Friday, February 27, 2009

Lessons From A Six-Year-Old Knight

Last week we took our two boys to the park. They both love the park and like any other kid, they ran, climbed, and slid. About 30 minutes into our visit my 6 year old grabs a stick, and for the next 20 minutes or so, he's in a world of his own. Apparently, he had been swept away to a place in need of a knight. I'm not sure if it was a galaxy far, far away where Jedi knights attempt to curtail evil or back in time when medieval knights fought dragons and rescued princesses. Wherever he was, one thing is for certain, the bad guys didn't stand a chance. His technique made it obvious to everyone around him, he was no novice. Utilizing spin moves, and quick lunges, with both left hand and right hand assaults, the pole, er... um... I mean the enemy would receive no mercy from him this day.

Isn't it funny how young ones can so quickly escape to another world? Whether it's pretending they are a knight, a basketball player hitting a last second buzzer beater, or pirate in search of a buried treasure. Or, maybe a little girl pretending to be a beautiful princess, or a famous singer complete with hair brush microphone, or pretending to be a mother taking care of her little dolls, dressing them, feeding them, and rocking them to sleep. Truth is, most little ones have very little difficult forgetting about this world for a few moments.

Maybe, its creativity? I don't know. I kind of like to believe that its a bit more than that. Perhaps, it's a part of our DNA. Part of how we are wired. After all, the world we live in, is not the only world we live in. Ok, that statement doesn't make a lot of sense, but let me clarify. Believe it or not, parallel to the world we live in, is a world we can't see. Or should I say, can't see with the natural eye. Yet, it's a world that we are a part of. Actually, we are more a part of this "unseen" world, than we are of this "seen" world. Scripture tells us that we are nothing more than pilgrims, or travelers through this "seen" world, but we are citizens of another place.

Ok, I know that sounds like some sci-fi flick, but believe it or not, it's true. The kingdom of God is a real place, a real kingdom. Although our natural eye can't see it, we can still "see" it. At least those who are born again can see it. How can you see something that you can't see with your natural eye? Remember algebra? At first those concepts were hard to get, hard to understand. But, then one day, finally that light went off and you got it. You could "see" it as clear as day. Ok, so maybe you never got the algebra thing, but hopefully you can follow that line of thinking.

To those who are born again, Jesus tells us that we can see the kingdom of God. We can understand it, and comprehend it. Though, oblivious to our natural eye, we can begin to see it clearly. As a result, our lives take on, or should take on, a shift from doing life the way we've always done life. We begin to do life with the knowledge and understanding that although we are in this "seen" world we are not of it. Our citizenship belongs to an eternal kingdom and the 70, 80, 90 years here is nothing more than a vapor. We learn to walk through this life not becoming too attached to the things in it, too overwhelmed by the problems in it, or too worried about the uncertainty of it.

To those who can't see the kingdom of God, it's nothing but foolishness to them. They don't understand it. They struggle with the concepts, principles, and character that lay at the foundation of this kingdom. While we live there, because they can't see it, they view us much like those watching my son fighting evil in another world. To them it's foolishness.

Next time you see your little one's pretending to be of another world, remember it's not foolishness. I would go so far as to say, it's simply training for that day, when they can "see" that other world that they are so much a part of.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Reflecting His Image

I caught my reflection in the mirror the other day. One of those full length, can't hide anything, kind of mirrors. You know the kind that makes you do a double take, because you are convinced there is no way you are that big. Problem is, mirrors don't lie. What you see, is an accurate representation of the real thing. I would love to say that the gray hair and excess weight I saw in the mirror was a result of bad lighting, but let's face it, the mirror was telling the truth. It was a reflection of my actual image.

It's moment's like these that I wish mirrors could do what Photo-Shop can do to pictures. Take a few pounds off, remove the blemishes, and make you look years younger. But, then again the result wouldn't change the real thing would it? The reality is when we gaze into a mirror, the image that we see looking back at us, is really us. So, whether we have a firm 6-pack or if we have 6-gallon abs, we can rest assured the mirror will reflect the truth.

Like a mirror, we too are to accurately reflect an image. That image is of our Heavenly Father. As a believer, our lives should be a reflection of God to the world. Trouble is, sometimes we are like those mirrors in those crazy houses you see at carnivals. You know the kind that offers up a warped view of the original image. As a believer, the world sees in us a reflection of who God is, and if we aren't careful, we will reflect an image of Him that is in no way an accurate representation of Him. No, I'm not saying we are going to be perfect at this, but too often we aren't even close.

Let me give you an example. One day, Jesus and the disciples where traveling through Samaria. Samaritans and Jews, didn't exactly get along and the Samaritans were anything but accommodating. They did not welcome Jesus and the disciples. James and John had the answer to the problem. They approached Jesus and asked them if He wanted them to call down fire from heaven and kill all the Samaritans. I can picture Jesus, stopping and looking at them like they had just said something absolutely unacceptable. He goes on the rebuke them by telling them that they have no idea what spirit they are of. Or, in other words, they have no idea whose image they are reflecting. Ouch! Remember, when Jesus looks straight at Peter and said, "Get behind me, Satan!" Same thing. In both instances, these guys were not allowing their lives to be an accurate reflection of God.

