Worth Fighting For

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There Israel’s troops were routed by David’s men, and the casualties that day were great—twenty thousand men. –2 Samuel:18

Can you imagine a situation where the most celebrated King in Israel’s history goes to war… against his son?.  This was the crazy, almost Game Of Thrones-ish world of our ancestors of faith. This struggle between Father and son, David and Absalom, threatened the very fabric of the Kingdom.

Today we have fathers and sons facing a very different kind of battle in the church: Whether the Kingdom is even worth it.  Family members do battle about this on a weekly basis.  Other folks grew up in the church and let it slip away.  Some just find themselves otherwise preoccupied come Sunday morning.  Countless people have been hurt by the church, or are bored to tears by it, or are excluded by it, and so their connection becomes tenuous.

Those with “casual ties” to Christianity are on the verge of becoming “casualties” of it.

I was taught not to worry so much about those with such casual ties, that they’ll  never come back.  Sometimes we call them backdoor Christians, or Christians INO (In Name Only), as if they are a lost cause.  Can you imagine how many thousands — hundreds of thousands there are out there with fading interest in the Church?  They may believe in God, but not the institution.  They may be tied up in the trappings of culture.  They may come twice a year and suffer through the boredom and think that’s enough.

What should we in the Church do about these folks, many of them family?  Just let them go?  No, here’s my suggestion. hard as it might sound:

Let’s go to war.

I can’t believe I’m even writing those words!  I’m not a “war” guy.  But those men in 2 Samuel were willing to lay down their lives.  They were invested.  This was a fight for who would be King and it mattered.

Let’s go to war.  Let’s find our friends and neighbors and missing-in-action Christians and fight for them.  Our weapons will not be guilt or coercion.   Instead, we’ll wield, with fervor–an undeniable call that Christ is our King.

We’ll have to be prepared.  With excellent worship, engaging small groups, life-changing mission and earnest fellowship.  And we’ll have to listen.  To reform, to engage, to see the church beyond how we at times have poorly conceived it.  To reach out to every father and ever son, everyone, who hears the call of the Kingdom.

We have to be experiencing the same Christian life that we advertise, which means we have to examine our own casual ties to faith.

The human expression of the Church may never reach all the goals and all the people that we have been called to.  But we’ll never get anywhere if we aren’t willing to give our all on behalf of Jesus.

So, CHARGE!!!!!!!

The battle is for nothing less than to become…

a Church worth fighting for.

Have a great week,

 

Mitch

father and son in way to church

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Bible, Volume 3?

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So, I really liked parts 1 and 2 (The Old and New Testaments), but do you think it’s time to for another installment?  Should we reopen the canon?

The canon is the collection of writings that have come to be known as The Bible. Hundreds and hundreds of years ago we assembled it carefully and declared it sufficient. But then again, that was before cloning. Maybe we could use some instruction on that.

It was before technology of any sort, really. It was before talk of global warming, or gay marriage, or reality television. Should we commission a supplemental volume to clarify what Jesus wants us to do about these things?

Who would decide what goes in to a Bible Part III? Would scholars? Pastors? You or me?Would we have a 1-800 call in voting system? I wonder. Would we come to blows over what constitutes The Word of God? Probably.

Come to think of it, we already do that with the Bible we have. Okay then. No Bible Part 3.  No point in adding to the “canon fodder”. And it’s a tenet of Christianity that the Bible contains everything necessary for salvation. That’s comforting, but here’s a thought: If God had intended the Bible to be the last word on everything — why have libraries?

Sure, the Bible may be the most important book on the shelf, but that doesn’t mean you ignore the whole library around you, right? No, I think God inspires people even today, in a variety of ways.  The written word, for example, has the power to enlighten and instruct us in supplemental ways even beyond the life-giving pages of The Bible.

Someone, right now, may be writing words on a page that will one day convey a life-changing insight, one that may cause you or I to revise even the most die-hard opinions we’ve had about how we read The Bible.  I’m going to stay open to that possibility, because although God may not change, our understanding of God continues to unfold and expand.

I firmly believe that The Good Book points me to a relationship with God, through Christ. It shows me what salvation means. It welcomes me into a life of Kingdom-living. It is the foundation by which I try to live my life.

But just the same…

When it comes to something like cloning, or global warming, or gay marriage…

I can’t help but think that God

is still speaking volumes.

Mitch

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originally posted in 2014

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barefoot.: devotions & discussions by Rev. Mitch Todd
by Rev. Mitch Todd (Author)

Surprise! 4 Days Until Christmas!

 

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“But about that day or hour no one knows… –Matthew 24:36a

At a press conference today in Nazareth, Archaeologist I.M.Fixion holds up a fragile set of scrolls, and makes the following announcement:

“These scrolls were recovered from an ancient rubbish heap outside of Nazareth.  They have been dated to somewhere around 10 a.d.  They appear to be a stack of birthday cards…to Jesus.

