Growing Kingdom People – When a “Moment of Silence” Lasts Too Long

When a “Moment of Silence” Lasts too Long

People are tired of worn out clichés.

After the Parkland, Florida school shooting a student proclaimed, “No more thoughts and prayers!”

At this week’s airing of “Billboard Music Awards” Kelly Clarkson was asked to lead a “Moment of Silence” in honor of those who lost their lives in the recent Santa Fe, Texas shooting. Instead she told her audience she is sick of moments of “silence”. She said it is time for “action.”

Please don’t misunderstand. We need to think about people whose lives have been devastated by evil acts of violence. We need to pray for them. It is also important to collectively take time, even if it is a moment, to recognize tragedies that impact us all.

But as time has passed, and our “thoughts, prayers and moments of silence” have not stopped the carnage, these well-intentioned expressions of sympathy have become more of an irritant than a comfort.

Why?

Because they are not the complete answer to the problem.

They were never intended to be.

Jesus taught us to pray, but he also commanded us to act. In fact, Jesus reserved some of His harshest words for religious leaders in His day who talked a good talk but were “full of dead men’s bones” (in Jesus’ own words – Matthew 23:27).

You won’t find any official “moments of silence” in the Bible, but you will find these words from Jesus: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Mat 7:21 NIV)

In other words, “Enough thoughts and prayers! No more ‘moments of silence’.”

At least not until we have put what God has placed on our hearts into action.

Unless, of course, when we say we are thinking and praying we are really blowing smoke.

Thinking about whose going to win the game after the “moment of silence” is over, perhaps.

Or how many “likes” we are going to get on Facebook for our lofty comments.

I am not cynical by nature, but I get it. And I don’t blame people for being suspicious when people toss out spiritual platitudes and do nothing, as if words are all we need to heal our world.

Maybe our “moment of silence” has lasted much too long. One thing is for sure: If it lasts much longer we might as well remain silent.

There is little point in speaking when people stop listening.

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Growing Kingdom People – I’ve Been Invited to the Royal Wedding!

I’ve Been Invited to the Royal Wedding!

Yup!

I’ll be there.

In front of the TV this Saturday morning at 7am that is.

I actually would like to attend a royal wedding.

I realize there is a lot of drama behind the scenes, and what appears to be a “fairy tale” is somewhat of an illusion.  I am not suggesting Harry and Meghan aren’t in love, or that marrying a prince is a bad thing.

I’m just pointing out it’s not the only thing, and that nothing is exactly as it appears.

Unless we are talking about another royal wedding.

In Matthew 22:1-14 Jesus told a parable about a king who planned a wedding feast for his son. He sent out the invitations and when the time for the feast came, no one showed up.  In fact, some of his servants were abused and killed as they tried to deliver the invitations.  The king was furious!  He punished the “no-shows” and sent his servants out to invite everyone to come to the feast.  As a result, his hall was filled.

Sadly, one poor guy didn’t wear appropriate attire and was escorted out into “darkness.

Guess he missed the memo.

The standard interpretation of this Parable is that the king represents God and the son Jesus. The “no-shows” are the self-righteous spiritual guides of the day (Pharisees and Teachers of the Law).  They were jealous of Jesus’ popularity and refused to honor Him in any way.  The one guest who was cast out is someone who failed to grasp the significance of God’s grace, thus committing the same self-righteous sin as the Pharisees – just in a different way.

The point of the Parable of the Wedding Feast, is that we are all saved by grace when we accept the invitation of the King. None of us are righteous, but we are made righteous by the Son through His sacrifice on the cross.  Through Jesus, we all receive an invitation to the party!

If my wife and I were invited to the royal wedding, we would find a way to go. I’m thinking it isn’t going to happen because it is already Tuesday and the invitation hasn’t arrive yet.

It’s just an honest oversight, I am sure. It’s ok.  We’ll catch up with Harry and Meghan later when things settle down.

Besides, we have been invited to the other royal wedding Jesus described in Matthew 22. And we plan on attending!  We are already clothed with the grace of Jesus, and we have discarded all of our self-righteous rags.  They were a gift from our Creator King, and we wear them every day in preparation.

You might say we are walking around in Designer clothes, waiting for the feast to begin.

