God In A Box

God Box

 

Wrestling with questions and searching for real answers

We enter through church doors hoping for more than just banter.

If luck would have it to find a church that’s still living

A place filled with broken down sinners even singing.

A place where the Gospel is for the poor and the rich

And sin is still sin but is crossed by God’s Bridge.

It’s then we hear clearly the wrong and the right

Accept His promise of Grace and a fully lived life.

But when the last hand is shaken and smile is contrived

We walk out those doors and drive off in the night.

We drive away quickly because life hasn’t stopped

And whether we know it or not we left God in the box.

What is truest and sad about the God left behind

Is He is the one that can make our tangled life unwind.

We tell Him to stay put and say we’ll be back

Cuz next week we’ll see Him with more sin to unpack.

But what if our life was more than just breaths

Had journeys, lessons, skinned knees like the rest?

And what if this life left more than a taste

Of who God was and how we relate?

Would it matter enough to pause the tic tock of life

Stop, our chaos to see what it’s like?

And if we did find that moment to exhale and breathe

Could our heart handle learning what true beating can feel?

See we’ve trained our simple minds and complex souls

To push on through life’s pain and wintery snows.

But if we ever were brave enough to let God out of that box

We will find there’s a life to fill us that not even Satan can stop.

Share

Seeking Wisdom: Proverbs 22 – Do You Have A CCS?

“A prudent man sees danger and takes refuge;

but the simple keep going and suffer for it.”

- Proverbs 22:3

I overheard one of my managers in baseball once say to a teammate of mine,

“Son, did you forget your CCS today?”

To which he, of course, said, “My what?”

“You know!  Your CCS, Certificate of Common Sense.”

That has always stayed with me, mainly because the guy that he was talking to probably couldn’t spell CCS, let alone actually comprehend what he just told him, but also because it’s so true.

The fact of the matter is that sometimes we make life too hard.

Sure there are tough times we don’t see coming like illness, loss of a job, or even natural disasters that cause pain and struggle in our life, but that’s not always how hard times come.  I’d venture to say that 90% of the problems we go through in life are self-inflicted wounds.

We all desire wisdom in our life to make the right decisions.  We want God to show us the right way to go so we can have the least amount of pain and highest amount of gain.      However, when God does show us the direction to go or the right decision to make it, doesn’t mean we always listen.  The wise decision is clearly in front of us, but more times than not we choose to go our way.  And when it goes bad we blame God when we are flat on our face in a pile of our own mess.

The writer of Proverbs would call these two types of people “prudent” and “simple”.

Prudent people find wisdom and follow it regardless of the happiness it will allow them.  Simple people think their 3 pound brain has all the answers and thumb their nose at God’s wisdom.

Here are some examples:

Marriage:

Prudent Person:  Sees marriage as covenant between a man and a woman and chooses to honor, love, and work hard to make the marriage work through all things.

Simple Person:  Sees marriage as a contract that can be broken at the slightest hint of weight gain, money loss, or stress.

 

Money

Prudent Person: Sees their finances as stewardship of God’s resources and desires to honor Him in the way they give, save, and spend.

Simple Person:  Sees their money as fruit of their hard work and therefore can spend it however they like, even if that means spending money they don’t have.

 

Work

Prudent Person:  Sees work as a privilege and wants to work with integrity, good work ethic, and in a God honoring way to all that see them.

Simple Person:  Sees work as a right and works just as much as is needed while looking for the most pay for the least amount of effort.

Some of these misguided ways are a product of our environments to be sure.  Where you grew up, who you grew up with, and what you saw while you grew up will shape your expectation for these and many other things in life.

However, I don’t see that as an excuse to stand on too long, because what is right and what is wrong will shine through in High Definition clarity in spite of environment.  The reason is that we have the choice on what and who we follow.

“Do not make friends with a hot tempered man,

do not associate with one easily angered,

or you may learn his ways and get yourself ensnared.”

Proverbs 22:24-25

Choose good people to associate with and wisdom will be close.  Choose to place yourself in positive environments free of temptation and wisdom will be close. Choose to place your trust fully in Jesus and wisdom will be close.

There are situations in life where right and wrong can seem hard to identify, but more times than not the right thing to do is a matter of common sense. Regardless of whether a decision is hard or easy, the root of all wisdom is never found within us, but in our pursuit of God’s will and character.

Pursue Him in all things and you will never have to wonder where you put your Certificate of Common Sense.

Share

Giving Birth To A Royal Baby Still Hurts

royalbabyThe world will soon be given another miracle blessing as the British Royal Family, The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, have their baby.

