Walking with Jesus During this Election

Some thoughts about walking with Jesus during this Election Season:

  • Non-Jesus followers often get turned off by Jesus followers campaigning for a candidate harder than they ever work for Jesus.  Big disconnect.
  • Both Trump and Clinton are evil people.  So are you.  So am I.  It’s part of the whole “All have sinned” thing of Romans 3:23.  Trump and Clinton need a Savior, just like me.  And you.
  • Only Jesus can bring you peace and satisfy your soul.  Don’t expect any politician to do that.
  • If I am a Jesus follower, I want to speak in such a way so that people say “You know, that sounds like something Jesus would say.”
  • If Jesus isn’t challenging my politics, chances are good either I am not listening, or I’m trying to hide something.
  • Politicians knows that anxiety and anger are powerful motivators in an election.  Our Savior told us: “My peace I leave with you,” “Let not your hearts be troubled; believe in God, believe in me,” and “Do not say to your brother ‘You fool’ or you will be in danger of hell fire.”
  • As a Jesus follower, I am need to be just like Jesus:  kind, compassionate, and forgiving.  That means I am ready to forgive Trump and Clinton.  I will have compassion for Democrats and Republicans.
  • Jesus followers know that elections impact the short-term.  Long term, we know the outcome.
  • It only takes 10% of a group to change the behavior of the whole group.  What would happen if 30 million Jesus followers took Jesus seriously this election and lived out Ephesians 4:29-32?  We might change the whole country!

Praying for Orlando…

 

This one is close to home – literally.

Orlando to you may be the home of Disney, Harry Potter, and maxed out credit cards.  For me, it is the town where my sisters live, where friends from home and high school now live, and where I have cousins tucked in on quiet streets far from the hustle of Mickey Mouse.

I was visiting the ranch when the news broke on Sunday morning.  Headed home that day, we passed within a couple of blocks of the shooting site.  I found out a friend taught one of the young men killed in Middle School.  This was the not an act of terrorism that killed strangers; this was act reached out and impacted people I care about.

Predictably, Facebook erupted into irrelevant political debates.  Candidates quickly took positions to attempt to bolster their cause.  Gun rights were defended and gun laws were proposed.  People called out for Muslims to be banned.

What is Jesus doing?

He is not exploiting the moment.  He is with families that are grieving.  He is working healing on the injured.  He is speaking right now to those who have horror etched into their memories forever.  His words are “When you walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I am with you; I will comfort you.”  He is speaking to all of us on the outside looking in, “This is why I came.  This is why I died.  To wipe evil such as this.  It can only be overcome with purity and love – my purity and my love.”

Jesus is at work.  In a moment like this, as His follower, my choice is to join Him and follow Him.

So pray for Orlando.  For families of the dead, for healing of the injured, for traumatized witnesses, for first responders only now experiencing the feelings – pray.  Give hate and Satan no opportunity to enter this moment.

James, Jesus’ brother told us, “Do not be overcome with evil; but overcome evil with good (James 4:8).”

Pray and overcome.

Influence…

Growing up, my brother Steve was big influence on my life.  He set the tone for what was “expected.”

Like the time he gave me a plug of chewing tobacco and told me it was candy.  I was five.  I took it, inserted it into my mouth, chewed it a little bit (before I got a good taste), and then swallowed it.  Steve neglected to tell me the part about not swallowing it, but putting it between your cheek and gum.  I promptly got sick as a dog, and threw up out the Jeep window.  Tobacco has never been a temptation for me since.

Then there was the time we were riding our horses.  I must have been seven.  We got close to home and my horse smelled the barn.  We were off to the races.  In my panic, I dropped the reins, and grabbed onto the saddle horn.  Steve galloped his horse alongside mine and said, “Clay, jump onto the back of my horse like John Wayne would.”

Let me pause the story to remind all my readers that movies are not real.  My mistake was I listened to my brother, instead of listening to common sense.

I let go of the saddle horn, leaped in the direction of Steve’s horse, overshot and landed on the other side.  Half of the dirt of Resthaven Road found its way into my mouth.  I did it because he told me to.

Of course, his favorite way of influencing me was to disown me.  We would be feeding up, and he would start in:  “You’re not really my brother.”  Shocked, I would protest, “I am too.”  He would persist, “No, you’re not.  I remember going with Momma to a big orphanage in Lakeland and we picked you because you were the cheapest baby they had.”  Me: “That’s not true.”  Steve: “Yes it is, and if you don’t do everything I tell you, Momma’s going to send you back and get a refund.”

I would begin to cry (I was only five) and would start running toward the house.  Steve would chase me, because he knew that he would be in trouble if I got to Momma first.  Dodging in and out of orange trees, I threw open the screen door and ran across the front porch.  As soon as I saw Momma, I would stammer out through my blubbers, “Momma, Steve says I’m adopted and you are going to return me to the orphanage in Lakeland.”

My mother, not known for her empathy, would not comfort me.  She simply yelled “Steve!” and when she caught him, she would attempt to reason with him by inflicting an old fashioned spanking.  After she finished, she would turn back to me, and her most loving tone, say, “Honey, you were not adopted.  Just look in the mirror; you are as ugly as the rest of us.”  Strangely, that was comforting.

The next day, we would be feeding up again, and Steve would say, “Remember what Momma told you about not being adopted?  She lied.”  This would be followed by protests, racing to the house, and more spankings.

