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Half our household is anticipating this Sunday morning. Here’s why… my friend Kenny is bringing us a beautiful, pure-bred, colorful, bantam rooster. Because it’s five degrees here right now (and leaving it in his truck is probably a mistake) it’ll be in my office at church during the services Sunday until we can bring it home and get it in the barn. Those of us who are excited about this are eager to get our little chicken operation up and rolling (I raised 500 chickens in high school and delivered eggs! Hickey’s Egg Farm, I’m serious… I’ll try to dig up a picture).
Come on… farm fresh eggs – what’s there to complain about? Our daughter Kaitlyn is reading up on incubating eggs. As we were discussing this, our friend Cliff (and fellow CATG poultry connoisseur) commented through a chuckle the other night over a plateful of broiled chicken that you won’t survive the end times unless you can raise chickens for your family!!
Kristen sees this all differently. She is wondering if this thing will wake her up everyday at 5 A.M.. She’s been telling everyone the story of us being woken up each day in Gaza City a few years ago by Yassar Arafat’s rooster outside our window (we stayed on his compound). She’s worried our three barn cats will gang up the the rooster. I tell her it’ll be the other way around if they mess with him and that one little confrontation and there will forever be peace in our menagerie. I’m surprised she hasn’t thought to bring up the possibility of Asian Bird Flu infecting our children. So we’ve come to a real crossroads of opinion here in our home. Are chickens a good thing or a not-so-good thing?
Now I’ll be serious… Woody Allen once said: “More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly.” Let’s hope he was just trying to be funny. I’m thinking he was not. Such is the outlook of those without faith.
Faith and pessimism are like oil and water. In the moments I start struggling with pessimism, I’ve learned to realize my real problem is having little faith that God is there and will work all things out for good according to his purpose because he loves me.
For those of you still not smiling, maybe this will lighten you up…
Before I say some more about being optimistic, I want to mention something I’m starting to get excited about… the Firestarters are ministering at the River next Friday night (8 P.M.). The River is CATG’s college and young adult ministry. The Firestarters are a super-anointed group of young people who call down the glory of the Lord as they minister through worship, dance, and art. I’m praying we walk into a visitation!! (If you are in the area, you are not too old to come. Maybe being in the midst of fired up young people is just what you need!)
I’m trying to start a fire of faith and optimism here at the start of ’08 with this series of posts. For those just joining us, Oh Yeah! ’08 is an attitude of optimism and faith for what God is about to do in our midst this coming year. It’s a victory mindset sorely lacking today in the Body of Christ. The Bible says “set your minds on things above.” To all the pessimists God asks “is anything too hard for the Lord?”
One of the keys to optimism is a grateful heart. Travel internationally and you’ll get a perspective on how fortunate you are. My experience in traveling to numerous poor places in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and South America is that in these poor pockets of the world there is no one on anti-depressants and yet the Christians I meet there are radiant. I’m just telling you what I observe, maybe you can leave a comment on what you think is up there.
I do know the best thing we can do to break out of a pity party is serve someone who struggles even more. Somehow in that God releases his life. Next time you feel the need to crucify someone or something with your mouth, remember God is in the resurrection business not the crucifixion business. Am I telling you to fake it even if you don’t feel it? No, but I am saying you don’t have to indulge it (pessimism that is) and speak everything you think and potentially contaminate the spiritual atmosphere around you. Words are seeds that grow into things, they release realities good and bad. Speak life over your life.
This afternoon I head to CATG’r Dr. Myles Dixon’s office for a little neck/back fix. Been having tension knots in the shoulders and headaches. Myles was explaining to me over the weekend how the human melon (aka head) weighs 10-12 pounds and that if our heads drop forward an inch they become 20 pound weights on our neck muscles and spine. Because of the physics of it, another inch forward makes it a 30 pound weight and you can imagine the related problems from that extra weight.
So, posture is important. Leaning forward like I’m doing right now at the computer is a no no. Do you suppose down and discouraged people struggle with feeling lousy overall because of the melancholy slump?
While meditating even more on this essential, optimistic, Oh Yeah! ’08 attitude, this whole deal of the weight of the downcast head got me thinking about how God is the lifter of our heads. It’s my favorite title of God. Imagine the physical and physiological problems that result from a down cast spirit (which is evident even in our posture). God says, Chin up!!! Lift up your heads O ye gates and let the King of Glory come in!
The answer to our discouragement and negativity is time with the Lifter of our Heads! Lift your head and praise Him!
Joy is contagious. So is a critical spirit. Spend time with God and you’ll notice your level of faith (or positive outlook) increases. Some of the doom/gloom we walk in (not all) is fully demonic. I know there are normal cycles and ebbs and flow in the range of human emotion and feeling but I’m talking about the real connection between demonic oppression and depression. One of the devil’s delights is to steal our joy. We’ve seen many in our deliverance ministry freed of a downcast spirit.
