I Regret This

The notion that God can do more is something we need to work well within the fabric of our daily lives.  One of the most tragic offenses I believe we make to the Creator is that we simply don’t expect enough.  We limit Him. 

It’s often seen as a lack of faith and while it may not stifle His abilities, it certainly cripples the effect of His gifts in our lives.

We pray that God heals cancer when we could be asking God to heal the entire body, cleanse the soul, give supernatural gifts, and spread His name to generations through this event. 

Peter had faith… at least for a moment.  When He saw Jesus walking on the water, he cried it out.  I want in on that!  Let me do that with you…. and he did. 

And I think that is a good explanation for our troubled times.  We are content to not get in the water with Him.  We let Jesus do the water walking and we will stay and guard the boat. 

Peter was on to something.  The problem with the boat is that Jesus isn’t in it.  He is walking on the water.  He is turning over tables in the temple.  He is boldly sharing His Father.  He is headed for the cross.  All of those sound scary don’t they?  Is that why Peter sank?

When he saw the waves and took his eyes off Jesus was it because he realized what his request really meant?  He exclaimed, ‘I want to follow you’, but he didn’t really want to go where Jesus was headed. 

I think ‘more’ scares us.  We don’t want it.  We want our current lives, but just better.  Jesus calls us to reject what we have and take on something new.  And that is a difficult thought to consider. 

We struggle with the math of ‘more’.  We think in terms of our current understanding.  “I can’t change the past” is something we often bemoan.  At best it means We are going to quit stressing over something we can’t control, but often its an exhausted exclamation of regret. 

Just like our weak prayers, we throw it off to the side and maybe ask for forgiveness.  We completely drown out the whispers of God beckoning us to ask for more.  No, God won’t change the past, but he can do better than that.  He can do more than that.  He can empower us to explode towards a better future. 

He can take that static past and use it for good.  He can mold us through it, He can touch lives with it, He can bless in spite of it.  When we properly understand our relationship with God, we can understand why the Bible would say ‘do not dwell on the past’. 

Jesus was frustrated at the comment that Lazarus would not have died had Jesus been there.  They simply didn’t expect more.  They were living in the past.  The moments that they couldn’t control were the culprit.  It was about what Jesus could have done or where He should have been… not what He could do right now. 

Our God creates.  Our God heals.  He calms, teaches, loves, protects, and blows the doors off tombs.  We can agree with scripture that He has defeated death… but we just can’t believe that our tomorrow can be better.  We are certain that our mistakes and trials are life defining. 

Sigh!  Can you hear the desperate exhalation from God?  Why won’t you ask for more?  He won’t change that thing you did, or even the stuff that has happened to you… but He can lift you above the waves.  He can do so much better, so much more, than our simple desires to undo the unwanted events of our lives. 

When the disciples of Jesus sat in prison, they didn’t asked to be removed from jail… they brought Jesus into captivity with them.  When Jesus hung from the cross, He didn’t say, ‘get me off of this thing’, He chose more.  An end to His pain wasn’t enough.  He could do better than that.  So, instead, He prayed ‘Father forgive them’. 

Nails through His veins and He thought of us instead.  Can we begin to comprehend that we are the ‘more’ to Him?  He wants us.  Praise God Jesus didn’t look to the past while He was on the cross.  The lies, the greed, the disobedience.  I believe He looked ahead.  ‘This is for them’, He must have thought.

Do we honestly believe that the God who turned His tortured Son into eternal joy for those who killed Him… Do we think He can’t use our pain for something better tomorrow?  Why regret yesterday when God can do ANYTHING today?


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Free God from the Bible

I wrote a short ‘review’ on a children’s Bible that I found to be a little harsh for the target audience.  It was obviously my opinion, but I wanted other parents to know that this book jumped right into the gruesome bits of our history and for a “First Bible” I thought that was on the questionable side.

