I have an 8 month old son who is obsessed with the TV remote. I even bought him a toy remote that sounds like you are changing the channel, but it didn’t fool him.
Now that he has started crawling, one of the greatest joys in my day is coming home, sitting on the floor, and waiting for him to crawl over to me. His smile leaks drool all over the carpet as he approaches.
Clawing up my shirt, wiping his nose on the way to a standing position, there is very little in this world greater than your kid crawling all over you in complete joy just to be with you again.
But then something happens.
His attention quickly shifts from touching my scruffy face to the TV remote on the coffee table. Like a puppy who just spotted a chew toy, my son is done with me and onto something else. This is the point I realize that I was being used…
He is not tall enough to reach the coffee table where he knows the remote lives. I sit on the ground and he has been presented the perfect launching point to get what he really wants. I am nothing more than a footstool that makes goofy noises to earn a smile.
Isn’t it frustrating when we are a stepping stone for something else? Its even more frustrating when I realize my relationship with God is often reduced to this.
The good news is that my son doesn’t know any better and I love him all the same. I think that we know better.
Lets make a deal with each other today: avoid using God to get what you want in life. More money, a less stressful job, and less homework are not what you need. Simply put, lets enjoy God for the Father that he truly is, sitting on the floor with us excited to be together again.
(this is not my kid)
A few months back I was surfing at a local spot when a pro surfer paddled out with his posse in tow and decided that they now owned the ocean. They would sit in the prime position to catch all the waves and prevent anyone else from surfing. The only way to surf was to drop-in on the wave one of them was already riding, which would be breaking the cardinal rule of the water.
Sitting close to me was a beginner, it was obvious by his blue foam board and lack of etiquette. A wave was heading our way that he decided he was going to catch it, but the problem was that the biggest, scariest guy in the posse was already riding the wave. His thick beard dripping with salt water and his leather sun-scorched skin made him someone to be feared. As he approached the rookie dropping in on him, he lifted one of his legs and kicked the dude right in the face! I understand not dropping in on someone, but it doesn’t deserve knocking their teeth out!
In this complete injustice, I did nothing. I watched the guy paddle in ashamed and embarrassed…
The second weekend of Advent is about peace. When I asked our students to describe peace they used words like, meadow, clouds, silence, gentle and calm. But is this the peace that Jesus brought? The pronouncement from the angel in Luke chapter 2 paints of picture of God breaking into a broken world and challenging the Roman government. Where they promised Pax Romana for those at the top, the angel promised peace for those on whom God’s favor rests. It was a subversive message that promised a peace that no government could ever fulfill.
Peace is not passive; it’s an action. Ignoring injustice in our world, refusing to stand up for what is right, allowing friends to gossip, walking past a person being bullied in our schools is not creating the peace that Jesus left heaven for. Peace is the willingness to surrender your own position for the betterment of the world.
Where do you see injustice happening in our world? In your workplace? In your school? Are you passively or actively bringing peace to that place? This Christmas, lets honor Jesus by partnering with him in the advancement his kingdom of peace on earth.
***Bearded man pictured above is not the person portrayed in this post. I was too afraid to take a picture…
I love ordering items online so that checking the mail becomes something I look forward to every day. What was once a menial task in my day becomes a source of hope and anticipation. Anyone who has ever applied to a college and awaited an acceptance letter has felt the same.
Advent is a season of waiting for the church. We join our ancestors as they endured 400 years of silence from God, hoping that someday soon their savior would come. In the midst of oppression and pain, hope was all that Israel had. Stories passed down for generation of long-since prophets seemed like distant echoes. Would God ever fulfill his promise?
This Christmas, my prayer for our students is to hope. Not for presents, or relief from school work, but for Jesus to enter our world. We embrace the season of Christmas as a posture of waiting and refuse to be overwhelmed with the rush of consumerism that comes with December.
How are you feeling as Christmas approaches? In your deepest desire, what are you hoping for? Is your source of hope something worth waiting for?
“Careful with these jet skis, they have more power than most people understand,” a leader told one of our staff members on a junior high summer camp. “Please refrain from the temptation to ride alongside another watercraft and splash them with your wake.”
You and I both know that a jet ski gets old pretty quick if you are not bobbing and weaving in the water and occasionally using the power of your floating Ducati to douse people with the spray of your wake. On that trip I was given the incredibly sought-after role of driving the pontoon boat from the beach to the cliff jumping site with groups of students. While on one of my many trips a fellow staff member approached our slow moving vessel on a jet ski. She had the look in her eye that said, “you have no idea what is about to hit you!”
She was right. As she approached the rear of the boat, she hit the throttle while going over the wake of my boat, attempting to splash the students. The wake abruptly changed the course of the jet ski and she slammed into the back of the boat, striking the engine at full speed causing it to explode like we were hit by a torpedo. Dead in the water I was forced to swim (…SWIM!) the boat to shore.
The power of the jet ski was too much for her to handle.
Power has an ability to effect people like nothing else in the world. Abraham Lincoln said, “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”
Saul was the picture of absolute power in the first Century. Given authority by the high priest, he used his power to protect Judaism by persecuting and destroying the first church. Stopping at nothing, Jesus took it upon himself to end the destructive cycle that Saul had begun. In a radical disorientation, everything that Saul once knew was completely changed. Everything that he once stood for was uprooted, leaving a ghost of a man. In total contrast to the egotistical maniac that once stood, Saul was blind and led by hand to Damascus.
