During my aircraft maintenance days we were required to fill out these yellow time cards that not only tracked our clock in and out time it also tracked what we were working on. At some point we converted to electronic tracking. Yet for some reason we still had to fill out those yellow cards. Didn’t make sense to me. I wasn’t convinced they even looked at them. Considering several hundred mechanics just at our location filling them out three times a day that added up to a lot of cards. So, in an act of defiance, curiosity, rather than putting my work orders I the appropriate blocks I would write “I Love Seth.”
Now at the time Seth was the CEO of the company. Months went by. Countless “I love Seths” were written. Nothing! This was proving me right. Until one day I was paged to the manager’s office. When I walked in my union rep was in there with him. On his desk was a stack of yellow time cards. I was informed in rather blunt form that there would be no more affections for our CEO shared on company documents. He made it clear I was fortunate I expressed my love for him and nothing derogatory. Otherwise I would have left that office with far more than the warning I was given. Turns out they do in fact pay attention to those things.
Sometimes our prayer life seems much like those yellow time cards. Day after day we pray to God. Day after day it seems like they drift off without ever being acknowledged. In Acts 10 we’re introduced to a man named Cornelius. We are told he is a God-fearing man who helped the poor and prayed regularly. I wonder if he thought he was being heard. One afternoon he gets word from an angel. “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God” (Acts 10:4).
Yes He does hear!
Sometimes it seems like the Lord doesn’t hear our cries. May I encourage you that He does. Keep persisting in prayer. Keep looking up.
Each year we get together some friends for a Christmas party. Amongst the frivolity of the evening is a gift exchange. Everyone is tasked to bring a gift and put it under the tree. Then we all draw a number and proceed based on the number drawn to pick out a gift. Two things about the process. After the first person opens a gift the next person up has the opportunity to pick out a gift or steal a gift that has already been opened by someone. The second is this is a white elephant gift exchange. If you don’t know what that means it means that the gifts, shall we say, may not always be a gift anyone would want. It may be something you find laying around the house.
For example, for as many years as we’ve been attending a back massager that resembles cow udders has been making the rounds. One thing I have noticed. Of all the gifts that have been stolen over the years no one has ever stolen the cow udder massager. If that was the package you unknowingly picked, it was going home with you. Even if someone else got a crummy gift they weren’t stealing it. So for the next year you were tasked to keep it safe and sound until the next party, at which time you could unload it on some poor fool. On the bright side you don’t have to worry about what you are going to bring the next year.
Christmas, is about giving and it is about the Gift. If you think about, it is a gift exchange. It is about a beautiful Savior leaving the perfection of heaven on His way to swap Himself for the cow udder massager that is our sin. He exchanges our sin for His righteousness. In 2 Corinthians 5:21. Paul writes, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” He gives us all of himself; eternal life, a new heart, peace with God, the Holy Spirit, unconditional love, joy beyond all comprehension, and adoption in the family among a long list of other things. In return we give Him our guilt, our past sins, our fears, our pain, our bitterness, our addictions, and a myriad of other things.
Who does that! Who willingly and knowingly takes the cow udder massager that is our sin and gives us the best gift under the tree? “For God so loved the world He sent His Son . . .”
Among all the gifts given, received, and exchanged cherish the one who exchanged the worst of us for the best of Him.
I’ve lost count of how many home improvements show are on television. Every time you turn around another has been added. The premise is they work with a couple to find a new home. Draw up plans to remodel it. Then transform this once ugly property into something amazing. One my wife and I used to watch coined the term ‘demo day.’ It was the first day of the project and entirely devoted to destruction and removal of anything that was being replaced, removed, or repaired. Sledgehammer, jack hammer, and bulldozer are among some of the implements of destruction brought in to accomplish the task. Looks like fun.
Honestly it is fun. Having done, and in the process of doing, remodeling projects on the homes I’ve owned there is something satisfying about taking a hammer and Sawzall to something in your house. To obliterate a wall and leave in a heap on the floor relieves quite a bit of frustration and pent up anger. That’s why people will pay good money to take a sledgehammer to a car.
However, I’ve also learned demo day is generally the easiest day of a project. After that begins the process of putting it back together the way you envision it in your mind. That’s where the work comes in. Quite frankly it can take too much work. The exuberance that was there in the demolition process isn’t there.
