Hope, you need it too.

Hope is something that we each have, but yet can’t benefit from all on our own.  It’s like blood.  We have our own, but in emergencies, should we lose it, we can’t replenish our own supply.  We need a transfusion.  Someone else has to provide the blood for us, even though our bodies can make our own.

We all possess hope.  But we all need hope.  The message the world needs to hear is one of hope.  If we all give freely of this gift, we all will prosper in its benefits.

I know too many Christians who spiral into depression or worse because they feel embarrassed over losing hope.  We all NEED hope.  We need to both give and receive.

The message of hope isn’t just for the lost.  It’s for all of us.  And what a wonderful message it is.  If you have hope, I pray you will share it.  If you need hope, I pray you will unashamedly seek it.  It’s far too important to try and live without.

Advertisements

Peace on Earth

Peace on Earth.

For some, that is a wish.  For others it has fairy tale implications.  Some will immediately associate it with Miss America pageantry.

For Christians… we know that it is a responsibility.  We don’t hope for peace while clinching fists and kicking sand every time we witness despair, pain, or injustice.  We bring peace.  We have seen the hope of Jesus Christ and His gifts to us.  And on an earth that is wounded, we bring the peace.  By our actions, our words, or maybe even our silence when appropriate, we usher in the peace of Jesus.

Dear brothers and sisters, don’t let those opportunities get explained away.  Show the peace of Jesus.  Be the peace of Jesus.  Share the peace of Jesus.  While you may not know your role in life, I can tell you one part that is certainly true.  God didn’t intend for you to be a spectator.  Bring peace on earth.  Be the light on the hill.  Be the lamp on the lamp stand.  Pat shoulders.  Listen intently.  Pray.  Love the cranky.  Smile with the disagreeable.  Respect the insane belief systems.

Don your heavenly names and attributes.  God-loved.  Saved.  Christ-example.  Peace-bringer.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. – John 14:27

I Loved You First

I think most of us are aware of the dream and often used symbolism of the two lovers running towards each other in the field.  When they finally meet, they embrace with explosive music triumphantly announcing the union in the backdrop.

What I would like to ask is, who takes the first step?  Many of us love through reciprocation.  “I love you too”.  While powerful, that is a response.  It’s clear that Jesus loved us first.  Our life is a response to Him.  When we choose to follow His example, that is our small way of saying, “I love you back”.

What about our love for each other?  The Bible discusses love at great length.  It’s easy to love those who love you.  (“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them.” – Luke 6:32)

So, how then do we love our enemies as commanded?  Many of us choose to do so by sitting back and waiting for them to make the first move.  They started it.  They are in the wrong.  Etc.  Following the example of Jesus, we must take the first step.  In the field of brotherly and sisterly love, we have to start the charge.  With arms open wide, we must run to the other.  It does not matter if they have not started running, we can cross the entire field to meet them if need be.

This is what Jesus did for us.  He met us.  He came to us.  He loved first.  And He embraced us on our side of the field.  There is no meeting in the middle.  There is no compromise.  We don’t compromise the word of God or His gospel.  But we can love.  We can meet them where they stand and show God’s love, mercy, forgiveness, and sacrifice.  The first move is on the Christian.  It always will be.  We have the wonderful example to follow, after all.  And the world needs to see this.  Let’s show them love.  Let’s show them Jesus.

 

Homework Assignment – Be a Christian

Be a Christian first.  Above all else.  Before anything else.  All other traits must take a secondary back seat.

Do not be a Democrat.  Be a Christian.

Do not be a Conservative.  Be a Christian.

Do not be an Athlete.  Be a Christian.

Do not be a Teacher.  Be a Christian.

