Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Merry Christmas!

So I had this idea and then I saw it wasn't original. Buuut, that isn't exactly new to me. I'm often slow to the hip things. For instance, have you seen this deal called the iPhone? I hear it's got some great application. I went looking for one online and discovered that they just keep upgrading these things.

Sorry for that lttle tangent. Let me get to the idea. I'm going to take a break from blogging. Before you thank me, hear me out...

I'll be breaking until the new year. For starters, you're much too busy to be reading all these blogs. Second, I've once again left Christmas shopping for my wife until the home stretch. Sooo, add it all together and you'll see I'm doing this for both of us.

Now, I've seen where some blogs will post their most popular blogs during their off-time. Here's why I won't be doing that. Again, if you're too busy to read blogs, why would I assume that you have time to read a better blog? If I assumed that, I would just post links to other people's blogs. (Get it? Self-deprecation. It kills, right?)

Oh, the real reason for not posting most popular blogs? It kind of goes against my whole m.o. If I believe (and I do) that this life isn't about me (even mine), then it seems a tad self-centered to offer up the 'best of me'.

So have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! I'll see you in 2012!

Monday, December 19, 2011

God First, Man Second: Christmas Edition part 4

This is part 4 of my God First, Man Second: Christmas Editions. You can find the other 3 here, here and here. No matter what you do at Christmas time, no matter what your traditions, I hope that you will take some time to remember why we even get to celebrate this season.

“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” ~Luke 2:14

This is what it all comes down to. The whole heavenly host come out just to sing it. Glory is given to God. This is right, because God is deserving of our glory. In fact, God is the only One deserving.

What do we get? Peace. This is beyond our undertanding. We can think we understand it. But we know, deep down, we don't.

See, we come to this God-man relationship offering nothing. I could sugar-coat that for you since it's the holidays and all, but let's be honest. We're in a big heap of trouble and we have no actual solution.

But God, planning as only He can, prepares and foretells and gives us Jesus. I'm not saying that our lives as Christians become a cake-walk, though that would be yummy. But now we have an answer. And not a 12-step, apply twice daily, take this pill kind of answer. This is miracle beyond miracles!

God is worthy of our glory. We don't need it anymore. So give God the glory that is due Him.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Practicing the Way of Jesus

To say that this book was read would be a misnomer. This is a book that you experience. That is on purpose by author Mark Scandrette. The title of this book is Practicing the Way of Jesus: Life Together in the Kingdom of Love.

I experienced this book with a small group at my church. The book comes complete with study guide in the back, giving a schedule for which chapters to read and in what order. There was thought put into this. The basic premise that Mark puts forth is the idea that the Christian life is not one lived while sitting in a pew, but one that is lived out.

Mark divides the book into 5 main sections. These are areas that he believes all of us must work on in growing deeper in our faith. Those areas are: Identity, Purpose, Security, Community and Freedom/Peace. He wrote one chapter on theory and one on practice for each area.

One of the first things I said when I read the first chapter was that the book scared me. I believed it was gong to be too fanatical in its approach. The experiments, as Mark calls them, were designed to push, but were not beyond comprehension or capability. Many times, it took our group just collectively talking out the fears and then pushing forward.

Filled with successes and failures, this book certainly did not hold its nose up in the air. Mark was unapologetic that not everything happening in the Church is helping Christian growth. He works a bit more with those who might call hemselves post-congregationalist, but he is not a hater of the Church either.

There are very practical steps for believers in every stage of faith. It's come as you are, but don't become content on staying there. Weird, right? It sounds similar to how Jesus called us originally.

You can check out this book for yourself over at Likewise Books, a division of InterVarsity Press. 

Monday, December 12, 2011

God First, Man Second: Christmas Edition part 3

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” ~Luke 2:10-12

Even as a baby, God comes first. It's really amazing when you think about it. The God of the universe, in a way that only God can fathom, left Heaven, a place we can only imagine, and came to Earth.

But Jesus did not come as a grown man, regal and ready to rule. He did not come as an adult.

Jesus came as a baby. He entered the world, yes the world He created. He came as a mortal and left as a Messiah. The good news for us, in fact the only reason we are a part of this story, is that we receive a Savior. We are on the receiving end of the greatest gift ever given.

