Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Rick Nier: A Real Nimrod

If you were having trouble sleeping, you might try reading 1 Chronicles. It's a list of names, although these names tell a story of Israel's history. Towards the beginning the name Nimrod is listed. What do you think of when you hear the name Nimrod? I don't think of anyone flattering. The informal dictionary definition is that of a silly person; a simpleton. But that's not the only definition.

When the writer of Chronicles is listing out the names, he spends most of his ink just listing who was born. But when he comes to Nimrod he pauses. He adds a description. "The first great hero on earth." The NIV tells us that Nimrod was a great warrior. Even the dictionary offers that nimrod can refer to one skilled in hunting.

Isn't it funny how names can change over the years? I can remember when I was younger and people would hear my name, they would roll their eyes. You know, on second thought, perhaps my name isn't the best example. But I bet we could all name actors or athletes who at one time were idolized. Then, after a fall from grace, their name becomes synonymous with something less than heroic.

How do you feel about your name? Does it strike fear in the hearts of your enemies? Does it make the opposite sex swoon? Does it make people laugh? No matter, because God has a new name for you. Even before we all get to Heaven, and despite what others think, God has called you child, His child.

No Nimrod would turn down that name.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Primal


Jesus said to Love God with all of your heart, soul, mind and strength (Matthew 22:37). So if you do love God with all of your heart, then simple math says that you're only doing 1/4 of the job. In his new book, Primal, Mark Batterson tackles the Great Commandment and shows us why we may be missing all of what God wants for us.
As he explains;
I couldn't help but wonder if we have accepted a form of Christianity that is more educated but less powerful, more civilized but less compassionate, more acceptable but less authentic than that which our spiritual ancestors practiced.

If you're looking for some stuffy book for pastors and theologians, look somewhere else. Batterson writes with a passion for our hearts to connect with God's heart. He breaks down each aspect of God's command into the primal aspects of what we're called to. The amazing thing here, like many things with God, is that the parts add up to be more than the whole.
If you think you have the whole love thing down, think again. Pick up this book and be awed once more at just how completely God is, and why He deserves all of our heart, soul, mind and strength.

To purchase this book, visit http://www.randomhouse.com/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9781601421319.
This book was provided for review by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Get in Line

Having a baby is such an amazing time in a couple’s life. The idea that something was created by two people and will form another is a miracle. All of the work that goes into preparing for this new life is done with pleasure. The pain that a woman goes through is surpassed by the joy that comes with a new little one. Of course, who can forget fleeing from the hospital to another country so the king wouldn’t kill your baby?

You didn’t experience that last part, did you? Neither did I. But Joseph and Mary did with the birth of Jesus. You can read about that in Matthew 2:13-18. Of course, we who have heard the life story of Jesus know that Herod was only the first in a long line of those who tried to kill Jesus. Religious teachers had schemed during Jesus’ ministry, even taking matters into their own hands a time or two (see John 8:59). Add Judas, Pilate, and Roman soldiers and you start to compile a list of people, all looking for a scapegoat.

Sadly, the appropriate response is far less common. In Luke 1, we find Zechariah forced into silence due to his shock at the birth announcement of John the Baptist. Though Zechariah’s silence was involuntary, our choice should be to respond likewise when hearing about God’s incredible gift.

We often have too much to say about, well, about everything. We know there is no end to the making of books (Ecclesiastes 12:12). It seems we all have an opinion. But this gift is so amazing, so full of grace, so earth-shattering and history-defining, that we should push the pause button and become thoughtfully silent.

We are not the first to hear about God entering His creation. Hopefully, we will not be the last. There have been many saints who have taken pause and wondered over and over again at these marvelous events, pondering them in their hearts, and we should get in line.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

It's Jesus' Birthday For Crying Out Loud

Let me see if I have this straight. God’s Son enters this world as a baby, the ultimate in a gift to mankind. We select a date of December 25 (though let’s not get into that), and we commemorate this gift of God. We celebrate each year by singing songs, giving gifts, and keeping in mind ‘the reason for the season’.

Whether through history before or after Christ, we have added details of some jelly-belly bringing gifts, drinking eggnog, and having office parties until the New Year. Added to this in recent years, we have Christmas decorations sold before Halloween is here and, despite any economy, lists as long as our legs and retailers willing to sell us the items on that list. Don’t even get me started about the 362 different versions of The 12 Days of Christmas song.

Is it just me? Or does just about everything around us scream for attention to be taken from Jesus?

I remember as a child in my family that birthdays were important. You may be neglected the rest of the time, but on your birthday, you were the star. You got to choose where the party was at and what was for dinner. You could (almost) do no wrong. Today was the day your siblings got ignored and you reigned supreme. I loved my birthday. I still do. The only difference now is that I just want a nap. (Can I please not go anywhere special for my birthday?)

Here's my point; if a birthday is about the person being born, how did we make Christmas about us? It's Jesus' birthday, for crying out loud. It should be about Him. I, for one, am going to make it about Him. Will you join me?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

I Want to be a World Class Expert

A study by K. Anders Ericsson, which looked at musical prodigies, found the common denominator for mastery and success: 10,000 hours of practice. "The emerging picture from such studies," says neurologist Daniel Levitin, "is that 10,000 hours of practice is required to achieve the level of mastery associated with being a world-class expert—in anything." 10,000 hours is the equivalent of 20 hours a week for 10 years.
Michael Hyatt 10/16/09

In case you skipped over all the big words in the previous paragraph, here is what you missed. In order to be good at something, you have to try...hard...and long. The philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche wrote, "The essential thing ‘in heaven and earth’ is...that there should be a long obedience in the same direction; there thereby results, and has always resulted in the long run, something which has made life worth living."

I've said this before, I think most of us only want to want things. By things I mean anything from loving God to playing the piano. We say we want these things, but somehow they elude us. However, when we consider the great heroes of the Bible, they exhibit this long obedience that Nietzsche wrote about. If we really want something, we find a way to achieve it.

Abraham followed God for a few decades before he and Sarah received the promised baby boy. Joseph spent years in an Egyptian prison wondering what role he would play for God. Moses spent 80 years in a desert, half of which he spent leading people who complained more than my children on a road-trip.

Think about this. Perhaps you don't want to play an instrument, but being a close follower of God should be your goal. You may want it now. Will you still want it after 10,000 hours?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

God Gave




Hopefully you've noticed by now that I've blogged about a few books. Today I bring tidings of great children's books by Lisa Tawn Bergren.

In God Gave Us Love, Grampa Bear teaches us to love otters. That's not a misspelling, and I hope Lisa did that on purpose. The bear cub is expressing his frustration at having to share a lake with otters, when his wise grampa shows him why love is so very important. Remember to love otters as we love ourselves.

In God Gave Us Christmas, Lisa answers the age-old question for parents struggling between Santa stories and the story of the birth of Jesus. Santa's alright but God is the best. It's not just Christmas He gave us, as your kids will see as they read this book.

You can purchase these books by following the links;
http://www.randomhouse.com/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9781400074471

ttp://www.randomhouse.com/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9781400071753

These books were provided for review by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

I Want More...Lots More

Surely you have been in one of those situations where you realized too late that you could have asked for more. You're asking for a favor and the answer of yes comes back so quickly that that you realize you should have asked for more.

I know it's not just me, but I am usually so anxious for an affirmative response that I ask only for what I absolutely need. This kind of action probably says more about my lack of trust in whom I am asking than it does in the ability of the person to provide. Never is this so clear as when I only ask God for what I absolutely need. We can spiritualize this and say we are only asking for the minimum because we don't want to be greedy.

But the Bible is telling us that we should ask. 'Ask and you shall receive' is only one example from many. And then there is this story in 2 Kings 4:1-7. This widow comes to Elisha with her sob story about needing money. She's legit and so Elisha tells her to get a bunch of jars and pour what little oil she has into the jars. He hints at the madness that may ensue by telling her to get many jars and by saying to put each jar aside as it is filled.

She does all this and when she gets to the last jar, the oil, which was miraculously flowing, stopped. She sold the jars of oil and paid all her debts. Were her needs taken care of? Yes. Did a miracle occur? Yes. Should she be kicking herself for not getting more jugs? Yes!

If I were this woman, I would be asking myself why I didn't get more jars. Presumably, that oil would have kept flowing until her jars ran out. She could have been the world's first oil tycoon. But I have been there, questioning just how much God is willing to give. I'm not going to start flashing gaudy rings and driving sports cars, selling a book on how God wants to make you rich too, but...

Wrong motives aside, we need to come to God with boldness, trusting in His ever-giving nature. Or as Nancy Spiegelberg wrote, "Lord I crawled across the barrenness to You with my empty cup uncertain in asking any small drop of refreshment. if only I had known You better I'd have come running with a bucket."

Monday, November 30, 2009

Treasured



What are the things we treasure? To know what you really cherish, imagine a fire taking everything you own. What would be the things you would miss the most? Likely it is not the things that can be replaced; the TV's, the stereo's, the cars, etc. It would be the small items, the objects that are filled with memories of stories from years long gone.

Leigh McLeroy takes this thought and applies it to God. What would God hold on to? Through short chapters and engaging stories, she reveals deep joys and hurts in her own life, while revealing just how relevant are the old stories of God in our world today. Just a quick glance through the chapter titles reveals how very diverse God has been. God has been very creative in the type of people He chooses to work in and through, and His creativity continues in the objects that become memory makers throughout history. God continues His creative usefulness through this great book.

