Tag Archive: Christian


Ask a really good mechanic what he values most in life and he should reply, “My toolbox.”  There is something about a mechanic and his toolbox.  Yes, the tools are important, but what we kept them in was more important.  Don’t mess with a mechanics toolbox.  Your life might be in danger if you do.

When I started out working in the family business (automotive repair), I purchased a red Snap-On box.  I could go home looking like I got run over by a car with leaks from every system, but my box, she was clean and polished.  Eventually, I traded my big red for a smaller black Snap-On toolbox with a wood top.  What does a mechanic do with his toolbox when he decides to hang it up?  He takes it home.  The two are inseparable.

We would leave our toolboxes unlocked at night.  Why?  If a thief broke in, they could have the tools.  Don’t pry open the box! That would be a disaster from which no one recovers.      

It made its way to South Carolina with me.  Eventually, it was time to let her go.  Since we don’t have basements on the coast and our garages are small, there was no room for Black Beauty.  Not only that, but I had no real use for the tools that graced her shelves.  

One by one, I sold the tools.  Now, if you own a Snap-On box you must have Snap-On tools.  There is a little room for some “other” ones, but not much.  It’s a man thing.  I loved Snap-On tools.  They fit my hands well.  Not only that but they carried a lifetime guarantee.  I have to admit, I do miss some of the tools at times.  Not that I would use them much.   I think it’s an ego thing.  

Eventually I auctioned Black Beauty.  I admit, it was hard.  If she could talk she could tell you all sorts of stories.  Maybe it’s best she couldn’t speak.  

Honestly, while a mechanic will judge his place in the shop by his toolbox, the value of a mechanic is in the tools.  Tools make the mechanic.  If you don’t have the right tools, nothing is going to get fixed.  There are some tools that only go with certain vehicles and certain models.  Crazy, isn’t it?  That’s why I decided to auction my beloved box.  It wasn’t worth having if it was empty.  

The center focal point of being a believer in Jesus Christ is grace.  Without God’s grace as expressed through Jesus Christ, it would be like having the toolbox with no tools.  As Jesus pours his grace out to us, we are called to pour grace out to others, especially the weak and underprivileged.  

As I, from time to time, think about Black Beauty and the wonderful tools she held, I have come to understand grace a lot more.  It came through my relationship with my dad.

Dad and I were in business together.  Personally, I don’t think that’s a good idea.  We didn’t have a bad relationship, but we didn’t have a good one either.  Being in business together brought out both of our weak points.  Dad and I struggled to be on the same page.

When father and son aren’t on the same page, the relationship gets strained.  Again, it wasn’t like we didn’t like each other.  We just kept our distance and worked more to avoid conflict than actually enjoy one another.  Dad wasn’t a big talker.  I was.  Over the years, I would hold on to some things I should have let go along time ago.

Eventually, as I was packing up my office getting ready to move to South Carolina, Dad, suddenly, without warning, appeared.  He asked if I had a few minutes.  “Sure,” I replied.  Our interaction didn’t take long.  Dad sat down in the lone chair, and with head slightly lowered and almost in a whisper, said, “John, I’ve come to say I’m sorry.”  He caught me off guard.  I was a bit of a jerk (and still am at times), so I asked, “Dad, what are you sorry for/”  wishing I could get details.  He looked up and honestly answered, “I’m not sure; all I know is I didn’t do things right with you.”  “Dad, you are forgiven.”  At that moment in time, I saw my dad in a different light.  Grace came alive.

Dad had a toolbox.  His tools were not my tools.  Too late in my life I realized Dad did the best job he could with the tools in his toolbox.  He was raised by a sheepish mother and one of the worst alcoholic fathers I have ever met.  He wasn’t raised in a Christian environment.  He didn’t have the tools for this model of son.  And for the first time, it was o.k.  

We all have a toolbox.  Sometimes, we, like the longtime mechanic, wrap our ego up in our toolbox.  We think we can fix anything.  Only, we don’t have the tools.  On top of that, some of those tools are broken.  Grace means realizing life isn’t about the size and make of our toolbox.  It isn’t about the tools in the toolbox.  It isn’t even about our ability to use the tools we have.  Grace is about realizing its o.k. even if we don’t have a toolbox and about not expecting someone to have the right tools.  Only Jesus had ‘em all.  

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He was on his knee declaring his love for her.  “I would do anything for you,” he declared.  Of course his plea was followed up with “I love you.  You know I do.”  He knew the words.  He knew her weak point.  She was caving and he knew it.