Are ALL of the old testament stories important?  Yes*  You see that asterisk?  That is important.  My son is going to start off his journey with Christ… and this might be difficult for some to understand… with Jesus.  He is going to develop a personal relationship with God.

Will he learn about wandering Israelites, drowned sinners, and beheaded disciples?  Of course.  But those are far behind the most important messages of his eternity.  First, he is learning who God is.  What God does.  How to pray.  How God works.  Etc.  My whole point in the review and in my parenting opinion is that we get the cart behind the horse.

If I were to teach you about baseball, do I start with how they stitch cowhide around cork to assemble the ball?  That may interest you, that may even help you in some way, but not until you have a rudimentary love for the game.

And that is where I feel this needs sharing.  Do we have a fundamental love for our creator?  Or do we start with the genealogy and try to work our way backwards?  I think point one is that we need to make certain that we aren’t logically following human translated rules and histories.

I hope we can all see how there is a strong difference between, “I’m not supposed to do that, so I will regrettably refrain, though I would really like to do that”.  And, “God made me a new person that seeks Him and His will isn’t leading me anywhere near that”.  The first person follows a book while the second has a relationship with their Maker.

It’s very important that we aren’t following a set of rules, but that we actually follow the living God.  What good is it to know how old Methuselah was if we have fear in our lives?  How is it helpful to quote Proverbs if we are alone and hopeless?  So just like my child, I want to encourage all of us to start with what is most important.  Engage in a living relationship with your Father in heaven and solidify that reciprocating love before you dare venture into anything else.

This leads to point 2 (and hopefully you understand I believe that continuous study of the Bible is extremely important, it just doesn’t mean much without the Spirit that wrote it in your life.  Read.  Read daily.  But read in a context of that real and personal relationship with God).

One individual read my short caution of the book and responded that I was in fact wrong.  In a public forum they questioned my faith, called out my parenting, and said I was doing exactly what the Bible warned against.

Is this the “good news”?  Is this what the world needs to see when they see “Christianity”?  Are people allowed to disagree?  Absolutely!  Could they have disagreed with their opinion publicly?  Of course!  But when we judge each other… publicly… as strangers, we not only violate many of the tenants God set forth in the very Bible we were discussing, but we proclaim to the world, “This is what Jesus died for!”  This is what matters!  This is what is important for you to know!

Oddly, much of the world isn’t interested in debating and condemning each other over arguably insignificant details.

He could have disagreed.  But he chose to judge.  And this is what so many of us do when our opinions hit the open air of the internet.  ‘It’s not that you have a different opinion than me, its that you are going to Hell.’  That was rarely the message of Jesus (the only one fit to sit in the judgement seat).  The good news is about salvation.  The great news is about forgiveness and eternal communion with God.

Freedom from debt and punishment.  Undeserved grace.  Love.  This is the gospel.  Is this the message we share?  Is this what your Facebook feed is full of?  Is this what Twitter and Pinterest and Slack and even you weirdos still using Myspace 😉 … is this the message you share?

It’s so terribly easy to see why the world rejects Jesus.  They are rejecting us.  And we are to be Jesus to this world.  But who we call Jesus and who Jesus actually is gets too far apart to be recognizable at times.  This isn’t my personal gripe about someone who disagreed with me on the internet.  This is my plea for us to put first what matters most.  God and God alone.

Some of us have God trapped in the Bible.  He is locked in the stories of old and used only as a weapon against each other.  ‘My God said this…’  ‘Jesus would never condone that…’  I’m not suggesting we don’t read the Bible.  I’m not even insinuating we wait on reading.  I’m offering that we should free Him from the shackles we place on the book and get some separation between the pages that list our history and the actual God who lives and works in this world today.

Right now we have a God who loves us and works to reach us.  He paid dearly for us.  If we develop that relationship as intended the next part gets much easier… to show the real Christ and His good news to the world.

