Pastor Don Wolan

Pastor Donald Wolan
Downriver Christian Community Church
Melvindale, Michigan

Monday, August 15, 2011

Identity Crisis!

On Sunday at church, a very good message about what defines and affects our personal identity was brought forth by Donovan Rowe. Many factors were identified and discussed by him with the conclusion that Jesus Christ should be the main factor to define a Christian's identity! What he meant by that is our characteristics and thinking should be like those Christ himself exhibited. If Christ is not the main influence shaping our identity, something else will step in to fill that role - be it our clothes, reputation, position, intellect, political party, or whatever else - something else will definitely influence and shape our personal identity!

As I thought about the topic of what influences our identity, my thoughts took me to meditate on what defines and influences the identity of a nation. Recent news articles and television stories have been constantly showing the rioting and violence going on in England. Images of young men and women running through the streets with hoods over their heads and masks on their faces, looting stores and homes, are images we see coming forth continually in these stories. Reports of assaults, thefts, and arson have shocked many British citizens as social commentators and politicians try to determine THE cause of such behavior. The identity a previous generation of British citizens had about themselves has been completely obliterated by the recent happenings in England. Read what a British newspaper reports about the underlying causes of the riots. I italicized keywords in the story for you to think about what is being said about the "somethings" affecting Britian's national identity.

Aug 15, 11:53 AM EDT

Cameron: Riot-hit UK must reverse `moral collapse'
David Stringer and Shawn Pogatchnik
Associated Press

Britain must confront a culture of laziness, irresponsibility and selfishness that fueled four days of riots which left five people dead, thousands facing criminal charges and hundreds of millions in damages, Prime Minister David Cameron acknowledged Monday.

As rival political leaders staked out their response to England's unrest, Cameron pledged to deliver a raft of new policies by October aimed at reversing the "slow-motion moral collapse" which he blames for fostering the disorder.

"This has been a wake-up call for our country. Social problems that have been festering for decades have exploded in our face," Cameron told an audience at a youth center in Witney, his Parliamentary district in southern England. "Just as people last week wanted criminals robustly confronted on our street, so they want to see these social problems taken on and defeated."

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said Monday he was checking whether those involved in the riots should have their welfare payments cut, while London mayor Boris Johnson said young people convicted in the disorder would lose their right to use public transportation for free.

Cameron pledged to end a culture of timidity in discussing family breakdown or poor parenting, or in criticizing those who fail to set a good example to their children or community.

"We have been too unwilling for too long to talk about what is right and what is wrong," Cameron said. "We have too often avoided saying what needs to be said, about everything from marriage to welfare to common courtesy."

In a rival speech, main opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband criticized Cameron's response as overly simplistic, and demanded that lawmakers focus on delivering better opportunities for disaffected young people.

"The usual politicians' instinct - announce a raft of new legislation, appoint a new adviser, wheel out your old prejudices and shallow answers - will not meet the public's demand," said Miliband.

He spoke at his former high school in Camden, north London, half a block from the scene of rioting Aug. 8, when shops were trashed and police came under attack.

"Are issues like education and skills, youth services, youth unemployment important for diverting people away from gangs, criminality, the wrong path? Yes, they matter," Miliband said.

The differing approaches to Britain's most serious riots in a generation are likely to dominate the country's annual political conventions, which begin next month. Miliband has called for a full public inquiry into the roots of the riots, while Cameron insists his government is able to adequately examine the issue.

Cameron insists that racial tensions, poverty and the government's austerity program - much of which is yet to bite - were not the primary motivations for the riots across London and other major cities.

Instead, Cameron pointed to gang-related crime, and a widespread failure from Britain's leaders to address deep rooted social issues, including the country's generous welfare system.

"Children without fathers. Schools without discipline. Reward without effort. Crime without punishment. Rights without responsibilities. Communities without control. Some of the worst aspects of human nature tolerated, indulged - sometimes even incentivized - by a state and its agencies that in parts have become literally demoralized," Cameron said.

He pledged that the government would intervene to help 120,000 of the country's most troubled families before the 2015 national election.

Standing before a backdrop of graffiti, Cameron said Britain's damaged society had for too long been one which "incites laziness, that excuses bad behavior, that erodes self-discipline, that discourages hard work."