… (and many, many, many more examples)

Questions:

  1.  Can’t I be both?  Not for this assignment.  You can still play sports, but when games, training, or status alter your decisions, you are being an athlete.  By being the Christian FIRST, you are choosing to let that be your standard and then you alter everything else.  Game on Sunday? nope, I’ve got Church.  Drinks with the team?  Can’t, my friend needs me.  Protest to join?  No way, I want to identify with Christ and not the tiny factions of this world.
  2. Isn’t this just semantics?  Not at all.  If it weren’t for a single verse in the Bible we wouldn’t know Jesus was a carpenter by trade.  It simply wasn’t important to Him.  What were His favorite tools?  What did He make the best?  What work inspired Him?  Not documented.  It wasn’t important to Him.  He wanted us to know what being a Christian meant and His profession, hobbies, pastimes, and personal interests had absolutely nothing to do with furthering the gospel.  Was He still a carpenter?  For a time, but it wasn’t what made His decisions for Himself.

Example:

Christian baptism is about burying the old and rising up of the new.  We put to death the sins of our past.  This is an exercise and extension of that act.  In order to take on the Christian characteristics, we have to make sacrifices. Things have to be let go of.  Whether its a temptation to argue, correct, condescend, overachieve, or any number of areas in your life it takes practice to get good at letting the worldly things go.  As temptations arise, ask yourself some questions:

who do I really serve?

What is my end game goal?  What do I want most out of life?

Fear comes from Satan.  Jesus has defeated Satan.  What am I afraid of now?

How can I best help others?

What do I want etched on my tombstone?

Duration:

Try this as often as you can.  Practice makes perfect.  See if you can go 24 hours at first where you actively, intentionally, and persistently aim to act like Christ first and foremost in your every decision of the day and night.  Then ponder how different life is from before.

 

 

Daily Prompt: Fish

via Daily Prompt: Fish

The right time.  The right temps.  The right spot.  The right bait.  All the proper equipment.  Perfect quiet.  Motionless.  And those are just the variables you can control.  The fish has to want to eat.  It has to be in place, see the bait or the lure, and choose to take action without getting scared away first.

We walk away from so many opportunities down and disheartened without realizing how many different caveats control the outcomes of our endeavors.  We don’t understand that “failure” can simply be bad timing, too much wind, someone adjusted an unknown part of the equation, or any number of things that don’t reflect our true effort at all.

Its all about what you focus on.  If you only see “BIG FISH” then you will often be let down.  But what if you centered yourself around the experience?  Learning.  Growing.  Finding your moments.  Practicing.  If catching a big fish were the end goal, many people would stop fishing.  It wouldn’t be a hobby, it would be a trial.  What is left after the goal is completed?

If your goal and focus are something else.  How many fish you catch, what you share while fishing, or being the best you you can be… then not only will the big fish come, but you won’t experience the pitfalls when they just aren’t biting that day.

If you are fishing for people, ideas, or even actual fish, you can’t bank your emotions on a single experience.  The world is far too complicated to expect the perfect string of events to equate with “success” on a daily basis.  There are far too many moving parts, many of which we can’t control.  But if we can anchor ourselves to more realistic goals, then not only is life much more enjoyable, but what a treat it will be when the big ones jump in the boat!

Jesus Take the Wheel… Please!

It happened yet again.  Driving home last night I noticed a car behind me, but I couldn’t see his headlights or even most of his hood.  According to all of my mirrors, the driver was in my back seat.  When this happens, I slow down.  Not for the sole purpose of being rude, but for safety first.  There were barely inches between us while driving 50 MPH.  If I had even tapped, ever so gently tapped, the brakes for a pedestrian, deer, someone turning, an active crosswalk, or any of the countless issues that would require a break tap, this guy would have hit me.

Slowing down generally solves 2 issues.  It makes the eminent wreck safer (if he hits me, it will be at a slower speed) and second, it usually causes them to realize they were tailgating and they will back off.  Once they back off, I resume normal speed.  Yesterday, I let off the break and cringed as I’ve never seen anyone THAT close to me without actually hitting me.  His reaction… BEEP!  Followed by flashing lights and hands thrown in the air.  I continued to slow until I got around 20 MPH.  Then he started swerving.  Left and right, lights flashing, hands waving, horn blaring.  For 2 miles he did this.  Never once did he back off.  He was so close, he didn’t hit me, but I would be surprised if an index card could have fit between our cars.  I finally turned and he whipped around gesturing and flew off.