I wonder if there will be any shrimp at Jesus’ wedding feast.

Maybe some farmed freshwater seafood from the River of Life.

Top that Queen Liz!

 

 

 

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Growing Kingdom People – A Thought about Graduation Cheering

A Thought about Graduation Cheering

So, it seems cheering at graduation ceremonies has entered the sphere of common conversation. First, there was the removal of students celebrating their Greek fraternity dances at a University of Florida graduation and now a South Carolina High School has warned parents of graduates they could be fined $1030.00 for breaking a  “no-cheering” rule.

I personally don’t know enough about either of these situations to speak authoritatively. When I graduated from High School a security guard had to physically restrain my parents during their celebration!

Not really.

But I am sure they were glad to see me walk.  I was happy too since school administrators, challenged with overcrowding, had given our class the option of graduating a semester early.

Best Christmas present I ever received!

I do remember, when our children graduated from High School, on both occasions there were families around us who cheered for their students. Some talked loudly during the ceremony until it was time for their students to walk across the stage.  Then, after their moment of celebration, they continued their conversations as they exited early.

I thought that was rude and thoughtless.

Not the cheering (even though they had been asked not to by the administration), but the disregard for the accomplishments of others.

However, with this said, I would like to suggest there could actually be some troublesome reasons behind our silence at graduations.

For us rule-keepers, that is. In other words, if we are going to keep the rules and restrict our celebrations to the time appointed by those in charge, we need to make sure our hearts are pure in doing so.  Here are some possible flaws in our thinking to guard against:

We are not going to cheer because we want to demonstrate we are better at keeping the rules. It is easy to fall into this trap if we focus too much on the rule breakers.  When we do, our non-celebration becomes just as much a cry for attention as those celebrating.

We are not going to cheer because we always knew our student would graduate. Maybe we did!  But we need to realize a lot of things could have happened along the way.  If our child was blessed with a good mind, and was fortunate enough to avoid sickness and tragedy, we should be thankful.  Milestones in life should never be assumed.  They should be cause for thanksgiving, regardless of whether or not we cheer at a graduation.

We are not going to cheer because we wouldn’t even if there was no rule against it. We just aren’t that kind of family.  If this is the case, I would like to recommend you rethink your practice.  Sure, every family has its own personality, but kids today need to be cheered on, especially when they achieve something important.

I think it’s alright not to cheer if you are attempting to follow the wishes of the school administration and you are concerned students who have no one there to cheer for them will feel left out.

If you are sitting on your hands and biting your tongue because you are so proud of your student you can’t stand it!

This was my style.

And for those of you who refuse to keep the rules and insist on cheering, I have a request: Stay for the whole ceremony and cheer for everyone. If it’s important for your student, it’s important for every student.   Use your cheering skills to bless others.

Maybe that’s the answer!

We insist that everyone “must” cheer, for “everyone!”

I thought since we now have one more thing to pull us apart as a community we might as well try it.

“Whoop!  Whoop!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Growing Kingdom People – Little Stuff Matters

Little Stuff Matters

This week a plumber fixed our outside spigots. At 35 years of age, the washers inside were worn and one had been leaking for longer than I want to admit.

The plumber’s fee?

$95.00.

Parts?

Gratis.

The parts involved small, rubber washers. The total cost being somewhere between $1.50 and $2.00.  Maybe less at wholesale prices.

I mentioned one of the spigots was leaking. It was nothing more than a drip.  But the drip lasted about four years.

Yup. I know I should be ashamed of myself.  But the leak was so small I suspect it barely showed up on my monthly bill.  But four years times twelve months is forty-eight bills.  If it was added up, it might amount to something.  Nothing incredible, but something.

Little stuff matters.

The store where I buy my morning caffeine has a reward system that adds up too. Every 7th drink is free.  And I get points that can be used for more good things!

But there is more.

The reward system has my name attached to it. Every day when I go in the store and scan my card the phrase “Mr. Larry” comes up on the computer screen.  So that’s how they know me.  When I walk into the store in the morning one of the clerks yells, “Good morning Mr. Larry!”

Come to think of it, that’s the same thing my neighbor says when I leave the house.

It feels good to know other people know my name.

Little stuff matters.