“That’s right.  These are cards written to Jesus on the occasion of his surprise 10th birthday party.  One is from an aunt Elizabeth, some are from a bunch of shepherds, and even some very expensive cards appear to come from distant royalty.

“Of course, this is a find of extreme importance, but there’s more.”  He gestures to several of the pages.  “The cards all list the date of Jesus’ birthday.  Adjusting for changes in calendar and so forth, there can be no doubt.  Jesus was born…

“On December 8th.  Thank you.”


 

Surprise! CHRISTMAS IS IN 4 DAYS!

Jesus may (or may not) have had a surprise 10th birthday party, but his birthday has never been a surprise for us.  There it sits on the calendar, bottom of December, circled in red and green.  We know what’s coming, we make our lists, we plan it out.  No surprise.

But what if Christmas showed up unexpectedly, say, on December 10th? What if there wasn’t enough time to do all the million and one holiday traditions we’ve laid out over the course of our lives?  What if Christmas came as a surprise, leaving us to celebrate without all the boxes in our garage, or all the excess baggage in our hearts?

If you had to celebrate the birth of Jesus right away, how would you do it?

Here’s what I think I’d do:
I guess I’d pray.
And give some $ to the church or a charity.
And volunteer somewhere.
And call my family.
And go to church.

What would you do?  In the face of a surprise Christmas, maybe we’d have to let the other stuff go, and focus on what’s most important.  Remember, Jesus doesn’t really need tinsel, or a plate of cookies, or a bunch of parties, or even an overpriced birthday card. If a simpler, more spiritual Christmas celebration sounds as enticing to you as it does to me, maybe we can dial back a little on the pomp and circumstance, and surprise Jesus with an Advent filled with meaning.

This year, for Jesus’ birthday, all he really wants us to send him is our attention, and our devotion.

Those are the real Hallmarks of a Merry Christmas.

Have a great Advent,

Mitch

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O Come, O Come, To Manuels.

 

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Sadie and Wayne Palmer (my in-laws), with my wife Jan.

 

Taste and see that the Lord is good -Psalm 34:8a

Blasphemy warning:  I’m about to compare the Christ Child to a burrito.

But oh, what a burrito.  I’d pay triple the price for one. Actually they just call it “a tortilla”.  The one I had for breakfast a week ago was stuffed with mushrooms, cheese, eggs, beans, and onions.  And topped with a special hot sauce.  Here’s what it looked like.

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The thing is significantly bigger than your head.  And the taste makes you want to shout “Rejoice! Rejoice!”

You’ll have to drive down to Port Isabel, TX, to eat one of these marvels.  And you’d better bring cash.  And no attitude.  And an open mind. Because Manuel’s is pretty much a hole in the wall.

Here’s what it looks like inside.

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The floors are rough and uneven.  The walls are covered in posters for old 70’s movies, like “The Godfather” and “Raiders of the Lost Ark”, along with pictures of Manuel’s family, especially grandkids who are athletes or cheerleaders.  From the ceiling hangs pennants of college and NFL football teams. It has a strange man-cave charm to it.

But let’s come back to the tortillas, or as I call them, “the Reason for the Seasoning”? 

Tortilla 2 manuels

Beyond delicious.  I’ve been coming down to this place (adjacent to S. Padre Island) for maybe 15 years or so.  Things change down on the South Texas coast, but Manuels stays the same, like a dear friend waiting with open arms.

If I’m describing this Hole In The Wall as if it were a Holy Place, there’s a reason.  Somehow, despite the rundown conditions, Manuels just feels special.  I’m not the only one sharing that sentiment.  I know because of the walls.  Any place not touched by a poster or a picture bears the signature of someone who’s been there.

 

inside 2 manuels

If you look real close, you can see the writing on the walls.

Hundreds of signatures fill up the walls, with folks from across the country (and beyond, I’m sure), making their mark.  My signature is there, somewhere, from years ago.  I don’t remember where, but I know I’ve gone on record as a fellow pilgrim to Manuels.

 

Now, if your mouth is watering, and you feel the need to road trip down to South Texas for breakfast this week, let me know and maybe I’ll join you.  But I hope that, as this Advent season begins, you are feeling an even more powerful pull towards the manger.

The accommodations that night in Bethlehem were lousy.  The décor? Non existent.  It was, perhaps, a hole in the wall.  But something Truly Holy draws us in to that cattle stall.  It is an encounter with Someone that makes it worth this journey.

We are called to be counted amongst the millions who pay homage to the Child.  To write our name on the walls of the stable.  To tell the world that we were there.  To proclaim that God is here.

And so, in spite of my love for Manuel (he’s a great guy), it cannot compare to my love for Emmanuel. And as much as I want you all to get a taste of that amazing food, it is eclipsed by my desire that you experience the All Powerful Love of Jesus.

