Monday, June 19, 2017

"Do Unto Others..."

I heard a great story the other day. Someone I know was telling me about an experience they had when they were in a church youth group almost 40 years ago. The group had gone skating and this person ripped their pants. When the youth leader found out they took this person home to get a new pair of pants and got them back to the skating party, no one knew what happened and this person got to enjoy the party.

The real part of that story that hit me was their description after. This was something I remember from church. This is something that made me feel special. This is something I will never forget.

When Jesus walked the earth, this is how He did real ministry. Taking time to talk alone with a woman at a well. Playing with children when others see them as a bother. Sitting and simply having a meal with someone. Jesus took time to do these seemingly little things that made so much of a difference we remember them two thousand years later. And they are the things that still make a difference in our lives today when someone does them for us.

Maybe it's time to update the Golden Rule. "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Maybe instead of it meaning "be nice" we need to take it up a notch. What would make you feel special? What would make you feel loved? What would make you actually see and feel Jesus in someone else?

Imagine what our world, our church, our families would look like if we lived out that Golden Rule...

T

Monday, June 12, 2017

The VBS Experience

We are in full VBS mode in our church this week. And although that's fantastic one of the reasons I love VBS is we go all out decorating.



Yes, decorating. It's not something I usually get excited about, but I do here. Why? Because at our church VBS is a full blast to the senses experience. It's not just sit and hear about Jesus, it's do, see, hear, be fully immersed in who Jesus is.

And I think the real reason I love it is because we seem to fade that out of our lives as we get older. Learning about Jesus becomes just that, sit back and listen. Where Jesus is at a physical well holding water we talk about this. When Jesus grabs a handful of grapes to demonstrate our connectedness to Him we read about it. Who Jesus feeds bread to we listen, nod our heads, and enjoy.

Maybe the reason Jesus is more real to children than adults has nothing to do with their maturity of faith but more so how we show Jesus in our lives...

T

Monday, June 05, 2017

Maybe President Trump Saying "No" to Paris Was A Good Thing...

Hear me out, please...

I'm not saying we shouldn't be doing all we can to ensure the survival of our planet. I'm the guy who started paper recycling in my school system at ten years old. I 100% think America should have been in the Paris Accord.

But something interesting happened when President Trump said "no". People I have never seen care about the environment are suddenly interested and vowing to change their lifestyle. Businesses decide to follow the new standards even if the government won't enforce them. Donations in the millions are being made to cover what America would have pledged to the global cause.

None of this would have happened if President Trump said "yes".

If he has said "yes" things would have gone on as normal, few people would have cared, and many would try to get out of following these new regulations. Now, the country is fighting for it. By saying "no" it forced the rest of us to say "yes" and step up and take accountability for it.

Maybe this is part of the reason God allows bad things to happen or even flat out says "no" to us at times. If He just said "yes" would we live as if it were important? I read a book the other day where the author made the point if Jesus didn't leave for heaven, would we be even more apathetic than we are now, just expecting Jesus to take care of it all? Instead of being Jesus for people we would step back and simply point them to Jesus and have remove ourselves there?

Sometimes others saying "no" is a good thing, it forces us to live "yes".

T

Monday, May 22, 2017

Are We Too Polite?

The other day I was driving and came to an intersection. There are two stop signs here and the other road is allowed to go straight through without stopping. We've all seen these many times.

But here's where it got interesting. Someone who had the right of way and no stop sign felt like being polite and stopping so the person with a stop sign could go. The person with the stop sign didn't know what to do. So they paused. This caused the car behind the nice driver to take the initiative and go when no one else would, which caused the driver who paused to jut out then pause again and the nice person to sit completely still because now they had cars passing them. And I'm in the back of the log jam waiting to go.

Sometime we mistake nice for right. The "nice" thing to do is always the "right" thing to do, isn't it? "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you", that's the goal, right?

