10 Things I Have Learned From Samson (aka, Will You Push?)

  1. Samson knew his gifts.  He wasn’t out trying to sing or put on shows.  He smashed stuff. His accomplishments are legendary because he acted in faith with the tools God provided him.  Bare hands, donkey jaw, pillars, etc.

  2. Samson was pretty smart.  He loved riddles. He did stupid things but he wasn’t stupid.

  3. Samson put himself in temptation’s path.  Look at how obvious Delilah was and how each time she tried the very thing he suggested.  He knew… but he didn’t want to know.

  4. Samson believed that even though God had left, he would return when asked.  

  5. Samson prayed for a mighty miracle.  Something supernatural that could not be confused for something a mere human could do.  

  6. Delilah is never mentioned in the Bible again after she is paid for her betrayal.  We do not know her fate. In other words, when you serve the enemy, your story is over the second he is done with you.  She was given an ENORMOUS sum of money and lived free… yet we never hear of her again, however, Samson, who was blinded and imprisoned still had amazing moments left to tell about as he served God.

  7. The more we fall away from God’s plan for us, the more difficult it will be to carry out the tasks assigned to us.  Ponder how different life would be for Pharaoh if when Moses said, “let my people go!” the very first time, Pharaoh said, “sure, you may leave, have a safe trip!”.  God’s plan was to set the Israelites free, but Pharaoh had to adjust to his own disobedience before it happened. Samson did something similar. He was set aside to free God’s people from the Philistines.  Due to his disobedience, God still used him to accomplish this task, but at a much greater cost. When God was with him, he freely conquered on the battlefields. When He left God, he had to operate within prison walls and with no sight. Disobedience reduces our own options to work within God’s plan.

  8. Samson’s prayer aligned with God’s plans and gifts to him.  It wasn’t selfish, it wasn’t a deviation from the path. It was exactly what God called him to do.  It was almost like Samson said, “I accept and I’m ready”. It’s difficult to think through this at times, but we aren’t the only ones God is working with.  Asking for something that someone else is set aside for, might yield more ‘no’s’ than we would like. Knowing our calling and asking for opportunities within God’s plan yields holy and unbelievable results.  

  9. Samson did not know that God’s powers had left him.  This plays into point 10 quite a bit, but it also makes me wonder… how many of us are functioning off a call that we received years ago, yet we do not live the life called out of or into? How many of us think God is with us when He has no reason to be? How many of us think He is just sitting back, watching us play Nintendo, when He is really waiting for repentance and renewal before He will work within us?

  10. Samson, now knowing that God’s powers had left him, prayed for a mighty miracle and then pushed on the pillars.  This is faith. Praying and then pushing. Believing that there is power within a faithful God. If he did not feel God leave, did he feel Him come back? How did He know God returned? Because a called man asked a faithful God to fulfill His will through faith, mercy, and obedience. He prayed… and then he pushed.


Photo by Macu ic on Unsplash

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The Kingdom of Hell is Like…

A 100 calorie snack… and then you realize there are 10 servings in the tiny bag… (or the entire contents of the bag fits in your hand).

Free drink!!!! … with purchase of overpriced sandwich and fries.

Going through the drive though, paying, getting your food and going home. Then when you sit down to eat the order is wrong and missing items.

Having the film real burn up at the ending of Titanic. Not during the credits, but right before the final dramatic reveal. And then, because you still got to see 3 hours of the movie, the manager deems it sufficient and provides no refund or credit. (This happened to me).

Eating healthy and exercising your entire life and still getting heart attacks, strokes, high blood pressure, cancer, etc.

Being kind to a friend and then getting stabbed in the back.

These all have something in common. They are lies, or at best, half truths and deceptive. The Bible is full of promises from Jesus. Every one of them that has been passed by time has proven to be true.

Before texts or phones he told a fearful parent to return home to their healed child. And the child was healed. He told his disciples of His betrayal, who would do it and how they would know… then it all happened just as He had said. He foretold His death and resurrection. Everything that has been spoken by the mouth of Jesus has come to pass.

There is one more thing we await. His return. We know He will come back, but we don’t know when. While we wait we can ponder what the kingdom of Heaven will be like. We don’t have to wonder too much, because He told us in many parables.