The last thing I saw was his Jesus fish on the trunk.  Some of you are thinking, he probably borrowed (or in this case stole 😉 ) the car.  Unfortunately, I’ve been in the passenger seat of other Christians who drive the same way.  And this is yet another, of many, reminders to me how important it is that Christians understand that if we don’t look like Christ… we aren’t IN Christ.

Consider the following statements in lieu of such a silly thing (like driving styles) and then make sure to expound them across all areas of your life as often as possible:

  • The Bible spends extremely small amounts of time on Jesus while he was in ‘church’.  I call it the Bible camera.  While Jesus did go to the temple to learn and even preach, the action was mostly outside of the religious walls.  So the camera was mostly tuned in when Jesus was living among the real world.  The story we see of a man who sets a Godly example to EVERYONE.  strangers, dinner parties, while traveling, interrupting public conflict, even while sleeping in a boat.  The examples we have of how to act like Christ (in order to be Christ-ians) are while He lived his normal life.  This extends to us.  Crowded airplanes, sporting events, kid’s baseball, restaurants, DRIVING, and how we handle politics (mmmhmmmm!  zing to almost all of us on those last 2).
  • Entitlement and Christianity are polar opposites.  Come on.  You know the verses.  Turn the other cheek.  Go the extra mile.  And many other examples let us know that picking up the cross of Christ means dropping the expectation of equality and fairness.  The cross wasn’t fair.  Jesus didn’t deserve that.  Most of life won’t be fair.  We aren’t here to experience fairness.  That shouldn’t be our fight.  We are here to show the world that Jesus loves them.  Somehow, some “Christians” have convinced themselves that they can show love and the finger at the same time.   (notice the quotes?)  The Bible could not be more clear.  Love is the greatest command.  Sacrifice is required to love.  Elitism is the opposite of love.
  • The right thing requires effort.  How easy are your decisions?  Its so easy for me to get mad at the jerk acting like a jerk from jerkville.  Its much more difficult to try and understand where he is coming from.  Why was he in such a hurry?  Was his life filled with turmoil?  The hard option is understanding and forgiveness.  If we aren’t facing difficult decisions in our lives, perhaps we aren’t making very good choices?  This rule isn’t meant to be 100% universal, but think about it.  We have eleventy billion cliches explaining the road less traveled, the merit of all things lies in their difficulty, problems are opportunities in work clothes, etc. etc. etc.  We aren’t even talking Christian logic here.  This is worldly universal.  Ask any athlete.  Ask any philosopher.  Talk to any doctor, lawyer, or architect.  Life, in and of itself, isn’t easy.  Living a good, honest life is doubly difficult.

Prayers and peace to each of you.  May we all learn to lose more and more of ourselves while we take on the lifestyle of Jesus Christ.  The more we look like Him, the more His message will reach those who need to hear the story of love, forgiveness, and redemption.

Do we really have a choice?

I’m not going to mention either candidate by name or refer to them in any way.  I have no intention of swaying your vote.  I hope you have already voted.  With that out of the way, lets talk about choice.

In all honesty, I hope the image above is what the polls would reflect after all ballots are counted.  I’m not suggesting any third party candidate or write in either.  Its just that we are lead to believe that we don’t have a choice when only given two options in our election process.

All sides are fear mongering to make us believe the least of the evils are mandatory.  And what we will shortly see is that millions of people will go out and make their mark on the closest option available to them.  And they will honestly believe they had no choice.

Fear is powerful.  Lets remember where that comes from.  Fear comes from a lack of trust in our Savior.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go – Joshua 1:9

So my first suggestion is that we put our eyes on Jesus and let the fear of limited choices subside.  My second suggestion is that we narrow our choices to just 1.  Jesus.  Its amazing how our hearts and minds open up in freedom, safety, and love when we focus on the Lord.

With the election still in mind, lets take a quick look at what the enemy does.  (And I’m talking about the real enemy, not the opponent of choice 😛 )

First we ask questions as doubt sets in.  What will happen if I don’t support this?  Its not what I want, but its the best of what’s left.  Fear replaces doubt.  We believe we don’t have a choice.  Before we know it, we are choosing, not what our hearts want, but what our emotions are telling us we can’t endure.  And at best, its all the result of lies told by the enemy and calculations based on rumors and theory.

This same tactic is used outside of elections.  Today, churches are rewriting God’s word because they fear what will happen if they don’t mimic society.

People are getting married to the wrong person, or divorcing the right one because of their fears and doubts.

People are taking their own lives because they have bought the lies.  And please understand, people that commit suicide don’t feel like they have zero options, they consider suicide to be one of them.  Do I keep living a horrible life or do I end it?  Two choices.  And just like the banner above, people feel like that is all they have.  Its the ballot presented to them.  Do you take bad choice A or bad choice B?  And we can and will debate which one is worse until the cows come home.  This is division and its a fantastic side effect of the real enemies plan.

First he gets us to narrow down our belief systems to HIS perversion of the truth, and then he divides us over the horrible options. 

God wants us to start voting like my results are above.  Zero’s are what He wants to see for all of the bad options out there.  What we tend to forget, is that its the same enemy on both sides.  And that works in politics as well as throughout life.  We need to vote like Monty Brewster in Brewster’s Millions.  He voted “none of the above”.  We live in a dark time where the freedom of the cross does not have the light it deserves.  Jesus set us free.  We are free from catch 22 options.

Jesus gave us the bravery and the integrity to post up goose eggs on the devil’s scorecards.  When your choices boil down to a miserable life or suicide… choose Jesus.  Get some help.  Ask the church.  Seek counselors.  Lean on friends and family if possible.  There are other options.  Just because they aren’t on the rigged ballot doesn’t mean we can’t use them.  Pray.  Live in spite for a while if you have to, but live because you know you have the option to.  And know that life has valleys that lead to wonderful mountaintop experiences that are worth the pain.

When the choice of gossip or exclusion from the pack faces you down.  Crumple up the ballot and throw it out.  Its a sham.  You have more choices than that.

What if we stopped casting positive reinforcement for things we don’t believe in and started living life like we have been blessed with option 3?  And that option is grace, love, forgiveness, and a Savior that wants us to be with Him.  Again, this isn’t a 3rd party plug.  You should have already voted.  This is a third option in life that I’m presenting to you.  It’s option C when both A and B are coercive, heavy handed, and seek to draw you out of your Christian habitat.

But I sure do like how that banner looks.  Zero.  It’s what Jesus gave to the pharisees of His time.  They crammed limited options down the throats of often oppressed Christians.  Jesus took one look at their menu and warned everyone to order from someone else.  What they were selling was watered down, hand picked, self serving doctrine that benefited themselves.  And while they claimed you had no choice, Jesus gave them one.

Forget about the elections.  Its all done now.  What will you CHOOSE to do next?  What choice will give God glory?  What limited ballots are staring you down, causing stress, or sleepless nights?  Its time for the write in.  Its time for the eraser.  Its time you tear that ballot up and make pure choices that glorify God in your life.  No exceptions.  No shortcuts.  No least evils.

 

 

 

Who do we Worship?

Much longer than I prefer to write, but am hopeful will spark some inner debate with individuals or outer debate within our churches…

 

I just couldn’t do it.  Smoke filled the air.  Lights beamed down.  Some were solid colors, others were strobe.  The room lit up to match the musicians jamming on the stage.  Twirling drumsticks, spotlights…It was a rock concert.  And for a rock concert, it was good.  But I went to worship.  And, while I believe some there were worshiping, others were being entertained as part of the mission statement of the event.  And I wondered, where did all of this come from?  When did worship become a rock concert?  And… is that wrong?

