Cannot Be Moderately Important

When we think of “distractions,” noise, telephones, texts, interruptions of other origins come to mind. We have, in our minds the schedule for the day even if the schedule is empty and un-demanding. It is my schedule and I do not like nor appreciate being distracted from it or having it “hijacked” by someone else. Perhaps you feel the same.

However, being a disciple of Jesus, a believer claiming Him as “Lord,” is much more than some religious statement or answer to a catechism question. It is a matter of becoming a “bond-servant” in exchange for all of the “spiritual blessings in the heavenly places” that God provides (Ephesians 1:3). “Exchange’ is not even a good word here, because it implies that I have offered up some item or service of value in the transaction… and I have not because I have nothing of equivalent value to offer.

The “bond-servant” decision has, at its core, the reality that my life is no longer mine, but His. My schedule, my desires, my joy, my purpose are all rooted and fulfilled in His scheduling, His desires, His joy & His purposes. My service extends not only to His interests, but to the best interests of those within reach of “my touch.”

The things I usually consider as “distractions” that fuel frustration in my life are either sent from the “deceiver, Satan,” to get me off course, or simply manifestations of my own “non-surrendered self-lordship.” Being an “All In” follower of Jesus is not just a more extreme way to follow Jesus, it is the only way Jesus accepts. Jesus said so Himself: “And he said to all, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.'” (Luke 9:23). I must stop thinking of distractions as such. I should think of them as redirection from my will to His will.

To quote C.S. Lewis, “Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.”

Playing Devil’s Advocate

There is much discussion blended with sophistry these days. I suppose that has always been the case with humanity. Imagine Adam and Eve whispering to each other when they heard God calling for them in the Garden after they had followed the serpent’s advice to ignore God’s instruction. Eve may have been lashing out at Adam for not protecting her from herself (she would have been right to do so), after all he was standing right behind her. Adam making excuses, any excuses trying to deflect his guilt. Both eventually arguing about “words.” I have been guilty myself. That is not to say it is OK… because it is not.

There may be a place in debate training or training in logic and ethics in order to provoke thought and consideration, but to “play the devil’s advocate” for sport or advantage is not only dangerous, but forbidden. Some will not be able to see through the charade, or worse yet, may attach to the false argument for personal gain or advancement, recognizing the persuasive deception couched in the words used.

Paul spoke of this and was not unclear in his instruction: Remind them of these things, commanding them before the Lord that they not argue about words, which leads to nothing of value and to the destruction of those who hear them. Study to show yourself approved by God, a workman who need not be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But avoid profane foolish babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness, and their word will spread like gangrene (2 Timothy 2:14-17).

Reading and hearing fine sounding arguments crafted to persuade that “evil” is actually “good” is frightening on several levels. Godliness is not “rocket science.” It is actually very simple. The only difficult aspect is denying self and deciding to comply with God’s way.

Playing “Devil’s Advocate ” in the culture wars presently being waged is costly as measured in souls. Being “All In” is a matter of being clearly in God’s service, no matter that social cost.

Be clear, but kind. Be devoted to God, not political correctness.

The Unpredictable

I read recently that when something unusual happens, pay attention. God is doing something. I don’t know where I read it. If it was your blog, email or post please accept my apology for the lack of credits. I just do not remember.

Paying attention to what is happening, especially when it is out of the ordinary can present a huge challenge. We easily get transferred to our own agendas when life becomes predictable. We forget the encouragement James gave the refuges to say (actually say) if God wills I will do this or that. We just make our plans because, after all, things are predictable.

When the predictability fails we are likely caught with the “deer in the headlights” look wondering what just did (or did not) happen. If the whole “deer in the headlights” thing confuses any of my readers, just think of the expression on someone’s face at a paralyzing moment when facing the unexpected.

When the unexpected happens… Actually nothing unexpected can happen if we are walking through life assuming God is working and guiding events. We just deal with whatever He sends our way without getting anxious , flustered, or irritated. Having no expectations other than absolute confidence in God’s involvement is critical to experiencing the “Peace that passes understanding.” It has nothing to do with circumstances or results, only confidence in God’s involvement.

Be “All In” and pay attention when the unpredictable happens. God is doing something special.

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The Impact of a Life Well Lived

We can not measure the impact we have upon others. Parents teach their children to care for others above themselves by modeling that very attitude in the everyday mundane-ness of life. Teachers impact their students far beyond the curriculum by their personal carriage and deportment. So it is in the really important matters of life as well.

