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Monthly Archives: July 2009

Recently we took our kids to a 4th of July fireworks display. They were all excited and looking forward to the main event. While waiting we played a couple games of duck, duck, goose.

After a while of waiting in the park we decided to leave due to the rain coming down. As we were getting in our van, the fireworks started overhead. It was just above us and the sound was pulsating.

Our two girls became terrified. They didn’t want any part of this…they were afraid of the noise. In fact my younger daughter still is afraid of loud sounds as a result of that experience.

I realize that I’m afraid of noise as well. My problem is I’m not afraid of loud noises but the calm stillness of silence. In my quest to draw closer to God, I’ve been studying the spiritual disciplines. In three different places this week I’ve been reading about silence.

I must confess that sitting silently and being in God’s presence is uncomfortable for me. I twitch, day dream,and feel uneasy. Why is that? Well it’s because frankly I’m not doing anything. Not getting anything read, not getting any blessings requested. It’s totally unproductive I feel.

But maybe that’s it. I need to understand that my worth is not bound up in what I can produce. It’s bound up in who God is. So I’ll keep trying to “be still and know that (He) is God.” Even if I’m afraid of the silence.

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A few months ago I found a new short cut to our house by accident. I was so excited about it and with things I’m excited about I can’t wait to share them with my wife. The next time we were in the car driving together, I proceeded to drive that route. All of a sudden we ran into a road block. That road was closed and access was denied to us.

I’ve been recently reading a book about justice and the need for us as Christians to move beyond just providing service but moving toward being agents of justice in this world. Micah 6:8 tells us that God expects us to do justly and love mercy.

Briefly the difference is service is providing meals to those who are hungry, justice is removing the barriers so that they have access to get their own food and empowering them. We shouldn’t do either or but both and.

Well I began wondering did Jesus go beyond service and do anything that can be characterized as doing justice. Sure He fed the five thousand but did He remove barriers that allowed them to feed themselves?

Then I read Matthew 21:12-14 for my devotion this morning. Jesus gets upset and turns things over. This isn’t the gentle Jesus, meek and mild here. He is angry.

I often wondered what made Jesus get angry and throw things over. Here is what the Lord showed me today. In the system of the day, if you didn’t have anything to sacrifice you couldn’t enter the temple. And in order to get a sacrifice you had to buy it. These money changers were charging prices that the poor could not pay. No sacrifice meant access denied. So here it is a place that was to be a house of prayer for all people is turning people away because they didn’t have enough money.

But Jesus turns these tables over and allows the blind and lame to come to Him in the temple. The thing that was blocking their access to worship of God and to His house had been removed and now these overlooked people had “Access Granted.”

This looks like justice to me: Jesus did not want people being denied access to something as important as the worship of God so much so that He gets violent in His pursuit of justice.

All should be given access to food, clean water, education, housing and more importantly all should be given access to God! Let’s be agents to tell people “Access Granted!”

Let’s get something out the way upfront…I’m not a good cook. I think I could be a good cook but I am just too lazy to do it enough to get better. There are times when I have to cook (meaning my wife is out of town, money is low, restaurants are closed because of national holiday etc) and it takes me all day to have food ready because I follow my recipe book to the letter (how much is a dash of salt by the way).

Anyway there is one thing I make that my kids and wife acknowledge that I am not only good at but great at. They say I make it even better than my dear wife. It’s tuna fish (now I know for some of you reading this it does not count as cooking but hey it’s the best I can do). I make a mean tuna melt etc.

Well this morning while getting ready to “cook up” some tuna fish I made a huge blunder. I got out the can, cracked it open and poured it out into a bowl. Then I opened the refrigerator for the main ingredient beside the tuna fish – mayonnaise. Why didn’t anyone tell me we were out of mayo?

What do you do with tuna fish in a bowl and no mayo? If you are like me you improvise. I got out some butter (or better yet “I Can’t Believe it’s not butter”) and added it to the tuna. Then I added some salt and pepper and seasoned it up.

It looked different but not that much. Then I tasted it….ewwww. That was nasty!

I can’t eat that stuff…maybe I’ll give it to the kids when they are really hungry (especially my son – he’ll eat anything). But it taught me a lesson. Sometimes in life we try to replace the right thing with a substitute that seems just as good. Maybe you haven’t tried it so let me talk about myself.

I realized a couple weeks ago I was replacing spending time praying earnestly and reading my Bible with doing work for God and helping others. Don’t get me wrong those things are important. But they are not substitutes for spending time with God. I picture God looking at our lives when we replace the things He asked us to with substitutes, bad (worldly entertainment, illicit sex, drugs etc) or good (friends, church work, school work) as looking at us and saying “That was nasty!”

In fact He says so in the Bible – “So because you are neither cold nor hot – I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” Rev 3:16. Powerful stuff.

I don’t want God to say that about me. I’m going to get the right ingredients in my life….and my tuna fish as well!

There is a big difference between appreciation and affirmation. I found this out last week during a mission trip we took with some of the best teenagers in our conference. We ministered in Columbia, Missouri.

During the week we went out and worked on homes for senior citizens in the community who did not have family members around. We hosted a Block Party for the community. We worked at the local food bank and we conducted a children’s program at the community center.

All throughout our youth were appreciated everywhere we went. The residents we served were lavish in their appreciation. However as all trips go, we began getting tired (of the work and each other). Energy was running low and patience was wearing thin.

On Thursday one of our staff suggested we conduct this activity called “Taps.” It was a game where a circle was formed with everyone facing outwards with their eyes closed. Some members of the group would be in the center and then be asked questions and they would have to tap the shoulder of the person who fit the description. The questions went something like “Who do you think is a great leader?” “Who inspires you?” etc.

These were affirming questions. They went beyond just acknowledging what you did to recognizing who you are. When the exercise was finish some of us (me included) had tears in our eyes. There was surprise all around for the things we were affirmed for.

From that experience our group gained a whole new level of energy. We served better, worshiped more passionately and fellowshipped even deeper. Affirmation is powerful and brings out the best in all of us. It’s almost calling forth the characteristics you want to see in the other person.

I think we have a shortage of affirmation today. I challenge you today to affirm someone for who they are and the great things you see in them. Not just appreciate them for what they do but affirm them for who they are. It makes a big difference.