More Than Just Words – Series Preview

I have the honor of being a part of a lot of weddings, whether as the pastor, the singer, or just an attendee.  Funny enough, this is most likely the best chance to see me actually dressed up, so if you are every wondering what I look like in a tie, come crash a wedding I’m a part of any time.

But beyond just great cake, well-dressed people, and awkward dancing, weddings have a much bigger purpose.  It’s the moment in time when one man and one woman step forward to become one forever. Several parts of the ceremony represent two becoming one, including the exchange of rings, the lighting of a unity candle, and maybe even a special song.  But what I find to be most important, yet often taken for granted, are the vows.

A vow is defined by the dictionary as a “solemn promise or assertion; specifically one by which a person is bound to an act, service, or condition”.  God tells us through, Numbers 30:2 “If a man vows a vow to the Lord, or swears an oath to bind himself by a pledge, he shall not break his word. He shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth.” 

The words that are said, whether uniquely created or ripped off from the Internet, serve as the promise, or the vows, that they are making to one another.  However, most of the time I find these to be viewed as an annoyance that only seems to get in the way of “sealing the wedding deal” later on that night.

You’ve heard the phrase “Talk is cheap!”   Well, that has never been more true than in a marriage.

A vow is more than a spit in your hand and shake on it kind of promise.  It goes beyond a “cross my heart and hope to die” kind of commitment.  A vow is more serious than “swearing on my momma’s grave” kinda deal.  No, a vow is binding act between you, the person, and God.  God requires us as Christian men and woman to fulfill the vows we commit to, and in the case of marriage this vow is a “until death do us part” agreement.

So, that’s why I get concerned when couples buzz through the vows in the ceremony just so they can get their buzz on at the reception.

I think if we were able to slow down and chew on what these vows really are saying we may be surprised at the depth to which they travel in our marriages.  That’s why over they next few blogs, I’d like to pick apart the traditional wedding vows I’ve had people recite to each other and slow them down.  Digest them a bit.  And see what God is saying to us as married couples in these vows that are far more than just words.

It may be a great conversation piece for you and your spouse.  It may be a point of renewal in your marriage.  It may be a point of reflection and consideration for those of you not quite ready to walk down the aisle.  However it affects you, I hope you take the time to chew on it.

My hope is it that this may refocus the commitment you made to each other, but more importantly, I pray it brings you back to God and the plans He has for you as a couple.

A plan that can be traced back to the moment you exchanged your vows.

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Double-Parking Fancy Cars

Have you ever been trying to find a parking spot at the mall or movies or anywhere for that matter and run into the guy that parks his car in two spaces?  9.9 times out of 10 it is some fancy car that is worth more than my house and is complete with a vanity plate that reads “HTMOMA” or “HV2MCH$”.

Little helpful Non-Christian hint for you:  If you are caravanning with a buddy and if you park as close as you can in the spots on either side of the double parker it’s impossible for the fancy car to get out.  From me to you.  :)

When I see stuff like that though I ask myself things like:

  • Who do they think they are?
  • Why do you think you are better than me?
  • Why would you get a car so expensive that you have to be that careful?

Do you ever think people think that about us as Christians?  I’m not talking about whether you have a nice car or how you park it but about your Faith.

When people “drive by” your life and look at how you have parked your Faith have you double-parked in their eyes?  I mean does the way you live your life make them wonder if you are better than them?  Like you’ve figured out something they don’t know and now you are lauding it over them?

I find that too often Christians carry that arrogance around with them.  Instead of showing the love of Christ to them with a genuine spirit we look down on them ignoring the plank of wood stuck in our face.

Paul urges us to do something different when it comes to living our lives as Christians.

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” – Philippians 2:3-4

Can you even begin to imagine what our world would look like if just the Christians did this?  I’m not talking about being a bunch of door holders all day long, but better yet what if this was how we did everything?

