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

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

Stop Tithing and Start Giving

All things belong to God. If we are intentionally giving 10%, we are effectively paying membership dues. Call it what you want, church tax, enrollment fees, registration, premium… none of those sound holy, do they? If we are setting aside for God, we aren’t being holy either. We aren’t called to give God what is left, or even to portion out a little bit. We are called to leave it all behind.

A simple Google search will compare the world we have become comfortable in against the word of God. “How much should I tithe” yielded for me today “10%” in many of the top searches. But, “How much should I tip” came back “15 – 20%”.

The problem is, while tithe typically means one tenth, the folks in the Old Testament did this more than once. It’s estimated that after their initial tithe of crops, the tithe to the Levites and all of the festivals, it was common that 20 – 30% was actually given.

Since tithing typically means 10%, I decided it was self defeating to look up “tithing” and expect another number. So I then did a search on “how much should I give God?”. Thankfully, there is a more diverse response, but it’s still haunting how many questions there are about giving.

Do I have to tithe? Do I have to tithe on inheritance? Do I have to tithe on gross or net? Is this still a command of the New Testament?

There are 2 verses in the New Testament that answer all of those questions and many more not listed. The first is how to give. And the second is how much to give and how often.


Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

2 Corinthians 9: 6-7

Let’s be blunt. Some of us are trying to figure out if we can get out of tithing. Some of us want to give the bare minimum. We have lots of reasons and justifications that make it so it doesn’t sound so bad. And if we pick the right scriptures and ignore others, we can rest safely on 10% or even less. That just doesn’t sound cheerful.

Giving cheerfully isn’t an expression that we say, it’s something that we feel. Deep down in our hearts we rejoice as we sacrifice. Sacrifice means we do without so that others can do with. Your child hitting a home run. Your spouse getting that new job. Your crush says, ‘yes!’. You hand over the money you needed. Do any of those seem out of place? Jesus says, they shouldn’t. All of them are meant to be expressions of joy and worship.

As Michael Scott proved, you can’t declare bankruptcy by just shouting it out. You Can’t be a cheerful giver by just claiming that you are. It’s a matter of the heart. You can fake out the church, you can fool the receiver of the gift, but God knows the heart. If you are not excited about giving. If, in private, you aren’t happy about the loss, something is wrong. This isn’t a shame-on-you judgement, it’s a red flag that needs to be addressed.

Mark 12 tells us how much we actually give.

And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

Mark 12: 41 – 44

How much did she give? “all that she had”. It was so moving that Jesus called over the disciples. It was a teaching moment. The disciples, who were learning to be like Jesus needed to see this. She could have put in 1 small coin. She could have put in less. But her heart was affected. It wasn’t about the money. It wasn’t about what others thought. It wasn’t about legalistic doctrine from the past. It was about putting her money where her heart was. How do we know for sure? Jesus said so. She gave more than anyone else who gave abundantly.

When we tithe 10% we are doing a good thing. When we give all that we have (be it flocks, produce, time, facilities, food, money, help, etc) we are being disciples. We are observing and learning from the example that Jesus pointed us to. We have to stop following a book of rules and start living like we have a Savior that loves us and wants the best for us. What is absolutely best for us, is to build up treasure in heaven.


Photo by Michael Longmire on Unsplash

I Wanna Be As Smart As a Rock

You have likely heard the expression, “Dumb as a rock”. I feel extra special because my coach in high school told me I was dumber than a box of rocks. It took many years, but I now know what that expression truly means. It can be found in the Bible… At least, this is how I’m defining it now.


I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”

Luke 19:40

This was Jesus’ response to the pharisees who were telling him to quiet down His disciples. They were praising Jesus. ‘Stop them from praising Jesus!’ ‘no, if they don’t do it, the rocks will’. In other words… Jesus WILL be praised. The question remains as to who will be doing the praising?

I have a range of emotions when I visit this passage. First, I’m excited. I think of other scriptures that talk about mountains bowing down before the Lord and paths straightening, and trees singing. Wouldn’t these be sites to behold! (psalm 98, Nahum 1:5, Micah 1:4, Isaiah 55:12, 1 Chronicles 16:33, Psalm 96:12, Matthew 3:9, Psalm 148:7, etc).

I don’t believe God created those things to be animated. But the fact remains that God did create those things and I believe that He can have them do whatever pleases Him. In short, it’s not beyond His ability to have the forest dancing if He chooses to.

