How To Rob God

My last post entitled “Stewardship” was all about how to be a faithful, obedient servant. As I thought more about it I remembered the outstanding debt I owe. What debt?

For years I drove around the country with some friends playing music. At night we’d either crash on someone’s floor, stop at a Wal-Mart parking lot and sleep in the van or drive on through to the next town. We even invaded some Lowe’s storage sheds on one occasion (Funny story behind that one).

In recent years I’ve been home working, plugging into my church community and trying to find my niche. As bands come into town I do my best to go connect with them and support them as so many did when I was in their shoes. I keep saying that I’ve got an outstanding debt to repay for all the hospitality that was shown to me. There’s nothing like a hot shower, warm food that’s not from a can or gas station and free wi-fi. So naturally the door to my house stays open when bands or friends need a place to crash.

How this ties in with stewardship is seeing and understanding our role in accommodating and serving those in need with the resources at our disposal. The bible talks a lot about tithing and giving away with the attitude of a servant. A lot of that is trusting the Lord to be faithful to replenish and restore to us what was rightly His in the first place.

Malachi 3 God tells us that,I the Lord do not change.” He says that we are robbing Him when we withhold our tithes and offerings.
Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.” 

Think back to a time when you really needed God to move and make something happen and in His perfect timing he came through and radically showed Himself to be faithful. Have we grown so thick and stubborn that we forget how good He is? His promises are true. He will never give us more than we can handle(1 Corinthians 10:13).

When we withhold from Him what he has faithfully provided us we are in a sense saying, “I earned this myself! It’s mine to keep or use however I please.” By not freely giving back into His hands we are not only withholding a blessing for someone but withholding from ourselves as well.

If God is the giver of all things, can we not trust Him to take care of us in our times of need? Like the widow in the temple(Luke 21) let us be willing to give back to God even out of our poverty and allow Him to pour out His blessing upon us.

As stewards of the Almighty, we all have a debt that we can never repay. Yet as slaves of righteousness(Romans 6) we are obligated to obey as faithful servants. Kind of an odd picture, right? We are slaves yet we serve through love because of the great love bestowed upon us. Thank you, Father!

May we not continue to rob God with our entrusted time, energy and resources but be ever willing to offer them up to Him as faithful stewards of the call.

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Our New Born Identity

The other night I was re-watching The Bourne Legacy. I’m a huge fan of the original Bourne trilogy with Matt Damon so this movie was right up my alley. I remember doing research after watching the third installment, The Bourne Ultimatum, and seeing what it would be like to be an FOO(Field Operations Officer) for the CIA. A lot of training, studying, background checking and waiting just to see if you even qualify for the program. Sounds like a huge hassle.

Still it would be cool to travel the world, speak multiple languages, know how to drive anything that moves, defeat assassins with no more than a ball point pin or a rolled up magazine. Having multiple identities/passports and a stash of secret cash in multiple foreign currencies at your disposal is also pretty gnarly.

During one scene in The Bourne Legacy Jeremy Renner’s character Aaron Cross is fleeing with Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz) from her burning Maryland home. As they drive they’re being passed by multiple fire trucks and Cross tells Shearing “You’re June, June Monroe. Where are you from? Where was the last place you lived?” He’s forcing her to accept the situation and change her alibi in case they get caught.

Spoiler alert: they end up getting away but not without an epic chase scene at the end of the movie(as all Bourne films do).

It kinda got me thinking about how we’re often so quick to crumble under a little stress or to change our alibi when faced with a tough decision. When we’re up against the ropes it’s too easy to jump ship and claim anonymity.

And yet, the two characters had burned all their bridges(houses) and were on the run. They had no other option than to leave everything and flee.

To make a terrible illustration, we’re to give up any and all connections to our former lives before Christ. When we receive His redemption and are adopted as sons and daughters into His family (2 Corinthians 6:18) we must follow after His plan for our lives.

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. Luke 9:23-24

To be identified with Christ is to be given a new identity and new credentials because of Christ’s finished work on the cross.

I seriously didn’t think of this until just now but stick with me on this one, it’s great: we have a new Born Identity through Christ’s Supremacy which offers no Ultimatum but to follow in His Legacy.

*mic drop*

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Seriously though, if you haven’t seen these, do it.

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Speak Up & Speak Out

The danger of not talking to strangers.

Last week I was meeting at Braum’s with a buddy of mine from the youth group. I got there a bit early and read up on Francis Chan’s “Crazy Love” before we got started. As I was leaving, after our study of Galatians, I held the door for a couple who was also headed for the parking lot. “That’s a great book!” the husband said as he passed me. His wife nodded in approval and repeated his comment.

Obviously they had seen my copy of “Crazy Love” clutched in my left hand along with my notebook and ESV Study Bible. I’m guessing they were Christians since they recognized Chan’s book and didn’t mind speaking up. They saw something in common with themselves and felt comfortable talking to a stranger about it.

It wasn’t until the following morning that I thought back on what they’d noticed. Or hadn’t noticed.

Do you think they would’ve said the same thing to me, a total stranger, if I was only holding my Bible?

