Sunday, June 21, 2015

Imitation...

Today is Father's Day and I am proud to be a Dad, and proud to have a Dad who taught me so many things. To get ready for our Father's Day Celebration at our house later, I did what so many do - cleaned up the yard...and in so doing was reminded yet again of two things; 1) the tremendous responsibility I have as a Dad, and 2) what it means to be a disciple of Christ. Let me explain.

Doing yard work is more fun then ever because of one big reason - my 5-year old son does it "with me." He's been doing it for a couple of years. What do I mean? When I mow the lawn, he grabs his lawn mower and literally follows me the entire time, copying everything I do. Check the gas, the oil, clean the air filter, and away we go. When I pause, he pauses. When I pick up a rock, he finds a rock to pick up. When I stop to yank out a dandelion, he comes over and closely watches what I'm doing. No matter what I do - pruning, loading the truck, leaf-blowing or weed-whacking, he copies me. If "imitation is the highest form of flattery" then I should be the most flattered person.

What is he doing? He's learning, copying, trying to be just like me. Trying to do things the way I do and understand why. Reminds what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 11:1 - "Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ."

Switching tracks for a moment - what is it that Jesus calls us to? He calls us to be disciples. I once heard pastor and author John Ortberg share that there are many who call themselves Christians but maybe fall short of disciples.

  • There are those who "admire" Jesus, but never give their heart to Him.
  • There are those who "follow" Jesus, maybe even believe He's the Son of God, but have never trusted their lives to Him.
  • There are those who "use" Jesus, whose main interest is in escaping hell, but have no vision for "living for Him".
  • Then there are "disciples." Disciples believe what their teacher believes, lives like they live, and imitates everything they see. 
In a very real way, my son is my disciple, (at least while doing yard work). He's trying to do what I do, think what I think, know what I know...he's trying to "be me."

I believe this is what Jesus is calling us to - to "be Him." Now to be sure, none of us can truly "be Him" - but our goal and aim should be to imitate Him. Christ never made a call to admire Him, use Him, or even just follow Him, but He did make a call to become His disciples. Look closely again at His words:

"All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:18-20)

The point? Strive to be a disciple of Christ. Know Him, imitate Him. And don't get caught up in trying to be perfect - my son tries to be like me just because he loves me and wants to be with me. In the same way, we are dearly loved Children of God, and His desire is to imitate Him and His Son. The point?

"Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children." (Ephesians 5:1)

Monday, May 11, 2015

Obedience Matters Most

"a broken and contrite heart you, God,  you will not despise."
I just read the account of Saul in 1 Samuel 15 where we have perfectly illustrated for us a critical aspect of Christianity. It goes like this: "partial obedience = disobedience."

Chapter 15 is Saul's second big blunder. To reset for you, God, through Samuel, tells Saul to wipe out the Amalekites. The Amalekites were going to be punished by God for not helping the Israelites when they were fleeing Egypt. The command doesn't leave any room for interpretation:

" 'Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.' " (1 Samuel 15:3)

Saul and his men choose to mostly obey God, but not totally. They decide to withhold (not kill) some of the "best" (in their eyes), animals:

"But Saul and the army spared Agag and the best of the sheep and cattle, the fat calves and lambs—everything that was good. These they were unwilling to destroy completely, but everything that was despised and weak they totally destroyed." (1 Samuel 15:9)

Predictably, Samuel brings the rebuke from God:

"But Samuel replied: 'Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has rejected you as king' Then Saul said to Samuel, 'I have sinned. I violated the Lord’s command and your instructions. I was afraid of the men and so I gave in to them.' " (1 Samuel 15:22-24)

These verse outline three things we should avoid; two sins, and the cause of the sins.

