Weary Part II

I’m still weary. Only this time it’s a different kind of weariness.

I’m weary of violence and hatred seeming to always have the upper hand. It’s not a matter of guns or no guns, knifes or no knifes. It’s a matter of what lies within the unredeemed human heart when it gets its own way. You don’t overcome hatred by more hatred (even if it’s a different kind of hatred). Only love– God’s love– overcomes and conquers hate.

I’m weary of impatience wherever I find it, especially within my own heart. I know from personal experience that good things truly come to those who wait, yet it still goes against those ingrained instincts and that voice that always wants to have what it wants now.

I’m weary of the constant overload of information and the dearth of true wisdom. We have so much more knowledge now than we’ve ever had in our history, yet we seem so much more foolish than ever before in our choices and our character.

I’m weary of my own continual reluctance to trust God in the every day business of living. He’s never steered me wrong, yet I am still slow to listen and hesitant to take Him at His word when He does speak.

I’m weary of believers who try too much to look like the lost world they’re trying to save. What makes Christians attractive is not how much like everybody else we are but how different we are (hopefully in a good and loving way and not in a harsh and condemning way). I’m most weary of the fact that most of the time I’m too good at being incognito in my faith.

I’m thankful that all these things that are so tiresome are not the end of the story. The end is victory and overcoming and rest. Just as Jesus sat down at God’s right hand after His atoning work was finished, so shall we all finally find rest after Jesus comes back to redeem and restore history and humanity.



Thoughts on Light and Dark

“What we are telling you now is the very message we heard from Him: God is purelight, undimmed by darkness of any kind. If we say we have an intimate connection with the Father but we continue stumbling around in darkness, then we are lying because we do not live according to truth. If we walk step by step in the light, where the Father is, then we are ultimately connected to each other through the sacrifice of Jesus His Son. His blood purifies us from all our sins” (1 John 1:5-7, The Voice).

It struck me tonight how staggering the word picture of light and dark really is. I mean, you really can’t get more polar opposites than light and dark. It is literally a night and day difference.

John speaks of believers who formerly walked in darkness  who now walk in light.

That’s not about being a little nicer and a little more patient. That’s not about being a better and more improved version of yourself.

That’s about as radical a change as you can have. That’s about the difference between being dead and being alive.

It makes me wonder why there is such little difference between the lives of some believers and the lives of the unbelievers around them. If I’m truly walking in God’s light, how can I continue to act out of dark motives and desires?

I’m not suggesting that those who follow Jesus are supposed to be perfect. I am saying that they should look and sound different.

My favorite pastor once said that the problem that an unbelieving world has with Christians is not that they are too different from everybody else; it’s that they are too much the same. They speak a good game, but they don’t live the way they speak.

I can say that because I live that way too often. Too many of us are too good at being incognito Christians.

May God continue to lead us into a place where we strive to walk in the light and reflect the radical difference that comes from what only God can do.


To Starbucks or Not to Starbucks?

“The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians: who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, walk out the door, and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable” (Brennan Manning).

I went to Starbucks and got my caramel apple spice beverage. It’s not on the menu anymore, but I asked for it and they were able to make it for me. It was uber-yummy. I might even get one when I go back.

Yep, I went there. Literally.

I know some people are upset with Starbucks for not having “Merry Christmas” emblazoned on all their paraphernalia. It’s not even Thanksgiving, people. What do you expect?

This is my take. Starbucks is not a Christian company. I never had any illusions that they were. They are a for-profit company. Period. They also make darn good caramel apple spice beverages.

I’m much more bothered by people who profess faith with their lips but deny it with their lifestyles, as Brennan Manning mentioned earlier.

I’m bothered by Christian businessmen and women who will engage in unethical practices and behaviors under the guise of “it’s just business,” as if their faith and their business ethics don’t mix and the people who get turned off by their bad witness don’t matter.

I’m bothered by people with Christian bumper stickers plastered all over their vehicles whose driving gives a very different kind of witness than those faith-based slogans. Not that I ever drive badly. Oh no.

