Category Archives: God’s Grace

Seeking Wisdom – Proverbs 26: Are You An Idiot?


idiot

“Do not answer a fool according to his folly,

or you will be like him yourself.

Proverbs 26:4

 

 

 

 

I recently read “Hidden Worldviews” by Steve Wilkens and Mark L. Sanford. In one of the chapters they were describing the worldview known as individualism.  Individualism is the thought that the center of the universe, both yours and those surrounding you, revolves around your needs and desires.  In other words, for an individualist the entire goal of life is to live your life in such a way that you bring yourself the most joy, comfort, and success regardless of the cost.  They did a terrific job outlining this point of view and in many cases, sadly, I could personally relate to what they were saying.

I thought this particular section was very interesting and fitting for Proverbs 26 so I’d like to share it with you.

“The Greek city-state had an interesting way of calling citizens together when a vote for some type of action was needed.  If, for example, another city-state was marching against them to do battle, a person would walk the streets blowing a horn, announcing that all should gather in the amphitheater just outside of town.  When the citizens of the city heard this, they would close up their shops, head to the amphitheater to get the news and fulfill their civic duty by voicing their response.  However, some shop-owners refused to shut down, hoping to do extra business while the competitors’ businesses were closed.  The Greeks referred to such persons as idiots, which means someone is closed up in their own world who, concerned only with personal goals, ignores the greater good. (Wilkens and Sanford, p 30)

For so many, this ideology is exactly what we do daily to varying degrees.  In some cases this individualism may be seen in shady business dealings like described above, but in most cases they are of a much more subtle nature.  We may not notice them all the time, but as Solomon points out in chapter 26, these fools, dare I say idiots, are all around us masquerading as being wise, but in reality they are the farthest from it.

Now, I’m the chief of idiots sometimes so I in no way am claiming to be perfect, but Solomon’s words strikes at the heart of a lot of areas of our idiotic lives.

  • Idiots like to curse people out by throwing daggers and then hiding to protect themselves. (vv. 2,10)
  • Idiots will try to provoke you with meaningless things and bait you into arguments. (v. 4)
  • Idiots will take something you’ve said and distort it to make you look bad or make them look good. (v. 6)
  • Wisdom is wasted on an idiot because they will use it improperly and it will only be dead weight to them. (vv. 7,9)
  • An idiot repeats the same mistake over and over and over without ever learning. (v. 11)
  • An idiot thinks he is God’s gift to everyone and everything.  Nothing he says is wrong and everything he says you should listen to. (vv. 12,16,25)
  • Idiots are lazy and do as little as possible regardless of who it may hurt or help (vv. 13-15)
  • Idiots look at gossip about others as vital information for everyone to know when in reality all it is is a distraction from you looking at their foolish life. (vv. 20, 22)
  • Idiots are great at deceiving themselves and others, but in time they are always found out for who they really are. (v. 26)

One would hope that we all would wake up and smell the roses to our mistakes and screw-ups, but we all know that doesn’t always happen.  In most cases if we did decided to take a whiff, we’d just wake up with a nose full of thorns because we sniffed the wrong end!  In fact, Solomon is also very clear about what will naturally happen to an idiot if he keeps doing what he’s doing.

“If a man digs a pit, he will fall into it; if a man rolls a stone, it will roll back on him.(v. 27)

What is so frustrating is that so many people, me included, fall into the traps of foolish, idiotic people.  We get sucked in, beat up, and spit out. This only feeds the individualistic cravings of self-worth, which is all at the expense of you and me.   A fool will eventually fall into his own trap, pit, mess, vomit (whatever you want to say) if we just let him be.  But what we often do is fall into the pit with them and end up covered in the same mess they are!  We can try to blame them, but that is truly on us for our foolish decisions.

The relief for all of us idiots (and we all are from time to time) is that God loves us and despite our idiotic ways His grace still covers us, but for our sake God is hoping we choose something different.  Wisdom rooted in God tells us that we should not follow folly but our Father.  His wisdom will leave us feeling strong, not in our ability to make ourselves happy, but be strong in that God has a better plan than we could ever try to manipulate in our favor.  His wisdom will never fail and will never leave us with egg on our face.

