28 July 2013

Sucker Punch

The Victor Ortiz vs. Floyd Mayweather fight was billed as ‘Star Power.’ This was the championship fight for Ortiz's WBC Welterweight title. The bout was held on September 17, 2011 and, from round one, Mayweather used his speed, skills and accurate right hand to tag Ortiz repeatedly. Mayweather seemed in control through the first three rounds, but in the fourth round, Ortiz found some success, landing a few shots and stinging Mayweather before bulling him into the corner.

Then Ortiz rammed Mayweather in the face with a seemingly intentional headbutt, busting open a cut on the inside and outside of Mayweather's mouth. Referee Joe Cortez immediately called timeout and docked Ortiz a point for the foul. Ortiz – seemingly acknowledging his wrongdoing – hugged and even kissed Mayweather in the corner. Cortez motioned the fighters back together to resume the fight. The fighters touched gloves and Mayweather seemed to half-heartedly return another hug from Ortiz. As the fighters separated from the hug, Mayweather caught Ortiz with a left hook. Stunned by the punch, and still not raising his hands to defend himself, Mayweather hit Ortiz with a flush right to the face. Ortiz dropped straight onto the canvas.  By all accounts Mayweather sucker punched Ortiz.

After the match Mayweather said "In the ring, you have to protect yourself at all times.  After it happened, we touched gloves and we were back to fighting and then I threw the left hook and right hand after the break. You just gotta protect yourself at all times."

Sucker punch – a cheap shot, an unexpected blow, something that really sucks.

Have you ever been sucker punched? Have you ever sucker punched someone? I have been on both ends. Sucker Punches are not cool. We are never ready for them. They knock the wind out of you. There you are on the ground, sucking wind, and the other guy is either pummeling you or running away as fast as he can.

Have you ever felt like you've been sucker punched by God? Not one of those love taps or holy nudges. I’m talking about feeling like you ran into a 1990's Mike Tyson fist. I remember when it happened to me recently…

I was asked to do pulpit supply for a church in southeast Oklahoma.  There I was studying in my office and I was reading through one of my favorite passages, Jonah.  I've read and re-read those four chapters on many occasions. I started reading chapter one; everything was fine until I hit verse 12:

“I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.”

That verse hit me like a sucker punch.

For years I’ve blamed all of the bad stuff that is going on in the world on the media.  It’s their fault for always showing all of the bad news and rarely sharing any good stories.  All of the violence, alternative lifestyles, and the lack of a moral compass that plagues our society is the fault of Hollywood for what they show on the silver screen.

For years I have been led to believe that those things have been causing the slow and steady demise of Christianity in America.  But not once did I look in the mirror and admit “this storm is my fault.”

Whether we want to admit it or not, we are living in a post Christian era in America.  Like Jonah I’m surveying the storm and can see it’s my fault.

As a follower of Christ, have I truly been living like “a worshiper of the living God” or does my life resemble the way the world looks? Am I living for Christ in such a way that non-believers around me look and say, “I don’t know what is different in his life but I want it.” Or, would they rather keep what they have because what they see in my life is no different than what they are doing?

Paul tells us in Romans 12:2 “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

When you learn a truth, you cannot unlearn it and this sucker punch cranks it up to a whole new level.

I still get out of breath sometimes when I think back to that moment.

My question to you is, when has God sucker punched YOU? When is the last time – His Word – His Holiness – has left you gasping for air?


28 June 2013

Faith Like That

You will find an inspiring passage in Hebrews 11 that lists a number of individuals we are encouraged to follow. These people are known as our ‘Great Cloud of Witnesses.’ Through observing their example, we are to run our own life’s race worthy of their sacrifices.

Rahab is mentioned as being justified before God by her faith.

Matthew went so far as to honor her, a prostitute in Christ’s lineage.

So, what did Rahab have that was worth emulating? Why was a heathen harlot, who had most definitely done unspeakable acts against God, be honored as part of the ‘cloud of witnesses’ who ran the race ahead of us?

Faith…

Scripture says it. She had faith.

What did her faith look like?

Rahab bravely housed and hid spies that were from Israel. When she went up to check on them, this is what she said:

I know that the Lord has given you the land, and that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land have melted away before you. For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan… whom you utterly destroyed. When we heard it, our hearts melted and no courage remained in any man any longer because of you; for the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath. Joshua 2:9-11

When I read that, it hit me like a ton of bricks. She had faith!  Her faith was not in future forgiveness, not in the Messiah, nor in grace. It wasn't in anything that modern Christians love about God.

Rahab witnessed the untouchable, unstoppable, terrifying power of God, and she had to yield to it.

She declared it out loud, that God, our God, is ruler of heaven above and on earth beneath, and she was now willing to cut ties with her whole culture and people to bend her knee to the throne of God.

She had no clue as to whether she’d be given mercy. She had no hope or life other than that of a heathen prostitute. And when she saw God coming near, she knew that nothing else mattered. Life as she knew it was over. This couldn’t have been easy.  She was turning her back on everything that she knew to follow a God that she was in awe of. She only knew about God, she did not know Him, and still… she bowed.

We could all stand a dose of that type of faith.  And, we could revere God like Rahab.  After all, we call ourselves disciples of the Most High God. Life as we knew it is over.  It’s our turn to yield to God in all things.

So Rahab was blessed tremendously.

In the end, she knew the Father’s forgiveness better than most. And I’m quite sure that she had a very grateful heart.

She raised a wonderful son named Boaz, whose life was also a reflection of the saving love of our Lord.

She wouldn't have received those blessings had she not been willing to usher in her society’s enemies and be willing to watch her own world crumble.

Sometimes, God does the same thing with our lives; allowing utter destruction of everything that ties us down to this world keeping us from being one with Him. It may feel like torture, look like hell, and hurt like heartache, but in the end, is deliverance. Just like Rahab.

14 May 2013

What Language do you Speak?


Have you ever traveled outside of the country?  What are some of the things you do before traveling?  We know we should contact our bank, credit card companies, obtain a passport, and have the post office hold our mail.  You study a map of your destination; you understand the currency and exchange rate; and probably one of the most important things you will do is locate our embassy.  But what if we can’t speak the language? Then what? Are we lost?