Saul was re-purposed by Jesus. His life built upon death and destruction was re-purposed to speak life into the world in the name of Jesus. Saul had to die so that Paul could be born.
Jesus understood power. “Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.” [John 13:3-5] In full knowledge and understanding of his power, he got up to serve his followers.
You are powerful, but what is your character saying about the way you use it?
P.S. this post has nothing to do with the leader’s character…just a story.
When was the last time you were truly effective in front of an audience?
For some of you it is every single week, you have figured out some amazing secret to communication that you need to share with the rest of us. But my guess is the vast majority of us struggle every week to reach an audience.
Recently I have been thinking a lot about the art of asking questions. There is a genius involved in asking a question to which you already know how someone will answer. And further, there is something beautiful that happens when an audience can arrive at a conclusion with limited statements made by the speaker. They feel as though they have discovered something, arrived at their own conclusion.
I am constantly looking for ways to keep my junior high students engaged and not glazed over, and I only have 20 minutes. Donuts make them crazy, my humor doesn’t make sense to them, and their attention span is about as long as my fingernail.
So how are we supposed to make a point to this audience? We have to get them to think critically.
Thoughtful questions that are leading in a predetermined direction will help an audience move with you. Instead of making point after point or telling one story after another, try incorporating some questions.
- Who is someone that you admire?
- What is it about that person that makes you admire them?
- What is the difference between admiring someone and choosing to give your life to them?
- Do you merely admire Jesus or are you following him?
An audience that is thinking throughout your message is not only paying attention, they are challenging what you are saying. Craft your questions, know the spectrum of answers, develop them in a series that builds to a conclusion.
The best speakers out there have figured out a way to engage their audience in a unique way. What are ways that you are trying to improve your communication style?
Christmas morning is all about the reaction. You know the feeling: someone opening a present that you wrapped for them, heart racing as you wait to see their response. My guess is that you are hoping for something like this…
One of the great joys of Christmas is seeing someone go nuts. Especially when they start by screaming, than crying, than dry heaving.
This past weekend we talked about two different reactions to the arrival of Jesus. I would assume that when God gave us this gift to the world, he was eagerly awaiting to see how he would be received. The second chapter of Matthew shows the contrasting reactions of the Magi and King Herod.
The Magi travel for months searching for the prophesied king of the Jews. They leave their homes following a star, unsure of the events to come. Paranoid King Herod searches for the political threat born into his kingdom. The only thing that surprised him was this king of the Jews was an innocent baby. And because of Herod’s reaction, Jesus was a homeless refugee with a price on his head before he could walk or talk.
The Magi’s reaction is worship and wonder, Herod’s is fear and slaughter.
No matter your Christmas morning tradition, let’s pay attention to our reaction. How do you think God, our true Father, hoped we would respond to his gift to us?
The TV show Modern Family makes me happy. I love good comedy and quick wit, but I wouldn’t consider it a true source of joy in my life. Happiness and joy are not the same thing. Happiness is usually the result of a gift or an experience that eventually fades away. Joy is constant, it is found in the presence of God in my life.
This weekend in junior high we are talking about how the Good New of Great Joy entered our world in the midst of so much pain. 400 years of silence, God’s chosen people lost and confused, oppression by the Romans…where is God? Nazareth accusing Mary of adultery, the embarrassment of Joseph, the pain of being different…where is God? Bullying from peers, divorced parents at home, academic pressure from school…where is God?
Joy is born into turmoil and among the broken.
The gospel is known best in the midst of pain, abandonment, chaos, silence, and fear. Christmas is not the beginning of our story, but the major turning point when God provided a savior from the line of Abraham for the broken of our world.
In our loneliness there is a poor traveler from Nazareth, a rejected preacher with a heart for the meek, a man who demands our life.
I tend to expect God to interrupt my life with thundering noises and flashes of brilliant light, but what we learn in Christmas is that joy is found in the smile of a baby, the innocence of new life, the savior of the world.
No I don’t, but I find myself playing that game often…
This being the week of Thanksgiving, we are talking about how entitlement can ruin our sense of joy and thankfulness. When we believe we deserve something, we give up our opportunity for gratitude.
I am convinced that most of our pain comes from unmet expectations. Of course there are circumstances out of our control, but think about a time you have built up an idea only to be let down. It could be a movie, restaurant, our spouse, our ministry; unnecessary pain because we created an expectation that was unmet.
So how do we combat entitlement?
1. Recognize all you have; material and spiritual.
2. Understand that the more we work doesn’t mean the more we deserve.
3. Listen to Paul: Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
You are blessed, you are loved. My hope for junior high this weekend is that we can paint a picture of a gracious God who continues to bless us even when we don’t deserve it.
What are you thankful for?
I have some birthday money sitting on my bedside table that is tormenting me. What should I buy? What do I want? I can’t waste it, I only get extra money once a year!
The problem is our society is built on a system that says, “you earned that money, spend it how you want to!” Because we live in America we think that the more money and possessions we have, our happiness must be directly correlated. But the American Dream is not the church’s dream.
We are starting a 3-week series this weekend about Materialism and how it impacts our responsibility as Christians. Here is an overview of where we are going:
- Week1: I want vs. I have
- Week2: I deserve vs. I receive
- Week3: I hide vs. I give
My hope is to begin a conversation that encourages us to follow the gospel instead of the American Dream. Satisfaction is knowing that you have enough and you don’t need more, let’s make that decision together every single day.