Nikita Speaks….OUCH!

Sometimes a simple but clear and unequivocal proclamation of what someone believes is really refreshing, even if that proclamation stands opposed to everything you believe.  Not just refreshing, sometimes a clear simple truth highlights a greater unspoken truth.

Take Nikita Khrushchev for example.  Khrushchev was the premier of the Soviet Union back in the last half of the 1950s into the 1960s.  Khrushchev has a bucket full of one-liners that make clear what he believes.  Nikita did not tap dance around an issue!

The Soviet Union was officially atheist, and they had little tolerance for the Church and things of God.  Understanding Khrushchev to be a good comrade, I think we can assume he was an atheist himself.

In light of this background, I share with you one of the great one-liners in history, from Khrushchev – “We say the name of God, but that is only habit.”

Think about that….

Future Shock and The Church

In 1970, Alvin Toffler’s first and most important book was published -  Future Shock.  The book looks into the near-future and sees a world of almost overwhelming change and anticipates the impact upon us individually – shock, future shock.

The book is pretty amazing in its accuracy of the unprecedented wave of changes that our culture would absorb.  It’s less clear how accurate the book is in predicting our ability to manage this revolutionary change.  There have been a lot of “papers” written on this very topic with different conclusions being reached.

In my humble opinion (I admit, no research to support this) – we are all greatly influenced by a tidal wave of change that SEEMS to be seamlessly absorbed by the general population.  Said another way, I don’t really see the “shock” predicted (with a few very important exceptions such as the death of manufacturing) but we have all been impacted in significant, unexpected and unappreciated ways by the changes within our culture.

This reality can be seen in many different ways.  Maybe the most obvious is social media.  Also the “news” and the way we gather the news has changed radically.   Think about the ways we are entertained – endless gaming and media options exist within our own home.

The list goes on and, as a direct result, we are being “reshaped in how we interact with each other, altered in what makes us happy, and modified (in) our capability to reach our full potential as individuals.”

We don’t just DO things differently, we ARE different.  Okay….so what?

I’m writing this to make one point – the vast majority of us are being swept along with this tidal wave and we don’t even notice - maybe that is a greater danger than experiencing “shock.”   For example, most of us are at least somewhat “post-modern” even though most of us don’t know what “post-modern” means.  We are being swept along in a post-modern world, influenced tremendously, without our active participation. (Post-modern, stated simply, is the rejection of the idea that there is “truth” that applies to all people equally; so, for example, morals or “right and wrong” are reshaped to fit one’s own personal beliefs).

The ramifications run deep.  Most likely much deeper than most of us are aware.  For example….

Matters of church, faith, religion – it is remarkable the changes in our culture over the past 10-20 years when it comes to matters of our faith.   Not so long ago the Church was possibly the most influential and important “institution” in our lives.  The church wasn’t just a place we went on Sunday mornings, it shaped how we viewed and understood our life and our world.  In a blink-of-an-eye that has changed.

An ever growing segment of our culture simply doesn’t need “church” any longer.  Not on Sunday mornings, not in defining ourselves or our world.  (there is even a new term coined for those of us that have walked away from church – “nones”; see  ).

I wonder – how many of the Nones really considered their choice, and how many are simply caught up in the tidal wave of culture?  I fear many, probably most, are simply being swept along, mostly unaware and unconcerned.

Does it matter?  Is The Church simply an institution that we can choose or not?  Or is the church something that transcends the world and its culture?  I have a feeling that many of us have changed our answer over the past few years.  Maybe we have changed our answer without even considering the question….

My buddy Joe

Well, maybe the headline exaggerates a bit.  It might be a bit over the top to say Joe is my buddy.  But he is my brother…

“Joe” is the one and only “Joe” from my August 6th blog entry.  A couple days ago I unexpectedly ran into Joe one evening.

I know Joe from his work with the Pirates at PNC; he knows me not at all.   I saw him talking to some other people, obvious that he did not know them either.  He was very friendly and open, pretty much like he is at Pirate games.  It was no intrusion on my part when I took the opportunity to introduce myself.

I opened with the following – “I just want to tell you, you were awesome at Faith Night.”  Immediately he turned to me, and instantly he was alive in an entirely new way.  Not just friendly, but beaming; a light shining from within.