The kingdom of heaven will be like:

Treasure hidden in a field, a fine pearl, a mustard seed, a net full of fish. But as we wait, we do so in a fallen world. A place with evil intention, greed, and hunger for dishonesty. Promises are made daily. Have you received a phone call claiming to be the IRS? What about an email from a foreign prince that wants to share his wealth? Maybe Walt Disney really will pay everyone that participates in the chain letter?

That deception comes from greedy souls who have bought the lies of the enemy. It’s a tried and true philosophy. If I can’t win naturally, I will cheat, steal, and worm my way to the top. Another promise from God is that Satan has been defeated. With my whole heart I believe that. And I see it in his desperate attempts to trick and entrap.

Just like the man who can barely speak English but wants me to give him my credit card and social security number for back taxes that I have never owed… and he will just make it all go away over the phone. It’s so obvious. It’s laughable. Except people are buying the lies. If everyone knew enough to not fall for that crazy scam, the crooks would never have success and would not waste their time.

But it does work. It just takes a few. Just a few people to be scared enough to try and stop all the promised bad things from happening. They don’t want to go to jail. They don’t want to be drug through lengthy court proceedings, so they pay up to satisfy the lies. It does work. People do pay. And to get those few who don’t know better, our phones ring constantly with “opportunities”.

Chances for me to get rich without working or to avoid a horrible fate that makes no sense. Mankind has learned this tactic from the best. Eat this apple, it will give you knowledge. Ignore your friends, it will make you seem more independent. Change that number on your taxes, you deserve it anyway. Don’t tell your spouse, how could they ever find out what you have been doing.

Little whispers in our conscience and before you know it we live in a world where a con is the rule. It’s just expected. I don’t even answer my phone unless your name is in my caller ID. I don’t talk to anyone at my door that I’m not expecting and I don’t believe what I hear regardless of the source. We have fallen. We have bought the lies and we continue to sell them.

While Jesus told us a little bit about what to expect from Heaven, I thought we should honestly and sincerely consider the alternative.

The kingdom of Hell is like a promise made that would change your life. You believed it and went against the will of God to have it. Once you signed on the dotted line, everything you were told ended up being a lie. You lost everything and everyone for the promise of something better. Now you have nothing. It’s an eternal con for the cost of your soul.

Every word out of the mouth of Jesus has proven to be true. No other man, woman or child can make this claim. If you want to follow the truth and only the truth for your life, there is only one place to turn. There is only one word to obey. There is only one hope. Everything else, it turns out, has been compromised.

What Giving Costs Us

When you give to someone that is not in need, There is usually an agenda. It might be small or innocent like making yourself feel good, getting on their good side, or getting the attention of others. Of course it could also be more malevolent. It could be to sway decisions, get something in return, or to prop yourself up in more sinister ways.

When you do not give to someone in need, a basic humanitarian transaction is denied. The Bible outlines this in Matthew 25:

“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’”

Matthew 25: 35-36
  • Hungry.
  • Thirsty.
  • Lonely.
  • Naked.
  • Sick.
  • Imprisoned.

While it may not be an exhaustive list, it was important enough to spell out 4 times in that chapter. Those that Jesus would vouch for honored others as He defined, and those who Jesus claimed He did not know ignored the needs of others. He didn’t say, I wanted to play Nintendo and you didn’t share. I wanted to supersize and you gave me the small. I wanted to travel and you stayed home. I asked for paper and you gave me plastic. Those aren’t really needs.

He talked about things that make us people. The basic physical necessities and a few things that might not seem to fit. “Visited in prison”. “Welcomed as a stranger”. When all of the rest of those can be life or death, how do these two fit in?

First, I think it gives insight into how much God cares for and loves us. He came into this world as a human and allowed himself to be sacrificed for us. He isn’t going to ask us to do something He isn’t willing to do Himself. He was tempted, hungry, alone, sad, neglected, and homeless. He asks us to care about people because He cares about people.

He isn’t trying to be a government over us. He isn’t limited to absolutes. He isn’t content to measure out specific portions to meet our bodily needs, He tends to our soul. Loneliness can be devastating. Solitude, desperation and imprisonment can be epically harsh. Jesus is saying, if you care about me… you care about the people that I love. Guess who that is? Us!!! You and me!

