Being on the Visiting Team

When you visit a NFL stadium as a football fan, like myself, it’s usually a great experience – at least when you’re the home team. As a Seahawks fan I have been able to watch them play in 2 different stadiums for away games – in Kansas City and in Dallas. Overall, the Dallas experience was great. The Kansas City experience, not as wonderful.

It was a cold day and it was a close game that the Seahawks eventually lost. Some of the fans, however, were not keen to the idea of my family and I being there in all our Seahawks gear. There were many rude comments sent our way, and it really bothered my daughter, who was about 5 at the time. She couldn’t understand why people would be so mean to us, and particularly the Seahawks players, just because we were cheering for a different team.

For her, she couldn’t separate the Chiefs’ fans’ feelings towards the Seahawks and their feelings toward her as a person. To a little girl, it was an attack on her, not on the team she cheered for.

In Mark 14:66-72, we read about Peter denying to be a follower of Jesus. I think Peter could be seen as the visiting team going into a hostile home field. Jesus and his disciples were the outcasts, the ones hated by the majority. Jesus was taken into custody, and Peter followed from a safe distance. When he arrived in Jerusalem, however, he wasn’t wearing his Jesus jersey – he tried to blend in. He went so far as to lie about who his “team” truly was.

For us, looking back, we might fault Peter for betraying his friend and not standing up for who he was and what he represented. But we might also feel sympathy for Peter, for when it comes to standing alone for something, particularly when the home crowd is against you, it can be frightening. Peter succumbs to the fear and denies Jesus three times.

He “swears” that he does not know Jesus.

And then the rooster crows the second time and he remembers Jesus’ words that he would betray him. Peter weeps, for he knows that he has chosen the easy way out. He knows that instead of proudly standing with Jesus, he has covered up his true allegiance and sold out his faith for a sense of security and acceptance.

The truth is, by lying about being a follower of Jesus, he may have saved his own life. He very well could have been hauled into the courts with Jesus and crucified with him if he had admitted his true identity.

I wonder though, if when looking back, Peter regretted not taking that stand? I believe he did.

When you look back at your life, will you regret not taking a stand for something you believe in, or will you be content with being an imposter in a sea of conformity? As a follower of Jesus we are to live our lives differently. We are to hold different values than the culture at large. Yet many of us, when push comes to shove, simply blend in and try not to ruffle any feathers.

If I had gone to Arrowhead wearing a Chiefs jersey, I could have avoided any adverse reactions. I would have been accepted into the sea of red without anyone batting an eyelash. But when my friends and family saw photos of me, they no doubt would wonder what I was doing. No doubt some of my friends would call me out on social media, claiming that I was a traitor.

And they would be right to do so! I would be claiming in one space to be a one thing and in another space be acting totally contrary. It makes no sense for us when we talk in terms of sports, but when it comes to something that really matters – our relationship with and faith in Jesus – we make excuses.

One day we will stand before God and have to give an account of our lives. I don’t want to have to explain why I was wearing the wrong jersey.

Don’t spend one more day pretending to be a fan of the world when you claim to be a follower of Jesus. It’s just not worth it.

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Choose Whom You Will Serve

When it comes to life, there are always many options. What will I have for breakfast? What shoes will I wear? When will I go to bed? Whom will I marry? Where will I work? These questions are ones we all must make, some questions obviously more important than others. The most important question for anyone to answer, however, is the one that Joshua asked the Israelites: “…Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…” (Joshua 24:15, NIV).

The Israelites were a people who had just seen God deliver them into the Promised Land. The Lord gave them all of the land that he promised them, and he drove out all of the evil, idol-following nations who were there. They had seen God’s provision close-up, but they still had to answer the question, “Whom will you serve?”

The people answered that they would serve the Lord, just as Joshua and his family had. Joshua told them that the next step was to “destroy the idols among you, and turn your hearts to the LORD, the God of Israel.” (Joshua 24:23, NLT).