  1. Sin of rebellion - God apparently looks at his disobedience as nothing short of rebellion against Him. And remember...Saul mostly obeyed God. But the part of the command he didn't obey? Nothing short of rebellion. In fact, God views rebellion as "divination" or idolatry. In essence, you worshipped someone else in place of Him.
  2. Sin of arrogance - Saul, by not fully obeying is acting very arrogantly. Where is the arrogance? Look back up at verse 9 where Saul and his men dare to call something "good" that God has already declared is evil.
  3. The motive behind them...misplaced fear - Saul himself tells us why he sinned. He was more afraid of man, then God.

This last thing, the cause of the sin is something that so many of us, myself included struggle with. We are after the approval of people more then the approval of God, and oftentimes the things that God asks from us are not in agreement with what people want from us. It's not so much about a list of things God wants from us, as it is a heart attitude. What God is most after in each one of us is a heart that is fully surrendered to Him.

Someone like Abraham who was ready to sacrifice his own son if God asked that of him. Someone like David, who even though he sinned greatly, maintained a broken heart towards God.

"My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise." (Psalm 51:17)

So how about us? For me, the question is not if, but where. Where in my life am I guilty of fearing man more than God? Where is that leading to rebellion, arrogance, idolatry? And am I brave enough to ask God to show me, and then humble enough to confess to Him, and grateful enough to receive His forgiveness and grace?

Monday, April 27, 2015

Salt and light

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven." Matthew 5:13-16 NIV

I read this passage for the umpteenth time again this morning and was reminded of the main mission that I am called to as a disciple of Jesus, to spread His gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ. How?

First, you and I are to be salt. Salt has many attributes, but two are primary: to season, and to preserve. I remember a trip to Papua New Guinea where a team of us were being served an authentic meal that the tribal people would eat. It was terrible. They dug a hole, started a fire, heated some rocks, and then layered meat and vegetables with huge leaves in between. A hole was left in the middle, like a homemade volcano, and then water was poured down the hole to the hot rocks below. Everything was  cooked by steam, covered by wet leaves...the food reeked of the taste of these leaves.

We got through that meal because of three things; 1) those who made it were hoping to take as much food a possible back to their families (and they did), 2) they gave us all a can of Coke, and 3) we had a big container of salt we were passing around. And believe me, we added lots of salt to our food to season and mask the flavor.

Now in a similar way, as a Christ follower, my life is to be salt to those around me. And what if I lose my saltiness? As Jesus says, salt that isn't salty is no good...toss it.

This is not a passage about salvation, but effectiveness. Jesus isn't saying that if you lose your saltiness you aren't saved anymore, but He is observing that you aren't effective anymore. So how are we salty? I think the next part of this passage answers that question.

Second, we are not only salt, but we are light. Not just any light, but the light of the world. What specifically is the light? Our light is our good works, motivated by the love of Jesus in us. I got this vision that my life is like a flashlight, and the good works I do are the batteries that power the light. Or my life is like a fire, and the good works are like fresh, dry wood thrown on the fire. The point of doing good works is so that people will see Christ in me and give Him praise. My good works don't give me salvation, but they are how I accomplish the mission Christ has given to every believer, to spread His gospel, His love. Or to put it another way, our good works make us salty.

And these works are there for all of us. It's everything from opening a door for someone, to feeding the poor. From helping someone with their groceries, to offering forgiveness to one who has wronged you. It's the simple things like pausing to pray for someone who is hurting, and the big things like giving up your vacation to work at an orphanage in a third world country. The examples of "good works" are endless and it would be foolish of me to try to list any others. We are all called to the good works that God has prepared in advance for us to do. Not someone else's good works, but ours.

Let's shine bright for Him today! Soli deo gloria.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Lessons from Rest: Slow Down Please

We move too fast - at least I do. If you live in the United States, (and perhaps other countries, but I can't comment on that since I live here), we value busyness. As Americans we are born and bred in a country that values hard work, material things, and status. We work hard and play hard, and honor and respect those who do these things. We say we value relationships, but only to a certain point. In fact, it almost appears to me that we, (myself included), wear this "busyness" as a badge of honor. The busier you are, the better. We brag about it. We "one up" each other over who has the most hectic schedule. The implication is that the person with the most hectic schedule, the "busiest", is the best. Hmmm...I wonder...

