My heart sank as I sat across a coffee shop table listening to a friend talk about her latest experience with church. Another set of flawed humans casting judgment based on another set of human traditions, and my friend was found wanting. In my travels all over America, I've seen a lot. Words casually used in one state are curse words in another. Different places have different rules for dancing, drinking, and playing card games. Even blue jeans or simple pants can cause a stir. While many Christians will readily admit that these kinds of topics are not critical elements of salvation, we can't blindly ignore them altogether. They cause problems among us, so we must wrestle with what the Bible says.
A popular notion is finding its way around Christian circles today. Perhaps you've heard it or even said it. It sounds good, so maybe you've put faith in it. It goes something like this: Everyone needs a Timothy, and everyone needs a Paul. If you know anything about these two men from the New Testament, this sounds good on the surface. But something about it has always bothered me. I didn't realize what it was until my daughter came home from her small group recently. They've been reading a book together, and this concept came up. In our discussion about it, I realized that she was troubled by the exact same part that bugs me. And that sent me into prayer and deeper study, wondering as always: Is this popular notion biblical?
I try to have lunch or coffee with two or three different friends every month. I love these quiet times together, catching up on each other's lives without the distractions of responsibility around us. At one of these lunches recently, I sat down with a friend and mentor. As we quietly talked, she told me the revelation God had shown her. It was one of those earth-shattering, mind-changing realizations that take your breath away for a moment as you see the pervasiveness of a tiny lie you'd grabbed hold of. And in that moment, I realized how I too had grabbed hold of this lie and let it invade my life. I suspect you might also find this lie hiding out in your heart and mind. When I asked, this friend graciously agreed to write it out so that I could share it with you. I wanted you to hear it in her words without any commentary I might add. I pray that all of us would cease hiding in the baggage.
Whether we like it or not, God made us for relationship: with Him and with each other. If you’ve been hurt by others or are introverted and shy, you probably don’t like that God expects us to broaden our friendships outside the front doors of our comfort zones. That’s okay. I didn’t much like it either when I started figuring it out. Most people these days tend toward self-sufficiency, and we like to reinforce that with pop psychology. Pull yourself up by your bootstraps. Put on your big-girl panties. God helps those who help themselves. Common mantras, but is that really what the Bible teaches?
If you could do anything, what would it be? Don't stop to think about money or time or health that might limit you. Just dream, and dream big! What would make your bucket list of long-term goals? Tour a famous city? Give large sums of money to causes you care about? Climb a mountain or bike a historical trail? Sleep in a tree house? Or an underwater hotel? Complete a marathon? Pet a penguin (yes, that really is a top bucket list choice!) What came to your mind as you considered the possibilities?
Where are you going today? That's a pretty simple question, particularly if you've already checked your calendar for the day. What about this question? What is your assignment from God for today? A little tougher? Some of you will honestly shrug and wonder if I'm going to shed some light on that for you. I can't help but wonder how many want to argue, declaring that God will make it clear to you in the moment. Maybe. But I think we overlook one critical assignment from God. One He issued while Jesus still walked the earth: Noticing others. How well do you do this? Think of your favorite store. Now think of the place you most commonly get groceries. Which drive-through do you drive through maybe a little too often? Got all three places in mind? Great. Now . . .
How many of you have seen one of those homecoming videos of a man (or woman) in uniform surprising their child or mother or another family member? I love them—don't you? They are sweet and joyous, so full of emotion. I giggle and smile and sometimes shed a few tears. I look forward to the homecoming pictures posted by my active duty friends. Everyone who knows them breathes a collective sigh of relief. Another one returned home to us, safe and sound. Things can return to normal for that family. What civilians may not know is that the hours and days after the welcome home photographs may not be so sweet. The reality of homecoming can be very different from other reunions, say when a child returns home on a college break or you travel home to visit family. If you want to support military families, this is what you should know about reintegration.
I'm in a tough season. It's not a season of emergency or heart-wrenching tragedy, but it is a time of higher-than-normal stress. A lot is going on around me. and I have very little control over most of it. I must step back, and I must trust God. While I wait for His timing and His answers, I continue to work on those things He's given me to do. Some days, this is harder than others. ~ How do you thrive when the world around you twirls and swirls? ~ Where do you find the strength to get out of bed when you'd rather throw the covers over your head and hide? ~ How can you lovingly and patiently serve others when you just want someone to put everything around you right again? What would . . . no, what did Jesus do?
How much do you pray? Okay, before anyone gives up on this post or journies into a guilt trip where I don't intend to lead you, let's all admit that we could all pray more. We could (and probably should) seek God more. But that's not my intent in asking the question. Instead, I want to consider the why behind our actual tendency and discipline. Why don't we pray more?
How important is the Bible to you? That's not a trick question. Well, okay. Maybe it is. The Typical Christian Answer Most of us would say the Bible is very important, right? After all, it's God's word to us. His instructions on how to live. The story of our family and heritage. Encouragement for tough circumstances. Inspiration to persevere. Hope for the future. So, back to my original question. How important is the Bible to you? Are you sure?