Mama on a Mission

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The noise in the tree next to me was getting annoying now. The bird chirped constantly as I sat there reading. It just didn’t stop. It sounded like it was really angry about something. When I went out to the porch swing the next morning, it did the same thing again–just sat in the tree and chirped madly. Actually “chirp” may be too musical of a word. This bird was yelling its little heart out about something.

When it continued to happen the following mornings, it finally dawned on me that there may be a nest in the hanging basket right beside the swing where I sat comfortably. I pulled a foot stool close by and stepped up to peek. Sure enough, there they were–an over-full nest stuffed with three or four adolescent birds, almost ready to fly.

The twittering bird beside me was not just any bird. She was a mama on a mission.

She was doing everything in her power to protect the babies for which she was responsible. She didn’t know that I wasn’t a real threat and so she chirped away.

In another–rather tragic– example of this, we heard this past weekend of an aggressive little dog that was killed by a bear near the cabin where we were staying. The dog-owners are heart-broken and think that the bear must have been protecting a cub, as they had heard some rustling beyond the bear and the bears are not normally that aggressive. It appears that this bear, too, was a mama on a mission.

We actually call women who fiercely protect their children “Mama Bears”, don’t we? And, unless you are a mama, you probably can’t really understand the urge to protect your young.

And we are called to protect our children. But what should this protection look like?

Many years ago, my daughter was in a class with a young girl whose mama would step in to protect her at any real or perceived hurt. She was there to inflict scathing words or just due on anyone who dared to hurt her baby. I would submit to you that this is not healthy protection. And we have all met these overprotective mamas. We find them in school rooms, Sunday School classes, soccer teams, and playgrounds. They are an intimidating force, these mama bears.

But is this really what we are called to do as Moms? Are we supposed to keep our children from receiving any hurt or disappointment? Are we to view them as perfect and step up to defend for any reason?

NO. Of course not.

This is not in the best interest of our children in any way.

We laugh about it now, but we were one of those families that almost handled things the opposite way. When our kids came home with a story about how a schoolmate or teacher had offended them, our first words would be, “what did you do?”  We always knew there had to be another side to the story.

Of course, there were occasions when I was tempted to step in the middle of dissension between friends or even at school and then I would remember my mom’s wise words to me — Let them work it out.

You see, part of growing up is learning how to handle disappointment. It’s learning how to work with difficult people. And how to deal with our emotions of anger and sadness. If we parents always swoop in to keep our children from learning these lessons, we will greatly hamper them (and their future families) for the future.

Now, while so many parents are busy trying to protect their children from real or perceived disappointments and hurt, I see few parents protecting their children from the real enemy--the enemy of their souls.

Satan is alive and active and roaring about like a lion (I Peter 5:8). He is also masquerades as an “angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14) and uses subtle ways to deceive us (2 Corinthians 11:3). He seeks to kill and destroy (John 10:10). And most of us allow him into the lives of our children in a myriad of ways–

We allow our children to choose the music we play in our cars. This is often pop music that is filled with explicit lyrics about sex, drug use, and bad language. We may even bop along with them to the catchy beat as the sinful music plays.

We put on the latest tv show or movie and laugh at the off-color jokes and shake our heads at the blatant wickedness — but never take a stand and just turn it off, explaining to them why.

We allow them to go to movies and dances and malls, all under the guise of “all the other kids are doing it”, never really knowing exactly what is taking place with these friends.

Our kids spend hours and hours with headphones in their ears, staring at an ipad screen, or playing video games that would make your skin crawl, and we say nothing. “Kids will be kids” is our motto.

When we do spend some time with our kids, we talk about the weather, the school assignment, or the vacation that’s coming up. We never talk about creation, or homosexuality, or what being a Christian really looks like.

All the while, the devil is making inroads into the hearts of your kids.

Oh, this is where we parents need to stand up and fight! There is an ALL-OUT Spiritual War going on and many of us are sitting casually by, thinking it doesn’t affect us. But, if you are not careful, the casualties will be your children.

This is where we need to step up and protect our young ones. We have a responsibility and we need to take it very seriously.