Perhaps the question that stirred the most thought in my life came about halfway through the book when Leigh questioned if Abraham would cling to what God had given, or cling to God alone. As Abraham went forward with plans of obedient faithfulness, the question was importnat. It is no less important for us today as we consider what are the things we truly treasure.

To purchase this book, visit http://www.randomhouse.com/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9781400074815.
This book was provided for review by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

I'll Buy That for a Shekel

You think our economy is bad? You should try paying five shekels for a bowl of field greens. (Pause for dramatic gasp) Wait, you didn't gasp? Perhaps it would help if you knew how much a shekel was worth. Without going into much detail, the shekel was a measurement of weight in gold, so even a conservative comparison would be that one shekel was worth $400. So, do the math, and we find that people were paying the equivalent of $2,000 for a bowl of field greens. (Ok, now pause for dramatic gasp.)

These prices were found in 2 Kings 6:25. Apparently there was a bad famine going on. How bad was it? It was so bad that women were eating their children. Now, my wife has threatened to eat our children if they don't start behaving, but it's never been because there was a lack of food. But that's what happened in 2 Kings 6:26-29.

How crazy hungry do you have to be that you look at one of your children and think to yourself, 'I bet he'd taste alright.' And how crazy is it that, upon hearing this story, the king blames God and threatens to kill Elisha the prophet?

I believe this to be an issue of our character being revealed in times of great difficulty. When food was scarce and women were eating their kids, the king blames God and shows no sign of trust. When the famine ends, we stop hearing about the king.

Who do you look to in times of trouble? Better yet, what do you say when you find who you're looking for? It's one thing to look to God, it's another to praise Him in times of need. If you're a little low today, just hold on to that shekel. It just might be worth more tomorrow.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Smart, and Yet So Very Dumb

In the last chapter of 1 Kings, we find a story of a wise, yet stupid, king. His name is Jehoshaphat, and he is king of Judah, now separated from the rest of Israel. The king of Israel is Ahab, an evil king that did not do what God wanted...ever.

But one day Ahab and Jehoshaphat are sitting around, doing what kings do, playing checkers or, if they were in a good mood, four-square. Ahab asks Jehoshaphat if he'll join him in battle against a common enemy. Jehoshaphat agrees, but asks if they can seek counsel from God. Ahab calls in his puppet prophets, who encourage him to do whatever he wants. Jehoshaphat wisely asks if there is an actual prophet of God around to ask. There is, and this prophet spells out doom for this mission.

It is at this point in which I would love to know what Jehoshaphat was thinking. If you read 1 Kings 22, there are several warning signs for Jehoshaphat to back out of this alliance. If none of the other signs made him leery, then hearing a prophet from God actually spell out how bad this idea was should have done the trick. (Check out 1 Kings 22 to see how ridiculous this gets.)

Jehoshaphat joins in battle despite the warning signs and, despite a losing battle, escapes death. It surprises me, because Jehoshaphat was smart enough to seek God's counsel, but too dumb to actually take it.

It made me look inward. How often do I ask for God's wisdom to be poured into my life and my decision-making, but then I go and do whatever I want? I doubt I am alone in this, but too often we have our mind made up before we ever consider God's plans. And I would think God, at the very least, would be insulted at being an afterthought. Much more when His will is ignored.

Good idea: Getting God's wisdom on every aspect of our lives.
Better idea: Living out God's wisdom in every aspect of our lives.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Time to Split

So we're told that King Solomon was given a 'wise and discerning heart' in 1 Kings 3. Furthermore, we're told that there will never have been anyone like him in this area, before or since. Then, in typical foreshadowing style, we're instantly whisked away to a story of two moms and two babies. One baby dies and mayhem ensues. Each mom insists that the living baby is theirs and they go back and forth in front of the king. I've always imagined this to be a scene comparable to the Jerry Springer show. But I digress. We're about to see Solomon's wisdom.

The king asks for a sword and gives the order to have the baby cut in half so each mom can have a half. Are you kidding me? Is this really the wisdom from the wise King Solomon? Split a pizza? Sure! Go halfsies on the cost of gas for a long trip? You bet! But to suggest splitting a baby seems like threatening not to give your kids ice cream simply because they are misbehaving.

Then I saw this wisdom in real life. Two of my children, one 6 years old and one 3 years old, were fighting over a toy. Nodding to my wife, I told them I would cut the toy in half and they could each have a half. My wife sat in awe as she suddenly realized she was in the presence of great wisdom.

What happened next shocked me. My 6-year old cried out and said no. My 3-year old chuckled an evil laugh and said, 'Yeah, cut it in half.' The maniacal attitude of my 3-year old aside, I was surprised that it actually worked.

The toy, safely and in one piece, was given to my son and my lesson was learned. We should never ever doubt the wisdom of the Bible. The stories we have learned as children and re-learned as adults are always true, always relevant, and always reliable. When we think we're beyond the wisdom of Scripture, we show our foolish colors. As Paul correctly told Timothy, this whole book is from God and "is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work" (1 Timothy 3:16-17).

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Looking For What I Already Have

I'm an idiot. I think you know that already, but here's the latest proof.

I'm at the office where my wife and I work. I had just picked up (not literally) my 3-year old from her pre-school class. I then picked her up (literally) and walked down to my wife's office where she and my 6-year old son were. Seeing that they were ready to go home for lunch, we all began walking out towards our vehicle.

Since we both work at a church, we rarely leave without someone stopping to ask one of us a question. (I know, we're so important.) This day was no exception. The question was for my wife, which meant it was my task to keep the kids focused and acting as normal as possible. As she finished, I thought I saw my 3-year old walk into one of the rooms. I followed her in and called her name. She wasn't in there, so I turned to ask my wife where our daughter went. She gave me a look that asked if I was a retard. The answer, of course, is a resounding yes. The daughter in question was still in my arms, now smiling at her dad, wondering how soon it might be before she was taking care of me.

I could say that I had some worthy excuse, but let's face it...it's really difficult to overlook something in your arms. I'm certain I'm not alone in this. I've seen people looking for their keys that were in their hand, sunglasses that were on their head, or a wallet that was in their pocket. Granted, these are not living things, but still.

We, as Christians, often do this as well. We have Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2), an indescribable gift (2 Corinthians 9:15), and giver of every perfect gift (James 1:17), yet we look for happiness somewhere else.

When we forget to spend time with our Friend and then wonder why we feel alone, we are looking for something we already have. When we allow anxiety and bitterness to rule our lives and then ask for peace, we are looking for something we already have. When we choose to make our own decisions and go our own way, and then wonder why we don't have more wisdom, we are looking for something we already have.

When we live like this, we make two critical errors, and possibly more. For starters, we overlook the Giver and all He has done for us. If we spend our time looking for things we already have, we cannot possibly be thanking Him at the same time. Secondly, we waste a lot of time.

The cries to live victoriously can already be heard. As Paul said, "I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus" (Philippians 1:3-6).

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Wisdom Hunter



The introduction to this book intrigued me. When I hear that simply writing a book gets you fired, I want to know more. Wisdom Hunter by Randall Arthur is a novel from 1991, so don't expect high-tech conspiracy or stolen identities, but that doesn't keep this from being a page turner.

Jason Faircloth is a pastor and a dad. It appears he's failing at both. Oh, perhaps not on the outside, but whoever said the outside appearance was important? While the plot seems a bit obvious from the start, it takes off quickly, taking unexpected turns throughout the story.

The best part, making this a must read for any fathers doubling as pastors, come in the journal that Jason Faircloth records throughout teh second half of the book. This stuff will preach. I would also consider making this required reading for all church leadership, so that everyone starts, and ends, on the same page.

To purchase this book, visit http://www.randomhouse.com/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9781601422996&ref=externallink_mlt_wisdomhunter_sec_0908_01
This book was provided for review by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Misusing God, part 2

With Halloween coming this week, there have been way too many horror films to be seen. Call me old, but I left scary movies behind about 10 years ago. My real problem with these films is that the stupid characters always run the wrong way. Always. I suppose if they were smart, then we wouldn't have such horror in these films. But then perhaps it would be a decent movie.

I shared recently that people often misuse God by running to Him only when they are in trouble. But it got me thinking that there are good reasons to run to God.

First, back in Numbers 35:6-29, we see God giving the Israelites Cities of Refuge. These were designated cities that someone could run to if they accidentally killed someone. God defines accidentally, and places some guidelines around it. The innocent could run in this direction to avoid being killed for the sake of revenge.

Reading this made me realize that the Church has been a sanctuary like this down through the centuries, sometimes misused, but oftentimes not. These are not bad, as God is the Giver of second chances.

The Church is meant to be a city of refuge for those seeking new life. Unfortunately, for many reasons that I won't take space and time for here, we keep people away. They no longer see Church as a sanctuary. We need to come back to a proper place of worship and service to God. For those running away from God, it makes for a very scary movie.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Shadow Goverment


Ok, so here's what you need to do; dig a large hole, put everything you think you need in the large hole. Then find a large rock and put it over the hole, with yourself in there, ready to live out the rest of your days.

That was my first thought upon reading Shadow Government by Grant R. Jeffrey. If you're skeptical of conspiracy theories, like I am, but you believe that they do exist, like I do, then this will be an enjoyable read.

