Zip It

Portrait of man with mouth covered with tape

    OK- I will warn you right up front…today’s blog just might make me seem like a cranky old guy! (Just sayin’!) I have always been a pretty big fan of the Oscars. Having a background as an actor, I am always interested in “the biz” and who’s doing what. I am also a big fan of movies. So the Oscars seem like a natural fit.

    I lead a Sunday evening worship service- 6PM. So by the time we are done and I get everything “cleaned up”, the lights off and the doors locked and I get home, it’s about 7:20-ish. After my wife and I got home last night, we popped popcorn (our typical “Sunday evening after church” dinner!) and settled in. The Oscars were on. Great!

    We watched a grand total of 5 minutes of the broadcast. And in that 5 minutes, 3 separate things happened that would be all too easy to talk about. But I am choosing to focus on just one of those things. And here it is.

    During those 5 minutes, an award was given. The guy came up on the stage, stepped to the microphone and started to talk. He thanked…whoever. (Frankly, they all start to sound alike AND what he said after that made me completely forget anybody he thanked!) And then he started telling me how I needed to vote in the upcoming election.

    The first thing I noticed was that, the SECOND he started down that road, he started speaking faster. In that setting, you ONLY do that if you know what you are saying is controversial, inappropriate. The second thing I noticed was that was he was saying was NOT some well thought out, reasoned oration. Instead, it was an opportunity to spit venom on national TV.

    That, as well as the other two things that shall remain unmentioned, caused us to turn the channel quickly. Turns out- there is simply NOT much on TV on Sunday evenings! Old rerun of Bones it is! But as everybody else watched Booth and Bones solve another crime, I thought through what we had watched and started writing this.

    What is it that causes people in a setting like that to think they have anything to say that anyone wants to hear? What is it that impels them to babble on about their political leanings on an entertainment show focused squarely on who won what award? And what is it that makes them think that I care…even a little bit…about their opinion? Frankly, that guy’s opinion about the upcoming election and a dollar will buy me a Diet Coke out of many machines in the area.

    Now, perhaps you are reading this and thinking, “Well, Mr. SmartyPastor, what makes YOU think that we want to hear YOUR opinion about the election?” My answer? Nothing! Nothing makes me think that! MY opinion and that same dollar will buy that same Diet Coke! I have been in the ministry for 19 years and you would be hard pressed to find ANYBODY from a church I served who would be able to articulate much..if anything…about my politics.

    Here’s the bottom line for me- preachers are called to preach the Gospel. And that does NOT include telling people how to vote. Likewise, entertainers are called to…entertain. And that ALSO does not include telling people how to vote. Just because you have an opinion, just because a thought happened to cross your mind…is NOT a good enough reason to try and force feed it on other people- especially in a setting that doesn’t warrant it. I think the world would be a better place if we would all keep our big yappers shut more than we do!

    Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

 