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Spiritual Procrastination

beat_procrastinationAs a rule, I’m a pretty proactive person, but there are times that I procrastinate.

My nature is to get things done and move on, but from time to time things will sit unfinished or even unstarted.  I look at these things day after day and beat myself up inside saying “Why are you not just taking care of that? It’s right in front of but you still walk by it!”  There are a great number of things I dislike about myself, but this is near the top of the list right next to my lack of patience.

Yet when I do get my head out of my procrastination and get things done I feel better.  I feel like I’ve accomplished something.  I feel like my world is back in rhythm.  Now regardless of what kind of organizational mess you are, all of us can agree that the feeling of getting a task done is great.  No one ever walks away from doing something they were supposed to do in the first place and say “wow, I should have just ignored that longer.  Having that done just makes me feel worse about myself.”

That’d be crazy!

Now, a huge part of me wants to run home and start knocking out all the projects in the house I’ve been sitting on just so I can get a rush of “atta boy” in my system, but sadly I can’t do that now.  After all there’s always later.  :)

One area of life we really push to the “maybe later” category is our relationship with God.  There is a spiritual procrastination within us all that will deprioritize God so low that He sometimes falls off the To Do List all together.  The reasons for this vary and often looks like one of these:

  • Sometimes we feel like we’ve neglected Him so long that there is no salvaging the relationship.
  • Other times we see that our relationship with God isn’t that bad compared to other people so we figure it can hold up a little longer until we get some “free time”.
  • Others will go so far as to say that God is an unnecessary waste of time and energy because He may not even really exist so why bother?

All of these thoughts are simply different degrees of spiritual procrastination and all find their root in the Evil one.  Satan usually doesn’t have to work to hard to keep us normal people away from God.  All he needs is to make us feel a little more tired, a little more stressed, or plant a simple thought in our mind and we are sprinting away from God justifying our retreat all the way.

However, Jesus talks with much more urgency about our spiritual life.  In fact he may even come across as down right pushy if you don’t know His heart.  Listen to what He has to say in the Book of Revelation.

“Behold, I am coming soon!  Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.” – Revelation 22:7

“Behold, I am coming soon!  My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according what he has done.  I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” – Revelation 22:12-13

“Yes, I am coming soon.” – Revelation 22:20

I have this little rule of thumb when it comes to reading the Bible.  When I see an exclamation point I stop and read it again because it must mean something important.  When I see Jesus using exclamation points I stop and read it twice because He doesn’t use them often so it must be really important.  That’s why when Jesus says I am coming!” I realize that His urgency is pointed towards me and I need to do something with what He said.

Now I could always follow my natural human nature and just wait to act because after all it’s been 2000 years since He died and He hasn’t come back yet so chances are I’ve go time.   Or I could stop dancing in the fire and decide I need to believe His return is real and be prepared.  In other wrods I need to consider my eternal reality and make sure my life is matching up with the God I claim to know and love.

We all must realize that our current life is only the opening act for our eternal life, but it’s this life that will dictate what our life on the other side looks like.   I pray we all feel the urgency of what Christ says and realize He IS coming…soon!  If we believe that, then  getting our spiritual affairs in order becomes much more important that cleaning out the garage so our golf clubs are off the ground.  Don’t allow spiritual procrastination to hold you back from the love and grace Jesus is offering and begin living in His truth now!

Trust me the feeling of getting this taken care of will be the greatest sense of accomplishment you’ve ever felt!

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Jesus Is Not A Fan Of Burger King

burger-king-kingI love when things go my way.

That’s probably why I like Burger King so much since you can have things “your way” there!  Ok, so I really can’t stand Burger King, but work with me.