Of course his words were all lies.  He would not do anything.  He didn’t love her.  He loved himself.  He was lying to her.  Not only was he lying with his spoken words, he was lying by omission as well.  Only later when more information sneaked out behind the curtain of manipulation and deception would she realize its often not the words one says that are important.  It’s the words they don’t say.  

Our world is full of lies.  We often wonder what has happened to the younger generations.  What happened?  Just about every aspect of life lied to them.  Moms and Dads said their family was built on love, only to have it all crumble when one of them declares they want a divorce.  The politicians lie constantly, and we reelect the liars over and over again.  They declare what they are going to do and stand for, only to compromise when money, ego, and reputation stand in the way.  Education not only has failed; it has lied as well.  “Get a college degree,” they claim, only to find out four years later their major was obsolete.  

Recently, I have run into 3 college graduates, all whom I encouraged to get a college degree.  They were working low paying jobs, hating life, and wondering where they went wrong.  A college degree did nothing for them. The market was saturated within their field.  All they are told is “Good luck.”  

Parents have lied.  The government lied.  The schools lied.  The only thing left is the church.  With sadness in my heart, I must admit, “We lied too.”  

Right now I’m reading a book titled, Ten Dumb Things Smart Christians Believe by Larry Osborne.  He did an excellent job explaining the 10 points.  He was right.  We believe things we were taught to be true.  Open the Bible.  Study it (just don’t read it). It won’t take extremely long to find the 10 points.  Basically, we lied to sell a happy Jesus to a culture that doesn’t want a Jesus who says things that are tough to swallow at times.  We also put man in the center of our circle instead of Jesus.  When we do that, it is easy to manipulate the meaning of certain Scripture to be what we want it to be instead of becoming the people God wants us to be.  It doesn’t take much.  

On a missions trip, we became engaged with some Muslims.  Nobody pulled out a gun.  We had very meaningful interactions.  I was actually asked to convert to Islam.  The reasoning; “We believe in the same God,” the learned man declared.  “Instead of us becoming a Christian, you become a Muslim,” made sense to him.  As we debated his statement, one thing became clear.  He knew the Bible better than 95% of Christians I know.  Of course, if basically all we do is have a 5 minute devotional and attend on Sunday mornings for the preachers sermon, we are not going to “know” the Bible.  Truthfully, I’m not sure many can catch when a preacher drifts off of Biblical truth at any given time.  It’s easy to sway the unlearned.  Just ask the politicians; they are experts.  

A friend once said in a group meeting he feared that he has been lied to as a believer.  I didn’t have the heart to declare he probably has been.  The lie I bought hook, line and sinker was the idea that if I believe in Jesus, everything comes out o.k.  I’ve heard it preached.  I’ve been taught it.  Just obey and watch your life get better.  Tow the line, and, how does that one song go, …”everything will be o.k.”  Not true at all.  

Some days I wonder what has made me stay in the faith.  Why don’t I get out of church work and go back in the business world?  For some reason I can’t.  

Belief in Jesus is not about what I get.  It’s not about having hell insurance.  It’s not about quoting misapplied and out of context Bible verses to give me or anyone else hope.  Belief in Jesus as the Son of God is based on it being true.  That is the bottom line.  

It is the issue that was common through out the gospels.  Everyone loved the good and cool things Jesus did and said.  Till he declared, “I and the Father are one.”  They ran for the hills and crucified him.  Little did they know he would rise again.  Is this true?  If it isn’t ,anyone declaring Christ has been lied to once again.

Is it true?  Only you can answer that one.  If it is true, it’s a life changer.  Literally.  A friend of mine who never read the Bible was given one in college.  He was encouraged to read the book of John.  He did.  His roommate asked him what he thought.  He replied, “If this is true, I’m screwed.”  Well, he wasn’t, as he determined under careful analysis that indeed the declarations and work of Jesus were true.  Hold on to that one.  It’s all we need.  Don’t worry about changing your life; it will.  Jesus declared it, and it is true.  Now read the Bible with Jesus as your lens, not man.  It makes a lot of sense that way.

Every Christmas of late there seems to be the group that insists on emphasizing “keeping Christ in Christmas.”   Bumper stickers appear.  Buttons are worn.  Sometimes, at church, if one happens to mention “Happy Holidays,” he may be treated  as if he violated the 11th commandment.  It can get intense. 

We should not be surprised; the non-believing world has no intention of keeping Christ in anything.  If we are surprised we have bad theology.  We also should not be surprised since reliable faith-based pollsters have been telling us for years the percentage of Christians in our society is decreasing at an alarming rate, especially among the younger generations.  We recently learned the older generations (baby boomers and the silent generation) are now outnumbered by the younger generations (millennials), who are no longer defined as “Christian” influenced.  All the numbers point to a secular society.  