Brethren, how is your daily walk? How are your quiet times and devos? Remember that seven days without prayer makes one weak! For me, I’ve just been counting it all joy. I’m too blessed to be stressed and too anointed to be disappointed. I hope you don’t think I’m super-spiritual or that I’ve arrived. After all, I’m not perfect, just forgiven. Some people have accused me of being so heavenly-minded that I am no earthly good, but have patience with me please—God’s not finished with me yet!

These examples are typical of a language called “Christianese.” It’s a language mastered especially by those who have been in church all of their lives! Many speak fluent Christianese.

Other examples of Christianese that perplex me:

I don’t understand the “blessing” of food. First of all, it is dead! And, it’s probably been cut up, ground up, chopped up, and burnt up by now. Any chance for God in Heaven to bless this plant or creature is probably past due. And, you’re fixing to drown it in stomach acid after gnawing it into an unrecognizable mush. Don’t ask the Lord to BLESS it, just give Him THANKS for it.

Also, if you’re ever asked to give thanks for the food, don’t think it’s your job to lead the hungry masses to Christ and get a little discipling or disciplining done while you’ve got the hunger podium. Usually, at this point, the food is on the table ready to eat, getting colder the longer you practice your preaching. Just tell God thank you and eat. No one is listening.

Why do we say “God bless you” after a sneeze? Why not after a fart? Yeah, I’ve heard the nonsense about your soul leaving your body, your heart stopping, and having a near death experience – but I get plenty close to death just driving the roads with some of you while you’re texting or farding (not misspelled, Google it) behind the wheel. No one ever said “God bless you” to me after I nearly died at a busy intersection. Besides, He already has blessed me.

“He/She is a STRONG Christian.” This one seems particular vulgar to me. My first thought is “Pharisee.” My second thought is “when I am weak, He is strong.”

Christianese dialects give birth to the whole “denomination” thing. We’re experts at talking the One Christ, One Church slogan, but as soon as iron starts sharpening iron and the sparks begin to fly, so does the unity – right out the window. How easily we run to our comfort camps and start flinging the flaming arrows of disdain at our brothers who may speak a little differently.

Why do Christians digress into what sounds like an entirely different language when it comes to the things of God?

Our language is already different enough from the language of the world.  Since we already ‘are in the world and do not act the world’s way,’ we unintentionally distance ourselves even further from the culture by our talk.

What happens when we visit a country that speaks a language other than English?

Despite our best attempts to communicate, once we sense that we aren’t being understood, we usually resort to speaking loud, slow English, hoping to barrel through the language barrier. Pairing that with some elaborate charade movements, arms flailing wildly, doesn’t lead to successful communication.

Ecclesiastes 12:9-10 “Keep this in mind: The Teacher was considered wise, and he taught the people everything he knew. He listened carefully to many proverbs, studying and classifying them. The Teacher sought to find just the right words to express truths clearly.

Like students who are asked to write “in your own words…” their thoughts on a particular subject in school, we should learn to take the good news of the bible and paraphrase it into our own words. When we speak the truth in plain language, it not only benefits the people we talk to, but it allows God’s word to become real in our own lives.

04 May 2013

Don't Abandon the Baby

Two Things I Hate About Christians:

Street Witnessing
Common Evangelism

Before you write me off as a heretic, let me explain…

I was downtown last week at a job site inspecting some work we had done when I walked out into a group of well-meaning Christians handing out those cheesy tracts that look like money.  You've seen this track before, the one that looks like a $20 bill.

Our exchange was something like this:

Spirited guy with tract, “Here sir!”
“No thanks.”
“No, really sir; take this and read it.”
“Really sir, I’m a Christ follower" (I intentionally did not say ‘Christian’) and went on, “You can save the paper.”
“But don’t you know anyone who’s not saved?”
“Yes, but I spend time talking to them instead.”
And I walked away, a little frustrated.

During a business lunch, a prospective client went into a dissertation against “emergent” theology and warned me about heresy and the need for sound doctrine.

I don’t know why, but the guy just kept talking. He’d ask questions and hardly let me answer. I barely got a reply in.

That was beneficial. Not.

So, now you probably think I’m petty. Are you the one on the street corner with the tracts? Are you the guy at the lunch meeting? Are you me? Well, I've been all three, and maybe you have been, also.

There is nothing wrong with the tracts themselves. They’re a tool. And there’s nothing wrong with telling people about God.

BUT... we have to care about the person.

We have become so desensitized by Facebook, tweets, and blogs that we've forgotten to care about body language and the fact that there’s a life attached to that hand we’re shoving a tract into.

Christ knew people. He saw the person and cared about them and their life.

It’s not enough to tell people about salvation, we’re called to BE the BODY OF CHRIST, which means we’re acting on His behalf.

Ephesians 4:15 says, “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.”

We are the Church and we are meant to be His fullness. That means we are coworkers in bringing that salvation to the world.

So ‘care’ about who you’re talking to. Don’t offer that tract if you’re not willing to be part of their lives and lead them to good discipleship. I truly believe that ‘evangelism without discipleship’ is spiritual abuse.

And whatever you do, don’t reduce the Gospel to a sales pitch. It’ll change everything in the way you bear witness.

Christ did so much more than give a pitch, and He said we’d do even greater things than He did… Wow.

20 April 2013

Click


Michael wakes up in the hospital with his adult children, Ben and Samantha, looking down at him. He suffered a heart attack the day before and had since been unconscious.  Once his son and daughter are satisfied their dad’s condition has stabilized, they decide to leave- heading back to their lives across the country.

Michael, not wanting them to leave, fearing he would never see them again, unplugs himself from the lifesaving machines that are keeping him alive and heads out of the hospital. While trying to catch up to them, the angel of death, Morty, follows Michael outside, telling Micheal over and over again, “It doesn't have to end this way…there can be different results.”

Morty tries to convince Michael, unsuccessfully, to go back inside. Michael makes it outside, catches up to his children, and then dies. Morty reaches out his hand to help him up from the ground saying, “It’s time to go.”

If you don’t recognize the scenario, it is the 90’s movie “Click.”  I watched the movie again last weekend.  It’s a story about Michael Newman (Adam Sandler), an architect, who is married to his longtime sweetheart Donna with two children, Ben and Samantha. Michael is easily pushed around by his overbearing boss Mr. Ammer (David Hasselhoff). On numerous occasions, Michael willingly sacrifices time with his family to work so he can give them the kinds of possessions he never had.

