The Chalk Outline

I watch the old TV series “Columbo” as much as possible. I really enjoy it. As I am writing this article I’m watching an episode from season three (I have the entire series on DVD). For those who never watched it, it was made in the early 1970’s. It was about this brilliant detective who was less than stellar in his appearance. Even though he often played the fool, he always solved the crime. And every crime on this show was a murder. You see Columbo was a homicide detective. He was great.

When Columbo would come to a murder site, the police would sometimes draw a chalk outline where the body had been after it had been removed. It was a reminder that there once someone there. In one way, it was the shadow of that person.

When we die – and we all will – the life we lived could be marked with a chalk outline showing where we touched. I wonder, when I’m dead, where will my chalk outline be.

I’ve lived a rather full and eventful life. I’ve accomplished much in my 54 years on God’s earth. Some of those accomplishments have been pretty good. Others not so good. And still others have been downright bad. One thing they all have in common is that they were accomplished by me.

As I draw nearer to eternity I wonder what I will leave behind. What will my chalk outline be? Will it be a good one or a bad one? How will my friends remember me? My enemies? My family? My church? How will I be remembered…

I’ve come to one conclusion regarding my legacy. I’ve decided and truly hope that my legacy does not include me.

I really don’t want to be remembered. In fact I hope I’m forgotten rather easily. You see, I don’t think my greatest legacy should be that I am remembered as this or that type of person. My greatest hope is that my legacy will be that more people will remember my Savior and what He does than what I did in His name.

I hope that my life’s work will be pointing others to Christ, not to myself. I hope I live in such a way that I have a legacy that is devoid of my, and full of my Savior. Will I do that? I don’t know. What I do know is that the words of John the Baptist ring in my ears each day as I rise and as I go to bed…

“He must increase, but I must decrease.” John 3:30 NASB

I must – MUST – decrease.

I hope I accomplish this.

A Life Well Lived

I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. 2 Timothy 4:1-5 NASB

 

I was sitting outside a restaurant in Brea, California in November of 1997. I had flown to California for some training for my new job in Virginia. I had lived in California from 1983 until 1997. When I found out I was going back for a week I decided to call two of my closest friends to see if they would like to have dinner. They said sure and I was waiting on them.

I had been diagnosed with type 1 (insulin dependent) diabetes earlier in 1997. I found out by nearly dying from it. I am still not sure how I did not die – actually the reason I didn’t die is because God didn’t want me to die. Anyway, back to my evening in California.

I sat outside the restaurant waiting on my friends to arrive. I had mixed my insulin for my evening dose, which I would take when we sat down to eat. The timing of one’s insulin dose is important so it is peaking when blood sugar after eating is peaking. I was gently rolling  my syringe between my fingers to warm the insulin (my insulin was stored in a cold pack. Injecting cold insulin is not a fun experience). I could not believe what happened next.

A young man came up and asked me if he could sit next to me. I said I didn’t mind. He sat down and introduced himself. I don’t remember his name but I do remember him. He looked at me and began a conversation.

“I’d like to share some information with you, if thats ok.”

“Sure” I said.

“Well first” he began “I want to say that I am not judging you for your addiction”

I responded “My addict-”

Before I could finish he jumped back in saying “I see the syringe in your hand. I know what you are going to do. I’m here to tell you that you don’t need to do this.”

I smiled, figuring he mistook my insulin for some kind of illegal drug. “You don’t understand.” I said.

“Yes I do” he protected. “I was once addicted too but God delivered me and He can deliver you too.”

“Wait, wait. You really don’t understand. I need this to live.” I said.

He replied “I said the same thing when I was nailing up [slang IV drug users sometimes use to describe injecting heroin]. But I’m here to say, you don’t need that drug. You need Jesus.”

Well this little disagreement continued for a few more minutes until I finally said “Dude, I’m a type 1 diabetic This is insulin. See, I have a prescription for this [showing him my insulin vials]. I’m a Christian. Been one since December 2, 1984.”

He grimaced a bit. He looked sheepishly at me and apologized for his mistaking me as a drug addict. Before he could finish his apology, I stopped him and thanked him for his boldness. We talked a few more minutes, I assured him I wasn’t offended by his conduct but encouraged by it. I thanked him again for being willing to share Christ with a stranger apparently in need.