I know a lot of worship leaders who share in one sentiment as they plan the worship experience for the church:  “They are gonna love this!”.  Let’s dissect that phrase for a second, but I promise to stop after the very first word.  “They”.  Who are we worshiping?  Let me ask another way.  Who is worship for?  Ah, now we get a different set of answers.  I’m certain most of you will claim we are worshiping God.  But when I ask who is worship for, we get a wider variety of answers.  Is it for us?  So we can recharge/refuel before going back into the world?  Is it for us?  So we can hold each other accountable/bear witness/pray for each other?  And there is some truth in that worship has a reciprocal way of benefiting us as well… but only as God sees fit to return our holy worship into healing and answered prayers.  Let’s investigate just a tad…

“Sing to the Lord” – 1 Chronicles 16:23.  Sing to who?  Us?  Each other?  Ourselves?  Sorry, it says to sing TO the Lord.  The music, the songs, the lyrics, it’s for Him.  I’m as guilty as anyone.  I want certain songs, I want certain styles, I want specific times, places, and arrangements.  At times, I think each one of us has forgotten the ultimate purpose of worship.  It’s not intended for us.  There is an episode of The Office (U.S) version in which the boss Michael Scott wants to throw a birthday party to celebrate one of the employees.  He is so excited and can’t wait to enjoy his favorite dessert, mint chocolate chip ice cream, even after the birthday girl tries to explain she is allergic.  He is too consumed in the details to understand how useless his celebration will be when it’s all done to his liking and not in honor of the birthday girl.

Sound familiar?  I like this song.  The preacher doesn’t like to let out late.  The Adam’s family is offended by this topic, etc.  That would be but a tiny portion in a plethora of examples of us celebrating God on our terms.

“Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.” – John 4:23

This verse interests me.  It assumes there are false worshipers.  People who are worshiping, but not correctly.  It also says that we will worship, who?  The Father.  Also, on a side note… The Father is seeking worshipers.  He wants people to worship Him.  He doesn’t just like it when it happens… he is seeking it out.  Can we worship around laser beams, espressos, and the most recent pop songs?  Perhaps.  But there is a true worshiper that seeks to worship God in the way He is seeking to be worshiped.  And it’s all about God.

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.  Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” – Romans 12.

And while I think I could quote another 60+ scriptures quite easily, I’ll stop here.  This one cuts to the meat of the matter pretty quickly.

Worship is a sacrifice.  It is giving up what we want and what we enjoy and giving to God what He wants and what He enjoys.  Yet building after building, town after town, worship leaders just can’t help themselves.  I truly believe they mean well.  But they structure the worship service into 2 things that are both completely wrong.  1.  The church members and what they like.  And 2.  Getting the unbeliever into the building.  (Think of the movie, Sister Act 2 where they stop with the boring old singing and start with new instruments and lively songs and all of the sudden the community comes in off the streets to enjoy the concert).  Is that a problem?  YES!  People are using flair, panache, and other techniques to lure in people.  That isn’t the type of fish God wants.  Our bait is the love of Jesus.  Our “lure” is the cross.  When we start trying “tricks” or “gimmicks” we stop worshiping God and we start off on our own agenda. It boils down to conformity.

Not only are we to sacrifice as our way of life to conform to God, the same verse explicitly prohibits conforming to the world.  Yet again, oh how many times the phrase has been uttered; “We can’t reach the lost if we don’t make worship fun and/or exciting”.  Translation:  How can we conform to the lost to reach them?  Here is the true sad part.  Jesus reached the lost by being completely different from them.  He was Godly, and no one had ever seen that before.  They followed a man of God.  If we would stop trying to act like the world, in the name of God, we might actually be able to offer people something they can’t get anywhere else.

This isn’t meant to be condemnational.  I know that many church leaders mean well and have tremendous hearts.  But what I hope some will take away from this is that God didn’t use a metaphor when He expected us to remain apart from the world.  Not separate!  But apart.  Different.  Holy.  With the Spirit in us.  Loving the sinner and still condemning the sin.  Honoring the FULL word of God.  Exemplifying the Savior.

