Bad Words #3

Next week I will be on a large cruise ship in the Caribbean Sea. I have never been on a cruise before so I am excited. Even though I normally post every Tuesday, it is not going to happen next Tuesday. In June, I will pick up my posting again.

cruise ship

In thinking and preparing for the cruise, I had a thought about a bad word. For a better idea of the context for this post, please go back and read Bad Word #1.


Cruise. There are two main things I think about when I hear that word. Cruise ships and cruise control. Well, three things…Tom Cruise also.

  • The idea of getting on a cruise ship is easy to understand. We will be stopping at three different ports. After all of this, we come back to the States. There are an itinerary and a plan for all the time that we will be on the ship. Everything is accounted for on the trip.
  • The second idea is using the cruise control in a vehicle. Nice feature for someone like me who tends to push the speed limits. Setting the cruise helps me to stay within the acceptable limits. It makes long trips much safer! =-)

By now, you might be wondering what the bad word is for this post. You can probably guess it. Cruise. That is the bad word.

Let me ask you some questions. What if the cruise ship did not have an itinerary? What if there were no scheduled ports? No GPS? What if, you got onto the boat and just started cruising. No destination in mind. No agenda or plan. Just cruising. That is when cruising is bad.

There are times when I feel like I am cruising through this life. Not the good kind though. Do I have a plan? Do I have scheduled ports of call in my life? Am I following a Divine Captain or I am just floating along the sea subject to every wave? Does this ship that I am on have a purpose and a specific destination? Or, do I just blindly walk into everyday without and purpose or destination?

Friends, you and I do not have to just cruise (in the bad sense) through this life. I am so grateful that God does have a plan. He does have a purpose for me. He does have GPS. He does know where this boat is headed.

I am filled with Hope today as I write. Just like the cruise I am taking next week, there is a plan. I know when things will happen. With God, I know the plan. Maybe not all the details but God is in control. He authored my life and the plan for me.

So if you find yourself cruising through your days, there is hope. You can get back on track with God. I will close with some famous verses to bring hope to you today:

This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.” Jeremiah 29:10-14

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Bad Words #2

Welcome back. To understand what this post is about, it might benefit you to read Bad Words #1. It lays the foundation for the Bad Words series. This post is the second in that series.

 

In my life, I am meeting new people on a regular basis. There are over 40 couples for whom I have had the privilege of performing weddings this year. I am a waiter so I daily am meeting new people. Even at church, there can be new people weekly. Getting to know people is usually a good experience for me. But when people find out that I am a pastor, the tone can quickly change.

Here is what I mean. This statement gets directed at me: “You are a pastor so you must be really religious.” That is a nice thing to say but it is totally opposite of what I believe and understand, but at least it opens the door!

 

And so Bad Words #2 is…Religion.

Bad Words are defined as everyday or common words that can have a bad or negative meaning attached to them.

 

Here is how I respond, “No. I am not religious. In fact, I don’t even try to be religious.” This usually shocks people.

 

In general, people equate being a Christian with someone who is religious. If you go to church/mass/service once a week, you are set. When the offering plate comes by, it is good to drop a $5 or $10 in once in a while. Giving my time in a soup kitchen? Good deeds…Great!

 

For this author, religion is defined as man’s attempts to get back to God.

 

And that is why it is a bad word. The bible is very clear on this point. My salvation (becoming a Christian, being born again, etc.) is not based on what I do, but rather what God has already done.

 

Here is what the scripture says about this: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV

 

My favorite analogy involves the Grand Canyon. I’ve been there and it is really breathtaking. God really created an awesome spectacle. Now imagine that God is on one side and you are on the other side. You really want to get back to Him. He would also really enjoy that. So you decide that you will build a bridge. For every good work you do, you get one toothpick. There is no limit to how many toothpicks you can earn. These toothpicks are the only materials you can use. Everyone has their own “bridges” that they are working on. Do you see the problem? One person would have to live many, many lifetimes to be able to earn enough toothpicks to build a bridge. Actually, I don’t think that it would be possible. But that is the point!

We can’t earn our way back to God – that’s religion! (Bad Word!)

 

But there is hope and it has a name: Relationship. Relationship is God’s provision for us to get back to Him.

 

Back to the analogy. God sees your heart. He understands that you truly desire to get back to Him. So He makes a way. Jesus is sent from heaven to earth, lives His life, and is then crucified on a cross. God, in his power, raises Jesus from the dead! That cross now becomes a bridge. God places it over the gap[1] that separates you from Him. So now you have a decision. You must let go of your own life and embrace the cross. God loves you so much that He gave His own son to die for our sins. We can’t earn that – it is a gift. What will you choose today?

 

Choose God today and you will find life. By the way, toothpicks are only good for picking food out of your teeth anyway. =-)

 

 

 

 

 

[1] That ‘gap’ exists because of sin. Sin is what separates us from God.

