Being At Peace In A Checkout Line

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The other day I did something no intelligent, sane person should do. Go shopping after the holidays.

I am on a break, and I should be at home with my comfortable hoodie and enjoying warm drinks. But I needed to grab something for work, that I didn’t get before vacation.

I knew I was in trouble when I walked in the store and saw all the holiday items that didn’t sell that was on sale now for fifty percent or more off. And it was all small tiny individual items.

I just needed two small items, so it should be a very short visit until I got into the checkout line. It was a good size line (I’ve seen worse), but there were only two checkout lanes. Unfortunately, this store didn’t have an express lane or a self-checkout lane, and every person in front of me had a cart full of discounted holiday items.

So I had to wait.

At first, I was displeased by the store’s lack of workers and lack of awareness that they didn’t have extra workers for the day.

But after a few minutes, I asked myself, “Where do you have to go? Are you in such a hurry that you need to be checked out at a faster pace.” My answer was “No.”

Then I decided to wait with good spirit and patience. Even when the cashiers were having trouble with items not having a price, then needing a price check out a sale item. And when finally a new cashier came, their card reader wasn’t working correctly, I waited with a smile and calmness.

When it was finally my turn, I was able to be friendly and kind to the frustrated cashier and wished them a great day after the total price was a few dollars. They probably thought I was out of mind to be a busy store during a holiday break and picking up so little.

It didn’t matter what they thought; I hope my calm presence made their day a little better.

In your life, do you find yourself stressed out when you don’t need to be? If so, maybe you should invest in a meditation regime. Part of my mourning routine, I’ve been spending a few minutes in the morning while the coffee is brewing to site in calmness and meditate on the blessings of God. When I pour the hot water, I thank God for clean water. As the aroma of the coffee enters my senses, I thank God for the beautiful creation of the coffee bean. When I sit down, I thank God for the roof over my head.

It’s a simple part of my morning, but it helps me during the day when I get annoyed by things that shouldn’t annoy me.

Maybe if you are short temper, it might mean that you need to refocus your mind and enjoy the small blessings of the Lord.

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Waiting For My Real Home

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There was a time in my life when I was a little more transient. It seemed like I was sleeping in a different place every few months and there was a time during one particular summer that I was moving every few days.

I wasn’t homeless, I still had a roof over my head, but it was a different bed and with different people.

It made me thankful for one common denominator in each circumstance, and that was everywhere I went and whoever I stayed with had one thing in common — our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

It didn’t matter the age difference, the gender, the race or anything else that can segregate me from my housemates. Because we had the same faith, we were family.

During this season of the year, I belong to the universal truth that believers in Jesus are part of a large family that is away from our real home, which is eternal life.

We don’t belong to this world, similar to that I didn’t belong in other people’s home. I was a grateful guest, but I longed for the day like today, where I had a more permanent place.

Our eternal, permanent place isn’t here yet, but because of the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, I can anticipate and long for our real home.

I Understand The Pharisees

As a man from the States in my late thirties, I read the Bible a little differently than some people. Growing up watching G.I. Joe, Heman, and Transformers, I sometimes read the Bible in a Good vs. Evil, and that is very much so, in the gospels.

It’s Jesus vs. the Pharisees.

I read the story of Jesus beating the Pharisees at every turn. The Pharisees think they have Jesus cornered, but at the last moment, Jesus defeats them.

I know it’s silly, but that is how I read the story.

But as I matured in the Lord and been a pastor for almost two decades, I see the Pharisees in a different light because I get why they act and say what they do.

Jesus’ message is 100 percent true, godly, and righteous but it’s complicated and messy.

The Pharisees have life down to a science from the clothing to their daily routines. It may be difficult, but it’s not complicated and messy.

For example, in our community, we have a homeless problem. And you can ask 100 different people why there is a problem, and they could give you each a different reason why it’s happening and a way to fix it.

It’s complicated, messy and very disrupting, especially on Sunday morning. They might come into the church not wanting the “God thing” but needing a place to get warm, a cup of coffee, seeking food, stealing coffee money or taking drugs in the bathroom.

Here’s the thing, it’s easy to have the policy to tell the security or greetings what they should do for the homeless, like how many feet can the walk into the building, using the restrooms, taking coffee or whatever to make the building and the worship service “safe.” And that would be a wise and understandable action for a variety of reasons.