Let’s turn away from our own screens, clubs, and hobbies long enough to get to really know our children. To really understand what makes them tick and see their weaknesses. Let’s challenge them using the Word of God.

Let’s be like the mama bird, chirping loudly for all to hear, letting Satan know that you are, by the grace and strength of God, protecting the soul of the precious child in your care and this is one battle he won’t win!

 

 

 

I Will Be Happy Tomorrow

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Many of us live our lives perpetually dreaming about tomorrow. We know that we will be happier then and live for that vicarious, vague time that never seems to arrive–

When I am married, then I will be happy.  Until you tie the knot.

When I have children, then I will be happy.  Until you have kids.

When my children are more self-sufficient, then I will be happy.  Until they are out of diapers.

When my children are in school, then I will be happy.  Until they ride off on the bus.

When my children leave the home, then I will be happy.  Until you are an empty-nester.

When I retire, then I will be happy.  Until you don’t have to wake up to your alarm clock.

Somehow these transitions in life never bring us the perfection we anticipated. The next season is just another one filled with joys and heartaches; failures and victories — just like those before it.

The world tells us that happiness always lies just around the corner. Happiness is never where you are, but where you think you should be. Happiness is anything but this. But this is a lie straight from the Father of lies himself.

Perhaps you have purchased the lie. You may be in a funk because you are not living this God-ordained moment with joy, but instead have chosen to be discontent. Maybe you have worked yourself into a state of frustration because today is not tomorrow. We probably all need a Biblical re-orientation.

A quick study of the words rejoice and contentment will make us hang our heads in shame. Here are a few to get you started–

“This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24)

“Now godliness with contentment is great gain.” (I Timothy 6:6)

And once again, we realize that our worries, problems, anxieties, frustrations and confusions have a solution (notice I didn’t say easy solution) by immersing ourselves in scripture and knowing solid, biblical theology–

1.       The doctrine of sovereignty reminds us that the day we are living is exactly the day that God has ordained for us. (Psalm 37:23; Psalm 139).  We are in the season we are in by His divine design. Perhaps we are living the horrible consequences of our own sin and yet we know that He can make something beautiful from our bad choices. We have to trust in God, realizing that we will never be content with any season we are in until we submit wholly and fully to His sovereignty.

2.       If we have been saved by grace we have a real reason to rejoice right now! (Psalm 33:21; I Peter 1:8) Knowing that we have a Savior allows us to rejoice today, not tomorrow when we perceive that things will be easier or better. Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice! (Philippians 4:4)

If we have grown discontent because we perpetually long for tomorrow, perhaps we need to re-orient our thinking. Let’s remember that we have many reasons to rejoice today. Let’s choose to be content right now.

Be Careful Who You Follow (a.k.a. The Lure of Charisma)

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I will always remember the day that I saw a young African-American senator on the Oprah Winfrey show. I remember thinking just how likable and charming he seemed. I had my doubts that we agreed on much of anything, given his political leanings, but I did imagine that he would get far in his political career as he sat there conversing easily with Oprah.

And he did get far– all the way to the Whitehouse.

I am not going to go into his policies and presidential career but I do want to point out that I firmly believe that one of the reasons this president got so far in the world of politics is because of his charisma. You see, when people have this gift of attracting others, people flock to them like sheep following a shepherd. He could lead them over a cliff and they would follow.

The general public has become “non-thinking” and so we attach ourselves to anyone who looks nice, speaks well, and says what we want to hear. I can think of many preachers that have had much success in their careers because of this dynamic.

As I was thinking about this, I have to wonder: when did we stop looking at the character of a man before soaking up all he has to say? When did what he says and how he says it become our litmus test for validity? When did personality trump character?

I think charisma has always had a place in helping a man succeed.  But somewhere along the way we forgot that a man’s (or woman’s) character needs to match their words, or we are just being fed lies.

Why do we follow a man who makes promises he doesn’t keep? Why do we follow a preacher who says the Lord will bless those who give but hoards so much for himself (or herself) that they have multi-million dollar properties?

