February 2008 - Posts
In my favorite bible example, what motivated the prodigal son to come home? Was it the fellowship of the Holy Spirit? Was it freedom from the penalty and power of sin. No, he came home because there was a famine and he hit rock bottom. You could even argue that he knew he was better than pigs, a moment of pride, and knew that even his father's servants got better food. When he did get there, did the father ask him to qualify his motivations? Did the father say, "where you motivated by the fear of man or pride when you came home because if you were, it doesn't count." No, a thousand times no. The father spurns qualifications. The father sees two things, lost and found, dead and alive.
I realized, when seen from another angle, the idea of qualifying accountability or pursuing holiness is pretty silly. Think about it this way. You're stranded in the ocean. You're drowning and suddenly you find a life preserver. Now, would you refuse that life preserver if you knew it would only hold you for a few days and not serve as a good long term rescue plan? No, you'd cling to it as hard as you can, understanding that at least for the moment, you had found safety.
That's also my thought about the fear of man and pride. For example, if I'm afraid of talking to my accountability partner about watching a movie that's dirty and nasty; and that helps prevent me from doing that on a Saturday night, is that a bad thing? Would God ever say to me, "I am proud of you for not failing, but I don't like you're motivation." I don't think so, because I think all I have done in the moment is grab on to what was available. Instead of saying, "this is not a good long term fix, I will just wait in the ocean until my motivation is better," I would have grabbed onto the life preserver and lived to see another day.
What I do feel is a belief that anything outside of the life transforming love of Christ is going to sink you. But I strongly disagree that God doesn't want us to cling to the life preservers he throws our way as he slowly teaches us to engage in long term holiness.
"As Christians, it isn’t our job to change the world. It is our job to create culture." -Jon Tyson
I used to think life worked this way: As long as you stayed away from God, you could avoid the consequences. You could fail and sweep it under the rug as long as you didn't tell God about it, but the moment you did, you would be swept away by the consequences. So, one of my favorite reasons to avoid God became that I didn't want to deal with the consequences of my actions.
The truth is a little different. Because the truth is, like Romans 6:23 says, "the wages of sin is death." Sin comes pre-baked with its own consequences. The minute that someone murderes someone, the second you lied to your boss, the instant you took something that didn't belong to you, consequences were born.
I've lived a lot of my life believing that verse read, "The wages of sin and being honest with God is consequences." But it doesn't say that at all. In fact, the second half of the verse is this: "but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Yes, consequences always come. In some form or another they smack us in the face. But the beauty of all of this is that God doesn't introduce or create or make the consequences. Instead, he shelters us from them, he walks us through them, he holds us in his hand and lovingly guides us through them.
When we confess to him, we involve the creator of the universe in righting our consequences.
And that, is an amazing thing indeed.
Thought that would get your attention. Watch this link and let me know what you think. Get cha popcorn ready, this is gonna be good.
Are you kidding me?
My aunt once told me that she “didn’t like to take naps because she was afraid she was going to miss something.” She didn’t elaborate on the thought, but I’m assuming she meant that if she fell asleep during the day she might miss a phone call from a close friend or the opportunity to do something spontaneous with my uncle or cousins. Something unexpectedly meaningful would happen and by sleeping she wouldn’t have the chance to participate in it.
I feel the same way about being still and waiting. I’m afraid that if I’m still, I’ll miss something that could change my life. A new job opportunity, a friendship, an activity, something somewhere will occur and because I’m waiting on God I’ll miss it. Whatever it was that would completely save me will pass me by because I’m quietly being still.
But here’s the thing, as a Christian, that’s already happened. That thing, that all consuming event that I’m so afraid of missing, has already occurred. It’s done. I’ve accepted the gift of grace. I’ve accepted what Christ did for me on the cross. I can stop fearing I’ll miss the chance to find a solution to myself. The solution has found me.
And that’s why I can wait. That’s why God cries out to me in his word over and over to wait.
Psalm 46:10 – Be still and know that I am God.
Psalm 62:5 – Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him.
Proverbs 20:22 – Wait for the Lord and he will deliver you.
Micah 7:7 – But as for me, I watch in hope for the LORD, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me.
Romans 8:23-25 - We ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
It’s impossible for me to miss something that will save me, I’ve already been saved. How good is our God that one of the first things he says to his children is be still? Instead of work, he says wait.
The challenge then becomes knowing when to wait and when to run.
After a possessed lady follows Paul and Silas around for a while screaming “hey, this is God! This is God right here!” Paul tells the demon, “Are you kidding me? Get out!” That’s not the Greek translation exactly but you get the point.
Because a family in town was making money off this lady’s predictions Paul and Silas get thrown in jail for removing the demon. That night, there’s a huge earthquake and all the prisoners can go free. Let’s pick up the story in verse 27:
The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted, "Don't harm yourself! We are all here!"