  • Assumed the best not the worst.
  • Let the last become first.
  • Listened more than we spoke
  • Gave more than we took
  • Loved more than we hated

So instead of double-parking our Faith and flipping the keys to our Heavenly Ride to the poor sap who doesn’t know Christ, maybe we should realize that we were the poor sap at one point too.  In fact, we still are a poor sap who should not boast in what we’ve done but boast in the saving Grace of Jesus Christ alone.

Let’s face it, we are beyond blessed to know Christ and have a relationship with Him as Christians.  The eternity that He promises and is preparing for us is worth being excited about, but nothing in Christ’s character was arrogant.

If we are going to accept Christ as our Savior we also need to follow Him as our Shepard.  A shepherd that is concerned about the one lost sheep and willing to leave the other 99 in danger to save them.

So park your faith normal and live your life transparent so people can see it as approachable and attractive.  This is how we gain the opportunity to speak into their lives and share the love of Christ.

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A Promise Better Than Tim Tebow

On September 27, 2008 the University of Florida lost a football game to the University of Mississippi.  In the athletic world this was a huge upset and one that potentially shattered the national championship dreams of the promising Gators team.

That year, the Gators were led by a young man named Tim Tebow.  Tebow was the strong, ruddy, athletic, handsome, well-spoken, quarterback and the unquestionable leader of the Gators football team.

After the loss, Tebow came into the post game press conference and didn’t take questions, had nothing prepared, but instead gave this off the cuff speech which has now been named “The Promise”.

The Promise

“To the fans and everybody in Gator Nation, I’m sorry.

I’m extremely sorry.

We were hoping for an undefeated season.

That was my goal, something Florida has never done here.

I promise you one thing, a lot of good will come out of this.

You will never see any player in the entire country

play as hard as I will play the rest of the season.

You will never see someone push the rest of the team

as hard as I will push everybody the rest of the season.

You will never see a team play harder

than we will the rest of the season.

- God Bless”

Tebow’s speech and leadership inspired the Gators that year and they went on to win the National Championship against the Oklahoma Sooners.  This speech is now carved into the side of the Gator’s football stadium for all to see and has been pointed to as one of the most inspirational speeches in college athletic history.

That was pretty good…but not the best I’ve heard.

Rewind history a few thousand years and let me introduce you to another handsome, ruddy, athletic, well spoken young man.  He was the youngest of 8 boys in his family and was a sheepherder for his father while his other brothers were warriors.  However, don’t dismiss him too quickly as some boy scout because by his own hands he defeated a lion and bear while protecting his flock.

At that time, King Saul led the nation of Israel and they were in a constant battle with the Philistines.  To make matters worse the Philistines were giant men and standing head and shoulders above the rest (literally) was Goliath.  The 9-foot tall Goliath was a nemesis to the nation of Israel and taunted them night and day looking for someone to fight him.  Beat him and the Philistines would surrender, but no one would accept the challenge.

Enter into the scene our sheepherder.  His name is David and while bringing lunches to his brothers he hears Goliath spouting off and he didn’t take to kindly to his taunts.  After being mocked by his brothers, blessed by King Saul, removing some ill-fitting armor, and making a quick stop at the toy store for a sling and a couple rocks David approaches Goliath and gives this speech.

David said to the Philistine,“You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.  This day the LORD will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel.  All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the LORD saves; for the battle is the LORD’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.” “  - 1 Samuel 18:45-47

If you don’t have goose bumps right now or have the urge to run through a brick wall you better be in a hospital bed under heavy anesthesia because that is good stuff!

Now I’m not going to make some cheesy correlation that Tim Tebow is the modern day David or anything like that.  Calm down.

But what I do want to point out is this…it’s the same God.

  • It’s the same God that David called upon in his time of battle and is who we call upon now in our daily struggles.
  • It’s the same God whose strength all of us as Christians pull from whether leading a football team, leading a company, or leading our family.
  • It’s the same God that looked down on the war of sin waging in this world and sent His very best to save us…Jesus Christ.

So my encouragement for you is not from speeches we hear but from the God we worship.  It’s not in good-looking athletic role models, but from the King of the Universe.  It’s a charge to live our lives pushing forward with the strength of God to tackle anything that may come our way.

