Focus On What Matters

A few weeks ago I was reading the liturgy for the day, and the NT reading came from Paul’s first letter to Timothy, the first chapter. I was so taken with it! For the past five years or so, I have immersed myself in the four gospel accounts, and it has been richly fulfilling and needed. Therefore, reading Paul again was fresh to me. And this letter to his guy Timothy resonated with me deeply and immediately.

Here’s verses three and four from the New Living Translation which really struck me:

When I left for Macedonia, I urged you to stay there in Ephesus and stop those whose teaching is contrary to truth. Don’t let them waste their time in endless discussion of myths and spiritual pedigrees. These things only lead to meaningless speculations, which don’t help people live a life of faith in God.

Amen!

In this age of information overload, I am so often bombarded, it feels, with invitations to meaningless discussions. As my daughter Gabriela says, “It’s driving me to the nuts!” I can’t do it. Life is too short. There’s too much meaning in the universe to take the time to talk about ridiculosity that does not lead to love, to God.

I like how one commentary on I Timothy states, “The danger seems at first a simple one: wasting time. Avoid godless chatter, he says, and focus on the really important things, such as the gospel of Jesus Christ…What exactly is ‘godless chatter?’…Godless chatter is talk that doesn’t have as either its content or goal the promotion of the gospel of Jesus Christ. In other words, what Paul is recommending is that our talk be ‘partisan’ in the best sense of the word–that we never waste time in simple critique of false teaching, critique that doesn’t go anywhere. No, Paul wants us always to talk in terms of the gospel.”

So with regard to talk of a spiritual nature, let’s make sure it has a point, and that that point is the gospel of Jesus Christ, of living a life of faith, the promotion of love, of God Himself. If you wanna talk baseball stats, I can talk all day long. No rules, no worries there. But if we’re gonna talk religion on any level, I’m gonna hold you to gospel purity.

I’ve had a friend who likes very much to criticize the same Christian author over and over, year after year. Stop. Enough. It’s pointless. It’s boring.Yawn fest. Who cares? Not this guy. Or some I know at the gym and elsewhere who love to go off politically. Let me tell you something, you do that with me and I will always ask you two things: 1) How’s your prayer life, and how much are you praying for these politicians you love to slam? and 2) What do you feel God is personally calling you to politically? In other words, what is God calling you to do about what you’re complaining about, because I have a sneaky suspicion that it’s not to complain about it.

Pray and do something.

Ok, that’s enough for today. I may spend some time over the next weeks unpacking some of I Timothy because I love doing that, and there’s much to glean and understand from this letter.

Blessings!

On Charlottesville

Romans 12:15

Celebrate with those who are celebrating, mourn with the mourners.
[New Testament for Everyone]

There’s been much on my heart this week. The Spirit has directed me to Paul’s first letter to Timothy, which I look forward to sharing with you soon. A close friend has been in the hospital. Our daughters went back to school, and that was joyful to the nth degree for them. A friend’s daughter took her own life last Saturday….

Yet what is on the forefront of about everyone’s mind are the events of Charlottesville. Personally, I have so many jumbled thoughts, that I feel it best to let someone else speak. My friend Jermayne Chapman wrote “An Open Letter to Pastors” this past Sunday that is beyond worth sharing.

So thank you, Jermayne, for sharing so freely, my brother.

Here is the post in its entirety:

An Open Letter to Pastors this Sunday Morning, August 13, 2017

Good Morning,

I hope you are well this Sunday. I’m sure you are caught up in last minute prep for Sunday morning.

In light of the events that happened in Charlottesville, VA, I wanted to challenge you this Sunday morning. I wanted to challenge to not remain silent this Sunday morning on what just happened in our country.

Somewhere in the service, preferably towards the beginning, you need to acknowledge what happened in Charlottesville. You will need to call out racism and denounce white supremacy. That’s not a political thing, it’s the right thing. You will need to weep with those who are hurting, both physically and emotionally. Not based on whether or not you fully understand why someone may be hurting. You need to do this even if everyone in your congregation looks like you. Because everyone in your congregation will need to hear how they should respond when they observe racism or when a co-worker, a friend or a neighbor suffers from the pain of a racist experience. You will need to pray for healing and peace.