The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. He then brought them out and asked, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?"
I love that because the reason the jailor wanted to be saved wasn’t the earthquake. Sometimes I think that if I’m going to share my faith with someone it has to be an earthquake kind of moment. Like I have to say something really smart or really big or really powerful and that will move their heart. Or there will be some sort of miraculous event that we’ll both be unable to deny and then the person I am talking with will want to believe in part based on the magnitude of my witness.
But that’s not what happens here.
The jailer wasn’t blown away by the earthquake, he was moved by the fact that Paul and Silas didn’t leave when they had the chance. They did the unexpected. They stayed in their jail cell even though the doors were open.
Everything in life says that convicts will run as soon as the doors are thrown open. That is what the jailor knew to be true, but then Paul flipped true upside down. When confronted with the unexpected, the very first sentence the jailor says is “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
That’s the big question today, what are you doing that’s unexpected? It doesn’t have to be a jailbreak. If a coworker is a jerk to you then being kind in return is the unexpected. When you’re mom expects the same kind of phone call she’s had with you for decades and instead you lover her over the line, that’s unexpected.
It doesn’t take an earthquake. It just takes the unexpected.
God has called me to serve Him with the gifts and talents He has blessed me with in a full time capacity. I am in limbo right now. You see, I have a full time secular job during the week, and I have a "part time" ministry investing in the lives of Preteens and their families. But if you know anything about ministry, you know that there is no such thing as part time ministry. I desperatly would love to serve Him in a full time capacity, but God has not provided a position or a calling elsewhere as of now. So, for now, I am going to faithfully do both. How effective can I be? Well, Paul did both for a little while, and he was pretty effective.
Before I read Acts, I kind of thought that Paul's ministry was like a big slingshot. God pulled it back and Paul was simply shot forward into this wild, earth shaking adventure. But then I read Acts 18. Here is what it says:
After this, Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. There he met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all the Jews to leave Rome. Paul went to see them, and because he was a tentmaker as they were, he stayed and worked with them. Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks.
I had to reread that a few times before I understood it. Paul made tents in the middle of his adventure. While he was traveling around, spreading the word of God, he paused and made some tents. That feels really unglamorous and unimportant and well, not God motivated. But that's what he did for a while. It even sounds like he was working most of the week and only doing "God's work" on the Sabbath. That's how I feel right now.
Maybe you're making tents right now. Maybe I'm making tents right now. Maybe things haven't been big yet. But I think it could be important to stop and make tents. I think God uses that time to slow us down and speak to us before he sends us out.
What happened to Paul in the rest of that chapter?
Here is verse 5:
When Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ
He went full time after he made a few tents. Maybe you will too. Maybe I will as well.
I wish I could say that I love my enemies, but the truth is, more often than not I am the older brother in the prodigal son story. I am mad at people that don't deserve good things, getting good things. I am frustrated and angry at my enemies. I do not pray for them or thank God for them.
So where does that leave me? Where does that leave you? I have a prayer that kind of sums up my approach.
There are four characters in the prodigal son story: the prodigal son, the older brother, the father and the servants. Now, I don't want to be the prodigal or the older brother and I'm not God. So that leaves the servants. What do they do in the story? They help throw a party and maybe that's what loving my enemies means. I need to love them enough to throw a celebration in their honor. That takes a lot of love. Not just a little "make it through the day without being cruel to my enemies" love. Big, gracious, overwhelming love.
So that's my prayer, God teach me how to throw parties for my enemies.
Sometimes, despite my best intentions I get things backwards when it comes to God. For instance, I speak to Preteens every week and like every other time I speak, I'll be tempted to be "extra holy" the day before and the day of.
Inside I'll quietly believe, "If I want God to bless this speech, then I need to really up my spiritual side." Now, before I poke holes in that belief, I will say that I think the enemy loves to damage us the most in moments before God really unleashes his love. That is, I think the enemy loves to tempt you strongly in the week leading up to your church retreat for example. But this is different, my thought represents a backwards belief.
Here, stripped of excuses is what I often believe:
"When I am good, God loves me more."
I know that for many the definition of grace is, "There is nothing you can do to make God love you more and nothing you can do to make God love you less." But, my secret thoughts don't always line up with that. A verse in Romans 2 this morning kind of convicted me. Here is what verse 4 says:
Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance?
I want to focus on the last six words in that sentence because I think they're really powerful. Do you see the order there? Doesn't it feel opposite to what I believe sometimes and maybe you too?
"God's kindness leads you toward repentance." In my heart that doesn't make much sense. The rest of the world doesn't work that way. When I work harder, I get a bigger bonus at the end of the year at my job. When I treat my friends with compassion they enjoy spending time with me more. When I give the lawn guy a drink, he does a little better job spraying the weedkiller. Wait, I can't afford a lawn guy, you get the picture though.