I decided to check it out in my own neighborhood.  I take the dog for a walk every morning and night.  So, I wanted to see what voice the meaning of Christmas has in a neighborhood that has many church-going Christians as residents.

As of December 10th the following numbers have been verified: 

32 Santa Clauses

54 Reindeer

51 Snowmen

39 Trees

8 Mickey or Minnie Mouses

12 Soldiers

3 Wolves

7 Penguins

4 Yeti

3 Trains

2 Unicorns

2 Grinch

2 Bear

1 Snoopy

2 Ocean Creatures (Whale, dolphin)

14 Other (I have no idea)

and 4 manger scenes

That is 223 other representations of Christmas to 4 manger scenes.  Jesus doesn’t stand a chance.   Now, I will admit, it’s early.  We are 2 weeks away from Christmas.  The Christians can make a come back.  We need to put on the Christmas rally caps for a big inning.  Maybe a Hail Mary is the call of the day sort of like the one the Dolphins pulled off against the Patriots last Sunday.  Sounds a bit crazy doesn’t it?  

The only person that has to worry about Christ being taken out of Christmas is the Christian.  We get all upset that the government bans manger scenes from public property; however, traveling to Asheville last weekend and looking around town the last few days I don’t see too many churches putting out symbols of the Christ in Christmas either.  How we get so harsh with the secular world and don’t hold ourselves to the same standard is one of the very reasons the world looks at us and laughs.

Hold on for a minute!  The very message of Christmas is the grace of our Lord Jesus who leaves the kingdom of heaven to rescue us from ourselves.  Instead of being critical of the Christmas expressions, we should be engaging our neighbors with the love of Christ more than anything else.  Manger scenes say I honor the day.  The love of Christ brings Christ to life the other 364 days of the year.  

It is so easy to get critical.  After John 3:16 comes John 3:17.  Jesus said, “I came into the world not to condemn the world but that the world through me will be saved.”  The lights are beautiful in honor of the one who is the Light of Light.  The decorations all display the joy we can have when we sing “Joy to the World.”  

Christian, be concerned more with the lack of love and grace than the lack of manger scenes.  If one wants Christ in Christmas…put him there.  Do so with great grace and love.

Now, after all that I have one question, “When and how did unicorns become associated with Christmas?” I googled it, and Mr. Google says it is a millennial expression against tradition.  On one hand, I can’t say I blame them.  A manger scene without the expression of Christ’s love is a tradition that needs to end.  But unicorns?  Somethings I don’t quite get.  Oh well, Merry Christmas anyway. 

Once again I scan the various stores on line and can’t seem to find the right gift for my wife.  She is not easy to buy for this time of year.  She doesn’t wear makeup (she’s naturally beautiful).  She is not a big jewelry person.  I used to buy almost all her clothes, but since styles changed I have no idea. 

Black Friday came and went with no ideas hitting home.  Cyber Monday was full of gifts that hold zero interest.  It’s going to be a very hard Christmas gift-wise.  I could take some guesses.  I’d buy her one of those light up Cowboys sweaters I see on T.V., howeve,r I enjoy being married.  I’m about ready to give up!

I did get an idea last night. We were at our community group meeting.  We are reading and discussing a book titled Caring for One Another.  Chapter 6 talks about building personal and prayerful relationships.  It is almost a lost art these days.  It was a great discussion.

We were talking about the obstacles to a personal relationship.  One of our members boldly proclaimed, “Nobody knows each other anymore.”  He was right!  

It was right at that moment I got my idea for Christmas.  I know it sounds strange, but, as I Iistened to the conversation, it became clear.  Instead of gifts, my wife and my family need time with each other.  With our fast-paced society and many working long hard jobs, the amount of quality time we spend with each other is getting less and less, and we don’t need research to prove the point. 

When husbands and wives come to the office for some work on their marriage, I guarantee every time there is a deficit in quality time together.  There is a little exercise that has the couple actually say how many hours a week they spend doing various activities during the week.  Let’s consider sleep.  Eight hours a night times seven days a week has an individual sleeping 56 hours a week.  With 168 hours in a week after sleep, it leaves 112 hours.  Add 8 hours a day for work and we are down to 72 hours.  We work this exercise.  Without fail families end up in the deficit, and we don’t even get to time spent dedicated to one another.  The worst one I saw recently was a negative 22 hours.  Something had to change and change quickly.

My family is no different.  Ministry is not a 40-hour a week job.  Both my wife and I are in ministerial positions.  We have double trouble.  Some weeks I spend more time with my dog than with my wife.  That is not good.  

