If You Don’t Live It, You Don’t Believe It

I was struck by something in the sermon today.

Basically, the gist of what I heard is that people are hungry and yearning for God. What they’re wanting to see is an authentic witness by a Christian whose walk matches his or her talk.

Often, when people reject Christianity, what they’re put off by isn’t so much God as those who give Him a bad name by talking a good game of faith but living in a way that denies what they profess to believe.

Brennan Manning said that what the world can’t stand is people who profess Jesus but who deny Him with their lifestyle. That’s what an unbelieving world finds so unbelievable.

The key isn’t perfection. It’s authenticity.

I still say the best way to gain someone’s trust in order to share the gospel is to listen. Not listen to respond or to pass judgment. Simply listen to hear their stories and find out who they are.

I still remember the words that Pastor Mike said about having your testimony validated by your lifestyle– if you don’t live it, you don’t believe it.

That’s the simplest (and best) way to put it. If you don’t live it, you don’t believe it.

 

Staying True to the Truth

“Jesus, the favorite Child of God, is persecuted. He who is poor, gentle, mourning; he who hungers and thirsts for uprightness; is merciful, pure of heart and a peacemaker is not welcome in this world. The Blessed One of God is a threat to the established order and a source of constant irritation to those who consider themselves the rulers of this world. Without his accusing anyone he is considered an accuser, without his condemning anyone he makes people feel guilty and ashamed, without his judging anyone those who see him feel judged. In their eyes, he cannot be tolerated and needs to be destroyed, because letting him be seems like a confession of guilt.

When we want to become like Jesus, we cannot expect always to be liked and admired. We have to be prepared to be rejected” (Henri Nouwen).

That’s it. Jesus said that if they hated Him, they would hate us. He also said woe to those of whom everyone speaks well. That’s not a good sign.

I’ve seen a trend lately where American believers want to fit in and be accepted, even at the expense of compromising away their convictions and doctrines.

What you end up with is a sort of “Be nice to each other” kind of theology that is of no use to anyone. We will have lost the very message that set us apart and got people’s attention.

I still love what Mike Glenn said about the world not hating us because we’re too different but because we’re not different enough. That’s where the Israelites screwed up by being too much like the nations around them and not nearly enough like the set apart people God called them to be.

Above being liked and being relevant, the priority of believers is still to remain faithful to Jesus and His gospel, no matter what.

 

Take Your Time

One of my favorite Kairos moments from back in the day when Mike Glenn used to lead the prayer time.

Put both feet on the floor, he’d say. There’s nothing that will come up in the next few minutes that’s more important than what God’s saying to you right now. Relax and breathe. All those errands will still be there later. Right now, all you need to do is focus on God.

We live in a culture that celebrates busyness. Not necessarily productivity. Just busyness. The mantra of the age is that we don’t have time because we’re so very busy doing God knows what.

The idea is to never have a dull moment or any down time. We have all these time-saving gadgets that create more time to get more done. As a result, we have less leisure and free time than ever.

Maybe the most freeing words anyone will ever tell you– take your time. That was my takeaway from tonight’s Kairos message.

Sometimes, it’s good to focus on your breathing. It’s good to be silent and still. It’s good to rest. Above all, it’s important to be in the moment, not always thinking ahead to the next big event or thinking back to the what if’s and the could have been’s.

“There’s no present like the time.” That may be my new favorite line from a movie. Time is not infinite. You get a precious few years to live, too few to waste in busyness. Life is to be lived and savored and not merely gotten through.

Take your time.  Wherever you are, be all there. Do less but do it with everything you have, offering it as your spiritual act of worship. Enjoy the little things and pay attention to the moments in your life.

Also, take plenty of naps. Those are good.

 

 

 

What’s Your Worth?

Today for a lark, I decided to look up the value of my 1997 Jeep Cherokee on the Kelly Blue Book website. I had no delusions of grandeur, thinking I owned a Lamborghini or a Mercedes Benz. I knew my car was old and had over 300,000 miles on it.

Still I was a bit surprised by the result. $800 was the maximum value of my car. I could probably trade in my car for a nice bicycle, but not a really nice one. Just sorta nice.

I was more amused than offended. I know that I couldn’t get anything close to as good as the car I have now for $800. I’d be doing really good to get something that even ran for $800.

I got to thinking. If you took all the raw materials that made up a human body, what would be the worth of all those elements? I was curious, so I googled it and got the result of $5. That’s the going rate for a body’s worth of these raw materials.

I remembered something my pastor said. He said that your worth is more than what you are made of. If you were on Antiques Roadshow, the appraiser would put on his white gloves and talk in hushed excited tones.

My pastor said that if he could turn you upside down and show you the Artist’s signature, that would prove that not only are you of great worth, you are priceless.