Maybe there are times when being polite is wrong, or even when the right thing seems impolite. The right thing in this situation was for the driver without a stop sign to keep going. Nothing bad would have happened if they had just done what they were supposed to do. How many times do we get these things confused? What's "nice" and what's "right"?

Jesus wasn't very nice. It goes against what most people think of Him (in a study a few years ago almost 75% of teenagers interviewed described Jesus as "nice") but He really wasn't. Jesus was more concerned with someone's growth, their soul, the real right and wrong in a situation than being nice. He would throw tables, take people into life threatening situations, even call one of His best friends "satan".

Maybe sometimes we should worry less about being nice, especially at the expense of doing what is actually right...

T

Monday, May 15, 2017

What Difference Will This Make In _________?

The other day I was reading about a strategy some people employ so they don't fight with their significant other. It's really simple, before starting to argue something ask yourself, "Will this matter a year from now?" Usually the answer is no so they don't fight. Smart idea.

Liz and I were having a discussion earlier. We were talking about some of the things the church has argued about in the past century, many of which seem so stupid now. They could be big or small, but do we still have a problem with things like mixed race marriages or which side of the stage the piano is on?

Maybe this is a good question we should be asking ourselves before we get upset about things at church, will this matter in a year? Five years? Twenty years?

Maybe it would be better to stop looking at things we shouldn't do. What can we as a church and I as an individual to that will make a difference a year from now, five years from now, twenty years from now...?

T

Monday, May 01, 2017

The Desperation of Absence

It's a phenomenon we're all familiar with but probably don't think much about. I lived through it (and to some extent still am) this weekend. There was an internet outage in our neighborhood Friday that blew up our router. Because of this we didn't have phone or internet until Saturday afternoon. Then on Saturday morning I dropped my iPhone and it became unresponsive. Suddenly, I was at home with a toddler with no TV, no internet, and no contact with the outside world.

It's at points like these we hit our desperation. I didn't think about my internet until it disappeared, now I'm desperate to get it fixed. Our daughter has a million things to do in the house that don't involve internet or TV, but when those disappear now you get a little antsy and decide it's time to come up with a plan.

I was reading this phrase a few weeks ago in the light of Jesus' departure. While Jesus was here we/the disciples didn't need to do much. Jesus had it handled. They didn't need to preach, pray for healing, even get dinner in some cases. Jesus took care of it. But when Jesus leaves now there's a desperation of absence. Who is going to preach? Who is going to pray? Who is going to tell the world about a God who loves them?

In many ways we need to be living a little more in the desperation of absence. We need to stop thinking someone else will do it, someone else will love them, someone else will be Jesus to "them".

What if it's our turn?

T

Monday, April 24, 2017

What's the Next Step?

This weekend we had a huge rally all over the world in the name of science. Tens of thousands marched in over 600 cities in six continents. All to bring to voice their opinion and let the world know how they feel about science and its role in government.

That's great. What's next?

Don't get me wrong, I think that in any movement, be it a world changing claim to a personal improvement the first step is always awareness. But it can't stop there. Awareness can generate action but in and of itself is not action. Just because I'm aware there is slavery in Africa over chocolate doesn't in any way help one of the children in the fields picking cocoa beans. I have to actually do something next.

People marched. Again great, awareness. But what is being done to fix the problem? What if every one of those people gave money to scientific work? That would allows those who are examining the problems with global warming to get more data and more concrete facts to work with. The March for Science website is phenomenal, it's slogan is exactly what I'm thinking. "We marched. Now, we act." And on the website are things everyone can do to help progress science, each day giving new ideas for a full week. You can visit it at https://satellites.marchforscience.com/.

But how many people marched and then went home? How many have taken the time to see the website, give money, do something other than walk and make people aware?

This is all true in our faith as well. Awareness is the first step. I need more of Jesus. I need to work on this in my life. I am a sinner who needs a Risen Savior. But the awareness by itself does nothing. I may be aware I need to be forgiven but I then need to actually ask forgiveness. I need to get involved in a community of faith, to read my Bible, to pray, to serve, worship, etc.