So when I think in terms of God’s power and abilities, and all of His creation praising Him in unison… I get excited. But then I get very sad. Because if the rocks are singing praises, then it means someone else chose not to. Back to my high school coach… if he put in my backup, that meant I was sitting on the bench.

I would rather play. If I was on the sidelines, it means I messed up. I didn’t do my job. Not only was I not in the game, I was sulking in my poor performance and worrying over who all I let down. I think of Jesus on the cross and and how He knows who loves Him and thanks Him and praises Him for all that He did for us. And to think of someone choosing not to partake in such an event… It’s completely heartbreaking.

So when I think of the rocks clearing their throats and warming up their voices, I can’t help but wonder who would choose not to sing? Who would take themselves out of the game and sit on the bench on purpose? Was the cross not splintery enough? Was the beating not convincing? Were the miracles unimpressive? Was it too much love He showed? The healing, the forgiving, the resurrections… were these not our cup of tea?

Can you imagine a scenario where someone in this world saved your life? A real human made of flesh and blood performed a heroic action, and because of them you now live where you would have otherwise certainly died. Would you just walk away? Would you withhold a thank you or a hand shake? Upon seeing this person in your life, would you take a different path to avoid them?

I claim you would run to them and embrace them. They would have to ask you to stop hugging them. Some of us are so grateful, they may seek a restraining order 😉

Jesus will be praised. Either we will thank Him directly, or a box of rocks will take our place. Surely we are smarter than that? How embarrassing. Right there on the bench sits our backup. Our replacement. If we can’t muster up enough faith and courage to put God in His rightful place, God has crafted a stand in that will get the job done.


And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham.

Matthew 3:9

How about right now? Can we remember what Jesus did for us in this moment? Can we say thank you? Can we open that mouth of ours and let nature take a break? Will you kneel before the throne? Or, will the gravel be taking your place?

But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.

John 4:23

I know many will question whether the rocks will actually, physically, literally sing. First, I would say, if God tells them to, they will. I’m not willing to put God in His place by predicting how that will play out either way. But I will offer that it doesn’t change the message. Whether the rocks are simply witnessing a failed generation neglecting the Savior, or whether they will get an encore, the core of the message remains in tact. We were built to praise. We were given vocal chords and lips and tongues and rhythm and hearts and brains and freedom and salvation… If we don’t put all of those together and praise God, a great travesty has occurred.

Consistently in scripture nature points to God. The heavens, the skies, the seas, the creatures in the deeps, the stars… are we at least doing what the rocks are doing? I want to be constantly pointing to Him. Praising Him. I want to at least be as smart as a rock.


Photo by Oliver Paaske 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

I’m Picking Your New Years Resolution

January of last year I decided it was time to get in shape. Some time in February I determined that round was a shape and considered it a successful mission.

There is nothing magical or even supernatural about a new year. Being a Christian, we can experience new beginnings at the drop of a prayer. But a new year isn’t any less God ordained either. So if our human minds help us understand that we aren’t stuck to the patterns of our past… take advantage of it!

One of my favorite songs is Holy Spirit You are Welcome Here. One of the lines reads:

” To be overcome by Your presence, Lord “

The word, overcome, is a powerful word that deserves some attention. In what context do we use this word? To overcome addiction means to root out a significant part of our lives never to return. To overcome a foe implies conquering that enemy. When we overcome obstacles, we rise up over them and improve our lives in spite of opposition.

Every version of ‘overcome’ I can find has a negative spin on it. The end result might be great, but that greatness comes from success powered only through adversity. If we are overcomers, we were once strugglers, failures, and forgotten.

So how are we overcome by the presence of God? I would claim its all of the above. To be overcome is to throw off critical aspects of who we are that don’t line up with who God made us to be. It’s to be vanquished by unbeatable foes only to walk out unscathed. It’s to be brought to our knees before a Savior who wants to see our very best.

To be overcome is to be wrecked. It’s to be turned upside down and inside out. It’s to say I don’t want this life, I want eternal life. I don’t want what I like, I choose what God desires. I know that I don’t overcome, but God does.

To be overcome by the presence of the Lord is to be destroyed and made new. Think of a dam bursting. The water can be contained no longer. The power has built up and the blockade simply can’t stand against the weight. It may trickle out for a time but eventually man-made materials will give way and water will pour forth in epic fury.

