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August 5, 2013, 10:33 AM

I think I prefer snuggling with Jesus...


Yes, you read the title right.  I like snuggling with Jesus.  I like the warm-fuzzies, the reassuring words, the blessings of being close to Jesus.  What I dont like is all the effort I need to put in to maintain any form of relationship with Jesus.  Cant we just cuddle?  

I have an idea for a new product that I think will sweep the nation, especially those churches who are more interested in cuddling than growing:  The Jesus-Snuggie.  Its all warm and fuzzy and clingy... and then you can take it off and move about your day unencumbered by all those rules and regulations that come with a Christ-filled life.  Yep, that and the "The Aroma of Christ" cologne and perfume... gonna make me rich. 

My fear is that the only Biblical input many of us receive each week is the hour or two we spend on Sunday mornings in a building somewhere.  If thats all you get, you are a Jesus-cuddler, not a Jesus Follower.  What scares me even more is that those silly sermons I write and present might be the only Biblical input someone may be getting each week.  We're both in trouble if that is all you get!!!  Thats more of a handshake with Jesus, and doesnt even come close to the cuddling stage of the relationship.  

We, the global Church, CANNOT grow if all we do is snuggle up once a week then head back to a distant silence with Christ the other 166 hours.  

 

So are you a cuddler or a follower?  




July 1, 2013, 11:20 AM

why I prefer False Humility over no humility at all...


Well, at least you tried... right?  Wait, thats backwards, isnt it... I'd rather deal with the proudest person on the planet than try and wade through the pretense of false humility.  Let me be honest: I've tried to walk that line, struggling with the ego that comes from a job offer from a very large church, accepting that offer, then realizing my pride only aided in me being chewed up and spit unceremoniously to the side.  Was it ego that caused the fall?  No, but it certainly aided in the agony afterward!  

Folks, humility... yes, genuine humility, is KEY to the life of a disciple.  I cant help but look back at Jesus' closest friends and the trouble they got themselves into by posturing for better places in the coming Kingdom they expected Jesus to establish at any moment.  They were definitely feeling big in the britches about their place alongside Jesus, and be honest, so would you and I.  Am I condemning them for it?  Can I condemn anyone for pride? No.  What scares me is the opportunities we have to hide our pride behind a false humility, or the mask we put on of being "the meek" while barely controlling the hunger for station and reputation inside.  

We must be content with leading from the back of the line.  Thats doesnt mean yelling up to the guy holding up the line at the front!  It means showing the world that its OK for them to walk on us; Demonstrating to the world that we dont mind a little more persecution because of our beliefs.  After all, we're Blessed... we have a better place coming than anything this world has at the front of the line... 

Yes, another post from the "Easier Said than Done" department of Christian Living.  But what does it say to the world when we speak of humility and our willingness to serve, and talk of our understanding of the "last shall be first . . . " and then elbow people out of the way on our trek to get a deviled egg?! (those things always go fast and early at potlucks).  

I cant get over the idea that what has really messed things up today is NOT any litigation, legislation, or regulation for or against Christianity; the problem lies in the fact that Christians are no longer discernable from the rest of the population.  Meaning, we have allowed ourselves to look, act, and respond just like everyone else.  Doesnt the indwelling of the Holy Spirit make us different?  Shouldnt our knowledge, hope, and understanding that being Blessed make us different? 

Let your humility be true.  Whether your slapped in the face by ignorance, or standing on the foundation of righteous truth........ above all, humility.  

Thanks for reading... I'm off to update the title on my business card...  I've always loved the word "Potentate."  




June 24, 2013, 10:27 AM

The Swamp. . .


Yesterday (6/23/13), we began slogging through the swamp of Matthew 5:4 - Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.  Yes, its a swamp.  My mind wandered to the stories I've read or watched where our heroes came face to face with a swamp that stood between them and their ultimate goal.  

Did Jesus intend for his words to look so daunting and overwhelming?  Probably not, but the truth of the matter is that human nature (and even culture) sees mourning, depression, anxiety, and despair as insurmountable obstacles to traverse on our own.  How many commercials, articles, and products are we exposed to that are designed to "help" us through depression and anxiety?  I remember when my high school handed out stress balls to seniors the week before finals.  I promise we didn't use those for anything BUT relieving stress... and yes, that includes throwing them.  

We want a quick and easy way through the swamp, one that keeps our feet dry, keeps the bugs at bay, and ultimately smells more like home than what a swamp usually smells like.  As difficult as the swamp looks, sounds, and smells, we cannot avoid it.  As followers of Christ we must follow his steps no matter where they lead (that last statement is courtesy of the "Easier Said than Done" department).  

Jesus understands you, and me.  He knows how human nature works.  He knows how hard we work to protect ourselves.  He also knows exactly how to get the best out of us.  That process of growth and excellence begins with being Poor in Spirit and Mourning.  The two hardest steps up this mountain towards Godly character are right off the bat: Dependence and despair.   ONLY by taking these first two steps will we be on the right path towards Christ-like character.  Think about Jesus' humble beginnings here on Earth: born a carpenter not royalty, in a manger, far from home, and into a cultural mess that saw a tyrant commit mass genocide in an attempt to kill him.  As he walks through the humble beginnings we see the shaping of the character of Jesus that cares about the "'least of these."  We see compassion born from roots mired in hard work, without entitlement.  

