It’s All in the Name

We received a new foster child that will be in our care until the parents sort out a few issues.  In this case he has a great relationship with his parents, so calling us mom and dad is not an option.  With all the stress, frustration, and fear that the child is going through, we have our own issues.  The bigger things matter to us as well, but sometimes the logistics can feel pretty important.

What should he call us?  It’s been a week and 99% of the time he shouts, “Hey guys!” when he wants our attention.  I really don’t care what I’m called, but in an effort to help teach respect for others I’ve really tried to reinforce, Mr. Barry.  It hasn’t landed.  It’s not a battle I’ve really chosen to fight, but he hasn’t grasped the name anyway.

There are multiple anecdotes where he has asked for “the other lady that lives here”, “the person downstairs”, or any other descriptor that fits his recent memory of us.  While playing ball, he decided to make everything into a race.  Of course, with his energy and his rules, he won.  That night at dinner he calmly said, “hey slowpoke, it’s time for dinner!”.  He then used the term later in the evening as well.  Not with a smirk or grin, but just in passing to identify me.

It took a week, but I now have a name.  It’s slowpoke.  Had I known… I might have run a little faster and tried a little harder in the races that preceded it.

We often give ourselves our own names. Sometimes we let the world identify us. They call us mistakes and we listen. They call us loser and almost prophetically we make it so. They call us failure and we wallow in it.  These terms are often handed out with as much forethought as our foster child used.  Spur of the moment with a notable smidge of perceived truth.  And we wrap ourselves in it and display in shame for the world to see.

Broken.  Lost.  Poor.  Uneducated.  Simple.  Sinner.  Trash.  Some of these terms come about innocently enough.  They are never intended to carry such poisonous barbs.  But the wrong person overheard, or we were just trying to be funny, or we simply didn’t think before speaking.  What a lesson we could learn in how we treat each other.  But some of them are more hurtful.  More intentional.  In our current social climate we toss out such hate and slander.  Bigot, racist, hateful, evil, monster, …

I’d like to say we don’t have to accept the names given to us by others.  And its true that we don’t.  But, I also know how psychologically difficult it is to shed the perceptions of the masses once that hook sinks into our hearts.  But what does carry great weight, and what should lift those unnecessary burdens off of us, is that we are promised a new name.

Listen to just a very tiny list of only a fraction of the names that belong to God:  Healer, Savior, I Am, Lord, God, Almighty, Truth, Light… Father.

The God of many, many names…. one of which is our Father, has a new name for us.  Each of us.  It’s not a title or a credential.  It’s not our profession and it doesn’t relate to our social status.  It’s a unique, handpicked name just for you.

May I encourage you to live for THAT name.  To let only God define who you are.  To proudly stand against all the sinners who throw that useless tag at you… because you know that Jesus wore that tag on the cross.  It’s been spent.  It’s over.  You are no longer that person.  That name, the old one, has been ripped off and burned in fire.  You will be called something new.  From the lips of your heavenly Father, you will be called it.  Just for you.  Set aside.  Set apart.  Special.  Fashioned with love.  Solely for you.

Just like the tried and true ‘kick-me’ sign, Satan has attached to us something that doesn’t belong.  We can ignore that temptation and brush it off knowing the full truth.  Or we can accept that lie and bend under the weight as the world accepts his faulty claims.  As always, its our choice.

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Leading the Target

If you are a quarterback throwing a pass, you have to release the ball before the receiver is in place to catch it.  You will throw the ball to a place where the receiver is not yet.  He will be en route, but not quite there.  This is why there are so many incomplete passes in the sport.  If the receiver gets bumped too far off the line, or if he runs the route too wide, or if he gets off to a slow start, or if a boost of adrenaline sends him too far… Many factors come into play for just the receiver.  But the QB has his own issues.

The defense could blitz, a lineman could miss a block, His intended target could draw double or even triple coverage… Each player on the field, both offense and defense, add exponentially to the list of issues that could thwart any given play.  But we should also factor in non-human obstacles.  Wind, rain, crowd noise, bad umpires (definitely not human!!!).  When you really start to understand the complications behind all the different positions of this sport, you stop seeing incomplete passes as mistakes, and you start seeing completions as a thing of beauty. 

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Hitting a moving target is a very difficult task.  It’s what Quarterbacks work on every day.  If you are a hunter, you have to employ the same tactics.  It’s call leading the target.  If you aim and shoot at where the target is currently at, you will miss every time.  You have to think ahead.  It’s never about where is my goal now… it’s about where it will be when my object arrives. 

So many things in life work this way.  In order to drive without incident you have to learn to break before you need to turn or stop.  You don’t break at the light… you start slowing down well before.  It’s about visualizing and understanding what comes next as a consequence of your actions (or even inaction). 

Life is hard.  In football there are only 22 people on the field.  In life, we have no control over all of the people that can impact our days.  And exponentially the stress adds up.  Family expectations, friendship struggles, relationship pitfalls, job training, bills, taxes, scheduling conflicts, personality conflicts, co-workers, deadlines, illness, transportation breaks down, financial issues, credit card gets stolen, computer gets hacked, dog runs off, clothes don’t fit… And we really haven’t scratched the surface, have we?

