Are We the "Me" Generation?

People have often described this generation as the “millennials” or the “Me Generation.” But ever since the beginning of time the greatest threat to relationships is not personalities, character flaws, or family background, but selfishness. I think all generations have been, to some extent, the “Me Generation,” because we are selfish people. But today, more than ever, “meism” is evident. We are committed, first and foremost, to self, and sadly we do not recognize that our self-centeredness is a serious problem. 

Christopher Lasch, the author of “The Culture of Narcissism” noted, "Our society continually feeds our ravenous appetite for self-satisfaction. Indulgent toward our own needs and indifferent toward the needs of others, we have become in great part a society that knows little of true self-sacrifice and self-denial.” Narcissism is a term that has become main stream today. And when we look at some of the characteristics of narcissism, they give us an ugly picture of ourselves and our society today. 

1. Narcissistic people like to be the center of attention. They love to talk about themselves, and will exaggerate their accomplishments to impress their audience. 
2. Narcissistic people believe they are entitled people. They believe that they deserve what they seek. 
3. Narcissistic people have a knack for making other people feel important. But all the admiration is part of an unspoken deal where they expect the other person to make them feel just as attractive, intelligent, and important. 
4. Narcissistic people will tell you whatever they believe you need to know in order to get something from you. They may misrepresent information or twist some facts in order to convert you into compliance with their selfish purpose.
5. Narcissistic people show limited empathy. They do not embrace the world of another person unless it is for selfish gain. In other words, they can put on a good “caring” show in their effort to manipulate others for their own personal benefit. 
6. Narcissistic people usually do not feel bad about any wrongdoing of theirs. It seems that their selfishness has hardened their conscience concerning the impact of their behavior on others, even those they love. 
7. Narcissistic people are impatient. They get frustrated if something doesn’t go their way or someone doesn't respond to their text, email, or voicemail right away. Because of their selfishness, they feel they deserve special treatment, whether among friends or at a store. 
8. Narcissistic people have this warp view that it's never their fault. They spend hours justifying their actions. They do not want to be held accountable for their mistakes or bad behavior, but will shift the blame to someone else.

These narcissistic characteristics should never be associated with a believer’s character. A Christian should be the exact opposite of a narcissist! We are taught that “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31) and “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (Phil 2:3,4). I Cor 13 describes Biblical love as not something that is based upon feeling and emotions, but doing what is best for the other person. It is the true art of self giving. The purpose for Jesus coming to this earth was not so that people could look at Him and marvel, but “to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45). 

Thus, in this narcissistic “Me” world, believers should be different. Biblical love should be the key characteristic of a Christian’s life. We should be loving servants, who are genuinely concern about other people, believers as-well-as non-believers. Our primary purpose as Christians is to minister to and enrich the lives of others, rather than exploit and manipulate others to meet our needs.

-Pastor Mike Kotrla

Reflections

REFLECTIONS


As I reflect back on 2016, there were some exciting times, stressful times, interesting times, difficult times, and yes, even some sad times. However, January is a time that reminds me about my dad (who went to heaven on the first Monday of January in 2015). Like all of us who have lost a loved one, there are certain times, places, or moments that remind us of them. 

I am thankful that God gave me many good years with dad. And as I reflect upon him, I remember that he was a quiet man whose actions spoke louder than words. He enjoyed the simple things in life; family, friends, hard work, hunting, fishing, a cold beer, barbeque, Dallas Cowboys, and Texas Rangers.  My love for the outdoors came from dad. I can remember sitting in his green Chevy pickup truck barreling down highway 80 towards his favorite fishing hole in Grand Saline. We might drive for hours without talking, but somehow we were connecting. I realize now, having my own children, that those fishing trips were expressions of his love. A father must love a child to take him/her fishing, because so much time is spent baiting hooks, untangling lines, and patiently enduring a kid who wants to eat, drink, skip rocks, ask questions, and become sidetracked by mother-nature.  Yet, those outings weren't just about catching fish. Dad, perhaps unknowingly, was molding my character, and together we were building a relationship. I can't recall my dad telling me to be patient or kind, but I learned from him on those trips what it was like to be patient and kind. I can’t recall dad telling me what is right and wrong, but I learned on those trips by my dad’s action what is right and wrong. I can’t recall dad telling me about nature, but I learned on those trips to love nature. I can’t recall hearing long speeches concerning philosophies or politics of the world, but I do recall learning to be still and discovering life through watching and listening. And I can’t recall dad saying I love you, but I learned on those trips what it was like to be loved by your father. 

