Apr 16 2014

You’re Never Going to Believe What the Jew Said to the Catholic

What did the Jew say to the Catholic?

A Jewish Rabbi and a Catholic Priest met at a town’s annual 4th of July picnic. Old friends, they began their usual banter.

“This baked ham is really delicious,” the priest teased the rabbi. “You really ought to try it. I know it’s against your religion, but I can’t understand why such a wonderful food should be forbidden! You don’t know what you’re missing. You just haven’t lived until you’ve tried Mrs. Hall’s prized Virginia Baked Ham. Tell me, Rabbi, when are you going to break down and try it?”

The rabbi looked at the priest with a big grin, and said, “At your wedding.”

I don’t know about you, but I love to tease the people I love. I love to see them smile. I love being silly with them and making them laugh.

Three years in a row, I played the same April Fool’s Day joke on my wife. I’d rubber band the sink’s spray hose to the “ON” position, and point it toward the center of the sink so that when Abby turned the water on in the morning to make coffee, she’d get sprayed instead! It was so fun, because she fell for it three years in a row! And then she’d always give me a great, big, wet hug as a thank you.

This year, my wife got me with this very same trick the day before April Fool’s Day, when I was least expecting it. I deserved it.

But sometimes teasing needs to be restrained. Sometimes I can get passive aggressive, and instead of playful teasing, I’m pushing my wife’s buttons. The same intimate knowledge of your spouse that allows you to enjoy lighthearted moments together can also be used to annoy them or make them angry. And we rationalize such things when the other person started the argument or isn’t being fair.

The second greatest commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself. And I’m sure that also includes loving your family members as yourself. God gives us friends and family to share life with them, and to love them, and to be loved by them. God doesn’t place them in our lives so that we can abuse them, annoy them, or ridicule them.

After all, God knows us better than we know ourselves. God could really make us miserable if He wanted! But instead, God shows us His grace over and over again. And let’s not forget that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Harmless jokes that are taken as such are one thing, but as people created in the image of God, let’s make sure we’re showing love to the people around us in the way that we treat them, even if “they started it.”

Apr 10 2014

Be Awesomely Creative for Jesus

Oreo Shooter

I love this. This guy made a gun that shoots Oreo cookies. How cool is that?

He made a video that demonstrates how to load it, shoot it, and how effective it is. Check it out, it’s crazy amounts of awesome.

So I hate to use this as an example of what not to do.

I mean, being creative is a good thing! God is creative. God created the heavens, and the earth, and everything. So being creative actually reflects the nature of God. That’s what we’re supposed to do!

But what’s the purpose of this awesomely creative Oreo shooter? I can’t think of one. In fact, it even destroys perfectly good Oreo cookies! That’s got to be a sin, right?

Our creativity needs to serve a purpose. It needs to glorify God. It needs to point to God as our great Creator and Savior and Lord. And yet, so much of the time, we spend our creative juices on things that don’t matter. We do things to entertain ourselves that have no positive lasting effects. Our time is more precious than that!

Maybe I’m being a bit too critical. Perhaps the very fact that such a device was created reminds me of my Creator, and thus causes me to praise Him. Often this is the case with things like art and music.

But I also think we need to be intentional about not wasting the time and abilities God has given us on trivial things.

Sorry, Oreo Shooter Guy. If it’s any consolation, I still think what you made is awesome.

Apr 8 2014

Obedience in Worship = Unrestrained Worship


My wife often puts together playlists on YouTube for our kids to watch, which include some educational videos, some worship videos, and sometimes videos to give them a little exercise. One exercise video that was in there instructed our kids to do certain things like, “reach down to the ground, and touch your toes” and “put your hands in the air,” and I noticed how well my 6 year old son was doing at following the instructions in the video. He obeyed the voice in the video perfectly!

And it got me thinking, you know, sometimes on Sunday morning Cory is all over the place while we’re singing with the church. He’s climbing under pews, or he’s getting up in his little sister’s face, or he’s sneaking up behind grandma so he can yell, “boo!”

