an encouraging thought for dads

Hey dads – I wanted to share with you an enewsletter I recently got from “All Pro Dads.” Very encouraging to me, especially in light of the comedy era many of us grew up in, and especially in light of the teaching of Ephesians 4 to be careful that we edify rather than “tear down.” Check it out:

Your sarcasm tears up your children

According to Webster, the word “sarcasm” derives from a Greek verb that literally means “to tear flesh.” Anyone who has suffered from sharp, cutting, or wounding sarcastic remarks probably wasn’t surprised to learn that.  You know, it’s easy for fathers to be sarcastic with their kids and to unintentionally wound them deeply.  The father who pokes fun at his daughter for her weight gain… or who chides his son for showing emotion… he may think it’s all in good fun, but it can have devastating and long term consequences.  Asking yourself the question, “Is what I’m saying ultimately building up my children?” will go a long way in curbing unnecessary jesting.

Hear from Tony about substituting sarcastic comments for encouraging ones for our children.

And then see a powerful clip of a coach encouraging his player to push the limits.

Finally, here are ten specific compliments to give your children.

Huddle up and ask your kids tonight: Do I consistently say things to you that hurt you?

Just in case you don’t want to click on the link for the 10 Specific Compliments to Give Your Children, you can read them below, taken from the All Pro Dad website.

10 Specific Compliments to Give Your Children

Here are 10 compliments all kids need to hear:

  1. Recognize and compliment character_We live in a world where integrity is neither consistently taught nor widely expected. When our children demonstrate honesty, kindness, trustworthiness and reliability, that’s a great time to take them aside and offer a sincere compliment.
  2. Compliment obedience and respect_It’s too easy to fall into patterns of disapproval, where the only time we notice is when kids do wrong. Rather than waiting for disobedience or disrespect (then coming down like a ton of bricks) try noticing obedience and respect: “I don’t always remember to tell you, but you are an awesome young man, and I appreciate the way you treat your mother”.
  3. Appreciate them for simply being part of the family_”Every time I see you, I’m thankful that I’m a dad.” Kids need to understand that they are valued simply because they are.
  4. Compliment contributions to the family_“Clearing the table (sweeping the porch… putting out the trash) makes a real difference. I appreciate your contribution.” Kids need to understand that what they do makes a difference, that the adults notice, and that pitching in is a good part of family life.
  5. Compliment the quality of a child’s work_“This is one clean porch, mister!” “You mowed the lawn right up to the edge.  Way to go!  I’m so glad you take this job so seriously, it shows.” Doing a job at a high standard is always worth noting.
  6. We can compliment the effort, even when the result is not the best_“Your willingness to help makes me happy! Now we need to take a look at how you can get the trash to the curb without leaving a trail!” Compliments can be an important part of our role as teachers.
  7. It’s important that we compliment children when they achieve something new_“Wow! That’s a huge leap forward for you there in math, pal.” “Awesome! I’m not at all surprised after you worked so hard.” A well-placed compliment can keep a positive ball rolling.
  8. We can compliment sense of style even if we don’t exactly share their taste_We don’t want to hedge kids into being clones of dad, or mom. “When it comes to putting together an outfit, you certainly have some flair!” “I can tell that you put a lot of thought into the way you look.” “I’ve never seen a table set quite like that before – you have an amazing imagination!” It’s not useful to limit compliments to the narrow range of our own taste.
  9. Compliment steps toward a long-term goal_“Son, the improvement you’re showing is commendable. Thanks for trying.” Waiting for perfection before we’re willing to dish out a compliment is inefficient, may dampen enthusiasm, and does little to help the process of growth.
  10. Try complimenting their friends_But only do this when you can do it honestly! “Your friends are the greatest!” “That Jimmy is such a positive young man.” “You know, it gives me a lot of confidence to know you use common sense in choosing your friends.”

May we place these in our hearts and put them into practice.

Love y’all. Thankful to be learning how to father together with you.

-jason

a child will lead us…

Those words were spoken of Jesus. It was certainly true. Recently, our pastor to families with children shared the following video with our kids on Sunday morning during what we call “Comapass Kids.” I had actually seen this young man interviewed at a conference last year. Phenomenal.

