Do We Worship in HD?

I just returned from a trip to New York where I was privileged to attend a Hillsong conference.  Upon return, the questions are very similar:

“Wasn’t the worship just amazing?”

“That was a completely different experience, wasn’t it?”

“It’s hard to go back to ‘normal’ church after that, isn’t it?”

They aren’t necessarily bad questions.  I understand the intent.  I would ask the same.  But I think it tends to mask an inherent misunderstanding of how worship works.

First of all, I should mention the obvious, and the reason for the questions.  It was amazing.  It was in the Brooklyn Barclays Center.  So several thousand voices were lifted in unison to our God.  How could that not be awesome?  With such an arena comes logistical niceties.  The sound was impressive.

Each time the drums kicked I could feel it in my chest.  With a steady beat, it felt like I had an involuntary pacemaker keeping me going.  I wondered if, when the next song ended, would my heart continue on its own, or would it just give up and let the sound system do the work for it?

Seeing people throw off man-made divisions in both humanity and in the scriptures and rally behind the name of Jesus alone was something I wont soon forget.

But there is a temptation to think that worship, actual worship… was better, or different, or deeper than it was at any other location in the world at that given time.

The Spirit of God was there.  But He didn’t ride on the subway all by Himself.  He didn’t hail a taxi.  He didn’t descend through the rafters into the midst of a special venue.  He wasn’t there waiting on believers to show up.

He walked in through the doors wearing bluejeans, leather jackets, baseball caps, and monogrammed t shirts.

You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. (Romans 8:9)

All over the world the Spirit entered sanctuaries, synagogues, churches, living rooms, coffee shops, and with the voice of man praised God the Father and Jesus Christ, our victorious sacrifice.  Did it mean more in one location?  Was the price of salvation less in Texas?  Did the Prince of Peace suffer less for Canadians?  Do Egyptians have less to be thankful for?

There is one God.  There is one King.  There is one Savior.  There is one Christ.

He is worthy of honor, glory and praise.  It might sound different.  It might look different.  But the power behind the worship…  The impact of the lowering of ourselves while lifting Him up… That happens on another level, and everyone, everywhere has access to that.

Crying out, “God I need you!” means the same in Brooklyn, Nashville, Albuquerque, or on your knees in the closet of your home.  It involves the heart.  It includes the soul.  It’s communication to God bypassing all third parties.  The power behind prayer… The awe of worship… the humility of self reflection… the honoring of God… those are tied to the cross.

The cross happened once.  It is finished.  It does not happen again in Detroit on a Tuesday because someone planned for it to.  It’s eternal.  It’s all reaching.  It’s for everyone.  And it means the same everyday.  It’s power is not diminishing, nor is it enhanced by the works of man.  And how that affects you, is not based on your location or your event, or your titles.  It’s only impact is a direct result of your relationship with Jesus Christ.

Was the conference amazing?  Yes it was.  Will worship be any less next Sunday?  Not a chance.  The same God, made the same sacrifice with the same Son, and even though I’m a sinful and unworthy person, I will call on that same trinity to accept the gift of forgiveness, adoption, and eternal life with a living God.

It was awesome to see thousands of believers singing to God.  In truth, millions do it every day.  I love to imagine the angels roaring in cheers over baptisms and souls gained.  What I can’t wait for is the worship with all believers united in song.  All of us.  Together.  The whole world over.  We don’t need to travel to a sports arena to make this happen.  It happens every moment when we reject the flesh and tune in to the Spirit.

It’s nice to have New York experiences.  It’s nice to have mega churches.  It’s nice to have thumping sound systems.  It’s nice to have tons of space for lots of seats.  But none of that changes worship.  The Spirit doesn’t change with your budget.  The Spirit doesn’t change with location.  The Spirit doesn’t change to be what we want.  The Spirit is ready for worship.  Any time you are ready.  And the magic… the miracle… the awesome… That already happened.  Our thankfulness for it, our praise, it should reflect the gifts received the same every morning day and evening.

The enemy wants you to wait for the right song.  He will tell you the building isn’t ready.  He is known to whisper about quality, volume, people sitting near you, leadership issues, tittles, and all manor of reasons to not worship.  Excuses.  Delays.  Lies.  We have a direct connection to God and a life changing eternal experience awaits our choice to properly use it.  Bluntly put, if coming before the Lord and worshiping is a ‘downer’, or it isn’t ‘fun’, or it’s not quite ‘awesome’ enough… you haven’t been worshiping.