Bad Word #1

We all know bad words when we hear them, don’t we? Swear words are commonplace in today’s society. But these words are not the kinds of words to which I am referring in this article. I am not speaking of cuss words or swear words. The kind of bad words to which I am referring are everyday words that can take on bad meanings for us. Here is an example of what I mean.

This four-letter word can frighten some men I know. It can be fearful to think of this word and what it means. The word is iron. Think verb, not noun. This is not the element iron but the object used to get wrinkles out of an article of clothing. An iron is plugged into the wall socket and begins to heat up. When it gets to whatever temperature the fabric requires, the user, that is I, (and yes, I do iron my own shirts from time to time), pushes the iron across the shirt until the wrinkles disappear. It is actually quite fulfilling knowing that I beat the wrinkles! Although, truth be told, I have used the dry-cleaners more lately. But I digress…the point is that the word iron is not a bad word but it can have a bad or negative connotation.

I want to share my thoughts about a bad word I heard in church recently.

We have been in a series of sermons at church that deal with this idea: Are you a fan or follower of Jesus? It has been refreshing in that I walk away from church with a new sense of challenge in my own life. It’s easy to be a fan, but it is tough to be a follower. As a normal human being, I desire what most people want. This is a common want or desire for probably every human on this planet. At least I think it is. This common desire that seems to be present in any area of life can be summed up in one word. This word is the bad word to which I have been referring. And the word is…comfort.

Growing up in the church, going to Bible college, being a pastor, and being around Christians for most of my life, I feel as if I have heard this term, “comfort  zone,” hundreds, maybe even thousands of times. The idea is that there is a place where I am content with my surroundings to the point where it does not hurt and I am not growing. This applies to my physical world, but more importantly, it applies to my spiritual world as well. I do want to point out that being comfortable is not necessarily bad. My house is set at a comfortable temperature. I like to wear clothes that are comfortable. If people come to my home, I like to make them feel comfortable. Movie theaters have comfortable seats. My car is comfortable to sit in. These things are not the major point of my thoughts for this writing. There is another realm in which comfort is not the goal.

Jesus said “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (NIV) Luke 9:23. There is no comfort in that statement! Let’s look more closely at that verse.

 “If…” – Jesus starts with a question. Whenever I see the word ‘if,’ I know that I have a choice. Right off the bat, there is an opportunity for me to choose comfort or something else.

“…anyone would come after me…” – This is the best part about this verse. Of course I want to follow Jesus. Sign me up. And since I fit into the category of ‘anyone,’ I won’t be turned away. Jesus won’t turn anyone away as long as they understand the terms.

“…must deny himself…” – You mean that following Jesus does not leave room for my stuff?!!?[*] I must restrain myself from indulging in my own desires. Jesus needs all of me. I can’t give him all if I am not denying myself of the stuff[†] in my life. The problem is that stuff makes our lives comfortable.

“…take up his cross…” – Have you ever carried a cross? Have you ever carried any piece of wood that was over 50 pounds? Try it; you won’t like it.  But wait, Jesus carried his cross. In fact, he did it while under tremendous strain, excruciating pain, and terrible pressure. Trust me when I say that there was not one ounce of comfort in the last moments of the life of Jesus.

“…daily…” – Yep. That says ‘daily’. At the start of every day, we have a choice. I can choose to be comfortable, or I can choose to follow Jesus. When I wake up in the morning, I am faced with that same decision. Comfort or Christ? You are too, my friends. That is the deal for which we signed up. Take it or leave it. It is time to choose.

 

Hold on, I’m not quite finished. If someone was presented with this article, they might be thinking that following Jesus is nothing but pain, suffering, and trouble. In a word, it could be considered uncomfortable. Why would anyone want to choose this kind of life? Even with the knowledge of heaven and eternal life with God, people still are choosing their comfort. Let me share one more passage of scripture with you.

John 14:16 says, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever- the Spirit of Truth.” (NIV) Jesus spoke these words to the disciples right after the Last Supper. It was the night before the crucifixion. No doubt the men were feeling scared and unsure of what was happening. Jesus said he would ask the Father to give another Counselor. That word, counselor, is the word that is found in the New International Version. Some of the other words that are used in various translations are: helper, advocate, and comforter. The word literally means, “called to one’s aid.” So, when Jesus was saying “follow me, carry your cross, deny yourself, etc.,” he was saying that in all of that discomfort, the Holy Spirit will be right next to me so that I may have comfort.

 

In conclusion, when following Jesus, it requires me to let go of my stuff[&]. Sure, this may seem uncomfortable, but it really is the best way. When God through the Holy Spirit comforts us, only then can we see the value in our self-denial, our cross carrying, and our daily choosing of living uncomfortably. I am certainly glad that Jesus didn’t let his comfort get in the way of God’s plan. I certainly hope that my comfort won’t either.

 

[*] I used the word ‘stuff’ to represent anything that would conflict, interfere, replace, or remove Jesus as the number one desire of your life. For me, pornography and laziness was the ‘stuff’ of my life.

[†] Stuff gets in the way. Let it go!

[&] See earlier footnotes