But I assumed…

2 09 2015

What if you went to Chick-Fil-A and saw a hamburger on the menu?  They would have some explaining to do and they may want to rethink their ad campaign.

We have expectations and those expectations lead to assumptions.  I have been convicted about the importance of key assumptions we need to effectively live out our Christian Faith.  I will spend the next few blog posts talking about them.

Assumption one:  We are equal

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” -Galatians 3:28

In the United States we love to believe we get it when it comes to equality.  We point to the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal…”

Of course, we gloss over “all men” did not include slaves or women.  Isn’t that how it often goes?  We say everyone is equal but our actions often reveal some different assumptions.

The biggest assumption I see when it comes to Christianity is “my sin is bigger than other people’s therefore I can’t be forgiven or be a part of God’s plan.”  Too many people sideline their relationship with God and others because of this.  If we can grasp that we are equal then we recognize that sin is sin and we all struggle with it.  We have to hear Paul’s words, “no temptation has overtaken you but what is common…” (1 Corinthians 10:13).  Once I realize you and I are the same, then I see there is hope.  Sin is put in proper perspective and managed by God’s grace and transforming work in my life.

For those who have overcome sins in their life, there is another dangerous assumption: “I am not like them.”  This assumption often plagues those inside the church.  We acknowledge that we were once sinners like “them” but we add a subtle twist to the story of God’s grace.  We take credit for our victory.  We will use spiritual terms but our actions show what we really believe.  Those with this assumption often make decisions for God about who is in and out.  This was exactly the mindset of the Religious Leaders Jesus fought against.

This idea of being equal before God has very big implications.  It sets the stage for all of us have the chance at redemption and helps us stay balanced as we grow and mature in our faith.  It builds bridges and helps us connect to others…all others without discrimination.

Today there are lot’s of discussions about racism and discrimination.  Political solutions look bleak as politicians label and attack anyone who has a different point of view.

It is an amazing opportunity for the Church.  We can step in and truly engage our world in a uniquely powerful way.  We see everyone as someone just like us.

Do you really believe we are all equal or do you find yourself making assumptions that limits you or excludes others?

If you do not see us as equal, I invite you to pray and consider the implication of being made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27).  When we grasp our equality, it is an incredible truth that ripples through our life.  It will deepen our relationship with God and each other.





Being Human

14 09 2014

Welcome to the human race!  How do you know you are a human?  Do you say, “I don’t care what other people think” but secretly do?  Do you feel like everyone else in the group “clicks” except you?  Do you have something you are ashamed or embarrassed about?  Do you feel you have to live up to an image instead of just being yourself?

I most likely hit the mark with one of those questions proving you are human.  What a relief!  We can all say “I am screwed up just like everyone else!”

I think the Apostle Paul nailed it (of course with God’s help).

He wrote in 1 Timothy 1:15-16:

“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.”

Paul thought he was the worst sinner out there.  That is a very honest assessment.  Each one of us could say the same thing and believe it.  I often say the only reason Paul wrote he was the worst sinner is I wasn’t born yet.  We truly know just how bad we can be.  We are there for every single sin we commit.  We also know our thoughts and intentions.  We know what we are thinking and to be honest we can think about some pretty bad stuff.

Bottom line: Paul was human

His realistic perspective gives us hope.  If he can be redeemed.  If he can have a right relationship with God.  Then, we can be redeemed and have a right relationship with God.  This is critical because one of the most common misperceptions I hear is “I have blown it so bad there is no hope for me.” Paul reminds us there is always hope.

There is another amazing reality in this passage.  Paul does not list a whole bunch of things he has to do.  Instead he points to God’s mercy and Jesus’… patience.

You have to let that sink in.  God’s response to us being human is to give mercy and be patient.

No wonder the very next thing Paul writes is:

“Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (Verse 17)

He had a moment of worship.  I am also humbled by the reality of these verses.  In our culture (the United States) we tend to focus on things we have to do or labels we can give.

Philip Yancey wrote a book called “What’s so Amazing about Grace.”  He shared a story in which a person is challenged to describe the gospel in a sentence.  I have modified the language but basically he said: “We are all screw-ups but God loves us anyway.”

