Day 2 of 140, Personal Devotion Tweets

chasingkidsJesus: “Let the little children come to Me and don’t stop them because the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” http://t.co/3qM1gMUhc6

I ran across this familiar saying of Jesus by ‘accident’ this morning. On the surface, the saying seems to be almost silly. Who wouldn’t want children to come to Jesus?

The answer is as it was: adults.

Adults have a hard time accepting that we all must come to God helpless and fully dependent on His acceptance. We have substituted our ‘accepting’ God instead. Imagine what our world would be like if children had the power to pick and choose their parents. We wrongly assume it is our option whether or not to choose God.

Adults are fixated on their children providing them validation. Adults will spend thousands of dollars and countless hours of time investing in sports, the arts, toys, etc. and then gripe about having to teach their own children about God and his wonders. I often hear the saying, ‘We will just let our kids choose what to believe. As long as they go somewhere, I am ok with it.’ Everything in our world is temporary. If God is real and Jesus is the way to eternal life as He claims to be, wouldn’t it be prudent to guide children toward what lasts forever? We tell children not to smoke, not to take drugs, not to have unprotected sex, not to eat too many sweets, but remain silent regarding their relationship with Jesus?

Adults set bad examples. My mind is full of instances when I have modeled the exact opposite of a Christian man. I tremble and weep that my children evaluate the reality of God and the effect of salvation through Jesus as Lord by observing me. I have spent more than a few moments removing the obstacles I have put in front of my children (and other children as well) because of my actions and attitudes.

This is a ‘sweet saying’ with teeth that are razor-sharp.

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Not All Gods are Equal

obamapraysThere is a section in the President’s “remarks” at the National Prayer Breakfast that attracted a lot of attention. Out of context, I would be horrified by its assertions. In context, however, what the President said was neither incorrect, nor insidious. I find this a case where in order to make a religious-social-political point, those who are “in the know” miss the greater problem; that which is indeed insidious. To quote from the transcript:

“So how do we, as people of faith, reconcile these realities — the profound good, the strength, the tenacity, the compassion and love that can flow from all of our faiths, operating alongside those who seek to hijack religious [sic] for their own murderous ends?”

All faiths are not equal. All ‘gods’ are not benevolent. We cannot, for the sake of our own ends, recreate reality to suit what we, as our own gods, would prefer it to be at the moment.

The trouble with us is us.

The President did say that pretty well:

“Our job is not to ask that God respond to our notion of truth — our job is to be true to Him, His word, and His commandments.”

The question is begged, “What is that truth of which the President speaks and where does one find it?” “Can we find truth equally in every ‘faith’ or is one faith superior to the other?” “Is every ‘God’ the same, or are there irreconcilable differences between the deities worshiped by persons on this planet?”

The practice of Universalism is insidious. It is rejected by the overwhelming majority of “people of faith” simply because it confesses what most people instinctively know to be wrong: We can find the place of peace if each person does what is judged right by their personal understanding of their own god.

Why should we even expend this effort toward peace? Because, to use the President’s words again, “…God compels us to try.” Do all gods compel people to try to be at peace with each other? Recorded human history screams an emphatic, “No.”

The God I serve does not compel me to ‘try’ but rather replaces my own wicked, violent, selfish, heart with His heart. The God I serve reserves justice as His exclusive right and compels those entrusted with meting it out on His behalf to do so in fear and trembling. The God I serve didn’t rule by edicts sent from somewhere in the ‘omniverse,’ but walked among His creation and knows first-hand how we treat each other. Love, for the God I serve, is not some esoteric notion to ‘be nice to others.’ His act of taking my own active declaration of extreme arrogance and vile rebellion and paying the final and full price for the damage I do is unlike any other god. The God I serve tells me to ‘love my neighbors’ not because I agree with them or because their ‘religion’ is equal to mine, but because He loves them.

Read the President’s remarks in their entirety. We really have only our own laziness to blame for not making the effort to spit out what is fed to us ‘pre-chewed’ and instead carefully pursuing Truth.

