Maximizing Your Privilege

I saw the police officer with the knee on George Floyd’s neck and I heard him beg for his life. I watched bystanders trying to help but they were blocked by another police officer. Slowly, that man’s life slipped away. It made me sick to my stomach. I just wanted it to stop. I felt the same way when I watched Ahmaud Arbery being gunned down. In those moments it was horrifying to see those men lose their lives on camera for the world to see. It was the same feeling I had when I watched The Passion of the Christ during the whipping scene. I just wanted it to stop.

As I hear of protests going on for now over two weeks, with no end in sight, I have seen numerous cries on social media for people to speak out against racism. I have heard people grouped together by their skin color or their profession (police) as if everyone feels the same or has the same experience. I think it’s wrong to say that all white people or all policemen are the enemy.

            I took time to pray and reflect.  I prayed Psalm 139:23 “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts.”  This is a scary prayer.  When I prayed and asked God to show me what’s inside my heart and what I need to confess and repent of, He showed me that the root of my sin was deeper than an issue of skin color.  

            I looked up Racism to make sure I had a clear understanding of the issue at hand.  Here is the definition: Racism: a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.

            As I read that definition and looked within I don’t think racism is my primary issue.  I am afraid it goes deeper than that.  

My biases and preferences go deeper than race.   

I have a number of black friends, but the more I have thought about it, they are black friends that have conformed to the way I live.  They are similar to me.  I have found that I don’t like being around people that look a certain way, smell a certain way, live a certain lifestyle, act a certain way, talk a certain way, or even dress a certain way.   It pains me to write this, but you see my biases are against anyone that is not like me. Anyone that makes me uncomfortable, I would never actively oppress them, or even be unkind (I am a pastor you know), but I would be something much more heinous…I would avoid them.  Hatred is most clearly shown towards those we distance ourselves from.   We sanitize our lives in a way that allows us to enjoy our bubble.  

            It would be comforting if this was limited to me, but it’s not.  The Bible teaches that sin is in the heart of every man.  While we may experience this at different levels we all have the same issues.  I don’t know if I know ANY self-proclaimed racists.   I’ve gone through the rolodex of my mind and I know of NONE!   I know of no one that would knowingly and actively seek to persecute or discriminate against someone because of his or her skin color. All of our biases are more subtle…they are in our hearts and our minds.

            I have heard a lot about unconscious bias and white privilege.  I looked into this in my own life as well.  I have both.  I’ve tried to list some of my privileges:

I am Caucasian.   

I grew up in a Christian home with two loving parents.

You can look at this from a couple of different perspectives.  The first perspective says that because of things I did not choose I should feel guilt and apologize to those who were born without the same privileges.  Guilt is usually a tool of Satan that never leads to positive action.   The second perspective, I believe is more constructive.  I see every “privilege” that I did not choose as a “platform” given by God for loving Him and loving others.  I see any advantage given to me as a platform for which I should make Jesus known to others.  

Every person has some level of privilege or advantage.  Here are a few more of mine.  

Male Privilege 

As I thought about my privilege I thought about how being a man must be easier than being a woman.  I ask my wife to not jog unless it’s at certain times in certain places because I have a fear she could be assaulted.  I do not fear this for myself.  

Adult Privilege 

I have adult privilege.  I can watch TV late at night and not brush my teeth before I go to bed because I am an adult.  My children cannot do this.  They are forced to go to sleep each night when I tell them to.  

American Privilege 

I was born in the USA!   Most of the people in the world do not have the freedoms I have.  I can worship freely and post all kinds of crazy things on the internet without fear of being thrown in jail or killed.  

Intellectual Privilege 

I was born with a mind that is just above average and I can coherently put together thoughts and have completed postgraduate degrees.  This is an advantage I have to people with below average IQ’s.   

Grace Privilege 

The greatest privilege in my life is one that maybe others don’t think about but it’s the privilege of Grace.  God didn’t have to choose to forgive me, but He did.  He didn’t have to call me out for salvation, but he did.  

I could go on for days about my privileges and if you took the time to really think about it you could to.  All of these privileges that I have listed were not initiated by me, but given to me!  

Are these reasons to feel guilt? Or are these gifts and platforms I have been given to exalt Jesus?

Every person has advantages and disadvantages.  

You can always find someone who has had more privileges than you and you can always find someone who has less giftings and privileges than you. Guilt never solves or helps anything. You should find ways to empathize, but instead of living in guilt for things that you did not choose it would be more beneficial to see your privileges as a platform.

