My Daddy Likes…

There are many things that I love about being a dad. Many of the things that I thought I would like turned out to be true:

Wrestling. Taking naps together. The fact that it is socially acceptable to carry snacks just about everywhere you want.

A few days ago, though, I was surprised by something. It was something that I didn’tstairs know would bring me a sense of joy I had never previously felt. We were not in the same room, my presence was not a thought in her mind. You see, my parents (her biddy and papaw) were downstairs with my wife eating breakfast while I got ready for church. Amidst lots of laughter, in the kitchen at the bottom of our stairs I heard Crosley say something:

“My daddy likes…” or “My daddy and me…”

Honestly, I have no idea what she said at the end of that sentence ( I think maybe it was that I like waffles?), but it didn’t really matter. I know that we have fun together. I know ways to make her smile. She’s still at an age where on most days she wants to be with me, to play, read stories, and whatever other random things that she decides we should do.

This was different.

As I was upstairs getting ready, I heard her say “My daddy likes…” and for a moment I smiled. But why?

Crosley1It’s because in that moment I heard her explain to someone else something about her relationship with me was memorable. Even better, I think it was positive. And even though I don’t know what that thing was, there was a connection made. It made me feel good that she thought enough of me to share a fact even when I wasn’t around.

Listen. I get that she’s a toddler and that one moment she shares a fact about me and the next is about Princess Belle and in her mind they might be on equal footing. I’m not going to let that steal my joy for now.

As I thought about that moment, it hit me. This has to be how God must feel when he hears us talk about Him. Sometimes we get caught up in saying the “right” thing or talking about our faith in a way that sounds just like everyone else. We begin to think that we aren’t good enough to share, that what we say isn’t interesting, or whatever other host of lies we allow ourselves to believe that aren’t true. We hold back.

Crosley shared something true and important to her. It came out of her experiences with me, her understanding of who I am, and she wanted nothing more to share it with others.

What if sharing our faith stories came in the same way? What if instead of making sure that everything was calculated and prepared, we talked about God out of the depths of our experience with Him? What if we shared everything, even the most random thoughts, simply because we couldn’t hold back?

It made me feel good to hear her speak. I imagine that is exactly how God feels when we share (with those who identify as believers AND those that don’t ) what is happening in our lives and how we have seen Him move.  I did not expect Crosley to have a well thought out, meticulously prepared statement about things that are important about our relationship. She shared what was happening then, at that moment.

This week I want to do a better job of sharing what God is doing in my life as I go about my usual day. I am firmly convinced that if we all did that more, the stories would be more interesting and they would be more real. 

And through that, God smiles.

Crosley5

 

 

Allow Me To Introduce Myself…

aaaaHello! My name is Jeremy Shannon and I am the pastor at First Baptist Church Fort Thomas. My wife Jenni and I moved here just a few days before Christmas last year and have spent the last 8 months falling in love with Fort Thomas and the entire Northern Kentucky area. Being native Kentuckians (we met each other at Georgetown College), we always knew that we loved the state, but almost every day we still talk to each other about how good it is to be home.

crosleyswingI wanted to share a brief introduction about myself and about what God is doing at First Baptist. Our time in the area so far has been chaotic and exciting in the best ways possible. We have a super energetic two year old daughter named Crosley, who has loved taking advantage of trips to Fort Thomas Ice Cream, Tower Park, and the Aquarium on a regular basis. In April, Jenni and I welcomed twin boys, Asher and Henry, into the world. If you ever see me and think I look a bit tired, it’s probably because I am! We are blessed to have found such a great community to raise our kids and such a great church family that has shown us tremendous love.

asherhenrydadPersonally, I have loved getting to take in as many Reds games as possible, exploring the great food of the region (sooo glad to be back near White Castle), and getting to know our great community leaders. It is not uncommon to find me at Fort Thomas Coffee a few times a week, working on a sermon or just having good conversation with folks. If you ever see me, please stop and say hi!

I know I am biased when I say this, but I love the folks of First Baptist Church Fort Thomas. If you ever visit (and I hope you will), I think you will find some of the kindest folks that you will ever meet. Before I arrived at the church, I was told that this a church that loves people for who they are and that they welcome everyone. After seeing it first hand, I know it to be true.

