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.