I Should Have Known That

Recently I, an outspoken preacher, was asked a theological question and went blank.  I was involved in a friendly debate and was asking some insightful questions.  When they responded with an equally good question, I could not think of a response.  The verses slipped my mind, and I was speechless. 

I tell you this story to remind you that you will never have all the correct answers. Even preachers don’t know what to say sometimes.  No one knows everything and can remember it all on command.  Do not expect that of yourself either.

Many Christians do not like to talk about their faith because they fear not having the correct answer.  The truth is, there will be a conversation that you will not know or remember how to respond.  It is simply part of life, even for believers. 

Since our dialogue, I bought a book, read it, made notes, and committed things to memory.  An answer was out there, and I found someone who could articulate it, and I learned from them.  My primary response was to find a solution and be prepared for the next conversation.  Maybe it will be with the same person, or possibly someone else. 

Moments where we don’t know how to respond can be embarrassing, or they could be the situations that propel us forward.  I now know more than I did and have learned this topic thoroughly.  I am all set until the next time a person asks me something I do not know.  Then I will repeat the process of learning.  Every interaction like this could end with a bit of embarrassment, but it could also be just what we need to grow. 

Your Version of the Story

Everyone has a unique perspective. 

We see life through our own eyes.  No one else has our vantage point. 

This is why the Bible says that every judicial decision should be established on two or three witnesses.  It is a practice that still exists today.  To completely understand a story, there must be multiple people sharing was they saw from their perspective. 

The gospel story is the same way.  We have Matthew’s view as a tax collector turned follower of Jesus.  Mark writes down the stories of Peter.  The gospel according to Luke, is the collection of multiple sources who spent time with Jesus.  The final gospel of John is the most unique. 

John was written years later, and he wanted to write something different than the accounts already being shared.  Much of his gospel is built on the final week of Jesus’ life.  Within his story, he shares something that reveals his unique perspective.  He doesn’t call himself by name; instead, he refers to himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” Jesus was the same, and his work had not changed, but John’s view was through the eyes of a man who had a special relationship with Jesus. 

Upon rereading the words of John, I was gripped by the thought, “What is my version of the story of Jesus?” Am I the sinner whom Jesus saved?  Maybe I could be called the rebellious child whose father welcomed him home?  Perhaps I am better seen as the preacher who was saved by the grace he preaches?  I am not sure what label best describes me.  God is doing a work in me, and no one understands his efforts the same way that I do. 

The same is true for you.  Your relationship with Jesus is unique, and the Church needs to hear your version of the story.  It can be told in large groups, small gatherings, or in one-on-one situations.  It doesn’t matter where you share it, as long as you are sharing it somewhere.  The work of Jesus is being revealed in you, and you have a one-of-a-kind story to tell. 

Their Opinion Doesn’t Count

A random person’s opinion of me doesn’t matter to me.  It should not matter to you either.

After all, they do not know us.  They do not know our family of origin and the battles it took to get this far.  They do not know how much we have learned from our mistakes.  Our experiences, success and failures, lessons, and insights are foreign to them.  They certainly do not know me well, and I doubt they know you. 

Yet, we live in a world that increasingly cares about what random people think about us.  We allow them to comment on our social media posts with ideas that have no context.  Their comments haunt our minds as their negative statements somehow seem more believable. 

They certainly want us to know their thoughts, and they cannot just scroll past and leave their ideas unsaid.  They talk to people and share stories built on half-truths to convince others that they should hold the same view of us.  Their words hurt, even when I don’t know them. 

I want you to know today, while I remind myself, that some people’s opinions of us do not count.  They should be ignored entirely and forgotten if they are accidentally heard or read.  Not everyone has the right to speak into our lives, and their opinions are a burden we do not need to carry with us.  Let it go, and let’s move forward with the people who love us and want the best for us.  Critics abound, so consider the opinions of only a sacred few. 

It’s Not About You

Our primary concern in the world is ourselves.  Even Jesus affirms this when he says that we are to love others “as we love ourselves.”

The result is that we like to meet our needs, serve our self-interests, and talk about ourselves. We are at the center of our concern, and it bubbles into every relationship. 