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I wonder how many of us – me included – are willing to risk embarrassment like this young guy did? Are we willing to share Christ with anyone we see, risking we may share with someone who is already a Christian? Or maybe we are worried the person we share with will be openly hostile to the Gospel. Whatever our fear, we need to get over them and share Christ to all who cross our paths – yes, that includes those e disagree with on silly issues like politics.

People around me may give me flack for sharing the Gospel. They may laugh at me for believing it. Because I am a Christian, I have not received promotions and being a Christian contributed to my losing one job. I chose not to sue or strike out against that employer because I feel like that kind of treatment is part and parcel of being a Christian.

I don’t want to live a life that is camouflaged. I don’t want people to wonder if I belong to Christ or not. My life – all aspects of it – should preach the Gospel.

Don’t just preach the Gospel with your words. Preach it with your life. And don’t just think that living an outwardly moral life is OK. Preach the Gospel with your mouth too. Really, it is as simple as Paul wrote to Timothy: be always preaching, be always ready, be always teaching sound doctrine, and know those who don’t want to hear, won’t.

In doing this simple thing, we can be assured that we will live a life well-lived, regardless of the bumps along the way. And maybe, just maybe, we will meet someone on a bench and bless them with our boldness and forever leave a mark on them.

 

 

Pressing On

In my article last week we discovered that we are to be in, but not of the world. This means that while we live in the world, we do not adopt the world’s values, methods, or morals (or lack thereof). We are simply sojourners, passing through this age on our journey to eternity. If all this is true, what are we to do while here?

Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 3:12-14 NASB

Philippians 3 is full of wonderful truths and challenges to us – things, if we really understand them, will cause use to grow. Lets take a few moments and consider a few points Paul makes in these few verses.

Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect…

Paul begins this section with a wonderful statement of humility and understanding of the human condition following conversion: a redeemed but imperfect follower of Christ.

When we read Pauls works, we quickly realize that he is a man who is acutely aware of his faults, his sin, and his struggles. We also become aware of his desire to be in closer union with Christ, having his life lost in His. Here in Philippians 3, Paul flatly states that he has not yet achieved the intimacy in Christ he desires or that he is already perfect. There are Christians who believe that after conversion, a person can achieve perfection. Paul performs an effective refutation of that view. Paul is setting up the rest of his argument by plainly stating that he isn’t where he wants to be.

I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus… 

Paul moves on to say that in spite of his imperfection, in spite of his failures, and in spite of his lack of intimacy with Christ; he continues to go forward. The phrase I press on could better be communicated with the phrase I strive. Paul is striving – pushing forward – to become more like Christ. Think of  person straining to climb a hill, refusing to give up. Paul keeps moving forward in spite of the barriers – in spite of the difficulties. All that matters is that he fulfills his destiny in Christ after Christ laid hold on him.

run uphillforgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 

In this passage, Paul details how he will gain greater intimacy with Christ. Paul begins by stating he forgets all that lies behind. Paul chooses to neglect it, to forget it. But to what does he refer? It could be his life persecuting the church before he was saved. But I’m not sure he is doing that. I think he is probably forgetting the persecution he and the church have endured. The reason is simple: if we focus on the wrongs we have experienced, the persecution we have endured, we could very easily be paralyzed by fear or anger. Or both.

This section hits me particularly hard. If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know that I was a church planting pastor whose church plant was split and destroyed by someone who I regarded at that time as a friend. Following the death of my little church, I was hurt, bitter, and angry. For quite a while I chose not to forget those things. And that paralyzed me.

Have you had a similar experience? Have you been hurt to such an extent that you found forgetting about the experience very difficult? Regardless of how difficult neglecting to remember the hurts of the past are, we must do that if we want to progress to greater intimacy with Christ and greater Christ-likeness.

Paul states that he reaches out, or presses on towards his goal. That is his entire focus – being like Christ with the greatest intimacy possible with Christ. We could very easily see this as a race where Paul is working hard to run through the finish line. That finish line is part of the goal. I really think Paul’s goal is the Bema Seat – the judgment seat of Christ where all Christians shall appear. Paul longs to be seen as one who has pursued Christ in spite of the hardships, difficulties, and persecution. Paul loved Christ with his entire being.  Paul had a short memory of wrongs done to him not because they were not important or wrong, but because his focus was on being like Christ. Boy, we could learn a thing or two in America about this.

