Friday, December 28, 2007
Here is a story that really hurts me, it really makes me uncomfortable and causes tears well up within me. There is a 16 year old boy who comes up to a pastor and says, “Pastor, I know I am going to hell because of my sin.” The boy is fighting homosexuality, he says he likes boys. He has been coming to this church for 15 years of his little life and for 15 years he has been taught that being homosexual is an abomination and the ultimate sin and because of this he is going to hell. Didn’t Jesus save a terrorist and use that man to be the most influential person in the history for the sake of Christ? That is Saul converted to Paul. Jesus can save anyone from anything. We get so lost in our rules that we become an organization that teaches rules and not to do’s instead of redemption. We miss the head of it all. We are running around without Jesus. The gospel does not condemn, it liberates from sin. This boy needs the organism, the Church of Jesus Christ, not the organization. Join me in prayer for churches around the nation, that they may, that we may, always remember to not run in vain, but always look to the head, which is Jesus Christ.
Should we accept this? Is there no hope? Should we watch a virus tear apart an entire continent? Should we pass by our neighbor sitting on the corner? Can we as Christians sit idly by and watch the world self implode?
When I read Acts, every time I read it, I get all fired up about how much Jesus impacted individuals and how much that made them want to impact the world. Jesus told the disciples that they would basically be responsible for spreading the Gospel to the ends of the earth. That is some task. Then I look at Christianity today. I look at the movement started by Jesus and compare it to the enterprise in America today and think, how did this happen? How did the gospel that fired up so many become so casual? Richard Halverson puts it like this, “Christianity began in Palestine as a relationship, moved to Greece and became an idea, went to Rome and became an institution, then came to America and became an enterprise.” How did this urgent message that changed cities and revolutionalized the way people lived their lives become so mundane and casual?
Last summer I went out with a couple friends every weekend to a place called Broad Ripple and Downtown with my video camera to talk to people about Jesus, to do interviews. The camera was more a tool to get a conversation started rather than me actually caring about the footage. I look back on that and think, man I was crazy, I just didn’t care what people though, we were out there on the front lines for Christ just spreading the good news (obviously this was in a relevant way because we were all like 23/24 and could relate to those we were speaking to). We didn’t impose our religion on people, we just started asking questions and inserted truth when the opportunity presented itself. Now I sit in my comfortable living room thinking to myself I wouldn’t do that even if I was paid to. What in the world happened, how did we get here? I think it has a lot to do with distractions and busyness. We get so caught up on our own lives that we forget why we live, we forget that half the world is dieing and just continue heading on our own path not bothering to talk about Christ. I don’t want to be here. I pray God will change my heart, kill my apathy, and reignite the flame that burned inside me once to preach this life changing message with authority and lack of fear. How many causalities have I claimed with my own apathy? How many people will never know Jesus that I could touch? I pray for change within myself, I pray for courage, for boldness, for a sense of urgency in delivering this great truth of redemption. Is this message casual to you…why…Lord save us from this flippancy.
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
I went to grab some grub with Aaron today at Jimmy Johns. We were sitting in the corner of the place and across from me was this sign with the above quite on it. I’m not sure why, but this sign stuck out to me and has lead me to this computer. For some reason this idea that every days is a sunny day touched me. I work in a contact center environment so there are all kinds of different personalities, cultures, and pasts represented in hundreds of cubicles on my floor. This idea that everyday is a good day, every day is a sunny day, your perspective may be different. As a pigeon, you roam freely; see the earth in beautiful views from above in your flight, and get free hand outs from people (you know you feed pigeons stuff sometimes). As a status, you are static, void of life, you may get pooped on by the pigeons, you are dark and lonely. We should cherish each day and realize that it is always sunny and check our own attitudes before saying, “This day is horrible!” We are not promised another day, so we must live each day like it is a blessing, because I truly is.
I’ve learned that each morning when I roll out of bed, the circumstances of the day don’t make it bad or good, but my viewpoint. So I choose my days destiny of being sunny or not by what angle I am looking at it from. Are you a bird or a pigeon, or does it matter? The day is always sunny!
