DISCLAIMER: It feels kind of creepy to be writing a whole post about someone who I've never met personally, but we wanted to provide you with information on some of our favorite pastors so you can look more into their work, if you're looking for some inspiration.
Matt Chandler has been the lead pastor of The Village Church in Texas since 2002, and is easily my favorite practicing pastor to listen to. (How do I end that sentence in a grammatically correct way?!)
I know it's not everyone's cup of tea, but my favorite thing about Matt Chandler's sermons are the punch-in-the-gut feeling he leaves me with. I feel like he uses every sermon to hold up a mirror to make us (as Christians) look at what we need to change and/or better in ourselves; he doesn't tell you what a happy and successful life you will have if you accept Christ, nor does he focus on what the rest of the world is doing "wrong". To give you an idea of what I mean, here's a quote from his message, "A New People" (9/2/12):
"We're going to look at this idea of being a city on a hill, look at what it means to be God's people set up for the world to behold the glory of God. So we're going to talk about marriage, we're going to talk about divorce, we're going to talk about sex, we're going to talk about lust, we're going to talk about all these things and the Christian view of those things and how far we fall short of those things, and marvel at the grace of God as we seek to see Him do work in our lives to bring about greater obedience in those areas."His voice is oddly soothing (I say "oddly" because his passion for any given topic leads to him getting so loud that I have to adjust the volume multiple times each podcast) and he does an amazing job connecting modern day issues with the Bible.
To top it all off, God is currently using the pastor to prove that He is ultimately in control, as he is currently surviving a terminal brain tumor diagnosis he received in 2009 which was supposed to leave him with only two to three years to live. As someone who continually gleans from his teachings, I personally hope Pastor Matt has many years left with us.
This past Thursday marked one year since our family said goodbye to its patriarch. He was a hero beyond heroes. I spent some time at his grave Thursday and my heart broke again because of his absence. I know, however, that he lives now with his Father and King, and in that my heart rejoices! To the end, he remained faithful to his Savior, praising His name.
I think the best way to explain what kind of man he was and the deep, eternal impact he had on my life is to share with you what I wrote for his funeral:
Legacy. Leaving one is something men of power clamor for, and men of means worry endlessly about. Opa never clamored, and it is very doubtful that his mind ever dwelled in fret over such silly things. He simply lived, and by the nature of who he was, left a legacy far too great to summarize. He led this family with love, wisdom, and wit; but most importantly, he led it with a heart dedicated to our eternal Father. The Bible speaks of how God blesses generations that follow based on the character of those who stand unwavering in His presence. Opa has easily set generation upon generation beyond those standing here to inherit such a promise. As a child I'd often stay with him during the summers. I'd wake up in the morning to find him leading his wife in Scripture, prayer, and praise. It was years later that I found out how much of that prayer was protecting me. I look back at at my life and honestly believe that it was because he spent endless time at the throne of the Father that my path stayed close to God's heart despite trials and pains. I'm sure the same can be said of my sisters. His love and prayers encompassed us. Much like the name of Moses is held with reverence in the house of Israel, the name Konrad will forever be held with reverence in mine. Not because we wish to idolize him as anything more then a man, but because there is something to be said about a man who walks so closely with God that you basically see His reflection. Years ago, I chose to steal his name because I can only pray to live with half the godliness, integrity, love, wisdom, intelligence, and wit that flowed in abundance from him. He was a teacher in my life, from how to tie a tie, to unknowingly letting me observe how a husband serves and loves his wife unconditionally as Christ did the church. He spoke of God's faithfulness and told me to count my blessings, as well as taught me the hymns as reminders. It is in his teaching and his legacy that I cannot stand before you today and share in my own voice my thoughts. Because if he taught me anything, he helped teach me that there is a King, and His Kingdom is always first. For that, and endless other reasons I say I love you, I will miss you, and truthfully: du sind mein Held (you are my hero).
It wasn't long after he passed that my bride turned to me and said: "I think the song 10,000 Reasons would have been perfect for Opa's funeral." Truer or more thoughtful words were never said. We're singing that song in church this morning, and I was reminded just how perfect her suggestion was. I'll leave these lyrics as just a glimpse at who my Opa was... because this is the EXACT story of his passing.