If my brothers are reading this blog they most likely are smiling and shouting AMEN no matter where they are.  They had to grow up with a selfish punk older brother like me who probably made their life brutal because of my need to have things my way.  As the first born I was the one that got to do things first, get the new stuff, and choose the path that the rest of us went down.  It wasn’t my parents fault because I’m sure I am doing this with my first born too!  As it stood I got to do pretty much anything I wanted because we had no experience to say if it was a good or bad decision!  So to Brad and Brandon, I’m sorry boys.  Hope I can make it up to you somehow, but only when it fits in my schedule. :)

In all seriousness, all of us have this desire to have things our way regardless of birth order.  We want life to happen when we want it and how we want it.  Every single one of us could run the company more efficient than our boss, we could parent better than that mom over there, we could organize the practice schedule better than the coach, and we certainly should earn more money because we clearly do more than anyone else we work with.

Deeply woven within the frayed human fabric is an instinct to make things as easy as possible, most enjoyable, and most fitting into our needs over anyone else’s.   The thought of putting someone else’s needs ahead of our own makes as much sense as buying a fur coat in Hawaii for winter.

However, from time to time this selfish shell cracks just a tad and shows what could be in the human spirit.  We see it in the man who steps into the biker fight to save a family’s life.  It’s the policeman who gives his shoes to the homeless man.  It’s the woman that stops her car and saves a truck driver from a burning big rig.  Occasionally we see what could be, but quickly that window gets clouded over by the cataracts of selfishness again.

Thankfully Jesus wouldn’t have liked Burger King because he didn’t have to have things “His way” while he walked this earth.

Jesus was teaching his disciples one day and told them that he “did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28)  His entire ministry was about putting others before himself and ultimately giving his life up for them.

Yet in the garden of Gethsemenie we see one of the greatest examples of Jesus’ humanity for us to relate to and his strength for us to hold on to.  To set the scene, Jesus’ death is immanent.  He has made his way to Jerusalem, has entered the gates to people’s praise, ate his last meal with his disciples, and now is praying in the garden before he is to be murdered on the cross.  However, in the middle of this chaotic moment of calmness before the storm He stops to pray.  It’s in this time of prayer that we find this personal connection with Jesus.

 “Abba Father, he said, “everything is possible for you.  Take this cup from me.” (Mark 14:36a)  This is where our humanity and Christ’s humanity match up.  Just as Jesus didn’t want to suffer and die on the cross we’d prefer not to suffer in our life either.  We ask God to take things away in our life all the time, but where our humanity skews from Christ is when God’s answer is “no”.  When God doesn’t take the illness, when he doesn’t make her love you back, and when the kids still walk away that is when our “I want it my way” attitude invades our spirit and poisons us.  Praise God that is not what Jesus demonstrated to us in his life and this prayer to the Father.

Jesus finishes, “Yet not what I will, but what you will.” (Mark 14:36b)

He realizes that his Father’s way is ultimately what will be done and what needs to be done.  The salvation of all mankind hinged on this moment and God had to allow it to happen.  Jesus selflessly put our eternal existence ahead of his pain and laid down his life so that we would not have to feel the sting of death.

As Christians our response to Jesus’ gift of salvation must go beyond just accepting eternal life.  It has to transcend into the way we live our life.  I pray that we all can slowly let go of the white-knuckle grip we have on wanting things our way and place others ahead of our self.  Ironically, this selfless way of living will always leave us feeling more satisfied than the wrinkle free, perfectly cooked, puppies and ponies life we think we want.

Find ways each and every day to set your needs on the shelf and give first priority to someone else around you.  You’ll be surprised to see how easy they are to find!  Give of yourself and in doing so you will find you are gaining more of who you were meant to be.

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Why Slavery Can Never Die

slavery-abolition-unOn December 6, 1865 the 13th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America was ratified abolishing slavery.  In it are these words, “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”  Fought for by President Abraham Lincoln, this landmark decision set in motion an assurance of freedom for all people within the United States of America.

Today we still believe in the principles of this amendment with every fiber of our being. Gone are the days of debate on the Senate and Congressional floors to the validity of this truth.  To say otherwise would be considered madness.