 


Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

When God says, ‘No’… or, Chase vs. Pokemon

Our son gets an allowance.  He typically wants the first thing he sees in the toy section… or maybe even the end-cap before the toy section.  Like many of us, hes a “stuff” centered kid.  He’s an amazing, good-hearted boy, but he likes toys.

When he saw the Chase stuffed animal, he fell apart (in a happy, good way).  He has allowance money so we confirmed that he wanted it and he happily exclaimed, “YES!”.

As we continued shopping, he hugged the animal, told it he loved him, and was pretty much as happy as he could be.

But when we reached the checkout isle, he spotted a Pokemon key-chain.  First you need to understand that he has never seen Pokemon.  Not the show, not the movie, not even the commercials.  His only reference to Pokemon is that his friends at school (most of whom are older) like it.

Any parent knows, this now means he likes it too.  Even though he has never watched an episode, touched a toy, or has any reference to it whatsoever.  But that doesn’t matter in the eyes of peer pressure… even at just over 5 years old.  “I want that!“, he shouted exuberantly.

I clarified he was talking about the key chain and then parenting kicked in.  (albeit newbish, frustrated parenting).  I thought, ‘this will be quick’ and asked the question.  “Well, which would you rather have, the animal you have been hugging for the past 30 minutes or this keychain?”  Before I could even finish, he blurted the answer… “POKEMON KEYCHAIN!!!!!”.

I screamed as loud as my internal brain could scream to itself without letting any actual words out, … “YOU DON’T HAVE ANY KEYS!!!”

This could have gone down a few different ways.  It’s his allowance and we generally try and let him decide how its spent.  He tithes a little, but we also let him make some mistakes as well to try and get those lessons in him about how he spends his money.

In this case, I just couldn’t do it.  Something he loved and adored versus something he didn’t even understand on multiple levels.  He has no keys, there is no way to really ‘play’ with a keychain, and he doesn’t know the first thing about Pokemon.

So I had to be the bad guy.  (for about 3 minutes).  The simple fact is, I know better than he does.  I’m not smart or better or special.  I just have more experience than he does.  And I know that keychain would have been buried in a toybox never to be seen again after about 10 minutes of looking at it.  And the next time we went to the store he would have wanted the Chase stuffed animal with no allowance available to buy it.

So I said no.  I said he couldn’t use his own money to buy something.  I think the picture above shows how he handled the event.  Sad at first, but he has fed his stuffed animal, let him do his home work, watched movies, slept with it, and pretty much hasn’t done anything without Chase by his side.

I knew something he didn’t.  I knew how much more happiness would come from a “no, I’m not gonna let you do that”.  He experienced 3 minutes of sadness while we stared at that dangling, shiny key chain during checkout.  But once the car was packed in the parking lot, he had already forgotten about it.  Days later, he loves every life moment with Chase glued to his hip.

It’s easy to put myself in dad-mode and bask in how happy my son is with some swift, logical parenting… but like in most parables, I’m not the parent in this story.  I’m the boy who wants things that aren’t good for me, wastes stuff, covets, and gets sad when things don’t go my way.  MY way.  God… He is the one who knows whats best.  He is the one who lovingly withholds, carefully plans, and masterfully executes things I may never understand.

God’s “no” is so much more loving than any man’s “yes”.  Not only loving, but good for us.  We often have the freedom to make our own mistakes, and we can usually learn a good lesson when we do.  But praise God for the “no” answer.  That wonderful experience where He steps in and decides that against our better judgement, He isn’t going to let us mess that up.

Thank you, God… for all those times you save me from myself.  And please forgive my response, which often isn’t eternally focused.

Do You Really Only Have One Shot?

I have always been amazed at how photographers can capture such amazing, seemingly magical moments by pressing a button at the precise moment that a breathtaking event occurs.

My recent exploration of cameras has pulled back the curtain as to how this actually happens.  First, there is a portion of time that is less than a second.  What I mean by this is you don’t just have one second to take a picture.  You can take pictures in fractions of a second.  One of the cameras I want to buy can take over 20 pictures in a single second.

