The Rush of the Rush

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I’m slow off the line, always have been.  I don’t know what the rush is all about, anyway.  We’re all hurtling towards different points of space, all of which are cemented in place, going nowhere.  Great marble slabs of permanence, fixed, like so many letters etched into the courthouse wall, hovering in a holding pattern while the world whisks by.

Sure, you may get there a moment before I do, but have you gained anything, really?  It seems as if the highway turns into this Gran Turismo, bullets of metal ripping through the air, looking for their target, straining against one another to make that lane change, that light, that clear space devoid of big rigs and handicapped drivers.

The truth is, we’re all heading to the same spot, that outlying sunscape past the horizon.  Sure, you may have to pick up some milk, maybe the dry cleaning, but all roads lead to nowhere.  And everywhere.  And somewhere in between.  We’re zipping forward, careening past the mundane, riding that ray of sunshine into the Greatest Star ahead.

Stop and smell the roses, they say.  The present is a present, they say.  We’re all in a hurry to slow down and retire, stodgy, dusty, and altogether unused.  The pages have grown thin, and yellowed, and we’re left to wonder how much of that hurriedness slowed us to this effect.  Did we fly at breakneck speeds, only to have the engines sputter before their time?

So, should we enjoy the moment?  Sure.  Will it seem as nothing in light of eternity?  Perhaps.  Did the clouds ever look so grand when you finally slowed to savor them?  I doubt it.  Call me an old man, but I’ll take a book, some coffee, and a front porch swing over the race of rats any day.  But, that’s just me.  I’m still crawling off the starting line.  Wave, at least, when you pass, will ya?

An Ode to the Gospel

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Over the last two weeks, I have had the tremendous privilege and responsibility of preaching at my church.  It has been exhilarating.  I can only hope that it was as much fun for the listeners as it was for the speaker.

I’ve been reminded again how absolutely thrilling the gospel really is.  I have been torn asunder, and left for dead, as the text has ripped me into a million little pieces, only to piece me back together again with a new zest and a new verve for life.  The gospel is stunning in its breadth, enthralling in its depth, and utterly intoxicating and captivating in its every regard.  It is, without a doubt, the ultimate expression of love and satisfaction that can be found.  Everything else pales in comparison.

I don’t share this to garner praise for my preaching; the Lord’s Word is sufficient.  He spoke through an ass to Balaam; I can’t be that far removed from itI only wish to communicate to you how all-satisfying, breathtaking, sin-shattering, world changing, pride obliterating, sweet, glorious, enriching, rapturing, redeeming, knock your socks off ’til you don’t know where they’ve gone outstanding the gospel truly is.  May we never forget!  May our hearts be ever supple in His hands, our minds be ever steered towards Him, our entire will and being be centered on the thirst-slaking, hunger-sating, full sufficiency of Christ and His Word.  HE IS ENOUGH!!  The rest is just details!

Without dining on the riches of His Word, we grow weary, useless, disinterested.  We go through the routine, hoping for the far distant fervor, only to find that we’ve forgotten where to turn, and we don’t have the energy to remind ourselves.  The church grows listless, her people grow ineffective, and the world goes to hell in a handbasket for lack of a few good men and women impassioned by the call.

Turn today, and find Him again.  Dust off that Bible, and immerse yourself in its truth.  Don’t delay!  You won’t want to miss this!  God is at work, and He wants to work through you.  Slough off the slumber of apathy, and turn again to Jesus, who calls you forward.

Amen.

The Virtue of Vice

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Every virtue has its vice.  And vice versa.  Working out is great, but, taken to its extremes, it may cause severe injury, or, in some cases, death.  On the other hand, eating chocolate is usually frowned upon, but its been shown to lower blood pressure and “bad” cholesterol.  Wrapping your arm with a belt can cut off the circulation, but, when used as a tourniquet, it may actually save your life.

There’s one vice I abhor that I saw absolutely no redemption in, though.  It happens at stoplights, and in passing others on the street; it interrupts conversations, or stilts them, at best.  It hovers on the table during an otherwise pleasant meal.  I’m talking, of course, about cell phones.  And tablets.  Televisions, and the like.  Screens have been diverting our attention since their inception, and there seems to be no end in sight.

Now, it’s not my intention to decry the woes of screen use.  You’re an adult; you can wean from the screen on your own time.  Enough people have written against their misuse, so one more post isn’t going to change anybody’s mind.  What I am interested in, however, is how this irretrievable vice actually serves, almost equally, as a virtue.

Let me explain.  Studies have shown that it is physically and mentally impossible to, as some might call it, “multitask.”  I know; I’m not making any friends here.  And, yes, I realize that there are simultaneous automated functions happening in the body.  But you and I have had nothing to do with that.  What I’m talking about is your presumed ability to wash the dishes, and talk on the phone, or listen to your wife’s conversation while watching the game.  It simply doesn’t happen.  Your mind is catapulting back and forth between tasks, giving undivided attention to absolutely nothing.