This is an exciting time in the life of the church. We speak very intentionally about looking to see where the Spirit is leading us. We love Fort Thomas and all of Northern Kentucky and we want to serve the community in as many ways as possible. I expect you will begin to see us at Fort Thomas’ incredible community events in the very near future. Our folks love to try new things and are committed to doing what it takes to live our our mission to “Shine God’s Light. Share God’s Love.” 36609926_1262771743858681_8446590243179593728_o
As a parent, I have been so grateful to have a group of people that love children so well. Soon after we arrived the church worked hard to revamp a new children’s area and nursery and we have a bright, clean place for children to play. Every church has something special to offer, but one of the things that I love about FBC is that if your children attend, you can be sure that lots of people will know their name, give 20180323_182908them encouragement, and love them like Jesus. Children are not simply tolerated, but actually ENCOURAGED in worship. As a dad, I appreciate that folks remind me almost that they love seeing my little girl dance and twirl to worship and that it is a place where she has come to love. I still want to reign in her energy sometimes, but they keep telling me to stop it! If you are looking for a place to worship as a family, this is a great place!

Right now, we do not have a five year plan for what will happen at our church. I say that because we are intentionally keeping ourselves open to the Spirit’s lead. We are excited because we feel this is a new day, with new energy. We have been preparing and praying and asking the Lord to show us what’s next? If you have a church family, great! We love other churches and want to encourage you to serve where God has planted you. But, if you do not have a church home, if you have thought about church but aren’t sure you’d fit in, if you want to partner in being a part of something bigger than yourself, I encourage you stop in. We openly admit that we gather as imperfect people, aware of our need for God’s grace. We want to work to figure out how to serve together in the midst of that. Worship starts at 10:45 on Sunday mornings (Sunday School at 9:30). We’re saving a place for you!


To learn a little more about First Baptist Church Fort Thomas,  please be sure to check out our website at www.fbcftthomas.com

 

Talking Donkeys and Your Allegiance

This Sunday at FBC Fort Thomas, we looked at the story of Balaam and the Talking Donkey. Out of all of the stories in scripture, this would have to rank pretty high on my list of stories that I would have loved to see play out as it happened. If you are unfamiliar with the story I encourage you to go to Numbers 22 and read about what happens but for the sake of this post I’ll give you the JSV (Jeremy Shannon Version) summary:

 

Balaam, a diviner (i.e. prophet) in the Old Testament was asked by Balak, the leader of the Moabites to ask the Lord to curse the Israelites (the CHOSEN people…come on Balaam) because they were afraid they would be attacked. Even though he knew it wasn’t a good idea, Balaam asked the Lord over and over and over until finally the Lord sent him on the way to talk to Balak. The next morning Balaam takes off and would probably have made it to Moab in record time except his trusty donkey kept taking him off course. One time he runs off the road, so Balaam beats him. Another time he runs into a wall and crushes Balaam’s foot, so Balaam beats him. One last time, there is nowhere else for the donkey to go, so it sits on the ground, and…you guessed it, Balaam beats it.

balaamdonkey


Growing frustrated, the donkey says “Why in the world are you beating me?!?! Have I ever done this to you?”
At this point, we see that Balaam’s eyes are opened to what we had already read in the passage: the donkey saw an angel of the Lord standing in the road and he wanted to protect Balaam.

So, we see that Balaam, a guy that was known for being able to share messages from the Lord, was so blinded by his own selfish ambition that he was unable to see what a DONKEY was able to see.

There are many things that happen in this passage that I could point out, but one thing has continued to play in my mind.

We live in an increasingly angry time. Everyone is divided. Everyone thinks that they know best. As I read the news and see things playing out around the world, I think the majority of our issues stem from the fact that people (myself included) would rather see their agenda win than the kingdom of God advanced.

newsWe pray prayers that assume we know what is best and that if only God would do things our way, we would get what we want. 

What would have happened if Balaam had taken a moment to think about the situation? His donkey had never been disobedient and he also knew that he was probably not doing as the Lord wished. Blinded by anger and ambition, he sees a disobedient donkey as someone that is only keeping him from what he really wants. He can’t fathom that there is a reason for what is happening and so he beats it, over and over.

I don’t know how to fix the problems of the world. I don’t know if a post like this only adds to the chaos, but I do feel compelled to share this:

Just because someone makes you angry doesn’t mean that they are wrong. In fact, the people who make you the most angry might actually be a way that the Spirit is trying to teach you something. You must constantly check, recheck, and evaluate to make sure that your actions show an allegiance only to the kingdom of God.