Privilege implies that you are using a gift that you did not choose in order to look down on those who do not have the same advantages.  When you see your gifts that you did not choose as a platform you understand that God gives you a platform so that you can put Him on the platform.  

The Christian understanding is that we have been blessed to be a blessing.  We are called to be conduits of God’s grace in the life of others. 

We do not use our platform for promoting the latest “woke” social media fad but we use our platform to point people to the gospel.  

Justice and Peace have true rooting only in the gospel.  Apart from God and the word of God there is not foundation for justice, peace or morality. 

            Jesus gives us clarity on helping others who are hurting and broken.  I want to give you two stories that Jesus told that I think will help us all in this season.  

The Good Samaritan –  (Luke 10) Jesus was illustrating to a privileged group of religious people how they were to love their neighbor.  He chose to illustrate this with a racially charged story.  He told about a man (presumably Jewish) who was beaten and left for dead.  Two religious leaders who could and should have helped the man walked right by him, justifying their actions with religious jargon.  A third man came by, a Samaritan.   This was the people group that the Jews hated the most.  The Samaritan had compassion on the man and helped him.  Jesus said we are to be like the Samaritan.  We have compassion and we help those in need, even if they are different than us.  We love our neighbor when we help our neighbor.  Now is a great time to do that!  There is no doubt that my black brothers and sisters feel broken and hurt.   It’s a time for those who can to pour salve on the bitter wounds of years of mistreatment.  This doesn’t mean we all need to be bullied into following the latest fad on social media.  It’s more helpful to have actual conversations with people who are different than us.  Hear their stories.  Empathize.  Really care.   Help our children be better than we are.  Run to Jesus. 

The Parable of the Talents – (Matthew 25) Jesus tells a parable of about three servants who were entrusted with three different sums of money (talents) that they were to invest for the master while he was gone. One was given 5 talents, one 2, and the other servant was given 1 talent. Each talent represented a large sum of money. When the master returned from a long journey the first two servants had doubled their money and pleased the master. The third servant buried his one talent and blamed the master. If you think about the talents in the story as “privileges” or “platforms” which a person was born with then the idea is to use them all to please the master. If we make our life’s work about complaining about how we all didn’t get the same amount of talents then we are essentially burying our talent. Use the gifts you have been given to please Jesus. If you have “white privilege” then use it to pull others up.

In summary: 

We all have wicked hearts marred by sin and full of prejudice.  

Jesus is the only one who can fix our wicked hearts. 

We should use whatever privilege we have as a platform to love God and love our neighbors so that we will please the Master (Jesus).  

The black community is hurting right now and needs compassion.   

How should Christians respond to Corona?

I am shocked at how quickly the world slowed down. In a matter of days we went from normal life, to schools being closed down and everyone being told to stay at home and away from large gatherings. I think in our day we’ve all seen too many post-apocalyptic movies for our own good. Surely the robots will be taking over soon and the zombies will arise, or maybe not. Maybe in a week, or a month, or a few months life will get back to normal. In the mean time, how should we as Christians respond to this virus and the time we have set away from our normal routines? How do we honor God while we wait? Here are just a few ideas.

Get Margin – You have been too busy! God has given you a slow down that you wouldn’t take on your own but you needed. Talk to you spouse. Play board games with your kids. Read more. Read your Bible.

Pray! The Southern Baptist Convention and the President have both called for specific times of prayer. You have time! Pray!!!!

Trust God. People panic out of fear. This is where we as people of faith should be different. We do not fear because we believe that God is in control. The Bible tells us over and over again not to fear. Our calm spirit points others to our faith in God. They may just want to know a God that can give them the same level of peace.

HELP!!! If you take a quick look back at history you will see that every great plague or war or natural disaster the first responders have always been the people of God. We step in and step up when others are focusing on self-preservation. None of us know how widespread this virus will be in our nation but we do know that there will be people who need help. Jesus didn’t run from sick people. He helped them and so should we. Here are a couple of practical things you can do:

Check on the seniors that you know. It’s clear this virus is more dangerous for seniors than anyone else, especially if they have some preexisting conditions. If you have a neighbor or family member that is in that age category, call them and see if there is anything they need that you can bring to them and drop off at their door. Many seniors may not be aware of how to order Amazon fresh and they may need some help.