With so many moving pieces and so much going on, we really do need to stop looking at our mistakes as such tragedies.  Instead, we need to learn to see and appreciate our successes.  They are miracles amidst an evil world at work to tear us apart.  Forgive yourself.  Dust off.  Let a teammate help you up.  And run the next play.  Each team in a football game averages between 60 and 70 plays per game.  That leaves a lot of room for mistakes, and yet still win the game.

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Thanks to the love of Jesus, we have an opportunity every day to start over.  But its more often then that.  We don’t have to wait until tomorrow.  A new day is a beautiful analogy, but its really about the moment.  The time, the precise second that you realize that you weren’t built to tackle life alone and expected to perform with perfection 100% of the time.  Even elite baseball players walk back to the dugout over 60% of the time.

Companies are selling cloud based storage and they charge based on the time you use it.  They started off selling by the hour, but this wasn’t very appealing to consumers who may only use the service a few minutes at a time.  They were billed an entire hour every time they turned on the feature.  In the highly competitive market, companies took notice and reduced billing to per minute billing.  I would have thought this should satisfy everyone.  What takes less than a minute?

Apparently some things do, as those companies now offer per second billing.  And just today I saw someone advertise, “better than per-second billing”.  How do you get better?  It takes me longer than a second just to think of the word, “second”.  This is how time is with God.  There are no finish lines.  There is no cut off.  There is no retest.  You don’t have to wait until Sunday.  God isn’t more reasonable on Easter than any other day.  You don’t even have to wait until tomorrow.  Your next thought can be what reciprocates the relationship back to Jesus.

Forgive yourself.  Your mistakes aren’t as serious as you think.  And stop shooting at targets that don’t move.  Those are mediocre, low hanging fruit, that lead to bad places in life.  Setting goals so low that you can’t fail, effectively means you don’t ever want to win.  Winning requires risk, effort, and genuine failure.  Winning requires failure.  The kind where you gave all you had and still fell short.  That is how you win.  By giving it all, failing, and then trying again.  Bettering your aim, learning from your mistakes, and envisioning where your goal really needs to be.  Then throw into the future and nail it.

We were God’s goal.  Look at what He had to do to hit us.  He didn’t fail either, though I wonder if He thinks we gave Him a good run with all of our efforts that could have deterred Him.  With God, we will not fail.  Our mistakes are just that.  Mistakes that quickly diminish into the past and become steps to build on.  He is our guaranteed win.  All we have to decide is how many seconds do we want to lose before realizing our mistakes will not keep us from Him, nor will any part of our past.

 

 

 

 

 

The Devil’s Roll Call

I’m starting to see certain issues as red flags.  And this is an improvement for me as it gives me a chance to slow down and proceed with caution.  With any luck, I’ll avoid making the mistakes of my past.

Social media is one of those places.  I’ve noticed a trend.

Gun violence occurs over the weekend, Monday morning the blogs and comments roll out about gun control.

Terrorist attack over the weekend, Monday morning the blogs and Facebook posts roll out on immigration.

Wherever you stand on these issues, these aren’t the issues that Jesus was worried about.  They tried to corner Him politically by asking a tax question, and He replied with the famous, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and give to God what belongs to God”.  He had no interest in the quibbles of the day.  He was on an eternal soul mission, which to God, was much more important.

So, if you are the enemy, and you have already lost, what can you do to try and bring down as many people with you as possible?  My guess is to keep people off track.  Off mission.  Jesus said, “I have to be about my Father’s business”.  And so should we.  But if we can get sidetracked, especially over issues that divide, then we become easy pickings for the Devil.

It’s OK to give him the credit, he is incredibly smart (conniving).  In my mind social media has become the roll call of the Devil.  He wants to see how many people he has steered off track.  How many people he has taken away from the Father.  And so after every event, he watches.  What will they post about?

Will they post about God and His forgiveness?  Will they talk about love and salvation?  Will they build each other up and focus on the hope the world has?  Or will they go back to gun control, immigration, taxes, foreign policy, racial tensions, etc, etc, etc.  Hand up , hand up, slowly raised hand up.  It’s a temptation just like any other.

To fire up the log-in page, cracking knuckles and salivating at what argument you have prepared… that is falling into the trap.  It’s no different than passing by the adult book store, the drug dealer, or the bookie.  You have a choice to act on the feelings you get.  And you will act on them.  The question is, in what way will you act.  Will you pass by and pray and continue to work through whatever addiction you face.  Or will you give in and raise that hand for the devil?

Some of you may be thinking that I’m advocating we can’t ever discuss politics.  That is not my intention.  My point is that Christians should be known for Christ.  Not political stances.  If you have a political blog, that is the perfect place to post about politics.  But many of us are blurring that line between God and Caesar.  We use our religious platforms to share political spin.

I’m reminded of the Bible story of the man who wanted to go to Heaven.  He confronted Jesus and told of all he had done.  It was an impressive list of sacrifice, worship, and honoring God.  He asked what else can I do?  Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (Matthew 19) After hearing Jesus’ answer, the man became sad and walked away because he was rich. 