Monday, December 24, 2007
I have a girlfriend now…yes, for real…Well, she was talking to her friends the other day and on two occasions the responses to her saying that we were official was, “Really, like Facebook and all?” This makes me chuckle and mad at the same time. Why do I have to post my personal life on the internet for those who I don’t really have a personal relationship anymore or at all to begin with to read? Does changing my relationship status on Facebook mean anything at all? Those who are close to me, what I call true friends, are aware of what goes on in my personal life (I limit the people I even let read my blogsite because of this) and that is all I am worried about. So that got me thinking about how much has changed in what we call personal relationships. I mean, now I say that I am friends with some one just because they are on my friends list on a social networking site. The amount of friends on your list generally becomes this outward expression of your coolness anyways. Because you have 189,716 friends, this must mean you are cool… This is such a flawed thought process. How many meaningful relationships out of all those people exist? The way we communicate has become cyclical too because of this. When email first came out, it was personal, so was text messaging. Now we would rather call people. We have an unspoken rule between myself and another friend on leadership at church, no emails or text messages on important issues. Because now we just graze over them, don’t really read them. This has become our personalized way of relationships. Really, in a society that boasts so much advancement, this is what we have come up with? So cherish your friendships or relationships with family, have fun with Facebook, but don’t let it or any other substitution supersede a personal relationship.
The story reminded me of something I’ve read before. God told Israel this in Leviticus, “When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the alien (Leviticus 19:9-10).” The idea here is that God cares for those without. He specifically told the farmers to not go over their harvest again so that anything left would be for those without. The exegetical idea here is that God provides us with abundance and we should provide the left-overs to those who have not. In a city in the most wealthy country in the world, I am sure abundance exist, even in conditions like Katrina. Why can’t we leave left-overs for the poor? Why must we go and sweep out everything from the land (this project building in this case) and leave nothing for them? Then we sit around in our suits, in our leather chairs flabbergasted by their reaction to the news that their homes will be demolished. Why is it that the wealthy are allowed to make decisions that will change the lives and futures of the least of these? It's tough on these people when God tells us to prive them grapes left-over, but we pick them up instead. Do we not think about the scenario of the woman and her three children? I can’t change the government alone, I can’t change wealthy investors desires, but I can pray for those who will have their lives torn down. Let us pray that God, the great comforter, will encourage them and provide for their needs in this great time of need.
“That's word,we pray(pray) ah,yeah,pray We need to pray Just to make it today I need to pray(pray),ah,yeah,pray We need to pray Just to make it today That's word,we pray”
Jesus prayed. Moses prayed. Mc Hammer prayed. I’d presume you pray. I pray. Do you believe in prayer? I was reading Relevant the other day and came across this article that really messed me up, it was called "I Don't Believe In Prayer". I mean like punched me in the stomach and wouldn’t stop, it still hasn’t a week later. The author says that he doesn’t believe in prayer! Oh I can hear the gasps now! We should crucify him, at least stone him…right…or maybe just call him blasphemer. You should definitely read the article, it will change the way you think about it all.
May you pray, may you seek Him and truly seek this holy practice of prayer, he is listening, are you willing?
The big thing you will here from the pulpit around this time of year is, “I know this time of year can be stressful with all the Christmas shopping and such…” Why? Why is it that we stand in line at 4 in the morning the day after Thanksgiving to catch that sale on those items? How many credit card accounts are open? How many loans are taken out? The pretty lights run the street, Christmas plays are all around town, and cards are handed out like candy. Why? Let me clarify first, I have no problem with the gifts or lights, santa or the trees. It’s interesting to do a Google search on Christmas History. The results are pretty cool. Christmas time is one of the greatest opportunities we have as Christians to tell people about Jesus being born and the implications that brings. In this time of stress, loneliness, depression, and pain, we can offer hope in the name of Jesus. How is that we can shake our heads and say “Amen” when we here this from as pulpit, but go out an be conduits of this madness ourselves? Traditions are the hardest things to break. I question my traditions, I question why I celebrate Christmas the way I do. Why do I feel obligated to buy people a gift for Christmas, how does this celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ? How can we celebrate His birth? I say serve, serving those in less fortunate circumstances. Instead of spending thousands of dollars on toys your one year old will either, eat, lose, or burn, invest in a homeless shelter, buy someone dinner, or serve somehow.
I used to get upset when people would say “Happy Holidays,” it would just burn me up. This holiday started as a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. Christians did not take a holiday and put some spiritual funk to it, it’s not like we took Columbus Day and it made it about our freedom in Christ. Columbus day is Columbus day, why can’t Christmas be Christmas? On the opposite end of the spectrum though, all these lights, santa clauses, cards, fruit cakes (gross!), and presents, how can anyone see anything but a holiday. I’m trying my best to remain focused on Jesus rather than the stack of gifts I will get or food I will eat. I am not saying anyone is wrong for what they do on this holiday, I am only expressing my personal feelings about my own crisis with this holiday. So enjoy the food, the lights, the presents, but never forget Christ is at its core and some how try to see through the wall of tradition and holiday and gaze upon a little baby born in a feeding box somewhere in a little no-where town called Bethlehem. God crashed to earth, perfection joined oppression, light was in darkness, freedom became captive, the eternal became finite. Merry Christmas, I pray you and your family will celebrate His birth and the freedom offered through Him.