Except for one important reason, the Jesus thing.

Matthew 25: 31-46 say’s to give without exceptions.

Because vs. 45 say’s ” He will answer them, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you failed to do one of these things to someone who was being overlooked or ignored, that was me—you failed to do it to me.”

I want that verse to have some “buts.”

Spoiler Alert: It doesn’t. Even the oldest manuscripts are missing them.

So that means, as I progress in my faith and getting older working as a pastor, I need to make sure that I continue to strive toward the side of Jesus, the side that is messy, complicated, and disruptive.

Even when the safe, secure, and understandable pharisaical side looks like a better option, I know it doesn’t lead to the outcome that God desires.

Lord, teach me to be always generous: to serve you as you deserve; to give and never to count the cost

Giving God Our…

As Jesus left the house, he was followed by two blind men crying out, “Mercy, Son of David! Mercy on us!” When Jesus got home, the blind men went in with him. Jesus said to them, “Do you really believe I can do this?” They said, “Why, yes, Master!”

He touched their eyes and said, “Become what you believe.” It happened. They saw. Then Jesus became very stern. “Don’t let a soul know how this happened.” But they were hardly out the door before they started blabbing it to everyone they met. (Matthew 9:27-31 MSG)

In this story, Jesus is met by two people who are in need of something more than what they have. The men showed great faithfulness and initiative as they followed Jesus from home to home.

We don’t know much about this story; we don’t see the distance traveled. We don’t know if Jesus or the disciples spoke to them during the journey. We can assume that these men weren’t alone, as crowds were following Jesus so I can’t imagine it would be easy for these men to grab Jesus attention. We have seen in the gospels of Jesus’ disciples finding ways to push people away from Jesus.

So for these men to grab his attention, it probably was through a lot of perseverance.

Finally, they approached, and Jesus directly question them “Do you really believe?” and they said, “Why, Yes!” And through a personal touch, Jesus healed the men.

I can’t imagine what these men were going through in life. I know being blind in today’s culture is difficult even though we have many enhancements to assist the blind. So living with these ailments in the ancient times must have been incredibly difficult. But these men believed Jesus could take blindness and give them sight.

My ailments are minor, my pain, wounds, and brokenness aren’t much, but when I go to God in prayer for these things, I sometimes wonder, “Can God heal me?”

During Advent, we are celebrating the impossible and miraculous story of Jesus’ birth, and I still wonder “Can God….”

I need to have the faith and perseverance of these men. I need to continue to follow God and plead, “God help me.” So when God’s spirit asks, “Do you really believe?” I can answer with a simple, “Why, Yes, Master!”

And then the personal touch of God will engulf those pains, wounds, and brokenness to make me whole again.

Prepare your heart this season and pray for the brokenness of this world and ask for God’s touch to make God’s kingdom here on this Earth.

A Chuckle Then A Conviction

This morning I came across a scripture that my made chuckle a little. Every so often, God’s word makes you laugh.

The scripture is Hebrews 5:2 and it say’s

For every high priest taken from among men is appointed on behalf of people in the things relating to God, in order that he can offer both gifts and sacrifices on behalf of sins, 2 being able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and led astray, since he himself also is surrounded by weakness (LEB)

Even though we don’t have high priests anymore in the Christian Church, we do have pastors that serve the body similar to a high priest.

A pastor isn’t a job you just do. What does that mean? Anyone can fill a job role as a pastor. I know many people who are in pastor positions that are merely working because they were volunteers and they just filled a role that was vacant because the church didn’t want to search for a new candidate. But a pastor isn’t a filling position; a pastor is someone that has a calling from God to serve in the universal church.

As a pastor, I serve the church, whether it be the local church or the universal church. Though I am employed and paid by a church, they are not my employer because my employer is God and God alone.

God is my boss and leads my life. There were times when I thought I was in control, but God has proven time and time again that He orders my day. I must be obedient to that calling and respond accordingly.

What makes me laugh about this passage is that a pastor is called to handle with gentleness the ignorant and the weak. Oh man, I had probably a list of people that came to my mind when I read that passage, and I image the author writing these words with a list of people as well. And it just made me chuckle.

Then it hit me, how well do I handle the ignorant and the weak? I joke with people when they ask me if I would have been a lead pastor and I always respond with, “As a children’s pastor I get the blessing of when the immature show signs of maturity, as if I was a lead pastor, I get the curse of the mature acting with immaturity.”