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Day 1 of 140, Personal Devotion Tweets…

Psalm 38.15

“You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me.” Truth 4 Mon, every week hedged in&by Love http://t.co/rbOyE0UG4I ‪#‎sievechurch‬

 

 

God has us behind and in front and His hand rests upon us. As a new grandfather, I am reminded how difficult it was for me to try to guide my kids, to clean up after them, to protect them. How great a God we serve. He does it all simultaneously.

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A Sock Full of Nickels

pg12bcroppedYears ago my employer summoned all the managers from across the country to corporate headquarters. The company housed every manager in a ‘dual occupancy’ hotel room, partly to save money and partly to encourage the managers to form friendships. The man assigned to my room was pleasant and we immediately fell into easy conversation. It wasn’t long before we were sharing our personal histories. Places we lived, family stories from the past, all quickly exchanged back and forth. He confessed to being a pastor previously and once he knew I would not be offended by his ‘job history,’ he started telling me stories of his service to a tiny, mid-America, farming community.

One of those stories is burned on my heart.

The preacher wove for me a tale only a clergyman could. Before he finished relating the experience, I possessed a vivid picture of a tiny, upper story, one-room, widow’s apartment.

In my mind’s eye the bare wood-planked floor was painted light grey. Large pane windows let in plenty of light, interrupted only by the wooden squares and the leaded glass which distorted everything seen outside. gm-frigidaire-antique-vintage-refrigerator_130470773027The refrigerator was a white Frigidaire icebox with the quintessential massive chrome handle. The sink next to the ‘four burner’ stove boasted rust stains. The bed, a single mattress nestled on a black steel-tube frame. The door to the washroom, a massive four panel piece, hung in a frame that was obviously out of square. The only color in the room was the intricately assembled quilt neatly laid over the bed and the basket full of mending next to a creaky rocking chair.

The remaining few items in the room were neatly stored away, everything tidy except for an out-of-place stuffed woolen sock hanged by a single nail on the door jamb.

The former pastor described the gentle, arthritic, woman with such clarity I could smell the lingering country ham and eggs from her breakfast that morning. He shared that she was poor, desperately poor. She made her ‘living’ by repairing socks. Local farmers paid her $0.50 per pair to have her mend the holes for them.

He then narrated for me what he thought was the point of his tale, her generous piety.

“After I prayed with her, I gathered my things and said my goodbyes. When I got to the door, she called out to me.”

“Reverend,” she said to me, “would you bring me that sock before you leave?”

“Uh, sure, if you want.”  I unhooked the sock from the nail. It was really heavy and I used both hands to carry it back across the room. The woman put her hand on the toe and looked me in the eye.

“Reverend, this sock is my tithe and I want you to take it. Every time I get paid for darnin,’ I drop a nickel in this sock so I can give thanks to God for taking care of me.”

The man looked me in the face, tears welling in his eyes. I knew that he remembered the experience with great emotion. “Have you ever heard of such devotion to Christ?” he asked me. “She who had nothing, gave, and gave generously.”

“That is really impressive,” I admitted. And then I asked, “What happened to the nickels?”

“What do you mean?” bewilderment full on his face.

“What did you do with the nickels?” I said, perhaps speaking more slowly than I intended.

“I put them in the church offering,” bewilderment shifting to annoyance.

“Why didn’t you give the nickels back to her, or take them to the church and combine them with other nickels to help take care of her?”

“That was God’s money,” he yelled, face immediately red.

“True,” I responded, “and don’t you think that is just the kind of thing God would want you to do?”

I don’t look back on that day with any sort of fondness or pride. The man never spoke to me again. I am sure I should have handled the conversation differently. I wish I had. The point remains, however, that giving the nickels back or combining them with other nickels to warm and feed and clothe the woman was exactly the kind of thing God would do with ‘His money.’

At the time, I had not the slightest inclination I would ever recount this story as a pastor. That one moment in time, however, seared a conviction deep inside me. I believe that gifts to the Church should be carefully deployed to reflect God’s generosity toward those whom He loves.

That is why Main Street is a ‘Sieve church’ and should always be so.

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Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday (?)

givingtuesdayI don’t remember ‘Giving Tuesday’ from last year, but if your ‘inbox’-radio-television is anything like mine, you can’t miss it this year. If there is nothing in your inbox with ‘Giving Tuesday’ you must either be Scrooge or have the best email filtering system ever!