He cares about us. His commands are to take care of each other because He loves us and wants to see our needs met… all of our needs. And make sure you understand that visitation… is a NEED. Compassion is a need. It’s even a need for the criminals. If we aren’t in there meeting the needs of the convict, are we responding to Jesus favorably?

If we give to no one, we are giving to ourselves. It may mask itself in different ways. Wasting money, greed, hoarding. Ultimately, we give to who we care about. Notice this passage doesn’t mention money? It’s about time, commitment, integrity.

If your grandmother called and asked you for help in using the new TV remote, would you get out your checkbook? It’s amazing how many needs we try to cure with money. Over time it has created the adverse effect of not wanting to help because we don’t feel we can financially support new ministries. Is this how we think of grandma? A burden not worth our time because it will eventually cost us?

I hope we all would be excited at the opportunity to help her get her stories working on the picture box (that is old people talk for watching TV). Often, the call to missionary work isn’t an attempt at your bank account. It’s an invitation to live out, first hand, seeing Jesus, embodied in humanity, and needing food, water, shelter, and love.

Visitation isn’t about upgrading the church van, having to buy extra meals, or budgeting for expense reports… it’s about tending to the souls in this world. And, in many cases, the only cost is our time managed by our hearts.

When we make time for God on Sundays and neglect everyone else throughout the week, Matthew 25 claims Jesus will not know us in the end. Some people have the opposite problem. They are honestly good people who love others and cherish the ideology of helping each other out. They are found in soup kitchens, housing projects, and clothing drives.

They visit hospitals and bring gifts to assisted living homes. But they don’t know God. They never step foot in a church and wouldn’t know what to do with a Bible. This group has solved the equation without knowing the question. Christians tend to struggle to answer while knowing the question. So which is it? When do we give? What do we give? To whom do we give?

Jesus answered this in a very unique way. He endured. Nails, thorns, blasphemy, insults, spit in the face, beatings, lies, corruption, agendas, thirst, hunger, greed… He endured. When it came to what He wanted to accomplish, it seemed, to Him at least, to be simple. “forgive them”. All of them.

I’m going to climb on this cross and give up everything I have. I will die… for them. All of them. I will give up everything for everyone. I will take on their sins and pay for them with the ultimate cost. I will give freely of all my blood to cover all their sins.

And when they see me embodied by a poor and lonely soul, what will be a fair response? 10%? A private prayer later? Maybe a few moments just to say Hi? Nothing? “Whatever you did to the least of these, you did it to me” (Matthew 25: 40 and again 46). What would you like to do for Jesus today? How can you say thank you? What percentage will you muster for the Man that gave you 100?



Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

How Is Your Cake Built?

Teachers prepare young minds to take on new trades. Disciples prepare themselves to be like the Master. If you have ever wondered why we aren’t successful in “teaching” the Bible, it’s largely because no one wants to know the Bible as a profession. God sent His Son, not to share facts, but to define love and point to the Father. If we are His disciples, what is our job? Hermeneutics? Theology? Exegesis?

We can answer this by quoting Jesus in ‘the great commission’. “Go into all the world and make”…. Teachers? Scholars? Friends?… No. “Disciples”. Followers of Jesus. And how did Jesus teach us this? By example. Go into the world and be like Jesus because He came into this world to be our sacrifice after showing us how to live first. Teachers are great at giving knowledge. Disciples enlighten with every decision of every day. Every choice, each breath, and all the words spoken will show the world who we point to.

When we point to the Bible first and foremost, its like insisting that bakers understand how to shape fondant before they know how to mix batter. We want them to be able to whip up amazingly detailed and beautiful cake architecture that is appealing to the eyes… but we forgot to show them how to craft the foundation that holds up the masterpiece we insist they create.

How would you build your cake? Start with sprinkles? Watch YouTube videos on piping frosting? Purchase the best fork? That sounds silly doesn’t it? As amazing, powerful, and wonderful as the Bible is, it wasn’t designed to be the first point of contact for the world to meet Jesus.

Try opening it up and reading it like a normal book (which is what normal people will do). After a few interesting chapters we start getting into genealogies, lineages, timelines, geography… and to be quite honest… it doesn’t pick back up for a few hundred pages. What if you went to see the next big summer blockbuster movie and after a few explosions they started detailing new tax laws and math equations?

The firm foundation we build our cake on is Jesus. That personal relationship with Him is everything. With that established, the words penned in the Bible can be life changing. But shouting commands and referencing parables to people who haven’t yet seen the Master will be just as crazy as trying to put a cake topper on before the frosting. We have to show them the Master.

When Jesus wanted to teach us about being servants, He knelt down and washed feet. When He wanted to explain how to love, He ate with sinners and tax collectors. When the Son of God decided it was time to show what a sacrifice meant… He yielded to His accusers and faced the cross alone.

We don’t become like Jesus by quoting scripture. We become like Jesus (Christ-like… aka, Christians) by acting like Him in every aspect of our lives. He came to us and pointed to the Father. How can we be that to the world?


Photo by Thomas William on Unsplash

Thanks for the Gift! What do I Owe You?

Do you remember being excited about an upcoming birthday? Perhaps you still are? My son was. He knew all about the presents. He was pointing things out every time we went to the store. “I want that”. “I need one of those”. “Can I have this for my birthday?”

At the age of 5, celebrations can be all about the presents… some of us older folks can still get wrapped up in the gifts aspect of things. But as the day approached and he rattled off where he wanted the party, who he wanted there, and how the day should go down, he managed to make some bad choices.

Not bad party ideas or bad birthday wishes… bad life choices. He made some mistakes. He messed up. It was frustrating because some of the decisions he made were contradictory to lessons we had laid out dozens of times before.

It never once crossed our minds to not give him the presents as a form of punishment. They were already purchased. No matter what choices he made yesterday it was still his birthday on that new day. We might find an effective form of discipline for when he does act out… but we give him the gifts we want for him to have.

God wants us to have the gift of salvation. Why do we struggle so much with the gift of Jesus? We tend to think that our actions can change His mind… The very mind that was made up when the apple was bitten in to.

We say some pretty crazy things. “I don’t deserve that gift!” Really? What did we do to earn our birthday presents? What accomplishment did we perform? Nothing. Our birth was through no desire or effort of our own, it was a decision made a certain number of years back by other people. And they reward us from their love.

Why do we try and change the meaning of grace? It’s little different. We do nothing to earn it. God provides it out of love. If it was something that required deserving, none of us would have it. Grace was a decision made by God long before our time and He gives it to us because He loves us. If we do something that He does not like, He doesn’t go back in time and pry the nails off the cross.

God has already given us His Son. The sacrifice has already been paid. The pain has already been endured. He isn’t going to return the gift because of our sins… the gift was given because of our sins. We needed it. We couldn’t get to God without it. And the part that seems difficult for us to understand is that God couldn’t get to us without it. We are His desire.

God sent His Son because He wanted to be with us but couldn’t. So He gave this amazing gift to free us from our sin and we think that very same sin exempts us from the gift.

I think we struggle so much with this because we can’t read about grace without binding works back into the equation. We get nervous if we hear about grace and we don’t hear about how we can fall from grace. Some of us believe that too much forgiveness implies ‘once saved, always saved’. So we swing the boat around as fast as possible to include that we can choose to leave God and reject His promises.

So rather than running the race, we are left spinning in circles. God gives grace, but I keep messing up. We think He’s on His way back to Walmart to return the cross because it doesn’t fit us anymore.

We have to leave that door open because we just can’t comprehend how grace truly works. Completely and utterly without us… that is how it works. It is a Godly gift. One that we are meant only to accept, not to earn.

Our circular logic leaves an option ‘B’ on the table. I could either accept grace and I had better be good afterwards… or I could fall from grace and spend eternity in the very bad place.

To me, this sounds like an out. This his how people operate that don’t want to go all in. If I accept this grace and let God transform my mind and I become His servant… what would change? Everything. Absolutely everything would be drastically different in every step of life.

It sounds like cold feet. Grace can’t be THAT good. I could still blow it. I could definitely mess that up, so I better behave. I should be careful. Instead of celebrating, I should spend time in self pity. Instead of praising, I should judge myself a bit. Doesn’t that sound crazy? It’s not like we think it through just like I’m spelling it out, but we reach the same end result, don’t we? I can’t live free in the grace of God because I hate myself too much!

