How y’all doin’, eh?

It’s funny what bits and pieces of different languages and cultures we can pick up. From 1999-2001 I was in graduate school at the University of South Florida. One of my fellow grad students, and one that I hung out with a lot, was a Canadian. The furthest north I’d lived was Roanoke, VA. Since he was a stranger in our land, which being Florida was strange itself, he had no license and, maybe as important, no car. His apartment was, at least for the first year of school, on the way to mine so I would give him a ride home quite often. I wasn’t going to let my poor Canadian trumpet-playing brother walk in the treacherous 75 degree Tampa weather in winter!

We decided that we would place a bet- a friendly wager, if you will. Although I no longer drink, I surely did then, so the bet was for a Guinness. I thought I could influence him to say “y’all” before he could get me to say “eh?” at the end of a sentence. Seriously, the trumpet practicing and grad school was destroying our brains. And the excessive amounts of the subject of our wager probably didn’t help, either! Well, it turns out that Canadian-ese is more infectious than Southern American. We were at a stoplight one day, and a car with hydraulics pulled up next to us. I said, “You don’t see that everyday, eh?” I lost.  I have to inform you, my readership, that I continued to use the “eh?” several more times.  It’s part of a linguistic takeover.  Mark those words.

So what’s the spiritual lesson here?  Canadians are evil?  No.  Hockey is of the devil?  Well, only if you’re in New Jersey.  (I heard the crickets chirping on that one… you’ll get it.)  No, that’s not it, either.  Here’s the thing- when we surround ourselves with godly influences, that will attract our thinking.  When we surround ourselves with ungodly influences, that will start to have a pull on us.  And again, I am not calling Canadians evil!  Look at James 4:4 and consider what he is saying to us:

“Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?  Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” (ESV)

I think the breakdown is pretty clear here.  If you want to have both feet, or really even one foot in ungodly behavior, you’re a friend of the world.  This is directly opposite of what God wants, though.  Think of it as calling yourself a true, die-hard fan of one team and saying you’re a true, die-hard fan of that team’s rival.  Doesn’t work, eh?

Until next time!

Juice Box Christian

I’ll have to be perfectly honest, and say that the premise for my blog this morning wasn’t original.  I came across an absolutely hilarious video, that speaks an absolutely scary truth about our church culture.  (I’m even going to try to link it, but since I’ll probably botch that the video title is the same as my blog post, and it is done by Shift Worship… it can be Googled, like everything else in the known universe).

Here’s my attempt at the video link:

 

We’ll see what happens.  Now, the whole point of the juice box deal is not to comment on wine vs. grape juice for Communion, or to try to run Hi-C out of business.  It is about spiritual growth.  The whole premise of a 20-something staying in his 1st grade Sunday School class is absurd!  But don’t we do that when we resist things that will push us to grow?  This is true of any aspect of life, but Paul talks about it as he is discouraged by believers (that have been believers for a while) content on baby milk instead of progressing.  Although it’s not quite the same as milk, I drank an ounce of formula on a dare once and it was nasty… like liquid chalk.  Yet these believers were OK with that.  Yuck!

Check out 1 Corinthians 3:1-3 and see if it hits home.  If it does, then try to tear down whatever wall is keeping you from growing in your walk with the Lord.  It could be a Bible-reading thing where you don’t read because of ___________ or that you can’t be a part of worship because the music is too ______________.  Or it could be some other excuse that is totally silly.  Change it and grow!

Until next time!

The Yellow Jacket of Distraction

I was at a stoplight today and a yellow jacket landed on the driver’s side mirror.  Before you panic, I had the window rolled up… and I’m not allergic, although I don’t like to be stung by those little things.  He wouldn’t fly away, and right as the light changed, he crawled from the top of the mirror to the back- shielded from the wind that would knock him off.

I thought nasty thoughts about him.  I used my Jedi mind control powers on him saying, “This is not the car you’re looking for.”  I thought about rigging a MacGuyver-esque contraption to crack the window and shoo him off.  I looked over every 1.3 seconds to see if he’d lost interest or gotten motion sickness and fallen off.  In essence, I did just about everything except pay attention to driving my car.

