Monday, April 30, 2012

Faith as practical as a tank top ...

How many times have we read, heard, or shared that platitude, "Sorry, I couldn't hear what you were saying, your life was too loud."

How we live establishes or destroys what we have to say.

Especially for leaders.

My concern about what I see among some church leaders today is what appears to be a shrinking of concern about the character some put on display.

Let me share a simple --- even simplistic --- example from the twittersphere.

A few years ago, a well-known pastor of a well-known mega-church started following me on Twitter. I looked forward to reading his tweets, as it would give me a different, more personal peek at the person. Over time, I became concerned about the number of tweets that seemed sourced from the flesh.

Then came the tweet that really disturbed me.

In the 140 characters, this pastor stated that only people with well-toned arms and a well-toned upper torso should ever be seen in a tank top. It turned out a more senior individual who wasn't physically fit had been sighted by the minister and he thought it an ugly view.

Now, this is not an earth-shattering tweet. But where it had to be sourced from disturbed me.

Having lived in hot environments like the Arizona desert, I've known many elderly people who lived on sparse fixed incomes. Some struggled with their health. In an attempt to save money and try to be cool in the heat, many sometimes wore a tank top.

So what?

No, they were not stand-outs among the "beautiful people." Their biceps didn't bulge, more often their guts did.

So what?

Where would I have to source my thinking to have disdain for unfit elderly folk who dared to be seen in public in a tank top? How is it that a church leader would feel comfortable to tell tens of thousands of Twitter followers that only the pretty people should have the right for their arms and shoulders to be seen?

If you're ugly, cover up.

And how do we determine the pretty and the ugly?

I don't think it was a biblical source he was drawing from.

And I don't think such public ridicule is the character we want to see displayed from our leaders. Or from one another.

The world drowns us on a daily basis with such physical, sensory, and sensual nonsense. But God approaches things quite differently:

"But the Lord said to Samuel, 'Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart'," 1 Samuel 16:7.

If this is true, how, then, can we find it appropriate for a church leader to ridicule the ugliness of an older person in a tank top? The tank top tweet isn't earth-shattering, but it is an intensely practical application of our faith. If we look upon someone and see them as ugly just because of the shirt they wear, and feel comfortable to announce such an opinion publicly, just how far are we from the character of Christ?

Is it possible to think an unfit person may not be overtly physically attractive in a tank top? Yes.

But the more important question is: Is it the right character for a follower of Christ to publicly ridicule someone for doing so? Especially a "celebrity pastor" making such a comment?

When it gets hot this summer, several senior citizens (or persons of any age) will don their favorite tank tops. You might see some of them.

Watch your character!

Look at them as God would, love them as Christ does, and find the beauty our Creator equipped them with. Then you'll have something worth tweeting about.


Why people don't change ...

I like printed books.

I like the texture of the different papers, the design of the covers, the feel of the book in my hands.

So I want a Kindle.


What could be more different to a book reader than an e-reader?

Well, I'm a voracious reader. Having a Kindle (or similar device) will benefit my reading in multiple ways ... it will reduce the cost of each book by more than half, there is no need for room to store a collection of books, and you can carry your entire library with you wherever you go in a single device.

Making such a change will benefit me.

You would think people would be willing to change when there is real, direct benefit for making change. But even the most profound of benefits often is not enough for some people to make real change.

A significant reason many people do not change their lives by starting in a new direction is because in order to succeed, they need to quit old things to start the new. And they are unwilling to quit the old for the new.

Such was the case of some who approached Jesus with pious pledges to follow Him anywhere. But following Jesus isn't a matter of adding something new to the old, but quitting the old for something new. Read for yourself ...

"18 When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he instructed his disciples to cross to the other side of the lake. 19 Then one of the teachers of religious law said to him, 'Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.' 20 But Jesus replied, 'Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place even to lay his head.' 21 Another of his disciples said, 'Lord, first let me return home and bury my father.' 22 But Jesus told him, 'Follow me now. Let the spiritually dead bury their own dead'," Matthew 8:18-22.

For one of these disciples, following Jesus would mean he would have to quit valuing things (such as the security of a home) in the manner he currently was doing. For the other, he would have to quit valuing relationships as they were. The old would have to change for change to occur.

We would prefer to mingle the old with the new. But Jesus doesn't do things that way, as He says:

"And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the old skins would burst from the pressure, spilling the wine and ruining the skins. New wine is stored in new wineskins so that both are preserved," Matthew 9:17.