While searching for a universal remote control at a Bed Bath & Beyond, Michael finds the section marked "Beyond." There, he meets a mysterious clerk named Morty (Christopher Walken), who gives him a "universal" remote control and warns that it can never be returned.

To Michael's amazement, he finds that the remote can control the actual universe, particularly time. Michael uses it to skip fights with Donna, to go forward until he rids himself of a cold, and skip a family dinner to work. Later, Morty reveals that when Michael fast-forwards through time, his body is on "auto-pilot" - his mind skips ahead, while his body does everyday life.

After boss Mr. Ammer promises Michael a partnership position within a few months, he decides to skip ahead to it, but ends up skipping a year of his life since it took him that long to actually receive the promotion. Michael also discovers that he is in marriage counseling and even missed the death of his dog. When the remote begins fast-forwarding without Michael controlling it, Morty warns the remote programs itself according to Michael's previous commands.

The next day, Mr. Ammer tells Michael he is leaving the country, and in the course of the conversation, Mr Ammer suggests one day Michael may end up CEO. Without thinking, Michael responds to say he would like to end up CEO, the remote reacts accordingly and fast-forwards ten years to 2017.

I've always thought I was like the apostle Paul. And like Paul, I was always bold and straight to the point. But honestly, then and now, I am a whole lot more like Peter – foot in mouth – leaps before he looks.

A lot of the times I feel like Peter proclaiming to Jesus that even if EEEVVVEEERRRYYYBODY ELSE denies him I GAR-RUN-TEE I will not!  I won’t. And I can hear Christ say, “You will deny me three times before the rooster (cell phone, alarm clock) crows (goes off). And with Peter, I emphatically agree, “No I won’t.  You got it all wrong, Jesus. I’ll show you.”

And, like Peter, (not literally, but figuratively… well, sometimes literally) I mess up, slip up… and then the rooster crows. And I, like Peter, am on the side of the street, sitting on a curb, sad and crying, wailing – pissed at myself for doing it.

But what if Morty is right? What if it’s true that it didn't have to end the way we are headed? What if there could be different results?

2 Peter 3:9 “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

This is something Peter was intimately familiar with: second chances.  Simon Peter got a second chance.  Jesus forgave him and welcomed him back. And, Jesus is waiting right here, waiting for me and waiting for you, so he can forgive us and gift us with a second chance.

30 March 2013

Bon Voyage!


If you thought something was wrong with your email because you didn’t receive this particular devotional for the last two weeks, and you have even checked my blog to see if you were somehow inadvertently removed from the mailing list, I’ve been on vacation. No, seriously I took some time off.  If you know me, just hearing I actually took time off surprises you more than the weekly devotional not being in your inbox.

I went on a cruise for 5 days. This was my second cruise. After my experience with the first, I said I would never go again.  But enough time passed for me to forget about some of the details of my first experience, and I booked a second cruise. This time, the cruise would not be just for me and my wife, but for the whole family.  If you are asking yourself why I went on a second cruise after having a bad experience, I can’t explain it. If time really didn’t heal pain and hurt, your wife would never have sex with you again after giving birth to your first child.

Now that I’ve been on my second cruise, I don’t want to go on a third.  It’s not the other people on the cruise, it’s really me.  I don’t like everyone I meet. I knew that before I went on vacation; it really isn’t new to me. It seemed to me that everyone around me complained about some level of the cruise from the music to the crew.

Sometimes at church I feel like I’m stuck on a cruise ship. There are people who are there for the music and only want to be there if the music they like gets played. There are people who are there only because they like the captain and crew. There are people who want to be served and want to make sure their needs are met. As long as everything is pleasant and comfortable, they will sail with them again into calm waters.

Like being on that cruise ship last week, I don’t like being around these Christians either. I’ve been around Christians that I just wanted to slap up side their heads and tell them to stop acting like a fool. I’m sure there’s plenty of Christians that feel the same way about me, and that’s okay.

If you spend much time at all with me, I will make you angry, offend you, be rude, say something you find inappropriate, or just make you blush. I know I do all these things, not intentionally, but I just do. Why? Because I’m real; because I’ve learned to be comfortable without my mask on.

Because getting to know the real man I am now is important in understanding that my sanctification is both complete (2 Corinthians 5:17) and is being completed (Philippians 3:12-14).

I find lots of Christian men walking around with guilt because they’re not perfect yet. They’re afraid to MAKE, MATURE, and MOBILIZE, thinking that they’re not holy enough yet. I think too often we as Christ followers have this notion of what a “good Christian” looks and acts like, and we learn to play the role (insert gag reflex here). Then, we convince ourselves that we are the role we play until the crisis comes (and it always does) and we’re forced to get real—and quick.

So stop acting…Jack Nicholson, you’re not, and what you’re doing is robbing other men in your life from seeing what it looks like to be an authentic follower of Jesus Christ. You may have a hard time trying to stop this acting and mask wearing because your degree is in Pharisee. Remember, Jesus hated the way the Pharisees acted.

I hate what He hates. If the troubles in our lives, our families, our country, in our world are ever going to be resolved, it will start with men like us fighting on our knees through God’s power, not by how well we can quote Scripture, our attendance at church, or even how good we are. We can change the world for the better by imitating Jesus…and not everyone liked Him either.

12 March 2013

Breaking Bread


I read a story that took place in 2001.  It was about a house located in Chicago.  The home was in disrepair; there were weeds everywhere.  It had obviously been abandoned.  The residence found its way onto the auction block due to back taxes.  The house was purchased, and, as the new owner sent a crew to clean it up, they discovered something horrific.  Inside the run-down home was a man who had been sitting in his reading chair, apparently dead of natural causes.  Crumpled next to him was a newspaper imprinted with the year 1997.  The man had been dead a long time, four years.  Nobody noticed; not a neighbor or relative, or even a friend.  How could no one have noticed?

A Pharisee asked Jesus what was the most important commandment of all.  For Pharisees, there were 1,613 commands.  Jesus narrowed down the 1,613 to an absolute focus, and replied:

“The most important is this, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and the greatest commandment.  And the second command is like it.’”

Jesus said you should “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

When you break it down to the main thought, it’s all about relationships.

In Acts 2, we see the New Testament church just being birthed.  Verse 42 says, “They (the new believers) devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread….”

