|What do YOU see?
|Thursday, January 03, 2019|
Two-year-old Sadie lives for “by-YAY” (her pronunciation of ballet).
It’s the first thing Sadie does when she wakes up, and often her last waking activity. She takes her Park District ballet class quite seriously, easily agitated when others prance about rather than follow their routines.
Attending a performance of the Nutcracker, Sadie wept at intermission—fearing it was over. At a holiday basement sleep-in, her three older siblings nestled themselves into their “tent,” while Sadie performed her ballet routine—at 10:30 at night, no less!
So it should not have surprised us when, upon pirouetting across the floor of our home, Sadie spied a Christmas elf suspended from a hook which our two-year-old granddaughter immediately labeled, “by-YAY.”
In Sadie’s defense, the elf lady’s red dress sort of resembles a tutu. And her skinny black shoes might be seen as ballet slippers. But the Velcro hands clasped together pointing upward, communicated just one thing to Sadie: “by-YAY!”
She loves ballet so much, she sees it everywhere. But you and I do the same thing. What we love most, we “see” the most. Got a passion for Chevy muscle cars? You see them everywhere on the road. Wish you could afford a Burberry purse? You see them everywhere, right?
But what if we let the power of our passions work for us concerning people outside the Kingdom of God? What if we loved people so much, we started seeing them everywhere—just as Jesus sees them: eternal souls headed either to heaven or hell?
Many of us will invest considerable time and calories eating and watching the NFL playoffs. Could I challenge you—during the very next game—to set football aside for a moment? Force yourself to stare at those stadium aerial shots—likely taken from a MetLife blimp. I dare you to look at the tens of thousands of people sitting in those stands grasping hotdogs and high hopes.
Now see them as Jesus sees them: many lost souls on a slow trek toward a Christ-less eternity. Some, to be sure, are headed for heaven. But Jesus told us in Matthew 7:14 that most are not: “For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”
Shouldn’t we learn to see people this way—either lost or saved? Shouldn’t this melt our hearts and chisel our souls? Why couldn’t this be the year we learn to see people as Jesus sees them? Why shouldn’t it?
|At the End of the Year
|Thursday, December 27, 2018|
There is something sobering about facing a new year. For some, it’s the intimidation of the unknown. But I’m not referring to the slew of latent fears and unanswered questions of 2019:
No doubt those are huge questions. But the sobriety I speak of comes only with a careful scan of the previous year. Glance back upon the last twelve months and consider with me…
There were opportunities to build bridges into the lives of unsaved friends and neighbors. Exactly how much bridge building did I do? Or did I merely talk about what I hoped to do?
There were moments—lots of them—where I could have chosen to demonstrate selfless love to my mate. Did I seize those moments and quietly emulate Christ—or did I merely have good intentions? Or worse, did I simply put myself first—again and again?
There were texts I could have chosen to send or calls I could have made to encourage my son or daughter—and remind them how proud of them I really am—that I’m on their side, pulling for them, praying for them. How many of those did I actually share?
While I was privileged to support some missionaries, did I just give money? Or did I give the better gift—intercessory prayer?
Did I listen to sermon after Sunday sermon (and secretly feel proud of my church attendance) or was I actually a doer of the Word?
If my Hulu, Netflix and YouTube usage for all of last year were shown in the same pie chart that included my service for Christ, would I be okay with what the data showed?
This past year, did I actually hide God’s Word in my heart—or merely agree that memorizing Scripture is something I should really make a priority?
Did I become more like Christ—or just hope that it would happen?
Sorry if I sound like a drizzling rain on your New Year’s parade. Don’t mean to. But I think there’s a place for warning ourselves at the start of the coming new year, lest the lullaby of good intentions send us off to sleep and we become satisfied with dreams of kingdom living that are never attempted, let alone. attained. May God wake us all—every one of us—so we live the new year fully alive for Him!
|All I Want for Christmas
|Thursday, December 20, 2018|
“Remember that song, All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth?” Jack asks me.
“Of course,” I tell him.
“Saw a homeless person the other day that reminded me of that tune.” Leave it to Jack to connect an iconic Christmas classic with a homeless person.
“The guy had almost no teeth—only one in front,” Jack mused.
“That’ll get your attention,” I offered, wondering where he was going.
“As I walk by, this semi-toothless person looks directly at me and says, ‘Have a safe weekend.’ And he shoves a plastic cup in my face. Didn’t say anything about money. Didn’t need to.”
“So did you give him any?” I wondered.
“I ain't exactly Ebenezer Scrooge,” Jack mused. “But I rarely give these street people anything. There are so many—and so many are fakes. Just too burned out by ‘em. So I tell him, “Hope you have a safe weekend, too,” and then shuffle into the train station—feeling guilty every step.”
