My car is a better christian than me

 

If aliens were to discover our planet and inspect the cars that we drive, they would believe many of us to be huge fans of fish. So much so that we put embalms of them on our bumpers.

You know they ones I am talking about, the small chrome fish stuck to the bumper of a Christian’s car.

My brother and I began calling these Jesus Fish when we were younger. It’s the Christian version of pimping my ride.

Instead of putting chrome rims on the wheels, we put chrome fish on the bumper. Jesus probably had one on the back of his donkey.

But Jesus didn’t come for our cars. He came for our hearts. The truth is, sometimes our cars are more Chirstian than we are. 

It’s not an external label that defines us but an internal conviction.

In Luke 6 Jesus speaks to this issue. He tells his disciples that a good tree can’t bear bad fruit but a bad tree cant bear good fruit.

We speak from the content of our heart, not from the decal on our bumper.

All too often I am content with the title of being a pastor, the few minutes I spent reading scripture the day before, or who saw the way I helped my wife around the house that I fall into the trap of letting those things define my relationship with God. In the same moment I will act out of anger, not pay attention to my wife, and neglect spending time with God.

I forget that God is more concerned with my heart now, than what I did before.  If our heart is good, good comes of it. If its not, then no matter what we do, it wont be as good as it can be, regardless of what’s on our bumper. 

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If Jesus jumped off a cliff

Everyone’s parents have asked the question of them at least once.

As a kid you would come home and talk about a friend you have. This was typically the friend who lived in a house that seemed more like Vegas than a home two doors down. The friend got to do whatever they wanted. They got to buy whatever they wanted. They were the masters of their own destiny.

You would come home and tell your parents how Bobby got to light his pants on fire while he was still wearing them. You told your parent’s that his parents encouraged. You stood dumbfounded and frustrated when your parents refused to allow you to light your pants on fire. On and on you would make your case why because this friend did it, you can do it too.

Then your parents pulled out the question out of some magical parenting toolbox filled with, because-I-said-sos and My-house-my-rules.

If Bobby jumped off a cliff would you too?

Even though I was clearly bested by a greater wit than my own, I would still respond, “Yup.”

Your parents intention was to help you understand that just because someone else does it, doesn’t me we have to.

And there in lies the problem. As crazy as it is, we have applied that to our spiritual lives.

Jesus jumped off a cliff and we didn’t go.

He jumps off a lot of cliffs. He goes a lot of places we see as dangerous. He does a lot of things we don’t see as safe. He calls us to a lot of places we aren’t sure if we can make it back from. But he calls us nonetheless.

One of the central topics of Jesus’ 3-year ministry was the idea that God was doing something on earth now, not in heaven out there but bringing Heaven here. His life was to be the exclamation point to their perspective that isn’t just going to do something but God is doing something now. He wants us to be a part of it.

But all too often we simplify what Jesus calls out of us: Our attendance, maybe a little money, maybe a quick prayer before dinner, and likely not much else.

Matthew records that shortly after the begging of his ministry that Jesus went and called his first disciples. This was not a unique task to rabbis of the day. One of the central foci of rabbinic culture was that you would find a group of followers to train in your ways. A rabbi would pass on his yolk (or practice and interpretation of the Torah) to his followers.

In Jesus’ case, as he was walking along the sea he saw Peter and Andrew fishing off the shore. He called to them, “follow me” and at once the followed him. Shortly after he saw James and John. Again fishing, and again he called to them. Matthew records that James and John left their boat and father who was fishing with them and immediately followed Jesus.

If the story of the calling of the disciples were going to be re-written for the average American Christian it would be told as such.

 

Jesus was walking along the shore when he saw Peter and Andrew behind the bar at Starbucks. Peter was working the drive-thru while Andrew was making drinks. Jesus said to them “follow me.” They got excited. They accepted the offer. They couldn’t believe it. They talked about their lives being changed. Then they told him they would see him Sunday. Jesus left alone.

He walked into Chillis where he met two brothers eating a meal with their father. Jesus approached the table and said to the two boys, “follow me. “ Their father was ecstatic. The boys also couldn’t believe that such an important figure would care about them, that he would want to spend time with them and mold them. As Jesus turned to leave the restaurant he looked back and noticed the boys focused back on the bottomless chips and salsa. “Aren’t you coming to follow me?” he asked them. “Oh, um, yeah. I mean we will see you Sunday right? We have a lot of things to do here. We only have so much time you know? But we will definitely see you Sunday. Unless we are out too late Saturday night, definitely the next week though!

 

Now I spend a lot of time at Starbucks and I love me some chips and salsa so I am not criticizing there. But I wonder how many of us who are “followers of Jesus” are actually following Jesus. We may like him, know about him, see him around town, but are we really going to the places he is going? Are we really following him?

I know more often than I want to admit, I am not. Time gets in the way. Responsibilities pile up. I get tired. I get lazy. And sometimes I really just don’t want to follow.

But you know what God does when he calls us to follow and we don’t go? He calls us again. Moses gave a laundry list of excuses, but in the end, he followed. Elijah was hiding in a cave, from the enemy and from God, but God found him and called him. Peter had sold Jesus out publicly, but three days later, Jesus was there again, reminding him that written on Peter’s heart was the desire to follow God.

So when Jesus jumps off a cliff, go. It’s scary and you can’t see the bottom. You aren’t sure if you will be hurt, you aren’t sure if it’s safe, you aren’t sure if you will ever be back again. But wouldn’t you rather face the fear of following than the regret of missing out?

And even if you don’t, have confidence that he will be back again, calling you once again to follow him.

So, if Jesus jumped off a cliff would you too? Yup.

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Is my Jesus is broken?