The eyes and ears of the world will wait with baited breath to find out if it’s a boy or a girl.  Paparazzi will suspend themselves from blimps, strap their bodies to double decker busses, and swim through hospital sewer lines in hopes of getting the first picture of the child.  Fashion designers will elbow there way to the front of the line hoping the baby will be wearing their diapers, hats, or burp rags.  Editors of baby name books will pause with hands on key boards waiting to type in what is soon to be the most popular name in the world to their latest edition.

It’s become clear that anything having to do with royalty whether it be a budding relationship, a Vegas booze party, an epic wedding, or the birth of child is big time news.     In our longing and pursuit of the Disney sponsored “happily ever after” life we see the royal family as closes thing to that reality.  After all I’m sure all of them sing in perfect three part harmony, have birds land on their window sills to bring them tea and scones, and have an advanced digestive system that lets them not fart or burp.

Yet what we lose sight of in this fairytale haze is that even if you are Beyonce, Angelina Jolie, or the Duchess of Cambridge life is still hard and having a baby still hurts just the same.

Yes, the Duchess most likely won’t have to share a birthing room with a couple from the backwoods of Kentucky who, instead of using anesthesia, prefer to bite on a stick, sip moonshine, and sing the theme song to the Dukes of Hazard.  Yes, she probably will have more doctors around her than a Med School graduation party.  And yes, the doctor may lift the child up like Simba from The Lion King into a perfectly choreographed spot light, but to get to that moment there will be pain.

When they get home, they may be in a palace, but the baby will still cry, poop, pee, and most likely need braces when it gets older.  Hormones will have to regulate and Prince E will want to pull out what’s left of his soon to be combover.

My wife and I can relate to the Royal Family.

Now, I completely understand that I’m a dude and have no idea what you ladies go through, but I can see it is no walk in the park.  When my wife had our 2 children there was no chance I was going to hold her hand through it because if I did I would be a double amputee from the wrist down.  The amount torque and grip pressure she exerted on that bed was enough for me to say “No thanks Jack”.  Thankfully she made it through and we have two beautiful babies as a result, but the process was equal to that of anyone else.

We are created equal in God’s eyes and we all come into this world in an equally painful manner whether it be to rags or riches.  The gift of life still comes at a price and the painful price was as a result of our first parents sin.  In Genesis we read:

“To the woman he said,

“I will make your pains in childbearing very severe;
with painful labor you will give birth to children.”

-Genesis 3:16

Why does all this matter?

It matters because not only is there equal pain that is found in child birth there is equal pain found in our sin.  Sin does not need a credit score requirement or blood line verification for it effect our life.  It is an equal opportunity destroyer.

“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” 

- Romans 3:23a

We all are in jeopardy of the loss of our soul.  The loss of our relationship with God.  The loss of our eternity.  Royalty or not, our sin has equally separated us from the holy God, but thankfully there is a great Equalizer for our sin too.

“and all are justified freely by his grace through the 

redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” 

- Romans 3:23b

The pain of this life can be eased and made whole again through Jesus.  His life, death, burial, and resurrection are what give us the hope of an eternity we don’t deserve, but that He gives us freely.  Our rebirth back into His family is pain free because Jesus endured our deserved agony on the cross.

So you and I may not have come into this world with a TV crew on the front lawn and a silver spoon in our hand, but through Jesus we can enter our next life with all the pomp and circumstance we can imagine as the King of Kings welcomes us home.

Free of pain and full of joy.

Cheers!

 

Share

Answering The Whys? – Why Do I Need To Go To Church?

church question markI’m willing to bet in nearly every Christian church attending house in America this question is uttered by at least one person periodically, if not weekly…

“Do we have to go to church!?”

If it was possible to add a whining sound effect to typed text, I would have done it there.  If forced to choose just one person for the sound effect it would not be a child, but a fully grown, “I work hard all week so let me sleep in on the weekends,” watch sports, and just leave me alone man.  Men in our country are the worst at leading their family to church and, honestly, if dad is asking “Why do we have to go?” more times than not the family “ain’t going.”

To be honest, most of the fault for people not wanting to come to church falls on the church.  In most cases churches have become holy huddles where outsiders are advertised to come, but when they walk through the doors it’s clear they are not welcome.  Poor communication of the Bible, tepid kids programming, and dated worship sung by out of tune singers would cause me to run to the exits too.

As a pastor I want to apologize for those experiences.  We need to do a better job as the church to make the God of the Bible come alive for kids and adults alike.  In order to have God do what He does best, I believe we need to give Him our best as a church and provide environments, teachings, and experiences that He inhabits and that you want to come back to.

