Charity Case

Jesus’ words are an affront to our pride. He calls each one of us out as a charity case. If we are unwilling to agree and understand our desperate need for His love, His offer of salvation will forever evade us.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3)

Little Brother

For over year now, I’ve been in a mentoring relationship with a young man named Anthony. What started out as a partnership through Kid’s Hope (a school-based ministry that meets one hour per week), has now also become an outside-school relationship through Big Brothers International.

Unlike some kids in these programs, when I first started meeting with Anthony, his parents were married, very supportive of his education, and very involved parents. Honestly, there were many times when I wondered in which particular way I would have a positive influence on him since he is already an exceptional student, is socially outgoing, and is very kind and considerate.

The term brother, is really quite fitting, since that is the type of relationship we have.* I am his buddy: a friend who’s there to hang out, play games, and have fun. But until last month, I truly couldn’t imagine the divine potential our relationship could have until Anthony’s mother died unexpectedly of a heart attack.

The photo above was taken on Christmas Day, after sharing a lunch together with Anthony and his dad.

So I write this post for those of you out there who would consider stepping out of your comfort zone to enter into a mentoring relationship. Even if you feel that your time is limited and you question what it is you have to offer, I would encourage you to take a leap of faith, and see what God has in store.

* But maybe not little, since he’s only eight years old and nearly as big as me.

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Loyalty & Kindness

Never let loyalty and kindness leave you!
Tie them around your neck as a reminder.
Write them deep within your heart.

My mother-in-law wears a keepsake necklace.  Inside she has tiny photographs of my two children and the rest of her grandkids, and it’s always a special treat to them when she lets them gingerly open the locket to see the pictures inside.

Without her saying it, it’s clear that my mother-in-law treasures the necklace.  It’s a ever-present reminder of her grandkids and the special bond she has with each of them.

The passage I’ve quoted above uses exactly the same imagery as my mother-in-law.  Only, instead of photos of children, this locket contains two precious character traits that go unnoticed in our world today: loyalty and kindness.

Our culture is consumed with cleverness, humor, and popularity.  We all want to be in-the-know, and we’ve become obsessed with being beautiful and cool.

Tonight, I’m pondering what it is that I keep tucked away in my keepsake necklace.  I have a fairly good guess, and it’s not loyalty and kindness… but in this moment, I really want it to be.

Pretty sure this should be one of my focal verses for the next few months (or years).  You can read this passage as well as the context here.

What about you?  What’s your keepsake?

Do You Love or Hate Running?

Graphic derived from photo by Lauren Manning

This morning I decided to start off my day with a quick run around the pond. It was a cool and misty morning – perfect weather for a good run.

The wind was blowing past my face. I felt the rush of adrenaline as my feet pushed against the pavement.

I felt myself taking it all in – enjoying the moment.

For about 30 seconds.

Then, I remembered that I hate running. In a major way.

Honestly, I prefer just about any other form of exercise over running. Every time I try to do it, I find that my motivation is very short lived. Pathetic, even.

Because of this, I smile every time I read the Apostle Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27:

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.” (NIV)

Of all the things Paul could have chosen to illustrate the life of the believer here, he chose the imagery of a runner going into strict training to run a race (not eating ice cream, which I would have much preferred).

Here’s the connection: Like running, our spiritual life involves the steady discipline of participating in a relationship with God.*

So what does that mean for us? Each one of us has to come to grips with the priorities in our lives. Are we accidentally or intentionally placing our physical or mental conditioning above our spiritual formation?

As much as I hate to admit it, given some time and accountability, I could establish running as a regular part of my week. If I really put effort into it and disciplined myself, I could eventually grow my endurance and enjoyment of running.** The same is true in the spiritual realm. No matter how difficult reading the Bible, prayer, solitude, fasting, tithing, outreach, or any other spiritual discipline may be to you today, it doesn’t have to stay that way.***

——

*This relationship is initiated, grown, and sealed through Jesus – His life, death, and resurrection. More here.

**I assure you, I will never let this happen. I hate running.

***If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of spiritual disciplines, I highly recommend this article

****What the heck? Why all the footnotes? This is a blog post, not a research paper. Good grief!

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Everyone Feels Self-Important

I doubt many would be surprised to hear that I have a special place in my heart for technology. I love the way our church websites, Internet Campus, and online groups extend the ministry of our church and allow me to connect with people I wouldn’t have met otherwise. I love that I can stay in contact with many people by reading their updates via Facebook, Twitter, and their blogs. I love that I can use technology, like Skype and Facetime, to connect with my family and have face-to-face conversations even though we are geographically distant from one another.