Now THAT’s a real promise.

 

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Trust Me, You Don’t Want That!

Recently I ran into a great section of Scripture in 1 Samuel that really spoke to me. It is Chapter 8 and we find Israel being led well by the prophet Samuel for many years, but yet they still aren’t happy.   Shocking I know.

As a prophet of God (and a great one at that) Samuel was God’s voice to the people of Israel and had guided and protected them without the use of a king.  But now the grumble bunnies had surfaced again and this time they wanted to have a powerful king to point to as their leader.  Apparently the All Mighty God was not enough I guess.

Check this action out.

But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the LORD. And the LORD told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king.  As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you.  Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights.” ” – 1 Samuel 8:6-9

So Samuel tells the people of Israel what God says and outlines exactly what would happen if they chose to be ruled by a king.  God was so specific that he even told them how much of what they owned the king would take from them along with what jobs they would occupy under his rule.  As transparent as He could possible be, He basically says,  “A king?  Oh no.  Trust me, you don’t want that.  That would be a bad thing and you will not be too happy with that decision.”

But did they listen?

But the people refused to listen to Samuel. “No!” they said. “We want a king over us. Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.”” – 1 Samuel 8:19-20

Now check out this haunting response from God.

“When Samuel heard all that the people said, he repeated it before the Lord.  The Lord answered. “Listen to them and give them a king. – 1 Samuel 8:21-22 (emphasis mine)

Out of God’s love and compassion He tells the people of Israel the consequences of asking for a king.  They refuse to listen to His warnings and God gives them what they want.  Knowing full well it will hurt them.

Boy did that hit me like a ton of bricks.

How many times in my life have I read my Bible and known God’s will for what to do and not to do, but yet I still do what I want anyway?  I’m not sure I can even count them all, but I know more times than not I paid the price for not following God’s plan.

Sure there are lots of things in this life that we can’t see and only God knows why they happen, but honestly these are the exceptions to the rule.  There are far more things that we have our eyes wide open to the dangers of but still do, and yet we are shocked that the consequences still happen.

For crying out loud He said it was going to end up this way!

We may not always believe this, but God’s plan is not designed to steal our joy it’s designed to create it.

My hope for you and I is that we can start to listen and obey God’s designed for us from the beginning instead of constantly having to dust our selves off from another avoidable tumble through life.  Believe me God is hoping you choose the path He has laid out for you because on it you will find a tremendously fulfilling life.

Trust me you don’t want the other one.

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Faking It

Have you ever come into church, shook a few hands, smiled at all the regulars, sang all the songs in worship, bowed your head at all the right times, sat in your chair to take in the message, scribbled down some notes, took communion, gave your offering, and shook the pastors hand as you walked out the door only to start your car and know you just faked every aspect of church?

Do you ever feel like you are going through the motions of your Christian faith hoping that at some point that tingle in the pit of your spirit will come back like when you first became a believer in Jesus?

Do you wish that you could unwrap your Faith and have it smell like a new car again and replace the torn, Doritos stained upholstery it seems to have?

If you say “no” you may want to check your spirit one more time because I think you may be fooling your self.  For me, as I answered my own question my answer was a resounding “Yes!” and I’m the stinking pastor of a church!

I honestly can say that my heart isn’t on fire like I just got out of Church Camp each week and I feel…well…just blah sometimes.  So what do you do with that?

What do you do when it seems like you are going through the motions in church, in your Faith, in your life?

When I get to this point, usually one of two things will happen inside me.  First, I will get mad at myself for not trying hard enough, praying enough, reading enough, or doing enough in my Faith.  So I’ll tuck my head down and do, do, do as much as I can.  After no spiritual change and I find myself exhausted with spiritual cramping I go to option two…I Blame God.

Of course if I’m doing all these things and I’m not feeling anything different it has to be God that is absent right!?  So I become frustrated and my spirit aches as pride and self-righteousness wrestle to claim the top spot in a never-ending game spiritual “King of the Mountain”.  This is when I know I shut down the most and the emptiness seems greater.