People don’t want to be managed.
They want to be led.
Whoever heard of a world manager?
World leader, yes.
They don’t manage.
The carrot always wins over the stick.
Ask your horse.
You can lead your horse to water, but you can’t manage him to drink.
If you want to manage somebody, manage yourself.
Do that well and you’ll be ready to stop managing.
And start leading.
I have been assigned to a new manager at work. I feel like I need to apply to a new position because she is a manager and I am used to working with leaders. I am a leader myself so I don’t deal well with managers. Managers act within circumstances, leaders change circumstances. Managers tend to focus on the processes rather than leaders who focus on the reason for these processes. There are several issues within myself I must deal within myself, submission to authority, patience, kindness, forgiveness, but that is not the point of this entry. When you read the bible, you do not encounter any managers, you encounter great leaders. If you are a leader or in a position of management, how do you do this? Is it a push pull deal or is it linear at all? I don’t think a leader acts in linear thought process, but rather influences from every angle and inspires those he/she leads. Their vision becomes their follower’s vision. There is also what are called transactional leaders and transformative leaders. Transactional leaders are much like managers and lead within the walls of a certain idea, transformative leaders do not see a box, they don’t act inside the box or play it safe, they transform the environment they are in. With my passion being church planting and leading, I think about his stuff all the time…What kind of leader are you? With the older leaders moving on and the newer leaders taking over, I think you can see a definite difference between the two and notice the transition in styles. What kind of leader are you, what kind do you want to be? I want to lead like Jesus, I study not only what He said or what happened within His ministry, but how He did things or handled situations, how He led. If you are interested in reading more on this you should check out the following books:
Leaders. Strategies For Taking Charge- Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus
Leading Without Power. Finding Hope In Serving Community- Max De Pree
Transforming Leadership- Leighton Ford
Jesus made a lot of claims and did a lot of things. His ministry was not just a good example it was God on earth showing His creation what He desires, His glory. There are several things that are amazing about the resurrection of Christ. There is no way He could have not been dead in the tomb, it was 3 days later that He resurrected. Christ is now living in and through us through the Holy Spirit. He revealed Himself after he was resurrected to hundreds of people. What was His reason in this I wonder? Why did He feel it necessary to show Himself to the disciples again, He already told them what would happen…
If Jesus would not have risen from the dead like He claimed He would, He would be a liar and God does not lie, so He would fail to be God. So if He rose and showed Himself to all these people, then what He said must all be true! You have to imagine that once all this resolved in the minds of the disciples they had a huge light bulb over their heads and ran as quickly as possible to tell everyone about the living God they serve, the living God that offers hope, the living God that offers forgiveness. Could you imagine if you were to have all this knowledge? That my friends is what we call a rhetoric question… The reality of it all is we do have the knowledge of Christ. The disciples had to figure all this out, wait for it all to happen before it all came together. It’s like a rubrics cube. All those different colors, it takes forever to put together, but once you do, you tell everyone. The disciples had to wait for it all to come together, but when Christ resurrected, it all came together and was all lined up. We have the advantage of having a complete rubrics cube in front of us…is this exciting to you? Who have you told about it?
