Misfits, Peeps From the Wrong Side of the Tracks…

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Who have you invited to church for Easter Sunday?

I’m sure you’ve asked some family members, friends and maybe even a few neighbors to come with you. That’s great, but don’t stop there!

Keep inviting. Cast the net out further.

Here’s how Jesus said it:

“Don’t just invite your friends and family and rich neighbors, the kind of people who will return the favor.

Invite some people who never get invited… the misfits from the wrong side of the tracks.

You’ll be – and experience – a blessing.

They won’t be able to return the favor, but the favor will be returned – oh, how it will be returned!” (Luke 14.12-14 MSG).

I love it!

Invite some people who never get invited.

Invite some misfits, peeps from the wrong side of the tracks.

Jesus died and rose again for us all – the insiders and outsiders, people from both sides of the tracks!

Keep on inviting…

The Comma (a post written by Jon Acuff – Stuff Christians Like)

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This post is written by Jon Acuff, the author of Stuff Christians Like (his book can be purchased here: http://www.amazon.com/Stuff-Christians-Like-Jonathan-Acuff/dp/0310319943/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1270052456&sr=8-1 ).

You can read this post and others like it on Jon’s website: http://stuffchristianslike.net/

One more thing… Jon is very funny on Twitter. I recommend following him: http://twitter.com/prodigaljohn

OK… here’s the post:

One Easter I got into a bit of a yelling match with a guy in a visor at an Easter egg hunt. The whole thing was exactly how Jesus imagined us honoring that day.

We were at my in-laws country club, which always makes me feel a little weird. We’re certainly rich in a global way, but I kind of think that they can all tell that I’m just a visitor. I feel like the real members can smell middle class on me. (Which kind of smells like sun ripened raspberry and feet by the way.)

So after I pointed to where a golden egg was hidden to my 5 year old daughter, he yelled at me for cheating. I told him that his white visor made him look like a financial planner who was wearing his “casual uniform.” Whole thing got very out of hand. (I didn’t say that, but I thought it later when we were driving home, which is where most of my comebacks occur.)

The entire incident was gross. My daughter, who lost a golden egg last year has actually asked not to participate in the Easter egg hunt this year. That’s how messed up and tangled we’ve made this season of our lives.

But the more I think about it, the more I realize that one of the things Easter is all about is actually pretty simple. I’ve written about it before and I hope to write about it again.

I’m talking about the “comma of grace.”

I found it in Luke 22. In that chapter, Jesus is being led away. He is headed to the cross. A million prophecies are coming true and chaos is breaking out a little amongst disciples that up to this point have sworn to serve until death. In the midst of that, he pulls Simon aside because he knows that Simon will soon betray him.

He says to Simon in Luke 22:31-32:
“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail.”

And then, he drops the 9 words that I can’t write about enough. The 9 words that I often turn to when I’ve failed and messed up again and feel hopelessly undeserving of hope.

Jesus tells Simon:
“And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

Do you see what Jesus is saying in that first half of the sentence, And when you have turned back? He’s saying:

You are going to fail.
You are going to fall.
You are going to lose it.
You are going to make commitments and break them.
You are not going to always be the man you family needs.
You are going to sin.
But, but, but, you will turn back.

You will come back. You will know redemption. You will know return. You will know a God that not only allows the “comeback” but actually celebrates it.

When I read the phrase “And when you have turned back,” I read a loud, wild picture of what grace really looks like.

And then, if you go too fast, you’ll miss the comma. You’ll miss the gap that sits quietly between the next thought. You’ll miss it because like me, you might misread the second half of that sentence.

Here’s what it says:
“And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

But here’s how we write it sometimes:

“And when you have turned back, repent for a long time and stay a long way from me until you are clean enough to return to my presence.”

“And when you have turned back, please stay far away from any ministry opportunities. You are too broken to help other people. How can you minister to others when your own life is so messed up?

“And when you have turned back, here are the 57 things you need to do in order to earn back my good favor.”

But Christ doesn’t do that! He drops a comma like a grenade.