That response always gets a chuckle and an “I know what you mean”reaction because the church is designed to a place for the weak to come and find rest. We deal with the ignorant the weak every day, and as a called pastor I need to better at showing gentleness to the people that serve. I can be bothered by their attitude, but I need to be gentle and continue to love on them so that they do not walk away from the faith that is already so fragile.

I need to continue to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.

Reflections Of Being A Pastor

This November, I am coming up on nineteen years since I first accepted a ministry position in a church. Sure it was a part-time ministry in a small city in a church that struggled to get fifty people in its doors on a weekly basis, but it was a start.

I remember accepting the job and trying to figure out what it means to be a pastor. I figured out quickly that PG-13 movies were not all created the same as the first two movies that I played was Austin Powers and Mickey Blue Eyes. I learned that my college student eyes are entirely different than a parent’s eyes.

I am surprised I even lasted the whole year, but it was a good paycheck, and I was very honored to have the chance of pastoring.

Since that time, I got a Bachelors, and Masters degree in ministry had a few kids and served for sixteen years in full-time ministry. I had many years of struggling trying to know what it means to a pastor. I am pretty good at theology, I am no theologian, but I can sniff out a theology that isn’t biblical. I can hold my own on debates with Mormons and JW’s. I still chew on tough scriptures especially ones in the Old Testament, but my hope and faith are still rooted in Christ.

But pastoring is still tough because pastoring goes beyond theological debates on original sin, predestination or theories on revelation. I have sat at bedsides of elderly faith men struggling in death and a young kid on life support where parents are holding on a hope of a miracle before they say their last goodbyes to their children. I have been in homes of people angry over the church’s decision on a non-essential issue but at the same struggle with a teenager who is confused about their sexuality and doesn’t know how others will treat them.

It’s easy to open the gospels and see Jesus pastoring the people around him. He was blunt with some and thoughtful with others. He was angry enough to make a whip and turning tables but also quiet enough to change a crowd by drawing in the dirt. But to practice Jesus pastoring is more difficult than it appears. Because I know for me, I’ve been blunt when I should have been more thoughtful. I have been quiet when I should have turned some tables over.

Pastoring is more than theology, it’s living and loving with the people God has called you to be with every Sunday. It is a calling that isn’t about tasks and chores to be done by Sunday Morning, but a calling that involves your whole life.

I am not perfect, I have made mistakes. Thankfully there is forgiveness and grace from God.

To be an effective pastor, I need to know the hope that I have, and I need to follow Jesus in my everyday life so that people, whether they attend my church don’t, can meet Jesus through my life.

Hopefully the next nineteen plus years I continue to grow as a learner of faith but also more as a pastor that is closer to Christ.

My Favorite Cringe Bible Story

I love watching cringe videos. I don’t know if I am a terrible person, but to me, there is nothing funnier than awkward moments happening to innocent people.

One recent video that I saw that made me laugh, a flat-earther started yelling at a NASA employee in a coffee shop. It was amazing watching this crazy guy accusing the person from lying to the public.

Oh man, it was hilarious.

Because I am the type of person, one of my favorite stories in the Bible is in the book of Matthew.

When Jesus is facing death and Pilate decides to allow the crowd to pardon Jesus. So Pilate brings a known criminal to the crowd with Jesus. Naturally, they will come to their senses and request Jesus to be released.

Pilate asks, “Who should I release?”

Crowd: “Barabas!!”

Pilate retorts, “Okay are you sure?”

Crowd: “Yes we want the criminal.”

Pilate: “Fine, but I am not responsible for this man’s death.”

And this is my favorite part; the crowd say’s “His blood is on all our children and us” (Matthew 27:26)

When they yell this at Pilate, I can imagine people going, “Really?! You want this nasty man back on the streets.” I can sense their stomach being a little knotted, and teeth a little clinched.

And the amusing thing is that I can image God the Father sitting in heaven, with his palm on his forehead saying “Really?! These people have no clue about my laws because they are asking for the exact thing that will save them and their children.”

Leviticus 17:11 speaks about the importance of a life used as an atonement.

“For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.”

What a wonderfully cringe-worthy experience that became the salvation of the world.

With Easter season around the corner, let us be thankful for naive requests from the people that should have know better.