We have a barrier that often keeps God at a distance and limits His desire to work in our lives. To be overcome is to let the water in. Let it explode into us. To be drown in the Spirit. To be drenched in love, soaked in grace and waterlogged in new life.

To be overcome means we may dig in and fight back, but we cannot succeed. We will topple and give way. My new years resolution for you is simple. Choose to accept the overcoming love and cleansing wreckage that God’s grace provides. Be renewed in the presence of a mighty, living God.

God’s new years resolution? It’s you! He wants you. He sacrificed for you. His desire is you. His love is for you. Will you keep playing the game called “Christian” or will you let Him build in you the creation He originally intended? Will you bend knee, ugly cry, and let the holy wrecking begin?

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.

Daily Prompt: Fish

via Daily Prompt: Fish

The right time.  The right temps.  The right spot.  The right bait.  All the proper equipment.  Perfect quiet.  Motionless.  And those are just the variables you can control.  The fish has to want to eat.  It has to be in place, see the bait or the lure, and choose to take action without getting scared away first.

We walk away from so many opportunities down and disheartened without realizing how many different caveats control the outcomes of our endeavors.  We don’t understand that “failure” can simply be bad timing, too much wind, someone adjusted an unknown part of the equation, or any number of things that don’t reflect our true effort at all.

Its all about what you focus on.  If you only see “BIG FISH” then you will often be let down.  But what if you centered yourself around the experience?  Learning.  Growing.  Finding your moments.  Practicing.  If catching a big fish were the end goal, many people would stop fishing.  It wouldn’t be a hobby, it would be a trial.  What is left after the goal is completed?

If your goal and focus are something else.  How many fish you catch, what you share while fishing, or being the best you you can be… then not only will the big fish come, but you won’t experience the pitfalls when they just aren’t biting that day.

If you are fishing for people, ideas, or even actual fish, you can’t bank your emotions on a single experience.  The world is far too complicated to expect the perfect string of events to equate with “success” on a daily basis.  There are far too many moving parts, many of which we can’t control.  But if we can anchor ourselves to more realistic goals, then not only is life much more enjoyable, but what a treat it will be when the big ones jump in the boat!

Jesus Take the Wheel… Please!

It happened yet again.  Driving home last night I noticed a car behind me, but I couldn’t see his headlights or even most of his hood.  According to all of my mirrors, the driver was in my back seat.  When this happens, I slow down.  Not for the sole purpose of being rude, but for safety first.  There were barely inches between us while driving 50 MPH.  If I had even tapped, ever so gently tapped, the brakes for a pedestrian, deer, someone turning, an active crosswalk, or any of the countless issues that would require a break tap, this guy would have hit me.

Slowing down generally solves 2 issues.  It makes the eminent wreck safer (if he hits me, it will be at a slower speed) and second, it usually causes them to realize they were tailgating and they will back off.  Once they back off, I resume normal speed.  Yesterday, I let off the break and cringed as I’ve never seen anyone THAT close to me without actually hitting me.  His reaction… BEEP!  Followed by flashing lights and hands thrown in the air.  I continued to slow until I got around 20 MPH.  Then he started swerving.  Left and right, lights flashing, hands waving, horn blaring.  For 2 miles he did this.  Never once did he back off.  He was so close, he didn’t hit me, but I would be surprised if an index card could have fit between our cars.  I finally turned and he whipped around gesturing and flew off.

The last thing I saw was his Jesus fish on the trunk.  Some of you are thinking, he probably borrowed (or in this case stole 😉 ) the car.  Unfortunately, I’ve been in the passenger seat of other Christians who drive the same way.  And this is yet another, of many, reminders to me how important it is that Christians understand that if we don’t look like Christ… we aren’t IN Christ.

Consider the following statements in lieu of such a silly thing (like driving styles) and then make sure to expound them across all areas of your life as often as possible:

