Monday, February 27, 2017

Shampoo with a Brain

I heard an advertisement on TV that caught my attention on Sunday morning as I was getting ready for church. The advertisement was for a shampoo that would lessen the amount of gray hair the more you used it. It was touted as "shampoo with a brain." The ad suggested using the shampoo until you reached the desired ratio of color to gray. My guess is it would last for a certain amount of time and then you would need to reapply to get rid of the gray and add more color.

Now I must admit that this is a rather interesting way for men to reduce the amount of gray hair they are showing. I, however, fall into the other camp when it comes to gray hair. I am one of those who follow the old saying, "As long as it doesn't turn loose, it can turn whatever color it wants!" Not that there is anything wrong with changing the color of your hair because I know plenty of folks who do it, but when you change the color of your hair what are you doing? You are changing the appearance of what the world sees of you.

As I listened to the advertisement I couldn't help but think about how this shampoo does to hair what we try to do in the spiritual areas of our life. In essence, hair dye or gray reducing shampoo does nothing more than hide the real person behind a color that will eventually fade, revealing the real person once again. The color covers up who we really are. We are all guilty of "coloring" the spiritual side of our lives to show the world something different than who we really are. This is never as true as when some people speak with a pastor. As a pastor, you get used to people bringing up God once they find out what you do. It's usually the most obvious when it is someone who doesn't know you. The person who was swearing about someone in one breath and then (after finding out a pastor is there) starts praising God in the next. I strive really hard as a pastor to not allow myself to be differentiated from the rest of the church. Although it is impossible to completely do it, I work to show who I am apart from the calling God has placed on my life. But regardless of how hard I try at it, I still see people "coloring" their spiritual performance in front of me and, at times, other folks in the church. It would be much simpler and much less exhausting to simply show the real you, rather than hiding who you really are behind a mask.

Years ago the band Casting Crowns had a hit song that spoke to this very issue in the lives of Christians. The song was titled Stained Glass Masquerade. As you can imagine, the song was about the masks Christians wear to hide who they really are. The problem is the song was spot on to the actions of Christians for generations. What followers of Christ need to do is be authentic in who they are spiritually and not "color" the person they show to the world. Now I'm not saying you bare your soul to the world and put all your problems out there for the world to see. But you can show the world that you are a real person, with real problems, and in need of help from a very real God. This is what is missing in our world today. Christians living like people who don't have it all together and who really need God's help every day.

My encouragement to you today is to stop "coloring" who you are spiritually. Whether it is in front of your pastor, your friends at church, or someone else, show them who you really are. You'll find it is way less exhausting and far more rewarding to show the world the real you.


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Monday, February 20, 2017

Are You Well Trained?

A few months ago, I was working around our farm and opened a gate near the barn so I could drive into the pasture. I closed the gate behind me and went to work in the pasture. When I came out I opened the gate and drove out. I was in and out through that open gate a few more times and then needed to run an errand. You guessed it! I left the gate open and returned a few hours later to find the gate wide open. I first checked the barnyard for signs the cows had ventured out of the pasture (this means looking for cow pies in the barnyard). When I was convinced the cows were still in the pasture I closed the gate and finished my work. This time I dodged a close one thanks to some well-trained cows. Our cows are so used to this gate being closed that even when we have it open and they are near it, they don't even notice its open. Now if a tree falls across the fence, all bets are off. They will gradually migrate over the downed fence and explore new territories, including neighboring housing developments. Maybe those cows are not as well trained as I thought.

This experience came to mind this morning as I fed our cows and I opened this gate. As I was preparing for my day and remembering this open gate, I thought about how well trained you have to be in your spiritual life. Often times it is not the overly obvious temptations in life that get us into trouble. We usually do not have a problem avoiding the big open gates toward temptation. We are generally well trained enough to avoid the big glaring temptations to sin. We will avoid things we should not see or avoid places that would go against our faith. But like the cow that is grazing next to a downed fence, we find ourselves stepping over the less noticeable barriers to temptations. We find ourselves exploring areas that have been off limits to us, only to find out we should not have been there in the first place.

If my cows were really as well trained as I wish they were, then I would not have to worry about open gates or downed fences. If they were really that well-trained I would not need a fence at all! But just like livestock need a fence, we need barriers in our spiritual life to keep us in check. God's Word, the Bible, is full of plenty of fences that protect us from ourselves. When we learn to live within the boundaries of what is acceptable to God, we will not find ourselves limited and missing out on the "fun" stuff of this world. Exactly the opposite occurs, we find freedom. We find freedom from sin when we train ourselves to live inside of the barriers God gives us in His Word.

Today, ask yourself the question posed as the title of today's post, "Are you well trained?" Are you well trained spiritually or do you still wander through the open gates of temptation? If you find yourself struggling to live inside the boundaries God has given you in His Word, then make a fresh commitment today to do so. You'll find freedom like you have never experienced before and you'll find it inside the boundaries.


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Monday, February 13, 2017

Do the right thing.

This morning I was exercising in our garage when I noticed something out of place. I looked at a rack of screwdrivers hanging over my work bench and saw one of them was out of place. This screwdriver was not in its place and was leaning over on the other screwdrivers (see the picture to the right). I know for a fact that I didn't put this screwdriver back like that so it must have been one of my boys. One of them worked on his bike yesterday afternoon so I am guessing, in a hurry, he did not take the time to put the screwdriver up correctly.

The ironic thing about this is that Misty and I harp on our kids about doing things right the first time. The mantra that is repeated regularly around our house is "Do it right or do it again." We have tried to instill in our boys the necessity to do things right and to do them right the first time. Our harping this mantra at our kids is not so much about keeping them from redoing their work as it is about them doing the right thing every time. When we constantly do the right thing, we never have to question what we should do in a certain situation. There is no question about whether we break the rules this one time and not do the right thing, but instead we know we will do the right thing without even thinking about it. This is the lesson we are hoping our sons will take away from our years of "training" or harping, whichever you want to call it.