In the Shadow of the Cross: Before Death…Life

Shadow of the Cross Befor Death Life

A little boy walked into the living room, “Mom, Pastor said that before you’re born you’re just dust and after you die you go back to being dust. Is that true?” “Yes, it is. Now, run upstairs and wash your hands- lunch is almost ready.” A few minutes later, the boy came running back down the stairs, “Mom, are you SURE that’s true- that we came from dust and we go back to dust?” “Yes. Why” What’s wrong?” “Well, you better get up to my room pretty quick, because I just looked under my bed and apparently someone is either coming or going!!”
Today, we begin a new, and rather short, sermon series that will take us to Easter. The series, appropriately enough, is called In the Shadow of the Cross. We will spend the next five weeks in that exact spot- the shadow of the cross. We will look at 5 events- 4 that preceded the cross and one that followed- and see how they tie to the larger story- the Upper Story. We’ll focus on how Jesus orchestrated the final few days of His life to lead to both the ultimate sacrifice…and the ultimate victory.
When I perform a funeral, I talk about the fact that, in the midst of a world so full of change, there are a few things that remain constant- people are born, people grow up and people die. That’s the normal order of things- birth, life, death. But Jesus tends to turn “normal” on its head on a regular basis. And today’s story is a prime example of that.
It is just a few days before Passover- the events of what we know as Holy Week are about to unfold. Jesus is marching headlong to the cross. But along the way, He pauses to bring new life, even on the threshold of death. Today’s story is a fairly well-known one. Jesus and His disciples have been pulling a “Bob Hope and Bing Crosby” kind of thing- they have been “on the road”. And along the way, they get word that their good friend Lazarus is sick. And so Jesus immediately goes to his side…right? Nope. He handles some other things first, assuring the disciples that Lazarus will not die- he’s “sleeping”. Then, they head out…four days late.
 John 11:17-44 On His arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet Him, but Mary stayed at home.
Jesus and the boys had been in the vicinity of Jerusalem. Lazarus and his sisters were from Bethany- only about 2 miles away. Mary and Martha assumed that Jesus’ love for their brother Lazarus would cause Him to drop everything He was doing and immediately come to the rescue. But He didn’t. He waited. And when He got there, he found several mourners “sitting shiva”- a 7-day period of mourning. The Jewish people believed that the soul remained near the body for three days after death in the hope of returning to it. But this was Day 4- all hope was gone- Lazarus was dead.
 “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if You had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give You whatever You ask.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” “Yes, Lord,” she told him, “I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, Who was to come into the world.”
Martha comes out to meet Him. And her first words could be interpreted as being a little accusatory. “If You had been here…” But she then falls back on what she know. “God will do whatever you ask Him to do.” The inference is obvious- “Despite the fact that he’s been dead 4 days, despite the fact that his body is decaying in a tomb, despite the fact that death seems so…final…You can still change all this. It’s not too late.” Jesus assures Martha that Lazarus will rise again. And even though she JUST said that she knew Jesus could do the impossible, she immediately defaults to, “Yeah, yeah, yeah- he’ll rise again on the day of resurrection.” But Jesus brings her back to reality, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anybody who believes in Me will never die.” And then He challenges her, “Do YOU believe that?” And she affirms that she does, even naming Him as the Christ.
And after she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. “The Teacher is here,” she said, “and is asking for you.” When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to Him. When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw Him, she fell at His feet and said, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.”
Mary comes out of her house to meet Jesus. In reverence and helplessness, she falls at His feet and repeats her sister’s lament. “If only YOU had been here, he would still be alive.” Mary and Martha are deeply grieved by their loss.
When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” He asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they replied. Jesus wept. Then the Jews said, “See how He loved him!” But some of them said, “Could not He Who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”
Jesus is deeply troubled. “Where did you bury him?” They head out to the tomb and, the passage says…Jesus wept. Jesus wept. This is a very unique passage. It’s the shortest verse in the Bible. And based on the humanity and love it demonstrates, I also wonder- is it the most significant? Notice this- the people were weeping. The Greek word is klaio- which means “to lament or wail”. But Jesus wept. The Greek word is dakruo- which means to shed tears. And that particular word doesn’t appear ANYWHERE else in the New Testament. It’s significant- the people wailed and gnashed their teeth- Jesus wept. And did you also notice that the crowd saw Jesus’ tears as both proof of His affection…and evidence of His limitations? “Sure, He gave sight to the blind, but overcoming death? Well, that’s simply too much.” Nobody present really expected the kind of miracle they were about to witness.
 Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. “Take away the stone,” He said. “But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.” Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”
So they come to the tomb and Jesus commands that the stone be rolled away from the mouth. You have to understand- culturally, ritually- this is a HUGE deal. To come into contact with a dead body was to risk defilement AND break the law. So try and picture this highly dramatic scene; the crowd is holding their breath- watching and waiting. Mary is weeping. And Martha is objecting- “Jesus, You can’t do that! Me thinketh he stinketh!” (That is NOT, by the way, the King James version!) But Jesus looks at Martha and says, “Didn’t I tell you that if you believe, you would see the glory of God? Move the stone away.”
     So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. I knew that You always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that You sent Me.”
So the stone is rolled away and the tension mounts. WWJD- what will Jesus do? And then…what DOES He do? He stops and thanks His Father! Right there, on the threshold of the absolute biggest miracle He had performed, the greatest miracle any of those gathered would see, He stops and thanks His Dad. And I love what He says here, “I KNOW You’re always there, but I want all of these folks gathered here to know it, too. I want them to KNOW that You sent Me.”
     When He had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”
Jesus shouts out 3 simple words, “Lazarus come out!” 3 simple words that, in their own way, changed forever our understanding of Jesus…of God. The great theologian St. Augustine said that, at the moment Jesus called out, if Lazarus HADN’T come forth…all the dead that had gone before WOULD have! But Lazarus DOES come out, still wrapped in the burial clothes. The same Word that brought life in the beginning now breathes life into the inanimate body of Lazarus.
Jesus says, “Take the grave clothes off and let him go.” Jesus shows up. Jesus speaks. It is so. Right before their very eyes, death’s hold is broken by nothing more than the Voice of authority. And those who came to Bethany as mourners now return to Jerusalem as informers. With this climactic miracle, Jesus offers definitive proof to His greatest claim, the claim He had reiterated to Martha mere moments before, “I am the Resurrection and the Life.” He moves the resurrection- new life- from a future, nebulous “then” to a very real and tangible “here and now”. Jesus’ claim as the resurrection and the life doesn’t get any more “in your face” than it does here.
Actor/director Woody Allen feels that we have this whole “life” thing backwards. He suggests that we should start out dead- get that out of the way. Then, wake up in a nursing home, where you feel a little better every day. Eventually, you get kicked out for being too healthy. You start to collect your pension. Then, when you start working, you get a gold watch and a party on your first day. You work for 40 years, until you’re young enough to enjoy your retirement. You then go through school, you become a kid- you play, you have no responsibilities. You become a baby until you’re born. And then you spend your last 9 months floating in luxurious spa-like conditions with central heating and room service!
Mary and Martha thought Lazarus died too soon. Do you ever feel that way? “Lord, if only You’d been here sooner…my brother would still be alive, or my kids would be OK, or my marriage would be sound…my life would be better. If only You’d showed up on time!” Are you in need of prayer? Does your life need a major change? Do you know someone who is danger of dying…spiritually? Is it…you? Do you know you’re loved, with an unconditional, unwavering, unforgettable love? Are you willing to accept the help of such a Man- a Savior? The truth is that only Jesus can raise the dead. We can participate in the process…but our obedience is necessary. We have to be willing to LET Him roll away the stone. If you do, you will feel more alive than you’ve ever felt before.
God didn’t rescue Daniel OUT of the lion’s den. He didn’t turn OFF the fiery furnace to save Rack, Shack and Benny. He didn’t kill Pharaoh to save the Israelites from the Red Sea. No- He worked His wondrous purposes IN the lion’s den, IN the furnace, IN the Red Sea.
Physical death separates us from each other. But spiritual death separates us from God. When you’re sick, you want a doctor…not a medical book. When you’re being sued, you want a lawyer…not a law book. And when you’re facing hard times, you want a Savior…not a book on church discipline. On His way to the cross…on the way to death…Jesus pauses to bring new life. He stops to call the spiritually dead back to life. Jesus came so that people…us…might live life, new life, life abundantly. Death has no sting in the shadow of the Light of the world.