Destroying idols may seem like a very “Old Testament” thing to do, but in reality we all have idols that we must destroy if we are truly going to be serving the Lord with our whole heart, mind, body, and soul.

Idols today don’t necessarily look like they did in Joshua’s day; we don’t often see or possess images carved into wood that we worship as gods. But we certainly, if we think about, have other things that we worship; our modern day idols.

One quick way to check on what you may be worshipping is to look at your “books.” Your appointment book and your checkbook. These two books show where you spend your time and your treasure. Those are often good indicators about what you are worshipping and focusing on. The priorities of your life are seen by the time and money you spend.

But beyond just seeing the idols of your time and treasure, it’s important to look beyond the surface and see what your true motives are. You need to look deeper into why you do what you do. Spending a lot of time at work shows that you value work and may be worshipping that idol, but what is the underlying spiritual condition? Are you looking for financial security? Power? Prestige? Wealth? What’s driving you to make work your idol? Until you can look at the root cause of your idolatry, you won’t fare well in trying to make a change.

Matthew 6:33 says to seek first the Kingdom of God. When we truly seek God’s Kingdom first, we will destroy the idols that are in our lives and put God’s will and way above our own. We will allow God to be our first priority – in all areas of our life – not just on Sunday morning.

I would encourage you to do a check of your books, and then pray for clarity about what your underlying idols are. Then seek out Scripture that speaks directly to the root causes, repent, and pray that God would free you from those sinful attitudes.

You cannot grow spiritually when you are not completely sold out to following Christ first. Jesus said that you can’t serve two masters; which master are you choosing to follow? Yourself or Jesus? Choose this day whom you will serve.

10 Questions a Leader Must Ask

I’ve been reading Be a People Person by John Maxwell. Chapter 6 is titled, “How to be a person people respect.” In this chapter, he asks 10 questions a leader need to ask himself/herself. I think that the questions are important for all of us to ask, so I share these with you here.

  1. Is my personal walk with God up to date?

“What have you been learning recently from the Lord?” What is God teaching you today?

“Sin will keep us from the Word or the Word will keep us from sin.”

 

  1. Am I keeping my priorities straight?

Priorities have a tendency to sneak out of position when we’re not paying attention.

 

  1. Am I asking myself the difficult questions?

– Why am I doing this?

– How should it be done?

– When should I do it?

 

  1. Am I accountable to someone in authority over my life?

Write out “5 Questions I hope no one ever asks me.” List four questions that address your weaknesses, and then enlist someone to help keep you accountable in these areas. The 5th question is, “Have I lied about any of the previous 4 questions, or left anything out?”

Authority minus accountability equals a very dangerous situation.

 

  1. Am I sensitive to what God is saying to the Body of Christ?

Are you sensitive to the fact that God speaks to others, too?

Am I a listening leader or a lording leader?

 

  1. Am I overly concerned with image building?

Is it about me or God?

 

  1. Am I overly impressed by signs and wonders?

More than seeking revival, we need to seek God. If we pursue revival for revival’s sake, we’re seeking after secondary results. Luke 10:17-20: “do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven.”

 

  1. Am I a loner in my service to the Lord?

It’s never healthy to be a lone ranger.

 

  1. Am I aware of my weaknesses?

To be forewarned is to be forearmed! Am I honest about my weaknesses? Most of us know our deficiencies, but we have a tendency to try to cover them.

 

  1. Is my commitment constantly before me?

The world continually thrusts opportunities at us that would distract us from God’s call.

 

These 10 questions are very convicting for me; some more than others. What question hits closest to home for you?

The Treasure

When I was in college, right after high school, I officially changed my major 4 times – in the first semester! I had felt that God was calling me into full time ministry, but I wasn’t ready to give up the benefits of living a life for myself.

