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”.

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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.

 

Hate is always Hate

If you have to raise your voice to be heard, you are not living your life right.

If you have to stand up to be noticed, you are fundamentally and categorically flawed.

…he gave no answer.  – Matthew 27:12

But Jesus made no reply. – Matthew 27:14

And yet, what name is known more than His?  If you want to change the world, drop the signs and pick up a Bible.  Stop chanting and start praying.  Put down the binoculars and spend some time at the mirror.

If we really want to make a difference… we have to stop screaming, “me, me, me!” and start living like Him, Him, Him.

Hate, for noble and good reasons, is still hate.

When I was younger, I remember saying I hated someone very evil.  My mom told me that was not acceptable.  “We don’t ‘hate'” she would say, “its OK to dislike someone, but never hate them”.  I replied once, “well then I dislike them to death!”  It was a hard lesson for me to learn.  Hating seems very natural, but it’s anything but, its a status of the heart.

The lesson my mom learned in her walk with Jesus is that Hate, even for seemingly good reasons, is still hate.  When the Bible tells us to walk 2 miles, what it means is that someone will come to us and demand we go one mile.  That is hate.  It was a form of slavery and societal hierarchy.  And so the response is to go twice the distance expected.

In a similar verse we are told what to do when slapped in the face.  Striking someone on the side of their head is most definitely a hate filled action.  The entire world would unanimously approve and even applaud a return strike.  But Jesus shows us that even when justified, hate is hate.   So how should we respond?  Turn the other cheek.  Let them strike the other side.  Why?  We don’t hate.  All hate is hate.  All hate is wrong.  All hate is from the most evil one.

Jesus has the most perfect response to hate.  He called it love.  And He spent His life showing it to others.  Mastering it in our sight.  Letting others document it over and over how He always chose the natural way of things.   God’s way of things.  The path of love.

And when His story was finished… when He had shown true love over and over again until His whole legacy was a lifetime of love and compassion… He spoke no more.  What else was there to say.  In a final act of love and sacrifice He lay still while hammers injected the world’s hate into his veins.

Fully loving, completely sacrificed to us, we can change the world in a very similar fashion.  We need only stop pointing to the world.  Stop trying to keep the hate scale even on both sides and let it tip over off the table when we collectively stop hating back.  Show the world a love they haven’t seen in years.

And some may look at the world and say that the death of Jesus didn’t have an impact.  Look in your mirror and ask yourself… “is that true?”.  And if it hasn’t… couldn’t it?  God didn’t put a timestamp on love.  It doesn’t spoil.  You can fully utilize it right now no matter how longs its been.

I don’t believe Jesus meant that we can’t defend ourselves when threatened.  But I do believe that we have interpreted our freedom into a chip on our shoulders that says its OK for me to get mine!  I’m allowed to be first.  I’m not going to be treated that way.  I’m not going to allow this.  I’m…. Me… Mine… My….  see the problem?  If we are on our knees before the king trying to do the Father’s business… we wouldn’t even notice the disparity.

Look at our posture.  Standing at the ready.  pointing at each other.  Anger filled, Hate fused.  Look at the posture of Jesus.  Kneeling in prayer.  pointing to the Father, washing our feet.  Love filled, overflowing with grace.  To be Christian means to be like Christ.  How far do you have to go?

 

Listen to your Donkey

We don’t hear about this much from the pulpit… but there is a talking donkey in the Bible.  The owner’s name is Balaam and the donkey is called… his donkey.  If you aren’t familiar with the story, you might take a second to get caught up:

Numbers 22:21-33

In my Bible, the heading of that story is interesting.  It’s titled, “Balaam’s Donkey”.  After reading that story, I would have thought the angel with the sword was pretty cool… and very important.  But Balaam didn’t even notice him.  You know what else Balaam didn’t notice?

THAT HIS DONKEY WAS TALKING!!!!!  Read the text.  After the donkey asked why he beat him so, he simply responded and then added a threat to the donkey to boot.  I also think its interesting that the word says that God opened the donkey’s mouth.  Note the words it spoke,

What have I done to you to make you beat me these three times?”

Balaam wasn’t beating God or the angel.  He was beating his donkey.  And the donkey spoke.  Why ME?  Not, why HIM?  Not, leave that Donkey alone… it was, “you beat ME”.  And the donkey speaks in first person again.  Later, Balaam sees the angel and the angel references the donkey directly as a 3rd party.  And while all of that is interesting, Balaam responds to the donkey’s questions as though it was a normal conversation.

