Speaking Challenge: Gossip, Political, Religious, Slander, etc.

If you have not shared a meal with someone, don’t share an opinion about them.

Dear random stranger on the internet. We have not met. I know nothing about you. Therefore you can pass along without judgement.

Hello sports star or celebrity. You haven’t been in my house. I don’t have any inside or personal first hand information from you. To ponder any further beyond my lack of knowledge and experience concerning you would be very silly.

Greetings politician. I’m not on your staff. I wasn’t with you in college. I haven’t see you on dates with your loved one, how you treat your children, or how you drive in traffic. I don’t know what pain goes into your decisions or how much effort you exert to make things right. I may have seen you in a suite… but I’ve never touched your heart. I will not claim to know your motives or feelings.

Teenagers, classmates, and colleagues… You look different than I do. You act different. You eat different foods, listen to different music, dress differently… Instead of pointing out how different YOU look, I’ll agree that I don’t look like you either. We both look different. And isn’t it a good thing that in a world this big we all can work together to cover all the hobbies, careers, and necessities of so many people?

Sorry coach. I may have made a different decision than you… maybe. With that pressure, those circumstances, those players, your bosses, your home life, and all the unknown things that happened on the sideline and in the locker room and shared from other scouts and coaching staff that the world wasn’t privy to… I might have made a different choice then… but I would have blown it somewhere else. Because I’m not claiming to be perfect and I don’t expect you to be either.

Lets set the bar low. I’m not asking you to stop gossiping, complaining, or even armchair quarterbacking… I’m asking you to attempt one simple rule over your speech. If you haven’t shared a meal with someone… don’t share your opinion about them. Teach your brain to remember what it already knows… We make exceptions for ourselves everyday for one simple reason: We know all the details and surrounding circumstances and internal factors that made our reasoning acceptable.

If we are going to put the spotlight on others and demand perfection from them… they should at least get the chance to share with us, personally, what their exception was based in. This information does not come from biased media, slanted hearsay, or third party reports… it only comes from getting to know an individual as the human they are.

You can still vote with your wallet, check your conscience on the ballet, and boo from the stands… but do not “let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Ephesians 4:29.

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The Blueprint Doesn’t Match Because it isn’t Built

Our son wished us to be gone. While the words felt devastating coming from a 6 year old, it was comforting to learn from other parents that it is much more common than we first thought.

I asked him what he would do with us out of the picture and he sniffled through the tears to tell me that he would take care of himself. Oh, it was because we turned off the TV and he wanted to watch more. No beatings, no yelling, no grounding, we just turned off the TV because it was time to do other things besides watch TV. I know, we are monsters.

I asked how he would take care of himself and he shrugged his shoulders. (fun fact, he can’t use the remotes yet… he doesn’t know how. So you can see how well he thought this out. With us gone, he will have zero TV).

I asked how he would get food and he told me he would just go downstairs and get it from the cupboard. This is where we keep his chips, fruit snacks and crackers. And that was the extent of his plan. Which makes perfect sense… because he is JUST NOW 6 years old.

His master plan of living the good life is watching TV all day and night by getting rid of the only people that know how to operate said TV and he will sustain himself for the rest of his life on gummies and potato chips… enough to last maybe a few days. And because he is 6, we can’t even explain why this is such a bad idea.

His emotions take over and he knows more than anyone else. At first our feelings were hurt. We’ve done nothing but show patience and kindness and love to this child. We went through frustration, concern, a little laughter over the absurdity, and then it hit us.

God has a sense of humor, I think. Because even though we may not use the words, we speak this out in our life actions. We brush God away and claim, “I’ll handle this myself”. Either through distrust or lack of wisdom or lack of patience, or ego… we start trying to call the shots.

When the miracle doesn’t happen fast enough, it can feel like someone just turned off the TV. When the pain persists. When the hunger remains. When the relationship collapses… I’ll fix it. I’ll make my own way. I’ll do my own thing. I’ll make a move now. And how quickly forget that the God we push back, is the one that filled the cupboard for us to begin with. We think we don’t need God because we have all the gifts He has given us at our disposal.

Be still and know that I am God.

Psalm 46:10 ESV

Another translation reads:

Cease striving and know that I am God

Psalm 46:10 NASB

Cease striving. Trust. Patience. Let God take control. Allow life to fall outside of the tiny box you crafted for it. Get bruises, accept scrapes, shed tears, and be mocked… In other words, line up behind Jesus and walk in his footsteps. But also, and this is key, allow the Father to lead through ANY valley, just as Jesus did. And accept and walk through those lows with eyes fixed on greater things.

