“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.

 

 

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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?

When A Prophet Gets Political

In the Bible prophets were those who spoke a message from God to people.  Most of the time these prophets and their messages were unpopular.

Today the voices of Pastors and Prophets have been diluted to the point that they have little power. It seems that many of God’s prophets have aligned themselves with politicians.  When this happens their message becomes diluted and weak.  The last couple of presidential cycles have exposed a lot of people that used to be my heroes.  Many of the ‘men of God’ that I looked up have cashed in their prophetic voices for political points.

In America it’s sometimes tricky to know when and when not to be involved in the political process.

Pastors are called to be the voices of truth in the culture.   When something is wrong we speak up no matter whom the politician who may be in office.

We pray for leaders.
We encourage leaders.
We also rebuke leaders when the need calls for it.

Mark Chapter 6 gives us a picture of one of God’s greatest prophets, John the Baptist.   It’s a hard chapter to read because in the chapter a wicked King named Herod would behead John.

I think there are some particularly interesting things we learn about what John did.

His primary job was to prepare the way for Jesus to come.  He did this with one message he preached that was essentially one word: “Repent.”

Repent is a Bible word that means to turn away from sin and turn toward God. He called the religious and political leaders of the day snakes and told them to repent.

No matter who was in front of him he preached the same message.

If you were rich, “repent.”
If you were poor, “repent.”
If you were old, “repent.”
If you were young, “repent,” and so the message went.

I think we can learn some things about the role of a prophet that have been lost on today’s preachers and prophets.

  • Prophets have a clear message. Speaking the message is the most important job of the prophet.  John was called, “a voice.”  A prophets job is to tell the truth.  They are truth tellers.
  • Prophets stay on message. The prophet did not change the message based on the audience.   John confronted King Herod not only with the message of repentance but the personal message of what Herod needed to repent of.   Sexual sin with his sister-in-law.  This very direct confrontation would land John in jail. Eventually he would lose his head.  The pressure he faced being in front of a king would have swayed most ‘prophetic voices’ of our day.  Maybe they would have said things like, “we are not electing a Pastor but a President.”  Wrong is wrong and the prophet always says so.  Voices from God should always say what God says.
  • Prophets pay a price. Being true to the message is almost always costly and even deadly to the prophet. Do a little study of the Old Testament prophets and you will find that they were not glamorous people but usually men that had incredibly difficult lives calling people to do what they did not want to do.  Most of them would die trying. Screen Shot 2019-06-13 at 8.02.51 AM.png

Pastor and Preachers are the prophets of our day.   It would do most of us well to stay on the point of the message of the Gospel.  We are kind when we can be kind but we always tell the truth even when it can damage us personally.

The mighty Twitter prophets clamor for follows and likes.  They seem to be more interested in fighting with each other than standing on the promises.

We speak out against injustice, murder, sexual immorality, lies, slander and the like no matter who is in office.  Our message is the same message of John and of Jesus….Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.

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.

 

 

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.

 

Lessons From The Bouncy House

As a parent, I see a bouncy house as a huge air inflated, germ infested, loud, injury waiting to happen. However, all my kids see is FUN!  Recently, our church had a block party complete with, you guessed it, bouncy houses.   My kids were overjoyed with excitement, particularly my 4 year old.  Joy (my 4 year old) was ready to conquer all of the bouncy houses.   She quickly ran from one to the next with excitement overload, as she couldn’t decide which one she wanted to try first.   She knew nothing of the lines of children who were politely waiting their turn. She ran right to the front of the line as if they had all been waiting just for her.  Each time I would pick her up and take her to the back of the line and instruct her that she needed to wait like everyone else.

Lesson One: Waiting Is Hard.

For some reason, my daughter thought she was entitled to the front of the line.  She thought, in her little 4-year-old mind, that it was her party and everyone else

IMG_1086was just an extra.  As a parent, most of my days are spent trying to teach my children a lesson that I am still learning.  Here is the lesson: this is not your party and the world does not revolve around you. From the time we are born we have a selfish inclination to want to put ourselves at the front of the line.  We would rather others wait than we wait.  To follow Jesus means you let others go first. The Bible teaches us to do nothing from selfishness or conceit, but in humility we should think of others as more important than ourselves.   The good thing about waiting is that if you take the time to look around, God has probably put you in line with people you can make friends with.  The wait may be better than the bouncy house.

Lesson Two: Obstacles Are Part Of Life.  Tackle Them With Excitement.

I loved watching Joy continue to get knocked down and bounce right back up and keep going.  She has always been very resilient.  She tried to climb the wall of the obstacle course and fell multiple times.  She smiled and giggled and got back up and tried again.   I know that life is no bouncy house.  Over the years I have also learned that so much of life is not about the obstacles in our lives, but about how we respond to them.  Life is really hard.  Life is better for those who can keep getting up and moving forward.  I wonder if you and I might make more progress in life if we had a different attitude towards obstacles.

Joy did not let the obstacles slow her down or discourage her, and neither should we.  We should know that on this crazy bouncy house called life we are going to fall, get knocked over and even get run over.   Get up.  Smile.  Move forward.

Lost your job, get up and find a new one.

Lost your hope, it may be right over the next obstacle.  Keep moving forward.

Friends let you down, find some new ones.

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You get the idea.

What is the obstacle of life today that is knocking you down?   Identify it, acknowledge it, make a plan and move forward.

