Five Reasons Evangelicals Should Like Pope Francis

Five Reasons Evangelicals Should Like Pope Francis:

  • He talks about grace.
  • He reaches out to people on the fringe, causing to people to ask “What is he thinking?”  Isn’t that what Jesus does?
  • He addresses the uncomfortable issues.
  • You get the feeling when he talks about serving others, he means it.
  • We are on the same team.  Really.  Different values, different understandings, but he is about Jesus and so are we.

Every Relationship has Habits. Are they Healthy?

Every relationship has habits.  Are they healthy habits?

  • Do you check in with each other about what’s on going on in your world?
  • Do you listen as much as you talk?
  • Do you seek to understand the other person in the relationship?
  • Do you give to the other person?
  • Do you focus on what is good about the other person?
  • Have you learned to say “no” to yourself so you can say yes to the other person?
  • Are you willing to let the other person take the lead?
  • Can you admit it when you messed up in the relationship?

These healthy habits work for every relationship – including yours with God.  Do you have healthy habits with Him?

Habits of the Heart …

I was an eyewitness to my mother and step-father’s dating life. When one of my aunts was unavailable to babysit, I went on dates with them. That’s when I noticed my future step-father’s strange habits. He always opened the door for my mother. None of the other men she dated after my father’s death did that. Being seven years old and curious, I asked why he did that. “Because you always open the door for a lady,” I was told. My young brain could put this much together: my mother was a lady and she deserved to have the door opened for her.

When they got married, I remember Pop (as I now called him) opened the door for her as they got ready to leave on their honeymoon. He didn’t quit. He opened the door for her for the next 43 years.

I asked him once, “How do you remember to open the door for Mama every time?” He looked surprised, and said, “I don’t have to remember; I want to remember.”

Pop didn’t open the door for Mama because he had to. He didn’t do it out of fear or hope for a reward. He opened the door because he loved her and wanted her to know it.

When we talk about spiritual disciplines, we often make it sound like something you have to do: you have to read your Bible, pray, give, and fast. Because we frame it as a “have to” we feel great guilt when we forget. Most of us are still rebellious enough that we balk at doing a spiritual discipline because someone told we should do it.

What if we are looking at this all wrong? What if spiritual disciplines were not a “have to” but instead rose out of a “want to?”

No one has to persuade me to learn about people I love. No one has to persuade me to talk to people I love. No one has to persuade me to give to people I love. No one has to persuade me to say “no” to myself so I can say “yes” to someone I love.

With everyone I love, I’ve formed habits of the heart. These habits, some as simple as opening the door, cause me to live outside myself. I’m happier that way, because that’s the way God made all of us to be.

What would happen if I responded to God not out of guilt, but out of love? What habits of the heart would form in my relationship with Him?

Why the Ranch Recharges Me

We went down to the ranch last weekend.  It always recharges me.  Here’s why:

  • The big oaks still stand where they have always stood.
  • Nothing is prettier than the sunset over the Estate Grove unless is the sunrise over the Old Grove.
  • Guava Jelly.
  • Finding treasures like my old tin can for marbles.
  • Fat cows and fat calves.
  • Quiet.
  • Listening to old stories about my Daddy.
  • Seeing turkeys at the edge of Monkey Island.
  • Sleeping in the same room I slept in as child – only now, the bed has a King size mattress.
  • Hearing the call of the Sand Hill Crane.

God gives all of us a re-charge place.  Where’s yours?  How long since you’ve been?

Five Things I Hate about Being Sick…

I’ve been sick the last couple of days.  Nothing major, just a severe head cold.  When I cough, it feels like I have vise around my head.  Here are five things I hate about being sick:

  1. You just don’t feel like doing anything.  You can only look at so many YouTube videos of Epic Wins/Fails before your brain rots.
  2. Someone else – like your wife – has to do things you are supposed to do.  I hate feeling dependent.
  3. You hurt, you take medicine, and then you are not better right away.  Whatever happened to miracle drugs and instant cures?
  4. You think about everything you are not doing that still has to be done.  When will you catch up?
  5. It reminds me I am weak and limited.  Maybe that’s the biggest reason I hate being sick.  I remember how much I need God, because I am soul sick.  His grace is my only medicine.

You Might be a Pharisee If…

You might be a Pharisee if:

  • You think any rule can be clarified by adding five more rules.
  • You don’t like the fact that God won’t stay in your box.
  • Messy people who like to party with Jesus make you uncomfortable.
  • You expect everyone to worship God just like you do.
  • In your mind, you imagine Jesus acting like you, instead of you working to act like Jesus.
  • You always resolved the grace and truth tension in favor of truth.
  • You get angry when good happens in the wrong way, at the wrong time, with the wrong preacher, in the wrong kind of church.
  • You think if you could just get Jesus off to the side for 15 minutes, you could really straighten Him out.