This Oh Yeah! ’08 attitude that I’m saying is critical as we begin this new year is something the devil is already warring against in my life. I’m writing this while waiting for the heater repair guy to arrive. It’s 50 degrees inside my house right now, I’m guessing 6 degrees outside. It’s only a matter of time now before I freeze and die. And, the reason we are having this problem is because our well pump needed replacing yesterday and that was $800. Ka-ching. We discovered the well pump needed replacing when we called to have the plumber come and out diagnose our low water pressure problem. He fixed that by putting in a new pressure tank – $400. Then he figured out the well wasn’t getting enough water in fast enough, thus the new pump. And I’m guessing now that something with regard to the new pump installation messed up our geo-thermal heat pumps. Did I mention I had to plow a path through rock hard ice/snow to get the well repair guy out to the well and the snow truck wouldn’t start? This is a small example of what people go through in life on a larger scale. It’s one negative thing after another. And we develop this “another negative thing is just around the corner” mindset. We look for it and say it is so even before it is.
And to co-comiserate, people in this state of mind somehow find each other and group up. Birds of a feather flock together. In any church, unhappy pockets of people can be found. The best thing to do if you are in one of those groups is realize it for what it is and get with those who have life-giving things to say. We over come by the word of our testimony. Testimonies are stories of victory. Get with people who have testimonies on the tip of their tongue. I know the Bible says “weep with those who weep” but that does not mean “whine with those who whine!“
Somebody call the WHAAAAAAAAAMBULANCE!
Indulge me as I ruminate some more at the start of this year on the importance of optimism in the Body of Christ? Optimism is critical to the Christian witness – people gravitate toward hope not despair. Churches with an optimist air about them attract those without hope. Churches with a pessimistic flow push people away. And people stay away from them because their lives are already full of bad news, they don’t need to go to a place that adds to it. Jesus’ message was not “you’re gonna die.” His message was “I came so you could live.”
Sometimes when I underscore the sin of negativity, people fire back that they can’t change and that’s just who they are and its the “temperament” God has given them – that it’s just like some people are introverts and others extroverts, some are positive and others are negative.
What do you think, can a person who is a pessimist change into an optimist? I’d say… absolutely! Maybe I should ask it this way… can Jesus turn a pessimist into an optimist? We sang about this just this morning… he turns our mourning into dancing. If we can’t change and this is who we are forever-and-ever-amen, then heaven is going to be hard for the glass-half-empty-crowd. I’m pretty sure those with the Lord right now in the life after aren’t lamenting about what’s lacking. And we have the Lord right now, so what’s our excuse?
The believer has two natures, the old nature is fallen. Pessimism is a product of the fallen nature. But we aren’t to live according to that nature. Starve it and it will die. And feed your new nature in Christ. Take every thought captive and make it submit to the life of Jesus in you. Oh Yeah! ’08 is an attitude.
Hardly a week goes by when I don’t get a Monday morning email from CATG’r Brad Bomhoff. The emails are always all caps and are loaded with encouragement and enthusiasm. This week Brad started off with “Oh Yeah ’08” in the subject line. I’ve been saying it in my head ever since. The positive flow coming from this brother is electric! Here’s just a taste of the kind of thing I get each week…
I AM MORE EXCITED ABOUT THIS YEAR THAN I HAVE BEEN FOR THE START FOR A NEW YEAR IN A LONG TIME!! LAST YEAR WAS AWESOME, BUT I BELIEVE THIS YEAR WILL BE JURASSIC… THE GIRDERS WILL BE SHAKING TO EPIC PROPORTIONS AT CATG, NOT JUST BECAUSE OF THE CONSTRUCTION!! THE LORD IS GOING TO BLOW US AWAY THIS YEAR AND I TRULY BELIEVE HE IS GOING TO SPRINGBOARD US INTO SOMETHING THAT WILL SHOW HIS AWESOMENESS!! IS IT SUNDAY YET?? THE NEXT COMING ATTRACTIONS AT CATG WEST CAMPUS WILL BE THE NORTH WING, NEIGHBORS ARE YOU READY!! THAT WILL BE FOLLOWED CLOSE BEHIND TO THE NEW NORTH CAMPUS BUILDING. CAN YOU TELL I AM LITTLE EXCITED RIGHT NOW!! FOR 2008, MAYBE WE SHOULD HAND OUT EARPLUGS AT ONE OF THE SERVICES TO PREPARE FOR THE BIG BOOM THAT IS HEADING OUR WAY IN 2008. WE ARE IN NO MATTER WHAT!!
On behalf of he and his family, every Brad Bomhoff email ends with “we are in no matter what!” Pastors need these kind of people around them. I asked Brad if I could borrow his email here for the blog because I want him to infect others with this optimism. Oh Yeah! ’08!! Keep saying it! It’s a declarative rebuke to the negativism at work in you. And surround yourself with these types of people!
At our city church service last Sunday night I spoke about a pessimist and an optimist who both stayed up ’til midnight this past New Years Eve. The optimist stayed up to see the new year in. The pessimist stayed up to make sure the old year really left! I made the point that there is some stuff we have to leave behind in last year. How ’bout we leave all negativism and pessimism behind!
’08 is is the number of new beginnings. In Hebrew, eight corresponds with the letter chet (rhymes with mate) which looks like a gate or door and represents entering and God’s invitation to come into more of Him.
When we were in Kansas City last week, Kristen had a vision of the numbers 2008 but, as-she-saw-it, the eight then turned on it’s side. Being a dummy, she had to explain to me that an eight on its side is the symbol of infinity which has ancient origins depicting an hour glass turned on its side. Obviously, this action would cause the hour glass to take infinite time to empty.
We’re not sure what all this means except the strong sense that God is inviting us into a kairos time. Expectation and anticipation are high going into ’08!