This is a lot to ask, so I’ve taken the time to write out what you can say in case you have no time to prepare.

“Many of you may already be aware of the events that took place this weekend in Charlottesville. As we have learned from Jesus and the Parable of the Good Samaritan, white supremacy is wrong and has no place in our church or in our society. While there are those who are hurting from direct involvement, many more brothers and sisters have been traumatized by the occurrence of these events and the reminder they create of our shared history and the parts of that still persist today. The Apostle Paul encourages us in Romans 12 to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. It is in that spirit as well as that of the Good Samaritan that I would like for us to take the time to pray. Pray for all of those who are hurting. We need to pray for justice to prevail in the terrorist attack yesterday. We need to pray for the Body of Christ to continue to reject the sin of racism in all its forms and be the healing balm our society deeply needs right now. Let us pray….”

Feel free to use this or parts of this. Feel free to do something in the spirit of this. You can do many things, but one this you can not do…YOU CAN NOT BE SILENT ON THIS.

In coaching leaders, I like to give a ‘Good-Better-Best’ option. A ‘Good’ option would be to condemn what happened and pray for those who are hurting, both physically and emotionally. A ‘Better’ option would be to pray and speak from scripture about why this is wrong and how we as the Body of Christ should respond. And of course, the ‘Best’ option would be to completely redo the Sunday morning service to take the time to address this from scripture and allow people time to pray and process.

Since ‘Better’ and ‘Best’ both involve great planning and you need to preach in a few hours, I’ve offered a ‘Good’ solution. I challenge you to create a ‘Better’ and ‘Best’ option for your congregation at some point. If you need help, let me know. Thank you for how you serve and I’m praying for you today.

Where’s My Suitcase?

I just returned this week from my 13th semi-annual hiking trip out west, my third in a row to Colorado. It was magical yet again, and it seems YHWH always teaches me something profound when I am out in His glorious creation, distraction-free. Yet this trip, He showed me something before we even got out of the Denver Airport, before we got close to setting foot on a trail in the mountains.

After deboarding, we made our way to baggage claim #5 to retrieve our suitcases. There were four of us on this trip; one dude didn’t check a bag, and the other two saw their bags fairly early. (I always have this slight, back-of-my-mind feeling that my bag will be lost, but I remembered saying to the guys that it’s nice to have a direct flight since there’s very little chance of your bag going missing.)

Still waiting.

Looking.

Down to two bags going round and round.

Oh man, this is happening. My suitcase is not here. I could keep staring at these two other bags go around, holding out hope they will birth mine on one of their laps, but my bag is not here.

OK, deep breath. This is alright. The guys all went to the bathroom and to check on where to go for the rental car, so I had no one to hold me at this point. I went to the Southwest office to report my bag not making it. They said I could look at the heavy bag area as sometimes they take a bit longer. And since I packed a full 96 ounces of peanut butter for the trails, my bag was kind of up there in poundage.

Wait.

Look.

Nothing.

Besides my heavenly peanut butter, my $275 hiking boots I’ve had for eight years and seven trips were in there, as well as a myriad of other precious belongings, like my brand new hydro flask I was so nerdily excited to use. But I was psyching myself up~”I technically have everything I need on me to hike and have a good time. I will not let this ruin the trip.”

The dudes had come back by this point, and couldn’t believe my suitcase didn’t show. We could only figure someone grabbed it by mistake since it’s one of those black nondescript suitcases. And I had made the dumb mistake of putting my home phone number on the little tag as opposed to my cell number, acting like someone may find out I’m a spy or something so I better give vague information.

It had been long enough, and I decided to go back to the office and report my bag as missing, hoping it would turn up soon so I could get it before the trip was over.

Then, I had this thought: “Isn’t it possible that it got put on the wrong baggage claim carriage?” I mean, humans are prone to error. So right before walking to fill out my report, I decide to take a look over at baggage claim #4, next to the one (#5) where my bag was suppose to be.

And I see a black nondescript suitcase.

A little hopeful, I walked closer. That bag came around the turn as I approached, and it did indeed look like mine, bulging out the front from all that peanut butter. I picked up my pace, to a slow trot/gallop, and as I got to the bag that looked like mine, I grabbed that little tag to read “Robert Pallikan.” Oh glory! Elation filled my desperate little heart! So much pain and inconvenience was just averted. It was on the wrong conveyor.