As I go back into my memory, I do remember one piece of advice that my dad shared with me.  It was wisdom that was lived out long before he spoke it. He said, "Be good to people and they will be good to you." It wasn't a hard principle for me to understand, because he modeled it. His philosophy of life has become nearly obsolete with the "me" generation of today, but that philosophy taught a little boy what it would be like to become a man someday. Dad was not a religious man (he came to know the Lord in his 80s), but what he said from time and time was very spiritual. I don't know if he was imparting to me the golden rule (do unto other as you would want them to do unto you) or quoting scripture (just as you want men to treat you, treat them in the same way-Luke 6:31), but that one simple truth that he spoke and lived by had an amazing impact on my life. Could it have been this truth that after becoming a Christian, guided me into the ministry?  I don't know. But I do know the love and affection a little boy feels when he is sitting beside his dad who lives a consistent life of doing good to others. It's a love that makes a boy into a man.  

Thus, I learned from my dad that character is more than talent. Talent is, to some extent, a gift. Good character, by contrast, is not given to us, but we must build it piece by piece, thought by thought, choice by choice, day by day. Character is the inside of a person. It's what a person does when nobody is looking, when the boss is away, when the pressure is on during the test, when the car runs out of gas, when the child pushes you to your limit, when someone falsely accuses you, or when you fill out your IRS form. Character is not what people say about you or what you achieve, but it's who you are on the inside. Jesus said, "The good man out of his good treasure brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of his evil treasure brings forth what is evil"(Matt 12:35). Character is thinking the right thoughts; having the right motives; making the right choices; and doing the right thing. Dad had a way of teaching me character without words, by his deeds. Thanks dad, for the simple life, simple words, and invaluable life lessons. 

May I encourage you to pause today and reflect upon your loved ones, and thank God that He has placed them in your life and the invaluable lessons they taught you.     

Pastor Mike Kotrla

What if Jesus wasn't born?

WHAT IF JESUS WASN'T BORN?

jesus - birth.jpg

Yep, it is that time of year when I get to watch one of my favorite movies and take a nostalgic trip back to Bedford Fall in “It’s a Wonderful Life.” This movie never disappoints me, despite the Biblically incorrect presentation of angels. The story always warms my heart and strengthens my spirit. Who among us, like George Bailey, hasn’t played the what-if-I-never-had-been-born game? In the midst of our difficult times, we have thought about that question; trying to put meaning and significance in our life. But let’s consider George Bailey’s question from the perspective of “What if Jesus had never been born?”  
-    There would be no reconciliation between God and man and we would be slaves to our sinful passions forever.
-    Our spiritual lives would revolve around humanism and hedonism.
-    There would be no churches, pastors, evangelists, or missionaries.
-    There would be no nativity scenes or Christmas hymns.
-    There would be no Easter.
-    There would be no hope of the afterlife. 
-    There would be a significant less number of hospitals and schools, since so many were established by Christian men and women.
-    There would be more families destroyed by divorce, domestic violence, drugs and alcoholism.
-    There would be less great works of art and music that have their roots in Christianity.
-    Sundays would be filled with football, golf, outings, and shopping.