The Apostle Paul approached the subject succinctly:

"16 So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! 17 This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!," 2 Corinthians 5:16-17.

Are you trying to hold on to a part of your old self? Your old life? Or are you ready to quit the old for something new?


The value of quitting ...

If you owned one of those tiny "smart" cars, do you think finding a parking spot would be much easier?

Where couldn't you park one of those things?!

Apparently (at least for the woman in the video below), not in a large open spot between two cars ...

There's a value in knowing when to quit (especially when directly across the street is a parking garage with lots of empty spaces). We aren't good at everything. We aren't equipped to do everything. We don't have the time or resources to take on everything. We aren't called to do everything.

So the next time you hear a leader blab on and on about "never quit!" just know that person doesn't know what they're talking about (at least on that subject).

Quitting the things you shouldn't be doing --- those things that devour your time, resources, and focus --- in favor of realigning your focus to pursue the things God has called you to do, is a wise step to take.

What do you need to quit so you can start on the life God has called you to?


Sunday, April 29, 2012

The common idol ...

This idol is so common it's commonality often makes us overlook just how broadly worshiped it is.

Just about everyone has one in their homes. It's as common in the workplace cubicle and boardroom as it is the classroom. It's common among family and between friends.

It is that idol called our Opinion.

We love our own opinion.

In fact, we believe having and expressing our own opinion is paramount to being a free individual. It doesn't matter whether the opinion is right or wrong, having one is what we cherish.

All too much!

Here's what the word of God says about the idol Opinion:

"Fools have no interest in understanding; they only want to air their own opinions," Proverbs 18:2.

The problem of bothering with understanding so that we actually arrive at the Truth is, the acceptance of Truth requires the submission of our Opinion to be newly formed and fashioned not by us but by Truth Himself.

Often we know what is true, but we have a different opinion. Elijah challenged such people with these words:

"Then Elijah stood in front of them and said, 'How much longer will you waver, hobbling between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him! But if Baal is God, then follow him!' But the people were completely silent," 1 Kings 18:21.

James was more direct about the matter: "Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it," James 4:17.

Have you hobbled yourself between two opinions? Do you elevate your opinion to supreme status? Or have you subjected your opinion to be transformed by Truth?


Monday, April 23, 2012

BOOK REVIEW: A smart look at an old topic ...

Imagine revisiting the topic of Christian authenticity without the word "authentic" being tossed around like a Retriever after a tennis ball.

Timothy Willard and Jason Locy have pulled off such a feat in their book, "Veneer" (published by Zondervan) in a smart and sobering manner.

Before opening the cover, I was skeptical about revisiting such a topic. The idea of wearing masks and the need to be authentic has been a sermon topic by even the most novice of preachers, and celebrity pastors have dedicated chapters in their paperbacks to the subject. Simply put, it was a common topic worn out by overuse of the term, yet too little real depth given to the issue.

But those who addressed the subject matter often did so as shallowly as the topic being explored. Not so with "Veneer." In this book, the authors do a compelling job of unmasking the level of veneer in our lives, our culture, and the church, but also lead their readers in reasonable depth into the subtitle of the book, "Living Deeply in a Surface Society."

With this book, readers will gain a better insight into the depth of veneer around them --- and in them --- and can appreciate the authors guidance in how to live more deeply.

This book was passed to me by a Facebook friend, Jason Chatraw, who is a publisher at Ampelon Publishing. Books recommended by a friend are often good reads, as was the case of "Veneer." As Jason passed the book to me, I pass on the recommendation to give it a read.


Looking for love ...

So many people think relationships are the great black hole of life, that thing that sucks the life out of you and you can just never fully comprehend.

Such thinking is why the book "He's Just Not That Into You" by Greg Behrendt was so wildly popular. The success of the book resulted in a movie of the same name, Behrendt getting his own TV talk show (for a while), and making the name of the book a common talking point.

The success behind the name was the simple truth the statement often brings to that person who overly fantasizes in their sometimes desperate attempt to find a partner in life: he really isn't that into you, don't fool yourself into thinking he is.

When it comes to "potential" relationships, sometimes the fantasy is better than the reality. Because sometimes he (or she) just isn't into you.

If you look at the statistics, the same could be said about "Christians" and Jesus. Not that He isn't into them. Jesus is so into them He became human and offered Himself as a sacrifice for them. The problem is, many Christians are not that into Him.

The statistics say about one out of every four persons calling themselves "Christian" actually live out the teachings of Christ. What about the other three? If truth be told, they just really aren't that into Him.