Grant unloads everything in the first couple of chapters, clearly letting you know where he stands. I do like his purpose stated just nine pages in.
The message of prophecy is not one of doom and gloom, as some critics have suggested. Rather, Jesus commanded His followers to respond with joyful anticipation when they begin to see the fulfillment of these prophecies.


The author is clearly unwilling to allow his readers be surprised by any fulfillment. From the people gaining power behind the scenes to the newest weapons of mass destruction, this book reads like the background to Armageddon 2: The Devil Strikes Back. To ensure that readers don't get lost in a bunch of footnotes, they are all neatly located at the back of the book.

For anyone out there who wants to add some sight to their faith, this is a good read. For anyone wanting to teach on how Revelation could actually happen, this is a good find. For every other conspiracy theorist out there, including those who want to know what really happened to Elvis, this is a good read.

To purchase this book, visit
This book was provided for review by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Misusing God

I don't want to give a whole history lesson here, but God's people in the Old Testament were somewhat messed up. You might think it would have been different between the transitioning of two of their greatest kings, David and Solomon. But this family, and the surrounding characters, was almost like watching Jerry Springer's All-Stars.

For instance, at the same time David was anointing Solomon to become king (in 1 Kings 1), another of David's sons, Adonijah, was throwing himself a party to be king. When Adonijah heard that Solomon was anointed in his place, he instantly feared for his life. So he went and grabbed the horns of the Altar of God. After talking with Solomon, Adonijah goes homes with his head attached.

At least until 1 Kings 2. Here Solomon finds just cause to have Adonijah killed, along with some other less-than-faithful officials. This is when Joab, an army commander who was less-than-faithful himself, heard that there was some house cleaning going on. So he decides to go grab the horns of this Altar as well. This doesn't work out so well as he is killed right there.

Two different guys, both doing wrong things to men, and both hoping that God would save them from the consequences. Do we make the same mistake of trying to use God to protect us when we do wrong to one another? I think we do.

For example, when we confront others in unloving ways, and insist on our right to do so, that is grabbing on to the horns of the Altar. When we use God’s Word to try to conform others to our home-grown standard of living, that is us hiding behind the curtain of the Holiest Place. When we refuse compromise with our brother because we refuse to see how God could work that way, we are closing our eyes to the difficulty we are creating.

I believe we should run to God and depend on Him. But when we do so irresponsibly, we create for ourselves a false sense of security. In the same way that God should not be used as a weapon against others, He should not be used as a wall of defense that keeps us unaccountable to our brothers and sisters.

Be sure when you grab and hold on to God, it is with one hand. That way you can hold the hand of your brother with your free hand.

God's Will And

Final words say a lot about us. Though everything we say should have meaning and not be wasted, I think we often consider our last words and we want them to make an impact. So, if I have the opportunity, here will be my last words to my son.

"Keep your eyes on God. I have tried to model this for you. Remember that it's not about you or me and that what we do, we do for God. Always do the right thing for the right reason. Stay focused on God and you will never walk alone...
And if you've seen anyone mocking me or doing me wrong, make sure to make them pay after I'm dead."

The last part may seem to be a tad absurd, but I'll just be following the example left to us by King David. In my life, I've been known to make jokes at inappropriate moments. So I really admire David here. You can read it in 1 Kings 2:1-9. You have to respect a guy who takes one last moment to stick it to his enemies.

Not that we would officially advocate what David does here, we often live this way. We don't simply pray for God's will to be done. We pray for God's will and. We ask for God to do what He wants in our lives AND what we want. The problem, of course, is that sometimes what we want is not what God wants.

What we want is for God to be glorified AND for all the details in our lives to come together. We want for people to be saved AND to come to our church. We want God's promised blessings of Heaven AND some good stuff here on Earth.

God's Will And...is not always God's will at all.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Gag Me

Let's face it, we all have those people in our lives that drive us nuts. Oh, we may try to be nice on the outside, but on the inside we are banging our head against a wall. And most of the time we figure everything is fine, as long as we don't say anything.

But then someone comes along who starts talking about how freeing forgiveness can be. Here's a good example as we pick up Jesus mid-teaching; "Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.' For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins." (Matthew 6:12-15).

And though we agree with all of these spiritually, physically it makes us want to gag.

My son has the weakest gag reflex of anyone I have ever seen. He'll shove 5 bites into his mouth and then I will see this look and I will just hand him a napkin or escort him to a garbage can, because I know what's going to happen. He gags and all that was once in his mouth is now, well, not. He is getting better at pacing himself through meals, but...

When he is sick it is a different story. When a child, and by child I mean a normal child who is not my son, gets sick, you give them medicine. They may not like it, but it makes them better. When I was a child, it was like they were trying to see how bad medicine could taste. I would be sick with pneumonia and my parents would hand me something resembling puke, in smell, taste, and texture. We should hand it to the pharmacies now, because these days they make medicine that tastes fruity or they make these melt-aways, so kids won't even have to chew their medicine. It should be a win-win, right?

Enter my son's gag reflex. Oh, and he doesn't like fruit. It's so bad that two nights ago when he had a high fever and I was holding the medicine, he threw up. I was HOLDING the medicine. A day and a half later, he remains sick.

It's the same way with forgiveness. Like a much needed medicine that we refuse to take, we remain sick. Simply because we refuse to offer, or accept, forgiveness. It makes me sick.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Can't Get Closer Than This

Despite the fact that it is far fetched and not connected with reality, a movie I really liked is Face Off. Made in 1997, starring John Travolta and Nicholas Cage, it involves the fairy-tale procedure of an agent switching faces with a criminal in order to solve a case. Of course, mayhem ensues, but a great line occurs when John Travolta, playing the agent, says, "I will become him." There's an agent willing to go to great lengths to solve a case, even though it could cost him everything.

Sounds a bit like God, doesn't it? He spends a few thousand years trying to explain to the Israelites that this whole world is about Him. He makes covenants with them, blesses them, and generally loves them. But, like blockheads, they don't get it.

So God does the unthinkable and becomes one of us. Forget all the details of a virgin birth and other miracles that Jesus would perform, this is God entering His own world and becoming like His creation. He spends 3 years trying to explain to us that it's all about Him. And if you think God becoming man is amazing, read the part where man kills God.

The ultimate slap in the face as man tells God 'we don't want you here' is met with more of God. But what more could God possibly give? How much closer can He get to us?

Enter the Holy Spirit. It could have been enough to have God communicating to us through prophets. It should have been enough when God decided to walk this Earth. But now God has decided to live within each one of us. "And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit" (Ephesians 2:22).

If we are the kind of creatures that act differently when someone important is around (and we are), then this should be motivation to live differently all the time. "Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you?" (1 Corinthians 3:16)

Simply put, God can't get any closer than this.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Father Knows Best

The challenge was set before me and, like any man, I could not face failure. Bragging rights for weeks would ride on this one performance. The challenge? Get all 3 of my children dressed and fed and off to school on time, without any help from mom. The alarm clock was like a starting pistol and I was off.

To be honest, I am not sure the children were on my side in this. The girls kept asking questions like; does this match? and where is my jewelry at? Then my youngest daughter threw a big curve ball when she asked for piggy tails in her hair. We were moving along at a good pace. Breakfast was eaten, teeth were brushed, clothes were put on, and even a cartoon was watched.

You would think this kind of victory would instill confidence within the children towards me. But then my kids saw a piece of plastic, broken off from something in our house. While no one seemed to care where it came from, my youngest daughter, again (I'm sure) working against me, asked, "Is it dangerous? Maybe we should call mom to see if it is dangerous?"

Maybe we should call mom? I do not have a sweater-vest full of hair on my chest and no one would accuse me of being Mr. Fix-it. But I have taken it as one of my responsibilities in life to watch out for and protect my children. I've smashed ants, kissed boo-boos, and protected them on a daily basis, even from themselves. Why would they look past their father in the face of danger?

Then again, why do I? When questions come and life is difficult, why do I problem solve and seek advice from others before I even think of praying? My Father has taken care of every one of my needs. He has saved me from every dangerous situation I have put myself in. He has promised to love me and take care of all my needs. I don't need to ask anyone else if something is dangerous. My Father knows best. God even told us this in Proverbs 3:5-6.

I reminded my children that I know when danger is around and that I will always protect them. "We don't need to call mom," I said confidently. Then we left for school, on time. And my daughter went to school with piggy tails in her hair. Our Father knows more than we think.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

God's Gravity


Craig Borlase has written a book that at first caught my attention because of teh upside-down cover. I know; I'm a simpleton. He writes about how we are naturally drawn to ourselves but need to practice gravitating towards God.

We have this way of focusing too much on ourselves. This is a point I repeatedly have to remind myself of and one of which I am constantly talking to others about. So I knew I would like Craig's point of view. He writes, "We make our world too small, our horizons too limited, our sun too pale." Beautiful.

He goes on to describe how our lives are too small, too safe, and too vain. Me, me, me, me. It's the song we sing about ourselves, as loudly as we can to as many as we possibly can. Craig weaves Biblical narratives, applying them to our sophisticated, modern lives. The plus is that he then spends part two of his book making some pratical applications.

The applications are about what we wear, how we use stuff, and how it affects our planet. Who hasn't heard all of this in our increasingly eco-friendly world? Perhaps nobody, but Craig does a good job of including facts with real people, showing us the small (and large) changes we can make that will make a difference in someone else's life.

