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.





Life transformation and immediate gratification

10 04 2013

I love the speed at which we can get things today. If I want a book I simply check to see if there is an e-book version and with a click I can be reading it. If I want to know something I go to Google and within seconds I have the answer. I also know that when I have a slow internet connection and something takes longer than 5 seconds I become impatient. If the book is not available on Kindle I am frustrated. Bottom line: I want what I want NOW.

I think I have seen this slipping into my walk with God. If I pray for something, I want my prayer answered…now. If I struggle with something I should be able to overcome it by…this afternoon at the latest.

However, when I step back and see people truly transformed by God very rarely is it immediately. There are dramatic moments but more often than not it is this slow and steady change seen only when we look back and reflect.

Matthew 13:1-13 gives us the inside story on one of Jesus’ parables. He talks about four types of soil and then goes on to explain the meaning of each type to his disciples.

One type is shallow soil that does not have the depth to allow the seed to take a firm root. It shoots up quickly but life happens quicker and soon the plant is scorched and withered. Another type is soil with weeds and refers to the worries and troubles of this life choking out the seed.

As I become more impatient and distracted I fear I am becoming like those two soils and I missing out on what God is trying to do in my life. (Feel free to admit you struggle with the same thing. I just didn’t want to be the one to point it out.)

Those who have been faithfully plugging along continue to grow in depth and maturity. When hard situations happen in their lives, they are able to rise above the circumstances and graces shines through. Meanwhile, those who have not given God time to work get frustrated and give up. Those who don’t slow down to really consider God’s wisdom see their situation get worse as they feel pressure from all the worries of this world.

It makes perfect sense. God typically goes against our expectations and standards. In our time of immediate gratification and multiple distractions it would only make sense that God would move slowly and would encourage us to focus in order to see his transformative work in our lives.

In Isaiah 55:8-9 God tells us “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways…As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

If we take that to heart then I need to be a lot more patient and intentional at looking for God. In other words there is probably not an App for this.

I encourage you to take some time and reflect. Look back and see if you can catch God working. Look for distractions you need to remove so you can better focus on the things of God. Then, spend some time thanking God and committing to following God for the long haul. Will there still be amazing moments and dramatic stories of God’s intervention? Absolutely. However, I am truly amazed as I look in the opposite direction the world is going, as I slow down and I take the time to not be distracted. I find a loving, patient God who is quietly transforming lives.





Living beyond laws

8 08 2012

I am back!  I returned from deployment at the end of June and I was able to spend some down time with the family.  To be honest it can be hard to get going after a break.  The good news is that the need to write is pushing me to the point I had to get started again.  So here it goes…

Within the last several weeks we have had two terrible shootings that have rocked the nation.  After the grieving there are a couple of normal responses the community has.  First, we try to figure out who the person was and why he did it.  Second, we evaluate our laws to see if they need to be changed or new laws need to be added.  I want to focus on the second response.

Laws establish boundaries for what we believe is acceptable behavior in the community.  In reality laws only control some behavior some of the time for some of the people.  Want proof?  Did you break any speed limits this week?

As Christians we believe that God transforms our lives.  In Galatians Paul lists the byproduct of being in a healthy relationship with God (Galatians 5:22-23).  We call them the fruits of the Spirit.  He says something interesting at the end of the list, “Against such things there is no law.”  That makes sense.  How do you legislate gentleness?  Can you force a person to be joyful or have peace?  These things have to be byproducts of something deeper.  I would offer the discussion we need to have is not about laws or the one individual but our own personal growth and how to be a healthy community.

I am grateful we live in a country that gives us freedom.  We are able to have a “market place of ideas.”  The church brings Jesus to the market place.  We offer that a relationship with him will transform us.  It gives us new life.  It results in communities built on love that are good and faithful.  Has the church ever gotten it wrong?  Absolutely.  I offer we get it wrong when we shift our focus from Jesus.