But this video got me thinking, “What if I recorded myself giving him similar instructions and had him listen to it with earphones while we’re all singing?” I think he’d do really well with it! I can just see him following commands in his ear such as “stand on your feet, and stand real straight,” and “raise up your hands and shout Amen!” We’d all think he got the Spirit, right? Completely unrestrained in worship! But he’d really just be focusing on my voice in his ear and being obedient to it.

And it got me thinking, “Man, sometimes I need that for myself.” Sometimes I’m all over the place on Sunday morning. I’m thinking about my sermon, or I’m wondering how I should announce a certain event coming up, but what God wants is for me to be focused on His voice and fully obedient to Him in worship! And the cool thing about this is that obedience to God in worship IS completely unrestrained worship! It’s when we don’t care about what anyone else is doing or isn’t doing, and we’re so focused on God and thankful for who God is and what He’s done and is doing in our lives that we overflow with praise!

This doesn’t equate to a certain posture. You can raise your hands or you can not raise your hands. You can stand or you can kneel. You can shout or keep your mouth shut. Those can all be expressions of worship. God doesn’t look at the outward appearance. God looks at the heart. When you worship, you should be so enamored by God that you cry out in your heart, “How can I keep from singing Your praise?”

And sometimes that comes out through physical expressions, and sometimes that simply causes you to be in awe of God in a quiet moment.

Feb 15 2014

How Much Blood is Enough?

The Blood of JesusAs I was filling the tiny individual cups we use for the Lord’s Supper with grape juice not long ago, I began to think about the meaning behind the symbol: the blood of Jesus, spilled for us for the forgiveness of our sins.

I’m a bit of a perfectionist, so as I was filling the tiny cups, I tried to fill each cup with approximately the same amount of grape juice. I remembered how when I was a teenager, I would always try to get the cup that had the most juice in it. Like drinking an extra milliliter of juice would make me more holy or something. I wondered how many other people did the same.

Of course, it doesn’t matter how much juice we drink when we observe the Lord’s Supper. What matters is that we trust in the blood that this juice symbolizes.

But just as I always tried to get the most juice, sometimes I feel like I need more of Jesus’s blood. I feel like I’ve messed up more than the average guy. More than the average pastor. So certainly more of Jesus’s blood was spilled for me on the cross than for the average person sitting in the pews.

But that’s not how it works. Jesus didn’t spill one drop of blood for one sinner and two drops for a slightly worse sinner. He spilled it all for each of us. Because our sin, no matter how much or how little, no matter how big or how small, is what separates us from the holy and perfect God. We deserve death and separation from God.

But in His love, God did not want us to die and be separate from Him. So He sent a substitute to die in our place: Jesus Christ. He died for us, and we receive the gift of salvation by grace through faith in Him.

That’s so much more important than an extra milliliter of grace juice.

Feb 14 2014

Leadership is Tough.

Maybe it’s just because I’m not that great at being a leader, but in my opinion, leadership is tough. It doesn’t come naturally for me. I have to work at it. It takes planning, and organization, and patience, and a whole lot of thought. And even when I do all of these things, I still make a lot of mistakes.

It’s a miracle that anyone is still following me at all.

But I have to remind myself that it’s not about me. Because as soon as I think anyone is following me because of how great of a leader I am, I’m leading people in the wrong direction.

God appointed me as a pastor not so that I can gain a following for myself, but so that I would point to Him as the one we should all follow. God alone is good, and perfect, and gracious, and HE is the one worthy of all our attention and devotion. It’s not my job to come up with creative ideas or programs that will bring people to the church; it’s my job to point people to Scripture, and encourage them to follow the Lord Jesus Christ.

It certainly takes some leadership abilities to do that. And I’m definitely going to be held accountable to God for the flock that He’s entrusted me with. But I also trust in the One who will be working in me and through me and through the church so that He will be glorified in all of us.