And off we went…!

So, a few days later, we had a nice, slow morning. I was blessed with some time to myself in the room to meditate and pray. In reflection, the Holy Spirit spoke this to me:

What you’re looking for isn’t always where you’re looking. Sometimes it’s where you think you’re not suppose to look.

That’s one of those thoughts I can ruminate on for the rest of my days. Instead of expounding on what it meant to me, I will leave that with you to discover how it might mean something to you right now or in the future.

May our good Lord, who is full of mercy, richly bless you this day.

Are You an Apprentice of Jesus?

This morning I came across this great working definition of a disciple or apprentice  as “simply someone who has decided to be with another person, under appropriate conditions, in order to become capable of doing what that person does or to become what that person is.”

This seems to finely encapsulate what an apprentice is quite succinctly.

So….

Would you say that you are a disciple or apprentice of Jesus?

Have you decided to become a teachable student of the living Christ in order to become capable of doing what He would do if He were living your life now?

Jesus Encounter

To lock eyes with You

The blurring of all else

The fuzziness of not-You.

“Shoulds” dissipate

now nothingness

as focus sharpens

on only-You.

There is none else.

Above…beyond

is clear.

Love unconditional

wells up, springs forth

as that which is seen so quickly and easily,

with cheap glance and labor but minuscule

is filtered to the below, away

hamstrung of its power to distract

from now.

All that remains

Purity

Lasting

Reality

You

in Everything

Forever.

Glorifying God ~ by Gabriela

We are told that as Christian, we must glorify God in everything we think, say, and do. At times it can be hard to understand what that means or how to do it. We want things for ourselves. We want people to tell us how great they think we are. But, what is the point? What is the point of getting people’s appreciation? All we need is God’s appreciation and love. We are supposed to glorify God, not ourselves. We need to open our selves up to Him. He is our majestic, all-powerful, wonderful God.

Sometimes it can be hard to find a way to glorify Him when you are doing certain things. But there is always a way. You don’t even always have to look for it yourself. God can bring people to you. He wants us to glorify him by looking for ways to help His people. It’s like the Bible explains: If we encourage our neighbor, we encourage God. If we support our brother, we are supporting God. If we love our enemies just as we love our family, we are loving God. We can glorify Him just by being open to His guidance and love and power.

God’s glory is not something that we should just talk about or pay attention to whenever we feel like it. It’s not about us or about when we feel like doing just because. It is all about God and His glory. We should do everything we do in His name. We should boast about Him, not ourselves. We should praise Him, not ourselves. We should honor Him and everything He does, not ourselves and whatever it is that we do. Glorifying God in all we think, say, and do is so important, and not as hard as you might think. We must simply look for ways to do things that praise His name, honor His word, and glorify what He stands for.

GABRIELA

Distracted or Drawn?

Luke 21:34

“So watch out for yourselves,” said Jesus, “that your hearts may not grow heavy with dissipation and drunkenness and the cares of this life…”

The cares of this life.

Every single experience of our day can serve either to distract us from God, or draw us to God.

Ultimately, I believe this choice is ours.

My wife and I have been attempting to teach our daughters that you can view every circumstance either as opportunity or obstacle, and that this is one of the heaviest influencers on your happiness.

This is simply one of those “Secrets of Life” that we sometimes, unfortunately, hear very late in life.

My spiritual partner Dave has always said that your circumstances do not determine your happiness, your thinking does.

This is tough to apprehend for most, and in reality, there are probably very few who live into this radical freedom. But I believe this to be at least one aspect of the “narrow road” Jesus taught us about. Enslavement to circumstances–anxiety over things not going the way we want–is one of the things Christ offers to free us from.

Every little care in this life can distract you from God’s presence and care, if you let it.

If you let it.

Every little care in this life can draw you closer to God, if you allow it.

If you surrender.

Jesus desires to be a conscious, acknowledged part of every aspect of our life. From the trivial and mundane, to the momentous and most stressful. Every single experience of our day can draw us to Him, teach us His ways, and make us effective and more alive. Every perceived obstacle can be turned into an opportunity in an instant simply by switching our lenses through which we are looking.