Why do I mention this?  Because this may be your greatest deterrent in the fight against sin.  If you are incapable of focusing on two things at the same time, then you cannot fixate on sin and combat it in the same action.  Ergo, when a temptation arises (see the aforementioned chocolate), if you will simply divert your attention, given enough time, you will be able to thwart the attack.  And, I understand the lure of a Cadbury creme egg, so it is rightly termed an “attack.”

You cannot be mesmerized by the allure of another man’s wife, gentlemen, if you are concurrently considering Christ on the cross.  Your mind may alternate between the two, but given enough attention, one will prevail.  It is left to you, then, as to which one you will be most captivated by.  “Choose this day whom you will serve,” as the saying goes.

This method, of course, is not foolproof, since you and I are desperate sinners, but it is with good reason that the Bible implores us to have the mind of Christ.  That is where many a battle has been won or lost.  Don’t be lost.  Focus your attentions on the glorious gains of pursuing Christ.  Discipline your gaze to peer into all the promise that He holds for you.

Work Out Your Salvation

I’m exhausted.  I’m not made out for this.  No 38 year old, in his right mind and in his wrong shape, should be attempting 100 push ups a night.  It’d be different if this was part of an overall fitness regimen.  In a few weeks, I hope to start up swimming again, but, lately, I’ve just been your run-of-the-mill bum.

And, it’s affective.  In every way.  It turns out, at least for me, there is a direct correlation between my physical well-being and my spiritual.  While my “workout,” if one could call it that, literally consists of only five minutes of my day, it has 24-hour ramifications.  The routine and rigor of a daily commitment orders my steps on every front.  I’m approaching each day with zeal and purpose.

I believe this is what Paul was speaking to when he said “work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12).  While your salvation is a (free) gift from God (Eph. 2:8), and not something you can work to earn, it is something that you should work on.  With fear and trembling, mind you.  It is a great and terrible responsibility to cooperate with the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit in your life.  Something that calls for order and purpose.

Which is why I’ve got a certain pep in me step.  I don’t torture myself in the walk-in closet for those 5 minutes before my shower to simply be able to say “I did it!”  After all, my body is not my own (1 Cor. 7:4).  I’m in there sweating it out for the sake of my wife!  On top of that, I was bought at a price (1 Cor. 6:20), the shed blood of Jesus Himself!  So, on top of the push-ups, I’m holding myself to No Sweets, No Wheat, No Cheats (patent pending)!  And, you’d better believe that every time I make a sensible choice in my diet, I’m reminded that I can act with resolve, and mortify the (once flabby) flesh (Rom. 8:13).

Am I there yet?  Have I arrived?  Certainly not!  Are there other means to discipline one’s self than diet and exercise?  I suppose there are.  But, our bodies make up much of who we are; if they’re out of control, then it’s highly likely there may be other cogs in the machine.

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LeapPS

“I know it looks bad, but I can fix this.  Just give me a minute.  Ok, now that I know where you’re heading, you need to make a U turn in approximately 200 feet.”

And, so goes my daily life.  If I need report anywhere other than work or home, this is my phone’s typical response.  She’s too kind to say, “You’re lost again, imbecile.”  My GPS is an indispensable part of my routine.

I wonder, though, what it would have been like without it.  You know, those Dark Ages where you had to print out directions from MapQuest?  What if I was one of those cavemen that checked his route against every 7 Eleven cashier between here and there?  My, how things have changed!

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I wonder if I would ever leave my driveway.  Would I rise to the occasion and brave this wild, new world with nothing but gas in the tank and a vague notion of where I’m heading?  Or, would I move to a metropolis where I could depend on public transportation to get me everywhere?  (Hint:  I’d probably do worse on the Metro).

I ask this because I find that I’m slowly learning to let go.  While I will most likely never give up my GPS, I can say that I no longer play guitar from a chord sheet.  And, that’s saying something.  I held to those before like they were imparting to me the secret of life!  With my band, I’m learning to play less and trust them more to carry the load.  And, they do quite well, actually!  Better, in fact, than when I play every note.

So, what’s the GPS in your life?  What thing are you holding tightly to that you simply can’t imagine life without?  Is it possible that you could cut the tie, were it not for your fear of going alone?  Have you created a dependency that serves as a lifeline rather than an aid?

Oftentimes, when we wrestle between fear and faith, it is couched in terms of taking the leap.  Try that new ministry!  Ratchet up that relationship!  Have a kid!  Buy the house!  Make the move!  But, today, I want to challenge you to consider something even more grandiose.

What if you were to take some time to invest in your son?  You know, play ball rather than watch TV, or turn the radio off when you’re traveling together (But, not the GPS!  You’ll die, and take him with you!).  What if the leap is nearer to home?  Approach your wife, rather than waiting for her to come around.  Knock on the neighbor’s door rather than hope you chance to see them in the yard.

