Husband, Father, Friend, Pastor/Coach

Month: October 2021

Call Me a Jerk

When my daughter Ariel was in third grade, one of her classmates teased her a lot. I encouraged her to say, “God bless you” whenever she would say something demeaning. This worked for awhile, until the girl said, “my mom says that means you’re telling me to go to hell.” Ariel was concerned, and we were at a crossroad.

I told Ariel about an old, corny way of dealing this. If someone calls you a jerk, respond by saying. “a jerk is a tug, a tug is a boat, a boat floats on water, water is nature, and nature is beautiful. So, thanks for the compliment.”

Ariel was encouraged by this. She liked it even better than saying “God bless you.” She took it too far. Instead of responding to the girl, she began saying to her and other kids at school, “call me a jerk.”

Jesus said, “rejoice when people call you a jerk.” Ok, he didn’t say that exactly. Here’s what he said: “God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way.” Matthew 5:11-12 NLT

Notice a few things here. Jesus has pointed out in this passage, (called the Sermon on the Mount), that there is a blessing in being persecuted. At several points in Matthew 5 and 6, Jesus addresses the opposite culture of being a follower of Christ.

  • God blesses the poor
  • God blesses the mournful
  • God blesses the humble

and the Lord goes on to describe what it really means to be blessed as a follower. Being mocked – indicated both public and private occasions, being persecuted, lied on, and a general “all sorts of evil things” said against you. The authorized text adds in the word “falsely.” Its implied in the modern translation, but still – the key is that we are blessed only when what is being slanderously said is not true.

Peter refers to this in his letters: “If you are insulted because you bear the name of Christ, you will be blessed… If you suffer, however, it must not be for murder, stealing, making trouble, or prying into other people’s affairs.” I Peter 4:14-15 NLT

In other words, if someone is calling you a jerk, because you are in fact, a jerk – there’s no blessing in that. Good news. We can repent of our jerkiness.

I’m concerned that too often, Christ followers cloak our sin in robes of righteousness. I’m not talking about atonement, I’m talking about acting in a way that dishonors the name of Jesus, and when confronted, chalking it up as being persecuted.

Several years ago, a well known minister on television broke the law, and ended up going to prison. The cry wasn’t, (at least at first), “have mercy on me God.” It was, “we’re being persecuted.”

He should have been saying, “call me a jerk.”

I was at a meeting of a well known evangelist. A minister friend had invited me to sit on the platform with him. While the music was playing, the minister turned to the musicians and screamed at them, and demeaned them in front of everyone. His mic was hot. He knew others heard, and so… he blamed his anger on the anointing!

He should have been saying, “call me a jerk.”

A few years back, I was speaking with a colleague, and I used some off handed remarks about his education and background. I was being facetious, but it clearly offended him. Big time. Thankfully, he was mature enough to confront me.

I had no explanation.

I said, “I’m an idiot.” I apologized. He forgave me.

He could have been saying, “you’re a jerk.” And I dare not saying… “a jerk is a tug..”

If you find yourself saying and doing things that offend others, or bring reproach upon the name of Jesus, STOP. Change your mind, (repent), and make a commitment to take control of that area of your life.

Peter was very familiar with what he wrote about in his letter. He was a classic jerk! He denounced Jesus three times, and with cursing. His mouth was used by satan to tell Jesus what to do. Even after Jesus rose from the dead, he had given up on following Jesus, “I’m going fishing.”

Peter knew he was a jerk, and Jesus knew it too. Jesus put a new speech in his mouth. Peter ended up suffering for the name of Christ, and as tradition holds, was crucified upside down.

We have an opportunity to be blessed when we are genuinely persecuted, or we can choose to be selfish jerks and blame our behavior on God.

Let’s choose to be called a jerk; not actually be one.

Festivus for the Rest of Us?

Only Seinfeld fans will get the title.

Festivus is a product of the comedy “Seinfeld.” It actually has a date on the calendar. This year, its December 23rd. Festivus begins with “the airing of grievances.”