You have more than God’s signature on you. You bear the Imago Dei, the image of God, in you. You are unique and one of a kind, and there has never been nor ever will be anyone else exactly like you.

You are also worth Christ dying to redeem you. Bear that in mind when people judge your worth by your income or your title or your possessions. Whether you live in a gated mansion or in a cardboard box, your worth and your identity is not what you have but in Who made you and Whose you are.

Oh, and I still love driving my $800 Jeep.

The True Meaning of Christmas 

“O God, you have caused this holy night to shine with the
brightness of the true Light: Grant that we, who have known
the mystery of that Light on earth, may also enjoy him
perfectly in heaven; where with you and the Holy Spirit he
lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen” (from The Book of Common Prayer).

It seem like the old adage is true. The older you get, the faster time goes. As a kid, I thought Christmas would never arrive. Now, I feel like if I blink, I might miss it.

This year, I’ve barely had time to revel in the season of Advent and Christmas, and tomorrow is Christmas Day. If only I had a remote control for life with a big pause button to slow everything down for a bit just so I could savor all of the sights and sounds and scents.

But the true meaning of Christmas is for more than just December 25. Its still good after all those ornaments have been taken down and the tree put away for another year. It goes beyond December and into the new year and follows all the days of every year.

God has come near. As my pastor says often, Christianity isn’t that we can get to god but that God in Jesus has come to us. He didn’t wait until you and I got our acts cleaned up and made ourselves ready to receive the Incarnate. He came when we were in the middle of our biggest messes. He came when we needed a Savior the most.

Even after the shine wears off of those gifts, the best gift will still be that Emmanuel is still here. He has not left us and He never will. The hope of Christmas is the hope that will sustain us always.

 

 

I Think It’s About Forgiveness

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I’ve been thinking about forgiveness quite a bit lately, particularly in the context of the story of Joseph and his brothers.

I imagine most of you are probably familiar with the story, but I’ll give a brief summary. Joseph has dreams as a teenager and (unwisely) decides to tell them to his family. That and being the favorite son doesn’t do him any favors.

His brothers end up selling him into slavery (making Joseph the first recorded victim of human trafficking). He winds up in Egypt, where he goes from a slave in Potiphar’s court to wrongful imprisonment to a high-ranking position in the government (thanks in large part to his God-given ability to interpret dreams.

One of the dreams he interprets predicts a coming famine to all the known world. He’s able to prepare by storing up large amounts of grain during a time of plenty, so that Egypt not only has enough to survive but also to sell to neighboring countries.

Some of the people who show up to buy food happen to be those very brothers who sold him in the first place. Joseph is able to see how God used their evil act for good to save a multitude of people, including his own family.

Joseph could have chosen bitterness. Or revenge. He was well within his rights to seek retribution against his brothers. He probably could have even had them killed if he wanted.

People will say that forgiveness is a cop out for the weak. I say forgiveness takes great strength. I will go so far as to say that true forgiveness is impossible without God’s help. As my pastor said recently, forgiveness is releasing the expectation that the other person or persons can fix what they did. That’s hard.

Joseph was able to forgive because of his perspective. He saw how God had been with him time and time again though every stage of his journey from home to Egypt, from son to slave to ruler. Joseph was able to see the bigger picture.

Forgiveness ultimately sees that there is nothing that you’ve done or that has been done to you that God can’t work for good and His glory.

Who do you need to forgive (including yourself)? Who do you need to seek forgiveness from?

I love the image that forgiveness is opening the door to a prison cell to release the prisoner only to discover that that prisoner was you all along.

Forgiveness is a beautiful thing.

 

Thanks for 25 Years

Thanks, Uncle Mikey, for 25 years.

You’ve been pastor of Brentwood Baptist Church for a quarter of a century. The only things I’ve done consecutively for that long are eating, sleeping, and driving.

25 years ago, I was on the verge of my freshman year at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee. Brentwood Baptist Church and Kairos were nowhere on my radar.

25 years ago, I was nowhere near the person I am today. I think a lot of who I am now is due to your influence.

10 years of Kairos (mostly under your teaching) have made a huge difference in my life. I never would have known about the brilliance that is Henri Nouwen had you not recommended him to me a long time ago.

You taught me that what I do isn’t nearly as important as who I am (and Whose I am). My identity isn’t wrapped up in or defined by my job title, my marital status, my income, the car I drive, or my net worth. My identity is define by who Jesus says I am– Beloved. Who I am is a son of God, a child of my Abba, redeemed and cherished.

You always ended Kairos by telling us that if we hadn’t heard it from anybody else, that you and the rest of the Kairos crew loved us and that we mattered. I wonder how many people in the crowd heard those words directed at them for the very first time in their lives.