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Often times we scream and yell about our rights and liberties in the US. We stomp our feet in protest to what we perceive is persecution. We whine and complain about every little thing done that hinders us.

I think we need to read Paul a bit more.

Imagine what the Church in America would look like if we focused on the goal of being Christlike and not so much on our freedoms, liberties, and rights. I wonder…I really, really wonder.

Instead of wondering what the Church would look like by embracing Paul’s soul focus on intimacy and Christlikeness, maybe I – and you – should wonder what I would look like if I did this. What would we look like if our soul-focus was to be Christlike.  Hmmm.

I think its time we found out.

In, not Of

To be IN but not OF the world is an important concept we must understand and practice. It isn’t always easy to do but it isn’t complicated. It is just difficult to put into practice.

 

Have you ever worried about the way the influence the world may be having on your family? Or you? Does thinking about this make you want to run away to an island somewhere or an isolated mountaintop? The news is bad all the time it seems. We have people all over the world fighting with each other, folks cutting off the heads of people, and Christians being compared to terrorists…geez, it is getting bad. But the answer isn’t running away. Jesus wouldn’t want us to do that.

In His High Priestly prayer, Jesus prays in John 17

But now I come to You; and these things I speak in the world so that they may have My joy made full in themselves. I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.  As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.  For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth. John 17:13-19 NASB (emphasis mine)

So how does that affect us today? Are we to be in the world but free from the evil one? And if so, how does THAT work.

When we look at the world around us with all the chaos that is happening, the easy thing to do is isolate ones self from it. You know, run away to an island or mountaintop. I’ve thought about it. But I always come back to Jesus’ prayer in John 17. I am to be IN the world, but not OF the world. That is a tough thing to do.

Isolation

bubbleThere is a mindset that looks at the world and the Christian and chooses to isolate. These professing believers are what I call Protestant monks – they think their isolation preserves them for God.

For this group of believers, isolating themselves from the influences of the world includes isolation from the world. They have effectively removed themselves from the world. This affects every facet of life and every stage of life. They may refer to the public school system as Babylon and those who have their children attend as misguided and selfish.

These folks also typically prefer to own a business and play around with the IRS. They may not like to pay taxes since taxes support Babylon and Christians shouldn’t do that. They genuinely believe that they are doing the right thing. They withdraw from every area of life, sit in their holy huddle, and summarily judge anyone who believes differently than themselves.

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“We should not be in love with the world or its priorities. But we should

be so in love with our Savior that we embrace our mission

in this world – to glorify God by preaching the

Gospel – in word and deed.”

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The sad fact is that their isolation only rejects what God has for them and preserves their reputation as being holier-than-thou types who look down their collective nose at anyone not as holy as they are. This should never be.

Distinct from the World – In not Of

distinct

To be IN but not OF is an important concept we must understand and practice. It isn’t always easy to do but it isn’t complicated. It is just difficult to put into practice.

This approach is a bit trickier than the isolation approach. To be in but not of the world recognizes seemingly contradictory positions: we are distinct from the world yet we are in it. Think of it as being distinct from the world but not isolated from it. Christians should be different – perhaps even stand out – in a crowd. But the important thing here is that we should be in the crowd. Lets take a look at Jesus.

With whom did He dine? Sinners and tax collectors.

To whom did He grant forgiveness? Prostitutes, thrives and murderers.

With whom did He die? Convicted felons.

Clearly Jesus was in but not of the world. He definitely was a distinct individual. And it is this approach I think He was praying in John 17.

To be distinct but in the world means we don’t adopt the ways of the world. We should never be confused with a non-believer. But the reason we should be distinct is as important as being distinct.

Our distinctiveness should never be based solely on our words – though we should definitely speak boldly about Christ. No, our distinctiveness must also include our actions. The manner in which we live must reinforce what we say we believe.

We should not be in love with the world or its priorities. But we should be so in love with our Savior that we embrace our mission in this world – to glorify God by preaching the Gospel in word and deed. Are we doing that well? Are we doing that at all?

Current events (in America at least) seems to indicate that we have becomes a bit too cozy with the world. We no longer forcefully speak out about morality in our leaders. Its even worse than that – we openly embrace and defend someone who is about as immoral (perhaps amoral) as possible. But this person says the right things…he blows our dog whistle and we run to him, fawning over him.