He wanted both.  He wanted to blur the line.  He wanted a foot in heaven and one in the world.  Jesus basically said, I need you all in.  I need all of you.  But the man wanted to keep his possessions.  For those trying to minister somehow in social media… God wants all of you.  We can’t leave one foot in political turmoil and then try and share the story of peace and hope while bickering amongst ourselves.

Jesus prayed for unity for us.  He knew the world would face fear and uncertainty and when they turned to look at those who called themselves “like Christ” He wanted them to see a united front pointing to the Savior.  How does that look when some of us are using the pulpit to sway votes, or counter unrelated arguments?  I find it equally offensive when someone from Hollywood uses the entertainment stage as when someone from the church uses the religious stage.  Outside messages don’t belong in either place.

I love talking politics with the correct minded individual.  (just like me?  no?  but able to calmly discuss views that might not be our own).  I can’t do that with strangers on the internet.  Tone can’t be inflected, facial features can’t be portrayed.  And no matter how many words I choose to try and drill down the point, someone will always miss it (most of the time its my fault).  So, like Jesus, I save politics for when its kosher to do so.  And the rest of my public life… I pray I’m always about the Father’s business.

What if, when the next disaster strikes, we see the red flag and avoid that topic altogether?  Instead, we pointed to the King who can get us through anything.  What if we helped people past their fears and gave them hope?  Many of us get these two issues backwards.  We worship in secret and the whole world knows our political stances.  There is a reason they put the curtain on the election booths.  I believe we should vote in secrecy, contact your representatives, write to law makers, donate as you see fit, etc.  But all of that can be done without a single person knowing.  Then let the whole world see Jesus.

 

When Life Stinks, Do it Anyway

I went with a minister to visit someone in the hospital.  This man’s wife was in bad shape.  We first met with the man.  Ready to take mental notes I witnessed this seasoned pastor ask some of the strangest questions.

“Have you eaten?” was one of the first.  I thought, OK, probably not the strongest start but maybe its a warmup.  We are gonna chase the enemy clean out of this hospital at any moment…you’ll see!

“Will you eat if I get you something right now?”.  Yeah!, take that spiritual warfare!!!!… wait… what?  The man refused.  OK, he’s not hungry, lets stop messing around now.  The preacher asked the man to sit.  He had been standing for hours.  “You have to eat, even if you don’t feel like it”.  The man started to fight back tears… “I can’t” he exclaimed.

Having been through this level of trauma on many occasions the preacher knew several key things that had never crossed my mind.  First, we have to eat.  Not because food tastes good or because its socially correct, but because we need fuel.  When we get wrecked, when our life is turned sideways or upside down… we don’t think about the most basic things.

If this man doesn’t rest his legs and put some food in his body, then he risks having health issues on top of what his wife is going through.  What if she needs him and he has passed out?  What if she wakes, or has a complication and the doctors need his permission and he is too delirious to give a coherent response?  It happens.

And so this minister cut right to the chase.  If you want to be helpful, you have to help yourself.  Lets start with the most basic.  Get yourself on a steady regiment of fuel.  And not just once, but all throughout the process.  He trained the man too.  And if anyone else shows up, make sure they eat.  Its not thoughtless, its not tacky, its doing what is best for your wife.  And that is something they could all agree on.

He asked other helpful questions… Are there pets at home?  Anything turned on that needs to be turned off?  Any children need rides?  Any major assignments or events due immediately?

The next thing I learned from this preacher, is that there is a time to preach and a time to not preach.  This man didn’t want to hear how great it was from a heavenly perspective that his wife was in pain.  He didn’t want to know the Biblical reasons that his life was shattering.  He didn’t need to hear a psalm or someone’s favorite verse.  He needed to think.  He needed physical help.  He needed tangible hands and feet.  Healing would come later.  Right now, he needed human, practical, love and intervention to help him accomplish the things a man in shock can’t take care of.

Cramming God into a void rarely brings about healthy fruit.  In most cases, it has the opposite effect.  Ecclesiastes was right… there is a time for all things.  The man who rests his legs and feeds his stomach is prepared to deal with the coming battles in life.  He can’t be caught off guard if he is prepared.

Eat, even when you think you can’t.  Rest, even when you don’t want to.  What if we carried that same lesson to our walk with Christ?  What if we read our Bibles and studied His word even when weary?  What if we prayed even when angry?  The same principle applies.  If you prepare your spirit, it will be ready when needed.  If you neglect it, for whatever reason, you will risk being dried up when the real attacks occur.

The enemy, who just happens to know how spiritually depleted we can get, will wait for just the right time to attack.  Wouldn’t it be great if we never allowed him that opportunity?  If we never left that window open for him to whisk in and take advantage of?  We can do that by staying fueled.  Steady doses of biblical and Spiritual energy and we can make the same suggestion to loved ones around us.

