2 Guiding Questions That Could Change Your Today, Tomorrow, and Forever

I did an impromptu mini-chapel sermonette yesterday, but it was the result of work I had done on a passage several years ago. I still remember these questions and want to share them as I refocus on them once again:

The text is Colossians 3:17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Two questions to consider when making decisions:

1. Can I do/say this in the name of the Lord Jesus?

For instance:

– Can I take my girlfriend to a secluded spot and fool around with her…in the name of Jesus?

– Can I say this hurtful zinger I have about such and such…in the name of Jesus Christ?

2. Can I do/say this while giving thanks to God the Father?

For instance:

– Thank you, God, for granting me this spectacular opportunity to cheat on my spouse. Praise be Your name.

– I give You thanks, Jesus, for allowing me the chance to sit next to someone smarter than me during this test. All glory to You!

Regret. Shame. Guilt.

These categories exist because there is a right, true, and pure way to live. Asking these two questions of the decisions we make could save us so much regret, shame, and guilt.

Had I asked these questions throughout my dating years, I wouldn’t have had such difficult conversations with Lindsey before we got married about my past. As Andy Stanley says, paraphrased, “In the future, your past will be in your present.” It’s so true.

What I wouldn’t give to go back and weigh the value of those words and the questions that come out of Colossians 3.  How about you?

 

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Allegiances Matter–The First Amendment, Playboy, Flag Stomping

The headlines have been abuzz of late over the arrest (temporary restraint) of Air Force vet Michelle Manhart. Manhart was on Valdosta State’s campus where an American flag was being walked on by an unidentified group of protestors. Manhart picked the flag up and was then wrestled to the ground by the campus police. She’s been banned from any university activities. (You can watch the incident here if you please–there is language)

True to media culture, Manhart’s past quickly came to light. She posed for Playboy several years ago, both in and out of her military uniform (which I suppose she didn’t count disgraceful?). She was removed from duty as a result. Politics aside, there is an even more fascinating connection between these events separated by nearly a decade.

The First Amendment of the Constitution reads as follows:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

I’m not a Constitutional Law expert, nor do I play one on television, but the deep irony I noticed in this whole mess is that the First Amendment gives pornographers the right to publish their materials and protestors the right to, in civil manner, exercise dissent via demonstration. Manhart happily embraced the First when she disrobed for dollars, yet she found the more recent expression of the Amendment offensive.

I don’t know Michelle Manhart. I don’t know her story or the inner workings of her soul. I write to ask this question, why the dissonance in her mind between what happened on Valdosta’s campus and what she did on the pages of Playboy? Both are allowed for under the same law of the land.

Allegiances matter, for better or worse.

For the follower of Jesus I ask, where is your allegiance? What are you willing to be arrested for, imprisoned for, beaten for, killed for?

 

 

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Give Me That Glass of Milk That’s Been Sitting Out for Four Hours!

Give me that glass of milk that’s been sitting out for four hours…says no one.

I tried that on Sunday for a sermon illustration. My hope was that the milk would still be “cool” because I had it in a Tervis Tumbler. Nope.

As soon as the milk hit my tongue my immediate reflex was to spit it back into the cup.

The words of Jesus to the church at Laodicea in Revelation 3:14-22 are terrifying. At least they are to me.

Verses 15-16 are most well known: “I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth” (ESV).

Francis Chan rocked the church world with his sermon on this text back in 2006. I think this text should cause pause for many of us today.

In the end, will my life be taken up by the Lord and sipped, only to be spewed out right away, just as my reflexes caused me to do with that lukewarm milk?

It’s a hard word. There is no way to work in the Greek and soften it up or allegorize it.

Jesus provided a tangible illustration for the church, just as he does in the Gospels with other illustrations. There were hot springs about five miles north of Laodicea that would dump into the Lycra River and travel towards Laodicea. But by the time the waters reached the city, they weren’t hot any longer. They were tepid. Lukewarm.

So in the text it’s not that cold is bad and hot is good, as if Jesus is saying he would rather you be cold–pure evil–than lukewarm. Sometimes you want a really cold drink. Sometimes you want a hot drink. So be one of those extremes. But don’t be the glass of milk that sits out at room temperature.

If you’re in that nebulous temperature range, then “be zealous and repent” (v.19). Turn from darkness to light. Let your repentance be like a bucket of ice dumped on you to cool you down or like a kettle being set on the burning hot eye of the stove. Jesus is the one knocking on the door. You didn’t go seeking after him. He’s coming after you.

