Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Total Permeation


I missed the Oscars and the surprise finish, but the next day I saw this clip of Jimmy Kimmel surprising a tour bus full of people hoping to make a sighting of a real movie star. They came in the room and found themselves in the front row of the Oscars.

Something about the clip annoyed me and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. Then I realized how many of the tourists (and movie stars) held their phones in front of their faces. I could barely see their reactions because all I saw were rectangles with lenses in the corner. 

So, here we have a group of people who presumably like movie stars, after all that is why they were on the bus for a tour of stars homes. They suddenly find themselves face to face with the people they desperately want to see and yet they put a phone up to block their real view. Seeing these stars through a camera lens and recording something that was already on camera was more important than putting the phone away and interacting with a real person. It is a strong indication of how phone/camera/video technology has permeated our lives. 

The point of me bringing this up is not to criticize the tourists. I certainly do not know how I would react if I suddenly walked onto the set of the Oscars. “Stupefied” is a word that comes to mind. No, all in all, I think they handled themselves quite well. I bring this up because it reminds me of something that easily infiltrates our lives to the same extent as phone technology. 

I am talking about fear.

Fear walks around in our back pocket and is pulled out when examining any new information. It becomes the lens through which we see the world.

We understand politics based on what politicians tell us to fear. We must do this or else something worse will happen.

Fear makes it okay to hurt others as long as we can justify it with the promise of safety. However, because this is the world that is an empty promise making the pain we cause less than justified.

We view our lives through the fear of the “what ifs” that lurk in the corners of our heart.

We see our relationships through the fear of wondering if we can really trust, if we really know what someone is thinking, if we can really rely on this person.

We view our past, present, and future through fear also.

“What if I hadn’t . . . . then where would I be?”

“What if this is the wrong choice?”

“What if this isn’t enough?”

“What if I am hurt, or ruined, or unsafe?”

It is bad enough when our leaders convince us to act out of fear, but it is truly devastating when fear keeps us from seeing our God.

It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; He will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” Deuteronomy 31:8

My study Bible calls these words an exhortation. That puts it substantially above a “suggestion” and well into the “urgent persuasion” category. God is with us, we do not need to fear. In fact, we are not to indulge in fear.

God is stronger than our worries. He is stronger than our mistakes. He is stronger than anything that can harm us. And He is stronger than the politicians who hold power over us when they convince us to be afraid or angry.

Furthermore, as children of God who live in the world but, not of the world, the typical fears of this world should not be ours. We were created for a different kingdom. Certainly we need to be wise in our actions. However, every thought, word, and action should be made by a person who knows and believes the following: 

“And behold I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20b 

We are safe. We are saved. We are perfectly loved.

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts our fear. 1 John 4:18a

Take your fear out of your pocket and throw it away. There is no room for fear in our lives or in our faith. We have a Savior.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Thursday, February 2, 2017

The Little Things


This four minute clip is a great TEDtalk from a volunteer firefighter who encourages us to do the little things. This from a man who works for a non-profit and regularly trains for a part-time volunteer gig as a hero. He knows about the big things – yet he advocates for doing the little things. 

I am the kind of person who likes to do big things. This is why I love teaching because it is a long string of little things that sometimes add up to a big thing. I still save those notes from kindergarten parents and occasional student evaluations that tell me I made a difference, but, for most of my students I was only a little thing. 

My desire to do big things is how I am able to set aside my anxieties about public speaking and driving in strange cities in order to speak to audiences of teachers and administrators. I am certainly not a big time speaker but I seek to leave a reassuring message. I suspect that message is most often found in a small story.

The truth is most of our work for God is not found in the big things, but in the little things:

A note of encouragement

A shared Bible verse

A prayer

A donation of money, time, or materials

A seat beside a grieving friend

A mindset of empathy

God does not often ask us to do the big things. Most of the time, the work He sets before us consists of small tasks. He does not often allow us to see how these small acts of mercy lead to a big thing. He does not promise us this. Instead, He asks for our humility and obedience.

He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble His way. Psalm 25:9

St. Paul understood this. At the beginning of his letter to the Romans we see the sum total of his resume. 

Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God. Romans 1:1

Paul could certainly write himself a fancy introduction. He could tell many stories of big things including new churches, jail escapes, shipwrecks, and snake bites. He knows, however, that what he does is not so important as who he is. Furthermore, his identity is found only in what Christ has done for him. This is how the little things add up to big things – the big things belong to God.

May God bless you as you seek to accomplish the little things He sets before you.