Phillip Brooks wrote this about the man Jesus. “Here is a man who was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman.  He grew up in another village.  He worked in a carpenter shop until he was thirty and then for three years he was an itinerant preacher.  He never held an office.  He never wrote a book. He never had a family.  He never went to college.  He never put his foot inside a big city.  He never traveled 100s of miles from the place he was born. He never did one thing that usually accompanies greatness.  He had no credentials, but himself.  While still a young man, the tide of popular opinion turned against him.  His friends ran away.  One of them denied him. He was turned over to His enemies.  He went through the mockery of a trial.  He was nailed upon a cross between two thieves.  While he was dying, the only property he had on this earth was his clothes, and they were dispensed by the casting of a lot.  When he was dead, he was taken down and laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend.  Twenty centuries have come and gone and today He is the centerpiece of the human race.  All the armies that ever marched, all the navys that ever were built, all the parliaments that ever sat, and all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man upon this earth as powerfully as has that one solitary life.”

Unfortunately, our society continues to mold Christmas as if Jesus wasn’t born. We once had Christmas break at school, now it is Winter break; we once greeted people with a “Merry Christmas,” now it is “Seasons Greeting;” we once listened to hymns over the speakers at department store, now it is holiday songs that make no mention of Christ; we once had nativity scenes in front of schools and courthouses, now there are twinkling lights, snowmen, and Santas. What has happened? Our society has changed and removed Christ from this holiday season. But have Christians changed as well?

Most years, the Sunday closest to Christmas, churches welcomed overflow crowds. It’s the time when those with a casual tie to Christianity make their semiannual appearance. However, one of the ironies is that when Christmas falls on a Sunday, significantly fewer people come to church. Altering our Christmas morning routine (opening presents, eating the special breakfast, etc…) is inconvenient, unsettling, and an invitation to rebellion by young and old alike. But perhaps that response is appropriate, because none of the events around Christ’s birth could be called convenient: the pregnancy of an unwed young woman, traveling on a donkey when you are nine months pregnant; giving birth in a stable; traveling a great distance under the guidance of a star; etc…. Yet, each inconvenience was divinely orchestrated for humanity’s greatest good. Therefore, this Christmas season, don’t let the inconveniences of this time of year push Christ out of our lives.

-Pastor Mike Kotrla

Unbelievable

UNBELIEVABLE

Back in the 80's, a tall Nigerian man came to the University of Houston. He was athletic and enjoyed playing soccer, but played few of the American sports.  Guy Lewis, coach of the U.H. basketball team, saw this towering Nigerian (close to seven feet), and invited him to try out for basketball. After watching this young man move on the court, Coach Lewis saw the potential of a great athlete. Within a few years Akeem Olajuwon became a dominant force on the college basketball court. I can recall Olajuwon's broken English in a commercial for Houston Cougar basketball, calling his new found sport "un-be-liev-able."  And some of the things that Akeem Olajuwon did on the basketball court were pretty unbelievable!

As I ponder, I find several things that I would consider unbelievable: 
- I think it's unbelievable that a 747 airplane can fly and a cruise ship doesn’t sink!
- I think it's unbelievable that thousands of words can be stored on a tiny computer chip!
- I think it’s unbelievable that a space ship can leave earth, circle the moon, and then land back on earth!
- I think it is unbelievable that we can hear a loved one's voice thousands of miles away over a tiny cell phone!
- I think it is unbelievable that people eat kelp!
- I think it's unbelievable that I survived an accident, when a tractor trailer truck hit the van I was driving, on a snowy winter night in 1973!
- I think it is unbelievable that Kim would put up with me for 40 years!
- I think it is unbelievable that I have made a hole-in-one in golf!
- I think it's unbelievable that I found contact lenses when they fell between cushions of a chair, on gym floors, in grass, and under a car seat!
- I think it's unbelievable that I have been at the same church for over 29 years!
- I think it’s unbelievable that God would send His Son to die for my sins!

Come to think about it, there are a lot of unbelievable moments in all of our lives. One unbelievable moment in Scripture was when God delivered Israel from bondage in Egypt. With Pharaoh's army hot on their trail, and no visible means of escape, God provided an unbelievable means of deliverance- He parted the Red Sea. After the Israelites walked between walls of water and saw the Egyptians destroyed, the children of Israel stood on the sea shore dancing and singing praises to God for their dramatic rescue.  Scripture says "the people believed the Lord" (Exodus 14:31). But how long did their faith in God last? Just 72 hours! They had witnessed an unbelievable miracle, a demonstration of God's love, power, and deliverance and seventy two hours later, they bickered and complained about their situation. Un-be-liev-able!