I think, in some ways, this is what scripture is talking about when it talks about being prepared.  So we aren’t taken advantage of by a thief in the night.  We are told to stay sober, alert, even in cooking we should not expect to have time for the bread to rise.  Preparation.  We can prepare for the coming of the end times, and we can also prepare for any of the enemy’s attacks.  We do so by putting on the full armor of God, and by constantly communing with Him.

What if the next time we didn’t feel like reading, we saw that as a threat from the enemy?  What if the next time we didn’t have words for God or thought it best not to pray, we remembered how desperate he is to separate us from the Father who protects us?  “I’ll catch up tomorrow…”  May very well mean disaster is on the way for tomorrow.

But in case I lost my point somewhere, I’ll sum up.  We need God more than we need food and rest.  If it makes sense to keep our bodies going even during times of weakness or sickness, how much more important is it to keep our souls in check?

What I ate vs. who saved me

I’m perplexed by Christians in social media.  When someone posts about their promotion, their new car, or even their latest trip… likes, loves, and thumbs up stream in by bucket fulls.  When someone posts, “God is good” (or some variation) I see a fraction of activity on the post.  (your mileage may vary, but I generally see 1 – 5% of the normal responses given to a religious based post from the same account).

Why is that?  Maybe I should preface that in the circles I’m noticing this in, most of the audience is a Christian based audience.  So it’s the saved that are liking the picture at the park.  It’s the redeemed that “LOVE” the bacon wrapped hot dog someone posted.  It’s the Children of God that scroll right past the posts that mention their very Savior.

I’m not insinuating that we have any sort of obligation… but shouldn’t we want to be about more eternal things?  I know there might be some logistical concerns such as fueling the fire of the ‘Jesus Freak’  or maybe we are being bombarded with too many positive messages (which I find harder and harder to believe these days)?

My fear is that there is a deeply rooted shame of the gospel.  And the very people I’m referring to would instantly reject such a claim.  And I think they would honestly believe it too.  And for those people… for YOU… answer for yourself.  Why don’t you want your mark on a post that glorifies God?  Why won’t you comment on matters of the eternal soul?  Why are you abstaining when your King is mentioned?  And whatever answer you come up with, will you do me one favor?  Will you say a prayer to God and mention your reason directly to the face of God?  How would He feel?  How would you feel in sharing why you don’t want to be on record for the Lord?

I suspect some of us have a preconceived notion about ‘that guy’.  And we don’t want to be him. He is a bit too happy.  He is strangely holy.  He is oddly optimistic.  And that might be just enough to get him on the societal outcast list.  We want to be educated bankers, intelligent accountants, thrifty teachers, etc.  We want to be known for what humanizes us so we can blend in with the world we identify with.

Two major problems here.  First, we aren’t to identify with this world.  Our identity is God.  Second, we aren’t supposed to look normal.  We are supposed to look odd, abnormal, and like we belong somewhere else… because we do.  We DO NOT BELONG HERE…. why is it so important to look like we do?

But we have Christians who understand this wanting to get more info on the latest gadgets but don’t want to be seen colluding with the weirdos who talk openly about God.

I’ve noticed that the Bible only seems to focus on active people.  Zacchaeus climbed the tree to get a glimpse of Jesus.  People carried sick relatives to Jesus, touched his robe, washed His feet.  Some of these stories include crazy antics… remember the one where they lower the paralytic through a hole in the roof?  A hole they cut!!!  You know what you don’t remember?  It’s easy, because the Bible never addresses them.

It’s the quiet bystander.  The people who just watched and did nothing.  They have no place in the history of Jesus.  And matching with other scriptures we can read about the activists… the Hot.  The people actively trying to get to Jesus.  And, we can read about the antagonist… the cold.  The people trying to stop them.  But the lukewarm… they have no place in this story, just as Jesus said they have no place with Him.

Actively trying to get to Jesus.  Bringing gifts across the desert, climbing trees, pushing through massive crowds… Is liking a post the point?  No.  Are you actively trying to live a life that follows Jesus?  How does that look?  How does the world know you belong to Him?  Is it because you smile?  Is it because you don’t use certain words in your vocabulary?  Is it because you follow a certain stereotype?  No.

Does your politeness make Jesus jump up and down?  “Yeah!!!!  I died on the cross and they decided to hold the door open for someone… count that one as mine!”.  The atheists know how to be polite.  The agnostic can feed the hungry and donate blood.  The truly lost can be good neighbors.  While all of this might be good to live out, its not what is called out.  We aren’t just called, we are called out.  To step out and reject the norms of this society.  To say its not enough to be nice, its not enough to be kind.

It’s time to be separate.  Different.  Special.  Holy.  Godly.  Like Christ.  Christian.  Remember the shame of Peter?  “you were with the man weren’t you?”…. “no, no… NO!!!”.  Are some of us shaking our heads at how Peter could do such a thing, while at the same time we leave no tangible evidence that we are saved by a mighty God and called to a life of love, sacrifice, and saving others along the way?