The story speaks for itself. And it challenges us. What could we do if we listen and we care? What could our children do? How could they even engage our neighborhoods to see “on earth as it is in heaven” cultivated among us? Let’s don’t just let this stay in the question and dreaming category. Let’s live sent.

Take a look at the video. Then, pray, which includes listening. And say yes to what God puts on your heart.

The bottom line question – what am I aware of that I know my family could help with that I ignore cause it doesn’t fit into my schedule?

devo 1, week 4 of the GIVE UP series

they left their nets behind.

Simple and short today, but hopefully very meaningful as we continue to process together the call to GIVE UP EVERYTHING. Take a few minutes to read and maybe reread Mark 1:16–20:

16 Passing along the beach of Lake Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew net-fishing. Fishing was their regular work. 17 Jesus said to them, “Come with me. I’ll make a new kind of fisherman out of you. I’ll show you how to catch men and women instead of perch and bass.” 18 They didn’t ask questions. They dropped their nets and followed. 19 A dozen yards or so down the beach, he saw the brothers James and John, Zebedee’s sons. They were in the boat, mending their fishnets. 20 Right off, he made the same offer. Immediately, they left their father Zebedee, the boat, and the hired hands, and followed.

Why did they follow? Why did they GIVE UP EVERYTHING to leave behind their current pursuits and follow this Jesus?

Some suggest they imagined Jesus to be the awaited leader who would bring the Jews out from under the oppression of the Romans. Others suggest that they imagined Jesus to be the greatest Rabbi ever heard, whose teachings would change everything. Some suggest they imagined Jesus to be the expected Messiah, banking on what John the Baptist preached and believing through His teachings. We really don’t know why.

But here’s what we do know. They followed. We also know that they left their nets behind. They gave up everything. Surrendered in that moment to walk with Jesus, trusting Him for their needs and their direction.

Three bottom line questions to me, and I would really like your responses.

  • do you think it is possible to pursue the American Dream (to want the house, the wife and kids, great benefits, leisures, retirement, a reputation for success) and to follow Jesus at the same time?
  • does Jesus fit in among the other elements of the life you are pursuing, or is He the life you are pursuing?
  • He is saying, “Follow Me.” Are you hesitating to fully leave it all behind? If so, what is holding you up? If not, what does “leaving it all behind” look like in the culture of the American Dream and in the culture of the consumeristic church of the west?

I am grappling with this, too, remember. Let’s learn and live His ways together. Thankful for you.

devo 3, week 3 of the GIVE UP series

Will you eat Jesus?

This week so far, we have thought through the deadly hungers of our lives. What about a hunger that fosters life? There is one. Jesus spoke of it, as we referenced it in devo 1 of this week. One occasion we did not mention that day is found in John 6. Take some time to read and reread this:

27 “Don’t waste your energy striving for perishable food like that. Work for the food that sticks with you, food that nourishes your lasting life, food the Son of Man provides. He and what he does are guaranteed by God the Father to last.”

28 To that they said, “Well, what do we do then to get in on God’s works?”

29 Jesus said, “Throw your lot in with the One that God has sent. That kind of a commitment gets you in on God’s works.”

30 They waffled: “Why don’t you give us a clue about who you are, just a hint of what’s going on? When we see what’s up, we’ll commit ourselves. Show us what you can do. 31 Moses fed our ancestors with bread in the desert. It says so in the Scriptures: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”

32 Jesus responded, “The real significance of that Scripture is not that Moses gave you bread from heaven but that my Father is right now offering you bread from heaven, the real bread. 33 The Bread of God came down out of heaven and is giving life to the world.”

34 They jumped at that: “Master, give us this bread, now and forever!”

35 Jesus said, “I am the Bread of Life. The person who aligns with me hungers no more and thirsts no more, ever. 36 I have told you this explicitly because even though you have seen me in action, you don’t really believe me. 37 Every person the Father gives me eventually comes running to me. And once that person is with me, I hold on and don’t let go. 38 I came down from heaven not to follow my own whim but to accomplish the will of the One who sent me. 39 This, in a nutshell, is that will: that everything handed over to me by the Father be completed—not a single detail missed—and at the wrap-up of time I have everything and everyone put together, upright and whole. 40 This is what my Father wants: that anyone who sees the Son and trusts who he is and what he does and then aligns with him will enter real life, eternal life. My part is to put them on their feet alive and whole at the completion of time.”

