Monthly Archives: June 2013

Wearing a Suit at the Beach

Have you ever felt out of place? I did earlier this week. Some co-workers and I went to eat lunch at a place on the beach. After lunch, we decided to walk down a long fishing pier. The beach below was crowded with people swimming and sun tanning. The pier was full of people dressed similarly, but had fishing poles in their hands. The four of us walked down the pier in our dress shirts, ties, slacks and dress shoes. To say people took double takes would be an understatement.

It was hot. We were sweating. We kept walking all the way to the end of the pier though. As people stared, we politely smiled and acted as though we belonged. No matter how much we pretended, we just didn’t. We didn’t have the right attire on for the beach. We didn’t have the right mindset for the beach. We were business minded men in a crowd full of vacationers.

As a Christian, that’s how we’re supposed to be in this world. We are to stand out and to be different. I love how the Message phrases Romans 12:2. It says, “Don’t become so well adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking.” At the beach, the culture is dress down, relax and have a good time. We were not well adjusted to that culture. Our presence was noticed by everyone.

In this world, the culture is continuing to move away from God. As Christians, it is not our job to be so adjusted to that culture that we fit in. We are to stand out, stand up and be different. We are to follow Christ even when it’s not popular. In John 15, Jesus said, “If you lived on the worlds terms, the world would love you as one of its own. I chose you to come out of the world.” He chose us to live differently. He said the world would hate us.

If Jesus said the world is going to hate us because we’re different, why do we spend so much time and energy trying to get them to love us? Our human nature wants to be loved and accepted. God’s acceptance should be more important to us than the world’s acceptance. We are called to be salt and light. Salt changes the flavor of everything it touches. Light chases away the darkness all around it. Are people changed by having me in their lives? Are your friends changed by having you in their lives?

Living for Christ in this world is like wearing a suit at the beach. You’re going to stand out. You’re supposed to stand out. In the same passage in Matthew 5 where Jesus calls us to be salt and light, He says, “Let your good deeds shine for all to see, so that everyone will praise your Heavenly Father.” We’re not different just to be different. There’s a purpose to it. That purpose is to draw other to the cross. They should see a difference in our lives versus the lives that live according to the culture of the world so we can reach them.

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The Walk of Shame

One of the things I love about our car is when you get low on gas, not only does it notify you, the navigation screen automatically shows you where all the gas stations are. If I keep going, the alarm will continue to let me know every few miles that it’s time to fill up. So far I haven’t run out of gas in it. That’s a good thing because I know what it’s like to run out of gas and to have to do the walk of shame to the gas station.

What about you? Have you ever run out of gas? How about spiritually? Again, I’m guilt of that too. I’ve let myself run out of gas spiritually and I’ve stalled. There were things that I did that caused me to run out. One of the first things I quit doing was reading the Bible daily. It was more of a box to check off for me at the time and I saw it as a chore. When I quit reading my Bible, my faith took a hit.

Romans tells us that faith comes from hearing and hearing by the Word of God. I can increase my faith by putting God’s Word in me. I wasn’t doing that. I quickly found out that I was susceptible to attacks. It turns out that faith is also our shield that helps to protect us against the fiery darts of the devil. I began to slip in areas I had never had trouble in. I started to go places and do things that I never dreamed I would have.

After that, I noticed that my church attendance began to slip. “I wasn’t getting anything out of it,” I would say. I wasn’t getting anything out of it because I wasn’t trying to. I wasn’t listening because I didn’t want to be convicted of the things I was doing. I didn’t want to chat with people at church so I started leaving as soon as the pastor ended his sermons. I cut myself off from the community of believers.

Hebrews 10 tells us not to forsake the assembling of fellow believers. I looked up “forsake” and dictionary.com said, “to quit or leave entirely.” Because I did it, I know why the writer said we shouldn’t. I left a group of people who loved me, prayed for me and lifted me up when I needed it. Church is more than just a group of believers going to hear a message. It’s a place where we connect and find a sense of belonging.

