Standards

Matthew 5:13- “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.” (NASV)

I started re-reading the “Sermon on the Mount” in Matthew 5-7 this week in light of some news that broke in regards to a popular pastor. This pastor removed himself from the inaugural prayer over a sermon he gave about 15-20 years ago with a similar title to my post. He had said some words that were not taken very well by a group of people and it caused him to withdraw from giving the prayer at the Presidential inauguration.  At first I was really upset, or bummed out, about the situation, but then I came to recognize that maybe it was a good thing and maybe it could be a great opportunity for some discussion around standards of living and Christianity.

Forgive the vagueness of the first paragraph, but is intentional. I am not trying to create a debate as to whether or not the pastor’s words in his sermon were right or wrong, but to shed light on the only sermon that was ever given that had no flaws. You see, the “Sermon on the Mount” was given to a mass group of people and Jesus took the opportunity to share with them the standards by which He expected them to live. It was a beautiful message of redemption, reconciliation, love, kindness, compassion, mercy, and ultimately, how we live life together with people who are in the world.

Jesus knew that there were going to be differing opinions, lifestyles, etc. However, for Christians, His thoughts were shared so there was no wavering. Unfortunately, in our life we tend to do the exact opposite of what He meant for us to do. The standards are clear: love each other, care for the poor, love mercy, do justly, don’t hate others, pray regularly, live a life that is bringing glory to the creator so that His light shines brightly. We have a role to play in this world to bring people to a closer relationship with their Creator and by living the way He lays out for us will do just that.

Now, the problem we have is trying to place these standards on people who are not followers of Christ. These were standards set for people who literally followed Him to the mountain. They sat to hear His words and He declared “Therefore, everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock…Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand” (7:24-27). We need to walk in the world living His sermon out so people’s eyes and hearts can be drawn to the Lord, so maybe they can see a reflection of their Creator in the actions of His followers.

The people of the world are going to make their decisions. They will remain disconnected from their Redeemer, but if the people who hear His words truly act on them, the world will see a wiser Church and choose to live to the standards set by example and not by force. May our hearts and minds be lifted to the Lord; so His voice and message of reconciliation may be heard loud and clear when we speak.

Live with Love

John 15:13 “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” (NASV)

Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice on the cross to bring about redemption and reconciliation for those whom He and His Father created. He recognized the death on the cross was not for His own life, but for the life of His friends. How awesome is it that our God, our savior, referred to us as His friends. It was not a sacrifice for His disciples and only His disciples; it was a sacrifice for all mankind.

 Just prior to the words found in verse 13 He shared “This is my commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you” (v.12, NASV) and after verse 13 he said “You are my friends if you do what I command you” (v.14, NASV). These words are valuable and should resonate with all of us, but for some reason, I think it is lost. What does it mean to lay down one’s life for their friends? I have heard people say “Man, I would take a bullet for you!” My response normally is “Really? I hope that never comes up, mainly because I don’t want you to take that statement back at the last minute.” 

I think there is much more being said in these words by Jesus. As I shared earlier, He made the ultimate sacrifice and no other can offer that, but when we make sacrifices of our own we are responding to His commandment. Our own time is precious, but when we can step back and step in to someone’s life of pain and struggle we are following the commandment set before us. When we have a friend dealing with a lost loved one, a failed marriage, a break-up, or (fill in the blank) and we take the time to be involved we are laying down our life for our friend.

If we love each other with reckless abandon maybe life would look a bit different. I would submit that if we truly loved each other enough to lay down our lives (i.e. time, energy, sleep, etc.) possibly our lives would feel fulfilled and our friend’s would know that they are loved. So many people feel like they have no one who cares and that could be because no one takes the time to spend with them. A text message is great, but voices are soothing. A phone call is great, but if you are close enough, a face to face visit is empowering.

Christians are called to lay down our lives for our friends, that standard was set up by our savior. We are called to love people like He loved us, willing to help without question or expecting anything in return. We were created by God to care for each other. We were created to be in community with each other and support our neighbors with love and kindness. To walk with someone in a time of need; to sacrifice our lives, is Christian, but to ignore the pain of others and go on with no concern is inhumane. We need to love each other, we need to support each other, and we need to serve each other the way our savior exemplified for us. Maybe, just maybe, this world will become a better place due to the followers of Christ living out His words.