If you can’t disagree with your political party on any issue, that probably means that your strongest allegiance is not with Jesus. If you can’t sit down and have a conversation with someone that drives you absolutely crazy, that means that  yourstrongest allegiance is not with Jesus.

I am not saying that everything is a compromise. I am not saying that there are not places to take a stand. What I am saying is that you have to be very careful because there is a very strong chance that there is something that you believe strongly about but the fact is that you are wrong.

I am wrong. Often. I know where I fall, but I also know that there are places where I am blinded by my own ambition. Because of that, I have to be open to listening, to asking questions, and making sure that I live with an awareness that God might speak through those who make me the angriest.

I firmly believe that there are many injustices in the world if people would put down their labels, their agendas, and work together to help those who are hurting. Instead in the face of tragedy we see both sides, (BOTH sides), spin things with the most extreme examples, one-upsmaniship, and the people hurt the most are those who aren’t even welcome at the table for those discussions.

Who makes you the angriest? How might God be using that person to teach you something?

What have you chased this week that doesn’t really match up with what God would want? Are you courageous enough to let it go and focus on the things that really matter?

Until Christ returns, there will be divisiveness, anger, jealousy, and every other sin under the sun. But you have a choice. You don’t have to give in. You can set a different standard.

One of my favorite Rich Mullins lines is this, “The stuff of earth competes for the allegiance, I owe only to the giver of all good things.”

Based on your actions, where is your true allegiance?

This Sunday at FBC Fort Thomas, we looked at the story of Balaam and the Talking Donkey. Out of all of the stories in scripture, this would have to rank pretty high on my list of stories that I would have loved to see play out as it happened. If you are unfamiliar with the story I encourage you to go to Numbers 22 and read about what happens but for the sake of this post I’ll give you the JSV (Jeremy Shannon Version) summary:

Balaam, a diviner (i.e. prophet) in the Old Testament was asked by Balak, the leader of the Moabites to ask the Lord to curse the Israelites (the CHOSEN people) because they were afraid they would be attacked. Even though he knew it wasn’t a good idea, Balaam asked the Lord over and over and over until finally the Lord sent him on the way to talk to Balak. The next morning Balaam takes off and would probably have made it to Moab in record time except his trusty donkey kept taking him off course. One time he runs of the road, so Balaam beats him. Another time he runs into a wall and crushes Balaam’s foot, so Balaam beats him. One last time, there is nowhere else for the donkey to go, so it sits on the ground, and…you guessed it, Balaam beats it.

Growing frusrated, the donkey says “Why in the world are you beating me?!?! Have I ever done this to you?”

At this point, we see that Balaam’s eyes are opened to what we had already read in the passage: the donkey saw an angel of the Lord standing in the road and he wanted to protect Balaam.

So, we see that Balaam, a guy that was known for being able to share messages from the Lord, was so blinded by his own selfish ambition that he was unable to see what a DONKEY was able to see.

There are many things that happen in this passage that I could point out, but one thing has continued to play in my mind.
We live in an increasingly angry time. Everyone is divided. Everyone thinks that they know best. As I read the news and see things playing out around the world, I think the majority of our issues stem from the fact that people (myself included) would rather see their agenda win than the kingdom of God advanced.

We pray prayers that assume we know what is best and that if only God would do things our way, we would get what we want.

What would have happened if Balaam had taken a moment to think about the situation? His donkey had never been disobedient and he also knew that he was probably not doing as the Lord wished. Blinded by anger and ambition, he sees a disobedient donkey as someone that is only keeping him from what he really wants. He can’t fathom that there is a reason for what is happening and so he beats it, over and over.

I don’t know how to fix the problems of the world. I don’t know if a post like this only adds to the chaos, but I do feel compelled to share this:

Just because someone makes you angry doesn’t mean that they are wrong. In fact, the people who make you the most angry might actually be a way that the Spirit is trying to teach you something. You must constantly check, recheck, and evaluate to make sure that your actions show an allegiance only to the kingdom of God.

If you can’t disagree with your political party on any issue, that probably means that your strongest allegiance is not with Jesus. If you can’t sit down and have a conversation with someone that drives you absolutely crazy, that means that your strongest allegiance is not with Jesus.

 

I am not saying that everything is a compromise. I am not saying that there are not places to take a stand. What I am saying is that you have to be very careful because there is a very strong chance that there is something that you believe strongly about but the fact is that you are wrong.


I am wrong. Often. I know where I fall, but I also know that there are places where I am blinded by my own ambition. Because of that, I have to be open to listening, to asking questions, and making sure that I live with an awareness that God might speak through those who make me the angriest.