I’m not shaming you if you don’t click like on Facebook posts.  I’m not calling out Twitter ghosts.  That is a small habit that may point to a bigger issue.  Are you proud of your heritage?  Do you honor God?  Can you post about your hiking trip, but the journey with the Savior feels weird?  Can you share your favorite recipe, but your favorite scripture never makes it out?  Do you recount endless tales of the exploits of your best friend, but what Jesus has done for you never crosses your mind to share?

If this post burns a bit, or seems accusatory, don’t fret.  The solution sits at your fingertips.  The cure is in your heart.  What makes me want to share Jesus is the forgiving love He gives where my past matters not.  What I kept to myself yesterday, I can shout out today.  What I was ashamed of yesterday can be my identity today.   Jesus doesn’t just forgive.  He restores.  He renews.  He redeems.

 

 

We are Who We Worship

I see a worshiper fall into that eternal space between worlds.  As she sings her voice trembles over the notes that her powerful vocal chords effortlessly blew through moments ago.  But now, her emotions no longer control her.  She has passed through that threshold between worshiping to God and worshiping at God.  She invited God’s presence and it consumed her.  Hands shaking, mouth quivering, the song continues with new strength and yet with more humble awareness.

Someone gets up from their seat and walks across the auditorium.  They want to pray for someone.  That person is just over there, so their feet follow their convictions.  Uncomfortable, inconvenient, distracting?  No, those thoughts never enter his mind.  He wants to pray, so he goes and prays.  Tapping his friend on the shoulder mere words are spoken before an embrace occurs followed by broken, heartfelt, emotional prayer.  Deep prayer.  Honest.  Cleansing.  Godly prayer.

Three families gather around rows of chairs to take communion together.  The layout of the building isn’t consistent with what they are wanting to do, but chairs get moved, people step out of the way, and compromise gets them all huddled together to sample a meal of eternal proportions together.  Each one bows, prays, and honors their fallen and risen King.

This is the church.  Family.  We chose each other when we chose God.  Now we live life together.  We pray together.  We confess to each other.  We support each other.  We are Christ to each other.  We strengthen and encourage.  And then we go into the world sharing the amazing love of God to all humanity.  The pharisees followed rules and policies.  I’ve been to many churches that structured 3 songs, a prayer, a sermon, etc.  Jesus seemingly did the opposite.

Not that structure is wrong, but He seemed to always find Himself opposing the religious elite.  It wasn’t about the temple, it wasn’t about their status, it wasn’t about their order and structure… and they were deeply offended.  But He kept on.  Washing the feet of a woman, eating with the sinners, healing on the sabbath, speaking against human created traditions.  He didn’t have time for customs, He had a world to save.  And while the power comes from Him, He passed that torch on to us.  “Go into the world…”.

And I can’t help but wonder, what does God think of this?  It’s for Him.  His commands followed.  His will sought.  His name praised.  We know He doesn’t puff up or get ego issues.  Will this act receive the “well done, my good and faithful servant” we all long to hear?  Will He cry?  Will He well up with Fatherly pride?  I can’t say for sure because those are our actions.  Those are the things sinners do when we share in a glimpse of something good and right.  But what does an almighty and Holy God do when He is worshiped?

Let me offer something that might not sound right at first.  We are who we worship.  And by that, I don’t mean we are part of the trinity God-head.  I’m not elevating us to equality.  But in a different way, we do tend to become like those we cherish.  Have you ever noticed you talk like your idols?  Does your accent change when you spend a few years in a new region?  You’ve certainly heard the phrase, “you are what you eat”?  And just like that phrase, I’m not suggesting that we are literal peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in the flesh.

But, if that is all we eat, we do take on the attributes of the food.  High carbs, high fat, high calories… so are we if that is what we choose to eat.  We take on the characteristics of the choices we make.  What happens when you switch to lean meats, veggies, water, and fruit?  You shed off the old food and become the new food.  Fat is lost.  Calories are lost.  Carbs are lost.  Old clothes don’t fit any more.  People look at us and say, “WOW!!!!, you look like a different person!!!”

And this is what happens as a result of worship.  When we truly worship, we commune with God.  We are in His presence.  Just like eating the bread and drinking the cup during our Lord’s Supper, we take on the attributes, we consume them.  We put Godly things into our lives.  We invite the Spirit into our lives.  And we change.  We start to take on those Godly attributes and before we realize it… impatience is lost.  Greed is lost.  Pride is lost.  Hate is lost.  Sin is lost.  Our old lives don’t fit us anymore and before we even realize it, people look at us and say, “WOW!!!!! you look like a different person!!!”.  And we really are.

We died to our old way of living and now have a new lifestyle that is fully enveloped by Jesus.  So, in a way, we are what we worship.  To the greatest extent that we fall under grace.  We aren’t God… but we are Godly.  We aren’t Christ, but we are Christian.  We aren’t perfect… but we are forgiven and made right… and that puts us right back at the beginning of this blog…  How can we not worship Him with ALL of our heart, soul, mind, body, and spirit?