As I pondered these little things today, I realized they are big things after all. It is no small thing to be known.  In fact, did you know the Lord of creation knows our names?  As the Good Shepherd, He calls our names out and leads us (John 10:3).

It is huge to be known by God!

Like the clerk at the store, He calls out to me. For six days He calls out to me.

Then He offers the seventh day for free. That’s when I take time to call out His name…

…in worship.

I realize we should live a life of worship and call out to God in our daily devotional life. But the free day He gave us is an opportunity to put everything back in perspective.

It’s a small thing God asks.

This free day to focus on Him.

But it’s a big day for us.

At least for Mr. Larry.

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Growing Kingdom People – Huge Book Deal!

Huge Book Deal!

Everyone wants to write a book!

Well, perhaps not everyone. But people in the public eye frequently leverage their image with a book deal.  And publishers know even an unpopular celebrity can help them turn a profit.

Why do books about famous (or infamous) people sell?

They reinforce our feelings of love or hate towards the books’ subjects.

They contain juicy morsels of gossip we might not hear anywhere else.

They connect with our own challenges and aspirations and help us feel empowered and hopeful.

Of all of the book deals in history, one book remains supreme:

The Bible.

I was reading a list of facts about the Bible the other day and noted these: 1) Over 100,000,000 copies of the Bible are sold each year, 2) The Bible is the most commonly stolen book in the world (mostly from hotels and churches), 3) The Bible is the best-selling book in history with over 5 billion sold, and 4) Bob Marley was buried with a stalk of marijuana, his red Gibson Les Paul guitar and a Bible.

You think you know someone.

Oh, well, needless to say, the Bible is the biggest book deal in history. No, God didn’t sign a contract with a publishing house to write His book.  In fact, if we consider the money churches have spent to buy Bibles for their members or to give away, God is probably well in the red.

What’s worse (for God) is the fact human publishers have claimed rights to various translations of the Bible and restrict the amount of text others can reproduce without permission. Even the King James Version, first published in 1611, is covered by something called a “crown copyright”.

Translating the Bible is expensive, so I guess it’s only right for people to protect their work so they can recoup their expenses and maintain the integrity of their product.

So why do I say the Bible is the biggest book deal in history? Because it’s author is the omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent Creator of the universe who has revealed Himself freely to us for the purpose of redeeming our souls for eternity.

The Bible is the ultimate book deal.

Not for God, its author.

But for us.

It has more wisdom than all other books combined.

It contains the story of redemption which has the power to save us.

It is our “how to”, “why?” and “what to expect” manual all rolled into one.

And, unless we want a fancy version, we can download a copy of the Bible for free or take a copy from the next hotel we visit (It really isn’t stealing. They are put there for people to take if they need one).

I don’t want to discourage you from buying the latest book about some well-known personality. But I will warn you.  Outside of a few interesting tidbits of information, your book won’t come close to the Bible.  Actually, it will probably parallel the stories of people in the Bible in many ways.

Here’s the good news. If you have always dreamed of a big book deal that makes your rich beyond measure, wait no more!  The deal has already been made and you are guaranteed to receive a profit.

For, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.”  That’s the King James Version translation.  I need to make sure you know so I don’t get in trouble with the crown.

 

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Growing Kingdom People – No Room in the Bin

No Room in the Bin

I read recently the battle for bin space on airplanes is heating up. When possible, most of us like to carry our belongings onto the plane with us.  Why?

  • If we don’t, our luggage might be abused and return to us crushed, torn and tattered.
  • In some places, baggage handlers will open our luggage and help themselves to our possessions.
  • We would rather skip the baggage claim area altogether and head straight to our destination.

And…

  • Who wants to pay $25.00 for a small piece of luggage when it’s going on the same plane and costs the airline nothing more to transport?

Therefore, we do everything possible to secure bin space. We rush to the front of the boarding line, compress our carry-on as much as possible, and keep the ticket agent at the gate busy with conversation while we slip our slightly oversized carry-on by unnoticed (Not that I have tried this last one – but a friend of a friend of a friend told me it works).

While I am all for passenger rights on airlines, I wonder what would happen if Jesus was a ticket agent. What if He was deciding what we could bring on board?

Jesus would definitely stop us from taking our baggage on the plane. But He wouldn’t send it away to be loaded in the cargo bay.  Instead, He would take care of it Himself.

