Chasing Lions


Chasing Lions

I want to write a bit about chasing lions. This isn’t exactly a smart plan if you have ever seen the Animal Planet. Almost every time I see a lion there it wins. I have seen lions take down animals much larger than they are. I have seen their speed, strength and agility as they hunt, and I have been impressed by them. In fact if I ever saw a lion in the wild the last thing I would think about doing is chasing it. If by some chance it ran from me, my inclination would be to run as fast as I could away from it. Keep this thought in mind as you read further, I am going to shift gears on you for a minute.

God is pretty clear when he says that he has a plan for you. He has a plan and a purpose. He tells us in the book of Jeremiah that his plan is for good and not for evil. He tells us it is a plan that will give us a future and a hope. God has given us much. He has created us with gifts and talents that he plans to use.

There is a story told by Jesus in Matthew 25. Jesus is teaching his disciples and tells a story of three servants that are given gifts by their master. They were gifts of great treasure. One man was given 100 years wages for the average laborer, A second man was given 40 years wages, and a third was given 20 years wages.

The master went away and the servant with 100 years wages and the servant with 40 years wages went to work investing what they had been given and made a profit. The third servant with 20 years wages buried what had been given to him. Jesus tells us he was afraid of his master, afraid of losing what had been trusted to him.

When the master returned the first and second servants showed their profits and were praised and given even more to manage. The third servant was punished for not doing anything with what had been given to him. It seems the master wanted a return on his investment.

At this point you are probably wondering where those lions are that are mentioned in the title. All I can say is hang in there, they are coming. A couple of thoughts about the story from Matthew 25, the master gave the servants everything they needed to be successful, to make a profit, and to be elevated into a higher position in the master’s kingdom. The master in this story did not expect anything from his servants that he didn’t prepare them for.

By now you have probably figured out that the master in this story is God and the servants are you and me. God put gifts, talents, and abilities in our hands to profit his kingdom. He expects a profit when he returns, he expects you not to bury your talents but to use them to profit his kingdom.

This may seem disconnected but bear with me, the Bible talks frequently of shepherds. They are those guys with little crooked canes who look after the sheep. Their job is to make sure the sheep prosper. The sheep have been entrusted to the shepherd they are his responsibility. If you have been waiting for the lion talk, your in luck its time for that now.

Lions used to come and steal sheep from the shepherds. They would come and pick up a sheep and carry it away from the flock devouring it. The Bible says that we have an enemy. Peter tells us in first Peter that the devil is like a lion. He is seeking something to devour. John tells us that thieves come only to steal, kill and destroy. Lions come and take away that which has been entrusted to the shepherd.

If I am a shepherd and a lion comes and snags one of my sheep, I am writing it off as a loss. I get out my tax forms and make a note of the deduction I am about to take. I assume shepherds get a tax deduction when they lose sheep to a lion. I am just thankful for the sheep I have left and I look for a new field where the lion won’t find us. David didn’t think this way. David was a shepherd.

He tells us in the book of 1 Samuel of his life as a shepherd.

“But David said to Saul, ‘Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear

…the Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me….” 1 Samuel 17:34-37 (NIV)

As a shepherd David realized God had put the sheep in his care. he took responsibility for what had been given to him. He was not afraid to fight for what had been given to him. David realized when he killed a lion or a bear that it was God who helped him do it.

David WENT AFTER THE LION. He chased a lion! I don’t know about you but in my life, there are times the thief has broken into my pasture and tried to steal away the promises that God gave to me. There have been times when our enemy the lion has snatched up one of the sheep in my pasture, my gifts, my talents, my abilities and run away with it. His intention was to steal it, kill it, and destroy it.

There are times when I have been like David and there are times when I have not. I pray that God gives me the strength to chase the lions that would try to rob me of the call of God on my life. I pray that God would grant me a heart like David to chase the lion, strike it and take back what God gave to me. I pray that you chase your lions too!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Sight to the blind


Mark 10 tells the story of Blind Bartimaeus. I have always found this story interesting for a few reasons. Here is a guy, who is blind and is begging on the street. He hears that the famous preacher is passing by his way and begins to call out to him

“JESUS!!!” the man shouts

Jesus didn’t seem to hear him and everyone around him is pretty irritated that he is shouting. They probably were all trying to listen to what Jesus was saying. I imagine Jesus teaching and talking as he walked through the crowds. Maybe Bartimaeus was interrupting Jesus. Whatever their reasons the crowd turned on Bartimaeus and told him in no uncertain terms that he should just shut up.

It didn’t stop him, he kept calling out even louder.

“JESUS”

Jesus hears the man and says call him. I imagine the people who told him to shut up were kind of embarrassed that Jesus called the man. I can almost picture them shaking their head in disbelief as Jesus calls this man who was so rudely interrupting what must have been a brilliant narrative.

Bartimaeus responds with excitement. He tosses his cloak aside. Now the people who had sought to keep Bartimaeus quiet were likely helping him to his feet and pointing him in Jesus’ direction.