Unfortunately, that is the path to loneliness, isolation, and despair. The more we are focused on ourselves, the fewer people want to be around us.  All of us know that one person who fills us with dread when they contact us because it will be all about them.  We know they will suck the life out of us primarily because they are so self-centered. 

Faith in Jesus is an “other’s focused” religion.  We love God, AND we love others as we love ourselves.  Christians elevate the people around them above themselves in every way. 

If I spent one day with you, what would I see and hear?  Do all your conversations focus on you and your needs?  Would I see a person who asks other people about their lives?   Do you elevate people with your deeds and actions?  Are you always the one who goes first and gets the best?   When you do a good deed, do you make sure other people notice your participation?  

One of the most brutal battles faith wages in your life is with self-centeredness.  How would your life be different if you said to yourself in every encounter, “Remind me, Jesus, that it is not all about me.”

Not Just Another Day to Me

Today is May 5.  Some people call it Cinco De Mayo and will celebrate Mexico’s victory over France.  For me, this day will always remain my dad’s birthday.   Today he would have been 86 years old.  Instead, time has no bearing on him as he lives in the presence of God.

For me, this is not just another day. 

This is a day I am sad that I no longer have my father in my life. But it is more than that too.

This is the day I am thankful for the father God gave me.  A man who loved Jesus and his family.

This is the day I remember our many adventures together in the outdoors. 

This is the day I am thankful for the friendship I had with my father that many people never get to experience. 

This is the day I am thankful that my children had a grandfather who loved them, and I will cherish every memory of my boys and him together.

This is the day I am thankful that I still have my mom.  I treasure every day I get to spend with her. 

This is the day I am thankful for my wife, who has stood beside me through dad’s strokes and his funeral.  She loved me through the down times and remains by my side. 

This is the day I am thankful for the hope I have in Jesus Christ.  He conquered death and provided eternal life for all those who follow him. 

This is a day where I have a choice.  I can be full of anger or grief or a whole host of emotions. Today I choose to be overwhelmingly thankful for the time I had with dad.  To you, it might seem like just another day on the calendar.  To me, it is a day to look back, remember, and am filled with thanksgiving to God. 

I Can’t Explain God

God is beyond the realm of the natural.  He works in ways that are beyond explanation. 

Sometimes that means he shows up with a loud voice, a burning bush, and fire from heaven as he did in the Old Testament.  Other times he works miracles that defy natural laws as he did in the New Testament.   

There are also times when God’s works are not miraculous or impressive in the way it was during Biblical times.  Yet, it remains beyond explanation. 

In my own life and ministry, I have seen this happen repeatedly.  Like the time the money arrived from an unexpected source at the perfect moment for paying bills.  There was the person who had not been to worship in months and showed up the day I spoke on their specific struggle.  I could repeat story after story of things that happened that were totally unexpected. 

Now, I could try to sit down with a piece of paper and show you where I was on my journey, the struggle I encountered, and how something happened that made everything work out well.  Even when I do that, people look at me and say, “You are so lucky.” Honestly, I don’t think luck has anything to do with it because I believe it was the power of God. 

We often minimize the work of God simply because it does not fit our preconceived mold.  We think he should work with bright lights, loud noises, and fire.  Perhaps his work is better described as those moments you cannot explain.  When things come together in a way that you cannot fully put into words, maybe that is where God is working in your life.

What I Said …

Was not what they heard. 

Communication is exceptionally complex.  This is true in all its forms.  Conversations can be misconstrued.  Emails and texts can miss the tone and nature of the words being given.  There is an unlimited number of ways to mishear someone. 

We catch only parts of conversations.  We read into things that were said.  We misinterpret tones.  We fill the gaps in stories with our imagination. That is not to mention all the things that distract us while trying to listen. 

One good rule for every encounter is to overcommunicate.  Tell other people and then tell them again. Explain, reiterate, discuss, dialogue, and repeat what you are doing, why you are doing it and what you hope to accomplish.  You may feel like you have said it all before, but that does not mean they heard it.