However, in the United States the vial act of slavery still exists in a modern form.  Sex trafficking and human sex slavery has begun to poison our society.  Perhaps more accurately depicted, it has surfaced like a perverted submarine and we are now unable to ignore it.  Human trafficking is an enormous global business, but just in the United States alone it generates $9.5 billion annually.   Millions of women and children are held against their will in terrible conditions and forced to do unthinkable acts as slaves to their violent pimps.  We may not want to think about it but slavery still exists and you can help by supporting organizations like Transitions Global and being their voices when it seems they have none.

Yet as our fight against modern slavery persists there is a deeply rooted voluntary slavery within us all that will never die.  We instantly ascribe slavery to an involuntary state of bondage, but there is a version of slavery that each of us chooses every second of every day.

Paul spells out this type of voluntary slavery very clearly in Romans 6.

“What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means! Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.” Romans 6:15-18

“Slave” in the Greek is the word douleuō which, when used as a positive metaphor, means “to yield to, or give one’s self up to.”   This is a rich reality we all live in.  Although all of us want to believe we aren’t slaves to anything and are free to do what we want when want, we all voluntarily give ourselves up to something every day.

Each of us chooses a version of slavery every day.

Choosing to be a slave to sin makes it our master and, as a result, we suffer through the effects of that decision.  Sin will pimp us out and make us justify, lie, and empty ourselves of everything good we know to maintain the sinful spiritual high.  Crashing down off these highs leaves us lower than we ever have felt before.  Depression, embarrassment, and frustration meet us at the bottom of a pit as we realize our sinful master has no desire to love or help, but only to kill the very essence of life within us.

We do have the freedom to choose another master though.

When we give ourselves up to Christ and become a slave to righteousness an amazing thing happens.  The deeper we submit and yield to Christ the greater our freedom becomes.  Choosing to become a slave to the life Christ desires for us through His grace creates an eternal lifting of our spirit and gives us a new heart beating for something new.  Our heart no longer races for the next sinful high, but it finds contentment in the peaceful Shalom of God.  It’s as if our spiritual taste buds change and our spirit craves all the righteous and is repulsed by the junk food of sin.

It is 100% our choice what we are enslaved to.  With every breath we take we can choose righteousness that brings life or sin that rots our soul.  But don’t believe for a second that just because you are a slave to sin now that God can’t break you free.  The grace of Christ is available to everyone regardless of where they currently are to take them to where they belong.

Just think about it this for a second.

If we had the same feeling in our gut about sin as we did sex trafficking of a 12-year-old girls how different would our lives look?  If we reacted as aggressively to our sin as we would knowing someone was locked in an apartment and forced to do unthinkable acts how would your world be different?  What would our lives look like if we saw sin as the dark, damp, nasty brothel it is?

Keep that feeling inside of you as you choose your master tomorrow.  Don’t let sin keep your life in bondage any more.  Become a slave to Christ and discover a freedom you never dreamed possible.

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Thanks For Nothing Mom & Dad!

Thanks For NothingThere are some things in life we  take on the chin as dumb stuff we have done.  We can’t point the finger of blame at anyone else but us for dating that girl, having that one last drink, or agreeing to that Papa Smurf cheek tattoo.  Hand in the air…that’s on us.

However, there are a few things we can thank mom and dad for.  I’ve got a hair line that screams “Thanks Dad!”  I’m sure a few of you ladies out there are just “thrilled” that your mom blessed you with an awesome set of cankles.  I know guys are thrilled that the 3 chins they are rocking was a gift from their Pops and short of a Groupon facelift falling from the sky they are stuck with rolling with those rolls.

Adam and Eve, our often forgotten mom and dad, left us some treats that we didn’t have any control over too.  What they left us was far worse than a Lipitor prescription for genetically high cholesterol because what they left us has eternal side effects.

God originally created the world to live in harmony and relationship with Him.  His design was to be in perfect union with God free of all the trappings this world currently has to offer.  He gave one rule to our first parents which seemed very straight forward and specific.

“And the Lord God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil for when you eat of it you will surely die.’” Genesis 2:16

Not to much gray area there.  To borrow a line my father-in-law used to say to his kids before entering a store with breakable things, “Don’t touch things you don’t know about.”  That is what God was telling Adam and Eve.  Just don’t touch things you don’t know about.

Well that didn’t last long especially when Satan entered the picture.

On a stroll through the Garden of Eden one day Satan appears to the couple and leads them over to the forbidden tree.  He slinks and lurks around the tree and tries to poke around at why this perfect couple doesn’t want to anything to do with this seemingly perfect tree.

In Genesis 3:1, he asks Eve, “Did God really say, ‘You must no eat from any tree in the garden?’”  As if to plant a bit of seed of his own in her spirit to see what would grow.

Now pay close attention because we are getting close to the gift from first our parents.

“The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”  Genesis 3:2

Satan tries to reassure her that the fruit is truly good to eat and in fact is better than anything they’ve ever eaten in the garden!  He tells them that God is actually holding out on them and that if they eat this fruit they will become “like God”.  Although I think the real first mistake is Eve twisting God’s words, we see that she gets caught up in the beauty of the fruit and loses sight of the beauty of God.  We read “she took some and ate it.  She also gave some to her husband who was with her and he ate it.” (Genesis 3:6)

In that moment balloons fall from the sky, confetti cannons explode, streamers shoot out and the trumpets sound because right there before us lies our gift.  A piece of fruit rolling on the ground with two simple bite marks out of it, but with massive eternal consequences.  The decision to disobey God by Adam and Eve is the gift of sin, the fracture in the universe, the source of the Grand Canyon that lies between man and God.  This gift is what has caused, disease, pain, suffering, and death.  It has caused insecurity, fear, loneliness, and depression.  It is the source of war, famine, and divorce.  It is the source of all evil and everything that is wrong in our world.  All of it can be traced back to this one moment in time.

Now before you walk away and feel helpless to this situation we need to be careful.

Although we did not ask Adam and Eve to sin and screw everything up, we are not innocent bystanders to sin.  Just as Eve was not forced to eat the fruit by Satan but was simply tempted to eat the fruit, so too are we tempted to the sinful fruit of this world but not forced to partake.  God’s design always had free will within the blueprints so that we could willing choose between sin and His love.  When we choose sin over God we run from the love the brings us life and fall headlong into the effects of sin.

However, God’s love of creation did not stop when the fruit fell to the ground and began to blacken with decay in the garden.  In fact a new Godly plan was being designed called “salvation” and it began unfolding at that very moment.  This plan would cost God his only Son, but would provide a way, the only way, for His children to come back to Him.  Through Jesus Christ we are able to return the gift of sin given to us by our first parents and trade it in for the gift God had always wanted us to have.  God’s gift of life.  This gift gives us a life meant to be lived to the full.  This life is free of the pain, sorrow, and death.  This life is steaming with joy, peace, patience, and love.  This life is unable to feel the decay that sin always provides when we give in to its tempting offers.

So although we can say “Thanks for nothing” to our first parents Adam and Eve, perhaps we should be more focused on saying “Thanks for everything” to our Heavenly Father.

I’d say that would bear us better fruit.

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Jesus’ Most Painful Moment

My God My God ImageEach year I hand select a group of men and invite them to spend a year together by reading a book a month and then get together to discuss what we’ve.  Our readings range from leadership, parenting, being a better husband, to understanding who God is in our lives.  I find being in these groups to be some of the most powerful and memorable times in my life.  It blows my mind to be see the change that God does in these men’s lives and in their families.

With each group I always start with a book on Jesus to center us and base our time together with Him as the foundation.  I know each time I read more about Christ I become changed and learn something, but this year in particular, when talking about Jesus’ death on the cross, one of the guys named Jason said something I hadn’t really noticed as much as I should.

In Mark 15:34 we read that while on the cross Jesus cries out “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

In discussing this and what it meant to the group Jason commented that he felt that the pain Jesus went through physically was nothing compared to the pain of being separated from God.  That by God forsaking Him in that moment created such a spiritual pain that no physical pain could ever match.

Whamo!  There is a little truth bomb right in your face!

Jason was totally right and as you look closer at the text you can see these words being echoed in another person’s life in Scripture.  You see Jesus was actually quoting Psalm 22 in that moment.  In this Psalm, David is vividly describing his pain in his moment of duress.