I think 2021 is Festivus for the Rest of Us.

We perpetually complain about everything. We complain if people don’t celebrate holidays, we complain if they do. We complain that the culture is dying, we complain that the culture is too influenced by one subculture.

We love to complain! It is, after all, our Constitutional right.

We poked fun at Trump who said that Covid would be over by the end of the summer. We poke fun at Biden who says that Covid is the fault of his opponents. We love to poke fun. We get excited about it!

It is, after all, our Constitutional right.

Then there’s the Bible. It gets in the way of everyone’s fun. Holidays, celebrations, and fun are not anti scriptural; as a matter of truth, they are expected!

The early church likely had a big meal together every week! It is entirely possible that the early church ate together a BUNCH of times. Yes, please!

It is entirely likely that the Puritans celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles in the early years of the European settlement. Look up William Bradford’s writings. You will be amazed what you read, and I can assure you it isn’t what you read in the textbooks.

The news reports that all of your kids gifts are stuck out in the ocean. The news reports that because of the price of goods, no one will be able to have fun.

Do you know that when God created the idea of celebration among His people, that people of every economic structure were considered? All the feasts are FOR the people to enjoy.

St. Paul instructed that celebrating or not celebrating is up to one’s conviction. Romans 14:15 “One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind.” Yes, believe it or not, what you are convinced about when it comes to celebrating is what God is really interested in!

Attention to Jesus and living by faith is what matters. Its all that matters.

If you have a party and exclude people, that’s not living by faith; that’s living in fear.

If you think you have to spend a ton of money on people to keep them happy, that’s not living by faith; that’s living in fear.

If you think that no one should celebrate certain days of the year…(wait for it); that’s not living by faith; that’s living in fear.

How many days of the week did God create? 7. How many did He give to the devil? Zero. How many days can we celebrate God by faith? 7. How many days of the week do we HAVE to go to church? ZERO. what? YES, even if we think “church attendance” is a harsh command of God, that’s not living by faith; (say it aloud), that’s living in fear.

Wear the costume, make the chex mix, invite friends over. Enjoy. Or, stay at home, read a book. Enjoy.

Its October when I write this. How about this year, instead of fretting over Christmas gifts that may or may not be popular, that we give something intangible? How about hosting a new clothes event for homeless? How about breaking free from the DREAD of holidays and make it DELIGHTFUL?

Read Isaiah 58. It is God’s pathway to joy. Release wicked restraints, untying yokes of oppression, set free the mistreated…share bread with the hungry, bring the homeless in, cover the naked, reconcile with your family…that’s what I delight in! (paraphrased)

Festivus for the rest of us? Naw, let’s not air grievances…let’s let LOVE prevail.

Happy HOLYdays.

We Need to Pray

Have you ever watched on old TV show like Marcus Welby MD? Or Dr. Kildare? If you’re under the age of 40, you’ve probably never heard of these shows. Old television shows were fairly predictable. Doctors would often have a difficult case. They would do their best, and then say to the family, “all we can do now is pray.”

Most of us live like the patient’s family in the old television show. Prayer is only seen as a last resort. People trust so little in prayer, that a football pass is named after the famous Catholic prayer; “the Hail Mary pass,” (its actually called “the rosary,” but that doesn’t sound cool for broadcasters).

The Hail Mary pass indicates, “throw the ball as far as you can, and see what happens.” What a dismal view of prayer.

In modern times, we have social media. Every moment of every day, someone is asking for “prayer, thoughts, good vibes, and karma” – all in one breath. Unfortunately, even many followers of Jesus post such things. It reminds me of Alice in Wonderland, when she is talking with the Cheshire Cat:

Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here? (Alice) “That depends a good deal on where you want to go,” said the Cat. “I don’t much care where-” said Alice. “Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.