 

I firmly believe that there are many injustices in the world if people would put down their labels, their agendas, and work together to help those who are hurting. Instead in the face of tragedy we see both sides, (BOTH sides), spin things with the most extreme examples, one-upsmaniship, and the people hurt the most are those who aren’t even welcome at the table for those discussions.

Who makes you the angriest? How might God be using that person to teach you something?

What have you chased this week that doesn’t really match up with what God would want? Are you courageous enough to let it go and focus on the things that really matter?

Until Christ returns, there will be divisiveness, anger, jealousy, and every other sin under the sun. But you have a choice. You don’t have to give in. You can set a different standard.

One of my favorite Rich Mullins lines is this, “The stuff of earth competes for the allegiance, I owe only to the giver of all good things.”

Based on your actions, where is your true allegiance?

Disappointment With White Castle

When we moved from Kentucky to Tennessee a few years ago, there were several things that I knew that I would miss. Among those things, the nearest White Castle was going to be three hours from my house. For some, that’s not a big deal. For me, it became an obsession. I don’t usually have memorable dreams at night. I dreamt of White Castle…often. Especially the loaded cheese fries.

zloadedfries
Dream worthy, no?



So, when we moved back to Kentucky six months ago, imagine my joy in the fact there would be three White Castle locations within fifteen minutes of my house, including one a mere FIVE minutes down the road.

The first week we were back, I ate it all the time. But…something didn’t taste right. Being a fan…I kept going. Occasionally it was good, but never quite like I remembered.

 

To add insult to injury, the location closest to my house closed down. SERIOUSLY?

zwhitecastle
A very dark day.


If you know me at all, my allegiance to White Castle runs deep. I started to have an identity crisis. Who am I? Why do these not taste like I remember? There was at least one occasion where the taste was so bad I couldn’t finish the meal. Jenni was ready to have me examined.

So what do you do when something that you’ve always loved doesn’t meet expectations?

In this scenario, I kept going.

This afternoon I needed to go down to get my driver’s license. It just so happens that the courthouse is located next door to White Castle AND I had a birthday gift card. I needed lunch anyway and I’m nothing if not practical and so I pulled into the drive thru and placed my order.

To be honest, my excitement was not what it used to be. I got to the church, sat down to eat my meal and….

WOW! This! This is what I remember! Why did I only get four sliders? I could eat a hundred of these! When can I go back?!?!

zwhitecastle1

And just like that, I remembered what made me so loyal in the first place.

I have a strong suspicion that there are many people out there that have been waiting for this kind of experience in the church world. Perhaps you grew up in church and over the years have been burned by poor experiences. You keep trying, but never leave feeling joyful. Depending on the depths of your experience, you might have even given up on faith at all.

Perhaps, you are a believer that has been sitting in a pew for years, but nothing feels the way that you’d like. You have the choice: you can leave or you can keep pushing and see what happens.

My hope is that you do not give up. I don’t always love church. I can be as critical of the institutional church as anyone. There have been many instances in my life where I felt burned by an experience or repeated mediocrity left me questioning if the way that I felt in the past was just a part of my history and had no bearing on my past.

If that is you. Keep pushing. Keep attending. Keep asking questions. I don’t know when and I don’t know how, but I do believe this: Your faithfulness will not be wasted.
zwhitecastle3Some might think I’m sacrilegious for comparing my White Castle experience to my experience at church. They obviously aren’t on the same level, but I can say that White Castle earned my loyalty because of many years of positive experiences that caused me to stick with them through the tough times. And I was rewarded with a meal like today.

That’s it. That’s my deep thought for the day fueled by a belly full of sliders. Stay faithful in the tough times and watch to see what great things God will do.

Hungering for Righteousness

A few years ago, I would have called something like this a coincidence, but have now learned to see them as “God moments,” where the Spirit is trying to tell me something. At church we have been taking a look at The Beatitudes. A few weeks ago, the unthinkable happened. I was finished with my sermon early. I told our music director that it probably meant that the boys would arrive early. Sure enough, the second was born at 10:46 on that Sunday…just as our church family was gathering for worship.

What was the God moment? Our passage was Matthew 5:6:

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    for they will be filled.

For the last two weeks, my wife and I have spent a considerable amount of time in the NICU with our boys, with the primary focus being on them learning to eat. I’ve shared some lessons from that time already, but as I prepare to finally preach on this message Sunday another truth has come to my mind.

