This is a post from a couple of years ago.
I saw someone the other day that was carrying a man bag. I don’t mean something that I could see a writer carrying that would contain a notebook, journal or other writing material. I’m talking about a genuine man bag. It was basically a purse for a man. The thought that went through my mind was, “I wonder what he’s carrying in there.”
Often I will carry a gym bag to work if I’m going to work out. I will have my gym clothes in it. I have my mp3 player and my iPod. I will stick my lunch bag in there. I may have a few other items in as well, like my latest Netflix movie that I’m returning or a book I’m reading. If I’m not working out, I will often shift to my backpack and carry many of the same items. Judging by the quantity of backpacks that I see carried into work, I am not alone.
My wife, daughter and just about every other woman who I have known all of my life carry a purse. I am mystified by what is carried in a purse. I was not allowed to go near my mother’s purse as a child. While I will venture into my wife’s occasionally, I still do not like it.
Physically, we carry a lot of baggage around. Spiritually and emotionally we do as well. Good stuff. Bad stuff. All of it baggage that we carry around. Think about how we carry things around with us for years. If you read my blog last week, you saw that things from my childhood affect how I view things now. An incident that happened over a decade that I don’t really think about often came out. My experience with my youth group at the church I grew up in affect how I view things today. Relationships in the past color the view I have of relationships today. Churches in the past affect how I see the church I have been a member of for almost sixteen years now. Pastors from the past affect how I view pastors now. Some of this stuff is good. Some of this stuff is bad. All of this stuff is baggage.
Here is the interesting thing. You don’t know about my baggage. I don’t know about yours. We carry this stuff around. My baggage bangs into yours. Your baggage bangs into mine. And one of the things about writing a blog is that your baggage will come out. For good or bad, it will be seen.
How about you? What kind of baggage are you carrying around that is good? What kind of baggage are you carrying around that is bad?
A few weeks ago I wrote this post about creating art for the Lord. Today I want to expand on that post just a bit.
When the Israelites left Egypt, Moses received specific instructions about how to build the Ark of the Covenant. Once the construction began, who were instrumental in creating the Ark?
You are an artist of some sort. You may be a writer, painter, or gardener. Maybe you wanted to be at one time, only to set it aside for some reason. You had a dream and it still lives there deep within you.
Is not pursuing that dream a sin?
I’m not 100% sure of the answer to that question. I can tell you that I think it is. Why? Because the Lord wants to give us the desires of our heart. That begins with Him being our number one desire. Our dreams and desires should then flow from Him.
Pursuing those dreams is an act, a way, of obeying and worshiping the One they come from.
The Israelite artists and craftsmen uses their abilities, talents and gifts to create the Ark, the precursor to the Temple. Now there is no building that acts as a temple for our Lord.
We are the temple of God now.
Just like the Israelites, we should use our abilities to build the temple of God. We should build up our brothers and sisters who are the temple as well. Our dreams and desires should further the kingdom of God in the world and within us.
So, I will leave you with the question I asked earlier.
Is not pursuing your dream a sin?
I’m excited to share a new series with you over the next few months. I have the privilege each summer to preach in a campground ministry. I will be sharing with you basically what my message will be each week.
Today I am preaching Galatians 1:1-5. In the way of introduction, Paul has a problem. The churches of Galatia that he has founded are being led astray by false teachers called Judaizers. They have entered these churches and added the Law to the Gospel. They are telling these people that grace is not enough, but works must be added to receive salvation. Word has gotten back to Paul and he writes this letter. Nothing less that the integrity of what he has proclaimed to them is at stake: the Gospel.
Paul immediately asserts his authority in the opening of this epistle. We can surmise that Paul himself has been called into question by these Judaizers. He states that he is an apostle. Most likely these false teachers have told the Galatians that Paul never witnessed Christ’s ministry or even knew him like the other apostles. You can almost hear them scream the question: What right does Paul have to be an apostle?
Paul contrasts himself and these teachers immediately. He says that his being an apostle has nothing to do with any other person on earth. He says that his apostleship is not from man, nor from any agency of man. Instead it is through Jesus Christ and God the Father. Paul is summarizing the fact that Christ appeared to him on the Damascus Road and appointed him to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles at that point. The Judaizers, on the other hand, came stating that they were representatives of James and the apostles back in Jerusalem.
Paul gives a familiar greeting in verse 3. Grace and peace to you from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. This is a typical greeting from Paul, but it seems to pack an even greater punch in the context of the issues he is facing with the Galatians. In essence, Paul tells the Galatians that the message he brought them, the Gospel he preaches is one of grace. The false teachers is one of Law. The Gospel brings peace into your life. The false Gospel brings turmoil.