I know my life is like this sometimes almost all the time.  I have one little thing that gets me sidetracked and I take my eyes off the things that are really important.  Is this how God wants us to live our lives?  I don’t think so.  I think He wants us to be clearheaded and not prone to worrying about little things.  Jesus uses these kinds of words about worrying- “These things (worries) dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs.  Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you what you need.” (Matthew 6:32-33 NLT)

Ouch.  I was so worried about that little yellow jacket that I’m not even allergic to…with my window rolled up, that I forgot to focus on a pretty major thing.  Like driving.  I became one of the crazies that I always fuss about on US 220.  Another topic for another time.

But really, we worry all the time and get so distracted by things that don’t matter.  As the writer of Hebrews states it in 12:1-2, we can run the race (a Christian life and walk with the Lord) not because of unneeded things, but because we keep our eyes on Christ.  We let Him matter more than the distractions.

So, to finish things up.  I got into the church parking lot, yellow jacket still hanging on for dear life.  I focused on parking the car and, you probably guessed it: the yellow jacket flew away.

Until next time!

Yardwork and Spiritual Battles

OK, I admit.  I don’t have much time to do a lot of work in my yard.  I have about 8 blades of actual grass, and the rest of the .75 acres that I mow are weeds.  When it is really short it can give an illusion of looking nice, but maybe that’s another devotional thought altogether!  I am actually thinking of my backyard which part of my property is forest.  It’s not a large portion, .05 acres, but it is dense and takes a lot of time to control.  I’ve found that if I don’t actively control it and try to push it back some, it will creep into my yard and take it over.  If I had some awesome power tools, it would be one thing.  Alas, I have a machete.  One little blade against a rainforest.  Well, maybe a little hyperbole, but you get my drift.

Where’s the spiritual analogy?  I was reading today in Acts 6 and the part after the beginning of the deacons caught my attention.  The Apostle Stephen was proclaiming God’s Word and the gospel.  Obviously, there was some opposition.  It came from a group called the “Synagogue of the Freedmen”.  I found out that this group was comprised of former slaves (good) from areas heavily influenced by Hellenism (bad).

Hellenism could easily correspond to our secularization of society today.  In a nutshell, the two cultures are very “go with the flow” and “do what you want” in nature.  This mentality and worldview encroaches on the Christian worldview in much the same way as my backyard forest does to the rest of my lawn.  It tries to take over.  We read in Acts 6 that the Freedmen couldn’t out-do Stephen in his arguments, so they took the low road.  They started to spread lies, twisted truths, get the officials involved, and make a mess of the whole thing.

Isn’t that what those who are opposed to the faith do today?  Now, I’m not saying that there aren’t Christians who add fuel to the fire… but the secular worldview is that Christianity is just plain wrong, just because.  They can’t provide real evidence against it, so they try to twist it to their advantage.  The truth of God’s Word and the message of the cross is worth standing firm against the trickery of the world.  Even if you’re just armed with a little machete, you can help keep the forest at bay.

Until next time!

Getting (Re)started

OK, it’s been a while.  No, that’s not accurate… it’s been an eternity, a blog-ternity, since I last posted anything here!  (Sigh)  I have to get in the practice of keeping up with this thing, and I promise two things:  I will do it, and I will still let the blogging community down from time to time.  OK, I said it… hand has been slapped.  Now for a short devotional thought on doing some Bible reading.

Last year (you know, the one in which I didn’t even blog?), I endeavored to read through the Bible.  I’d never done this before, and thought it was a worthwhile thing to do.  I found out some things about “read thru the Bible in a year” plans… they mean well in trying to get us to read Scripture, but the focus for many people, myself included, becomes “check the box” rather than spiritual growth.  One instance was a day in which I had to read something like 6 or 7 chapters of Isaiah.  I got to Isaiah 58, and went back and re-read it.  Then I read it a third time.  The next day, I started, not with chapter 59, but with 58 again.  It was hitting me squarely between the eyes, which is the effect God intends for us to have- not just reading to say we’ve read it.

