An Accurate Understanding Is Important

It is reported that in 2012 a mid-level Taliban commander walked up to an United States Army checkpoint in Afghanistan presenting himself for a $100.00 “award.” For proof he was carrying a “wanted” poster with his name and picture on it. The poster was advertising a “reward.”

As ridiculous as that sounds, it is reported to be true. It is not any more ridiculous, perhaps not as ridiculous as an emotionally charged disciple who has not really checked in with God’s instruction (the Bible) about God’s expectations. This person may flit around constructing his/her own list of what God surely must want. The apostle Paul said the Hebrew people, his kinsmen, were doing that back in his day.

“Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. Since they did not know the righteousness of God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness” (Romans 10:1-3 NIV).

Being “All In” as a follower of Jesus is more than zeal. It is also more than knowledge. It is a living out of both: zeal driven by understanding what the Creator of the Universe wants from His servants. Admittedly, it is a constant evaluation, adjustment, re-evaluation process.

That Taliban commander, Mohammed Ashan, would have done well to check his understanding of the poster before becoming a prisoner instead of a “winner” of $100. You and I will do well to stay busy working on our understanding of God’s Word as we zealously go about doing “good works that He afore prepared” (Ephesians 2:10).

It is time consuming, but that should be no deterrent for someone who is “All In.”

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Landing Kites

As a youngster I loved to fly kites. By the time I was 12 or 13 I had become an accomplished builder of the same. I recall kites 5-6 feet tall with scraps of bed linens as the surface, heavily starched to provide more wind resistance for lift. We even flew lesser kites, attached to the main line to lift the sag. We flew with heavy twine and it needed the lift once the kite was 30-50 yards out.

Getting the kite up and out so far was not the thrill or main challenge. I was in Central Texas where the wind blows most of the time anyway. The real thrill was to reverse the process and land the entire collection of kites and line without any of the kites touching the ground. Retrieving them to hand was a huge ego boost and claim to superiority in my little world of 12-13 year old kite aficionados.

As God’s “All In” servant, I can still be easily drawn to such a focus on completion that I miss God’s re-assignment“We are through with that, Wayne. There is something else I need you to do now,” He may whisper.

Sometimes I respond hesitantly, but follow His lead and allow the “kite” to hit the ground. Other times I discover that I was so focused on my goal of seeing the project through that I forget that His priority may not be the same as mine.

I have found that being “All In” is a daily challenge (and sometimes an hourly challenge).

Do you have any special challenges in your “All In” discipleship?

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The Time For Talk Is Over

Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor from 161-180 AD was a Stoic philosopher (among other things) and is reported to have said: “Waste no more time arguing what a good man should be. Be one.”

Persecutions of Christians ramped up during his reign, though there is some question as to his active involvement in the process. Be that as it may, his statement is reminiscent of the story Jesus told the Jewish lawyer who had asked Him: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”

That question was the springboard from which Jesus told the story of the “Good Samaritan” and ultimately made the stinging point to His antagonist: “This do, and thou shalt live” (Luke 10:28). This was a pointed answer because the Jewish “lawyers” of the time didn’t “do” anything. They just, as my friend Charles Coil said, “polished frog hairs down to the size of gnat’s whiskers.”

Godliness and righteousness is not something that can be practiced without doing. Not much of the “doing” can be done wearing anything other than “work clothes.”

Interested in being an “ALL IN” disciple? Then stop talking about it.

Do it.

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Public Perception Is Important

Some things are clearly more important than others. That stated, and I assume accepted without argument, most should give more thought to the priority placement of the items being ranked.

Jesus rebuked a group of self-proclaimed “guides for the blind” (no really, the Pharisees actually called themselves that). He pointed out that “faith, justice, and mercy” should be considered more critical than tithing garden herbs and seeds (Matthew 23:23). Point made?

Public perception is one of those items that doesn’t belong on the top of the list, but it is a consideration. One of the qualifications of the church’s special servants that was going to be “out front” in the community was that they should have a good reputation among the town’s folk (1 Timothy 3:7). That clearly isn’t as important as the reality of who the servant is. However, since believers no longer just wear their own names, but also wear the name of the Master, public perception is a consideration.

The common ant has a reputation of being very industrious and work, work, work, work, working all of the time. I have been informed by people who study such things, that like people, ants only spend about a fifth of their day working. They have a much better reputation across the board than people do though.

Pay attention to who you really are, but never assume public perception is unimportant as you are “ALL IN” as a follower of Jesus. After all, He is the one you represent.

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What does it look like?

There is a great gulf separating “being told” and “being shown.” In the 1970’s a young Texas couple moved to North Alabama trying to accomplish several things, most notably and needed among them: growing up. I’d like a show of hands: How many suspectWayneCindyWade that I am referring to myself and the Red-Headed Irish Princess? Well done, we shall continue…

Many lessons were awaiting discovery in God’s “wisdom cache” for us. The one I reference now is at the convergence of the male ego (of a Texan), an old mare hitched to a single-tree, and a shrivelled up, but wise and patient older man.