Have you every heard anyone say, "I have too much time. I wish I was busier, but I just can't find anything to do." Maybe some of us think that from time to time but we'd never, ever, say that publicly. Why? Because we'd be ridiculed and judged for being "lazy."

Funny, I've found something to be true. This truth cuts across all lines. It doesn't matter where you're from; no matter your ethnicity, age, gender, personality, introvert or extrovert...no matter your job, status, or financial situation...no matter if you live on an island or the mainland, on the coast or in the city or in the suburbs or in the country...this truth cuts across everything. Want to know what it is? Here is this earth-shattering, profound truth that I have discovered...


We all have the same amount of time. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.


Why do I point this out? Because some of us, many of us, maybe almost all of us are guilty of thinking that we somehow have "less time" than others. Again, it's a "badge" - something we brag about. Think about it. How many times have you said "I don't have time for that..."

What if I approached you and said "friend, I'm painting my house tomorrow...can you help?" You'd probably say "I don't have time, I'm too busy, we already have plans to ______."

What if I approached you and said "friend, I just won an all-expenses paid trip to Maui and want you and your family to come. The whole thing is paid for. We leave tomorrow." You'd probably say, "I'll cancel all my appointments and pack my bags."

My point? I just proved my point. We always make time for the things that are important to us. So my question is this; is taking care of yourself important to you? Is fueling your soul important? Is spending time with the one who gave His life for you important?

Or maybe the better question is this;
1) what do you currently make time for?
2) what do you need to "stop doing" in order to make time for something better?

Monday, January 5, 2015

2015: Join the Adventure

"The road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the road has gone,
And I must follow if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet.
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say."
- Bilbo Baggins, Lord of the Rings - (J.R.R. Tolkien)


I love The Lord of the Rings...and all things Middle-Earth. These stories have captured my attention and imagination from the time I was in Junior High until the present. The poem above appears in a few different forms - this one is found in "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring" as Bilbo is setting out for Rivendell to finish writing his book. Why am I writing about it on this blog?

I think it touches on something in a lot of us. There is, maybe in all of us, a tension between our desire for security and our longing for adventure. We want both...at least I do. I want at the same time to have a secure and safe life, while also living a life of adventure.

I find it ironic that if we're willing to re-define our definition of security and adventure, then God will happily deliver both of them to us.

Security: God's given us the ultimate security in the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus, which has purchased for us new life in Him. This can never be taken.

Adventure: Living for Christ has to be the ultimate adventure, as long as you're willing to live for Him. Think about it...what makes a great adventure?
- A vision for something bigger then yourself, (check)
- An obstacle that you have to overcome, (check)
- A reward at the end that makes it all worthwhile, (check)
- A supernatural power that you can tap into when things really get dicey, (check)
- A ring you can put on and disappear whenever you want, (well, ok, we don't get that one).

God has not just called us to "be saved" and then sit around until heaven. He has invited us into something huge...an adventure with huge stakes. The moment you put your trust in Jesus and commit to follow Him, you join this story, only its real.

- You join the vision for saving the world.
- You face a power that opposes you at every turn, (but one that is in your power, through Him, to overcome).
- You are promised a reward greater than anything you can dream or imagine.
- You gain the ultimate trump card in your fight, the power of Christ In you.

"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." (Joshua 1:9)

What do you say? Ready to jump back into the story? My Prayer: "God, stir my heart, inspire me to live for You. Awaken in me to the reality of the life You have given, and call me to a higher vision. May I live for You. Amen."

I leave you with one of my other favorite quotes from LOTR;

"Courage is found in unlikely places...be of good hope."