That’s what Jesus does.

He carries our baggage. Our sins.  Our hurts.  Our regrets.  Our guilt.

I’m not sure what He does with these things after He takes possession. Yes, He covers them with grace.  But as to whether He roughs them up a bit, I can’t say.

I only know baggage has no place on our journey with Jesus.

So what do we put in the overhead bins?  Probably stuff like patience, joy, compassion, and love.

Are you feeling nervous? Does it already bother you that Jesus wants to take away your baggage and never give it back?

Don’t bother going to customer service. It isn’t there.  It’s gone.  G-O-N-E, gone.  Do you want to dredge up your past and see how it feels again?  Don’t even try.  Do you resent someone in your past who hurt you?  Leave it alone.  And be careful.  After we put our cares on Jesus, Satan tries to sell us some new stuff…stuff that looks just like the old stuff…stuff that has already been eliminated from our lives.

One thing is for sure. We can’t begin the journey until we encounter Jesus.  But it’s ok.  As Peter once wrote, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

And here’s the best part: Checking your baggage with Jesus is free!

No lame $25.00 charge.

No discussion about whether or not you can take just a little baggage on board.

It’s all covered by grace, and it all stays at the gate.

With Jesus.

There truly is no room in the bin for baggage when Jesus is in charge. But don’t fret.  He will give you plenty of wonderful things to fill up the space.  Are you old enough to remember when flight attendants gave you gifts things like playing cards, pens and other swag to keep you occupied?  You should fly with Jesus!  He supplies you with everything you need!

There is room in the bin. But not for the things you have already given to Jesus.

Don’t resist. You won’t need baggage on the journey.  But you will need an empty bin to hold everything Jesus wants to give you.

“Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for choosing…”

Ooops! Need to shut down my electronic device now.  The captain is giving me some final instructions.

The Captain of my soul, that is.

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Growing Kingdom People – That Boring Internet

That Boring Internet

Recent research indicates Generation Z is getting bored with the Internet. That’s right.  Those born between 1998 and 2010, who sometimes seem glued to their smart phones, aren’t really that interested in what they are reading or seeing.

It’s hard for me to fathom. When I was a kid we had two good channels on TV, one fuzzy one, all of which went off the air around midnight.  How could anyone be bored with a device that can give them access to anything, anywhere?

But it’s true.

And why does this emerging generation stare at a screen on their device when they are bored?

For the same reason my generation sits in front of a TV and watches an old show that is so familiar to them they can quote most of the lines before they are spoken. Just because we are bored doesn’t mean we are going to go looking for something better.  In fact, it seems we are content to be “bored out of our gourd” as they say.

This raises an interesting question: “Which do we crave more? Adventure or boredom?”

I feel sure our personality will impact how we answer. Life experience matters too.  For example, if we have been through a tumultuous season in our lives we might enjoy watching a television show we have seen a hundred times before.  We might even fall asleep during the best parts and be perfectly happy to wake up just in time to see the happy ending.  On the other hand, if we have been trapped by our circumstances, we might engage in risky behavior just to prove to ourselves we are still alive.

I don’t wish to tell anyone how to spend their spare time, as long as they aren’t involved in anything ungodly or illegal. One person’s boredom is another person’s form of relaxation.

However, I do propose we will never be able to fill the emptiness that remains if we only live for “the next new thing”.

The next trip.

The next season.

The next toy.

The next experience.

The next investment.

So, is it possible to escape boredom? Yes, but only if we live for something eternally productive.  My suggestion: live for Christ and serve others in His name.

Our relationship with Christ will bring us daily joy as we learn from Him and the Holy Spirit brings about transformation in our lives. Serving others will provide an outlet for joy and bless us as we watch God’s plan unfold.

The good news is, anyone can live for Christ and serve in His name.

People with and without technology.

Young people.

Old people.

Working people.

Retired people.

Poor people.

Rich people.

Or, the same people can wait for the next boring day.

While they wait on the next activity.

Or the next purchase.

Maybe the next “big thing.”

You see, when we stop living for something eternal, life is only as exciting as the events we have already put on our calendar.

Events on calendars are fine. But sooner or later we come to the last entry.

And what then?

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