41 At this, because he said, “I am the Bread that came down from heaven,” the Jews started arguing over him: 42 “Isn’t this the son of Joseph? Don’t we know his father? Don’t we know his mother? How can he now say, ‘I came down out of heaven’ and expect anyone to believe him?”

43 Jesus said, “Don’t bicker among yourselves over me. 44 You’re not in charge here. The Father who sent me is in charge. He draws people to me—that’s the only way you’ll ever come. Only then do I do my work, putting people together, setting them on their feet, ready for the End. 45 This is what the prophets meant when they wrote, ‘And then they will all be personally taught by God.’ Anyone who has spent any time at all listening to the Father, really listening and therefore learning, comes to me to be taught personally—to see it with his own eyes, hear it with his own ears, from me, since I have it firsthand from the Father. 46 No one has seen the Father except the One who has his Being alongside the Father—and you can see me. 47 I’m telling you the most solemn and sober truth now: Whoever believes in me has real life, eternal life. 48 I am the Bread of Life. 49 Your ancestors ate the manna bread in the desert and died. 50 But now here is Bread that truly comes down out of heaven. Anyone eating this Bread will not die, ever. 51 I am the Bread—living Bread!—who came down out of heaven. Anyone who eats this Bread will live—and forever! The Bread that I present to the world so that it can eat and live is myself, this flesh-and-blood self.”

52 At this, the Jews started fighting among themselves: “How can this man serve up his flesh for a meal?”

53 But Jesus didn’t give an inch. “Only insofar as you eat and drink flesh and blood, the flesh and blood of the Son of Man, do you have life within you. 54 The one who brings a hearty appetite to this eating and drinking has eternal life and will be fit and ready for the Final Day. 55 My flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. 56 By eating my flesh and drinking my blood you enter into me and I into you. 57 In the same way that the fully alive Father sent me here and I live because of him, so the one who makes a meal of me lives because of me. 58 This is the Bread from heaven. Your ancestors ate bread and later died. Whoever eats this Bread will live always.”

The Bread of Life? Eat Jesus? Did you notice the way that Jesus highlighted the will and work of God? The work God is concerned with is that people know the One who was sent (verse 29). The will of God is that all who see the One sent and believe Him will have life now and forever (verse 40).

Here are a few questions to ponder:

  • am I more concerned about the rules of eating than I am about actually eating the Bread of Life?
  • am I more concerned about the quality of the personal experience of eating than I am about actually eating the Bread of Life?
  • am I more concerned about being fed well by some preacher or some worship experience than I am about giving up my life so that someone else might taste the Bread of Life?
  • what am I hungering for more than Jesus?

Remember:

57 In the same way that the fully alive Father sent me here and I live because of him, so the one who makes a meal of me lives because of me.

Do you actually believe that? Do I? Really?

THE BOTTOM LINE:

Do I actually trust that Jesus – knowing Him and eating of Him and being sustained in Him alone – do I trust that He is enough?

Do I realize that when I choose to live and consume selfishly, that in that temporary indulgence I am declaring several very alarming value-statements:

  • that Jesus is not enough.
  • that feeding my flesh matters more than anything else on earth at that moment.
  • that my relationships are worth damaging for the sake of consuming indulgently.
  • that His forgiveness given on the cross is there anyway, so it’s okay to abuse.
  • that I know better than the Maker of life how life works best for me.

If Jesus is the Bread of Life, am I searching for and indulging in any other supposed sustenance? Do I hunger for anything or anyone more than Him? Is He bread worth sharing? Much like a great restaurant we absolutely are eager to tell others about, are we eager to tell others about the Bread of Life we have found? Isn’t that the work God wants us to be concerned about – that others would believe in the One who was sent?