This sounds like a prenuptial agreement to me. One of those documents you sign with your fiancé because you either don’t trust them or you know you aren’t trustworthy. It’s a legal declaration that you believe that something bad could happen. It says, I want to spend the rest of my life with you, but should either one of us change our minds, here are the rules for how that will play out.

Isn’t that romantic? They will write poems about our love, but if I see someone I like better, I want the toaster. I trust you with all of my heart… sign this.

And we take this same approach with God when we don’t immerse ourselves in the free gift of grace that He has given us, clearly based on His love for us and not on our works for Him. We create an out. Every time we utter that phrase that we aren’t good enough, we push back on the gift. Gifts aren’t purchased by the receiver!

If we had an obligation to the gift, it wouldn’t be a gift. It would be called a purchase. In this case, grace was purchased, but it was paid for by someone else. Jesus paid the price. But the grace was given freely to us. Grace is not a loan, its not an IOU, its not bought in installments, and its not a balloon payment. It’s free. It’s a gift. Given to us. And we are meant to do one single thing. Accept it.

If you are struggling with thoughts about all the effort that goes into accepting grace, I fear you are missing out on this precious gift. We do not change our behavior to receive grace… once we have received grace, and we truly accept it as an un-earnable and Holy gift… we are wholly transformed by the love of God and the relationship we build with Him.

When I gave the presents to my little boy, who had acted poorly, do you think he handed them back and said I didn’t deserve these? I honestly believe the thought never once entered his mind. He tore open the paper and danced in the ribbons. He played with each and every toy until they broke and since he is a 5 year old boy, they all broke.

And I believe this is meant to be our response. Swim in the wrapping paper that is grace. Tear open the gift and embrace it. Snuggle in bed with it at night. Carry it to breakfast. Sneak it into your backpack and take it to school. Give it a seat at the table. Love it as the gift that it is. Our behavior is not wrapped up into grace. That happened so long ago and is freely given as a pre-purchased gift. If you insist on finding a place in this thought about your behavior, that has much more to do with your relationship with God.

If you find that you and Jesus look nothing alike, start by embracing grace. Nuzzle up to the feet of His throne and make peace that you are His child and He both loves you and longs for you. He gave a mighty gift that came at great cost to Him and His Son. He did that for you. Before you even knew who you were. He didn’t pay that price just to withhold the gift.


Photo by Kira auf der Heide on Unsplash

Free God from the Bible

I wrote a short ‘review’ on a children’s Bible that I found to be a little harsh for the target audience.  It was obviously my opinion, but I wanted other parents to know that this book jumped right into the gruesome bits of our history and for a “First Bible” I thought that was on the questionable side.

Are ALL of the old testament stories important?  Yes*  You see that asterisk?  That is important.  My son is going to start off his journey with Christ… and this might be difficult for some to understand… with Jesus.  He is going to develop a personal relationship with God.

Will he learn about wandering Israelites, drowned sinners, and beheaded disciples?  Of course.  But those are far behind the most important messages of his eternity.  First, he is learning who God is.  What God does.  How to pray.  How God works.  Etc.  My whole point in the review and in my parenting opinion is that we get the cart behind the horse.

If I were to teach you about baseball, do I start with how they stitch cowhide around cork to assemble the ball?  That may interest you, that may even help you in some way, but not until you have a rudimentary love for the game.

And that is where I feel this needs sharing.  Do we have a fundamental love for our creator?  Or do we start with the genealogy and try to work our way backwards?  I think point one is that we need to make certain that we aren’t logically following human translated rules and histories.

I hope we can all see how there is a strong difference between, “I’m not supposed to do that, so I will regrettably refrain, though I would really like to do that”.  And, “God made me a new person that seeks Him and His will isn’t leading me anywhere near that”.  The first person follows a book while the second has a relationship with their Maker.

It’s very important that we aren’t following a set of rules, but that we actually follow the living God.  What good is it to know how old Methuselah was if we have fear in our lives?  How is it helpful to quote Proverbs if we are alone and hopeless?  So just like my child, I want to encourage all of us to start with what is most important.  Engage in a living relationship with your Father in heaven and solidify that reciprocating love before you dare venture into anything else.

This leads to point 2 (and hopefully you understand I believe that continuous study of the Bible is extremely important, it just doesn’t mean much without the Spirit that wrote it in your life.  Read.  Read daily.  But read in a context of that real and personal relationship with God).