Make ‘Em Smile!

walter

     My wife and I have this little…game that we play when we are out. Perhaps “game” isn’t the right word. “Ministry challenge” may be a bit more accurate. When you go into a store, a restaurant or some other public place., you are bound to interact with lots of people. And many of those people are employees of the business you are visiting.

    We find that a decent amount of those folks- cashiers, waitstaff, stockers, salespeople, hostesses, etc. get a bit…jaded by having to work with the public so much. Why? Because us “public” can be a bit hard to deal with! Now, don’t misunderstand me- there are LOTS of retail professionals who are great at what they do. But there are also a decent amount who seem to hate what they do.

    So our goal is to get them to smile and interact with us. We want them to see that A. not every customer who comes in their door is a big jerk who is going to treat them like “the help” and B. life doesn’t have to be that bad!

    With all of that in mind, there is a woman who works at a grocery store we frequent. (If you are reading this and live in the same town I do…quite trying to figure out who it is! I PROMISE you- the store in question is NOT in town but a good 45 minutes away!) We go to this store pretty much once every week. And this one woman- we’ll call her Cindy because I honestly don’t KNOW her name- has become a “project” of ours!

    Cindy is a cashier who also stocks shelves when not behind the cash register. And she seems miserable most of the time. It is nearly impossible to get her to even speak or make eye contact, let alone smile or engage. But we try…every time…to get a smile and a response out of her. But, after literally more than a year of trying, we had come up empty. We have, without trying to brag, a pretty good track record but Cindy has proved to be a tough nut to crack! That is, until yesterday!

    When we entered the store, she was in the first aisle, shelving cardboard boxes full of glass jars of green olives. As we got near, a jar fell out of the box and headed for the floor. She stuck out her knee and managed to stop it, but it was balanced precariously against her knee and a shelve- threatening to fall the rest of the way and break on the floor. So I stepped in and grabbed the jar. She said nothing. I smiled and said, “GREAT catch with the knee!” She muttered, “Thanks!” It wasn’t much…but it was a glimmer!

    Then, we got to the cash register and she was the cashier. My wife and I mustered up our “A” game and went to work. And then…it happened! My wife said, “Boy, seeing you lift all those boxes, I bet you don’t have to work out at home!” Cindy said, “Yeah!” Then, my wife said, “People say ‘Do you have a gym membership?’ and you say ‘No- I work at the grocery store!” And BOOM- she broke out a big smile and laughed! As we walked away from the cash register, I said, “Thanks! Have a great day!” She smiled and said, “Thanks. You too!” When we got in the car, I turned to my wife, high-fived her and said, “You DID it!” She replied, “You got a smile, too!” I said, “Yeah…but you’re the one who finally broke the ice!”

    Do you do these kinds of things? If not…why not? We have an inherent joy that comes from Christ that we are called to share with other people. Our mission is to connect people to Jesus Christ. And one of the simplest ways we can do that is by showing His love to people who are hungry for it. Try it! Make it your goal- to get someone who simply refuses to respond to actually smile and talk to you! You may be the only Jesus they see!

    Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

An Ode to Odd Skillsets!

magician 3

    The church I currently serve hosts an amazing event every April- The Journey. It is a women’s event that bring hundreds of ladies from around the area together for a day. There is praise and worship, there is faith development, there is good food (breakfast treats, snacks, as well as an awesome lunch) and there is a LOT of personal testimony. In fact, the day is built around the speakers who are featured. The whole package, collectively, clearly makes for a powerful event that women look forward to, year after year.

    One of the many cool things about the event is that, along with the literally dozens of women from the church I serve who work HARD to make the event happen, there are many men who work behind the scenes, helping to keep the train running on time. The men respect the fact that the “sessions” are intended for women- they keep their distance and simply work on whatever job they have.

    Toward that end, I have been preparing for MY job at the journey. Now, as the pastor, you might think that involves offering prayers, homilies and other…well…pastoral things. And while I DO serve Communion near the end of the day, my other duties are decidedly NON-pastoral. The truth is that we have extremely capable women at this church who are fully capable of doing all of those other things. And I, for one, and delighted with that fact. Why? Because I see my role as equipping OTHER people to do ministry- not simply doing it all myself.

    So what IS my role, then? Well, let’s just say that this event is one that allows me to fall back on my Bachelor’s Degree! You see, in case you don’t know, while I have a Master’s Degree in Theology, my Bachelor’s Degree is in…acting! I have been a performer, at some level, all my life. And THAT’S the skillset that I can best offer to this event!

    My duties for the event fall into two primary categories- “drummer” for the praise band and “filler” while they take groups to lunch! I probably DON’T need to explain the “drummer” part- it’s pretty self-explanatory. But the “filler” part perhaps begs a greater explanation!