Verse 46 goes on to say, “Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes…”

Meeting out in the public in the temple courts is a lot like what we do in church now, and worshippers breaking bread in their homes was not just part of the Lord’s Supper.  The disciples met together very regularly, and fellowship was very important.  The meals in the New Testament were much like Thanksgiving meals where people gathered together early, enjoy several courses of food, and stay late. There was a relational aspect to these meals.  People were doing life together.  This was a high priority to them.

The Greek word that is translated as fellowship is ‘koinonia.’ It means to share, to participate in a common cause, to engage in social intercourse. It is doing life at such an intimate level with fellow believers that they become like family to you.  They become necessary for your spiritual and relational survival.

A relationship with Christ really means a Christian enjoying a personal relationship with Jesus.  A personal relationship with Jesus is essential because no one else can have a relationship with Jesus FOR you, plus, a relationship with Jesus was never intended to be private.  Too many times, well-meaning Christians say “I’ve got God in me and we are fine.  I don’t need a church.”

The disciples, followers of Jesus in the New Testament, weren’t thinking of a personal relationship, they were fully living out a shared relationship with Jesus.  The disciples enjoyed and experienced His power and His reality along with other Christ Followers.

Why doesn’t that kind of intimate relationships happen today?  Air conditioning.

Before the air conditioner, where did people hang out?  They would gather on the front porch.  With the air conditioner, people went inside.  Add the attached garage, garage door opener, gated neighborhoods, fenced in back yard, caller ID, and identifying ringtones.

We have created all of these ways to avoid people and avoid relationships, purposely or not.

In John 13:34, Jesus said, “Love one another.”

But wouldn’t you agree, in reality, much of the time, what we are doing instead of loving one another is avoiding one another?

A disciple of Jesus breaks bread.

03 March 2013

Go Fish


The game warden had a neighbor, who was on vacation and his neighbor went fishing every day.  The warden watched as each day passed and the neighbor came home always having his limit of fish and “then some.” After several days the warden asked how he was catching so many fish each day? His neighbor said “come with me tomorrow and I’ll show you.

The next day was calm and the lake was isolated enough that they were the only fishermen there. The warden baited his hook, threw it into the water and watched the bobber bob on the waves. Suddenly there was an explosion just a couple feet off the portside of the boat. In a few moments fish were floating to the surface and his neighbor was frantically scooping them in with a net.

He was about to ask his neighbor what happened, when he saw him light a piece of dynamite and throw it into the water… followed by another explosion.

“What do you think you’re doing?” the warden shouted.

“Fishing” the guy replied.

“But you can’t do that… that’s illegal!”

At this point, his neighbor lit another stick of dynamite threw into his lap and said: “you gonna talk, or you gonna fish?”

Luke 5:1-11 is about Jesus calling His first disciples.  Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, and there were crowds of people gathering around listening to Him teach the word of God.  It was the end of the day; the fishermen were cleaning their nets.  The Lake of Gennesaret was an important body of water.  It was about thirteen miles long and eight miles wide, and during the time of Jesus, there were nine townships that surrounded this body of water.  It was home to about 15,000 people.  Jesus wasn’t preaching in the synagogues, but, He actually went to where the people were.  Jesus got into the boat belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore.  Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.

When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water and let the nets down for a catch.” Simon, the fisherman, looked at Jesus, the carpenter, as if to say “Are you crazy?  We’ve been out doing this all day long.  Fish aren’t biting.  We haven’t caught anything.”  That’s when Peter said one of the most amazing phrases you’ll find in the scripture. Peter said, “But because you say so, we will let down the nets.”  When they did, they caught so many fish that their nets couldn’t even contain them.  After Jesus had done the impossible, Simon Peter was totally overwhelmed and said, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.”

When I think of the word Christian, I think of a belief system.  A Christian believes Jesus is the Son of God who died and rose on the third day. That is what I think of when I think of a Christian.

When I think of the word disciple, I envision a step up from a regimented belief system.  I think of something beyond cultural Christianity: just believing in Jesus.  I think of a disciple as one who believes so much in Him that their whole life’s pursuit is to become like Him. Not only are we to become like Him, but as a disciple, we are to do what He did.

Jesus, in verse 10, said to Peter, “Don’t be afraid.  From now on, you will you will catch men.”

If you are a disciple of Jesus, you will do what He did.  If you are a disciple, you will be here for the sick, those who are in need.  If you are a disciple, you will be here for the prostitutes and the lepers, the sinners, (oh, my)… the no good, the low down, the outcast.

But, a disciple also goes fishing.  A disciple fishes for men.  Another way to say it is a disciple makes disciples.  The very last thing that Jesus said to His disciples before He ascended to Heaven in Matthew 28 was, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded.”

A disciple makes disciples.

25 February 2013

No Christians Allowed


In the 1950’s, the term Christian was viewed in a positive way.  Today, people’s thoughts on Christianity vary more widely between positive to very negative.  Some just say they’re “neutral.”  Rewind the clock a couple of thousand years, and you are going to find that the very first time the phrase Christian was used, it was used in a negative sense.

The term Christian was used initially during the First Century in Antioch by pagans, who were making fun of those who were Christ followers.  They coined the term Christianos, which means Christ ones, little Christs, or mini-me.

It is easy for the world to view today’s Christians as that group of folks who seem to be against everything. If I were asked, “What are Christians most against?” I would probably answer, “Other Christians.”

What group fights more among themselves than those who are Christians?  Jesus never invited anybody to be a “Christian” -I believe- because of what the term has come to mean today.  This is why some days I find it difficult to call myself a Christian.

Luke 14:25: Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

Jesus continues in verses 28-34 by saying “Don’t begin until you count the cost.”

He’s not talking about being the watered-down, American version of a Christian: a kind of cultural Christianity. Actually, 85% of Americans, some 247 million people, call themselves Christians. However, that same 85% are just as likely to get divorced as non-Christians, to abort their babies as non-Christians, and even less likely to help the poor than non-Christians.  How are those 85% really furthering the cause of Christ?  Christianity has become more of a cultural nice guy system, a club.

What does a disciple of Jesus do?  A disciple of Jesus touches lepers.  In our culture today, we don’t like to touch or be around the unlovely, and lepers are about as unlovely as they get.  In Mark 1:40, the Bible says, “A man with leprosy came to Jesus and begged him on his knees, ‘If you are willing, please, you can make me clean.’”

A disciple touches those who others won’t touch; and that’s exactly what Jesus did.  Jesus, filled with compassion, “reached out his hand and He touched the man.  Immediately, the leprosy left him, and he was cured.”  

