IT’S A JOURNEY NOT A TICKET

10156042_10152624827084017_514421374148895425_n

I like to go on Journeys. I’m not gonna lie. This past summer my wife and I headed out on a sabbatical that took us from Richmond Kentucky to Bakersfield California over to the west coast and up to Portland Oregon, then across and up to Challis Idaho then home. In between some of the riding was a 9 day directed retreat. It was very powerful. We did this on a motorcycle: 7500 miles plus, in three and a half weeks. I like to journey.

10438922_10203591569823445_211885519110432427_n10426588_10152626938954017_7266089587408266412_n10570485_10152617397254017_5294339703856577538_n

I learned a lot about a lot on this trip. I have a sickness in that I am always looking for what God can teach me along the road of life. I learned about leadership as I followed my friend through San Francisco traffic. I learned about silence and vastness while crossing the Mojave Desert, I learned lessons about friendship, struggle, working things out, going with the flow and planning. It was a good trip. I also learned about journeying and my relationship to God.

Many people will dismiss this as semantics, but I get a little bit concerned with the Church in general as the focus of the Great commission has turned into making “commitments” or making “decisions for Christ.”

COME, FOLLOW ME

As Jesus made disciples it often began with his invitation, “Come and follow me.” He never really invites people to “make a decision” so to speak, but he invites them to begin a journey. Surely you have to make a decision to start a journey, but come on, it’s an invitation to begin a relationship with God who loves you. You take someone by the hand and you walk with them. That is the journey that God is inviting us on. We enter a relationship with him and his scripture, the Word, the Bible, and we walk instep with his Spirit. He said his Spirit would come and teach us all things and remind us of the things Jesus taught us.

I continue to meet people and interact with people that see Christianity as a “big ticket event.” You know, people who will say to me, “I got saved when I was 7 so I’m good,” and yet they wouldn’t even go to church, or they have lived grossly immoral lives. I think the church is unwittingly sending out an understanding that being a Christian is like buying a ticket to something, or getting a ticket to stay out of hell.

LET ME ASK YOU

If you could get a ticket to any event you wanted, (don’t be all spiritual) what would it be? I have this long-standing desire to go to a New England Patriots home game. Seriously, If I could get a deal to go to Foxboro Stadium and watch the game in the stadium, I would think that was the living end. I wouldn’t want to sit with the pigeons, it would need to be fairly decent seats. I would also want the special parking pass and all that stuff. That would be a ticket I would try to buy. I would like a big ticket to that event. Then I would show up at the stadium, show them my pass and drive to the special area and park. Then go up to my seat. (not even box seats, I don’t need that, but I would sit with the Kraft family if they wanted me to.) In my head I see that happening one day. On my bucket list it goes. But really that is a Big Ticket Event I would love to attend. What is yours?

Gillette_Stadium02

TICKET MENTALITY

I used to see being a Christian as a Big Ticket event. You go to church, the preacher preaches about hell and eternity and puts the fear of God in everyone. Those that haven’t responded go forward and get their ticket out of hell. Then they go back to life. Life may be different for a while but soon many of them fall away, are back to living a horrible life. I know that sounds judgmental, but I have been a pastor for 22 years now. It’s true. Without the understanding that they should be learning the specific teachings of Jesus and conforming their lives to Jesus, nothing changes. They will go back to the lives they lived before. At best they will stay in church and bend the teachings of Jesus to fit the understanding they want to come out of the Bible. They will create a God from their desires, human reasoning’s and hypothetical situations. They will in fact create a God to worship and paint him with a culturally acceptable white wash and call it “the real truth.”

I believe that being a Christian has to be about more than going to church, more than having gone forward. It has to be more than being splashed around in a fountain, a creek, or a baptismal. (we use a horse trough) As I sign baptism certificates I am aware that this baptism represents a beginning not an end. When we are baptized we haven’t arrived, we have begun. We have begun a journey with Jesus and we want people to know about this repentance and turn around that has taken place in our lives. We surrender to Jesus and begin a journey with him. Very much like a wedding is not the marriage. The wedding ceremony is not the end it is the beginning. The offer from the groom is not to a wedding it is to a marriage. The wedding is the official beginning of the new couple.

 SURRENDER

Surrender means you give up. It means you are not in charge. To surrender to God means you are going to do things his way now. It means he comes first. It needs to mean that we as followers of him, will change our lives and our lifestyles to fit his teachings. If we don’t, we are only lying to ourselves. One of the craziest statements in the Bible comes from Jonah as he is answering for the storm that is threatening to kill everyone on the boat. They asked him who he was,

He answered, “I am a Hebrew and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.””

How on earth can you say you worship the very God you are running from? How can I say I am a follower of Jesus if I am not willing to do what Jesus says? Think about it for a second, it isn’t possible to say I am a follower of Jesus if I won’t follow right?

