Posts by Mike Sandefur

A Time to Mourn

To everything, turn, turn, turn. There is a season, turn, turn, turn…

I grew up in a household where I recognized those lyrics by the Byrds before I knew them as words from scripture. It’s a catchy tune that is fun to sing along. But the reality of what scripture tells us isn’t so soft and sweet.

The writer of Ecclesiastes starts off telling us that everything is meaningless. Many of us have felt that way at times. But when tragedy strikes, that’s not the answer we’re looking for. We want to know that there is some meaning to what is taking place, what we’re going through.

And the writer continues on with this at the start of Ecclesiastes 3: “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.”

Pretty words. But too often, that’s all they are. Words alone are not very comforting.

Love Covers…

I have a love/hate relationship with the holidays.

I am certain that I am not alone in this. There may or may not be breaks from work, travel, lots of food, time with family. And there is where the rub occurs for many of us.

Family.

I love my family, except in those moments when I don’t. We all have these moments. Someone says or does something that raises your ire. Maybe harsh words follow. Feelings are hurt. Then comes the awkward dance trying not to make things worse as some tiptoe around the eggshells. I am fairly certain that all of us have experienced some version of this.

I am perfectly willing to take some of the blame within my own family. I can be pretty opinionated and not always sensitive to the feelings of others. And why can’t my family see things the way that I see them? It is such a selfish position. Why doesn’t everyone else feel the way I do, why don’t they see things the way I do, why don’t they believe the same things, and more. In those moments I add to the struggles, because all I am focused on is myself and what I want or care about.

The Bible is pretty clear that relational strife has been around for a very long time. It is actually part of the curse for Adam and Eve after eating the forbidden fruit. In fact, the first books of the Bible, which tell the history of the people of Israel, are filled with stories of dysfunction. Lying, cheating, adultery, abuse, murder and more–and that’s just in one family over multiple generations. The really crazy part is this is all part of the family heritage for Jesus.

That is where things get even more complicated. As followers of Jesus we are now called part of the family of God.

What?

Why Missions?

I remember as a young child, missionaries from foreign countries would come to visit our rural midwest church with amazing stories of the work that God was doing around the globe. It was fascinating, but there was a big disconnect–these stories had no real relevance to my daily life. Even as I grew older, missions was something others did and simply shared cool stories with the rest of us.

Jump ahead a few years to my sophomore year of college. I was attending a missions conference in San Francisco. And still there was this disconnect. Missions is what other people do. That is until the final night of the conference. I distinctly remember sitting in this church in downtown San Francisco, there was a great time of worship, an impassioned speaker… And in the midst of all this, a quiet voice asked me to say “yes.”

My first thought was: “Yes to what?” That seemed like a rational response, right?

But the voice was persistent. “I want you to say yes to whatever I ask.”

Be Not Afraid…

I’m not sure about you, but it seems that fear is a pretty big issue these days. We are surrounded by people telling us what we should be afraid of and why. The Christian radio is singing about fear not owning us, as if breaking up with fear is that easy.

And Scripture is constantly telling us to not be afraid. God says this to both Moses and Joshua multiple times. The angel says it to Mary. Jesus tells it to his followers. Do not be afraid.

So clearly, it is not a new issue. But simply saying “do not be afraid” doesn’t give us much to work with.

How do we go about overcoming fear in our lives?

Peacemakers

I’m a teacher and one of the subjects I teach is computer science. Not long ago a friend asked me what I thought the biggest challenge for the body of Christ is in this digital age. I didn’t have to think about this one at all. I firmly believe that our biggest challenge is found […]

What’s your plan?

Most people will tell you that you won’t get much out of your time in a gym if you don’t have some sort of plan. Having a plan, even a simple one, provides focus and helps you keep on track toward your goals. Frankly this is true for lots of things in life. And I’m […]

He Has Shown You

I’ll be the first to admit that last Sunday, I almost rolled my eyes at Pastor Jon’s first point in his message. “Get in the pouch,” seriously? But the reality is that it speaks to a heart need in every one of us that in turn has tremendous impact on our sense of identity.

Using a kangaroo pouch as the idea, Jon described our need to get into God’s “pouch.” It’s a place of closeness surrounded by the love and care of God. We all desire to be loved and accepted. And truthfully, we’ll do and be almost anything to gain a sense of being loved and accepted. The crazy, beautiful, and scary reality is that God made us this way. We were made by God to be in relationship with Himself. In that pure relationship there would be no need to strive for acceptance, to prove one’s worthiness of love.

Sadly, due to sin, that purity is not what we experience. So we strive and we struggle, all in the pursuit of unconditional love and acceptance. Some of us adopt personas hoping it will make us more likable. Some focus on appearances and are driven to constantly improve our own image. Some become self-deprecating because we believe it will be easier to handle the disappointments and hurts if we beat others to the punch.

Redeeming Family

We’re entering the time of year when most minds turn to family. For many, the holidays bring positive memories and joy from spending time with loved ones. But that is not the case for everyone. Some come from broken homes. Others have lost loved ones, maybe even during the holidays, and instead of joy they feel renewed loss and hurt. The challenge for us as the church of Christ how do we handle these reactions of hurt, or even deep seated scars, for those we now call family?

I recently asked the members of my small group what three words come to mind when they hear the word “father.”  As expected, the responses varied. We do not all have the same feelings or experiences when it comes to our fathers. The reality of our day and age is that, more than likely, at least half of us will not have positive view toward our own father. And it’s not just because of divorce. I live in a neighborhood where the last statistics show that more than 60 percent of the homes are single parent households. Now clearly this becomes an issue for not just how we view our fathers but our mothers as well. But for the church, we use the word “father” a lot.

Listening With Love

I’m opinionated. I have some very strong held beliefs. As a result, I can get really riled up when hearing or reading opposing beliefs and opinions. Based on what I see every day in the news and on social media, I’m not alone. We are in the midst of a war of opinions. As this war has escalated over the past year God has continually been working on my heart and convicting me of a certain truth. We are called to love not to hate. We are called to be a people who are known for our love.

A new command I give: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.  John 13:34-35

So how do we love one another in the midst of this war?

Facing Failure

My wife generally thinks I’m a bit insane because of my love for rock climbing. And frankly, some of my students think I’m nuts as well.

What I have come to realize recently is, that when I talk about my climbing experiences, I spend more time talking about the successes than the failures. This is an important realization for me, because the reality is that, in climbing, the vast majority of your time is spent dealing with failure.

Last year Tommy Caldwell made national news for the first successful climb of the Dawn Wall on El Capitan in Yosemite. What was glossed over in much of the reporting on this incredible achievement was the seven years of effort and attempts made prior to the final successful attempt. Imagine trying over and over again for 7 years and failing each time.