Childcare – With the schools being closed there are kids everywhere and some parents will not get a paycheck unless they go to work. They need help taking care of their children while they work. If you are able, then volunteer to help.

Money – There are those who will not be able to work because their workplace may be shut down and cannot pay them. They may need some real financial help to make it through. If you have more than enough then offer to help. If have food, share it. If you have toilet paper and your neighbor doesn’t, then give them a roll.

Help the Helpers – There are those in our community that are paid to be on the front lines fighting this virus. Doctors, nurses, paramedics, police officers and others are the ones who will be working round the clock to end this pandemic. Look for opportunities to thank and bless these workers. Pray for them.

Share the Hope of Jesus. When people are afraid or anxious they need hope. Tell them of the hope you have in Jesus.

Don’t buy into panic. You will see huge lines at the grocery store. Don’t fight over toilet paper. Don’t push. Be patient. Thank the grocery store workers who are surely tired and over worked.

Get the things done at home that you have not had time to do. Do you have a closet that you have needed to clean for 2 years that you have never had time for? Do it! Make a list of the stuff you have been avoiding at your house and make it happen.

What would you add to my list? I would love to hear it.Screen Shot 2020-03-14 at 8.16.10 AM

“Go Sterilize Yourself”

Sometimes the world can be cruel but the Internet takes it to the next level.  I’ve tried to make it a practice not to get involved in debates on social media.  In my younger days I would engage in conversation and it almost never helped anything.  Online debate never goes well and people are usually cruel.  Online debates are like two toddlers fighting over a toy with no parent to moderate.

I think Twitter is perhaps the vilest of the social media world.  Recently on Twitter I broke my own rule and tweeted back at a political figure when I probably should have just scrolled on or better yet delete the app.

But alas there are certain hot buttons that make my anger rise up.  Abortion is the main one.  This politician said we should elect more women who will make sure women get the ‘reproductive healthcare’ they need.  She is an outspoken advocate for abortion and her name rhymes with Billary.   I gave a two-word response tweet, “Let’s not.” That was it.  It was snarky and perhaps I shouldn’t have done it but the fury that ensued was enlightening.

My two word reply gained dozens of responses.  I was told to ‘go sterilize myself.’  I was told that I was a weak man who was afraid of women.  I was told I hated women.  Many of the responses said that they felt sorry for my girls that I was their father.  And on and on it went.

As I looked at a number of the accounts of the people that were saying super cruel things I noticed that most of them didn’t have real names and many of them were accounts set up in a way that you couldn’t know the people commenting.

The Internet really allows people to say what they feel.  Maybe there are good reasons we don’t always say what we feel.  Maybe that is why we filter our words and choose them carefully before we fling them into the world.   If we always said what we felt most of us would be unemployed and divorced.  Social media creates a troll society in which people hide behind keyboards and say whatever they want.  It’s like a drive by shooting in which they can injure others with their words and move right on by.  Every person knows that old nursery rhyme is NOT true, “Sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me.”   So many of us have recovered from attacks by sticks and stones but words that were said decades ago still reverberate in our subconscious.

Screen Shot 2019-06-20 at 8.05.06 AM.pngI imagine if I met these keyboard warriors who were saying incredible things about me online they would probably be less brutal face to face.  In fact I would guess that we would probably get along and they might not find me as atrocious as their comments would indicate.  We could probably even be friends.  I have been all over the world and encountered people who look different than I do, dress different, smell different, and believe different that I do.  In all the people groups I’ve met I’ve always found common ground with people when I took time to listen to their story and engage with them on a personal level. People are amazing!   Social media strips people down to the naked root of their worst moments. 

Again, this is a problem with social media.  We think we know people based on a few things that the Internet says about them.   We find out their faith and political preference and we assume that’s all we need to know to sum the person up.

I would warn that it’s so important to be kind online.

I think perhaps the only way to be on social media is to be kind.

Part of the staff culture at the church I work at is something we say, “Don’t email hard stuff.”   I have just found that there’s so much room for misinterpretation through written emails that if there’s something going on that could possibly be misinterpreted through a text or email we ask our staff to pick up a phone or go to talk to someone face to face.  This usually makes the margin of misinterpretation much smaller and we are almost always more kind through face-to-face interaction. 

While social media has done amazing things in connecting the world, like money, it’s a tool that can be used for good or for evil.  Be very careful with your words on social media.  Don’t assume you know the person you don’t know.