How can you tell?

Jesus said if you really wanted to follow Him, you have to deny yourself, take up your cross daily, and actually follow Him (Luke 9:23).

Jesus said you must love God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind (Luke 10:27).

Jesus said love your neighbor as yourself (Luke 10:27).

Jesus said go make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20).

Jesus said if we love Him, we'll keep his commandments (John 14:15).

Jesus said these and other things. One in four make following Christ the single greatest priority of their lives.

The other three just aren't that into Him.

In the pursuit of human relationship, some find themselves surprised when the other person loves them back, when they actually find someone who really is into them. The story goes when you find that person, you're on your way to a "... happily ever after" scenario.

You'll never find anyone who loves you remotely as  much as Jesus Christ loves you.

He's totally, completely into you.

So where does He stand with you? Do you love Him with all your heart, mind, strength and soul? Or are you just not that into Him?


Saturday, April 21, 2012

A better way to wait ...

If there's a gut-wrenching experience many of us don't care for, it's those times when we have to "wait" on God.

At least, that's what many say.

But could it be those are times of impatience and anxiety by many because they make a huge mistake that is very common: they wait on God from a distance.

Sometimes we do have to wait on God. God is there, caring and involved, but moving at His pace. But whoever said we have to wait on Him from a distance?

All that creates is ... distance!

Look at this simple sentence that comprises the first line of James 4:8 ...

"Come near to God and he will come near to you ..."

While God is doing His thing in His own way and timing, we can be sharing those moments with Him! We can be drawing even closer to Him.

If we do, He will draw closer to us. Then, those times of waiting will be moments shared with Him. It's hard to be anxious in His presence.


Monday, April 16, 2012

Lunch with a novice ...

The young minister was all smiles and oozing enthusiasm as we ordered our lunch at the restaurant. I had been one of a few mentors to him as he transitioned into his first senior minister role in a church that had seen some troubles recently.

Now, with some of those things behind him, he was excited to move forward. So his disappointment was obvious when I began asking him about the depth and quality of his own relationship with Jesus Christ.

His smile disappeared and didn't return during the remainder of our lunch. He had anticipated a more exciting discussion than this. He had watched others become rock star pastors, so a more poignant conversation about the realities of his own spiritual health didn't seem to be what he had expected.

My goal wasn't to steal his smile, but to help equip him for the realities of servant leadership.

Springtime in the Chicago area can be beautiful.

I was spending a few months in a nearby suburb, working for a pest control company as the temporary coordinator of their small weed control department. With business slowing down, I was asked if I could help out with power spraying a few lawns with insecticide.

As the harsh Chicago winter gives way to Spring, residents start coming outdoors after a long winter being bundled up indoors. Many residents hire pest control companies to spray their lawns to rid themselves of pests that would make their time outdoors less enjoyable. The demand for spraying lawns was more than the other department could handle, so I agreed to do a few lawns for them.

My assignment was three large yards at the homes of some executives who lived on the same cul-de-sac. One of the homeowners was an executive with Sears who had just spent $70,000.00 having his yard landscaped with new flowers and vegetation. Good customer service was needed to make these neighbors regular customers.

One of the technicians offered to rinse out the weed killer in the truck used for weed control jobs and fill it with insecticide. Soon, I was on my way to the upscale neighborhood and spent a couple hours covering every square inch of the three large yards. I made sure I didn't miss a plant, flower, or blade of grass. There would be no insects left to bother these families!

There also wouldn't be any yards!

A couple days after spraying the lawns, the company received hysterical calls from all three homeowners: all the vegetation in their yards was dying!

After an investigation into the claims, it was discovered the tech who rinsed out the weed control truck failed to see that weed killer had caked itself to the walls of the tank on the truck. Because of that, as I sprayed the lawns with insecticide, I was also soaking the plants and grass with weed killer.

Weed killer doesn't know the difference between a flower or a blade of grass, it simply kills the plant life it is applied to.

What was on the inside of the tank destroyed the lawns, regardless of the good intention to protect them.

When speaking to religious leaders of His day, Jesus told a similar story, one of highlighting that what is on the inside is of vital importance in leading:

25 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean. 27 Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness," Matthew 23:25-28.

Like the tank filled with insecticide but caked with weed killer, what is on the inside of a leader is what he will pour over those he leads.

What makes up the inside is more important than what the outside appears to be; more important than created effects, and even more important than intentions. What makes up the inside is what you will touch others with.

