Monthly Archives: September 2017

I’m Surprised You Are Still So Easily Surprised!

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you” (1 Peter 4:12).  

Surprise! That word has come to mean something fun, hasn’t it? Perhaps it is a surprise birthday party, or it could be a gift, or it might be some good news. But when Peter used the word xenizo, translated as “surprised” in 1 Peter 4:12, he had something completely different in mind. And we would do well to heed his warning.

You see, when Peter used the word translated as surprised, he was saying that Christians should not be shocked or astonished “by the strangeness and novelty of a thing.” In other words, he wanted Christians to expect persecution and difficulties in this world. He knew that when we are surprised in that way, we act like scared, insecure people without faith. But if we expect the fiery ordeal, we will (hopefully) react with the dignity of Christ.

Yet, as I see Christians interacting in the world, one thought repeatedly strikes me: “Why are you still so surprised at the fiery ordeal?” I’m surprised that you are still surprised.

Don’t get me wrong; I get it. It is frustrating to look out in the world and feel like everything is against your way of thinking. This is especially true when you were sold on the idea that this is a Christian nation. I understand.

But that is never an excuse for Christians to behave like scared, insecure people without faith. If the media shows a bias toward publicizing one shooting and downplaying another, don’t be surprised! If people are praising one football player’s “taking a knee” despite having condemned another for “taking a knee,” don’t be surprised! You see where I’m going with this?

“Surprise” leads to negative, hateful, vitriol that spews forth from the Christian, lashing out like a frightened, wounded animal. Rather, as Christians, we need to follow the advice my old science teacher used to give. When asked if there would be a test the next day, he would say, “pray for the best, but expect the worst.”

When we do that, we will be less overwhelmed. When a fiery ordeal happens, we are prepared. Then, we actually leave room for a true surprise – delight when things go better than expected! Jesus experienced this kind of astonishment when He saw faith among the Gentiles that exceeded the faith of Israel.

Caleb Engle, the usher who stopped the shooter at the Burnette Chapel Church of Christ, is a good example of what I mean. After being hit in the face with a gun, and after wrestling the gunman from further killing and shooting, he asked people to pray for the church, the first responders…and the gunman. Now that is a delightful surprise to hear…and (by the way) an example of what Jesus would do.

Of course, Caleb is a Christian so that shouldn’t be a surprise. Yet, it is always a delight when God’s people act accordingly. Let’s try to be that kind of surprise for the world this week and leave the scared, wounded animal talk behind.

#wheresHISwindow?

#wheresmywindow. That’s the recent hashtag trend from disgruntled airlines passengers. They are supposed to have a window seat, but they find themselves next to a wall with no window. In some cases, passengers even paid extra for a window seat. So they express their displeasure on social media…with #wheresmywindow!

Of course, we all know the problem. In an effort to increase profit, airlines cram more passengers onto planes. But they can’t change the size of the plane or the location of the windows. So they add more rows; and when they do, some passengers are off-center from the windows. In some cases, there is no window near them at all.

Personally, I like the aisle. Despite the danger of being hit in the knee with the beverage cart, the smaller window seat is no fun at 6’3”. But, in all fairness, I understand the anger. If you want a window, and you paid extra for it, you don’t want a wall!

I wonder though, if most people don’t do the same thing as the airlines. We claim we are giving window seats, with a view of our hearts, to loved ones and to God. But there’s usually a wall there.

We cram our lives full of things that push others into a seat that has no view of our hearts, our minds, our very souls. We don’t do it maliciously; we are just trying to maximize our efficiency. And we get so busy that we lose focus on things that really matter.

We would do well to remember that we do better with windows than walls. When I give brothers and sisters a window seat, they can help me know when I am off course; they can pray for me; and they can help me with my sins (Galatians 6:1; James 5:16).

God, of course, sees everything, regardless. But He prefers it when we purposely give Him the view, admitting our faults and asking Him to watch over our souls. Give Him the window seat; after all, He paid for it by the blood of Christ.

#HISwindowseat

Sitting Is Killing Us…Physically and Spiritually

Sitting is killing us. No, seriously. Sitting. Of all the things out there, it turns out that simply sitting is a significant risk to our health. In fact, experts are calling sitting, “the new smoking.”

According to a recent study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, (Click for Study), researchers have tied sitting for lengthy periods to an increased risk of death in subjects who were 45 and up. Regularly sitting more than 30 minutes at a time increases risk, and 90 minutes or more doubles the risk.

Do you know how much time you sit? Probably more than you think. Previous studies based on self-reporting had people sitting ~9.5 hours/day. But when participants wore activity monitors, the results were ~12 hours out of a 16 hour waking day!

Many of us have jobs where we sit…a lot. So we exercise. But according to the study, exercise doesn’t cancel out the problem. We still need to get up every 30 minutes and have 5 minutes of walking or moving around time.

Spiritually speaking, the same principle is true. Many of us think that by praying at meals, going to church on Sunday, and occasionally reading our Bibles, we have “exercised” our faith. But short bursts of exercise are no match for movement throughout the day.

We have been fooling ourselves. The truth? Most Christians today are morbidly stationary in their faith.

So what’s the solution? Move! That’s why so many of Jesus’ commands to His disciples encouraged movement. Our default is sitting. We need to be reminded… “Wake up,” “Get up,” “Go,” “Pray,” “Carry,” “You feed them,” etc.

Of course, there are limitations. Often, the elderly, infirmed, or physically disabled can’t literally “get up and go” so easily. But, spiritually speaking, we can “take five” from sitting far more often than we do.

I have a watch that buzzes and says, “MOVE!” when I sit too long. Some days I need a spiritual reminder as well, and I’m guessing you do too. Go ahead; take five; and stand up, stand up for Jesus!

Wait Until The End. It is going to be amazing!

So maybe you saw the Tennessee-Georgia Tech game. Tennessee won in double overtime. How? No one really knows. Butch Jones called it a, “will to win,” season. I just call it another 4th quarter heart attack season!

But during the game, many Tennessee fans gave up. Many said…“unflattering” words on Facebook or Twitter. Many fans began planning Butch’s retirement party.

Then, with a solid effort, UT caught up, blocked a field goal, and stopped a goal line run for victory in double overtime. And, in football, “a W is a W,” no matter how messy it was getting there. It is in the books. Tennessee is 1-0.

That game was a little like the Christian life. Our lives are messy. We sin. We fail. And sometimes Satan backs us up like Georgia Tech running a triple option.

But, especially in hard times, we need to cling to one truth – we win! Victory is certain for those in Christ. Satan has been defeated. Sure, he will take down as many players as he can along the way. But, for those who remain faithful to the end, eternal salvation is secure.

You see, unlike some fans, the team never gave up. They stayed in the game until the end. And that is the Christian life. We aren’t fair-weather fans watching a game; we are players on the field.

There will be times of discouragement. There will be times of disappointment. You may not be able to see how God will use your life to bring about His glory. You may not see how these present struggles will end in a “W.”

But if we remember that victory is in Christ, the Christian will never give up. The final enemy, death, will be crushed when Christ returns. Just be faithful until the end…it’s going to be amazing!

“But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, ‘Death is swallowed up in victory’” (1 Corinthians 15:54).