Sunday, December 16, 2007
A brief detour to explain how I kind of took my friends…A lady at work knows that I am into volunteering and such so she told me that they needed volunteers to help wrap cookies and watch the concession stand before and during intermission and when we were not doing that we were allowed to go in and watch the Symphony. It was the Christmas Yuletide special, with Sandi Patty (a huge Indiana native who is adored here) and the African Children’s Choir, so it was a treat to see indeed! So we basically got to serve (which is always awesome) and got into the Symphony for free (it normally runs between $50-70 to get in)
After the Orchestra Ryan and I ran to the truck so the girls didn’t have to walk in the snow and slip on the ice (see chivalry isn’t dead)…So here Ryan and I are running to the parking garage trying not to slip, all dressed up in our fancy Symphony duds. Afterwards we all went back to Jessica and Kristin’s house (Jessica is Ryan’s girlfriend and Kristin is one of my best friend’s (Allen) wife and Ashly was with us too, she is basically my girlfriend, but we are still figuring all that out together…) and watch Fun With Dick And Jane. Good flick, very funny, I laughed several times, plus the company was great. Ryan got up to let Jade outside (Allen and Kristin’s dog) and totally tripped on a shoe, it was a good fall, great timing! Ryan and I get this sudden man craving at 1030 so we decide to run to Wendy’s. We get to Wendy’s drive through and they say, “Hello, we are closed due to weather conditions.” How lame! We go across the street to Taco Hut (one of those half Taco Bell half Pizza Hut places) and get tons of food, like a feast of bachelor’s dreams. We look all goofy trying to walk up Allen and Kristin’s stairs without trying to slip and drop the food, although it would have made for great laughs. Allen and Kristin’s house is in this really old classy neighborhood that has steps up to the front door, so when Ashly and I left they were all iced over. I’m walking Ashly to the truck and we look like a little old couple with arthritis of the hips because we are walking so slow, trying our best not to fall.
This morning it is a grand total of…drum roll please…15 degrees! It has snowed 4 inches already and the roads are all iced over. I’ve been at work doing over time since 4 and get off at 8, so I’ve just been looking out the window and have already made a run to the closest convenient store for Red Bulls and Twix. The weather is pretty nasty. So nasty in fact that we, Indy Metro Church, cancelled services today! It is supposed to snow all day, they say we could possibly get a foot by the end of the weekend. Crazy right. Welcome to my life in December. Funny thing is December is the beginning of it all, come Jan, Feb, and Mar we are talking about feet of snow and negative temperatures (I know all you Floridians back in Jacksonville are burning with jealousy right now). Anyways I’m kind of delirious because I just decided to not sleep last night because I had to be at work at 4 so I’m sure this blog entry will be quite humorous to look back on, but I’ve attached some photos of the snow over the last couple days, enjoy my world through photos. Miss you guys and def miss the warm beach! By the way, go Jags, I will never convert to the Colts!
Thursday, December 13, 2007
So I’ve been going through this roller coaster of over analyzing then just doing without a ton of thought for a while now and feel like I’m at a point of resolution and peace right now. I pray I can just stay here for a while and stop thinking so much and just realize that some thoughts are just that, thoughts and require no action. I need to realize I cannot predict what ifs or who I will be or how I will be in the future, so I can only live right now and I must do so with excellence (for Christ) and cannot do that being paralyzed by analyzing everything.
So I pray you can see through the example I lead by over thinking and analyzing that it really does paralyze and just do it (thanks for the great motto Nike!) instead of thinking so much that you don’t have time to do anything.
It is great to look at the Bible holistically and not just focus on an isolated moment. In doing this I have stumbled across, well, the Lord has put them in my lap, great truths and deeper insight to things. I had one of these moments last week when we took communion together as a church body. I ran across the story of the disciples’ requesting to sit at Jesus’ right in Mark (Mark 10:35-45) the night after we took communion. Jesus responds to them with a question though, “"Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?" What cup? What does He mean? Well, Jesus was about to go to Jerusalem to be crucified, publicly humiliated, tortured, rejected, and disgraced. Jesus knew the path He was walking would not feel good, it would not make Him feel nice and soft on the inside, it would not be pretty. The cup is suffering, this is the cup in which Jesus drank from.
So as I was remembering Jesus and all He has done, remembering what He saved me from, remembering His mercy, His forgiveness, I remembered the Roman torture He went through, the crown of thorns shoved into His skull, the cat of nine tails that ripped flesh from His back, the hair ripped out from His beard, the saliva spit in his face. I remember God taking the image of a broken, beaten man, to take the burden of sin from me. The bread and juice taste much sweeter and seem so much heavier when I think about it this way. Jesus knew we would forget and that is why He commanded us to do this as often as we meet in remembrance of Him. In the Jewish culture of that day in which He spoke these words, a family dinner was a big deal, it happened almost every night, so Jesus was serious about us remembering Him. I’m not saying do it every night or suggesting any type of pattern to it, I’m simply suggesting remember that the cup you take when you take communion is a cup of suffering and redemption at the cost of innocent blood, Holy blood, blood that is Love. Isn't it sweetto have such a reminder of this cup Jesus took? I pray you remember Jesus daily, remember His sacrafice for you.