I’m bothered by Christians who are the most obnoxious and demanding people at restaurants, who tip the least, who show the least amount of grace to those who serve them. I’m extremely bothered by the fact that Sunday is the day a waitperson dreads to work most of all because of all of the church people.

I’m bothered by believers who haven’t done a very good job of representing what Jesus was all about– namely, forgiveness, grace, second chances, and a home for all types of broken people. I’m bothered that people know us by what we’re against instead of what we’re for.

I’m bothered that Christians still think that we can elect a savior in the form of a politician who knows how and when to say the right things to tickle people’s ears.

I’d rather see my Merry Christmases lived out than spoken. I’d rather see people who celebrate the birth of the Christ child by following His example and, better yet, by being so filled with the Christ-presence that they bring Jesus into every place where they live, work, and play.

I’m okay with a “Happy Holidays” or a “Seasons’ Greetings.” I don’t expect Starbucks or Target or any other retailers to do my evangelizing for me. It’s not their job. It’s mine.

Oh, did I mention that it’s not even Thanksgiving yet? Let’s at least hold off on the “Merry CHRISTmas” rants until November 27, please. Thanks.


Righteous Anger?

“Post this at all the intersections, dear friends: Lead with your ears, follow up with your tongue, and let anger straggle along in the rear. God’s righteousness doesn’t grow from human anger. So throw all spoiled virtue and cancerous evil in the garbage. In simple humility, let our gardener, God, landscape you with the Word, making a salvation-garden of your life” (James 1:21).

I have a question for you (and for myself, too). Why is it that we as believers get upset when nonbelievers act like . . . well, nonbelievers? Why are we so surprised?

Salvation is more than a new morality code. It’s more than a different kind of behavior.

It’s a total transformation. The Bible uses the word regeneration when speaking of someone getting saved. Paul talks about becoming a new creation. Not a better version of the old creation, but a completely new one.

The question isn’t why nonbelievers act like nonbelievers, but why believers don’t act more like the faith they profess so loudly.

I love what my pastor Mike Glenn says: the world doesn’t hate Christians because they’re too different but because they’re not different enough.

If I really believe what I profess about how Jesus can take anyone at any point and rescue him or her from who they used to be and make them into something completely new, then my life should show it. I should be different.

I should talk differently for sure, but I should act in a way that lines up with all my verbiage.

That verse in 2 Chronicles 7 about God healing our land? That’s not directed at nonbelievers getting their act right. It’s about those who are called by God’s name, i.e. Christians, who turn and repent and seek God like never before. That’s when the healing happens.

. . .[If] my people, my God-defined people, respond by humbling themselves, praying, seeking my presence, and turning their backs on their wicked lives, I’ll be there ready for you: I’ll listen from heaven, forgive their sins, and restore their land to health” (2 Chronicles 7:14, The Message).

Maybe it’s time to stop the finger-pointing and blame-assessing and maybe start praying.


I Love Me a Good Quote

I love a good quote. I love the way someone can express a thought so succinctly. Better yet, I love how someone can take what I’ve been trying to say and state it in a way better than I ever could.

Here is a small sample of some of the quotes that I’ve run across recently that have impacted me.

“To clasp the hands in prayer is the beginning of an uprising against the disorder of the world” (Karl Barth).

“Let your religion be less of a theory and more of a love affair” (G. K. Chesterton).

“Failure is unimportant. It takes courage to make a fool of yourself” (Charlie Chaplin).

“Religion is what you are left with after the Holy Spirit has left the building” (Bono).

“See, I return good for evil, love for injuries, and for deeper wounds a deeper love” (Father Peter Chrysologus).

“Kind words do not cost much. Yet they accomplish much” (Blaise Pascal)

“The discipline of gratitude is the explicit effort to acknowledge that all I am and have is given to me as a gift of love, a gift to be celebrated with joy” (Henri Nouwen).

“The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians: who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, walk out the door, and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable” (Brennan Manning).

“Do not meddle in the affairs of dragons, for you are crunchy and taste good with ketchup” (Someone Wise).