Renting an old cinder block house from Raymond and Lena came with several perks. Beauty and elegance were not on  that list. The house was bare essentials, having had a bathroom added a few years before. It was adequate, comfortable, and cheap. The $50/month stretched me a little, but Raymond said he would help me put in a garden so I could “lay by” some vegetables to save more than the rent each month in food savings alone.

In addition to the anticipation of the fresh, self-canned and/or frozen vegetables, Lena took a special interest in me and taught the Princess how to make biscuits from “scratch” using White Lily Self-Risin’ Flour, or perhaps it was Martha White. Not Important here, moving on…

The Princess became so adept at her new skill that even my shadow grew heavier. In the early Spring, Raymond announced it was time to “lay off” and plant the garden. I watched with interest as he “broke” and “disced” the garden spots (both his and mine) with his tractor and implements. Being no novice to this part of the process, I enjoyed the smell of the newly turned soil.

The next stage of the operation was the breaking of “new ground” within me: laying off the garden with a mare and a single-tree. I listened as Raymond explained the process, confident that since this old, small and clearly worn man could do this, a strong Texan  could easily navigate the same. Not new to the hubris of young men and sensing his student was not yet up to the task, Raymond volunteered to “work the mare” while I kept the plow on course.

If you have ever done this yourself, you know how that first row turned out. Go ahead and laugh. Forty years hence this Texas male ego has been moderated by God’s design at every opportunity. Besides that, it was pretty funny. I think the mare was even laughing at me. Raymond’s only audible observation was that crooked rows grow more than straight ones.

He then showed me how to do it. While not an award-winning performance, the next attempt was respectable. He had taken the time to walk with me, coach me, and show me (not just tell me) how it was done. That is what leadership looks like, especially spiritual leadership. That’s what Jesus did by wrapping himself in humanity and “being tempted in all points, like as we.” 

I can do that for others, not perfectly like Jesus… but I can do that for others. The only way it works though, is if I am ALL IN. It’s not a job that can be done by “temps.”

Join me?

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Yawn: Bored or Self-Absorbed?

Did you ever zone out at a lecture or in a class? How about drifting into some other place during church, or worse, go to sleep? I have. I am usually the speaker, so it is more difficult to grab a few winks than when I was younger. Sleep deprivation and progressively shortened attention spans may be a factor, but I suspect a deeper issue.

Several years ago while running a string of horses, I had a couple of Border Collies. Those dogs were amazing. There are other working breeds equally notable, but myBorder experiences were with the Borders. They could be across the pasture nosing around in a fence row and hear a faint conversation I was having with someone else at the barn. They immediately stopped their search for… well, whatever it was, turned and looked my direction, ears straight up.

Many dogs when looking straight into your eyes challenge for dominance. These Borders  scanned for instruction. If they were asleep they sprang to attention at my whisper as if my voice was an old Big Ben alarm clock. It was, as if, their only reason to exist was to do my bidding. How I loved those girls. No working dogs had a better life.

I suspect my inclination to drift is rooted in an ongoing self-absorption, unlike what I experienced with my two girls. If I am His, I’ll be ever listening and responding to His voice:

” The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.” (John 10:3-4 ESV) 

Being “ALL IN” is not a part-time job, even though I occasionally treat it that way. It’s a good thing that God loves me anyway.

Any thoughts? If you have found this helpful or thought provoking, please share it with others.

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Put De Lime In De Coconut

Yesterday was one of those days that seemed to be constantly going, but not to anyplace in particular. There were recurring themes and variations, like an old song. The song that came to my mind was one from 1971: Put The Lime In The Coconut.

Written by Harry Nillson and released just before my high school graduation, I was assaulted by the song all day long if my radio was on… and it was. Everyone isn’t affected in the same way, but it seemed to spin around in my head looking for a way out, but never managing to find one. It had it’s theme and variations, but no resolution.

Yesterday was writing, searching, thinking, accomplishing nothing measurable… spinning around and around yet making no progress… puttin’ “the lime in de coconut and you drink ’em bot’ togedder / Put de lime in de coconut and you’ll feel better / Put de lime in de coconut, drink ’em bot’ up / Put de lime in de coconut and call me in the morning…”

Not much to be said for yesterday’s efforts other than there was effort.

It is comforting to know that God looks for obedience based upon trust and uses that as the measure of “righteousness” instead of measuring productivity.  Besides that, He is the one that will ultimately determine the impact of “effort.”

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28 (ESV)

Let the song spin around and the efforts seem ineffective. Rejoice that God is still on the throne.