Everyone who came was assigned to bring a certain item, I was assigned cookies of course, because that is something I cannot mess up. We had an abundance of food including turkey, ham, sweet potato casserole, green been casserole, corn, stuffing, pigs in a blanket, macaroni and cheese (the homemade kind with the hard cheese on top…my favorite), rolls, and all kind of desserts! It was truly a great dinner and evening of friends and fun. After dinner we went into the basement for our white elephant gift exchange. The first gift I picked was a year old fruit cake, it was pretty sick, it smelled awful! I coaxed my friend Ryan into trading with me and the next gift I picked was a cheesy 1980’s style ceramic model of the orchestra on the prairie up north in Indianapolis, it had lights and everything (it is sitting under my Christmas tree as I type!)! During the white elephant gift exchange we also had to place our votes for the cheesiest Christmas sweater. And yes these ballots did seem skewed like Florida’s! There was a girl prize and a guy prize for cheesiest sweater. And the results were in….the girl’s winner was (drum roll)…Megan Wynn! Now the guys…(drum roll)…(uncomfortable silence)…it’s a tie! What? That’s not what I had in mind! It was a tie between Ryan and I! So the idea to break the tie was a dance off! This I could do! Me being a gentleman, I let Ryan go first, that was a big mistake. Let me disclaimer what happened by saying this, every time Ryan and I hang out we learn that we are more and more alike. Ryan sassed walked over to me and busted all these sweet moves. As he was bringing wicked funk to my face I would think about the next gnarly move I would respond with, but he would do the exact move I was thinking about, it was like he was reading my mind. At the end I had nothing left but a couple chest pumps and booty pops, but all in vain because Adam GOT SERVED! As I liked my wounds for the next several hours I was consoling in my sister-in-law Nicole who laid some jive news on me…
Nicole told me that when they were counting votes in the kitchen upstairs as we all waited in the basement in nothing short of dramatic anticipation that I got 7 votes and Ryan got 6! That would make me winner right? Yes! Well, back on October at the pumpkin carving party I pulled away with a huge win for best pumpkin carving. Danae said since I won that contest that she didn’t want me to win this one, so she said they would tell us it was a tie! This is some kind of conspiracy against Adam I think! I was outraged and disappointed that I withstood the embarrassment of having Ryan dance me out of the room because someone did not want to call me champ. So now that we all know the truth I would like you to know that I pulled a sweep of all holidat themed party contest this year and would like to be called Champ from now on! I’ve also added some photos below for your viewing and laughing pleasure.
This is me getting served!
Ryan and I look gross in this picture, but we were dancing and we look a little bit like we like men(sick I know)!
Ryan and I as friends before he burned me with the crucial dance moves...lol. Jessica, Ryan. and I...The hand with painted nails is not mine!Myself with the ever so cute Isaiah Bunso!
I was just reflecting on how many things we fill our days with and how ridiculous of a thought it would be for us to just start peeing on ourselves. I know this is an absurd though, but stay with me. What if you walked into your managers office and he stood up to greet you and you saw the dark stain down his leg and when asked about it he responded, “I just don’t have time, I’ve got so many other things going on right now.” I think I’d quite that job. Could you imagine if that was everyone’s mentality and adults around the world walked around not taking the time to use the restroom and just peed their pants? Billy Madison was funny when he made it look like he peed his pants, but this would be disturbing. Christians are supposed to be children of God, He is our life and we should be focused on Him. I often find myself at 1030 at night thinking, “If I only had more time I would have gotten in your Word, I just have so many things going on right now…”
As absurd of a thought as it is for grown men to pee on themselves to save time, isn’t the same true of God’s children not taking time out to get to know Him better. I don’t feel like I have to read the Bible in a legalistic sense, I just think I need to know God more, I want to know God more! I pray that I would take time to know Him and spend time in His Word and in prayer. . We all need to pee, but not taking time to is preposterous! We all need God but not taking time to seek Him is outlandish! So may you consider taking time to do what should be natural to a child of God.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
In Jesus’ day we presume there were other healings and marvels going on. The reason this can be assumed is because Simon the Sorcerer was going around doing wonders and offered to buy the Holy Spirit (Acts 8). People walking around doing healings and wonders was nothing new in Jesus’ day. The difference between Jesus’ miracles and the others was one and it was simply, they were only to reveal God’s glory. Each miracle account in the Gospel of John is directly linked with a teaching and circumstance that would reveal God’s glory. Jesus did not heal because he did not want anyone to be sick, or any one to die, He healed in the right time and place to reveal God’s glory. Now with that said, let us understand some requirements for something to be called miracles: It must be directly linked with giving glory to God. It is a miracle when a poor family who is 109th on a list of heart donors prays and receives a heart paid for by a wealthy family within weeks of being put on the donors list, their faith in prayer and God’s deliverance made this a miracle. Someone getting a heart transplant in general is not a miracle although it is a great advancement in science. When I was thinking about all this I just noticed how many things we attribute as a miracle that are totally independent of God. Me paying my rent is not a miracle, it is called being a good steward of my money. So what do you think miracles are? If the act does not glorify God in its immediate context it is not a miracle in light of Jesus’. John says that the only reason he wrote his Gospel with the accounts of so few miracles out of the many Jesus did is so that the readers would believe. You have to think that is why Jesus did them as well. He said after raising Lazarus from the tomb that it was for the benefit of those around to see Him raise him from the dead (John 11:1-44). Jesus isn’t into vain miracles with no purpose; they must glorify the Father and reveal Him further. Interesting thought right…
When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, "If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt (Exodus 13:17)."
