Evidence of a Well-Placed Round
The ironic thing about my bullet necklace is that the only reason it is usable as a necklace is because that bullet didn't do what it was made to do. It was crafted to hit a target. But if it had it would have been deformed and ugly. That "ugliness" would have been proof it had done its job well.
In life, our days are exchanged for something -- money, fame, love conquests, career, entertainment, and so on. Sometimes those things make our lives look visually beautiful. Others may enviously gaze upon our expensive cars, nice clothes, string of significant others, job, acclaim, connections with the right people, or pop culture knowledge.
Too often we look at these "beautiful" things in other's lives as proof that they are in God's will. When in actuality it may be the opposite. Sometimes it is those things which make our lives appear ugly (or make our lives hard) that really prove we are doing what God created us to do. A smaller house or second hand car so the money can support international missions or stateside ministries. A name no one knows, because we are too busy clean the church kitchen or changing out the air filter for our neighbor. One spouse for life. A plateaued career because we turned down the promotion that promised a bigger paycheck (but also 70+ hour work weeks). Ignorance of pop culture because our evenings are spent in God's Word or prayer or discipleship.
But the bottom line is ugly can be beautiful. Are we willing to make our lives "ugly" if that is what God wants?
Have I ever told you about this necklace I made? I found it...well, at least part of it at the shooting range. The "pendant" is a bullet. Only this bullet missfired. For some reason it came out of its casing without firing correctly.
If this bullet had fired properly, I never would have found it; because to avoid being shot, at a gun range you spend 99% of your time behind the firing line. And that's where I found it. Bullets that fire normally are found "down range", near the targets at the opposite end of the range and I try not to spend much time there.
And I started thinking. Our lives are like bullets. Where are well-fired lives spent? What are they not spent on? Will God find us using our lives "behind the fire line" -- places we shouldn't be investing our time? Or will He find us "down range", hitting the target He has for us? If He picked up our lives today and looked at them, what would He see?
Playing at Love
Have you ever seen the movie Yours, Mine, and Ours with Lucille Ball? If not, don't rush off and watch it. But there is a scene near the end where the oldest daughter's boyfriend is pressuring her into bed. The oldest son catches them and punches him out. Her stepfather, Henry Fonda, then describes to her what proves you love someone -- and it's not sleeping with them.
That boyfriend was just playing at love. He would "love" her only as long as he could get what he wanted. He wanted her only for her body. And as I recalled the scene, I wonder how many of us play at loving God.
Most of us would never say, "God, I love You...as long as I am healthy, my kids are safe, my spouse is lovable, and I have a job." But too often this is what our lives say. We go to church, give a tithe, pray and read our Bibles only as long as life is peachy. Once life gets hard, we drop our protestations of love and turn to God in anger, "Why are You letting this happen?"
Well, it's not going to bed with someone that proves you love them, it's sticking it out when life is boring and when terrible things happen. God is not naive (though I think we sometimes wish/think He is). He knows this -- His name and His character is Love. Our Lord works in our lives so we cannot "play at love" and instead have opportunities to prove our love in the mundane and bitterest circumstances of life.
Who I Would Have Been...
If you visit the River Thames in London you will find a statue of Boudica, Queen of the Iceni, flanked by her two bare-chested daughters. Though the statue is bronze, history tells us Boudica was low-voiced, tall, redheaded, and fierce. During Rome’s zenith, the last world empire carved out a foothold in England by subjugating the Celtic tribes. When Boudica’s husband died, Rome reneged on their arrangement and assumed control of his entire kingdom, stealing his riches, beating his widow, and raping his daughters.
Fueled by hatred, Boudica mustered a massive Celtic army, possibly around 250,000. The army marched on a Roman establishment with no fortifications and slaughtered the inhabitants. From there Boudica quenched her fury with 70,000 enemy lives. Eventually, 80,000 of her own troops died as she was defeated on the field of battle by a much smaller Roman force.
History can’t agree on her death – some say she died of shock, others report she committed suicide (which to me, matches the fiber of this woman). Either way, she lost.
When I read her story my first thought was, “She is me without Jesus.” She played out my every carnal inclination. Anger grew into unforgiveness. Unforgiveness birthed bitterness. Her revenge was cruel and self-serving. And eventually her pride destroyed her and an army that should have been able to withstand Rome’s assault. And but for the grace of God – there go I.
Do you have a historical alter-ego? What can you learn from them about yourself and the redemptive kindness of our Great God and Savior?
And How Do We Get Home? (Part 2)
If we want to get home from our dream world that we create in the imaginations of our own hearts (which is not a good place to be – Genesis 8:21 and Luke 1:51), we must return to the heart of God – which is love.
Regardless of our romance culture, outside of Jesus Christ love isn’t, nor can it be eternal. But since true love always seeks the other’s good and this good is not confined to a life span, but exists into eternity, true love is eternal.
Woah! I hear you saying, “You had me up to that point. How can love be eternal?”
Love is a defining characteristic of God Himself. His love is forever. As we enter into life with Jesus and model His love, our love is joined with His and we begin to be motivated by eternity. Eternal love.
Love is true.
Love is bold.
Love is freely given.
Love is selfless.
Love is forever.
In reality, choices have consequences today, tomorrow, and into eternity. Love encourages those choices which will result in good – discourages those choices that will result in bad – makes the courageous choice to continue in (appropriate) relationship regardless of the choice made.
As our lives display this true love, we will glorify God and have a platform from which to minister to others. It is Christ’s promise that if we love those around us will know we are His disciples because we are simply following His example: But God demonstrates His own love toward us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us. – Romans 5:8
How Did We Get Here?