Paul continues by summarizing the Gospel. He writes that Christ gave Himself for our sins. In five words, Paul reminds the Galatians that Christ died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins. He wants the Galatians to understand that Christ died in their place so that they could have eternal life. He gets to the heart of the Gospel in that Christ did the work so that they could be right with God.
What is the result of Christ giving himself for their sins? He did this so that He might rescue us from this present evil age. The Judaizers brought a message that Christ, along with the Law, delivered the Galatians from their sinful state. Paul declares that Jesus, with no other help, does this Himself. He rescues us from the state they were in. He delivers them into the kingdom of God. Christ Himself with no help from the Galatians at all.
To further emphasize this, Paul states that Christ does this according to the will of our God and Father. All of the work that Christ has done. The Gospel that Paul preaches. The rescue of everyone that Paul describes. This is done according to the will of God. This is His plan. To alter it in any way to cross the Father Himself.
Finally, Paul states that the Gospel he preaches and the work of Christ is all done for the Father to whom be the glory forevermore. Paul is stating that his message of grace through the Gospel is one that glorifies God. The message that is leading the Galatians astray is one that cannot possibly do this because it includes the work of man in it. Paul’s sole aim in proclaiming the Gospel and founding the churches of Galatia was to glorify God. What is the aim of the Judaizers?
The question we must ask ourselves is so what? False teachers abound in today’s world. Paul’s message is relevant to us as well. We must keep the Gospel close to our hearts and minds in our lives. We must measure the words of anyone claiming to represent the Lord by the truths that Paul preached. Christ has delivered us from the present evil age as well. We cannot afford to be led astray by false teachers and doctrine. We must seek to glorify God in all we do.
I was had a couple of conversations with a friend the other day. Let’s call him Bryan since that’s his name.
One of the conversations was about a time that he was out and about with his then three year old daughter. It didn’t go as smooth as he wanted. His daughter pitched a fit on him. She wouldn’t stop, so he left the store he was in after about fifteen minutes. When he got home, he severely punished her. This punishment carried so much weight that a few years later she warned her little sister of what might happen to her one day.
Another conversation Bryan and I had was one that we have quite often. We discussed God and His nature.
We talked about how while we agree that God is love, this isn’t the total picture that we get from the Bible. He is also a God of judgment and wrath and mercy and grace. All of the characteristics go into who God is.
The problem that Bryan and I see is that too many of us only focus on the love part of God. Too many of us expect God to be this warm, fuzzy feeling God who indulges our every whim and desire.
In other words, we made Him into the God of the rocking chair.
Intentionally or not, many of us picture God sitting in a rocking chair on His front porch in heaven. He sits there rocking, smiling and nodding at what we do much like we expect a grandparent to do.
Grandparents rarely find fault in anything their grandchildren do. They feed their grandchildren things their parents wouldn’t. They let them stay up later. Then they leave the parents to deal with any consequences.
I read a blog post the other day where a man ripped a well known preacher for his picture of God. After reading that post, I wondered is this guy had really read the Bible. I wasn’t sure where he was getting his view, his picture of God.
My feeling was that he did what all of us have done in our lives. He made God into his own image, instead of taking the image God gives us.
God is not a rocking chair, grandparent type of God. He is a God of love, mercy, and grace, as well as a God of judgment and wrath.
Let’s realize that God is not an indulgent God who simply wants to give us our every desire. He wants to be our greatest desire and give to us based on that.
Have you ever realized that you have created God in your own image? Have you ever looked at God as a celestial grandparent?
This post was first published around two years ago.
Do you ever wonder who would be your pall bearers if you died? I don’t have a huge number of people to do the job. I imagine that some people from my church would take care of the job if called upon. However, I also wonder another question. Who would give my eulogy if I passed away? I’m not talking about my pastor or a family member. I’m talking about someone outside of the normal who would stand up and give an accurate telling of what my life was like. My choices, if left up to me, would be quite narrow.
I can think of possibly three people who could do the job. One is my dearest friend from before marriage, Chris. The problem with this is that I have really let our friendship lapse. I know that Chris would do anything for me if I asked. Last year he drove out and took a picture of a big chicken at a convenience store in Newport, Tennessee for me. However, I haven’t seen him now in 14 or 15 years. For a guy who I used to run around with for about 45 of 52 Saturday nights in a year, I haven’t done a good job of maintaining our friendship.
