Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Don't Squeeze Me Too Tight!

A couple weeks ago, my 3-year old son came running down the stairs screaming, "Daddy, Daddy!" Thankfully, this was a happy proclamation and not one of alarm. I could tell from the excitement in his voice, he couldn't wait to tell me something. When he finally got to me in the living room, he was grinning from ear to ear as he said, "I asked Jesus into my heart?" Of course, I gave him high fives and hugged him real tight like any father would. He stepped back for a second and let me know that I can't hug him very tight anymore because Jesus was now in his heart and if I hugged him too tight, I might kill Jesus again.

Kids say some pretty funny things don't they? I get a kick out of it when they say things that reveal their simplistic way of looking at life. I couldn't help but laugh just a little. But as I sat there chuckling, I began thinking, how awesome his reasoning was. He literally believed that Jesus came to live in his heart. Think about that for a second. He prayed and asked Jesus to come live in his heart, and he really believed that he did. The excitement that he came down the stairs with was not because of the prayer he prayed, but at the fact that Jesus actually now lived in his heart.

As we walk through our Christian journey, wouldn't it be great if we could remain this innocent and full of trust and faith in God. Let's face it, my 3 year old isn't tainted with religious ideologies and all the junk we often acquire through the years that suck the very life of God out of us. He doesn't care if we are going to heaven pre-trib, mid-trib, or post-trib. He doesn't care about whether or not he goes to a seeker friendly church, spirit-filled church, or liturgical church. He doesn't care if we have to pay tithe on our gross or our net earnings, he just loves giving in the offering. All he knows is that his mommy helped him pray and Jesus now lives in his heart. And from what I can tell, he's pumped up about it.

Jesus speaks of coming to Him with a child-like faith, and I have to think this is exactly what he's talking about. Years have a way of shrinking God and his ability to do the miraculous in our minds. We grow up and we start putting God in some type of religious box and limiting him in our minds. So often rather than growing, our faith starts to shrink. How God longs for us to just believe Him and trust Him. Naturally, he wants our knowledge of Him to grow beyond that of my little 3-year old, but in doing so he wants that 3-year old kind of simplistic faith to remain in us throughout the process. He wants that kind of excitement that my little one ran down the stairs with to be evident in our lives.

My son will eventually learn what it means to have Jesus in his heart, but I hope he never allows his simplistic faith in God to waiver. And by the way, I still hug him real tight, taking care not to squeeze his heart too much.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Let's See Will It Be 8-Track or Cassette

Do you remember 8-track tapes? Ok, so I'm dating myself, but yes I remember them. I even remember the 8-track tapes that I had. I won't bore you with that bit of data, but I'm pretty sure I could list them all. I remember popping them in a listening to the songs. I remember getting to the end of a track and if the song wasn't over there would be that little pause as the 8-track player would switch tracks and then the song would continue. It was a bit odd, but it was the best technology we had. Afterall, it would have been really difficult to drive down the road trying to play an LP or a 45 in the car. You think the early CD players in cars skip a lot!

Anyway, I remember working one summer mowing lawns in order to save up money to buy a new stereo. I had the perfect one picked out. It would be one with an 8-track player, turn-table, AM/FM radio, and the biggest speakers I could find. It was going to be awesome. I gave my money to my Dad who was going to pick it up on his way home. I couldn't wait. I was going to rock the house. Then, when he got home, the stereo looked a little different. I didn't see a place to play my 8-track tapes. For some reason the 8-track tape player had been replaced by this little bitty thing called a cassette player. I was devastated. Ok, maybe not devastated but definitely angry. Never mind, that this was a dual cassette player and this new technology could actually record. Its not what I wanted. I wanted an 8-track player.

I'm sure my Dad was taken back by my reaction. Afterall, he had just purchased something far superior to 8-track tape technology. This was cutting edge stuff. He had even thrown in a few bucks for the upgrade. It was the best thing on the market. And unlike me, he knew 8-tracks were about to be history. Sure, it wasn't what I wanted but it was better. It was the best. And that's the way my Dad always was. He always attempted to do what was best for us, even though it might not be what we wanted.

It kind of reminds me of our Heavenly Father a bit. He's really good at giving us what He knows is best for us, rather than just always giving us what we want. Years ago, Garth Brooks recorded a song that had the line in it, "Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayer." It's a song about those crazy prayers we pray when we want something but God in his infinite wisdom knows all too well, that the thing we are praying for will not benefit us. Have you ever prayed those kind of prayers? Let's face it, there are a great deal of things we long for and even pray for, that its better for us never to have them. Those desires for things that are birthed as a result of our selfish lusts that in the end they prove to be so empty and unsatisfying when we get them.

I know Scripture tells us that God will give us the desires of our heart, and that's the way some of us quote that scripture. We totally forget the part that says, "If we will delight ourselves in the Lord." I actually think we often misunderstand the whole scripture to be completely honest. I think the context of the scripture indicates that He'll place new desires, His desires in our heart. After all, Scripture also tells us that he'll take out our heart of stone and give us a new one.

The truth is, God longs to bless His children. Sometimes that blessing is not always exactly what we want. But He sees the big picture. He knows what lies up the road for us. He knows what we need which always trumps what we want. Sure, there are times when He lays something in our lap that leaves us scratching our heads and wondering what He's up too, but we can rest assured He knows what He's doing.

As the pastor of a small church, my wife Lori and I are on the adventure of a life time. It's the biggest leap of faith I've ever experienced. There are literally times we have to believe God for our needs to be met. That's not a complaint, its actually an incredible place to be. It is a time in our life that I wouldn't give for anything in the world. The growth in both of us has been incredible. It's not been easy, but man, its been great. Naturally there are things we would love to have. Things we both desire. However, when we are blessed, I'm talking over and above what we need, I have to admit, what I want often takes a back seat. There is constantly an inner struggle inside of me when I know that literally every minute of every day there is a child somewhere in the world that dies because of the lack of food. Or, that every day somewhere in the world there are hundreds of children, not all that different than my two, that are sold into a life a sex trafficking. Or, that somewhere out there hundreds of children are orphaned every singe day. I struggle with appeasing my wants at the expense of just one of these little ones.

I'm not a saint. I often spring for the 8-track tape player because that's what I want. Thank God though there are those shining moments when His desires win out in me and I'm ok with the cassette player, the better thing. I'm not writing this to be judgmental or critical, I'm just sharing my heart this week and what I often struggle with. It is true that God is constantly at work in my heart trying to remove the desires of my heart so that He can give me the desires of His heart. I just long for the day when its no longer a struggle to opt for God's desires rather than mine. Perhaps, that'll take place the day I leave this planet, but hopefully along the journey the struggle gets easier and easier.

My Dad's decision turned out to be the right one in the long run. It wasn't long and 8-track tapes were gone. That stereo lasted me well into the CD era. My Dad wasn't perfect but that day He was spot on. Our heavenly Father on the other hand is perfect and is always spot on. I can only pray that when He's offering me His best I am willing to run with that rather than insist on the stuff I want.