    Since there are so many women in attendance, we can’t simply release them all at the same time for lunch. It would be…anarchy! AND..they would have to stand in line for a while! SO…the idea was that we offer…something…to keep them…entertained while they wait. “Hhmmm? What to do, what to do? Wait! We’ve go this preacher with a really…WEIRD…skillset! Let’s talk to him!”

    So I have begun to prepare for this year’s version. This will be either the 3rd or 4th of these I have “worked”. And the truth is that, when you do this EXTREMELY part-time…as a hobby…you tend to quickly become a one-trick pony! And that, my friend, could be my nickname!! So I recently did two things- started work on some new “stand-up” material and ordered some new “stuff” from The Magic Warehouse. (It’s like Christmas around here!)

    Now, let’s be honest here- there aren’t a lot of pastors out there who are preparing for major spiritual growth events at their church by making sure their percussion equipment is in good shape, their stand-up material is fresher and their magic and juggling props are current! And I DON’T say that to be bragging. Quite the opposite. I am a mixed bag of…odd. But do you know what that says to me? It says that, if God can use ME to help further His kingdom…then He can use ANYBODY!

    Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

“A Bunny Rabbit!”

Bunny Rabbit

I have always been a fan of Warner Brothers/Looney Tunes cartoon. Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd, Daffy Duck, Taz…the whole lot of them…very funny. (They just don’t make cartoons like that any more! But back in MY day…!) There was one (actually more than one) that featured Hugo the Abominable Snowman. He is the large, hairy looking beast in the picture. In the episode, he wants a bunny rabbit as a pet…and he targets Bugs. Bugs convinces him (as only Bugs can) that Daffy is, in fact, the rabbit. The “climactic” scene comes when Hugo is holding Daffy, who’s shirt makes him look like a rabbit, and he says, “Oh, boy, a bunny rabbit! I will name him George and I will hug him and squeeze him…” Daffy replies, “I’m not a bunny rabbit…” Hugo goes on, “…and pat him and pet him and…” Daffy says, “You’re hurting me. Put me down, please.” Hugo continues, “…and rub him and caress him and…” Daffy shouts, “I ain’t no bunny rabbit!” Hugo looks at him and says, “I’m gonna rub your fur the wrong way, George!”

There are two things about that cartoon that stand out in my mind. #1 is that there is a marvelous nod to Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men” with the large, slow-witted character (Lennie in the book, Hugo here) talks to a smaller, smarter character named George. (Gotta love those hidden references in the “old school” cartoons!) The 2nd thing that stands out is the love of “bunnies”. Of all things, I thought of this cartoon as I stood at my front door the other morning. As I stood there, I saw a rabbit out in the front yard. I stood, stock still, for a good 3 minutes, just staring at this rabbit. He didn’t really do much of anything but sit there- his nose moved constantly, his eyes blinked occasionally, and other than that…he just sat there. And I…just stood there. He was unaware that I was there, and I was completely aware that he was there!
Watching the rabbit, I got strong sense of God’s creation. I mean, here was this little animal who lived…out there somewhere. He was genetically engineered to survive in the wild- find a place to live, find food, and keep from BEING food. He is fast, he is beautiful, and he is a marvel of God’s creation. The same is true of the squirrel. And the raccoon. And the deer. And the horse. And…and…and…! Have you taken the time to look at God’s creation? I mean REALLY taken the time? God’s creation is, to sum it up in one word…amazing. It is beautiful, spectacular, divinely inspired. And yet we overlook it ALL THE TIME. We get SO caught up in the “busyness” of life that we don’t see the beauty, the splendor that is all around us.
Here’s my suggestion for the day- take some time to actually SEE what is all around you. Notice God’s creation- the trees, the animals, the weather…everything. See it. Appreciate it. Thank God for it. Do this consistently for a week or 2 and it will become a habit. And what an AWESOME habit that would be! Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Emotions: Hate

