Outrage Us.

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When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened. –Matthew 28:31

As a vegetarian, I was thrilled when Burger King unveiled the Impossible Burger.  It’s so good, and tastes just like meat.

That is not what this devotion is about.  This is about the feeling I had when I went to get one this weekend, and was told that they were out.

I was outraged.  How hard can it be to keep their menu items in stock?  Why wasn’t the woman behind the counter more sympathetic with my plight?  You’ll be happy to know I didn’t dress her down–it wasn’t her fault, after all.

That wasn’t my only brush with outrage this week.  I have a news app on my phone that shows some 50 headlines from a variety of sources.  I scrolled down, reading about impeachment, racism, and another shooting.

Outrage, outrage, outrage.

In fact, most of the headlines activated some level of outrage in me, enough so that I began to wonder if outrage has become my most developed sense.  Not only me —  I see outrage everywhere I look.  I see it on the left and on the right.

I was kind of surprised to find the word “outrage”, or a form of it, popping up in scripture.  The best example, from Matthew, is a story Jesus tells about a debt-ridden man who begs for his freedom and is granted it.   Then, he promptly demands the repayment of someone who owes him, and shows no grace or patience.

Matthew says that the man’s fellow servants were “outraged” when they saw his hypocritical actions, and they told their master about it.  Things didn’t end well for him.

I get that outrage can  produce results, but it also presents a problem in today’s world.  We have SO MUCH outrage in our society, and can find justification for just about any of it, no matter what side of polarizing issues we may find yourself.  Is it healthy?

Is it God’s desire that you and I barrel through life fueled by righteous anger?  Is that the best humanity has to offer — a plague of complaining?  Is outrage the path that will lead us to God’s Kingdom?

I don’t know.  I don’t think so.  I don’t think this is the epitome of human development.  At the same time, there are lots of things in this world that seem offensive, immoral, even unconscionable.  How do we possibly deal with all that, especially when two people sitting together in the same pew can be outraged about opposite things?

Here are four thoughts that come to me:

  • Like the other servants in the story, we can bring our concerns to our Master, God, understanding that we may not be able to fix every problem in the world, but we are not alone.
  • Sometimes there are powerful reasons for feeling outrage.  Instead of just stewing in our angry juices, there is a time for marching, calling congress members, writing letters, and more.
  • There is a chance that our outrage only shows us half the story.  Listening and learning may confirm or deflate these strong emotions.
  • Perhaps the only way for polarized groups of people to find some common ground is to cultivate relationships with people who aren’t, on the surface, like us.

Outrage is a powerful emotion, but it’s also a seductive one.  If the only way we see much of the world is through rage-tinted glasses, we will miss out on the beautiful — albeit complex — creation God has gifted us. God can show us a better way.

After all, with God…

even an Impossible burger is still Possible.

Have a great week,

Mitch

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Listening To October

Today, one of my favorite songs.  Perfect for this week.

Press Play, and listen, with a few of my suggestions below.

  • Much of this song is instrumental.  The pictures above don’t really matter, but the music does.
  • As you listen, take a few deep breaths, and picture your concerns, your possessions, your obstacles as if they were leaves, falling down from a tree.
  •  Here are the lyrics Bono sings:
    • October

      And the trees are stripped bare

      Of all they wear

      What do I care?

      October

      And kingdoms rise

      And kingdoms fall

      But you go on and on

  • As the song concludes, remind yourself what (who) is most important and eternal in your life, and rededicate yourself to God through prayer.
  • Now go and have a glorious October.

—————————————————-
Wow.  I really needed that today.

U2?

Have a great week,

Mitch

 

That Chaos Moment

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In Exodus 14:14, Moses tells the Israelites:
“The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

And, then in the very next verse,

Exodus 14:15, God tells Moses this:
“Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on.” 

Ladies and Gentlemen, That Chaos Moment.  The moment when communication breaks down, and vision grows fuzzy.

It’s no wonder that God and Moses got their wires crossed.  Moses said, “God’s got this.  Be still.”  God said, “I’ve got this.  Keep moving!”  For a moment there, the communication lines between God, Moses, and the Hebrews were about as shaky as it gets.

We give the Hebrews a lot of grief for being whiney and complaining but, you know, none of them had ever done this before.  Crossing the red sea?  Chariots chasing them?  This was all chaos to them.

We would probably be smart to recognize that such a moment can happen to churches, too, especially ones moving into uncharted territory.  The pastor or church leadership may have one direction in mind, the people may be impatient or uncertain, and God may be desperately trying to move the church in yet another direction.

