What Is Your Second Mile?

“If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles” (Matthew 5:41, NIV)

The gist of the passage is that back in ye olden Bible times, a Roman soldier could conscript anyone to carry his gear for up to one mile. Many Jewish people would put a marker exactly one mile from their houses so they would know precisely how much they were required to do.

Remember Simon of Cyrene? The Roman soldiers forced him to carry Jesus’ cross, probably based on this idea.

But pay attention to Jesus’ own words.

If anyone asks you to go one mile, go two. In other words, do above and beyond what is expected of you.

So the question that I heard today is the one I now pose to you: what is your second mile?

How can you serve where you’re planted in a way that goes beyond the minimum requirement?

It’s not necessarily about doing more, but about how you do what you’re doing. It’s all about your attitude.

Where you are, what you are doing, is your ministry, whether it’s in a church building or a seminary or a classroom or in a grocery store or in your own home.

I think the Apostle Paul nailed it when he said this: “Servants, do what you’re told by your earthly masters. And don’t just do the minimum that will get you by. Do your best. Work from the heart for your real Master, for God, confident that you’ll get paid in full when you come into your inheritance. Keep in mind always that the ultimate Master you’re serving is Christ. The sullen servant who does shoddy work will be held responsible. Being a follower of Jesus doesn’t cover up bad work” (Colossians 3:22-25, The Message).

That goes for any sphere of life for wherever you live,work, play, and serve.

Do it all as if you were doing it directly for Jesus Himself.

See everyone you meet as possibly Jesus in disguise and treat them like you would treat Him if you knew He was standing right in front of you.

My Takeaways

Here’s what I’m taking away from the Supreme Court’s decision to essentially legalize same-sex marriage in all 50 states.

1) I don’t agree with the decision, but I’m not going to bash those who disagree with me. It doesn’t accomplish anything and is counterproductive to how Jesus told me to love people regardless of whether they agree with me or even love me back.

2) Just because I disagree with someone’s beliefs or lifestyle doesn’t mean that I hate that person. The old adage stands true that you can love the sinner (a category which includes all of us) while hating the sin, or more accurately, what the sin does to the person.

3) If you’re my friend and you’re gay, know that I won’t love you any less or be any less of a friend to you. I may not agree with you on everything, but I’m sure you wouldn’t agree with me (or anyone) 100%. Jesus Himself chose to dine with sinners and said that He didn’t come for those who were righteous, but for those who know they need lots of help.

4) Jesus died for sinners. Period. There were no exclusions or exceptions to who Jesus went to the cross for. If you believe in Jesus with your heart and confess with your mouth, you will be saved. Period. PS You won’t just be saved from hell, but saved to an incredible, amazing, everlasting and full life.

5) If you believe in Jesus sincerely and solely for your salvation, you are saved, whether you are gay, straight, bipolar, alcoholic, prideful, arrogant, drug-addicted, lazy, or anything else. Jesus doesn’t ask for anybody to clean up his act and get his life together before salvation can take place. Jesus will meet you where you are,  but He won’t leave you there.

6) There will be a lot of people who will use this as an excuse to condemn other people and pronounce judgment on them. I won’t be one of those. I know that if anyone has a right to judge and condemn, it’s God. I also know that God could very easily judge and condemn me for what I’ve done and said and thought in the past. So I choose grace instead.

I think that about covers it.


RIght Living and Right Speaking

Occasionally, the creative well runs dry and I end up “borrowing” from other great writers. One of my favorites that I’ve quoted many times in the past is Henri Nouwen (who along with Brennan Manning are probably my two favorite authors).

Here’s what he wrote that again struck me so powerfully:

“To be a witness for God is to be a living sign of God’s presence in the world.  What we live is more important than what we say, because the right way of living always leads to the right way of speaking.   When we forgive our neighbours from our hearts, our hearts will speak forgiving words.  When we are grateful, we will speak grateful words, and when we are hopeful and joyful, we will speak hopeful and joyful words.

When our words come too soon and we are not yet living what we are saying, we easily give double messages.  Giving double messages – one with our words and another with our actions – makes us hypocrites.   May our lives give us the right words and may our words lead us to the right life.”

Right speaking comes out of right living. People will sense the authenticity of your words when they see what you say lived out. Your faith will be more caught than taught, and if your words don’t match your actions, then people will dismiss the words and not the actions.

If I speak and act out of a need to be liked or thought well of, then what I say and do won’t be as effective as if I speak and act as one who knows who he is and who knows that he is the Beloved of God. My identity informs my authenticity.

I hope and pray that from this point on I will speak only what I live, and I will live only what God has already spoken about me.