After I left, it didn’t take long before I ran out of gas. When I couldn’t move forward in my life anymore, I decided to take that walk to the altar. The good news is that this walk isn’t a walk of shame. It’s a walk of rejoicing because God comes in and fills us with His love and restores us to a right relationship with Him. If you’re on empty today, you might have made the same mistakes I did. The good news is that He’s waiting to fill you up again and to restore your life. He did it for me and my church accepted me back with open arms. There’s no shame in walking home.

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The Poor Kid at the Table

Yesterday, I went to lunch with several coworkers from different departments in the company. When they suggested an expensive place to eat, I hesitated at first. They said, “What’s the matter?” Then one remembered and said, “Oh yeah. Your department doesn’t budget for food like ours does.” I replied, “I have to think about dinner. I don’t want to spend my per diem on lunch.” Someone replied, “Come on, poor boy. We’ll figure something out.”

I haven’t been the “poor boy” at the table since I was a kid. All these emotions came running back to me. I remembered what it was like to be at the mercy of whoever had invited me to eat. I had to see what they were thinking of ordering so I could order something less expensive. There were a lot of lessons I learned being the poor boy at the table. Lessons that helped shape who I am today.

One thing it taught me was humility. When you’re the one who is depending on someone else, you learn all about humility. You don’t get what you want, you get what they allow you to have. It’s when we can afford to get what we want that we forget about humility. We forget how to depend on someone else. We forget how to depend on God. We tell Him, “I can do this,” and we save Him for bigger things in our life. We start to treat Him like a genie.

God never wanted to be a genie and He doesn’t want us to save Him for the big things in our lives. He wants us to know what it’s like to trust Him for everything. He wants us to know what it truly means to walk by faith. The problem is that walking by faith is scary after you’ve adjusted to a life of walking by sight. It’s at that point that we only look to God in the dark hours of our life. He wants to be there with you in the light and the dark, the good and the bad.

Another thing being the poor kid at the table taught me was appreciation. I learned to appreciate what I had. I wasn’t going to get anything new for a while. I had to appreciate and take care of anything new that I got. My mom would say, “Those have to last you until Christmas. That’s when we can get you new ones.” Those words would ring in my ear as I had to make a decisions. Other kids got new stuff when theirs broke. They didn’t appreciate what they had. God wants us to be appreciative for everything He’s given us and not to be always wanting something we don’t have.

God gives each of us what we need. We don’t always get what we want. He said that when we’re faithful over the little things He’s given us, He’ll give us more. We have to learn to be humble enough to recognize that the little we have is enough. We also have to learn to appreciate it and take care of it by being faithful with it. When we learn to do those things, He knows we’re ready for more.

There’s always another level for Him to take us to. Have we learned to be happy being the poor kid at the table so He can take us there? Or are we resentful that we’re in this position and are constantly trying to get to that next level on our own strength? I’ve tried it both ways. Yesterday reminded me that it’s ok to be the poor kid at the table. All I have is from God anyway. When I learn to accept what He gives, I’m really the rich one.

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Playing Chase with God

Each night when I get home, as soon as my son sees me, he smiles and yells, “Dada!” I squat down to give him a hug, but he doesn’t run to me. Instead, he runs away. With a big grin on his face, he yells, “Come get me, dada.” I chase him around the sofa in circles for several minutes. He giggles and looks back while he’s running. He laughs and says it again, “Come get me, dada!” When he gets tired, he falls down and let’s me catch him. I scoop him up in my arms then I hug and kiss him all over as he giggles.

That’s a perfect picture of what I so often do to God. He shows up ready to love me, but I take off running. I make Him chase me instead of running directly to Him. The funny thing is, He does. He chases me when I run. My heart calls out, “Come get me!” I try to keep an obstacle between us as I run. He continues to chase me until I run out of strength and fall down. He runs over, scoops me up in His arms, hugs me and tells me He loves me.

I don’t know if God loves to play chase, but I can tell you that He’s good at it. We can run and hide, but He always finds us. He knows just where we are and He continues down our path. He wants to pour out extravagant love on us. He wants to hold us in His arms and carry us away with Him. He wants to show us how much He cares for us, but we run. We try to get away. The good news is that we can’t get away to where He can’t find us!