Emotions Hate

9 Things George Carlin hates (edited for “family viewing”!)
1. People who point at their wrist while asking for the time…. I know where my watch is, Pal, where’s YOURS?!
2. People who are willing to get up and search the entire room for the T.V. remote because they refuse to walk to the T.V. and change the channel manually.
3. When people say “Oh you just want to have your cake and eat it, too”. Well, yeah! What good is cake if you can’t eat it?
4. When people say “it’s always the last place you look”. Of course it is. Why would you keep looking after you’ve found it? Do people do that?
5. When people say, while watching a film, “Did you see that?” No, I paid $12 to come to the movie theater, sit here and stare at my navel!
6. People who ask “Can I ask you a question?” Didn’t really give me a choice there, did ya, Sunshine?
7. When something is “new and improved!” Well, which is it? If it’s new, then there has never been anything before it, so it can’t be improved. If it’s an improvement, then there must have been something before it, so it can’t be new.
8. When people say “life is short”. Really?? Life is the longest thing you will ever experience!! What can you do that’s longer?
9. When you are waiting for the bus and someone asks “Has the bus come yet?”. If the bus came would I be standing here?
Tonight, we continue our current Sunday evening series- one that will take us right up to Palm Sunday- Emotions. Along the way, we are considering a WIDE variety of human emotions and how they impact our relationships with each and with God. Last week, we started at the very beginning…Love! Tonight, we look at an emotion that is the polar opposite- hate.

Question #1- How would YOU define the word “hate”?

Question #2- What do you hate? (And you DON’T get to say “hunger” or “terrorism”- those are a given.) I want to know, on a daily basis, what are the little things that, if you are honest…you hate?

We established last week that love is hard. It is not simply an emotion- it’s a conscious choice. Tonight, we step out from the understanding that it’s as easy to hate as it is difficult to love. But what IS hate? Dictionary.com defines hate this way- “to dislike intensely or passionately; to feel extreme aversion for or extreme hostility toward; to detest”.
What do we hate? That can vary greatly. We can hate inanimate objects, we can hate entire groups of people…and we can hate everything in between. But often our hate is focuses squarely at a single individual. What about you? Have you ever hated somebody? Of course you have. The bigger question is…do you hate somebody right now? Who is it? WHY is it? What’s it doing to you? And what are you going to do about IT?
Hate tends to manifest itself in one of two ways:
1. an outward, physical response- lashing out at people.
2. an inward, passive-aggressive response- letting it erode who you are and devour you from the inside out.
Hate can have a considerable effect on your physical, emotional and spiritual health. People who are willing to hang on to…and live in the middle of…hatred face increased stress which weakens your body and makes you much more susceptible to disease. Hate can also develop into genuine psychological problems that can lead you to do things you know are wrong.
Hatred that isn’t dealt with in a healthy, constructive manner can lead to poor healthy. It can also lead to violent acts. Hate is corrosive. Even people who take great care of their body can easily let their mind- and their heart- become tainted with the poison of hate.
But along with messing up your mental and spiritual life…it can literally make you sick. It can take a genuine toll on your health. WE’ve all known people who literally had their whole appearance changed by the hatred that was eating them up…from the inside out.
You know how it works- somebody does something horrible to us and, before we know it, we are singing another somebody done somebody wrong song. We quickly develop a strong hatred for that person. You know, “I don’t get mad…I get even!”
But is hate aimed at our offenders ever justified? Is it ever OK for us to hate someone who did something really awful? I mean, a healthy self-respect demands that we stand up for ourselves and draw the line…doesn’t it? Can I defend myself from those who would attack me and NOT let it denigrate into hate?
Every second that we spend hating is another step backwards in our pursuit of God’s joy. Instead of becoming the person God is calling you to be, hate puts you on a destructive detour that can completely derail your life. Hate festers inside of us, causing us to obsess over things. Hate wastes our time. It wastes our energy. And it waste our God-given talents. It dominates our thoughts and it steals our focus.
One thing that hate does that we all too often fail to notice…or admit…is that hate denies the very nature of God. When we hate, we try to negate God’s sense of justice. He SAW the horrible thing that person did to you. And He WILL make things right, either in this life or in the life to come, if you’re willing to turn your pain over to Him. Do that, and He’ll reward you in ways you can’t imagine. DON’T do it, and your soul will slowly erode, from the inside out. Sin has consequences, and although God’s forgiving…He’s also just. Let Him take care of things.
So how do we do it? How do we turn our hate over to God? How do we do like they say in the movie Frozen and…let it go?! One of the best ways to deal with those people and behaviors that cause us to hate is to simply move on. In fact, Proverbs 25 perhaps says it best, “If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat;
And if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; for by doing so, you will heap coals of fire on his head And the Lord will reward you.” That is one of my older son’s favorite verses!
You simply can’t afford to get bogged down and lose time. Do whatever you need to do, but make up your mind…today…that your life is too valuable to waste on hating someone. Want to make sure your life is moving forward? Take your eyes off the rear-view mirror. Want a happy, peaceful, joy-filled life? Commit to the fact that the emotional poison of hate might well be your biggest obstacle to that goal. Hate simply costs too much. It’s the realm of petty, little people.
     1John 4:16b-21 God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.
I used to love to watch Cheers. One of my favorites lines form that show came out of an interchange between Frazier and Woody. Frazier says, “Well Woody, you know- you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar!” And Woody replies, “That’s true, Dr. Crane. But you catch the MOST flies with a dead squirrel!” There is also a scene where Norm is sitting at the bar, discussing his ongoing issues with his never-seen wife, Vera. At the end of the conversation, like punctuation at the end a sentence, Norm shakes his head and says, “Women- can’t live with ‘em…pass the beer nuts!”
You’ve heard it said, “Love the sinner, hate the sin”? Well, I’ve come to the
realization that hate simply takes TOO much time and effort. I just don’t have the time OR desire to hate. So I have decided that I am simply going to love the sinner…period. I’ll let God do the judging…He is SO much more qualified than me! Nope- I’m just going to love the sinner…pass the beer nuts!