More About Blessed

If you turn on TBN, you might hear some old preacher talking about how God wants to bless you. By that, he probably means that God wants to shower you with riches and mansions and luxury cars and yachts and so forth.

But when I read my Bible, I get a different version of what it means for God to bless someone. What Jesus calls blessed in the Beatitudes is far better than what any health-and-wealth preacher might call it.

Not that God doesn’t grant wealth as a blessing, but I think the idea of blessing is so much more than that. After all, doesn’t the Bible say not to store your treasures on earth where thieves break in and steal and rust corrodes? Will you be able to take any of your wealth with you? Of course not.

The older I get, the more I see that the best blessing God gives is God. More than any gift God gives, God giving Himself to anyone is the best gift of all. It truly is the gift that keeps on giving, because you will never in any lifetime get to the bottom of Who God is or how much He loves you.

To be blessed is to know God and to know Jesus, who is God with a human face. All of us take that privilege for granted all the time, but have you ever stopped to think that the Creator and King of Everything has sought you out for a relationship? That should boggle our minds.

At the end of the day, I’m blessed. I know that God will supply all my needs through Jesus because ultimately my greatest need is Jesus. And He will take care of all my other needs, too.

You can have everything your heart desires and not have God and you will be miserable. You can have nothing but God and you will find that He is enough.

That’s another reminder to myself.




My prayer for this Wednesday

O Great Lover of my soul, so captivate my senses that all I see is You, all I hear is Your voice and all I long to do is Your will. Make every breath a prayer, every thought a praise and every action an offering. Speak, O God, through my daily life so that everyone may know how You can turn ashes into beauty, dross into gold and something worthless into something priceless.  Remind me that there is no such thing as a lost cause or a hopeless case with You, because NOTHING is impossible for You!

Help me to see with your eyes, feel with your heart, reach out with your hands, and run with your feet toward the broken, outcast, and hopeless ones. Break my heart like your heart was broken over what sin does to Your people. Give me Your passion to see Your people unified, singing with one voice the praises that are due You, lifting up holy hands in prayer and laying down their lives for Your kingdom.

Forgive me the times I have slandered Your name by professing Your name with my lips and denying the same with my lifestyle. Forgive me for seeking to curry favor with the popular when You have always sought after the widows and orphans and outcasts of the world. Forgive me for making so much of myself and so little of You. Forgive me the times when I was silent out of fear instead of being Your voice to the lost and hurting. Forgive me my weakness and unbelief.

Send your Spirit in a mighty outpouring over this land. Let your revival sweep over your Church and let it begin in me. Awake your peoples to be glad and shout for joy at the Eternal Song that is You. May the buildings were Your people meet be shaken to the core, and the people inside broken and mended into new creations. Let us never quit until we have testified of Your goodness to every tongue, tribe, and nation on the planet.

Come quickly, Lord Jesus!

Boasting in weakness

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

When was the last time I boasted in my weaknesses? I seldom even acknowledge that I have any weaknesses. Usually I try to sell myself on what I consider my best qualities. But weaknesses? I try to hide them or pretend they don’t exist.

I truly believe that there is a power that comes only through weakness and brokenness that will never come through self-reliance or self-sufficiency. Only when I am weak, when I admit to the world that I am weak, then I am strong. And Christ in me is so much stronger than I could ever be.

What if I boasted in the fact that my social skills are slightly better than nonexistent? That I back down when I should stand up? What if I shout to the rooftops that I am weak, helpless, afraid and utterly broken? Maybe then I am at my strongest and the power that raised Christ from the dead is unleashed in me.

This is so very against the culture that it is unthinkable. But aren’t I supposed to be counter-culture? What if we are too busy fitting in and so much like the world that we have completely lost the power that can save the world? Maybe that’s why Christians are so despised. Not because we are different, but because we are not different enough.

A broken world can’t relate to perfect, holier-than-thou Christians who have it all together. They respond when they see what our brokenness looks like and when God’s grace is able to transform our weakness into His strength. Grace is what the world needs, not our perfection.

Some thoughts about worship

Jesus didn’t die for our good works or good intentions. He didn’t die to make good people better. Or for that matter to make bad people good. He died to make dead people come alive. He died for our dark places, our wicked deeds. He came to take our blame and our shame and give us His perfection. Jesus died to make us worshippers.

John Piper says in effect, Worship, not missions, is the purpose of His people. The reason that missions exists is because for so many peoples, worship does not. People can’t worship a God they don’t know. People can’t worship a god made in their image that is too small to save or love or rescue anybody. Redeemed people worship a real God. Really when you look at it, missions and evangelism are both forms of worship– declaring the great worth and works of God to all peoples.