Friday, October 10, 2014

Sleep & Jesus

Ok, the sole purpose of that title was to catch your attention. What in the world do sleep and Jesus have to do with each other?

This week has been a little rough for me, although today is going better. I've had a number of little things...I got over a cold but developed some kind of inner-ear thing which caused a lot of dizziness. I also had a day where work stuff got super busy and I (temporarily) felt quite overwhelmed. Add to that a couple of good but long days, and I was running a little ragged.

However, there was one thing that was the main thing that caused my week to be rough - Sleeplessness. Wednesday I woke up at 3:30 AM and never got back to sleep. Thursday I woke up at 5:15 AM and never got back to sleep. Those two days of bad sleep affected everything else.

  • I was more "snippy" then usual
  • I was not patient in parenting my son
  • I couldn't focus at work
  • My heart was racing
  • I had super bad congestion and itchy eyes (don't ask why, but sleeplessness always causes this symptom in my body).

To put it another way, if I had slept better those nights, EVERYTHING else would have been much easier to deal with. Sleep is a HUGE part of our overall well-being and a lack of sleep shows itself everywhere.

This got me thinking - is there something in the spiritual realm which is comparable to sleep? I think there is...

"I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you." (John 15:5-7)

Hmmm - did you see that? There's a word in there, one little word that carries so much promise for us. It's the word "abide." What does abide mean? The word abide literally means "continue without fading or being lost." So put that definition into the verse and read it again...

"I am the vine, you are the branches; he who [continues] in me [without fading or being lost] bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing..."

We can do many things that will amount to little fruit...we do this when we "fade away" from Christ. Or, we can make sure our lives count and bear much fruit...we do this by abiding in Him. If this is true and I believe it is, then our #1 goal in life should be to maintain this "abiding" relationship with Jesus. Let's do it!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Mission, Strategies, Goals

If you have been around a successful business, you've probably heard these terms before - Mission, Strategies, Goals, Values. Almost all businesses have these statements...the successful ones use their Mission to provide clarity and direction for their entire organization. Not only that, but a really good Mission Statement becomes a filter for making decisions about goals, strategies, values, and the culture within that organization.

This got me thinking...what if people like you and me had a Mission Statement for our lives, something that would help us have clarity and direction for our entire existance? Something that would help us decide which "things" (strategies) to pursue, and which "things" not to pursue?

I think I just stumbled on a good starting point for this discussion...

"But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light." (1 Peter 2:9)

Let's look at what this one verse says;
  1. You are chosen - God chose you and adopted you into His family...
  2. You are a priest - The main duties of priests in the O.T. was to offer up sacrifices to God, and so it is with us as we will soon see...
  3. You are a holy nation - As believers chosen by God, we have been adopted into His family and are "holy" - literally means "set apart" or "different."
  4. You are "God's special possession" - This is an AMAZING truth...that God has chosen us, made us to be priests, set us apart to be different, because we are His "special possession,"  
  5. Therefore, your mission: "to declare the praises of Him who called you..."
To Sum: you are set aside as a holy priest, chosen by God for a purpose...to "declare His praise."

And just in case you missed, let's put it another way;

Mission Statement: I exist to declare the praises of God.

Think about that for a moment...what if you and I really believed this? What if, to our core, we believed that the mission of the totality of our lives was to "declare God's praise?" If we were a business and really believed this, then the next step would be to establish some goals that would accomplish help us reach for that mission, and then we'd make sure our strategies were actually working to get us there. We would want to establish "Core Values" that would dictate the "culture" of our lives, all in order that our mission would be accomplished.

Hmmm...makes me wonder if my life is aligned for this mission? I'm tempted to keep going down this track in future posts...I've got some great strategic ideas here! But I think this is enough to chew on for now...

Here's the million dollar question - do you know what your mission is? Why you were created...more then created, why you were saved? What your purpose is in life? I think we can start by taking our cue from Peter.

More to come...

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