Why in the world have we totally neglected the invaluable virtue of integrity?

I do have a little theory on this. I think somewhere in the last 50 years, we have been sold the lie that our individual happiness, success, and advancement is the most important thing. Oh, we care about the community, our church family, and our country, but not if it is at the expense of our own selfish gain. And while we were being subtly trained to focus on ourselves, Christian doctrine was changed ever so slowly and surely to be more palatable. The focus on a character of integrity for figures in the public eye became a non-essential — after all, we all sin.

And so as we grew more and more self-focused, we cared less and less about anything below the surface of a person. If they speak well and say what I want to hear then that is all that matters. What they do in their own private life is their business. But I beg to differ because a lack of integrity in their personal life surely leads to a lack of integrity in their public life. 

If I told you that we regularly cheat on our taxes (We don’t! This is just an example!) would you read my blog anymore? I hope not.

So where am I going with this? I seem to be rambling a bit this morning, don’t I?

I guess I can summarize this into four points–

1. Know the character of those you admire. Ask yourself if he (or she) demonstrates the all-important fruits of the spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) in his life? Is he humble? Forgiving? Generous? Is his family an honor to the Lord? Does his words agree with God’s Word?

2. Never idolize any man. All men are human and susceptible of falling. Read and listen to godly men, but never base your faith on a man. Only God is deserving of such great faith. Let’s be careful where we place our trust.

3. Now is the time to train ourselves and our families to think, so that we don’t fall prey to the ever-increasing amount of traps for non-thinkers in this world. Let’s become men and women who aren’t swayed by public opinion or peer pressure, but instead lean on God and His Word for our opinions and direction. This is so critical and so lacking in many Christian families today.

4. Let’s take our focus off of ourselves. We have become a culture OBSESSED with self-glory and personal happiness. And Christians are no different. This hurts us in two ways — A) we don’t consider the ramifications of anything outside what affects us personally and immediately. B) And we tend to only want to hear words that we like and have conversations with those with which we agree.

Stay strong, my friends. This isn’t going to get easier. Keep your guard up and be ever-watchful.

 

 

Will Mark Driscoll Say Thank You Someday?

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The removal of Mark Driscoll from Acts29 has been swirling about in Christian circles for a few days now. First, I have to admit that I do not have inside information regarding this celebrity pastor. I really don’t know if the accusations are true or not. I was never a big Mark Driscoll fan and my interest in his ministry disappeared completely when he started challenging long-held beliefs on some of the most basic understanding of scriptural passages –or did he just choose to ignore them? I don’t really know his motives, his thoughts, or his heart. Obviously.

But this incident has really turned my thoughts toward the modern day expectations of pastors. We–the average church goer– feed into this new church model. The model that is driven by the goal to grow bigger and better and ever more cool.

Instead of focusing on shepherding his flock (as scripture commands), the pastor becomes obsessed with making sure more and more people come to his church. If he is one of the “fortunate” ones that has the charisma to attract a crowd, he now fights a battle that is a temptation to all people, but perhaps most tempting to charismatic leaders — and that is the battle of pride.

Pride worms its way into all of our lives in one way or another (even discouraged cries of “Woe is me!” and “I deserve better than this!” stem from pride), but pastors seem to be most vulnerable of all.

This is probably for a number of different reasons –

1. People naturally follow them.

2. People naturally praise and lift them up.

3. Satan would like nothing better than to destroy a church and what better way than attacking the leader?

 

So back to Mark Driscoll. If what is swirling about is true and Mark Driscoll has fallen prey to this temptation to be arrogant and dictatorial, could it be that this may end up being a very positive event in his life?

Acts29 did him a huge favor! One that should happen much more often in the church today. They said to him, “We care more about you than we care about our reputation or even your reputation. We care more about what God’s Word says in how to handle this, than we do about what is ‘politically’ correct.”

I applaud Acts29 for taking a stand. I am sure many sleepless nights and much heartache went into their decision. If Mark Driscoll is as smart as I think he is, he will use this as a wake-up call to return to the humility and servant’s heart that is required of all of us as believers– no matter what earthly position we find ourselves in.