If you’re a Christian remember that you never have the privilege of being unkind.  Don’t be like me and engage in fruitless debate and make snarky remarks.  You have better things to do with your time.  Bake a pie. Read a book.  Go on a walk.  Talk to your family.

If you must stay on social media engage in one simple rule.

Use your social media to encourage others.

Like pictures.
Leave encouraging comments.

Scroll past stuff that makes your blood boil and maybe even remove it from your news feed.

Be salt and light in our wicked culture.  Don’t be a troll.

 

 

“I’d Give More If I Had More”

I’ve heard people say, “If I had more I would give more.”   I think in my younger days I probably felt the same way.  People that have a lot should give a lot.

This seems reasonable. We all see ourselves as generally good and generous people.  Surely, if we had more we would give more.   We purpose that the reason we do not give more is because we don’t have much. If we were rich…well then…

This sounds nice but it isn’t true. 

If you don’t give when you have little then you surely won’t give when you have much.  When you have more you are not more inclined to be generous, you are typically more inclined to spend more on yourself.

Jesus took His disciples aside to show them a very un-extravagant gift. In Mark Chapter 12 He shows them a woman who was the poorest of the poor.   She had almost nothing to give, but she gave all she had. The pastor from the pulpit would not recognize her gift.  Her name would not be put on a plaque and hung up in the church.  No one would congratulate her for what she had done.

…But Jesus noticed her.

Jesus stopped to teach His disciples about giving by using her example.   She gave the equivalent of a penny, but she gave all she had.  Her gift was given out of love and was an example of her faith.  By giving the little she had it would leave her nothing to live on.  She was a widow so she had no husband to take care of her needs.   What she gave, she gave in faith, believing God could take care of her.

If you’re waiting to reach some standard of living before you become a generous person then you will never become generous.   If you give when you have little then God can trust you with more.

I will never forget something Pastor Rick Warren said.  I am paraphrasing, but he was asked why he believed God used him and not some other pastor to write the best selling book, “The Purpose Driven Life”?   Rick Warren’s response was, “because God could trust me with the money.”  Based on the sales of the book Rick paid back all the salary he had ever taken from the church he pastors.  He has also become a reverse tither, giving 90% of his income and living off of 10%.

I have been asking myself if God wanted to bless me with a huge financial gift, “could He trust me with the money?”

Could he trust you?

The best way to become a generous person is to take a step of faith and start giving.

Run It Back!

“Run It Back!” was the phrase we would hear on hot days at high school football practice.   Whether it was a drill we were doing or plays we were learning it meant that we didn’t do it right so we would do it again until we got it right.  We would practice the same drill over and over again until, for that day, we learned something.

High school football teaches you a lot about life.  Now I feel like my life is on an unending loop with my children.  I tell them the same basic things over and over again.  I even find myself quoting my high school football coaches in the process.  It’s simple stuff like cleaning a room without putting all the clothes under the bed or loading the dishwasher the right way.   The more they do it wrong the more I have to tell them to “Run it back.” This is how we learn.  We do it over and over and over again.

God teaches us the same way in our faith.   He shows us great spiritual truths about life or He gives us a spiritual breakthrough and if we grow we get to keep moving forward but if we don’t ‘get it’ then we have to run it back.

The Gospels can be almost comical when we look at the lives of the disciples.  They always have to “run it back.”  They seem very thick skulled and constantly frustrating Jesus with their lack of understanding.

They weren’t dense; they were just like we are.  Seeing yet not believing.

One particular example is in Mark 6 where Jesus fed 5000 people.   The people were hungry and Jesus told the disciples to go get them something to eat.  They were dumbfounded and completely clueless to how to accomplish this feat.   Jesus would then perform a miracle and feed the 5000 people with 5 loaves and 2 fish.  Just 2 chapters later in Mark 8, again Jesus is with a group of 4000 people with no way to feed them.  So what does He do?  He basically repeats the drill with His disciples.  Unfortunately they have the same boneheaded answer, “How can one feed these people with bread here in this desolate place?”

They had witnessed Him feed 5000 people and have 12 baskets left over but now with 4000 people in front of Him they had no clue how these people would be fed.   Boneheads!

Screen Shot 2019-06-14 at 7.59.12 AM.pngThese boneheads are just like me.  God shows me something and teaches me something about life and about His Kingdom and then I forget. 

The lessons for me that are the hardest to learn are the lessons of FAITH.

He took care of my child last time she was sick, surely He can do it now.
He got me through the last time I was anxious, surely He can do it now.
He met every need last time I was in a pinch; surely He can do it now.