Put down your big ticket for a moment and ask yourself if you would like to go on a journey with God: with the father who made you. It means surrender. It means he picks the destination, the route and the provisions. That’s scary isn’t it? It mean letting go. How much of your life and understanding are you still trying to hang on to? I want to encourage you today to sit down and write down what it is that you are holding on to. Maybe it’s the route. Maybe for you it’s the mode. It is possible it is the provisions. God is trying to lead you in this glorious relationship that is a journey, put down your agenda and wait on him, meaning do it his way.

come-follow-me

Controllers and Batteries

We have these controllers in our house all over the place. You might refer to them as “The Remote”, to us they are lovingly referred to as, “The Flippy Dippy”, as in, “Hey honey, where’s the flippy dippy, I need to watch the news?” We have a flippy Remote_Controlsdippy, for the tv’s, the DVD player, the Blue Ray player, I have one for my laptop, the garage door and even for the auto start for my truck. Who’d a thunk it? Our lives are run and controlled by these flippy dippies. And heaven help you if you lose the flippy dippy, as Sheldon Cooper might say, “You are now up the proverbial slow-moving aquifer in a buoyant craft and no shaped wooden means of propulsion.” You will also notice in turn, the flippy dippy is controlled by these batteries that come in all shapes and sizes. I am totally bewildered, that the makers who make things that make our lives easier can’t all get together and make things more streamlined, more standardized. You know, like only one kind of battery. (I actually know it isn’t possible but this is my blog and my dream. These are my monkeys get your own circus.) As a result of all the flippy dippies and all the different requirements, I have to keep a stash of all kinds of batteries. 9 volt square keep the smoke detectors working, AA little skinny ones keep most of the flippy dippies working, AAA if I want to play games with my imaginary friends, as my wife calls them. And then, I even own a thing or two that takes two flat discs of a battery, and I don’t even know what to call them.

As I stare at the battery that controls the flippy dippy, I see there is a positive end and a negative end. I know, electrically speaking, it takes both ends to make it work, but it got me to thinking TWO thoughts.

     FIRST, we all have controllers in our lives and we have to pick and choose which one we will “use”. The more controllers we have the crazier life is, the fewer controllers we have the better life is. Did you know that you can go to the store and get a universal remote and it can control a lot of stuff in your house? It really would be great if we had only ONE controller. (are you listening to me you People Who Make Things?) Stop for a second and think it through; if you only had one controller in your life would it not be much simpler? Thinking beyond your material possessions, how many potential controllers do you have in your life? I would list things like church, marriage, jobs, culture, circumstances, other people … You get it right?

Growing up I was so afraid of people that my desire to hide from them was a controller. Then as I began to grow out of my shell, my desire to be liked began to control me.

Sin became a controller

Religion become a controller

Then shame became a controller

Success became a controller

The need for Attention can be a controller

All of these things can direct your path. They can keep you from being able to do anything, or accomplishing anything. Sooner or later you need to strip it down to one universal controller. Just one. (just go with the metaphor) You need to decide what you will let be the real controller in your life. While I struggle against my own flesh, I have decided that the ONE controller in my life controllerwill be God and my desire to hear him one day say, “Well done my good and faithful servant.” I really don’t care much what other people think. Not arrogantly, just matter of fact. God is my Father and my biggest fan.

So, how many controllers do you have? Think about that for a while, let it simmer and process it out in your own life. With all due respect, who or what is your controller? (if you need a hint, look at your checkbook or spending register, that’s a good clue)

Decide today that it doesn’t matter what others think, that God and his word can be your only controller. You were uniquely created by a Father that loves you desperately even when you feel alone, and in the dark, and scared. He is still calling your name softly. Whispering loving encouraging words. Listen to him.

Galatians 6:4-5 (NIV)

Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load.

The SECOND thought, as if this wasn’t already long enough for a blog is, are you being controlled by the negative end of your battery or the positive end?

In the controller of your life is it the positive end you live from or the negative end?

This world is tough enough without the Naysayers and the negativity sellers trying to provide the power to your controller. Even in the church. As a pastor you kind of get to know who they are. When you are having a meeting they are the first people to say, “We can’t do that!” Nothing has been checked, nothing has been researched and yet they start the conversation with, “That can’t be done!” I was at a conference at Fellowship Church in Arlington, Texas one year, Ed Young was speaking and he
was talking about wanting to do a series on loneliness. His sanctuary seats 3-4,000 I think and he wanted to bring a 747 Jetliner into the sanctuary. So he posed a question to his Creative Team: “How can we get a 747 in the Sanctuary?” Immediately someone said, “You can’t do that, it isn’t big enough.” I believe he told us that this person no longer works for Fellowship Church. Negative people are always telling you what cannot be done and why you won’t succeed, and how it isn’t going to work. They don’t often make a positive suggestion as a result of being creative. Positive people are looking for a way to make it work even if it isn’t in the original form. (Ed Young and Fellowship Church succeeded with Video and atmosphere where they couldn’t with an actual jet.)
What do you do with the negative people in your life? Sooner or later you have to decide if they are going to control you. Are they your controller? If So, you have to walk away, even if they are family. Negative can quickly become TOXIC and that is an altogether different blog.