In every circumstance, we could, for example,  pray: “Lord, you are with me now. You are not stressed out, but are ready to care for me and guide me through this difficulty. I know You are infinitely good and want what is absolutely best for me. Amen.”

I think sometimes we are constantly asking God, if even subconsciously,

“Are You there and do You care?”

How we hear those two questions answered by God determines much of our life, our joy, our peace.

Everything that comes your way today–will it be a distraction or a drawing? What will you decide? Which will you choose?


Bonus Material: While reading in the front yard on this glorious day today, I came across a sentence I just loved by this guy named Jack A. Thorpe who was an Air Force captain in the seventies:

There is nothing like getting yelled at to make you think harder, to really reflect.

This came after he pitched an idea that he really believed in and had worked quite extensively on to some higher-ups and was laughed at. Instead of sulking, being defeated, he used it as motivation to work harder, reflect, and learn from it.

FAMILIES~by Gabriela

FAMILY TIME

Today, instead of reflecting over one of my dad’s writings, I am going to write my own from scratch.

It is important to spend time with your family. If you go to work early in the morning, maybe get home early too, but then go out with friends until late, you do not have much time with your family.Why have a family if not to spend quality time with them? It is the same as being alone, if you never see them. This goes not just for your nuclear family, but also for grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, and nephews. We as people are created in the image of God. God made us to be friends with him and to love him and each other.  Put those together and,…well, ponder it for a moment. God made us to have families to love and share our hopes and dreams, our pains and misfortunes with.  You love your family, right? Of course you do,… well, you need to  show them. Go spend quality time with your family. You, as a person created in the image of God, go do what God had planned for us and families. Think about it: Why have a family if not to love each other and spend quality time together. I can guarantee that you will not be able to come up with any other reasons.

The working and going out with friends might not be the reason you’re  being distant from your family. Actually, I am thinking of a way that you may be a couple feet away, but yet, you still wouldn’t know when they got up from where they were sitting. Can you guess what I’m thinking of… PHONES. Phones can be so addictive. It can be so hard to not check an email or send that response text, but being on your phone is keeping you away from the people you love. It is hard to believe that phones used to be just to  call people; but isn’t that the only reason we invented phones? We needed a way to stay in touch with with our friends and family. If you’re on your phone during dinner, how are you staying in touch with the people you love and cherish the most? You simply cannot. Because  of this I want to challenge you to do something. I want to challenge you to pick a time in the evening to just put your phones away. The time could be from 7:00 to 8:30,maybe 6:00 to 8:00, or maybe even 7:00 to bedtime; whatever works best for your schedule. If you have kids, of course they would have to be older, they could even hide your phone for you so that if you were tempted, you would not even be able to look at your phone. I will encourage you to try this challenge in order to spend more time with your family. GOOD LUCK!

 

 

GABRIELA

Vital Time

Yesterday I returned from a most wonderful weekend men’s retreat. One of the vivid take-aways was the vital importance of forging time everyday to spend extravagantly with God.

You literally have nothing better to do.

All the men this weekend attested, in one way or another, to the supernatural goodness that comes from simple communing with our very real and very alive Trinitarian Creator.

We all need some form of daily renewal, some reminding of who God is and how much He cares for us and our real lives now. We reminded each other this weekend that if you do not program your mind, the world will gladly do it for you.

Your spirit, your soul, needs to eat just as much, if not more, than your body does. Our bodies are designed by Papa to eat life-giving foods that He has provided. Yet we take His creation and concoct all sorts of ridiculous “edibles” to satisfy some twisted agenda of making food fast or sweet to the point of our eyes popping out of our heads–fake really.

Our spirits are designed to feed upon the Bread of Life–upon Jesus Himself, His very being, His words, His presence. Yet we concoct and find and settle for fake bread. Oh how much of our time we devote to eating sh!t. Pardon my language, but that’s what it is.

The fake bread of judgement. The fake bread of worry, of self-loathing, of depressing news, of Facebook…

The best possible way you can spend your time is contemplating a loving God. Science even tells us that 5-16 minutes a day of contemplating a loving God renews and rewires us for joy, for life, for health, and vitality. It changes who we are.

If you don’t have 5-16 minutes to devote to God alone in a day, then I got nothing for you.

Jesus is a real person.

Jesus is alive.

Jesus is pleading for you to spend time with Him everyday.