Growth doesn’t fashion out of comfort. The things worth our moments aren’t conceived from our 6 year old minds. Our Master has put in us a blueprint full of pain, sorrow, and misunderstanding. But on the other end of that sketch is the love, protection, sustenance and all the saving we will ever need.

Until our fulfillment, we trust and we grow. Growth comes through effort, challenge, and acceptance of God’s gifts. There is a reason the blueprint doesn’t look like the finished product… we have to build it first. Until we finish building, all we have are parts and instructions. Once we finish, we have a God-inspired masterpiece.

When we don’t feel like building, when we think the effort is unfair or the destination looks off… we tend to turn towards ourselves. We grab the remote and pout against all the monsters that stand in our way. What if, instead of blaming the blueprint maker, we ask for His help instead? What if, instead of fleeing from Him, we wander to Him and spend more time with the architect and less time trying to figure it out through our own shallow and short-lived plans?

What if we could slow down and even come to a full stop… and know that TV and crackers aren’t the essence of life. Nor our jobs or accomplishments or hobbies. You know what is the most fun? When the desires of our hearts matches the blueprints within us. And don’t run after that frustration… the one that says the blueprint is wrong! That is what the 6 year old does.

The infant wants a new blueprint. The adult wants to complete the work. Lets grow in Christ. Be Still and know…


Image by Justin Martin from Pixabay

Is Church Taking the Scenic Route?

The church often fails to meet the needs of the people based on a simple misunderstanding. The goal of the church is not meant to be a destination. Instead, it’s intention is that of transportation.

The church is not an endgame. It’s a car pool. We are supposed to, as fellow travelers, help people to find the Christ. The true goal is God. And all of us, the church included, is on a path to Him.

Both parties can get this wrong. The people expect the church to fulfill the needs only God can accommodate and the church gets so caught up in filling the van, it forgets that there is a more eternal purpose for gathering.

The church can do a lot of amazing things, as long as those things are done on the journey to an eternal Savior. God’s people in the church are a crucial place along that journey. But often disappointment comes when people find just that in the church… more people. Other people. Sinners.

We find failure when we come to the church seeking God’s perfection. We won’t find it there. In other words, Jesus hasn’t returned to the church yet either. Those buildings still rest on fallen soil.

We find success when we come to the church seeking other seekers and unify in a journey that will end with the return of the Messiah.

Frustration comes when the eternal sight is lost. Have you ever set out for Disney Land and stopped at a rundown motel along the way? It’s a bed and some safety… but it’s not the purpose of the trip. If you have children with you who use the pool and watch some HBO, they might decide this is all they ever wanted. They might even argue to stay and forego the final destination.

Those children got distracted by something that looked good temporarily but was not the life-changing event they signed up for. Is the church a rundown motel? Not really. Perhaps compared to what we are aiming for… the case could be made. The church is a perfectly intended tool created by God. I’m not knocking it… but it’s just a tool. And that is what we often forget.

The message of the church has often been, “Come join us.”, when it should be, “Come with us”. While there may not be ill-intent in the verbiage, it’s a significantly different recruitment for a massively different purpose.

Likewise, the church seeker should consider, not what programs or styles, or in many cases, which issues are sided with… but instead, who is trying to get to Jesus? Whose path is the straightest with the fewest stops along the way? Whose goal, is simply and solely to get home?


Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay

True Love’s Kiss. What Will Break the Curse?

The TV show Once Upon a Time goes into great details about how the amazing power of true love’s kiss can break any curse. There are 2 rules the show expounds on that I think are worth covering briefly before we examine who our true love is.

First, the love must be reciprocated. If only one party has love for the other, then true love is not established and the kiss is powerless against any magic.

Second, The biggest curse is broken by the love between a mother and son. When Emma kisses Henry on his forehead, the entire kingdom is freed because of their true bond and maternal love for each other.

The sad moments generated from this knowledge showed failed couples, who had fallen out of love in one way or another, unable to wield the magic breaking power of true love. Either one party or both no longer cherished the other and the kiss would simply fall flat.

Nothing spoke stronger about the deepest, truest feelings one could have for another than seeing the results of a kiss when needing powerful spells broken.

So I’d like to pose a challenging question for each of us to ponder for a while. What is our true love? Before you answer, consider that many people think they have a true love, only to find that circumstances can prove surprising and upsetting results.