God is constantly having me “run it back” when it comes to lessons of faith. 

It’s crazy because just like the disciples I have clearly recorded examples of where God has come through in my life.  He’s answered my prayers.  He’s been with me.  He’s come through.  I even keep a prayer journal with answer prayers to remember how God has come through.

Yet, here I go again. When the test comes I look at Jesus like those disciples.  I come to Jesus and say, “what are we going to do?”

Jesus is always gentle and He gets me through each trial teaching me the same lesson over and over again.  I think in heaven there must be a sigh and an eye roll of the angels and they say, “run it back.”  Rick sill isn’t getting it.

What about you?

Can you identify some areas in your life where maybe you keep coming to the same test?

What is it you need to learn?

What is keeping you from getting to the next drill?

Refusing Help

Sometimes I watch the Dr. Phil show.   It’s mind blowing to me how Dr. Phil can confront people with cold hard facts in an overwhelming way and they still deny the facts he’s presenting to them.  I was watching a clip from his show recently where he was confronting a lady who thought she was married to a man overseas but in reality she was being scammed for hundreds of thousands of dollars.  Doctor Phil and this woman’s family laid out all the facts and showed her evidence after evidence of how she was in fact being duped and used.  She held on to her fantasy because perhaps the truth was too painful.

This is an extreme example but I think we all don’t like to be confronted with areas of our life that are toxic. Screen Shot 2019-06-12 at 7.57.40 AM.png

In the Book of Mark Chapter 5 Jesus came to a village and set a man free of the bondage he was in. The man had been full of demons for years.  Jesus cast many demons out of this man and the whole village was in shock.

When this miracle took place instead of getting excited about it the people of the village asked Jesus to leave.  The people were afraid.  Jesus came to help these people and to set them free.  He came to offer them salvation but they would end up begging Him not to stay.

The great irony is that they were kicking out of their city the only one who could help them.
They thought they were ok but they weren’t.
They thought they didn’t need help but they did.

Have you ever been guilty of pushing someone away who was there to help?
Have you refused the good advice someone was giving you because you didn’t want to hear it?
Have you gotten angry with a friend or family member because they told you a hard truth about yourself that you did not want to deal with?

I know I have!

My wife has a way of telling me things I don’t want to hear about myself.  I usually get defensive but upon further reflection she is almost always right. The truth hurts.  I think there have been times when we have all said or done something to push the person away who is sent to help.

Why?
Why do we do that?

We do it because change is hard.
We do it because it exposes our motives.
We do it because sin is fun.
We do it because we want to stay the ruler of our own kingdom of self. 
We do it because we don’t want to admit we are wrong.
We do it because it may hurt our pocketbook.
Pride.  

Are you doing this now?

If Jesus came to your house today would you want Him to stay or leave?

It sounds simple enough but the reality is that when Jesus comes things change.  They always change.  The closer you get to Jesus the more your life will change.

He is a great big light that exposes what is in the dark of your heart.
He is the doctor that tells you that you have the cancer of sin and it must be cut out.
He is the one who pulls back the rug of your life and exposes all the dirt that is underneath.
He is the Dentist you have been avoiding that has to do a root canal to fix the problem.

Today, if Jesus came to you exposing all the junk that is inside of you would you want it fixed?

He offers to fix you but in order to fix you, you must come clean about your sin and repent. There is no other way to let Him fix you.

People hated Jesus. They wanted Him to leave their city.  Ultimately they wanted Him dead.   We never like our sin and wicked self exposed.  So much so, that we would be willing to kill an innocent man to keep it a secret.

This almost sounds silly but this is what millions of people do everyday.  They are confronted with truth and rather than live in the light of the truth they simply ignore the truth or just deny it.

You can ignore truth. You can ask Jesus to leave.  You have the freedom to make those choices.

But you can never make bad choices and have good long term results.

Eventually your sin will find you out.  Eventually you will reap the bitter fruit you planted.  Eventually you will have to pay for your sins.

It’s better to invite Jesus to have control now then for you to end your life separated from God.

Do not ask Jesus to leave.  Today, let Him come and do His work in your life.  Let Him deal with your ‘demons.’  Let Him expose your sin.  Let Him love and forgive you.  It will require some pain and change but in the end it will mean the difference in life and death.

