Category: Life theology (page 3 of 5)

Smelling Salts Messed Me Up

Photo credit: Creation Swap user Marian Trinidad

Once, a friend of mine ask me to take a whiff of some smelling salts. In order not to appear weak, I did.

Turns out those things are potent.

I got a headache that lasted for about an hour. And I can still, even right now, remember that smell so vividly that it gives me the chills.

These salts are meant for reviving ‘dead’ people. They leave a mark on you so significant that you’ll remember that smell for the rest of your life. When you hear someone talking about smelling salts, you’re taken right back to that moment when you smelled them.

The Mark of Love

And that’s what God’s mercy and love does to us. It wakes us up from death. It revives us from our slumber.

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air… – Ephesians 2:1-2

We were held captive by our sin. Chained to our death.

But God’s love pulled us out of our slumber. Out of the mess. It woke us to the beauty offered in forgiveness and beckoned us with hope. God’s love said, “I know your past. I understand your heart better than you do. But I want you anyway.”

And I need that reminder. Every day I need it. Because my heart is prone to wander and doubt. It’s prone to forget even the most important Truth it could ever know: God knows me and still loves me.

I need to go back and smell the salts again. Remind myself of the potency of grace. Feel the chills of the salts one more time.

“Restore to me the joy of your salvation…” – Psalm 51:12

*Photo credit: Creation Swap (Marian Trinidad)

 

Pee Pee and steps of faith


(Rex on his 4-wheeler, 2-20-2011)

On Sunday, my son ran up and down the halls of our church building (a high school, in fact) yelling, “Pee pee!!  Pee pee!!”

Obviously, we’re in the middle (well, that’s probably a stretch.  We’re probably closer to the beginning of this stage) of potty training.

I could’ve gotten frustrated.  Embarrassed.  Angry.  Or indifferent.  But I was none of that.

I chose to laugh.  Why?

Because it’s funny!  My 2 year old son is telling the whole world that he just peed in the toilet, not his pants.

Was it embarrassing?  Yep.

Was it frustrating, especially because he also peed in his diaper?  Yep.

But in that moment, I chose not to focus on the growth that still needed to happen.  I chose to celebrate with my son.

And we’d do well to remind ourselves that our Father rejoices over even a small step of faith.  Good fathers don’t punish their children when they pee in their diaper, even though they’re learning not to.  I don’t scold my son, even though I’ve told him countless times that he’s supposed to pee in the toilet.

Because I have the future in mind. I know that, at some point, the battle with this will be over.  We’ll work through this.  This is just a step in his journey towards maturity.  He’ll mature out of this, and in the meantime, I’m going to celebrate small steps in the right direction.

And I can’t help but think that God has the future in mind with us, too.  He has the bigger picture of our growth and maturity in mind at all times.  And yes, at times, we need discipline.  But He celebrates small steps in the right direction because He can see what we cannot.  And while we’re sitting in our own guilt and shame, God’s seeing the future, and is ready to offer us grace if we’ll just step towards Him.

But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found. (Luke 15:32)

Do you need to remind yourself that a step in the right direction is worth celebrating?

Do you need to remind someone else of that?

 

John Ortberg and spiritual growth

John Ortberg kicked off Catalyst 2010 pre-labs, speaking on how spiritual growth happens.

How does spiritual growth happen?

1. It starts with a reminder that there is a God.  And it is not you.

2. Remember that transformation requires at least as much grace as salvation.

We tend to cycle between guilt, trying harder, feeling fatigue, quitting, then feeling guilt.

3. Living in grace is learned behavior.

In most churches, we have reduced grace to the forgiveness of sins.  It’s so much bigger than that.  God was a gracious God before anybody sinned.

What if the Spirit really is like a river, available and flowing all the time? (John 7:38-39)  If so, then spiritual formation can’t be a program…it should be happening all of the time.  Our job is simply to jump into that river and figure out what is blocking us from jumping in.

4. Growth is hand-crafted, not mass produced.

What would drown a cactus would dry out an orchid.  What would feed a mouse would starve an elephant.  God never grows two people the same way.  He’s existent from eternity, but has never had a relationship with you.