We live in a "give/get" kind of world. But God doesn't. His kindness leads us toward repentance. It doesn't say, "Your repentance leads you toward God's kindness." Not at all. We got it backwards.
Today, be honest with yourself, and admit what kind of backwards beliefs you might be carrying around. And if you want, share them with other people by posting a response to this post.
I like when ideas are simple. When they don't come cloaked in mystery or deep theology or secret words that only some people know. And this idea is definitely a simple one.
"If the smartest man on the planet messed up, chances are you might too."
That's it, the summary of what this post is about. If Solomon, who arguably owned the best brain every gifted to a human not named Jesus, could get something wrong chances are you could too.
Here's what we find in 1 Kings 11:4-6
As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his father had been. He followed Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and Molech the detestable god of the Ammonites. So Solomon did evil in the eyes of the LORD; he did not follow the LORD completely, as David his father had done.
Now before you think, "hey the guy struggled with ladies, that ain't so bad" you need to realize what this dude Molech was all about. Molech and his followers were big into child sacrifice. Killing your kid for favor from Molech was like dropping your tithe envelope into the bucket on Sunday.
Solomon didn't just sin, he blew it in massive, tremendous ways. He was given everything under the stars but still found himself marrying hundreds of women and encouraging child sacrifice.
What's that have to do with you? Only this: Solomon was smarter than you and still blew it.
And he was a lot smarter than me and I don't want to blow it. I hope the next time I feel bigger than God or high on my own intelligence, I'll remember old Solomon who aged worse than Elvis. Sure, the king of Graceland got fat and did bad shows in Vegas, but he wasn't a babykiller.
So where does that leave us? Alone, even if we're hyper intelligent, we are going to fall. We will stumble, we will make mistakes early or late in life. But we are not designed to be alone. We must surround ourselves with accountability partners that love us enough to tell us the truth when we're too smart to see it with our own eyes.
We can all be Solomon if we're not careful.
So here it is:
Life is difficult because we are called to run toward a finish line we cannot see.
The truth of that sentence is laid out in Deuteronomy 12:5.
But you are to seek the place the LORD your God will choose from among all your tribes to put his Name there for his dwelling. To that place you must go
We, you and me, are to look for that place. We are to actively look. To search and, as the verse continues, to go to that place. And where is that place exactly? It’s where “your God will choose.” He’s going to choose it, we don’t get to. He’s got the destination planned out but we don’t get to wait until it is revealed.
We have to keep moving forward, to keep running and moving and going as hard and as far as we can. Only we don’t know where we’re going. We know a little. I mean we have an idea, but at the end of the day, can you really say with any degree of accuracy where you’ll be in 40 or 50 years?
You can’t and that’s why life is difficult, because not knowing doesn’t mean we can’t get going and that’s a little frustrating.
My high school was connected to the middle school and the elementary school was just down the hill. In the middle of it all someone thought it would be a good idea to make a pond. Then someone else thought it would be a good idea to put fish, ducks, and geese in that pond. It was a good idea. The only problem was that the whole area was crawling with the birds and they were making a nasty mess. I admit I like the honkity honk of a v-shaped formation flying over my head as a way to signal the beginning or end of winter. But constantly walking through their droppings and having them eat all the grass in my football practice field is just not cool.
But my school wouldn’t kill them. They were protected by some sort of migratory bird law. You know the one. And whenever the janitor chased them away, they just came back a few hours later. It was quite a quagmire.
I had a buddy though, who had a black lab, it was trained to hunt and ironically chase and retrieve birds.
After football practice we would go get his dog and let him go. You could watch him approach the business at hand. First he kind of just crawled forward a little and took in the size of the flock. After a little recon, he began to slowly round up the geese into a tight, loud bunch. Once they were crammed together in a knot of feathers and anxiety, he would walk away, turn and then with his full momentum, run as fast as he could right into the ball of geese, hilarious!
They were terrified of what was essentially a dog catapult and would take off. They might come back later but eventually after realizing this dog was never, ever going to tire of chasing them away, they would migrate somewhere else for a while.
That whole scene kind of reminds me of the importance and necessity of friends. See, the dog couldn’t win if the geese were spread out. But if he clumped them tightly together so that they were acting as one goose instead of a hundred individual geese, he could chase them away easily.
And so it is with friends. When we find ourselves in a difficult situation or with a problem on our hands, it’s often tempting to isolate. A friend of mine recently lost a bout with temptation and told me, “I thought about calling you the other night but didn’t want to bother you.” So he didn’t call. Perhaps worse than not calling is the idea of getting advice from the people that you know will give you the advice you want to hear. If you can manipulate an accountability partner to side with you every time, then that’s not an accountability partner. That’s just one more goose standing closely to you.