  • The Bible spends extremely small amounts of time on Jesus while he was in ‘church’.  I call it the Bible camera.  While Jesus did go to the temple to learn and even preach, the action was mostly outside of the religious walls.  So the camera was mostly tuned in when Jesus was living among the real world.  The story we see of a man who sets a Godly example to EVERYONE.  strangers, dinner parties, while traveling, interrupting public conflict, even while sleeping in a boat.  The examples we have of how to act like Christ (in order to be Christ-ians) are while He lived his normal life.  This extends to us.  Crowded airplanes, sporting events, kid’s baseball, restaurants, DRIVING, and how we handle politics (mmmhmmmm!  zing to almost all of us on those last 2).
  • Entitlement and Christianity are polar opposites.  Come on.  You know the verses.  Turn the other cheek.  Go the extra mile.  And many other examples let us know that picking up the cross of Christ means dropping the expectation of equality and fairness.  The cross wasn’t fair.  Jesus didn’t deserve that.  Most of life won’t be fair.  We aren’t here to experience fairness.  That shouldn’t be our fight.  We are here to show the world that Jesus loves them.  Somehow, some “Christians” have convinced themselves that they can show love and the finger at the same time.   (notice the quotes?)  The Bible could not be more clear.  Love is the greatest command.  Sacrifice is required to love.  Elitism is the opposite of love.
  • The right thing requires effort.  How easy are your decisions?  Its so easy for me to get mad at the jerk acting like a jerk from jerkville.  Its much more difficult to try and understand where he is coming from.  Why was he in such a hurry?  Was his life filled with turmoil?  The hard option is understanding and forgiveness.  If we aren’t facing difficult decisions in our lives, perhaps we aren’t making very good choices?  This rule isn’t meant to be 100% universal, but think about it.  We have eleventy billion cliches explaining the road less traveled, the merit of all things lies in their difficulty, problems are opportunities in work clothes, etc. etc. etc.  We aren’t even talking Christian logic here.  This is worldly universal.  Ask any athlete.  Ask any philosopher.  Talk to any doctor, lawyer, or architect.  Life, in and of itself, isn’t easy.  Living a good, honest life is doubly difficult.

Prayers and peace to each of you.  May we all learn to lose more and more of ourselves while we take on the lifestyle of Jesus Christ.  The more we look like Him, the more His message will reach those who need to hear the story of love, forgiveness, and redemption.

Christ didn’t gamble on us

Perhaps it may help to understand the mind of Christ when He came to earth.  Or, to be more precise, where His mind wasn’t.  A quick glance in Isaiah 53 can clear this up for us.

“He was despised and rejected by others; a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity; and as one from whom others hide their faces he was despised, and we held him of no account.  Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases; yet we counted him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted.  But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed.  All we like sheep have gone astray; we have all turned to our own way, and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

This was written in scripture quite some time before Jesus came to earth.  In fact, this was the scripture He came to fulfill.  The point i want to make today is very basic.  Jesus didn’t come to us on a bet.  It was NOT a gamble.  He and God didn’t have a disagreement about mankind.  Jesus didn’t leave heaven exclaiming, “You’ll see!, they will change!”.  He didn’t come to earth, first with a goal of saving us, and the cross was merely His backup plan.  The sin had already been committed.  The cross was already the ONLY plan Jesus had.  And if you are sitting there thinking, “Well, duh!”.  Let that sink in for a minute.  Jesus still came.

We sing about Him on the cross and how he could have called 10,000 angels to set Him free from his torture and death.  But we rarely realize that this was not Jesus’ first introduction to the plan.  The cross wasn’t an ‘uh-oh’ moment for Jesus.  The cross was His destination all along.  He knew, from before birth in the manger, that His life here was about pain, humiliation, backstabbing, manipulation, and death.  All from the folks He loved and wanted to save.

He still came.  In other words… humanity did not disappoint.  God knew blood had to be paid, and who better to handle that?  Like clockwork, we found out Jesus was better.  He was holy, he was pure, he was unwavering in His faith.  And we knew very quickly He had to die so we could get on with our corrupt lives.  We all performed God’s plan to perfection that day.  Jesus showed up, prepared to die.  And the sinners showed up, prepared to kill the innocent Savior.

This isn’t revolutionary, but I hope a change in perspective might help with the magnitude of what Jesus did for us.  His trip to earth wasn’t a mission gone south.  The cross wasn’t the result of poor timing, missed opportunities, or misinformed planning.  The cross is EXACTLY what was planned in response to our refusal to honor God.  And we made it possible.  In fact, we carried it out.  He knew.  He knew our hatred, our greed, our corruption, our pride, and He still came.  He also knew God.  He knew God didn’t bluff.  He knew God loved mankind in spite of our actions.  He knew God wouldn’t send him here with a hidden agenda or with a secret plan B.  He knew His mission was the cross.  He knew when He carried it on His bloody back, He knew when He was adored by cattle and wise men in the barn.

So my question for today is… now that we KNOW what He did for us and what we did to Him.  What will we do today in response?

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