One individual read my short caution of the book and responded that I was in fact wrong.  In a public forum they questioned my faith, called out my parenting, and said I was doing exactly what the Bible warned against.

Is this the “good news”?  Is this what the world needs to see when they see “Christianity”?  Are people allowed to disagree?  Absolutely!  Could they have disagreed with their opinion publicly?  Of course!  But when we judge each other… publicly… as strangers, we not only violate many of the tenants God set forth in the very Bible we were discussing, but we proclaim to the world, “This is what Jesus died for!”  This is what matters!  This is what is important for you to know!

Oddly, much of the world isn’t interested in debating and condemning each other over arguably insignificant details.

He could have disagreed.  But he chose to judge.  And this is what so many of us do when our opinions hit the open air of the internet.  ‘It’s not that you have a different opinion than me, its that you are going to Hell.’  That was rarely the message of Jesus (the only one fit to sit in the judgement seat).  The good news is about salvation.  The great news is about forgiveness and eternal communion with God.

Freedom from debt and punishment.  Undeserved grace.  Love.  This is the gospel.  Is this the message we share?  Is this what your Facebook feed is full of?  Is this what Twitter and Pinterest and Slack and even you weirdos still using Myspace 😉 … is this the message you share?

It’s so terribly easy to see why the world rejects Jesus.  They are rejecting us.  And we are to be Jesus to this world.  But who we call Jesus and who Jesus actually is gets too far apart to be recognizable at times.  This isn’t my personal gripe about someone who disagreed with me on the internet.  This is my plea for us to put first what matters most.  God and God alone.

Some of us have God trapped in the Bible.  He is locked in the stories of old and used only as a weapon against each other.  ‘My God said this…’  ‘Jesus would never condone that…’  I’m not suggesting we don’t read the Bible.  I’m not even insinuating we wait on reading.  I’m offering that we should free Him from the shackles we place on the book and get some separation between the pages that list our history and the actual God who lives and works in this world today.

Right now we have a God who loves us and works to reach us.  He paid dearly for us.  If we develop that relationship as intended the next part gets much easier… to show the real Christ and His good news to the world.

 


Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

When God says, ‘No’… or, Chase vs. Pokemon

Our son gets an allowance.  He typically wants the first thing he sees in the toy section… or maybe even the end-cap before the toy section.  Like many of us, hes a “stuff” centered kid.  He’s an amazing, good-hearted boy, but he likes toys.

When he saw the Chase stuffed animal, he fell apart (in a happy, good way).  He has allowance money so we confirmed that he wanted it and he happily exclaimed, “YES!”.

As we continued shopping, he hugged the animal, told it he loved him, and was pretty much as happy as he could be.

But when we reached the checkout isle, he spotted a Pokemon key-chain.  First you need to understand that he has never seen Pokemon.  Not the show, not the movie, not even the commercials.  His only reference to Pokemon is that his friends at school (most of whom are older) like it.

Any parent knows, this now means he likes it too.  Even though he has never watched an episode, touched a toy, or has any reference to it whatsoever.  But that doesn’t matter in the eyes of peer pressure… even at just over 5 years old.  “I want that!“, he shouted exuberantly.

I clarified he was talking about the key chain and then parenting kicked in.  (albeit newbish, frustrated parenting).  I thought, ‘this will be quick’ and asked the question.  “Well, which would you rather have, the animal you have been hugging for the past 30 minutes or this keychain?”  Before I could even finish, he blurted the answer… “POKEMON KEYCHAIN!!!!!”.

I screamed as loud as my internal brain could scream to itself without letting any actual words out, … “YOU DON’T HAVE ANY KEYS!!!”

This could have gone down a few different ways.  It’s his allowance and we generally try and let him decide how its spent.  He tithes a little, but we also let him make some mistakes as well to try and get those lessons in him about how he spends his money.

In this case, I just couldn’t do it.  Something he loved and adored versus something he didn’t even understand on multiple levels.  He has no keys, there is no way to really ‘play’ with a keychain, and he doesn’t know the first thing about Pokemon.