Bless the Lord, O my soul O my soul Worship His holy name Sing like never before O my soul I'll worship Your holy name
And on that day when my strength is failing The end draws near and my time has come Still my soul will sing Your praise unending Ten thousand years and then forevermore
In January of 2005, a friend of mine named Tim Miller went on a weekend event for one of his college classes. He came back from that trip completely changed. He would talk to me (pretty vaguely, since the weekend was supposed to be a secret) about WHY he was different. That his entire perspective on life and ministry had changed. I was so intrigued, I chose to sign up for the same class for the fall of 2006.
Enter Dr. Jeff Cook.
Dr. Cook (or Papa Cook as we called him) taught my Urban Ministry and Contemporary World Missions classes. Honestly, I could probably write several blog posts just on Papa Cook and the nearly uncontested impact that a single human being has had on my life. This man LIVED Christ. His desire was for us to be transformed to the heart beats of God... and he was really good at it. It was the first time that the realities of injustice, poverty, and my blindness to them even remotely entered my mind. He changed my world view and filter.
You see, before taking his classes, pretty much every vision I had involved the suburbs, a wife, 2.5 kids, and a dog (clearly, that would now be 3 cats). Poverty? Injustice? Clearly that was something for "special" people with a "special" calling. But then we started to dissect scripture, it was amazing just how overwhelming the entire Bible bled the proclamation that God's heart broke for the poor, the needy, the orphaned... anyone suffering injustice. As the prophet Jeremiah puts it:
"He pled the cause of the afflicted and needy; Then it was well. Is not that what it means to know Me?" Declares the Lord. (Jer 22.16, NASB)
That is a pretty humbling claim. That God would say that caring for the afflicted is WHAT IT MEANS to know Him. Of course, there's always a New Testament classic:
Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world. (James 1.27 NASB)
Holiness and caring for needy. It's seen hand in hand both here and throughout Scripture as benchmarks of what it means to be a child of God. I'd argue that if James were writing in modern day, you'd see foster children placed in verse 27. You see, this is not a "special" calling for a select few of the Church. No. These things are aligned with Holiness. To say "Well, I'm glad you're called to care for those in need, but that's not for me" is as out of line with Scripture and knowing God as saying "Well, I'm glad you're called to sexual purity, but that's not for me."
If you read my wife's first post a week or so ago, you might remember that if ONE family in each church or other religious institute (that's right, ONE family per church) took in ONE child... there would be a waiting list in Palm Beach County to care for foster children. The afflicted and needy. Waiting to take part in what it means to KNOW HIM! My heart breaks at this reality. The funny thing is that then not everyone would have to foster. They could care for the afflicted and needy in other ways. Petitioning courts for change. Setting up classes or educational programs for the parents to get them on their feet.
Why Fostering? It boiled down to this: I could make a laundry list of reasons I don't want to do it, how inconvenient it might be right now in this stage of our lives.... blah blah blah. To be honest, it seems like a LOT to take on right now. But then I remember that the cross was inconvenient for Christ. He looked down on children afflicted by sin and in desperate need of a Savior. And He adopted us. He took us in. He gave us a home. No wonder He says it's what it means to know Him. It's His character. It's who He is. It's the story of Salvation.
Zach Sobiech was 18 years old when he died from osteosarcoma (bone cancer) on May 20, 2013. I found this video a day later and when I watched/listened to it I found myself crying like I knew the guy! That is just how inspirational he is(/was?). Unless I missed it the first time around (which is entirely possible since I was watching it at work with the volume super low), there is no "proof" a.k.a. declaration that the Sobiech family is Christian. But let me tell you - at least from the video - they seem like better examples of Christ than a lot of Christians (myself included).
I don't have cable, so I have no idea if any part of this story has been aired on the news, but let me tell you - it should be. Cut out the crap of "celebrity news" a.k.a. Lindsey Lohan being arrested for the umpteenth time, and watch something worthwhile!
Get out your box of tissues, and enjoy the most touching video you may ever see:
Zach's full album can be found here on iTunes.