Thursday, October 31, 2013

Knowing Someone Means Spending Time With Someone

There’s no getting around spending time with God in order to know about God. This is a gut check moment on how much we really want to know God. (As opposed to just wanting a get-out-of-hell-free card.)

It is by making and taking the time to be with God that we will begin to know Him. There is a voice in my life that I have learned to listen to with a bit of skepticism. It belongs to Greta, the name I gave my GPS. I named her so I would have someone’s name to yell when she gives me wrong directions. I’m sure you’ve had similar experiences.

On a youth trip several years back, I was attempting to lead our youth group to one of the leader's family in Kentucky. Either my GPS hates Kentucky and wanted out as quickly as possible. Or this family lived so far out of anything that satellites have not yet discovered this place. After several wrong directions, Greta’s screen finally just showed a question mark, giving up on ever finding our destination. But apparently we’re not the only ones to receive bad directions.

In January of this year, Sabine Moreau, a 67-year-old Belgian woman, was driving to pick up a friend in Brussels, about 90 miles from her home. But based on the faulty directions she got from her GPS, she drove all the way to Croatia—nearly 1,000 miles away. The journey took the woman across five international borders. She stopped several times to get gas and take naps, but she kept pressing onward until she hit Zagreb, the capital of Croatia.

After a few days her son was worried about her so called the police, who tracked her down by following her bank statements. She told a Belgian reporter, "I was distracted, so I kept going. I saw all kinds of signs, first in French, then in German, and finally in Croatian, but I continued driving because I was distracted. When I passed Zagreb, I told myself I should turn around."
Ryan Grenoble, "Sabine Moreau, Belgian Woman, Drives 900 Miles Off 90-Mile Route Because of GPS Error," The Huffington Post (1-15-13)

That’s when you thought you should turn around? For any of you not picturing this yet, that’s the equivalent of leaving from here to go to Ohio and finding yourself in North Dakota. That’s one long, wrong turn. But how often do we hear that in people’s lives. I took a few wrong turns until I finally found myself…and fill in the blanks.

Nope, there's no getting around spending time with God. 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Know Jesus. Know God.

In the opening of John’s gospel we see this (John 1:18): No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.

This is an interesting verse, especially for anyone who has stayed awake long enough to read the Old Testament. What about when Jacob wrestled God? Did he not get a good look at His face? What about when God mooned Moses up on the mountain? (look it up, people, it says God showed Moses His back.) What about the visions of Isaiah or Ezekiel?

I think, without us spending the next 2 hours thoroughly dissecting OT passages, we can begin to get what John is getting at. No one has ever seen God, not like this. No one has ever seen God, looking into His eyes and sensing His approval by the looks on His face. No one has ever seen God, to watch His every move, experience the power in His words, the love in His actions, the desire for food and water and company. No one has ever seen God, not like this.

Or rather, for those of us living since the days of Jesus, we could read it like this; ‘No one had ever seen God like this, but Jesus, the One and only Son, who is in fact God and is closest in relationship to God the Father, came and revealed all we need to know about Him.’

In other words, no longer are we a national army, as God’s chosen nation of Israel was, calling on an unseen God to come and win our victories for us. No longer are we simply a nation of people, sacrificing to and teaching about a God with whom most of us could never even hope to have a personal experience. No longer are we placing all of our faith on the stories of the super-faithful to give us direction in our lives.

Because now God has revealed Himself in the person of Jesus, who has made God known. Because now we are a body of believers who can experience God through the gift of His Spirit living inside each one of us. Because now we are each vessels for showing clearly the love and hope and faithfulness of Jesus to one another.

Jesus gave us the best picture of what it looks like to know Him. This is why Jesus was able to look at Philip, in John 14, when Philip asked to see the Father, and tell him, ‘Bro (points to self)..right here!’ 

It’s like when people come up to me and ask if I know what awesome looks like (and they do ask) and I just shoot straight, ‘Every time I look in a mirror.’ 

We can know God. But only through Jesus. 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Our Perceptions of God

I'm still plugging away in my sermon series while my senior pastor is away. The next few days will offer snippets of this past Sunday. 

It’s confession time. I’m a recovering American Idol fan. How many of you have ever watched the show, or still watch it? I know many people who have really gotten into the show, cheering and voting for their favorites to win it all. I once called in to vote, but that was a long time ago.

But my favorite part was not the end, where all the great singers were. My favorite part was the beginning, when they would parade in the tone-deaf crowd for our amusement. You know, the people who couldn’t carry a tune if they had a bucket.

I think most of us see God as one of the American Idol judges. No, not the current ones that are such a hot mess. The originals. Too many of us fear a Simon Cowell-like judge, the surly brit who was rarely kind. (That was absolutely horrible.) On the other hand, too often we treat God like He is going to respond to us like Randy Jackson. (Yo dawg, I am on the William Hung train...yo!)