The real challenge is not always doing the right thing, but doing the right thing when it is the difficult thing to do. We will inevitably be faced with situations in this life that require us to do what is right, even though it is not easy or popular. When faced with those situations, the regular and constant practice of doing what is right will give you the confidence to stick to your guns. 

We live in a society that no longer has a fixed view of absolute truth. Because our society no longer sees truth as absolute, truth is left to be determined by the situation. It can be dictated by societal pressures. It can be determined by the prevailing cultural winds. According to the world truth, and essentially what is right, can change depending on what is popular on a given day. But God's Word tells us something else. God's Word tells us that if we are a follower of Christ, then our moral compass is dictated by Him and His Word. Not by the pressures of a situation. Not by what is popular in our culture. Not by what is easy, but by what is right according to our faith. By doing what is right we can expect to receive God's blessings. 1 Kings 11 is one of many places in the Bible that reinforces this idea. When God gave Jeroboam 10 tribes of Israel to rule, God promised blessings on Jeroboam's family line for doing what was right in the sight of the Lord. This is one of many examples where God promises to bless us for doing what is right. We can expect when we do what is right, regardless of the backlash from man, that we will receive blessings from God.

My encouragement to you today is to make it a daily, minute by minute, habit of doing what is right, regardless of the situation. When you do, you'll never have to question how to respond to a situation and you'll reap the blessings of God for doing what is right, not what is easy.


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Monday, February 6, 2017

Should you go Fifty Shades Darker?

With the second installment in The Fifty Shades Trilogy set to be released this week on February 10, it seemed like as good a time as any to republish this post. It was written in 2015 at the time the first installment, Fifty Shades of Grey, was released. The truths contained in the post doesn't change with time or with which installment is released. If nothing else, I hope this post will cause you to carefully consider whether you should see Fifty Shades Darker and what value any of these movies add to your spiritual life and marriage.

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Originally Posted: 2/9/2015

I want to preface what I am about to say with this little fact. I've not read the book 50 Shades of Grey and I have no plans to see the movie. So I have limited knowledge about the content of the book or what the movie will contain. That being said I've read enough about the book and movie to understand the gist of what the story entails. With that in mind, let's get started!

Misty and I were talking a few nights ago after seeing the trailer for 50 Shades of Grey on TV. She said she was going to see the movie and wanted to know what I thought. I told her I didn't think it was a movie she would want to see, but she needed to read reviews and then decide for herself if it was a movie she ought to see. I told her I could no more tell her not to see the movie than I could tell her to wash my clothes or cook my supper. But see my wife has a twisted sense of humor in the fact that she likes to make comments from time to time to see what kind of rise she can get out of me. You'd think after nearly 13 years of marriage I'd be able to spot these set ups but I can't. She's good at them. She made a comment that endeared her to me all the more after she didn't get quite the rise she expected from me. She basically said she didn't need to see that movie because she respected me as her husband and because of what I mean to her. To me that comment showed me that she wants to avoid one big gray area by skipping 50 Shades of Grey.

Now this post isn't about guilt tripping a person into not seeing 50 Shades of Grey. It's not about saying you don't respect your spouse if you do see it. What I want is for a person to read this post and consider whether they should see 50 Shades of Grey or similar movies. I will be honest with you I have watched movies and witnessed scenes that I had no business watching. Those images are scenes that cannot be unseen. Misty and I watched a movie a few weeks ago that surprised us with scenes that caught us off guard. Unfortunately Hollywood believes that what sells a movie is sex and foul language. It's almost unavoidable when you watch a movie nowadays. But what about movies that blatantly push a distorted view of sex, much less God's intentions for sex. When it comes to a movie like this you have to ask, "What is the reason for going to see 50 Shades of Grey?" Some will say because they read the book or because their friends are going to see it. Some will say they are taking their spouse to see it so its okay. In the end it's not about the justification we give for seeing the movie. It's about what viewing the movie does to us. 

Most will say they can compartmentalize the movie from their normal way of thinking but you really can't. What we take in affects our view of the world around us. In the end we are led towards a place of compromise when we watch a movie that blatantly distorts and perverts something that God created as good. We find ourselves in a gray area between upholding the purity of mind that God expects from us and the obvious acceptance of sin as being okay. The catch is that Satan doesn't have to get you to the dark side. He just needs to get you into the gray area. When he does this...you've already lost. 

So the real question to ask is what is the benefit of watching 50 Shades of Grey? How does it benefit you as a person (or even as a Christian)? How does it benefit your marriage? The truthful answer is it won't benefit anything. You as a believer will only have watched something that will tear at the holiness God intends for you to pursue. As for your marriage, it won't help anything there either. Just ask yourself honestly whether you should see the movie and I think the answer will be pretty clear. 

I'll close with this. I'm sure some read this wanting to hear me tell them why they can't go see this movie. I can no more tell you not to see this movie than I can tell you that you have to read this blog. In the end the decision is yours, not mine. I just want you to consider whether you should see it or not. If you expected to read a post full of Bible verses condemning 50 Shades of Grey and other movies with pornographic images in it then you've read the wrong post. Although I don't think anyone would necessarily need it but if you want some verses that will help you decide whether you should watch it or not, here are a few to consider.

Job 31:1 - It's up to us what we choose to look at.
1 Corinthians 10:23 - Just because it's available to watch doesn't mean it benefits us.
1 Peter 1:15-16 - We are to pursue holiness in all we do.
Psalm 51:10 - Do you desire the purity of heart that God desires for you?

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