Where are you today?  Have you bought into a lie that you are so screwed up you can not be redeemed?  Paul would disagree.  Do you believe you are redeemed but now are working so hard to maintain your relationship with God you have no joy or peace?  Paul would invite you to accept God’s mercy and be thankful for Jesus’ patience.

I love the picture of Jesus smiling and telling his Dad just how much he loves us as he shakes his head, takes a deep breath and is…patient.





Thanks Facebook

6 07 2014

There has been a lot of discussion about the study Facebook conducted. They were able to manipulate our moods by managing what we saw in our news feeds. They could cause us to post in either a negative or positive way simply by changing an algorithm.

When we step back, we realize this happens in various ways all the time. Advertisers look for ways to shape our view of a particular product. Magazines airbrush their models to distort our understanding of beauty. Politician try to get us to care about an issue by highlighting a person impacted by a problem rather than just giving us facts and figures.

The reality is we can be manipulated easier than we would like to admit.

Another reality is that content matters. We will tend to feel more aggressive after watching violent content. We will be more sexual after watching sexual content. Are we surprised that we were negative after viewing negative content and positive after viewing positive content?

As Paul was giving his final advice to Timothy, he warned of a struggle that Timothy would face. In 2 Timothy 4:3 he says:
“For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.”

I think Paul was on to something. He may not have known about Facebook but he did understand we can be manipulated by our environment. If we are not grounded in truth with a healthy understanding of reality, we could find ourselves being led down a road where we only hear what we want to hear and ignore sound doctrine and ultimately truth.

The Bible paints a very realistic picture of the human condition. We are fallen and separated from God. God provided a way to restore our relationship through Jesus. God is truth and grounds us in reality. God helps us stay balanced. The truth helps us turn Facebook’s experiment into a lesson we learn from.

So thank you Facebook. You have reminded us that we need to be aware of the content we are consuming and just like we should have a balanced food diet we should also have a balanced viewing diet. You also reminded us to be aware of how others want to manipulate us. We need to be grounded in the truth. The Bible helps us have a healthy view of ourselves and a proper view of God.

I think I will go read my Bible and check Facebook later. Will you join me?





What is bigger?

18 05 2013

I heard about a great website, iamsecond.com.  It has videos of a variety of people who declare “I am second” with God being first.  The videos are powerful and for those of us who are Christians they make perfect sense.  For those who are not Christians, I think the site does a great job of building a bridge and encouraging people to consider the possibility of being second.

When we look at the world, we see the ugliness of sin.  The escape of three women who had been held captive for a decade is one extreme example.  Each one of us have personal stories that make us cry or make us so mad we want to scream at the world.

That is where I found myself Friday afternoon.  I sat with a group of leaders wrestling with an ugly situation involving some of our people.  There was sorrow, anger, frustration…and the big question “why did this happen?”  Good leaders take it personal and look in the mirror to see if it was something they did or didn’t do.  They blame themselves and desperately want to fix it.

The easy answer is to tell everyone to become a Christian.  Of course the recent story of a Christian musician being accused of trying to hire a hit man to kill his wife might make some skeptical.  I prayed Saturday morning needing answers and thankfully God nudged me.

When we are focused on something larger than ourselves, we seem to get it.  If some catastrophe hits a city there are two choices.  Those who chose to focus on their community come together and great things happen and amazing stories are told.  Those who chose to worry about themselves loot.

I have a bias.  Jesus perfectly demonstrated what it meant to live a life focused on something bigger. It is amazing to mediate on the idea of God making our well being bigger.  Jesus didn’t have to die for us.  He chose to die for us.  He lived a life saying “not my will but your will be done.”  Even non-Christians are humbled by his life and point to his example.  Everyone can agree he lived for something bigger than himself.

When do Christians get it wrong? When we start worrying more about ourselves and stop caring about those around us.  When our needs and sadly often our wants become bigger.  We need to remember the one we follow.  He set the standard and promises to help us meet it.

This seems to be a universal principle.  I played through a variety of situations.  When we are focused on something bigger than ourselves, we act appropriately.  When we are focused on ourselves, we hurt others.  You can apply this to marriage, work, friendship…any area of your life.

Monday morning I will have the opportunity to sit back down with this group of leaders and offer my contribution.  It will need to be something that can be understood by everyone regardless of their faith.  It will need to be tangible.  I think I have the seeds of something good.