Thinking of worship in terms of quality is like thinking of God in terms of quality.  It’s our direct praise to Him.  It’s our level of appreciation for Him.  It’s positioning ourselves in the correct place in direct relation to His place.  So can He waver in terms of God-likeness?  Is God in HD one day and SD the next?  Does God sour?  Was the cross an 8 out of 10 because it was cloudy and too many people showed up?  Very, very bluntly put… worship is either everything we have from us to God all of the time… or its sacrilege.

You want a New York experience?  Do you want a Jordan River experience?  Do you long for something powerful and life-changing?  For most of us, its about 3 feet lower than we stand.  Those things happen on our knees… and nothing challenges their ‘amazing’.

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War, What is it Good For… if You Run?

When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near. For God said, “Lest the people change their minds when they see war and return to Egypt.”  But God led the people around by the way of the wilderness toward the Red Sea.  – Exodus 13:17-18

If they face war, they might return to Egypt.  You might be tempted to think something like this:  Why would a mighty God lead people around difficulty… especially when most of the Bible is filled with God taking people straight through the middle of difficulty and providing them a way to make it through?  (Much like He had just done by leading them out of Egypt).  In other words, doesn’t this approach seem weak?  Doesn’t it feel timid?  Doesn’t it sound un-God-like?

God can lead the 300 to defeat the hundred thousand. (Judges 7)

He can bring down walls and deliver cities to those marching in circles. (Joshua 6)

He can bring down a giant with a sling shot toting boy. (I Samuel 17)

So why would God fail when the Israelites saw war? I’m glad you asked. God would not have. They would not have fought. They would not have stood their ground. They would not have prayed and trusted God.

They would have fled. Ran. Tucked their collective tails and scurried away. This is easily identified as their M.O. Miracle after miracle they consistently complained when things didn’t go their way, often blaming God for their freedom while claiming oppression, prison, and slavery would have been better.

God, being the intelligent Creator that He is, knew exactly what their response to war would have been.  They would have gotten completely out of Dodge.  Promptly.

The bottom line is that God won’t use people that aren’t willing to be put into usable situations.  You can’t start a prison ministry if you aren’t willing to step through that barred gate.  You can’t go on an overseas mission trip if you won’t walk on a plane.  You can’t witness miracles if you aren’t in over your head trusting God and following His commands.  And you certainly can’t defeat an enemy while running in the opposite direction.

It’s not really that God can’t… it’s more that He won’t.  God loves us so much that His plan fully includes us.  We are a part of the plan… we are the plan.  It’s operation ‘rescue people’.  And He was willing to let His Son go in order to pull it off.  We have a part too.  We have to accept.  We have to listen.  We must obey.

In Matthew 15:21-28 a woman confronts Jesus and He turns her away.  While there is likely a bigger story here, she still played her part.  She reasoned with Him and pleaded with Him.  And He changed His answer allowing her daughter to be healed.  The opposite happened in Matthew 14:22-33 when Peter walked on water.  He played his part and stood with Jesus on the waves in the storm.  But when he was distracted, he began to sink, losing the favor His Savior had previously given him.

I’ll stop with those and just claim there are a plethora of stories where Jesus acted in response of us.  Humans.  People.  Even in the old testament when man talked directly with God they would reason and ask Him to reconsider.  He did.  Moses got his brother Aaron on the payroll of the Egyptian exodus after arguing his inexperience to God.  Abraham convinces God to spare Sodom if only 10 righteous are found in it.  Lot convinced the angels to allow him to flee to a small town after they commanded he run to the mountains.

The point is… we have something God gave us.  A choice.  We can accept His commands.  We can speak with Him and lift our concerns to Him.  Or, we can simply deny Him.  The Egyptians made a habit of ignoring God.  And He knew it.  Still loving them in spite of their disobedience, He gave in to their contempt and took them the long way around, knowing all too well that if he blessed them with the shortcut, they would have bolted before looking to see if God was still with them… or even bothering to recall the countless situations He had already delivered them from.

God can, if you can.  He doesn’t require us, but history shows He won’t empower us if we aren’t willing and trusting.  If we won’t equip the full armor of God, you can safely bet He isn’t going to be toppling armies before us.  David beat Goliath because he was willing to sling the stone.  The walls of Jericho fell because the horns blew after the march was complete.  When commands are followed, miracles are witnessed.  When obedience is observed, God provides.