Will we join him in that swamp?  Growing, developing our character into disciples built to guide others through the swamp of what life throws at them.  That was his final message to his closest friends, and that is the message that rings through the Beatitudes.  

I like the poem "Footprints in the Sand", but I've also grown disenchanted with it.  If only every long walk with Jesus was on a beach!!!  If only we could feel the sand between our toes and the sun on our faces as we transit through this life!!  Unfortunately, most of life looks more like a bog than a beach.  Will you still follow alongside him? 

 

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June 17, 2013, 10:28 AM

Blessed.


Its easy to say we're a blessed people.  We have a lot of the world's wealth; a lot of the world's food supply; houses without holes; cars with tires, windows, and gas stations on every other corner;  pets; a change of clothes or two or twelve; etc... etc... America is a blessed country.  We have freedom, which is something we should be proud of.  

Why do we struggle then with living through the Beatitudes?  After all, we already have the "Blessed" part down, don't we? All that needs our attention is what comes after that....... and therein lies the problem.  We want the "blessed" part but not so much the Poor in Spirit part. 

Lets remind ourselves a little about the context of the Beatitudes, so we don't wander too far from them:  The Sermon on the Mount was spoken to a Jewish audience, with a Jewish story, and a Jewish context for the words laid out before them.  They had an understanding that far exceeds ours when Jesus told them about being "blessed".  For them, being blessed meant they had a part of the Kingdom being established by God eternally.  It had little to nothing to do with physical conditions, possessions, attitudes, emotions, or anything else on a daily level.  Being blessed held them to the understanding that all this is temporary and endurable because what comes next is far superior and worth waiting for.  

The mess of western culture and context that we associate with the word "blessed" is what (in my opinion) takes us so far away from the meaning of Jesus' words in the Beatitudes and makes them a little easier to ignore in their entirety.  Being poor doesn't sound like a blessing.  Mourning doesn't sound like a blessing.  Humility?  No thanks.  

Its about focus... and I'm using that word literally, what do we focus on?  I have poor eyesight and require glasses in order to make any sense of things that lie more than 3 or 4 inches from my face.  Without my glasses I could not distinguish these words as I type them... in order to focus on what is ahead of me, I need my glasses.  However, if I want to close my world off into a much smaller circle and free up my mind, all I need to do is take my glasses off.... Boom, my focus is shifted drastically.  What is going on outside my circle of sight is no longer "relevant" to me because I cant see it clearly anyways.  Mind you, that leaves me very open for a football to the face, but that's a different story of relevance all together.  

We need a shift in focus, much like the removing (or adding) of glasses.  Our eyes need to shift from being so caught up with this world and what it needs to offer that we have this far off and unfocused gaze about us.  We must know that this world only has temporary pains, temporary gains, and temporary trials that are not worth our continued focus.  Our eyes must be found drifting to the place that is eternally pain free, eternally healing, and eternally peaceful.  Because we are blessed.  

Be blessed today not because you're making a sufficient salary or hourly wage, but because you find yourself dependent on God alone. 

 




June 3, 2013, 10:33 AM

an act of simple obedience


Howdy. 

What if I were to start this blog entry with a menial task for you to complete before reading further, perhaps grabbing a small glass of water to have on hand for instructions to follow.  Would you really go get a glass of water?  I wouldnt think less of you if you just kept on plowing through the words, ignoring the glass of water and figuring you could just pretend you have a glass of water when we get to that point in the message.  

Well, what if you were in a hostile foreign country, where the indiginous people really, really didnt like you and you were told to grab some food knowing FULL well that you would probably be denied service just about every way you turn?  I would question the order myself.  

I've always wondered about what issues the disciples were having trying to find food in Samaria while Jesus chatted with the woman at Jacob's well in John 4.  First off, they didnt take the Jewish route AROUND Samaria, instead plowing right on through much to the shagrin of pretty much EVERY Jew.  Second, they were all Jewish men who were forbidden by law to associate with a Samaritan, more or less ask them for food, drink, etc... 

But here they are, following a simple command of Jesus to find some food while he rests by the well.  They miss the entire exchange with the woman Jesus talks to.  All they get to witness is the dramatic conclusion of the woman running back into town to tell everyone about the Messiah.

Its that simple command to go get food though that sticks out in my head this morning.  Would I have been so willing to walk away from Jesus in a hostile town and try and barter or purchase food from someone who hated me?  Do you have any idea what the Samaritans would do with your food before they gave it to you?  Without hesitation though, off they went.  A simple task made much more complicated by their prejudices and preconceived notions. 

What has Jesus asked you to do that has you dragging your feet or making excuses to get out of?  I'm not talking about those big things like dropping your pursuit of money and running to the mission field in Africa... I'm talking about those pesky little habits that walk you right to the doorstep of temptation.  I'm talking about those tiny little expressions of forgiveness and compassion that we would rather brush under the rug.  What about those small displays of moral fortitude and integrity that may not result in a promotion but instead keep your feel on solid ground? 

Are we an obedient folk to the little things?  Because its the little things that will define us in the end.  You probably wont fully remember 1 sermon I preach for the next ten years... but if I treat you like dirt just once, you will never forget it... The same goes for a small act of kindness or compassion, those are remembered long after their expiration date.  

Take some time to work on the 10-Second rule this week, doing the thing that you're pretty sure Jesus wants you do to, and do it within the next 10 seconds.  I'm looking forward to hearing the stories next week of all your newfound obedience adventures. 

 

chris


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