I would offer that we should be more balanced, like Paula Abdul (clapping, encouraging, offering critique, but always encouraging.) Yes, she had quirks like all American Idol judges, but you would hear the truth in a polite manner. (Oh, honey, this competition isn’t really for you.)

How we perceive God effects everything else…

How we perceive God affects how we portray God. If we see God as only an indignant judge, we will treat people as criminals defending themselves. If we see God as merely a free candy store, handing out blessings to anyone, then we will act as if we have to keep offering people ‘stuff’ to be our friends, to be one of us.

The problem, of course, is that I could go on painting simplistic pictures of God that favor one extreme or another. We could all jump on our high horses (how weird a saying is that?) and feel smug that our view is so much better. But we need to find a balance, showing God to be bigger than what we think, better than what we imagine, more complicated than even our best pictures.

Monday, October 28, 2013

There's No Furry Animals in That Story

A few weeks ago I shared bits and pieces of King David’s life in my sermon. If you missed it, it looked like this…

No, David’s life looks more like this; get told you’ll be king while still a boy, slay a goliath, join the king’s court, have the king suspect you for treason and try to kill you, marry his daughter, have the king try to kill you again, eventually become king, have enemies try to kill you, experience victory over enemies, see a pretty girl taking a bath, murder her husband, get caught, lose 4 sons, one of whom was trying to kill you and take over, even causing you to run for your life…

After the service, my kids came up to me and asked me the deal about David being a murderer. In case you need to be reminded, these are pastor’s kids. These are kids that have picked out their favorite spots to play in the church building because they are here so often. These are kids who don’t understand why others miss, since they are not given that option.

They had never heard the story of David and Bathsheba. Now, before you totally judge me (or is it too late?) understand a few things. Jennifer and I, probably like many parents, don’t just open the Bible to the bloodiest and most sexually graphic stories when we read to our children. We want our kids to have a thorough knowledge, but sordid stories don’t lend themselves to dinner time.

However, this was a great reminder to me about the primary role of parenting in discipling our children. Let it be a reminder to you as well. Much of the children’s curriculum offered focuses on stories of God’s love and furry animals. Both are key to children’s ministries. Even when we tell the story of Noah’s Ark, we focus on the pairs of animals and the rainbow, but gloss over the mass genocide.

When telling the story of David and Goliath, kids are left with the idea that Goliath died from the stone hitting his head. It can be years before they learn about David taking Goliath’s sword and cutting off his head. And let’s be honest, the story of David and Bathsheba, besides talking about sexual immorality and murder, doesn’t have any furry animals.

I’m admitting all of this, fully cognizant that, as the Christian Education Pastor at my church, I help select the curriculum and determine the direction for our children’s ministries. Yet I fully believe the wisdom in Proverbs when parents are directed to train up our children.

I want parents to be fully engaged to take on this task. I want them to be fully equipped to do so with confidence. If you’re assuming your children will hear every story the Bible shares, then take another look at the book of Judges and then volunteer to teach the preschool class.

On the other hand, please accept your role as parents (aka, primary disciplers) of your children. Take family time to share with them, appropriate to their age. One of the best commands God gave the Israelites is found in Deuteronomy 6.

6 And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. 7 Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. 8 Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders.

Here are a few resources to help you in this endeavor. Not only can you do it, you must.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Some People Have More Time Than Me

Current viral video plus upcoming holiday plus a good cause = Win.

Here's how the creatives from Relevant Magazine report it.

If you’re going to construct an intricate Halloween-themed, animated light display synchronized to Ylvis’ "The Fox", you might as well raise some money for a good cause while you’re at it. If you happen to be passing through Leesburg, Va., and want to check out the show for yourself (directions can be found here), all you need to do is tune your FM radio to a designated station and enjoy. The residence of The Fox house are also asking that visitors contribute $10 to Johns Hopkins Children’s Hospital via a text donation …

Thursday, October 24, 2013

What Could It Mean?

Peter. Ah, sweet, innocent, dumb Peter. We turn to Acts 10 to find him hungry and dreaming about food. Sounds reasonable, right? But this dream has a purpose and God shows Peter all sorts of animals that first century Jewish people would have said was unclean. God tells Peter to kill and eat, and in normal fashion for stupid people from the Bible, Peter tells God no and why he can't. 

God tells Peter why he can. Check it out... 

But the voice spoke again: “Do not call something unclean if God has made it clean.” The same vision was repeated three times. Then the sheet was suddenly pulled up to heaven. ~Acts 10:15-16

This happens three times! But the best part is found in the very next verse. 

Peter was very perplexed. What could the vision mean? ~Acts 10:17

What could the vision mean?!? Are you kidding me?

What are you confused about Peter? I think it means that God doesn't want you to call anything unclean that He has made clean. I don't know that this was all that mysterious. Of all the many things God has kept hidden from us, He seemed pretty straight forward about this one. 