God gives. We get. We no longer have to fear. We have received good news. We now get to live with great joy. God loved us first. We now live in that love.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Neglectful Parents

Each child is a gift. They are to be prized and protected. They should never be mistreated or neglected. (Did a tear just shed? I was going for a tear...)

If we're up on our Bible-reading, then we'll be familiar with Bible verses that say "with painful labor you will give birth to children" and "he will not give to one of them any of the flesh of his children that he is eating." Wait, not those verses.

These verses. "I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread. They are always generous and lend freely; their children will be a blessing" (Psalm 37:25-26). Oh, and "And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them" (Mark 10:16).

It would seem that children are, in fact, the future and should be valued as such. All of them. (Any tears yet? Dang, you are a tough crowd.)
Given all this, it makes this one little story seem a bit odd. We're told about parents who were told they'd be receiving a very special child. This child was not like other children. He was to be given a special mission in life. They should take special care of this child.

Oh, did I mention this child was the Son of God?

I'm not saying I'm the best parent, but I would think the neurotic make-sure-my-child-is-alive meter would be at an all-time high if I was told I was about to play the role of dad for the Son of God! If each child is really just on loan to us, you might think that having God's Son on loan would make you extra careful.

So why do we have this story in Luke?

Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover. When he was twelve years old, they went up to the festival, according to the custom. After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. ~Luke 2:41-46

If I take my kids to the grocery store, we're holding hands in the parking lot, I'm constantly making sure they don't drop sugar cereals and candy bars in the cart and I'm counting heads as we return to the vehicle.

Joe and Mary were an entire day away when they realized they left Jesus behind in Jerusalem!!! Are you kidding me? I suppose, if nothing else, it tells me I should give myself a pass when I'm not the perfect parent.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Church Outside the Walls

I received an ebook copy of Church Outside the Walls by Raj Samuel. Raj is a house church planter who is committed to education and church unity.

Raj has written this short book, just over 100 pages, for the purpose of educating Christians back to their original purpose. But he begins his whole book with a quote by a Hindu. "Christianity has failed in the West. Christians should not try to promote their religion in other parts of the world when it has not worked here in the West."

There are so very many things wrong with thsi remark, none the least of which is the fact that Christianity did not originate in the West, so it is philosophically unsound to argue for it not to be spread farther from here. Since Christianity was begun in Jerusalem and the spread everywhere from there, we should not be so elitist in the West to assume that our successes or failures have any bearing on Christianity worldwide.

Leaving that thought for the moment, Raj spends the rest of his words taking us back to the origins of many Christian practices, including meeting in a building and using leaders to, well, lead. These, and many other practices of the American Church, are pagan in nature, according to Raj, something we've picked up from the Greeks and the Romans and John Maxwell, I would guess.

All of these take us away from a Church body that should be more effective than it is. While I agree that too many people are sitting passively on the sidelines while watching the 'pastor professionals' perform the show, I think Raj has swung the pendulum too far in the other direction.

All that being said, I think Raj provides us with some good food for thought. We should know our purposes. We should know our origins. To take some time and chew on these ideas with other believers is a great idea. Just be careful not to throw out the baby with any dirty bathwater you come across.Because Raj will have you believing that all churches that have any structure are working against the work of Christ, not for it.

I received this ebook for free from my friends at SpeakEasy. They give me books and I review them. Win-win!

You can check out the book for yourself here.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Always Be Prepared

Always be prepared. It's a lot more than just a slogan for the Boy Scouts. It's great advice for anyone hoping not to get caught off guard. Hey, it's even a command given by the Apostle Peter when he tells us to always be ready with an answer for the hope that we have.

My senior pastor was prepared this past Sunday when he discussed being prepared. It would have just been ironic if he hadn't been prepared. But thankfully he was as he discussed the many ways that God prepared Mary for being the mother of the Son of God. That's a tall order.

Aside from being prepared to play the role of such an important mom in history, her and Joe were first time parents. Have you ever considered what it was like for them in this regards? For instance, when they had to flee to Egypt, how hectic was that?

I remember packing up for trips with my first child. There was the diaper bag, complete with enough baby food for 3 days, in case we got stuck someplace where Walmart has yet to find. We had diapers and wipes and blankets and rags, bottles and lotion. Then we had the back-up diaper bag, the stroller and enough toys to distract for any situation. This was just for a routine trip to the post office.