Awareness is great. But what's the next step?

T

Monday, April 17, 2017

"I Am Your Father"

It's one of the most iconic twists in film history, the quintessential snake in the mailbox. The moment when Darth Vader tells Luke Skywalker that he is Luke's father.

Sorry if I spoiled that for you, but my guess is you've already heard it. I've heard it. I've seen it hundreds of times. It's a story I've watched over and over and now mentioning that twist isn't news, it's a normal everyday thing to me.

But it's not for these people. There was a trend a few years ago where people captured their children's, spouses', friends' reactions to this iconic scene. You can see a few of them below.





Here's my question for you: Yesterday you (probably) along with over a billion other people heard the story of Jesus' resurrection. Or reheard. Or heard it for the thousandth time. But does is still shake you to the core? Does it change you? When you hear that our Savior rose from the dead is it a shock like the people in the video or is it like me, an everyday occurrence being highlighted again?

Hear the story with fresh ears. See it with fresh eyes. Put yourself in the story. Witness it. How amazing is it? How much does it change you?

Today is the day after Easter. How is your life changed the day after the shock of Christ literally defeating death?

T

Monday, April 10, 2017

Planning For Spring

It continually amazes me how God plans ahead. But this one hit me a little bit harder.

I was reading the other day and the author was talking about the connection between spring and Jesus' resurrection. This person almost seemed upset by it, like there were too many connections between spring and Jesus that shouldn't be there or that we are simplifying Christ rising from the dead with bad spring analogies.

I wholeheartedly disagree. For one big reason. It was all done on purpose.

Think about it, Jesus could have risen from the grave any day of the week. Any time in human history. But God chose specifically for this to happen over Passover so the people of Israel would see the connection between Passover and Easter.

Which means this: God planned for Christ to rise during Spring 1500 years before is happened. God could have sent Moses to Egypt and planned the Exodus at any time of the year. It was all ordained for this to happen during the spring, Exodus, the Jewish New Year, Christ's return to life, events thousands of years ago and thousands of years apart all planned for us to see these connections.

There are no little coincidences with God. Everything, everything is planned, and with reason...

Enjoy Easter this Sunday, and look for God in every little thing.

T

Monday, April 03, 2017

Adjusting Eyes

This still hits me a little bit.

The other night I was working on a deck with my father-in-law. And he is a worker, he wants to start when the sun comes up and keep at it until the sun goes down. That's exactly what happened on this project, we were working until the sun was gone, there was a little porch light we used to work.

But as we worked, I didn't really notice it get darker (someone else had to ask for the light to be turned on). I just kept working. It wasn't until we were putting things in the garage at the end of the night and I walked into this brightly lit room that my eyes screamed, "it's so bright in here!"

I feel like this happens to our soul as well. Darkness rarely attacks us and we just succumb to it. It's gradual and slow, so slow we don't realize there is darkness inside us. Life continues as if it is business as normal. Only when we are slapped in the face with light do we realize how dark our soul and our lifestyle has become.

This just one of the billions of reasons why we need to be in the presence of God as much as humanly possible. It's a constant check at our spiritual blindness. How are we doing at looking into the light? Are we living lives that reflect that light? It's only by being in the presence of light does the darkness receded.

Psalm 56:12-13 ~ I will fulfill my vows to you, O God, and will offer a sacrifice of thanks for your help. For you have rescued me from death; you have kept my feet from slipping. So now I can walk in your presence, O God, in your life-giving light. (NLT)

T

Monday, March 27, 2017

#30HF

That's the hashtag for the 30 Hour Famine. If you'd like to see what our students and other students around the world are doing to help fight global hunger search for it.

For us, this weekend we did the 30 Hour Famine together as a group. Some of our students were pros, they've done this before. Some were newbies, they had no idea what this would be like.

