Want What You’ve Got! (shhh!)

8ELEVEN-silencePeople can be so infuriating, can’t they? Even in the church.

I was once referred to as Saint Brita by a co-worker who had a penchant for gossip and tiresome chit-chat, often at the expense of those who were not present to explain or defend themselves. I guess I had established myself as someone who wasn’t keen to participate in these third-party tirades, so as I was approaching one day, he called out – Hey! Here comes the Saint!

I wasn’t really sure how to take that.

On the one hand, I was actually offended, at the very least by the tone in his voice.

On the other hand, though I am far from being saintly, I suppose I prefer that label to a variety of others he might have used.

I really can’t recall how I responded at the time, but I’m pretty sure I opted to smile and keep on moving toward bigger, better and more meaningful things. But I stewed about it later. He got under my skin.

Rules of engagement for believers are challenging at best. Sometimes it hurts much more to bite my tongue than it would to spew poison right back at those who hurt and maim with their unkind and provocative words. I tend to move relatively gracefully through such war zones only to find the wounding rhetoric looping in my head for hours – even days – afterwards. I think of all sorts of comebacks after the fact, which riles me up and distracts me from seeing what is really going on: how easily I’m hacked by an enemy for whom no method of intrusion is off-limits.

I stumbled upon these words after my “sainthood” was established, and I have literally clung to them for dear life ever since:

“Excuse yourself from any conversations that turn into foolish and uninformed debates because you know they only provoke fights. As the Lord’s slave, you shouldn’t exhaust yourself in bickering; instead, be gentle—no matter who you are dealing with—ready and able to teach, tolerant without resentment, gently instructing those who stand up against you. Besides, the time may come when God grants them a change of heart so that they can arrive at the full knowledge of truth. And if they come to their senses, they can escape the devil’s snare and walk freed from his captivity and evil bidding.”  2 Timothy 2:23-26 (The Voice)

Sometimes the best response to the one who picks a fight is silence.

So today, in the face of immaturity and insensitivity, excuse yourself. Preserve your strength. Respond gently. Teach tolerantly. Instruct without resentment. Keep your wits about you. Walk free. Want What You’ve Got.

Daily Questions: When was the last time your patience was tested by someone whom Rick Warren would call an EGR – Extra Grace Required? Were they being foolish? Mean-spirited? Opinionated? Judgmental? Speaking out of turn? Un (or Under) -informed? Critical? (Or just annoying?) Shhh! What is the quietest response you can muster under the circumstances? How can you avoid burning a bridge that might be an EGR’s most direct route to the foot of the Cross? Will you meet them there this week?

 

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Want What You’ve Got! (weekend)

English: School bus seats, photographed from b...

Photo credit: Wikipedia

I often think of the Christian life in terms of the classroom and the field trip.

Sermons, Bible studies, devotions = classroom.

Life in the real world = field trip.

Jesus taught that His words are not just to be “incidental additions to your life, homeowners improvements to your standard of living.” Jesus’ words are foundational words – words to build a life on! He has some pretty harsh things to say to those who spend all of their time in the classroom and never actually work what they’re learning into the living of their lives (Matthew 7:24-29).

The weekends during these 40 days of Want What You’ve Got are a chance to work out all that we think about during the week. Sundays during Lent aren’t actually counted in the 40 day season, because Sunday for the believer is always Easter! Always celebration! Always feast day!

This weekend, instead of going out and buying or doing something new, consider what you’ve got. Find one thing that you already have but haven’t used or enjoyed for a long time…An appliance that makes a special treat. An accessory buried deep within your closet. A movie you enjoy but haven’t seen since… forever.

Take it out. Dust it off. Want What You’ve Got!

While you’re searching for that one thing, keep your eyes open for something that you haven’t used or enjoyed for a very long time – something that you don’t want... An appliance. A pair of shoes. Something that collects dust in your spare bedroom or that you regularly trip over in your garage.

If you don’t want it, why keep it? Re-purpose or recycle by giving it to someone else or dropping it off at a local charity store on your way to the coffee shop (just kidding)!

Want What You’ve Got! (coffee)

Coffee beanI figure there’s really no point in beating around the bush or tip-toeing around what may very well be my biggest issue… Coffee.

Laying in bed on this Lenten morning – birds chirping, heater kicking on to ward off the nighttime chill – my thoughts naturally (eventually) turn toward coffee. Instinctively (my default start-up sequence runs like a program) I’m weighing the options I will have when I walk into the coffee shop this morning…. Hot or iced? Soy or black? One pump or two?

Quite un-naturally, this Want What You’ve Got mantra of ours enters the conversation I’m having in my head:

You’ve got coffee at home, Brita. A variety of brews! How about popping a Kcup into the ol’ Keurig today? Want What You’ve Got!

For those who can’t relate, it’s safe to say that I am addicted to my morning coffee run. I rely on that predictable part of my day to set the pace for whatever might emerge as the clock ticks on. I’ve given coffee up for Lent before and survived – barely. Like some of you, I once gave up my “fourbucks” habit to sponsor a child through Compassion, but now I drink my brew and send money to support my dear Charmien (best of both worlds, right?).

What is addiction, anyways? My gut says it’s a craving for something you want – something you don’t really need, but you think you do. The dictionary says that it’s
“the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming.”

God, you had me at enslaved

Want What You’ve Got isn’t about soul-killing legalism or pious performances in the theater of the church. Want What You’ve Got isn’t telling me that to drink coffee is sinful or that to buy coffee from a barista is bad. No, what I heard in my head as I woke up this morning is that there’s a greater question buried here beneath my hot-or-iced, one-pump-or-two daily dilemma and it has less to do with coffee than with the condition of my heart.

1 Timothy 6:7-8 says:

“Since we entered the world penniless and will leave it penniless, if we have bread on the table and shoes on our feet, that’s enough.”

Today I do have bread on the table… and I have coffee in the cupboard.

Want What You’ve Got says “enjoy what you already have!” For this day I have what I need – and a lot of what I want. Am I willing to rely on God to set the tone for today instead of this habit I’m chained to? Am I willing to say that what I have is enough and allow God to use this choice of mine as He cultivates a grateful heart in me?

Well, yes, actually – when you say it like that.

Daily Questions: What do you consume without thinking (or think too much about consuming)? When mixed with our mandate to Want What You’ve Got, how does that taste?

Want What You’ve Got! (Lent)

One year at camp I heard a pastor share a version of the Ten Commandments stated positively. Instead of saying Thou Shalt Not, this rendition of the original top-Ten list spun God’s commands in such a way that discipline-averse folks might embrace them.

I didn’t write them down. I haven’t been able to find them worded quite the way they were spoken that year at camp. But one of them – the positive interpretation of Thou Shalt Not Covet – burned itself onto my heart around the campfire and continues to send sparks flying each time my green-eyed monster rears its greedy little head:

Want what you’ve got.

The season of Lent has begun on this day with ashes from last year’s Palm Sunday fingerpainted on my forehead; the shape of a cross barely visible in the dark & oily mess as I lean into the mirror for a closer look. My first inclination is to grab a tissue and wipe it off – it’s as if I’ve got a billboard on my face that reads “this is as good as it gets, people.” Dust, dirt, sin, grease. On display for everyone to see.

I want to wipe it off!
I want to fit in when I walk into Safeway for a gallon of milk on the way home.
I want to look normal to the majority of people who didn’t go to church today.
I want to like what I see when I look in the mirror, or in my refrigerator, or at my checkbook, or closet, or scale, or when I look into the eyes of my loved ones at home.

Truth be told – I want a lot of things. I spend an enormous amount of time, energy and resources on acquiring those things. But then what?

When today’s purchases are hanging in the closet, lined up on the pantry shelves or plugged in beside my bed – then what?

Honestly? I want more.

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to want what you’ve got? I have.
Today I can’t help but wonder how my life might be different if I were brave enough to believe God when He says:

“Just think – you don’t need a thing, you’ve got it all! All God’s gifts are right in front of you as you wait expectantly for our Master Jesus to arrive on the scene for the Finale. And not only that, but God himself is right alongside to keep you steady and on track until things are all wrapped up by Jesus. God, who got you started in this spiritual adventure, shares with us the life of his Son and our Master Jesus. He will never give up on you. Never forget that.” I Corinthians 1:7-9 (the Message)

A spiritual adventure beckons today for those of us who feel the Father’s heartbeat in our chests, though all we can see in these mirrors of ours is an ashy, oily smudge where the glory of God ought to be.

What if, for the next 40 days, we were to climb out of and into our bedcovers with this positive commandment in front of us all day long… Want What You’ve Got.

What if, between now and Easter Sunday, we were to choose what we already have over the temptation to buy more, take more, spend more?

And what if, while wanting what we’ve already got, we were to discover that God has given us everything we need?

How might we be different? How might we be changed?

How about we find out… together!

Watch for devotional thoughts and challenges to be posted here every weekday during Lent. Don’t want to miss a post? Subscribe to Pink Shoes Ministries’s blog and have each Want What You’ve Got post delivered to your email inbox.

Literal 4 Lent: The Best Teaching Ever Heard

(Click here for the Literal 4 Lent home page)

Several years ago I attended Youth Specialties’ National Youth Workers Convention in the fall. I always LOVE YS events, and this one was no exception, with speakers like Andy Stanley and Louie Giglio on the main stage. I was especially eager to hear Shane Claiborne speak – his message the year before had seriously rocked my world, so I was hungry to hear what he would have to say this time, as thousands of youth workers gathered to be inspired.

Shane took the stage and proceeded to do a couple of carnival tricks, including fire-eating, which was weird but not altogether unexpected (have you ever seen Shane?). Then he took out his Bible and began to read from the Gospel of Matthew – the Sermon on the Mount.

He read chapter 5. And chapter 6. And chapter 7.

Not a short text, yet I was ready for what was coming next – Shane’s unique way of looking at scripture that would certainly lead me into new understandings and applications of the Word.

That’s not exactly what happened. As Shane read the final verses of Matthew ch. 7, he looked out at the crowd of eager listeners and prayed:

“God, give us the courage to live it.”

And he walked off the stage. Talk OVER. Total, stunned silence fell over the room.

From my journal, dated Nov. 16, 2007: “I admit to entertaining the question, ‘is this… IT?’ Yet even as I asked myself the question, I couldn’t believe I was asking myself if Jesus’ greatest sermon – in His own words – was ‘all’ that Shane was going to share… but I did think it.”

Sitting in the silent company of thousands whose mental gymnastics had to be similar to my own, I was MOVED from disappointment to the realization that this man, who clearly had the full attention of everyone in the room, had just leveraged his influence to lift up the words of Jesus as GOSPEL… TRUTH.

I was moved – to tears. “I am at once convicted and motivated; mortified and passionate; confused and crystal clear.”

The way this sermon of Jesus ends is the way I have chosen to begin the season of Lent, as it is ushered in today, on Ash Wednesday. Jesus makes it clear that His words are not just something to add to our collection of wise sayings, to be pulled out and comforted with in times of need. No, what Jesus says is something that I most desperately need to hear, and I suspect that you do, too.

“‘These words I speak to you are not incidental additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living. They are foundational words, words to build a life on. If you work these words into your life, you are like a smart carpenter who built his house on solid rock. Rain poured down, the river flooded, a tornado hit – but nothing moved that house. It was fixed to the rock. But if you just use my words in Bible studies and don’t work them into your life, you are like a stupid carpenter who built his house on the sandy beach. When a storm rolled in and the waves came up, it collapsed like a house of cards.’ When Jesus concluded his address, the crowd burst into applause. They had never heard teaching like this. It was apparent that he was living everything he was saying – quite a contrast to their religion teachers! This was the best teaching they had ever heard.” Matthew 7:24-29 (The Message)

THIS was the BEST TEACHING they had ever heard. Because Jesus wasn’t just telling them what to do – He was showing them.

What if Jesus meant for us to do the same?

What if Jesus was serious when He said that the role of Bible study is to work the Word into the living of our lives?

What if He meant for us to take His teachings literally?

During this Lenten season that begins today and runs through Easter morning, I invite you to join me in asking, “What if?

Pink Shoes Ministries is going to experiment with being Literal 4 Lent.

Each week day during the 40 days of Lent we will be considering the literal application of the teachings of Jesus and their potential impact on our lives, our families, our churches and communities. We’ll take a daily look at the red letters in the Gospels, making the Word our primary text for this season of the church year – this Way of the Cross.

Each week day, here at Pink Shoes Ministries on wordpress.com, we will consider THE WORD (a teaching from Jesus’ ministry) and THE APP (how we might live it – today). On the weekends we will rest and consider the impact of this experiment in Kingdom living, taking note of what the Word has done as we gave it hands and feet and took it into our world.

What if people listened to what we have to say and responded, “It’s apparent that they are living everything they are saying – quite a contrast to the typical religious crowd.”

Let’s DO IT! Let’s pray for the boldness and the courage to LIVE the best teaching ever heard for the next 40 days – and see what happens!

It won’t be easy, but it’ll be worth it. It’ll be counter-cultural, but it will also be counter to the passive Christianity that appears to have its roots somewhere other than in the teachings of Jesus the Christ.

I realize that we are all over the place when it comes to our interpretation of scripture, but won’t it be an unprecedented undertaking to be Literal 4 Lent?!

In November, 2007 as I sat silent in the crowd, this prayer rose in my heart. May it rise in your heart, too, as we follow Jesus into a life LIVED for the glory of God…

“I am eager for what YOU will do NEXT, God! Bring it. I am ready.

I am yours.”

Click to return to the Literal 4 Lent menu.

Literal 4 Lent: The Best Teaching Ever Heard

(Click here for the Literal 4 Lent home page)

Several years ago I attended Youth Specialties’ National Youth Workers Convention in the fall. I always LOVE YS events, and this one was no exception, with speakers like Andy Stanley and Louie Giglio on the main stage. I was especially eager to hear Shane Claiborne speak – his message the year before had seriously rocked my world, so I was hungry to hear what he would have to say this time, as thousands of youth workers gathered to be inspired.

Shane took the stage and proceeded to do a couple of carnival tricks, including fire-eating, which was weird but not altogether unexpected (have you ever seen Shane?). Then he took out his Bible and began to read from the Gospel of Matthew – the Sermon on the Mount.

He read chapter 5. And chapter 6. And chapter 7.

Not a short text, yet I was ready for what was coming next – Shane’s unique way of looking at scripture that would certainly lead me into new understandings and applications of the Word.

That’s not exactly what happened. As Shane read the final verses of Matthew ch. 7, he looked out at the crowd of eager listeners and prayed:

“God, give us the courage to live it.”

And he walked off the stage. Talk OVER. Total, stunned silence fell over the room.

From my journal, dated Nov. 16, 2007: “I admit to entertaining the question, ‘is this… IT?’ Yet even as I asked myself the question, I couldn’t believe I was asking myself if Jesus’ greatest sermon – in His own words – was ‘all’ that Shane was going to share… but I did think it.”

Sitting in the silent company of thousands whose mental gymnastics had to be similar to my own, I was MOVED from disappointment to the realization that this man, who clearly had the full attention of everyone in the room, had just leveraged his influence to lift up the words of Jesus as GOSPEL… TRUTH.

I was moved – to tears. “I am at once convicted and motivated; mortified and passionate; confused and crystal clear.”

The way this sermon of Jesus ends is the way I have chosen to begin the season of Lent, as it is ushered in today, on Ash Wednesday. Jesus makes it clear that His words are not just something to add to our collection of wise sayings, to be pulled out and comforted with in times of need. No, what Jesus says is something that I most desperately need to hear, and I suspect that you do, too.

“‘These words I speak to you are not incidental additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living. They are foundational words, words to build a life on. If you work these words into your life, you are like a smart carpenter who built his house on solid rock. Rain poured down, the river flooded, a tornado hit – but nothing moved that house. It was fixed to the rock. But if you just use my words in Bible studies and don’t work them into your life, you are like a stupid carpenter who built his house on the sandy beach. When a storm rolled in and the waves came up, it collapsed like a house of cards.’ When Jesus concluded his address, the crowd burst into applause. They had never heard teaching like this. It was apparent that he was living everything he was saying – quite a contrast to their religion teachers! This was the best teaching they had ever heard.” Matthew 7:24-29 (The Message)

THIS was the BEST TEACHING they had ever heard. Because Jesus wasn’t just telling them what to do – He was showing them.

What if Jesus meant for us to do the same?

What if Jesus was serious when He said that the role of Bible study is to work the Word into the living of our lives?

What if He meant for us to take His teachings literally?

During this Lenten season that begins today and runs through Easter morning, I invite you to join me in asking, “What if?

Pink Shoes Ministries is going to experiment with being Literal 4 Lent.

Each week day during the 40 days of Lent we will be considering the literal application of the teachings of Jesus and their potential impact on our lives, our families, our churches and communities. We’ll take a daily look at the red letters in the Gospels, making the Word our primary text for this season of the church year – this Way of the Cross.

Each week day, here at Pink Shoes Ministries on wordpress.com, we will consider THE WORD (a teaching from Jesus’ ministry) and THE APP (how we might live it – today). On the weekends we will rest and consider the impact of this experiment in Kingdom living, taking note of what the Word has done as we gave it hands and feet and took it into our world.

What if people listened to what we have to say and responded, “It’s apparent that they are living everything they are saying – quite a contrast to the typical religious crowd.”

Let’s DO IT! Let’s pray for the boldness and the courage to LIVE the best teaching ever heard for the next 40 days – and see what happens!

It won’t be easy, but it’ll be worth it. It’ll be counter-cultural, but it will also be counter to the passive Christianity that appears to have its roots somewhere other than in the teachings of Jesus the Christ.

I realize that we are all over the place when it comes to our interpretation of scripture, but won’t it be an unprecedented undertaking to be Literal 4 Lent?!

In November, 2007 as I sat silent in the crowd, this prayer rose in my heart. May it rise in your heart, too, as we follow Jesus into a life LIVED for the glory of God…

“I am eager for what YOU will do NEXT, God! Bring it. I am ready.

I am yours.”

Click to return to the Literal 4 Lent menu.

SHOUT! L4L.05

The WORD

“What I tell you now in the darkness, shout abroad when daylight comes. What I whisper in your ear, shout from the housetops for all to hear!” Matthew 10:27 (New Living Translation)

“Eventually everything is going to be out in the open, and everyone will know how things really are. So don’t hesitate to go public now.” Matthew 10:27 (The Message)

Sometimes we, like Elijah, identify our God as the still, small voice in the aftermath of life’s disasters. Jesus confirms that God’s voice is often a whisper in our ear rather than the booming baritone hailing from the clouds (with lightning) that we might wish for in our times of need.

There is power in these two sentences for those of us who are in the dark. Jesus will speak to us in our darkness! He will whisper in our ear, even as the rest of the world vies for our attention in less subtle, more obtrusive ways.

The APP

Maybe these words of Jesus are a clue for us today. Some of us find ourselves asking again and again: How can I recognize God’s voice?

Part of today’s application of the Word may be a tuning of the ear. An adjustment of the radar. A cluing in to the way God often speaks in the lives of His people. If we’re expecting to hear God in big and mighty ways, we may very well miss His gently delivered words as they fall on us in silence. But if we’re listening for the still, small voice, well, there He is.

There’s a second part to applying Jesus’ words from Matthew 10:27. As challenging as it may be for us to listen for His whisper, the bigger challenge still is to share those whispers with others.

I don’t know about you, but I have heard some pretty profound, difficult and surprising things from God in the dark. Things that sound pretty crazy. Words with the potential to push a lot of buttons for a lot of people – followers of Jesus or not. How many of us would be willing to take words that were whispered to us in times of quiet intimacy and shout them from the rooftops, for the whole world to hear?! Yet this is exactly what Jesus is saying we must do.

What God says to us in intensely personal times of connection is not for us to keep. This text is a reminder that someone else is in need of the words we hear from Him – someone whose ear may not be tuned to His voice yet – someone who needs His message desperately, and the only way God can speak His whisper to them is through you and me going public now! So often we choose to internalize God’s Word and leave it at that – never sharing, never starting conversation, never breathing out loud what God has spoken inside. But this is not faithful living in light of Jesus’ words today.

If we are serious about being Literal 4 Lent, we must not only pay attention to the clues Jesus gives about the way God speaks, but we must be willing to go all the way, delivering God’s words with a rooftop SHOUT!

Sharing our impressions of God.

Sharing our experiences of God.

Sharing our intimacies with God with anyone who will listen.

Yes, a time is coming when all of this will be revealed and God Himself will lay it all out there for the world to hear and see. That time has not yet come. Our call is to go public NOW, without hesitation.

Tell your God-stories!

Share your epiphanies!

Wrestle out loud with the difficult words He has spoken over you!

There is someone who is listening for your sacred SHOUT today! Don’t keep them waiting.

Just let it out.

 Click here to return to the Literal 4 Lent menu.

Religious Lace L4L.03

Royal Lace detail

Image via WikipediaThe WORD

The WORD

“…Don’t say anything you don’t mean. This counsel is embedded deep in our traditions. You only make things worse when you lay down a smoke screen of pious talk, saying, ‘I’ll pray for you,’ and never doing it, or saying, ‘God be with you,’ and not meaning it. You don’t make your words true by embellishing them with religious lace. In making your speech sound more religious, it becomes less true. Just say ‘yes’ and ‘no.’ When you manipulate words to get your own way, you go wrong.” Matthew 5:33-37 (The Message)

Today, let’s read the text again. This time in the Good News Translation:

“You have also heard that people were told in the past, ‘Do not break your promise, but do what you have vowed to the Lord to do.’ But now I tell you: do not use any vow when you make a promise. Do not swear by heaven, for it is God’s throne; nor by earth, for it is the resting place for his feet; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Do not even swear by your head, because you cannot make a single hair white or black. Just say ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ – anything else you say comes from the Evil One.”

Lace is pretty. Lace can really dress up a table or fancy up a dress. I’m always awed by the meticulous detail of a really fine lace – not being artistic, I just can’t imagine the time and patience it must take in order to create by hand a perfectly designed and symmetrical piece of lace!

The thing about lace, though, is that it isn’t necessary. Doilies, tablecloths, dresses – all can be made from a simpler, more functional fabric. And the thing about our talk is that religious lace isn’t necessary, either. Everything we need to say – from promises to prayers, answers to questions and thinking out loud – can be said in a simpler, more functional way. Jesus appears to be telling us that dressing up our speech, whether it’s to sound more religious or make our words seem more important, isn’t just manipulative and wrong… it’s also EVIL. (Think cheesy, gaudy, polyester lace and run away!)

There’s something else to be noted about lace. Compared to the more practical fabric options, real lace is expensive! We pay dearly, sometimes, for the opportunity to display such finery. (This is, after all, the reason we might choose lace, isn’t it?)

Displaying religious lace, whether spoken or unspoken, is also always costly. And at the expense of what – our witness to the watching world? Our relationship with the Author of creation? Our effectiveness in the Kingdom of God? It’s a head-scratcher, really. Why would we try to embellish something that is already simple, functional and practical – like a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’?

The APP

Most women like to talk (at least, that’s what men will tell you). There are days when I talk so much that my jaw gets tired and my throat feels thick and swollen (I’m sorry if you’ve seen me on those days)! While our many words may on some days serve a purpose, I am quite sure there are many times when what comes out of our mouths seems pretty lacy.

Pretty showy.

Pretty ostentatious.

Pretty unnecessary.

Pretty gaudy.

On this Day Three of our Literal 4 Lent experiment, why not make a concerted effort to let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and your ‘no’ be ‘no,’ and see what happens? One predictable by-product of this literal application of Jesus’ teaching is that, because we won’t be speaking so much, we may HEAR much more than we usually do.

This discipline of resisting the urge to over-speak may even end up being spiritual money-in-the-bank, as we choose to dress up in the less costly/more practical fabric of truth, leaving the lace-gilded versions on the rack where they belong.

Click to return to the Literal 4 Lent Menu.

Hoop Jumping L4L.02

Hoop jumping

Image by Oliphant via FlickrThe WORD

The WORD

“Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem. They asked him, “Why don’t your followers obey the unwritten laws which have been handed down to us? They don’t wash their hands before they eat.”

Jesus answered, “And why do you refuse to obey God’s command so that you can follow your own teachings? God said, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and ‘Anyone who says cruel things to his father or mother must be put to death.’ But you say a person can tell his father or mother, ‘I have something I could use to help you, but I have given it to God already.’ You teach that person not to honor his father or his mother. You rejected what God said for the sake of your own rules.

You are hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he said about you: ‘These people show honor to me with words, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is worthless. The things they teach are nothing but human rules.’” Matthew 15:1-9 (New Century Version)

Remember that one of the disciplines we’re working to develop during Lent is listeninglistening to JESUS as He speaks into our lives from His Word. Go ahead – read it again (feel free to read it from your favorite translation – here’s a link to many different versions if you’d like to give a new one a try: Matthew 15:1 at Blue Letter Bible).

Initially, I thought we’d just ease our way into Jesus’ world, Jesus’ thoughts and Jesus’ agendas. Start with the easy stuff and progressively get to His more challenging teachings, maybe as we get closer to Easter. Break ourselves in slowly. But, good grief! There IS NO ‘EASY’ when it comes to what Jesus had to say! These are fighting words spoken to the keepers of the Law. Fighting words that could get a prophet killed; the Messiah crucified.

Jesus has, in these few sentences, accused the leaders of the church of passing off their ‘traditions’ as Gospel. The Jewish hand washing rituals that were spoken of by the Pharisees and Law teachers were not something that God had taught them to do. Jesus says that they are teaching man-made ideas as commands from God, passing off their rituals as God’s ways. This was an especially brazen act in Jesus’ day, when the average Jewish devotee did not have his/her own copy of the Holy Scriptures. What Jesus is saying is that the leaders of the church were taking advantage of the people, furthering their own agendas by failing to distinguish them from the actual teachings contained in the Word of God.

The horror! No wonder Jesus called them hypocrites – a word that meant ‘actor’ or ‘pretender.’ ‘Poser’ is what we might say today. People whose perceived authority enables them to misuse their power, mislead the innocent and make it harder than necessary to walk in the ways of our God.

Amazing. That NEVER HAPPENS TODAY! (?)

The APP

A lot of us know a lot about the Bible. A lot of us have read much of the Bible for ourselves over the years. But a lot of us have not, and we’re taking for granted the sincerity of our faith-leaders when we base our belief and understanding of God on their say-so; on second-hand information.

The APP for today isn’t easy. (Neither was yesterday’s, by the way.) In order to apply these words of Jesus to our own lives, we have to be ready to make it personal. By that, I mean that we have to be ready to study God’s Word for ourselves, taking responsibility for what we’re learning.

The modern day church has created – perhaps inadvertently – a generation of couch potato Christians. Worshippers who are really just groupies, looking for the best show on Sunday morning. Followers who are out to have their ‘ears tickled’ by teachers and leaders who are still passing off their traditions and agendas as Gospel truth.

Much of today’s church, like the church at the time of Jesus, requires a whole lot of hoop jumping that is not biblical, and many of us are so entrenched that we aren’t even aware that such a thing is going on.

This isn’t right. Jesus said so.

To take this text literally, I believe we’re being called to ask the burning questions that are already floating to the surface as the Spirit stirs the pot…

Why do we do (this) in our worship?

What are the roots of our faith practices and traditions? Are they scriptural?

If something feels heavy and burdensome, isn’t that a clue that someone other than God is putting that thing on me?

I don’t know about you, but I sure want to be able to tell the difference between God’s ways and His best for me and the hoop jumping that goes on when we buy into the hidden (and not-so-hidden) agendas of those whose traditions are more sacred than the Word itself. This is not to say that all church leaders and teachers are like the hypocritical Pharisees and Law-keepers that Jesus refers to – there are beautiful shepherd-leaders and Spirit-filled teachers in every denomination and non-denomination today. But how will we know that what we’re being taught by others is a sincere, Spirit-led interpretation of the Word if we don’t compare what we’re hearing to the Word itself?

Today’s APP could be aptly titled: Wake Up and Smell the Coffee. And Read the Bible. And Know What It Says.

Some of us have been spiritually bullied long enough. We’re tired of jumping through hoops of tradition, empty ritual and shallow words.

Today, pick up your Bible.

Pick up your Bible, and READ.

And this weekend, READ and REST. I’ll see you back here on Monday, as we continue to experiment with being Literal 4 Lent.