This could well be the best thing that has ever happened to him. Painful for him and his family and his church — by all means. Sin usually is. But if he humbles himself and turns to scripture, I imagine that one day in the future he will say a very heartfelt “Thank You” to his friends at Acts29.

And one more thing– if you are blessed with a humble pastor who loves God and His Word more than he loves himself, who cares deeply for his flock and desires to shepherd them, who turns the hearts of his people to the Word of God and expounds faithfully each week (instead of telling stories and entertaining), why don’t you take a moment to say thank you? You are so blessed.

 

A Pleasant Fragrance

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I had the most hilarious thing happen to me the other week. Okay– so maybe not the most hilarious. But it was certainly funny!

But, first, let me preface this story by filling you in on something about me–

I am just a tad bit OCD about keeping my hands germ-free.

With this being the case, I am rarely without a PocketBac. What are PocketBacs, you may ask? They are the little containers of hand sanitizer that Bath and Body Works sells in all kinds of delightful fragrances.

And before you comment or message me about how I am actually making myself less healthy and more susceptible to diseases by my constant usage of this modern day concoction, let me assure you that I do already know that. But old habits die really hard. (I am way more easygoing about this than I used to be, however– just ask my family!)

Okay, so back to the story–

A few weeks ago, I attended a conference. After lunch, I found myself growing a little tired, as I sat in a session with 15 or 20 other people. I tried to pay attention, but finally decided that perhaps a little candy might help me stay alert.

As is my habit, I first needed to make sure my hands were clean before touching something I was going to put in my mouth (even as I write this, I sound a little over-the-top. I think I may have a serious problem here!) and so I put a little dab of hand sanitizer on my hands and discreetly rubbed them together under my desk. I then put a couple of candies in my mouth and turned my attention back to the class.

Suddenly, the teacher stopped, sniffed the air, and then said, puzzled, “I smell something fruity…”

Uh-oh. I knew that the apricot-mango scent of my new pocketbac was rather strong, but I didn’t realize it was that strong. I am pretty sure that she was smelling my hand sanitizer.

I sat there like I knew nothing.

“I do, too!” said one classmate.

“Me, too…” said another.

And I continued to sit there like I knew nothing.

Finally, one lady said, “Oh, it’s the air-conditioner.”

What??

But everyone nodded their heads and murmured, “yes, it must be the AC”, the answer was accepted by the teacher as correct, and the class moved on.

I still have to chuckle when this incident comes to mind–the air conditioner??

It is absolutely amazing to me what “group think” can lead people to believe. But that’s a post for another day. I actually want to think about the word “fragrance” for a moment.

We are so often like I was as Christians. We are this pleasant fragrance of kindness and love that wafts through the room but when someone questions what that fragrance is, we hesitate to mention the name of Jesus. We will mention church but, for some reason, be scared to witness boldly about the change that Jesus Christ has wrought in our lives. So we, instead, hope that people will see that we are genuine believers and then just take in the gospel by osmosis.

But, more often, I fear, is our tendency, as believers, to not be the pleasant fragrance in the room.  Instead of bringing joy and kindness and love wherever we go, we bring gossip, anxiety, or frustration. Instead of serving, we are demanding. Instead of thankful, we are complaining. Instead of bringing humility to our roles of leadership, we bring self-righteous pride. And the stench is not pleasant but instead something that no one else wants.

So, this leads to two questions we have to ask ourselves–

1. Am I the pleasant fragrance of Christ to a lost and dying world?

2. If I am a pleasant fragrance, do people know that it’s because of Jesus Christ or do they just think I’m a “nice guy”?

As this world becomes more and more wicked and unstable, we will shine as lights if we are living for Christ. Our lives should be a beacon of hope in the darkness that surrounds us as we choose to live in obedience to God’s Word. We can choose to give God the glory in all of our circumstances — be they tragic or incredibly wonderful– and we will be the incredible fragrance of life to those who are searching.