In our world there is another element stealing our time together.  Other people no longer have to knock on the door to interrupt the family.  All they have to do is text.  Ministry might be the worst of all occupations.  Church members will text any time of the day or night about non-essential topics.  We talk a lot about grace.  If only it could be applied to a non-answered text at 10:30 p.m. about the topic being covered in the morning Bible study.  

Even if we choose to not answer, we then disrupt our lives with thoughts and feelings about not answering.  Sometimes it’s just easier to answer the text.  Meanwhile, our family time has just been lost, and those moments lost will not be recoverable.  

The more I talk with my friends I find this is the norm.

This Christmas, instead of giving a nice gift that, over time loses its value, consider giving your loved ones what I believe is the most important commodity…time.  We can make more money, but we can’t make more time.  Only so much time is allowed to all of us.  There is no such thing as a “time” bank.  

So, this year there will be one present to open.  The other ones are dedicated commitments to spend quality time together.  That means saying “no” to others.  It involves making decisions with the other person in mind.  I won’t remember the many Christmas presents I have received over the years.  I will remember the walks on the beach, the laughter as we talk about our crazy family, and the times we turn our phones off and enjoy each other’s company no matter where we are and no matter what we are doing. 

Two weeks ago the Bluffton Book Festival held its annual fair.  Does anybody remember what a book is anymore?  Just kidding.  E-books are a great way to build a library without the cost and cramped conditions.  Being a bit old-school, I admit I love to have the book in my hands and turn the pages one-by-one.  

This year I had the opportunity to attend the V.I.P. book signing event the night before the Festival.  A very good friend provided the tickets.  We got to hear from a few of the authors.  While the festival focuses on local authors, we had the opportunity to meet a few of the invited premier guest authors.  They also signed books for the attendees.  While a lot of attention was on Misty Copeland, the first African-American woman to be promoted to principal dancer with the American Ballet Theatre, I was interested in Kenny Leon, a Tony award winning director.  He wrote the book, Take You Wherever You Go.  It is his memoirs, focusing on the main influences in his life.  He is quite intriguing and winsome.

I just finished the book.  It got me thinking.  Who were the main influences in my life?  What stories would I tell about them?  What wisdom have they imparted in my life, even though I have not achieved the recognition and prestige of a Misty Copeland or Kenny Leon?  Who are the people who have made me who I am today?  

Sometimes we think about the negative influences in our lives.  The unique feature of Leon’s book is the lack of negative influences.  We all have them.   I’m sure he did as well.  However, Leon made the point that all the influences and experiences in his life molded him to be the person he is.  

In the Christian faith we would take such a thought and relate it to the will of God bringing people in and out of our lives.  Therefore, who we are has been shaped by God.  His son, Jesus, has God accepting who we are, as we are, by his grace.  Too bad people can’t get that one.

Leon’s grandmother was the influence for the book and its title.  She loved her grandson enough to inspire him to be who he was instead of trying so hard to be someone he was not.  Often, when we try to be someone else we fall flat on our face.

As I read his book, I again was brought back to the nature of God’s grace and how much we need to grow in that grace.  The influence of Western Culture has our mindset directed to being the best at whatever we do.  There lives a “got to be first” mentality that often fails to celebrate those who don’t fail but rather finish just a few steps behind.  The difference in a race is fractions of seconds.  The difference in a baseball game is often found in the numbers “1” and “2.”  Move into other life situations and the difference is one choice or one chance meeting.  Yet, all we tend to do is honor 1st place and forget all the others.  

The gospel of Jesus Christ does quite the opposite.  It welcomes in those who would never win a race, hit a homerun, score a touchdown, write a book, or even be in position to take a leading role.  That’s what really attracts me to Jesus.

All other religions I have studied say man has to ante up.  Our only chance of redemption is to do better, be better, and so on.  Some institute strict guidelines and rituals.  Deviate one hair from them and you will not be in God’s favor.

Jesus welcomes all the other’s in.  Why?  Man is and always will be incapable of reaching the standard of “holy.”  We will always fall a little short.  In fact, if we were honest, man will always fall way short.  

If Jesus accepts me as I am and fills in the gaps, why can’t we accept those around us?  I loved Leon’s book.  I’m not Billy Graham and never will be.  I’m not anybody in the Bible.  I’m John Ring and you are who you are, formed by the many influences in your life.  My hope is not in being anybody different.  My hope is in Jesus.  

How do we then live?  With grace.  Always with grace.  I am and always will be the prodigal son.  I will always fall short of the glory of God.  My only hope is in the One who gave His life so that I may live.  So, you might not like what you see.  If you ever hang with me, you will discover my shortcomings, and they will add up.  All I ask is that you see me through the eyes of Jesus because, no matter what, as Leon’s grandmother said, “Take You Wherever You Go.”  