Can I be real?

“The prayer that precedes all other prayer is may the real me meet the real you” (C.S. Lewis).This was a quote shared with me awhile back that has incredibly influenced the way I interact with friends, family, coworkers and strangers alike. I strive to be as real as possible with everyone I meet. Anyone who I have had the chance to speak with at any length of timewill either recognize that this is true or have possibly heard me share this quote and have seen how it works out for me. I have found this to be hard at times because some people don’t expect it or some people don’t like it. I am not saying I am a jerk or I am harsh (at least not on purpose), but I don’t pretend to be something I am not and my words are not fluffy (hence the website for my blog).

Lewis’ statement gives some guidance to our lives and can really effect the relationship we have with each other, but also the relationship we have with our God in several ways:

1)     Deeper Relationships: When we are real with each other about how we feel walls are broken down that have created a fortress around your heart. The closer we can get with each other the better we feel since the guard is down. This goes for God as well. The more real we are about our relationship with God, the better we feel about ourselves. We have no goal to meet except for striving to be like Christ. If we are honest enough to share that we aren’t as awesome as we want people to think we are, maybe, the “awesomeness” others try to portray will go away too!

 

2)     Deeper Prayer: Our prayers, at times, can be generic. The fact of the matter is we are even more generic when we pray with each other. We give prayer requests for other people’s struggles, but very rarely will we go past a health issue that we face. If we know someone is caught in sin we will lift them up, but it is hard for us to confess we are struggling because we don’t want judgment. Let that go! Be real enough to let people know the struggles of your heart and maybe their struggles will be released too. God wants to hear our deepest issues. Confess to Him without fear of judgment because He already knows. Jesus was pretty real in the Garden of Gethsemane, I mean he asked for the cup to be taken and he was sweating blood (Luke22) …how much more real can you get!

 

3)     Deeper You: When you are real with yourself the less uptight you can be. When you are real enough to except your inadequacies it will help you strive to new heights.  The less pressure you put on yourself to be something you’re not, the more likely you will be able to live to be who you are. If God has given you gifts, use them. If you choose to ignore the talents and gifts because you are afraid of what people might think, then you are hurting yourself and you may end up feeling empty.

 

Ever since hearing Lewis’ words I have strived to be as real as I can so no one can ever wonder who I am. I crack jokes (sometimes inappropriate), I struggle in life, I have pain, I have dreams, and I have a God that has allowed me to have everything and be everything I am. God is real enough to walk with us, talk with us, live within us, and know us. His call is clear that He wants all of us and when we hide or fake a part of us; then we aren’t answering.

Purpose and Potential

Today is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day. A day that is set up to open the eyes of our country to the travesty of current day slavery. It is sad that, in this world there are over 27 million people caught in this mess. We need to step up together to make the change and end this horrible activity.

One of the ways we can end this is by installing purpose and potential in the lives of young people. When young people see and feel that they are worth something, it could change their worldview and outlook for their future. Adults have a role to play in this process. We must be vigilant in the task of lifting up the hopes and dreams of the young men and women we encounter, so they know they have potential to do great things; so they see past their present circumstances

In Mark 9:42 we find Jesus speaking to His followers while little children were near and he shares “whoever causes one of these little ones who believe to stumble, it would be better for him if, with a heavy millstone hung around his neck, he had been cast into the sea.” These sound like harsh words, but when I think of human trafficking, I agree.

When we rob children of their God given potential or we make them feel like they have no value we are causing them to stumble. When they don’t see or understand that they are made in God’s image and we have never tried to instill that in them, I submit we have caused them to stumble. We are to be examples of love, kindness, and edification for these young lives. We must stand up against anything that is trying to destroy the connection between God and his children. If we choose to ignore this role, then I hope we like swimming.

How can we be active:
•be a mentor
•love your children and don’t degrade them
•get them involved in uplifting activities such as youth sports, youth groups, etc.
•check out information on trafficking and get educated to spread the word (www.enditmovement.com)

Let’s do this! Let’s change, enhance, and/or encourage young people in this world and work to get the enemy’s grip off of our kids. Will you fight? I know I will.