We don’t need fairy-tales to see the wreckage of failed marriages, broken homes, friendless individuals and desperate souls. How many people find their true love only to wake up to an empty bed and a broken heart? Easily more than half. We all know the lies told of “love”. Few of us know the truth of real love.

So when life’s curse falls on you, what truth would be revealed? Would your spouse be able to break the spell? Would your love for them, and their love for you unite in an explosion of salvation and healing? Or would it fizzle into despair as you realize that at least one of you only lives for another?

Would it be your children? Would their love for you be pure? Is it your career? Would cold hard cash release the spell as the thing you love most in this world? Popularity? Health? Status? Possessions?

What about Jesus? Would His kiss on your forehead have the reciprocating power of true, eternal love?

Remember, this is a magical fairy-tale and the deepest thoughts of the heart are revealed against all will and logic. It’s not a question of, would you want it to… It’s a question of, would it work? Is the love already there, deep deep down in your heart. If Jesus planted one on your cheek, would the world find out that you truly love Him back above all others, or would He walk away broken hearted?

Who do you really love? For some of us… the question may be, what do we really love? While this might be a revealing and depressing process for those of us being really honest with ourselves… remember this. The cross proved Jesus’ love for us once and for all.

Instead of true love in the form of a kiss, He showed His love by taking on our mistakes and nailing them to a torture device while He still held them. Should we choose to love Jesus the way He first loved us… we never have to wonder if He might return the sentiment or not.

We never have to question that we are His greatest desire. The price He paid proved that far beyond what any make believe story could attempt to describe.


Image by JacLou DL from Pixabay

Remember that Movie about the Things and the Stuff?

What is your favorite movie? When you share it with friends in conversation how do you describe it? What if you had to sum it up in only 1 short sentence? No commas. No run on. No compounding. Just a short, simple sentence.

I’ll describe some of my favorite movies this way and lets see if you can guess any of them:

  1. A love story about a billionaire and his secretary.
  2. A young man finally stands up to his father.
  3. The world obsesses over jewelry.
  4. He took back what was his!
  5. A shy girl takes a risk on a loser.
  6. A small door is more versatile than expected.
  7. They danced in Chicago.
  8. Roasting marshmallows in New York
  9. Everyone just watched.
  10. One of the best Christmas movies.

You can scroll down a bit to see the answers if you want them now. They are in bold.

Did you get them all? Did you guess any correctly? Let’s be honest, you can’t accurately depict a movie in this way. Two hours doesn’t condense into a single simple sentence. The math doesn’t work that way, and even when you try, the logic doesn’t follow.

Most movies are so good for the very deep things that would require lots of explanation. What we tend to enjoy are masterfully wrapped surprises that are slowly unveiled throughout the course of the story. While every synopsis above was accurate in one way or another, none of them get to the heart of what makes each movie so good.

Before we go any further, here are the movies I was attempting to summarize:

  1. Iron Man.
  2. Star Wars: Return of the Jedi.
  3. Lord of the Rings
  4. Lion King
  5. Rocky
  6. Titanic
  7. Ferris Bueller's Day Off
  8. Ghostbusters
  9. Truman Show
  10. Die Hard

Isn’t it silly to think that we could convince somebody to give up 2 hours of their day to watch something we recommend in under 1 sentence?

Even the most basic life fundamentals require discussion and dissection. Have you ever seen someone about to get hit by a ball or some other projectile? Someone yells “duck!” or “Look out!” and what happens? Does the person duck or dive out of the way without any followup? Not usually. The first thing they tend to do is to look right towards the person yelling. The fastest way to get someone to put their face directly in the path of the object about to hit them is to yell, “look out!”.

We are conditioned to see for ourselves. We just can’t take someone else’s word for it… even when its to our own peril. The lesson is also true of hot stoves. You can tell a child not to touch it, but the lesson is only temporary at best until they actually touch it and experience the pain for themselves. THEN, we could say the lesson is burned into their thinking.

If we can’t accurately depict a feature film in one sentence, what would it take to share the life of Jesus to a world conditioned in receiving information 140 characters at a time?

What story are we telling when we only give snippets of the Bible? What message is our audience receiving when we dwell on the rules of the scripture? Do non-believers go rushing to the Bible book stores when we dive into politics? What if we just try to live by example, and so people only ever see a nice person living out their days? Maybe we only talk about God on Sundays?

