Tuesday, July 26, 2011

God Spreads Rumors Too

I have had a love-hate relationship with the idiom 'perception is reality.' On the one hand, I get it. If people perceive something to be true, then their actions will be based on that perceived truth. We see this in every area of life. For instance, a young child who sees a slide as tall and scary will have to find courage to go on the slide. An adult will see the slide and think it not scary at all.

On the other hand, our perceptions can not always be trusted. I'd rather say that 'reality is reality'. As with the previous example, a child and an adult may perceive the slide in different ways, but that won't change the fact that the slide is a particular height. The slide does not change heights. Reality is reality.

This idea of perception and reality is why rumors can be so devastating. Truth is to be valued above all perception. We see this in the Bible as well.

Back in the book of Deuteronomy God is preparing His people to enter the Promised Land. We read that God would spread rumors about the Israelites that would have everyone else terrified.
"This very day I will begin to put the terror and fear of you on all the nations under heaven. They will hear reports of you and will tremble and be in anguish because of you.” Deuteronomy 2:25
This was both perception and reality. All the other nations had good reason to tremble.

We have rumors spread about us today as well. We're told that all Christians are hypocrites. We're unkind. We lack love. Even as Christians, we cringe every time some whack job makes us all look bad. Whether it's holding a sign or talking without speaking, we have all seen Christians act in ways that make our non-Christian friends turn to us and ask us if we're all like that.

That's how rumors get spread. They have an ounce of truth in them. These perceptions, true or not, become the reality for how people see Christians.

The people living in the Promised Land had good reason to fear the Israelites. People today have good reason to be afraid of what the next Christian might do. No, we won't have a hostile takeover of their homes, but as a group we have been far better at taking over the role of judgment and disdain for people that don't see things the way we see them.

We need to be people that help cause a different kind of rumor to be spread. The Apostle Paul was doling out lessons to a young teacher named Titus when he gave this instruction;
Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us. Titus 2:6-8
Wouldn't that be something if nothing bad could be said about us? Let's give that a try.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

E Stands For Empty

Have you ever tried to one-up someone else on how busy you are? Perhaps your competition was over who lost more sleep or was more tired? Yeah, I've been there. But I think I just inadvertently trumped myself in this incessant game of proving how busy we are, and thus, proving how important we are.

I ran out of gas in my vehicle last week. Nope, not the gas-guzzling Durango that refuses to be sold. Not even the grocery-getter that gets OK gas mileage. I am not even referring to my spiritual state of being (yet).

Nope, I ran out of gas in my moped. Apparently E stands for empty.

Even on a moped.

In case this doesn't sound stupid enough to you, let me break it down by the numbers. I get 145 miles to the gallon. My moped only holds 1 gallon of gas. So I only had 145 miles to take 2 minutes out of my day to stop and put 1 gallon of gas in my moped. But did I? Nope, I was way too busy.

No. So I found out that there is something worse than being mocked for driving a moped around town. It's being mocked for pushing a moped down the street. Which is what I did. On the plus side, if I'm concerned about getting great gas mileage, then pushing my moped around will certainly accomplish that.

Now, far be it from me to pass up this opportunity to encourage you spiritually. You can laugh at me all you want for running out of gas, but the fact is that many of us have far worse consequences when we run our lives on E.

It happens in much the same way as when we drive our cars. We look at the amount of gas in our tank and we start to play games in our mind. We ask ourselves if we can make 4 more stops before getting fuel. Or we decide that it might be fun to see how low the fuel gauge can go.

So we go a few (days / weeks / months / World Cup Finals) without spending time with God. After all, we learned some Bible verses as a child. And remember the other day when there was nothing good on the radio and we scrolled past a Christian station? Oh, and I think a Facebook friend may have posted a Bible verse on their wall. Surely we can go a bit longer before we stop for a fill-up?

Before you know it you will be on the road, out of gas, wondering why this happened to you. Don't be self-important. Rely on God. Read His Word to you. Follow the instructions God gave to the Israelites in Deuteronomy 6:6-9.

These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

Don't ignore the E. You'll end up looking as foolish as a moped-pusher, which is definitely worse than a moped-driver.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Pastor's Kid Does it Again

If anyone tells you that the book of Numbers is just about counting the Israelites, don't you believe them. Not now. Not ever. Oh, and if you catch my kids, pastor's kids, doing some crazy things, please know they have not yet trumped this story from Numbers 25.

Phinehas (not the brother of Ferb) runs into a tent where two people are committing adultery and...well, maybe I better let you read this description straight from the Bible. It's worth the read, unless you're faint of heart.

1-3 While Israel was camped at Shittim (Acacia Grove), the men began to have sex with the Moabite women. It started when the women invited the men to their sex-and-religion worship. They ate together and then worshiped their gods. Israel ended up joining in the worship of the Baal of Peor. God was furious, his anger blazing out against Israel.

4 God said to Moses, "Take all the leaders of Israel and kill them by hanging, leaving them publicly exposed in order to turn God's anger away from Israel."

5 Moses issued orders to the judges of Israel: "Each of you must execute the men under your jurisdiction who joined in the worship of Baal Peor."

6-9 Just then, while everyone was weeping in penitence at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting, an Israelite man, flaunting his behavior in front of Moses and the whole assembly, paraded a Midianite woman into his family tent. Phinehas son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, saw what he was doing, grabbed his spear, and followed them into the tent. With one thrust he drove the spear through the two of them, the man of Israel and the woman, right through their private parts. That stopped the plague from continuing among the People of Israel. But 24,000 had already died.

10-13 God spoke to Moses: "Phinehas son of Eleazar, son of Aaron the priest, has stopped my anger against the People of Israel. Because he was as zealous for my honor as I myself am, I didn't kill all the People of Israel in my zeal. So tell him that I am making a Covenant-of-Peace with him. He and his descendants are joined in a covenant of eternal priesthood, because he was zealous for his God and made atonement for the People of Israel."

~Numbers 25:1-13, The Message

God ended the plague and blessed Phineas because his zeal matched God's zeal.


Think about that for a second. Phineas matched God in zeal. The God who hates sin. The God who can't be in the presence of sin. The God who would go to all lengths to break the curse of sin. God is zealous for us. God is zealous against sin. Phinehas matched that.

What if we matched God's zeal?

It seems to me that Phineas matched the zeal of God in the same manner in which God was revealing Himself in the OT. In the New Testament, God has revealed Himself with selfless love, sacrificial love. We should be doing the same.

God said that love is our rule. He's even commanded us to go forth with this rule. I think on most days we would rather grab a spear. But that is not our given task. We should be running throughout our camps when we see people in need of love. We should be as quick as Phinehas was to take action.

It doesn't take a pastor's kid to get this job done. We should all be as zealous as Phinehas, who was as zealous as God.

Friday, July 8, 2011

You Were Born For This

I should have known what I was getting myself into when I agreed to blog on Bruce Wilkinson's new book You Were Born For This. After all, I had read The Prayer of Jabez. Yeah, I'll admit it. I read it. I loved it. I prayed the prayer for about 3 months before I felt stupid about it. Whether right or wrong, I decided it was a little too prosperity-gospel-esque for my tastes.

So what was I doing reading another book by Bruce? Good question.

Even though judging a book by its cover is considered taboo, I fell for the title. The idea of destiny seemed laced right into this book. By the end of chapter one I knew I was already entrenched in a philosophical debate that hasn't ended in my mind just yet. Perhaps that's ok.

Bruce doesn't start out slowly to allow you to get our feet wet. He begins by welcoming the reader to Everyday Miracle Territory, a place he believes God intends for all of us. He wows us with a few stories of miracles and then offers us his definition of a miracle. A personal miracle is one that God does in a person's heart. It is something that only God can do, but that you and I can deliver. Got that? It's almost as if doubters are given a red carpet to come strolling in on.

Don't be confused. Bruce isn't trying to differentiate between physical miracles and emotional miracles. He simply believes that we are meant to deliver miracles everyday. If we avail ourselves to God and use our own faith, we'll see it happen. Perhaps that would be the real miracle.

The rest of the book includes keys and steps to know how to be God's miracle-delivery guy. There's signals and cues and basic preparedness, which, no matter what you believe, are good tools for sharing God's love. Bruce gets real specific in the last section when he talks about 3 specific miracles he believes we are to be delivering everyday; meeting financial needs, restoring hope in others and leading people in the ability to forgive and be forgiven.

I happen to agree with him on those 3 big needs in people's lives. Actually, I agree with most o what he says. I'm a bit leery of being sensationalistic about it. But in the end we are only left with so many options on a topic like this. Either we believe God has the power to do miracles or we don't. Either we believe God can do these miracles today or we don't. And either we believe that God wants to use us or we don't. It's this last either/or that I think most of us get stuck on.

I choose to believe. I choose to live this way. I believe that puts the God-size work, or the miracles, back in the hands of God to perform.

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review. You can click here for an excerpt of chapter 1. Oh, it would also be a favor to me if you reviewed my review by clicking here.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Tangled in Our Desires

I waited for 2 hours in the hot Florida sun in a line that saw no shadows from trees. I waited there because it was the line to see Rapunzel and Flynn Rider, from the new Disney movie Tangled. No it wasn't for me. And I wasn't alone. Sweaty dads filled a line that went nowhere really fast. I waited for my daughters, whose trip was made complete by meeting Rapunzel and Flynn.

While I waited, my wife took the kids on a couple of rides. They joined me in time to smile for photos and talk with this newest Disney princess and her prince. Jerica, my 4-year old, ask Flynn to put the smolder on (pictured here).It's supposed to make the ladies swoon. He obliged and was surprised when she laughed. Our interactions with the stars were over in a matter of 5 minutes and it was done. My children have signatures in their autograph books and we have pictures to commemorate.

This begs the question, was it worth it? Was my patient suffering in affliction worth the prize at the end? Perhaps I'm being over dramatic, but my answer is yes. It was worth it. Dads have gone through much more for their children. But while I sat there waiting, I did ponder.

After all, people will wait like that at Disney (for rides as well as character greetings), for good seats at a concert, for sales on Black Friday, or even to purchase movie tickets. We share stories of incredible dedication that people have for different things. But have you ever seen this in church?

When is the last time people lined up the night before to make sure they got a good seat at church? How often have you counted the days before a church potluck? Have you ever highly anticipated the pastor's sermon? We could take this one step further...

How long did people wait to see Jesus? Did they allow discomfort to discourage them? Did they give up after it seemed too long? Just like our stars of today, they had heard stories of miracles and great teaching about Jesus. But was there a breaking point for most people? I like to consider the people who were not there for healing. What about those people that just wanted a glimpse? How long were they willing to wait?

How long are we willing to wait for Jesus? Are we patient in suffering? Are we enduring scorn and shame for His sake? There were several people that found out what us dads were waiting for at Disney, rolled their eyes and moved along.

How long are we willing to wait for Jesus? He is coming back. We are told to be waiting expectantly. In my line at Disney I had a time line. I knew that Rapunzel had to come out sometime. We know the same about Jesus. We even have other people to wait with us.

Will that be enough? Will we keep waiting?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

I Want Another Fast Pass

It may seem odd to you to mention Disney and suffering in the same post, but that is exactly what I am going to do. See, Walt Disney and his hierarchy have done some magical things at their park. I could gush about cast members always answering my questions with a smile on their face. Or I could talk about how they take care of every single detail you might possibly think of to have an organized day.

But my absolute most favorite part of Disney World is the Fast Pass. They are not the only ones to use this idea, but it's absolute genius.

Imagine you come to one of your favorite rides. The line is 4 hours long, because everyone in the state of Florida decided to come on the same day. No problem. You slide your ticket into a kiosk and out comes a Fast Pass for you to use later in the day. When you come back at your scheduled time, the long line is there, but you get to skip ahead.

Every time my family used this I had two thoughts. One was as I looked into the eyes of the people with no Fast Pass. 'Suckers', would quickly go through my head. Then I would avert my eyes and move on quickly, as my second thought was that I was getting away with something. Any moment I would hear my fourth grade teacher's voice call my name and I would be caught and punished.

Fast Pass. Brilliant. Now I can go ride another ride instead of waiting in line with 3 young children who just want to hear the theme song from 'Small World' for the tenth time.

Why can't we have a Fast Pass in life? Wouldn't it be nice to see that staff meeting coming and slide your ticket into a kiosk (which all offices should have) and grab a Fast Pass? We could miss dentist appointments, yearly exams, Monday mornings, and most seasons of American Idol. With all this time saved we could be doing what we actually want to be doing...heading over to some other ride.

Sometimes we want God to Fast Pass our suffering. How nice would this be? 'What's that, I'm going to have the flu this week? How about I Fast Pass that?' We could bypass awkward conversations with co-workers, tough good-byes to family or friends, or even facing consequences from bad decisions.

This might get out of hand. We want to skip the lessons that help us grow. It was Solomon, quoted later in Hebrews, who said,
"My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,
and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
because the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son. ~Proverbs 3:11-12
The writer of Hebrews comments on this by adding the following:
"Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father?" ~Hebrews 12:7

There are definitely things worse than waiting in a long line at Disney World. But maybe it's better if we skip the Fast Pass and just go through it.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Ministry Mutiny

Greg Stier, president of Dare 2 Share Ministries, has written a great book called Ministry Mutiny. It is a book filled with practical wisdom on how a youth ministry should be run. Does that sound boring? Well, fear not because Greg wrote it all out in story form, or parable for those of you that love Jesus.

Greg writes of a young youth pastor, lost in his idealism, who is about to quit the ministry. That's when he runs into a veteran youth pastor who becomes his Yoda. The veteran shows the idealist that his ideas are not bad, simply misplaced. Then he shows him how to take those ideas and place them in a properly running student ministry.

The book is great because it takes a common frustration for anyone in ministry (not just youth ministry), and then weaves you to practical, timeless solutions in a way that doesn't sound like a mega-church pastor bragging about all of his victories.

I would share the mutiny principles here, but that would be less interesting than the story Greg has written. Seriously, I would recommend this to anyone. It is a quick read and would be beneficial to anyone in ministry, volunteer or otherwise.