The biggest revelation for me is people realizing what all they take for granted. Snacking constantly through the day, having a pantry that's full so they can snack through the day, having clean water sent straight to your house (in multiple rooms) instead of to walking 4 miles carrying 70 pound jugs. Too often we don't think about how good we've got it because it's normal to us.

Let's do what we can to make it normal for everyone. If you would still like to sponsor what we did you can at http://youth.worldvision.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=donordrive.team&teamID=15464.

Thanks for your support, let's make things like clean water and healthy food the new normal.

T

Monday, March 20, 2017

"But I Built That With My Own Two Hands"

That was my inner monologue last week.

About eight years ago I built a bench. And I built it to last. This thing is heavy as can be. All our board games fit in it. It can support many people on it (we even had kids sleep on it during our Real World Retreat a couple of times). But even more so, this was the first major building project I did on my own. I built this. It was something I am attached to.

And now it's in a dumpster.

I chose to do that. Our daughter loves to play on the bench but we have an idea of something she may like better. And the only space for it is where this bench was, and seeing it was built to fit only in certain corners of a room the options for new places for it to live are extremely limited.

So I destroyed it. It is so heavy it was harder getting it out of the house than it was to get in. It made a mess. it was way more work to get rid of it than we imagined. But we did it.

Because that's how change works. It's messy, it's hard, you have to destroy things you are attached to and many times on a gamble that the new thing will work like we're doing.

But it needs to be done. I would rather risk something amazing for my daughter than hold onto something comfortable not because it's good for her but because I don't want to hurt myself.

I wonder how often we have this same conversation about change with God. Are you willing to risk? Are you willing to let go of something you love? Are you thinking about what God wants for you or what you want for you?

Get a sledgehammer and start breaking things up...

T

Monday, March 13, 2017

Looking Back

I did something I haven't done in a while. I looked back at some of my first blog posts. Painful.

Painful because I could see all the things that have changed. How I write, what I was doing, even little things like talking about my iPod (talk about old technology... I still have it...).

But the best part of it? It was painful. If it was not, if it was good to me, or familiar, that would have been even worse. That would have meant I haven't changed at all in a decade. It would mean my ministry, how I communicate, even how I listen to music hasn't changed at all.

Here's a challenge, look back at where you were a year ago, two years, five, maybe even ten or twenty. What's changed?

And if nothing's changed, why? (and how do you start to change).

T

Monday, March 06, 2017

Ashes and Lipstick

A little while ago we took the family to Walt Disney World. If you know anything about our family it's the closest to heaven on earth for us. Our daughter, now being three years old and understanding what's going on, loved it. Specifically meeting every character the Walt Disney Company has ever created. But one of her favorites (and ours) was Merida.

Mainly because Merida loved our daughter. She immediately hugged her, got on the ground with her, played with her, listened to her stories, it was very obvious that Merida was having a ton of fun with our little one. So much fun that at the end she did something that this princess does not do very often. She gave our daughter a kiss on the forehead, bright read lipstick painting the fact she loved the Little Miss. And for the rest of the day we heard about it, people at Disney saw it and asked (and were surprised it was Merida). Even now at home she will see pictures of herself with the lips on her forehead and get all giggly.

Fast forward to the other night. We were at our church's Ash Wednesday service. At the end we went up to get the ashes on our foreheads and, or course, the little one was covering her forehead saying "no". We didn't push, she doesn't understand, so mom and dad got ours and we went back to our seats. Our daughter looked at us, you could tell she was a little puzzled, but then burst into telling everyone about how she was kissed on the forehead by Merida. She saw the marks on our foreheads and immediately associated it with her own from Disney.

It was great to hear this, take a step back, and think about it. In many ways this is Christ kissing our foreheads, it's a mark of our love for Christ and His love for us. It's bigger than ashes one day a week, we are marked by Christ as His. Much like our daughter remembers the love of a princess because of the kiss that left a mark on her we can remember the love of Christ for us by the mark He leaves on us.