Humans typically blink in a tenth of a second.  So you can quickly see how over 20 pictures during that second can get around one of many problems that can occur if you were to only snap a shot one time.  Cameras also come with a buffer.  This can hold those 20+ photos that are coming in every second for multiple seconds.  The camera is taking in pictures faster than it can permanently write them to storage so it needs a place to hold them while you are still capturing.

Once the buffer is full, or once you are done taking the pictures, it will then write the pictures captured to the camera storage for you to sort through later.  This can amount to hundreds of photos all captured in a matter of seconds.  And this explains how its done.  They just hold down the button and let the moment unfold before them.  A bird in flight, a baseball swing, a shooting star, that perfect smile…

I used to think that photographers had to stop, pull out their camera, turn it on, point, focus, and then press the button one time and hope that they were lucky enough to catch something good.  And if they missed.  If they were too early or too late… it was gone forever.

I tried photography years ago and found it frustrating because my images were always blurry and I felt like I missed every opportunity.  I feel like many of us live our lives like this.  We think we only get one shot.  And if we muster up enough of whatever we need to take it and it doesn’t go so well, we are through.

We only give our marriages one shot.  We give our friends one chance.  This situation gets only one round from me.  And if it gets painful, or hard, or frustrating… I’m out!  Maybe we give it two chances or three, but the end result is the same.  We know how to quit.  We are experts at giving up.  Wasting time on fruitless things is not something we like to do.

Whats worse is we give up on ourselves just as easily.  We get tired of making the same mistake over and over and over and we can’t comprehend how anyone could accept such failure.  Peter said that he does the things he should not do and he does not do the things he should.  I appreciate him sharing that.  It gives me hope.  I get the sense he is constantly at odds with himself.

God is the God of second chances.  But also third chances, forth chances, hundredth chances, and beyond.  Much, much beyond.  We cannot out-sin God’s grace.  It doesn’t mean we should try to, it just means we have hope if we desire a fresh start with our Father in heaven.

I want to encourage us to not only give others a chance, but to give ourselves a chance… lots of them.  God’s buffer never fills up.  If we can understand how He extends grace to others, remember that works for us too.  Bluntly put, we aren’t the exceptions we often think we are.  He loves us and forgives us when we seek that.  All of us.

 


Are you plugged in?

I lost internet for two days over the weekend.  Many will read that sentence and feel my pain.  I can feel the shared sympathy.  Thank you!  There was a time when the internet could have gone out and I would have never known.  That time is long since past.  Now, it does not matter what I am doing, it involves the internet.

I have over 20 internet enabled devices in my home, and quite honestly, that is without trying.  I’ve passed on many options to include the internet that most likely won’t be options soon.  Did you know they make refrigerators that connect to the internet?  They have for years.  Soon it will be standard on all models.  I don’t own an internet watch, a web based doorbell, or WiFi light bulbs… but all of these have existed for quite some time.  My 20 devices online at the moment will likely become 40 in a very short amount of time… without even trying to buy internet enabled devices.

The true testament to how deeply I rely on the interwebs can be seen when the internet connection is dropped.  Because nearly everything we do relies on some form of connectivity, my plans are deviated when the outage occurs.  In other words, every single time the internet goes down, I have to find something else to do.  I have my own top 10 list of things I attempt to do to pass the time while the internet is out:

  1.   Organize my email (check from my backlog, reply, file things in folders, etc).
  2.   Play online games
  3.   Online banking
  4.   Get caught up on Facebook.
  5.   Watch videos on YouTube.
  6.   Talk to someone (using Skype or VOIP technology)
  7.   Just watch a movie (Netflix, Prime, Hulu, etc)
  8.   Do some shopping (Amazon, Newegg, Slickdeals)
  9.   Engage any of my hobbies (writing, photography, etc all requiring online tools)
  10.   Misc (Check news, sports stats, fantasy teams, taxes, browsing, etc… all online).

I have to go through a routine of shock and confusion before it sinks in that everything I do routes back to the internet in some way.  Even with the knowledge that my connection has been severed, my gut reaction based on habit and muscle memory is to try to do things that I forgot relied on that link.

This is very similar to how our relationship with God should be.  All things lead to Him.  He is a part of everything.  Everything that we do should honor Him and point to Him in some way.  Should He ever be apart from us… we would be hopeless.  Lost.  Worthless.

Jesus was disconnected from God when He took our place on the cross.  We call that ‘Hell’.

It’s getting more difficult to find things to do when the data stops pouring into my home.  Can we think of things that we can accomplish without God?  Can we imagine a world without God?  My hope is that we are so committed to the life God blessed us with that we serve Him in every act, word, and thought… so much so, that even without thinking, our muscle memory and great habits take over and we continue to nurture others as we build on the relationship ourselves.

 

 


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Where Are My Gifts!?!!?

Gifts, in the eyes of man, are lacking in me.

I cannot sing. I cannot draw. I cannot play an instrument. I am not athletically advanced. I am not intelligenter.

According to how we grade each other in physical gifts, I am not very blessed.

In my dialogue with God I lean towards more meaningful gifts. Gifts of the Spirit. What has God given me? This is what really matters.

Well, I can’t speak in tongues. I don’t prophesy. I haven’t healed anyone. I have yet to turn water into Pepsi.

Perhaps you can relate to my struggle?

What is God’s plan for me? What am I supposed to be doing for Him? How do I work within my strengths, when I don’t know what they are, and often challenge weather I have any to begin with?

There is an often undesired answer. Read and pray. I’m going to stick with it for a reason. It’s what has worked for me. After a session of “why me” prayer and honest questioning of God, I finished my usual quiet time with a chapter in a book I was working through.

I read the most common sense statement that we all know. “Life is a gift. Every breath is a gift”. That was it. Nothing magical. Nothing really profound. But everything I needed to hear.

God proceeded to work through my heart how much forgiveness I needed. Which all by itself is a sad commentary.  I, the sinner, want to know where my gifts are!

I am a sinner. Jesus is a gift. Forgiveness is a gift… and how much of that I receive! Grace, salvation, heaven… all gifts. Not just gifts… the most important of all presents. Things I don’t deserve and yet am eternally nothing without.

I receive the most amazing gifts every day. I wake up. I breathe. I commune with The God. I am forgiven and I bask in epic and eternal promises from the creator of the world.

I asked where my gifts are and He showed me. I have more than most. I am overwhelmingly blessed. I hope you can see how you are too… and if you aren’t, how you can be.

 


I’m Special, You’re Not

One of the verses we often use to ‘comfort’ each other is the famous line from 1 Corinthians 10 that says ‘he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability’.  Further if tempted… ‘he will also provide the way of escape’. 

I put the word comfort in quotes because it’s rarely accomplished.  When the devil is beating you down, does this ancient quotation make you feel any better?

I call this verse a Just-Them verse.  It never really helps to hear it but we can’t stop saying it to them.  It’s almost like it makes us feel better… like we are really in there helping someone in need.  But what I think happens most often is our judgemental side starts to show.

Here is the condensed version:  “I’m tempted to steal while times are tough”.  “If you steal, its a sin because God gave you the ability to resist AND a way out!”.  Please understand that even if you don’t mean it that way, there is a high probability it still gets received that way.

The problem with temptation is that it appeals to each of us differently.  In the shortest terms, the devil is epic good at tuning his whispers directly to our situations and personalities.  So we develop this sense of understanding towards our own needs…. but we don’t forget that scripture for Just-Them.  They have a way out.  They have a God given ability to resist.

But for me… They don’t understand what I’m going through.  My pain is different.  My struggle is real.  My situation is worse.  I had no way out.  I had no option.  We may even claim abandonment in our struggles.  These verses of ‘comfort’ are just for them.  They could do better, but I have no choice.

We can fall into this trap for at least two different reasons.  The first is something we need to work on as a society.  This is the result of handing out trophies and certifications and helping everyone to feel special.  While we all are, especially in God’s eyes, we aren’t encouraging unique self appreciation in healthy ways.

If we only teach that everyone is special we set up future generations for this type of self pity and outward judgement.  A healthy, God’s-eye-view, mixed with reality will go a long way.  Which brings me to the second thing we can do.

We can stop skipping the verse that comes right before the ones I pointed out above.  Verse 13.  “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man.”  That hurt, that massive pain, that thing that no one could possibly understand or even begin to imagine… yeah, we are all going through it.  The names may change, the details may skew over time, but temptation… all of it, is common.  

Not only should that help us put ourselves in the correct perspective between God and us and the rest of us and us… but it shows how diligent the devil really is.  He works so hard at ruining and condemning your life, that every single soul in the world has experienced the same level of torment.

What if instead of judging each other, we were there for each other, helping each other overcome the many schemes that are dealt out to ALL of us?  We may have resisted one sin someone else didn’t, but we neglected to find the way out on others that they did.  We can’t pick and choose which passages are for which people.  If the judgement is just for them, so is the reward.  I’m beginning to think of ‘them’ as a bad word.

Only God can use it accurately.  He is the only one without sin.  When we use it, we use it selectively to divide.  Them that failed.  Them that look different.  Them who speak different.  Them who score lower.  From our point of view, it should be about us.  The Bible is for us.  Jesus came to save us.  This passage of hope is about and for us.  We are God’s creation.  And, in two things, we are certainly equal.  God’s love for us and Satan’s desire to drag us kicking and screaming to hell.

That is another ‘us’.  The enemy wants us.  All of us.  Equally.  His attempts to drive us away from the love of God is common.  It is something we have all experienced.  And it is something that we can all help each other with based on first hand experience.

 


Photo by KEEM IBARRA on Unsplash

Splish Splash Peter’s Taking a Bath

In John 13: 1-17 we find the account of Jesus washing the feet of the disciples.  When He got to Peter, Peter protested.  No!  “You shall never wash my feet”.  I used to read this with an appreciation for Peter.  Good for him!  Know your place.  Of course I missed the same point Peter did.  The short conversation fascinates me.  Jesus replied, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with Me.”  To which Peter responds, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!”

I love that response.  Don’t we all desire this level of yearning for the Savior?  The very thought of not being with Jesus caused Peter to not only turn a 180, but to double down as well.  It’s not comfortable having someone you admire and respect serving you, but Peter would allow it if it meant more of that relationship.

I’ve always aspired to be more like Peter.  To love Jesus the way he did, to be bold like he was… and then I realized… I’m just like Peter.  If that sounds pompous, you may not know the whole story.

Consider another context.  What if your boss walked in and said, “I want you to take my office”.  Well this would just be weird.  The boss would still be there.  You would still be working for him.  As nice as it may sound you just don’t like the thought of the social structure and hierarchy breaking down that way… what would your co-workers think?  So you politely decline.  You respect this boss and want to honor him.  He deserves the nicest and biggest office.  He follows up with, “if you don’t take my office, you can’t work here anymore”.

You depend on that salary, you love your job, and you have great relationships with all of your coworkers.  Losing this job is about the last thing you could ever want.  So with great jubilation you accept the bosses office and offer to take his car and salary too if that will help smooth things over.

I used to see this as a great relenting by Peter.  He didn’t want Jesus to wash his feet, but He would offer up his whole body if that meant getting to stay near the Savior.  But I fear his response may have been more like the analogy I put above.  When threatened to lose everything, wouldn’t we back pedal?

Think about what Peter was in position to lose if he didn’t allow Jesus to wash his feet.  They were still a little confused about who Jesus was.  Jesus was still potential king and ruler to them.  Even in this passage He told Peter he didn’t understand what was going on now.  The crowds loved Jesus, to the point that those against Him were scared.  He performed miracles, he had a mission, there was great hope and promise.  It’s not exactly a sacrifice to say, well in lieu of losing all of that, I’ll take your offer… and then some more as well.

Why is this worth writing about?  Because the same Peter that said, “You shall never wash my feet” also said, “I will not deny you!”.

But he relented there as well.  I can say that I am just like Peter because my mouth often works faster than my heart does.  My words are one step ahead.  I can promise and proclaim and take stands… with my words.  But when the time comes to back them up, the rooster crows.

I’ve grown less impressed with Peter as I see the same failures in my own faith.  I promise God I will listen and obey… and then the rooster crows again.  I am certain I will never sin that way again… and the crowd starts to ask if I wasn’t with that man.

Strong words.  Strong, heart felt, inspired words mean very little no matter how amazing they may sound.  We can accept Jesus serving us, we can promise to stand with him in death, we can even offer to walk out on the water to join with Him… but if we can’t even acknowledge Him when it matters most, we are nothing but an ill-tuned instrument blowing noise in the wind.

I’m embarrassingly like Peter.  I love Jesus.  I speak boldly.  But when it’s time to pick up my cross and follow in his footsteps, my actions can’t seem to match my words.  My faith is not sustained.

It’s important to remember that Peter was never intended to be our role model.  If we try to be like Peter, we may well be exactly that… and I wouldn’t recommend it.  It’s a hard and fruitless life.  Peter’s failures are meant to inspire, not his empty promises.  Where he fell short is meant to be our spring board into faith.  It was intended for us to follow Jesus.  Our example is much higher than where we often set our sights.

Maybe Peter wasn’t being selfish when he asked Jesus to wash his head and hands too.  But that doesn’t change that only seconds after proclaiming that Jesus would never wash him, water was splashing around his ankles.  The enemy loves it when we make promises because they are so easy to wreck.  God loves it when we act from the heart because that is where He tends to operate.

 


Photo by Lubomirkin on Unsplash

Smite My Enemies… But Forgive Me

We can’t properly understand God’s mercy until we grasp that we, whose lives directly act in contradiction to God, go to Him to ask that He fix all of the contradictions in our own lives. We are jailers seeking freedom. We are liars expecting truth. We are sinners that demand perfection. If we can turn, ‘why me?’ into ‘send me!’ we begin to step out of hypocrisy and into grace. If someone sins against us and we can discern that our own sin breaks the heart of Jesus before we judge others, then we are beginning to accept that gift.

 


Photo by Elti Meshau on Unsplash

Let’s Pray for the Jerks

Driving to work this morning I managed to make someone very angry.  I honestly can’t tell you what I did, though I can guess.  I was getting on an interstate using the on-ramp.  I was safely following the car in front of me.  We weren’t speeding and we weren’t going unbearably slow either.  But I think I have already described the problem… we weren’t speeding.  I was in… ‘his way’.

A car that wasn’t even in my mirror the last time I looked was swerving back and forth behind me while driving painfully close to my rear bumper.  He swerved so widely, I thought he might pass on either side on the shoulder.  I looked around a little confused and realized I was already driving as fast as the car in front allowed and couldn’t see anything that I could have done differently.

I looked up in the mirror again and the man behind proceeded to gesture that I was number 1 in his book.  A pose that he held for several seconds before trying to swerve again and shake both hands at me.  This was raw, pure, rage.  As soon as the pavement allowed he zoomed passed, driving over the crosshatch section (meaning no cars should use that space) and very promptly disappeared over the horizon.  I was driving about 70 (The speed limit), and as quickly as he moved passed he had to have exceeded triple digits.