For the Christian, the Bible gives hope and meaning to the obstacles we face.   It says, “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance.  And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.  And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.”

Lesson 3: You Might Not Want Help But You Need It

Her favorite bouncy was the obstacle course.  This was a big one with lots of little areas she had to go through and climb over.  I was nervous about Joy going on this obstacle course because she is small for her age and she has Down Syndrome, both of which Joy is completely oblivious.   I didn’t want her to get hurt as older and bigger children raced through the course.   I did what I often do.  I sent her big brother (Ty) with her to make sure she would make it through safely.

Joy is very headstrong and stubborn.   She would not quit, but there were a couple of barriers that no matter how hard she tried she wasn’t going to get over them.  She didn’t want help but she needed it.

She couldn’t quite make it over a certain wall so her big brother gave her a gentle nudge (yeah right, more like a mighty shove).  This was enough to help her make it to the next obstacle.  It does something to a father’s heart to see one sibling helping another.

There are times in our life when we all need help!

When the obstacles of life come along and we get stuck, we need a gentle push, or a helpful hand to pull us through.   Sometimes we need a mighty shove!  So many people get stuck and can’t move because they don’t have anyone to help them along.  They’ve chosen to isolate themselves and they think they can make it through life by themselves, but they can’t.

None of us can.

My little daughter with special needs will always need help, but so will all my other children.  They will all experience hurt, disappointment, setbacks, fears, and the hardship of life.  This is why family is important.  This is why a church family is important is as well.

The Bible says “Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.”

It blows my mind to think that we are more connected than ever and yet people feel lonelier than ever. The suicide rates in the US keep going up as more and more people find themselves hopeless.  We all have a deep need for the help of others but most of us are too prideful or afraid to ask.  God hardwired the need for friendship and community into every person.

If you have made it to an obstacle in life and you keep trying but keep getting knocked down, it’s time to ask for help.

Start with your family. If you have someone in your family that will help you, reach out to them and ask for help.

There is another family that is often stronger then blood relatives, it’s a church family.   Many times people are estranged from their own family and don’t feel they have anywhere to turn.  If you find yourself in that situation go to a local church. Meet some people.  Find a friend.   A loving church is the best place in the world to find real community.

I would love to meet you at Christ Place Church.  You can find out how to find some friends here www.christplace.com

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My Daughter Rides The Short Bus

People who ride the short bus are strong. They have to overcome challenges that typical children do not have to overcome.

The short bus is the bus that carries children with special needs to and from school. It’s short because each person on the bus needs some individual attention so the numbers of students on the bus are limited. When I was a kid growing up we made jokes about the short bus. When someone would do something senseless we might say they rode the short bus.

I never thought about the actual people on the short bus.

This week my daughter started riding the bus…the short bus.

You see as a kid I just did what all the other kids did. I made fun of those on the short bus. Those with special needs and those who are disabled are easy targets for ridicule by foolish young children.   What we don’t understand we fear or mock.

Oh how my perspective has changed. Now I am a dad who has a daughter that rides the short bus.   The short bus is different for me now. It is not filled with people to be made fun of; it is filled with treasure, the treasure of precious lives.

You see my daughter is ‘special.’   My daughter, Joy, has Down syndrome.  I feel like Down syndrome is such a misunderstood word in our culture.   Joy is so much more alike than different.

She is so wonderful I can’t adequately explain her. She wants to sit in my lap every morning and eat little bites.   She brings books and puzzles to me each night to read and put together. She loves to sing and loves to dance. She loves when her sisters chase her around the house. She loves piggy back rides from her big brother as he runs as fast as he can with her on his back shouting, “Yay!!” She wakes up early before all of her siblings and she knocks on the door (because is has child lock that she cannot get out of) and she will yell, “DADDY!” until I go and let her out. She is very independent. She’s beautiful and loving. She is sooo loving. Last year in her preschool class she won the award for, “Best Hugger.” When her preschool class performs she steals the show with her sparkling personality. Parents of other kids her age that are in her class tell me often how their child loves Joy and constantly talks about her. I wouldn’t change a thing about Joy (well maybe her obstinance).  She is so much more than a rider on the short bus.

Having a daughter with special needs has really taught me to look deeper into people then what is on the outside, or what diagnosis they have.

Having a daughter that rides the short bus has opened up my mind and heart to see the incredible people inside the short bus.

People who ride the short bus are strong. They have to overcome challenges that typical children do not have to overcome. Some of their challenges are physical, some are mental, some are emotional, and some have all three.

Mrs. Judy drives our short bus. She is a kind and loving woman. She has tried to get Joy on her bus for over a year, but truth be told, I just didn’t want to give her up. The bus would make my life easier but it means I don’t get mornings in the car with Joy. She told me she would put off retirement another year if I would give her Joy.   Wow! Mrs. Judy gets it!   She sees such value in each and every life that she carries on her “special” bus.   She gives her heart and soul into investing into those little children. The first day Joy rode the bus Mrs. Judy had new clothes for her that she bought her (not your typical bus driver).   Judy is a gem, but I believe she would tell you that those children give her more than she could ever give them. They give her their love.

I am so thankful for the Short Bus.

Can I give you a challenge today?   Will you be careful to see every person as valuable?

The Bible teaches us that we are all made in the image of God. Every person has so much value and worth…if we would just take the time to see it.