Ephesians 1:13b ~ When you heard the true teaching—the Good News about your salvation—you believed in Christ. And in Christ, God put his special mark of ownership on you by giving you the Holy Spirit that he had promised. (NCV)

Ashes and lipstick fade but being loved lasts forever.

T

Monday, February 27, 2017

Who Pays For It?

The Big Bang Theory had an interesting story line last week. One of the characters has all of their bills paid for by their father (must be nice) and his friends were bugging him asking about it. There was this sense of ignorant bliss in which questions were not welcome, they didn't know how much their bills were, the bills were just magically paid and that was that.

I wish this story wasn't so funny, but it is because of how many people actually live like this. I know of college students who just had their credit cards paid for them, they had no idea how much they were spending or what things really cost.

And I also see this sometimes in students. After all, when they get to do things like go on a mission trip for free, what does the cost matter? This is a conversation Liz and I have had a couple of times, what the cost of trips or events should be. And the number we come up with usually has a factor most don't think of, what do we charge so that there is still value to what we are doing? If it's free, students didn't put anything into it, they show up late, they may just cancel (after all, it's no charge so cancelling doesn't cost anything), etc. Part of realizing the value of something comes with paying for it.

Maybe this is part of the reason Christ gave us the responsibility of the church. He left it all to us, we spread the gospel, feed the hungry, lead the worship, it's all up to us. But that also means we need to pay for it, He also left that up to us.

For the next few weeks WATER (our sr. high students) will be looking at all that God has "Entrusted" us with and our responsibilities that go with that. We hope if you're in grades 9-12 you can be a part of that, but even if you're not, you could start the conversations. If this is God's church and we want to do all these amazing things for God's people, who pays for it...?

(instead of a single Bible verse I read a story the other day that is great if you want one to read. In I Chronicles 29 David is asks the people for supplies for his son to build the Temple. They get so much it can't be counted! Great story).

T

Monday, February 20, 2017

Adjusting

Do you want to know the easiest way to adjust something, to take something that we should hate and learn to love it (or the other way around)?

A little bit at a time.

Walking into a room with different lighting teaches us this. If we are outside in the bright sunlight and come into a dark room at first it's black. We can't see anything. Give it a few minutes. After that we start to make out shapes, then things become clearer, then we start seeing things we missed altogether just a few seconds ago.

Our eyes adjust slowly. But by the time they are done, the clarity is amazing.

This is how sin creeps into our life. Very few people wake up one day and decide to be angry at the world, but they lose a little joy and treat people a little worse every day and soon they have changed without realizing it. Likewise, if you want to improve, say change your diet, cutting all sugar and only eating salad will shock your system. But if you cut a little sugar each day, eat a few more vegetables each day...

We have to be conscious of this. We need to realize when we are slipping a little bit and stop it right away, letting it go will just cause us to adjust and soon we slip again. Likewise, we need to pay attention to what we want to change and do a little at a time.

You'll be surprised how quickly this can change us.

T

Monday, February 13, 2017

Why Are Roses More Expensive Tomorrow?

Of course we all know the answer, it's Valentine's Day. And roses are just more expensive that day because more people want to send roses, meaning people who sell roses know they can sell them for more.

Don't be fooled, it's not supply, it's demand. The companies know they will sell more roses, they stock-pile more of them. Very few places are going to run out of roses tomorrow. Some will even have extras they sell super cheap on Wednesday. It's just the demand. We're going to want roses more tomorrow than we will on any other day of the year.

And because of that, we will put in extra efforts. Call more places. Pay more money. Go pick them up if we need to. Suddenly we want it more so we will work harder to get it.