“I want neither a terrorist spirituality that keeps me in a perpetual state of fright about being in right relationship with my heavenly Father nor a sappy spirituality that portrays God as such a benign teddy bear that there is no aberrant behavior or desire of mine that he will not condone. I want a relationship with the Abba of Jesus, who is infinitely compassionate with my brokenness and at the same time an awesome, incomprehensible, and unwieldy Mystery” (Brennan Manning).

Another Kairos Challenge 

Tonight, Matt Pearson laid down a challenge at Kairos. He spoke about how so many North American believers have become inward-focused, as in “What’s in it for me?” and “How will this meet my needs?” He mentioned that the most inwardly-focused believers are usually the most miserable people who are always complaining about something.

I confess that I am one of those people sometimes. I crave comfort and ease at the expense of obedience and faithfulness. I definitely try to avoid any semblance of pain and suffering at all costs.

Jonah was a lot like that. God sent him to Nineveh to warn them of what was coming if they didn’t repent. You’d think after the whole city repented that Jonah would have been pleased, but he was peeved. He thought God’s love should be for the Israelites exclusively– or in other words, people like him. Jonah didn’t like the Assyrians and didn’t think they were worthy of God’s love. Not that any of us feel that way about any particular ethnic groups today, of course.

My takeaway from tonight is that any vision other than seeing God’s love displayed and proclaimed to all the people of all the nations is too small. What matters isn’t what songs we sing in worship or even what kind of songs. What matters isn’t if the church building is traditional or modern (or even if there’s a church building at all).

What matters is that God so loved all the sinners in the world (including you and me) that He sent Jesus to die for us and make true deliverance and salvation possible for anyone who trusts in Him.

That’s what I’ll be pondering and praying over for the next few days. At least I hope so. I don’t want to go back to the comfortable me-centered faith, and God willing, I won’t.

Summit 9 and Orphans

I was privileged to participate as a volunteer in the Christian Alliance for Orphans Summit 9 conference yesterday and today at Brentwood Baptist Church. I knew for certain that God was calling me to be a part, however small, in the work he was getting ready to do.

I was so blessed. Even though most of the time I was sweaty and smelled like stale coffee, I wouldn’t have traded the experience for anything and there’s no where else I would rather have been than serving God’s people gathered together over raising awareness over the global orphan crisis. Even if I could have gotten paid elsewhere, I’d have still been a volunteer.

I think I understand what King David said when he wrote in a Psalm that it’s better to be a doorkeeper in the house of God than live in the biggest mansion and have the most extravagant lifestyle. That came home to me today as I was holding the door open and greeting the conference attendees coming in for the morning session.

I truly believe that God’s heart is for orphans and widows, the forgotten and downtrodden, the lonely and the outcast. I think James 1:27 is proof of that. Or Isaiah 58. Or Psalm 68:5-6.

I read a staggering fact. If only 7% of the world’s 2 billion Christians adopted one child each, there would be no more orphan crisis. Only 7%.

You may not be able to save all 147 million orphans, but you can help one. You can sponsor an orphan. You can adopt. Or you can be a foster parent. You can pray and help raise awareness of the issues orphans around the world face.

Go to http://www.christianalliancefororphans.org/ to find out more how to support and pray for the organization behind this conference.

As usual, I ended up receiving so much more than I gave and being blessed way beyond what I expected. I truly believe God’s anointing was all over the conference and that the trajectory of many lives has radically changed forever in a Kingdom way.

When you think about it, we were all homeless orphans before God sent Jesus for us. Now we have a family of believers, a Father and a Dwelling Place in God, and the new title of beloved children of God.

That’s something to think about.

Even the Lone Ranger Had Tonto, Right?

I hate watching nature shows that come on Discovery or the Animal Planet. There. It’s out there. I admit it for the whole blogging world to know.

The part I hate is when a cheetah or a lion separates a gazelle from the herd and. . . well, I can’t bring myself to describe it.

You feel bad for the gazelle, starting off the day with such high hopes and ending up on someone else’s dinner menu. Not the best way to go.

But I think about how so many believers do the very same thing. We allow ourselves to get cut off from fellow Christians, to get isolated with no one to keep us accountable or hold us in check. We have no one to offer empathy and encouragement. Then we fall.