So why do we go to church then?  Does God want me to go to church?

Is God so narcissistic that He needs people to come and tell Him how great He is every week?  Isn’t God everywhere, so can’t I have “church” in my head while I shop for groceries at COSTCO?

Scripture says God doesn’t need our worship because if we decide to miss out on the opportunity all of nature is chomping at the bit to give Him praise.  So, clearly if the inanimate can’t wait to praise him, the animate which He sent His Son to die for should not be able to contain themselves when given the chance to worship Him.  Especially with other believers!

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. – Hebrews 10:23-25

I believe the writer of Hebrews frames the “why” perfectly for us to see our need to go to church.

First, what we process is that Jesus is Lord, died for our sins, and is the only reason we have eternal hope.  That alone should drive us to want to be in His presence, but sadly our humanness prevents us from sticking to anything for more than 5 minutes, even our worship of God.

Because of our ADHD humanness, we see that God says we need each other to stay focused. He wants us to encourage each other along in this life through love and demonstrating that love by doing something with what we know.

Finally the way He designed this all to happen is by being in the habit of meeting together.  By connecting.  By worshiping.  By coming together as the church.

Honestly the consequences of not doing this are heart breaking.  If we don’t have someone we are walking alongside, we will slip.  We will stumble.  We will fall and being by ourselves we will be left to pick ourselves up.

Ever been there?

Ever felt alone, dizzy, and scrambling to make sense of your life as you rub your head from yet another fall?  Sure…we all do.

God’s solution for this is community…it’s His people…it’s the church.

We need the church as much as we need air because without it we will die.  It’s what fills our souls with God’s air of refreshment, encouragement, and nourishment.  Dare I say it is “minty” fresh! :)

In all seriousness, we all could think of a reason or 50 not go to church each week.  If I’m honest, the lake sounds great to me too some Sundays.  But knowing that I have a standing weekly meeting with a God that will fill my spiritual lungs, encourage my soul, and allow my worship to bring Him joy is too powerful to pass up.

God doesn’t “need” my worship to sustain Him, but I need to worship Him to sustain me.

THE SPIRITUAL SHORT:

Why Do I Need To Go To Church? – The church is the reconnection point designed by God to rally His children, preach the Gospel to the lost, and allow for corporate praise too Him.  It is the object of Christ’s affection and should be sought after by His children as urgently as the air we breathe.

Share

Being A Weakling Rules (Part 2)

 

weakling-copy

I have always been a fairly strong guy.  My best friend Robb can attest to that and if you do see him make sure to ask him about the time I squatted the back end of a truck off a tree stump by putting the bumper on my back.  Great story with a great ending.

However, there were times then and times now that I feel like the weakest person on the planet.  Feelings of doubt, inadequacy, and wrestling with an unsettled spirit sometimes make me wonder if I can pick up a pencil let alone a weight lifting bar.  There are times that I ask God, “Why on earth do you think I can do what you’ve called me to do?” and it sometimes sticks with me like a thorn in my weak flesh.

But as we learned last time this feeling of being a weakling usually means God has you right where He wants you.  Read again the words of Paul.

“Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.  but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.” - 2 Corinthians 12:8-10

Paul was the weakest weakling in the Bible and not because I say so, but because He says so.  Yet, we see that Paul did some of the most amazing things despite his thorn filled weakness because God leaned His unfailing strength into His life and the rest is history.

In the lines of this passage, I see 3 things that you and I can do as weaklings to use the thorns in our life to God’s glory.

1.  Identify the Thorn?

I believe before we can really start moving forward we have to know where we are.  Paul takes time to first identify what the thorn in his side is and it wasn’t an easy thorn to be sure.  Bible scholars debate on what the thorn was he was dealing with but all of them agree that it was painful, constant, and long lasting.  However there is no doubt Paul knew what it was.

Before we do anything we need to start by searching our souls to identify what the root of our weakness is and name it.  As we will see, this shouldn’t cause us shame because who we are is not defined by what we have.  Start out by identifying your thorn so that you can laser lock your focus on dealing with it.

2.  Give The Thorn To God?

“Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.  but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”2 Corinthians 12:8-9a

We see that the first thing Paul did when tackling his thorn was to present it to God through prayer.  Once you identify what you are battling you would be wise to pray for God’s strength, wisdom, patience, and relief from what you are going through.  Even when we don’t the answer we were hoping for.

God’s answer to Paul and to you and I is that His grace is bigger than our thorn.  Grace is only able to be given to us by God through Jesus.  We can’t do anything, but accept it.  In order to accept grace we must give up our pursuit that we can save ourself.  To the world this looks like weakness, but as we’ve said that is exactly where we need to be.  After all, if you can’t fix it you must not be strong enough or smart enough to figure it out.