I’m tempted in several ways.  I was tempted to return some gestures of my own.  I was not doing anything conceivably or inherently wrong.  Not only was I obeying the law, there was a physical barrier preventing me from doing otherwise.  This person’s expectations were completely unreasonable AND he misunderstood a basic principle my 5 year old understands… there are cars in front of other people… and only one car can occupy that space at any given time.

I was tempted to be livid.  I wanted to speed up and not let him pass.  I wanted to take a picture and call the police.  Not only was he dangerous on the road, he was a lunatic!  Yet another person that thinks hes better than everyone else, rules don’t apply to him, and he expects me to get out of his way and let him trample all over my life…

Two thoughts slowly entered my mind:

  1.  I have no idea what this person is going through.  On the way to the hospital?  Just got fired?  Wife just left him?  Kids in jail?  Perhaps, its a combination of multiple things.  Maybe life just added up on him?  Maybe he doesn’t know God?  Can we even imagine what it must be like to live in THIS world… without any hope?
  2. If his actions have ANY impact on me, I’m not as deeply rooted in Christ as I need to be.  (and they did impact me). If anyone has the ability to alter my behavior or my choices or my personality, then I am not what I have been called to be.  I am not about the Father’s business if some stranger’s temper tantrum can deter me.

One of God’s characteristics is to be immovable.  He is unchanging.  He is our Rock.  Steadfast.  I wanted to be immovable too… and not let that driver be so reckless.  I wanted to teach him some patience.  I wanted to put him in his place.  I wanted to dig in… in this world.  I wanted to stand my earthly ground.  God is immovable for us.  He is constant and unchanging.  I need to be that for Him.  But I choose to only be that when it benefits my many moods and constantly changing desires.

I did something today that I’ve never done before.  I prayed for that guy.  When it set in that he could be having the worst day of his life, and I’ll never know what he is feeling in the pit of his soul, I just wanted to pray for him.  And this isn’t to brag, I could go on endlessly about the horrible ways I usually react to this type of person (and I’m being kind to even give them people status… they are definitely my hot button).

This isn’t a brag because I realized how desperately I need to do this for everyone.  For every jerk, for every greedy person, for every misunderstood individual, for every person having a bad day… for everyone.  I need to love them the way I want God to love me.  If I need forgiveness… and I need a lot, I need to pray for them to have it too.  To find peace in their life.  To meet the master.  To gain perspective.  To have some hope.

If anyone needs prayer, its those that don’t know they have a Father to help with their struggles.  They don’t need self professed Christians like myself making their lives worse.  They don’t need judgement from other sinners, they don’t need retaliation, they don’t need worldly justice (as much as I have truly desired exactly that!).

What they need is to be treated like children.  The ones that were ushered through the disciples, who tried to shew them away, and led safely to the Lord who sees them for who they truly are.  We may not always have a ministry opportunity with people filled with hate, depression or despair.  But we can choose to not pile on more.  We could, maybe, be the first kind person they have met.

Jesus constantly found people in the middle of their mess.  Prostitutes, tax collectors, murderers, thieves… and yet they saw compassion and love when they deserved nothing but a taste of their own medicine.  Forever longing to be more like Jesus, I think prayer is the first thing we can do when we run across these people.  Prayer followed by a firm understanding of where we come from and who we serve.

I want to pray for the jerks… because I can be one of them.  And I can be down in my moments of discouragement.  And, its not my place to judge them.  I don’t have to reinforce their decisions, or appreciate their methods, or condone their behavior… I just have to love them and bring them to the Father as children that need Him.  And if I can do this honestly and repeatedly, perhaps I can climb off my pedestal and realize that we are all sinners in search of a King willing to save us.

If we have found that Savior, how much MORE should we love and have compassion for those still searching?  Tragedy is when souls seek forgiveness and find judgement from others who have found grace for themselves.


Photo by Nick Bolton on Unsplash