But along with this amazing gift of technology, our society, and maybe much of the world, has now also taken on the mantle of hyper-criticism. I see it in the comments of many blogs I read, I find it on Twitter, and I’ve even watched it creep into our church’s online social spaces. Our ability to interact and give feedback has brought many to the point where they can’t seem to turn off their own commentary. And now, everywhere I look, I’m surrounded by criticism. Someone is ripping on a airline for bad customer service, or they’re tearing down a celebrity for the dumb choices they’ve made, or they’re complaining about the quality of some product. Everywhere I look on the web, someone is pointing out somone’s mistake.

We’ve taken the platforms of web technology and social media and turned them into our pedestals. Our opinions have become the commodity, and we have become self-important. We take everything personally, refuse to extend grace, and dish out negativity.

This can’t be healthy. Not for us, and not for our society.

I think it’s time for many of us, especially those of us who claim to follow Jesus, to take a different path. It’s time to climb down from our pedestals, remember that we’re flawed like everyone else, and begin using our influence to lavish grace and love on those around us.

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Aren’t We Clever?

As I was reading last night, I came across Luke 10:21. It’s part of a passage that I’ve always enjoyed, but with the rise of social media tools like Facebook and Twitter, it’s especially interesting:

At that same time Jesus was filled with the joy of the Holy Spirit, and he said, “O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, thank you for hiding these things from those who think themselves wise and clever, and for revealing them to the childlike…. (NLT) [emphasis mine]

This is a motivation check for me. Why do I do the things I do and say the things I say? Is it to please God, or is it to impress people?

Father, please save me from my selfish motivations and my silly attempts to feel good about myself. Help me to place my identity in Christ and understand my worth through the cross.

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Redeeming the Broken Parts of Me

broken

Yesterday’s post was difficult to write. It’s challenging to take a hard look at your own struggles and then put them into writing. The reason I did it is because making progress in that area was at the top of my personal growth plan for the year, and I believe that as I expose my struggle to the light, God will continue to change my heart and mold me into the likeness of His Son.

It is such an amazing and freeing thing to know that through Jesus, not only do I find forgiveness for my sins, but I also get to watch as God redeems even the broken places of my life. Through Christ, I have nothing to hide. I don’t have to pretend that I’m perfect. Even my biggest struggles are no match for the cross and God’s power to make things new.

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Disturbed

disturbed

“For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come.”
Hebrews 13:14 (NLT)

Isn’t it amazing how much comfort this world can try to offer us? We’re surrounded by conveniences – fast food, nice grocery stores, amazing technology, and abundant entertainment. So many things try to win our love and steal our attention away from God and eternal things. For the Christian there is a constant struggle to remember that this world isn’t our real home.

Tonight, I am again praying that God will keep what is real and lasting in front of me. I’m praying that He will give me eyes of faith and a heart that only finds fullness in Him.

Disturb us, Lord, when we are too well pleased with ourselves, when our dreams have come true because we have dreamed too little, when we arrive safely because we have sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us, Lord, when with the abundance of things we possess, we have lost our thirst for the waters of life; having fallen in love with life, we have ceased to dream of eternity; and in our efforts to build a new earth, we have allowed our vision of the new heaven to dim.

Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly, to venture on wider seas where storms will show your mastery; where losing sight of land, we shall find the stars. We ask you to push back the horizons of our hopes; and to push us into the future in strength, courage, hope, and love.

– Sir Frances Drake (explorer and naval pioneer during the Elizabethan era)

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Faking It

Faking Transparency

Our culture today has rejected the “plastic” feel that characterized certain elements of the past few decades. Instead of being content with artificial, the culture now upholds and seeks out the values of transparency and authenticity. This shift is beneficial for the work of Christ. They make a rich soil for the communication and application of the gospel. They give people a safe place to come clean with their sins, fears, and insecurities to find accountability and encouragement from others.

The bad thing is, many people are selling out for a cheap imitation of transparency and authenticity. Rather than creating fertile ground, we’re tempted to hide our insecurity under a top soil of sarcasm. It can be fun and lighthearted when used sparingly (I love to smile and laugh), but it can be a cheap cover up too. Rather than encouraging and building one another up in love, we can spend our time trying to keep people laughing.

Given time, sarcasm will erode our communication and leave us with interactions that are even more plastic than in generations past.

This is a great opportunity for the church to shine brightly in our world today. Rather than a new kind of fake, may we demonstrate transparency with humility and encouragement.

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