A relationship with God is not extra credit.  It’s not optional.  It’s critical to the entire plan of salvation.  Don’t let worship be your vocal talent and nothing more.  Don’t believe that your extravagant prayers are flattering to God.  He wants to be consumed.  He wants to be eaten up (so to speak) 😉  If you aren’t getting anything out of church, ask what you are putting into it.  If you aren’t sharing with your fellow believers, start today.  If you are ashamed or embarrassed to invite people to your family of God that happens to meet in a random building… you might not be the relative you thought you were.

It’s OK to be in these situations… as long as we understand its not OK to remain in them.  If you don’t love your church… you have witnessed your first red flag.  Start with God, open your honest heart to Him and work your plan and His from there.  He gave His Son, our response in worship is our thankfulness for that gift.  It CANNOT be stale, uninspired, or Spirit lacking in nature.  Worship like we are mere men and women.  Worship like we address a God.  Worship as though He not only came to us, but He brought an unbelievable gift.

 

Can God get lost?

 

I love our GPS, I chose a British accent and she says things like “Boolevard”, or “Object Ahead” (like an objection instead of an actual object)

I’ve grown very dependent On the GPS.  Much like spell checker has reduced my ability to spell on my own, I don’t think I could find my mailbox from the front porch without an electronic gadget telling me how to get there.

But, I’m curious… Did you watch the clip?  Has that ever happened to you?  Obviously, not to that extreme.  I don’t expect you to have actually driven into water at the advice of a computer.  But I would also wager you have been led to the water.  Has your GPS ever misled you?  Mine has.  Quite a bit.

When I listen to the GPS and follow it to a successful destination, I feel good about myself.  I chose to listen.  I saved time, gas, wear and tear.  I’ll sing it’s praises.  But I’ll also take some credit.

When the GPS is wrong, I want to toss it out of the window and never use it again.  If I had followed my instincts, I would have been home by now.  The GPS is always to blame when it’s wrong.  And it can be all sorts of wrong:  it can tell me to turn too late, mispronounce the street name, the volume is too low, “unverified area”, “make a u-turn if possible”…

So what happens when we choose to follow God and we end up getting lost along the way?  This place isn’t what I signed up for.  I didn’t mean to turn down here.  We passed my exit miles ago.  Why did God lead me here?  There is pain here.  There is emotional distress.

One of the bigger problems with this way of thinking is that we don’t fully know where God plans to take us, even if, we properly submit to His will.  When you are living in a relationship with God, there are no wrong turns.  Did you catch that I didn’t go for the obvious cliches?  I could have referenced Jesus taking the wheel or how we take turns driving (so many obvious comparisons while we journey down this road of life)… God doesn’t want a copilot, he doesn’t want passengers, He let His Boy die on the cross for us so we could be His family.  His companions.  Journeying with Him.  Growing together.

So when in a properly nurtured relationship with God, there are no wrong turns, there are no miscalculations.  We find the path off the main road because that is part of our flight plan.  Miracles don’t happen where they aren’t needed.  There has to be a storm before you can calm it.  There has to be a disease before you can cure it.  There has to be pain for healing to take place.  Jesus said it Himself, He didn’t come to heal the healthy people.  He didn’t come to bless the rich.

So often we look around and cry out at our circumstances.  We don’t want to be in the poverty or the sickness, or in the path of the storm… but then we ask why God isn’t using us to do His will.  When you end up in the lake, don’t throw out the GPS, start looking for the type of thing Jesus would have done in this very situation.  When we look around and loved ones are dying, family is chronically sick, friends are in despair, good people are suffering… its easy to shake that fist and claim that God needs to stop and ask for directions.

Or we could follow that awe-inspiring example of Jesus, roll up our sleeves, and make ourselves at home in this little hovel off the beaten path.  We are where we need to be if God is our Father.  If we truly want to walk in the footsteps of Jesus, its time to start looking for His footprints.  We wont find those in many of the places we’ve been looking.  He was with the sick, the misunderstood, the needy, the exhausting.  When that temptation sinks in to cry out, “why!!!” to God… think instead and ask “How”.  How can we be Him in this place in our lives.

Click Here NOW! Amazing-est News Ever!

It’s called click bait.  Headlines like “Breaking News”.  Terms like, “You won’t believe what (insert controversial person of the day) said…”  Colorful adjectives like “Destroyed”, “Shredded”, “toppled”.  Polarizing descriptors similar to: “And no one cared…” or “It blew everyone away”.

We see this a lot now.  Media meisters are preying on some people’s inability to separate fact from heavily loaded emotional appeal.  If you have fallen victim to this strategy, you already know why I use the term victim.  The headline sounds like something the entire planet should be up in arms over, but the actual meat of the article is trivial at best, and often a far stretch, even to be trivial.

So why does this work?  Why do we (collectively as humans) fall for it?  I’m going to say its because we live in fear.  When we hear those tagged words, they trigger our deepest concerns.  “what now?!” we wonder, and some of us cry it out as we can’t handle any more.  We know deep down that anything can happen, and we often play along and assume it just did.

Consider this.  We serve a God who does not fear.  He does not wake up in the world and have to search to see what horrible things happened while we slept.  He is not shocked by the disasters and He is not paralyzed by the sickness of man.  And this is who hears our prayers.  I’m comforted to know that our Lord does not need the news to keep up.  He loves us, each one, and is very interested in our lives.