Now what?  If you are not a Christian I would invite you to consider Jesus.  Talk with a Christian you respect and explore what it means to have a personal relationship.  For those who are in a relationship with Jesus, take a peace of paper and write the 9 fruits that are mentioned in Galatians 5:22-23 (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control).  Consider each one and ask yourself “Am I growing naturally in this area?”  If you are human you will have mixed results.  There will be areas you are growing and there will be areas you need to work on.  For those areas you need to work on avoid the easy answer which is to make a rule (or law) to try and change.  Instead pray and ask God to change you. Please be willing to listen.  God will open opportunities for you to grow.  It may be by talking with someone, reading your bible, getting plugged in with a church or looking for a way to get involved in your community.

The result will be transformed individuals living in communities that are vibrant and healthy.  Will we still have tragedies?  Sadly, until Jesus returns we will.  However, we will have given ourselves the best chance to avoid them and an effective way to respond.





Transformation in Forgiveness

8 12 2011

I just finished a great book called “As We Forgive: Stories of Reconciliation from Rwanda” by Catherine Claire Larson. It talks through the transformation happening in Rwanda after the 1994 genocide. She tells stories of people who faced horrific circumstances and yet were able to overcome and offer forgiveness. A quote that leaped out at me was her description of a young man who had deep scar across his face. She said, “Emmanuel’s scar testifies to two realities. It is a witness to the human capacity for evil…. Yet his scar testifies to another truth: the stunning capacity of humans to heal from the unthinkable.”

One of the elements needed in healing is forgiveness. I did a bible study on the topic and became amazed by the power that comes from this simple yet in some cases incredibly difficult decision. While there are many great ways to talk about forgiveness, I am going to look at one aspect that I think we overlook; the power of forgiveness to bring true transformation.

By the very act of offering forgiveness I acknowledge sin happened. I am saying clearly I was harmed by what happened and gives me the opportunity to have an honest discussion about it. Reconciliation can begin when the person accepts my forgiveness. When they accept it, they are acknowledging they understand they hurt me. Forgiveness facilitates this honest discussion.

From there we are able to look at the root causes and truly talk about solutions. We are able to face the truth about the situation and can look at the whole picture. We can begin to look at taking a different path because the path we were on caused pain. The new path can bring peace.

When I choice not to forgive, I still acknowledge I have been hurt but the pain instead of the cause of the pain becomes the focus. Bitterness and anger seep in. I become distracted. I want revenge instead of righteousness. I miss out on dealing with the bigger picture. I become trapped and there is no transformation. There is no peace.

The second half of verse 10 from Psalm 85 says:
“Righteousness and peace kiss each other.”

In order for there to be true peace there must be righteousness. In order for there to be righteousness we must acknowledge and deal with the sin that is around us. That was part of the amazing transformation that was happening in Rwanda. They were not down playing the atrocities. Actually, they were having honest and real discussions about them. They were grasping the truth depth of the pain that was caused and they were looking at roads that could lead to real peace that touched the soul.

Too many times we will simply say “its okay” or “don’t worry about it.” Meanwhile we are hurt, angry and frustrated. There is no peace in the relationship. We either drift apart or separate. Injustice is allowed to win and we miss out on what God is offering us.

God gets it. God offers us forgiveness. When we accept it, we accept we have sinned and missed the mark. This opens the door for God to transform us. We are able to have honest conversations about what we have done and we can step back and look at the whole picture. God does not down play our sin. The cross stands as a huge reminder that God dealt with the ultimate consequence of sin. He extends righteousness to us transforming our lives and we have peace.

Do you need to extend forgiveness? I hope you will see that if you do, you will actually be giving yourself a chance to really face the situation and deal with it effectively.

Do you need to ask for forgiveness? I hope you will see that if you do, you will open yourself to the possibility of truly changing that area of your life by facing it honestly and directly.

In either case, righteousness and peace will be able to kiss and what a sweet kiss it will be.

God bless,
Chaps