And if there is one thing most people have in common, it is this. We want to know we have made an impact on somebody. Anybody. It just might be someone we have never met.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Pray it Forward

Prayer time around my house is not always what you might expect to happen in a pastor's home. Prayers range from thanking God for the food we eat to thanking God the little ones are in bed. But it gets really interesting when our 3-year old prays. This was last night's exercise in calling upon the Holy One;
"Thank you God for my friend Lauren that she have a brother Landon. Thank you for Ty-Ty not biting me. Thank you (pause to look around the room)for my barbies and my books, thank you 4,6,7, Chicken Little, Amen." I simply pray silently and patiently as my penitent daughter talks to Jesus.

Her older brother is slightly better, even though I at first did not see why. Whenever he would pray, he would begin every sentence with Thank You. It did not matter if he was praising or requesting. 'Thank you for this day.' 'Thank you for this food.' 'Thank you for the Christmas gifts I'll get in 3 months.'

Because prayer is such a holy thing, I have never corrected my son's grammar while he prays. I just laughed and noted to my wife how he would thank God for things that have not, or may not, happen.

But then it hit me. This is the way Jesus spoke and prayed. In John 11:41-42, just before Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, He said, "Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me."

Even better was one of Jesus' final cries. While on the cross, He cried out, "It is finished." For anyone watching, it might appear that Jesus was simply talking about His life. But as confusing as it might be, He was declaring victory. He had accomplished what He came to do, and though we are still living within the battle, we can know, with confidence, that this battle is over. It is finished.

I think my son is right to pray, thanking God for what He is going to do, not just what He has already done. In God's eyes, and in the eyes of those who pray with faith, like my son, it is already finished.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

I'll Stand

I just do not understand families. Yours, mine, none of them. The fact is that families are one of God's gifts to us as relational beings, but we find many ways to mess it up. I'm reading about King David's family in 2 Samuel, which isn't exactly a blueprint for normal family relationships. In fact, this one family would be a goldmine for any Jerry Springer producer.

Without going into all of the dirty details, one of David's sons, Absalom, starts vying for the kingdom. There is probably no better way to say, 'Dad, I wish you were dead', than to start trying to become king. Absalom starts getting people to gather with him, no doubt to storm the castle.

But here is where I am confused. This is David we're talking about. The giant-killing, bear-killing, lion-killing, Philistine-rocking, blessed-by-God man known as David. If I'm David in this situation, I'm not going anywhere. I would gather my friends, grab a sword, and plan on putting my boy over my knee for some much needed discipline. Trying to take over my kingdom would warrant at least a time-out for my kids!

But David basically holds a parade as he marches out of Jerusalem to go into hiding. Did I miss something? David had been in battle for many years, always trusting God to give him victory. Maybe he doesn't want civil war in the capital city, but it's not a decision I would have made. It makes me wonder what he missed by choosing to run.

Back up many years in Israel's history and we find Moses leading the people across the Red Sea. The Egyptians are coming and Moses tells the people not to be afraid. "Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today" (Exodus 14:13). If they had chosen instead to run, they would not have seen what God did to the Egyptians. Likewise, David did not stand and watch. He did survive his son's attempts, but what did he miss?

What do we miss when we run from adversity and stick our heads in the sand? Do we allow our fear to keep us from seeing the hand of God move in mighty ways?

We run when we should stand. We cower when we should have confidence. Are you ready to stand up to whatever the world brings your way? I am. I'll stand.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

One Dancing Fool

I think that I would have liked to hang around with King David. He seemed like a guy's guy among Bible-time guys. After all, the dude killed a bear and a lion. I might not take him to the zoo, but he'd be fun to have around. I think what I like best about David is that you knew where you stood with him. He didn't mince words and he didn't concern himself with his professional image all that much.

Take 2 Samuel 6 for example. This records his two attempts at bringing the Ark of God back to Jerusalem. When the first time failed, we read that he was mad. I like that because it meant that not only did he fail once in a while, but he cared. After figuring out what God wanted, he was successfully bringing the Ark into Jerusalem and he was ecstatic. He danced in such a way that his wife called him on it later. You can read her words in 2 Samuel 6:20-22.

I must admit that at times my wife has called me out on how I dance as well. I'm not very good at dancing, and so it can be somewhat embarrassing to those I love when the rhythm gets me. And as Gloria Estefan once said, 'eventually the rhythm is going to get you.' But when my wife rolls her eyes and tells me I probably should refrain, it's just because someone is going to get hurt.

Not so in David's case. He tells her in no uncertain terms that he wasn't dancing for her, or anyone else that might have seen him. He was dancing for God and when you're dancing for God, looking foolish is a distant second concern.

I believe we should all have more courage to look foolish for God. This kind of foolishness is something that indicates being consumed by thoughts of worshiping God. After all, God did choose the foolish things of this world (1 Corinthians 1:27). King David changed the world in his day. Maybe all it takes is one dancing fool.

I Need a 'Down-to-Earth' Guy

I was watching clips on ESPN of this past Sunday's NFL games. I saw a clip of Cincinnati Bengal's wide receiver formerly known as Chad Johnson. He legally had his name changed to Chad Ochocinco, to go with his jersey number (85). Now, I am not a hater when it comes to pro athletes and how they display their enthusiasm. But...

I think that all pro athletes should be given a 'down-to-earth' guy when they enter pro sports. This 'down-to-earth' guy would be their partner in life, to ensure that they don't do or say things that would be deemed to be stupid by the rest of us living in reality. In case you're wondering, changing your name legally to reflect your jersey number, in Spanish mind you, would be something that the 'down-to-earth' guy would catch.

This isn't the worst thing a pro athlete could do, but if they all had a 'down-to-earth' guy, they would be protected from some of the things they do that are out of touch with reality. The sad fact is that instead of a 'down-to-earth' guy, what pro athletes have are fans who worship and adore them. So I imagine Chad 'Ochocinco' Johnson running the idea by a friend.

Chad: I'm gonna change my name from Johnson to Ochocinco. What do you think?
Friend: (Laughs) That would be....awesome.

Because really, who wants to tell your superstar friend that they just came up with a dumb idea? But there is a problem when all we hear from our friends is what we want to hear. I actually believe this problem extends to more people than just pro athletes. I think it is a dilemma for all of us. We each have a tendency to surround ourselves with people who will tell us that we are great at what we do and very seldom do they offer critical encouragement.

Maybe what we all need is a 'down-to-earth' guy.

Friday, September 18, 2009

I Don't Know You...Not Really

"Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil" (Genesis 4:2). Maybe I'm alone in this, but I've always pictured Abel as kind of a girly man. Maybe it's because of I've never met a small farmer, which is what Cain was. Perhaps it's because of Genesis 4:8, "And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him." If you win the fight, you must be a man, right?

There are several problems with my theory. I'll only select two.
  • Abel watched flocks, which could be a very dangerous job. King David, while a shepherd, killed lions and bears in order to protect the flock.
  • Cain probably planned a sneak attack. Anyone can kill anyone else when they get sneaky.
My problem isn't that my old theory has Abel playing with dolls with his mom. My problem is that it reveals a much deeper issue I have. I've assumed for years that Abel liked to comb hair simply because he lost a fight and was killed. Where does all this assuming come from when I only have ten verses or less to go on?

And how much more do I assume about those around me? I see most people for short moments here and there. Even the people I see more often and for larger chunks does not make me an expert. No wonder God does not make us judge over one another.

So much harm comes from this activity of assuming we know someone. With Bible characters it can seem harmless since they are dead and gone. But my guess is that I am only discovering the tip of the iceberg in this problem I have with thinking I know more than I do.

I suppose I will add this to the list of things I have to work on and hope that you do not begin to assume you know me simply because I've revealed yet another flaw.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

More Than I Expected

This is for all you company guys out there. I feel your pain. I was at an all day meeting for a larger group that I am a part of. I didn't want to go. I had other things to do (don't we all?). But I went. I would like to say that my attitude was above reproach and that I had planned to 'make the best of it'. But it was not.

So when our guest speaker started out by telling us how he had planned what he was going to say, I was only half listening. When he told us that he would be ok if what he had to say might only encourage a few of our group, I about shut it down, as my expectation was that it would not be me. After all, what are the odds?

But lucky for me, and perhaps unlucky for you, I listened and now have this to blog about.

Our guest speaker said, "If you died, would your family say you died doing what you loved or would they say the church stressed you out and killed you?" And instantly I removed the arrow from between my eyes. I realized it was me. I'm not about to proclaim an all new me forever and I am certainly not going to RSVP for all the company meetings, but this did encourage me.

At the risk of sounding very transparent, I do love my job. But like many people, I sometimes lose the forest for the trees. In the midst of overseeing many different groups, it can be easy to do. But within each of the many diverse ages and groups are people that look forward to seeing, stories waiting to be written about, and much love to be shared.

Thank you God, for leaving me here. I love doing this.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Mmmmm, Cupcakes

Today we celebrated our oldest daughter's birthday. She'll turn 8 on Monday. Actually, it feels like she'll turn 13, but that's besides the point. At her party were 7 other girly-girls. They were snapping their fingers while cocking their heads. It was more than a generous helping of tween trouble, and I had a front row seat. But that's besides the point as well.