Christ is, indeed, more than a burrito, and even more to be savored.  Taste and see that the Lord is good. He will nourish you long after December 25th…

with zero chance of indigestion.

Have a great week,

Mitch

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Parannoyed

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Then he said to them: “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven.  Luke 21:10-11

This can’t be good for us.

Living like this.  Looking over our shoulders for the next terrible thing to happen.  Waiting for the other size 15 shoe to drop.  Watching it raining crazy around the globe.

I’ve decided I’m being parannoyed.  Both paranoid with fear over what comes next, and annoyed that this appears to be my new normal.  Do you feel this way too?

It doesn’t really feel like the end of the world, to me.  Just more of the same long line of crazy stuff we humans are capable of.  However, that list in Luke makes me feel the same as all the recent things happening in our world make me feel.

It’s this feeling of doom.  Of non-stop yuckiness.  Of powerlessness.  It just keeps coming.  So much so that it’s beyond distressing.

It’s parannoying.  One irritating reason to be afraid after another.

This can’t be good for us!  The human body can only take so much stress.  The human mind can only process so much negativity.  The human heart can only be slapped around so many times before we’re brought to our knees.

Ah, but here’s some help:  Mid way through Jesus’ list of end times event, he says,  “Stand firm, and you will win life.”

For us to stand firm means to put our trust in Christ as our sure foundation.  In Christ, we remember that we live according to God’s plans, not the world’s chaos.  And Christ reminds us that there is more to the story than what we see on the nightly news.

So stand firm, dear Christian. Trade out your paranoia for passion.  Exchange your annoyance for assurance.

That’s right. It will be very very good for us, if we

trade out our parannoyance…

for some Blessed Passurance.

Have a great week,

Mitch

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The Back To Eden Movement

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Let’s get naked.

I mean it.  Let’s get naked. Let’s go back in time…back before this moment:

Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.  –Genesis 3:7

Let’s spit out the forbidden fruit, and tell the serpent to talk to the hand, and hang out in some place — any place other than next to that infernal tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Who’s with me?

Let’s choose not to Fall this time.  Let’s stay innocent and happy.

Let’s frolic in the garden, and maybe name some more animals, and just be there with God.

And if that means giving up our free will, and never growing and branching out and using all the knowledge we have in our brains, it’s a small price to pay. Right?

I mean, I look around and I see so much misusing of that ole Free Will.  Don’t you?

Maybe we’d be better off without it.

And so… you get to hear it here first:

I’m officially launching the Back To Eden Movement!

And in the next breath, I’m announcing that the Back To Eden Movement is closing down.

You see, for every time I get exasperated and despairing, for every time I throw up my hands and say, “I give up, God…put me back in the Garden, and reset me, and I’ll be your devoted robot”

For every time I say that, I immediately remember that Christ came to THIS world, with all it’s messiness, with a message of Love and Hope, Salvation and Service.

Stripped naked of all pretenses and ulterior motives and sinful behaviors, Christ revealed to us the core of human living.

Christ modeled for us a way of life that works in THIS life.  It’s not always easy.  Sometimes it’s downright painful.

But Christ showed us a way of life based on using our God-given abilities and gifts in the service of the Kingdom.

No Eden required.

When I long for a more innocent world, for a simpler existence, I need only affirm my discipleship to Jesus, and I calm down.

We may not need to head Back To Eden — maybe couldn’t if we tried.

Instead, we are moving toward the Kingdom.  (A New Eden?)

where Clothing ourselves in Christ…

Is probably not optional. 🙂

 

Have a great week,

Mitch

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Homesick for the Holidays

christmas-is-a-time-when-you-get-homesickI’m homesick.

I know I’m in good company.

I picture countless college students, soldiers, business travelers and others, pining for home.

This is the time of year when it hits hardest.  A time for togetherness, a time of tradition.

But here’s my thing:

I counted it up, and in my life I’ve had exactly 15 places that I have called home.

That’s a lot, although you may have had even more.

Which one am I longing for?

I have wonderful memories that come from many of those places.

Families, fun, meals, gifts given and received.

But this year, it’s not for any of those places that I am homesick.

I am longing for what I might call a heavenly home.

 Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.  –John 14:23

The earthly world seems especially slippery this year.  I find it hard to cling to some of those “home” traditions with the same joy I do most years.

This year I long for something eternal.  Something true.  Something I can hold on to.

I long for a Love I can call home.

This home is not necessarily a place, nor is it only accessible after one’s death.  It is the Father, Son, and Spirit setting up a spiritual home with you.

A home base.  A safe place.  A launching pad.  HOME.

What triggers this kind of homecoming?

Jesus says it:  Clinging to him.  Living with faith.

This is the kind of home I’m sick for.

The very kind that will make me well.

Merry Christmas!  Cling to Christ!

 

Have a great week,

Mitch

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