Being At Peace In A Checkout Line

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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.

Righteous Expecation

pbf150720.gifcomic from Perry Bible Fellowship by Nicholas Gurewitch via www.gocomics.com

Growing up in the Midwest, you would hear rumblings about a potential snow day.  It would start with a classmate at recess, then maybe confirmation from your teacher, and finally, your parents would spill the beans that yes there is a possibility.

Going to bed, knowing there is a possibility, was almost like Christmas Eve anticipation.  Trying to force yourself to sleep. Then jumping out of bed, running to the window to see if there was some white gold on the gold. If there were snow, the radio and television would be turned on to the look at the closures announcement.  Our school district started with “W,” and I grew up in a large city, it could take awhile to see our the districts name.

Then finally, “Washington Local Schools – Closed”!!!

We would jump up for joy, thinking more video game time and getting to watch Price is Right. But not so fast, sometimes Mom had plans, whether it was going shopping, heading to grandma’s house, or being attended by another adult.

All that expectation ruined by the possibility of something good.  There are only a few things worse than expecting something, then having those expectations and dreams broken by a different reality.

But the Bible speaks of the promise of having the right expectations.

Proverbs 10:28 say’s “The hope of the righteous is gladness, but the expectation of the wicked comes to nothing.” (LEB)

The great hope of the righteous is the afterlife, and placing your expectations of this great promise brings gladness.  How can this be?  The most straightforward answer is that having an afterlife focus, should make you live a life about others and not about you.  And when your life a selfless life, then you will have a sense of gladness and purpose.

The other opposite is true as well, as a pastor, I’ve gone through enough counseling sessions dealing heartache and brokenness.  And the primary culprit of this pain is selfishness.

“I want…”

“I desire…”

Selfless brings gladness while selfishness brings pain. And that is why we must fight the urge to be all about “me,” and more about the “we.”

You can’t expect your day to end up the way you wanted it to, but you can hope in God’s promise of everlasting life.

Family Chat: God Is Our Provider

Items Needed: Gross water, spring water, donut holes, large donuts

In today’s story, we find the Israelites are finally free from slavery. And at first, they were excited. So excited they sang a song celebrating their freedom. That is like Disney level of excitement. But it didn’t take long for them to start grumbling.

They were thirsty! Can you give me your best grumbling…

So Moses showed them water that was a little disgusting. The Bible say’s it was bitter. Have you had something bitter… (Give them a cup of water that is a little gross)

So what do you think Moses did? Well just as any normal person would do, he threw in a piece of wood. Seriously he threw in a piece of wood, and the water became fit to drink. Who knew, wood could do that?! Thankfully they ended up in a beautiful place with spring water (Give them a clean cup of water)

And things were good, but what do you think happened next?

Read verse Exodus 16:3

The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt!There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.” (NIV)

Doesn’t that sound like teenager complaining about being grounded

Now they are hungry. Give me again your best grumbling…

So God provided the food bread from heaven, which tasted like wafers with honey. How awesome would that be! (Give them donut holes)

So God has provided drinks and food, but do you think that made them happy? No, they wanted meat. One more time give me your best grumbling

Now I don’t have meat, but I do have something a little bigger (Give them bigger donuts)

God showed His people over and over again that He knew what they needed and what they wanted. Still, the Israelites continued to question God’s provision. Thankfully our God is patient; we learn more about His patience much later in God’s Big Story. Even when they saw ten plagues, the crossing the red sea, making the water drinkable, bread and quail coming out of the sky, and we learn in Chapter 15 God providing water out of a rock. All of this shows God Provides.

Worship Response

Supplies: Bird Seed, Pencil, Glue Stick, Large Stripe of Paper

God Provides for you and me, as a worship response, I want you to write your name on the stripe of paper. When you are done, then you are going to trace your name with the glue stick. After that is done, we are going to give you some bird seeds, to scatter over your paper.

When you are doing that, be a reminder how God provided for His people, and know that He provides for you today.

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Spiritual Parents Need To Be Spiritually Healthy

Sounds obvious…..

But is it true in your life?

Take a few moments and consider how much time you put in your spiritual life?

Is just once a week on Sunday?  Is it daily, if so how much time?

What do you do?  Do you journal? Do you say prayers? Do you read Christian books?  Do you read your Bible?

If the Christian leader in your home (aka you) isn’t spiritually healthy, then how can the home be spiritually healthy?

A Christian parent needs to be faithfully seeking God themselves, not only for their spiritual pilgrimage but also to be a living testimony for their spouse and children.  If I say, my favorite football team is Ohio State, and I watch every other team but them, would you think I am a real fan?  Same goes with our faith, if I say “I believe the Bible to be true and Jesus is important in my life,” but never pick up the book or say a prayer, would you say I am genuine about my faith?

We don’t need to spiritual gurus.  We don’t need to perfect examples.  We need to show our families that God is the priority in our lives.

Here are some way’s to make sure God is your priority

Turn loose time  into God time.  We all have some loose time during our day.  Take one of those times to read a verse or two.  Take one of those times to say a quick prayer for your spouse and children.

Plan time in your day, your week and your year for God.  If you are not careful with your time, it will fill up fast.  Make sure not to overload your time with things that are not spiritually essential.  Maybe plan time off during the week or even plan a sabbatical sometime during the year.

Share your spiritual moments.  When a verse strikes your interest, share your thoughts with your family.  It doesn’t have to be a well thought-out idea, tell your family a verse you are thinking about, and maybe they might have insight that will help you! When you have an answered prayer, let your children know. If God is working in you, make sure your family knows it.

Something Extra

Make a spiritual journal for each of your children.  Every night when they go to bed or prepare for bedtime, write a God-moment and say a prayer for them.