Leading the Target

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

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

larry-fitzgerald-catching

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

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We are Who We Worship

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Can God get lost?

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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?

 

 

 

It is Well… no, really!

The best, most wonderful, precious and amazing thing we can do is pray.  But what happens when we don’t feel like it?

Most of my blogs are about prayer.  Jesus spent a huge amount of His time in prayer.  The answer to all things Christian is prayer.  The modern Christian has little else to do but pray… But there are circumstances where prayer just seems out of reach.

We aren’t worthy, we haven’t been answered, we feel let down, we are stuck in a rut, angry at God, need a break, it hasn’t yielded positive results in months.  And… etc.

Christians aren’t called to be perfect, but we are made to endure.  The song “It is Well”, if you aren’t familiar with it’s roots, was penned by a man who just lost 4 children in a boating accident.  He didn’t have the strength to do much.  So he wrote.  When peace is with me… it is well.  When trials come… it is well too.

His wife, who couldn’t comprehend the devastation, said “God gave me four daughters. Now they have been taken from me. Someday I will understand why.”  She was having the same moment her husband was.  It was an ‘it is well’ moment.  Devastating, horrible, unfathomable, gut wrenching, and yet… not eternal.

They knew death has been defeated by Jesus.  They knew eternity and real life starts with death.  But, as the living, we mourn the loss of those we love.  And in those moments where our hearts are floating in the abyss we can’t muster the attitude that says, lets move on, lets celebrate!  Instead, we trust God just enough to know that it is well.  Or maybe for some… it will be.

Each day can bring a new season in your life.  You may be happily faithful.  You may be being stretched and prepared for great things.  You may be in an ‘it is well’ moment.  And while we will all endure each of these, it’s very important we don’t give up.

It is well, means… I’ve lost my children, but God has gained them.

It is well, means… I’ve lost my job, but God will provide.

It is well, means… I’ve received the diagnosis, but today is not the end.

It is well, means… I’m in prison, but I can minister to my captors.

It is well, means… I’m on the cross, but its for them.

It is well, means… whatever my lot in THIS life, my soul’s path is unchanged.

It IS well.  It really is.  But there are times when our inner resources need a moment to process and catch up.  We don’t live for the playing of taps, we eagerly await angels blowing trumpets.   Tears at a graveside isn’t the end of life, shouts from the heavens are where it simply begins.

It is well, means… the tomb has been sealed, but it was empty days later.

It’s about the victory that is to come, but isn’t quite here yet.  We can’t let go of that.  The loneliness, the bitterness, the emptiness… it will create a vacuum of pain.  That is when we need it is well the most.  Not quite the power to dust ourselves off and march onward, but enough faith to know that God will deliver in His perfect timing.

One of the greatest misunderstandings in the Christian faith is why we suffer.  And why suffering builds character.  And how suffering molds us into receptive and strong foes against the enemy… how it prepares us for future needs.  How one loss prepares us better to deal with another.  And how these moments are NOT created by God… but we are guided through them, by Him.

As cliched as it sounds, don’t despair.  It is well.  God turns water into wine.  He turns blindness into sight.  And, He turns tombs into celebration.  All we have to do is weather the storm.  The end of the story for the writer of this song???  His wife gave birth to 3 more children.  But that was just a momentary pause in the story.  The end hasn’t happened yet.  He awaits, along with us, for what the true ending will be.  All he knew in life, was the ending would be worth it.  How much so, is still eagerly anticipated.

But due to their faith… because she knew God knew…  because He knew THE day was about a heavenly battle already won… they rested their hopes on days to come.  This day will pass.  A new dawn will rise.  Tomorrow brings fresh opportunity.  With time, healing abounds.  It is well.

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Small portion of the story found here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horatio_Spafford

 

 

Just Breathe

Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being – Genesis 2:7

This amazing verse is likely where we get this incredible song.  But if you prefer not to stop and listen, I’ll put the song at the bottom and the important verse right here:

It’s your breathe in our lungs, so we pour out our praise to you only.

I have sleep apnea.  What that means is that my doctor thought this would be a great place to start troubleshooting health issues for me so he sent me to a sleep center for what is called a sleep study.  A sleep study is much worse than it sounds.  I am the one being studied.  They hook up wires to everything (arms, legs, chest, head, feet), open windows into the room, turn on cameras pointed directly at me and then demand I sleep for their viewing pleasure.