For those wondering…this is not a ‘backdoor’ giving appeal. Quite the opposite, in fact. I want to give those who are still reading gifts this second day of December.

10years2The first gift was one of many given to me during Main Street’s 10 Year Thanksgiving Celebration. I asked people to write down what they were Thankful2God4 in their lives. Here are a few entries from hundreds I received (more to come):

Lord, thank you for bringing me through the trials I’ve had in my life. I didn’t understand while it was happening, but it made me who I am today & who I’m with. I’m truly blessed.

Thank you God for getting me back into your loving arms after I fought you so hard for the past six years. My life has drastically changed for the better.

(husband) Thank you for saving our marriage. (wife) For saving my marriage and continuing to give me strength through illness.

I am thankful to God for giving me people in my life who keep me accountable on a daily basis.

For healing my broken marriage. I truly believed I was headed for divorce. Now I’m looking forward to spending my day with a Godly partner.

Thanks for saving me from China and blessing me with an amazing family.

For those who used to be served who are now those who serve…

Do  you feel encouraged? I do! God is amazing and is doing amazing, outstanding, imaginative, awesome things. I love celebrating what only He can do. The ‘score’ is always 2 to 4!Slide7 (2)

The second gift is one I received from a software vendor (churchteams.com) this morning. It is a bit late, but it is a good gift. I am looking forward to spending some devotional time with my wife, Michelle, and daughter, Emily (when she returns from college for Christmas break) using this free resource. Really great stuff.

Here are a few quotes to entice you to download your own FREE copy:

You know what the Bible never commands us to do? Celebrate Christmas. We were commanded by Jesus to remember his death, burial and resurrection, but not his birth…

To make this ‘The Best Christmas Ever,’ take a breath this week. In fact, take a few. Find God’s peace in the middle of the chaos by being still. I know what you are thinking, “I have too much to do. I can’t even slow down, let alone be still, because there is not enough time!”…Each of us has the same amount of time as everyone else. The difference between those who are “rich in time” and those who are “poor in time” is only…

Curious? I hope so, because it is my deepest desire each reader experience deep joy during this season. I love you because I am loved.

The manger, cross, grave of the resurrected Lord tell me so.

Click on this link to begin the download: The Best Christmas Ever

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What does it Matter?

timetransgenderThis is a time of rapid change in our world. The speed of the change is overwhelming, even for the well-equipped. There is a solace, however, to be found in the One who sees it all and for whom nothing is new.

Yesterday I spoke to the topic of gender identity. I read in entirety this very fine article written by Dale Kuehne (click the hyperlinks to access).

Cited here and originated here.

After the morning message, I received the following question written on a gum wrapper:

So if you were once a male but now female [due to a sex change?] and you are interested in women are you straight or a lesbian?

The question misses the ‘identity’ point entirely. In a world where even the categories of ‘male’ and ‘female’ are soon to fall into disuse, labels like ‘straight’ and ‘lesbian’ also become meaningless. I contend they are already commonly meaningless and only used to promote ends of social and political deconstruction.

Our identity can only be found in God through Christ Jesus. Only when we have, to quote from Dr. Kuehne’s article again, a reference point outside ourselves will we be able to know the ‘what and who’ of what makes ‘me.’

 In short, if the ultimate source of reference is the self, and if no other self than the individual is a reference point, how can you know who or what you are?

Discovering ‘what’ we are can only be attained by discovering ‘whose’ we are and from ‘where’ we came. Finding true identity requires an authority outside of ourselves, to whom we must respond, yes even yield.

And that is the problem, has been the problem, and will be the problem. We lust after being our own gods and assert ourselves as such as often as possible. Many who acknowledge the existence of God find it quite easy to inform God as to what is right or wrong, marred or unmarred, as if God were somehow unaware or unable to grapple with the complexity of our day.

This is God’s claim on us and to us:

 I will be your God throughout your lifetime–until your hair is white with age. I made you, and I will care for you. I will carry you along and save you. To whom will you compare me? Who is my equal? (Isaiah 46:4,5 NLT)

Lay aside the ever-changing categories of the moment. Take up the gift Paul, by the Holy Spirit, instructs to wear:

But you did not learn Christ in this way, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. (Ephesians 4:20-24, NASB)

 

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