He does so much that is right is the new mantra. So many Christians overlook behavior that is definitely not Christlike, behavior that would require a raining down of condemnations if the person was anyone but our guy. This is sad and disappointing.  Perhaps these Christians should reexamine their relationship to the world.

To live in, but not of, the world is difficult – thats the point of Jesus’ prayer. Regardless of the difficulty, may we all reevaluate how we are doing in this area and improve where necessary.

 

Afraid to Die?

We are free from condemnation because we are in Christ. As a Christian, that means my future is secure, regardless of what I do. There is not a sin I can commit – as a Christian – that will cause Christ to reject me. If there is such a sin, then the cross lacks power to keep me saved. 

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As long a I can remember I have feared death. I’ve always thought that if I did something too risky I would die. I have feared that my entire life. Not knowing what happens after death has always bothered me. I would like to see it happen before it happened to me. But with death, there is no way to watch the process before experiencing it.

Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord— for we walk by faith, not by sight—we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord. Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. – 2 Corinthians 5:6-10 NASB

When I accepted Christ in 1984, I thought this fear of death would leave me. But it didn’t. I still feared death and dying. I would avoid situations certain situations because I thought they were too dangerous. This resulted in avoiding ministry opportunities that presented themselves to me because of my fear. This fear lasted until recently. I’m convinced that my fear of death wasn’t real – and it wasn’t imagined. I misunderstood my fear. I never really feared death. At least I haven’t feared it since receiving Christ.

I feared life.

You read that correctly.

I. Feared. Life.

And living.

Now you may wonder what I mean by that.

So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” They answered Him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never yet been enslaved to anyone; how is it that You say, ‘You will become free’?” Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. – John 8:31-36 NASB (bold mine for emphasis)

Simply put, I feared living the life that was purchased for me on the cross.

I have always struggled with being accepted. There are reasons for this struggle which I won’t share here, but there are very real reasons I struggle with being accepted. I suppose that is the root cause of my fear of life. I always wondered if I would do something that would cause Christ to be disappointed in me and reject me.

I erected rules and regulations to keep my behavior in check. I thought that if I crafted a narrow enough path of conduct then I would be fine. Even I wouldn’t be able to be stupid enough to cause a problem. My guardrails would be enough to keep me safe. The guardrails that I meant to hem my behavior in order to reflect my commitment to Christ became walls that kept me from becoming who I was meant to be by HIm. To say I got things messed ups is an understatement.

Even though I felt that I was doing well, I wasn’t. In my zeal to live within my guardrails, I forgot about freedom. I’m not talking about the idea that I could do anything and be OK. There are rules to the Christian life. I’m talking about the freedom that comes with knowing that I am secure in Christ and being able to live boldly and righteously.

Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. – Romans 8:1 NASB

In my zeal I had forgotten to soak in one of the  most critical verses for a Christian. Romans 8:1 is extremely important for every Christian. We are free from condemnation because we are in Christ. As a Christian, that means my future is secure, regardless of what I do. There is not a sin I can commit – as a Christian – that will cause Christ to reject me. If there is such a sin, then the cross lacks power to keep me saved.

Righteousness is credited to me by and through Christ. He decides to see me through His righteousness.  At the time of salvation, I am declared righteous by God because of the sacrifice Christ made for me. This declaration is a legal one that is forever settled. One day I will be righteous – one day when I will no longer sin. That day will happen in glory, when I have been perfected in Christ.

But that day isn’t today. I still struggle with sin – and fear – each and every day. I sin, repent, and then sin again. I am frustrated by this but I now understand that this is how life goes until the day I am made perfect.

Though I still fear life – I still worry about doing stupid stuff – I don’t fear being rejected. God has seen fit to remind me of His undying love for me. The fact that He has declared me righteous means that can’t be changed by my actions. I need to rest in this.

What about you? Are you a Christian who fears life? Do you worry that you may do something that will cause Christ to ultimately reject you? If you are, I hope you are encouraged by what I have shared here. More than that, I want you to be encouraged by God’s unchanging word

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 8:38-39 NASB

 

Running Below E

driving-on-empty-e1523064122524A friend of mine recently shared with me the story of her driving her car until her gas gauge was below E  – meaning it was below empty. She sent me a picture of her gas gauge (it is to the left). She said that when she finally filled her tank, it took 16 gallons of gas, which was the most gas she ever put into her tank.