I’m also happy to know that God loves us all.  So we don’t have to worry about our shapes, sizes, colors, accents, personal preferences, or birth marks to know whether He cares or not.  I think God’s news feed would throw out all of the nonessential buzz words and cut right to the chase:

“You are hurting… I am here”

“You are lonely… I am love”

“You are abandoned… I am Father and Brother”

“You are accused… I am justifier”

“You have sinned… I wash dirt off feet and darkness off souls”

“You are tired… I am rest”

“You are overburdened… I carry your cross”

“You are un-salvageable… I am salvation”

There is a reason the Gospel is called “The Good News!”.  Oh how it stands apart from what we think news is today.  Can I encourage you to share the good news today?  To ignore the bad.  To resist the temptation to spread the lies and the bait.  It’s really not a call to do or not do anything… its an issue of focus.  What gets your attention?  “Click Me, I’ve got some juicy stuff!!!!!”, Or, “Let me show you what it means to love unconditionally”.

Football isn’t in the Bible

First, let me start by stating that I’m not going to present my political opinions in this post.  Why?  Because you don’t care what I think about those issues.  And you shouldn’t.  What I’d like to challenge you to remember is that others likely view your opinion the same way.

I’m reminded of a well meaning Sunday school teacher.  She wanted to get children excited about the Bible.  Her statement was that anything we could imagine was included in the text.  Then she challenged us to ask what we enjoyed reading about and she would show us where that topic was in the Bible.

As a class of young children, we gave typical childish answers:  dragons, super heroes, talking animals, flying, etc.  and she answered in turn with very unprepared answers that attempted to prove her original point.

She consider the many eyed creature in Revelation to be dragon-like enough.  She passed off the disciples as super heroes and walking on water was parallel to flying in her mind.  Who knew, there actually is a talking donkey in the Bible!

She meant well, but all she really taught me that day is the Bible doesn’t have a story for every occasion.  While there are numerous analogies and examples, even some sports metaphors… the Bible doesn’t get to American football or it’s political implications.

So, how should we, as Christians, maneuver this new found mine field?  We shouldn’t.  And that is exactly point number 2.

Number one is that no one wants to know your opinion in a matter where their side of the story is already deeply rooted, emotional, and immovable.  Think of how your heart aches over the issue.  So does theirs.  The second point is that God never intended us to be arguing over matters of opinion any way.  If this specific issue were important to Him, we could turn to Gridiron chapter 2 and read all about it.

But you might be thinking there are applicable scriptures for the current climate.  And, you are right.  They are scriptures written to Christians (not to unbelievers), and they talk about, not what we shouldn’t be talking about… but what we SHOULD be talking about.

And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” – Luke 2:49

Another translation in lieu of “in my Father’s house” is, “about my Father’s business”.  Either way, the point was, Jesus was telling the people, they should have known where He was by His very nature.  He was here to point people to God.  He accomplished that both by His works and via the temples and synagogues of the day.  What did Jesus spend His time doing?  Praying, healing, teaching, setting examples, spreading the gospel.  When it came to matters of government, He had one comment:

“Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” – Matthew 22:21

They wanted oh so badly for Him to weigh in on the conversation.  The whole thing was a trap.  They specifically asked Him about taxes.  It didn’t matter who He sided with, they would have Him the second His political stance started dripping from His mouth.  But instead, He showed again where His time would be spent…. Giving things to God.  What a clever way to answer, leaving them, the deceivers, to decide what actually belonged to each, Caesar and God.  Look at how accurately and specifically our Bible gives us direction in the real world today.  Are we not baited in social media every moment to counter political, social, and territorial injustices?  We don’t have to ask what Jesus would say today… He has already said it.  And it was effectively, ‘I’ll not join in. ‘

“Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”  – Exodus 20:3

This one is a bit before Jesus’ time.  Straight from God to Moses and then carved in stone was this command.  We know there is only one true God.  The capital G necessitates personal specificity.  The lowercase, gods, are not real.  But, people worshiped them anyway.  We do the same without always realizing it.  Our gods might be internet surfing, social media, food, money, status, etc.  They are things that would take a place before the God.  We don’t have to say a prayer and ask WWMD to worship money.  Making money a priority in our life is a form of worship all on its own.  God wants to be our priority.  If people know us by our politics, then I might suggest we have a god before our God.

“Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation”  – Mark 16:15

Another word for “Gospel” is the good news.  But not just any good news.  A dog having puppies isn’t the gospel.  A successful fish fry fundraiser isn’t the gospel.  Cancer all gone?  Fantastic!  but that isn’t the message (at least not in whole).  The good news is that Jesus died for our sins and He rose again defeating death for all of us if we choose to accept that gift by following Him.  Does that sound ANYTHING like the mess we see on social media today?  The good news doesn’t come in condemnation, correcting, or argumentatively.  The gospel is hope and love.  Period.