A few steps:

  1. Listen when people you love tell you that you have a problem.
  2. Read your bible and identify what needs to change in your life.
  3. Confess your sin and repent.
  4. Get help.  Go to church. Find a small group.   See a counselor.  Get in a recovery program like this one https://www.christplace.com/chance2/
  5. Follow Jesus.   Make time each day to seek Jesus in prayer and reading the Bible.

 

 

The “What About Them?” Disease

One of the most basic principles I see over and over again that is lost on most people is a principle that Jesus taught about investing what is given.

Mark 4:24 and he said to them, “Pay attention to what you hear: with the measure you use, it will be measured to you, and still more will be added to you. 25 For to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”

I think what Jesus was saying was simple.

Pay attention –> Use what you learn –> When you use what you learn you will be entrusted with more.

He said this in a number of different ways in the gospels.  He talked about three different individuals that were given money (talents/minas) by their master. They were told to invest the money while their master was gone.  One was given 10, one 5, and one 1.   The one with 10 double his money. The one with 5 doubled his money. The one with 1 was fearful and buried his money so not to lose it.

When the master returned he rewarded the two servants who had invested his money and gotten a return on it. He punished the wicked servant who buried his money and the master gave the money to the one who had 10.

This is such a picture of life.  Some of us are born with many gifts and abilities some of us are born with few. The focus is not on fairness. Lots of people today want to focus on the fact that some have many talents and some of few.  The best question is not how to make everyone equal, but what am I doing with what has been entrusted to me?

When I am faithful with the gifts, talents and knowledge the Lord has given me then He will give me more.

If I take the gifts that I have been given and I don’t use them or I simply get upset because another guy is more gifted than me I waste my gifts and I dishonor the giver of my gifts.

Many people today who want more gifts but have not invested the ones they have.  They want more responsibility but have not been faithful with the little responsibility they are given.

If you want to one-day run the company then start by cleaning the toilets.
If you want to preach to 1000’s then start by leading a 6thgrade boys Sunday School Class.
If you want to have a family then start by getting a job and taking care of yourself.
If you want to run a marathon then you better start walking a little more each day.
If you want to be a scholar then spend time reading today.
If you want to have a lot of friends then find someone to be friendly to.
If you want your kids to grow up to be awesome individuals then take time today to teach them something meaningful.
If you want to be a great musician then you must practice everyday.

We all know it takes thousands of bricks to build a home, but homes never get built unless someone starts laying some bricks.  If a house builder focuses on the heat, how big the house is, and how few helpers he has then he will never lay bricks.

You will never get to the future that you want if you don’t do now what you are supposed to do.

So many people focused on others that they waste the talent that has been given to them.  They have the “what about him” disease.  This disease infects us all and over the course of our lives we must learn to eradicate it from our lives.  I see it so clearly in my children.  If I ask them to clean something up I can expect within a short period of time the question to come from one of them, “what about ____________ they are not doing anything?”   To which I always respond, “It is not your job to worry about _____________.  It is your job to do what I asked you to do!”

When you worry about others you steal from your ability to do what you have been gifted to do and you bury your talent.

What are you good at?
What do you want to be good at?

Be faithful today to do something today and you will see growth tomorrow.Screen Shot 2019-06-11 at 7.33.04 AM.png

 

 

A Different Kind of Family

What does family mean to you?

To me, family is a word that represents closeness.  Usually when we talk about family we are talking about our blood relatives, father, mother, brothers and sisters.  These constitute the closest relatives that we can have.

Families are the people that know you better than most and love you anyway.

Families are the people who show up in your life when everyone else may be leaving.

Families are the ones whom you have shared much of life and childhood with.

Families are the people who shaped you when you were a child.

Families are the people you look like and have mannerisms like.

Families are the people you go home to at holidays.

Families are the people who are sit with you when you are in the hospital.

Families are the people who give you money if you have an emergency.

Families are the people you build a future with.

Families are typically the closest group of people you have on earth.

Growing up in my home were Dad, Mom and my two older brothers.   These people I dearly love and they are my family.  God has blessed me with a spectacular earthy family of my own.  I have a wife and five children.

Not all families love. Not all families are great.

I have often heard it said that blood is thicker than water.   There are some who believe blood relationship is closer than any other earthly bond.

Jesus didn’t seem to think that blood relationships defined family.

Jesus made it clear that there was a deeper family.

When he was preaching, teaching and healing his earthly family (mom and brothers) came to Him. It seems that they wanted to shut Him up.  When asked if He would see His family Jesus gave a peculiar answer.  He said, “Who are my mothers and brothers?” And looking about at those who sat around Him, he said, “here are my mother and brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.” 