Worship is Romans 12:1-2, offering our bodies as living sacrifices. In the Old Testament, part of worship was offering sacrifices like bulls and goats. Since Jesus did away with the old sacrificial system, what we bring as our offering of worship is ourselves. Worship is giving to God our bodies, our souls, our true selves. Worship is giving back to God what was already His and acknowledging that He owns it all, including us.

Worship is James 1:27. When we give to the widow and the orphan, we give to Jesus. Whatever we do for the least of these, we do for Jesus. Jesus didn’t choose the popular or strong or wise; He chose the throwaways of the world, the lepers, the outcasts and the abandoned to be His worshippers. Worship also means keeping yourself unstained by the world, to be set apart and different. Worship is either a 24/7 lifestyle or it’s nothing at all.

Worship is taking your two loaves and five fishes and watching Jesus turn it into a meal for thousands. When we give what little we call our own to Jesus, He takes it and not only blesses the multitudes, but gives back to us more than we can contain.

Worship means to kiss, to adore and to sacrifice. It is saying that God is supremely worthy of all of me. It means I will give my life away on a daily basis for the Kingdom of God. It means that every breath is a praise and every thought a prayer.

Honestly, after all this, I still don’t really know what worship is. I’m not very good at it. Or I should say I am not very good at worshipping the right thing, i.e. Jesus of Nazareth who died on the cross and rose triumphantly from the grave and has all authority in heaven and on earth, including authority over my life.

In the New Testament, when people worshipped, they fell on their faces. In the book of Revelation, the apostle John fell on his face before Jesus as a dead man. That’s what I pray for: to die to everything else, to fall on Jesus, and live to Him, with Him and for Him only.

As always, I believe. Help my unbelief.

Blessed are the poor in spirit

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

To be poor in spirit is to acknowledge before God and others that you are spiritually bankrupt, that you have nothing of worth that you can bring to God or give to others. All you have is filthy rags, as Paul described human righteousness. You are admitting helplessness and insufficiency, which are very un-American concepts, but very biblical ones.

I like the way The Message puts this verse. “You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.”

To be at the end of your rope is to admit you have gotten yourself in a fix that you can’t get yourself out of. That you are hopelessly and gloriously confused and lost. That you need Someone to rescue you.

It also means that you aren’t in the Who’s Who of Christianity or in the Most Likely to Succeed in Spirituality. From a worldy perspective, you don’t count. But in God’s eyes, you are a treasure and a masterpiece. I like what Brennan Manning says about this verse:

“You poor, you nobodies, you of little account by the world’s standards, you are blessed. It is my Father’s good pleasure to give you a privileged place in the kingdom– not because you worked so hard, and not because you are saying all the right things or doing all the right things or becoming all the right things, but because my Father wants you.”

So if you feel like giving up or quitting, don’t. Remember that God loves you. He’s very fond of you and He will never give up on you. He has placed people in your life who are cheering you on and who will also never give up on you. Remember that the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to people like you. It is God’s good pleasure to give it to you.

And the best part about the Kingdom is that God comes with it. Better yet, the Kingdom of God is God Himself. It is Christ in you, the hope of glory. It is the Holy Spirit power that raised Christ from the dead. And it’s yours.

As always, I believe. Help my unbelief.

I want to be maladjusted

I was thinking about a speech Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave where he stated that he was proud to be maladjusted to things like social injustice. I like that terminology. I am also proud to be maladjusted to this world that doesn’t work and to the church when there’s too much world and not enough Word.

I want to be maladjusted to superficial relationships and fair-weather friends and to me when I am both of these.

I want to be maladjusted to when the most exclusive social circles are in church settings.

I want to be maladjusted to inauthenticity in myself and others instead of compassionately bearing one another’s burdens.

I want to be maladjusted to looking out for my own interests as I walk right past the broken and hurting without even seeing them.

I want to be maladjusted to thinking that spiritual problems can have political answers.

I want to be maladjusted to giving God my leftovers and not laying down my life for the Kingdom of Christ.

I want to be maladjusted to a self-sufficient American Church who relies on their own talents, abilities and strategies and does not cry out to the Holy Spirit out of utter need and dependency.

I want to be maladjusted to commitment-phobic Christianity when other Christians around the world are willing to pay with their lives for the privilege of what we take for granted on a daily basis.

I want to be maladjusted to anything less than building-shaking, fire-falling, Spirit-drenched revival among God’s people.

I want to be maladjusted to this world and not try to fit in, but instead be like my Lord Jesus Christ.

As always, I believe. Help my unbelief.