At the party we had cupcakes. I am not a cake guy. I consider myself a conissuer of desserts. Not making them...eating them. But I will very seldomly eat cake. But cupcakes are a different story. I love cupcakes and I have a theory as to why.

I think that, somehow, when people make cupcakes, it's like all the moist goodness from a full-sized cake gets smashed down into one little cake the size of a cup. I can't explain all the technical details as to how it works, but I just taste that it works. Perhaps if I could shove a full sheet cake into my cake-hole all at once, I could prove this theory. Until then, you'll just have to trust me.

I think the same thing applies to a relationship with God. That little 'yeast works through the whole batch of dough' comment from Paul in Galatians 5 sums it up well. Even David sang to 'taste and see that the Lord is good' (Psalm 34:8). I don't want to get into the nitty gritty of the Hebrew language, but I'm pretty sure taste meant the same thing back then as it does now. A taste is not a gorging oneself of a delicacy. It's a taste, or as Tigger would say, a 'smackerel'.

It seems to me that more often than not, we Christ followers will find a way to keep heaping on verse after verse with our friends, as if we're varsity cheerleaders for Jesus. We don't even notice the hammer in our own hands as we beat people over the head. Instead of creating interest, we make a stench. Left behind is a half-eaten, dry, and somewhat moldy cake.

So, if King David, the Apostle Paul, and Tigger can all agree, can't we? Instead of having to go on and on, let's just offer a taste now and then. Speaking of, I need another cupcake.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

At Arm's Length

I have this friend. Let's not use his name. Let's not even assume that you know him. But just know that, unlike so many assume, this is not an imaginary friend. He exists and he needs help. My help. Help that I feel unable to provide. Not because of lack of time or lack of desire. Not because of distance or lack of know-how. It's just that the help needs to be....good? big? timely? inspiring?

Perhaps all of these at once, which I why I am inadequate.

Inadequacy is not a new feeling, and not even one I am uncomfortable with. I know I am not alone in this. As I've blogged recently, I've been reading through 1 Samuel. This guy David lived a very wild life. At one moment he is taking down giants, the next he is hiding in a cave. It would seem that he only knows how to win in battle.

Yet he has this friend, Jonathan. Dave and Jon are the best of friends, both with needs that the other could help with. And yet...they are unable to do so. There exists this force inbetween them, otherwise known as Jon's dad, Saul. It would seem as though, during their lives, David was trying to reach out to help Jon and vice versa. However, they were always out of reach because of this force.

Ever felt a force like that keeping you at arm's length from those you feel called to help? I have. I imagine that somewhere inbetween me and my friend is another guy named Jesus. While at times it seems frustrating that he does not allow me to take the hand of every friend in trouble, I picture Him reaching out to me with one hand and to my friend with another. In a way that only Jesus can, He provides a bridge to cross what was once a great divide.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Separation Anxiety

The morning I desire would have me waking up around 10am. Between then and noon, I may have showered, exercised, and eaten breakfast. This morning would also include quiet time with God, some ESPN, and a quick update on what's going on in the world. (I find this out by checking Facebook, don't you?)

The morning I get normally begins around 6:57am. This is 3 minutes before my alarm goes off, but I always wake up shortly before. Why is this? For once it would be nice to look at the clock and see that you have 6 hours left to sleep. Once I'm up, the 90-minute dash to get everyone to work and school involves cries for cartoons and food. It involves dressing squirmy toddlers and reminding older children that certain colors actually clash and should not be worn together. The 'quiet' time is not so quiet, as noise is coming from somewhere or something. How can you read the Psalms when people are crying about stinky diapers and no pop-tarts and tangled hair needing to be shaved?

The normal morning causes me to wonder if there aren't forces at work trying to keep me from God. Of course, I know there are forces trying to do just this. Those enemies of mine sometimes use my family, something I keep in mind as I help the madness to come to order.

This is not unlike what David told Saul in 1 Samuel 26. David was being chased by Saul and, in the midst of proclaiming his innocence, told Saul how he felt like he was being kept from worshipping God where he should be in life. He said, "you'll not separate me from God in life or death."

I need that reminder when my less-than-desired morning turns into a less-than-desired day. When life has given me lemons that are not even fit for drinking. When friends turn their back. When family members add more stress instead of taking it away. When my running never ceases and fatigue becomes a way of life. It is in these times that we should also remember what Jesus said in John 16:33, "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Almost Perfect Ending

As families go crazy getting back into the school schedule, I went crazy planning kick-off events for our church. And yesterday was the eye of the storm. We began our ministry year for just about every area of our church. I'd been preparing for a month and we had groups of people everywhere doing everything. The good news is that it all went well.

So, after closing up my office and stopping by for a very delicious cookie, I went home. I had sent my wife and kids that way about an hour previous, so I was expecting that all would be calm. I'm a fool.

My youngest was up...again. She was refusing to go to bed...again. She was using all her tricks and all her cute...again. After about ten minutes of my wife and I playing good cop, bad cop, I decided to try another tactic. I sat down in our hallway, spent and exhausted and asked my daughter if I could read her one more book. She accepted my proposal and decided to sit on my lap as I read. My children never seem to be as content than when they are on my lap. Not in the same room. Not close to me. Not even next to me. On My Lap.

They are my children and they seem to find their worth when I am close to them, when I, as their father, place value on them and in them. We should strive to be like little children. We should be attempting to not just be in the same area as our Father. We should be In His Lap. It is too easy to be at church and feel like we are in His presence. Our goal should be to find ourselves in the center of His will (His lap), to find our significance in who God is and who He tells us we are.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Killing Isn't Good

I'm not just saying this because I'm a pastor. But I think killing pastors is wrong. There should be a rule. I know, I know, we got that rule about not murdering. It seems to me that, despite the absoluteness of the wording, it has gotten a tad convoluted over time. That's why I think we need this new rule. No killing pastors.

This comes to mind as I am reading through 1 Samuel and came across chapter 22. King Saul is going nuts looking for David, so he can kill him. (It should be noted that heirs to the kingdom shouldn't be killed either.) Saul finds out that some priests helped David out. So Saul killed them all. It should have made Saul take pause, though, because when he first gave the order, the soldiers said no. When men trained to be killing machines say no to killing, you may want to rethink your orders. But along came a guy who had no inhibitions about killing priests...and he did.

Listen, I'm not protecting any potential king. I know some guys who would make good city council members, but I am not aware of anyone trying to off them. And I realize there are some people out there using the pastor title that are saying and doing some crazy things. But I don't think we should kill them either.

While we're at it, I don't think we should advocate killing non-pastors either. I know that non-pastors say some crazy things and do even crazier things. But if we're not going to kill pastors for this kind of thing, we probably shouldn't kill non-pastors as well.

What do you know? Perhaps the absoluteness of the original rule is still good enough.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

I'm Too Busy to Blog Today...Really

I am sitting here with the number of things on my to-do list climbing higher than the temperature on a sunny day in Florida. With all these things clamoring for my attention, I say to myself, 'Self, why don't you blog?' I answer with the obvious, 'I don't have time!'

It's a ridiculous problem that many of us find ourselves with. We tell people how busy we are. Yet somehow we find the time to blog, tweet, or text all our friends so they know just how busy we are. I think sometimes we are so close to ourselves (a predictable dilemma) that we don't see the lie for what it is.

It reminds me of a king named Saul. You can read all about his misadventures in the book of 1 Samuel. I think my favorite disaster of his life can be found in 1 Samuel 15.

Saul is told to destroy the people of Amalek. God uses absolute words like 'totally destroy' and 'leave nothing alive'. Seems pretty basic, like even my 6 year old could follow this direction. Half a chapter later, we find God sending His prophet Sam to check up on things.

Saul has left their king alive and some of the choice cattle, presumably to offer sacrifices to God. The ensuing conversation sounds eerily similar to one I have had with my son.

"Why didn't you do what I asked?"
"I did."
"Do you even remember what I asked you to do."
"You bet, dad."
"I asked you to kill everything in sight."
"Yep. I did that."
"Then why do I hear sheep bleating?"

It's comparable to my stepping on a toy that my son said he picked up. How can two sets of eyes look at the same situation so differently? Could it be because God is looking for good and we settle for good enough?

Saul lost it all because of that sin. He was told that his arrogance was evil and unacceptable in the eyes of God. Could we be found guilty of giving it all away, one misstep at a time? I'm too busy to go into that right now...but perhaps we should start by always being honest with God and ourselves.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Storm Before the Storm

Whoever talked about the quiet before the storm lived in a simpler time. I think many of our lives could be described as the storm before the next storm. Take, for instance, August and September. For any family with school age children, for any Church worker dealing with planning kick-off events, or for anyone unfortunate to be planning kick-off events while at the same time having school age children, you know this feeling.

It makes me think of Job. Do you think Job ever gets tired of being the example of life kicking you while you're down? I bet he does. I bet he looks at his life and asks why we're not paying attention. After all, Job is the guy who lost it all and said, "The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised" (Job 1:21). Unless I'm wrong, Job is also the guy who lost his family and all his earthly possessions, conversed with God, and then apologized. Imagine getting beat up and then apologizing to the guy who beat you up.

Maybe Job is not the best example. Perhaps, as is usually the case, we should look to Jesus. This is the God-man who never got a break in His ministry but still somehow found time to slip away and spend time with His Father. It was Jesus who not only understood His purpose, but played it out perfectly. His life was one storm after another. The storms He didn't still He allowed because He knew a couple of things. He knew that storms have a purpose. He also knew that storms pass.