There is no one-size-fits-all spiritual formation, so don’t simply measure someone’s devotion to God by their devotional life.  If we measure spiritual growth by devotional activities, then the Pharisees win!

Here are two questions to ask yourself:

  1. Am I growing more or less irritable these days?
  2. Am I growing more or less discouraged these days?

A word to moms of preschoolers: maybe you can grow more spirutally by engaging in acts of love and selfless acts of service than by memorizing the whole book of Jeremiah.

5. God’s desire is to create the best version of you.

An acorn will grow into an oak…though the oak may be healthy or not.  Redemption is always the redemption of what God has already created.  The goal isn’t to grow and become somebody else, but rather to grow into who God created you to be.

When Jesus says, “Seek first the Kingdom,” he’s not heaping a burden, but telling us where the life is.

The world isn’t likely to respond to a Gospel of transformation proclaimed by untransformed people.

What blocks the work of the Spirit in your life?

 

When it doesn’t go right, part 2

I noted a few things HERE that we can rightly say our circumstances are not.  Today, let’s look at a few things our circumstances are.

When “life” happens, remember

1. Circumstances give you a chance to slow down. Moving through life at blazing speeds is something that most of us do well.  When trials happen, you’re forced to slow down, and given the chance to evaluate things.  Use that time wisely!

2. God is in control of all things. Even when everything seems to fall apart, reminding yourself that God is ultimately in control is a great source of hope. (Ecclesiastes 7:14; John 10:27-29Colossians 1:17)

3. You need others to help you discern the hand of God. We gravitate to quick, rash decisions…and paralyzation, waiting forever before doing anything.  But it is within the counsel of other godly men and women that wisdom is found. (Proverbs 13:20Proverbs 15:22)  Others who love you, have your best interest at heart, and are committed to helping you grow rightly give counsel to help you see where God’s working.  (see my related posts on the value of small groups HERE)

4. Circumstances don’t control the outcome of your life. Your relationship with God does.  If they begin to control your life, it’s because you’ve given them that power, because Christ is greater than he who is in the world.  (1 John 4:4)

This is what the Lord says:
Cursed are those who put their trust in mere humans,
who rely on human strength
and turn their hearts away from the Lord .
They are like stunted shrubs in the desert,
with no hope for the future.
They will live in the barren wilderness,
in an uninhabited salty land.

But blessed are those who trust in the Lord
and have made the Lord their hope and confidence.
They are like trees planted along a riverbank,
with roots that reach deep into the water.
Such trees are not bothered by the heat
or worried by long months of drought.
Their leaves stay green,
and they never stop producing fruit. –Jeremiah 17:5-8

Ever felt like you were controlled by your circumstances?

Ever worked through the difficulties and found God at work the whole time?

 

Blog-iversary

Today marks 2 years for my blog!

If you’ve just gotten on board, welcome!  Here’s a snapshot of what goes on here at Life and Theology:

If you’d like to get updated every time a new post goes live, click HERE to receive it by email, and HERE if you use an RSS reader.

 

Hindering the work of God

Would you ever ban somebody from being a part of your small group?

That question has been going through my mind after I read an article about some  American pastors who went to Uganda to speak against homosexuality.  They preached in support of a bill that

…creates a new category of crime called “Aggravated Homosexuality,” which calls for death by hanging for gays or lesbians who have sex with anyone under 18 and for so-called “serial offenders.”

The bill also calls for seven years in prison for “attempt to commit homosexuality,” five years for landlords who knowingly house gays, three years for anyone, including parents, who fail to hand gay children over to the police within 24 hours and the extradition of gay Ugandans living abroad.   ABC News article

So these American pastors are encouraging people to hunt down homosexuals because homosexuality is wrong and destroys the family.  They have also met with the Ugandan government and preached their message to them.

Is this the way the church should treat lost and broken people?

NO!

Even if you agree that homosexuality is a sin, and destroys the family, inciting a manhunt is not what God would have us do.