I guess we shouldn't be all this misunderstanding with ol' Pete. After all, Jesus picked him for His top 12. Oh, and I think the rest of us are just as dense as Peter most of the time. We take simple and clear truths of the Bible and we make it difficult. More difficult than it needs to be. More difficult than God made it. 

God has shown us truth countless times. Yet somehow we seem confused. Maybe we need to listen one more time to the voice of God. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

What If I Don't Want God to Know Me? Part 3

If you're just getting to my blog this week, what have you been doing with your time? Working? I'll let it slide, but you can find part 1 and part 2 if you want to catch up. 
The long view goes something like this;
We want to be known. But does familiarity have its limits? Our knowledge of good and evil means, of course, that we have knowledge of evil. We’re very capable of anger, selfishness, lust. So, deep down, do we really want to be known for what we truly are, with our hidden flaws and our secret sins? Of course, the people who know our dark sides and flaws and STILL love us are the ones we’re most comfortable with.  While we come to know God a little bit at a  time—through His Spirit, His Word, circumstances—God has always fully known us,  and He still loves us. This is something we come to embrace more and more as we collect the scars from battling our knowledge of evil.   
In all honesty, you might simply be asking “…and God still likes me!?” And of course the answer is, yes, He does. Asaph, the writer of Psalm 73, opened the psalm wanting nothing to do with God. He ended the psalm wanting everything to do with God. In fact, after experiencing some distance from God, Asaph expressed that now, “it is good to be near God.” He’s glad to be known.     
Maybe you’ve experienced some distance from God lately and you’ve lost sight of how well God knows you and how much God loves you and how deeply He desires to be with you.
Perhaps you are in need of a time of confession this morning. Asaph does that.
21 Then I realized that my heart was bitter,
    and I was all torn up inside.
22 I was so foolish and ignorant—
    I must have seemed like a senseless animal to you.
    and I was all torn up inside.22 I was so foolish and ignorant—    I must have seemed like a senseless animal to you.
This is the spiritual equivalent of looking back at old photos of yourself. Have you ever done that? A fun thing to do is go back and look at old church picture directories. Because why just make fun of yourself when you can have a good laugh at all of us from 10, 20, 30 years ago.
At the time, we look in a mirror and we say to ourselves that what we see is good. But looking back, we often wonder what we were thinking. (Maybe collars were never supposed to be that big.) Looking back we realize. (Maybe hair was never supposed to be that big either.) 
This is what Asaph is realizing about himself. Some of us need to do the same. We need to understand the sin in our lives. We need to confess where we are weak. Like the old family reunion photo, we need to admit we were deluded. Unlike the old photos, it’s no laughing matter.
Embracing the God’s-eye view of ourselves can be scary, if we only embrace half of the truth. It’s like accepting Jesus as your Savior but refusing to serve Him as your Lord. It’s thanking Jesus for the blessings but rejecting the responsibilities that go with such a gift.
How did Asaph continue after his confession? 
25 Whom have I in heaven but you?
    I desire you more than anything on earth.
    I desire you more than anything on earth.
Who else do I have? Accept God is our only alternative (Psalm 73:25). This is why we accept the gift of God with humility and a joyful heart. Look around! If there is a better option out there, I’d love to hear about it. But understand this – this gift of God is more than just the better option. It’s the only option that offers life. Someone in this very church mentioned to me that they liked to have a plan B. I think many of us are like that. But there is no plan B when it comes to finding someone to place our ultimate trust and hope in.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

What If I Don't Want God to Know Me? Part 2

If you missed part 1, check it out here.

If we begin to think that nothing is gained from God knowing us, then despair will set in as we compare our lives to those who are clueless when it comes to the ways of God.
In fact, what we often come to believe is that God knowing the real us is a danger. While we may dread the thought of God knowing us, we can usually push those thoughts down. And, as per our normal human response, we turn our attention to those things we do have control over. Perhaps God knows all about me, making me feel vulnerable, but I can make sure that no one else knows about my junk.
So we put on a mask. Much like any superhero or common thief, the mask has one purpose; protect our real identity. The exception to this seems to be Superman, who felt that a pair of glasses would do the trick. (Let me try that. Take off glasses. Do you still recognize me?)
We put on a mask.
We put on a show for the people in our lives. We pretend to be happy, or smart, or confident even though we feel none of those. We act as if we are content, while coveting on the inside. We use words like ‘fine’ and ‘okay’ when we don’t want to be open and honest. We smile to hide our pain. Even amongst our friends and family, we wear a mask.
We have a persona we want to portray. We might even have an admirable person we want to represent to everyone else. Our dilemma is when we value that ideal to a greater degree than the One who can help us to become that person. When we hide our sorrows, we limit the Body of Christ’s ability to offer healing. When we hide our struggles, we limit the potential for growth provided by fellow believers.
All of the sudden, we come to a realization that God knows us and sees all and knows what we’ve been thinking. This is where we realize that all of the stuff we stuff in a closet or shove under our beds to keep hidden from everyone else, God already knows. He sees it and there is absolutely nothing we can do to hide it.
This may have been where Asaph was at when he wrote Psalm 73. He writes that he has been plagued, understanding how God knows him, yet seeing evil people prosper. Just where is the solution? Asaph searches but writes, ‘When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me’ (Psalm 73:16).
The turning point in Asaph’s song is verse 17, when he decides to enter the sanctuary of God. Then his eyes are opened. Then he sees the reality of what is going on, both in this world and the one to come.
Then I went into your sanctuary, O God,    and I finally understood the destiny of the wicked.