I see it in almost every church I walk into.  A capella worship is no different.  You can over-amp the choir and lose the message just as easily as a rock band.  You can decide that the Lord’s supper is time consuming and only do it once a month or twice a year.  But allow me a little jab here, because let’s be honest, it’s deserving… we always have time for the collection plate, don’t we?  Keep your reasoning… you can’t explain to a non-believer why we do communion so quick, or so little, and yet there is always time to ask for money.  What’s worse, if we believe we should be molding and ‘updating’ worship around the “times”, why don’t we use paypal, billpay, drop checks in a drop box, etc.  The one and remaining constant in most of our churches is how we ask for money, rather than the living God.  (and while you may want to refute that, try telling the unbeliever that witnesses it first hand and doesn’t understand all of the rationales that we have created over the years).

Whether its intentional or not, I can tell you why we bump communion from many of our churches.  It’s because, deep down, we aren’t there to “truly worship”.  Like the “true worshipers” John spoke of.  When men and women get together to discuss the how’s and why’s of church and decisions are made based on what people like or who will be offended, or any other structure, there is a grand danger of NOT coming to a conclusion that will be a true sacrificial worship to God.

I would like to encourage us to drop the microphones, the laser lights, the fog machines, the drum kits, the fancy bulletins, the projectors, and even move the podiums off the stage.  Let God fill the stage.  Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and give to God, what is God’s (Mark 12).  Is the church not God’s?  Worship is God’s.  What is pleasing to Him?  He wants humility.  He wants the broken.  He wants us to know our place and to serve Him.  He wants us to remember the life and blood of His son.  He wants praise for Him.  Our God is a jealous God (Exodus 34) and He wants our worship for Him and Him alone.

What has caused me to write this, isn’t that we have various worship styles that I don’t like.  Rock concerts isn’t the topic or the issue.  What has caused me to write this is that I don’t believe very many churches go through the exercise to make sure their offering to God is complete.    As quoted above in Romans, God doesn’t want our money as an offering, He wants us to give of ourselves.  We are the offering, a living offering which requires our whole being..  And that doesn’t start by demanding worship styles, caving to secular structure, or worrying about what society thinks.  More and more churches are choosing the easy path (the wide one) and deciding that it’s better to blend in than stand apart.

People followed Jesus because they never saw anything like Him before.  He was a man of God.  That is what we need to bring people into our churches.  They need to see Jesus.  We need to be Jesus.  He offered himself up as a sacrifice and refused to adopt the traditions of the people.  He worshiped God as God demanded.  Rather than contemplating the legality of the drums or the societal objection to the pitch pipe, open up the heart to God and give to Him your all.  And equally, exercise the arms of the church.  The arms of the church have 2 purposes.  1.  To lovingly accept and embrace all who are willing to come to Jesus.  And 2, to firmly hold back and refuse any who would falsely preach against God’s undeniable word.  (acts 13).

One thing we tend to forget in the church, is that we are still at war.  The enemy is deceitful and full of trickery.  And while his fate may be determined, ours has not yet.  We can choose to seal our fate now in the decisions we make.  But the choice to follow Christ is not one balanced around some entertainment with friends.  It is a sacrifice and God expects much from us.  It is not our job to make the gospel palpable for non-believers either.  It is our job to share the love of Jesus with them.  They will make the decision for themselves if they want to make such a sacrifice or not to follow Him.

This is not a treaty to promote throwing out the baby with the bath water.  We have some sound and reasonable acts of worship that should not be torn down.  What this is meant to be, is an exercise that challenges us all to drop the man made worship outline on the floor and start from the ground up, asking, are we doing this for God or ourselves?  Is our outreach based on entertainment or the milk that a new believer needs?  Will I get what I want, or will I give to God what He wants?  Do I look like non-believers?  Have I shown them Jesus?  Have I let go of my pride and truly sacrificed to show them what our Savior is like?  Am I doing this for God?  Do they understand they have to make sacrifices too?  Do they know they HAVE to leave the their lives of sin and conform to the Lord?  Is your message constant and consistent with God’s never changing law?