Another example of repentance in the Biblical Old Testament use is in 1 Kings:
and if they have a change of heart in the land where they are held captive, and repent and plead with you in the land of their conquerors and say, 'We have sinned, we have done wrong, we have acted wickedly'; and if they turn back to you with all their heart and soul in the land of their enemies who took them captive, and pray to you toward the land you gave their fathers, toward the city you have chosen and the temple I have built for your Name; then from heaven, your dwelling place, hear their prayer and their plea, and uphold their cause. And forgive your people, who have sinned against you; forgive all the offenses they have committed against you, and cause their conquerors to show them mercy(1 Kings 8:47-50);
The idea of repentance is that God called Israel, a group of people who started off with Him to return from their ways and back to Him. Back in the day of Jesus repentance was an easy idea to comprehend and easily taken because all were born into a religious society conscious of the God of Israel. So if I were to run up to a Jew back in 2 AD and say repent, they would totally understand me. 2007 is a funny time period though, we have forgotten about the creator of the universe, God. There are grown people living in New York City, a city of 20 million people, who have never heard of God or Jesus. So they have been used to a Godless world filled with bondage and sin. Repent to them would mean turn back to what you know, what you were born into. If that is sin, then is repent the word they should hear? I feel one must be educated about their beginnings, their heritage before they can understand where they came from. Once they understand the beginnings, where the came from, who created them, then they can comprehend repent and this harsh word becomes a much easier pill to swallow. So as pure as the motives of the street “evangelist” are, they do not stop to think about the terms they use and if it is easily understood. Your typical person on the streets thinks repent means to conform to a close-minded religion called Christianity. That is a false sense they have of Christianity, but one we must take into consideration when yelling “REPENT!” When I first started thinking about this, it really changed how I think about this word and what it means to someone who does not know they are a creation of God. So may you consider others, consider what they come from, what repent means to them, and introduce them to a God that is waiting for them to turn back to Him even when they did not know they could…
I have always had a problem with how the modern church beats up on the disciples and there short comings. I can’t imagine experiencing what they did and not acting the way they did. In fact, I would venture to say they acted better than I personally would have. They spend years with Jesus believing He is the Messiah. Their understanding of things was not always clear and most of the time took hindsight to comprehend. For some reason, Jesus’ death came as a surprise to the disciples. For some reason they believed they could stop it or protect Jesus, Peter cut off a guards ear trying to protect Him. The reality is that sometimes we miss what is right in front of us, what is most obvious because we look for things in secret places.
I finally decided to buy a good pair of glasses so I could see at night. I bought Nike glasses that were a bit more expensive than I would ever think about. So naturally I’m a freak about not loosing them. So one night I was about o go out somewhere that required me to drive, so logically I went to find my glasses. I began to wig out because I could not find them, I looked everywhere, in my bedroom, on my desk, in my shoes, in the refrigerator, on my entertainment center, everywhere, and could not find them. Finally in a dramatic moment of panic I through my hand on top of my head as a sign of my worry and anxiety and felt something hard, that felt a lot like glasses. Hmm…funny how things like that happen. I looked everywhere except the most obvious place.