That Chaos Moment may be necessary, and not nearly as scary as it sounds.  God’s advice is rarely wrong, of course.  We just need to heed God’s call to “keep moving”–to step boldly into the uncertain.   That doesn’t mean our Moses-types are necessarily wrong, encouraging the “stillness” of discernment.  It is, after all, a sure way to reacquire God’s signal and direction.

And as for the impatient, even complaining person in the pew?  They can be a potent reminder that the vision must be shared amongst everyone.  Of course, even the best communicated vision can fail to bring along all the stragglers, but when the core people reengage with God and church leaders, there’s no barrier that cannot be crossed over.  Or through.

That Chaos Moment can hit any church, any time, but especially the church that’s charted a course towards a spiritual unknown.   It takes faith to pass through the waters of chaos and see the dry land of the very next moment…

Here it comes…

That Liberation Moment.

Have a Great Week,

Mitch

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Despite Your Best Efforts

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Not your best week.

You walked 10,000 steps a day, and ate salads at lunch, and stepped on the scale.
You gained 2 lbs.

You spoke your mind, and wrote your senators, and finally did something.
The other side won.

You practiced patience.  You listened, and tried to comfort.  You nurtured, even.
But your teenager is locked in their bedroom, pouting.

You went to 2 meetings.  You met with your sponsor.  You prayed.
Yet here you are, sitting at the bar, a drink in your hand.
At what point in time do you just throw in the towel?  There’s nothing more demoralizing than working really hard for something, only to be greeted by failure.  We’re conditioned to believe that our best efforts will always be rewarded, that success comes to those who earn it.  When that doesn’t happen, it’s as if the world has stopped functioning properly.  We begin to question God’s plans.

11For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. –Jeremiah 9:11

After all, why wouldn’t God want us to be successful?  Why wouldn’t God reward our hard work?  Why wouldn’t God’s plans match up perfectly with the responsible, healthy plans we make for ourselves? Actually…

When I think of God’s plans for us, I don’t think of God charting out our weight loss or even our alcohol consumption.  God’s plans, to me, are played out at more of a cosmic level.  Plans for our souls to flourish, plans for us to be adopted as children of God.  Plans to prosper us with long-term benefits like hope and a future that spreads into eternity.

And so, while God is always present and gently nudging us with Grace, I see the work of our daily lives as our work.  God provides a space for that to happen, called free will.

That means, some days our best efforts will yield us a bounty, and somedays we’ll fall flat on our face.  This is more of a gift than we realize, because the uncertain nature of our lives is what helps us grow.  Think on this:  We cannot always count on life to be fair.  Instead, God offers a lifeline– a future, with hope.

A tomorrow that allows today to be what it will be.

Have a great week,

Mitch

 

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#&!%$

swear-jar

36 But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. 37 For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” –Matthew 12:36-37

“I’m sorry,” Saint Peter said, “but it’s judgement time.”  He stood at the counter, there in the clouds, and flipped open a giant book.

The blood ran from my face.

“Really?”  I asked.  “Can I quiz out or something? I was a pastor…”

“Pastors?”  He rolled his eyes.  “Always the worst.”  He pointed at the sign behind him.  “Okay. We start with your words. See where it says ‘every empty word’?”  He looked at the scripture and then me with an amused expression on his face.  “Do you know that your average twenty-minute sermon,” he checked his books, “could have been reduced to six minutes of actual substance?  Six!”

“Well I try to –”

“I know, I know.” He waved a hand.  “You all try.  Not every sermon can bring thousands to the faith.”  He scanned down the page and frowned.  “But what about all these other empty words?”

“What other words?”  I put my sweaty hands on the marble counter.  Behind Peter, I could see the pearly gates.

“Oh, let’s see.” He said in a sing song voice.  “I count,” he punched some numbers into a calculator, “6710 uses of the ‘F’-word.”

“What?” I exploded.  “That can’t be possible–”

“As for the ‘S’-word”, Peter ignored me, eyes growing wide, “11422.  Impressive!”  I looked down.

“I’m sure most of those were in college,” I weakly mumbled.

“And here’s a big one,” Peter continued, “The number of uses of “G-D…” He tapped a moment, and looked across at me.  “33.”  He nodded.  “I see you set some boundaries for yourself.”

“Yessir,” I stammered.  “That one always seemed really disrespectful.”

“Well they’re all disrespectful to an extent.  Simply throwing out empty words, or weighty words like G-D or the “N” word can run the range of cheapening a conversation to actually conveying hate and evil.”  He whispered, “God’s not a fan of any of it.”

“I’m sorry.” I said, feeling the clouds closing in.

“Oh, don’t worry,” Peter smiled.  “Jesus’ death and resurrection wasn’t just to forgive us our actions, but our words as well.”  He closed his book.  “And as it turns out, it’s not your time yet.  You get to go back.”