Of course, we need to remember that we will not be a pleasant fragrance to those who are delighting in their sin and have hardened their hearts against God. But, that’s okay. That’s how Paul told us it would be (2 Corinthians 2:14-16). Our responsibility is to live a godly life and be a bold witness for Christ. God will take care of the rest.

So let’s be a pleasant fragrance today wherever we may go and let’s be sure to tell people the reason for the hope that is within us (I Peter 3:15), if given the opportunity!

 

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The Cliff Road

 

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A few weeks ago, while on vacation, my parents decided to visit Monticello, the famous home of Thomas Jefferson. I decided to join them, leaving my husband and daughter to enjoy a few hours together, kayaking on a nearby lake.

As we left the historic estate, we noticed a sign pointing to an orchard. The sign also indicated that there were “great views” to be had from the orchard. We thought that sounded interesting and so my dad turned left onto the driveway.

At first it just seemed to be the typical unpaved road that winds up a mountain. I was on the passenger side and enjoying the ride–until I happened to look directly outside my window.

That was when I noticed that there was a very steep drop to my immediate right without any guard rails whatsoever.

I realized that just a quick turn of the wheel to avoid a rabbit could cause us to tumble down the side of the mountain. It was a little frightening, quite honestly.

Soon enough, we were at the top of the mountain, enjoying that beautiful view surrounded by vineyards and fruit trees. It really was a lovely site.

But, oh, how different the outcome could have been, had my dad not driven very carefully. How tragic it could have been had an unexpected animal bounded across the road or some other unforeseen circumstance taken place. There was no margin for error.

A long time ago, my dad told me the analogy of the cliff as it compares to the Christian life. This analogy came back to me as we climbed up the side of that mountain.

Who, in their right mind, travels as close to the cliff edge as possible? Who sees just how close they can get without falling to their death? No one who has any sense at all. Instead a wise driver travels as close to the mountainside as they can, leaving as much room as possible for the inevitable unexpected surprises. This is the best way to ensure a safe trip up the side of a mountain.

And yet we Christians travel next to the cliff all the time. We take pleasure in seeing just how close we can get to the world without falling into the depths of sin, leaving no margin for error.

I understand why we do this.

Our flesh cries out to us to satisfy it. We have an insatiable desire we think we can control and so we just go as far as we think is in our control. We all do it. I know that what immediately comes to mind are the “big things” like alcoholism, pornography, and drug addictions. But there are a lot more ways that we move to the side of the cliff than these obvious sins–

Entertainment choices, what we choose to wear, our stewardship of time, and how we use our tongue all come to mind.

Are we walking as close to the cliff as we can or are we striving to stay as close to the mountain as possible?

I want to hug the mountainside as I travel this road of life. Whether it leads to criticism and ridicule (which it has) or not, I choose to please my Savior and forsake the world. I’d rather be safe than sorry. I’d rather be sure my entertainment choices, behaviors, and actions please God than to see how much I can get away with and still call myself a Christian. Oh, I still make lots of mistakes and sometimes slip and fall, but I get back up on that mountain path and trudge forth once again. For I know that when I get to the end of my life’s journey–to the top of this mountain– I will enjoy an unbelievable view. One that is unsurpassed and beyond my imagination!

How close to the cliff are you walking?

 

When Life Feels Impossible

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So the other night I was at a Tough Truck competition. This would not tend to be my usual choice for a Friday night. But this was different because my son had entered the contest sponsored by our local fair. Of course, I wanted to support him. It’s his third year participating and, honestly, it’s kind of a fun night.

But it can get a little monotonous watching these beat-up cars and trucks take the same track again and again. So when a very lifted truck–is there another term for this that I don’t know? “very lifted” just doesn’t sound like I know what I am talking about! Anyway– when this truck pulled up to the starting line, we were growing a little bored. I heard a few comments around me wondering how the truck would survive the course. It looked like it would topple over as it took the various jumps and turns. I had to agree.

But, lo and behold, it stayed upright. The driver was able to keep his truck under control as he quickly maneuvered his way through the course from his high perch. As he took the last hill and landed on the dirt in front of him, he gunned it towards the finish line. For some unknown reason, a giant hill of dirt sat at the end of the course this year. The driver was going so fast that he had to swerve to miss this pile. As he swerved, he finally did what all of us had been expecting all along. He tipped his truck over on its side. There he lay, helpless, as men started running towards him.