Check this video out, you might have to copy and paste:

http://m.youtube.com/#/watch?v=K69NdzPvwj0&desktop_uri=%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DK69NdzPvwj0

Missing Out

This past Sunday we had an interesting experience at church. It wasn’t a bad one, just interesting since we had to listen to the sermon with our eyes closed. The teacher (or preacher, whatever you prefer), Chris Campbell, was sharing about the interaction between Jesus and Blind Bartimaeus in Mark 10:46-52. Like I said, it was an interesting experience to hear a sermon about a blind man while pretending to be blind (it’s all about imagination, watch Mr. Rogers).

Anyway, while reading the story of this encounter I noticed something that intrigued me a bit. The focus of the sermon was on the fact that Bartimaeus was blind and trying to get Jesus’ attention and finally doing so, but there is something in this story that caught my eye. However, first, I must tell a story of my own.

When I was, I don’t know, maybe 9, I went to Six Flags Magic Mountain with my uncle and a couple of my cousins. Now, I was shorter than most of my cousins, in fact, I still am, and this was my first time to a “BIG” amusement park. I had gone to Disneyland, but let’s face it those kiddie rides are nothing compared to roller coasters with drops in excess of 100ft. Anyway, my cousins, my uncle, and I walked up to the first ride we found, COLOSSUS (said in a thundering, echoing voice…remember, imagination), and we got in line.

At one time, Colossus was one of the fastest and largest wooden roller coasters in the WORLD, and to an eight year old kid it still was. As we kept creeping forward, I became even more anxious and tried to pretend like I was really excited, but in reality I was wanting out. We got to the front of the line and had to make the decision, we all know what decision that was, front or back! I chose…neither. I ran out of that line so quick and, I think, my uncle came with me while my cousins jumped on the ride.

I started to cry! However, now that I think back, I wasn’t crying out of fear, I was crying because I missed out on something great. An experience I heard so much about the rest of the day and it took me awhile to gain my composure and try to get up the guts to ride it later when my cousins said, don’t worry, we will try it again and it will work for you, trust us! So I did, and I got the chance to experience something I thought I had missed out on!

Now, let’s get back to Bartimaeus and Jesus. Bartimaeus tried to get Jesus’ attention, but wasn’t getting anywhere with it. He cried “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” twice to no avail. In fact, he was even told to be quiet. Then, something miraculous happens in the crowd; Jesus actually stops and tells the group with Him to call Bartimaeus. This is where I became intrigued because the people calling him said “Take courage, stand up!” (NASB) or “Cheer up! On your feet!” (NIV) or “Take heart. Get up” (ESV). Why would they say that? I think Bartimaeus was visibly shaken or even crying a bit. I think they saw this blind man, realizing he had possibly missed out on something that could be life changing, crying and sitting in his brokenness. But, these words come after, “he is calling you”. Now, to give credit where credit is due, Chris touched on this phrase and made sure to focus on the “he is calling you” concept.  Bartimaeus “sprang to his feet” and received his sight, and got the experience he thought he missed out on.

How often do we feel that Jesus has passed us by? How often do we feel like Christ is missing our call? Have you ever felt that way? I know I have. I have been sitting in my brokenness, feeling like I did at Magic Mountain, realizing that I might have missed out on something that is life changing. I am here to say, “Cheer up! On your feet!” and know that at times it may be hard to see that Christ hasn’t passed us by, but we have to be open to his call to cheer up and open our eyes. He is here, He is near, and He is not leaving!

Father Abraham

“You don’t know ‘Father Abraham’?!” is a question I have heard a few times in my almost 14 years of being a Christian. I always laugh, but I feel awkward when I am around people raised in the church and that song has made me feel like an outsider many times. I understand there are songs that could be labeled as “insider songs”, but these “insider songs” can cause some issues for those new to their walk or came into their walk 14 years ago as a teenager.

Anyway, this Father Abraham dilemma is something we Christians have to be aware of at all times. You might hear a preacher say something like “of course you have heard the story of Nehemiah” or “I don’t need to go into detail about the story of Jesus and the leper”, but someone new would just nod, smile with a look of “who wouldn’t know?”just to leave and never come back. It’s these statements that cause more damage than we may think.