We don’t receive any physical description of fear, surprise, shock, awe, or confusion.  Balaam is so angry at this creature that when it asked why he would hurt it, he had explanation prepared and shouted it readily.  Balaam wasn’t quoted with a stutter, nor were any follow up questions mentioned.  I was expecting something along the lines of:

“you can talk!?!??!?!”  Or how about an, “I’m so sorry!!”.  Speaking tends to humanize things a bit, but Balaam was wishing he had his sword to teach this animal a lesson.

This situation screams out crazy.  Who could tell this story and not end up in a white jacket after?  But I believe that we re-enact this on an extremely regular basis.  Consider the following:

  1.  We follow our own path.
  2. We keep our head down and pay little attention to what is going on around us.
  3. Circumstances try and steer us clear, but we complain, point fingers, blame, and otherwise try to work around these “obstacles” that are actually there to help us… in hindsight.
  4. Something amazing happens.  Perhaps even miraculous.  But it wasn’t what we wanted, or our way of doing it, or in our timing, so we kick it, fuss at it, and wish it harm.
  5. God performs a holy double face-palm at His efforts to put us on track and our inability to see Him through our own small thinking.

Even when I’m trying to do good, I go about it MY way in most cases.  There are two things I think we could all do better:  (look and listen).

  1.  Keep your eyes out for sword wielding angels.  God cares so much for us.  He loves us to death (His Son’s death) and He would, and has done, anything for us.  This includes working in our lives today.  Keep that head up and look for signs, opportunities, noble paths, people in need, etc.
  2.  Keep your ears open for talking donkeys.  Don’t be so entrenched with what you want, that you can’t even hear or notice that God is clearly talking to you.  If you are open to the will of God, then you need to be always prepared to step back from the worldly way of doing things.  We need to be prepared and expect speed bumps, road blocks, detours, bridges out… If these things derail us emotionally, we will never experience the miracles off the beaten path (which will be most of them).

We can get so wrapped up in our world, we don’t even recognize it when donkey’s speak.  Balaam didn’t.  Not that I can tell.  But I can recognize his exasperation for the situation.  It’s a laser focus mentality that refuses to acknowledge anything other than plan A.  Balaam was on a mission and this stubborn beast was not going to get in His way.

Be open to the whims of the donkey… it may just be spying a sword wielding angel ready to slice you down.  Did you see how the angel talked to Balaam?  He told the man that he would have killed him if he kept going… and he would have spared the donkey.  The donkey saved his life (and tried to 3 times).  Perhaps when things don’t go our way, instead of asking, “why me!!?”, why not pray about what blessings are about to happen?  Or what warning needs to be heeded?  Balaam learned, in the oddest way possible, to be thankful for unexpected inconveniences.

I know that for me, the next time I blow a tire, I’m going to be looking around the area.  Is someone else around?  Is there an opportunity here?  Should I go another way?  Should I turn around completely?  Does the hubcap have something to say?

 

 

 

Any Given Sunday you can Worship. Do you?

