I sat around the other day thinking about the concept of becoming "all things to all men" and I came to an odd conclusion. That this simple "bumper-sticker" like statement requires a deep understanding of who we are and what we are here for in this life. I’m amazed at the simplicity of this statement and astounded by its depth if it is truly lived by a person.
“And as they led Him away, they seized one Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, and laid on him the cross, to carry it behind Jesus. And there followed Him a great multitude of the people and of women who were mourning and lamenting for Him. But turning to them Jesus said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren and the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ For if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?”
Over the past few years, I have had the opportunity to travel most of the globe: Europe, Asia, Africa, Central America, North America, and the Austral Realm.
It is hard for me to believe all that I've been able to see and hear. I have heard languages with clicking within them. I have been the first foreigner in a mountainous remote village in central Asia. I have seen and worked with underground churches in China and Cambodia. I have seen and been able to work with churches thriving in Sicily and the USA. I have met hit men, Mafiosi, thugs, smugglers, politicians, artists, Christians, Hindus, Atheists, agnostics, Catholics, murderers, mothers, daughters, sons, fathers, friends and enemies.
When was the last time you confessed to someone that you were wrong? Now, notice I didn’t ask, “When was the last time you said you were sorry.” I asked, “When was the last time you confessed to someone that you were WRONG?” Also, notice that I didn’t say, “When was the last time you SAID you were wrong.” I said, “CONFESSED.”
This past Wednesday night the teens and I sat and talked about the teachings of Jesus. It was an incredible study that opened my eyes to how the world changed, not just because Jesus was the physical Messiah, but because of what He said. What he SAID.
These teachings were and are so important to who we are as Christians. Sometimes I think we focus on the physical cross and His physical suffering and death, and rightfully so, while forgetting His life and teachings. Just take a look at one of these teachings that changed the world.
In Luke 11:9-13 Jesus says, "And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!"
How great is it that we are told to ask for what we need?! How incredible is our God that He tells us to go ahead and just ask. And when we ask, we should expect to receive it!
Now, lets get one thing straight. We may not get what we asked for. In fact, we will most likely get something different. But I can guarantee something incredible will happen. You will get what you NEEDED in the first place.
And how incredible is that?!
I watched a short YouTube video a few months ago called, "Speak with Conviction" by Taylor Mali. It stuck with me. Not only is it quite funny, it is so true and relevant to our world. Not only to our world, our religious world as well.
He speaks about how we have become the most aggressively inarticulate generation since "you know.....a long time ago!". We have inserted "you knows" and "you know what I’m saying" into our very speech and it has made us lose the very nature of declarative sentences. They used to declare things. Now, they simply invite all to jump onto their own bandwagon of uncertainty, as they have not really put any thought into the things they have said.
"A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear? says the Lord of hosts to you, O priests, who despise my name. But you say, 'How have we despised your name?' By offering polluted food upon my altar. But you say, 'How have we polluted you?' By saying that the Lord's table may be despised. When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that not evil? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that not evil? Present that to your governor; will he accept you or show you favor? says the Lord of hosts. And now entreat the favor of God, that he may be gracious to us. With such a gift from your hand, will he show favor to any of you? says the Lord of hosts. Oh that there were one among you who would shut the doors, that you might not kindle fire on my altar in vain! I have no pleasure in you, says the Lord of hosts, and I will not accept an offering from your hand. For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense will be offered to my name, and a pure offering.
I love new years. I really do. I don’t really know why, but I just do. It is an amazing feeling to feel that one can just start over and be something different. I love that feeling of being at the cusp of something great. A new year always makes me feel that way.
This year has been no exception. I feel like something incredible is possible in this new year. And I know exactly why.
It is because we serve the God of hope and renewal. We serve a God that gives us hope in tomorrow, hope in forever, and renewal found in His Son.
This year we will be taking a journey. A journey of discovery. A journey of discovering God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.
I am in love with God. There, I said it. I can now openly admit it. Phew. Feels good to finally get it off my chest!
I have to admit that there was a time where I probably wouldn’t have been so open about it. In fact, I remember days where I did everything I could to make sure people didn’t feel uncomfortable around me because of my faith. I wanted to make sure that they didn’t feel awkward. I mean, faith is such a heavy thing and I didn’t want them to feel like I was shoving it down their throat. I really tried to make sure that they would be able to work around me without having to worry about hearing about my faith. If and when I prayed, usually over a meal, I did so quietly and when no one was looking. I did it this way so that nobody would have to look at me and feel uncomfortable. It just wouldn’t be fair to expose them to something that they don’t believe in. I mean it would be horrible of me to push my faith on them especially in the work environment.
I remember sitting in my favorite restaurant in the world, a place called “Gallo’s,” and looking across the table at my beautiful new bride. Kristin and I had been married two weeks and we were now settled into our apartment in Le Bagnese, Scandicci, Florence, Italy. Le Bagnese was the neighborhood I had grown up in and I knew it well. In fact, each night Kristin and I would walk around my old neighborhood and I would share with her all of my memories. One of those memories was eating at my favorite place – Gallo’s. I ordered what I always ordered – Pizza Prosciutto e Funghi with a starter of cozze alla marinara. This all translates to a mushroom and ham pizza with a side of muscles cooked in a seafood broth. Eating this with a nice cold coke in a glass is still my favorite meal. Seriously, the best meal ever.