Everyone has the ability to influence someone.  If you have a brother or a sister, older or younger, you influence them.  You influence your kids, of course, but also your spouse, your friends at work, even the people who sit on the row in front of you at church.

The question isn’t “Do you have influence?”  The question is “How will you share your influence?”

Maybe the key is letting Jesus influencing you, so you know how to influence the other people in your life.

Two ways to know if you are generous or just doing a transaction

Here are two ways you can know if you are truly being generous or if you simply doing a transaction:

  1.  What’s in it for you?  If you are giving a gift, what’s your motive?  Are you giving because someone gave to you and you feel obligated to give back (I’ve heard a lot of sermons on these lines)?  Are you giving because you will be honored in some way (The Smith Memorial Sidewalk)?  Are you giving so you will be remembered (The Smith Scholarship Fund)?  Are you giving so you won’t feel guilty?  There’s an old joke about a man who heard a sermon on honesty.  He was so convicted about taxes he hadn’t paid, he sent a check for $10,000 to the IRS along with a note that said, “If after sending this amount, I still feel guilty, I’ll send the rest I owe.”  If you are giving with the expectation of getting something in return, you aren’t really being generous, you are buying something.
  2. Are there strings attached?  I am amazed at people who believe their giving entitles them to have their way.  I’ve even been threatened: “Pastor, if you don’t do _________ (usually something with the music), I’m going to send my tithe somewhere else.”  If that’s your impulse, you aren’t being generous, you are being controlling.  I’ve seen this twisted into  something like “As much as I give to that church, I expected the pastor to be here for my 2nd cousin’s aunt’s brother’s funeral.”  Strings attached means there is no generosity; you are trying to buy control.

Real generosity is going above what is expected.  It is giving without expecting a return.  It is surrendering control.

So now comes the uncomfortable question:  Are you truly generous?

If I Could Give the Graduation Speech…

I sat through my 29th graduation speech two weeks ago, when Abram received his Master of Arts degree from Columbia University.  They all have common themes:  we are proud of you; the world is scary; make a difference; don’t forget what you learned.  While the speaker droned on at Abram’s graduation, my mind wondered and I thought how I would re-write the graduation speech.

If I were the graduation speaker, this is what I would tell all graduates, whether high school, college, or graduate school:

  • Make your bed every morning. It starts the day with a doable accomplishment.
  • Put your dirty dishes in the dish washer, or wash them. In other words, be responsible for your mess.
  • You have learned something, not everything. Stay humble.
  • Never look down on people who didn’t get a diploma or a degree. I once tried to chisel off a nut on a tractor tire until Mack, a man who could not read or write, taught me how to use a wrench and a hollow pipe as a lever.
  • Don’t worry about making an impact; you will. The question is whether you will make a positive impact or a negative impact.  No one’s impact is neutral.
  • Treat old people with respect, even if they don’t know how to take picture with their phone. They had the great teacher, time.
  • You will have faith in someone or something. Check and see if it is worth having faith in.
  • In hindsight, some of the coolest teachers gave me intellectual junk food. Some of the dullest teachers taught me things I remember and use to this day.
  • Never go too long without an adventure.
  • Be still long enough to hear from God. What He says is worth hearing.
  • Every choice has a consequence. A voice inside you will tell you that you are the exception.  That voice lies.
  • Ask your parents for advice.
  • Real friendship takes more than alcohol and weekend parties.
  • One day, you will fall in love with someone you think is perfect. They aren’t.  Real people are flawed and messy… and worth being in love with.
  • Do something silly each week. It keeps you young.
  • Naps are God’s gifts.
  • People who take themselves too seriously get on everyone’s nerves. Don’t be that person.
  • At least once in your life, go to sleep under a tin roof when it is raining.
  • The issue is rarely the issue. Look for the deeper issue.
  • You are better off wanting someone or something you don’t have than having someone or something you don’t want.
  • Wisdom and strength of character count more than luck.
  • Money isn’t everything, but it is something. Earn all you can, save all you can, give all you can (John Wesley).
  • People who believe they are the exception to the rules have painful encounters with reality.
  • The final verdict on your life doesn’t belong to you, or even to the people who love you. It belongs to a God who loves you more than you can imagine.  So grow your relationship with Him.

Six Simple Steps for Sharing Your Story

Six simple steps for sharing your story, how God is writing His story into your life:
1.  Remember it isn’t a formula, or a sales pitch.  It is a story.

2.  Pray for an opportunity to share your story each day: “God please give me an opportunity to share your story today.”  Let the Holy Spirit arrange the meetings.

3.  Listen first.  Everyone has a story.  You earn the right to share your story when you listen to other people’s story first.

4.  Wait for the moment.  People will ask what you believe.  They will ask about your story.  You might have to ask “Mind if I tell you my story?”   Have the courage to go through open doors.

5.  Tell your story.  Avoid the “weird” God stories.  Focus on life before Jesus, and how Jesus changed you.  Tell what life is like with Jesus now.  Maybe you are like me and your story isn’t very dramatic; that’s okay.  Don’t try to embellish it;  a quiet, confident story that is real has a greater impact that the story that seems too over the top.

6.  Remember the core of the gospel.  Do vs. Done:  Religion is about what we do; following Jesus is about Jesus has done for us.  Jesus built a bridge of grace across our sin so we are no longer separated from God.  God made the world; we messed it up; but Jesus comes to clean it up.

Here’s what I know:  Someone needs to hear your story.  Are you ready to share it?