ACTION STEPS:

PRAY_Lord, I want to GIVE UP my vices. I want to deny myself, take up my cross daily, and follow You. Help me to remember that YOU ARE WITH ME and that LIFE HAPPENS WHEN I GIVE IT UP SELFLESSLY, not when I consume selfishly. Help me today to take every thought captive and every choice seriously, and with Your help choose to hunger only for the things that blossom life.

LIVE_Today, not only eat the Bread of Life, but share about the Bread of Life with someone you know is hungry for something more than selfish cravings. Live sent as a letter from the One who was sent.

SUNDAY_week 4 of the series:

GIVE UP EVERYTHING_change our everyday AND our eternity.

devo 2, week 3 of the GIVE UP series

Why is sin so deadly (and why do we need to GIVE UP our vices)?

Did you see that Brad Pitt–Morgan Freeman movie “Seven?” I don’t want to leave out the other star – Kevin Spacey. Pretty freaky. Very disturbing. Engaging movie. Amazing example of how selfish living can consume all of us, even eat us alive. It is the story of “a retiring detective (Morgan Freeman) and his replacement (Brad Pitt) jointly investigating a series of ritualistic murders inspired by the seven deadly sins” (from wikipedia). Don’t watch it unless you just happen to dig thriller type of mysteries that have a very evil bent.

The seven deadly sins? I am sure you have heard of them. Another wikipedia clip:

The Seven Deadly Sins, also known as the Capital Vices or Cardinal Sins, is a classification of the most objectionable vices that has been used since early Christian times to educate and instruct followers concerning (immoral) fallen humanity’s tendency to sin. The final version of the list consists of wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony. (wikipedia)

The Catholic church, in particular, has emphasized these. They have even made a “sin scale” of sorts, ranking which sins are “deadly” and which require more of a slap on the wrist. There is actually nowhere in the Scriptures that call these the seven deadly sins. However, there are a few verses in Proverbs 6 that describe seven things God hates. Check it out:

16 There are six things the Lord hates—no, seven things he detests: 17 haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that kill the innocent, 18 a heart that plots evil, feet that race to do wrong, 19 a false witness who pours out lies, a person who sows discord in a family.

One might ask, why are these so deadly? Before we answer that, I want to suggest that not just these 7 are deadly. All sin is deadly. Paul wrote in Romans 6:

23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.

In Tuesday’s devo (devo 1 of week 3), you may have read:

Sin leads to death because it is a selfish choice to walk away from the source of life.

Those seven things listed by Solomon in Proverbs 6, along with all other choices to live for self and thus sin, are detested by God. They all lead to death, because they are a choice to not listen to and obey the Life-Giver.

Humanity acts inhumane (to live in a way that is not how we were intended to live and intended to love) when we live only for self. And Romans 3:23 says all of us are guilty of inhumane living, selfishness, and sin. We are being consumed by the very desires that consume us. We are being eaten alive by the very hungers of our indulgences.

The temptation to live for self and to therefore sin is driven by a deadly hunger. Much like the hunger of a spider who becomes consumed with the need to get his groove on with a female spider, who then consumes the male spider in the midst of his self-consuming desires (the black widow). Or like the way eskimos used to hunt for wolves back in the day. They stuck a knife into a piece of meat, froze it, and then left it out along the path where packs of wolves would travel. The wolf came along and began to lick the steak. Because it was frozen, their tongue would become numb and unaware when the licking shifted from steak to knife. They indulged themselves to death.

Sort of offers us some insight into the tricks of the evil one. Jesus tried to make us aware of how the evil one wants to destroy us by what He said in John 10:

10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

The evil one is a thief and a liar. Here are just 3 of the BIG LIES he tries to convince us of, especially in the moment of indulgent temptation.

  • YOU REALLY WON’T DIE. IT WILL ACTUALLY MAKE LIFE RIGHT NOW BETTER.
  • YOU DESERVE THIS.
  • FEEDING YOU FEELS SO MUCH BETTER THAN GIVING LOVE. GIVING LOVE IS TOO RISKY ANYWAY, AND DOESN’T GUARANTEE YOU GET YOURS BACK IN RETURN.

Read Proverbs 6:16–33. See what Solomon is warning his own sons about.