Joe and Mary were escaping to Egypt, but I'm sure they still needed a stroller. More importantly, they needed to be people who could handle the pressure and remember why it was important. We talk about the Reason for the Season. They were holding Him!

Our stress factors will be vastly different than Joe and Mary. None of us should need to escape to another country. Our biggest problem may be figuring out what to get for wives and moms. (I strongly suggest not getting her a vacuum.) Our preparation should also go beyond the giving of physical gifts.

Are we ready to worship the newborn King? Are we ready to share the Joy of the world? Are you ready to give a reason for the hope you have this Christmas?

Let's banter people. What do you do to be prepared for the Christmas season?

Monday, December 5, 2011

God First, Man Second: Christmas Edition part 2

   “My soul glorifies the Lord
 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 
 for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.
His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
to Abraham and his descendants forever,
just as he promised our ancestors.”
Luke 1:46-55

Well, here we are in week 2 of the Christmas series. God should come first all year long. Christmas is no different. But this isn't how we always deal with Christmas, it is? When it's our birthday, we get gifts. And when it's Jesus' birthday, we get gifts again. Does that make sense?

But here we read a song by Mary, the pregnant mother of the Son of God. It's a good song. It's great that she was even in the mood for writing songs. Many pregnant women are only in the mood to eat. While they eat, they send their husbands to go get more food, so they can keep eating.

But Mary packs in a lot about the greatness of God in this one song. And we see both positive and negative as regards man. I won't hold your hand and walk you across the street. Simply notice that God does what He wants to with man. Those who are humble see God's good side. Those who are proud experience God like a dad who's been woken up early from his nap.

Mary's soul glorifies the Lord. I hope yours will too this Christmas season.

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Perfect Gift...For Me

Have you ever thought about the perfect gift for that special someone you love? You know, the person you hold most dear? That person that you spend hours just wondering what the absolutely best gift could possibly be? And, of course, I’m talking about me.

I’ve wondered about what I would gift to myself. This is despite childhood training that runs in the opposite direction. See, growing up in my family, gifts only happened on 2 occasions. Christmas and birthdays. This worked out alright for me because my birthday is in June. So I was showered with gifts every 6 months. But one of my sisters has a birthday 4 days before Christmas. (Read: short end of the stick.)

If it wasn’t Christmas and it wasn’t our birthday, our days were marked with rations and needs, but not gifts. Long, arduous days until the next season of gifts appeared. (When you read this, Mom, I’m kidding.) But seriously, we were raised that gifts were for special occasions. You shopped for the other members of your family and depended on their memory to receive what you wanted.

So what would I give myself? I could list the myriad of tech gadgets that would be fun to play with, since I’ll readily admit the truth of the difference between men and boys. It is the price of their toys, although have you tried shopping for young boys these days? It’s not cheap.

I’ve thought this idea through. If I’m going to get myself something, it’s going to be something that someone else wouldn’t get me, no matter how many hints I drop. More than that, I think it should be the thing that only I can get, something only I know how much I need.

So what am I getting this year for myself? It’s a better perspective. It’s the idea that this Christmas season will only last about 30 days, despite the Christmas d├ęcor that retailers put out before Halloween. Since the season has a Reason, I will be sure to enjoy the calm and the chaos that comes this month.

No matter how many versions of The 12 days of Christmas drone on the airwaves over and over again, I will keep in mind the Reason we have to sing about this season.

No matter how crowded the stores become, especially when I shop with 2 days left, I will enjoy the time spent with family and friends, no matter. I will not lose the perspective of why I look for and give gifts, because there was One who gave to me.

Because, when the presents are all opened, some are exchanged and a week later when others are forgotten, the Reason will remain. And once I have this perspective in my mind, it’s one I can keep the entire year. Indeed, Jesus is the gift that keeps on giving.

What gift would you like to get yourself this Christmas?

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Chronicles of Narnia; The Silver Chair

While Mr. Lewis certainly needs no review from a 'son of Adam' like me, I did just want to comment on my favorite line from the book.

Fear not, I will offer no spoilers if you haven't found time to read book 6 in the series. I would just say that you are missing out until you have read them all.