The truth is that neither of these things is true.  It isn’t a matter of a lack of doing and it isn’t a lack of God’s presence.  In fact David digs to the core of the real issue in Psalm 32:3-5 when he says:

When I kept silent, my bones wasted away 
   

through my groaning all day long. 


For day and night your hand was heavy on me; 


my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.

Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity.


I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD.” 


And you forgave the guilt of my sin.”

 

There it is again…my sin.

If I’m honest, most of my dry moments with God are because I’ve let my sin creep back in and it is distancing me from Him.  That’s why all the doing and all the reading won’t do any good.   If I’m not honest with who I am with God I have a fake relationship with Him.  In a way, I’ve tried to sew the fig leaf back on my life like Adam and Even in a weak attempt to cover myself from God.  I’ve become a faker, but only to myself.

David says the release of this spiritual pressure is found in confession.  In telling your Dad where you screwed up…again.  It is only then that our guilt is relieved and we are free to allow God to fill us with his love and forgiveness again.  We can take the mask off and start seeing and living life as God intended us to.

So the next time we all find ourselves in that spiritual desert instead of going through the same old motions and getting the same old stale result I saw we start by being honest with our self and with God.  Allow our soul to open up to God and relinquish the sin we think we are hiding so well so that He can then take that vacated space and fill us with Him.

It’s time to stop faking and get real.

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The Happiness Myth

Have you ever heard these phrases?

Do whatever makes you happy.”  or  “God would want me to do this/have this/get this because He wants me to be happy.

Now, usually I will hear these phrases when someone is trying to justify things like an addiction, over spending, or when they are looking for a weak excuse to leave their spouse.  But I know that I’ve said it too when I’m in a down moment or a season when things aren’t going my way so I’m not off the hook.

But I’ve come to realize that our happiness is a myth that God cannot possibly fulfill to us all.

Think about it.

Happiness is like nailing jello to a wall because it is different for everyone.

For example, I feel happy when I’m playing guitar, on the golf course, or watching baseball, but to you that may sound like your personal hell.   Your happiness tank may be filled by playing cards with your buddies, going skydiving, or eating random foods in Mexico.

Now all in all this doesn’t sound too tough for God to handle and none of those things are inherently sinful unless they become your “little god” that controls your every move.

But, the sticky part comes when you run into these “happy lads”.

  • I’m happiest when I drink so I’m going to the bar every night.
  • I deserve to be happy so I’m going to cheat on my wife.
  • I’m so happy when I look at internet pornography.

When we apply the logic “do whatever makes you happy” to these scenarios it doesn’t seem to make sense.  I doubt we would be so bold as to say “God wants me to be happy so He’s ok if I abandon my family for another man.”  Even with our 3-pound brains we know that seems off putting at best.

So God can’t be looking first and foremost for what we want to make us happy.  He can’t approve of actions that go against His character just for the sake of our happiness.

In fact our pursuit of our own happiness is exactly why Jesus had to come.  Because, in most cases our “happiness” is just a sugar-coated version of our sin.  We think that if we cover our sin with something better sounding it will be easier to swallow, but in reality its rotting our soul.  God must have expectations and desires for us greater than our happiness.

Listen very closely.

God’s plan was never designed for us to be happy; His plan was always for us to be Holy.

Listen to the words of Peter, “But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”

Holiness is where we find our definition for happiness and holiness is only found:

  • In Jesus not in our emotions.
  • In Jesus not in our sex life.
  • In Jesus not in the food we eat
  • In Jesus not what we drive
  • In Jesus not in our kids
  • In Jesus not in our spouse

Our pursuit of happiness will leave us empty and constantly changing based on the way the wind is blowing in our life at any given moment.

A pursuit of holiness will leave us desiring to know God more and striving to be more like Him and in that pursuit we will find a joy and happiness that this world can’t even begin to fabricate.

So the next time we feel the urge to justify a choice or decision, we should first ask if it will make us Holier not necessarily happier.

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