When we don’t deny ourself and instead let our hunger become indulgent, gluttonous living, then we not only consume indulgently things that end up destroying our own lives, we consume indulgently other people. We live so selfishly that we end up cannibalizing life from the people we should be loving around us.

Peter (1st Peter 5) described the evil one as a lion out to devour us. Have we dropped our guard so much, gotten so drunk on our indulgent hungers, that we have forgotten how deadly selfishness is? Are we inviting the lion over for dinner, even though already aware that he will dine on us?

ACTION STEPS:

PRAY_Lord, I confess my selfish living to You. Expose to me the choices I am making that hinder me from walking in love with You, listening with a hunger to say yes, and then obeying and giving love as I experience Yours. Please help me to be more and more aware of Your presence with me when faced with temptations. May I not ignore you in favor of indulging myself.

LIVE_When faced with temptation, STOP, DROP, and ROLL. Stop what you are doing so that you can think clearly. Drop to your knees (figuratively or literally) and pray, begging God for help in that moment and for a full awareness of His presence with you. Then roll in His ways instead of your own.

27 Can you build a fire in your lap and not burn your pants? (Proverbs 6:27)

Think about it.

NEXT DEVO SATURDAY_eating Jesus.

devo 1, week 3 of the GIVE UP series, GIVE UP VICES

change our hunger.

I woke up this morning hungry for a Southwestern Breakfast Burrito from HOUSE BLEND CAFE. Have you had one? Oh my goodness. One of the amazing creations of Josh Taylor, GM of the cafe. You should try it.

And I mentioned Four Rivers BBQ on Sunday morning. It’s located on Fairbanks north of downtown Orlando just across the street from the campus of Kilarney Baptist Church. If you like bread pudding, even one bit, you should try their BBQ and have some bread pudding for dessert. You may want to share it with someone though, in order not to be gluttonous. Cause it is made with Krispy Kreme donuts. Which should be illegal.

Okay. Enough with the food commercials. But it does lead us to the intro question for today’s devotional.

What are you hungry for?

I don’t mean Krispy Kreme type stuff. I mean throughout the daily, regarding the choices of your life. What is the hunger of your life? What compels you? What drives you? What controls you? Because if we are honest, our daily choices are defined by our hungers.

Jesus spoke of this several times. On one occasion (Matthew 15), He said that the hunger of our hearts define us, not the stuff we put into our mouths. His audience was Jewish, and they as a people had many rules about what to put in their mouths. Jesus was challenging them to think more of the hunger of their hearts than they do about what they eat (or any other rule to modify behavior for that matter).

On another occasion (Matthew 5), Jesus declared that real blessing comes alive in the lives of those who hunger and thirst for God’s purpose everyday. In fact, He went on in that very same teaching to challenge His followers to seek Him first, not food for their tables or clothes for their backs or anything else.

On another occasion (Matthew 4), Satan tempted Jesus in the dessert after 40 days of fasting and sleeping on rocks. The evil one perceived Jesus as vulnerable, fatigued, and hungry. The temptation was to take a short cut to fame. Rather than making the love of God known, Satan was once again trying to show God as a fraud who really just cared about feeding His own desires. That was not the case, though. When tempted to turn rocks into bread to immediately satisfy the profound hunger Jesus must have felt after 40 days of sustenance upon intimacy with the Father, Jesus answered:

4 Jesus answered by quoting Deuteronomy: “It takes more than bread to stay alive. It takes a steady stream of words from God’s mouth.”

I once heard someone ask it this way:

Are you feeding the flesh dog or the spirit dog? Whichever one it is, that’s the one barking the loudest in your life.

Every metaphor breaks down, but it makes the point. We are either indulging our own desires or surrendering to the promptings of the Spirit’s leading.

You know, God gave us our hungers. He wired us to hunger for Him and His ways. It is evident from the Garden of Eden. When Adam and Eve chose their own ways over the ways of God and sinned, they malfunctioned. And they knew it immediately. Because they were wired to walk with God, not to walk away from Him. And when they chose their own way, shame and guilt and hiding things from one another entered the picture for the 1st time. So they tried to hide from God.

He actually knew this would happen. So, He planned for it. Planned from before the beginning of time to send His Son. Why? Let’s come back to that.