I probably won’t ever get a chance to say these things to you in person. I’m not nearly as good expressing myself in conversations as I am writing things down. But I do want you to know that I am one of the people whose lives are better for you having said YES to Jesus all those years ago and been faithful to the call which led you to Brentwood Baptist Church 25 years ago.

Thanks, Uncle Mikey. We rise up and call you blessed.

 

Reminders from Uncle Mikey

I’m laying in bed next to a very sleepy geriatric cat. That’s what I call the good life. It has nothing at all to do with what follows, but I thought I’d throw that little tidbit in for free. You’re welcome.

I’ve been thinking a lot about last night’s Kairos. It started off with a blown generator and a bunch of us sitting in the dark. That always makes for an interesting evening.

It also marked the triumphant return of Mike Glenn to Kairos as guest speaker. It felt like old times again.

He talked about how while each of us have given names at birth, we all have names that either we’ve given ourselves or we’ve been given by others. These names are usually the result of our mistakes and failures. I’m sure many of us have names that involve profanity of some sort.

The prime example is the possessed man among the tombstones who identified himself as Legion. There were so many competing voices in his head that he couldn’t find his own identity anymore.

When Jesus calls someone, He gives that person a new name. Think of Paul becoming Saul, or Simon becoming Peter. He gives us a name that describes not who we are but who we are becoming, our very best self that Jesus is in the process of bringing about.

You are not your worst mistakes. You are not the names people called you before they wrote you off as hopeless. You are not your addictions or your fears.

You are who Jesus says you are. You are Chosen, Beloved, Son or Daughter, Friend.

You have a name that only Jesus knows that one day He will reveal to you. One day, He will write it on a white stone and give it to you. Then and only then will your story make complete sense and you will see how everything in your life has led to you becoming who Jesus always meant you to be.

Thanks, Uncle Mikey, for another good and timely word. Do come back to Kairos soon.

 

Ten Years Later

It wasn’t so long ago that you were mired in that old stagnant life of sin. You let the world, which doesn’t know the first thing about living, tell you how to live. You filled your lungs with polluted unbelief, and then exhaled disobedience. We all did it, all of us doing what we felt like doing, when we felt like doing it, all of us in the same boat. It’s a wonder God didn’t lose his temper and do away with the whole lot of us. Instead, immense in mercy and with an incredible love, he embraced us. He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ. He did all this on his own, with no help from us! Then he picked us up and set us down in highest heaven in company with Jesus, our Messiah.

Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish! We don’t play the major role. If we did, we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing” (Ephesians 2:1-10, The Message).

Recently, I ran into a former fellow Kairos greeter that I hadn’t seen in a while. It was great seeing a blast from the past. It also got me thinking.

This fall will mark ten years since I started greeting at Kairos. Outside of school, the only other activities that I’ve done consistently for at least ten years are breathing, eating, sleeping . . . you get the idea. Ten years is a long time.

I’m thankful for Kairos. I’m thankful for Mike Glenn who helped get it started way back when and for Chris Brooks who is carrying the torch onward.

I’m thankful that I am not who I was ten years ago due in large part to the ministry and teaching of Kairos.

I’m thankful for the many people who have crossed my path in that time and for the numerous little footprints they’ve left in my heart. I don’t see most of them anymore, but I remain grateful for each one of them. I am a composite of all the best parts of everyone I have ever met.

I’m thankful that God isn’t done with this ministry. I see that what might have looked like an ending was really only the beginning to another chapter with better things still yet to come.

Kairos is proof that all God needs is a place to start– even the most hesitant and reluctant of agreements– and He can transform anything and anyone for His glory. There really is no such thing as a lost cause in the economy of God’s grace and mercy. There is a place for anyone and everyone who wants to turn around and follow Jesus. It’s never too late for anyone to be who God in Jesus created them to be.

That’s still the story of Kairos. That’s still my story. That’s the story that I hope we will be telling for years and years to come.

 

 

A Living Sermon

There’s an older gentleman that I see on Mondays when I volunteer at Room in the Inn. He isn’t one of the homeless men who get bussed in. He’s one of the many volunteers who faithfully devote their Monday nights to serving these men.

I noticed one night that he was missing part of his right arm. I didn’t think a whole lot about it. I figured it was probably something to do with diabetes. Then I read this and my world got blown up (in a good way):

The Best Sermon I Never Preached

I don’t need to add anything to that. I teared up a bit as I heard one of the volunteers read this tonight at our last Room in the Inn for the season. The guy who read it got choked up.

The lessons for tonight are 1) don’t take any part of your life for granted, 2) appreciate each moment as the rare and precious gift that it is, and 3) remember that worship is still the best medicine there is for what ails you.