In Psalm 139:7-12, David asked, “Is there anywhere I can go to avoid your Spirit? To be out of your sight?” He liked to run too. What he found was that no matter where He went, God was there waiting for him. When he wanted to hide in the dark, he said, “Darkness isn’t dark to you; night and day, darkness and light, they’re all the same to you.” He knew that there is no place he could go to hide or get away from God. You and I know that too, but that doesn’t keep us from running.

I think there’s something in us that loves it when we’re pursued. We love having someone chase after us. It gives us a sense of worth. It lets us know in a strange way that someone thinks we’re worth wearing themselves out over. The good news is that God loves to show us how much He loves us and is willing to play chase with us if that’s what it takes to show us love. He will do whatever it takes to find you and scoop you up just so He can hear you say, “Dada!”

If you’ve been running, I encourage you today to stop and let Him catch you. Let Him pick you up and love on you. We all need it. In Psalm 33:22, David says, “Love us, God, with all you’ve got – that’s what we’re depending on (MSG).” We’re all depending on Him to love us no matter what it is we’ve done or why we’re running away. The good news is that He will love you with all He’s got, no matter what you’ve done. It’s time to come out from hiding and let Him love you.

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The Power of Restoration

I got a call this weekend from someone who was going through a rough patch and succumbed to temptation. They reached out to me and a couple of others for help. One of the others and I went to meet them to offer guidance and next steps. It would have been easy to go over there, beat them on the head with a Bible and ask a lot of “why” questions. That’s not how God says we should handle these situations though.

As I drove over there, The Lord took me to Galatians 6:1 that says, “Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path.” My mind changed from all the “how could you” questions to the “how can I help you” questions. I moved away from the accusatory mindset that saw all the steps leading to sin to one that was there to show the path to forgiveness.

The Lord had spoken the same thing to my friend who went with me. He opened up the conversation with, “We’re here to help you, not to condemn you.” He went to Romans 13:12 that says, “So remove your dark deeds like dirty clothes, and put on the shining armor of right living.” We explained that there is not one of us who is perfect. None of us go without sinning. What sets us apart is that we remove those sins and step back into God’s light.

I read Proverbs 24:16 that says, “The godly may trip seven times, but they will get up again.” I explained that if we’re not able to get up on our own, we should do what they did and call others to help them. I reiterated that we were not there to hold them down, but to offer a helping hand up. I’m sure they had already beat themselves up over it and that the Holy Spirit had convicted them. The problem was that they didn’t know the way back to the right road.

I’ve been thinking all weekend about how many people fall and just stay down because they don’t know how to reach out for help or are just too embarrassed to. I’ve been there. I was ashamed and embarrassed because I knew better. I didn’t want to admit that I had messed up and gone in the wrong direction. I didn’t want to let others know that I didn’t have the strength to get back up and that it was easier to just stay down. Thankfully someone saw me there and offered a hand to get me back up.

Who do you know right now that has fallen? Have you gone to them and offered a helping hand or just talked about them to others? Our command is clear. We are to go and restore someone in that condition. We are to pray with them and give them the tools and safeguards they need to keep them from falling again. When they fall, go and put your arm around them and walk with them. Isn’t that how you would want to be treated if it were the other way around?

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The Push for Paradise

One of my favorite stories in the Bible that doesn’t get a whole lot of attention happened on mount Calvary. As Jesus was being executed on a cross, there were two other men who had committed crimes worthy of being crucified beside Him. As people came by to look at the crucifixion of Jesus, they yelled at Him and insulted Him. They called Him names. Even the two men who were being crucified with Him began to taunt Him.

As the day went on, one of them noticed that Jesus was different. After a while he went from scoffer to protector. He yelled back at the other criminal, “Don’t you fear God even when you’ve been sentenced to die? We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong.” He knew he had lived a life that was worthy of dying on a cross. He wasn’t denying that he deserved to be there.