So, to everyone out there with school age children or planning kick-off events, or to anyone who is going from one storm to the next in life right now, I offer you this encouragement. Jesus and Job went in one end and made it out the other praising God. You can do the same.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

More Stupid Honesty

I could not believe what I was listening to. 'This person really does not think that he is doing anything wrong,' I thought to myself. What made it worse was that this person claimed to be a Christian. The sin and the sinner are irrelevant, because there are many similar instances.

Sadly, this is nothing new. You can find as much sin within the Church as you can outside of the Church. I do not have a problem with this in theory, because the Church is called to be a place where sinners come. If the Church were perfect, I could not belong, and neither could you. My issue comes when we become more comfortable living with sin than dealing with sin.

That's when we have a problem.

That was also the problem for the Israelites back in the days of Samuel the prophet. The Philistines had just returned the Ark of God, the national symbol of Who they followed. Perhaps because it was out of context, several Israelites, upon seeing the Ark return on a cart, decided to take a peek inside. (1 Samuel 6:19-20).

God struck them down. Our choices have consequences. Their response was less than encouraging. They should have repented. They could have. But they did not. What they did was ask who they could pass the Ark on to.

When we would rather move God to an unseen corner of our world than deal with Him, live with His standards, and have Him in the center of our world, we have a problem.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Stupid Honesty

If you flip back into the days of a prophet named Sam, you'll find a story of refreshing honesty. It was at a time when the Israelites were not very good listeners to God and so had lost the Ark, the one physical presence of God they had. A group of nose-picking, massively hairy men and women known as the Philistines had taken the Ark to their home.

Without any help from His people, God starts raining down terror in the form of tumors and rats on the Philistines. What happened next was incredible. The Philistines credit the One True God of Israel as the source of their problems. They admit God is stronger than their national god, some joe called Dagon. So they call together a meeting of the minds. But, as is the case with many meetings, they ask the wrong question.

They should be asking themselves, 'Why aren't we serving this God of Israel?' What they asked was how they could get rid of Him. (1 Samuel 5:7-8)

They were stupid. But at least they were honest. The fact is that we are often faced with this very question of who we place our trust in. The difference is that we often lie to ourselves. If discipline comes into our lives we brush it aside or convince ourselves that we still believe what we say we believe. We would never be so honest to admit that perhaps our faith is weak or that we may not believe it at all.

The Philistines' question was wickedly similar to the plot of the Sanhedrin many years later, when they sought to have Jesus killed. 'We can't explain it. We don't like it. It's not our god.' It would seem that our preferences are more important than truth itself. The Philistines did not wish to consider serving the God of an enemy, even if He was stronger. The religious leaders of Jesus' day did not choose to see that Jesus was their God.

Who or what are we serving? Is it God? Or does the Way, the Truth, and the Life get edged out because of what we really believe? Let's be honest.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

God Matters

I returned last Friday from a four day youth trip. Four days is shorter than usual, but losing sleep at the high velocity as we were made this trip just the right length. And while there was nothing quantifiable that I can give you about the results of the trip, I know it was good.

For the low price of $160, I sent teens off into the wilderness armed with just a Bible, a pad of paper, and a ball-point pen. We did this for two hours each morning while having no access to the outside world. Otherwise, I would have twittered about it.

Two hours of uninterrupted time was well worth their dollars. I started where many would have when you have a blank piece of paper and anywhere to go in scripture. "In the beginning, God..." (Genesis 1:1). We should take our cues from how God has written His word. God wrote about God. He wrote about Himself as if He were the main character. He did this because He, in fact, IS the main character. "In the beginning, God..."

After pondering that for a while, I flipped back to the end. In Revelation 21, I read God's words "I was the First, I am the Last."

Then I flipped to the Gospel of John and was amazed by what I saw, but that's another 3 months worth of blog entries. For today, and for every day, I know what matters is God. God first. God last. God always.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Do I Want to Look Stupid?

I found this little slice at relevant.com. Read it and then I’ll comment.

One of the greatest products ever invented by humankind is the Snuggie. Combining a blanket with a monk's habit, the little blanket-that-could took the world by storm a few months back. Sadly, while you were warm, your little puppy was left out in the cold. But not anymore! Introducing the Snuggie for Dogs (the hilariously bad commercial is embedded after the jump). If you feel like your dog needs to be mocked by all of her doggy friends, buy now ...

I hope you understand their sarcasm. The Snuggie has to be one of the worst products foisted upon consumers. It is a blanket with a hole in it for your head to fit through. I have to wonder when wrapping a blanket around yourself became too much work. Sadly, it signifies one more way that advertisers convince us of what we need.

But we are certainly not the first generation to be exploited in every known way. We do get the award for doing it in the most inventive ways, as technology explodes with advertising quickly on its heels. I believe that ever since man was created, there has been someone telling him what he really needs. Consider Adam and Eve in the garden. They lived, literally, in Paradise. Along comes a snake to tell them what they don’t have. They fell for it and we have had advertising ever since.

Advertising is not evil in itself, but it is our hearts which continue to want more and more. I believe it was to people much like us that Jesus made His famous invitation in Matthew 11:28-30. "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

There was no product placement, no fancy jingle. Just Jesus. Only God. After all, the snake was a deceiver from the beginning. All we’ve ever needed was God.

Friday, July 31, 2009

The Rock

I have this moniker, Mr. Woo. It comes from people saying my name and my answering with (wait for it)...woo. Mr. Woo is actually not too bad of a nickname. It beats the nicknames I was given as I was growing up. Skinny Boy and Four Eyes weren't horrible, but Cries-When-Wets-Pants left some scars. Needless to say, I have tried to leave these behind. I've never introduced myself by saying, 'My name is Rick, but you can call me Captain Pansy.'

Because of my not so successful past with nicknames, I am surprised when people with great nicknames choose not to use them. Case in point, I saw a movie poster for some has-to-be family friendly flick starring...Dwayne Johnson. Now there is nothing wrong with the name Dwayne. But I saw the picture and said, 'Isn't that The Rock?' If I had a choice between my name and The Rock, I'll be honest, I am going with The Rock.

It got me thinking about how we choose to be identified. Perhaps Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson is getting some advice on who will choose to see his new movie based on his name, but most of us have to make up our own minds based on how we want to be seen. This can be simply by nickname, or by who we hang out with, or simply by how we act.

I am ashamed to say it now, but I can remember a time when I did not desire to be associated as a Christ Follower. I would acknowledge it if forced into a corner, but was normally attempting to be someone I was not meant to be. It's ironic, because now I try to hide the parts of me that do not reflect Christ.

This is not all bad, as I read Colossians 3:3-4, my goal is to become less as Christ becomes more by living through me. It's only when this life is over that I, the true me, will appear with Christ in glory. I can live with that. I will put my identity in the true Rock.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

God vs G.I. Joe

Summer is known for releasing blockbusters. And at the risk of affecting your image of how cool I am, I need to tell you I want to see one more. G.I. Joe. That’s right; the preferred toy of me and all my friends is being made into a movie. I can remember many, many days spent setting up and enacting battles between the Joes and their arch enemies, the Cobras. If I still have any sense of cool left, let me get rid of that now by telling you that I still have all my G.I. Joes from my childhood. I only kept them for my kids to play with...no, really….seriously.

I recently pulled them all out from boxes that have been taped for more than twenty years. After cleaning off two decades worth of dust, I introduced my children to my old toys. All the effort I put into packing, shipping, storing, and cleaning was worth it to hear my son ask why their weapons do not fire automatically. What’s wrong with kids today?

I was playing with my children the other day and explaining which guys were good and which were bad. I was reminiscing about how much I played as a kid with my friends and their G.I. Joes. Then I mentioned that my friends and I would sometimes trade toys. That is when Jacie, my 7-year old, said matter-of-factly, “That’s not very good, Dad. You should be happy with what you have.” This from the girl who just prattled off a birthday list as long as my arm with things that would complete her happiness.

But she has a point. It made me wonder how often we do that as Christians. The Apostle Paul talked about this when he wrote the church in Philippi. He said that, even beyond materialism which has obvious pitfalls, we tend to want more and compare ourselves with one another. His conclusion?

“The very credentials these people are waving around as something special, I'm tearing up and throwing out with the trash—along with everything else I used to take credit for. And why? Because of Christ. Yes, all the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant…” (Philippians 3:7-8, The Message)

I have some cool, vintage action figures. But what I have in Jesus Christ is worth far more. That’s something that I will not trade.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Happy Birthday!

Disclaimer: This is my story, but it is not a story about me. This is about what God can do. Oh, one more thing (a disclaimer within a disclaimer). While I am prone to exaggeration in my stories, I am not prone to exaggeration in my life.

The very fact that I am hesitant to write about this says more about my lack of faith than about one answered prayer. Undoubtedly God has answered many of my prayers. But I am guessing there are many boxes of unanswered prayers waiting because I have simply not asked. Here's what happened.

My wife and I have been planning the gala event of the year; our son's 6th birthday party. It means a lot to us that it goes off well because he lives in a world largely dominated by estrogen. He has two sisters and a church full of girls his age. While this will might be deemed a good thing in his mind in about ten years, right now he lives to play with and wrestle boys.

