The King Puts on an Apron

cu-edu-blog-images-5typesofteahcers-mockup-page-v2_03Unless you’re extremely lazy, under the age of 2, or a squash, you’ve had a job at some point in your life. Even most children have some sort of chores they have to complete at home. Having a job typically means you are under someone’s authority. There is someone who leads, manages, or supervises the quality and quantity of your work, i.e. parents, teachers, coaches, and bosses. Even a squash(es) are under the authority of the farmer, (except yellow squash. You have to watch out for them).

So let me ask you: what has been your experience with the authority figures in your life? Have they been generally positive? Do you frequently say to yourself, “Man I’ve been blessed with a wonderful teacher/coach/parent/boss/director/etc.?” What about the political leaders you know? Do you look at them and say, “Boy, those folks really work to serve me and the best interests of the country?”

hysterical-laughing-i6HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!! Oh boy, that’s a good one, right?

There’s a reason incredible teachers, coaches, politicians, and leaders stand out and that we memorialize leaders like Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr. It’s because they’re so rare in this world. If we’re being honest we can say the norm of leadership is average or just plain awful. Why? Because the world is fallen and corrupted by sin. As a result we experience authority figures who are rude, selfish, incompetent, unpleasant, and sometimes even tyrannical and destructive. Continue reading

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Where Me and God Talk About Difficulty.

God: “Listen, I know you’re going through a really tough time lately. So I wanted to give you some encouragement.”

Me: “Oh really. That’s fantastic. I could really use it.”

God: “I know.”

Me: “I mean, not to complain, but this period of my life has been really tough. We’ve had to struggle through some things as a family, we’ve really been fighting against doubt, fear, despair, confusion, and weakness. So whatever encouragement you’ve got to share, I’m all ears.”

God: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

Me: “Wait…what?

Ha ha. Really funny God. You got me on that one. Jokes on me. Oh man, ha ha. You’ve got a great sense of humor. Has anyone ever told you that?

No seriously. That’s no help at all. I mean if your power is made perfect in weakness, then I’m doing REALLY well already. I mean, I’ve got to be one of the most powerful people in the world.
I don’t want weakness. I don’t want difficulty, thank you very much. I would rather be one of those people you bless, like that guy who preaches in the football stadium and smiles too much.”

God: “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,”

Me: “Timeout! I do not like where this is heading!”

God: “for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.”

Me: “Can I pass on steadfastness? I’d rather be an un-steadfastness type person and just have a really big house and a big truck.”

God: “And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

Me: “I’ll settle for just a truck. How’s that?”

God: “You’re a bit stubborn, aren’t you?”

Me: “Funny you should say that. My wife tells me that all the time.”

God: “Consider him who endured from sinners much hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.”

Me: “Too late! I’m already weary and fainthearted. Can I just opt out of whatever you’re trying to teach me?”

God: “In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.”

Me: “Yes and I’d like to keep it that way.”

God: “And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?”

Me: “I make it a point to avoid fatherly exhortations. Just ask my dad on earth. I never listened to his exhortations. Exhortations = bad. Money to go to the movies = good.”

God: “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”

Me: “Is this one of those ‘It hurts me more than it hurts you’ talks?”

God: “It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant,”

Me: “Yep. Definitely one of those talks.”

God: “but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”

Me: “What if I don’t want the really peaceful fruit of righteousness? Is there like a grade C fruit of righteousness that I can choose?”

God: “No.”

Me: “Dang it.”

God: “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings,”

Me: “Why? Why rejoice in sufferings? What sort of crazy person says, ‘Yay, suffering! I’ll take two scoops of that please! Why do we rejoice in difficulty?”

God: “knowing that suffering produces endurance

Me: (groan)

God: “and endurance produces character

Me: (ugh)

God: “and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into your hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

“I love you. I know what I’m doing in your life. I will never leave you or forsake you and I can take the most difficult, stressful, confusing, and painful things in your life and use them to do something wonderful in you and in the world around you.”

Me: …

God: “What’s that?”

Me: “Fine. But I don’t have to like it.”

God: “That’s okay. But one day you will look back and thank me for it.”

Me: “Okay. But can I get just a glimpse of how it’s all going to work out?”

God: “No.”

Me: “It was worth a shot.”

(Verse quotations from 2 Corinthians 12:9, James 1:2-5; Hebrews 12:3-12 (selected), Romans 5:3-5).

How Hope Went Down the Waterfall…and I Ate Ice Cream

Author’s note: This is a re-posting from my old blog site. It was one of my favorites, so I wanted to post it here.

dangerMy wife and I had such high hopes. We were going to take our kids to a state park, hike to a waterfall, observe God’s glory in creation, play in the sparkling water at the foot of the falls, and most importantly, create some wonderful family memories. It would be a fantastic experience we would all remember forever. It started out so well. The drive to Dupont State Forest outside of Hendersonville, N.C. was beautiful. The weather was cool, the trees were green, and the sun was shining.

We were going to have a good time.

Then, like the water cascading down the falls, our hopes came crashing down to reality.

It started with Child #3, who complained the entire way down the trail. “My stomach hurts. My feet hurt. I don’t like walking. I want to go home,” he said. Despite the best threats and bribes we could muster the whining continued for the half mile down the trail.

Still, we were going to have a good time.

We arrived to the base of the falls and sat down for our picnic lunch. Then the complaints began from Child #2 and Child #3. “I didn’t want a ham sandwich. Ew, there’s a bug. My pants are dirty. Mack touched me. She’s eating all of the grapes.”