Before we go on, I want to suggest something in an effort to declare the point of this devotional with abundant clarity:

God hates sin. Not because He expects a better performance out of us. Rather, because of its destruction upon our relationships – it causes us to withhold intimacy, hidden behind our shame and guilt and facades of looking like we have it all together. He doesn’t want us hidden. He wants us out in the open in full-on relationship with Him and with one another.

Here’s the deal. So many people spend their everyday living from a framework that assumes God wants us to perform well. They reason that good performance is the purpose of religion and personal spiritual efforts. That couldn’t be more wrong. People live with the worldview that God hates sin because it indicates our poor performance. If we would just keep the rules, then it all would be okay, right? Wrong.

Paul wrote in Galatians 2:

21 I am not going to go back on that. Is it not clear to you that to go back to that old rule-keeping, peer-pleasing religion would be an abandonment of everything personal and free in my relationship with God? I refuse to do that, to repudiate God’s grace. If a living relationship with God could come by rule-keeping, then Christ died unnecessarily.

Paul also wrote in Galatians that Christ died to set us free. Free. Not bound to perform better. Free from the condemnation of our selfish performance. Sin leads to death because it is a selfish choice to walk away from the source of life. And an addictive choice. And a destructive choice. One that caused God to remove us from the Garden of Eden not as punishment but with merciful purpose. Read Genesis 3.

I would suggest that God did not want them to eat of the tree that fed their hunger to know everything because they would start acting like they knew more about life than the One who made it. So, when Eve did, and Adam followed, God removed them from the Garden. The Scripture says in Genesis 3:

22 Then the Lord God said, “Look, the human beings have become like us, knowing both good and evil. What if they reach out, take fruit from the tree of life, and eat it? Then they will live forever!” 23 So the Lord God banished them from the Garden of Eden, and he sent Adam out to cultivate the ground from which he had been made.24 After sending them out, the Lord God stationed mighty cherubim to the east of the Garden of Eden. And he placed a flaming sword that flashed back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.

“Then they will live forever” – as though they would be in a state of living God did not intend forever, which would have been one of chaos, hiding, shame, and guilt. At least that’s what they experienced right away. So, in His mercy, God banished them from the Garden.

But like we said earlier, and I said we would come back to it, God planned for that. He expected a betrayal, but made the ones who would betray anyway. What love! And His plan was to restore us from our state of living where we know too much, are too aware of our own potential for attempts at good and our own potential for extreme evil. So humanity has lived since focusing on either self-righteousness or self-indulgence. Both are enslaving, weary, ways to live.

There is only weariness found in any pursuits that begin with “self.”

We could never be “good enough” to fix what we broke. And we could never be bad enough for God to abandon His plan to restore us to Garden life as He intended. Never. God is not interested in better performance or modified performance. He wants love relationship. And so He is interested in us admitting our great need for Him to take the death caused by self-pursuits to the cross, and then in us living in the resurrection power He has to reshape our hungers to be for His purposes above our own.

He hates sin, because sin is a symptom of a choice to live for self rather than to love. A choice to be selfish ravages relationships and destroys the abundantly free life God created us for. Sin destroys the very thing that brings us life as well as the very thing we were intended for – relationship with God and relationship with others.

Are you hungry to live self-absorbed or to give up your life for the sake of others finding it? Like me, you may need to surrender some of your hungers to be changed by the One who called us to hunger for His ways alone. It makes sense to do that doesn’t it? To listen to the One who made you and made life? To listen to Him instead of our own whims and desires? Our own selfish hungers?

ACTION STEPS:

PRAY_Lord, please, please help me to hunger for You and Your ways. I want to daily surrender the temptations of my own flesh, to use this body and this mind and this life you gave me only for personal fulfillment. I give up my hunger for self-indulgence and self-righteousness. You are enough.

LIVE_today, when faced with temptation to choose self or to indulge your fleshly desires, think soberly. See the red flags before you get drunk on self. And ask God for help. Help to choose to give up your hunger so as to give life to all involved in that moment of decision. Otherwise, you will steal life from those involved, as well as have a piece of your own life stolen.