I was hooked and was now compelled to wait while Jack shook his head and exhaled. Slowly. Finally, he picked up the story.
“I’m now feeling like that guy in James 2:16 who says to some needy person, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled’ without giving them the basics of life. So I walk back, drop a buck in the guy’s cup, and said, ‘Here ya go, Sir.’”
(Jack squeezes his eyes shut). “And the homeless dude replies, “I'm a woman!”
“No way!” I shout.
“Well, not to be mean,” Jack offered, “but the face is creased and hard and all but lost in the hood of her ratty winter coat. And the voice is…well…cigarettes have a way of doin’ that,” he opined.
“How awkward, Jack!”
“Fortunately, I’m still wearing my clip-on sunglasses, which I immediately tear off, blaming them for my ‘poor eyesight.’ Seemed like the best apology at the time. Not sure I covered my tracks, though.”
“I'm thinking no,” I said honestly to my friend.
“Homeless people,” Jack mumbles, his head hanging low. “Maybe I’ve been too harsh on ‘em. Too judgmental.”
Maybe I’ve been too harsh on them, too.
All they want for Christmas is…
…a little help.
…a little warmth.
…a little sense that someone knows they even exist.
Does the reason they are homeless really matter after all? Must these people meet our qualifications of neediness before we will part with a buck? Or two? Or ten?
Shouldn’t just a little of that extravagant gift-giving God exemplified in sending Jesus to ungrateful rebels like ourselves show up in the cups of the homeless folks that cross our paths—even if some of them are cons?
Joy to the world—even (and maybe especially) to the homeless.
The Lord has come!
|Best Used By
|Thursday, December 13, 2018|
It’s the job nobody wants. So it rarely gets done. I speak of the Great Refrigerator Clean Out.
But my fearless friend, Chris, recently undertook the task on the 10th floor where we work, as he knelt before the Great White Beast that chills our lunches. Arms flailing, he yanked drawers open, blasting through shelf after shelf of post-dated delicacies.
Me? I, umm, stood by and typed careful notes on my iPad. Among the things we encountered:
We found outdated steak sauce, outdated Tabasco, and outdated Hershey syrup, along with a small container of brown crumbly something-or-other that was undated but appeared mutated.
The freezer yielded ice cream from one full year ago and had the appearance of frozen dust. We surely did not need a label to tell us it was long past any “best used by” date.
Our quest for questionable eats got me to thinking.
God has entrusted every one of us with certain gifts, talents, and abilities. They are merely on loan to us—but not forever. Because “it is appointed unto man once to die and after this the judgment,” there is a “Best used by” date for every one of those gifts.
None of us knows when we’re going to die, just that we will die. Only the foolish live as if there’s no expiration date.
Turns out you and I have a relatively tiny slice of time to do whatever it is Christ has called us to do. Live a “long” life, and you will see only about 80 Christmases. A surprisingly few sunrises and sunsets. And even fewer full moons.
So what of God’s gifts are going unused in your life—and mine? Time to get busy. Before the “Best used by” date comes ‘round!
|Are We Boring?
|Thursday, December 06, 2018|
The young man was spiritually open. Though he’d come from a Hindu background, he actually attended a Bible preaching church for several weeks, then wrote down this assessment:
In other words, this guy was bored. Flat out bored. Who was he? The man who eventually became the leader of one-fifth of the world’s population: Mahatma Gandhi.
His encounter with boredom causes me to wonder: What about us? What about our churches? Are they boring? I can hear the clank of a thousand defensive shields going up:
I do not argue against any of those statements. But still I ask —are we boring people? How often do we even dare to ask the question? Apparently not often enough. I suspect that because we love Jesus and love the Word and love our churches, we presume others will as well—and we leave it at that.
Could it be that one reason Millennials and others are turning their backs on the church is because we are boring? Let us remember that while Jesus Christ taught profound truth and expounded on the deep tenets of Scripture, He was never boring. Even His worst critics never charged Jesus with being boring.
So where are the survey tools that help us recognize the boredom factor in our worship services? Where is the seminary course titled, “How to Keep the Wolf of Boredom from Attacking Your Flock?”
That we do not seem to offer much by way of self-assessment may evidence an arrogance that sees no problem. We appear satisfied that in encouraging pastors to tell a few stories now and then—maybe a joke at the front end of a sermon—all is well.
I am not saying the church should have the laughter of a comedy club, the intensity of an action film, or the glitz of a star-studded music show.
But…can’t we at least not be boring? Please? For heaven’s sake?
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