A God Note In My Lunch

When I was in elementary school my mom would make my lunch almost every day.  It was awesome and most everyone in the lunch room was jealous because they had to sit and eat their crappy school lunch ham and cheese.  But in addition to the scrumptious lunch she would make mom also gave another personal touch.

A note.

Every day my mom would put a small note in my lunch just to say she “loved me” or she was “proud of me” or to remind me of something.  At the time you don’t appreciate that stuff, but now looking back it was pretty awesome.

Let’s face it, who doesn’t like to be encouraged?  I don’t meet too many people who are pumped up to get chewed out by their boss or that are chomping at the bit to have their wife scream at them the moment they walk in the door.  Just like a Cubs World Championship, it just doesn’t happen.

I meet Christians all the time that think of God as the Big Angry Boss in the sky Who’s primary function is to yell at them for every little thing they do.  To steal a line from Bruce Almighty, we think “God is a giant kid in the sky with a magnifying glass waiting to burn off our feelers!”

Well maybe I can be the first to tell you that God’s deepest desire isn’t to burn our feelers off.  In fact laced throughout the Bible are little notes about how God really feels about us.

 

“Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you.” – Psalm 143:8

“The king is enthralled by your beauty; honor him, for he is your lord.”  - Psalm 45:11

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. 
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. – Psalm 139:13-14

 

But He saved the best for last…

 

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” – Romans 5:8

So the next you get the sense your head is a little hot from the magnifying glass, maybe you should just look up.   It might just be God trying to get your attention so He can tell you He loves ya.

Now that should make you feel all warm and fuzzy, just like a note from mom.

Love you mom! :)

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How To Be A Zoo Keeper For Dummies

Recently there was a man in Ohio whose personal zoo got out of control.  Over 50 wild animals were let loose onto a remote Ohio town causing mass hysteria and panic.  If you want to read more about this loony tune click here, but it really doesn’t matter all that much any more.  In short the guy flung open the cages to the 56 animals he housed and then killed himself leaving Noah’s ark to be unleashed on this small town.

As a result the town closed roads, schools, and businesses for days as these animals were either captured or killed.  Serious damage could have been done to so many people, but luckily only the owner of this makeshift zoo was injured.

What just blows me away is that this guy thought that he could play zookeeper with some of the most intense wild animals on the face of the planet!  I mean really, don’t you think the electrical wires, iron bars, acres of land for habitats, and animal trainers wearing Tasers for protection at the REAL zoo should have given you a clue that this was not for the average Joe with an aquarium at his house to mess around with?

As I thought about it, we shouldn’t be to loud with our criticism because we play zookeeper every day too.  Except in our case we are caging up the sin in our life thinking we can tame it somehow like these wild animals.  Sadly, this can be just as destructive in the long run as a hungry wild grizzly bear chasing you down.

We all think that if we keep our sin buried deep inside us and only let it out at home or when no one is watching that we can manage it.  That we can keep it at bay well enough that we don’t really need help from anyone.  What we don’t realize is that at some point the cage is going to break and we won’t be able to do anything because it will be right on top of us.  There in that moment your sin will be looking at you eye to eye drooling as it begins to devour you.

1 Peter 5:8 tells us “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”

John 10:10a tells us “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy…”

All that’s true…if…we don’t know Jesus.

“For he (Jesus) has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”       – Colossians 1:13-14 (emphasis mine)

However, for us to receive the full freedom found in Christ we must be vigilant in not trying to manage our sin.  We must kill it, destroy it, and avoid it at all cost.

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. – Colossians 3:1-6 (emphasis mine)

The sooner we stop fooling ourselves that we can somehow manage the sin in our life and start taking it out behind the barn and disposing of it the right way the sooner we will feel Christ’s true freedom in our life.  Until then we are left looking over our shoulder at the sin cages we keep in our life hoping that lock we have on the door will hold.