There are a million ways that we can take a leap of faith that don’t require GPS, a CPA, or an RN.  Small evidences that we’re trusting in the Lord that amass to a great big ball of glory for His name.  So, wherever you find yourself, whatever course you’ve charted, look for the road signs that say “Yield; He is moving,” and venture out into the unknown of obedience and faith.  Who knows?  You may just discover the secret of life, after all!

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There’s a pink and white bicycle in my garage that looks nearly new.  It may actually be in the storage closet by now.  I can’t remember.  As you can tell, it gets used a lot.  So much so, that if my daughter were to have to identify it in a lineup, she would likely struggle.

In my cupboard, there’s a container of pumpkin spice.  I’m not sure what it’s for.  Do you spice pumpkins with it, or is it more for lattes?  I know about apple pie spice.  My dad used it once to season fried chicken.  Don’t worry; it sounds worse than it is.  Still, there’s a reason we only tried it once.

All of my life, in every arena, I have found containers of pumpkin spice lying all about.  The pink and white bicycles with banana seat and streamers are piled high, if only I had eyes to see them.  I’m completely overrun.  I haven’t room enough to store them, much less use them.  They are untapped potential.

For 38 years, I have drawn breath and consumed commodities.  For 38 years, I have used up those around me for what they can lend.  Parents, siblings, coworkers, friends; they all existed for one reason.  Me.  Their worth was equal to and not exceeding their usefulness to me.  Exploitative, right?

But, here’s the thing.  I could have gotten far more out of them had I seen their untapped potential.  I was a parasite leeching off of them all, when I could have enjoyed a more symbiotic relationship.  Not even that; a simple giving relationship.  After all, it is more blessed to give than to receive, right?

If I’d only known that there was exponentially more power in empowering them instead of hogging it all to myself.  Would that I could see all the other facets of their beautiful personality, their giftings, life experiences, that weren’t being siphoned off with every selfish need!  They had untapped potential, ripe for the taking, and I left it to rot in the corners of my cupboard!

Today, I look for it.  A lot.  If I’ve a job to do, certainly there’s someone near who can do it better.  Shared responsibility becomes the hallmark of true, genuine success.  Before, I would struggle and strain to accomplish the task, so that I wouldn’t have to admit my inability to do it, while someone else sat dawdling and daydreaming for something to do.

I think, in this, is summed up the entire Christian ethos:  It is more blessed to give than to receive.  I know there’s much more to say for Christ and what He inaugurated, but didn’t He model this Himself?  Isn’t our salvation, eternity, and all of history predicated upon His giving?  He gave gifts, that we might give, and those persons might give as well.  No one lives in a vacuum–save for a dust mite.  We need each other, not for our own selfish purposes, but to advance the cause of Christ, and, indeed, all of humanity.  

Don’t store the people of your life away, only to be called upon when you have a need.  Yoke yourself together with them, chasing after the vision that God reveals to you both as you march forward, step by step.  This is your call; this is your untapped joy!  Don’t rob yourself and everyone around you of what is rightfully theirs.

Party of One

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For a long time, I was a lone wolf.  I enjoyed the company of others.  I just seemed to enjoy my own more.  Why?  Not sure.  The independence of being a firstborn, perhaps.  Arrogance?  Quite likely.  Socially malignant?  That’s a term of my own making, and, yes, I suppose it applied in some instances.

The truth was, though,  I thought we had on our hands a “It’s not me, it’s you” problem.  They were socially malignant.  They were arrogant.  They couldn’t carry a conversation in a five gallon bucket.  Apparently, I was surrounded by idiots, and unable to find anyone as cool as myself.  So he, me, and I would hang sometimes, but that was it.

And while I was alone in this era/error of my life, I certainly wasn’t without compatriots.  Our entire society revolves around the tenet that mine is the only opinion that matters, that friends are mere adornments that spice up our persona, and anyone that doesn’t walk like me, and talk like me, and tout and celebrate me can be deleted with the push of a button.

And, so I guess you could say, I was ahead of my time.  Only recently did I stop staring in the mirror, and reflect on the fact that maybe, just maybe, I had flaws, too.  That they were as readily available to the people that I was around as theirs were to me.  That they had chosen the higher road that extended grace in the light of failings rather than judgment.  That didn’t toss my babyish ways out with the bathwater of genuine fellowship.

I’ll always enjoy solitude, as much as I enjoy a good book over the $5 meal at Taco Bell.  But, I’ve come to know that the closer you draw those around you around you, the better you can see them in all their flawed, image bearing, tangled up and never gonna be fixed entirely selves.  And, that’s okay.  Because you’ve gazed deeply in the mirror before, too, and you’d have to admit, it wasn’t pretty.