typical republican. He has always been a maverick and is not afraid to buck the system. This is exactly the kind of person we need in the White House. Let's hope he doesn't change if he gets elected.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

My First Blog

Welcome to my blog. This is the first one I’ve ever written and I’m excited to join the blogosphere. I have many interests and look forward to sharing my thoughts and opinions on a variety of topics. The topics will likely be all over the map depending on what’s on my mind on any particular day. Some may be deep, serious issues; others may just be mindless or random thoughts.

Here is a little background on me that will give you an idea about my interests. I’m 36 years old and live in the St. Louis, MO area. I’ve been married to my college sweetheart for 15 years and we have 3 wonderful children. I have a bachelor’s degree in Economics and an MBA. I’ve been in the insurance industry for the last 12 years and am a commercial insurance broker, primarily working with large general commercial contractors.

I’m a Christian and have attended a Presbyterian church for the last 12 years. I was raised in the Assemblies of God, but as I got older I found myself moving away from the doctrine of the AG and toward a reformed theology. I now consider myself a Calvinist for the most part.

I tend to be fairly conservative politically, but consider myself an independent since I don’t completely align with the Republican Party on every issue. I am a total political junkie, much to my wife’s dismay.

I am very interested in social justice and environmental issues and the church’s responsibility in these areas.

I’m a huge sports fan, especially football and any sport my children are involved in. My son plays football, my oldest daughter plays softball, and both of my daughters are involved in gymnastics. I love to play basketball, tennis, hike, run, mountain bike, and train with my kids in their various sports.

I also love travel, music (all kinds), movies, theology, reading, art, history, nutrition, and hanging out with my family. I’m sure there is more, but that’s enough autobiography for now.

I hope you enjoy reading my thoughts and I absolutely love to debate, so please feel free to leave comments.