Scary question time.  Does my church look any different than the rest of the world?  Non believers have seen people sing, pray, dance, etc.  Many have sat through sermons before.  In short, they have seen it all.  Everything but Jesus, that is.  Does your church look different than anything else they have seen before?  Is your church the body of Christ serving God?  Will the fruit of your work yield more soldiers for God who yearn to sacrifice for Him, or when the harvest comes, will they just want one more song?

The High Table

17 seconds. That is how long it took for me to find something “offensive” on Facebook from someone I love. It comes much faster from the faceless, nameless, and anonymous. What concerns me is not that we are offensive. Jesus was considered offensive to most and I’m very proud when I can offend the way He did.

My concern is that we are not fighting His battles. With dust fully settled in our own eyes, we fight the battles that do not belong to us, hoping to cure others of their blurred vision. Jesus offended others because He pointed to God. Are you so in tuned with the image of God that the self righteous hate you? Or, is it just that you hold different world views?

Biblical examples are difficult to bring up. They didn’t solve issues by social majority or by social repetition. They compared their issues to the word of God. They compared themselves to the image of God. They compared their leaders to the chosen of God.

I think everyone is able to step back and perform two simple life checks. Paramedics check for pulse and breathing when they approach a body in need. We should do this too. As we approach the hungry, lost, confused, thirsty, homeless, widowed, etc (the people Jesus challenged us to take care of). As we approach them, how much time runs off the clock before we offend them? There is no question to us, that we do love them. But from their battle hardened eyes, what do we reflect to them?

Do they see Jesus? Or do they get a lecture? Do they receive love, or do we yield judgement? You don’t have to change your political or philosophical beliefs. You don’t have to change your vote or which parties you align with. But before you engage, can you check to make sure you are spreading God’s love and the name of Christ to the lost in the world?

Secondly, check which table you are at before you start speaking. There is a table at the far left and there is a table at the far right. They are both full and extremely loud. This is where most of the talking occurs. Talking, blaming, shaming, name calling, yelling. It all comes from these two tables. There is a third table in the middle. Sadly, this one sits empty. No one wants to leave the safety of their own biases and beliefs to meet in the middle.

The middle table is where compromise, communication, and decent business would happen… should anyone dare to meet there. But the fourth table is the one I need you to be at. This is the Father’s table. This one doesn’t look like the left or the right. It doesn’t seek out to solve the issues of the middle either, however noble those may be. Lets call this the high table. This is where we belong. When we speak from the wrong table, we offend for all the wrong reasons. Invite others to the high table. Its not about solving the issues of the right or left. Its about sharing the love of God.

Jesus offended people by pointing to God. If you set out to not offend ANYONE, you will have to compromise the word of God to accomplish that task. It is a fact that we have to accept, that not everyone will receive God. It is our job to try and get that message to them, not to make it palpable. They will discern for themselves whether to accept it or not. Offended or not, we must move on and share with the next.

Two checks that Christians need to make. First, we need to make sure that we speak the truth with love. The truth will offend. We have to accept that. But that leads to the second check. Which battles are we fighting? Our own? Societies? or God’s? That will determine who we offend and how. 17 seconds is all it took when someone I love decided to fight a battle that God hasn’t called us to fight. What message do we give the world when we fight the wrong battles? The world needs a paramedic. Lets give it breath and a pulse by sharing the word of God with love. Lets approach them from the only table that can heal and restore.

I Keep Finding My Weight

Some time ago I lost 50 pounds.  And it went quick.  Everyone wanted to know my secret.  I stopped drinking sugar drinks, I watched what I ate, and I exercised.  Big secrets, right?  EVERYONE wanted to know.  And when I answered, can you imagine the response?

Disappointment.  It was NOT what they wanted to hear.  They wanted the pill, the surgery, or the fad that would take the weight away without any effort.  Effort.  I worked my butt off (sort of literally) and no one was please that I did it on my own.  Because I couldn’t share that with them.  I couldn’t give them a prescription of weight loss that they could take over cheeseburgers and milkshakes.