In your case, what is that?


A splash of color ...

Whether it was among the begging children in the streets of Manila, the destitute peddlers of Jamaica, merchants in Mexico, inhabitants of a remote village in Fiji, or traditional Hawaiian dancers, there's something among the world's poor I found in common: a great like of bright colors.

When daily life is difficult, and basic needs for living sparse, people often look for a splash of color to brighten their base existence.

They don't yearn for the latest electronic gadget, or a bigger TV. Just a little color. Something beautiful to brighten the gray of their lives. Life changes momentarily when they don their brilliantly colored outfits and gather for a time of sharing food, music, dancing, and festival with family and friends.

A moment of beauty amid life's struggles.

There's another beauty the soul longs for, and it does more for our lives than any colorful cloth could ever offer:

"One thing I ask from the LORD,
   this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD
   all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the LORD
   and to seek him in his temple."
Psalm 27:4


A part of your story you don't get to write ...

Serving as the Editor of a national award-winning high school newspaper for a couple of years got me a job writing for newspapers shortly after graduation.

I loved it!

It was both fun and challenging, and I learned a great deal more about writing.

Then I became an Editor, designing newspapers and editing everyone else's work. With that came the responsibility of writing headlines, a far more daunting task than I had imagined.

It's the headlines that capture the interest and attention of the reader, drawing them into a story. But the headline also is the loudest and most obvious representative of the story. So it was important that the headline remain true to the contents provided by the writer.

As a writer, I sometimes didn't like the headline provided for my stories. Occasionally, I found myself scratching my head and wondering, "How did the Editor get THAT from MY story?"

Life is a little that way.

Your life may be an interesting story, but you don't get to write the headline.

Others will place atop your story what they initially perceive or understand about you. What they observe about you becomes how they introduce you. That's how you'll be represented by them, whether it's accurate or not.

From the actions and attitudes your life displays, what would the accurate headline be? Would others be drawn into the story, or continue to search for something else to read?

"A good name is more desirable than great riches;
   to be esteemed is better than silver or gold."
Proverbs 22:1


Sunday, April 15, 2012

Thanks for the step up. Next! ...

Some people succeed poorly.

The bigger the title, the fatter the bank account, the broader the ego, they step-by-step increase their distance from the people who previously made up their "normal" life and cash in on new friends, new surroundings, new politics, and new perspectives.

During the recent mega millions lottery craze, one woman commented if she won the lottery she would immediately divorce her husband and move away. A lot of people are like that woman --- they "settle for" certain relationships and circumstances until they can move up to something they consider better.

Jesus often spoke about taking the "things" out of life's valuation. By doing so, our "successes" don't master and mold us, they simply broaden our experiences and resources. Jesus was a friend to all kinds of people from an array of backgrounds. He knew how to be a charming dinner guest with the poor, or mix things up with the educated and titled. Yet, His character remained steadfast.

"Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever," Hebrews 13:8.

All this is in contrast to the recent trend of many "leaders" who have changed their social media policy. After years of developing a following of thousands, or even tens of thousands, in their success they've opted to drop their direct interaction with "followers" and follow just a few dozen at most. Their success has made them more comfortable with speaking at an "audience" rather than wading into one and interacting directly.

When "success" results in your placing distance between you and the people who were part of making you who you are, maybe it really isn't "success."


Saturday, April 14, 2012

Watch your step ...

If I had to be something other than human, I wouldn't want to be a horse.


Imagine living a life knowing if you simply tripped, fell, and broke your leg, someone would grab a gun and shoot you! Done to "put you out of your misery." At least, that's what they used to do with horses that broke their legs.

Then again, that may not be as painful as human life lived unforgiven. You know, when you trip, fall, and are continuously judged and ridiculed whether it was for a mistake, a failure, or a sin.

That's real pain. Such an ugly pain that Jesus addressed this issue:

"21 Then Peter came to him and asked, 'Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?' 22 'No, not seven times,' Jesus replied, 'but seventy times seven!'" Matthew 18:21-22.

For those wounded by a fall, forgiveness is the salve that offers hope for healing.

How do you respond to those who sin against you?


Thursday, April 12, 2012

Rude drivers with holy hearts?

On my way home today, at three three drivers tailgated me.

I've never been a slow driver, but I do drive the speed limit. That wasn't good enough, or fast enough, for those three who drove closely behind me before finally discovering the additional lanes on both sides of us and veering off into one.