Possibly. Maybe they would’ve seen it and thought, “Hey that’s great! I’m glad he’s reading God’s word and pursuing truth for his life.” Or maybe even, “A Bible. Hmmm, I wonder if he knows what to do with it.” God forbid, “I wonder his stance on pedobaptism.”

Why are we so quick to cast judgement on people? Especially as Christians, why is it so easy to make unfair assessments and jump on our legalistic bandwagons?

Everybody in America knows what a Bible is. I guarantee you every Christian would recognize a Bible if they looked at one. It makes no difference what book that stranger is holding; we are to speak out. We are the mouthpieces of the gospel.

How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?
Romans 10:14

I’m sure you were told as a child not to talk to strangers. But how did Jesus gather His disciples? How did you first hear the gospel? Somebody before you chose to be obedient and speak up. So do likewise.

Speak up and Speak out

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P.S. I do endorse Francis Chan’s “Crazy Love”. It’s a great tool for examining our place before a holy God and how we should respond to the life that He calls us to. Chapter 4 entitled “Profile of the lukewarm” is a huge eye opener

Does God Need Your College Degree?

Before someone jumps down my throat over the title, let me explain. 

Recently I was recommended the book “On Writing Well” by William Zinsser. The purpose was to help identify areas I could clean up in my writing. It’s been a fantastic tool and I’m already implementing a few of the ideas it mentions. One of the early chapters is about fighting clutter—trimming the wordiness fat and making clear what you really mean.

If anyone reading this post has an english degree you’ve probably already spotted plenty of things you’d love to mark with a red pen. So there you have it! God can definitely use your english degree to help you point out and argue my point, haha.

Here’s my real question: do we give the gospel a fair chance?

I think there are two ways we christians damage the gospel:

  1. We’re either too shy or scared to share our faith openly, afraid of doing it injustice.
  2. We’re over-confident in our knowledge and abilities and turn people off by our jargon and pomp.

Doesn’t God’s word promise to comfort us? I’m no public speaker though I’ve found confidence that the LORD will give me the right words to say at the right time. When you know the truth and are passionate about something, fears and uncertainties all seem to slip away.

When sharing our faith and proclaiming the mystery of the gospel “which is Christ”(Col 1:27) we also tend to scare people away by our methods of approach. Don’t let your presentation of the gospel fend people off by how you give it.

Will someone who didn’t grow up in church understand christian-ese when you speak it to them? Of course not! Don’t dialogue with someone you can talk to. Don’t interface with anybody.

Here’s a quote from Zinsser’s chapter about clutter: “By using a more pompous phrase in his professional role he not only sounds more important; he blunts the painful edge of truth.” 

Never dumb down the truth of the gospel by catering to the idea that people will always flee when you spotlight their sin. Jesus is offensive to our sinful nature. Be loving but firm. We’re all in the same boat; we all need a Savior.

What about the college degree thing? Oh yeah. We’re always trying to limit God’s abilities. Don’t let your occupation, social status or education level impede or impose on God’s use for you.

Remember: we are the plan. It is ultimately the Holy Spirit who convicts unbelievers of sin and compels them to repentance but we are the mouthpieces.

Be obedient and open your mouth; God will give you what to say.

Clean the clutter.

Simplify, simplify.

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Foot-In-Mouth Faithfulness

I used to hate Arkansas.

Let me rephrase that: I used to hate I-40 east. But if you’ve ever driven even 10 miles down the interstate in my old ’93 GMC 15 passenger band van with 6 other sweaty dudes with no AC in July, you’d understand. Times have changed, freon has been recharged, vans have been totaled and replaced, and I’ve seen enough Arkansas Tourism commercials to cause me to completely recant my former beliefs. Cell reception aside, I’d take Arkansas over most anywhere else in America.

300x300 One night we played at a venue named “The Hole In The Wall” in Atkins, AR. Literally. I was standing behind our merch table watching a band perform when I sent out a tweet saying, “I still have yet to form an opinion about this…band?” Immediately after their set finished, one of the guys(who I didn’t know at the time) walked off stage, pulled out his phone and said, “Hey Clay, explain this tweet to me.”

Shocked at being called out, put on the spot and flabbergasted at the power of twitter, I started sputtering. “What the heck?” I thought. “You really can’t just say whatever you want and never face the consequences.” The band guys were gracious and humorous about the whole thing and we ended up becoming fast friends. They’re still two of the most far out and ridiculous people I’ve ever met.

Being confronted about my words really put me to thinking. Many of us are firm and decided in what we think, say, or post online but are we really faithful to what matters most when we’re up against the wall?

Many of us are faithful to our ideas about Jesus Christ, but how many of us are faithful to Jesus Himself? Faithfulness to Jesus means that I must step out even when and where I can’t see anything.

How about our faith itself?

Faith is not intellectual understanding; faith is a deliberate commitment to the Person of Jesus Christ, even when I can’t see the way ahead.

This is where obedience comes in. We must ask ourselves, “Am I going to obey and trust Him or will I compromise my words when the waters get rough?”

Thank God for grace.

Thank God for friends with a little extra salt in their pockets to sprinkle on a situation when I say dumb stuff. Our Father does the same thing.

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