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).

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

Prayer. It’s frustrating.

christ-asleep-in-his-boat-jules-joseph-meynierI don’t like prayer.

There. I said it.

Why, you ask?

If I have a bad day at work I can come home and ask my wife for a hug. Immediately she will throw her arms around me and tell me it’s going to be okay. If my car breaks down I can go to a mechanic who will look under the hood and within an hour will tell me what’s wrong. If I’m sick I can go to the doctor and that same afternoon I will get a response about my diagnosis and get a prescription to make me feel better. If I’m hungry I can go to Wendy’s and get a tasty #2 value meal within 5 minutes. In each of these situations I have a need, a hunger, or a problem and I can get a response within a short period of time.

Then there’s prayer and God’s response time.

Let’s just say it leaves something to be desired. When you and I have heartache or loss we want the Lord to be with us in the time it takes to get a meal from a fast food restaurant. We want answers to our questions in the time it takes to send a text message. Our friends and loved ones answer quickly, so why not God? Our society is geared around quick and efficient responses, so why doesn’t the Lord work in the same way?

He doesn’t though. I know parents who have prayed for years for their wayward children to return to God and to their families, but nothing has happened, (yet). I have friends who have cried out in their pain, with tears rolling down their eyes, but God does not answer in a timely fashion. In my own life I can think of prayers which I prayed for over 10 years with nothing to show in return, (as far as I can see). If my friends called to me for help and I acted the way God did, then I wouldn’t have many friends. If my wife poured out her heart to me and I ignored her tears then I would consistently be sleeping on the porch. So how is it that God can act in ways which we could never get away with? Is this how he shows he cares for us? With silence?

And yet we’re called to pray! We’re called to engage in an activity where we typically get no sudden response and our needs are not met, (seemingly). How crazy is that?

At this point the writer in me feels the temptation to tie this up in a neat little bow with a helpful theological answer, but that just wouldn’t be honest. I don’t understand prayer or God’s ways. All I can say is I’m learning. I’m learning prayer is so far beyond my own perception and expectation. It involves waiting, sometimes a very long time, and trusting God knows what he’s doing as I wait. I’m learning it means pouring out my heart to Him and trusting that He loves me, even if he doesn’t respond like my wife or friends would. It means continually coming and asking, like the widow in Jesus’ parable, even when God appears to be like the disinterested judge. I’m learning his response time is not on par with the 21st century, maybe with good reason.

I’m learning to cling to truth in the meantime, that He has made everything beautiful in his time, (not mine). He allows us to feel like we’re drowning, like David in the Psalms and the disciples in Mark 4, so we can be drawn closer to Him and know him in a deeper and more profound way. I’m learning not to trust myself, my feelings, or my thoughts, because they will deceive me. I’m reminded of how much I need solid men and women to speak truth into my life when I doubt God’s goodness. I’m learning to remind myself of truth through God’s Word, that He loves me and He’s better at running the universe than I am.

In the meantime the waiting still stinks, and I still don’t like it.

Thank God for the Kidneys

Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it,” (1 Corinthians 12:27).

kidney-cartoon-657522Kidneys don’t get a lot of love these days. Seriously, when was the last time you heard someone say to another person, “Dude, your kidneys look fantastic, have you been working out?” “Are you using a new conditioner, because your kidneys are very full bodied today?” “Girl! Your kidneys look great in those new pants!”

No, those sort of compliments are reserved for the visibly seen body parts like hair, legs, muscles, eyes, and skin. Heck, even toes get better treatment than kidneys. You can pay someone to rub, file, and massage those little puppies. The fact is that it is easier to notice and praise our visible body parts because, well, they’re noticeable. You can see what they do. They draw attention to themselves, whether intentionally or unintentionally. It’s easy to highlight the outward parts of our bodies, and why not? God made those parts of our body. Why not enjoy what he has made? If you’re a man and God gave you beautiful Jesus hair, then flaunt it. If you’re a woman and God gave you a beautiful smile, then wear it proudly. The human body is a glorious thing, which is why great artists like Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo depicted the human body in classical works of art. (Donatello and Raphael were too busy fighting the Shredder to contribute). Continue reading

God gives us pain instead of Cheetos

CheetosCropAnd thus whenever God wants to make people godly and strong that He gives them everything they ever wanted, lots of money, all the Cheetos they could ever eat, and keeps them from any difficulty, illness, or disappointment. God knows this is the best way to create people of patience, perseverance, and integrity…” – 1st Opinions 5:24. FYI: 1st Opinions is actually not a book of the Bible.

I wish that verse was true though, unfortunately it’s quite the opposite. In the Bible whenever you see men and women of greatness, they are inevitably people who have suffered disappointment, failure, weakness, and pain. God promised Abraham he’d have a son and be a great nation, and then let him wander around the desert without his own child for 25 years. Moses felt called to lead Israel out of bondage, (Acts 7:25), so God put him out in the desert for 40 years. (Huh?) David was anointed to be king as a young boy, then God let Saul throw spears at him and forced him to hide in the wilderness. What about the prophets, God’s messengers to Israel? Do you think they got a pass from this sort of treatment? Think again:

God: “Hey Elijah. I need you to help bring Israel’s hearts back to me.”

Elijah: “Sweet.”

God: “Yeah, but king is going to hate you and his wife will try to kill you so you’re going to have to live in the desert all alone and suffer for years.”

Elijah: “Wait, what?” Continue reading