There have been many whose impact on my life can be measured by my own reckoning. Others have made their mark in ways I can not distinguish or remember. Some have come into my life and passed through in what seemed to be a few insignificant encounters. Others have been a presence for a much longer period.We can never know the long-term impact. So it is with my impact upon others.

The death graduation of one man has prompted this reflection. I heard of him from others and did not quite know what to do with their accounts of his faith, especially given his past. Then I met him. I still did not know what to do with him, but I could no longer discount him.

His faith was simple yet overwhelming in its simplicity. Even in his parting word to his son as he slipped out of his physical body and into eternity, I am bewildered and led. “Its been a blast!” were the whispered words of another Stephen, willing to go wherever and do whatever God’s Spirit directed, always displaying the excitement of the adventure and the trust in his Parent like a child going through Disneyland.

God knows how many were led, not just pointed toward, but led to Jesus by Bob. I have been forever changed, and he probably had no idea the impact God had on me through him. May I be the “All In” servant used by God to impact others so profoundly. May you be as well.

Photo: Bob Hughey

The Garbage Does Not Take Itself Out

A friend reported that her little girls had learned to say “b*#ch” in a foreign language. While that seems to be a rite of passage for children, it clearly demonstrates the aggressive proactive posture parents need to take in their children’s lives. Whether it is with their electronic devices, television shows, music preferences or “new words” they pick up, the garbage doesn’t take itself out now does it?

Adults must stay on the offensive to keep themselves pure as well. The great deceiver, Satan, takes every opportunity to chip away at our holiness and make us comfortable with that which we would not have tolerated in our own lives in the past. It happens so slowly that we find ourselves making justifying arguments based upon technicalities instead of godly principles.

Being God’s “All In” disciple has its foundations well before associated behaviors become apparent. We respond to life and situations from the depths of who we are.

For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7 KJV).

Being “All In” is not a religious hobby, it is a godly obsession.

“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:3-11 ESV).

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The Great Disconnect

There has always been, I suppose, a disconnect between theory and reality. We hear it in political conversations when candidates (or supporters) announce how something should be “fixed” and compare their “fix” to the reality when the “fixer” is elected to office.

We hear people declare that “Islam is a religion of peace,” but hear too often of murders and bombings taking place “in the name of Allah.” True, there are religious zealots roaming around claiming connection to most all religious groups, but so many claiming that their “god” allows/commands/demands such seems pretty widespread on this one.

But then we come to those claiming Jesus as their Lord. Claiming a “lord” requires focused obedience. It requires a “speak lord, thy servant heareth” approach to everything. When I claim His Lordship, yet think and behave according to my own thinking, I become the poster child for the great disconnect.

“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?” (Luke 6:46 ESV)

Photo taken by Wayne Wells

The “Last” Ride

A retired truck driver/rodeo cowboy spent 18 years preparing for his funeral. Sounds a bit odd, wouldn’t you say?

The story goes that after his retirement, he began riding a motorcycle, trying to recapture the excitement of the rodeo. He liked it so much that he planned, negotiated, and accomplished a funeral complete with:

  1. his embalmed body,
  2. on his ’67 Harley,
  3. in a custom, see thru plexiglass casket,
  4. placed inside a custom, concrete vault,
  5. in a three plot burial site.

Billie Standley obviously wanted to impress his friends on his “last ride” to the cemetery. I wonder if he was equally concerned with pleasing the Creator of the Universe in the last few years of his life.

How easily we are distracted by our own goals when we should be focusing on God’s wants and purposes. It looks really foolish when I see this kind of distraction driving someone else’s life. The nagging question I need to constantly answer is: What does it look like when I do that?

As an “All In” disciple I don’t have to live like a monk, never smile, and never be light-hearted. What I do have to do is be ever vigilant and listening for the Master’s voice.

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God’s “Oh-By-The-Way” Assignment

It was unexpected, but aren’t the really moving encounters always like that?  For example, when we were in Green Bay with our son, a newly drafted Packer lineman, while were getting a tour of the facilities, Brett Favre walked by and had a brief casual conversation. Later, I commended Cindy (my Red-Headed Irish Princess) on her great restraint. She could have reached out and touched him… but she didn’t.