We can be really good at summing up the Bible in all the wrong ways, just like I did with the movies a moment ago. And if you thought that exercise was futile… so it is with preaching only a tiny fraction of God’s word. If you thought it ludicrous that anyone would guess the movie after such a short and poor description… imagine what the world thinks of God when we can do the same thing with a much larger, more complicated work about the life of Jesus.

We aren’t a short Psalm. God didn’t craft us to be a parable. None of us can be summed up by a list of rules. We are children of God and have good news to share. Let’s share the whole story!

The common excuse is that we are waiting on something. We need money, power, status, followers, time and strength. We need spiritual gifts and a platform to perform them.

The followers that Jesus accepted decided to follow Him before He made Himself truly known (i.e. before any of the excuses listed above). They dropped what they were doing and walked away from their lives over a simple request, “Follow me”.

The people that wanted to follow Jesus after He made Himself known were turned away (Luke 9). So how do we change the world? How do we get the attention of the lost and share this amazing story with a people that get bored before we get the first sentence out of our mouths?

We act like Jesus. We talk like Him. We pray like Him. We love like Him. We lead to the Father in our every breath, step, and motion. We don’t seek numbers of followers or reports of grand conversions or even baptisms. We simply go about the Father’s business and He will take care of the rest.

This was the faith of Jesus. We must have faith like Jesus. That even on the cross, when things look the bleakest, we can know that Dad will take care of everything. When we trust in God, the story is heard. When we pray faithfully and love unconditionally, the truth is told. When people can see Jesus everyday rather than hearing poorly worded, second hand summaries…The good news is told and spread.

When we know the whole story, we know the great commission isn’t just to retell the story. We are to pick up our crosses and follow Jesus. The life saving gospel is only fully told when we are fully engaged in Christ. Otherwise, we are just spitting out one-liners and hoping people will go and watch for themselves.

If we want people to know Jesus… we have to introduce them. They have to see Him for themselves. We can’t introduce them to someone we barely know.


Image by creative_designer from Pixabay

Capital I and Understood You Make Jesus Sad

We do something subtle in the English language that I think speaks volumes to how we think of ourselves and treat others in respect.

The pronoun ‘I’ is the only pronoun capitalized. But this wasn’t the original intention. After very brief research, it seems the only reason it was changed was because i (lowercase) didn’t stand out enough when written. We have the word ‘a’ that remains lowercase, but i became I so it could be more easily noticed.

I might not have thought much more of that if we didn’t also do something peculiar with the word ‘you’. We completely take it away. Its called the understood you. So, I can say, ‘go to the market’ and the ‘you’ remains absent from print because everyone simply understands what I meant, so I shouldn’t have to say it.

Did you catch that? ‘I’ needs to stand out and be noticed, while ‘you’ needs to remain hidden. ‘I’ is the exception to the rule. And we know how to do that so very well.

I’m reminded of the parable of the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18, who after being forgiven his massive debt rounded up those who owed him smaller debts and refused to forgive them. He was a capital I. He sought mercy when he couldn’t pay. It was all about him. And once the mercy was received he sent the lowercase ‘you’s’ to jail because it was still all about the important capital ‘I’. They owed him money.

He simply couldn’t understand how they could be in the same boat he was in. They had families and needs and sicknesses and circumstances and they cried for mercy just as he had. This is exactly what happens when I am capital and you are lowercase… or even worse, you aren’t even on the page with me.

It’s in how we write and talk, It’s in how we drive, how we treat each other online, it’s even seen in the churches… we just can’t stop admiring that tall, slender, capital ‘I’. There are so many scriptures to quote about how God intended for us to treat each other that I feel like just handing over the Bible should cover it. It’s everywhere. It’s in every book, in every timeline, in every parable. Both Old and New Testament, both before and after Jesus..

Even as Jesus hung from the cross he found a moment of compassion and made sure someone would take care of his mother after he finished dying.

We have spent so much time learning how unique and special we are, we forget that everyone else is too. And while there are some good lessons to be learned about how God created us as individuals and why… it kind of lets the air out of the balloon when we consider that if every single one of us is special, then the very thing we all have in common is our special-ness.

In other words…. none of us are special because we all have something special. Special is common among God’s creation. Instead of finding our servant and demanding what is ours, we are meant to forgive as we have been forgiven (Ephesians 4:32, Luke 6:31, John 15:12, Matthew 7:12, Romans 12:10… and so, so many more)

What an amazing verse, that Romans 12:10… ” Outdo one another in showing honor ” Its a contest to come in last place. By our standards, we need to concede. We should yield. Words that don’t sound positive at all… lose, forfeit, surrender, sacrifice.