I goth healthy and they wanted a lottery winning story.  Because the answer is the same when it comes to wealth.  How did you get so wealthy?  Hard work!  oh, nevermind, thought you could share your winning ticket with me.

But I’m not wanting to beat up on the deadbeats too much.  Mostly because I am one.  All of that weight I lost… I found it.  And I found some of the weight that some of you must have lost as well.  It happened gradually.  Weight fluctuation is common so I could let a pound or two slip.  Rewards are good motivators, so I endured several of those.  And the justifications started.  Well, at least I’m not as bad as I was.  I’ll crank it back up next week.  Oops, I’m injured, gotta take it easy.

I could go on for some time about my downfall and how I need to lose 20 pounds just to be 50 pounds overweight again.  But I’ll spare you and give you the short version.  My goal was to lose weight.  That’s it.  If you want to fail and fail hard, let your goal be to lose weight.  Why?  Simple.  Because once you reach your goal, you are done.

Let’s enjoy the Cub’s victory with them shall we? cubs

You know the story by now, right?  Its been decades since they have been to the world series.  Now they have won.  What is next for them?  In 3 months their record resets to 0 – 0 and they begin spring training.  No longer will they be the current world champs.  They will be fighting every other team in the league that didn’t win this year. Can the Cubs simply reproduce their effort from last year and win again?  NO!  Because every other team that didn’t win is going to work harder to try and remedy their mistakes from the past.  So to win again next year, they have to do more.  Even more than they did this year to win.  Its always stronger and faster and smarter.  The scale never ends.

When you set your goal too low, you have no where to go once you have achieved it.  If the Cubs goal isn’t to be the best team in the entire history of baseball, then they will never become that.  Just winning the world series is something that has happened over 100 times before by all sorts of different teams.  All you have to do is ask a Brave’s fan.  We endured a similar victory in our past as the Cubs did this year.  And it seemed that just winning the world series is all they wanted.  World series turned to playoff losses.  New years brought on just decent seasons.  And this year, the same year the Cubs won, they finished dead last in their division with one of the worst records in the league.  This is what happens when you achieve your garbage goal.  Its just that.  It means nothing almost as soon as you achieve it, and it guarantees failure.

My goal was to lose weight.  I lost it.  And then I found it right back.  This failure is true in all aspects of life.  Money, relationships, career, you name it.  Your goal has to be higher.  Colossians 3:2 says to “set your mind on things above, not on earthly things”.  Our bodies are temples given to us but once.  What if my goal became to honor my body?  We need something to hold onto that doesn’t end at a specific pound or milestone.  We need a mindset change.  I don’t need to lose weight, I need to respect the housing that God made for my soul.  1st Corinthians 3:16 says, “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?”  This body isn’t just for us.

And we can abuse ourselves in more ways than simply overeating.  What if we stopped with the exercise equipment, the track, the charts, the measuring cups, and the motivational posters?  Those things all are traps to a horrible goal.  And instead, we set our minds on things above?  Instead, we honor God, and we honor our body, and we clean up the temple meant for us and the Spirit?  Of course we can use those tools just mentioned to get into to shape, but they are tools, not goals.

There is a massive difference in mind set between the 2 types of goals.

1.  I’m not going to eat this because I have reached my calories today.  Otherwise I would tear into that bad boy and enjoy every salty bite.  Maybe tomorrow! or… maybe I can just walk a little extra and have it anyway?

2.  That does not honor God or this body.  Its toxic and I will NEVER put that into my body.

See the difference?  Option 1, even if you turn the bad food down, you leave the door open for tomorrow’s failure.  If you are looking at food and rationalizing or reasoning with yourself, you already have the wrong goals.  A mindset change says those things are disgusting.  They are poison.  And its amazing how this change of mind works against all kinds of temptations.  Does this mean its easy?  No.  Its hard.  And that takes us right back to our miracle diet that our friends and family want to know so much about.  If you want to lose the weight and keep it off, you will BOTH:  work hard, and make decisions for your whole life (and not just for the calorie chart that day).

Prayers to all of us struggling with various temptations every day.