Don’t believe that lie.

Because in that moment of weakness and surrender we receive God’s strength which allows us to overcome whatever we may be up against.   Maybe not on this side of eternity, but without a doubt on the other side.

3.  Use The Thorn To God’s Glory?

“Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9b – 10

The bottom line that we look at is this.  What will your thorn do to you?

Will it drive you to be defined by it and let it control who you are and what you do?

or

Will you decide to let this thorn be yet another example of how God can use ANYTHING for His glory.  Will you boast in your weakness because you know God is up to something through it?

Being defeated is the easy road to take and it’s paved smooth as glass with good lighting, markings, and road signs.  You won’t miss the exit to give up.  But when you decide to be ok being a weakling, God can transform you into what you were meant to be from the very beginning.  Thorns and all.

I love what Warren Wiersbe says in his commentary of this passage.  He says, “God does no remove the affliction, but He gives us His grace so that the affliction works for us and not against us.”

That’s good stuff.  Let God use your thorns, your afflictions, your shortcomings for you not against you.  That’s when the true weakling comes out and when God get’s to work in and through you life.

So just remember:

  1. Identify the Thorn
  2. Pray For the Thorn
  3. Use The Thorn For God’s Glory
Share

Being A Weakling Rules (Part 1)

weakling-copyRemember summer break when you were in school?  The butterflies in your stomach as the days got closer, movies you watched in class as teachers ran out of stuff to teach, and getting to wear shorts to class everyday told you summer was coming.  It was awesome!

Of course in grownup world we don’t get a 3 month break from our jobs.  The working world doesn’t see the benefit from 90 days of no work and all play, but here’s hoping things change!

Yet there are other things that we can never check out on aren’t there?  The things in our life where shutting them down or ignoring them for a few months just isn’t an option.

No matter how “good” things may be in our life there are still times that are just hard and seem unmovable.  People get sick, jobs get lost, kids act out, marriages grow colder, bills get higher, and on and on it goes.

Sometimes these things are manageable.  You can weather the storm and after a while things level off, but sometimes these hard times linger.  They become less of a slightly runny nose to a full on hacking cough that keeps you up at night.

And even though we know God has a better future for us and we memorize the words of Paul when he says, “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” (2 Corinthians 4:17), it still doesn’t make our trouble seem momentary or light.  In fact sometimes the trouble feels down right heavy and never ending.  You get to the point in your spirit when you feel like asking “will this ever end?”

It almost feels like your life is in a constant state of spiritual humidity and, just like a storm cloud, at some point it has to release the tension or you’ll explode.  It has to rain, it has to give up, it has to send relief, and it has to get better.

It’s in these moments of spiritual humidity that we feel may even feel Paul is being flippant and arrogant to talk about challenges as light and momentary.

  • “How could he possibly know what it’s like to be going through a divorce?”
  • “Does he know what it’s like to be turned down for job after job after job?”
  • “When was the last time he had a daughter going down the wrong path fast?”

We really only say these things to strengthen our position of selfishness.  If we can convince our self that no one knows what it’s like to be us or that we are on our own island of struggle then we can continue to complain and champion the “Woe is me” life we live in.

The truth is that Paul isn’t immune to struggle and he can strongly argue he does know a thing or two about intense challenge.  Not too many people could pull up their shirt and show whip marks from multiple floggings.  Paul could.

However, Paul also experienced the types of struggles that don’t have outward scars.  The kind of struggles that are emotional and spirit wrenching.  The kind of challenges that sometimes feel like God has turned a deaf ear to you as you battle them day in and day out, week in and week out, year in and year out.

Paul knows about these and in fact he had a name for it, thorns. He prays for God to take the thorn from him, but receives a much different answer than what he expected.

We pick up in 2 Corinthians 12:8-10 where Paul says,

“Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.  But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

In essence what God is telling Paul about his thorn is, “If you feel like a weakling you are right where I want you.”

I see 3 lessons we can learn about our thorns and being a weakling like Paul in these verses.  We’ll examine those in the next blog, but until then I want to leave you with this idea about your thorns, challenges, or struggles.

When looking at our thorns, the question to ask is not “When will this thorn go away?”  The real question is “What will I do with this thorn while I have it to honor God?”

Don’t think for a second that if we are exhausted, weak, and helpless God can’t use that for His glory.  In fact He tells us that He does His best work when we have nothing left to give Him.  So start by giving Him your nothing so He can give you everything and you’ll be able to do anything because of the strength He gives you.

Share