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
    

Why are you so far from saving me,
    

so far from my cries of anguish?

My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,

by night, but I find no rest.” - Psalm 22:1-2

 

“But I am a worm and not a man,

scorned by everyone, despised by the people.

All who see me mock me;

they hurl insults, shaking their heads.

 “He trusts in the Lord,” they say,

“let the Lord rescue him.
Let him deliver him,

since he delights in him.” - Psalm 22:6-9

 

“Do not be far from me,

for trouble is near and there is no one to help.” - Psalm 22:11

We all have times in our life when we ask the question, “Where is God in this moment?”  Those times where is seems that we’re alone and everywhere we turn people are mocking us and rubbing our pain in our face.  It’s in these moments that we need God the most, but sometimes we just feel like He’s taking a nap somewhere.

Clearly David felt this and Jesus literally felt this pain while hanging on the cross, but there is a difference.

Although we may “feel” like God is not there it’s not true.  The promise God gave Joshua so many years ago is the same promise he gives us when he says, “No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Joshua 1:5)

God is desperately and almost to a fault for us.  Despite our rebellious sin, He won’t leave us in this life and David experienced that first hand.  His questions of “Where are you God?” quickly turned into “I praise you God!” in blink of an eye, as God remained faithful to him his entire life despite his sinful ways.

However Jesus felt, what I pray we never feel, while on the cross.  He experienced not just the physical, but also the spiritual pain of being separated from God.  That separation was of no fault of His own but was a direct result of the sin you and I committed.  Our sin killed Jesus, but He willingly took our place in death so that we could be with Him in eternal life.  He did all that to show His love for us and so that we might call him Abba Father.  So that we might call him Daddy and experience His love for us.

Listen to me.

God is with us every nanosecond of every day and loves us deeply.  He truly is for us and not against us, but we must choose to believe and follow Him.  Nothing pains God more than to see His children ignore His love and run into the arms of sin that will always let them down. Think about it this way.

Sin never sacrificed anything for you, but you must sacrifice everything for sin.

Jesus sacrificed everything for you, but you can sacrifice nothing for His grace.

Believe that Jesus is for you and not against you and start living in that Truth.  Look to the cross of Christ where Jesus took the pain of being separated from His Father for you so you might run into your Father’s arms one day.

Now that is something worth living for!

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Our Painful Gain – There Is Better Beyond All This

No Pain, No GainThere is an old saying in sports that goes like this: “No Pain; No Gain”.

As a former athlete I can attest that this statement is very much true.  There is a great deal of pain involved in the training, practicing, and competing in sports.  There is pain found in losing, injury, and disappointment.  One would think with that amount of pain it seems ludicrous to keep doing!  After all, our mom teaches us to take our hand away from the hot stove so we don’t get hurt not press it in harder!  Yet in athletics we keep going through this pain for one reason…to win…to succeed…to conquer…to gain.  The feeling of victory is such a unique taste. A mixture of euphoria, intensity, and sweat that keeps you coming back for more, but to get there you will face challenges and pain is sure to be it’s co-pilot.

The ultimate question then is this: “Is it worth it?”

The Christian life is truly no different.

As a Believer we see that there is a great deal of pain involved with following Christ.  Paul is very clear in 2 Timothy 3:12 when he says, “everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (emphasis mine).  Jesus tells us in John 16:33 “In this world you will have trouble.” (emphasis mine)  We see time and time again where the ways of the world and the ways of God are oil and water towards each other.  We know there is gain found in God, but the pain that it takes us to get there is hard work.  God is crystal clear in his Word that being a Christian is difficult in a sin-filled world.

Yet Paul encourages us to stay strong and continue to push forward despite this pain.  “But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:5).  We need to remember one very important fact as we battle through this life as a Christian.

We have already won.

I think we forget that while as we get mired down in the chaos of our life and can’t see a foot infront of us because of all the junk around us.  We lose sight that the ultimate battle is not with breaking up petty Facebook rants between friends, keeping our kids from looking a porn, or enduring your crummy boss that needs to shower more, but between the forces of evil that want to kill and ravage our souls.  That is the important conflict that is at war within the world and which God has called us to enter into as His soldiers.