By the way, that person that’s getting under your skin,  he is taking himself wherever he goes as well.  Go in grace. 

Here we go!  Thanksgiving has just passed and we are on our way to Christmas.  Not counting Christmas Day we are 29 days away.  That’s right…29 days.  I don’t know what is or is not a shopping day anymore.  I think they all are. 

I wish Thanksgiving could be more than one day.  It is our family’s favorite day of the year.  There is no pressure of gift giving or expected custom other than to be at the table when mom told us to be there.  No schedule other than the Dallas Cowboys game.  I’m not sure anyone was awake at 4:00 p.m.  That’s the joy of Thanksgiving.

We are going away for a few days.  With the grandkids we have tickets to go on the Polar Express Train.  It is inspired from the popular book by Chris Van Allsburg about a magical train ride on Christmas Eve.  I think it’s quite funny we are going on a train ride when Christmas is like a locomotive going full blast through our lives.  All Aboard! 

As the train called “Life” gets going we can get caught in the rush and miss so many and much around us.  Yes, it is a time for family and friends.  Yes, we buy a present to show our love or admiration.  We might do some special things for special people.  However, in the process we can get caught in the rat race of the holidays.  Sometimes it feels like the rats are winning.

Our lives are crazy enough without 3 back-to-back holidays.  I meet so many people who are working hard just to keep their nose above the water line.  I meet many fellow weary travelers on the exhausting road of life.  Now, with the season it gets ramped up.  I’m concerned we are over stimulated and some will break under the pressure.

As a chaplain for the Bluffton Police Department we are very much aware the holiday season can be rough.  Some have experienced loss and grieve their loved ones.  Others have serious  struggles and cannot relate to the “joy” of the season.  It leaves them feeling isolated and alone.  For a few the season propels them deeper into their depression and hopelessness as thoughts of suicide deceive them into grievous actions.

As we hustle and bustle though the season slow down a bit and look around.   There are plenty that not only need to hear of Jesus, they need to see him.

Consider:

  allowing someone to go ahead of you in the long lines

  asking a waitress how you can pray for her as you say grace

  saying “thank you” to everyone who fills our many needs

  actively forgive someone this season you hold blame against

  inviting someone to a meal or a cup of coffee

  being a bearer of peace in times of chaos

  do something out of the ordinary for someone in need

  baking an extra pie and give it away

  buying a few Walmart gift cards, stand out front and give them away to someone who 

looks like they are in need

  doing the outrageous

  making it a point to talk to people instead of walking by them every day

  giving double tips (I’m sure they could use it)

  being gracious, extending mercy and loving others including your enemy (Jesus   

didn’t give us an out)

The greatest gift you can give those around you is to slow down and enjoy them.  Even our kids have enough stimulation from outside sources.  They don’t need more.  They need us.  

There was a young man who I knew many years ago who at the ripe age of 15 was already wound around the axle.  We were walking in King’s Dominion and he was so bent on not being able to ride certain rides for the 3rd or 4th time.  I looked at him and with his parents around bellowed, “Dude, you need to slow down and smell the roses.”  I didn’t realize we were actually in an area with beautiful red roses everywhere.  

This holiday season, slow it down instead of speeding it up.  Say “No” to some parties.  How many do you need to go to anyway?  How many useless gifts litter our shelves?  Instead, make time to look someone in the eye and talk with them.  

Impart good tidings on them.   Let the hustle and bustle of consumerism be drowned out by the love, grace and mercy we can bestow on others as it has been given to us by the one we celebrate on December 25th.  

We sat across from each other discussing various facts and philosophies of life.  We meet weekly, sharing ideas and thoughts with great freedom.  As we sat there I asked what I thought was a simple question.  “What is your dream?”  He surprised me with his answer, and then he knocked me out with his question.  He asked me, “Are you living your dream?”

I wanted to lie.  But I resisted.  “Honestly,” I began, “No I am not living my dream and my dream is closely connected to my calling.”  I began to tell him my story that I would like to share with you.

I didn’t go into ministry till I was close to 40 years old.  I do not consider what I do a job.  In fact, I have had a lot of heated discussions with fellow ministers over the topic.  We are called.  Money should be the last question not the first one.  Once a minister looks at his position as a job, he loses the calling.  I believe the calling to be serious and important.  

I spent my first few years in youth ministry.  For some reason, I was either attracted to the “least of these” (Matthew 25) or they were attracted to me.  Since I spent my first career in education and business, I think I do not approach ministry like the professional pastor.  Anyway, the attraction to the troubled, non-church kids created problems.

