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.
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.
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?
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
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
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!
I think most of us are aware of the dream and often used symbolism of the two lovers running towards each other in the field. When they finally meet, they embrace with explosive music triumphantly announcing the union in the backdrop.
What I would like to ask is, who takes the first step? Many of us love through reciprocation. “I love you too”. While powerful, that is a response. It’s clear that Jesus loved us first. Our life is a response to Him. When we choose to follow His example, that is our small way of saying, “I love you back”.
What about our love for each other? The Bible discusses love at great length. It’s easy to love those who love you. (“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them.” – Luke 6:32)
So, how then do we love our enemies as commanded? Many of us choose to do so by sitting back and waiting for them to make the first move. They started it. They are in the wrong. Etc. Following the example of Jesus, we must take the first step. In the field of brotherly and sisterly love, we have to start the charge. With arms open wide, we must run to the other. It does not matter if they have not started running, we can cross the entire field to meet them if need be.
This is what Jesus did for us. He met us. He came to us. He loved first. And He embraced us on our side of the field. There is no meeting in the middle. There is no compromise. We don’t compromise the word of God or His gospel. But we can love. We can meet them where they stand and show God’s love, mercy, forgiveness, and sacrifice. The first move is on the Christian. It always will be. We have the wonderful example to follow, after all. And the world needs to see this. Let’s show them love. Let’s show them Jesus.
Be a Christian first. Above all else. Before anything else. All other traits must take a secondary back seat.
Do not be a Democrat. Be a Christian.
Do not be a Conservative. Be a Christian.
Do not be an Athlete. Be a Christian.
Do not be a Teacher. Be a Christian.
… (and many, many, many more examples)
- Can’t I be both? Not for this assignment. You can still play sports, but when games, training, or status alter your decisions, you are being an athlete. By being the Christian FIRST, you are choosing to let that be your standard and then you alter everything else. Game on Sunday? nope, I’ve got Church. Drinks with the team? Can’t, my friend needs me. Protest to join? No way, I want to identify with Christ and not the tiny factions of this world.
- Isn’t this just semantics? Not at all. If it weren’t for a single verse in the Bible we wouldn’t know Jesus was a carpenter by trade. It simply wasn’t important to Him. What were His favorite tools? What did He make the best? What work inspired Him? Not documented. It wasn’t important to Him. He wanted us to know what being a Christian meant and His profession, hobbies, pastimes, and personal interests had absolutely nothing to do with furthering the gospel. Was He still a carpenter? For a time, but it wasn’t what made His decisions for Himself.
Christian baptism is about burying the old and rising up of the new. We put to death the sins of our past. This is an exercise and extension of that act. In order to take on the Christian characteristics, we have to make sacrifices. Things have to be let go of. Whether its a temptation to argue, correct, condescend, overachieve, or any number of areas in your life it takes practice to get good at letting the worldly things go. As temptations arise, ask yourself some questions:
who do I really serve?
What is my end game goal? What do I want most out of life?
Fear comes from Satan. Jesus has defeated Satan. What am I afraid of now?
How can I best help others?
What do I want etched on my tombstone?
Try this as often as you can. Practice makes perfect. See if you can go 24 hours at first where you actively, intentionally, and persistently aim to act like Christ first and foremost in your every decision of the day and night. Then ponder how different life is from before.
It happened yet again. Driving home last night I noticed a car behind me, but I couldn’t see his headlights or even most of his hood. According to all of my mirrors, the driver was in my back seat. When this happens, I slow down. Not for the sole purpose of being rude, but for safety first. There were barely inches between us while driving 50 MPH. If I had even tapped, ever so gently tapped, the brakes for a pedestrian, deer, someone turning, an active crosswalk, or any of the countless issues that would require a break tap, this guy would have hit me.
Slowing down generally solves 2 issues. It makes the eminent wreck safer (if he hits me, it will be at a slower speed) and second, it usually causes them to realize they were tailgating and they will back off. Once they back off, I resume normal speed. Yesterday, I let off the break and cringed as I’ve never seen anyone THAT close to me without actually hitting me. His reaction… BEEP! Followed by flashing lights and hands thrown in the air. I continued to slow until I got around 20 MPH. Then he started swerving. Left and right, lights flashing, hands waving, horn blaring. For 2 miles he did this. Never once did he back off. He was so close, he didn’t hit me, but I would be surprised if an index card could have fit between our cars. I finally turned and he whipped around gesturing and flew off.
The last thing I saw was his Jesus fish on the trunk. Some of you are thinking, he probably borrowed (or in this case stole 😉 ) the car. Unfortunately, I’ve been in the passenger seat of other Christians who drive the same way. And this is yet another, of many, reminders to me how important it is that Christians understand that if we don’t look like Christ… we aren’t IN Christ.
