Monthly Archives: January 2015

He Sent His Highest-Ranking Representative

unity marchOn January 7th, masked gunmen entered the French satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo, screaming “Allah Akbar” (Arabic for ‘God is great’), killing 11 people, and injuring 11 more. On January 11th, thousands gathered in Paris for a unity march, demonstrating solidarity against terrorism. Who was present? More than 40 world leaders. Who was absent? The United States…well, sort of…

You see, the U.S. ambassador to France, Jane Hartley, was our representative. But apparently, that was not a “high-ranking official” worthy of the occasion. And in the last several weeks, the White House has drawn bi-partisan, and even international criticism, for not sending a “higher-ranking official.” Yesterday, White House Chief of Staff, Denis McDonough, reiterated the administration’s regret, taking the blame for the gaffe, saying, “That rests on me. That’s my job.”

Now, politics aside, what I find very interesting is the shift through history in how ambassadors are viewed. Jane Hartley probably knew she was not a “high-ranking official” before the 11th; at least I hope so! I hope it wasn’t a surprise to her when she heard that news. In the modern era, “ambassador” is largely an honorary position. But it hasn’t always been that way.

Benjamin Franklin was the first ambassador of the United States in a time when, “ambassador,” truly meant something. He lived in France for 9 years and negotiated the very important support that America badly needed in the Revolutionary War. He represented the United States, and his presence implied the full power and office of the President. Franklin had such an impact on the French that, when he died, France mourned him as a hero.

Did you know that God sent an ambassador to this world once? His name was Jesus, and He was God’s Son. He was the perfect representation of God (Hebrews 1:3). He was God in the flesh (Matthew 1:23, John 1:14). Nothing beats the value of showing up personally, and that is what God did in Christ. Jesus’ message was simple: listening to Him was just like listening to God.

God showed us tremendous good will by sending His “highest ranking official.” But do you respect His ambassador? Does He carry enough importance with you?

Jesus told a parable in Matthew 21 of a landowner who sent servants to represent his interests in a vineyard. The vine-growers beat one servant, killed another, and stoned a third. They did the same when he sent more servants. Finally, “he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son’” (MT 21:37). But when they saw the son, they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him.

They didn’t respect the ambassador or the power of the landowner. And, for that, they saw a “wretched” fate (21:41). Don’t be like the vine-growers; listen to Jesus today.

Jesus doesn’t need us to mourn His death, but rather, He tells us to celebrate His resurrection. His blood reconciles us to God! In fact, Ambassador is still an important job in the church. Or, as Paul said, “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20).

Eclipse Rides the D line: “D” for Doggie

Eclipse rides the D lineEclipse likes to ride the D line bus. D for “dog.” Well, not really, but don’t tell her that. You see, Eclipse is a Labrador that commutes from her house to the dog park…by herself!

It all started when her owner, Jeff Young, was distracted at the bus stop, finishing a conversation. He realized that his dog had gotten on the bus without him! Now, two years later, Eclipse doesn’t wait on him at all. She regularly boards the bus on her own and gets off four stops later at the dog park, delighting Seattle passengers along the way.

What I like about this story is that the dog didn’t wait to get where she needed to go. Often times, Jeff Young will get calls from people saying things like, “’Hi. I have your dog Eclipse here on 3rd and Bell.” Young tells them, “She’s fine.’ She knows what she’s doing.”

She knows what she’s doing? Wouldn’t it be nice if it were that simple for humans? Animals have instincts, and animals learn behavioral patterns well. Eclipse knows: hop on bus, sit in seat, look for doggie park.

But what about us? Do you know where you need to go, and do you know how simple it is to get there?

In John 14, Jesus told His disciples that He was going to prepare a place for them, and they knew the way to get there. But the disciples weren’t so sure. In verse 5, Thomas asked Him, “How do we know the way?” Jesus reminded them that the way was simple: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (6). And they wanted to see the Father (8). So in verse 9, Jesus admonished: “He who has seen Me has seen the Father.”

In other words, Jesus had told them the way to salvation, He showed them the way, and He reminded them that they had seen it in Him several times. And yet, they still didn’t get it! It wasn’t until after His death, burial, resurrection, and ascension that it would be clear what He was trying to teach them: there is only one way to eternal life with God in Heaven – His Son Jesus, who was God in the flesh.