Monday, October 21, 2013

What If I Don't Want God to Know Me?

I'm in the middle of preaching a 6-week series while my senior pastor travels the world. I'll share the highlights of each week's sermon here. But I'll break it down into parts, because who wants to read an entire sermon in one day?

I shared last week that God knows us. He knows everything about us. For people who are struggling with something, this comes as good news, as a salve for their wound. When we feel most alone, God is there. He can see us. When we are most afraid, God is there. He can see us. As we discovered in Psalm 139 last week, God knows everything about us.  
But for many, the thought of God seeing us and knowing us is scary. It smacks of Big Brother watching our every move, as if God is someone holding a fly-swatter, waiting for us to make one wrong move, so He can strike us dead.
I would suggest this morning that it is not simply those who are trying to hide something big that fall prey to this trap. It is many people, who have learned, through attendance in the school of hard knocks, that life is easier for us when we keep certain aspects of ourselves hidden from view. We accentuate the positive to distract people from the negative. It’s why we tell people to take a picture of our good side. Too many of us shun having pictures taken altogether for the mistaken belief that we have no good side.
God is watching!?!
Yikes! I’d much rather He didn’t.
When it comes to our growth in faith, many of us stall in our paths right here in the middle because the idea that God knows us has us paralyzed with fear. Because the truth that God knows us is quickly stymied with the notion that God loves us. After all, if He really knows us, how can He possibly love us?
We’re not alone.
A guy by the name of Asaph wrote Psalm 73 and he apparently had some of these same struggles. Here is how he begins his song;
Truly God is good to Israel,
    to those whose hearts are pure.
But as for me, I almost lost my footing.
    My feet were slipping, and I was almost gone.
He accepts that God is good to those who are pure in heart, but since Asaph readily admits he is not pure in heart, how does that help him? Perhaps you have wondered the same? 
I'll get to some solutions tomorrow.

Friday, October 18, 2013

15 Minutes

For all my friends in ministry, I couldn't say this any better myself. Who knows, maybe hearing it from someone else will help you understand it better.

I got this from the blog. If you're in youth ministry, connect with the work they are doing over there. They have what they call the greatest deal in the history of youth ministry, and I'm apt to agree with them.

Back to the article. Here's the teaser; the before and after of any ministry event is just as important as what happens during the event. If you volunteer in any ministry of my church, here's what I want you to understand.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

My Son For President

My 10 year old son does not appreciate President Obama. Now, before you assume I'm going to get political, remember where you're visiting. Not only do I not blog politics (unless you mean Church politics), I also don't talk a lot of politics at home. The only thing my kids want to know about the Government Shutdown is if it means they get more days off from school. Of course, that just leads to a new generation of jaded children thinking government does them no good.

The reason my son does not appreciate Obama's presidency is his wife. It is only because Michelle started the healthy living stuff for kids. Get Up an Move! Put Down That Cookie! Whatever it's called, my boy is not buying in. In his only political rant to date, here are his future presidential campaign quotes.

Kids can break their arm or get stung by a bee outside. Kids need to experience video games...inside...where its safe.

He was also a little put off when I told him he couldn't run for president for another 25 years. His distaste for politics is growing quickly. But he's not far off on his statement. He has both broken an arm and gotten stung by a bee while outside. That doesn't happen when he plays Mario Kart

Is anyone worried about our parenting? Don't be. After crushing his presidential dreams, I told him to take a risk and get outside. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

It's One or The Other

I've been thinking about Psalm 139 the past few days.

At the end of acknowledging that God knows all about him, David expresses a desire for more.

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
Point out anything in me that offends you,
and lead me along the path of everlasting life. ~Psalm 139:23-24

It is one matter to discover everything God knows about us. But it is another matter entirely to respond as David does, baring his soul for a complete and thorough check. This is so much more than the dentist finding out you don’t floss regularly or the doctor finding out your cookie intake exceeds any amount of exercise you tell people you participate in. This is more than the teacher finding out what you have been working on all semester. It is even more than your parent finding where you hide things when you ‘clean’ your room.