But we must remember that the battle has been won.  Jesus has overcome it all.  This includes the reality of death that haunts us all which can no longer keep us up at night.  At the end of the this painful life we will be victorious and achieve the reward that God has prepared for His children.  Again, Paul gives us this beautiful imagery of what it looks like to attain this glory after a long hard journey.

“I have found the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longer for his appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:7-8)

So keep pushing forward my friends and don’t let this world get you down.  It is our mission field, but it is not our home.  Home is where our heart is and our heart belongs to Jesus in a far better place.

Never fear the pain  because the gain is worth it in the end.

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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!

 

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3 Guaranteed Ways To Screw Up Your Life…Or To Save It

SONY DSCIn life we think there are few guarantees outside of taxes and death, but I’m here to tell you that there are more.  These guarantees may not kill you or cause you a hospital stay, but they will jack up your life.  The wisest man in the world Solomon shares these words in Proverbs 4.

“Let your eyes look straight ahead;
fix your gaze directly before you.

Give careful thought to the paths for your feet
and be steadfast in all your ways.

Do not turn to the right or the left;
keep your foot from evil.” 

- Proverbs 4:25-27

You’ve heard it said to “watch you step” and this is a great way to sum up this Proverb.  When we decide to not mind where we are walking it usually leads us to a minefield of disaster.  Although this Proverb is written in the affirmative and gives wisdom of what TO do to avoid struggles, there is also wisdom in reading it in the negative and looking at what could happen if you DON’T follow his instruction.

I believe reading between these lines Solomon outlines 3 ways to screw up your life.

1.  “Let your eyes look straight ahead fix your gaze directly before you.” v. 25

A great way to see your life tail spin is to take your eyes off of God and believe what other people, places, or things are better than Him.  We live in a world of instant gratification.  Even churches aren’t immune to this reality.   People will hop churches when something doesn’t fit them, someone doesn’t smile at us, the music is too loud, or the pastor wears jeans.  But our daily lives are this way too and when we choose to lose sight of the path God has laid out for us we will stumble and will fall…sometimes hard.  So if you want to screw up your life believe that she “understands you” better than your wife, buy into his smooth words that he will be your knight in shining armor, cut the corners at work, and have another drink or 7.  Or if you want a life that avoids evil and unnecessary challenges stay on God’s path, fix your eyes on Him, and don’t get distracted.

2.  “Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways.” v. 26

I don’t know about you, but I’ve often found myself in messes asking the question “How in the world did I get here?”  It’s the same sensation we get while driving on a long road trip and realizing we don’t remember the last 10-15 miles worth of road we travelled.  This happens in life too if we don’t stay present in the moment and in tune with the direction God has for us.  We can’t afford to let our minds wander or take a break from God’s plan.  Taking a break allows time for Satan to make up the distance we’ve created by following God and believe me if he gets a head of steam he will hit you like a freight train.  If you want to screw up your life take a break from following God’s plan.  Stop serving your wife, become selfish with your time, stop going to church, look out for your interests first, and look for quick gratification.  These are guaranteed to throw your life off course, but if you don’t find that appetizing I’d tell you to “keep your head”.  Consider yourself an addict of sin which means you never can afford to stop God therapy or you will relapse.  It’s true what they say “once an addict always an addict”.

3.  “Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.”  v. 27

One of if not THE best way to screw up your life is to believe Satan cares about you.  Let me be blunt.  The only thing Satan cares about is killing you and he will do it however he can.  When we start being lulled into believing that Satan has our best interests in mind we will do all kinds of things because they all sound so good!  Cheating on your wife, having another drink, messaging your ex-boyfriend on Facebook, staying a little later at work (again), checking that website one more time, or anything else your mind can imagine sound amazing coming from a sweat talking Satan.  If you want to screw up your life believe Satan cares about.  Of course you could decide to believe that God loves you far more than you can imagine.  The proof of that is the Son he gave up so that you wouldn’t have to be apart from Him by His grace.  To me that seems like a love and commitment I want to stay connected to and not a two-faced Satan.