Still, we’re going to have A GOOD TIME.

triple-fallsBellies full and nerves a bit frayed, we climbed to the pool by the falls. Pictures were taken with smiling happy faces. We took our shoes and socks off to let our feet rest in the cool waters. The glory of God was seen in nature. My wife and I hugged each other and smiled. We said to our kids, “Enjoy yourselves, children. See what God has made. Look at the beautiful water. Listen to the roar of the falls as it –” “MOMMY, MACK FELL IN THE WATER!” yelled child #1.

“WHAAAA! MY SHIRT IS WET. MY PANTS ARE WET. I’M COLD,” said child #3.

“Mommy, I stepped in the water,” said child #2.

“Why?” asked my wife.

“She pushed me!” said child #2.

“No I didn’t!” said child #1.

“I’m sorry I got wet,” said child #3.

“Where’s my socks?” I asked.

“I think I dropped them in the water,” said my wife.

“I want to go home,” said everybody.

Still…we’re going to have a good time.

Now each of us is either dirty, wet, frustrated, tearful, or all of the above as we headed back to the car. Child #2 is wearing my shirt because she fell into the water and her clothes are soaking wet. Child #1 is sulking because she had pushed Child # 2 into the water and was soundly rebuked for her behavior. I’m carrying child #3 because his legs hurt and I’m tired of hearing him complain.

Still…we’re going to…oh forget it.

So what is the point? Do we as parents just give up on these outings? Should we not try to make pleasant memories for our families? Is my wife crazy to keep trying this sort of thing? Of course she is! Wait, that’s not my final answer.

The truth is sinful/fallen children and parents, living in a fallen world, who go to water-falls, (see what I did there?), are going to experience days like today. We’re going to screw up, fall into the water, yell at our kids, and our best laid plans for great memories are going to go awry.

So what do we do? We alternatively laugh or cry at our experiences and seek the Lord for the grace to redeem even the worst of days.

On the way back to the van, my wife, the more Christ-like of the two of us, stopped us in the middle of the trail and asked us all to pray. So even though we were tired, wet, frustrated, angry, bitter, and disappointed, we stopped and asked God to give us better attitudes, forgive us, and help us love one another.  We acice-cream-sundae-167571_640knowledged the morning had been a disaster and prayed for his grace for the rest of the afternoon.

Then we went and got ice cream.

And we all had a good time.

Waiting Stinks Like Old Milk.

WaitingWaiting stinks. We have to wait in traffic to get to and from work. We wait at restaurants to get lunch. We wait in line at the grocery store. We wait for our children to go to bed so we can get a few minutes of peace. We wait for college football to start, (at least I do). We wait for packages to arrive. We wait and wait and wait and wait…

Dr. Seuss has a whole section about waiting in his book, “Oh the Places You’ll Go“. It’s not a happy section. “Waiting for a train to go or a bus to come, or a plane to go or the mail to come, or the rain to go or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow or waiting around for a Yes or No or waiting for their hair to grow. Everyone is just waiting.” Not exactly “there is fun to be had, there are games to be won“, right?

Government agencies are Satan’s “Ode to Waiting”, (not as good as another Ode I know). We wait for our tax returns, we wait for business license, we wait, wait, and wait at the DMV, only to be told we don’t have the right paperwork even though they told us last time to bring exactly the paperwork we have in our hands right now, (but I’m not bitter).

The worst waiting of all though, is waiting on the Lord. Continue reading

I’m Just a Wiener Christian

OSCAR_MAYERLast week my wife and I were talking about a tough time our family was going through. In a moment of brutal honesty, she stated, “Spiritually I’m a wiener.” I totally understood what she meant. In my walk with the Lord I want to be a person who faithfully trusts God, who perseveres in trial, and lives a life of unswerving excellence and godliness in spite of whatever challenges and stresses I face. I want to be someone my kids look up to and say, “Daddy trusts and walks with God no matter what.” In hot dog terms I want to be the premium quality sausages at the grocery store which costs the most money; the kind you have to ask the butcher for specifically. “Yes sir, can I have the Travis Sausage, please? We’re having a very special event and I only want the best.”

Instead I find, more often than not, I’m the store brand wieners on the bottom shelf which are definitely not kosher and which they sell in bulk for carnival folks to sell for 50 cents at the state fair. Oh, I wish I were an Oscar Meyer Wiener, for that is what I’d truly like to be, but spiritually I find I’m a class D hot dog. In times of crisis, I doubt God and his goodness. When I’m weary I lose perspective and trust in God’s sovereignty. When I don’t get my way, I worry and pout and cry like the world is coming to an end. I want to be incredible, but any difficulty reveals the simple truth. I. AM. A. WIENER. Continue reading

Worship Services Hurting part of the Body of Christ

indexChurches these days are seeking diversity in their congregations. “We need to be more diverse,” they say. Diversity is particularly sought among the racial makeup of the church. If a church has large numbers of African-Americans, Hispanics, and Caucasians mixed together, it is considered a diverse church. If a church is mostly filled with Caucasians, (saying “whites” just sounds weird), then it’s suddenly not diverse. Some churches make accommodations to their services, (worship/teaching styles, decor, etc), to encourage diversity among their members. It’s a big deal these days.

I’ve got nothing wrong with the church being diverse. It’s biblical. Humanity, in Christ, becomes one body. “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith…there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus,”(Galatians 3:26-28). In Christ the curse of the Tower of Babel has been reversed. What once was divided can become united. So diversity is good. Yaintrovert2y diversity!

However, by the actions of some on Sunday morning, churches can actually be less inclusive, (a popular word these days), and are unconsciously hindering their desire to be diverse. Churches can unwittingly alienate a particular people group. Continue reading