This line is sandwiched in a scene with a Marsh-wiggle and a Witch. (That line makes no sense to anyone who has never heard of Narnia.) The Witch is trying to convince the heroes, including the aforementioned marsh-wiggle, that the world they thought existed was only an illusion. The Marsh-wiggle, called Puddleglum, says the following:

One word, Ma'am. One word. All you've been saying is quite right, I shouldn't wonder. I'm a chap who always liked to know the worst and then put the best face I can on it. So I won't deny any of what you've said. But there's one thing more to be said, even so. Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things - trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones. Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one. And that's a funny thing, when you come to think of it. We're just babies making up a game, if you're right. But four babies playing a game can make a play-world which licks your real world hollow. That's why I'm going to stand by the play-world. I'm on Aslan's side even if there isn't any Aslan to lead it. I'm going to live as a Narnian as I can even if there isn't any Narnia. So, thanking you kindly for our supper, if these two gentlemen, and the young lady are ready, we're leaving your court at once and setting out in teh dark to spend our live slooking for Overland. Not that our lives will be very long, I should think; but that's small loss if te world's as dull a place as you say.

Well said, Puddleglum, well said indeed.

We're fed many lies in the world of today. So many, in fact, that more lies are built on top of other lies so that we don't even know where to begin. But the Truth is out there. I will chase after Him for as long as I have breath, until I can chase no longer. I will seek after it with everything i am until such a time as I find it.

I believe I am on the right path.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

Decisions, decisions, decisions. 

Do you ever get tired of choosing? Everywhere we turn we have options. Yes, it gives us freedom to personalize everything, but we’ve eliminated simple. Take coffee for example. I don’t drink the sludge, but it appears ordering  cup involves 17 mini-decisions. Sizes, spices, toppings and choice of your first child’s name is just too much when ordering a drink. Just give me a hot chocolate. Done.

Deciding to order pizza used to be easy as well. Pick a topping and you were done. Now I have options on toppings, cheese, sauce and even what they do with the crust. Just make me a pizza.

And forget about buying a cell phone or computer. My head explodes when I see all the choices that have to be made there. I’d like to be done with choosing. But that presents a problem as well. If we don’t make decisions about life, then options will be chosen for us.

We consume, on average, over 7 hours of media every day. I’m not sure we’ve factored in the Amish in those statistics, but regardless. We devour a lot of media. How do we decide what to allow?


It’s nothing new that we have to choose. Adam and Eve had a choice. And we’ve been reminded of the same simple choice throughout the Scriptures.   

There is the plain, and obvious, choice laid out for the Israelites.
This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.  ~Deuteronomy 30:19
There was the charge given by Joshua.
But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.  Joshua 24:15
Even David reminded us of our choices, in song.
Who, then, are those who fear the LORD? He will instruct them in the ways they should choose. ~Psalm 25:12
And then there was James, who didn’t seem to worry how he came across.
You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. ~James 4:4
Since God chose us (John 15:16, Ephesians 1:4) it seems fair that we have to make a choice as well. So who will you choose? When it comes to making decisions about our media consumption let’s keep in mind that what we choose to put in our minds reveals who, or Whom, we have chosen to serve. 

How do you make your choices?

Monday, November 28, 2011

God First, Man Second: Christmas Edition Part 1

I've decided to take my Monday morning focus and zoom in on some scriptures that surround the birth of Christ. The same rules apply. It's God first and man in a distant second.

The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.”

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her. ~Luke 1:35-38

Here we have an angel delivering what has to be, like, the biggest news any teenage girl has, like, ever received. But this is more than just telling a girl she's miraculously pregnant. We learn about God in these verses. The power of God overshadows. God has actually made a way for His Spirit to be in us!

We can always trust God's Word. It never fails. Not epically. Not at all.

And we learn that when we trust in God, we learn more about ourselves. Things that we would be unable to do by ourselves, God can do in us. Our best response, no matter the Word, is Mary's response. May God's Word be fulfilled in us.

When have you experienced God's Word fulfilled in you?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day

Mark Batterson has taken a somewhat obscure couple of Bible passages and made a whole book about it. Yes, he's that good. The book is called In a Pit With a Lion on a Snowy Day. The subtitle is How to Survive and Thrive When Opportunity Roars.

