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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Growing Kingdom People – Where’s Your Line?

Where’s Your Line?

Everyone has a line.

Or so it seems.

Our line is the conviction we won’t break.

Or the one we will.

It is the outer rim of our willingness to profess our faith.

And the place where our faith engages.

We don’t like to admit we have a line, but we do. Consider these behaviors:

Where do our “out loud” prayers become our “to ourselves” prayers with our eyes open?

When our employer tells us not to share our faith we call it persecution.  When it is our business and we censor our faith, we call it wisdom.

How do we conduct our lives when no one is looking?  When the world is watching?

Can others push us past the line?

Or do we have our own line no matter how hard the world pushes?

Why is this on my mind now?  Because the true meaning of Easter isn’t always easy to talk about.  Christmas is different.  We don’t mind talking about the Baby Jesus.  Who can’t relate to stable animals, shepherds, a star and magi on camels?  They are……cuddly.

But Easter? Easter is about a Savior who was tortured and crucified, then raised to life.  Not “risen in our hearts” mind you, but resurrected.

That means the body of Jesus that was placed in the tomb came back to life. A motionless chest started to move again.   Fingers and toes wiggled.

He sat up.

He stood up!

He walked out!

Are you comfortable talking about a Savior who died a cruel death, then rose bodily from the dead?

Not just in our hearts.

Not as a ghost or a figment of one’s imagination.

His heart was beating again.

The resurrection is a big deal, not only because it is supernatural and extraordinary but also because it is so necessary. It validates everything Jesus said about the things He had done, was doing and was going to do.

The resurrection is a line that separates followers of Jesus from casual adherents.   The Apostle Paul wrote, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: (Rom 1:16a)

The “gospel” is Jesus crucified for our sins and risen in glory. It is His appearances to many after His resurrection and the testimony of those who saw Him.  It is the “good news” that sin and death are defeated and we can be set free!

Why should there be a line in our lives? When Jesus came to His line on His way to Calvary He crossed it.

It is the lines in our lives that define us.

Where is yours drawn?

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Growing Kingdom People – Those Dangerous Underdogs

Those Dangerous Underdogs

There’s a reason they call it “March Madness.” The NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament has not gone exactly as predicted.  It rarely does.

Enter underdogs!

The notion of an underdog emerged from an unfortunate period in the 19th Century when staged dog fights were commonplace.  The underdog was the loser.

Modern day underdogs don’t have to lose, but they must be statistically weaker than their opponents. We cheer for underdogs because they symbolize our desire to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds in our own lives.  We live vicariously through their improbable victories.

The most famous biblical underdog is David, a young man who challenged a pagan giant named Goliath with a sling and five smooth stones. Goliath, sneered and jeered but in the end he was killed and decapitated by David.

Goliath was the top dog.

Doggone him.

David was the underdog.

Then Goliath took a shot to the head in the first round.

And the top dog was truly “gone.”

The David story and the NCAA Tournament both raise an interesting question. Why do underdogs win?

In sports, sometimes a unique match-up gives an underdog an unexpected advantage. So does a top dog injury, foul trouble and a three-point shooter with a hot hand.

For David, it was God who gave him the edge. He challenged Goliath with these words: “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied”. (1 Samuel 17:45 NIV).

Does this mean the secrets to an underdog’s victory are chance, and on some occasions, the mighty hand of God? If chance is defined by statistical probabilities for events in which God chooses not to intervene, then perhaps that, and certainly the latter.  But there is a third component.

A distinguishing characteristic of a victorious underdog is his unwavering confidence in his ability to win. In spiritual terms, it is his faith in things that may not be clearly visible to everyone.

This is why David was able to defeat Goliath. He had faith in the unseen God.

Does this mean top dogs who lose ball games lacked faith?

No.

On the contrary, some of the teams that have been knocked out of the NCAA Tournament are stacked with incredible testimonies of faith.

But the underdogs who defeated them were convinced they could win. And perhaps, together with other factors, this was the edge they needed.

I will let you decide the role faith plays in a basketball tournament.  I believe God helps players play up to their potential, but I don’t think He plays the brackets.  Besides, that would be a conflict of interest since He can influence the outcome.

But I am certain our faith is what helps us defeat our giants.  And if any victory in our lives  serves God’s purposes, and we are willing to seek and pursue His will, we are a force to be reckoned with.  In the words of the Apostle Paul, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31)

You might say God is the ultimate “bracket buster.”

Better get ready for your post game interview.

If you are open with a second on the clock, take the shot.

You can’t win if you just stand there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Growing Kingdom People – Heaven’s Bracketology

Heaven’s Bracketology

Do you suppose Jesus loves basketball?

Perhaps.

Did you know He once filled 12 baskets with five loaves of bread? And this after feeding thousands of people with just five loaves?  Can you imagine what the score would be if Jesus played college ball?

Jesus once said the kingdom of heaven is like a “net” (Matthew 13:47). Ok. So He went on to say it was like a net full of all kinds of fish.  But it is still a net.

Most importantly, Jesus was a number one “seed.” The Bible says He was the “Seed” of the promise of Abraham (Galatians 3:19).  He wasn’t just one of four number one seeds.  He was “the” number one Seed (with a capital “S”).

And if all of this isn’t enough evidence of Jesus’ possible connection to basketball, turn to Revelation 5:8. Do you understand what you are reading?  The four creatures in God’s “final” revelation are with twenty-four elders, worshipping Jesus, the Lamb of God! That’s right.  They are Jesus’ “’final four.”

I know this is speculation. I just feel sure Jesus enjoys March Madness.  If nothing else, perhaps He cheers with the angels every time a player or coach praises Him for the abilities they have been given.

But I will put these important matters aside for a moment to address something that involves each and every one of us. How would you like to come in “first” in heaven?

I know. I know.  It’s a little presumptuous.  Just getting to heaven is enough.  Why would anyone entertain the possibility of being “first?”

Jesus did.

Yup. It seems His disciples were always positioning themselves to be first.  One day Peter, in his boldness, went for the gusto.  He said, “We have left everything to follow you.  What then, will there be for us?” (Matthew 19:27)  In other words, “We are going to be first.  Right Jesus?”

Interestingly, Jesus didn’t say, “No, you can’t be first.” Instead, He told Peter how to be first.  He said, “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.  But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.” (Mat 19:29-30)

How do you land a number one seed in Jesus’ kingdom bracket?

You don’t.

Instead, you submit your life to Jesus and become first (co-heirs) with Him in His kingdom. He is the coach, the number one scorer and the MVP all wrapped up in the “One.”  He invites us to be on His team, but not if we want His position.

“So the first will be last and the last will be first” (Matthew 20:16).

Don’t worry about making it to the big dance, or perhaps I should say “the big feast.” You are already in by faith, through grace.  You don’t have to spend the rest of your life fighting and clawing to be recognized, or to prove to anyone you deserve salvation.

Certainly not to God.

He already knows you don’t.

Deserve salvation, that is.

But He makes you first through His Son, who is His “First” born.”

This must all be “maddening” to Satan. He led us into sin to put us on permanent suspension and we ended up playing on the winning team with the number one Seed.

And you’re mad because the bracket doesn’t look the way you thought it should…

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