Jesus was making a point. Blood relatives are important but real family is found in the kingdom of God.

Belief is a stronger than blood.

The Kingdom is more important than kin.

This is a hard lesson that Jesus was teaching.  Jesus would make it clear that to put faith in Him would sometimes cause a huge rift in families.  It would cause a major divide.   Not everyone would trust Him.  Not everyone would follow Him.  Jesus would not apologize when He said that he would set mother against daughter and father against son.

The Kingdom of God is more important than the Kinship of man.

But to follow Jesus and be at odds with your family does not leave you without a family.  Jesus was making the point that there is a greater family.  It’s a family of something deeper than blood, belief.  It is a family of faith.

Blood, but not our blood unites the Church, the family of God.   The blood of Jesus unites us.  We hold to a common core belief that rules all other beliefs.  It’s the belief that Jesus is the Messiah.  He died for the sins of the world.

While we still have physical families we have a spiritual family and if our earthly family does not line up with our spiritual family (the church) then we must go with our spiritual family.

The strongest and most complete picture of family is when your earthly family and your spiritual family align.  My greatest prayer for my wife and children is that their first and most important relationship will be with Jesus.   When they are following Jesus and I am following Jesus we align our lives in every way.

If you did not grow up in a home with a close earthly family, God did not leave you without a family. When you follow Jesus you become part of a big family.  The Church becomes your brother and sisters.  You find a place of love and acceptance.

The church is the family of God and the hope of the world.

 

I See You

How do you see people?
Do you see people as they are or as they could be?

Have you ever had someone believe that you could be somebody or do something that you didn’t think you could be or do?

…Maybe they called out a particular gift they saw in you.
…Maybe they asked you to do a job you did not think you were capable of doing.

When people have called me out in positive ways it has always resulted in growth in my life.  If I did not believe in myself then I would borrow their belief in me.

Jesus had a unique way of seeing people.

In the book of Mark chapter 2 Jesus is beginning His ministry and He calls a guy out named Levi. The Bible says that Jesus “saw Levi…sitting at the tax booth, and He said to him, ‘Follow me.’”

Jesus SAW Levi in a way that other religious leaders would never have seen him.  Levi was a tax collector.  In those days a tax collector was a despised thief of his own people. He would have been picked last for any potential role as a spiritual leader.  He would’ve been seen as the worst kind of sinner.

But Jesus SAW him differently.

Like new parents watching their child, Jesus saw, not who he was, but who he could be.  Jesus made a huge ask of him.  Jesus essentially asked him to completely change his life.  Jesus was saying, “leave the tax collecting business…leave everything and follow me.”

Levi would go on to be a world-changing disciple of Jesus Christ and would write the book of Matthew in the New Testament.

Jesus sees you differently than anyone else sees you.  He loves you more than your mama.

At some point in time we get stuck with a label of who we are.

Slow.  Fat.  Dumb. Lazy.  Angry.  Loser.  Just Like Your Mom/Dad.  Not popular.  Ugly.  Pretty.  Skinny.  Smart.  Black. White.

There seems to come a time in our lives when we’ve been told enough who others think we are and we start believing their voices.  The people that tell us who we are have great impact for good or for evil in our lives.

Be really careful whom you listen to.
Be reminded today of how Jesus sees you.
He knows you better than anyone and He loves you.
He knows the deepest darkest part of you and He still offers love and forgiveness.
Screen Shot 2019-06-08 at 7.34.02 AM.pngHe calls you to be who you can be and not who you are.

The call is the same today as it was in the time of Levi.  If you want to be whom Jesus is calling you out to be there are two words that will make all the difference, “Follow Me.”

When you say yes to follow Jesus you are saying “No” to the other voices in your life who are telling you what and who you should be.

You get to choose the voice you will follow.

Today my prayer for you is that you will be able to see how much Jesus loves you. My prayer is that you will also see others, not as their label or their outside, but as Jesus might see them.

Speak life into others! There are some pretty bright lights in this world that may just need an encourager to flip their switch on.

 

When Life Is Overwhelming

As I get older my life becomes more and more about responsibility.   I have a job where a number of people depend on me.  I have 5 children and sometimes the perfect storm can happen when life can just feel downright overwhelming.