Ah, sacrifice. So many verses in the Bible talk about forgiving as we have been forgiven. Just like the unforgiving servant. A sacrifice has been made for us as well. Should we accept the sacrificial lamb and then refuse to sacrifice for others? I don’t believe that was the spirit of the gift.

I believe we are meant to deflate the I. It’s time to put you back on the page. The most significant man to walk the earth made himself insignificant with us in mind. He did it completely so we could have some significance. Our response is not to demean or belittle others.

There is an age old lie being whispered to your inner conscience. It was told to Jesus when he fasted for 40 days. I will make you a king. I will give it all to you. Others will serve you. You will never want again. Look at how big and shiny that ‘I’ is. Nothing can compare. You deserve this. Those insignificants can’t take that from you…

We are supposed to be fighting. It is a war. But the battle is to lift each other up. To outdo one another in showing honor. To lover greater, sacrifice more, and forgive first.


Photo by Anto Fredric on Unsplash

God Can Be Such a Chore

Is there something in your life that you just keep putting off? Hour after hour, maybe even day after day you find other distractions to pass the time until eventually, inevitably, you just have to break down and do it? We call them chores. A necessary task that we would rather not do, or at least, its no where near the top of our priority list.

Sadly, this sums up our placement of God in situations. I know there have been times when I only read because I skipped the last few times. I’ve only prayed because I felt guilty. I’ve only asked because I needed something.

Have you ever been in a relationship like this? Has anyone ever told you, “you weren’t my first choice” or “you are the best of what’s left”? I sure hope not. But, if we aren’t excited to great God each day and spend time with Him, I’m afraid we might be on the giving end of this type of neglect.

The phrase sounds harsh, and maybe even a little sacrilegious. But if I’m honest with myself, I have made God a chore at times. He has been a burden to me. Something I only did because I had to, not because I wanted to. But I think that honesty will let me rebuild the relationship. I can confess and bask in the new day God has given me.

We live in a world filled with evil when temptation successfully convinces us to shrug off the only hope we’ve ever had. It doesn’t even feel like an attack at all when it happens. Just a passing thought… I’d rather watch TV, or go to the movies, and hang out with friends, or catch a nap, or maybe even do real chores. I’ll spend time with my creator later… when I’m not so busy.

A simple thought. A passing notion. And maybe even a little productivity in life as we run errands or build relationships with others. But demons cheer. They know something we often forget. We are at war and they just separated us from our defense. They drove a wedge between us and our community of faith. They delayed a mighty prayer.

We grabbed a hotdog and played some Sudoku, but they exchanged high fives and danced a fiery jig. Anytime they can make God into this mystical, distant, abstract thought, they win a massive stronghold in our lives. They like to take the humanity away from God.

God became flesh. He walked this earth. We are already made in His image. When we don’t see the face of God, we tend to think more of Him as an ideal. Maybe even a cause. Sometimes I don’t recycle because the recycling bin is too full, or its too far away. Sometimes I don’t give an extra dollar to cure cancer at the checkout line because I’ve given enough already.

But Jesus isn’t a faceless organization. He is our brother. God sent His Son to embrace us as family. When we reject time with him, we aren’t just telling a stranger that we gave at the office, we are telling a loved one that we found someone else. Something better. Something more meaningful to us.

We need to understand the implications of our priorities. This isn’t a plea to go to church. God doesn’t want people to sigh and exclaim, “fine, I’ll go to church!”. He wants His family to join Him in the victory. He wants what we all want. He wants to be chosen back. We all know what it feels like to be left out, forgotten, and ignored. Can we comprehend that we can do this to the one who gave it all for us?


Photo by Catt Liu on Unsplash

We Need More Strange and Dim

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in His wonderful face. and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace”

Helen Howarth Lemmel (1922)

Those words are from a beautiful hymn and if you haven’t heard it there is a short clip of the chorus embedded at the bottom of the page. You might wonder about a few things. Strange. And dim. Those aren’t typically positive things. Try asking your best friend or spouse if they could start being strangely dim for you. Some of them may be way ahead of the game or already there… others will just look at you weird.

The best way to explain why we want strange and dim in our earthly things can be described in a short camera tutorial.