There were a lot of aggressive drivers on the roads today, driving with an attitude that seemed to say, "I want to get to where I want to go, and I want you out of my way."

A lot of us live like we drive.

Many people tell us to live that way --- to set your sights on a destination, then don't let anything or anyone get in your way.

That stands in stark contradiction to the platitude many of those people pass around that says, "Life is not about the destination, but about the journey."

It's both.

Jesus Christ lived His life with a very clear mission in mind. Yet, as He lived out His purpose, He was constantly interrupted by people who caused intrusions to a smooth destination.

His response?

Scripture notes on more than one occasion that Jesus had compassion on these people and took time for them. To Jesus, people were not an interruption to His mission, but a vital part of it! People were not incidental to His purpose, but the reason for it.

Jesus always kept His eye on His destination, all the while showing us how to make a journey of it.

How about you: do you live like you drive? Or are the people along the journey all a part of getting to your final destination?


Monday, April 9, 2012

Is that your interest you're pushing, or God's?

It's a popular story, told many times by many preachers.

You know, the one about the man who is told by God to push against a massive boulder. The guy really leans into it, but the boulder doesn't budge. He pushes, and pushes, and then pushes some more. Nothing. He gathers himself and tries again, pushing against the rock with every fiber of his being. Nothing. Finally, the man slumps to the ground in surrender and cries out to God, "I give up, I've failed you Lord, I couldn't move the boulder a single inch!" God responds, "My son, I never told you to move the boulder, I simply told you to push against it."

Sometimes, the root cause for our exhaustion, frustration, depression, and anger is because we try to do too much. At least, more than what God has asked of us.

It's true much of the work in the church is done by a small minority of people, and getting people to do anything in service to the Lord is often a challenge. But the flip side is also true, that we sometimes spend a great deal of effort and resources atempting to do things God never asked of us.

He told us to love Him, and love others. He told us to follow Him. He told us to go make disciples, and teach them what He taught us. He told us to care for, serve, and honor each other. Is this what you're busy doing? Or are you applying your efforts and energies to things God didn't assign you to?

Are you wearing yourself out on what matters to God, or what matters to you?


Sunday, April 8, 2012

The debt, paid. The tomb, empty. Now what?

The keynote speaker at a business convention several years ago challenged the members of his audience with this question: "Describe yourself separate and apart from your job title."

Many of the people in the audience couldn't do it. They saw themselves from the lens of what they do.

We are more than just what we do to make a paycheck, but in God's economy, what we should be doing comes from who we are.

Because of Christ, we have received the gracious gift of being adopted as God's very own sons and daughters. We are children of the King! But with that new identity comes a responsibility to represent the King and His kingdom ...

"18 And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. 19 For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. 20 So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, 'Come back to God!'” 2 Corinthians 5:18-20.

To all the titles you've held thus far, you can add another: Ambassador for Christ.

The tomb is empty, Jesus has risen, and He's returned to the Father. The work of expanding His kingdom falls to you, me, and the Holy Spirit. We have been formally commissioned as Ambassadors for the King. Each day, we are to serve as a representative for the Savior of a lost and dying world.

Are you on the job?


An empty gift?

On the first Christmas, God gave the world a precious gift: His Son.

But what can you do with a baby?

Wait for it ... wait for it ...

The gift was redeemable on Easter. That's when you open the gift. But there's nothing there!


The tomb is empty! And everything that means is the whole gift of God for all who will believe.

"Jesus told her, 'I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying'," John 11:25.

Happy Resurrection Day!


Friday, April 6, 2012

For us ...

I had never seen my mother sit quietly and cry.

Not like she did that morning, anyway.

I've mentioned that my father wasn't a very good man, but this was a time when he was at his ugliest.

I was barely a teenager, and just one of my seven sisters lived at home with me and my parents. We had moved from a large ranch in Northern Arizona back to the Phoenix area. That first night, my sister and I stayed at the home of a family friend while my parents stayed in a cheap motel.

That was the night my father finally beat my mother.

He had finally decided he really was going to leave her, but there was a catch: he insisted he take me with him. My mother insisted there was no way I was going with him. He tried to physically impose his will on her.

In the morning, she told him she would walk over to the store to get them some food. Instead, when she got out, she called for help and we picked her up at the convenience store.

Her eye was blackened, her face bruised. She looked as if every ounce of energy had been drained from her from the night's ordeal. Her strength faded to a silent, slow sob in the front seat of the car.

My heart was broken, not simply because of what she had endured, but because she faced a beating for me. She was not willing to let me go.