This is God.

Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable. ~Hebrews 4:13

When Jesus said,
“For all that is secret will eventually be brought into the open, and everything that is concealed will be brought to light and made known to all” (Luke 8:17). 
He meant it.

If we thought this was less than true, then what exactly have we been praying during our communion services? One prayer reads like this;

Almighty God, unto whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hidden: cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the presence of Your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love You and glorify Your holy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Either we believe this stuff or we don’t. Either we will actually choose to live this life by faith in God or we will live it based on what we can accomplish. Either we will accept that God knows us and accept all of the necessary conclusions that come with that knowledge. Or we won’t.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

When Poetry Veers Left

Here is a portion of what I shared with my church this Sunday. I was talking about how God knows us, using Psalm 139 as my proof.

Rather than question why his life is any of God’s business, David writes thankful words at God’s knowledge. He seems enamored that God would take this effort to know him and he earnestly desires to return that gift. In verse 6, he acknowledges that this kind of knowledge is too lofty, too wonderful for him to grasp.

As we continue through this Psalm, we come to a part that has probably left many pastors wondering what exactly was wrong with David. This warrior-king, one breath away from telling God how precious His thoughts were, continues like this;

O God, if only you would destroy the wicked!
Get out of my life, you murderers!
They blaspheme you;
your enemies misuse your name.
O Lord, shouldn’t I hate those who hate you?
Shouldn’t I despise those who oppose you?
Yes, I hate them with total hatred,
for your enemies are my enemies. ~Psalm 139:19-22

It appears to be a tangent from an otherwise beautiful and poetic song of God’s intimate relationship with man. At first glance, it’s the jarring equivalent of; 

Roses are red, Violets are blue, Die, Scum of the Earth, Die!

But as we consider exactly what David is acknowledging here, it begins to make sense. Just as David is accepting that God knows everything about him, he yearns to be so much like God that he hates what God hates, sin and evil. David is expressing his heart’s unity with the heart of God. Long before Bob Pierce, founder of World Vision, asked God to break his heart for things that break the heart of God, King David was actually broken for the heart of God.

Monday, October 14, 2013

God Knowing Us Feels Like a Warm Blanket

Talk about being significant.

It’s a really simple thing for me to say that God knows us. It’s even fairly simple for you to acknowledge that. But we need to understand this truth in the light of creation. When God made us, He knew what kind of world He was bringing us into. He knew what types of skills we would need to work the garden and rule over the animals. God knew what kind of food was available, so He made our bodies able to use this food for energy.

In chapter 2 we see the story of how God looked around for a suitable partner for Adam. God knew exactly what Adam would need when He created Eve.

I think we need to pause and consider just how much God knows us. He made this world like a playground for us. Perhaps you've heard the amazing facts about our world; how if our planet were a bit closer to the sun, it would burn up; and if it were a few feet farther, it would freeze. How gravity has just the right amount of pressure. If it were heavier, our bodies would be hurting, but if it were lighter, the little ones might start floating away. How scary might that be?

God has known us since He made us. He has watched our history unfold, much like a Chicago Bears fan watches their seasons go down in flames. (Sorry Bears fans, too close to home?)

This is what makes the words of Psalm 139 sound like a warm blanket to our soul’s coldest nights. But before we dive in to this song, let’s think about the author for a moment. It is written by David, the famed king of Israel. When he writes, ‘O Lord, you have searched me and you know me’, he is writing from a life of complete success, right? Kill the giant, marry the king’s daughter, and rule the kingdom while retelling the stories.

But that’s not quite how it happened, is it?

No, David’s life looks more like this; get told you’ll be king while still a boy, slay a goliath, join the king’s court, have the king suspect you for treason and try to kill you, marry his daughter, have the king try to kill you again, eventually become king, have enemies try to kill you, experience victory over enemies, see a pretty girl taking a bath, murder her husband, get caught, lose 4 sons, one of whom was trying to kill you and take over, even causing you to run for your life…

Are you remembering David’s life more accurately now, this man after God’s own heart? This is the David who writes,

1 O Lord, you have examined my heart
and know everything about me.
2 You know when I sit down or stand up.
You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.
3 You see me when I travel
and when I rest at home.
You know everything I do.
4 You know what I am going to say
even before I say it, Lord.
5 You go before me and follow me.
You place your hand of blessing on my head.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too great for me to understand!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Max on Life

I don't like driving. I really don't like driving while I am alone in the car. But about once a month I have to drive across the state of Indiana for a youth pastor's meeting. In total, I drive between 5 and 6 hours. With nothing but corn to look at, I try to find an audio book to redeem my wasted drive time.

I'll be honest. I wasn't looking for a Max Lucado title. Don't get me wrong, I have enjoyed his writing and own many of his books. But options were limited at the online library and it was the night before, so I grabbed Max on Life, not sure what I was getting.