Examine the picture at the top of this page. You might recognize Emmet from the Lego movie. Hi Emmet! Can I ask you to see what is behind him? I’m going to presume you can’t… even if I tell you. From left to right we have Chloe from Secret Life of Pets, A Camel from Prince of Egypt, the Ghostbuster’s car, Bob the minion, Teddy Pierce from Community and the General Lee from the Dukes of Hazard. How many did you get right? I’ll show you another picture in a moment.

That blurriness in the back that you can’t make out is called bokeh and most photographers will pronounce it wrong. It’s pronounced BOH-kay. It is intentionally putting parts of an image out of focus using light and depth of field. You might start noticing that most pictures and even movies and TV use this effect because it makes the subject stand out. It separates items from the background and immediately draws the eyes in to what you want the viewer to look at.

To pull this off you have to do a few things that I will itemize below.

  1. You have to put the subject in focus.
  2. You have to open up the aperture to let in more light.
  3. You have to separate the subject from the background.

Briefly put, you have to put your focus on what matters. You can’t be a good image of Jesus if you aren’t even looking at Him. We must focus. If you have used a camera, you likely know that isn’t as easy as it sounds. You may have to zoom in and isolate the object you desire. You have to wait for lighting, move things around to get them in or out of view. Adjust settings, change positions, etc. You don’t just click a button and walk away. You may need to brace yourself against something to reduce arm shake, or get down on a knee to get the correct angle. Focus means taking time and really studying the subject.

We are taking an image. A likeness. The more time we spend on the subject, the more accurate the picture will be. The more time we spend with Jesus, the more reflective we will be of Him. We can’t just take a quick glance and claim Christ-likeness, its a lifelong process filled with blessings of pain and hope. And each step along the way we are perfecting our portrait of Him in our lives.

Opening up the aperture is widening the hole that lets light come in to hit the sensor. More light means a better picture and less grain. But as you do this it creates a depth of field. The more light you let in the easier it is to focus on what matters. The subject pops off the screen and looks incredibly sharp as it is contrasted against things that begin to blur away. The more depth of field you have, the more the focal point stands out. We need more light to look like Jesus. He is the light of the world and many of us turn out underexposed when we try and act like Him… without Him in our hearts.

If you need to, scroll back up and check out Emmet again. He is the only discernible thing on the page. The final way this happened is that I separated Him physically from the background items. If they all existed on the same focal plane (i.e. they were all side by side), there would be no way to visually differentiate them to create any depth. They would all be blurry, or they would all be sharp, but either way, no one would like the image. It would just be a jumble of items.

When we focus on Jesus, and separate Him from the garbage of this world, and let His light into our life… the stuff that doesn’t matter begins to blur. The junk disappears. The treasure in heaven becomes sharper, brighter, and closer and the things that will burn up with this world will darken into a distant background.

If what you want is Jesus, there isn’t room for the other stuff. We either take Him and only Him and we push back the lies and garbage that the enemy promises… or we buy the lies and enjoy the temporary treasures of this world. But look at what happens when you leave the camera in the same place and adjust the focus…

Now you can see the cool toys I lined up behind Emmet. But what happened to Him? Like I said, you can’t focus on both. If we make a grab for the strange and dim… we lose the Savior. Focusing on Jesus isn’t easy. But once we realize the things of this world are traps, garbage, and extremely temporary use-once kind of things… We can begin to see how its easy to find joy in seeing them fade out.

What are you focused on? What is keeping your eyes from locking in on Jesus? Why is it so hard to let go of addictions, pride, greed, lust, anger, and all of that trash? We hate it, we are ashamed of it… but we can’t seem to let it out of sight. Try focusing on the Master and letting His light in your life. And when things that seem important now start to slip away… let them! It’s the only way to get Him in clear view. That is when we can start to look like Him and draw others to the one we strive to imitate.

Eating Meatballs With God

Last night my wife made meatballs. They were tasty! Our five year old boy was excited. “Meatballs!!!!!” he exclaimed. As she was portioning out the food to make sure we had enough for tomorrow, she mentioned he was getting 6 meatballs. His excitement turned to concern. “aw… I wanted 7”. He said it again when he heard no response. He was now sad. As he ate his food he kept mentioning how hungry he was and how desperately he needed more meatballs. (of course he was stuffed before he could finish what he was initially given).

If you have any experience with a 5 year old, you know the number does not matter. If she had promised 4 meatballs, he would have wanted 5. If she had mentioned 20, he would have needed 21. But what we can all relate to, even us seasoned adults, is that he did not enjoy his food while he ate because he was preoccupied with what he didn’t have.