The friends that help me the most are the ones that are on the outside of my orbit, the friends that don’t automatically see my point of view. I have a friend that is that way. I’m a sales guy, he’s a pastor. I’m roller coaster emotional, he’s stable and steady. I’m impulsive, he’s analytical. So when I come to him for advice, I can trust he won’t be shouldered up next to me, like two geese waiting for the dog. He’ll be on the other side of the issue, a few feet away, helping me objectively.
That’s not really a new concept, I think that the best job opportunities and new experiences come from people you are not that closely associated with. The reason is that your close friends travel in the same circle as you. They work similar jobs, go to the same church, shop at the same store. The friend of a friend however travels in a different circle and by nature knows about things you don’t regularly come in contact with.
The very idea of needing friends isn’t that unique. But hopefully the idea of having friends that are close enough to know your heart but far away enough to help you avoid the “ball o’ geese” approach to temptation will help you the next time you face something that seems bound and determined to chase you away.
Some days, I don’t think I should be blogging. I am uneducated, afraid that there’s some box of knowledge I am supposed to be pulling Biblical wisdom out of for you, but it's locked. And I am too simple, too culturally bent, too ordinary.
But then I read Acts 4:13 and I feel somewhat better.
In the verse, Peter and John stand accused in front of the Sanhedrin. The religious rulers of the day are angry and looking for a way to stop the growing ministry they see blossoming before their eyes. Something is wrong though, when they see Peter and John, something is amiss. Here is what verse 13 says:
When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.
I wanted to hug that verse a few weeks ago when my pastor preached on it. Do you see it too? It’s so simple and awesome.
The thing I am afraid of, the fear I have of being too ordinary or unschooled is the very thing that amplified the truth of their faith. The combination of their courage with their history revealed that these two men, Peter and John, had been with Jesus.
I may be ordinary. I may not have all the answers or the longest, most intelligent sounding words with which to weave a blanket of warm knowledge. But when I am courageous and embrace my seemingly ordinary stature, hopefully the light of Christ does not grow dim.
I hope it glows brighter. I hope it shines boldly. I hope it beams from my very face.
And that is my call to you today.
Come, let’s shine.
Let’s be ordinary.
No, this isn't a 'let's exploit any and all things Heath Ledger' post. Except for a role or two, I really liked Mr. Ledger, and I'm incredibly saddened for his loved ones - and especially his two year old daughter. He was a very talented individual with an extremely promising future.
Yet despite all these facts, there is a cultural fascination and frenzy to find out what reallly happened - even if it means complete and absolute disrespect for his family and friends. There are leaked videos and allegations about substance abuse and addictions. It seems as though everyone wants to get to the bottom of this mystery.
Is it really such a mystery? It is truly headline and blogosphere news that despite apparently having it 'all', that 'all' is really nothing? And even further, are we shocked that people in pain often turn to the way wrong places to temporarily soothe the seething ache and oftentimes agony of this thing called life?
Well, not to me. Not because I'm some super-genius-I-know-everything-about–life person, but because I believe the Person who wrote these facts down in black and white in the world's #1 best seller of all time. These aren't theories or concepts, because what you are about to read are the simple truths from the Author of truth. They are the warning lights of existence...they are the warning labels on the bottle of reality. Read carefully, and you might find the real secret to a meaningful life:
The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is? (Jeremiah 17:9)
"Beware! Don't be greedy for what you don't have. Real life is not measured by how much we own." (Luke 12:15)
"Everything is meaningless," says the Teacher, "completely meaningless!"
Everything is wearisome beyond description. No matter how much we see, we are never satisfied. No matter how much we hear, we are not content. (Ecclesiastes 1:2,8)
Don't be misled-you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant. Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. (Galatians 6:7-8)
The Bible paints a not-so-subtle picture of life in real and raw terms. The true portrait of existence reveals the wickedness of human nature, the meaninglessness and emptiness of our day to day struggles, and the consequences when we choose the wrong path. This is what oftentimes drives even the best and the brightest to depression, drugs, and even death. The wicked heart tells the hopeless soul that life will always be meaningless, so why not just live to satisfy our sinful nature?
But there is another way. A way that I wish for Britney and Lindsay and Barry and Owen and Heath and millions of others who feel trapped in a speeding train headed down a dark tunnel.
This way is not a way, it is the only way. Jesus said it Himself:
"I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6)
(Jesus asked) - Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me - watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly." (Matthew 11:28-30)
Only Jesus can reveal our wicked hearts, give true meaning to life, and keep us off a destructive path. He died to set us free, but to get out of the prison of life we have to look out of our dark pit to see His face, then lift our hands of faith to Him so he can rescue us.
Regrettably, it is too late for many people to find these truths, but if you're reading this it is obviously not too late for you. Take your pain to Christ, put your trust in Him alone for salvation - and you'll find the life you were meant to live!
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Finish the above statement with your thoughts in the comments area....it's supposed to be a discussion starter.