They gathered around him and started trying to push the truck back over. More and more men ran to the truck and added their strength. But the truck wasn’t budging. Which is actually a good thing for the fellow who was trying to pull it back down and stood on the other side of the truck (what exactly was he thinking?!?)

After a few moments of pushing, they finally got a tractor and hooked it up. With this machine, they were able to quickly pull the truck back over onto its four wheels. The truck driver was just fine and drove off the field. The competition continued.

As I watched this whole thing, I just had the thought come to me that all that manpower really did nothing. Now could they have, with enough men, rolled that truck over? Probably.

But, oh, how that tractor had made easy work of the whole thing.

Made me think…

Sometimes we have a personal problem. It’s a giant problem (or in most cases, a giant sin issue)–whether it be an addiction, a bad marriage, anger issues, needing to lose weight, or whatever. You fill in the blank.

And we start gathering our resources — books on the subject, websites, support groups, seminars, conferences, and counselors. We gather our family and friends for support and encouragement. And all of these things gather to push us back over to where we need to be. And sometimes it works.

The show Biggest Loser (is that even on anymore?) shows us that it can work. All that pushing does help the contestants get to healthy weights (although I think many of them end up where they started — but, hey, that’s another subject for another day).

I can’t help but think, though, that as believer we have a better way to go about it.

We have the Word of God to teach and to change us (Hebrews 4:12, 2 Timothy 3:16-17). We are told in scripture that the Holy Spirit is here to strengthen us in our inner man (Colossians 3:16). And that the Holy Spirit will help us to keep the pattern of good works that was committed to us (2 Timothy 1:13-14).

All of the extra resources are okay (if they are from a biblical viewpoint) but they are just that -extra.

I know this isn’t a popular viewpoint, but the bottom line here remains that all we need for a life lived for Jesus is God’s Word. All we need to get to the bottom of any problem is God’s Word. We need to read it, study it, know it, and obey it.

Does that seem too simple for you? It may be. But that doesn’t make it any less true.

This does not mean we will have a problem-free life. However, what it does mean is that we will have the strength, courage, and guidance necessary to face our sin issues and problems. The Bible will show us the best way to get back on all four wheels and, if we obey, we will get there. It may be slow and hard, but we will get there.

I think that is really where the rubber meets the road– what the Bible tells us to do isn’t really what we want to hear.

We don’t want to hear that we need to be selfless (in a bad marriage or unpleasant work situation) or have self-control (losing weight, addictions, anger issues). We want to blame it on someone else or something else. Funny thing is, though, that God’s Word never gives blame as an option. Instead, it always hits us right where we are in our sinful hearts.

And so we wriggle uncomfortably and turn towards other options, following after the wisdom of man instead of the wisdom of God. We push and sometimes even unwisely pull without much success.

Oh, how foolish we are.

Let’s turn our hearts back to God’s Word today. I love how Psalm 119: 9-11 puts it –

How can a young man cleanse his way?
By taking heed according to Your word.
With my whole heart I have sought You;
Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments!
Your word I have hidden in my heart,
That I might not sin against You.

 

Pineapple Popcorn

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We were on a long trip and I had a small bag of jelly bellies in my hand. I love the variety of flavors and generally eat my jelly bellies one at a time, so I can savor each one. Usually, if I am traveling, I will look at each bean first and try to guess what flavor it will be. It helps to pass the time. For some reason, this particular day I popped two in my mouth before even looking at them.

Instantly, my mouth was filled with an unpleasant sensation.

What exactly were those flavors mixing together in my mouth? I focused on what I was tasting. Definitely pineapple. And what in the world was the other flavor?? Popcorn! I was tasting pineapple and popcorn and the two flavors were decidedly incompatible.

Needless to say, I won’t be mixing those flavors together again anytime soon. And I highly recommend that you avoid that combination, as well.