My son gives a lot of unsolicited hugs. He is 19 months old and if giving unsolicited hugs was an Olympic sport, he would be the youngest Olympian ever. What is an unsolicited hug? What Patrick does is identifies his target, zeroes in, moves in for the kill, and wraps his arms around his prey before they know what hit them. They usually squirm with their arms tucked to the side and a face of both confusion and anguish and Patrick maintains the warm embrace. He doesn’t have to know someone for this. Perfect strangers and the play place can all the time receive these hugs, unprovoked, unsolicited. His mother and I, the ones who are always grateful to receive such hugs, begging for them sometimes, receive them all too seldom.

 

Patrick doesn’t see it as unsolicited however. He has hugs and it is his duty to release them upon the world.

 

Christians give a lot of unsolicited hugs. I don’t mean literally, well sometimes literally, but most often it is in the form of advice, counsel, Biblical insight, revelatory prophecy we have received in the clouds during a summer solstice.

 

The unmarried couple moves in across the street and we wonder when it will be time to, “let them know,” you know, that their living arrangement is against the Bible. Your son want’s to go see the Harry Potter movies at a friends house but first you need to call the parents of his friend to let them know that witchcraft is obviously of the devil. You have to let your friend know that God is not in favor of their particular political party.

 

C’mon, we give these hugs all the time. We don’t even know we are doing it sometimes. And yet, although we mean it as a warm embrace, all in the name of Jesus of course, the other person is left squirming with a look of both confusion and anguish on their face.

 

Here’s a rule to follow: only hug people who are ready to hug back

 

I work with a group of high schoolers who by and large understand the principle of only hugging people who are ready to hug back better than any people I know. I see new faces in our ministry weekly because the high school students who are committed to our ministry are committed to influencing their friends where they are at. They don’t force them anywhere, to do anything, or to change anything. We have kids who come who leave and get drunk or get high and a host of other things during the week. But their friends who love Jesus also love them. They pursue them.

 

They give hugs, but they wait until others want them.

 

We get paranoid that our Jesus is broken. That if we don’t tell others to change, who will? If we don’t inform others of their sin, who will? But we are called to love Jesus, and our friends, and neighbors, and gas station attendants, and even that guy who cut you off this morning. We don’t change people, we love people and Jesus changes people. Our Jesus isn’t broken. He is doing just fine, and we need to let him do what he does. We need to stop the unsolicited hugs already. Love people in a hand shake, a passing

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I don’t know about you, but I don’t like a lot of verses in the Bible.

I sin a lot…

 

If you are reading this, and your response to the previous statement is not, “yeah me too,” please go check out one of the many blogs on lying to yourself. It’s true. I sin a lot. Scripture, as well as the other major world religions, uses the word sin to describe a violation of God’s (or supreme) will. And truth is, most all of us, sin a lot.

 

So what’s the point? The point is that the Bible, in a ton of places says don’t do it. And yet, here we are, a lot of people, who all, sin a lot.

 

I don’t know about you, but I don’t like a lot of verses in the Bible. I don’t know if I can say that, but I m saying it anyways.

 

I get the whole, Thou shalt not kill thing. I’m good with that. No problem here.

 

A lot of times though I will read scripture and my response will be, “yeah right! Like that’s possible.” Or, “I just don’t want to do that.” I am not saying I don’t believe them to be true, valuable, relevant, or inspired, I am just saying I don’t like them.

 

The other day I read one such verse: “’In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the son go down while you are still angry.” (Ephesians 4:26)

 

Yeah Right, I want to respond back, “So, if not in anger then when can I sin?”

 

Seriously though. How many times have I gone to bed angry? How many times has my anger been the motivating force to my breaking God’s will, hurting someone, or hurting myself?

 

When I was a junior in high school, I punched a hole in the wall of my bedroom. I didn’t do it because I was remodeling and was missing a sledgehammer, nor because I had always hated that particular 6” space of drywall. I was angry. My dad had told me I was not allowed to run in the sectional track meet for my school. My hamstring was torn by the way, he was not some power hungry tyrant. Yet at the time, in that moment, I felt like I was living in a house with Stalin. Sorry dad, he’s not Stalin. But I was angry and at the time all he was missing was a mustache and an accent.

 

So I walked downstairs, and punched a hole right into my wall. Why the wall? No clue. The repairman who came later that week reminded me that the next time I did it would likely be the last because I would probably hit a stud and fracture my hand. I have since transitioned to punching baby kittens in my anger. Just kidding, but I haven’t punched another wall.

 

Why does God make a point of telling us not to sin in our anger? When I am angry is exactly when I want to sin. It’s like adding rockets to my tricycle; sin I never thought imaginable is easy when I am angry. Words I can say, things I can do, all come easier in anger.

 

And yet I think that is exactly why he reminds us to be careful when we are angry. Don’t flip the switch on the rocket, because it can spiral out of control. You aren’t yourself. Anger is an emotion and sin is an action. Paul doesn’t say, “don’t get angry.” He knows we will get angry. He instructs us what to do, or rather, what not to do, with our anger. Don’t let our anger turn into the wrong action.

 

I think the reason I hate this verse because It’s hard. Don’t let the sun go down? What if the fight was just before bedtime and the sun is already down?

 

But this verse is also powerful beyond belief. We are given a choice, allow your anger to fuel destruction, or mold it into righteous anger that fuels change. Will your anger fuel harsh words or honest conversation, slander or truth, violence or reconciliation?

 

I would love a passage that says, “Hey, here’s how to not get angry.” But I don’t get that because God doesn’t want us to abstain from anger. Righteous anger over global atrocities has sparked some of the most powerful and history-altering movements the world has seen.

 

It’s not about not getting angry, it’s about what to do with it. God doesn’t want us to waste out anger. It’s hard, I hate it. But when we let God inspire us from anger, we don’t allow our anger to inspire us to sin.

 

 

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