Both he and Miliband agreed that, following recklessness by bankers, the lawmakers' expense check scandal, and media phone hacking saga, all sectors of society had a share of the blame.

"Moral decline and bad behavior is not limited to a few of the poorest parts of our society. In the highest offices, the plushest boardrooms, the most influential jobs, we need to think about the example we are setting," Cameron said.

The newspaper article expresses the common excuses given by the national leaders in order to try and answer why this behavior is rampant! There is an identity crisis in England as there is in almost all countries of the world. Who are we as a people? What is our culture, history, and purpose? What are our common beliefs that will govern our society? The question of "What" or "Who" will be the "influencer" on the nation will determine what the national identity and direction will be. For England, the people have forgotten their national identity for the most part. A rejection of the one true God and his word as their identity has led the once great British Empire to become a second-rate socialist backwater in need of a quick reminder of what made it great in the first place. Psalm 33:12 proclaims, "Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD..."! A return to the Lord and his law is not only the answer for Britain's identity crisis, but it is also the answer for the entire world's!

The god or God we serve will determine what type of culture we will develop since ALL morality is based on some type of religious foundation. If we want to build a strong society and culture, they MUST be built upon Jesus and his word! To build upon any other foundation is to build a house destined for destruction! Or as brother Lecrae sings, "Identity is found in the God we trust. Any other identity will self destruct!" Preach it brother, preach it!

Stay holy, my friends!
Pastor Don

Thursday, August 11, 2011

You're Killing Me, Smalls!

Ham Porter: Hey, Smalls, you wanna s'more?
Smalls: Some more of what? 
Ham Porter: No, do you wanna s'more? 
Smalls: I haven't had anything yet, so how can I have some more of nothing?
Ham Porter: You're killing me, Smalls!

"You're killing me, Smalls!" - This line from the movie The Sandlot is meant to show extreme frustration toward someone's ineptitude or cluelessness - sometimes both!

One of my all-time favorite movies is the movie The Sandlot. It is about a young group of boys who are rejected by all of the local little league baseball teams because they are not good enough to make the more prestigious teams. These boys get together every day, like we did when I was a kid, and go down to the local "sandlot" field for a pickup game of baseball. The movie highlights their mischief and adventures during the course of a summertime vacation and the enjoyment they have while playing sandlot baseball.

One of the main characters in the movie is a young boy by the name of Scotty Smalls. He has just moved into the neighborhood and does not know anyone. The only thing Smalls is good at is school work. He once tells his new found friends that he once got an A- in a class, but it should have been a B! I used to use the same type of strategy on my father, but I had to grade up instead of down. Nevertheless, Smalls tries to make friends with all the kids in his new neighborhood, but is only accepted by the local group of misfits. Though they tease and ridicule him mercilessly throughout the movie, he is eventually accepted by them as one of their own. Smalls learns the ins and outs of trying to fit in, and it is through the other boys' love of baseball that their friendship is cultivated. Because Smalls knows nothing about the game of baseball, his new friends try to teach him about it and become exasperated by his lack of baseball skill and knowledge. Whenever he says something so incredibly stupid, the group comic, Ham Porter, yells at him, "You're killing me, Smalls!"

The other day, I had one of those, "You're killing me Smalls" moments! I was listening to one of the local sports talk show programs when I heard something so funny and shocking, I had to write and comment about it. My sister dates one of the sports talk show hosts, and I have had the pleasure of meeting him on a couple of occasions. We have talked about sports in general, and I have even shown him a couple of my "world famous" card tricks. We have also played a couple of games of chess together, which did not go well for him.

While talking to him one day, the topic of religion came up, and he informed me that he was an "agnostic." We had a very good-natured conversation about the subject, and I was impressed with his questions about the possible existence or non-existence of a God. What caught my attention while listening to him on the radio the other day was a statement he made while talking about the Detroit Lions. He challenged the audience to call in and tell him the "swear-on-the-Bible truth" about their feelings concerning some unfortunate injuries some Lion players had just suffered! Here we had a self-professed "agnostic" asking his audience to use the Bible as a standard for swearing to the veracity of their words!