The story has to do with one of King David's mighty men, a man by the name of Benaiah. There was this one time when he chased a lion into a snowy pit. Then he killed the lion. End of story. If you're looking for more details, you won't find any. But if you combine that with other references that tell us about Benaiah becoming the leader of ol' Dave's army, and you can can start to put together a few details.

Benaiah was one bad dude. And you can be too. That's what Mark tells us....sort of. Even though there isn't much to the story, Mark does a fantastic job of inspiring us to embrace the tough times in life and realize that God has many plans for us. Only some of the experiences will be filled with rainbows and ponies. Some of them will involve snowy pits and lions, at least metaphorically.

One might imagine this to be a self-help book, but trust me when I say that Mark is not blowing smoke. Some of the gems in here include;

"In the beginning, the Spirit of God was hovering over the chaos. And nothing has changed. God is still hovering over chaos."

"God wants you to get where God wants you to go more than you want t get where God wants you to go."

"To the infinite all finites are equal."

I could list more, but you're probably wanting to read the book by now. Yeah, my reviews will do that to you.

I also enjoyed that each chapter ended with a review. It was as if Mark wanted to save you time from underlining great quotes and so he pre-selected what to love. 'What's that, you got something totally different out of that chapter? Here's what you should have highlighted.' Seriously, though, it did provide good highlight material.

I received this book from my good friends at Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing. They ask me to say something, but don't tell me what to say. They're kind like that.

You can check out this book for purchase by clicking here.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

What About Them? What About Me?

As I was applying discipline to my son (yet again), his older sister said, 'This is going to be good.' My first thought was that I had not seen such bloodthirsty behavior in my children. Then I took a second to ponder. Isn't this what they seek every time they tattle? Aren't they looking for justice to be meted out in quick fashion? Could it be that my children stand back in giddy excitement whenever a sibling is in trouble?


So, after finishing with my son, who indeed did deserve punishment, I moved on to his sister. We had a conversation about what loving our brother really means. We talked about how we should want good for one another, not bad.

It was later that I realized how very human their response is.

The fact is that we all cry out to God for justice to be delivered to our enemies. We're not the first generation to be like this.You can just about flip blindly through the book of Psalms and land on a song where David wishes punishment on his enemies. So not only did David count on his enemies being God's enemies, but he put it to song. Classy.

Long before David, Adam turned on Eve when he realized punishment was coming. Not exactly a good example, was he? It seems to me that if there's only one other person on the planet, you might not want to throw them under the bus. But he did.

So where is our love for one another? Because, after all our other reasons for wanting justice are given up, this does come down to how we care for and look after one another. There is something wrong when we would rather see someone 'get it' than to to help prevent them from the actions that caused the discipline in the first place. 

Much like many other areas in our life it shows a very narrow focus on self.Yes, justice is often needed. No, we can't prevent everyone from actions that deserve justice. But perhaps we could treat it less like a spectator sport when it does happen.

Am I alone in this? Does anyone else find too much enjoyment from others getting punished?

Monday, November 21, 2011

God First, Man Second; 1 Corinthians 10:30-31

If I take part in the meal with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of something I thank God for? So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. ~1 Corinthians 10:30-31

It's turkey time this week. So I wanted a verse that focused on thankfulness. Or at least contained the word. Because, as you know, I'm nothing if not current with the times. Who knows, I may even mention Rebecca Black in an upcoming post sometime soon. Has her 15 minutes already passed?

Anyways, I know I could have chosen a more basic verse on being thankful, however, that's not how I roll. I chose this scripture from 1 Corinthians simply because Paul is in the middle of an impassioned plea for Christian brothers and sisters to get along.

I agree. We tend to complain about a lot of stuff that just doesn't matter. Or, if it matters a little bit, it won't by next week. That's just how fickle we are. We are very much like seventh grade girls, majoring in the minors and finding something to be over-dramatic about.

But Paul sums it up pretty well here when he says that everything we do should be done for God's glory. So when you take time out this week to be thankful for all the stuff you normally take for granted, go ahead and make that practice a resolution. You'll be a month ahead of all those New Year's resolution people, plus you'll be properly focused.

In everything we do, we put God first.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

God's Story, Your Story

It has been about a decade since I have read a book by Max Lucado. (Max, I'm sorry.) It wasn't for any dislike I had for his books. In fact, quite the opposite. I had probably spent the previous decade reading every book he published.