So we set the date and plan for outside water games. We also buy some blow-up boxing gloves for use on our trampoline, which seems appropriate given the audience. All systems are go for the ultimate boy party. Then we check the weather. All week long the weathermen, who are always accurate, are calling for rain on Saturday. This results in stress for my wife as she imagines 7 boys in her house. It leads to stress for my son who wants water games and boxing gloves. Stress for them translates to stress for me.

So, in a rare moment of courage, or defiance, or stupidity, I have a heart to heart with the Almighty. (I preach it, why can't I live it?) I talk to Him about many things, but add that I don't care if it rains Saturday morning and Saturday night, I want 2-4pm to be sunny skies.

Saturday morning comes and goes with great big ominous clouds all over. I pray again, in case God needs a reminder. About an hour before the party is supposed to start, it's still cloudy and my wife and I debate getting water balloons together. Seriously, I need more faith.

With about 15 minutes to go before the party starts, the skies open up and it is actually warm outside. So I scurry around getting water games ready, assuming my rush is punishment for my not believing that God, who is a Father and likes to give good gifts, would want to grant one of His children a happy birthday.

I'd like to take another crack at some other mountains in my life. Perhaps I'll take them one at a time.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

No Fair

"No fair!" she screamed.
"But you punched him," I reply.
"It wasn't that hard," she shouts.
"I don't think his ear is supposed to be that color," I reason.
"It's still no fair," she concludes.

With punishment taken care of, I walk away wondering why justice doesn't make sense to my children. Then again, God probably wonders the same things about me. Sure, I appreciate justice when it is being doled out to murderers and other 'really bad people', but I wince when it heads in my direction.

In my most mature moments, I can appreciate that justice comes because God loves me. It is the opposite that causes me bigger problems. How do I handle life when injustice comes my way? Those times when I am minding my own business and someone deems it necessary to ridicule or hurt are the times when I question, 'why me?'

Paul says it ‘has been granted…to suffer for [Christ]’ (Philippians 1:29). Some of us may at time suffer for being a Christ follower, but Paul writes as if we should be honored. The first century Christians felt it was an honor to suffer, because it was then they shared in the life of Christ.

'No fair' was not part of their dictionary. They did not think like that. Fair, unfair, good times or bad, it was all about Jesus. This should be okay with us since we know that He has our best in mind. Especially since our suffering here cannot compare with our future glory. (See Romans 8:17-19). That seems fair.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

What We Say in Our Sleep

They say on average that women use twice as many words in a day as a man. Apparently that is not enough for the women in my life. My two-year old was napping as we came to a drive-thru window of a fast food chain. In her sleep she heard her brother ask for a cheeseburger and she mumbled that she wanted one as well. On several occasions, my seven-year old, who probably uses three times as many words in a day as I do, will come out sleepwalking and mumbling. My wife has also been known to sleep-talk, but due to the fact that I value life (my own!) I will withhold details.

All this non-stop talking has me thinking.

First of all, it seems that Christ followers tend to have answers that we give in our sleep. It would be difficult to convince non-believers that we aren't all handed a manual, upon entrance to our club, of how to answer tough questions. The single fact that our answers are similar would not be a bad thing, except that some of our sleepy answers don't actually answer the questions being asked.

This leads me to this second thought. Perhaps we answer questions too quickly. Yes, maybe our answers are technically correct. Yes, maybe the hearers sometimes have to 'man up' and accept hard truth. and perhaps some of the questions are not really valid. But how much time do we give for questions when they are asked in earnest? How many of our answers are not typical knee-jerk reactions? How afraid are we of saying we don't know?

I have done no research, but I wonder if Christians could be accused of using twice as many words as we should.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Complete Silence?

I am no expert when it comes to the book of Revelation or the end times. If you want that, go check out one of the 56 books by Tim LaHaye. But it's part of the Bible and so once every decade, I take a peek. I found something that left me wanting.

"When the Lamb ripped off the seventh seal, Heaven fell quiet— complete silence for about half an hour." (Revelation 8:1)

As a father of 3 young children, and a youth pastor by trade, I don't know what 5 minutes of silence would look like, much less 30. Actually, this is quite remarkable, even for Heaven. If you read the first 7 chapters, you have Elders and Angels all singing, all the time. And I have to believe it's loud. Plus it's probably loud. What reason is there to whisper in heaven?

But the silence is not to last. And it looks like the silence there is similar to the silence that occasionally comes to my house. It's the calm before the storm. It's only quiet because something bad is about to happen. In my house, if it's too quiet, you can be sure there's plotting going on. Silence in my house is usually followed by one of several scenarios; rolls of toilet paper inextricably strewn about, a child climbing his/her way to the ceiling, quick giggles followed by shouts of 'don't tell Mom!', or blood.

I'm not saying God was plotting, but the silence is followed by 7 trumpets. And no, it's not a band. It's the tune of fire and brimstone.

Maybe you look forward to some silence in your day. So do I, but I may just remember to be a tad more thankful for the relative calm in the noise.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Twice as Expensive

Do you know why those stamps at fairs and parks are important? I'm talking about the ones that they put on your hand when you want to return on that same day. Obviously, we want to get back in. As a first-rate thrifty dad, I do not want to have to pay again to get in a theme park that I have already paid to get in to.

But what if? What if my family had been paid for and then exited the park for some reason? Most likely it would be to eat at our vehicle. As I said, I'm thrifty. And let us suppose that one of my children had somehow slipped out without having their hand stamped. It would be like them to squirm away and refuse. And because I was hungry for lunch, I did not notice.

As we head to go back in to the park, we might all be granted access except for this one wayward child who decided the stamp was not that important. And as long as we're supposing, let's say we got that one Type-A worker at the gate who refused to believe that I had already paid for my kid to get in the park earlier that day. Let's assume that there would be no logic that would convince this worker to let my kid back in with me. No stamp, no admittance.

I know what I would do. I would pay for my child to get back in, if for no other reason, than for them to be reunited with their family who loves them. (They might not get any ice cream from me later, but that's a different point entirely...)

This is what God has done for us. In Revelation 5, we're told that Jesus bought us back. It's actually quite beautiful.
"Paying in blood, you bought men and women,
Bought them back from all over the earth,
Bought them back for God."

We've been a tad expensive for Christ, and that's understating it. But just like my proverbial child who will not be allowed to forget what I did for her, we should never be allowed to forget what God has done for us. So don't lose that stamp. You've been bought back!

Friday, July 10, 2009

3-year old Girl: 1 Dad: 0

I think way too highly of myself. Despite what the Apostle Paul said about not thinking too much of yourself, apparently I do. This is despite the fact that I have very little power and am in a position of very little respect. Most of the time I am ok with that. After all, I am a youth pastor.

But when I walk through the doors of my home, I expect things to change. For whatever odd reason, I expect blind obedience to my wise council and bold direction.

I'm an idiot.

Last night, I set the children down for bed. Mind you, this had been a good night. The kids played in the water in the back yard, took showers, we ate, and then celebrated life by having cake and ice cream. They should be putty in my hands, I thought. Like I said, I'm an idiot.

'Bedtime', I call out. The 7-year old goes down without a fuss. The 5-year old, though squirmy, goes down. It's just my wife and I and the 3-year old. 'Bedtime', I repeat. The swift reply is 'no'. I told this just-turned-3-year old that she was, in fact, going to bed. She sat down in the living room. Like a recent Wimbledon final, we fought back and forth. I assumed victory would be mine, but it only came after the humble realization that I was not the more determined.

I need to re-read the Apostle's Paul's direction to be humble and consider others better, even if they are packaged in the seemingly innocent form of a 3-year old.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

You need to leave room for dessert

My wife is a good cook. Seriously. But no matter how good a meal is, I always try to save room for dessert. I know the information out there about eating healthy and not snacking late in the evening. It doesn't matter. If I am too full for some cookies and milk, then the day feels like a loss. Yes, my name is Rick and I am a treat-a-holic.

The problem as I see it is that I have been programmed to think that dessert comes after the meal. But I think it should be seen as important to the whole meal as the vegetable, if not more so. See, we fill our bodies with stuff that we're not as interested in as dessert. It leaves us with no room.

This reminds me of something John Piper write in his book Hunger For God.
"If we don't feel strong desires for ... God, it is not because we have drunk deeply and are satisfied. It is because we have nibbled so long at the table of the world. Our soul is stuffed with small things, and there is no room for the great."

Making room for God is a much more serious matter than desserts. When we try to simply 'fit in' God, we inevitably find that we're left with inadequate space for Him. This is why many decide to give Him the first, the first part of their day, the first portion of their income, their best energy, thinking, and resources.

I would think that, just like whoever made the dessert, God wants us to taste and see how good He is. So I guess what I am saying is to make sure you give your first space to God. And keep in mind the age-old wisdom to leave room for dessert. God and cake. Yeah, that sounds about right.

Friday, July 3, 2009

But won't my arms get tired?

Small does not mean isignificant. Being insignificant means being isignificant. But perhaps that's besides the point. I came across this small verse in a small letter towards the back of the New Testament. It's Jude 20-21. All of it is good and I am thankful to Jude for writing it, but one thing in particular struck me this morning.

Jude encourages his readers to "keep your arms open and outstretched, ready for the mercy of our Master, Jesus Christ."

It seems to me that we keep ourselves very busy dooing things. This keeps our hands busy. Busy, busy, busy. We're busy like bees, but at least the bees make honey. I often wonder what we create with all our busyness.