Do you go to church to sing pretty songs, or do you go to make war against the enemies of God?  You can dress that question up semantically however you like, but war has found you.  And while the end may be determined, the inhabitants of that end have not.  War is about more than staying alive… its about dragging the wounded off the battle field with you.  It’s letting that heroes’ heart take over and determining that counting is in increments of 1.  That life matters.  Every life matters.  Each soul is precious.  The call to worship is a battle cry.
If my throat is not sore, if my eyes are dry, if my feet aren’t tired, if my knees aren’t worn, if my heart is not moved, if my mind wanders.  If I am not shaken into the embrace of God… then I have NOT worshipped.
Read 1 Chronicles 16:23-31.  I’m going to list just some of the words from those verses that describe worship: (if the words repeat, they did so in the passage).
“Sing to the Lord (not to each other).  Proclaim.  Declare.  Glory.  Marvelous.  Great.  Worthy of praise.  Feared.  Splendor.  Majesty.  Strength.  Joy.  Ascribe to the Lord.  Ascribe to the Lord.  Glory.  Strength.  Ascribe to the Lord.  Glory due His name.  Bring an offering.  Come before Him.  Worship.  Splendor.  Holiness.  Tremble.”
Tremble.
“Tremble before Him.”
Who should tremble before Him?  The disciples?  no.  The Pharisees?  no.  Just the old testament?  no.  Who should Tremble?  “all the earth!”.  (exclamation mark included).
“Let the heaven’s rejoice, let the earth be glad, let them say among the nations, “The Lord reigns!”
Read it again.  Read it every day.  Read it right before worship.  Read it during.  Have you ever worshipped in such a way?
Stand face to face before the Lord your God and tremble (“come before Him”), ascribe, declare, and worship.
We can sing pretty songs anytime we want.  When we join in worship,  we are worshipping a mighty and living God that will approach us as we approach Him.
He responds in kind.  And our offering?  An attempt to sing quieter than the person next to me so no one can hear how bad I sing.  Or a trip to the cry room so I can stretch my legs.  Perhaps “meditation” when I don’t like the next song?  Even the jubilant singers… if that isn’t for Him… if the jolly isn’t for the Savior, then it isn’t worship.
We just don’t always stop and think that when we ask God to join us… He will actually come.  Some of us need to share our loving Savior with others.  Peacefully and gracefully.  Some of us need to refine our worship.  We need to remove the volume cap and let the praise flow out.  We need a reminder that our scripture isn’t as complex or cryptic as we are made to think.  A sacrifice of worship isn’t simply singing on key.
Some of us need to worship for the first time in our lives.  Some of us know people who go to church every single Sunday and they haven’t yet put one foot over the battle line.  Ask yourself… please… sincerely ask yourself.  Why are you going to church?  To stretch out your new dress shoes?  To get a good spot in the ‘singles’ section?  Or is it to let go of ourselves so God can take hold and lead us to greatness for His name?
This Sunday millions of Christians will go to church and sit on their hands expecting God to make the first move.  Or they will sing under their breath.  Or, they will share scripture in monotone drudgery.
Listen to just the verbs in the passage above:
Sing. Proclaim.  Declare.  Fear.  Ascribe.  Bring an offering.  Come before Him.  Worship.  Tremble.
God may be where the power is at, but we have a responsibility to take action.  Look at the woman who sought Jesus out for healing.  First she carried her sick person directly to Him.  Then she had faith that Jesus had supernatural powers.  Finally she reached out to Him and touched Him.  (Matthew 9:20-22)
Had she not combined 3 key elements ( her faith, her action, and God’s willing power) she would not have been healed.
She was bold to reach out and touch someone who she already believed was who He claimed to be…. God.  Did she do it with fear and trembling?  Most likely… that is worship!  She went to be face to face with the Savior and made the choice to give all she had (faith and action) and to involve Him in the moment.
Worship is… If and only IF… you are face to face with the savior, reaching out and being ready to grab hold of what He has in store for you!
You can win this Sunday.  You can choose to step onto the spiritual battlefield and accept the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, our Savior.  You can introduce others to Him and give them a fighting chance as well.  The enemy, literally, wants you and everyone you love to go to hell.  Don’t just sing a pretty song in response…. go to war!

It’s a New Day!

Something happened last night.  You were sleeping.  Perhaps you were awake and pondering life’s uncertainties?  Maybe you were in the ER waiting for news?  Could you have been driving down the road of despair?  We all were in different places, experiencing a moment of life completely separate and apart from each other.  But it happened all the same.

The sun rose.  Dawn happened.  The light came up and forced back the darkness.  And now each of us… all of us… every last one of us, faces a new day.  Whether you roll out of bed and curl your toes on fresh, clean carpet… or if you stand drenched in rain as an outcast in the world’s gutter… we all get a new day.

What is a new day?  Hope.  Opportunity.  Wounds will scab over.  Spoken words will sting less.  Perspective will settle in.  Deep breaths will draw attention to purpose.  Heads may dare to look up.  It’s a chance to roll up yesterday and mark it forever where it belongs to live… the past.

When your fingers clinch the dirt you can push yourself up knowing that today isn’t a mock-up of anything you have experienced before.  The fresh smell of this new day confirms one thing to each one of us.  Days aren’t templates spit out by machines forcing us to jump from day to day, learning patterns of life and accepting the mold dealt out to us.

No, we know better.  Days are born.  We get to mold them.  And a new day… a fresh day… a morning untainted by yesterday’s mistakes is the best time to realize that we get another chance.  A fresh start.  A new beginning.  We are not bound to yesterday’s mistakes.  We are not condemned to the folly of our youth.

Today, on this new day, we can explode into a life that we cherish.  We can create moments that we love.  We can push forward out of trials and into tried.  Learned from our experiences and ready to conquer.  Today… we can.  We get to.  We have.

Pity is weak.  Regret is banging on the locked door of the past.  Lets take this new day and write out new legacy’s for ourselves.  We can charter in a new era of positive thinking, success, and good memories.

The biggest mistake you could make is to assume this day isn’t yours.  That it isn’t for you.  That you can’t participate, NAY!  Commandeer the day and make it perfect.  Or… you can roll over, close your eyes, and see if maybe another one comes along tomorrow.  It might.  It might not.  Today is at hand.  Grasp it with yours and own it.