I have tried eating triple cheeseburgers and praying for weight-loss.  It just doesn’t work that way.  God gave me the ability to make my own choices.  If I can’t give my own life some effort, why should He?  When I stop yelling “Supersize!” at every drive through window I pass, God becomes more attentive.  When I start exercising and tossing out late night snacks, I feel burdens lifted.  God cares.  And He works in our lives.

He does not need us to do anything and we cannot earn anything from God.  But we still have our work to do anyway.  Most often, that work is bending a knee.  Sometimes its bending an ear and following instructions.  But the ones that had the best relationship with God… the ones who favored the most through trying times and impending danger… they were the ones who dropped everything and lived in a constant relationship with Jesus Christ.  Listening, sacrificing, following, obeying.

God didn’t strike down the enemies of the Egyptians in this passage because they wouldn’t lift up the sword.  They complained about the conditions of their freedom, they complained about the travel, they complained about the food, they blamed God and Moses for every inconvenience.  Their alternative was slavery, torture, and most likely an early death.  Yet they just expected to live posh lives while God delivered every nicety unto them.

What we often forget is that the story of the Egyptians isn’t just a lineage narrative.  It’s a parallel to what God has also done for us.  We are facing an eternal life of unimaginable negativity.  (grossly understated, of course)  And Jesus has delivered us from that as well.  But while on our journey, we will face the enemy along the way.  Just like the Egyptians, we can either run, endure more, and fully risk losing our path… or we can fight with God on our side.  Better put, we can fight on God’s side.

I can’t help but wonder why God isn’t more active in my life.  And then I remember the Israelites and I can plainly see when I’ve chosen to pick up the sword and where I’ve simply complained to God while doing nothing.  How embarrassing when I find out God is leading me the long way around.  It shows my lack of faith, my unwillingness to obey, my fear, and my inability to see the concrete past where God has kept His promises and provided.  It’s not a testament to what God can’t do… its about what I didn’t do.  Its a mirror image of my failure and a reminder that life is easier in the trenches with God than it is on the outskirts without Him.

 


 

Which Peter Will You Be?

One of my biggest mistakes as a Christian is forgetting that there is no lukewarm with God.  If I’m not crying out, ‘Hosanna!’, I’m basically shouting, ‘crucify Him!’

And how quickly we can forget.  One moment Peter was cutting off ears in defense of His beloved Savior, and moments later he exclaimed, ‘I do not know the man’.

Peter may have rubbed elbows with Jesus himself, but we live in a much greater time.  We live in full view of the cross and its completed story.  We have experienced the empty tomb in full 20/20 hindsight.  Peter didn’t have that luxury when the frenzied crowd turned to him.  The curtain hadn’t torn yet.  The ground was yet to shake.  The tomb was fully prepared.  The Roman Centurion still believed a crazy man was on His way to the cross.

Somewhere in between the two events Jesus became just a man to Peter.  When Jesus stood free, Peter was willing to fight in front of the great healer, prophet, and soon to be king.  He feared nothing with Jesus in sight.  When He looked at Jesus he could walk on water.  When he looked at the waves, he sank.  With Jesus on the cross, surrounded by an angry mob, all Peter saw was waves.

What will you do with the story of the cross?  What news of the tomb will you carry with you?  Will you share the power of healing, resurrection, and salvation?  Or will you let that fear sink in… the tiniest doubt that transformed Peter from crusader into coward.  Will you exclaim, ‘That’s MY King!’.  Or is it easier to just go unnoticed?

When the waves crash around you, can you focus on the Savior?  There is no lukewarm.  We either draw our sword (perhaps Bibles for today’s climate) and claim souls in the name of Jesus the Messiah, or we make sure everyone around knows we have nothing to do with Him.  Which Peter will you be?  Hot or Cold?  It’s like a True/False test… you simply can’t write in a third option.  I pray we all make the right choice.

My Wife Attacked Me With Scissors

She really did. I guess if I were to tell “her” side of the story, she was trimming hair around my ears (which makes her a saint… again, her side of the story).

Well, whichever side you believe, there was blood. Lots of it. I didn’t even feel it when she nicked my ear. It was like something out of a Mel Brooks movie. Way too much blood for such a tiny incident. It was so over the top ridiculous, I was scared to sneeze.

We tried cleaning and holding tissues to it. I gave it a good 15 minutes of holding things to it, applying pressure, etc. and figured it was good enough to jump in the shower.