Tragically we can apply the same principal to people. If someone has a failing, fault, or sin we are quick to apply the sledgehammer of judgement and Sawzall of character assassination. We hungrily step in and join the crowd shouting crucifying him. A group of men find a woman caught adultery. Get the stones! With the advent of social media we see this increasing at an alarming rate. Someone who righted themselves and advances great causes in the community has a misstep. It’s demo day!
No one wants to do the hard work of restoration. Perhaps it’s because demo day makes us feel better about ourselves. If we can tear them down it masks our own shortcomings. Yet this should never be. Our aim should always be to participate in the hard work of the remodel. Jesus sat in the dirt with the adulterous woman. Met her where she was at and brought restoration. (John 7:53-8:11). At Peter’s worst Jesus sought him out and brought him back to the fold. Imagine where we’d be, where the early church would have been if Jesus never sought out Peter for the tough work of restoration? Just read the opening chapters of Acts and blot out wherever you see his name. You’ll find a huge void in the history of the early church.
We would do well to be less anxious to demo some in need of restoration. We would be modeling Jesus in the way he showed himself to us. Next to him he had every right to leave us in the dust heap. Yet he reached down to us and restored us brand new.
Unplug the Sawzall of character assassination in favor of the grace we’ve all been given.
I sauntered out the doors of St. Thomas More School and headed across the street to the mall with a friend of mine. We headed to the arcade to play a few games or pinball then bummed around the mall for a bit. Cruising through Sears our eyes got a glimpse of these cool little pinball machines. That would be cool to have. No one was looking and the door was near. The game was snatched. Once on the outside we realized we had a dilemma. There was one game and two of us. The solution was simple. Snatch another one. Back in the store, game procured, we made our way to the exit not noticing the guy standing next to the door.
Before we knew it we he had us by the arm and was leading us to the security office. He took our names and phone numbers, banned us from Sears forever, and warned us if we didn’t tell out parents he would file shoplifting charges on us. My mother worked at the school at the time so I headed back there to tell her the good news. This time there was no saunter in my step. I found her and broke the news to her what I had done. Having to look my mother in the eye and tell her was one of the most difficult moments of my life. I had let down the woman who worked her tail off to provide for me and had a love for me that knew no limit. That’s what hurt the must. I wronged the one who had never wronged me. Yet, although there was a glint of disappointment in her eye, the overriding atmosphere of the moment was the love she still had for me.
I ponder that las night of Jesus when He stood in the courtyard. Peter was there. He had just spent the day failing Jesus left and right. It reached rock bottom when that rooster crowed the third time. Luke tells us in that moment, “The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter” (22:61). Peter was crushed and ran from the place bitterly weeping. In that moment I see the same gaze I saw from my mother that day in the school. Disappointment? Absolutely! Yet also a gaze that expressed a love for this man He had poured His life into.
I am thankful for that shared moment I have with Peter. Not that either one of us deserved it, but that we learned to understand the depth of love for someone who, at that moment should have been undeserving of love. Unconditional love is an expression of love that is tough to fully comprehend. But I am thankful for it.
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8).
When I first learned to read I could not wait to turn the page to see where Spot would run to next. As I grew older Spot could not hold my attention (unless a grandchild was on my knee) and I discovered the Hardy Boys. I looked forward to the solution to whatever mystery had caught their attention. Eventually the Hardy Boys lost their luster and were laid aside for the adventures of an overwhelmed little hobbit from a distant land. Then it was on to Jack Ryan and whatever conspiracy attempted to cripple our nation. As I grew in my reading (outside of the Hobbit) the previous reading delights were insufficient to satisfy my love for reading.
We see this in our culture as well. As I watched television evolve over the years, June and Ward Cleaver were replaced by Al and Peg Bundy, Perry Mason by Criminal Minds. A motorcycle that max’s out at 150 mph is replaced by one that will go 200+ mph. The sport of parachuting has evolved from jumping out of an airplane to jumping off bridges to winged suits. Smoking cigarettes to smoking dope to smoking meth.
The truth is we are always searching for something that will satisfy an inner emptiness. Each and every level attained leaves us searching for something more only to find a new void. Until we find the ultimate we will always be left disappointed.