The Israelites are not the only ones who do such unbelievable things! It's unbelievable that a husband will tell his wife "I'll fix it tomorrow," only to forget the whole conversation when tomorrow comes. It's unbelievable that a young man will tell one girl that he loves her one day and another girl the same thing the next day. It's unbelievable that a company will give one estimate to a man and a different estimate to a woman.  It's unbelievable that a woman will trust God with her Sunday School class, but not with her family. It's unbelievable that a person can sing praises to God on Sunday and curse His name on Monday. It's unbelievable that a man can ask God for wisdom, but refuse to use the wisdom that God gives him. It's unbelievable that a man can say he has faith in God and yet not be willing to love his neighbor. It’s unbelievable that God shows grace and mercy to us, but we are not willing to show grace and mercy to others. 

As I think about it, it is unbelievable that God would love and continue to love us, when we do such unbelievable things. But that's the unbelievable God of the scriptures! He cares for the undesirable; He forgives the unworthy; He loves the unlovable; He gives joy to the unhappy; He gives purity to the unholy; He gives identity to the unknown; He gives a home to the unwanted; He gives recognition to the unnoticed; He gives stability to the unsettled; and He gives confidence to the unsure. That’s the unbelievable God that we have and worship!       

Pastor Mike Kotrla  

Election Season

Election Season

A surgeon, an engineer, and politician were debating which of their professions was the oldest.  The surgeon said, “Eve was made from Adam’s rib, and that of course, was a surgical procedure. Therefore, surgery is the oldest profession.”  The engineer countered, “Yes, but before that, order was created out of chaos, and that most certainly was an engineering job.” The politician smiled and said triumphantly, “Aha! And just who do you think created the chaos?” Well, as we look over the political climate of our country, we would say that there is chaos. And as we approach Election Day, what should be our attitude towards our government?

Most importantly, we must understand that God has authority over all human leaders (Ps 47:8; Ps 62:11; Daniel 4:17; Prov 8:15; Prov 21:1; Rom 13:1 & Col 1:16). God is sovereign and in control over all things-that includes our government and our political leaders. No matter what happens in November, our God is still in control of our country, world, and universe. Therefore, this chaotic election year, what is the Christian’s Biblical responsibility to our government?

First and foremost, Christians are to submit to their government (I Pet. 2:13; Titus 3:1 & Romans 13:1). The root word for submit means to place or arrange under. It is primarily a military term- to place oneself under someone else. The voice of the verb in I Peter 2:13 indicates that it should be voluntarily; that we should freely choose to place ourselves under the authority of every human institution. Why should we submit to our government?
1.     Because we are commanded to (Ro 13:1 and I Pet 2:13).
2.     Because government authority is ordained by God (Rom 13:1). Paul is not arguing for the divine right of any special form of government, but for government and order. The abuses in government do not invalidate a government’s divine charter any more than the abuses of marriage rob it of it sacredness.  
3.     Because resistance to government is rebellion against God (Rom 13:2). 
4.     Because government punishes those who resist it (Rom 13:2b & 4b)
Generally, you don't need to fear the police as long as you obey the law. 
5.    Because the government serves to restrain evil & promote good (Rom 13:3-4)
6.     Because it is the will of God (I Pet 2:13-15).
7.     Because it may silence the ignorance of foolish men or a good testimony to the unsaved (I Pet 2:15). Your testimony for Jesus depends on not just what you say, but how you live. What kind of testimony is it to the world if we choose not to pay taxes, or obey laws? Peter tells us that by being submissive to our government, we will silence many foolish critics who are trying to find areas to throw in our faces to discredit Christ. 

Second, Christians are to pray for their leaders (I Tim 2:1-4).  

Third, Christians are to financially support those in authority (Rom 13:6-7 & Matt 22:16-21). Since our government is a servant of God, we are responsible to support our leaders by paying taxes, because without financial support, governments cannot function.  We know that some of the revenue will be used unwisely, and we may not approve of some of the ways our government spends our money, but how taxes are spent is sometimes out of our control. 