I guess I just needed a break. But the title alone intrigued me enough to lure me back. I'm glad it did.

Jumping into a book by Max Lucado is like putting on your comfy pants on a rainy day. Being the lyrical wordsmith he is, his writing just warms you instantly.

This particular book is about our story being more than just a one-chapter tale. We are not destined to fail. Yes, the subject matter may be familiar, in a day when we're constantly prodded to be more than we are. The difference with Lucado is that you can read without feeling lost in technical jargon, made-up schemes or quick-fix ideas.

More than mere pop-phsychology, this book offers a genuine look into how we are called to be part of the greatest story ever told. Let it be a good reminder if you've heard it before, but don't let the truth pass you by.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Truth is in the Mirror

Last Friday I posted a story about a meal with my kids. Luke (8 years old) forgot his manners. Jacie (10 years old) called him out. Luke (still 8 years old) did not like it. It was a good time and you can read about the details here.

As funny as I though Jacie's comment was, I did feel bad for my son. After all, he already has to live with two sisters. That's not easy. I know this all too well. (Feel free to comment, sisters.) But he had just been called out cold on something that he already finds frustrating.

Shouldn't we all be able to sympathize? Or maybe you're some super person that enjoys having others call out your faults. Perhaps you're the type of person who enjoys sitting around while others list, in detail, all the things about you which annoy them.

Oh, you're not one of those types of people?

Maybe we don't have to enjoy it, but I think we should expect it. And, in our experiences, it won't be somethig relatively harmless like talking with food in your mouth. I'm talking about sin here.

If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector. ~Matthew 18:15-17

I don't know about you, but that sounds like a lot of talking about faults with people. It sounds like a lot of people pointing our faults out. Facts are facts. We will slip up. We will fall. When we do, we need family to be around to help us out.

In order to help us, truth has to be told. Guess what? If food is falling out of our mouth while we tell a story, then it is up to our brothers and sisters to hold up a mirror. Let the truth be told.

When is the last time you appreciated someone telling you about a fault? If you didn't appreciate it at the time, how long did it take to appreciate it?

Monday, November 14, 2011

God First, Man Second: John 3:16-17

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. ~John 3:16-17

This one is real simple. Each Monday I like to start out the blogging week with a reminder of how God comes first in scripture. We figure out who God is and then we realize who we are. It's kind of like basing all other Indianapolis Colts quarterbacks on the performance of Peyton Manning. You realize really quick that there is no comparison.

In John 3:16-17, we have a clear vision of who God is and what He has done. Our part, by comparison, is quite simple.

God loves. God gives.

We get to not be condemned.

God is love. God is giving eternal life.

We are not condemned. Wow. Think that through. We are not condemned. That is simply amazing! God is the life giver and we are the recipients. That is why God comes first and we come in second...a distant second.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Immaturity Times Two

It's not an uncommon event. With 3 children 10 and under, immaturity happens quite frequently in my house. My wife would be quick to add that said immaturity is not limited to the 10 and under crowd. Oh well. Here's what happened;

My 8-year old son, Luke, was just making noise in his younger sister's general direction. This happens a lot, but this time it was at the dinner table, always a precarious time with children without the need for further distractions. My wife was bringing over his second helping of food and suggested he put some in his mouth and stop annoying his sister.

My oldest daughter, Jacie, then aptly commented, 'He'll just talk with food in his mouth.'

I hated to admit it, but she was totally right. Even as he screamed in protest, I could see some of his first helping still in his mouth. Seriously, we're working on him. I'm sure after 8 more years of teaching him table manners, he may be presentable to other people. But then again, I could be wrong.

The bigger issue here was how I was going to parent this situation. Was Jacie correct in what she said? Yeah. Did it need to be said? Maybe not. On the other hand, how was I to point out to Luke, again, that other people noticed his shortcomings as well?

This was a teachable moment for two kids at the same time. For Luke, it was letting him know that manners are noticed, not just by his mom, but by many. For Jacie, it was noting that just because something was true did not mean it needed to be said.

Two kids, two truths and a whole lot of whining to get it all solved. Ah, the joys of parenting. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Seven Spirits Burning

So I have another book today by John Crowder.