Here's my question, how hard are you willing to work to get to know Jesus better? It's funny, if I run a mission trip for students they are willing to pay a lot of money, do lots of extra work, give up a week of their time, they will put in extra effort to serve others. But if I try to get some students to serve here in town on a Saturday very few will show up. They will put in the effort for a mission trip because they know they will see Jesus where they aren't sure they will on a day at home.

But what if we have it backwards? What if we put in that same effort for the little things, would we see Jesus then? Would we see Him more? Would we see Him better?

If we all bought roses every day the prices would change. If we all put in the effort to find Jesus every day would how we see Jesus change?

T

Monday, February 06, 2017

How Would You Act If You Met Jesus?

Sorry it's been a few weeks, I was on vacation at the happiest place on earth.

If you don't think Disney World really is the happiest place on earth, you've never been there with my three-year-old daughter. She was so happy it was crazy. Rode her first roller coaster. Ate way too many french fries. But the real reason, she met all her "friends".

What I mean by that is almost every single Disney character you could meet. The Fab Five, Olaf, Chip 'n Dale, and a whole lot of princesses (and a queen).

One meeting I will always remember was Merida. Our daughter was ecstatic. She ran up and jumped up and down. And Merida was one of the few who crouched down to her level. Merida understood almost every single exited, crazy, three-year-old lisp sounding word, and she was actually interested. They cuddled. Merida kissed her forehead. She wanted to keep our daughter. In that moment our daughter was meeting a true princess she never knew she could meet and that princess absolutely loved her back.

I started to wonder what it would be like if people expected to meet Jesus like that, if they even showed up to our worship gatherings looking for Jesus like that. Jumping up and down, excited to see Him, talking to Him knowing they were heard, understood, and listened to, hugged, kissed, loved. If instead of seeing Sunday morning as a meet and greet with a young lady dressed as a princess we saw it as my daughter saw it, totally real and completely life changing.

How would you act if you knew you were meeting Jesus?

T

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

"I AM" Winter Retreat Reflection

I've been home from the Winter Retreat for a little over 24 hours now. Here's a short list of what I learned this weekend:

Gas stoves work best when the gas is turned on.
Always use less flour than the recipe says when baking bread (I usually follow this, but being away from home when we made bread I had to prepackage everything).
Everyone loves fresh bread lathered in butter.
You can say multiple times "we will be outside in the cold for a long time, please dress appropriately" and some will still show up with no jacket and no socks... and complain they are cold.
People will sing loudly if you encourage/let them.
Patience is something modeled.
Our students are some of the nicest and politest students on the planet (as told to me by multiple staff at the retreat center).
Jesus has a plan.
You may not realize a student is getting something out of what is going on, but they are.
Sheep are not dumb, they are defenseless.
People want to pray more, and will when given the guidance and/or opportunity.
"Hug the potholder" is a difficult instruction for some people.
Getting away from it all to focus on Jesus makes a tremendous difference.
Over the weekend some people spent more time focusing on Jesus than they did sleeping, and it still wasn't enough (they could easily have spent more time with Jesus).
When you're willing to listen Jesus has a lot to say.

And that's just off the top of my head in ten minutes. I'm sure there's many more.

If you went, what did you get from the "I AM" Winter Retreat?

T

Monday, January 09, 2017

Free Devotional For (Almost) A Year

It started yesterday, but I have been publishing a free devotional question a day for my book "21st Century Parables". If you'd like to join the conversation, you can see the questions at:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Troyswritingandmusic/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/@By_Troy.

You can purchase the book at:

Kindle - https://www.amazon.com/…/…/B01C98WZXK/ref=nav_timeline_asin…
iBooks - https://itunes.apple.com/…/twenty-first-centu…/id1087654669…
Nook - http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/twenty-first-ce…/1123469392…
Kobo - https://www.kobo.com/…/…/ebook/twenty-first-century-parables

I'd love if this would help you out, to jump in with your thoughts in the comments, or even just to hear what you think of the book.

Enjoy.

T