Another possibility would my friend, Matt Cannon. Check out his Seeking Pastor blog. I used to be Matt’s supervisor and we were friends for several years at our employer. I do better keeping up with Matt through Facebook, Twitter and his blog. However, I haven’t personally seen him now since he left our employer, unless you count, of course, a video he posted of himself. Again, I haven’t done the best job of maintaining our friendship.
My third choice would be my friend, David Anderson. David doesn’t have a blog, but we go on break together everyday. At this point in my life, David probably knows me better than anyone outside of my family. He knows all of the warts in my life. He knows what kind of jerk I can be. He puts up with all kinds of my “junk”. At this juncture of my life, he would probably be the best candidate to give my eulogy. Hopefully, there will be no need for his services anytime soon.
What is missing among this group? Someone from my community or church. Here is why that is so. I don’t spend any time with anyone to develop that kind of relationship. I don’t invest in relationships with anyone at my church or in my community. Here is how it goes down with the folks in my area. I see them for a brief time on Sunday. I might run into someone at the store. I might see them out running or walking on the bike trail. I might see them at a ballgame or a school function. But do I invest in anyone in what I now call my hometown so that they would know me well enough to give my eulogy. No, not really. It’s a failing of mine. I go to work. I come home. I do my thing. I do it all again. And again. And again. But except for what are really brief encounters, I don’t invest the time needed to develop the relationships needed for anyone to give my eulogy.
What about you? Have you invested in someone enough that they would be able to give your eulogy? I hope that you’ve done a better job than me.
UPDATE: Since this was first published, I still haven’t seen my friend Chris, though we have emailed some. I saw Matt a few months later when we went to see Jon Acuff speak in Knoxville. He has become a full-time pastor and rarely writes his blog anymore. My friend David no longer works at the same employer that I do, but we text, go to lunch occasionally and I ran into him while waiting to get gas the other night.
Seven men from my church recently went to an event called The 4th Musketeer. The only way I can describe this event is to say that it was an intense hike with spiritual implications that lasted four days. Little food was eaten and little sleep was to be had based on the testimonies I heard.
The men said that the event was designed to break them down. It was designed to rid them of the pride that so often plague men. It also seemed to address another issue that men face in their lives.
Loneliness seems to be a common malady that men live with. Not many will probably talk about it or admit it. They might sing about. Waylon and Willie did back in the 1970′s when they told mammas to not let their “babies grow up to be cowboys.” Why? Because their “never at home and their always alone, even with someone they love.”
Men just seemed to be wired to be lonely. The question is why?
I can only base my answer on my own experience. I believe it’s traced back to that first word that the I said the men from church dealt with on their adventure. It’s a word that most of us are familiar with.
We men think we can handle things on our own. We believe that to depend on others is a sign of weakness. We don’t want to open up and share our fears, troubles and worries. Doing so would show that we aren’t real men. That we aren’t strong. That we aren’t tough.
We would rather be lonely and proud than to be free and have the weight of the world lifted.
When we come to know Christ we become new creatures. That means we who are men are new men. Let’s actually let that become a reality in our lives. Let’s show our vulnerabilities. Our Lord did so in the garden of Gethsemane. If He can, and He is our model for life, then we should strive to live like Him and not as we have always lived.
Are you a lonely man? Do you find it difficult to lower your pride and depend on others? Are you able to be vulnerable with others?
A post from a couple of years ago.
Last night I bought a CD. Yes, I bought a CD rather than downloading iTunes. It was an 80′s alternative rock anthology. What I realized after listening to it for a while was that I tried to live an alternative lifestyle for much of my life without realizing it.
When I was a teenager, I bought and collected comic books. At it’s zenith, my comic book buying reached around $100 per month. Put that in today’s dollars. It’s a good thing I had a job.
When I was in college, I sought out music that no one I knew was listening to. I was probably the only person at my college listening to the Bodeans.
What I realize now was that none of this satisfied me. Trying to live an alternative lifestyle for the sake of living an alternative lifestyle just wasn’t doing anything for me. It sure didn’t make me happy.
In 1994, all of that changed. I entered into an alternative lifestyle without really trying to . How did I do it? I came to know Christ. Once I came to know Christ, He made me into a new creation. I was different. I no longer had to live like the rest of the world. I could walk in His Spirit. I could abide in Him.
Now a lot people would say, “That’s not an alternative lifestyle, that’s what a lot of people who go to church do.” I didn’t mention going to church. Sure, I do go to church. But that doesn’t make me someone that lives an alternative lifestyle any more than spending time in a garage makes me a car. Knowing Christ. Seeking Christ. Loving Christ. Loving His Church. That’s alternative. Not just showing up in a building with other people two or three times a week.