We live in the middle of chaos.
Happiness is the ultimate goal.
Truth is whatever makes us happy.
And love means simply never interfering with other’s happiness or their truth.
How on earth did we get here?
All too easily.
We allowed lust to redefine love.
And we watered down it to make whatever I want (or think I want) admirable.
So that’s where we are.
But how do we escape this mass confusion?
If we want to restore peace, we must relearn the truth about love.
True love is based on reality, not lies. And God is the only one who knows the Truth.
True love is bold. In defense, support, exhorting, correcting, and encouraging. It cannot be passive or permissive because it is based on truth. Thus, God’s love toward us is incisive and active.
True love is free, not a transaction. It loves at its own expense, forever. Because...
True love is self-sacrificing, not self-serving. It puts others first at all times.
True love is something that no one can understand or mimic apart from Jesus Christ – Love in the flesh. And this we must remember. It is illogical to expect love from those who do not know its source: Christ, our Lord and Savior. So if we want true love, we must introduce them to Jesus.
Cultivating a Sweet Tooth
Most of us are not born desiring to exercise or drink water or eat a healthy diet, but many of us have learned to encourage those habits. Similarly, a sweet tooth for the Bible is an appetite that needs to be actively cultivated.
Here are three ways we can nurture our spiritual “sweet teeth”:
1. Always pray first. The Bible is God’s Word. The Holy Spirit is our Teacher. Before you start studying, ask God to come and prepare your heart and open your mind to the truth of His word.
2. Be constantly curious. Who is this person? Where is this place? Why is this word here? (Words like since, therefore, because link passages together.) Does this passage relate to other passages? How am I supposed to obey this command? How can I follow this good example (or avoid this bad example)?
3. Engage with the Scriptures. God wrote these things down specifically for your learning (Romans 15:4). So help it come alive. Listen to the Bible audio. Take notes. Outline the chapter or book you are studying. Draw pictures or paint mental pictures of the passage you are reading. Memorize a verses and pray through it with God.
May your times with Christ in His word grow sweeter and sweeter!
The Necessity of a Sweet Tooth!
Our family could write the book on sugar-overdoses.
Chapter 1: Using your lunch money to buy pounds of candy corn instead of lunch.
Chapter 2: Eating a cup of icing straight (with a little help from the factory tour guide).
Chapter 3: Putting so much brown sugar in your hot cereal that it turns black.
Three different generations. Three different stories. The same lesson learned.
But these childhood lessons miss one important point: Christ followers need to have a sweet tooth. A strong sweet tooth for the word of God.
In Psalm 19 and Psalm 119 David compares the Scriptures to honey and honeycomb. Choose your favorite sweet snack, and that is the analogy David is making. We are to crave God’s Word in the same way that we can’t resist warm chocolate chip cookies or a gooey s’more. The riches we find tucked between the Bible’s pages should compel us to return over and over to satisfy our sweet tooth. And, try as hard as you want, but you cannot overdose this sweet tooth. So go ahead and indulge!
Go Ahead! Be Curious!
Have you ever wondered why God included certain stories in the Bible? I have. This week I was reading the story of the man of God in 1 Kings 13. (You can see a retelling of it below or just read it for yourself in the Bible.) It's a strange story and it left me scratching my head a little. But we know that as for God His way is perfect (2 Samuel 22:31). Nothing He does is senseless. Every story He includes in the Bible is profitable for us. And even a quick overview of this story will reveal several godly principles.
1. God gives instructions for a reason.
2. God's instructions must be obeyed.
3. No matter how spiritual or powerful, no one gets a pass from God for disobedience.
4. We can influence others to disobey God.
5. It is our responsibility to obey God no matter who disagrees with us.
I am still meditating on 1 Kings 13 and am convinced that God has more to teach me. Can I challenge you to do the same with a Bible story you consider a little odd? God's word is sensational in the sense that it is wondrous, intended to arouse our deepest curiosity.
1 Kings 13 (Very Briefly Retold)
A man of God hears the word of the Lord (along with very specific instructions). He goes to wicked king Jeroboam and foretells the coming of good King Josiah. God told this man to:
A) Not eat
B) Not drink
C) Not return home by the same road
D) All of the above
The answer is D. The man of God (whose name we don't know) was stopped by a prophet on the way home. The prophet then proceeds to lie and gets the man to disobey God's command. Once at the prophet's home, the prophet tells the man of God he will surely die for his disobedience. The man of God dies as the Lord said and the prophet buries the man in his own tomb.
Who I'm Meant to Be
"Just let me be who I'm meant to be." Was the gist of a pop song I heard this week. And all of us understand this desire to fulfill our purpose in life.
How many times did your mom tell you, "Stop bouncing on/playing with/bending that! It's not what it was meant for?" At least 1,000 and at least a handful of those times whatever it was broke. Because -- Guess What? -- mom was right: It wasn't meant for that. Often it even said so right in the instructions: Do not submerge in water. Avoid stressing the thingy-ma-bob. Weight limit: 80 lbs. Meant for single person use.
Meant implies purpose, a design for an item and a reason for existence. Further it is an external design by the inventor who knows what that item was made to do.
As people we use the word "meant", but we want to decide what our design should be. The catch is: We don't know it. Since we didn't create ourselves, we can't know our purpose. We need the Creator to tell us who we were meant to be. And (Praise God!) He has told us clearly in His instructions:
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. -- Ephesians 2:10
Come with me as we grow in fellowship with each other and our Savior to whom belongs the Amazing Escape from sin and death and the Amazing Journey into glorious life.