What I got was sort of a greatest hits of Max Lucado's books. It was set up as a question and answer for anybody and everybody on topics like faith, family, children and money.

It was mostly stuff I had heard before, but like any greatest hits album, it had some previously unrecorded stuff. And even the stuff I heard before was a good reminder of some great Christian truths.

So, people out there, if you're dealing with an issue and would appreciate a well-thought and gently spoken reminder of truth, I would recommend this book. If you're driving for a while, it comes across like a call-in radio show. Except without the crazy advice. Good stuff!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Randomness Found Here

What I like about you, my faithful readers, is that you appreciate randomness. If you didn't, I'm quite certain you wouldn't come back. I'm glad you like it, because I just have a couple of random thoughts to offer today. If nothing else, today is very much like a walking tour through my head.

Scary, I know.

Random Thought #1
We recently sang All Hail The Power of Jesus' Name in church. In case you've forgotten, it includes this line;

Let every kindred, every tribe, on this terrestrial ball.

Was it too hard to simply say everybody on Earth? Would that have been too much to ask? Are there no words that rhyme with Earth? Couldn't we simply have made this a stadium-type anthem where the emcee starts chanting 'Everybody everywhere!'?

I think we could.

Random Thought #2

Yesterday I was sharing from the story of Moses and Pharaoh and those pesky ten plagues. In Exodus 8, here is what we read;

9 “You set the time!” Moses replied. “Tell me when you want me to pray for you, your officials, and your people. Then you and your houses will be rid of the frogs. They will remain only in the Nile River.”

10 “Do it tomorrow,” Pharaoh said.

“All right,” Moses replied, “it will be as you have said. Then you will know that there is no one like the Lord our God. 11 The frogs will leave you and your houses, your officials, and your people. They will remain only in the Nile River.”

Pharaoh is suffering and he says tomorrow. This shows he's Egyptian and not American. Any red-blooded American wouldn't have put off to tomorrow a life of ease that could start today. If I had a big problem and someone offered to take it away on my timing, I guarantee I'm not saying tomorrow

So ends today's tour of my thoughts. Believe it or not, the church I work at still allows me to preach there. And they hear the random thoughts all the time. 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

What God Wants Us to Know

After their fateful bite the first thing to hit Adam and Eve was knowledge of good and evil. Knowledge…of evil. It broke God’s heart to describe us as “knowing good and evil.”

We tend to gloss over Genesis 3:22, where God describes us as knowing good and evil, and assume the biggest problem was our disobedience. That was a problem, yes, but not the primary problem. The big problem is that we became very much like a toddler spending our first night in a big-boy bed, or a big-girl bed. We assumed that since we were not held back by the restraints that a baby-cage offers that we were ready to come out whenever we wanted. But just because you can do something does not mean you should do something.

I remember when one of my daughters was first in a big-girl bed. Oh how she loved the power. I can get out of my bed anytime I want to. But what she discovered was that her parents liked to celebrate putting children to bed by having a bowl of ice cream. Why can’t I have ice cream, mommy? I want some ice cream

~Well, you weren't supposed to see this.

Likewise, perhaps it wasn't the good God was trying to keep us from seeing. After all, all that is good is embodied in Him, so a relationship with God would reveal all the good we could ever hope for. What God was trying to keep from us was the evil. What we didn't need to know. What would only cause us pain. What would only lead to confusion. Any parent can understand this desire for their child.

So God described us as knowing good and evil. Maybe that’s why the word “know” is so prevalent in describing mankind’s redeemed relationship with God.... 

Kings will be your foster fathers,
and their queens your nursing mothers.
They will bow down before you with their faces to the ground;
they will lick the dust at your feet.
Then you will know that I am the Lord;
those who hope in me will not be disappointed.” Isaiah 49:23
I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. ~Ephesians 1:17 
It’s God’s way of undoing the unfortunate knowledge gained in those garden days. We can overpower our knowledge of evil with knowledge of His Light and Life.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

God Makes Known

So many times man wants to know what the rules are. What can we get away with once this game starts? How close can I come to cheating before it is actually cheating? I see good. I see evil. Now I want to know where the line is between the two. I want to know how close I can come to the line without crossing it.

We do this with God. We ask these questions in many different ways. We ask it differently because we don’t want God thinking that we sometimes desire evil, as if He doesn’t already know our thoughts. But we ask; What must I do to be holy? What must I do to gain eternal life? What do I have to do to keep on God’s good side? How many committees do I have to sign up for to make sure the pastor is off my back?

It’s like a young teenage boy asking how often he should write love notes or get flowers for the girl he loves. Son, if you have to ask, you’re not in love.

But we treat God so differently. How often do we have to do devotions? How often do we have to pray? Can’t I miss church just one week? Ladies and gentlemen, let me offer this kindly; if you have to ask, you’re not in love.

