Blessed are the Poor in Spirit

“You can’t know how Great God is until you first realize how helpless you are.”

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Jesus says this in the opening line of the Sermon on the Mount when he said, “Blessed are the poor in Spirit.”

One time, Jesus was walking with His disciples and a group of people come up to Jesus and want their children to be “blessed”. Now, I don’t know what you have heard about this passage is found in Matthew 19, I’ve always seen pictures of Jesus placing his hands on children’s for heads, possibly making across somewhere… saying a fast prayer and then considering the children blessed, but I really have a hard time with this picture. Maybe it’s because I actually HAVE children and know that that would in no way shape or form “bless them”.

When I think of Jesus, or anyone for that matter, “blessing kids” I always picture him picking up a child, tickling them, and then throwing them up in the air as high as he possibly could. This would be that height where your stomach actually turns and you feel like you’re about to throw up in your eyes grow three times the size is normal as you are praying with all that you have that this person would actually be able to catch you before you splatter on the ground below.

Naturally, Jesus would catch them at the last minute and then throw them back up in the air again. This makes sense to me, both because the children would be blessed as well as the fact that the disciples always seem to be disturbed that Jesus would spend his time doing such things. I mean, seriously, what’s the big deal about taking a few minutes to put your hands on a few kids heads and say fast prayer… But rolling on the ground and throwing them up in the air???  I can understand why the disciples would question whether or not they have the time for this. Here’s what the passage says:

Matthew 19:13-14

13 Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked them.

14 Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

I love this passage. What I love about the passage the most is really what it’s saying between the lines. You see, children have nothing to offer except themselves! They don’t have a lot to bring to the table in a relationship except for their love, their acceptance, and their spirit. They don’t come trying to “teach” things. They don’t come to help you get ahead in life and they rarely come critiquing you. They basically come with empty hands. They’re just glad that you want to spend time with them!

Seasons

Seasons

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This summer flew by! It seems like every year, our summer break is shorter and shorter. It was just yesterday that we turned off the 6am alarm clock and celebrated freedom from oppression… I mean school. Now, here I sit one week back into the pattern of school bus routes, sports practices, and homework. What happened to my summer? No more swimming. No more afternoon picnics… this stinks!

Now with the ranting over, I do want to say that I love it that we’re about to enter into one of my favorite seasons here in North-East Ohio, the Fall. In just a couple weeks the trees will begin to change color. The air is going to grow colder again and you’ll literally be able to smell Football in the air. I love the Fall! I love the change in season. Summer is great, but to be honest, it can drag out a little too long for my taste.

Guess what? I’ll have a similar rant when the Fall turns into Winter. I hate it and I love it. And then another when Winter turns to Spring. I hate it and I love it.

Seasons. They come and they go… and most of the time, there’s nothing we can do about it. Now if you’re like me, you love the change of seasons. I think I like the change of seasons, because I just like change. I love it when something new or unexpected happens. I love variety. I love newness. I love options.

This is certainly true with the seasons of the year, and it’s just as true with seasons of life.

Preschool, high school, new job, new home… new haircut, doesn’t matter- bring it on.

I understand that you’re probably not like me though. So let’s quickly look at three things that happen when we enter into a new season of life.

When we start a new season we always have the potential of:

Losing Something

You don’t change from something familiar to something new without losing a little. You’re always going to miss something of the past. I’ve even seen this when I moved to ”something better”. It’s amazing how after a little bit of time, I can look back at the past and forget so much of what drove me crazy. All of a sudden, things weren’t that bad.

I Think Everyone Should Be a Christian… It’s Not Too Hard

Light in Darkness

I had a conversation the other day with a good friend about the Church (with a capital C) and Christianity here in America. If you know me at all, you can imagine that most of it was sarcastic. Though, thinking back over the conversation… I’m afraid too much of it was true… or at least could appear to be true. The conversation went something like this:

“I think everyone should be a Christian…”

Lately I’ve discovered that it’s a lot easier than I previously thought. You see, I’ve discovered that:

Christians don’t have to work on their marriages any differently than non-Christians.

You can still focus most of your energy on achieving “The American Dream”.

Whatever happens in the privacy of your home is really just between you and your spouse… oh “and God too, but He’s not going say much.”

You’re under no obligation to try to meet the needs of anyone other than yourself and your family.

You don’t lose the right to poke, jab, and /or criticize others who have hurt you.

You don’t have to even mention if something popular is wrong or considered sinful, after all, everyone is entitled to their own opinion.

You don’t have to worry about having to become a priest, pastor, missionary, or anything like that. There’s really only a few people who have to do that kind of stuff.

There are a few hang ups, but they’re not too bad:

You gotta be pretty good at looking “not so screwed up” on Sunday.

You need to continually work on the art of passive aggressive language and behavior.

You don’t need many, but a few Bible verses are always helpful to have on hand.

And you’ve gotta remember where you are and who you’re with because context is everything. (What might not be ok in one context doesn’t necessary mean it’s always wrong.)

But most importantly, here’s what YOU GET when you’re a Christian:

People are generally nicer to you at church.

If you can figure out the whole context thing, people are really going to think you’ve got your act together. (Especially if you’re willing to put a little “time in” and help out with the kids once in a while.)

You get start off each week fresh… almost like a clean slate.

Ok, enough sarcasm! You get the point.

Here’s the thing. I love Church. I really do. If you would have asked me a few years ago, I’m pretty sure I would have only been able to tell you all about my disappointments with it, but now, I can honestly say I love it. For starters, it’s God’s tool to change the world. He really doesn’t have a plan B… The church is it. Like it or not, Christians are called to live in this world as light in darkness.

The danger with being light in darkness is this though:My eyes get accustomed to the dark.

Last night I woke up in the middle of the night with a sick child. I got out of bed, and helped my son. I then went down stairs and got water and made it all the way back up to bed. All of this was done in near pitch-black darkness. Now, while I was walking around, it didn’t seem too dark. There was the light from the outside lamps. The moon was also shining in pretty strong, illuminating the whole house.

…ok, it was dark, but my eyes had grown accustomed to it, and I adjusted.

I can’t help, but to look at my own Christian walk and ask the question: Where have my eyes adjusted? Am I still light? Or am I simply just not looking as dark as everything else. Am I living as though I believe that my life as a follower of Jesus can look the same as the world?

The Flight Back

Rainbow

I sat down in my seat anxiously waiting to feel the wheels lift off the tarmac. There’s just something about knowing that the next time you touch ground it’s going to be back at home. As I wait I’m going through my typical preflight inspection. iPad – check. Candy – check. Bag properly stowed – check. Seatbelt on – check. Sky Mall magazine in hand – check. It is about that time that I heard him coming down the aisle. He was talking to everybody on the way. He had a friendly, slightly nervous voice that just kept talking. He sat down beside me and quickly buckled up.

It took me about .2 seconds to realize that not only did this man live in San Francisco but he was in fact one of the thousands of homosexual men that I’ve heard about who live in San Francisco.

Now I need to let you know right up front, I have known many homosexuals in my life. Although I don’t approve of the lifestyle, I’ve always been a little proud at my ability to be friends and to focus on “the things that matter the most”.

With that being said though, we started right away with the usual airline conversations. Where you headed? Is Cleveland your last stop? What brings you to town? It was during this kind of questioning that I discovered that he was on his way to Cleveland to bury his father. I offer my condolences, and decided it was time to sit back and mind my own business.

That lasted about five seconds until he asked me where I had come from and where I was headed. When I told him that I was returning from a 16 day visit to Southeast Asia, he smiled a huge smile and began to tell me about all the many places and he’s visited in Southeast Asia. The conversation went on for an hour. It is actually very interesting. The only problem was, I had one reoccurring thought through the entire hour:

He’s gay.

He seems like a nice guy, but he’s still gay.

…Wow, he’s traveled all around the world, but he’s still gay…

I wish I could say that it wasn’t a barrier, but it was. I wish I could say that I could just relax and listen to this man’s stories, but I couldn’t. It is about an hour into the conversation that all of this made a turn. When he asked me what I did for a living. I told him I was a pastor. As soon as I said the word “pastor” he flinched. I could see it in his eyes. He was at a personal crossroad. He had to determine what he was going to do with this information. Then he looked at me and said, “Well you seem like a really nice guy anyway”. Then he smiled and relaxed.

Something happened in those few short seconds. I heard the Holy Spirit screaming a few truths in my ear.