picking your battles
I have noticed throughout my life that being right is not always the wisest decision in the moment. Sometimes, the best decision is to yield victory of the debate in favor of saving the relationship. I ended up learning this the hard way, but eventually, I came to the conclusion that I can’t win every debate if I truly want to love the way that Jesus loved. If you win the argument, but lose the relationship, then you haven’t really won anything. In fact, you may have inadvertently pushed that person even further away from the Truth. Start with love and let the people in your life know that you are reliable and trustworthy.
I used to have a buddy in college named Marty who disagreed strongly with me on a lot of things about life and about scripture. He believed in predestination and sided more with a Calvinistic theology, whereas I believed more strongly in free will and had roots with Arminian theology. I won’t delve too deeply into the details of our discussions, but I will say that they often got pretty intense. On a few occasions, when we were in a heated argument, I would get so angry, that I would start to insult Marty just because I wanted to win. It got to the point where I realized that Marty and I were spending less time together because of our differences. I started to see him as an enemy.
One day, it was he who reached out to me to apologize for the heated words exchanged in one of our previous “battles.” I nearly cried because I was so relived to have my friend back on speaking terms. I apologized for how I behaved in return, and we both agreed to prioritize the friendship over our theological differences. We remain friends to this day, and as far as I am aware, neither of us have budged in our interpretations of scripture, but I count the entire experience as a victory because in the end, I got to keep my friend.
Christ tells us this in John 13:34-35: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Christ doesn’t ask us to yield our convictions rooted in Truth, but He does ask that we love one another as He loved us. When we do that, the world will know that we serve the One, True King of Kings.
In the classic Dr. Suess book "Oh the Places You'll Go," there is a page about being in a slump. A slump is a lack of energy, a low spot in life and Dr. Suess tells us wisely that "unslumping yourself is not easily done."
Some of us, because of COVID, kind of got into a slump. We may have stopped exercising and got into a physical slump. Maybe we stopped seeing our friends and got into a social slump. Maybe we stopped attending church or Bible study and got into a spiritual slump. Now, you might be wanting to get back into those activities; but you find that Dr. Suess was right and it's hard to get out of that slump.
So what can you do to shake the dust off and find your passion again? Here are a few tips.
1. Accountability: At the heartbeat of the early Methodist movement under John Wesley was accountability. He put people in groups that met regularly and each meeting was supposed to include asking each other pointed questions to make sure they were doing the things they had committed to do. This accountability kept people on track with their goals toward holiness. Do you have someone in your life that can help hold you accountable to your goals? Can you help someone else?
2. Do something: sometimes the goal of losing 20 pounds or running the Mini-marathon can seem overwhelming...so set smaller goals that you can do. Instead of trying to lose all the COVID weight, just lose 2 pounds. Instead of trying to read the whole Bible, read one book.
3. Find your passion: it's harder to do things you don't care about; so find something you do care about. Find that mission or ministry or program that you love and volunteer...it will give you that extra motivation to get out of that slump
Are you ready to get off the couch and back into the game? Use these tips plus the power of the Holy Spirit to help you find the motivation to unslump yourself.
Good luck and God bless,
a year later
I know I am late to this, but I still struggle sometimes to comprehend that this pandemic has been affecting us for more than a year. Regularly I am reminded of what happened a year ago this time and how much has changed and how much has stayed the same.
A year ago we were on lockdown, doing virtual church only. I was preaching from my guest bedroom to a camera and then spending countless hours trying to edit, download, upload and post sermon and worship videos for our church.
A year ago I spent many hours trying to call people from the church, and since they were all on quarantine, they had LOTS of time to talk (I am sorry if I didn't get to call you, I certainly tried but I know I didn't get to everyone).
A year ago I lost my grandmother, and like many of you we had to try to figure out how to do a funeral with COVID restrictions, leaving even close family out of the process.
A year ago it was scary. My wife was working with COVID patients at the hospital and we were washing our groceries in the garage before we brought them in!
A year ago God was with us. That's the thing I want to tell you and that I keep reminding myself of. God was with us in the quarantine. God was with us at the funeral. God was with us when we were scared...and God is with us still.
Joshua 1:9 says, "Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go."
God was with you then. God is with you now. God is with you always.
let it go
This past Sunday we celebrated the Resurrection of Jesus, the central event of our faith, and read together John's account of that moment when the tomb is empty and Jesus reveals himself. But, no sooner has the Risen Lord been recognized, then he says to Mary "Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father."
This seems like an odd thing to say, frankly. Of course Mary wants to hold on to him; he was dead and now is alive again, he was gone and now has returned. Imagine a loved one of yours was lost and now has come home; wouldn't you want to hold on to them and never let go?
But Jesus says "do not hold on to me" and explains that soon he will leave again. What an emotional roller coaster for the disciples. Jesus is gone and now he is back and then he says he is leaving again...it must be confusing and heart wrenching. But Jesus knows what the disciples do not yet fully know. When Jesus ascends to the Father, the Holy Spirit will come, and the Holy Spirit will be with them forever and everywhere.
In John 14, Jesus says "I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever." Jesus isn't leaving them alone, he is sending them the power of the Spirit that will be with them forever and always. You see Jesus, in body, was limited to one place at one time; but the Spirit is with us always and everywhere. Once we have the Spirit, we will never be alone.
So Jesus returns and tells us to "let him go" (like the song from Frozen) so that we can find an even better gift; the power of the Spirit in us and through us...with us forever.
Easter may be over, but the best is yet to come.
Christ is Risen, He is Risen Indeed!