Long ago, Jesus Christ took a beating on behalf of us. He was not willing to let us go to sin. Instead, He endured physical punishment, and then offered His own life on our behalf so that we could be free from sin.

Jesus said, "So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free," John 8:36.


Thursday, April 5, 2012

Bringing your A-game ...

I've mentioned before that I like the TV show "American Idol," but this season I tuned in late. I really didn't want to see all the people who had no chance whatsoever get their minutes on national television.

So it was only a couple weeks ago that I decided to see what the talent was like on the show this season. It's awesome! There's some very talented contestants vying for the win this year. One of them caught my attention last night when they commented that now they are down to the top eight contenders, they have to bring their A-game every performance. Another contestant commented it's difficult to work so hard seven days a week, but the opportunity is worth it.

Imagine yourself in that situation. Put yourself in the shoes of 16-year-old Jessica Sanchez (in the photo above) with a phenomenal voice who, before being selected to "go to Hollywood" simply sang in front of a mirror in her bedroom to a stack of boxes. Suddenly, you find yourself singing in front of a large live audience, plus a television audience of millions!

Just the enormity of the opportunity, and the fact that turning your dream into a reality is so close, would energize you to keep bringing your A-game every single day.

Now let's get real.

How much more enormous are the "opportunities" to represent God and His kingdom? Every day you wake up is a brand new chance to touch lives and impact this world in a far more significant way than any competition will ever provide.

So when it comes to embracing the opportunities to be God's child and one of His kingdom's ambassadors, are you bringing your A-game? Do you see the enormity of the opportunity? Are you even in the "competition"?


Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Wanting more than what God wants you to have ...

Have you ever considered it is possible to have more than what God wants you to have?

There's a broad passing about of a platitude stating that you'll never have more than God wants you to have, but that's simply not true. The story of human history is resplendent of humanity pursuing more than what God wanted them to have.

The first man and woman had one fruit too many.

Consider the story of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-24). The father had provided a nice life for his son, but his son wanted more. He desired more than what the father provided. He wanted to indulge in other things his father wasn't willing to provide.

Consider the story of the rich young man (Luke 18:18-23). His problem was that he had a lot of stuff he didn't need. Stuff that got in the way of his following Jesus. He had too much because he wasn't willing to part with what he had to have so much more in Christ.

And how do people behave when we actually use what we have for Christ? Consider the story of the woman anointing the feet of Jesus with expensive perfume (Matthew 26:6-13). The disciples had a near apoplectic fit that something so costly was used in such a manner!

But Jesus didn't consider the action of the woman to be a waste.

Most of us live a life of desire. We want. At least a little more than what we have now. But you cannot follow Jesus with that attitude.

"24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, 'If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. 25 If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. 26 And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?'" Matthew 16:24-26.

If you have more than the most basic of needs, you have excess. Satisfied? Or is there something more you know you want?

Could it be you have too much? That you're holding on to things, desires, or wants that might be getting in the way of your followership of Jesus?

 Can you join the Apostle Paul in saying ...

"7 I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. 10 I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, 11 so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!" Philippians 3:7-11.


Sunday, April 1, 2012

What does this look like to you?

When my young nephew excitedly held up his scribbling so I could appreciate his "artwork," I was smart enough to say, "Wow! Tell me about what you've colored here ..."

Had I ventured a guess at what the erratic lines and colors were supposed to be, I would have been very wrong. What he said the scribbles were looked quite different from what I saw. It was smart to first identify what the work was so it could be adequately appreciated and praised.

There's similarity to that with how we approach the Bible.

It's always amazed me at what people do with the scriptures. Many turn them into a manual of some sort, especially popular leaders who write books and produce CDs promising to show you how the Bible is a great manual for accumulating wealth, for success, for leadership, for managing finances, for running a business, for marriage and parenting, for doing any number of other things. We tend to make the Bible into a manual about what is important to us.

But the Bible isn't a manual. The Bible is God's story revealing to us what is important to Him!

Look closely at what scripture says about God's Word:

"For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires," Hebrews 4;12.

"16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. 17 God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work," 2 Timothy 3:16-17.

I'm convinced we understand far less from scripture than we could because of the attitudes we have about the purpose and value of the Bible. When we stop trying to tweak it to be or say what we want it to, and allow it to be the story and revelation of God to humankind, we then are in a position to have our lives fully impacted and transformed by God's Word.

So when you open the pages of the Bible, just what are you reading?