The trick of the enemy is to get us alone. He knows that whenever two or more are gathered together he has no chance, but when he gets one of them alone, his odds go up dramatically.

You know the drill, right? Either you get cocky and think you don’t need anyone else or you get embarrassed at how low you’ve sunk and can’t bear to let anyone see you like this. Or maybe you think no one really cares so why bother?

I’ve believed all of these lies at least once at some point and I bet you have, too, because sometimes the lies just feel easier to accept. The truth is hard when it goes against what we feel to be true.

You and I both need someone in our corner to encourage and stir us on. We also need that one person who has permission to ask the hard questions and steer us back when we’ve drifted off course.

No man is an island, as the saying goes. There is no such thing as Lone Ranger Christianity (at least not any that I’ve found in the Bible). And didn’t even the Lone Ranger at least have Tonto (not to mention his trusty horse)?

What Are Christians For?

I was finishing up season 1 of Downton Abbey when a facebook post caught my eye. It was entitled “A Christian’s View of Downton Abbey.” I had to read, though I feared what the result would be.

My fears were realized. The reviewer condemned the series after watching part of an episode.

I’m not here to say the assessment was wrong. You have the right to your opinion and I have the right to mine. What bothered me was that this is yet another example of how we as believers are known for what we’re against, rather than what we’re for.

I still remember how Christians came out against the Harry Potter books and movies, even though most of them had not read one word of the books or seen any part of the movies. I even saw Christians attack Twilight and try to tie the series to teenagers wanting to become vampires. As if Twilight was the only vampire franchise in town.

How does any of this attract people to Christ? How does any of this show love? I’m all for personal convictions, but I’m not about to impose my personal convictions on someone else. I’m not about to condemn someone else who has different convictions than mine.

I choose to show what I’m for rather than what I’m against. I want people to know I’m for Jesus and all he stands for. That’s love, forgiveness, second chances, repentance, belonging, renewal, and –best of all– life abundant.

I don’t believe in condoning sin or sinful behavior. But I believe in loving the sinner.

Above all, I know how many times I mess up in a single day. I’m not about to pick up a stone to throw at anybody, because I know that I can’t say that I am without sin. I’ve been the recipient of grace from God and so many people over the years and now it’s my turn to pay it forward and show that grace to as many people as I can as much as I can.

This isn’t written by someone who’s figured it all out and is preaching at you from on high. As the old saying goes, “I’m just one beggar trying to tell other beggars where to find bread.” I’m just a sinner saved by grace who fell in love with Jesus and wants every single person to know that.

That’s all.

Ruminations of a Ragamuffin


“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you (John 15:18-19)

Someone pointed out to me today that verse and then went on to comment on who the people were who hated Jesus. They were not the prostitutes or tax-collectors or the outcasts or the sick. They were not the sinners and scum of the earth. The ones who hated Jesus were the upstanding religious folks. Because He dared to be spiritual but not religious. Because He was scandalous in who He loved and how much He loved. Because of who He hung out (the sinners) with and who He criticized (the religious). They hated Him so much they had Him killed.

If we are living the way Jesus lived and loving people the way Jesus loved people, we will be hated. Not by sinners and outcasts and reprobates, but by church people. When you try to follow Jesus wholeheartedly, the loudest ones to criticize you will be Christians. Maybe because your lifestyle will convict their complacency and lack of compassion.

If I had to be honest, I would say that most of the time I live more like a Pharisee than Jesus. I have my rules that everyone else must follow. I have my smug self-righteousness. I make myself the standard by which I measure everyone else. Thank God, there are moments when I try to look like Jesus and let Him love people through me. Hopefully, the Pharisee in me will decrease and the Jesus in me will increase.

One last thing. If Jesus ministered almost exclusively to the outcasts and downtrodden and saved His harshest comments for the religious holier-than-thou type, why do we do the opposite? Why do we cater to the sanctimonious and shut out the homeless, hopeless and loveless? If I am honest, I am just as needy of Jesus and His grace as anybody.

Jesus, help me love who You love and go to the hurting and broken and needy the way You did. Give me Your heart for the lost world. May I be Jesus to somebody today.