Listen, it’s your life.  You can live it however you feel.  God has given you free will as proof of that fact.  If you want to sin you may, but understand that path has a pain and destruction littered all along the ditches.

But what God wants for you is far different.  Sure, His path may be a little dusty and winding, but in the end where you end up and what you’ve accomplished will be worth it.

Don’t screw up your life by stepping on the sweet smelling, well paged, wide path of evil.  Save your life by following God’s plan, keep your eyes fixed on him, stay the course, and live life to the full!

 

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Jimmy Hoffa & Other Dumb Things We Dig Up

 

Jimmy_riddle_hoffaJimmy Hoffa was a key leader in the mob in the 60‘s and 70‘s and accused of being party to terrible crimes.  The mystery surrounding him is legendary, but none more illusive than where and how he died.  Hoffa was officially declared dead in 1982 but his body was never found.  However, this was not for a lack of trying.  Since 1975 over 15 different leads have led to countless hours expended by FBI agents and excavating companies digging up locations where he was presumed to be buried.

 

It’s been estimated that for just this one case well over $3 million has been spent looking for Hoffa.  A dead guy.  Who is still dead.  And will continue to be dead when and if they find where he’s buried.

There won’t be any Hoffa arrest, interrogation, or trial.  Hoffa won’t be able to stand in front of his victim’s family’s and give an answer as to why he did what he did.  Why?

Because he’s dead.

Yet we still search and I’m sure when this most recent dig in a field in Michigan turns up nothing but cow bones, PBR cans, and old Eminem CDs they will not stop looking

The reason is that it seems to be our human nature to dig up dead stuff.  We love to dig up things in our past and other’s past all the time. As a pastor, I usually see this past exhuming process occur in 3 different ways.

 

 1. Exhuming The Past To Learn

Sometime digging up the past comes from a genuine desire to know the truth about where we’ve come from.  Family lineage and seeking to know about who you are and where you came form can be incredible healthy.  I know of people that have discovered siblings they never knew, royalty they were a part of, and details about their great grandparents they never shared.  Digging up the past to seek clarity on your present can be extremely helpful and exciting if kept in its pure form.

 

 2. Exhuming The Past To Hurt Others

Other times we dig up stuff to use against other people to make sure they don’t forget what they did. Typically I see this type of exhuming done in unhealthy relationships.  In the heat of an argument about something “big”, like leaving the toilet seat up, a venomous snowball will be created. It’s formed out of past offenses, hurts, and fears that he or she did from years ago which have nothing to do with the porcelain predicament you currently are in.  A huge fight ensues, both sides are wounded, and they stand in a graveyard of dug up bones of their past that they thought they had buried.

 

 3. Exhuming The Past To Punish Yourself

Finally I see people dig around in the past so that they don’t forget the things they did.  It’s personal punishment so as to maintain the proper amount of guilt and shame those offenses demand.  They feel they have forfeited any right to joy in their life because of what they have done.  Sadly, these people will live in a perpetual state of self-induced depression and guilt because they can’t put the shovel down.  Digging up their past has become their one and only future endeavor.

As healthy as digging up the past is to learn about who you are, using the the past to hurt and punish is exponentially more detrimental.  In fact God would say that by doing this you are sinning because you have lost sight of what forgiveness is.

“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. – Colossians 3:13 (emphasis mine)

I am not saying that when someone does something to you it doesn’t need to be addressed.  Sweeping things under the rug is not forgiveness.  I am saying approach the situation with the same attitude and heart that Jesus approached us.  A heart beating to offer grace to one another.  Forgiveness is choosing to not allow your past to define your future and walking in the freedom God gives us through forgiving others as He forgave us.

Digging up the skeletons of our past does nothing more than re-dirty our hands and keeps us from being washed clean by the grace of Jesus Christ.  Once God has made us clean through Jesus the last thing he wants us to do is dive back into the muck He pulled us from.

So let’s stop digging in graveyards and start living in the freedom Jesus promises.

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