Eclipse delights passengers because it is a rare thing for a dog to get on a bus and ride to the dog park on her own. That is why it is a news story – it doesn’t happen very often. But as nice a story as it is, it is simply a dog wanting to go to the park…something every dog wants to do!

Sadly, it is a rare thing for people to follow the clear signs that lead to heaven. Something every person should want to do! Jesus told us it would be that way: “For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).

Are you looking for the way to heaven? “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7).

Pleased With Secret Faith?

reach out_t“For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels” (Luke 9:26).

Take a moment to reflect on your 2014. How public was your faith? Does anyone outside of church know you are a Christian? If a memo went out at work to give a bonus to all the Christians, would your pay get increased? Many people falsely believe the notion that Jesus is pleased with any faith, even one that separates Christianity from “real life.”

Consider this imaginary statement from Jesus in order to drive home the absurdity of this idea:

“I gave you My example of what true faith is; now it is your turn to go teach others. Be sure to follow My example: keep your work and faith separate; never teach in the marketplace; keep your faith private and secret; never share your faith publicly; be afraid of the consequences of speaking about me; never mix Christianity with “real” life; and remember, the gospel won’t work outside of the church building.”

Now, we all know there is a difference between overly obnoxious evangelism and living a life that causes others to want to know more about the Faith. But sadly, many people think that NO evangelism is the solution to BAD evangelism. No! The solution to bad evangelism is to live what we preach and love like Christ did.

“My faith is personal,” they say. “I don’t want others proselytizing me…so I leave others alone!” They think, “religion is something that is done at church only.”

But God used people from “real life:” a carpenter, tax collectors, tent makers, a doctor, fishermen, soldiers, businesswomen, a warden, a treasurer, etc., because He wanted the gospel to enter the market, the home, the nations, and every facet of life.

If you didn’t share your faith in any meaningful way in 2014, what is your plan to do better in 2015? Let’s make 2015 a year we share our faith! And if you aren’t a Christian and you are reading this, please remember: The person sharing their faith is doing so because they cared enough about you and your eternal soul to mention His saving grace to you, pleasantly and with love, I hope.

Cutting the Cable…On Purpose!

Cutting-CableWe finally cut the cable…on purpose this time! If you are like me, you’ve been digging in the yard and had one of those, “uh, oh” moments when you realized that you just “cut the cord.” Usually someone comes out yelling, “what did you do?” But not this time. This time, we made the decision, on purpose, to cut the cord!

We’ve been talking about it for far too long. In fact, we should have done it last year when they started monkeying with the prices. But we did that, “I’m gonna cancel” threat, and they did that, “we’ll give you a 6 month promotion” thing…and I caved.

But not this year! In 2015, I want to be a better steward of my time and my finances. So yesterday, I gathered up the equipment, brought it down to the cable company, and handed it over. With all the recent fees and rate hikes, it was $100/month back in our budget, so we are pretty happy about that.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying that all TV is bad. There are programs I like, programs the wife likes, and stuff the kids watch for enjoyment and for homeschooling. And with the Internet, we can still access what we really need. But what we (hopefully) nixed was the Pavlovian response – sit on couch, turn  TV on, waste time looking for something of value.

If I am going to be an example to my kids, I can’t imagine a more immediate impact on our life and our budget than to significantly reduce our time in front of screens.

Making plans is a good thing. Of course, we should always make our plans with an attitude of, “If God wills it” (James 4:15). But more believers should recognize that God never did anything without a plan. Thankfully, he has revealed those plans to us through His servants the prophets (Amos 3:7). And planning to follow His plan more in 2015 should be our priority.

But sticking to the plan is the tough part. And that is why the crown of life is given to those who read, hear, heed, and remain faithful to the plan (Revelation 1:2, 2:10).

What about you? Do you have a plan for 2015? Or do you simply “hope for the best?” I encourage you to make your calling and election sure in 2015 (2 Peter 1:10). Put Christ and His Kingdom first in your life (Matthew 6:33); reduce the “static” that distracts you from the weightier matters (Matthew 23:23); and live the abundant life in Christ (John 10:10).