THURSDAY_be looking for the next devo about why sin and choosing self is so deadly, both for you and everyone involved.

devo 3, week 2 of the GIVE UP series

Take some time to simply be still and pray. Praise God. Thank Him. Share your concerns with Him. Surrender to His mission and intentions for your life. And ask for wisdom as you read and reread through Luke 14:7–14.

Then, read and reread Luke 14:7–14.

7 He went on to tell a story to the guests around the table. Noticing how each had tried to elbow into the place of honor, he said, 8 “When someone invites you to dinner, don’t take the place of honor. Somebody more important than you might have been invited by the host. 9 Then he’ll come and call out in front of everybody, ‘You’re in the wrong place. The place of honor belongs to this man.’ Red-faced, you’ll have to make your way to the very last table, the only place left. 10 “When you’re invited to dinner, go and sit at the last place. Then when the host comes he may very well say, ‘Friend, come up to the front.’ That will give the dinner guests something to talk about! 11 What I’m saying is, If you walk around with your nose in the air, you’re going to end up flat on your face. But if you’re content to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself.” 12 Then he turned to the host. “The next time you put on a dinner, don’t just invite your friends and family and rich neighbors, the kind of people who will return the favor. 13 Invite some people who never get invited out, the misfits from the wrong side of the tracks. 14 You’ll be—and experience—a blessing. They won’t be able to return the favor, but the favor will be returned—oh, how it will be returned!—at the resurrection of God’s people.”

Question – are we always and only pursuing first?

I have to admit, this has been a year of my favorite teams winning the championship so far. The Saints. The Blue Devils. Maybe the Magic??? Maybe the Yankees after that??? It is weaved into the very default settings of our culture and our lives. WE MUST WIN. Be first. Be applauded. Be honored.

Nothing wrong with an “at-a-boy” from time to time. We all need and want that kind of encouragement as we do life together. But is it wrong for our motivation to be seen as number one? Is it wrong if our primary interests always getting ahead?

It is if in the process we don’t love. Jesus made it pretty clear that right and wrong are defined by what He declared as the two most important commandments – LOVE GOD and LOVE PEOPLE. Everything else hinges on whether we love or don’t love. So, if we are too busy trying to get in front of everyone else, then we are not loving.

Kind of like when Caleb and Katey walk ahead of us on walks thru the neighborhood. One always has to get ahead, and it often comes at the woundedness of the other (literally sometimes).

“Elbowing into the place of honor.”

Where this especially gets hard in our lives, this putting the interests of others above our own, is in two specific places. With our jobs and with our kids.

Here’s a tough question – do you work to get ahead or to have the chance to love? Do you work to get more or to give more? If you follow Jesus, then even life in the marketplace has to reflect His ways. How might that impact your interests and focus there?

Here’s another tough question – do you want to teach your kids that excelling no matter the cost is their primary goal? When they encounter others, is their 1st thought to pursue first or to pursue last? Would they lose out on anything by putting others’ interests above their own? Would you and I lose out on anything by challenging them to work hard but to love harder?

Pursuing LAST doesn’t sound very American Dreamish. But it might be Christ-like.

11 “What I’m saying is, If you walk around with your nose in the air, you’re going to end up flat on your face. But if you’re content to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself.”

Is Jesus enough? Do we actually trust what the Scriptures say:

11 The greatest among you must be a servant. 12 But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. (Matthew 23:11–12)

ACTION STEPS:

  • PRAY_Lord, help us to want to share in eternal life because You are there and because we want to share what You have graciously given with others. Help us to be willing to give up our own interests. Help us to live secure, knowing that we are not missing out on a thing when we leave everything to follow You, assured that You are enough.
  • LIVE_12 Then he turned to the host. “The next time you put on a dinner, don’t just invite your friends and family and rich neighbors, the kind of people who will return the favor. 13 Invite some people who never get invited out, the misfits from the wrong side of the tracks. 14 You’ll be—and experience—a blessing. They won’t be able to return the favor, but the favor will be returned—oh, how it will be returned!—at the resurrection of God’s people.”

Love you guys. Look forwarding to worshipping with you in the morning and continuing the GIVE UP series, focusing on “GIVE UP VICES_change our hunger.”

-jason