One does not clock out of a relationship like you do at a job. One does not call it a day in a relationship. When you are madly in love with someone, you don’t put off saying the words ‘I love you’ until the next time. There might not be a next time.

In a relationship with God, one does not submit a minimum payment required like we do for a car payment or a mortgage. There is no making a double payment next month. God is not charging interest or offering money-back guarantees. When He said His gift was free, he meant it.

When we ask how much do we need to do in correlation with our relationship with God, we are often asking how much we need to do before we don’t feel guilty anymore. And when we ask that question, we are revealing that we do not ‘get God’. When we ask what we must do we are avoiding answering His question of what we desire to do.

We see good. We see evil. But how often have we seen God? How often have we gazed into the face of our Creator and allowed awestruck wonder to hold us there? How often have we allowed our hands to run across the pages of His Bible, like we might do with a hand-written note from our beloved?

Perhaps those of us who have been married for longer than 15 minutes have allowed the necessities of life to drown out the love song that once played so loudly in our dating relationships. Maybe the problem is that the last few notes we’ve gotten from our spouse read, ‘Don’t forget to pick up milk and diapers before you come home.’

Perhaps, like any marriage, we have become so accustomed to our ho-hum relationship with God that it no longer carries the passion it once did. We no longer ditch some other responsibility to be with our beloved. We no longer choose to lose sleep just for a few more moments with the one we say we love more than anything else in this world.

And maybe, just maybe, it is because we somehow slipped into thinking that checking items off of a list would be the equivalent to knowing and to being known in a relationship.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Faith Is My Favorite

Here are some pieces of what I shared with my teens this week. 
There are some famous chapters in the Bible. Genesis 1 tells us of God’s creation. Genesis 3 tells of man’s fall. Exodus 20 offers the 10 commandments. Psalm 23 is likely David’s most famous song, telling everyone that even though he walks in the valley of the shadow of death, he will not fear. Many recognize Matthew 5 as where to find Jesus’ sermon on the mount. 1 Corinthians 13? That’s the love chapter, right?
But, for me, a favorite has to be Hebrews 11. It’s the faith chapter. I like it for several reasons.

First, it clearly defines faith. Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

Let’s talk about this definition for a moment. Does this mean we believe what we believe and it does not matter what truth is?

The author of Hebrews writes that faith is being sure of what we don’t see. That doesn’t mean it isn’t based on fact. In his first letter to the Corinthian Church, Paul wrote about this idea. He said he was hearing rumors of people talking about some idea that the dead are not raised from the dead. He argued, ‘That can’t be true. If the dead are not raised, then Jesus was not raised from the dead. If Jesus is still dead, then He did not actually defeat sin and death. If Jesus did not defeat sin and death, then everything else I told you about Jesus freeing us from sin and death is not true.’

Paul was arguing that we need to have faith, but it has to be in something that is true. If I stood up here and argued that pink ponies were faster than blue unicorns, you’d look at me as if I were crazy. But if I insisted that I believed this by faith, it doesn’t change the rick-diculousness of my argument. You might ask if I’ve been watching too many My Little Pony cartoons with my daughter. (The answer to that question is yes, because even one of those cartoons is too many.)

But when our faith is based on truth, we can then stand strong, being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

Another reason I like this chapter is how he describes the choice they all had.

13 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. 14 People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. 15 If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them. ~Hebrews 11:13-16.

No one can force you into faith. Your parents may force you to church or youth group, your youth pastor may guilt you into service and your friends may coerce you to do right. But nobody can make you believe.

The last reason I like, no love, this chapter is how he does not talk about results. In fact, as you are about to hear, he makes it quite evident that having faith does not always bring about great results.

32 And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. 35 Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection.36 Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were put to death by stoning;[e] they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— 38 the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground. ~Hebrews 11:32-38

Notice how smoothly he transitions from faith stories where victory was had to stories where faith brought death. Results in this world are not part of the guarantee. They are not part of the promise. Earthly results would certainly be one type of reward for faith. But God planned something better.

39 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, 40 since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect. ~Hebrews 11:39-40

A boy told his father, "Dad, if three frogs were sitting on a limb that hung over a pool, and one frog decided to jump off into the pool, how many frogs would be left on the limb?" The dad replied, "Two." "No," the son replied. "There's three frogs and one decides to jump, how many are left?" The dad said, "Oh, I get it, if one decides to jump, the others would too. So there are none left." The boy said, "No Dad, the answer is three. The frog only DECIDED to jump." Does that sound like last year's resolution? Great inspiration and great resolutions, but often times we only decide, and months later we are still on the same limb of do-nothing. ~Source unknown

Faith is being sure. When you are certain, you make decisions based on that faith.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Six Ways to Keep the "Good" in Your Boy

My wife handed me this book, Six Ways to Keep the "Good" in Your Boy by Dannah Gresh. She read somewhere inside the pages that she should have her husband read it. And I think I remember reading somewhere, a long time ago, to know when to read things handed me by my wife.