I can read any number of works of fiction, poetry, biographies, political essays, or whatever to just say I’ve read them.  The Bible, which God has given to us as His holy Word to grow our walk with Him, shouldn’t be the same as a Harry Potter book, or a book on Abraham Lincoln.  Even books by our favorite Christian authors shouldn’t replace reading the Bible!

I’m trying different approaches on reading now.  One thing I’ve done is to take one chapter or Psalm and read that one several times a day.  It’s helped it sink in a bit.  Another thing I’ve done, to sharpen up the Spanish also, has been, starting in Genesis, to read a chapter of the NLT and then read the corresponding Spanish NTV.  There’s been a day or two, where reading the Spanish (which takes more time and makes me more deliberate) has produced an “Aha!” moment.

So, what are some of your approaches?

Until next time… (which won’t be a year!)

We’ve Got It Good, And That Ain’t Bad… Or Is It?

If nothing else,it seems like my aim is just to confound people with my off-center blog post titles.  This is going to be a tough one to write, though.  I don’t think that much of my topic fits into my humorous nature.  I’m talking about the subject of the global persecution of Christians.  Some of you probably started guffawing as you read that.  That’s fine.  As 1 Corinthians 1:18 states, “The message of the cross is foolishness to those that are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (NIV)  So, as opposers of the one, true God tend to do- let me have what you think are the “facts”.  Here’s what I know…

As I started doing some research, finding some videos, etc. for our youth group lesson I was more astonished than I had ever been.  The physical, brutal torture of professing Christians in much of the world today is of epic proportions.  I saw one video that showed three Christians being beaten, kicked, spat upon, and otherwise left for dead in India by Hindus.  In another, Iraqi Christians had to meet in an armed compound for fear of open violence against them.  In another account, a boy was forced by Muslims to gather the firewood that would fuel the fire he was to be thrown into.  I knew things were bad, I just didn’t realize how bad it was.  The one verse that got me was in 1 Corinthians 12:26 where it says, “If one part [of the body of Christ] suffers, every part suffers with it…” (NIV)  This was a huge reality check for me in that I never have truly been aware of the atrocities which are being perpetrated on Christians.  I had, I suppose, a “head” knowledge of them, but they sank down to my heart this time.

Ladies and gentlemen, America is not like these places.  In many parts of the world, there is no religious freedom.  You are either a Muslim, Hindu, or whatever the case may be- or you are, at best, ostracized.  That’s the best case scenario.  In the United States, and other countries with religious freedom, it is different.  There are no, or very few, physical atrocities such as these.  We have it good in that sense.  All we have to encounter may be some snickering and jeering now and then.  We may have to endure the occasional belligerent non- Christian attitude once in a while.  Someone may even talk about us behind our backs!  The bad thing, and I want to be careful here, is that we have no clue what true faith under fire is.  Of course, we all have trials and problems- each person’s are unique to them.  They need to be seen in light of James 1 and Romans 5:3-4.  These things need to be undergone so that perseverance and spiritual maturity can abound.  My only concern is: are we in danger of losing sight of what’s really going on in our world?  Has American Christianity become too lax in its approach to understanding the suffering of the global body of Christ?

Again, not my normal blog post… and at 520+ words, not the normal length for me either.  I hope this has given us some things to think about.  I hope, more importantly, this has given us some things to pray about.

Until next time!

Blind as a Bat

I had a dream.  (No, not that one…)  I had a dream that for some reason I went blind.  Some clarification is needed here.  If you’ve ever seen my glasses I wear at night once the contacts go out, you’ll know this isn’t a far reaching idea.  These things are old school- the last frames I had before switching to contacts… in 1994.  I don’t think the technology (or my parents’ budget) was where it needed to be to make my glasses not look like things to see far away… like to planets.  Or the future.