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Eating the Plate Instead of the Steak…

 

There is always a tension between rules and relationship.

Every relationship needs rules. We teach our children to follow simple rules: pick up your toys, no burping at the table, and bedtime is 8:00 PM. We set these rules not to be arbitrary, but because we know eventually our children will have enter a bigger world where obeying the rules matters. A child who never learns to obey never learns to follow the rules in the workplace.

Yet the wisest parents know there are times to suspend the rules. Some evenings are just for fun and the toys can be picked up tomorrow. Once in a while, Dad needs to get into a burping contest with his kids (Mom can play too). Some nights demand staying up way past bedtime to watch a movie or see the meteor shower.

Marriage has rules. There is the biggest one, of course: be faithful. But there are little rules as well: pick up your socks, try to be as attractive as you can, and don’t snore. Funny how some of the rules of marriage are the same rules for children, only updated.

Marriage needs rules. They provide security and clarity. They paint an outline of health. But rules can’t fill in the outline. They can’t paint a picture of love.

That’s why the best marriages don’t depend on rules. Partners offer forgiveness. They serve each other. They don’t keep score. The outline gets filled in with grace.

People often think a relationship with God is about following a bunch of rules. Make no mistake, there are some rules in our relationship with God. Be faithful. Respect what’s important to God. Love the people He loves.

The rules, however, merely paint an outline. They don’t fill a relationship with grace or love. There is nothing in a rule that makes us want to do the with God life.

There is no way we could ever know how to fill in the outline. That’s why God did this for us. Jesus coming to this earth, dying for our sins, and being resurrected from the dead is God filling in the outline with forgiveness, grace, and love.

Make no mistake, the rules matter. But the rules are not enough. It’s what’s in the middle that counts. It’s the relationship God offers us.

So why would people ever choose to worship the outline? Why would people ever choose to make following the rules the main thing? It’s like eating the plate instead of the steak.

5 Reasons Your Church Isn’t Growing

Five reasons your church isn’t growing:

  1. You want everyone to be a Christian before they believe in Jesus.
  2. You only want people with small problems to come to your church.
  3. You have an implied dress code.
  4. You insist on doing worship the way you like it – not the way someone who has never been to church might like it.
  5. You condemn people for having questions that you already have the answers to.

Five People Jesus Would Invite to Church

Who would Jesus invite to His church?

  1. All the people who betray their country, upbringing, and education (Matthew and all the tax collectors).
  2. All the people who believe in God but aren’t very religious (sinners).
  3. All the people whose souls are sick.
  4. All the people who are excluded by the religious establishment.
  5. You.

So who are you inviting to Jesus’ church?

Who Jesus Hangs Out With…

The Gospels are clear about the company Jesus kept.

We know he was criticized for hanging out with tax collectors and sinners. Today, he would probably hang out with people who try to recruit for ISIS and with gay people.

We know he enjoyed the company of working men; fisherman like Peter, Andrew, James, and John. These men didn’t fish for pleasure; they fished for a living. Today he would hang out with truck drivers, people on the assembly line, electricians, plumbers, and carpenters.

We know a group of rich women were part of his circle: Joanna and Susanna wrote the checks that kept his ministry going. Today Jesus would be at the country club, seated at a table by the window, talking to women about God’s plan for their lives.

We know Mary Magdalene, having been delivered from seven demons, was in the inner circle too. We don’t know exactly what impact the demons had on her, but I bet everyone who knew her thought she was seriously disturbed. Today, Jesus would be completely at home with people who are disturbed, maybe even diagnosed. He would bring them peace as well.

We know Jesus talked a lot with religious leaders and scholars. They would ask questions, and he would blow up their systems of theology by talking about a relationship with God. Today, Jesus would be at home in the pastor’s study helping the pastor re-write his sermon or in a seminary, taking over a class.

We know Jesus spent time with sick people: the lepers, the deformed, the blind, the lame, and the epileptics. He healed them.  Today, Jesus would be up at the hospitals, offering the comfort of His power, healing the sick, and emptying the beds.

We know Jesus spent time with His disciples, the people who decided to follow Him wherever he went, who decided to learn from him and who wanted to be like Him. Today, Jesus loves to hang out with people who want to follow him, learn from Him, and be like Him.

Here’s the truth to recognize: Jesus never excluded people. He was comfortable with all kinds of people, who had all kinds of issues. Which means, of course, that Jesus is comfortable with you. No matter what you do, what perspective you bring, no matter what system of belief you have, Jesus would be comfortable with you.

We are left with this question: If Jesus is comfortable hanging out with all kinds of people, shouldn’t His church be filled with all kinds of people too? If it’s not, what are we doing wrong?