How to Tie Your Shoes Without Shoelaces

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My 8 year-old daughter has a great sense of humor. She’s a pretty good writer too. Here’s a little something from her school writing journal:

How to Tie Your Shoes Without Shoelaces

Let’s say you come home from school and your shoelaces are muddy. Your mom tells you that you need to wash them, but it takes two days to do that. So, you have to find some way to lace your shoes.

What do you do?

Here’s an idea for tying your shoes without shoelaces:

Simply ask your mom if she can make spaghetti for dinner. When it is done and your mom isn’t looking, find the longest noodle and stick it in your pocket. Then say you have to go to the bathroom.

While you are on your way to the bathroom, bring your shoes with you. When you get in the bathroom, lock the door and lace your shoes with the noodle.

Pack a little box of spaghetti sauce. Put it in your coat pocket.

Later, when your shoelaces are dried, get the spaghetti sauce. Undo the spaghetti from your shoes. Dip your spaghetti noodles in the sauce. Woila! Enjoy.

Choose Your Expertise

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Do you really want to be known as an expert in identifying what’s wrong?

Some are expert critics, gifted in pointing out flaws.

Others are expert encouragers, gifted in pointing out strengths.

You choose your expertise.

Will you be an expert basher or builder, critic or encourager?

“You’ll do your best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious – the best, not the worst; the beautiful not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.” -Philippians 4.8 (MSG)

Perspective Check

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I remember getting started in ministry – I was young, excited, full of hope and couldn’t believe that God actually chose me to be part of His big plan!

I also remember the first time I encountered other ministers who were hurt, jaded, calloused and full of complaints about the ministry. I wanted to blurt out: “do something else, please!”

It’s been 17 years now. I’ve certainly had challenges, difficult days, battles to fight and plenty of opportunities to get hurt.

However, my perspective remains the same: I’m excited, full of hope and can hardly believe that God actually chose me to be part of His big plan!

I think every once in a while, we need to do a perspective check: are we viewing ministry the way Jesus does?

What is Jesus’ perspective on ministry?

MINISTRY ENERGIZES ME (vs ministry drains me).
“My nourishment comes from doing the will of God, who sent me, and from finishing his work.” (John 4.34)

THE BEST DAYS FOR MINISTRY ARE NOW (vs someday or the good old days).
“I say, wake up and look around. The fields are already ripe for harvest.” (John 4.35).

MINISTRY IS REWARDING & FUN (vs “poor me” working so hard for nothing).
“The harvesters are paid good wages, and the fruit they harvest is people brought to eternal life. What joy awaits both the planter and the harvester alike!” (John 4.36)

MINISTRY IS A PRIVILEGE (vs somebody owes me something)
“I sent you to harvest where you didn’t plant; others had already done the work, and now you will get to gather the harvest.” (John 4.38)

Church Lesson From Disney

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I just got home from our family vacation to Disneyland. It was my daughter’s first time… and she had a blast.

We spent 3 days bouncing back and forth between Disneyland and California Adventure. We went to Aladdin (the musical) and had breakfast with the Disney princesses (and now I feel so very manly telling you all this).

Here’s something I noticed about the Disney characters who were roaming around the park: they all had a permanent smile… one expression – happy.

I think this is a good lesson for church leaders and volunteers from Disney: since we represent the church (a place of hope, forgiveness, acceptance, love, grace and second chances), we should have a permanent smiles on our faces!

Disney describes themselves as “the happiest place on earth.”

How would we (the church) like to be described?

The church is the most “___________________” place on earth…

I’m thinking the words “joyful, exciting, hopeful, vibrant and alive” are pretty good.

Taking a lesson from Disney: our facial expressions need to match our self-description!

What He Did

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It was our pains he carried – our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us.

It was our sins that did that to him, that ripped and tore and crushed him – our sins!

He took the punishment, and that made us whole.
   
Through his bruises we get healed.

We’re all like sheep who’ve wandered off and gotten lost.
   
We’ve all done our own thing, gone our own way.

And God has piled all our sins, everything we’ve done wrong, on him, on him.

(Isaiah 53.4-6 MSG)

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