A disciple also befriends prostitutes, the sinners, the really bad people.  Matthew 9:10 says, while Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors, and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples.  Jesus wasn’t hanging out with the religious. He was spending time with the sinners.

Whether it was the woman caught in adultery that Pharisees wanted to stone and kill that Jesus stood up for.  Whether it was the tax collectors like Zaccheus that everyone else hated, or the prostitute who threw herself at the feet of Jesus in worship, all through scripture, you find Jesus befriending the sinners.

But, for so-called Christians, the more we listen to our own exclusive music and learn our own buzz word language, we often lose touch with that kind of person.  You know the ones I’m referring to: the kind that smokes, drinks alcohol, watches rated-R movies, has tattoos all over, piercings in weird places … the ones you can’t hang out with or let your kids hang out with.

A disciple also offends Pharisees—you know the legalistic overly religious church-y type that forgot the main message of why Jesus came.  Luke 13:10 says, On a Sabbath, Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years.  Then Jesus put His hands on her, and immediately, she straightened up and praised God.

A synagogue Pharisee was indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, and in verse 14 said, “There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.”

In Matthew 12, Jesus healed a man’s hand that was withered, and He did this on the Sabbath.  The Pharisees were so upset they went outside and plotted about how they could kill Jesus.

To engage a society today who is ambivalent, not paying attention to Jesus at all, we must go where they are, speak their language, take Jesus into this world aggressively, without hesitation, without reservation, without watering it down one bit.  We must confront the hard issues head on, and when the controversy comes, so be it.  It is one of our greatest honors to hurt for the cause of Christ, and honestly, our hurt is so small compared to what is out there (or what Christ suffered for us).

Are you ready to be a disciple?  Consider the cost, because it will cost you something.

16 February 2013

Don't Kill Time


Our culture doesn’t really place much of a priority on ‘honor.’

In Japan, when people meet for the first time, it is honoring to bow slightly -not a big deep bow-  but a bow to put yourself just below the other person to show honor. It is also honoring to always bring a gift when visiting another’s home. It doesn't have to be something expensive; it can be something very simple. When the gift is given, the giver always presents it with two hands and the receiver accepts it with two hands as a gesture of honor to one other.  (If only wide receivers could remember this concept with a football, but I digress…)

Imagine a visitor from another country coming here and wondering, “How do I show honor in the United States?"

There’s not much to tell because the general consensus broadcasts that it doesn't really matter.
 
We have become a people without honor.

In Mark 6 Jesus was returning back to His hometown; not His birthplace, but the place where He grew up. A year prior to this visit, He was actually ran out of town and His own people threatened to kill Him. So, He comes back. Prior to returning, He was teaching God's Word, doing all sorts of miracles. He turned water into wine, He raised the dead, He opened blind eyes, healed deaf ears, multiplied loaves and fishes to feed thousands.

Jesus left there and went to His hometown, accompanied by His disciples. When the Sabbath came, He began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard Him were amazed. "Where did this man get these things?" they asked. "What's this wisdom that has been given Him, that He even does miracles!" Mark 6:1-2 

His hometown folks were saying, 'Wow! This guy is amazing! His teaching is powerful! His miracles are awesome! How can He do these things?' Then in verse three, someone says:

"Isn't this the carpenter? Isn't this Mary's son, the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren't His sisters here with us?"  And they took offense at Him. Mark 6:3

In other words… 'isn't this that ordinary guy that we grew up around? You know, wasn't Jesus that kid in class that was always annoying, because the teacher always liked him, he always got a 100 on every exam. Isn't that the guy who built your kitchen table? Isn't he the ordinary guy we played stick ball with?'

Jesus said to them, "Only in his hometown, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honor." Mark 6:4

The Greek word that is translated 'without honor' is the word atimos (at'-ee-mos). Atimos means to dishonor; to treat as common or ordinary.  If you want a common or an ordinary marriage, dishonor your spouse by treating her as common or ordinary.

Why does it seem like during the early years of a relationship that all is great and you are ‘all in love?’ It’s because you are continually showing her honor. You open the door; you bring presents, ‘here's some flowers…’  You are showing honor over and over, and over again.

Then, marriage happens, and you begin to take one another for granted. Instead of showing honor, you treat each other as common. Eventually, what once was great is diminished because you show dishonor.

The flip side of dishonor is the word honor. In the Greek, it's the word time. It is spelled t-i-m-e, but pronounced ‘tim-may.’ Time means to value, to respect, or to highly esteem. It means to treat as precious, weighty, or valuable.

What’s the difference, anyway? Honoring esteems and lifts up. Dishonoring devalues and tears down. To honor someone is to believe the best about them. To dishonor is to believe the worst. Honor lifts, dishonor tears down.

Did you spend Valentine’s Day evaluating your relationship with your wife and finding yourself asking, “What happened?”

Are you showing her honor? Are you building her up by words and action that lift up rather than devalue and tear down?

You may be thinking right now, “I’ll show honor when she ________ !“ (you fill in the blank).  NO! That’s absolutely wrong! Treat her with honor no matter what!

One of the reasons your marriage is bad may be because you continually dishonor your wife. You may look at other couples and say “if my relationship was more like theirs, I would show honor."

I promise, the reason their marriage is different and where it is today is because they have spent years showing each other honor in theirs, and you have spent time dishonoring each other in yours.

So, I’m beating you up a little…but in an honorable way, I’m using BOTH hands!

10 February 2013

Entitlement's Nemesis... Gratitude


There was a consultant who was working with a group of college graduates. He said to the group, “There is one word used to describe the generation currently emerging into the workforce, and that word begins with an "E."

“Do any of you know what this one word is?"

The graduates offered answers.
“Exceptional!”
“Energetic!”
“Excellent!”

They chimed in with other words that described their positive attributes, all beginning with the letter “E.”  After some time had passed, the consultant gave in, “The number one most commonly used word to describe this generation as they move into the workforce, is ‘entitled.’"

The millennial generation is also known as the "entitled generation." Many in this age category feel like they are ‘owed’ and they deserve more.

But, before you simply agree with me and say, “yeah, those dang kids!” we must first realize we are responsible for this generation. We’ve created the monster by our actions and our attitudes.  You may be wondering how.

