A few years ago the Associated Press reported a chilling incident from Tacoma, Washington. A little boy had been kept in a coffin-sized box for over two years because his step-grandmother thought he was brain-damaged. The rectangular box was 6 feet by 3 feet by 2 feet.
Once he was released from the box and authorities interviewed him, the horror of his situation was magnified. Psychologists reported that the little boy never tried to escape because “he did not know any different kind of life.” It was, for him, normal. He didn’t know any better.
The psychologists also discovered the boy was allowed out of the box regularly on only two occasions: 1) to go to the bathroom, and 2) to attend church.
Sadly, this tragic story illustrates the world many of us are trapped in, even in the Christian community. We have been fitted into the box of our secular world that shapes our thinking, and our lifestyle. Our culture tells us as Christians that we are free to climb out of our box once a week to go to church, but we dare not consider bringing our faith to bare in our culture, our schools, or our workplace. And many of us don’t object, because “we do not know any different kind of life.”
To borrow from the King James, “Brethren, this ought not so to be.” God has called us to be salt and light in our culture, to be difference makers. But salt is no good if it’s left in the salt-shaker, and light is of no value when it’s covered by a basket, as Jesus taught. That means we have to climb out of the box the world would like to confine us to, with a God-given mandate to bring positive change in our society. We can’t do that by living compartmentalized lives where we venture out only to “go to church” for an hour or so a week. Our relationship with God must daily impact our lives, or we’ll never impact the world around us.
Paul wrote in Romans that we should “not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–His god, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2) That only happens when we make a conscious decision to live outside the box the world has built for us.
So let me encourage you today to be bold in your walk with God, and to never settle with being trapped in isolation and seclusion, when God has so much more out there for you. May He use you this week to make a difference in the lives of those around you for His kingdom sake.
I’m praying for you, and I look forward to seeing you Palm Sunday.
I read today about a race coming to Shelby County next week. It’s along the same lines of all the popular races for charity that runners take part in almost every weekend. You know, the 3K, 5K, 10K, half-marathons, and the likes. Sign up, pay your money, get a t-shirt to say you ran, run as far as you can and finish as quickly as you can make it, and everyone wins.
Except this race is different. It’s an April Fool’s Day No-K. It includes everything that other races have–a $25 entry fee, a packet of goodies including a t-shirt, and all the money raised goes to charity–but in this case there is no running involved. Not a single kilometer. Instead, participants will just show up at Veteran’s Park in Hoover, collect their stuff, hang out with their fellow “runners,” and go back home without even having to break a sweat.
Already more than twenty people have signed up for the April Fool’s Day event, with the start of the non-race scheduled for 2 p.m. on Palm Sunday afternoon. The organizers–who are themselves competitive half-marathon runners–hope to have a large number of registrants by “race” time, with all proceeds going to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. They also hope to make it an annual event.
It may sound a little silly, but I do understand the appeal. Many people love to run, but even more love to wear the t-shirt that says they ran. It’s kind of a status symbol among runner-types, especially those who aren’t especially competitive and aren’t very good runners. The No-K is okay, because it allows you to make a contribution to a good cause and wear the cool t-shirt, without requiring a lot of effort.
Of course, you know there’s some sort of spiritual application coming–and there is.There are many parallels between this No-K and “the race” that many Christians run. They want to wear the outer garments to identify with the faith, and play the part of the “runner,” without actually having to put a lot of effort into it. To borrow from our recent Shape Upsermon series, they want the appearance of godliness without the discipline. Instead of “No pain, No gain,” they prefer the more comfortable motto “No pain, No pain.”
Now let me say very clearly, the Gospel is nothing if not free. The grace of God that brings us the free gift of salvation requires no effort on our parts, except faith. We must trust in the sacrificial death of Jesus on our behalf on Calvary’s cross. Let no one buy the lie that we ever have to work to earn God’s love.
However, to grow into spiritual maturity is more than just slipping on a t-shirt that says we’ve been there, done that, and we got the souvenir to prove it. Sometimes, walking with God, and training in righteousness is nothing short of hard work. Just as there are no shortcuts to getting ourselves into shape physically, neither can we take the easy road and grow into godliness.
This week we’ll be bringing the Shape Upseries to a close with the most important message I’ve shared in this series. I sure hope you can be there to hear what God has to say to all of us. I’m praying for you, as I hope you are for me, and I look forward to seeing you on Sunday.
They were the ultimate #16 seed. Not much talent, not much experience, not much depth. Their opponent was a classic #1, with a formidable defense, more offensive weapons at their disposal, battle-tested and feared by all around. There was little doubt in picking this bracket.
When Joshua led the rag-tag warriors from the children of Israel to battle against the army enclosed in the fortress of Jericho, there wasn’t much chance that they could win that battle. No one had ever heard of the little Israeli army of misfits who had spent the past generation wandering in the desert, and everyone knew that Jericho was not someone you’d want to mess with. It was truly a battle of grasshoppers vs. giants.
But as part of God’s plan for His people to possess the possession of their promised land, Jericho stood in the way. The pagans who lived and battled in Canaan land may have looked like giants to those who doubted, but to those who saw with eyes of faith they were not to be feared. They were to be conquered.
The Old Testament book of Joshua, chapters 5 and 6, tells us that Joshua received his orders from no less than an angel of the Lord, and they were quite strange battle plans to say the least. He was to take his army and march around the fortified city of Jericho one time a day for six days, and then on the seventh day they were to march seven times, with the priests blowing their trumpets. After their seventh lap, and a long blast from the trumpet, all the people were to shout. And the walls of the city would collapse.
Seriously?What kind of game plan is that? March around a fort? That’s it? That’s madness.
But it worked. It did not require great wisdom, but obedience. There was no ingenuity expected, just a totally dependent faith. They weren’t asked to be perfect marksmen, just willing marchers. And when they did what they were commanded–as outlandish and maddening as it may have appeared–God did His part in a way that confounded the wisdom of men once again. He does have a way of doing that, haven’t you noticed?
It’s that time of year when “March Madness” is at a fever pitch and everybody pulls for the underdog bracket-busting “Cinderellas” to sneak up on their higher-seeded opponents and surprise the nation in the NCAA basketball tournament. Unless, of course, you’re my future son-in-law Blake, who went 15-1 in his picks on Thursday in his first bracket ever.
If you watch much basketball the next few weeks, you will no doubt hear references to the Davids facing off with Goliaths. Every time you do, I hope you’ll be reminded that God has a history of taking the unexpected, unseemly and unlikely, and doing something unheard of, when we are willing to trust in Him. All He requires is that we march, in obedience to His leading.
I’m thankful that God doesn’t always work by the seedings of the bracket, drawn up by the expectations of men. “The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Sam. 16:7) May your heart be totally His today.
I’m praying for you, as I trust you are for me, and I look forward to seeing you on Sunday.