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.