So I had to be the bad guy.  (for about 3 minutes).  The simple fact is, I know better than he does.  I’m not smart or better or special.  I just have more experience than he does.  And I know that keychain would have been buried in a toybox never to be seen again after about 10 minutes of looking at it.  And the next time we went to the store he would have wanted the Chase stuffed animal with no allowance available to buy it.

So I said no.  I said he couldn’t use his own money to buy something.  I think the picture above shows how he handled the event.  Sad at first, but he has fed his stuffed animal, let him do his home work, watched movies, slept with it, and pretty much hasn’t done anything without Chase by his side.

I knew something he didn’t.  I knew how much more happiness would come from a “no, I’m not gonna let you do that”.  He experienced 3 minutes of sadness while we stared at that dangling, shiny key chain during checkout.  But once the car was packed in the parking lot, he had already forgotten about it.  Days later, he loves every life moment with Chase glued to his hip.

It’s easy to put myself in dad-mode and bask in how happy my son is with some swift, logical parenting… but like in most parables, I’m not the parent in this story.  I’m the boy who wants things that aren’t good for me, wastes stuff, covets, and gets sad when things don’t go my way.  MY way.  God… He is the one who knows whats best.  He is the one who lovingly withholds, carefully plans, and masterfully executes things I may never understand.

God’s “no” is so much more loving than any man’s “yes”.  Not only loving, but good for us.  We often have the freedom to make our own mistakes, and we can usually learn a good lesson when we do.  But praise God for the “no” answer.  That wonderful experience where He steps in and decides that against our better judgement, He isn’t going to let us mess that up.

Thank you, God… for all those times you save me from myself.  And please forgive my response, which often isn’t eternally focused.

Do You Really Only Have One Shot?

I have always been amazed at how photographers can capture such amazing, seemingly magical moments by pressing a button at the precise moment that a breathtaking event occurs.

My recent exploration of cameras has pulled back the curtain as to how this actually happens.  First, there is a portion of time that is less than a second.  What I mean by this is you don’t just have one second to take a picture.  You can take pictures in fractions of a second.  One of the cameras I want to buy can take over 20 pictures in a single second.

Humans typically blink in a tenth of a second.  So you can quickly see how over 20 pictures during that second can get around one of many problems that can occur if you were to only snap a shot one time.  Cameras also come with a buffer.  This can hold those 20+ photos that are coming in every second for multiple seconds.  The camera is taking in pictures faster than it can permanently write them to storage so it needs a place to hold them while you are still capturing.

Once the buffer is full, or once you are done taking the pictures, it will then write the pictures captured to the camera storage for you to sort through later.  This can amount to hundreds of photos all captured in a matter of seconds.  And this explains how its done.  They just hold down the button and let the moment unfold before them.  A bird in flight, a baseball swing, a shooting star, that perfect smile…

I used to think that photographers had to stop, pull out their camera, turn it on, point, focus, and then press the button one time and hope that they were lucky enough to catch something good.  And if they missed.  If they were too early or too late… it was gone forever.

I tried photography years ago and found it frustrating because my images were always blurry and I felt like I missed every opportunity.  I feel like many of us live our lives like this.  We think we only get one shot.  And if we muster up enough of whatever we need to take it and it doesn’t go so well, we are through.

We only give our marriages one shot.  We give our friends one chance.  This situation gets only one round from me.  And if it gets painful, or hard, or frustrating… I’m out!  Maybe we give it two chances or three, but the end result is the same.  We know how to quit.  We are experts at giving up.  Wasting time on fruitless things is not something we like to do.

Whats worse is we give up on ourselves just as easily.  We get tired of making the same mistake over and over and over and we can’t comprehend how anyone could accept such failure.  Peter said that he does the things he should not do and he does not do the things he should.  I appreciate him sharing that.  It gives me hope.  I get the sense he is constantly at odds with himself.

God is the God of second chances.  But also third chances, forth chances, hundredth chances, and beyond.  Much, much beyond.  We cannot out-sin God’s grace.  It doesn’t mean we should try to, it just means we have hope if we desire a fresh start with our Father in heaven.

I want to encourage us to not only give others a chance, but to give ourselves a chance… lots of them.  God’s buffer never fills up.  If we can understand how He extends grace to others, remember that works for us too.  Bluntly put, we aren’t the exceptions we often think we are.  He loves us and forgives us when we seek that.  All of us.