Here are a few of the ways we’ve shaped these ingrates:

For those my age and older, for a variety of reasons, we worked way too much, sacrificing relationships along the way, often ending in divorce and torn families. This often led to the guilt scenario where we tried to make up for our lack of time and involvement with our kids by never saying no. "Here, you can have this, you can have that..."

As a result, this younger generation feels like, "Hey, if we want it, we are going to get it!"

We have also protected this generation like none before it. When I was a kid, you could ride in the back of a pick-up truck, with 18 of your friends. Now, we strap our kids down with the protection of 43 different belt buckles.  We raced down steep hills on our cobbled together bicycles and we won’t even let ours ride on the pavement without a helmet.

When I was a kid, we actually had to win something to get a ribbon.  We’ve told, no, we’ve SOLD this generation into believing everyone is a winner. We can’t bear the thought of allowing them to feel the emotion that comes naturally with defeat.

"Hey Johnny, you were last, but you ran so slowly and we're so proud of you! So, here's a ribbon!”

The opposite of entitlement is the virtue of gratitude. In Luke there is an interesting story about a group of sick men who may have appeared to be entitled and who did not stop and take the time to show gratitude.

Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, "Jesus, Master, have pity on us!" Luke 17:11-13

To give you a clear picture of leprosy, lepers suffered with one of the most painful diseases imaginable.  The disease was so contagious, as explained in Leviticus 13, whenever someone ventured close by, a leper had to scream out, "Unclean, unclean!" to warn people to turn and go the other way. It was very humiliating.

According to the story, these ten guys see Jesus across the street and they cry out, "Jesus, please, help!"

When Jesus saw them, he said, "Go, and show you to the priests." And, as they went, they were cleansed. Luke 17:14

For these ten it was their greatest dream, their most desired prayer had just been answered!

One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him, and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, "Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?" Luke 17:15-18

Can you hear the hurt in Jesus’ voice? It’s as if He was saying to the nine, you were begging, you were crying out, you were in deep distress, your life was basically nothing. You were just going to survive the rest of your days all alone. You cried out, and God sent me.

They probably weren't bad guys, they were probably just thinking, “I want to go home and tell my wife, I want to see my family! This disease isn't exactly what I asked for; you know I didn't deserve this!” It was almost as if they slipped into this entitled mindset leaving only one with gratitude.

Will you be that one?

Will you be that one that daily pauses to give glory and honor to the One that gave you life? Will you be that one to stop in the middle of life’s rat race and lift up a true, heartfelt worship to the Creator and Sustainer of the universe? Will you be that one to give praise and honor and worship and glory to the One, who, when you were a sinner, sent His Son Jesus to do something for you, that you couldn't do for yourself and you certainly deserve the opposite.

Will you be that one?

03 February 2013

Authentic Integrity


I was at a QT convenience store this week buying some water. The cashier rang up the sale, I paid her, and she mistakenly gave me more change back than she was supposed to. I didn't realize it at the time. I went out to my truck, I looked at the money she gave back to me, and there was a lot more than she should have given me. My first thought was, "Wow! God is so cool!" But immediately I thought "No! You have got to go back and return the money!"

So, I walked back in and  said, "Ma'am, you gave me more change than I was due."

She said, "Oh my gosh! I can't believe you brought the money back! I can't believe it! Thank you so much, this means so much to me, thank you! I can't...." She went on and on and on!

I responded, "It's not that big of a deal!"

It's tragic that we live in a world that is more shocked by integrity than they are by the LACK of integrity.

What is integrity? It is when your behavior matches your beliefs.

It's an integrated lifestyle. Integrated integrity is when what you say lines up with what you do. It's when your private life matches your public life. It has been said, "Integrity is what you do when no one else is looking." It's different than your reputation. Your reputation is who other people think you are. Your integrity or lack of integrity is who you really are.

Proverbs 11:3 says: The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity.

One of my favorite characters in the Bible is in the Old Testament; his name is Samuel.

At the end of Samuel’s life, he stood before his community and he said, 'Have I lived a life of integrity? If I've wronged any of you, tell me what I did wrong and I will make it right!' Free shot!

The community looked on and responded, "No, you've done the right thing, you are a person of integrity! You have been a faithful man of God."

More than anything else, at the end of my ministry, end of my career, and the end of my life, I want to be able to say, “Free shot! Did I do what I claimed to do?" You may say, "We didn't like you, your jokes were stupid! We didn't like your style! But, yes you were a person of integrity; your behavior matched your beliefs."

What does your life say about your integrity?
What do your actions say your integrity is worth?

If you lie on a resume to get a better job, your integrity is worth whatever that job pays.

Maybe you're married and finances are tight, and when you buy something new you hide it for a while. So when you bring it out and are questioned about it you can say “no, it’s not new. I’ve had it for a while.” That item is what your integrity is worth.

Satan was criticizing God's people and said to God, “You know they don't really love you, they're just faithful to you because you're good to them.”

God replied, “No, there are some who really love me.”

Satan said, “Who? Show me one!”

God answered, “Well, there's this one guy, he's full of integrity, I promise you he is faithful to me; his name is Job.”

Satan responded, “Give me a shot at him; let me see if he really loves you.”

God answered, “Take your best shot at him.”

So, Satan stripped Job of all of the things that really mattered to him.  His friends turned on him and even his wife turned on him.

His wife complained, “Why are you hanging on to your integrity? Why don't you just curse God and die?”

His friends advised, “You know you've done something wrong. All of these bad things wouldn't be happening to you if you were a person of integrity. Quit claiming you are a person of integrity!”

But, Job said, “...I will not deny my integrity. I will maintain my righteousness and never let go of it; my conscience will not reproach me as long as I live.” Job 27:5-6

What does your life say about your integrity? How do you behave when no one else is looking?

28 January 2013

Loyalty... the Forgotten Virtue


In 1947 Pee Wee Reese and Jackie Robinson both played for the Brooklyn Dodgers and they were great friends. Jackie Robinson was the first African American baseball player to break the race barrier. This was such a radical move for that day that some of his own teammates even turned against him. There were also many fans that responded to his presence in baseball with death threats.

Once, during a game in Cincinnati, while Jackie Robinson was playing second base, the crowd started throwing stuff, booing, and shouting horrible things. Short Stop Pee Wee Reese, a white player, took his glove, threw it down in the dirt, walked over to the Jackie, looked up at the booing crowd, and put his arm around his friend. The crowd fell completely silent.