Instead of using his pain to lash out at Jesus and take the spotlight off of himself, he took another road. Facing death, and in earshot of the people who were mocking Jesus, he decided to reach out for forgiveness for his sins. He looked over at Jesus and said, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” Jesus looked over at the man who had earlier mocked Him and said, “Today you will be with me in Paradise.”

I’m sitting in front of a hospital right now. I have a friend inside who sent me a text last night. She has surgery this morning and told me last night she wasn’t sure she’d survive it. She told me she knows she hadn’t been a good person. That’s ok. God doesn’t let “good” people into Paradise. He lets those who call on His name and believe in their heart that He died for their sins in. If “good” was a requirement, we’d all fail the test.

Jesus isn’t looking for good people to save. He’s looking for anyone who will believe. He doesn’t care if you’re a child or if you’re about to die. What He cares about is if you believed in Him and asked for forgiveness of your sins. I knew someone once that said, “That’s not fair. Why should someone who lived a terrible life be allowed to convert before they die and go to heaven when I’ve lived right my whole life?” I replied, “How is it fair that Jesus had to pay for your sins?”

In the parable of the workers in the vineyard, Jesus told of a man who hired workers early in the morning to work all day. He told them what he’d pay them at the end of the day. All through the day he continued to hire workers offering them the same pay as the early ones. Even at an hour before quitting time, he hired more for the same price. The early ones were mad when they got paid. They felt they deserved more, but He reminded them that they agreed to the price and that it was his money to do with what he wanted.

Whether you accepted Christ early in life or late in life, the reward is the same. You get to go to Paradise. God doesn’t want anyone to die without accepting His son. He allows us to accept Him no matter how bad we’ve been or at how late in our lives it is. His offer to you is salvation even if you’ve mocked Him or other Christians. You may not feel like you can forgive yourself for things you’ve done, but you aren’t the one holding the keys to Paradise, He is. He’ll forgive you no matter what. I’m walking into the hospital this morning with Him to give a final push for Paradise for my friend.

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The Blueprints of Faith

In our small group last night, we were reading from Genesis 6 where God gave Noah the blueprints for the ark. He told him it was to be 450 feet long, 45 feet high and 75 feet wide. He told him what kind of wood to use, how many levels to have, how to waterproof the wood, to build stalls and even told him why he was to do it and how it would happen. I got a little jealous of Noah as I read all of that because he got a blueprint of exactly what God wanted from him with each step.

I’d love for God to do that for me. Instead, I feel more like Abraham who God told, “Leave your native land and go to the land that I will show you.” There were no blueprints, no reasons or navigational directions. He was simply told to pack his stuff, leave his relatives and everything he’d known for a land that he would be shown without being given a reason. I don’t know if he felt the doubt, frustration and fear that I do from being in those shoes.

At first, I started to think that Abraham was the one who really acted in faith. After all, he didn’t get a step by step guide like Noah. The more I think about it, the more I see how much faith it took from Noah to accomplish his task even with a blueprint. When God shows you something you’ve never seen or heard of and asks you to do it, that requires a lot of faith. Even with a blueprint, you are venturing into the unknown, the uncomfortable. It requires faith to start building.

Another thing I see with Noah is the sheer enormity of the project God asked of him. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with how much God asks of us, but just like with Noah, it starts with one board and one nail. It took him a hundred years to complete what God asked of him. As our group leader pointed out last night, imagine Noah on year 33. After all those years, he was only a third of the way done. He’s worked night and day every day for over 39 years and only has a little of the project to show for it. Most of us would have quit. By faith, Noah got up the next day and kept following the blueprints.

Whether God has given you a set of blueprints or has asked you to follow Him with blind trust, it requires faith on your part. Faith to pick up that first board or faith to pack your bags and take that first step. Which of these two do you identify with? Has God asked for endurance from you to see His plan through in the face of ridicule and a seemingly lack of progress? Has He asked you to leave everything you’ve known to do something He’ll show you later? Either way, it requires faith and He has faith in you to accomplish it or He wouldn’t have asked you. Take courage and do something today that moves you in the direction of what He asked you to do.

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