The church I was at actually started an alternative Sunday school class and youth group for the church kids.  They didn’t like their kids hanging out with gang members, those with bad reputations, drop-outs, and others that tend not to be welcome in the local church.  It’s kind of funny if you think about it.  If we understand the Christian faith, it is the Christian who should be impacting the world instead of the world impacting the church.  Amazingly, we believe that, but practicing it is a different story.

Let’s just say the conflict caused constant friction.  One elder told me he liked me but not the kids I attracted.  I asked him if he knew any of the kids he was talking about.  He replied, “No, I don’t.”  With my blood boiling, I probably said some things I should not have.  I regret that.  Grace for the wayward is grace for the Pharisee.  I learned that over the years.  I think.

Anyway, it reached a point I decided I wanted to reach people the church tends to miss.  We tend to miss modern day lepers.  It isn’t necessarily the fault of the Christian.  Lepers struggle to find comfort in the church as well.  It’s not about blaming anyone.  It’s about taking steps to touch the lives of those who seldom get touched by the redeemed.

In this short version, let’s just say it is with this desire I ended up in South Carolina instead of sitting comfortably in Maryland.  God provided a way and eventually a church that wanted to reach the unreachable as well.  The stories are incredible.  I wish I had the room to tell a few.  They include federal inmates, adulterers, single parents, the homeless, addicts, the mentally ill and more.  Their stories are not mine.  I have no right to tell them.  All I can say is I’m the lucky one, if there is such a thing in the Christian faith.  I get to see God at work in places most people don’t even get to see.  I get to see love, grace, and mercy win the day.  

Now, this is where the dream can disappear.  Let’s be honest.  The situation in Maryland is the battle all churches face along the line.  Instead of givers we become takers.  The needs, often assumed instead of real, move outreach into in-reach.  Often it’s hard to see.  We wake up one day and realize we spend most of our ministry time inside the church walls and very little outside.

Lives cease to change and we somehow role into making the parishioners happy instead of challenging them to forfeit themselves for the sake of others.  When we focus inwardly, our contact with those whom we tend to miss diminishes greatly.  And we wonder why church growth ceases and we lose our voice in the community.  

I’m there right now.  So my answer about living my dream is honest.  I spend most of my time with fellow Christians who struggle to admit their sin, brokenness and pain and have less and less contact with the truly broken and hurting.  Church people hide their issues. The only difference I can see between a Christian and a non-believer is God’s grace of which I am the most unworthy but the most fortunate.

  It is nobody’s fault but my own.  The prophet Jeremiah never got off point as he ministered to a people that wanted compromise and feel good ministry.  He held the line.  He rested in the promises of God instead of the desires of the people.  I have to make some changes.  Not because I have to.  It’s my calling.  Anybody want to join me?  

Have you ever been tired and you don’t have any idea the cause?  That defines me today.  It seems to define me more often these days.  So, I decided to go to the doctor.  Basically, he gave me a clean bill of health .  He said my blood tests looked good, and, after l lost 26 lbs., he was greatly encouraged.  

I’m not diabetic; that’s good news.  According to the good doctor, I’m not pre-diabetic either.  I’m not anemic, of course, that depends on who you ask.  My cholesterol is a little high but nothing to lose any sleep over.  If I’m such a specimen of good health, why am I so tired?  The question of the day.

I meet a lot of tired people.  Lately, when a few counselees have come into the office, my first question is, “Would you like for me to step out for 20 minutes so you can catch a quick nap?”  They laugh.  They laugh because they know it’s not all that bad an idea.  

We all know the look.  No smile.  Bags under the eyes.  No spring in the step.  No emotion in the voice.  Maybe it’s me, but I think the relativistic consumer-driven world philosophies in a post-modern and post-Christian era are possibly imploding our culture, and people simply cannot keep up.

We used to talk about trying to keep up with the “Joneses.”  It’s the mindset that whatever my neighbor has I have to have one and possibly the latest model.  Just last week I was asked if I had an iPhone X.  I said I had the eight.  Without missing a beat, the young lady, with an attitude of disgust, informed me she had the iPhone X and was going to get the next model as soon as it came out.  I have to say, I was not impressed.   

I used to think the pace of life was going berserk.   I don’t think so anymore.  It’s the cultural expectations causing each individual to think they need more.  The instant access to information on the phone feeds the idea that no one should be a step behind.  We submit to the mindset and it doesn’t take long till we are distracted consumers spending time just trying to keep up.  