Here are a couple of tips on dealing with the lost and broken when they’re in our small group.  Though the sin of homosexuality may make you uncomfortable to talk about, I encourage you, for the sake of those who need your grace and love, to consider the following:

1. Remember that Christ didn’t die for you because you were good. He died for you while you were still his enemy.

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:6-8

2. Remember that sanctification doesn’t happen overnight.  It’s a process. And processes take a lot of time to finish.  In fact, the process of sanctification won’t be complete in this lifetime.

3. Remember that God hates your sin. He hates it so much that He would deny you a relationship with Him, if it weren’t for Christ.

4. Listen. People appreciate when you ask them to share their story.  But they feel loved and valued when you actually listen and engage them while they’re sharing.

5. Speak the truth in love. Speaking the truth is good.  But truth without love is abrasive.  And hurtful.  And unhelpful.  It doesn’t have the other’s best interest at heart.  It’s self-serving and self-focused.  It’s un-Godlike.

6. Be open and honest about your own struggles. This helps you to fight against pride, and makes others feel more comfortable in being honest about their struggles.

7. Invite an open dialog. Instead of condemning the lost and broken, ask if they’d be open to thinking through what the Bible has to say.  And don’t let the conversation drift into a discussion that slams one sin, and minimizes another.  It’s easy to condemn the sins that we don’t struggle with.  It makes us feel better about the sins we constantly have to battle. Don’t fall into that trap.

8. Be quick to forgive. Those quick to forgive understand the true nature of their sin against God.  Those not quick to forgive don’t truly understand the nature of their own sin, and the loving mercy of God.

9. Offer prayer and further pastoral care and counseling to those open to it.

Notice that I didn’t say, “Ask them to leave.”  OR, “Point out every passage in the Bible that condemns their sin.”  OR, “Petition the government to hang them.” (see article above that does just that)

Those who are broken and lost don’t need our heaping condemnation.  They need our pursuing, relentless love. Jesus, to an adulterous woman, said these words:

At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

“No one, sir,” she said.
“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”John 8:9-11

A sin is a sin, no matter how small.

Do you treat some sins as worse (in God’s eyes) than others?

 

Tiger Shanks it in the Woods

I recently wrote a sports editorial piece for a local paper here in middle Tennessee, the I-24 Exchange.  For your convenience, I thought I’d re-post it here on my blog, though you can also find it HERE.  Keep in mind…this was written last Thursday, before the news of Tiger’s indefinite leave from the game of golf.

Tiger Shanks it in the Woods

Tiger Woods

Unless you live in a hole, you’ve heard the news about “the greatest golfer of all time.”  Tiger Woods was taken to the hospital for an accident he had in his SUV just outside of his Ocoee, FL, home, at 2:25 AM on Friday, December 2nd (momma always said that nothing good happens after midnight).

It was suspected that Tiger was driving under the influence that night.  Rumors of marital troubles between he and his wife, Elin, only led to confirmation of years of infidelity on Tiger’s part. Elin, at this point seems to be sticking around…for the kids.  His sponsors are sticking with him (though who knows for how long).

Tiger’s life is spinning out of control.  To say that more accurately, Tiger’s life has already spun out of control.  He’s reaping the fruit of years of poor decisions.

Why are we as a society drawn to stories where people’s lives seem to be spiraling into an absolute dumpster fire?  Maybe it helps us to feel better about our own life. Maybe we see ourselves somewhere in the story.  Maybe it’s because we have a morbid fascination with the failure of others. Maybe we’re just thankful it’s not us.

Tiger messed up.  But so have I.  And so have you.  None of us have lived a life immune from bad decisions and moral failures.  Tiger, on his website, says, “I have not been true to my values and the behavior my family deserves. I am not without faults and I am far short of perfect.”  You may, or may not, have cheated on your spouse, but you’re not perfect either.  I’d venture to guess that, at least one point in your life, you’ve been in need of someone’s forgiveness.  You were guilty, and there was no denying it.

There’s hardly a greater feeling in life than being forgiven.  To be granted a fresh start.  To have your slate wiped clean.   It’s as if a heavy, unbearable burden has been lifted off of you.

Is Tiger’s career over?  Is he going to be counted as “the greatest golfer of all time?”  Or has this exposure marred his fame and fortune forever?  Only time can tell.