I knew that living a life in ministry was going to require a certain amount of sacrifice on my part. I knew that riches were certainly not in my future, and things like an expensive new car, luxurious vacations, and a large mansion were not going to be in the cards. The problem was that I had a desire for all those things! I didn’t want to be stuck driving my old Ford Escort. I wanted to be able to travel the world. Yet I knew, deep down, that God was calling me to something more; something deeper and more meaningful than the luxuries of this world.

I know that these are first world problems. In some areas of the world, these things aren’t even dreams for people because they are so far out of reach. I recognize that, and am deeply fortunate. That didn’t change the reality for me, though, that I was giving up the life I had dreamed for myself in the quest of serving God with my whole heart. There are twin parables in Matthew 13 that address this shift in focus and the quest for what matters.

“The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure that a man discovered hidden in a field. In his excitement, he hid it again and sold everything he owned to get enough money to buy the field.

“Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant on the lookout for choice pearls. Then he discovered a pearl of great value, he sold everything he owned and bought it!

– Matthew 13:44-46 (NLT)

The men in these two parables found something of great worth – Jesus – the Kingdom of God. When they found it, they immediately recognized its worth and gave up all they had in order to acquire it. When I look at my own life, I did give up some of my material dreams for the future, but did I give up ALL that I had in order to follow Jesus?

I think about my day-to-day life and I wonder, am I giving up all that I have in order to serve Jesus in this very minute? Are my thoughts on things of God? Am I sharing my faith with others so that they might know Jesus? Or am I still living for myself?

This question is one that cannot be answered too quickly. It’s easy to say, well, I go to church, tithe, teach, preach, and serve others, so I must be OK, right? But just doing the right things doesn’t mean that I’m living my life sold out for Jesus. It doesn’t mean that I’m giving Jesus 100% of who I am. What parts of me am I holding back?

These parables should cause us all to pause and evaluate our lives and life choices. If our relationship with Jesus is supposed to be the most important thing in our lives, we need to check to make sure that is true. Are you willing to sacrifice ANYTHING for the sake of Jesus? If you can’t answer yes to that question, it’s important that you wrestle with God about that.

What is God calling you to give up or sacrifice for His sake? Are you willing? If not, why not? What has a hold on your life greater than your desire for the Kingdom of God?

Be in the Moment

A couple weekends ago I got to take my son to his first home Seattle Seahawks game. (Go Hawks!) It was a playoff game against the Detroit Lions, which we won handily. It was a great birthday present for me! He had never been to a home game, and it was always something I looked forward to sharing with him.

We got to the stadium hours early to participate in the early events provided for fans, and it was a great time together.

The joy we shared together that day is something that I’ll always treasure. I felt like it was sort of a rite of passage for him, being a Seahawks fan living in Kansas, getting to go on this incredible trip. And it got me thinking about other rites of passage that will come down the line.

Logan is 10 years old now, and sooner than I’m ready for he will be going to middle school, learning how to drive, graduating high school, going to college, and starting his life outside our home. As I think about those things, I’m flooded with emotion. I’m excited for him to be able to do all these things that have the potential for such joy, though I’m not looking forward to losing what we have now. But for anything to grow, there has to be change, and part of that change is loss. That’s the part of change we don’t like, but it is inevitable.

I will always cherish the time we have now, even in those moments that are not so picturesque. I’m committed to living in the moment, not looking too far ahead or behind, but really being there with him, my daughter, my wife, my friends, and my family. Learning to just “be” has not been easy for me. My mind often wants to race on ahead, but I’m reminded to enjoy the present and not be so easily distracted by what could have been or what could be.

I’m only going to have one chance to be there for my kids. I’m only going to have one short season of life to play hide-and-seek, Barbies, Madden, and catch. I will only get to coach my kids’ soccer teams for so long. It will be only a matter of time until I won’t be asked to brush my daughter’s hair, tuck them in at night, or tell them bedtime stories. But I can’t think too much about those future losses, because if I do, I’ll miss today. And today is something I cannot get back tomorrow.