Jude is telling us to keep our arms open and outstretched. I'm not sure about you, but I haven't often tried to get things done with my arms in the air. Unless, of course, I was holding something up for somebody. But except for those instances, I often have my arms full and doing stuff. Because doing stuff is perceived as good and important and not doing stuff is equated with southerners on their porch. (Before I have anyone from the south tell me how stupid I am, keep in mind two things. 1. I am from the south. 2. I already know how stupid I am.)

I guess, for now, instead of getting back to the to-do list, I'm going to go hold my hands up somewhere and wait to see what God does.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Retooled

Those that fail to learn from history, are doomed to repeat it. - Winston Churchill

I am rethinking purpose this summer. This is not to say that I am thinking of a new purpose, but more of rediscovering the purpose in the youth ministry I lead. And I think there are several good reasons to read Jesus' Sermon on the Mount in order to be refreshed. In regards to purpose, Jesus says a lot in these chapters of Matthew and Luke that are important.

For example, in Matthew 5:1-10, Jesus starts right off with what we know as the Beatitudes. Now some people simply see this section as some nice poetry where Jesus tells us to be nice. But it's more than that. He is pointing out, subtly or not, that things have been done and accepted for a long time, but there is, in fact, another way that God views things.

Blessed are the poor in spirit? Guess what? It's a good thing if you're not bragging about your good deeds. Blessed are those who mourn, who are meek, and who are merciful? Sounds like the makings of Team Weak if we apply the world's standards, but Jesus has a different objective. And while I am not exactly excited like a cheerleader at the prospects of being persecuted, I am quite passionate about doing things God's way.

So if my life, my ministry, and my way of thinking has to be retooled, then so be it. I would rather look to the original purposes given to me by God and stay true to that than to continue doing stuff the way it's always been done. After all, how many times do I want to repeat history?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Good Consequences?

For the three of you that read my blog, I'm still stuck on this ides of consequences that I blogged about the other day. If you want the 1-line summary, it's simply this; we don't like consequences.

But I realize this is not entirely true. I can think of at least two instances when we do.

The first is when other people face consequences. We may not be sadistic about it, but bad people deserve punishment. Right? Murderers should spend time in jail and child molesters should have parts of their body cut off. We may not always say it that way, but we do often talk about fair and unfair, which clearly puts us in the category of people who believe consequences should happen. Just not for us, because we're clearly not as bad as other people and unlike other people, we learn from our mistakes without consequences.

The second is a bit more subtle and involves less of me sounding like a street preacher. (Of course, if the street preacher speaks truth, then what's my problem?) We like consequences when they are good consequences. We do not normally term it this way, which is a problem of semantics. But the fact is that when we do good things, we expect that good will result. We would call it blessings or results, but we live in such a way as to reveal that we want a good cause to lead to a good effect. As long as it is positive. It always has to be positive.

See how this has still been all about us? It may not change our actions, good or bad, but the result will certainly have us accepting the blessings or casting the blame.

But it's not about us.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Consequences are about me?

Ok, I get that sin, by definition, is the choosing of the selfish nature over what God wants. I get that it naturally means I am choosing ME when I choose to SIN. But have you ever considered just how easily we make our sin about ourselves? I am defining sin as the willful choosing of something that God says NO to.

Consider this. We commit a sin, which is the first way we make it about ourselves. Let’s assume we get caught by someone other than God who sees everything. When we get caught, we continue to make it about ourselves as we try to come up with various reasons why the consequences, natural or otherwise, should not be ours to bear. Do you get this?

Let’s say I cam up with a book of rules and a corresponding list of consequences when we do wrong. No one should say that the consequences are unfair since we are all aware of the consequences. But that is what we do. Think of it in terms of a game. If I was explaining the game of baseball to you for the first time, I would take time to make sure you understand the rules about strikes and outs before we played. But not wanting to live with consequences is like saying you’ve been mistreated when called out according to the rules.

In affect, we are arguing that God is unfair. This is the second way we make it about ourselves…or third when you remember all that complaining we do. Either way, when we choose not to accept consequences, we continue our sin as we look out only for ourselves. I don’t recall enjoying any of the discipline my parents handed down to me when I did wrong, but I have God’s Word which tells me that discipline is good for me. Check it out at Hebrews 12:5-11.

I have a better idea. Instead of worrying about discipline and consequences, let’s concern ourselves with not sinning in the first place. What habit are you hanging on to? What kind of stuff gets in your way and causes you to lose control? I would encourage you to change the sinful habits to godly habits and to apply self-discipline…before the consequences become yours to bear.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

I Want My Own Way

I believe it was Fleetwood Mac who told me I could go my own way. Of course, they weren't the first and they will not be the last. Even Burger King encourages me toward this own way of mine.

But I found this in 1 Peter 4:2 this morning. "Think of your sufferings as a weaning from that old sinful habit of always expecting to get your own way." We could go several directions with a verse like this. I don't want to compare my sufferings with the millions of Christians who actually suffer for Jesus' name. I get that, and I think deep down, so do you.

But from the moment I wake up until I go to sleep, and then sometimes in my dreaming, I'm all about me. I'm my biggest fan. I desperately need to be weaned. (I realize there are several reasons why that doesn't sound right.) But it's true. While I may not always expect to get my way, I normally do. If I'm being totally honest, I probably even expect certain sufferings to be done in a timely and not-so-suffering kind of way.

According to Peter, it needs to stop. It's a sinful habit. I should work on that. Of course, you know what happens when you pray for God to be more and yourself to be less. God may just answer this prayer. Well, I say, bring on the suffering.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Miracle Workers

John 14:12 is ridiculous, even for the fervent believer. It's Jesus talking, so I know I should believe it. He says whoever has faith in Him will do greater things than Him. Let's just make a little mental list right here.

Jesus: healing the sick, recovering the sight of the blind, raising the dead, including Himself, and making massive amounts of food out of small lunches.

Me: giving my kids Tylenol when they're sick, telling my wife where her glasses are, waking up sleepy children, and making a pretty tasty peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

I'll go ahead and say it. I think Jesus' list is more impressive. It just is. Although it is a really good pb&j. But Jesus said I would do greater things. I was talking with my wife about this stuff going through my head and she agreed that it seemed implausible that I would do something greater than Jesus. We were discussing this during supper and then I looked at the time. We had one hour to finish putting laundry away, do the dishes, bathe the children, brush their teeth and get them into bed at bedtime. Emphasis on bedtime. It's not a feat we accomplish very often.

We did a quick mental review and realized there is no recorded event of Jesus doing this, so we thought this might be our chance to put faith into action. (Cue the Chris Tomlin music for God of This City.)

Dish soap was flying, clothes were folded and with only 2 minutes to go, we had only to convince a 2-year old that she did, in fact, wish to go to sleep. Praying with them at precisely 8 o'clock, we smiled a satisfied smile at one another. (Does it count against the miracle if they kept coming back out for one more drink?)

I could get used to doing greater things.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Time Out

I'm not sure if this says more about my habits of discipline or my son's knowledge of the animal kingdom, but...
Yesterday, Jennifer and I took our kids to the zoo. We saw a tiger, a few zebras, some monkeys, and several sea lions. One in particular caught our attention as it was sunbathing while it faced a wall. Our 5-year old son asked if the sea lion was in a time-out. (That same 5-year old shared the fate of the sea lion later in the day.)

I am pretty sure that the sea lion in question was only by chance facing a wall. But he was taking a time out from his other busy activities of the day. Those activities would include eating fish, waving to a crowd, and performing his best rendition of a shark for the people that looked on. Yet, at this point, he took a time out.

I wonder if he thought about anything. After all, that is what a time out is for. We send our kids there from time to time, hoping they will think about what they have done and why they won't do it again. I can hardly blame them as I should spend more time thinking about my words and actions, both before and after I say and do.

My children would never impose their own time out just to reflect on their actions. They are too busy playing and having fun to even consider this. I wonder if we are like this. Why take a time out when everything is going okay?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Master's Approval

I have never been all that humble. Even when I've tried to be humble, I've gotten proud of how humble I was. Tell me you didn't see that coming. But it's true. I believe I am as much a victim as anyone since Generation X where we all believe we're above average. But ask anyone that understand math and they'll tell you that 50% of people are below average. There's no way around that. But if you asked me, I'd tell you I wasn't in that 50%.

So maybe having a healthy self-esteem isn't such a bad thing. But I see it crowd in on my relationship with God. Since I want to please God and do good things for God, I try my best. So far, so good, right? But let's assume I actually do something with excellence. After everything goes as planned, I spend too much time patting myself on the back. And believe me, any time patting yourself is too much time.

But it's just for God, right? Yes, but then you have scriptures like this hit you square in the eyes...

Hebrews 3:1-6
"So, my dear Christian friends, companions in following this call to the heights, take a good hard look at Jesus. He's the centerpiece of everything we believe, faithful in everything God gave him to do. Moses was also faithful, but Jesus gets far more honor. A builder is more valuable than a building any day. Every house has a builder, but the Builder behind them all is God. Moses did a good job in God's house, but it was all servant work, getting things ready for what was to come. Christ as Son is in charge of the house."

I'm so enthralled with hearing I did a good job that I forget it's just servant work. So, do you want to encourage me? Try not telling me it was a job well done. Then maybe I'll listen more closely for the Master's approval.