Robinson later shared that that one simple act did more than save his career, but probably saved him in more ways than we could have imagined. Pee Wee Reese’s gesture was such a special moment in history, a statue capturing the two men commemorates this act of loyalty between friends.

Many will say they are loyal friends, but who can find one who is truly reliable? Proverbs 20:6

King David had a son, Absalom; it was his third son. His son committed a horrible crime; he murdered a man and went on the run for his life. He was very afraid, even though David was faithful to him.

About three years later, Absalom returned with a big army to overthrow his own father's throne. David had been faithful to him, and yet he was being disloyal to his own father. So now King David was on the run trying to save his own life.

There was a warrior by the name of Ittai. Ittai was basically a mercenary; a hired guy who was the commander of 600 men.  Ittai, though he had no real skin in this game, volunteered to fight on behalf of David.

2 Samuel 15:19-21  The king said to Ittai the Gittite, “Why should you come along with us? Go back and stay with King Absalom. You are a foreigner, an exile from your homeland. You came only yesterday. And today shall I make you wander about with us, when I do not know where I am going? Go back, and take your people with you. May the Lord show you kindness and faithfulness.” But Ittai replied to the king, “As surely as the Lord lives, and as my lord the king lives, wherever my lord the king may be, whether it means life or death, there will your servant be.”

Not only did Ittai proclaim loyalty, but he proved it as he led his 600 men into battle and fought so faithfully that later David elevated him to be in charge of about a third of his troops.

When asked, most men will say of all virtues, the one that is most forgotten in today’s society is loyalty. If we conducted a survey, most would say disloyalty is a very significant problem. The same people that claim disloyalty is an issue most likely consider themselves to be very loyal.

But we should remember that disloyalty is very difficult to see in the mirror.

Today, we could easily find the mindset: “I'll be loyal to you, but if I'm ever not, it's because you deserved it…you pushed me beyond my limits. However, if you're not loyal to ME, then disloyalty is now actually a big problem.”

All disloyalty is born out of a divided heart.

God created us to love and to have an intimate, ongoing fellowship with us.  He was so loyal to us, that while we were still sinners -while we were being disloyal to Him- He sent His one and only Son to die for our sins.

Even when we are faithless, disloyal, God, in turn, remains faithful, loyal, to us.

“What does God want from me?” you may ask. God asks for all of our hearts.

Jesus said, "love the Lord your God with all of your heart, all your mind and all of your soul, and all of your strength.”

It would have been easier for Ittai to have just left David to fight his own battle instead of risking the lives of himself and his men.

It would have been easier for Pee Wee to have let the crowd have their way with his friend Jackie and mind his own business.

But true loyalty is proven, not proclaimed.

20 January 2013

“Goose is dead.”

Those fateful words, spoken by Commander Mike ‘Viper’ Metcalf, were a crushing blow to Lt. Pete Mitchell.  Mitchell, known by call sign “Maverick,” already knew that Goose had been killed during a cockpit ejection.  It threw the F-14 pilot’s life into a tailspin.  Although the board of inquiry clears Maverick of responsibility, he feels guilty for Goose's death, losing his own aggressiveness for flying. Maverick, whose “…ego was writing checks his body can’t cash,” refused to get back into the saddle.

The movie? Top Gun.  Soon after graduating from fighter weapons school, Maverick, along with  Iceman/Slider and wingmen Hollywood/Wolfman, were deployed back to sea aboard the USS Enterprise to deal with a crisis situation. Their orders were to defend a communication ship which had become disabled in enemy waters and to return fire if attacked by hostile Soviet assets in the area. Iceman and Hollywood were the first two US planes in the air, and they quickly encountered five Soviet MiG-28 aircraft determined to shoot them down. Hollywood’s aircraft gets hit, leaving Iceman to fend for himself until help arrives. That “help” was a paralyzed Maverick, who was coming to the rescue by himself, due to a catapult failure aboard the carrier.

As Maverick spots Iceman below facing five-against-one odds, and with a strange guy seated behind him, he simply pulls the plug.

“Maverick’s disengaged!” shouts Slider.

To me, no word is more impactful, or personal, than the word “disengage.”   Those who have served or are serving in the military know the word “disengage” means “to withdraw forces from close action.”

In the world we live in, it means to “check out.”

In the past few months, the news has been filled with several shootings at schools, movie theaters, and in the streets of our nation’s cities by young men—mere boys.  If we were to lay out all of these acts of violence and compare them side-by-side, there are several similarities. But, the one thing they all have in common is the role models of the shooters.  Those role models were rappers, action movies, comics, and violent video games.  It would be easy to respond by pointing to those influences and say “that’s what’s wrong” or “it’s the ease of access to weapons.”

However, our problem is not the weapons, it is boys without boundaries whose fathers have “disengaged.”

"Don't fail to correct your children. You won't kill them by being firm, and it may even save their lives,” says Proverbs 23:13-14 (CEV)

Men, you are the leaders of your families. You might be reluctant to assume that role. You might even deny that it falls to you. Nonetheless, you are your family’s leader, whether you choose to believe it or not.

Leaders are always the highest-priority targets in any war.  Satan knows that if he can kill the commander, the troops will be easier to defeat. Cut off the head and the body dies. In case you missed it, the body in this analogy is your family—you are the head. You are needed.

You may not think of yourself as being particularly influential or even successful in life. Maybe you don’t make a lot of money, lead a large group of people, save lives, or invent amazing gadgets. Maybe life has even beaten you down, and you’ve lost confidence in your abilities. Consequently, you don’t think of yourself as a big deal. But you can bet your boy does. He thinks you’re a very big deal. He doesn’t know or care what the outside world thinks. He only knows that between the walls of your home, you are about the biggest, wisest, most powerful person alive. Oh, he knows you’re not perfect. But he doesn’t care, because you’re just good enough to be indispensable in his life.

Our pastor was fifty before he finally quit believing that his own dad could whip King Kong Bundy, were he to pay their home a hostile visit.  Yeah, dads are a big deal.



13 January 2013

What's in Your Wallet?

Do you know what percentage of income the average person in Japan saves each year?  They sock away 18.2 percent of their annual income. In contrast, the average American SPENDS $1.33 for every $1.00 earned.

This boat won’t float for long.

Proverbs 6:6-8 says, “Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise!  The ant, it has no commander, no overseer, no ruler, and yet it stores provisions in summer and it gathers its food at harvest.”