Do we do this with God? Look in the miracles, the exceptional places, the sanctuaries, the deep prayer vigils, or summer camps? Do we miss God in the obvious? There is a story in Luke Ch 24 where two disciples where walking on the road to Emmaus. I’m sure they were down and out, I can’t imagine how they felt, Jesus had just died, for all they thought, it was all over. Then this “stranger” begins walking with them asking why they are sad and creating conversation. They walk for seven miles and then invited Him to eat with them and still did not notice it was Jesus! They were so caught up in Jesus being in that grave that they didn’t expect to see Him walking with them. It was not until Jesus broke bread, gave thanks, and started passing it out that they saw who He really was and at that moment He disappeared. It says that their eyes were opened and the recognized Him. What was closing their eyes, what was blocking their vision, the circumstances, the worry, the short sightedness? What is blocking your vision from seeing Jesus walking with you? Do you expect to see Jesus only in certain circumstances or do you expect Him to in everything? May you see Jesus walking with you down whatever road you are on and not dared be blinded by circumstances!
I’m sure we’ve all had these thoughts in some way or another. Have you ever wanted to change someone so bad that it drove you insane? For some reason we feel this natural compulsion to change people, we want to manipulate them into what we think is good or right. This really puts us in a world of hurt though because it makes everything personal. In dating we should just try to find someone who we accept as is without trying to change them. In friendships we should not be manipulative and try to mold it into something it is not. In giving advice we should be simple and do just that, give advice, not try to make someone do what we think should be done. Advice is something that has to be accepted and applied, which infers that sometimes it is not accepted. If you ever take a look at a lot of people and just listen and analyze what they are saying and doing, we live in a very manipulative society full of people trying to be dictators rather than helpers. Those of us who are new creations in Christ have been given a Helper as well, the Holy Spirit. But for some reason when I look around the Christian realm I am still overwhelmed by manipulative people. I’ll punk myself out here as an example… My little sister and her boyfriend have been dating for a long time and are now engaged. They are not close to the Lord and do not follow His way. They are your typical “American Christian”, meaning they claim to be a Christian, but do not follow Christ or know Him, they just like the idea and have crosses on their cars. Well on Thanksgiving they were engaged. I should have been happy, but I wasn’t. I was so worried about their marriage and relationship without God that I began to become almost angry over them not being close to the Lord like I am currently. I was talking to my mom about it one night and just went on this 30 minute rant about marriages without God are ridiculous because marriage is an institute created by God. I wanted to change their relationship with God, like reach into their hearts and change it. I used to think this way about people I taught in Jacksonville in Sunday school, If I could only change them. Because I was so worried about changing them I came off as manipulative and not caring. The point here is that God doesn’t ask us to change anyone. I had to learn this lesson in an unfortunate way, by hurting someone who finally called me out on this and conviction from the Holy Spirit. God asks us to go out and speak truth and love and pray that the Spirit would change them. It is an issue of me wanting to see “success”. Success is simple, speak God’s word in love. If I become impatient and manipulative am I not basically saying that I don’t trust the Spirit to do His job when I try to do it for Him? This can be an easing thought in many things like teaching a brother or sister in Christ about something, teaching someone about Christ for the first time, when people ask for advice, and in your own personal relationships. Trust that God knows what He is doing. Remember that you are not in control but can only suggest things with love. We can never change anything and must remain faithful and patient and pray to God that He would produce fruit with the work He has given us. May you go out and surrender control, surrender changing, surrender manipulation, and breathe, love, and live as if you are truly free. Be a busy worker in the field laboring when the master returns. Forget manipulation, we need love!
Wednesday, December 5, 2007
I was in class last night and a comment made in conversation jumped out and smacked me. The above quote is from my professor John Strifler. We were in the middle of discussing the Great Commission Christ gave to the disciples in Matthew 28 before He ascended. Basically the religion of Christianity gets so caught up on things like baptism, services, small groups, out reach programs, community service programs, etc. that we forget the central focus of it all. So if baptism or community service or any other Christian project or plan becomes central to our focus then they become irrelevant and not effective. The central theme and most important thing Jesus told the disciples before He ascended was, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples… (Matthew 18-19)” Basically because all authority had been given to Him, He wants us to go make disciples. When we are making disciples we will go to all nations, we will baptize them into the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and we will teach them to obey all He has taught us. Without going to make disciples going to nations, baptism, and teaching would be useless. The original disciples knew what Jesus was talking about when He said to go make disciples. They were His disciples. Naturally they would go out and do what their Rabbi did with and for them. If you read the Gospels and just study the relationships Jesus built with these disciples you can see that in no way did Jesus make things quick and easy, He didn’t disciple as a side note, He was a discipline making machine! So as the disciples remember how much time and effort Jesus took to pour Himself into them, even when they were acting the fool, they followed this same pattern of making disciples.