We laughed about it and the what ifs about running out of gas. I remarked at one point that I always refill my gas when I get slightly below the 1/4 tank level. My friend replied something like But how do you know how far you can go if you don’t ever take it below empty?

I’ve never really thought that trying to run out of gas in my car was a good thing. I also have always thought that when the tank in getting close to empty – especially when the warning light comes on – it is a good idea to fill up. And then the inspiration for this article hit me.

How often do we run on empty or below empty spiritually? We may deny this happens but I think it happens…more than we want to admit. Do we even know when we need to refill our tanks, spiritually speaking? Or do we even know why we run on empty? I think I understand why we get to empty and why we tend to be there more than we should.

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:2 NASB

Far too often we conform ourselves to the world. We pick up plenty of bad habits – in dress, attitudes, language – from the world around us. Perhaps the worst habit we pick up is the attitude of self-sufficiency.

Do not be conformed to this world…

Misinterpreting this command is really hard to do, yet we do it all the time. We conform to the world’s standards and expectations. We conform to the world’s views on social issues and, sadly, theological issues. We conform in the use of our time, talent, and treasure. We place more trust in Bitcoin that we do in Christ. What a sad state we find ourselves.

Our tendency to conform to this world is at the root of the problem of running on empty. We  wrongly believe that a five minute devotion is just as good as a good hour or so in deep study of God’s word. We convince ourselves that we can multitask our sanctification by listening to someone read the Bible instead of reading it ourselves. We deceive ourselves into believing that our little popcorn prayers – those inane little thought prayers we pop up to God as we think of them – is sufficient communication with out Father in heaven. We do all these things and are surprised that we lack any real power or sensed presence of God in our life. Oh my. Oh my, oh my, oh my. This should not be.

but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…

This is an interesting part of this verse. The word transformed can be either in the middle voice or the passive voice. The middle voice is kind of an intensive active voice – I’m doing the action for my own interest or benefit. The passive voice is understood as I am the recipient of the action – someone is doing the action to me. Which voice is in view here depends on the interpreter in many cases. I like them both. Kind of.

If the middle voice is in view, then I am involved in the process of transformation. I’m reminded of the verse work out your own salvation with fear and trembling…” That is found in Philippians 2:12. Chapter 2 of Philippians is exhorting us to be like Christ in all we do. If the middle voice is in view, I am to transform myself in my own interest with the result being that I become more like Christ.

If the passive voice is in view here, than I am receiving the transformation – probably through the agency of the Holy Spirit’s role in my progressive sanctification – and am not actively doing it. God is in the driver’s seat here, which suits my Sovereignty of God orientation.

But rather than quibble about which voice is in view, I’d rather focus on the rest of the verse

by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

My – and your – mind must be renewed. And this must be an ongoing action. Now this isn’t just for the sake of me getting better. Oh no, read the verse. It is so that I may prove – PROVE – what the will of God is. Imagine that.

How do I renew my mind? 

First, renewing the mind includes a steady diet of God’s Word. We are bombarded with the words of the world. We don’t spend near enough time battling the influence tis has on us. We need to bathe our mind in the ever-soothing salve of God’s word so that our battered soul may take refuge in Him.

Second, we must communicate with our Father. This means not only do we speak to Him, but we listen for His voice in our life. This takes time and is definitely what the world has in mind for us in the gotta-get-it-now culture. Our culture definitely creates an unworkable framework furor spiritual growth.

If we don’t listen to what our Father has to say to us – through His word, HIs Spirit in us, and HIs people around us – then we really are not communicating with Him.

Third, we need not only to serve others but receive service from others. We can refill ourselves by giving when we can and receiving when we need to receive. This promotes our community – the Church – to rely on each other.

Are you running on empty?

Have you run your tank to below the E on your spiritual life gauge? If you’re like me, you have done this more than once. You may be there right now. And you know what? Its OK to be there. You can do this every once in awhile. The important thing is not to stay below the E in your life.

May you prosper in the Lord in the coming weeks as you fill, use, refill, use, and refill again your spiritual tank all to the glory of God.

 

When Worlds Collide

381359main_planetImpact-full_full

What happens when two worlds collide? Usually sparks fly, stuff breaks, things shatter. It can be spectacular and ugly at the same time. It can inspire awe and seem revolting at the same time. This is especially true when we experience it in our lives.