Gut Check for Christians

Christianity gut check:

Let’s say that Christ is coming back today!  What is your immediate reaction?  Excitement?  Fear?  Questions?  Concerns?  Need a moment?

Today’s homework is to ponder that simple question.  What is your reaction if you were told, today is THE day?  And its quite easy to determine where your relationship is with God based on your immediate response (not the one after you think about it for a few minutes… but the knee-jerk, instant, first response).

Is your response, “huzzah, I’m ready!”… or are you hoping that there is an essay portion to explain your current status?  Don’t read into this a doomsday, better hurry, you aren’t right with God, etc. post.  This is merely something you can do on your own, and your own response might surprise you.

If you reflect properly, you might catch some patterns that need tweaking.  When you constantly ask the question, would God approve?  your outlook changes.

Some of us get stuck in ruts and it takes someone shaking our shoulders and smacking us around a bit before we realize that life on autopilot is not the life God called us to live.  I’m not even going to try and presuppose your position in life right now.  But you can.  Is God on your mind’s speed dial?  Does your heart belong to Him during the good AND bad times?  Are you excited at the thought of His perfect plan completing with the triumphant return of our King where eternity finally begins?

Be honest… you only have yourself to fool.  Are you where you need to be today?  If not… save yourself the panic, save you from desperation, prevent the cries for more time and the begging for another chance.  Today is a chance… use that.

Last Chance…

What if we stopped asking the question… “how would I live differently if I had a second chance… a do-over?”

And instead… we started living like this was our second chance?  Our last chance?  A moment in time where we haven’t yet blown the next big thing?  How would you live?  How will you live now that you know… you get to choose the next moment?

God is Accessible

I was asked to contemplate an attribute of God.  Any one I wanted.  While that may sound simple, I didn’t want to bring anything into this.  So I set my ears to ‘open’ and waited on something to grab my attention.  I didn’t want to be the tiny human trying to explain the almighty God… I wanted Him to teach me something in this.

The very next day, in church, we were singing, “oh God how I need you”.   Several emotions were stirred by this verbiage.  The “oh” signifies desperation.  Or possibly its just an amplification of how much we need Him.  The “how” shows depth, which is a different type of need.  I need you desperately, but also, in this many things.  “oh” is qualitative, while “how” is quantitative.  The “need” shows importance.  I don’t just “want” You, Your presence is more significant than that.  I’m at an impasse.  The obstacles aren’t moving.  Progress has stopped.  If I’m ever to go forward, I “need” God.

And the final word, the one that hit me the hardest, was ‘God’.  I was whisked away to a time years ago where I frequented chat rooms.  (talking (rather typing) in real time to strangers on the internet, if you aren’t familiar with the term).  I said something seemingly innocent in my own mind and caused quite a stir.  I wrote ‘God’.  I was quickly corrected.  “You need to show some respect and type G-d.”  Highly confused I opted for other words like Jesus, Lord, etc.  At every turn I was met with extreme anger and prompt correction.  They simply believed that you can’t say His name.

For some, it wasn’t even an issue of respect, it was a practice to prohibit taking God’s name in vain.  For others, they held God so high above themselves that He was almost like a Greek deity.  Up in the heavens and far too good to be in our presence.  Think about that a moment.  A God whose subjects can’t say His name?  Or even type it?

Let’s compare my mom with my grandmother.  I love my mom.  But she had some rules that kept the house in order.  It wasn’t so bad it felt like a museum, but it was close at times.  No shoes on the furniture.  Never, under any circumstances, could you jump on the furniture.  No food outside of the kitchen, no running in the house.  Etc.

Then I go to grandmother’s home.  There she chose to spoil me.  And I took full advantage.  I would chase the dog relentlessly.  I would get a running start to jump up and plop down on the sofa causing every cushion to suffer an aftershock.  I ate ice cream and drank soda in every room of the home.   Sometimes, I would chase the dog, while running, AND jumping with a drink in my hands.  Multi-tasking!

There weren’t different amounts of love between the two houses.  There were simply different expectations.  My grandmother who didn’t have to worry about my college, or my car, or my expenses, or her own job because she was retired… she just wanted me to be close.  To be happy.  She wanted to hear the words, “I want to go to grandmother’s home!”.  When you aren’t responsible for the children, you seem like a superhero to them.  Parents have rules and boundaries and curfews.  Grandparents have candy, toys, and freedom.  It’s really not fair to the parents.  But hey…. who doesn’t want candy?