This is where the story gets really interesting, at least to me. Jesus takes a look at the blind man who had to be helped to Jesus and says what do you want.

Imagine being in Bartimaeus’ head for a moment. Hello Jesus can’t you see I am blind!!!! Of course I want you to heal me….give me sight…. duh. Maybe this was a mistake. Maybe this isn’t who I tought it was….

Bartimaeus gives his simple reply, “I want to see”

Jesus doesn’t hesitate, he gives Bartimaeus exactly what he asked for…..sight. The fact that he asked that question always has bothered me. “What do you want?”

I put a lot of thought into it and realized that I do this too. I have been around people long enough to realize that their most obvious need isn’t always the one that they are wanting you to meet. Sometimes people don’t want a solution to a problem, they just want a little relief from the situation they find themselves in. Not a way out, just some relief while they stay in it.

Bartimaeus could have heard that Jesus had once fed 5000 people. He could have been hungry and thought I bet this guy can get me a sandwich. He could have thought being such a popular teacher, maybe he could spare a couple bucks. There are dozens of less obvious reasons Bartimaeus could have wanted to talk to Jesus. So Jesus asked him, then gave him what he came for.

The writer of Hebrews teaches us that Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever more he will be the same. He is still calling people today. If your reading this, chances are you have heard that call before. Jesus said call him.

I have heard Jesus call me. I have responded and at times I have been looking only for relief. Other times I was looking for change. When you go to Jesus looking for change you need to know your life can never go back to the way it was.

When Jesus called Bartimaeus, he threw his cloak aside and went to Jesus. It’s easy to read that and give very little thought to it. But for Bartimaeus that cloak was a license to beg. It meant he was authorized to sit there and live off of the kindness of people. It was his sustenance. It was his means of providing his next meal. It was how he lived day-to-day. You couldn’t just sit and beg in this place, you had to have a beggar’s cloak and Bartimaeus heard the call of Jesus and knew that life was over. He tossed his cloak aside.

Two thousand years ago, Jesus called a blind man to come to him. He gave him sight and a new way to live. Today because Jesus doesn’t change, he is calling to us to come to him. The question is will you cast aside your cloak, your old way of life and come to Jesus.

I love how the story ends…..Mark 10:52 says, “Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Y+X=X?


How does Y+X=X

In honor of back to school season I thought it was about time for me to get back to posting on my blog. So how about we kick off back to school season with an algebra equation of sorts. How can Y+X=X?

This is a question I recently posed to Regenerate Student Ministries on a Tuesday night. In their defense it was the first day back to school after the summer vacation and many of them weren’t back in the thinking mode yet. The only possible answer here is that Y must equal zero.

That means in this equation the only important variable is the X. X is the only thing that brings any value to the equation. If it weren’t for X, the equation would say y=0.

So what in the world does this have to do with me? The truth is that I am Y. Yes you got that right y=Jeff. I am Y because I have absolutely nothing to bring to Jesus that is going to add any value to Him. I have nothing to offer him. The Bible says my righteousness is as filthy rags…..thats pretty harsh but if I am being honest I know its true. Jesus has everything I need, I have nothing that he needs.

This is the gospel. We really don’t have a leg to stand on, we have no bargaining chips, we can’t argue that we deserve Jesus, but he still comes along side and gives us hope and meaning.

Jesus is X. And he offers that to each and every person on the planet. We get to come to him with our nothingness and in return, we have the full value of his worth added. I like this equation. This is good news.

Y=0 and X=Everything. Y is what I have and X is what Jesus offers. Amazing…the only reason this equation is flawed is that truth be known, I bring even less than nothing to Jesus. I bring a negative to him. I bring my selfishness, my pride, my jealousy, and well you get the idea.

The great thing about Jesus is that my negatives don’t affect his positives at all. His love is infinite, his forgiveness limitless, his mercy…well that is new every day. His grace….sufficient to cover me. I love the thought of this equation and every day I am grateful that in my life, whats left after the = sign no longer equals zero but it equals Jesus. In my life its no longer my own abilities to do good, my own abilities to love others, no its now Jesus abilities because he added his value to my life.

“God caused the one who didn’t know sin to be sin for our sake so that through him we could become the righteousness of God.” – 2 Corinthians 5:21

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Be the light


How many times have you gone to church and heard that we need to spread the light.  Growing up we even funded an organization called Speed the Light.  They gave out awards at our youth conventions for the groups that gave the most to speed the light.  Our church never won because our youth group was much smaller than some of the others in the competition.  I always thought they should judge on a dollar per attendee basis.  We might have stood a chance then.

Now growing up, I go to church and I hear in prayer meetings people asking God for revival.  We ask him to send his light to shine in the darkness.  People are sincere in their cries.  Some even pray with strong emotions.  I have heard all the emotions in these prayer meetings.  People cry, people yell, I have even heard people begin to demand that God do something.  I find this response funniest of all.

Have you ever read something hundreds of times and then all of a sudden it smacks you right in the face.  You see something that you swear wasn’t there before.  You look back and realize that you had read this over and over and somehow missed the most amazing fact in the line.  This happened to me once while reading Isaiah 58, its a great chapter on what God sees as a true fast.  Something new hit me one day when I got to verse 8.

“Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear….” Isaiah 58:8 NIV

Wait a minute!  So we have been praying for God to send light in the darkness and its right here in Isaiah 58 how to get that to happen.  There is this passage where God says if you do this and that…….your light will break forth like the dawn!  He left us instructions on how to get the light to shine…..loose chains of injustice, untie the cords that bind, set the oppressed free, etc, etc….

Then it occurred to me that God was telling us that we should do these things.  We have been praying for Him to do it and God was saying that we should do it.  Its right there read the rest of Isaiah 58 and see for yourself.  “if you do away with oppression” Then one of my personal favorites do away with….the pointing finger and malicious talk.  There is a whole list of if you do this and if you do that…..God says our light will shine.

Is it dark out?  I think so, maybe its because of us.  Maybe we are supposed to be the ones to flip the switch.  Maybe….and I know this might be extreme to some of us, but maybe we are supposed to do more than just pray for God to change things.  Maybe we are supposed to you know do something about the injustice.  Maybe we are supposed to feed the hungry.  Maybe we are supposed to free slaves.  I don’t know, maybe I’m crazy but thats what I read!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Blue Like Jazz


Hello, if you haven’t read Blue Like Jazz yet I recommend you do it pretty quick. The movie is coming out on April 13th. I am attending a screening tomorrow night and will have a review tomorrow for everyone interested. For now here is a link to the trailer. Watch it, share it, post it on Facebook and Twitter and whatever else you use! I really hope this movie is a success!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Celebrating Halloween All Year Long


So its almost Halloween and by now the annual debate is heating up.  The debate of course being, as a Christian, do I let my kids celebrate Halloween or not.  Growing up in the church I have heard the debates go back and forth.  I for one was allowed to dress up and go trick or treating, but I always felt guilty about it in Sunday school when I realized some of the other kids couldn’t go.

I have heard absurd off the wall arguments about how dressing up at Halloween is inviting the devil himself to possess your soul.  I have heard several more reasoned arguments against dressing up and playing make believe for a few hours as well.  Some of them I would even say were compelling.  But that is not what I wanted to write about today.

I wanted to write about something much more troubling to me.  For all of the talk about not dressing up for Halloween, we Christians sure like to throw on a mask whenever we walk through the doors of the church.  You would think the doors of the church held some mystical power that banished all evil from the life of a believer the moment they walked in the door.  Its as if we are transported to heaven where all troubles are gone and every tear has been wiped away.

Christians come into the church every week hurting.  Ask any of them how they are doing and your answer will probably be, “I’m alright.”  Sure you get variances like fine, good and ok.  Every once in a while, you will encounter someone who is super spiritual and they will go even further and say how  blessed they are.

Why do we have such a hard time being honest.  Before you think I am beating up on everybody for their lack of sincerity, let me say I am guilty of this as much if not more than anyone else.  I have gone to church arguing with my wife and kids in the car and gotten out of the car, slipped on the mask and told everyone I was fine.

I have gone into church depressed, angry, bitter, and at times barely clinging to my faith and the mask comes on.  There were times I was even “blessed.”  It seems ironic to me that so many Christians strongly oppose any form of dressing up on Halloween but they have no issues putting on the mask themselves.  In fact, its almost like we celebrate Halloween all year long.

I recently got done teaching a series in my youth group called, “I’m NOT Alright.”  I want to make sure that I am building a place where its alright to be not alright.  A place where we can get real with each other and deal with our hurts.  Galatians 6:2 teaches us to bear each other’s burdens.  We can only do this if we are willing to share our burdens.  The verse continues to tell us that if we do this, we will fulfill the law of Christ!

Did you get that, “Fulfill the law of Christ.”  That is what it says.  Go check it out, I will wait……….. SEE! If you want to do this, you have to be willing to open yourself up a bit.  Confess that you have weakness, confess that you have sinned….and still do, and be willing to accept other people even though they are as messed up as you and I are.

So this Halloween lets take off our masks and get real.  I am not alright and I am not ashamed to say it, because we all struggle .  I have bad days, I argue with my wife, sometimes I yell at my kids.  I get angry….and hold on to it even.  I have been bitter and have resented others.  I have struggled with jealousy, coveting, and even *gasp* lust.

Part of the inspiration of this post came from Sanctus Real’s song I’m Not Alright.  Check it out here  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E5oY2oYKHFY

Please drop me a line and tell me what you think……unless you want to try and convince me about the whole devil possessing my soul for dressing up as Dick Tracy when I was in the 6th grade.  You can keep those thoughts to yourself.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

As For Me


As For Me

So this is my first audio update to my blog.  There are more coming.  In this message you kind of miss the big ending.  I had one of the youth leaders from the church I was preaching in come to the stage.  I proceeded to fill her hands with raw eggs and eventually one fell.

You kind of get the gist of what happens from there.  The eggs pretty much all end up broken on the floor of the stage.  Well hope you like it.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment