Thursday, December 19, 2013

Haymitch, Phil Robertson, and a little reminder

"This is my command: Love each other. If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you." - John 15:17-18

 I LOVE the Hunger Games. Love the books, love the movies. Seriously. In case you didn't get to read or watch, or had no desire to, here's the general gist. What's left of America in the future is divided into districts and is ruled by the Capital district and President Snow. The Capital has all the wealth and power, while the remaining districts have few freedoms and little money.

The rules enforced by the Capital include a fight to the death between 24 teenagers randomly picked from the 12 districts. Only one can live.

The story's hero, Katniss, is forced to go into the games a second time in the sequel, Catching Fire, to fight for her life again. Her mentor Haymitch reminds her as she enters the arena, "Remember who the real enemy is." 

Haymitch wanted her to remember the enemies were not the other 23 unlucky kids trying to kill her; it was the Capital officials and President Snow - the ones responsible for all of it.

I couldn't help but think of the wisdom in that. The Bible says something very similar in Ephesians 6:12.

"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms."

Satan can use just about anything to distract people from their fight against him and sick them on each other. I've seen some of it today.

Hearing about Duck Dynasty's Phil Robertson and the attention he is getting from his words reminded me of how easy it is for us to forget who the enemy of God and Christians is. Christians might think the enemy is the people who don't know Jesus, or maybe it's the media, or a Merry-Christmasless chain store, but it isn't. Our real enemy is Satan.

Satan can get us so focused on a particular sin, topic or issue, and what might start out as sticking up for the rights of Christians can end up leaving us a hateful, bitter bunch failing to show the love of Christ to those who need it right where they are.

I'm not saying that if something is a sin, you should pretend that it is okay. But doesn't God look at all sin equally? In the GQ article, Phil paraphrased the list of some sins from I Corinthians, where homosexual practice is right alongside the sexually immoral, idolatry, adultery, the thieves, the greedy, the drunk, slanderers and swindlers. I've been guilty of more on this list than I would care to mention.

When Christians make fighting against one sin or another their platform, it takes away from our first duty and what should be our biggest delight - to love God and love others.

Back to that passage in I Corinthians though, chapter 6 verse 11 says something beautiful about a group of people like all of us who at one time were dabbling in that list of sins I mentioned above...

"And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God." 

There isn't one single sin that God's grace can't cover. Not one. I am beyond grateful for this!

Standing up for what you believe in isn't wrong. Send A&E an email if you want, and proudly wear your Duck Dynasty t-shirt (I think the show is adorable and really hope it continues with Phil present - BTW, Jase is my favorite). But please be careful not to make it an "us against them" fight.

It's us against Satan, and unless we are showing the love of Jesus everywhere we go, he is winning.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Wax on, Wax off...

Ralph Macchio was way hot as Daniel-san in the original Karate Kid.


As Mr. Miyagi was training him so he could defend himself against those jerks at the Cobra Kai Dojo, he gave Daniel-san some odd training techniques. Rather than showing him how to block a kick, Mr. Miyagi told him to wax his cars, paint his fences, and sand his floors. Sounds like a scam.

And that's just what foul-mouthed Daniel-san tells Mr. Miyagi when he felt he had done enough. But Mr. Miyagi showed him just what he had learned.

While all the waxing, sanding, and painting seemed completely unrelated to the task of learning enough to show Johnny Lawrence that he wasn't to be messed with, Mr. Miyagi had been teaching him all along. 

I've noticed some wax-on/wax-off assignments from God recently. Walking around the block by Noah's school and praying, I noticed it was trash day for the surrounding neighborhood. One of the neighbor's trash bags had been ripped open by a local dog, with all their scraps and evidence of the week that had just passed. 

As I walked by, I felt God nudging my heart. It seemed He wanted me to pick up the trash. So I kept walking. I decided I would get a bag from my car and pick it up on my next lap. I forgot to stop. So I circled again, still feeling God's words on my heart. I grabbed an empty bag from my car, and walked to the yard. As I began to pick up pieces of this stranger's garbage, I discovered garbage of a family just like mine, right down to their love of Chick-fil-a. 

While nothing obviously life-changing happened from me obeying, God asked me to do it for a reason. Whether it was for that family to not have garbage all over their lawn, for me to learn a lesson in humility, for me to have a few moments focused on this family and praying for them, or for me to just learn to hear God's voice, I don't know. But I do know God wanted me to do it.

He has shared other things with me lately that He wanted me to do. And it seems the more I listen to Him and obey, the more "assignments" he is willing to give. And I really want them. There is nothing more satisfying than obeying God. 

If God is asking you to help someone unload their cart at Walmart, or say hello to a neighbor, do it. Even if it is something that doesn't seem to serve an immediate purpose. God is speaking and we are learning His voice.  

Wax on and wax off your way to a closer, more intimate and beautiful relationship with God. You won't regret it. 

"My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand." - John 10:27-28