“…that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”  John 17:21

Jesus’ prayer was for unity.  Topics cannot both divide and unify.  And most of these verses seem to be reaching towards other comparable scriptures like being lukewarm.  You can’t prioritize both God and politics.  You can enjoy politics, but you can’t divide humanity over your viewpoint.  To say you love God and you also hate man that disagrees with you… that is lukewarm.  It’s trying to keep a foot in two camps.  All of this boils down to having a single identity in Jesus Christ.

Does what you say and do point to your Master, your Creator, your Savior?  Or does it point to what YOU think, believe, or want to see this temporary world become?

I could go on for quite some time listing fruits of the Spirit, parables told by Jesus, examples the disciples learned by following.  The Bible is quite clear and consistent about where our politics lie.  Always behind God, and always in a loving, unifying, God glorifying way.  This means 99.9% of us need to shut up.  And I mean that in the good, Godly way of saying it 😉

Can we be Christians and still talk about politics?  Can we be Christians and still be rich?  Possibly.  But this is where many will fail.  Trying to justify that we have successfully done both.  Its not that it’s impossible, its that its really hard.  So hard, that Jesus often tells us to give the money away.  It’s too much of a burden to juggle the wealth and the ideal Christian spirit.  Can some pull it off?  Yes.  Do most?  No.  So whether possible or not, we can see the recommendation from scripture to avoid the temptation altogether:

“And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire.”  – Matthew 18

Satan, the great liar, will start right now to convince you that the other side isn’t playing fair.  The other side isn’t caving any.  The other side is… I could spend days just listing the lies he will use to convince you that what the world needs is another uninformed political opinion.  (Dare I say you might be uneducated in the world of politics?)  Yeah, if your source is second hand or lower (and a HUGE majority of us are likely 5th hand or lower), then yeah.)  Isn’t that just like the devil?  He has us fighting over someone else’s beliefs that they obtained from other resources we have never once been privy to.  Why?  Because God wants us unified and Satan wants us in Hell.

Father in heaven, before temptation sets in, please guide your believer’s to your voice and away from the lies of the enemy.  Remind us who the true enemy is.  The true enemy does not want our taxes or our votes or our bumper stickers.  He doesn’t want donations, up-votes, or cult followers.  The true enemy wants our soul.  Bless us to hear and follow only your voice and that we may be irrefutably your children in every word and deed.  May our lives bear only good fruit for You.  Lead us away from this destructive temptation that divides us up for the enemy to ensnare one by one.  Let us find unity in You.  Let the desire of man fade from our hearts and allow us to follow the almighty God and live in Your blessing and love.  Let the world see your love in your followers and not the division of those who only claim you in name and not in deed.  Amen.

One final thought (P.S. p.s….) don’t share this post with unbelievers.  Don’t go and wag scriptures at unbelievers.  Jesus called out the Christians who didn’t get the message when He spoke and corrected them.  When He spoke to the unbeliever, He spoke with love.  He shared the good news with them.  If they don’t have a personal relationship with Jesus, they aren’t living life by the same book.  Throwing that book at them won’t help.  Doing life as a living example of the Son of Man will do just that.  But they have to see Jesus as the true priority in our lives.  When He comes out second or third… the message is fully lost.

 

Erasing Makes A Mess

I worked for an unscrupulous manager when I was growing up.  He would fill out the schedule in pencil and, when it suited him the most, he would erase time slots and fill it out again.  Thankfully, the GM was smart, and when I showed him the faint outline left by the erasing it was obvious that the data was altered.

I used to use erasable ink pens until I learned that no amount of swiping would make the surface completely clean.  Maybe technology has changed, but when I was a child, writing something in an erasable format was like putting something on the internet… there was no way to get rid of it.  Like a dirty chalkboard, you can make out bits and pieces of what was previously documented there.

This is why I’m thankful that Jesus didn’t erase our sins.  He took them.  If He had just forgiven us, there would still be a remnant or stain.  And in our minds we would know what we have done.  It’s hard to live through guilt.  Jesus took our sins.  More specifically, He bought them.  They had a price and we couldn’t afford it.  Jesus stepped in and heaped them all on Himself in our place.

I know a lot of people who won’t begin or further a relationship with Jesus because of their past.  They feel that God is all powerful, but He can’t forgive them.  They think that they have messed up too many times.  They use phrases like too much, too late, or too hard.  The gift we have been given pretty much means that we don’t have a past anymore.  We only have a future.

Jesus found a way so that when someone comes along and scratches the surface of our lives, they don’t find the person we used to be.  That person is gone. We are new with Christ.  That doesn’t just mean we act different, it means we ARE different.  We have a full new history of grace, forgiveness, and salvation.

Satan would have you believe that if someone comes along, they can perform that trick the detectives use on TV shows with a pencil on a post it note to uncover your secrets.  God’s truth is that you have no secrets… His Son paid for them all.  The temptation is to retreat in your sin.  The gift is that you have no sin.  Not if you accept the gift of Christ crucified and live in a relationship with Him.  So please allow me to encourage you to stop letting your sin keep you from Christ, when it is Christ who keeps your sin from you.  Stop trying to erase the sin, when He will fully take it all.

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