Jesus, on the other hand, was able to perfectly present to the world, an accurate reflection of our Heavenly Father. Jesus said that He only did what He saw the Father do. He told His disciples time and time again, if they wanted to know what the Father was like, all they had to do was watch Him. Jesus spoke like the Father, acted like the Father, and lived like the Father. His life served as a mirror image of God, so that the world could better know what God was like.

It's been said that the greatest cause of atheism today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their mouths but deny Him with their lifestyle. Let's face it, as believers, we've driven more people away from the kingdom of God than any other entity in this world. The world is looking at us, and it is vitally important that we learn how to be a reflection of God's image.

Are you like James and John and reflecting a perverted view of who God is, or are you like Jesus and reflecting accurately the image of God? We are often good at reflecting judgment but often fall short on reflecting grace and mercy. It is true that God is a God of judgement and justice, but He is also a God who is full of mercy and grace. He is love, He is full of love, and loves each of us unconditionally. Trust me when I say, the world will never listen to what we have to say until they see in us, a reflection of God's goodness. Our lifestyle will always serve as a much powerful testimony than empty religious jargon.

Choose today to reflect the character and nature of God to the world around you. Choose to become better acquainted with Him, so that when the world sees you, they will better understand who God is. We are His mirrors to the world. Let's learn to reflect Him well.

Friday, February 6, 2009

In God We Trust

In God We Trust! Really? No, I'm not referring to our country here, I'm just talking about us. Me and you. You and I. Do we really trust in Him? Is our confidence in Him? All around us, things are a bit unstable. Hardly a day goes by without some major corporation laying off large numbers of employees. The markets are crazy, banks are in trouble, foreclosure is common place, and what in the world is the deal with gasoline prices? If you dare to watch the evening news, you'll more than likely go to bed praying Jesus, come quickly.

The real problem with our economy is that we've learned to trust in other things. Things like debt, Wall Street, banks, unions, capitalism, and the hard working American worker. And of course, when those things become shaky there's always our leaders in Washington to lead us out of financial destruction and into the paths of good ole American prosperity.

Well, here we find ourselves as a nation in debt, Wall Street going crazy, and banks without cash. We have unions who could face the impossible task of protecting workers when a complete industry could go belly-up. Capitalism as we know it is being tainted with the ideologies of socialism, and the hard working American worker is finding it increasingly difficult to find a place to be a hard worker. As for our leaders in Washington? They have no answers. No real solutions. They are about to throw nearly a trillion dollars out there hoping that maybe it'll do something.

Before you start to think that I'm down on America, and its leadership, let me assure you I am not. I love this country and respect and pray for it's leadership. Sure, there are those in Washington, I disagree with and long for the day when their tenure is up, yet while they are there, they have my respect as one of our nation's leaders. The truth is, that through the years I have just learned that everything in this world that I put my confidence in, will somehow disappoint. That's not being negative or pessimistic, it's called living in reality.

When we choose to place our confidence in anything other than our Creator, we have placed our confidence in something that has the ability to crumble. In times like this it is important for all of us to assess what our trust is in. Is it in your job, your education, your bank account, your investment portfolio, your government, our economy, American Express, or some other unstable thing?

Scripture tells us of a story of two men who were building houses. One chose to build his without a good foundation. He built it simply on sand. The other built his on a good, solid foundation. Of course, as in every life, storms came. The one house built on sand was washed away, while the other stood firm. Our generation is being hit with a storm right now. Those who put their confidence in anything but God, run the risk of it all crashing down around them.

Enough of the bad news, now lets talk about those who choose to trust in God.

Psalm 5:11 - But let all those rejoice who put their trust in You;Let them ever shout for joy, because You defend them...

Psalm 18:2 - The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; My God, my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

Psalm 18:30 - As for God, His way is perfect; The word of the LORD is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him.

Want more?

Psalm 31:14 - But as for me, I trust in You, O LORD;I say, “You are my God.”

Psalm 31:19 - Oh, how great is Your goodness,Which You have laid up for those who fear You, Which You have prepared for those who trust in You In the presence of the sons of men!

Psalm 56:11 - In God I have put my trust;I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?

Proverbs 3:5-6 - Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.

Now, that kind of news is so much better than listening to the evening news, isn't it? We serve a God who is unchanging. He is not affected by the economies of the world, increasing unemployment, or anything else that's going crazy in the world. He created this world by speaking, and it remains as a result of His power alone. This world and everything in it will one day fade away, but the God who always has been and always will be, will still be on His throne. When we trust in Him, we have placed our confidence in something that can not come crashing to the ground.

In saying all of this, I'm not saying that we forget about everything that's going on around us. We are in this world, and it's important that we seek God for wisdom on how to handle the storms that life throw our way. In the middle of it all though, the fact is that life goes a lot more smoother when we choose to place our confidence in our Creator rather than His creation.

So, where is your confidence? Can you honestly say, "In God I Trust"?