“I, what?” I was thrilled, but also disappointed to be this close to Heaven and not get to go in.

“And Mitch?” Peter looked right at me.  “Watch your mouth.”

I woke up in my own bed, glad to be alive.  Can I tell you that I’ve never muttered a curse word since?

Of course,

it’s only been 7 minutes.

Have a great week,

Mitch

no-profanity


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Four Blessings

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Recognize this?

“I will make you into a great nation,
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you.”  Genesis 12:2-3

This is God’s call of Abram, long before their famous covenant is made.  It’s just the beginning of their relationship, but look at all God is offering in such a small space.

Two short verses, four distinct blessings.  

Blessing #1: I will bless you (Genesis 12:2a)  God is talking to Abram and Abram’s offspring here, and says it outright:  You and I are going into a partnership, and I’m gonna make sure that your lives will be rewarding and Holy, and your future will be fruitful.  Wow. Just one blessing in and already hard to resist.

Blessing #2: You will be a blessing (Genesis 12:2b) Here’s an unexpected curve ball. Not only will Abram’s family know the blessings of God, they will also show the blessings of God.   From the beginning, here, there is a divine mission and a special purpose given. To properly receive a blessing from God is to multiply it.

Blessing #3:I will bless those who bless you (Genesis 12:3a) What?  This level of blessing is unexpected and extravagant.  God’s blessing will extend to those who show kindness and mercy to God’s people.  God’s promises now extend to all who choose blessing as a way of life.

Blessing #4. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you. (Genesis 12:3b) God throws the power of blessing wide open, and makes it clear.   The world will be better because Abram and his people are a part of it.  This is a charge to make God’s blessings known through the whole earth.   Through us, God has a message to send to all who will listen.

Just think of it.  In two verses, God calls Abram into a relationship that has literally world-changing ramifications.  In four blessings, God frames out God’s task with and for humanity, a task that has in so many ways come true, yet continues to unfold.

Abraham’s children include approximately 53% of the people on planet Earth.  Christianity, Judaism, Islam and others all trace their lineage back to this man.

What would happen if those 3.6 billion people responded to God’s call to be a 4-fold blessing? We’d have to find some of them first.

(Oh yeah–I am one of them, and so are you).

Have a great week,

Mitch

 


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The Wrestling Life

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The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still. -Exodus 14:14

What a match this has been.

On one side, it’s been You and God, and on the other side, your opponents.  You know, your physical and mental illnesses that bring you to your knees.  Injustices that try to hold you down.  Doubt and Fear that threaten to do a pile driver on you.  Sin and shame that will hit you with a chair when you least suspect it.

You and God?  Totally outnumbered.  There’s an endless mob climbing up over the ropes trying to pin you. Adversaries you’re wrestled with for so long you know them as well as you know yourself.  Grabbing you by the hair, and flinging you into the ropes.

You’ve had about all you can take.

Isn’t wrestling supposed to be fake?  This doesn’t feel fake.  It feels like you’re getting your tail kicked.   Sometimes life is like that.  And no matter how hard you try to fight it, sometimes it feels like you may be going down, and you may not be getting up again.

Gasping for breath, you see it out of the corner of your eye:  God’s hand, reaching out desperately.  How could you have forgotten?  This is a tag team match!  If you can just reach out and take…God’s…hand…

Connection!  God swoops into the ring as your beaten body slumps to the side.  God says, “I will fight for you; you need only to be still.”  And so you are.  It’s all you can do.

You lie there, panting, having done everything you could do to overcome every last sin, sickness, and shortcoming.  You’ve long been accustomed to the wrestling life, one ordeal after another.  One obstacle, one battle, one endless bout, but now, you have taken God’s hand…

God is powerful. Doubt and Fear dissolve at God’s gaze.  Injustices and enemies reel at God’s signature move — a mighty blow, arms formed into the shape of the cross.

As the match continues, you just lie there, as instructed.  Your breathing slows.  Your eyes droop.  You are still.

And then God is prodding you.  You awake refreshed, energized.  God nods back to the ring, hand outstretched to you.  God has done so much on your behalf, but most importantly, God has renewed your strength, so that you’re ready to go back to the battle..

It’s your turn again.   You take God’s hand, and climb back into the fray.

Now this story may seem a little bleak to you.  Life must surely be more than a constant battle, and our relationship with God is certainly more than a “Tag, you’re it” at the edge of a wrestling ring. But the moral of the story is essentially clear:

God will fight for you when you can’t. And when life threatens to overtake you, God can give you rest.

So get out there!  Grab that lingering self-doubt by the shoulders and pin him to the mat.  And remember, you don’t have to conquer all your adversaries at once…

just the ones walking around in their underwear.

Have a great week,

Mitch

thn5ane2mc

 

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