When drying off, I must of grazed my ear with the towel as it was half full of blood. I cleaned it up again and tried peroxide, bandaids, tissues, weird head angles. For about 45 minutes, the blood flowed.

What started as a laughing matter began to concern me a little. We also had a clock ticking against us, we had to leave the house in 3 minutes at this point.

I started to panic. My wife was helping to try and figure out new ways of stopping the bleeding and every time she would come back in the room I would exclaim in exasperation that the bleeding hadn’t stopped yet. Each time the pitch of my voice would get higher and higher as worry and fear began to settle in.

With 3 minutes to go, I was pacing and panicked, and out of ideas. She really is a saint. She kept checking on me, trying new things, and coming up with new ideas. Finally she stopped in front of me, put her hand over my ear and began to pray.

If I’m honest, it felt silly. A tiny little nick that didn’t hurt… at worst a mild inconvenience of being late. And here we were engaging the Lord and creator of the universe.

While she poured out a heartfelt and sincere prayer, I’m thinking, “hey, I know you are dealing with wars, plagues, starving people, riots, diseases, and the devil, but if you could put all that aside for a second I’ve got this ear thing…”

What is sad to me is that I’ll be the first person to tell anyone else that no problem is too small for God. He wants to know our fears, concerns, crushes, frustrations. He is our brother and our friend. But when it comes to my own mess, I just can’t seem to get on board with it. We do the same thing in the other direction. We claim overwhelmingly that no problem is too big for God… except for what I’m dealing with right now.

Not only did I fail to follow my own advice, which I know to be true, it also never occurred to me to pray at all. Why? On multiple levels I failed. This is why psychologists can’t diagnose themselves. It’s why we can’t use ourselves as references, and it’s why mirrors are the cruelest inventions in the world.

We can’t accurately see inward. Our eyes only see in one direction. This is one of many reason why we have a church. A community of believers to help each other remember the small stuff, withstand the big stuff and to pray through all of it.

The last little bit may make some feel uncomfortable. My ear stopped bleeding. Immediately. Not even a little dried up bubble where the clot formed. There was no clot. It just stopped and dry clean skin remained. No wound. No scab. Like it never happened.

For myself, I have two questions, and I hope my lapse in judgement will help to serve as a good example for you.

1. Why didn’t I pray first?

2. Why not bring EVERYTHING before God? I firmly believe He wants us to.

For you, I have one question. Do you believe God can heal us here, now, and today? If not, ask yourself why you pray at all. Examine your prayers. Dig into the scriptures. I know an awful lot of people who pray everyday for God to be with sick, be with doctors, give comfort, etc. if you don’t believe God has power in this world, why are you praying those prayers? The very prayers Jesus taught us to pray.

“Give us bread, deliver us from evil, forgive our trespasses”. Those are actions that we request God to make in a world that we believe God is bound to be action less in. If He has the power to “guide guard and direct us” as so many of us have prayed verbatim… He has the power to remove a mass, reduce a fever, clean a blood stream, and even stop an ear from bleeding.

Or do we really believe that God can change the hearts and minds of mankind, but he can’t heal hearts and brains? Did your God flunk out of medical school and settle for bachelor’s in psychology?

I’m thankful to a God that forgives me over and over and over again. I’m thankful for His patience while I pray as a last resort when He intended it to be my first. And I’m thankful that He cares about me enough to care about what I care about, even if it would make most of us shrug.

Did you lose it… or Earn it?

I’ve lost weight before. I ate what I wanted, didn’t bother to exercise and when I stepped on the scale found a nice surprise. Metabolism? Extra inadvertent steps? Who knows, but this is lost weight. I’ve lost my keys too. It took as much effort and planning to lose my keys as it did to lose the weight. And in this case, ‘lose’ is the correct verb for both incidents.

I have also worked hard, suffered, sacrificed, and REMOVED weight from my body. Intentionally. This weight wasn’t lost, it was systematically and forcefully removed. It wasn’t happenstance. It wasn’t a fluke. It wasn’t a question mark as I approached the scale each day. I earned my health.

Hopefully you realize the difference isn’t simply semantical. Many of us are content to lose. And even after sloth, we find pride when we do.  ‘Look at that, I lost 3 pounds after that stomach virus! Woot!