How about you? Do you live an alternative lifestyle?
Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love
I love the lyrics from Come Thou Fount Of Every Blessing. Yes, I still love some hymns, as well as some modern praise and worship songs. This particular line stands out to me every time I hear or sing it. Prone to wander. Yes, Lord, I feel it. Yes, I’m prone to leave this God I love.
They say that all that wander are not lost. I would agree with that. But I think the opposite is true as well. Some that wander are lost. Some are wandering are lost. Let me explain, though, what I mean by lost.
What I don’t mean in this context is salvation. That is the topic for another post. No, what I mean is that feeling of being untethered. The sense of drifting away that can happen to any of us.
It’s nothing that we intend to do. It might start with one simple day. One day leads to another and suddenly we have drifted and wandered away. We have wandered and lost our way.
So, how do we prevent that?
We need an anchor. We need something to hold us close to where we need to be.
We can start with prayer. It’s hard to drift and wander from the Lord if we are actively talking to Him on a daily basis. We may justify skipping a day. Unfortunately, skipping one day leads to a couple and then a week. Before you know it, there is no prayer life. We have to fight for it. Pray. And pray some more.
Next we can be in God’s word. It may be a chapter or two. It doesn’t have to be a lot. It just needs to be something where we can hear from the Lord in what He has already spoken.
Finally, it’s good to know what your focuses in life should be. It might be two or three. It be seven. Call them your values or your personal constitution. It doesn’t matter. Just know them. Write them down. Keep them handy. Use them to help you stay grounded.
Do you ever wander and feel lost?
What I’m going to do today may shock you. It may change your view of me forever.
I love the Bible. I love to read it. I love to teach it and preach it. However, there is one book of the Bible that I don’t like and you won’t believe which one it is.
I don’t like the Psalms.
Ask most people to name their least favorite book in the Bible, you will hear Numbers. Leviticus. Maybe 1 and 2 Chronicles.
Not the Psalms. They are beloved to most people. Not me.
Don’t misunderstand. I read them. I have some that I enjoy.
But as a whole I don’t like them. I don’t enjoy them like others do.
I think it has something to do with poetry. Poetry can be beautiful, but to just sit down and read it is difficult for me. I prefer narratives and letters.
Now, if I got to listen to them put to music, it might be a different. Maybe it I was able to hear them sung by the choirs as they were originally meant to be, I would have a totally different opinion of the Psalms.
So, if you want to know what my favorite book of the Bible is, I’ll let you know that too. It’s the Gospel of John, with Ephesians right on its heels.
What’s your least favorite book of the Bible? What’s your favorite?
For whatever reason I’ve been thinking about these three things lately. Fruit, gifts and talents. The specific thought I’ve had about them is that many of us seem to confuse them and don’t really differentiate them. So let’s take a look at them.
Sometimes you will hear someone referred to as a “gifted” musician. The problem is that I have not met someone that from day one could automatically pick up an instrument and be world class from day one. Do I think that there are some people born with a talent that the rest of us don’t have? Absolutely. But they have to spend their time developing their talent to be as good as possible. And if they don’t use it, they tend to lose it. All of us are born with certain talents. Me? I was born with a talent of being able to run fast. I developed that for many years. I wasn’t the fastest person in the world, but I was faster than most.
Gifts are a different story. People are born with gifts as well. They are born with them as result of the second birth. The cool thing is that since these gifts from the sHoly Spirit, He can give you any gift that He wants whenever He wants. I don’t believe that He gives you one gift when you come to know Christ and then will never give you another.
One thing that that seems to happen is that He gives gifts that don’t necessarily coincide with natural abilities. For example, someone who may not be a natural public speaker may be given the gift of proclaiming the word of God. God seems to like to gift us in ways that put us in situations that are outside of our comfort zones.
Finally, there’s fruit. I am still trying to get my arms around this one. I have thought of this one much like I have thought of gifts. I don’t have patience? Well, then the Lord just hasn’t given me that fruit yet. Somehow, though, I’ve figured out that I’ve had it all wrong.
You have the fruit of the Spirit within you once you come to know Christ. The closer you develop your relationship, the more that fruit grows. How do you know? Your patience grows. So does your self-control, love, joy, peace, goodness, kindness, and faithfulness. Your fruit is the characteristics of your relationship with Christ. As my pastor said recently, they are demonstrations of our spiritual maturity.
All of us who follow Christ have talents, gifts and fruit. The main thing we must focus on is to make sure that they glorify the Lord.
Do you know what your talents and gifts are? Is the fruit evident in your life?