I understand, thanks to a friend raised in the church, that some may not know that these statements cause damage nor do they do it intentionally. So to that I say, it’s ok, don’t worry, just be more aware of the words we use.

We need to be conscious of the fact not everyone knows the hand gestures to “lord I lift your name on high” ( which isn’t a bad thing, yeah I said it) and they may not know what a felt board nativity looks like, but that doesn’t make them less of a Christian and for sure shouldn’t feel like an outsider. God didn’t make His Gospel hard to understand and actions in the Church shouldn’t be either. When someone shares they don’t know Father Abraham, let’s not give a gasp and hold our hands to our mouths, let’s just say “don’t worry, it really isn’t something we sing anymore anyway…we’re grown ups.”

For those who don’t know I am copying a link to the lyrics for father Abraham…don’t listen to it unless you are near a campfire or with a group of friends in a circle. 🙂

http://childbiblesongs.com/song-27-father-abraham.shtml

Tools

I’m working on home projects getting prepared for Liam to arrive. If you don’t know who Liam is, see previous posts…it helps my stats. Anyway, trying to change valves in our toilet, making doorknob holes bigger, changing toilet paper holders, and installing a robe holder for a baby boy that’s not here yet and more.

It has been fun to feel all handy, but frustrating since I didn’t, and still don’t, have all the skills or tools to complete the tasks quickly. However, the tools and skills I have are enough to get me by and I will accomplish the tasks in due time.

Such is life and faith. In life and faith we will have fun, be busy, and sometimes get frustrated. The reality is we don’t always have the right skills and tools to get through quickly, but God has given us the tools and skills to get through in just the right time.

As we wait for Liam to get here and do all this “stuff”; we do the same thing in our faith. We are waiting for the greatest gift and that is living in eternity with Christ. Some frustration and questions as to “why we are going through this now?”may arise and doubt that we can handle the tasks at hand, but God has given us relief and is the ultimate handyman that has already finished the job.

Christmas or Not?

I took the Christmas week off of writing so I could enjoy spending time with my family. During the break I was hearing a lot of discussion from friends and others that they felt Christ was being taken out of Christmas by main stream media and other outlets. I was a little bothered by this due to their intense feeling that Christ was really being taken out of the holiday. Some of the reasons they listed were “Well, people are saying happy holidays” or “They say Merry Xmas now” (which is an inaccurate statement, but that is not being touched on here) or “Everyone focuses on Santa more than Jesus” and the list could go on. I just couldn’t, and still can’t, bring myself to agree.

Christ can only be taken out of Christmas if we as Christians allow Him to be. We are the people that need to celebrate the birth and lead people toward Him so they can celebrate it with us. It is not for us to shove our ideals or faith down other’s throats and expect them to fall in line with us because “This is OUR SAVIOR’s DAY!” Christian’s need to celebrate the day for what it is, the day our savior came to earth in the form of a baby in order to live a human life and reconcile us back to our creator. Those who do not believe, well, that’s their deal and we need to love them regardless. We need to love, respect, and grant them freedom to celebrate the holiday the way they want to. If we live as Christian’s should, loving God and loving our neighbor (especially on Christmas), then Christ is present on the day of presents.

It is hard when I hear people say happy holidays because they are afraid of offending, but then I remember Paul saying he was all things to all men and respected everyone wherever they were and never did anything to cause them to look differently on him as a representative of Christ. He probably would say “Happy Holidays” or “Happy Hanukkah” to someone out of respect to their faith, but people also knew he was a Christian and he would celebrate Christ’s story over the old traditions. There was no anger or backlash on people because they chose not to acknowledge Christ, in fact, there was even more love being shown to them by respecting them. In reality, we have to be living a life similar to Paul’s. We need to express the message of the Gospel throughout our life in order to protect His name on the day we celebrate Him. If one says “Happy Holidays” to someone of a different faith as a Christian does not negate their Christianity, quite the contrary, it strengthens their love for their neighbor; which in turn shares the Gospel even more.

We keep Christ in Christmas. It is not the fact that we say “Merry Christmas” that Christ is still here, it is the Gospel saying HE IS STILL HERE that keeps Him in the day and every day after.