But instead of our eyes and hearts that are quick to judge, and quick to thirst for more and more dirt, maybe we would be better off extending grace and forgiveness.  Tiger doesn’t deserve that.  But by very definition grace is not deserved.  It is not earned.  It’s granted by the one who has been wronged.

I vote to give him a second chance.  And I’m thankful that others have done the same for me.

 

I’m not a reader…

Why can a person read 2,444 pages of the Twilight Saga but barely find 10 minutes to read their Bible?

I ask difficult questions.  Not difficult in that you couldn’t follow along because they’re intellectually difficult, but difficult in the sense that they’re not surface-level, “easy” questions.

I was talking with a person recently, asking them about how they’re doing spending time reading their Bible (because I’m convinced that if a person’s not reading their Bible consistently, they’re not growing consistently).

Them: I’m just not a reader.

Me: I don’t buy that.

Them: I just don’t like to read.

Me: How many pages are in Twilight?

Them: I don’t know…probably over 1,000.

Me: How long did it take you to read that?

Them: Less than a week.

Me: …

You make time for what matters most to you.  Not sure where to start with the Bible?  Here’s a reading plan for you.

 

Bike Riding & Community

I rode bikes a fair amount in college.

I was into mountain biking for a while, but going to school in West Tennessee, the flattest part of the state, doesn’t afford many mountains.  So I traded the mountain bike in for a road bike.  I rode some with my roommate, but also a lot by myself.  I would tell people, “I love just getting out there and riding by myself.”  I must not have liked it that much, because after college I gave up biking.

In the last couple of months, I’ve picked it back up. I ride three times/week.  Twice it’s a shorter sprint, and once/week is a long ride.  I’m loving it!  And I’m sticking with it.  Why?

I experience community when I ride my bike.

You see, I don’t ride alone.  I ride with three guys from my community group, one of their sons, and my uncle.  Somehow, in riding 30 miles with people, life happens.  Significant conversations happen.  The distractions of normal life are stripped away, and riding through the country opens up the heart.  I’ve built great relationships with these guys, and I look forward to our rides together.

Biking alone is ok, but I

  • get tired more quickly
  • don’t have the motivation to keep going
  • don’t have the motivation to get up early and push myself
  • get bored
  • go shorter distances
  • quit earlier than I intended.

When I bike with the guys, I am encouraged to get up early, to keep riding, to push myself even harder, and to finish the ride.

That’s what authentic, God-honoring community does.

And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.  -1 Thessalonians 5:14

 

Do you love your family?

Whether you like golf or not, Phil Mickelson is a likable kind of guy.  I love how he’s willing to take the risky shot from behind a tree that everybody else would be afraid to take.  He’s not scared to fire a 4-iron at a pin that’s tucked into the back corner of a green guarded by bunkers and water.  Instead of playing it safe, he’ll flop a wedge from a buried lie in the trap to a pin position that’s running away from him on a green that is slicker than putting in your bathtub.  Though it is that same “grip it and rip it” attitude that costs him championship titles, you’ve got to love his win-at-all-costs attitude.

What I also respect about Phil is his devotion to his family off of the course.  I remember the 1999 US Open.  His wife, Amy, was pregnant and was due any day.  He was fighting for the lead (and this would be his first Major win, so this tournament was really important to him) with Payne Stewart, but the tournament wasn’t of first importance.  Of first importance was his wife and soon-to-be-born daughter.  So he carried a pager with him all week, ready to walk off the course the instant he received the page from his wife.

Now, nearly 10 years later, Amy has been diagnosed with breast cancer.  So what is Phil to do?  Continue traveling with the PGA tour?  Pour more and more hours into his job to avoid the difficulties of home?  No.  Phil is taking time off to be with his wife and family (granted, Phil has more money than most, and so has the freedom to take time off and still financially survive).  To me, that’s a noble move.

Phil has put his reputation on the line in order to make his family more important than his job.  Investing in his family is more important than getting that next big win.

Maybe we husbands could learn something from Phil.  Lets evaluate what is of utmost importance to us.  Is it our job?  Our reputation?  That next “big win”?  Or is it our family?

Here’s a tribute to one of the craziest shots I ever saw Phil make.

 
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