He gives us the gift of the comma and then asks us to strengthen our brothers. Not beat ourselves with emotional whips. Or lay in a hole of shame. Or stay to the shadows of church afraid to be seen.

He wants you. In his arms. By his side. Surrendered and free in his presence.

Not because you deserve it or have earned it or are perfect.

Because of Easter.

That’s it.

We all get the comma of grace.

Inviting Outsiders or Coddling Insiders?

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What’s more important – inviting outsiders or coddling insiders?

Should we be more concerned with keeping the holy ones happy or reaching riffraff for Jesus?

Should the church be an exclusive club for saints or a hospital for sinners?

Maybe Jesus (the head of the Church) has something to say about it…

Jesus saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.

Later when Jesus was eating supper at Matthew’s house with his close followers, a lot of disreputable characters came and joined them.

When the Pharisees saw him keeping this kind of company, they had a fit, and lit into Jesus’ followers. “What kind of example is this from your Teacher, acting cozy with crooks and riffraff?”

Jesus, overhearing, shot back, “Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick? Go figure out what this Scripture means: ‘I’m after mercy, not religion.’ I’m here to invite outsiders, not coddle insiders.” (Matthew 9.9-13 MSG)

The highlights:

  1. Jesus invited a tax collector (pretty despised dudes back then).
  2. A bunch of disreputable characters were welcomed by Him.
  3. This ticked off the Pharisees – the religious insiders.
  4. Jesus said “go figure out what this means: I’m after mercy, not religion.”
  5. Jesus said “I’m here to invite outsiders, not coddle insiders.”

Takeaway:

Don’t be a Pharisee
(uppity, self-righteous, compassionless, wanting to be coddled and catered to).
Be like Jesus
(inviting, including, welcoming, grace-giving and focused on reaching outsiders).

Something Smells Fishy

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My grandpa had a boat. He enjoyed fishing.

I remember playing with all the cool little things in his tackle box. I also have fond memories of playing in his boat that was parked in his driveway.

My grandpa’s tackle box had a unique smell; so did his boat… kind of a fishy smell.

I’ve been fishing a few times in my life and caught some fish (yes, they were small).

Here’s what I know: regardless if the fish are “keepers” or too small, you’re going to get “all fishy” because you have to get the fish off the hook. Your hands are going to smell fishy.

Jesus invited guys to follow him saying: “Come with me. I’ll make you a new kind of fisherman out of you. I’ll show you how to catch men and women instead of perch and bass.” (Matthew 4.19 MSG).

On another occasion, Jesus clarified what kind of people they were planning to catch: “I’m here inviting the sin-sick, not the spiritually-fit.” (Mark 2.17 MSG).

Fishermen smell like fish.

I’ve never been hunting, but I’ve heard stories of hunters covering themselves in animal urine in order to mask their human scent. Wow!

Jesus said we’re inviting the sin-sick.

The church is to be a hospital for sinners, not a country club for saints.

We should smell like fish. I’m not talking about sinning. We’re not becoming the sin-sick… we’re reaching the sin-sick!

Fishermen don’t become fish, but they sure do smell like ‘em!

If we’re going to reach people (like Jesus commanded), things will be messy and smelly – and that’s the way it should be.

Up, Down, Out, In

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Last week, Ed Young Jr.’s Tweet captured my attention. He said, “Jesus went up, the Holy Spirit came down, the disciples went out and the lost came in. Are you going out to bring the lost in?”

What a simple and profound truth… Jesus went up, the Holy Spirit came down, the disciples went out and the lost came in.

We are privileged to be part of God’s huge plan to bring Salvation to the ends of the earth. Let’s do our part by bringing in the lost!

“Go quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and invite the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.” – Luke 14.21

“Go out into the country lanes and behind the hedges and urge anyone you find to come, so that the house will be full.” – Luke 14.23

“Blessed are those who are invited…” – Revelation 19.9

The Smell Battle

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Ya ever think about how life is one long battle against bad smells?

Every day we shower off that sweaty bacteria that starts growing on our bodies (some of us have to do this multiple times a day).

We brush our teeth (and tongue) daily. We rinse with mouthwash. Throughout the day we battle halitosis with gum, mints and Listerine strips.