The ant instinctively saves for a “rainy” day. We also should exercise the sense to save. There are three “circumstances” we are going to put into practice for saving:

1. We are going to save for emergencies.  “What emergencies?” you may ask.  Your plumbing will back up, your car will break down, or someone in your family will get sick and go to the doctor.

2. We are going to save for purchases.  You may need a new couch; you may want to go on vacation. The idea is to save up and pay cash. We’ve just had Christmas, and you may not have even begun to pay for that spending. Decide not to do that anymore, instead, save up and pay cash for gifts.

3. We are going to save for the future.  You may want to retire or see your kids go to college. You are going to save for that.

Proverbs 21:20, “In the house of the wise there are stores of choice food and oil, a foolish man devours all he has.”

A modern day telling of this verse could go like this:  In the house of the wise, people survive on less than they take in, and they save for the future, but the foolish live paycheck to paycheck- which is what 75% of Americans do, spending more than they earn.

Having ‘stores of choice food and oil’ will require you to prioritize your money by planning, budgeting, and making your money behave.  This has to be done because you most likely have a certain amount of money to live on.

It will be necessary to clearly define, in your life, what a need is, what a want is.

Think of it like this: You need to eat; you want to go to a restaurant. Those are different things. You need a roof over your head, but you may want a 3-bedroom house with a 2-car garage.  

The problem for so many people is they spend money on wants, leaving insufficient funds to provide for needs.      

Prioritize your dollars.  Most have a certain amount to live on each month, so it is important to put a priority on each dollar.

For example, let’s say its payday, and to keep things simple, let’s say you get paid $10.  Your first priority as a follower of Christ is to always tithe, that is, give 10% to God.  And, it should always be the very first dollar.

Your second priority is to pay for your living expenses.  You have to eat, and you have to sleep somewhere.  Until now, in this scenario, your living expenses have been higher than they really should be, and nine of your ten dollars has been spent on those living expenses.

But, you have decided to be aggressive about eliminating your debt. You've sold your car and got a less expensive one.  You stopped drinking expensive drinks.  Maybe you cut back in some areas, and, after aggressive planning, you have managed to actually save $2.00 from your living expenses.

You are going to put that $2.00 toward your ‘third priority.’

Your third priority is the “Oh, no” fund.  It is $1,000.00 that you are going to work your buns off to set aside for emergencies.  Two dollars doesn't sound like much, but, you have been taught tithing, and God has blessed you.

You landed a side job this month, and earned an extra dollar. You also sold something on Craigslist and made another $1.00.  In your very first month, you could end up putting $4.00 into the “Oh, no” fund.

Before long, it is payday again, and the cycle continues.  After you do this for a few months, you will have $1,000.00 in your “Oh, no” fund.

It is time to focus on debt elimination once you have established your “Oh, no” fund. Don’t let your enemy talk you out of this.  If you hang in there, when most people give up, within a short period of time, except for probably what you owe on your home, you will be debt-free.

Managing wisely the resources entrusted to you by God is one of the true marks of spiritual maturity.  What you do with what God provides reveals what you really believe.

This practical advice is not meant to curb your reliance on God; it is to open your eyes to applying His word to your everyday lives.  He is still sovereign; He still gives and takes away.  He is our Jehovah Jireh, our provider.

Let’s do our best with what He provides.

06 January 2013

What did that Cost?


Where are the people that have the money?  Just looking around at ourselves and our neighbors we see people that have the home, the car, the toys, the look, and the debt, but not the money.  Many Americans today are pretenders.  We are pretending to live a lifestyle that we cannot really afford.
 
Proverbs 13:7 says, “One man pretends to be rich, but in truth he has nothing.” Another verse, Proverbs 12:9, “Better to be a nobody and yet have a servant than pretend to be somebody and have no food.”  There are two groups of people in America; those that “have paid” and those that “have not paid…yet.”

The real differences between these two groups are the questions we ask. And, all too often, we as Americans have learned to ask the wrong questions.  What we tend to ask when buying something is, “how much money down is this going to take?”  And, “how much is it going to cost a month?”  Instead of asking “how much is the real cost?”

Another example is when someone walks into a business and asks “what’s the most I can get into for the least down?”  We have forgotten to ask what is the real cost, not just the financial cost, but the lost opportunity costs that bind us to the point where we can’t give, where our marriages are stressed because we are fighting and worrying about finances, where we can’t give our kids opportunities because we have bought things that we didn't need with money that we didn't have to impress people that we don’t even know.

What is the real cost of our unbiblical stewardship?

In our country, we've been programmed to believe debt is normal and that debt is necessary.  But debt, as we have come to accept it, didn't use to be the norm.  Go back in time about 80 years, and in 1929, only 2% of the homes in America had mortgages against them.  Forty years later, only two percent of homes did not have mortgages against them.  That’s how fast our mindset changed.

The average American owes $15,418.00 in credit card debt with an average interest rate of 19%.  If only the minimum required payments of $245.00 per month were made, it would take almost 30 years to pay off that debt.  Some of you will be dead before the debt is satisfied.

What does this really COST?  

What if you decided you were not going to be like everyone else and you were not going to simply buy whatever you wanted?  Instead, you choose to be prayerful.  You are going to make decisions based on direction from God.  And, you are going to exercise self-discipline.  Instead of owing $15,418.00, you could be faithful enough to do what grandma used to say and save that $15,418.00 instead.  Over time, investing that minimum payment with the money you saved could earn you a 10% per year return on your money.  Practicing this for 30 years could net you an $864,288.03 nest egg.

Are you thinking, “I had no idea what the real cost of this DEBT really was.”

What should we do now? We train our money and make our money behave.

In Proverbs 25:28, the Bible says, “Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control.”  If you don’t have control of your money or any area of your life, you are like a city whose walls are broken down.  You are vulnerable to whatever comes along.

You are like the little kid in Wal-Mart who wants a toy or a candy bar and will throw a fit until you get it:

Child: “I want it!”
Mom: “No, Johnny.”
Child: “I want it!”
Mom: “No, no, no, Johnny!  Now, be good.”
Child: “I want it, NOW!”
Mom: “Okay, okay, if you will be good, I’ll just give it to you.”

The problem with this mindset is right now little Johnny still lives inside many of you.  Only now, Johnny wants a boat, a truck, a motorcycle, or whatever.  You've got to get control of the little kid inside and train him to shut up.

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