A few weeks ago, I heard of a family that took all electronics away from their young son.  He was having issues using them.  Eventually, the parents realized things were not going well, including his attitude.  They have been put away with no timetable for their return.  Did I hear a collective gasp?  Yup, no cell phone, tablet, or computer use unless necessary for school.  It was time to break the addiction cycle for a very young child.  Everybody expected withdrawal and anger to dominate.  They were wrong.

The opposite happened.  The young child’s pleasant attitude returned over the next few days.  He began to return to life.  His acceptance of his siblings sweetened.  His parents reported that he said, “It’s amazing, I’m enjoying all of life once again.”  They are not sure if the electronics will ever return.  

I asked another set of parents a few hours ago why they felt it was necessary to give their 11- year-old daughter a cell phone.  No, let me change that.  I asked why they felt it was necessary to give their child a smart phone at such a young age.  They said, “So she can get a hold of us at any time.”  The young child gave the better answer.  She replied, “Well, everyone has them.”  Does anybody realize that the young child is having access to a lot more people (good, bad and evil) than her parents?  Are we blind to the fact that the good does not necessarily outweigh the bad? 

I didn’t even mention that when we put more and more people into our life, including electronically, it eliminates time for family and God.  We don’t live in a vacuum.   Time given to one person takes away from time with another.  The word that replaces God is “I.”  I need a phone.  I need to be just like so and so.  I want it.  I have to be important.   I have to be relevant. 

There is nothing necessarily wrong with any of this stuff.  It’s the user.  The problem is they are all user-friendly.  I am concerned.  Tired people do tired things.  Suicide rates are up, especially among the young.  Evil is only a few seconds away, and we might not even be looking for it at times.   It’s not just the young.  It’s everybody.

My grandkids came over the other day.  I asked them if they wanted to take a ride to the Savannah Wildlife Refuge.  They happily agreed.  We talked the whole way there and back.  We laughed looking for gators and birds.  They are probably the source of my tiredness.  It’s worth it.  No.  They are worth it. 

I was working on a lesson the other day.  While researching, I discovered a reference from ancient Rome.  It was from one of the ruling party, commenting about the plague that was running through the city.  He commented about a people group that, instead of running away from those with the deadly illness ran to them.  He was amazed.  Those people were the Christians.  They were not afraid.  Their destiny was in the hands of the God they believed in.  

This past week was a troublesome week.  Four different instances of people in pain.  The pain was the plague of sex abuse.  I have to admit I often thought the numbers were not accurate.  The longer I’m in the counseling world I now feel those numbers are not high enough.

In each case the abuse came from family members.  Each family member was a member of the same church.  They were calling, seeking advice.  One case was extremely recent.  Another was 20 some years ago.  The plague affects people of all ages, both sexes, all races and socio-economic standings.  

In each case, some level of pornography usage is also evident.  The plague is here in full swing.  I don’t blame the many women who have joined the #MeToo movement.  What I don’t quite understand is why the Christian community is not engaging it.  A pastor friend of mine once preached that 75% of all the men in the congregation have an issue with pornography.  He followed that statement saying, “The other 25% are lying.”  Jesus said we as men have issues with adultery.  If we have eyes, we have a problem.  Ladies are not exempt.  A lady teacher once told me a woman’s desire is to be desired.  Just like the plague…the germ is always around.  

But we don’t talk about it.  Somehow it has become taboo to talk about sex, adultery, and lust.  Are they sensitive subjects?  They sure are, and yet, they affect the foundation of future families.  Sexual sin is not a victimless sin.  Often its impact is felt years later.  

We have this plague slowly killing our families and, literally people, and we are running away instead of to it.  When is the last time anyone heard a sermon on pornography?  Why hasn’t the church rallied to demand our lawmakers do something about the ease of viewing porn by minors on the Internet?  Why is there free porn at all?  When is the last time anyone heard a sermon on I Timothy 5:2?  Do we teach it to our youth, or are we too busy playing games?

Remember, the purity of marriage is very important to the Lord.  It is the only institution founded on the principles of Jesus and his church.  

So, what is I Timothy 5:2?  The Apostle Paul said, “Treat…older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.”  We did not start the #MeToo movement; Paul did.  It lost its effect when we demanded 20 minute happy sermons and did not want to hear God’s instruction of great grace.  Grace calls us to purity.  Purity founded in the Pure One, Jesus.  Yes, we have issues, and so did many of the Biblical heroes.  