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Kirby Puckett and Jesus

I remember when I was in college and a group of professional baseball players from the Minnesota Twins came through on a speaking tour to our college.  It just so happened that I was in the batting cage next to the basketball court they were playing on, when one of them came over to the cage.  The player was Kirby Puckett an All-Star for the Minnesota Twins, and needless to say, I was a bit nervous.

Kirby stood right by the cage as I hit for about 10 minutes.  When I got done with my round and began picking up the baseballs in the cage, I sheepishly looked up and he said “not bad son, you’ve got what it takes.”  He sauntered off and went back to his game, but for me I felt like the game just began.

Man that did something to me that day.  To have someone of his caliber tell me that I have what it takes was pretty amazing to me.

There was a man in the Bible that amazed Jesus you know, and it wasn’t a disciple or Moses or Joseph or anyone else like that.  In fact it was someone that barely even knew Him.

In Luke 7 we enter into a story about a Centurion in the Roman Army and his servant who was gravely ill.  The man, Scripture says, had “heard of Jesus” and sent a few Jewish elders to meet him and ask Christ to come heal his servant.  As Jesus came closer to the home of the Centurion it says that the man sent a few of his friends to meet Christ and to tell Him these words:

Lord don’t trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof.  That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you.  But say the word, and my servant will be healed.  For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me.  I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes.  I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” – Luke 7:6b-8

This powerful man, who was in charge of nearly 100 men and was able to command them to do whatever he wanted whenever he wanted, asks a homeless Rabbi that traveled with a mismatched group of 12 men to help him.  Why?

Because he knew that although he had the power to command men to do whatever he wished he had no power over death, but he knew that Jesus did and He had faith that Jesus could heal his servant.

Wow, what on earth would Jesus say to that?

When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, ‘I tell you the truth, I have not found such great faith even in Israel’.

Jesus Christ…the One who become flesh, Creator God, Alpha and Omega, Beginning and End, the second member of the Trinity, the One who helped fashion wings on butterflies, designed water molecules to freeze at a certain temperature and boil at another, the architect of the Universe, the One who walks on water, Who will tell the storms to calm, the One who wrestled with Jacob, the One who entered the furnace with Shadrach, Meshach, and Obednigo, the One who calmed the lions with Daniel, the One who parts seas, the One born to a virgin teen and a poor carpenter, the One who makes the lame walk, the deaf hear, and the blind see, the One that will be crucified for the sins of man, the One who will come back on a white horse wearing a robe dipped in blood and a tattoo down His thigh…that Jesus…was amazed!!!

Not by his resume, his stature, his house, his car, his really cool job, his power…no…none of that.  He was amazed by his faith.

A faith that was based not on seeing Jesus doing miracles, but by hearing and believing that He had power over all things to heal his servant. A faith that humbled itself to the Highest of all authority and didn’t let pride or selfishness get in the way of saving someone lesser than him.

It was his Faith that amazed Jesus.

So if Jesus was standing by the batting cage that is your life watching your faith in action would He be amazed?  Would He walk away saying…’yep he has what it takes’?

He desperately wants to be amazed by you…especially by your Faith.  Now it may be as small as a mustard seed, but it could have the impact of a freight train.  It starts by humbling yourself to Christ as your authority, laying your old self down and starting a new life with Him, and walking forward toward Him not because of what you’ve seen but what you haven’t seen.

Make an effort right now to stop and pray to Christ and ask Him for the strength to make your Faith amazing to Him.  Ask Him for His strength to sustain you and for His mercy to cover you and for His grace to abound in your life.

Then open your eyes and start doing some amazing stuff in His name.

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True Confessions Of A First Time Dad: Thank You Daddy

From the very beginning Cherie and I have taught Aniston to say “please”, “thank you”, and “I’m sorry”.  We both grew up in homes where manners and being polite were not an option they were mandatory.  For some reason I see less and less of that being a priority in our society and we don’t want to fall into that cultural trap.

Aniston gets it.  She says “thank you” for her milk, her food, and whenever else we teach her it’s appropriate.  However recently she threw in a “thank you” that I wasn’t expecting.

We had just finished our princess bedtime story and said our prayers.  I let her turn off the light and get into bed to prepare for “snug a bug a rug” time.  This means we basically  tuck her in so she looks like a Chipotle burrito but she LOVES it!

After “snug a bug”-ing her I gave her a final hug and kiss and was about to walk out the door when I heard this little innocent voice say “Thank You Daddy”.  I about lost it.  It was so sweet and so loving that I wanted to grab her out of her bed, give her a hug, and take her for ice cream at 10:00 at night.

My heart was saying, “you don’t need to say thank you sweetie!  I’d do that for you no matter what and it’s one of my favorite things in the world to do”, but it wasn’t about me at that moment.  She wasn’t trying to make me feel guilty to get another drink of water.  She wasn’t emotionally damaged in some way that she felt she had to do it or I would be mad at her.

No, she did it because she loves her daddy and wanted to just say thank you.  No strings attached just loving appreciation.

When was the last time you did that to God?  When was the last time you genuinely thanked God for the simple, taken for granted things in your life?

So often our prayer life is centered on asking God for things as if He were a giant piñata in the sky.  Don’t get me wrong, He doesn’t mind our requests, but he loves our gratitude too.

Listen to the heart of the writers of these Psalms.

“You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.” – Psalm 16:2

“I love you, O Lord, my strength.”Psalm 18:1

“We give thanks to you, O God, we give thanks, for your Name is near; men tell of your wonderful deeds.”Psalm 75:1

“Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness.”Psalm 150:2

“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.  His love endures forever.” – Psalm 136:1

Sometimes we need to slow ourselves down enough to come to the throne of God without an agenda.  To leave our list of wants on the kitchen table and simply thank God for who He is, what He’s done, and what He’s doing we don’t even see.

Pause right now and pray this:

“Heavenly Father I just want to say “thank you”.  Thank you for the life you’ve given me and all that you’ve given to me is a blessing.  Thank you for the breath I breathe at this very moment, which I’m not promised, but You give me.  Thank you for the gift of Grace found in Jesus that I don’t deserve but that You give me freely. I praise You for all that you do in my life that I see and I don’t see and promise to use every breath you allow me to follow you in all that I do.”  – Amen

Enjoy the fact that you have a Heavenly Father that loves you and blesses you out of goodness and not guilt.  When you think of it that way it become easy to say

“Thanks Daddy!”

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More Than Just Words: Until Death Pauses Our Life

“Until Death Do Us Part”

I heard a pastor friend say once that he’d “much rather do funerals than weddings”.  His reason is that funerals celebrate better than anything else the life of someone and, for the Christian, to speak of the reward of heaven for a life lived well.

On the other hand, to him weddings  have so much glitz and glamour to them.  So much so that most people don’t remember the ceremony let alone the pastor’s message.  I guess to him there is too much idealism and optimism in the way of the truth of what’s in store.  But in death, a reality hits you that is stronger than any force I’ve ever experienced.

Death makes you think.  Death makes you reconsider.  Death makes you sober up.  Death makes you look in the mirror and face the stark realties of life.

Death can cause a grown man to cry and families’ oceans apart reunite.  I’ve seen funerals be the moment a mother and son reconcile and grandkids see their grandparents for the first time.

But the death of a spouse is a one of the most crushing things I’ve ever experienced.  Especially when it happens too early by our human standards.  However, a marriage that is able to see it through all the way to death is one of the most staggering examples of God’s hand at work I’ve ever seen.

This is the reality that until “death do us part” screams for when you promise it to your spouse.  It means that you promise to be with them to the very end of this life.  It might mean hospital beds, nursing homes, car crashes, or heart attacks, but it means to the very end.

However, for the Christian, this good-bye is really only like pushing the pause button on our time with our spouse.  As a Christ follower the best days, months, years, eternity is yet to come.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. – 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Don’t kid yourself.  There is more than this life.  Eternity is real.

On the other side of all the pain and garbage we have gone through, that stuff will not even register in our memory after about 7 seconds in the presence of Christ.

But don’t get ahead of yourself.  Cherish and enjoy the gifts that God has given us on this side of Heaven and the most important of them being your spouse.  Realize that saying “until death do we part” is a gift that we are given by the other person that literally lasts a lifetime.

Another pastor I follow says that one of his goals in life is to be able to live long enough to preach his wife’s funeral.  He says it would be one of the greatest honors to be able to have said he care for and celebrated her well all the way to the very end.  I want to be that kind of husband…that kind of man…that kind of Christ follower.

Be the kind of people that want that for each other too.  Love each other so well that not even thought of death can keep you from breaking the vows you promised each other.

 

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I’m Lazy And My Armrest Agrees

As I got into my truck the other morning I noticed something in my backseat.  It was gray, leather, had a post sticking out of it one side, and I’m pretty sure had about 1” of dust on it.  It was the armrest to the passenger seat and after a quick calculation I realized it had been there about 2 years.

You see two years ago my truck “only” had 200,000 miles on it, but the leather on the armrest had worn out so I got it repaired.  However, at the time the person who repaired it didn’t have a pin that was needed to reattach it to the seat.  So, he was kind enough to give me a card for a business near me that could reattach it.  I told him thank you and then put the business card in the drink holder of my truck.

Soon the card got in the way of my coffee so I moved it to my change holder right by it.  Then I had nowhere for my wallet so I moved it to the inside of my center console.  Then it fell into the recesses of that console to never be seen again and to join all the lost socks, toys, and buttons in the world that seem to have fallen into the same mysterious vortex.

So when I look at my armrest flopping around in the backseat, I could easily blame it on the card for not reminding me.  I mean that was it’s job right!?  It was supposed to spur me on and force me to call that person on the other side of the number, but now it has abandoned me to shuffle through life with passengers uncomfortable and without rest for their arms.

Let me take a second to wipe the sarcasm off your screen before I continue.  There.  Better.

Of course that is a bunch of garbage.  The reason the seat isn’t fixed is because I flat out didn’t call the guy.  It’s not fixed because I gave every excuse possible for not driving over there and making an appointment.

It’s not fixed because I am lazy!

(At this point my wife will be standing up from the computer and yelling “AMEN!” I’m sure.)

I wish I could say that my laziness was confined to this annoying seat malfunction, but I can’t.  This sloth like behavior seeps into a lot of my world and even into my spiritual walk.  I don’t pray like I should, memorize verses well, and I don’t always feel joyful when I give.  In fact some times I’m a down right cranky giver!

Can anyone relate our there?

Are you lazy sometimes in your spiritual walk?

  • Do you find yourself saying “No” to God and “Yes” to everything else because everything else seems easier?
  • Have you been putting off really following Christ because it looks like too much work?
  • Are your kids more spiritually fed right now than you because you justify it by saying “I want them to know God” when in reality you are too lazy to work at it yourself?

I know I can answer yes to some of these and I’m pretty sure you can too.

The encouragement that we have is that Jesus isn’t lazy.

Jesus is in a never-ending pursuit of us and is able to point to the cross as His proof.  An empty tomb shows us His work isn’t finished and, as the writer of Hebrews tells us we should  “Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Hebrews 12:3

We should never grow tired or weary or lazy in our pursuit of Christ because when we do WE miss out.  It is OUR loss when we stop running the race God has set for us and as a result miss out on the life God intended for us.

So as we look in the back seat of our life and see that “spiritual arm rest” flopping around back there perfectly ready to get locked into place, I encourage you and me to stop what we are doing and get reconnected with God.

Trust me, more than your arm will thank you!

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