If we don’t care where our prayers go, then it doesn’t matter where they go. However, if we expect that God will get involved in the prayer, then there is a specific way to pray. It is difficult, it isn’t limited to only a certain kind of people, it isn’t guess work; it is, as a man named Claude Gladden said, “…prayer is the most powerful thing in the world.”

  1. Prayer is offered to the Father, in the name of Jesus, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Read these wonderful words from St. Paul’s letter to Timothy: “For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus.” I Timothy 2:5 This sounds as the words of Christ himself. Speaking to the twelve, He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6. (NIV)

Now, as the Cat told Alice, any road will do, if you have no care where you’re going. Here’s the truth, often in life we genuinely don’t know where we are going! As a matter of truth, we are lost and in need of someone to rescue us from the wrong way we are headed. God’s wonderful promise is that when we partner with God in prayer, He prays for us with groans that cannot be uttered. Romans 8:26, “Likewise the Spirit also helps our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” (NKJV)

My friend Fr. David Bartholomew describes the work of the Godhead as “trying to out love the other one.” What Dave means, if I understand him, is that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are in constant relationship with one another, doing their job…and loving it! This is why going straight to the source isn’t about being a “rule” but rather a relationship. “All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.” John 6:37 NIV

2. Jesus needed to pray. Here’s Jesus, the sinless Son of God, born to die for the sins of the world, healing the sick, casting out devils, teaching, serving… and He needed to pray. I would submit that he needed to pray because of all that He did, and He did all that He did because He needed to pray. “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.” Hebrews 5:7, NIV.

Read that verse again. It says that Jesus prayed regarding being saved from death…and he was heard. You might scratch your head, and think, “but He died.” Yes, but apparently his resurrection from the dead was directly tied to his prayer life!

Jesus prayed to his Father; while people were listening, or in private. Luke 5:16 says that he withdrew to a lonely place to pray. In the next chapter, Jesus goes out to a mountainside and prays all night long, (Luke 6:12).

Can we just pause and realize that if Jesus needed to pray, how much more do we need to pray?

3. Jesus taught us to pray. By example, and by teaching, Jesus taught his disciples, (followers of Jesus), how to pray. Many of us are familiar with what is called “the Lord’s prayer.” This prayer, both in practice and principle, was given to the disciples upon their request. Luke 11 records, “…teach us to pray.” By this time, the twelve apostles had witnessed the teaching, miracles, and disciplined life of Jesus. These Jewish men were not ignorant of the idea of prayer or even the activity of prayer. They had grown up, most likely, in a Jewish home that included morning and evening prayers. What they noticed in Jesus was something more than duty; they witnessed the results of a praying man.

4. Jesus still prays for us. Perhaps you wonder what Jesus did when He rose from the dead and ascended to heaven. What’s Jesus been doing for the past 2,000 years? He’s been praying. The Bible tells us that He, “…sat down at the right hand of throne of the Majesty in heaven.” (Hebrews 8:1). This, as we discover when studying the tabernacle in the wilderness, is called the Mercy Seat. He is in the holy of holies, and as the High Priest of our salvation, makes perpetual intercession for us. He is there, receiving the prayers and cries of those who call upon His name, to save us to the uttermost, (Hebrews 7:25).

We need to pray! We need to pray, not just because of the general idea, but because God has put eternity into our hearts, (Ecclesiastes 3:11). God has placed within everyone the desire to seek Him, and has made the way through Jesus. At this moment in time, God is making appearances to people that have never heard the name of Jesus, much less the triune Godhead.

  • God has revealed Himself as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, so that mankind can see the wonderful love of God.
  • God has revealed Himself through Jesus; God who became a man, (and is now a glorified man), and prayed while on earth – both as example, and as His personal need.
  • Jesus is now at the right hand of the Father, and He is the only way to God. He yearns and intercedes for mankind perpetually.
  • You and I, with the prompting and help of the Holy Spirit, can and should have a vibrant prayer life – it is the eternal model to be repeated again and again. To coin a phrase, “prayer itself is the answer to pray.

Let us pray!

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