And it got me to thinking– I wonder how we “taste” to those around us when we say we are Christians, but don’t act like it?

How exactly do we appear to others if we are proclaiming to be a believer, using words like God, Jesus, and prayer, inviting others to our church, and even quoting Bible verses and then –

–blow up in anger

–tell crude jokes or use bad language

–watch a movie filled with sex, violence, or bad language (or, as is most common — all three)

–turn away in disgust or embarrassment when we see someone who is “not normal”

–gossip about and malign fellow church members

–listen to a radio station that regularly plays songs glorifying drugs, sex, and alcohol

–complain and whine about our current situation

–tempt men to lust by dressing immodestly

When we allow any sin to become a regular part of our lives we become hardened. Of course, we all make mistakes and fight our flesh. But when we become lazy and stop fighting and just give in to our human lusts and desires instead of examining our hearts, repenting of our sins, and growing more like Jesus, we start tasting like pineapple popcorn. Is it pineapple or is it popcorn? And it all meshes into something that is altogether unpleasant and unappetizing.

Some things you can mix together and it really works. I am thinking of peanut butter and chocolate as a grand example. But pineapple and popcorn are not a good mix. And neither is Christian talk and actions and worldly talk and actions. They are completely opposite and mixed together they make something totally unappealing.

You know, if we can remember that our purpose for living after we are saved is pretty simple — to glorify God and to spread the gospel–then life becomes rather simple. We desire to do all to honor Him. And when we get caught up in some fleshly endeavor or sin, God’s Holy Spirit draws us back and we are truly repentant. This is what true transformation looks like. This is what salvation looks like. Oh, it’s a tough journey and we have dark moments and sinful times, but we need to be moving the right direction, which is only possible with examination and repentance. As John MacArthur says: It’s not about perfection, it’s about direction.

I want to be the taste of genuine and life-giving Christianity to those I meet. I am assuming you want that, too. In order to be that, we need to examine our lives carefully for sin and wage a constant war against it. Satan is subtle and sly and will use even the “small sins” (as if there were such a thing!) to trip us up and render us ineffective for God.

 

The Fifty Dollar Bill

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Taking our anger out on those we love most seems to be a pretty typical pattern for many of us.

If something bad happens at work, on the team, or at church, most of us tend to keep our cool. It isn’t until we are in our own homes that we react emotionally to the painful incident or bad day and end up hurting those closest to us by lashing out in anger.

The other day, I found an old checkbook that I no longer use. I ripped up the few remaining checks and threw the whole thing in the trash. For some reason, I glanced down at the wastebasket. Was I surprised when my eyes fell on “part” of a $50 bill!

At first, my thought was no way! and I quickly reached down and pulled out the piece, not quite believing that it was actually real. Then I panicked a bit — did I actually just rip up a $50 bill?

I started searching a bit frantically for the pieces. In just a moment, I had found all three. I carefully put the pieces in order and then started taping them back together.

Will the bank accept this bill? I think so –although I’m not quite sure — never having done this particular foolish thing before.

But will it ever be the same again?

No, it will not. I can never make that bill magically into one whole piece again. It will always be taped for the remainder of its days in circulation.

What makes this even sadder is that I never intended to rip up that $50 bill. It just kind of got in my way, unknowingly hidden within the pages of an old checkbook (I still have no idea why it was there or any recollection of putting it there).

What a great picture of what so often happens with our closest relationships–

We are frustrated or upset about an issue that has nothing to do with anyone at home. Yet, as we are letting go of the angry or hurt emotions, we often end up ripping our loved ones into pieces. It isn’t our intention, it just happens.

The thing is, just like that $50 bill can never be put back together whole, so we can never truly repair the damage we do to our relationships. Oh, we can patch things up and forgive each other and move on but the damage has been done. While we can forgive, we rarely forget. How helpful it would be if we just didn’t let these things happen in the first place.

Life is so short. And most of us have been so blessed with deep, abiding relationships with our families and even some friends. Let’s make sure that no person is ever in the path of any ungodly anger or emotion we end up displaying (which is certainly sinful under any circumstances, but seems to be doubly bad when we end up hurting others in the process).