It was obvious that it meant a lot that I shared that evening with him.   It was also obvious that the night meant a great deal to him as he spoke freely and enthusiastically.   I don’t remember many of the exact words, but I do remember that shortly after I introduced myself one of the first comments he made was – “it was an amazing night; the presence of the Holy Spirit was very real!”

Maybe because our culture is now so very “post-Christian”, but to hear Joe speak so freely and enthusiastically about his Lord and God was like hearing another language (although one I understood).  His entire countenance changed immediately.  Seeing his obvious joy in his faith, I had to wonder – “why is Joe so different than most Christians I know?”

Joe spent a fair amount of time talking with me.  Seeing that others wanted to chat, I eased myself away.  But I was in a fantastic mood.  I wondered again about how alive he was in his faith, and I wondered – if all Christians experienced the same joy in Jesus that Joe does, how many more people would be attracted to God and His things?

Joe showed me, reminded me, that our faith is meant to overcome the world, not be overcome.  The Holy Spirit was at work in Joe, and it made an impact upon me.  It might sound strange, but I’m different after that encounter.  Working through Joe, the Holy Spirit has set me free to be alive with my God in this world.  I can only hope that a light is shining from within me.  If it is, others will notice.

I had never meet Joe, but he is clearly my brother.

Way to go Bucs !!

I want to take a moment to pass on to you a couple very poignant images from Faith Night at PNC Park.

The stadium was completely filled for the game, standing room only – so there would have been somewhere between 36,000 – 38,000 people there.  The Pirates got blown out, but after the Pirates had won the previous four nights the crowd was very upbeat, and relatively few left early despite the score.  There was an announcement made for Faith Night at the beginning of the game and also at the end.  Nothing pushy, just an invitation to join with others and players. At the end of the game everyone that wished to stay was invited to congregate in sections 101 -107.
As we worked our way over to our seats in the requested sections, along the the deep right field line, I was able to see the entire stadium.  I stood and watch what was taking place:

I looked upon a stadium full of brilliant light, and thousands and thousands of people filing out of that stadium, unconcerned for what was to take place next.  The stadium that was so full of people, excited for a baseball game, was now reduced to a few thousand, maybe 2500 gathered along the right field line.  We wanted until everyone in the stadium made their decision.  No-doubt some were uninterested, others unaware, a few unable to stay; out of the whole only a small portion remained in the brilliant light of the stadium.

As I watched this scene unfold it was a perfect picture of the world.  It just jumped out at me – how few people are concerned, how few people are aware, for matters of God.  I really thought that Cutch and Clint and other players would be enough to cause most people to stay, even if Jesus was not.  But they didn’t.  They just disappeared into the darkness.  It was very very poignant.
That’s not to say it was a sad event.  To the contrary, it was tremendous.  The few thousand that remained filled in several sections.  There were smiles and joy, there was a connection between everyone.  The players and staff came out and shared important words.  They reminded us that baseball is not the most important thing in THEIR lives, (meaning, surely baseball is not the most important in ours, nor anything else), that their walk with Jesus Christ will not be interrupted even in a busy season.  They shared important verses of Scripture, moments of dependence upon God, making space for God in their busy lives.  It was impressive seeing these great athletics sharing a great faith.

But their was one other particularly powerful moment.  It was at the beginning when a fellow who works for the Pirates named Joe opened us up.  Many of you have seen Joe, though you probably don’t know his name.  He does many of the commercials for the Pirates on TV, and is often seen at the stadium.  Young, nice looking, he took the mic at the beginning to welcome us to the first Faith Night at PNC.  Joe has always seemed happy; it’s his job.  But now he looked different – it was as though a special light was shining upon him.  And he spoke powerfully and confidently about Jesus Christ.

There was no hesitation, no doubt – for Joe our gathering was about Jesus and each of us knowing Jesus.  Watching Joe gave be incredible encouragement.  He is not a famous athlete, but he is a “face” – and he was making known to all that cared or would listen who he really he – he is Christ’s own; nothing is bigger or more important.  I soaked up his encouragement.  His joy.  His reality.

Two pictures – one of thousands and thousands filling out into the darkness; one of a young man, bathed in light, sharing his faith to those of us that remained, huddled together in common joy, those of us that call Jesus “King”.  It was a powerful night, a powerful picture.  It renewed my awe that God had called me out of the darkness that most will live and die in.  It made me hurt for those unconcerned or unaware.  It made me want to be part of this great work that God has called each of us that know Him into – to be a light into the darkness of the world.

For it is truly God’s desire that none would perish….