Back to the story: I recently had that rare unscheduled day, so I took off after breakfast with the Misses, not knowing where I was going or what I was going to do. I considered a day-long road trip to see some old friends who lived a few hours away, but along the way was nudged into a brief side trip to see how low the water was in the lake. I think the Corps of Engineers was getting ready for the heavy rains predicted the next couple of days.

As I pulled up to a boat launch ramp that I have used, I noticed a man standing nearby. I shouted a greeting out the car window and asked about the low water. As you might expect with two older men, we could not really hear each other, so he walked nearer and I got out of the car. That was the unremarkable beginning to a remarkable encounter that was, although unannounced by God, clearly ordained by Him.

The subjects and the length of our conversation was broader and more in-depth than either of us could have anticipated. For this article they aren’t even worth mentioning. What is worth mentioning… and even worth stressing, is that God moves in our lives when we think that we are the ones doing the moving.

As an “All In” disciple I easily forget that He leads me into the paths of others, and others into my path to accomplish His will, not my own. I must keep my eyes, ears and (most importantly) my heart open for the “oh-by-the-way” tasks He assigns along the way.

“He [God] creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work He does, the good work He has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.” (Ephesians 2:10 The Message)

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…Not As Those With No Hope

Grieving is a process. It is a painful and ongoing process. We grieve over many things: job loss, missed promotions, poor performance reviews, missed opportunities, lost loves, degrading friendships, etc. The list can seem endless. What usually comes to mind is the anticipation of death or the reality itself.

The process is painful, but after a time it can morph into a dull ache. Energy is stolen and motivation is hiding away from view in some dark corner. Life goes on and needs are still met, but the darkness seems to be there… just behind that last corner.

People who have studied such things mention predictable stages of grief that we float thru, back and forth, until some resolution and healing is achieved. That all sounds about right to me based upon my personal experience.

In it all, though, there is a foundational limit in grief. Those who have no “hope” rooted in God and His love and care seem to have a much deeper darkness to swim about in while grieving. It doesn’t have to be that way.

For believers, the grave is not the last word. The resurrection of Jesus is! He overcame death, so “death’s” claim to victory is no longer valid. There is a final homecoming and reunion scheduled. Don’t miss out. Be an “All In” follower of Jesus.

And regarding the question, friends, that has come up about what happens to those already dead and buried, we don’t want you in the dark any longer. First off, you must not carry on over them like people who have nothing to look forward to, as if the grave were the last word. Since Jesus died and broke loose from the grave, God will most certainly bring back to life those who died in Jesus.

And then this: We can tell you with complete confidence—we have the Master’s word on it—that when the Master comes again to get us, those of us who are still alive will not get a jump on the dead and leave them behind. In actual fact, they’ll be ahead of us. The Master himself will give the command. Archangel thunder! God’s trumpet blast! He’ll come down from heaven and the dead in Christ will rise—they’ll go first. Then the rest of us who are still alive at the time will be caught up with them into the clouds to meet the Master. Oh, we’ll be walking on air! And then there will be one huge family reunion with the Master. So reassure one another with these words.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 The Message)

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By The Way, You Have Cancer

I talk to people who describe themselves as cancer survivors. Like many others I am in a category that is a little different: Still surviving with cancer. When told I had cancer in 2004, there were many thoughts and emotions to be processed… some over and over. It is interesting how a “sniff” of your own mortality gets one’s attention.

I recently visited with a man who had that day learned that he, like me has a cancer that, barring God’s intervention, he will have until he graduates into eternity. I recognized the ongoing turmoil as we spoke of many things.

The main thought I wanted to share, one that has been central in my walk, is that we are God’s servant in all circumstances. That includes health challenges. He and I, as well as many others, are walking a health challenged path God has placed us on to accomplish His will. That will may be to change us, or to impact others. It is likely a blend of both.

I told the gentleman that I do not know everything that God has as a goal in my circumstances, but that it has granted me the honor of showing my family how a man desperately trying to be “All In” faces death. What an honor! Who else would I rather teach my sons and grandchildren this walk?

Being an “All In” disciple even permeates the shadows of life. After all, it only makes sense that my trusting God with the big picture of eternity will make trusting God with something as temporary as my health, a no-brainer.

Looking In from the outside, being “All In” seems like it would be very stressful. The exact opposite is true however. As promised, it ushers in the peace that just can’t be explained.

Take the plunge. Be “All In.”

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