Let’s protect our relationships. They are fragile. And oh so precious. No bad day is worth causing those we love hurt and pain. Let’s not let something that won’t matter a bit in eternity erode our relationships with our spouse and children. It’s so not worth it.

Look at Me

indexThink about your last Facebook post. Or Tweet. Or Instagram Photo.

What was it about? Who was it about? What was the intention of the post?

Chances are, for 99%+ of us, it was about ourselves. Most likely, it was a post designed to make ourselves look good and impress everyone and to say, “Look at me!”

In fact, the word “selfie”, a relatively new concept, is now familiar to us all. We are that into ourselves.

Of course, there are a good many of us who simply want to share the happenings in our lives with our true friends and families. We may be excited about our new hair cut or a new job. Or we may just love  the cool shot we got while we stood with the flaming sunset in the background and want to share it.

So how do we know if someone is posting because they are self-centered?

That’s not the issue here. It doesn’t really matter if we know the difference about anyone else. That is between God and them.

It’s much more important that we examine our own online posts and behavior. Why are we posting what we are posting?

Is it for attention? Or praise? Or our own personal glory? Am I trying to make my life look better than it is?

And, with so many of us trying so hard to portray a perfect and enviable life, many of us inevitably feel the emotion of envy welling up inside us as we scan through newsfeeds of “perfect” families and vacations.

Naturally, people are sharing the best of their lives online. If someone’s perception of my life is based solely on my Facebook page, it looks pretty darn perfect. And, really, I have been blessed with a great family and have enjoyed some pretty wonderful events in my life. And I am excited to share them with the people who are really my friends (like in real life, as well as on Facebook). But if someone doesn’t really know me, they may think that I have the perfect life.

The thing is: I don’t.

And nobody else does, either. Sure, some of us have tougher lives than others at certain times. But life throws all of us curve balls. None of us are exempt.

We need to enjoy the fun photos of our family, friends, and classmates for what they are — a snapshot of the good in their lives. Let’s be happy for them– for they have struggles with their relationships and health and finances, just like you.

But I guess one of my saddest observations about the online world is that, while we are often saying “Look at me!” we are rarely saying “Look at God!”

So many of us claim to be Christians and yet so few of our posts and tweets have anything to do with God. He is supposedly our reason for living and, yet, we never talk about Him in the most public place available to us.

Why is that?

My guess is that many of us just don’t want to be labeled “one of those” in this day and age where spirituality is very cool but true Christianity is definitely not. Others of us just don’t want the hassle of the unkind or questioning comments from unsaved friends and family that are sure to follow any post about our faith. And some of us are just that self-centered we don’t even think of posting about anything –or anyone– other than ourselves.

It is such a constant battle to keep God number one in all areas of our lives– even our online world. For me, too. I’m not pointing my finger at any of you, because I am too busy thinking about my own life in this area.

I can’t help but wonder what the Facebook pages of former godly men and women would have looked like, if this online world had been available to them?

Would Apostle Paul have plastered shots of himself as he traveled?

Or would Jonathan Edwards have posted family pictures?

Would A.W. Tozer’s page been filled with sports trivia?

Or Susannah Wesley’s page covered with photos of her grandchildren?

Of course, none of these things are innately wrong to post in any way. My question is — if we are so willing to post about our travels and families and hobbies — why are we so unwilling to post about our God?

And, look, I’m not talking about hypocrisy here. That’s a whole other subject, is it not? If we are going to put quotes and Bible verses and Christian song lyrics on Facebook, it won’t sit very well with those who know us, if we aren’t living the matching lifestyle.

Ah, so much to think about in this online world– a world completely unknown to us not that long ago. It brings up all kinds of questions and dilemmas and quandaries. But it also provides us a wonderful opportunity to stay in touch with long-lost friends and far-flung family. This is a tremendous blessing former generations did not enjoy. But, as with all blessings, there are some pitfalls, too. In this world, as in all areas of our lives, let’s desire to live out the words of scripture–

I Corinthians 10:31 Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.