 

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Pastor, What Does Your Demeanor Say About Your God?

Because of Easter, we preachers are not permitted despair. There is certainly enough failure and disappointment in the preaching life to understand why depression, disillusionment, and despair could be considered three curses of the preaching ministry. Despair is most understandable among some of our most conscientious and dedicated preachers. Any pastor who is not tempted by despair has probably given in to the world too soon, is expecting too little of the preached word. Weekly confrontation with the gap between what God dares to say and what we are able to hear leads many of our best and brightest to despondency.

– Will Willimon

The whole article can be read here.

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Refined to Shine as the Trophies of God

I was never schooled in the gold purification process. Consider it a failure of the modern education system.

But when I resolved to preach a sermon series on suffering, I inevitably came upon 1 Peter 1:6-7In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

The Old Testament’s most famous sufferer, Job, said of his own trials that when God had tried him, he would come out as gold.

When I did a little reading and googling to check out this connection between suffering, fire, and gold, I was amazed to find this picture.

800px-Gold_30g_for_a_860kg_rock

Above is an 860kg chunk of gold core. That’s just a shade under 1900 pounds! And the little pill looking sliver of gold is the 30g of pure gold extracted from that rock. 30g is about 1oz…a slice of bread. Gold is about $1,150/ounce right now. So there you go. It’s valuable.

But think about what God communicates through the scriptures about your faith and the fires of suffering/trials/hardships.

Your faith could enter a season of testing looking like the giant rock above. It’s covered in what’s called dross, which is the waste and junk covering up the good stuff. It’s like going to a flea market or garage sale and finding the treasure amidst the trash.

But there’s gold within–pure gold! It takes the fire to melt away the useless parts to expose that of incredible worth. So how crazy would it be NOT to put that rock through the fire and melt away the dross?

If that’s true with gold…which is as good as pavement in God’s kingdom…wouldn’t God then be unloving to not put us through fires if we come out shining as bright as the trophies we put on shelves? Follow. the trophy metaphor

The way Eugene Peterson summarizes this text is spot on:  When Jesus wraps this all up, it’s your faith, not your gold, that God will have on display as evidence of his victory (The Message).

We love trophies, so much that now kids get them for mere participation, not even winning. I recall when a ribbon sufficed for such madness.

Professional athletes receive gold rings for winning championships.

Actors and actresses get their Oscars or Golden Globes and put them on display for all to see.

But God, in His infinite wisdom, puts our faith through the fire and is pleased, like a Father, to display the end result for all to see, the purified faith of His children. We become His trophies.

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Would You Rather…?

You know the game.

I ask would you rather live at the beach or in the mountains? You answer and then fire a different scenario back at me. doorman

It’s not a bad way to pass time on a long car ride or while sitting at the airport.

But here’s one for you (more for followers of Jesus, but open to all):

Would you rather be a doorkeeper in the house of God or dwell in the tents of wickedness?

Wait. I know what you’re thinking. It doesn’t sound like a hard choice when the word wickedness is used.

But really think about it before answering.

If you answer the former–that you would rather be a doorkeeper (like the guy pictured)–here’s my follow up: Does your life answer in the same fashion?

Do you earnestly believe and live in such a fashion that says spending a day in the courts of God as a doorkeeper is better than a thousand days at Disney, ESPN Zone, the race track, gym, movie theater, etc.?

I have been so quick to affirm and proclaim lofty assertions with my mouth only to recognize that my life indicts me as being double-minded.

For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness. ~Psalm 84:10

 

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Walking the Fine Lines of Leadership

Leadership is a world unto itself.

Just walk through Barnes & Noble or do a quick search on Amazon.com for leadership books (over 130,000 results).

Then you have all the different kinds of leadership, or at least the sectors in which a person may lead: education, church, non-profit, fortune 500 companies, etc.

I myself am concerned with the non-profit sector, especially church and education. What I’ve discovered is there are innumerable fine lines of leadership.

For instance…

– Where’s the line between leading and appeasing? When do I go from caring about someone’s opinion to catering to that same opinion?

– Where’s the line between shepherding and babying? When do I go from helping guide someone through a situation to holding their hands, feeding them, burping them?

– Where’s the line between requesting and rebuking? When do I go from making an ask or urging involvement to reprimanding?

There are better, smarter, wiser leaders who have answers to these questions, and I’m sure collectively the blogosphere could have a field day with questions like these. But it doesn’t change the fact that every leader, no matter the sector, has to walk these lines and know when and where and how to cross them.

 

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