Compare this way of thinking with your relationship with God. Of course we have to say right off the bat that we don’t “earn” anything with God.  But we do have responsibilities to keep the relationship going.  And often, we take the same approach as we do with weight loss.  We focus on what we can lose.

We can be passive and just watch the loss happen.  We can be a pew warmer in our church lives.  Never engaging, never connecting, never growing.  We can prioritize private reading and prayer time last in our lives (often getting neglected in favor of more exciting things like TV, internet, or the latest I-Device).

We can live for the weekends and then waste those as well.  And then we hit a high note.  We get something right, possibly by accident, or just circumstances that line up in our favor.  And we proudly exclaim, ‘look at that!  I lead a prayer, or I really helped that person, etc.. ‘  We puff up and feel like we have really accomplished something when we didn’t really do anything at all.

I fear many of us know the spiritual rut of complacency.  And the walls are lined with lies about how well we are doing when the scales just keep shouting out, “obese!”.  We are meant to pursue Jesus the same way we intentionally and specifically remove weight.  We go after Him.  We drop high calorie friends and cut out fatty habits.  We dive into the word, we wrap our minutes all throughout the day with prayer.

We don’t just happen to bump into Jesus and make a good impression… we chase Him down.  We cannonball into the baptismal and come out dripping with the Savior and His desires for our life.  Can you feel the difference?  One approach says, whatever will happen will happen as long as I don’t have to do much.  The other says, I am loved by God, and that is how I will be known.  I will carry my cross and follow Him.  I will look like Him.  I will be blessed and forgiven by Him.  I will not wait for the right moment or the right lighting or the right song, or the right circumstances… I will go now.  Because now is the only moment I have any say over.

I didn’t earn Him.  He was a gift.  But I refused to let Him pass me by.  I accept.

 

Who is Driving This Thing?

When I was very young my grandad let me drive his boat. It was pretty simple. A throttle that went up or down (fast or slow), and a steering wheel that turned in circles ( left or right. )

I can see how he might have logically deduced that even a young boy couldn’t mess that up. As soon as he said, “gently push the throttle up”, all logic was gone (several hundred feet behind us to be more precise).

I was learning how my logic was flawed as well. I knew boats to go through the water, but had no clue that at high speeds they violently bounced on the waves. I also had no idea that the front of the boat would raise up out of the water so much that I couldn’t even begin to see in front of us.

With zero visibility and the boat bouncing out of control, I wasn’t sure what to do. Without sight, I didn’t know whether safety was to the left or right. Without wisdom and experience, the thought to pull the throttle back never entered my mind.  I only knew one thing from my lesson with grandad… push the throttle forward. And that is all I did.

I feel like I’ve done this in other areas of my life.  When God whispers, go forth, I run out of control before He can even finish the instructions.  He knows the destination, I don’t.  And even when blinded by obstruction and ignorance I can’t speed up fast enough into unknown territory.  My life is bouncing off the waves and a tiny boy is at the wheel randomly throwing the steering wheel back and forth.

There are several things the enemy doesn’t want us to know.  First, we can slow down.  Even stop.  It’s not only OK, its preferred to have things in order with the Father before running out.  Second, We aren’t on the boat alone.  My grandad didn’t wait for me to ask for help.  Fearing for his life and mine, he took things back under control.  Help is one prayer away.  Third, this isn’t a maiden voyage.  Our Savior went before us and He left instructions.

Often when life gets out of control I shake my fists at the sky while I’ve locked the throttle in at full speed.  Much like my exercise bike, its only use these days is to hang assorted laundry on.  God has given us the throttle and the steering wheel.  And He beckons us to follow Him through safe waters.

Two days, No Hope

For two days we had no hope.

For two days we had no Savior.

For two days our king was gone and the kingdom He promised with Him.

For two days the healer was dead.

For two days there was confusion, weeping, and mourning.

For two days sinners in need of salvation were devastated and lost.

For two days believers hid in fear and quaked with uncertainty.

For two days evil laughed, mocked, and taunted.

For two days our Messiah and Lord was a man in a tomb.

Can you imagine the range of emotions?  Witnessing miracles, hearing stories, laying eyes on this man who is so different.  The heart tugs, the stomach produces butterflies, and you just can’t shake the urge to follow this man.  What He claims is absurd, but what He accomplishes is even crazier.  The dead are rising, the sick are healed, and the powers of the world want to stop Him.  It all lines up and you start to believe.  Not just that He can open blind eyes or get rid of a nasty cough… but that He is who He says He is.