I have come to discover after traveling many of the roads mentioned above seeking something to fill the void, true and ultimate satisfaction can only come through the Him who gave his life for me. In John 4 Jesus encounters a Samaritan woman at a well. Or should I say she encountered Him? The woman had live a rather promiscuous life. She came seeking a drink of water. A temporary fix for a momentary thirst. He came to provide living water, himself. A permanent fix to a bottomless void.
It is a good reminder to us the things of the world will only give us temporary satisfaction and in the end leave us wanting something more. It is only Christ who can fulfill that which is truly lacking, spiritual nourishment and peace with the Father. If you are restless and searching, search no longer.
GORP, nosh, scroggin, schmogle, snack mix, or trail mix; whatever you call it we all like it in some way shape or form. That bag of mixed goodies we buy or create to satisfy our snack craving while watching tv, on a road trip, or wherever. My personal plan for creating the desired snack is to buy the pre-made trail mix then enhance it with a variety of M&Ms. Be it plain, peanut, or peanut butter.
However there is a flaw with the pre-made variety. It contains things we just don’t want in our trail mix. So we dig through the bag and just eat the good stuff which leaves us with a bunch of stuff at the bottom we eventually just toss in the garbage. What’s up with those round brown crunchy things in Chex Mix? Does anybody actually eat them or are they there to ensure the dogs get a snack while we’re munching?
We’ve developed this same mentality with Jesus. My copilot, my friend, and my homeboy. Or, as I’ve recently discovered during a recent search he is also known as J-dog, Captain Miracle, God Jr., and Floaty Toes. Whatever you call Him, like snack mix, we approach him in two ways. One, we create the perfect Jesus for our life. A lot of Savior, a little but of healer, and a whole lot of love. That Jesus is palatable. Or if we go with the prepackaged bible version Jesus we cherry pick those parts we like (see the aforementioned Savior, healer, love Jesus) and leave the rest of Him in the Bible. Jesus as Lord, as sanctifier, as King we feed to those super Christians, pastors, and missionaries.
In John chapter 6 the people just feasted on a good meal of bread and fish. Afterwards they tracked Jesus down for more of the ‘good stuff.’ He basically tells them I want you to partake of all of me, not just what you consider the good stuff. Many of them walked away. I fear that is what we do. There is so much more to Jesus than what we consider the ‘good stuff.’
When we partake of all of Him we will find ourselves more nourished than we ever thought possible and capable of being sustained on our journey throughout life on earth.
Not too long ago I shared a link to an article that read Chuck Norris died. Immediately people jumped on this as fake news. Given the current environment we live in that is understandable. It is harder than ever to discern what is truth and fiction. However, in this case if people had clicked on the link they would have seen it was not fake news but a joke about the invincibility of Chuck.
When I posted the link I had no idea it would turn into a social experiment. Yet I found it enlightening. It teaches us what happens when we don’t take the time to educate ourselves. In Acts 17 we have this group of people known as the Bereans. Luke records when they received the message one of the first things they did was “examine the scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” They eagerly received the message then looked to the scriptures to see for themselves.
Let’s apply this to our preferred method of applying the scriptures to our lives. We’ve reduced it to a passage here and passage there. We clip it out of context and apply it to our lives, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me!” we cry as we seek our personal best for whatever goal we’ve set for ourselves. While it is good to have our favorite passage memorized many times these are but headlines of the greater message in His word. When we take the time to read with a goal to understand His word we are better able to understand who God is, who we are, what he desires for our lives. Reading beyond the headlines helps us stand against fake news theology that perverts who God is. In reading beyond the headlines of His word we are better suited to minister to those around us.
Determine to be more than Headline Christians but engaged followers of Christ.
“I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:10-11)
One of my favorite sections of the Appalachian Trail is known as the Triple Crown because of three majestic views; Tinker Cliffs, McAfee Knob, and Dragon Tooth. Of the three, the one that has always captivated me is one I first hiked about 20 years ago, McAfee Knob. It is considered the most photographed spot on the A.T.
Photos of my last trip there have been showing up in my Facebook memories the last few days. What a trip! The first night we camped just short of the Knob. That night we heard from north bounders the view was overrun with people. We had an inkling this might be the case when we drove by the parking area earlier in the day. But we had no idea what we were in for. We arrived the next morning to find a sea of people had already descended on the vista. We practically had to take a number to get a picture of the iconic image. My blood began to boil a wee bit. As we continued our hike we passed a wave of people hiking up the trail to this spot. My blood boiled a little more. These people were ruining it! Sipping McDonald’s, music blasting, and no understanding of trail etiquette how dare they invade this sacred spot!