Consider the following statements in lieu of such a silly thing (like driving styles) and then make sure to expound them across all areas of your life as often as possible:
- The Bible spends extremely small amounts of time on Jesus while he was in ‘church’. I call it the Bible camera. While Jesus did go to the temple to learn and even preach, the action was mostly outside of the religious walls. So the camera was mostly tuned in when Jesus was living among the real world. The story we see of a man who sets a Godly example to EVERYONE. strangers, dinner parties, while traveling, interrupting public conflict, even while sleeping in a boat. The examples we have of how to act like Christ (in order to be Christ-ians) are while He lived his normal life. This extends to us. Crowded airplanes, sporting events, kid’s baseball, restaurants, DRIVING, and how we handle politics (mmmhmmmm! zing to almost all of us on those last 2).
- Entitlement and Christianity are polar opposites. Come on. You know the verses. Turn the other cheek. Go the extra mile. And many other examples let us know that picking up the cross of Christ means dropping the expectation of equality and fairness. The cross wasn’t fair. Jesus didn’t deserve that. Most of life won’t be fair. We aren’t here to experience fairness. That shouldn’t be our fight. We are here to show the world that Jesus loves them. Somehow, some “Christians” have convinced themselves that they can show love and the finger at the same time. (notice the quotes?) The Bible could not be more clear. Love is the greatest command. Sacrifice is required to love. Elitism is the opposite of love.
- The right thing requires effort. How easy are your decisions? Its so easy for me to get mad at the jerk acting like a jerk from jerkville. Its much more difficult to try and understand where he is coming from. Why was he in such a hurry? Was his life filled with turmoil? The hard option is understanding and forgiveness. If we aren’t facing difficult decisions in our lives, perhaps we aren’t making very good choices? This rule isn’t meant to be 100% universal, but think about it. We have eleventy billion cliches explaining the road less traveled, the merit of all things lies in their difficulty, problems are opportunities in work clothes, etc. etc. etc. We aren’t even talking Christian logic here. This is worldly universal. Ask any athlete. Ask any philosopher. Talk to any doctor, lawyer, or architect. Life, in and of itself, isn’t easy. Living a good, honest life is doubly difficult.
Prayers and peace to each of you. May we all learn to lose more and more of ourselves while we take on the lifestyle of Jesus Christ. The more we look like Him, the more His message will reach those who need to hear the story of love, forgiveness, and redemption.
17 seconds. That is how long it took for me to find something “offensive” on Facebook from someone I love. It comes much faster from the faceless, nameless, and anonymous. What concerns me is not that we are offensive. Jesus was considered offensive to most and I’m very proud when I can offend the way He did.
My concern is that we are not fighting His battles. With dust fully settled in our own eyes, we fight the battles that do not belong to us, hoping to cure others of their blurred vision. Jesus offended others because He pointed to God. Are you so in tuned with the image of God that the self righteous hate you? Or, is it just that you hold different world views?
Biblical examples are difficult to bring up. They didn’t solve issues by social majority or by social repetition. They compared their issues to the word of God. They compared themselves to the image of God. They compared their leaders to the chosen of God.
I think everyone is able to step back and perform two simple life checks. Paramedics check for pulse and breathing when they approach a body in need. We should do this too. As we approach the hungry, lost, confused, thirsty, homeless, widowed, etc (the people Jesus challenged us to take care of). As we approach them, how much time runs off the clock before we offend them? There is no question to us, that we do love them. But from their battle hardened eyes, what do we reflect to them?
Do they see Jesus? Or do they get a lecture? Do they receive love, or do we yield judgement? You don’t have to change your political or philosophical beliefs. You don’t have to change your vote or which parties you align with. But before you engage, can you check to make sure you are spreading God’s love and the name of Christ to the lost in the world?
Secondly, check which table you are at before you start speaking. There is a table at the far left and there is a table at the far right. They are both full and extremely loud. This is where most of the talking occurs. Talking, blaming, shaming, name calling, yelling. It all comes from these two tables. There is a third table in the middle. Sadly, this one sits empty. No one wants to leave the safety of their own biases and beliefs to meet in the middle.
The middle table is where compromise, communication, and decent business would happen… should anyone dare to meet there. But the fourth table is the one I need you to be at. This is the Father’s table. This one doesn’t look like the left or the right. It doesn’t seek out to solve the issues of the middle either, however noble those may be. Lets call this the high table. This is where we belong. When we speak from the wrong table, we offend for all the wrong reasons. Invite others to the high table. Its not about solving the issues of the right or left. Its about sharing the love of God.
Jesus offended people by pointing to God. If you set out to not offend ANYONE, you will have to compromise the word of God to accomplish that task. It is a fact that we have to accept, that not everyone will receive God. It is our job to try and get that message to them, not to make it palpable. They will discern for themselves whether to accept it or not. Offended or not, we must move on and share with the next.
Two checks that Christians need to make. First, we need to make sure that we speak the truth with love. The truth will offend. We have to accept that. But that leads to the second check. Which battles are we fighting? Our own? Societies? or God’s? That will determine who we offend and how. 17 seconds is all it took when someone I love decided to fight a battle that God hasn’t called us to fight. What message do we give the world when we fight the wrong battles? The world needs a paramedic. Lets give it breath and a pulse by sharing the word of God with love. Lets approach them from the only table that can heal and restore.