This one is called Seven Spirits Burning and is about the seven-fold nature of the Holy Spirit. Some of you may have heard all you wanted to hear. Others have just had their curiosities piqued. Either way, I would say that for the one who wants to learn something, this book is worth the read.

Crowder is detailed. That can be a very good thing, for someone who hadn't just read another book of his. Early on Crowder uses much of his own material from his book Mystical Union. He said he was laying a foundation. I get that as important as well. I wasn't quite sure this was all foundation that needed to be laid for the subject at hand. It felt at points that we'd left this book and entered another. Indeed, I kept checking the covers.

Once we got past the very in-depth review it was very informed. Although there were still parts where it felt like rabbit trails, albeit smaller ones, were taken. But in the end, the book is organized much like the Menorah. It all points to Christ and has mirror images on either side, something Crowder says is representative of the sevenfold nature of the Holy Spirit.

Crowder breaks down each chapter by explaining the different facets of the Holy Spirit. It is based on this scripture from Isaiah

The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him—
the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and of might,
the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the LORD—  Isaiah 11:2

As always he uses plenty of scripture to back up his ideas. While a lot of it seems harmless, there are a few times when I feel like the interpretation is more to back up his own idea than to support what is really said.

My guess is that fans of John Crowder will love this book. Skeptics will find reasons to be skeptical. I find myself comfortably inbetween. There is much to learn and another perspective is always good.

I received this book from my good friends at SpeakEasy. You can learn more about Crowder, and Mike Morrell (of SpeakEasy) and his thoughts on Crowder at the following links.

John’s online home: http://www.thenewmystics.com/

An example of John Crowder’s good-news bottom-line: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZOcWH-VkudE (How you respond to this is a good gauge to how you’ll like the books)
The first installment of Mike's blog series on Crowder three years ago – much has changed, much has stayed the same: http://zoecarnate.wordpress.com/2008/05/27/charismatic-chaos-or-holy-spirited-deconstruction/

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

There is a 'Meat' in Team

There is no 'I' in team. But there is an 'I' in win. And if you rearrange the letters in the word team you could spell me. Yeah, we could go round and round like this. Did you realize there is meat in team. Does that do anyone any good? I doubt it. 

I think our spelling gymnastics are beside the point. The fact is that we can make everything about us, which is the exact opposite of what a team should be.

I believe there are two important things to remember when it comes to teamwork.

Teamwork has a price.
So Elijah went from there and found Elisha son of Shaphat. He was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen, and he himself was driving the twelfth pair. Elijah went up to him and threw his cloak around him. Elisha then left his oxen and ran after Elijah. “Let me kiss my father and mother goodbye,” he said, “and then I will come with you.”
   “Go back,” Elijah replied. “What have I done to you?”
So Elisha left him and went back. He took his yoke of oxen and slaughtered them. He burned the plowing equipment to cook the meat and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he set out to follow Elijah and became his servant. ~1 Kings 19:19-21

What did following Elijah cost to Elisha? He said good-bye to his parents. He destroyed his farming equipment. In fact, he slaughtered the 12 pair of oxen. That he had 12 pair of oxen shows he came from a wealthy family.
But Elisha destroyed it all. It was signifying that he would not be returning to the family business. I do not believe that most of us would have done that. We might decide to do something, but we would simply store everything, in case we wanted to come back to it.
Are we willing to pay the price?

Teamwork has a prize.
When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?”
“Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit,” Elisha replied.
“You have asked a difficult thing,” Elijah said, “yet if you see me when I am taken from you, it will be yours—otherwise, it will not.”~2 Kings 2:9-10
Here we have what is a somewhat sad story of the last time Elijah and Elisha were together on Earth. Elijah is called by God to go to Bethel, but it would appear as if everybody knew Elijah was about to be taken away by God. So Elisha decides he will not leave Elijah’s side.
Elijah asks what he can do and Elisha does a bold thing. He asks for a double portion of the spirit in Elijah. And that is exactly what happens. Elisha watches as Elijah is taken up in a whirlwind to Heaven. And the Bible records twice as many miracles performed by Elisha as performed by Elijah.

Elisha was committed to the team and to the cause. For that he received a double portion of the spirit when Elijah left.
Are we ready for the prize? When is the last time you sacrificed for the greater good of a team and saw it pay off with a prize?