For those of us who are Christians, the world desperately needs to see that we are “second” and we are focused on something bigger.  For those who are not Christians I would ask you to consider what is bigger in your life.





Good Model Great Reminder

1 12 2011

I like looking at models. They help you get a better understanding of whatever object they represent. Then when you see the real thing, you have a better appreciation of it. One of the classic tasks engineering students have to do is build a model of a bridge. It is small but they get to see the basic principles at work. Their small bridge is tested. If they missed something the only thing damaged is pride and some Popsicle sticks. If they got it right they can have a better understand of the bridge they will walk on when they go back to their dorm room.

The author of Hebrews tells us that the Old Testament tabernacle was a model of something much larger. As I was looking at one of the passages from Hebrews an insight leaped out to me that I wanted to pass along. I want us to look at the sacrificial system in the Old Testament and see if we can pull some larger truths out of that model.

If you study the sacrificial system, there were three principles that stood out to me.

1. The expectation was you only took the best to be your offering. It would be the first born from your flocks. It could not have any defects at all. It would be the first fruits from whatever you harvested. In other words, it would be costly.

2. This was not a private affair. You had to go to the temple. The priest had to be involved. You could not just go into your backyard and have a private ceremony. Your sacrifice would happen in the community.

3. The focus was on both the holiness of God and the holiness of the people. When you sinned against another person, you had to pay restitution but you also had to sacrifice to God because ultimately you sinned against God. It was a reminder your sin damaged your relationships with both God and others.

This system would have created a longing for God’s mercy. It would have created a hunger for an ultimate sacrifice that would take away sin once and for all.

The amazing thing was to reflect and see there is very practical application of the sacrificial system on our understanding of sin.

1. Sin is costly. It takes the best from us. When I am caught up in sin, I have to take my focus off good things. I become distracted. I become ineffective. My best energy is not available to encourage and support the people around me. I am lost in my own world. I don’t care about the needs of my wife; I only care about my own needs. I miss opportunities to connect with my kids because I am distracted. Friends around me who need help are left to face their issues alone because I have my own issues to deal with. Sin costs us.

2. Sin is a community affair. When I sin, it doesn’t just impact me. If I look at pornography all by myself even if I was single, there is still an impact. Women become objects instead of human. My desires and fantasies cloud my ability to honor anyone I am with. Private sins seep out and poison my relationships. Anger, bitterness, deceitfulness all become the way I manage my life. I start to assume the worst of the people around me because they must secretly be doing the same thing I am doing. Sin is never isolated. It hurts everyone.

3. Sin offends God. When I lose my temper and take it out on someone, I not only hurt that person. I hurt God. God is the one who manages anger. God leads me in way to properly express anger. When I am out of control, I am telling God he is an idiot and has no idea how to deal with the situation I am in. I sin against God. I not only need to apologize to the person, I need to seek God’s forgiveness as well.

Sin creates a longing for God’s mercy. It creates a hunger for an ultimate sacrifice that would take away sin once and for all.

The old covenant with the sacrificial system helped me understand my sin.

The new covenant established by Jesus Christ deals with my sin.

This is what the author of Hebrews was getting at. In chapter 10 he tells us:

“But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins, because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.” (Verses 3 and 4)

“Then he said, ‘Here I am, I have come to do your will.’ He sets aside the first to establish the second. And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” (Verses 9 and 10)

We can actually be holy.

Now my best really can be given to God.

Now I can look for opportunities to serve the people around me and really make a difference.

Now I can be in right relationship with God and you.

That longing for God’s mercy is fulfilled. That hunger for a sacrifice that can truly cover my sin is met.

It is an incredibly powerful truth. My life can be transformed into something amazing. This last Sunday we lit the first candle of Advent, it was the candle of hope. Because of this truth we can have hope.

Where are you at?

Are you trapped by some issue that is stopping you from being who you want to be? Are you seeing a sin in your life that is costing you and hurting both you and the people around you? Are you feeling convicted because you see that you have also sinned against God? I have some great news. Acknowledge the sacrifice Jesus made for you and talk with someone you trust about what that means.

If you were like me and humbled by the reminder of what Jesus has done for us and the hope we have, take some time to say thank you. I hope it continues to build your excitement as we prepare to celebrate what the Christmas season is truly about.

God bless,

Chaps