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No Worries! L4L.01

Blue and white clothes shop Guadeloupe 2010-03-27

Image via WikipediaThe WORD

The WORD

“So I tell you, don’t worry about the food or drink you need to live, or about the clothes you need for your body. Life is more than food, and the body is more than clothes…

And why do you worry about clothes? Look at how the lilies in the field grow. They don’t work or make clothes for themselves. But I tell you that even Solomon with his riches was not dressed as beautifully as one of these flowers. God clothes the grass in the field, which is alive today but tomorrow is thrown into the fire. So you can be even more sure that God will clothe you. Don’t have so little faith!

Don’t worry and say, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ The people who don’t know God keep trying to get these things, and your Father in heaven knows you need them. Seek first God’s kingdom and what God wants. Then all your other needs will be met as well.” Matthew 6:25;28-33 (New Century Version)

I know, I know… You’ve heard this text before. MANY times, perhaps. Maybe so many times that you’ve become desensitized to what Jesus is really trying to say, to you.

Most of the texts we will read during our Literal 4 Lent (L4L) experiment are going to be familiar. In order to give the Spirit of God every opportunity to dwell richly in us through these often-heard words, I’m going to ask that you develop the habit of reading each text at least two times before considering my commentary and The APP (application) for the day. So, go back. Re-read today’s text. Ask God to reveal through these words of Jesus His living, active, teaching Spirit. Ask Him for a receptive heart.

Worry is as natural to me as breathing, so this text has always stirred in me a range of emotions, including plenty of guilt. Lately, though, I’ve come to the long-awaited conclusion that guilt is not the way of Jesus. I see nothing in scripture that leads me to believe that Jesus teaches us by laying on the guilt. So, to hear this passage afresh today, I have to let go of my feelings of guilt (about how I’ve failed to live this Word of Jesus) and let God take me to a brand new understanding of what ‘No Worries!’ looks like to this aspiring follower of the Way of Christ.

Which leads me to admit that I’ve never really ‘worried’ about having clothes to wear. I have LOTS of clothes! Many of which were Goodwill finds, but the point is that my step-in closet is loaded with shirts and jeans and jackets and dresses, probably to the point of excess by anyone’s standards.

Having never been in need, then, for clothing to put on, this part of the text has often escaped my notice. I’ve honestly always felt that this text didn’t apply to me, because I have more than enough in the way of clothes. I was wrong.

While I may not suffer for lack of clothing, I’m pretty sure I do suffer from anxiety about what to wear – because of all of the choices I have. Just last week I found myself running late (more than once) because of my self-consciousness and inability to make up my mind about what to wear.

TOO MANY CHOICES can lead to worry, too – not just lack.

This revelation changes everything for me, in light of Jesus’ words. I’m seriously moved to do something about it today – on Day One of Literal 4 Lent.

The APP

How are we to take Jesus’ ‘No Worries!’ text and put it into practice in real life? I am compelled strongly to respond in a big way today… but you may not like it very much.

I spent a week traveling last Spring, living out of a carry-on with a limited number of clothing choices for each day, and it was WONDERFUL! Getting ready in the morning was painless and quick, leaving both time and energy for whatever might come my way.

What would it look like for me to limit my choices every day during Lent? Instead of choosing from hundreds of shirts and dozens of pants in the morning, what if I chose to live out of a suitcase for 40 days?

The body is more than clothes, right? And Jesus does say “don’t worry and say… ‘what will we wear?’”

What if He meant what He said? What if Jesus really does want us to stop thinking about our clothes, long enough at least to start thinking about His Kingdom and what matters to HIM?

I have no idea what will happen, but today I choose to be Literal for Lent, adopting a ‘No Worries!’ mantra for the next 40 days. My personal APP is to choose 7 tops and 7 bottoms to be worn for the 40 days of Lent – not quite living out of a suitcase, but you get the idea. It took more than a few minutes to make my choices, but I’m eager to see what happens each day as a result of my abbreviated options! [Be grace-full, please, if you bump into me more than once during Lent and notice my counter-cultural lack of clothing variety!]

Will you do this with me? Or something like it?

Chances are that you’re like me, wasting precious time while lost in the throes of decision-making as a result not of lack, but of excess.

Pay attention to what you seek first today, and if it isn’t God, well… it’s time to do something about that. Literally.

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