Don’t forget all the applications of deodorant, nice-smelling lotion and cologne.

Each day, the routine stars over. Skip a few days and you’ve lost the smell battle!

As soap is to stink, generosity is to greed – it’s the antidote.

Greed smells. Stinginess is odiferous. Selfishness reeks.

Generosity keeps us smelling good.

“The gifts you sent… are a sweet-smelling sacrifice that is acceptable and pleasing to God.” – Philippians 4.18

Giving isn’t a one-time thing – just like showering or brushing your teeth isn’t a one-time thing. Our natural tendency is to start smelling (bad).

The smell battle must be fought on a daily basis.

Take a whiff. How do you smell today… greedy or generous?

The Generous Eye

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Before I had LASIK on my eyes I was nearsighted (couldn’t see anything far away). After the surgery, my eyesight was corrected. No more contacts and glasses!

I’ve always loved this verse:

“He who has a generous eye will be blessed.” – Proverbs 22.9 NKJV

It speaks of the person who has a generous nature and is constantly looking for opportunities to give, bless, invest and make a difference.

Maybe the opposite of the generous eye is a “stingy eye.”

Some people have a stingy nature and look for ways to hoard, keep, hide, stash and protect their money.

Greed is no good. Look at every New Testament list of evil sins and you will find greed mentioned. Greed messes with your vision, erodes your faith, makes you fearful and paranoid.

When you’re nearsighted, your eye is oblong-shaped. The LASIK procedure burns away some of that extra tissue – making the eye more round, correcting it’s shape.

Sometimes we need spiritual LASIK: to be reshaped, getting rid of the greed that impairs our ability to see clearly.

God, give us generous eyes; help us to say with conviction: “we live to give and we love to give!”?

Blessed… for What?

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We are blessed. We really do have so much.

Don’t feel like you are blessed?

Consider what happens in just 1 minute around the world:

250 babies are born,

113 are born into poverty.

The average person in the world makes $0.013, while the average American household makes $0.096.

The average person in India with an IT career makes $0.025, while the average person in the United States with an IT career makes $0.13.

Someone working in a Nike factory in Vietnam makes $0.0014.

120,673 pounds of edible food is thrown away in the United States; there are 107 deaths in the world – 18 will die from starvation.

Yes, we are blessed and we have more than enough.

“He will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you.” – 2 Corinthians 2.10

“Yes, you will be enriched in every way so that you can always be generous.” – 2 Corinthians 2.11

We are blessed so that we can be generous.

We are blessed in order to be a blessing.

Let’s break free from greedy, selfish, fearful, tight-fisted management of the resources God has blessed us with.

Let’s go on new adventures in generosity!

What Kids Pray…

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A parent shared with me on Sunday:

My favorite prayer I’ve heard my daughter pray was “B!  I!  N!  G!  O! And Bingo was his name-oh! In Jesus name, Amen.”

How about you? Do you have some memorable kid prayers to share?

Sometimes We’d Rather Just Complain

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Sometimes we’d rather just complain.

It feels good. It’s kind of addictive too – once we get going, it’s hard to stop.

One complaint inspires another.

Speaking out the complaint seems to boost our confidence that we’re right.

Complaining is nice because it places the burden of responsibility on someone or something else.

I think we often choose to complain because it’s safe – it ensures that we won’t have to change.

But maybe safe isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be.

“Don’t worry about anything; instead pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.

Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

And now, one final thing: Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” (Philippians 4:6-8)

Don’t worry (stress, whine, complain, freak out)… instead, pray!

Something happens when we pray. The circumstances may or may not change… but WE are certainly changed!

When we pray, God gives us a peace that goes beyond all our thoughts, cares and concerns about the situation.

When we pray, we take on a responsibility… to trust God and to get our thoughts right (to fix our thoughts on what is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and worthy of praise).

I know, sometimes we’d rather just complain… but if we have enough energy to complain, we have enough to pray.

Live dangerously and pray!

The risk is that God might change us… but it’s a change for the better anyway(being stress-free, worry-free and filled with a peace that supersedes our circumstances).

Live the adventure. Pray about everything.