If you missed that, let me rephrase, as its very therapeutic for me… I already have problems sleeping, so the solution is to put me through trauma and then insist I do the very thing I’m seeking their help in accomplishing.  This doesn’t work in many areas of life.  If I went to flight school, they wouldn’t ask me to fly first.  They would teach me to fly so I don’t crash their plane.  With sleep apnea, you have to sleep, so they can tell what is wrong and to what degree.

Nestled in my bed of cables, with blinking lights in full view to my left and a bright, wide open hallway to my right, I opted to stare at the TV, which was surrounded by video cameras staring back at me.  Only a couple of moments passed when the nurse walked back in and with a very solemn voice, softly said, “I’m glad you are here”.  I heard, but I didn’t understand, so I said, “excuse me?”.

She said, “it’s very good that you came, we are already getting data that needs to be treated”.  I corrected her that I hadn’t fallen asleep yet.  I could recite every word and action that happened on the TV.  I watched her walk back into the room.  I saw her in the hallway.  I hadn’t even closed my eyes.  She corrected me further.  You slept, but its such a low quality, you likely wouldn’t know you were sleeping.

I received my results in the mail.  It started by defining what sleep apnea is.  Its diagnosed by the number of abnormal breathing events you endure in an hour.  There are anomalies and one-offs, so a single event or two isn’t worrisome.  In fact, this doctor classifies anything less than 15 events an hour as ‘normal’.  Any thing over 15 events an hour is considered apnea and needs to be treated.  Anything over 30 events an hour is considered ‘severe’ and could pose life threatening issues.  My number, was in the 70s.

What does that mean?  Basically it means, that multiple times a night, I wake up gasping for air.  Sometimes I just need air and a better sleeping position to help me breath, but many times, it includes panic.  I know something is wrong but I don’t know what.  I know I need oxygen and I’m not getting it.  Waking up is like busting through the surface of the water just as the last bit of air ran out and I could hold my breath no longer… I heave in air as hard and big as possible while frantically tossing covers and trying to stand outside of the bed to see exactly what is happening.

Our bodies don’t function without air.  But as bad as we need air, we need God more.  Some of us need to get checked out… but without a third parties involvement we may never know how much we need Him.  We need family and friends praying over us.  We need a Bible study instead of a sleep study.  We need intervention.  Because we are gasping for God and the longer we go without the worse it gets.  Jesus went without God.  It was at that time He cried out that God had forsaken Him.  Our Savior languished under the absence of God… and He had God’s powers.  How are we to make it without the Father in heaven?  Especially if He could not stand it?

You might have seen a movie or TV show where two people are trapped underwater and they take turns breathing from a diver’s tank of oxygen?   That is pretty difficult to keep up.  Each time you hold your breath, your body wants to breath in more.  Need a visual?  Hold your breath for as long as you can.  When you need air, breath.  What happens?  You are likely breathing heavy, trying to regain oxygen throughout your body.  Now imagine you are back under water.   You have to hold your breath until the other person relinquishes the breathing mask.  Each breath of air requires more and more oxygen to offset the holding in from before.

We weren’t meant to live a life with God and another life without Him.  Being a different person on Sundays is like trying to breathe from someone else’s tank.  It doesn’t last for very long.  We need God in every breath.  We need Him every moment.  He needs to be in our jobs, our schools, our grocery stores, our highways, our parking lots, and our pool halls.  Everywhere we go, we need Him.  We sing another song that demonstrates how badly we need Him.  It’s worth sharing again…

Oh god how we need you

Oh, isn’t filler or to keep the tempo.  It’s an adjective of desperation.  I learned this when I was little.  When my mom said, “barry”, I knew we were about to engage in interpersonal dialogue.  when she yelled, “BARRY!!!!!”… I ran.  To say, “God”, is to address our Father in heaven.  Our maker.  To sigh out “oh God!” Is to be on our knees.  Tears dropping to the ground as we rest face down before the holy King.

“How” has a different effect.  I think of the poem, how I love you, let me count the ways.  How is an amount… but it’s an unfathomable number.

When we truly offer to God, “OH”, “HOW”, “I NEED YOU!” we put ourselves in the proper place of worship.  And that is precisely when God fills us back up with His air, His breath, His life, His Love, Himself.  We carry the breathe of life… Try rethinking your day with that image in mind.  And remember… as bad as we need God, so does the world.

 

 

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.