Monday, November 7, 2011

God First, Man Second ; Hebrews 7:18-19

The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless (for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God. ~Hebrews 7:18-19

It seems like such a simple equation. Create something good + man's involvement = imperfection guaranteed.

Don't get me wrong. It's not that I dislike us humanoids. I'm a fan...really. It's just that we have a tendency to muck things up. It's not really a problem as long as we have the right expectations.

For example, if I come home from work expecting a steak and lobster meal and my 3 children to be dressed formally, my wife would guess there is something drastically wrong with my expectations. For starters, she's never cooked lobster. Ok, that's actually a stupid place to start for starters.

The point is, my expectations would not be anywhere close to the reality I live in. Not even in the same zip code. However, if I come home expecting supper to be somewhere close to being ready and my 3 children to be...clothed, then I probably won't be disappointed. Although clothing isn't always a guarantee. I'm just saying.

The same thing applies to God and the covenant we have. If we expect that the old covenant was good and useful, then we're going to be disappointed. The writer of Hebrews gives us the bottom line when he tells us it was 'weak and useless'.

However, God is not weak and useless. It's really as simple as that. What we can't do, God can. And He did.

Anything that involves man gets a little messed up. But as imperfect as we are, God creates a better hope. This is why we place God first, man second.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Less is More? That's Stupid Math

Perhaps you have heard that less is more. That’s ridiculous. More is more. Saying less is more is akin to saying that 2 = 3. Even a young child knows to choose the hand holding 2 treats over the hand holding one treat. Less being equivalent to more is mathematical nonsense. It’s something we tell ourselves when we want everyone to be content with having less.

I believe that the statement arrived as a push back to the idea that more is better. Now that is something I can get behind. For starters we don’t believe that more is better in a general way. We believe that more of the good stuff is better. We don’t want more bills, headaches and meetings. We want more money, fame and time to do what we enjoy. But is that always better?

The Apostle Paul said it best when he wrote the following;
I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.
I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation,
whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.
~Philippians 4:12

It’s hard to argue against contentment as a virtue. But that doesn’t really answer the question regarding more being equivalent to better. Yet people have long argued that you can have too much of a good thing. Too many cookies will result in a stomach ache. Too much work may make Jack a dull boy, but too much play will lead to the unemployment line. And it didn’t take the smartest guy who ever lived to figure out that all the riches are still meaningless (Ecclesiastes 2:10-11).

Perhaps we should take a cue from Jesus. “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him” Isaiah 53:2. Isaiah goes on to describe Jesus as being despised and held in low esteem. That seems to be a harsh labeling of God. But He must be self-aware and had a plan for us to be like Him.

“God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—
to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him” ~1 Corinthians 1:28-29.

We’re not more than we need to be. We don’t need more than the next person. Practicing contentment will be a key factor in discovering true joy in a life of balance where God knows the exact amount we need.

That will be a great thing to keep in mind as we serve up turkey and trimmings and begin our Christmas lists. Bigger is not always better. More is just that, more. So it would seem that while less may not be more, it is actually better.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Who Does Have the Time?

‘I don’t have the time.’ I hear those words…a lot. It’s almost become part of the standard greeting. It comes just after hello and often instead of how are you. It is as if we want to preempt any favor the other person may want to ask. Or perhaps we just want the other person to know, right up-front, that we are very busy. 

Why? Because busyness is next to godliness, or so they say. Isn’t our importance found in how busy we are? The best doctors are tough to schedule an appointment with because they are so busy, right? So that should apply across the board in every area of life. Right?

I’m not so sure.

Weren’t our new gadgets supposed to be saving us time? How do they take more time from our lives? More capability means more time to get more things done on our ever-growing to-do lists. If only it worked that way. It doesn’t.

Where does this leave Jesus? It can be really easy to let a week or two pass by, maybe even longer, and all of a sudden realize that you haven’t given much time or thought to God. We can give lip service all we want to where our priorities are, but one look back at our actual calendar reveals the truth.

I have also heard it said that if you want something done, you find a busy person to give it to because they clearly know how to schedule their time. That brings us back to feeling significant and capable when our plates are full.

I would put forth that significance happens when you have free time. Free time leaves us available for God, available for friends and family and available for new experiences that come along. If you can spare the time, consider what new adventures may come along, if only you have the time to see it.