Can you imagine Letting go of logic and letting your heart take over to what you know to be true?  To allow yourself to feel the freedom of FINALLY receiving a just and kind king?  He isn’t corrupt, He isn’t selfish, He isn’t greedy.  He doesn’t desire power and He doesn’t want wealth… your wealth.  Unlike any ruler before Him.  As this becomes your new truth you envision life with grace, peace, and happiness.  You don’t know fully how it will all work out, but you have seen His power.

Who could stop a man that raises the dead?  Who would want to?  You have backed the wrong horse before, but not this time… not with this man.  You sell possessions, you get the family together, you make life changing decisions because that is what followers are called to do.  And just when everything couldn’t be better… it all falls apart.  How could someone with that much power die?  Just like that, He is gone.  For two days, He is dead and buried and in the eyes of man, all that He promised is buried in the dirt with a man, who was either going to be as great as He claimed, but killed before He could do so… or He was just a fraud.

Either way, now your life is in shambles.  You put everything into the promises of this man.  You put your faith and hope in this man.  And you watched them bury this man.  I can’t comprehend the thoughts racing through their minds.  We know they mourned.  We know some were scared and hid.  But how do they come back from that?  He WAS their hope.  Now they have none.

I catch myself living life like this.  Grumpy in traffic, angry at online interactions, furious with horrible customer service.  Bad days at work, kids make bad choices, food tastes bad.  I can choose to make life as frustrating, horrible sounding, and pointless as I want to.  Some days I feel lonely, sad, and like everything in the world is out to get me.  I covet parts of my past while abhorring other parts of it.  I fall in ruts, or sometimes cannonball into them with steadfast determination.  And at the end of the day I just sit back and feel sorry for myself.  Like I have no choice.  Like I have no hope.

On the third day, something happened.  For us, we know the story, but they hadn’t documented it quite yet.  It started as a rustling of guards.  I’m sure there was finger pointing and great defenses laid out as to why it wasn’t their fault.  Then rumors started spreading and dreary eyes started to open.  Rumors turned to sightings and wobbly legs began to stand.   When all the pieces were put together and the full story told there was praise, worship, rejoicing.  Hallelujah!  He arose!  It was all true.  It IS all true.  It will all be true.  Now there is hope again.

From the third day on, there will always be hope.

From the third day on, we have a Savior.

From the third day on, we have a King, a kingdom to look forward to, and salvation to complete the story.

Lets be third day on, Christians.  The evil one celebrated for two days… lets not give him any more than that.  When the lies start to spread and you begin to feel tired, burdened, sad, alone, empty… remember day three.  The stone was rolled away.  The tomb was empty.  The tomb is empty.  The throne is not.  Praise God for day three, let us never again live like our ancestors did in days one and two.  We have the hope.  We have a Savior.  He is coming back.

Let’s Make a Deal

The cost of discipleship.  Yes we are asked to give up everything to follow God.  But what is our, ‘everything’?  Money that crumbles over time.  Habits that when properly understood only actually make our lives worse while living them.  Passing acquaintances.  What value do our baubles and achievements have once we pass?  So, in exchange for our garbage… our leftover trash that has no true value, God gave His Son… and promised everything holy and eternal to follow.  Our ‘everything’ in exchange for God’s.

If that doesn’t seem quite right its because evil is in the middle of it all.  Satan whispers, in an attempt for you.  He doesn’t want your everything.  He knows its value and has no desire for it.  He doesn’t need your allegiance, he doesn’t want your respect.  You don’t even have to acknowledge him.  What he wants is you.  More importantly, he wants you to not take God’s deal.  There is a half truth here, he will even acknowledge you don’t really have anything to offer.  With Satan, you can keep your money, your friends, your status… for a time.  Like God, he doesn’t want your junk.  He wants you.  And all you have to do is to ignore God’s offer and take the mystery deal behind door number 2.

That’s it.  Just step away from God and the biggest zonk in eternity awaits.  It takes no effort.  Just speak the words, neigh, just think them.  Say, “I don’t want God’s deal” and you won’t be forced to take it at all.  Instead door number 2 and all it’s potential earthly (temporary) trinkets await.

When we don’t properly reflect on God’s sacrifice and promises to us, we allow room for all the theatrics the evil one can muster.  His stage is set with lights, music, smoke, and the promise of something greater… That lie is only appealing when we forget what we already have in a Savior.  In truth, God doesn’t really want our garbage either… He just wants us to approach Him without it.  That was His deal.  If we can come to Him without the world’s refuse surrounding us, then we were worth everything He gave up to get to us.  When we aren’t burdened by the world, we are free for the Savior’s embrace.