How long did Jesus chase you down through life events or how much time did some body or many people pour into you before you came to trust Jesus? I am not saying that tracts are bad, televangelists are bad (though most are a little loopy), street preachers are bad, or any other Christian quick convert makers are bad. I am simply saying they are all products of our lack of focus to make disciples. So may you focus on making disciples first based on the authority given to Jesus. He said Himself He will always be with you, take the time to slow down and invest in somebody. I pray you will impact as many people that the Spirit opens a relationship and opportunity up to.
Here’s another story about this abstract American casts system. I was sitting on the circle (Downtown Indy) with a friend of mine and this man who lives on the streets walks up to us and falls to his knees like 5 feet away from us and says, “Please can you help me, I’m hungry, I need some money, you can throw it at me, you don’t have to even look at me or touch me, I’m sorry to bother you.” I come to tears almost every time I think about this story. I was obviously enamored by this man and his approach to other human beings so I told him to get up and shook his hand and introduced myself. I told him that he is a human and that he should never feel like people are better than him. I walked with him to a pizza joint around the corner and just sit with him and watch him cry saying that he just wants to be a good person and on and on and on I was able to see this nasty disease he had been given by society, the disease of believing he was not human, that he was below society. His name is Kevin, I see him around all the time and give him a hug, that moment stained my heart. What a load of, well, you know… It angered me and deeply saddened me to see how a person, a man, made in the image of God, could be told so much that he actually believed he was less than human.
I can hear the gasp in the room now. You can’t believe it can you? How could someone act this way right? I wonder if we’ve been fooled into thinking we are better than certain social types or people? A little self evaluation is a good thing. So remember we are all equal and the Lord does not operate in casts systems that we have created. So I still have this question to Justin, how did you get way up there and who told you you were higher than anybody? So let’s break down these social pedestals we’ve built with our own hands and see everyone as God does, with Love.
Monday, December 3, 2007
Fortunately for some of us it has stopped and for all of us it can. There is only one source of true acceptance and love with no strings attached. You don’t have to somehow prove yourself or make yourself acceptable. God’s love is unconditional. “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[NIV]).” Unconditional love is hard to put our minds around. I am convinced that if a wife were to ask her husband, “honey why do you love me,” and his response were, “no reason I just do,” there would be a problem. We need reasons! We need to know why we are loved so we can keep doing whatever it is that makes us loved. We are beings that thrive off of earning and proving ourselves in order to get love or acceptance. So I can fell this girls pain; we don’t know what to do when we are not used to being love and we suddenly are, we make big mistakes and do dumb things!
Maybe the reason why this world is in an uproar when it comes to God is because we don’t know how to deal with unconditional love. It’s so hard for us to accept that God loves us and all we have to do is trust that through Christ. All God requires of us is trust and faith. He doesn’t require more makeup, more skin, more this, more that, or anything more than what He offers and that is unconditional love. This could be a much bigger blog, but for time and space sake, I’ll leave it with you to resolve within yourself. Are you fighting this dilemma? Are you struggling with accepting a love you are not used to? I invite you to trust I Him! He loves you whether you can understand it or not, he just wants your trust!
One night I’m laying in bed and I feel itchy, so I take another shower, lay down, and still feel itchy. So I rip off my sheets to find what I think are little spots of blood, which is odd, so I go to wipe them off and when I get close they scatter! Eww! I immediately took my bed down the hall of my apartment complex and threw it away. After a little research I found out they were bed bugs. I didn’t even know they were real, I just thought it was a cute saying, “Goodnight, don’t let the bed bugs bite.” I even feel gross writing this right now. The only way I can figure I got the bed bugs was from one of my street friends because I don’t go outside otherwise. So for the next 6 months I slept on a twin sized air mattress (this is actually smaller than twin bed because I’m only 5’9” and my feet hung off of it). I slept on this air mattress for so long because I didn’t have enough money to buy a bed. All this has to do with the dumb decisions I made by getting myself into debt. Proverbs 22:26 says, “Do not be a man who strikes hands in pledge or puts up security for debts; if you lack the means to pay, your very bed will be snatched from under you (NIV).” I had gotten myself into so much debt that my bed was literally snatched from under me. I could not help the circumstances which caused it (bed bugs), but the reason I could not replace it was because I had made many pledges for debt. I’m learning tons about life and the way of following Jesus and debt management/money management is one I have the most trouble with. I pray I can serve as an example to you and you may not put up security for debts and will into buy anything you lack the means to pay for. And while you’re at it you can definitely keep me in constant prayer and pray for yourself that we can all be freed from the bondage of debt and truly live within the liberty Christ offers.