But in the dream I had, I was really blind.  I don’t remember much about most of my dreams, but in this one I remember the blindness being totally new to me.  I was trying to figure the whole thing out.  There were several things I had to learn, or re-learn, to do.  Driving was one… no, just kidding.  Things like walking around the house were tough.  With a baby and a two year old, clear paths aren’t the norm.  Making coffee was a different endeavor.  Getting dressed was tough, too.  What if Jenn had already left for work?  It would take a whole new system of organization to ensure I wasn’t totally mismatched!  Sadly, my sense of fashion is also not too far of a stretch from this dream-reality.

One thing that I realized would change was pretty scary, too.  I wouldn’t be able to read the Bible!  Now, I know there are audio and Braille versions out there.  The thing I realized is from the aspect of having God’s word hidden in my heart.  I’m talking about laziness here… being blind to the gift that God has given us!  What good does a concordance do to a blind person?  That whole scenario of, “Oh, I remember a verse that says something like ______.  Let me look that up.” would be gone.  It hit me that I’ve really neglected the memorization aspect that Psalm 119:11 talks about:  “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.”

In countries that face no persecution for owning, reading, publicly using, and talking about the Bible we don’t see any application for this.  There are countless believers in countries where none of these things are allowed.  For them, to obtain even a page of Scripture is a great occasion.  I’m sure they don’t waste the moment by just reading it and then giving it little or no thought.  I’m sure they pore over it, and literally hide it in their hearts so that it can’t be taken away- even if the physical printed version is.  The next few verses of Ps. 119 talk about God teaching us and of recounting, meditating and considering, delighting, and not neglecting the word.  I wonder how much of that we are really doing today.

If, like in my dream, you suddenly became blind… how would you feel about what you have already hidden of God’s word?

Until next time!

Comfort Food

You always hear about the basic food groups and what you should and shouldn’t eat, etc etc, yada-yada.  I found out that not too long ago, the old food pyramid changed to some kind of plate- thingy.  That’s different!  Whatever system/regimen/diet you choose some foods prove to be essential and others not so much.  I understand the importance of nutrition, and of course, wouldn’t want to downplay it.  My thought, though, is that there is another food item that is essential in our lives:  the comfort food!

My favorite comfort food (dentists, avert your eyes) is popcorn.  I love popcorn.  One of the greatest inventions, almost as good as the microwave, is microwaveable popcorn.  The Orville kind that has the butter packet that you pour onto it… oh, man.  It may actually be illegal it’s so good!  If someone were to tell me that I am being shipped to a deserted island and I am not allowed one favorite food as a punishment, then it would be popcorn.  Actually, I may have to lie and say it was peas, just so they wouldn’t take the popcorn.  Don’t you rat on me, now!

A comfort food is something that we can cling to.  It makes us feel good.  It’s like a go-to item when we need or want it.  It could be peanut butter, or pizza, or (heaven forbid) peas.  Maybe you’re offended because it actually is peas for you.  We don’t want that comfort food taken away from us.  The one thing that we can have that we can just zone out with, or the reward for a long, tough day at work or school.  It almost goes without saying that it is a food that we enjoy very, very much.

Another thing we should be getting enjoyment from, and nourishment from is God’s Word.  Now, there is one flaw in my comfort food analogy:  most of the comfort foods (peas being the exception) would be less than nutritional and nourishing at best.  Not so with Scripture.  Just think about the many aspects that relate it to being as essential to us as food.  We are told to feast on the Word, to crave it as babies crave milk, to progress on into the meat, Jesus (the Word made flesh) is the bread of life, and so on.  The Bible should be a source of comfort to us then.  It should be our default and our go-to item.  We can get more reward and satisfaction from reading God’s Word than from all the popcorn, pizza, candy, ice cream, and yes, even peas in the whole world.

Don’t fret Orville, Pop Weaver, the nice Act III people- I’ll still enjoy your wares.  I know that I need to do some munching on another kind of comfort food, though. 

Until next time!