It didn't take long for me to find the line where Dannah encouraged the handing over the book. I wasn't much farther along when I saw that most of this book was written from one mom to another, with Dad-snippets along the way.

No matter. Parenting should be a team sport and I want to raise a boy who becomes a godly young man, so I kept reading. I don't know about you, but I always wonder about the author when I read a book. What are they hiding? What's the real background to the ideas in the book? How much are they making per book? Could I make some extra cash by writing a book?

Especially when it comes to parenting books, I wonder if and when I'll come across something that exposes the parents as being unrealistic, thus leaving the rest of us normal people to find another solution.

I never found the crazy.

Dannah, and snippet-writing Bob, did a good job of staying practical with their ideas and realistic about results. They point to many outside resources, to back up research and to further a parent's arsenal of weapons. They also say, over and over again, how much prayer went into their successful mission of raising a good boy into a great man.

From when to start the awkward conversations to things to keep an eye on, Dannah takes moms (and Dads who read) on a ride form tween to adulthood. It's a ride worth taking, even if most of the book is written to moms.

One word of warning; don't let your son see you reading it. He tends to get a little nervous and will see future conversations as high risk.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

I Get It Now!

Ahhh, the sweet satisfaction of winning an argument with.....

....a child?

Yes, a child. Not just any child, but my child. Perhaps you've had that moment as a parent, talking with your child. You know the moment. You know, when you are a few seconds away from blaming this spawn on your spouse because you can't possibly see any connection between this child's ridiculous behavior and your own spotless past. 

You know that moment, right? The only problem is when your aforementioned spouse reminds you of a similar time when you did the exact same thing. But I digress.

I live for the moment of sweet victory when a child realizes and accepts their misbehavior for what it is, apologizes and makes a 180, openly admitting your wisdom. It's the light-bulb moment when everything makes sense to them. 

I think God likes those moments. Because those moments are all about Him. You as a parent haven't said anything differently. The rules haven't changed. But a moment of understanding happens. This is something, as I confess as a parent, ca only be described as a gift from God. 

I've been reading Acts 9 this week and noticing a few things. Perhaps you've noticed. 

How strategic was God's choice of Saul that this guy was so knowledgeable and zealous that he persecuted Christians on one day, refuting the claims of Jesus. But then the very next day, he's arguing with people and preaching for Jesus? 

Scales fell from his eyes, indeed! 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

You Said What?

You have got to love a guy that has the courage to question God, right? Actually, I think he's a bit of an idiot myself, but maybe that's just me. We meet a guy by the name of Ananias in Acts 9 who gets a visit from God, telling him to go do something. Except the thing he is supposed to do is go and heal the temporarily blind Saul, who has been going around arresting Christians, guarding coats while Christians get killed and generally making a nuisance of himself.

But God has other plans.

But what I actually love is that God has confidence that Ananaias is going to eventually obey, because God has already given Saul a vision of a guy named Ananias healing him. So unless God had another healing disciple by the name of Ananias who lived in Damascus, it was going to be this guy.

I'm not saying Ananias didn't have a choice. I'm saying God knew what that choice would be. More importantly, Ananias was clearly the kind of guy who felt close enough with God to at least question what he heard. 

So many people in church today lament not hearing from God in a way they decipher clearly. Ananias was apparently so used to hearing God's voice that he took a moment to second guess the command. 

Yesterday I asked an important question. Today I have another. What changes would you have to make in order to feel this comfortable with God? What habits need to be formed so you can not just hear God's voice once in a while (you think) but hear His voice so often you recognize it? And what would it take for you to be surprised at some of the things God asks you to do?

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Just One Man

Don't ever tell me that one guy can't make a difference. You go read Acts 9 and see a guy named Saul just take over the whole scene, arresting Christians in Jerusalem. He's got the taste of blood, after that whole deal with guarding the coats of the guys who stoned Stephen. 

But apparently the unchained lifestyle of singleness for Paul leaves him free and unfettered to travel and arrest Christians in other towns. (Admit it, you're a bit shocked that I just used the word unfettered on my blog, right?)

But Saul goes, has a conversion experience, which will hurt his persecution stats, but check out what we read in Acts 9:31. 

"The church had peace..."

Are you kidding me? Was Saul literally a one-man army? Was there no other God-fearing Jew that hated these upstart Christians enough to go and kill them? 

What was so different in Saul's childhood that he was the only one zealous enough to cause a rumble in Jerusalem before he actually met Jesus?

Perhaps the better question will be, what will keep you from being that one passionate guy (or gal) who will make such an impact on your community? And I mean the kind of impact that leaves people wondering what happened to all the noise when you're gone.