Fourth, Christians are to honor and respect those who hold public office (I Pet 2:17). Our honor is not necessarily to the person in that position, but to the position itself. The person may be unworthy, unethical, immoral, but the institution is not, because God wills it. 

At this time of year General Washington’s prayer seems so appropriate: “Almighty God, we make our earnest prayer that Thou wilt keep the United States under Thy protection; that Thou wilt incline the hearts of the citizens to cultivate a spirit of obedience to government; to entertain a brotherly affection for one another and for their fellow-citizens of the United States at large.”                                      

-Pastor Mike Kotrla

What If There Was No Resurrection Of Christ?

What If There Was No Resurrection Of Christ?

In the 15th chapter of I Corinthians, Paul gives six logical consequences of not having a resurrected Christ. 
1. If there was no resurrection, then Christ did not rise (13). The most obvious consequence of no resurrection would be that Jesus Christ did not rise from the grave, because dead men do not come back alive. 
2. If there was no resurrection, then the apostles' preaching was vain (14). Without the resurrection of Christ the apostles’ preaching of the gospel would be vain and void of all truth, reality, and power.
3. If there was no resurrection, then the apostles are false witnesses of God (15).  Without the resurrection the apostles would be liars, deliberately preaching falsehood- testifying that they saw Christ when they really didn't and purposefully misleading others.
4. If there was no resurrection, then our faith is worthless (16,17). 
Just as no resurrection would make preaching Christ meaningless, it would also make anyone's faith in Him vain, empty, or fruitless.
5. If there was no resurrection, then there is no future hope (18).  Without the resurrection the sting of death cuts us off permanently from God, and we will never be with our loved ones in heaven.  
6. Finally, if there is no resurrection, then Christians are to be pitied (19). Without the resurrection, Christians’ sacrifices, hardships, and sufferings would be cruel, self-inflicted jokes. And Christians would be the biggest fools of all time.

Paul tells us that if there was no resurrection, then our faith is empty, worthless, and hopeless. But what would the world look like without the resurrected Christ? 
1. The evangelical church would have never begun and thousands of lives would not have been transformed.
2. Many major university (Princeton, Harvard, Yale, and Dartmouth to name a few) would not exist, because they were founded as theological
seminaries to train ministers and to evangelize the eastern seaboard.
3. Many of the major hospitals would not exist because they were founded by followers of the resurrected Christ to care for the hurting.
4. Thousands of people would not have received medical or dental care, because Christian nurses, doctors and dentist would not have venture out into their tribes and villages.
5. Thousands of children would be hungry or die, because groups like World Vision and Compassion International were founded by followers of the resurrected Christ.
6. Many adoptions agency or orphanages would not exist, because they were started by followers of the resurrected Christ. 
7. Alcoholic Anonymous and Teen Challenge would not exist to help people with addiction, because the founders were followers of the risen Christ.
8. Thousands of artwork (painting, sculptures, and music) would not exist, because they were inspired by the resurrected Christ. 
9. Many soup kitchens and rescue missions would not exist, because they were founded by people who are followers of the resurrected Christ.
10. Children all over the world would not received gift boxes through Samaritan Purse, because it’s founder is a follower of Christ.
11. Thousands of families would not have a home, because followers of the resurrected Christ would not be there to build them one.
12. No real joy at Christmas or Easter, because these holidays hinge not just on the birth and death of Jesus Christ, but His resurrection.

That is just the tip of the iceberg of what our world would look like with the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Historian Ken Latourette says, "Thru Jesus movements have been set in motion which have made in society for what mankind believes to be its best- in the transformation of human lives, in political order, in the production and distribution of goods to meet physical needs of men, in healing physical ills, in the relations between races and between nations, in the art, and in the achievement of the human intellect.” 

Think about what your life would be like without the resurrection of Jesus Christ? Now go out and make the world a better place, because the resurrected Christ has touched your life.    

 -Pastor Mike Kotrla