Not too long ago I was researching kayaks and came across a site where a guy, I’ll call him an elitist, was railing against people in their $100 plastic Walmart canoes ruining the sport of kayaking. My thought was, “What a jerk!” He should appreciate more people are enjoying the sport he loves. It was as I was grumbling about the sea of people I was reminded of my reaction to his rant. I heard the still small voice of rebuke. “You’re being an elitist! These people are learning to appreciate what I have created.” The rebuke was well-timed and spot on. I needed it.
Sadly, I have seen and engaged in this attitude in the church. It is easy to have an elitist attitude towards others that don’t fit our preconceived ideal. People walk through the doors who don’t conform to our image and on some measure we balk. We’ll be polite but not embrace. We’ll say hello but not invest. This has never been the vision of Jesus when he saw people. We must endeavor to appreciate anyone our Savior appreciates. They walk through the doors longing to experience the God we love. Churched or unchurched (I loathe those terms) we should love.
“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)
I am at times an elitist. Father forgive me. Elitism has no place in the heart of anyone who professes Christ as Lord. We embrace who He embraces.
We slowly drove past the little white country church with the red door, yep there it was, then kept driving. Pulling into the parking lot of the restaurant down the street I let out a heavy breath. I had to work up the nerve to go back. Turning the car around we pulled into the gravel parking lot of the church and sat silently for a few minutes before working up the nerve to get out. But here we were. Joy, Kaitlin, and I walked through the door to be met with stares and smiles. They had just been praying that the Lord would provide a pastor. Their current pastor was going to need surgery soon and wouldn’t be able to continue his duties.
We attended the church for about 6 months when I got the call. I remember vividly it was January 2007. We were walking the snowy roads of Gatlinburg when my phone rang. One of the elders in the church wanted to know if I could preach the upcoming Sunday. Nervously I said yes. But the reality was, no wasn’t an option. We knew this was God’s call on my life. We knew when we made that first drive to the church they were going to need a pastor. Yet until that time it was all potential. Now it was going to be a reality. It was time to get in the game.
Potential and calling are one thing, but they’re nothing if they’re never put into practice. To put it another way it means nothing if we talk the talk but don’t walk the walk. It is crucial for the words to become flesh. So the real logical conclusion is there must be a practical, real life application of what we have learned and heard from God. There must be willing acceptance of what He is calling us to do. Anything less is disobedience.
This is really true in any area of life. Talking about it is one thing but it is totally irrelevant if we never actually do it. Additionally, something never done may lead to a lifetime of regret because of missed opportunity. That tentative walk through the red door has led to 14 years of ministry that I do not regret. (Most of the time) Don’t miss opportunities placed before you. Embracing opportunities, even if it is done with reluctance.
In 2014 the world was mesmerized by soccer’s World Cup. For the first time in my life I I sat down and actually watched some of the matches. Surprisingly, not being much of a soccer fan, I enjoyed it. The final match came down to Germany and Argentina with Germany prevailing. However if you lived in North Korea you would have been told a different story. There it was reported the brave North Korean team side crushed Japan 7-0, USA 4-0 and China 2-0 in the group stages, before going on to reach the final against Portugal. Of course North Korea beat them too. The reality is North Korea did not even qualify for the tournament. The leadership of North Korea knowingly suppressed and manufactured the truth.
In our internet age we’ve become quite good at manufacturing truth. With a simple tweak of a fact or elimination of a word we can take a truth and bend it to fit our need. In the process we’ve manufactured truth which isn’t really truth at all.
However, long before North Korea and the internet age became experts at manufacturing truth the god of this world, Satan, had perfected it. With a twist of a word he convinced Eve to take a bite. In the temptation story with a twist of meaning He tried to squeeze a half-truth out of scripture and lead our Lord astray. His goal has always been to suppress the truth that is evident all around us. Our call is to be the evidence of, and a witness to, the Truth that is Jesus Christ.
““For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” Romans 1:20
Lord of the Harvest use us as a witness to the truth that we have come to know. Use us as a revelation of the Truth the enemy is trying to conceal so that those around us may have the scales removed from their eyes.