Disciple vs. Punishment vs. Teaching

We are told to make disciples.  Matthew 28:19 says, “Go, and make disciples”.  Pretty nifty segue, huh?

I’ve always learned that to disciple is to teach.  And there is a stark contrast between teaching and punishing.  Punishment is typically more about anger, revenge and control.  The lesson gathered is usually the wrong lesson.  It’s about interactions with the punisher more than it is about a greater life issue.

For example, if a child spills a cup and gets yelled at, they are more likely to learn that the parents are angry people that need to be avoided.  A more timid personality could develop (or a more defiant one).  It’s likely that the lesson of ‘be more careful’ or ‘pay attention’, etc. is not deposited correctly when punishment is used.

And the whole goal of disciplining is to teach.  When used in the Bible, there is typically the disciple and the follower.  So you aren’t just teaching, you are leading.  They aren’t just trying to learn one or two things, they are trying to be just like you.  which begins to answer the most important question… why not just use the word, ‘teach’?  When one word defines another, why not just use the other word?

The word, ‘teach’ is in the Bible, but it doesn’t make sense where ‘disciple’ is used.  Part of being a disciple is being a leader.  Not all teachers are good leaders.  They have the facts but not the heart.  Even more important is what we are teaching and how we are teaching it.  Lets start with the what.

If I wanted to learn math, I would find a math teacher.  If I wanted to learn about cars, I would find a mechanic (also a teacher).  Schools teach.  They provide knowledge.  If I want to learn about God, I can also go to a school.  There are many factual details to be learned that can come from book and scholar.  But what if I want to become a Christian?

Being a Christian requires and is defined by a personal relationship with God.  This isn’t taught.  You can’t test your way into heaven.  This is shown.  Personally.  Through example, testimony, lifestyle choices, prayer, discipline… aha, that word again.  Discipline.  Discipline is not just used to teach, its used to inform upon souls the most precious things of this world.  The most important things.

And how is this done?  With love.  The greatest command.  Screaming on internet forums or arguing on social media has yielded 0 positive results.  I don’t have to look that number up.  No one has come to Christ by being judged, ridiculed, and punished by ‘church-folk’.  But they do take note when they see people loving others.  Sharing food, clothes, shelter… just like Jesus said He would judge us by (Matt 25:44).

I don’t feel like this is a particularly revelatory message.  But I also find I don’t adequately work to separate the different meanings of those words we use all the time. Without putting much thought into it we could likely argue that punishment, discipline, and teaching are fairly synonymous.  But what vast differences they carry when you consider the mission, the message, and the method.

You might note that the disciples were followers of Jesus.  Many will assume a disciple is a follower and that is true.  But only in regards to whom we are following.  And this is exactly why disciples are leaders.  We are on the way to Jesus.  And He commanded we bring others with us.  We are leaders, in that, we are on the right path to salvation.

We are leading with a message that transcends book knowledge (more like a way of live, a way of eternal life) and we present the message with love.  This is discipline.  This is to be a disciple.  This is what God wants more of.  “Go and make disciples of  all nations”.

Bo Knows Sports. Do We Know God?

 

Bo Jackson was often idolized for being an All-Star athlete in two sports at the same time.  But that praise doesn’t give adequate justice.  He wasn’t just a pro bowl running back, he was two completely different positions worth of athlete on the field at the same time using up only one roster slot.  Let me explain that a bit.

Most teams now employ running back rotations.  While not entirely new, their purpose is different than it used to be.  One running back will be fast, agile, and as a result, usually smaller.  Their job is to get open with their speed and avoid getting tackled with their flexibility.  They look for huge chunks of yardage and the ever popular screen play.  These guys generally have good hands too and will take short passes in the hopes of turning them into something much bigger.

They are hard to catch, but easy to tackle, which is a problem.  So in comes RB2.  The big guy.  His sole purpose is to punch in through a wall of defenders and give everything he’s got to gain just one or two yards.  Usually you see him on the goal line.  When EVERYONE knows you are going to run the ball, it goes to the guy who won’t go down easy.  He needs to be able to knock defenders backwards and drag a rookie or two for a few extra yards.  So desperate for that one yard, some teams have even given the ball to their biggest lineman hoping he can penetrate the defenders with sheer power and adrenaline.