Some of us are better about this than others, but I know many adults who still struggle with enjoying what they have and living in the moment. It’s this latter part that is more universal. Living in the moment. Forgetting the past and using the time given to you as you get it to make the most out of life.

We spend so much time idolizing or regretting the past and so much time worrying about or trying to expedite the future, we spend very few moments living in the present. The problem is that God doesn’t promise us an earthly future and He doesn’t care about our past. So the only thing we have that can connect us to God is the now. The moment we live in where we actually have the ability to be Christ-like (Christian).

We can’t connect to God through our past decisions, even the good ones. God doesn’t hold a grudge, He will accept us as we are, but He also doesn’t accept yesterday’s version of you. Our walk with Him isn’t a decision made in the past, its a constant, life changing, on going, daily, adventure where we live and breath while basking in the presence of our Savior.

We can’t connect to God through our future. It hasn’t happened. We can’t control it. We can’t make it happen quicker. The future is futility. Each moment passed is another future moment just out of reach. Tomorrow simply becomes tomorrow the next day. Even worse, Not only do we still have a tomorrow after tomorrow, but now we have another yesterday to pile on that we will likely regret or overly cherish.

So when do we enjoy life? When do we commune with our Lord? When are those moments that build up a fruitful and successful life? We miss them so often because they are so rare. Not rare in quantity but extraordinarily rare in our ability to choose them. They are the moments we have. The time that is given us. The present. The now.

We are given them every day. We have one right this minute. But when we fervently try to refuse the moment, it goes un-lived. Our nose is stuck in the rear view mirror while our foot has the gas peddle mashed in. We live only for the future while trying to change the past. We can’t serve two masters. We can’t live in two time frames at once.

This is not a new struggle. We have been cautioned to ‘stop and smell the roses’. But we have sped up. Stopping isn’t enough anymore. We need to get out of the car. Its the notion that we have control. We can back up and move forward at will and with great speed. And while we think we are having an effect while doing that, all we really accomplish is spinning the wheels over every useful moment until they become yet another regret in our mirrored past.

This might all make sense if our God who became man was still buried in a tomb. It would be fitting that people who seemingly worship the past would be the followers of an ancient god that once lived but now rests in a sealed crypt forever. We could ponder what he once was and how it could have been.

But since we are the followers of a risen King… a living God… our monument’s door is open and the insides are kept, clean, and EMPTY… so, past tense doesn’t really work for us. He wasn’t god… He is God. He is alive. And so our worship is to Him. It is with Him. Now. Today. Right now.

Our minds have become tombs of their own. Past conversations… what I should have said, what I would do if I had the chance, how I felt. They aren’t just full of regrets, but feelings, memories, expressions. One of the first things we need to do as we don the label of Christian, which means Christ-like… the first thing we need to do to resemble Jesus… is to blow the door off our own graves and let out the past.

Free it. Let it go. That isn’t us anymore. We can’t be the transformed person God wants us to be if we are clinging to the past. We can’t be renewed if we are prisoner to our mistakes and missed chances. Through Jesus, we have died to that life. When we climb out of that mausoleum, we are faced with the now. The moments that actually matter… the ones that contain that magical ability to live. To actually live free from regret and worry.

This is when we can grasp the Savior’s hand and walk with Him. And when we do that, there is no fear or worry, because our future becomes every waking moment, thoroughly enjoyed and gracefully lived to the fullest. This is where we can taste the meatballs and enjoy them in the moment. No taxes, no root canals, no bills, no traffic… just savory goodness.

Because this moment right here… it’s all we have… and it’s where God is. He isn’t in the worry over things not seen, and He isn’t found in the regret. He wants to eat meatballs with you, but we have to rise to our new life in this open, unclaimed moment and pick up the fork with thanksgiving.

We can all shovel food down our throats and effectively accomplish the task of eating. Each of us knows how to breath and we can turn oxygen to carbon dioxide with the best of them. But that doesn’t mean we are LIVING. The living God left his tomb behind. We are meant to join Him.


Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash

When Will God Fix My Life?

One of the more difficult tasks I face as a Christian is to see the perfect and holy plan of God play out in a fallen world.

There are some great selling points in the Bible. Lining up behind God means I never have to fear again. God is my rock, my strength, my resting place. Rest! Oh, how I love the sound of rest. Peace is also promised along with never having to worry again.