That’s where I find myself this morning.  My 4th child, Joy has pneumonia and she’s been in the hospital for 6 days. If you’ve ever stayed the night in the hospital it’s a super expensive hotel room that provides the most awful nights sleep.  My wife has been there 4 nights in a row.

When one child is sick that doesn’t mean the other 4 cease to have needs.   Here’s a little rundown of the frustrating week we’ve had.

It all started with Joy getting a virus.  Joy passed the stomach virus on to Charyl.   A few days later Joy’s cold worked its way into her lungs and Joy was hospitalized with pneumonia and low O2.  This led to Charyl and I missing our 14thwedding anniversary date because we were in the hospital with Joy.  Next, we missed our baby, Mary Charlotte’s, second birthday party because Joy was in the hospital.  The next morning Mary Charlotte woke up with the stomach bug and threw up all over big brother Ty.   Because of Mary Charlotte now being sick both Charyl and I would miss Ty’s (Our oldest child) 5th grade graduation and end of the year festivities.  From here things went from bad to worse for Joy.  Her O2 numbers were not going up quickly enough so she was transferred to ICU at Scottish Rite by ambulance.  Around this time I picked up some of Joy’s bacteria and decided to develop bronchitis.   To the doctor I went to get a Z-pack.   The drama continues as Ty then received the blessing of the all night stomach bug from Mary Charlotte.   It gets better!   Grandma (my mom) who came to help with all this chaos now received the gift of the stomach bug.

Joy is still in the hospital. If the dog died this week then we would complete our country music song of a life.  Good luck Duke.

Sometimes these kinds of weeks happen when you have a lot of children.  Sometimes life is just hard.   Life is suffering.  I know there are so many people out there whose daily reality is worse than my overwhelming times.

God gives Grace.

When these things happen I always feel like God is making me sit still.

I hate sitting still.
I like to do things.
I need to move.

When life is overwhelming sometimes you have no option but to sit in a hospital room and wait.

Wait and think.  Wait and Pray.   Wait and trust.

It’s hard to see far into the future when you have an immediate issue in front of you.  But when life puts you in time out you need to think.  You need to pray.

Think about your blessings.

In the midst of trials to get your mind out of the gutter you need to think about the blessings of God.

Thank you Lord that I have children to love and take care of.
Thank you Lord that I have an amazing wife who takes such good care of all of us.   Thank you Lord for your church that reaches out to help.
Thank you Lord for sending Charyl’s mom and sister to help her at the hospital and provide the support and encouragement that Joy and Charyl have needed.

So many people have checked on Joy, helped with children, brought us dinner and prayed for us.

What do people do who do not have a church family?

Thank you Lord that we live in a place where our children can get good health care.  Many children in the world don’t have hospitals like we do.
Thank you Lord for nurses and doctors that care about helping my child get well.
Thank you Lord that my mom is here from Florida to help with the other 4 children. There is always so much to be grateful for.

If we keep our eyes on our circumstances we will be overwhelmed and consumed.  But if we keep our eyes on Jesus we have hope.  We have hope that there’s a better tomorrow, even if today stinks.

If you take the time to be grateful in the midst of feeling overwhelmed it brings a calm to your soul.  It’s God reminding you that He is good.

A pastor friend in Florida has been praying for my family and for Joy.  He sent me this text: “Hold to His promise to you in Lamentations 3:21-23 ‘This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope.  It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not.  They are new every morning: great is Thy faithfulness”

Think about the faithfulness of God.

Remembering what I have to be thankful for and dwelling on the faithfulness of God helps me when going through overwhelming times as a parent.   Knowing deep in my heart and soul that He doesn’t leave me and He doesn’t forsake me.  If I will lean into Him, I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.  I can be content and even joyful in every situation.

When you have a sick kid and you can’t help them, the beast of fear starts rising up in your heart. You are keenly aware of your lack of ability to help your child.   The only answer to fear is faith.  Fear yells at you with all the things that could go wrong.  Fear brings up the worst-case scenario first.

Faith reminds you that you have been here before and God’s brought you through.
Faith reminds you that God is in control of every breath.
Faith reminds you that God loves your child more than you do.
Faith reminds you that no matter what happens God’s in control of it all and His word is true, “He works all things to the good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.”

Faith and hope working together are powerful forces.

Who knows when this season of sickness will end?  We may be in for another difficult week.Screen Shot 2019-05-27 at 7.29.08 AM.png

I pray we will honor God in the storm.  I am also praying that He will stand up and calm the storm.   He knows best.