Bo was both.  Watch that video.  We often don’t see it these days… a running back finding open field and outrunning the safety who had an advantageous angle on him?  Unheard of.  And this same guy with all that speed knocked some of the most feared linebackers and defensive ends on their rumps with his raw power.  Who can say they outran Deion Sanders and knocked down Brian Bosworth?

Sadly, his career(s) ended with a single tackle.  Listen to the commentary on why this simple looking tackle took a beast out of commission… “If he had been a less powerful athlete, he would have been fine.”   His extra power, his extra speed, his superb ability… that is what doomed him?  Whether you agree with that expert opinion or not, lets table the medical condition of “extra awesome” for a moment.

Isn’t that true for Christians?  Why was Paul in prison?  He was close to Jesus.  Why was John the Baptist beheaded?  He was a significant part of the plan.  Why did Peter deny Him?  He knew the price of following in the footsteps of Jesus… and he wasn’t willing to pay it just then.

If you train, study, and commit you can become very good.  If you train, study, and commit in the areas God has blessed you in… you will appear otherworldly to your peers.  If you apply that training, knowledge, and experience in your gifting to God, you will become the target.  You will be tackled from behind.  Let’s change that line from the commentator a bit.  What if Bo wasn’t giving it his all?  What if he was tired?  What if he just wanted to put in the minimum effort?  I imagine he would have went down easy as well.

They think it was his momentum coupled with his strength.  When he felt the enemy around him, he didn’t give up.  When they started to wrap him up he said, ‘I’m not letting you get my legs’.  He pulled them with his strength.  He kept trying to run.  It was the act of giving everything you have even when things start to go wrong.  If he had conceded to the tackle, he may have just gone on and performed many more jaw dropping, spectacular plays.  But he simply refused.  He would not go down on someone else’s terms.

Do we?  Do we give it all we have?  When adversity shows up, do we lean to the sidelines yielding the drama of the tackle?  Do we just fall down when something bad touches us? Are we content with just a first down?  Is making the team enough?  Are we happy with status quo?  Or do you yearn to keep moving, to keep pushing, to keep pulling, to stay on your feet, to knock back adversity, to pummel oppression, to de-cleat turmoil in your life?

I idolize Bo as an athlete, not because of his stats.  Some of his stats, when seen all alone, didn’t look that great.  It was how he accomplished those numbers.  It was in the time frame with shortened seasons.  It was with integrity.  It was with determination.  He didn’t just score touchdowns… He refused to let the enemy have a say in the outcome of his goals.  He didn’t care if you were a 300 pound lineman, an all-world linebacker, or an epic safety… (or all 3).  If you stood in his way, you better had prepared harder and been gifted more because he was willing to empty his tank to get to the destination.

Can we say the same?  With God behind us, blessing us, Biblically prepared, prayed for, do we dig in and give absolutely everything we have against the enemy in this world?  Or, when he lays a hand on us, does punting sound like a good idea?  “I can do all things through Christ“.  Is it that we don’t really believe the word, “ALL”?  Do we read that and think God made a mistake by putting that in the Bible?  Do we think the Greek translation really meant, ‘I can do reasonable things…’?  Or… is it the last part?

Are we not in Christ?  Are we not ‘through’ Him?  Is He even invited to our efforts?  If we lived out our faith the same way Bo chased down miraculous catches on the baseball field, if we prayed with the same vigor that Bo plowed through defenders on the football field, if we chose to keep running even when we were inevitably stopped… we could show the world why its so important to run the race we cannot win.

Putting on the name of Christ is like getting handed the football.  11 skilled professionals will hunt you down and do everything they can to not only stop you, but to take what is yours.  What is better than a tackle?  A forced fumble.  A defensive touchdown.  Fantasy football players want nothing more than the rare sack, fumble, TD that can happen in a single play.  If you are a believer without a team, I pray you find one quick.  You need prayer warriors, defenders in the faith, and if nothing else, shoulders to cry on and keep you upright.

God’s church is His team and we need that to win.  We have to hobble off the field when attacks don’t go so well and that is much easier with the help of some other players.  That tackle is coming.  That moment when Satan goes for the jugular against those that oppose him.  God has armed us, prepared us, and gifted us for that moment.  Will we leave skills unused?  Will we leave gas in the tank?  Will we go down easy, pull up, look back?