God promises to change us to be more like Him as we walk this path of life. This is referred to in theological circles as progressive sanctification. We progressively change to be more like Christ as He works on us. This sanctification can be difficult and painful at times. Maybe it is painful all the time. I know this last round of sanctifying work of God in my life has been incredibly painful and challenging. My world’s are colliding and parts of me are breaking off, burning away. In many ways, the person I am is shattering with the promise being that the one who emerges from this will be more Christ-like.

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I have always been a very private person. I don’t readily share my deepest thoughts, fears, or regrets. I also don’t compliment others even when a compliment is appropriate. I am wrong and have to change. But I don’t want to change. Change hurts and I don’t like pain.

On the rare occasion that I do compliment someone, I try to make it as measured as I can. I rarely – if ever – say what I really think about someone for fear of being misunderstood or giving the wrong impression. I rarely talk about specific things when encouraging or complimenting others. I try to stay general in my observations, restrained in my words. I just don’t do encouragement or complimenting well. I’m private with those kinds of thoughts about others. But my world that wants to be extraordinarily private collided with another world recently – the one that wants to be extraordinarily encouraging to others. I really don’t know what to do about it either. Its really confusing.

I have purposed in my heart to be more encouraging to others and to compliment others when a compliment is appropriate. But as I have tried to put this into practice, I’ve struggled with it. When I try to encourage others – be they friends at work, my wife and family at home, or my Pastors at church – I encounter fears. Big fears.

I fear I will be misunderstood. I fear that I may say too many nice things. I fear I’ll stumble over my words and give the wrong impression. I think that maybe I should just keep my mouth shut – I’m just not good at this encouragement thing. I seem to mess it up every time I try. I try to always be accurate with what I say to encourage others. I try not to flatter them because empty flattery is insulting to the one its aimed at. But I do want to encourage others and compliment others when I believe a compliment is deserved. What is going on inside my soul!

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I am an insecure person. As far as I can remember I have been this way. My insecurity isn’t about just one thing either. It is about all of me – my appearance, my emotions, how I speak, and how I act…everything that makes me who I am. My sarcastic speech is my lame attempt to cover up my insecurities as a husband, father, brother, and friend. A really lame attempt at that.

I have wondered in the past if my my marriage would end one day. I worried about how I would mess up my family life. I’m thankful I have a wife and family as tolerant of me as they are. I certainly have received the better end of things with my wife and children. I’m still insecure about this though. I’m fearful that I’ll do something stupid that will wreck this great family God has given me.

Why do I do this? Why do I have these thoughts? I really don’t know. But I do know that their net effect is to inhibit me from doing the right thing. I know I should encourage other Christians. But I often don’t.

A recent conversation I had brought out many fears. It upsets me. And intrigues me. I’m really not sure what to do with what is bouncing around in my head right now. But I know God has brought this on me for my good. Maybe the collision of privacy loving Patrick is colliding with caring about others Patrick. Maybe God is sanding off some really rough edges and sparks are flying. I don’t know.

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My world’s are colliding – and it is disturbing, challenging, encouraging, and frightening. My faith and life, with all its responsibilities to my wife and family – and to my family in Christ, is colliding with my fears of vulnerability, transparency, and intimacy with other Christ followers. It is uncomfortable but necessary. I hate it but I love it. I’m conflicted and confused but never clearer in my goal.

I do know that the journey I call life is filled with challenges. I have challenges to my character and convictions. I have challenges to my way of thinking and doing. I have challenges to what I choose to believe and disbelieve. Challenges abound. I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do with this latest set of fears and challenges, but I do know that God is in the business of sanctifying me. He is making me more like Him. To accomplish this old things must pass away. I have to be willing to change. But change, my friend, is scary.

So what will I do with my worlds colliding?

Maybe I’ll just ignore them. Maybe I’ll just make some sarcastic remark and move on without really dealing with them. Or maybe I’ll listen to them and believe them.

Or maybe, just maybe, I’ll finally face up to my fears and confront them, understand them, and have my faith in Christ conquer them. Being transparent and vulnerable is scary stuff.

I’m scared of what is going on in my heart and soul right now. But I think its time to have my faith collide with my fears. Sparks will fly. Pieces of me will be broken and destroyed.  I won’t be the same man  I was before my worlds collided. What will happen after all this is anyone’s guess but it is under God’s sovereign hand. What should I do? What will I do?

 

This is gonna hurt, but let my world’s collide and God’s sanctification of this fearful little servant continue.