As I thought about this rather humorous use of this particular metaphor by this sports talk show host, it dawned on me that this talk show host REALLY wanted to know the "truth" about how people felt about the subject they were discussing. Why would it or should it really matter what the "truth" was unless there is in fact a thing called "truth," and he could determine if he was really being told the "truth" by his callers! What standard would he use to determine if his callers were in fact telling him the truth? Would he just take their comments to be true by "faith," would he test the truthfulness of his callers by making them pass lie detector tests, or did he have some self-evident reference point for discerning truthful comments, which everyone intuitively knows somehow? Asking for the truth is one thing. Being able to determine what really is true is another!

We are constantly told in our multicultural society that "truth" is relative to a society's beliefs and that a "universal truth" is non-existent! (Except for the universal truth that there are no universal truths, which would mean that there really is universal truth thus proving the statement "there are no universal truths" false!) This type of thinking is expressed and played out every day in our culture on every issue we face. Topics, ranging anywhere from abortion to politics and everywhere in between are affected by our "belief" about what is really true. The subject of "truth" is an "inescapable concept" we must all wrestle with and face in ALL aspects of life! The problem is how do we start in our evaluation to really determine what is true or not?

As Christians, the Bible is our ultimate source for determining truth! God has revealed to us in scripture what reality consists of, His nature and creative purposes, His expectations and requirements for our lives, the genesis and end of all things, as well as a host of all-important, life-answering questions. We are told in Isaiah 8:20: "To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn." Without this proper understanding, we would be left guessing and imposing our own ideas on others as to what is true about life with one idea just as valid as any other. Determining the ultimate truth of something would be an exercise in futility and frustration! Therefore, when an agnostic or any other person who wants "truth" denies Biblical truth as the ultimate reference point yet asks for the "swear-on-the-Bible truth," I can only say tongue-in-cheek like Ham Porter - "You're killing me Smalls!"

Stay Holy, My Friends!
Pastor Don

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Dos Equis!

Over the past few years, there has been an advertising campaign by the Dos Equis Beer Company to increase its rather low sales of Dos Equis beer at home and abroad. A brilliant advertising idea was developed to associate drinking this particular beer with a man promoted as "The Most Interesting Man in the World!" The identification of the beer with this man quickly and dramatically impacted Dos Equis beer sales around the world! During the few years of this advertising gimmick, beer sales of Dos Equis jumped astronomically while other foreign beer sales were falling. By the way, "Dos Equis" means "Double X" in Spanish - not a very exciting name. It was no wonder that the company had to do something to increase the sales.

"According to the company, U.S. sales increased each year between 2006-2010 and tripled in Canada in 2008, although exact figures were not provided. Sales of Dos Equis said to have increased by 22% at a time when sale of other imported beer fell 4% in the U.S. The agency rationale for the brand strategy was defined thus; "He is a man rich in stories and experiences, much the way the audience hopes to be in the future. Rather than an embodiment of the brand, The Most Interesting Man is a voluntary brand spokesperson: he and Dos Equis share a point of view on life that it should be lived interestingly." (Wikipedia)

I remember walking into the house of a friend who had been a beer drinker from from his youth. I noticed that his "stash" in his garage was almost all Dos Equis beer! Until now, this man had fancied himself a Bud Light man and would NEVER drink that foreign stuff! To my amazement, there it was in green and red, tons of Dos Equis beer! It showed me how much impact an idea or an identification could change the habits of someone so set in his ways. Companies pay big money to have their particular product worn or promoted by someone the public likes and identifies with.  

While watching all the Dos Equis beer commercials on YouTube, it dawned on me that the most interesting man who ever lived has impacted many more lives than the Dos Equis man ever dreamed of, and He had much more interesting things to say about all of life and death! The most interesting man who ever lived was real and changed the course of the world. He did not need an advertising department to develop His image and stories. He just lived His life as the Holy Spirit directed Him and the rest is history, or His Story as we say!  I put together some "interesting" facts about "The Most Interesting Man Who Ever Lived" in the following short video. I hope you enjoy the tongue-in-cheek lampooning of the Dos Equis' "The Most Interesting Man in the World!"

Stay holy my friends,
Pastor Don