Nehemiah was upset the walls of Jerusalem were broken.  After he wept and mourned, he prayed for God to help him respond.  The walls of our churches and homes are broken.  The sexual revolution of the 60’s has morphed into the sexual disaster, and truth is hard to find, even in sexual identity.  Churches have caved in the name of “grace” accepting sexual behavior that is far from pure.  We forgot that grace is founded in truth and calls us to purity, as Jesus told the prostitute “…sin no more.”  In other words, with Jesus, she did not need to be the prostitute anymore.  Her identity was in Christ, not her or men. 

Porn and sexual sins are a leading characteristic of a culture that loses respect for life.  Once respect for others is lost, the only direction a culture goes is down and out.  The church must run to this plague for the future of our families and the gospel.  Talk to your kids about it.  Don’t be afraid; be honest.  Develop accountability with the Internet.  Confess your own sins, and together in prayer, seek the Lord in your sexual being.  It’s important to him.  He made us in His image.  

From time to time we are called upon to do hard things. Whenever I get that cal,l my mind races to find easier ways to fix whatever is the problem. My first reaction tends to be the one I inherited from my father. Maybe if I ignore it long enough, it will go away. Actually, it’s more along the line of if I ignore the person long enough he or she will go away. It is safe to say most hard things involve people.
After a few minutes of debate with God, we realize he called “me” not somebody else to go the distance. Since the problem won’t go away, the next avoidance trait is to find somebody else to deal with the problem. That one never works. Never. We think we can dish our problems off to other people, and sometimes we do. However, they tend to boomerang right back to us. Of course they will. God calls us to handle the hard stuff, not somebody else. If there is a temporary reprieve, the problem usually resurfaces worse than if we would have answered the bell when it rang.
Then there is the pleading to God to give us a way out. We misquote Scripture to our advantage. If we are honest, we probably misquote more Scripture to our advantage than we will admit. Anyway, it’s the old “God ,can you handle this one?” His answer is always, “Yes.” “However, as my child,” he whispers, “I’m using you to bring about my glory.”
I remember the day as a Bluffton Police Department Chaplain I got the call on a child drowning. Nobody likes to be called to minister at any serious injury or death of a child. I happened to be right around the corner from the ongoing incident. I was still praying to God, “Can you supply one of our other chaplains for this one?” As I turned the blinker on to make the left hand turn, I so much wanted one of my fellow chaplains to call in. They didn’t. I made the turn, and, in seconds, was in the middle of total chaos. One of the hardest calls I’ve ever had to answer. God doesn’t keep us from the hard ones, but he does promise to be there with us every step of the way. He was. He is. He always will be.
The apostle Paul told the Corinthians that “My grace is sufficient: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” It’s when we are weak that Christ is our only hope and aide. It is counter to all our culture demands. With Christ, His calling is for the weak who know their only hope is the work of Christ through the Holy Spirit. I honestly don’t know how it works. I only know that it does.
So, we try to ignore the hard things or people and hope they will go away. We hope somebody else will go to the front of the line and fix the problem. Our last avoidance mechanism is to build up barriers or attitudes hoping to insulate ourselves from the fall out. First responders are usually pretty good at building up the wall. They tend to walk on the dark side of the moon. In order to protect their own being, they develop a “macho” image. It works during the emergency. However, they are not machines. They are humans. It comes out, and, if not cared for well, it tends to come out in unhealthy ways. It’s not only first responders. It’s all of us.
What do we do when we get news we don’t want? How do we live when we say, “I can’t handle this?” What happens when we are blindsided by an accident, an illness, or event? What makes us think that as Christians we should be immune from such things? It’s not our faith. That’s our own self-righteousness. There is a cancer that invades the Christian faith that says “If you behave well, serve God, and practice the disciplines of the faith, you will be immune from the tragedies, major illnesses and tough situations of life.” That is a lie straight from the pit of hell. Jesus didn’t say, “I will not let anything bad happen to you.” He said, regardless of the effects of depravity, “I will not leave you.”
Instead of trying to find a way out, those who claim Christ should be going straight to Him asking for Him to prevail over our limited capabilities. We love to quote “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” when we have already come through the valley. It should be out front.
I often think we have Christianity backwards. It’s not what can I do with Christ. It’s more what will Christ do with me. Christians seem to be getting more and more afraid. We should be afraid if we are out front. With Christ in our full view, out front where He belongs I like to cry out, “Bring It On!” Christians used to tell the world what Christ was going to do. They served God rather than man. We can do that when we get our position in Christ corrected.
As we grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord, we can look our issues right in the eye with confidence. We will answer the call and not depend upon an enabler. We don’t need a false ego; our weakness will be transformed into strength. That’s exactly what Christ did on the cross. No wonder Paul told us to “work out our salvation every day.” Go back to the cross today. Go back to the cross tomorrow. Go back and get your vision corrected. Bring it on!