Verse, chapter, and book, all line up to show the amazing, wonderful, and awesome life of a Christian. Sign me up twice!

Then I have a bad day at work. The car breaks down. The kid gets in trouble. My friends are all on sabbatical, I get sick, A loved one dies, moths have taken up residency in my wallet, and in this crowded world with so many people in my face I can hardly breath… I feel all alone.

Do you ever flip through the pages of your Bible like you just signed a bad agreement with a used car salesman? I have. This isn’t what I thought I had bought. Is there fine print in there? Where are the parts that talk about fun, freedom, and constant happiness? I could have sworn those were in there somewhere.

Part of my problem is my ability to selectively read. When its positive, I tend to take it as literal and immediate fact. But when the Bible mentions picking up my cross and following in the footsteps of Jesus… the one who stepped through torture, and death, I tend to feel like this part is more symbolic.

When the disciples faced fear while Jesus was in the boat with them… or when we are told that prophets are never accepted in their own home towns, or even when Jesus promises suffering and persecution… well I thought He meant that for everyone else.

When we look at Christianity as a fix to our problems we end up being sorely disappointed. It’s not a cure for sickness, nor immunity to pain or loneliness. God isn’t our genie and Jesus didn’t die to take away our pity parties. With Christ we still suffer and we will all die.

Jesus didn’t take away death, he defeated it. He took away its sting. He turned it upside down. Instead of death being the end, its now the beginning. Where it once was the defeat, its now the victory. Funerals have become celebrations.

When Jesus said, “it is finished” as He died on the cross, He created the ability for us to do the same. We get to bury our loved ones knowing they are in rest. They have now gone to a place where pain can’t get to them. After a life of loss they have passed into an eternity of gain. They will never be taxed, cheated, or mistreated ever again.

No more alarm clocks, no sickness, no barking dogs, no crying babies, no traffic… we retire from the pains and losses of this life. Jesus made this possible by going first. He heaped our sins on Himself and paid the price.

He didn’t sacrifice Himself to cure hangnails or stop cars from breaking down. He came to us to take the permanency away from death. His empty tomb is the real promise made. Yes, life is better with Jesus. Yes, God can and will do amazing things in this life… but we will still suffer. We are still human. We still live in a fallen world with a terrible enemy that wants to destroy everything.

The promise Jesus made is that one day, our grave will be empty too. And because Jesus paid that ultimate price for us, we get a choice. Do we want to spend our eternity on the other side of death with the one who causes pain, promotes sickness, breaks up families, destroys lives, and deceives… or do we embrace the man who meekly climbed on the cross?

The man who cured blindness, raised the dead, walked on water, prophesied the future, and exposed the true hearts of all He encountered… just calmly allowed human men to torture and execute Him. Why? I mean, really… why?

We have to grapple with that question and come to terms with our own understanding of why someone capable of commanding the weather and the seas would simply give up Himself. The answer I have come up with is that He loves me. He loves me so much, He wants me on His side of eternity. He loves me so much He doesn’t want me to be sick anymore. He doesn’t want me to lose loved ones. He can’t stand seeing me in poverty.

And His solution is Heaven. He is going to take us home. To the place where we belong. With death defeated, we will still die… but the grave becomes a cheap hotel on the way to an amusement park. It’s the temporary place holder until the amazing and indescribable happens.

So today, I’m going to stump my toe, deal with a headache, work a tiresome job, offend someone unintentionally and get offended. Soon, I’ll lose a loved one, get sick, and eventually die myself. And that is what I live for. I have a relationship with God that assures me that life begins with Jesus’ return.

Until then, there is an enemy who has everything to lose. More specifically, he has me to lose. He will lie, corrupt, and kill to get at me. But I love the one who loved me first. The man who gave it all to me… I will give to Him. He will call my name and I’ll run out of that grave.

But this choice we have… it isn’t made at the gates of heaven with one of the saints holding a list, like we see in so many cartoons. The choice is made while we still live. It’s the decisions we make in spite of the pain. It’s how we respond, how we act, and what we do with the minutes afforded to us.

If there was a really long line to get into a great club, would a complete stranger invite you to skip the line and stand with them? Would they give up their spot for some random person wandering by? No. But a friend might. I believe Jesus plans to vouch for His friends. He is going to mark our sins as “paid” when He recognizes those that chose Him in those darker moments of life. He has every incentive to because He chose us in His absolute darkest, most lonely, moment.


Photo by Hunter Haley on Unsplash