Growing up there were two incidences in my life that “controlled me” and the path of my life. (Apart from Jesus making good out of the bad in my life I mean) They were small, very negative, and inconsequential from the outside. They were bigger than Goliath on the inside, and I ran from them instead of challenging them. The first was my desire to be a Veterinarian. I love animals, science, biology specifically and I think I would have been a great Vet. Really. But I was told I wasn’t from the right family. I was told that the governor or something would have to sign off on me and we weren’t from that “class” of people. To this day I can remember where I was and how that hit me. It was straight up negative, negativity with NO positive challenge to take on the world or overcome. Right there and then I grieved that loss and moved on. Fast-forward three or four years and I was sitting in the living room trying to teach myself the guitar. Someone who should have been my biggest supporter walked through the room and all they said was, “You want to know what your problem is, you don’t have any rhythm.” I sold the guitar the next day to a guy at work. That was the negative end of the battery right there. I was 17 and had no dreams of being a rock and roll star, just wanted to learn something creative. 20 some years later I was inspired by an up and coming guitar player to recapture that dream and I did. I’m no Carlos Santana, but Jesus and I have a good time.

neon-yes1Paul told the church in 2 Corinthians 1:19-21 (NIV)

19 For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us—by me and Silas and Timothy—was not “Yes” and “No,” but in him it has always been “Yes.” 20 For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God. 21 Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ.

And again Jesus said in Luke 17:20

“But while [the prodigal son] was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

God is your biggest fan, listen to him encourage you as he says, “Yes.”

I HAVE TWO DOGS BUT ONLY ONE GOD

I HAVE TWO DOGS BUT ONLY ONE GOD

Anyone that knows me has to know I have two dogs. I love my dogs, they are amazing creatures and loyal friends. They are funny and fun, crazy and at times they can be very frustrating, but they are always there for me.

Birthday love 3

AVA and BOOMER

My female Rottweiler’s name is Ava and my male is named Boomer. They both came from a wonderful kennel out in California. Not litter mates but kennel mates two years apart. Bred for disposition, beautifully encompassing the AKC standard of a “Rottie,” they are an incredibly misunderstood breed. They are great family members and very friendly dogs. Ava has attained her Canine God Citizen Certificate and Therapy Dog would be next, she also pulls a cart for exercise and fun. My grandchildren love to ride in the cart up and down the street. Boomer, the big goober, is one good left turn from completing all the requirements for the “CGC” certificate. He is young and that’s another topic we can learn about, but later.

Ava Carting

I can learn a lot about God from my dogs.

Through the years I have learned a lot about God through my relationship to dogs. Like the time I was trying to process hearing the voice of God. Like a puppy, we run to our master and we are excited to be near him in worship, prayer time, but we don’t really have a clue what he is saying or what he means. Then over the years of being in his presence, we come to an understanding: his voice, his unction, and his gesture. You can talk to a grown dog of yours and based upon your gestures he will respond. Based upon your voice inflections the dog will or won’t respond. Based upon volume your dog will or won’t respond. Our relationship to God is like that. The more we get to know him, the more the little nuances of his person communicate his intention to us. The easier it is to understand the voice we have been seeking. As a puppy, not so much.

When I am trying to understand obedience.

IMG_2086

Ava likes to chase a red rubber ring, Boomer on the other hand only chases Ava. Boomer will chase a green tennis ball, but Ava will only chase Boomer after he gets to it. Eventually they both will bring me their individual toy with the other in tow. The nonsense starts when they go racing to the bottom of the hill full tilt and then smell a rabbit, or have to pee or what ever and then they forget where the toy went. They are dogs, I throw the ball, and they fetch it, that’s how it works. It all falls apart when they don’t listen. When they won’t bring me the ball or the ring. I do that to God sometimes too. He sends me to do something and I get distracted by the world, fame, importance, and material possessions, really I am as susceptible as anyone else to the things of this world. I get distracted and forget what he sent me to do or fail to remember where I put God’s ball. Then one time Boomer went after the ball, got half way back and remembered he had to pee again. So he dropped the ball, which rolled down hill and he promptly peed on the ball. Well I can assure you he wasn’t going to do his job with a soiled ball in his mouth. How many times have I peed on God’s ball and then complained to God?

If they aren’t going to be obedient then the party is over

Dogs are pack animals and they need to be family members. They understand the concept of hierarchy but they will fight for position. They can learn quickly where they fit and what their role is, but if they aren’t going to engage, then the party is over. They will thrive when they are encouraged and praised and feel a deep sense of accomplishment. The very first time I put Ava in a harness and hooked her up to the cart it terrified her. That thing behind her was rattling and bouncing and following real close. But once she realized that I put it there and it was a good thing she pulled it famously. When we were all done ( 20 minutes worth) I praised her lavishly and she was beaming. She did it. She was so proud! That obedience, even when I don’t understand the new thing God is doing, that’s the party! Disobedience means the party is over. We need to understand that with God obedience is not an option. He expects us to bring back the ball. He expects us to pull the cart. He expects us to do our part and when we do, life is in rhythm.

WHAT ABOUT YOU?

God is the master; he isn’t yielding his throne to anyone else. God and God alone. So, what is it that God is asking of you? Did you drop the rubber ring? Did the world distract you? Did you pee on God’s ball? You are not too old, too young, too short, too tall, too male, too female, to be in the game with God. I want to encourage you to reengage.