A Child Shall Lead Them

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    There is a family associated with the church we served previous to where we are now who have a great story. The mother of the family is the daughter of a couple who are active members of the church. After having 3 kids biologically, they adopted not one, not two, not three, not four but five more kids from Africa. They are an amazing family with a remarkable story. I have honestly never seen a family SO willing to show the love of God in quite the same way. I have a deep, abiding admiration for who they are and what they do!

    I also absolutely LOVE to read “mom’s” posts on Facebook. She regularly posting things about the kids. They are often hysterical and always heart-warming. In fact, something she posted just yesterday is what prompted me to write this. She said that she was picking one of the kids up from pre-school. He came out and came running to the car. When he got in, he excitedly said, “Mom- I have the best kind of news! Jesus will never stop caring about us and will always love us. He loves us so much!”

    First of all, does it GET any sweeter and cuter than that? I’ll answer for you- NO! I would think you’d have to wipe a tear or two out of your eye just to drive home. And second of all, don’t you love the innocence and the simplicity that children bring to…life?

    I want you to imagine for a moment what the world would be like if we ALL had that same wide-eyed innocence, enthusiasm and trust. Just think how much better this planet would be if we all stopped being more like…us and started being more like that pre-schooler.

    But instead, we are all so…grown-up. We are mature. We are complex. And we are, all too often, more than a little jaded. We’ve been far enough down the road that we KNOW that life isn’t all kittens and moonbeams. It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there and we’re wearing Milk Bone underwear! (A quote from the TV show Cheers, just in case you wondered!)

    We like to think that we know more than that sweet…misguided…little boy. But we would be wrong. He shows me more faith in that one unbridled utterance than many people show me in the their entire lives. And that fact tells me two things: A. his parents have done a SPECTACULAR job thus far in raising him and B. we could take a lesson from him.

    The fact that Jesus will never stop caring for us and will always love us IS the best kind of news. And it’s NOT supposition or conjecture. It is, as he so wisely labeled it- news. The truth. Fact. Here’s my challenge for you- try, every day, to live your life a little more like that little boy. Don’t have a childish faith- he doesn’t. Instead, have a childlike faith. See the wonder. See the splendor. See the beauty of Jesus Christ! And to that little boy- thank you for the reminder!!

    Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!