God has blessed us with free will.  And just like grandma, He wants us to choose Him.  I feel pretty comfortable in saying, our God, is a jump on the couch kind of God.  He just wants us home with Him.  He wants our laughter, our fat bellies, and our sticky fingers hugging Him around the neck.  Heaven is not going to be a museum.  Museum’s have rules, glass cases, locked doors and tons of security.  Heaven is going to be a playground.  There will be running and jumping and food and drink and singing.  He has chosen to make Himself accessible.  And this is the attribute I am focusing on.

Consider Matthew 12.  Verse 50 says this:  “whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother”.  And this is why I don’t find it irreverent to say God’s name… or type it… or sing it… or cry out to it!  Written in the word’s of our Savior is that we are the brothers and sisters of Jesus when we follow Him.  Who is He following?  God.  Who is God?  His daddy.  Our brother, Jesus, calls God, Father.  What father doesn’t yearn to hear his baby say, ‘dadda’?  Why do children say mommy and daddy first?  Because their parents are accessible.

Not only accessible, but constantly holding, feeding, changing, and teaching the child.  Exactly what God does for us.  And I do believe He wants us to call on His name.  Father, daddy, pops, God, Lord.  He has many names.  (Isiah 9:6, et al).  And His children are allowed to use them.  And we are encouraged to use them.

The Lord’s prayer is exactly that.  Our Lord and brother, Jesus stopped to teach us how to pray.  He actually said the words, “This, then, is how you should pray…”  And what words did He choose in this epic teaching moment?  How do we start our conversations with God?  “Our Father in heaven…”.  God is accessible.  He is near.  He is present.  We can sing to Him, we can speak to Him, we can worship and praise Him… like He is right in front of us… because He is.

God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.  ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.  – Acts 17:27-28

Amen!

 

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Dogs Like Fried Chicken

I’m always amazed at seeing good people out in the world.  Sadly, I just don’t see it that often.  I don’t think I’m that jaded, I just see more selfishness than selflessness.  I don’t think people are evil, but we all tend to lose our focus very quickly.  When we aren’t looking up, we are looking out for ourselves.

But yesterday my faith was, once again, restored in humanity.  I learned a very valuable lesson.  Dogs like Fried Chicken.  I think I knew this already, but seeing it acted out amongst strangers was a sight to behold.

In the middle of an extremely busy town a dog got loose.  Running through intersections, weaving in and out of traffic, it was obvious that both the dog and its owners were a little freaked out.  At first, onlookers cringed every time he changed directions.  No one wanted to see the pup get hit.  Thankfully, he never did, because everyone in the immediate area seemed genuinely concerned about the safety of this animal.

Quickly, cringes turned to doors opening with people trying to catch the dog or corral him.  Over 20 car doors opened trying to assist as the dog approached each car in kind.  Crossing a major intersection, traffic began to back up in 4 different directions.  More car doors opened.  A policeman jumped out of his car and grabbed a toy he had handy.  Finally, when I thought, this freaked out dog will never let anyone near him…

A lady pulled to the median, popped her trunk and shuffled through some grocery bags.  A piece of warm, cooked fried chicken was in her hand and she began to wave it towards the dog.  Her lunch.  Most likely her families’ lunch.  Someone did without that day.  (or perhaps they ate less, or maybe there was another meat, but no matter how you look at it, she paid money for a meal that was better served to a dog than her family/friends).

I choked up a little at the humanity.  The sacrifice. The meaning of it all.  But what really brought it all home to me… in the entire ordeal… I never heard a single horn honk.  No beeping.  No swerving and speeding.  Collectively, this community (even though strangers, still) worked as a single unit to bring this dog back to his owner and keep him safe from the dangerous streets.  We all forgot about our hurried schedules and busy timelines.  We just wanted to get that puppy home.

While the parallels may seem obvious, I’d like to challenge us anyway:

Some of the gifts we have been blessed with deserve to go to someone else.  Perhaps even someone lesser in our eyes.  Pray for guidance that we give freely of ourselves.  We can do without some things.  We can sacrifice a bit for the gain of others.

When we see someone lost, we need to try and help them.  Even if we look silly, even if it feels inconvenient, even if we have to go out of our way… its worth it to bring someone home to the Father.

When someone else is trying to help, lets help them too.  They need support, courage, prayers, love, affirmation, and confidence to continue.

When someone finds their way home, we ALL have reason to celebrate.  We ALL have a stake in the game.  Somewhere in your life a dog is whining.  He is cold, scared, and in need of help.  When you reach out, he will run.  Don’t give up.  We’ve got chicken.  Lets get that dog home!