Peace in the Midst of Unrest

Let’s just be honest. Today I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed.

Yes this week is a busy week, but today’s overwhelmed feeling feels different. I don’t know why.

At the Ministerial Alliance meeting yesterday, one of the activities we did was to draw a clear rock out of a bowl. The clear rock was to remind of us our baptism and indwelling of the Holy Spirit. On the rocks were the Fruit of the Spirit. The instructions were to either draw a rock and see what the Lord brought you, or find a rock with the word you wanted. As you might have guessed, I just reached in.

The rock I got was “peace.”

I smiled to myself when I saw what word I had drawn, because honestly that’s not how I’ve been feeling as of late. Hurried and busy would be a couple of good words. During this past weekend excited and joyful would be on the list. But peace? No way.

What is it about that word that makes me revolt against it so strongly? It’s as if it’s a foreign word with little relevance to my life right now. On my personal spiritual retreat, the words I came away with were, “I will fight.” And yet, the fruit of the Spirit is peace.

I did a quick word study for “peace,” as found in Galatians 5’s list of the Fruit of the Spirit. Strong’s says that peace is “Particularly in a single sense, the opposite of war and dissension. Among individuals, peace, harmony. Metaphorically peace of mind, tranquility, arising from reconciliation with God and a sense of a divine favor.”

Looking at that last sentence, I wonder if I have “peace of mind arising from reconciliation with God and a sense of divine favor”? I certainly have been reconciled with God through my faith in Jesus, but what about the “sense of divine favor”? Do I really sense a divine favor?

If I stop and look at it, certainly I do. But is that what I’m focusing on most of the time? No. And there it is. That’s the reason I don’t feel at peace. I am focusing on the wrong things. Instead of focusing on the craziness of life, I need to focus on two things.

First, I need to focus on the fact that I am reconciled to Christ through my faith and baptism in Him. Second, I need to recognize all of the blessings that God has given me. I need to be thankful for my family, my friends, my church, and most of all, the salvation given to me at Calvary (see point 1!). If I can remain in a state of gratitude for what God has blessed me with, and be reminded that God has always been there for me in my times of need, that will help me remember that he will be here in my current time of need, frustration, and busyness.

So my friends, I wish you peace.

Finding New Strength

You caught me. I’m still engaged with those eagles! (http://www.dickpritchettrealestate.com/eagle-feed.html#) But this time I’m thinking about this verse from Isaiah 40:31:

But those who trust in the LORD will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles.

2016 was a very difficult year for many people. There were certainly some cultural issues, whose effects are still being felt. But there were also personal struggles – illness, financial hardship, heart break, and loss. What I see in this verse is that when we put our trust in God, God will give us new strength. And not just any strength, but strength like eagles soaring in the air.

When you look at the baby eagle in the video, though, you don’t see much that you would want to aspire to. At just days old, the baby barely moves around and is totally dependent on mom and dad. Yet that’s how we all start out in our faith. We don’t yet have wings that will carry us through the hard times – we are just babies. It takes time and perseverance to develop the wings of an eagle. And even after the wings develop, it is still a challenge to learn how to use them.

If you’re going through a tough time right now, I would encourage you to not lose hope. Rely on God to get you through this, and have faith that he will. In saying that, I encourage you to seek the counsel, support, and love of your local faith community and pastor. They will be there for you as you walk through this troubling time. And as you traverse the valley together, you will come out the other side stronger in your faith and feeling more like an eagle whose wings will carry you through your next journey.

If you’re struggling to have hope for the future, take a little time and write down in a journal or even a Word document, how God has blessed you. Make this gratitude list so that you can see the many ways God has been faithful in the past. This will help encourage you for the future. God will never leave you nor forsake you – even if it feels like it sometimes.

Whatever your struggle, I pray that God would bless you and help strengthen you in the days and weeks ahead. If you have a personal situation that you’d like me to pray for, please contact me (kevin@hayschristianchurch.org) and I will pray.