 


Are you plugged in?

I lost internet for two days over the weekend.  Many will read that sentence and feel my pain.  I can feel the shared sympathy.  Thank you!  There was a time when the internet could have gone out and I would have never known.  That time is long since past.  Now, it does not matter what I am doing, it involves the internet.

I have over 20 internet enabled devices in my home, and quite honestly, that is without trying.  I’ve passed on many options to include the internet that most likely won’t be options soon.  Did you know they make refrigerators that connect to the internet?  They have for years.  Soon it will be standard on all models.  I don’t own an internet watch, a web based doorbell, or WiFi light bulbs… but all of these have existed for quite some time.  My 20 devices online at the moment will likely become 40 in a very short amount of time… without even trying to buy internet enabled devices.

The true testament to how deeply I rely on the interwebs can be seen when the internet connection is dropped.  Because nearly everything we do relies on some form of connectivity, my plans are deviated when the outage occurs.  In other words, every single time the internet goes down, I have to find something else to do.  I have my own top 10 list of things I attempt to do to pass the time while the internet is out:

  1.   Organize my email (check from my backlog, reply, file things in folders, etc).
  2.   Play online games
  3.   Online banking
  4.   Get caught up on Facebook.
  5.   Watch videos on YouTube.
  6.   Talk to someone (using Skype or VOIP technology)
  7.   Just watch a movie (Netflix, Prime, Hulu, etc)
  8.   Do some shopping (Amazon, Newegg, Slickdeals)
  9.   Engage any of my hobbies (writing, photography, etc all requiring online tools)
  10.   Misc (Check news, sports stats, fantasy teams, taxes, browsing, etc… all online).

I have to go through a routine of shock and confusion before it sinks in that everything I do routes back to the internet in some way.  Even with the knowledge that my connection has been severed, my gut reaction based on habit and muscle memory is to try to do things that I forgot relied on that link.

This is very similar to how our relationship with God should be.  All things lead to Him.  He is a part of everything.  Everything that we do should honor Him and point to Him in some way.  Should He ever be apart from us… we would be hopeless.  Lost.  Worthless.

Jesus was disconnected from God when He took our place on the cross.  We call that ‘Hell’.

It’s getting more difficult to find things to do when the data stops pouring into my home.  Can we think of things that we can accomplish without God?  Can we imagine a world without God?  My hope is that we are so committed to the life God blessed us with that we serve Him in every act, word, and thought… so much so, that even without thinking, our muscle memory and great habits take over and we continue to nurture others as we build on the relationship ourselves.

 

 


Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Where Are My Gifts!?!!?

Gifts, in the eyes of man, are lacking in me.

I cannot sing. I cannot draw. I cannot play an instrument. I am not athletically advanced. I am not intelligenter.

According to how we grade each other in physical gifts, I am not very blessed.

In my dialogue with God I lean towards more meaningful gifts. Gifts of the Spirit. What has God given me? This is what really matters.

Well, I can’t speak in tongues. I don’t prophesy. I haven’t healed anyone. I have yet to turn water into Pepsi.

Perhaps you can relate to my struggle?

What is God’s plan for me? What am I supposed to be doing for Him? How do I work within my strengths, when I don’t know what they are, and often challenge weather I have any to begin with?

There is an often undesired answer. Read and pray. I’m going to stick with it for a reason. It’s what has worked for me. After a session of “why me” prayer and honest questioning of God, I finished my usual quiet time with a chapter in a book I was working through.

I read the most common sense statement that we all know. “Life is a gift. Every breath is a gift”. That was it. Nothing magical. Nothing really profound. But everything I needed to hear.

God proceeded to work through my heart how much forgiveness I needed. Which all by itself is a sad commentary.  I, the sinner, want to know where my gifts are!

I am a sinner. Jesus is a gift. Forgiveness is a gift… and how much of that I receive! Grace, salvation, heaven… all gifts. Not just gifts… the most important of all presents. Things I don’t deserve and yet am eternally nothing without.

I receive the most amazing gifts every day. I wake up. I breathe. I commune with The God. I am forgiven and I bask in epic and eternal promises from the creator of the world.

I asked where my gifts are and He showed me. I have more than most. I am overwhelmingly blessed. I hope you can see how you are too… and if you aren’t, how you can be.