I understand hunger. In fact, it is embarrassing how much of my life feels like it is planned around not being hungry. Have you ever picked a restaurant just because you knew it would leave you obnoxiously full? I have for sure. I know that being full is way better than being hungry and so I often plan my days around eating.

HenryFeed

So imagine the feeling this week watching and waiting for my sons to make the connection that if only they would eat, things would be better! I would say things like “If you’d just eat this, we promise to leave you alone.” The NICU is great and our boys were well cared for. It is also not home. Waiting on this milestone has allowed me to see hunger from another perspective.

I imagine when Jesus says that we are blessed when we hunger and thirst for righteousness, he does so because he knows that those things can only be found in him. We have been created in the image of God and because of that I believe that there should be a desire for the things that God desires. I know that in my own life I have never regretted being obedient to the things that God has commanded me to do. On the other side, some of the deepest pains have come from my disobedience.

HenryFeed2

Richard Rohr and NT Wright are among a group of scholars that believe that we have used the word righteousness in the wrong way, when in truth it should be justice. The depth of scripture is that both can be true: We must hunger for our own righteousness, but we also must hunger for justice for all people.

Our desire to see things made right is a good thing. Knowing the love that God has for us and knowing that the hurt in this world is not what God had in mind, we should hunger for righteousness. I make sure that I honor God with my actions. At the same time, I have to remind myself that it isn’t about me in the first place.

As believers, our actions must always be kingdom minded. We should desire to daily be the hands and feet of Christ in the places where we have been led. We should see people hurting and have compassion on them, withhold judgment, and be a friend. We don’t concern ourselves with making only our lives better, but the lives of everyone around us as well. When you see someone that isn’t treated well, it should bother you. When you know that there is a hurt, you should work to help heal.

As I sat and waited and cheered and hoped for my sons to transition from hunger to fullness, I think God looks down on us in the same way.

Some days God looks down on me and cheers! “He gets it!”
Some days God is upset because I’m not doing as I should. “I wish he understood that I’ve created a better way..”
But no matter how I respond each day, his presence and his faithfulness are constant.

In John 10:10 Jesus tells us that he has come that we might have life to the full. The best hope that we have of finding satisfaction in our lives is only when we are fully committed to finding our place in serving for the good of the kingdom. We should desire our own personal righteousness and we should also look at the world and have a strong desire for justice. HenryFeed3

If only we would understand obedience. If only we would work to fight oppression, hurt, and injustice in the world. If only we would fight to make sure that all people know that they are loved and valued.

Then, and only then, will be be truly full.

Obnoxiously, gloriously, tremendously full.

Seeing God at the NICU…

This morning I sit and write this post from the Special Care Unit of our hospital, where I have the chance to sit and hold our newborn son Henry. If you are reading this you probably know that Henry’s brother Asher has been home with us for a few days. We have not shared all of the details along the way, but for the sake of this message just know that because they came a little early, both boys needed some help getting enough food intake. I’m as shocked as anyone that one of MY children could have a hard time eating, but from what we’ve been told it is absolutely normal.

HENRYASHERJENNI

No matter how normal it might be, nothing can prepare a parent for these kinds of situations. You hear stories of others and feel for them, but when it is your own child, you think about things a little differently. Though they spent the first 8 months of their life in the same place under the same conditions, their stories are already different. Their births were very different, with one being a c section, and they have had their own challenges to face. We’ve been told that with twin boys, one usually struggles a little more than the other.

HENRYASHERHANDS


So…on Thursday, we celebrated as Asher was brought to our room downstairs and on Friday we celebrated as he was finally able to come home! At the same time, there is profound sadness because our home is not yet complete. We trust that he will develop on his own time and we long for that day, but for now there are lots of visits back and forth from the hospital, calls to nurses to check on how he is doing, while at the same time caring for a newborn and 2 year old girl at home (with LOTS of help from family, of course).

While I don’t believe that on this side of heaven we will ever understand why these things happen, I do believe in a God that is continually in the process of working to redeem even the worst of situations. At church the last few months we have been talking about spiritual awareness…where is God speaking?

Thinking about our boys, I think God is preparing us for the challenge of raising children but also showing me something about how we get to be a part of redeeming these stories.

Two boys, in similar circumstances, have developed differently. They’ve share a womb, a room, nurses, parents, and more. And yet one is taking a little bit longer than the other to do his thing.

Perhaps you are like me in this way. You know people in your life that don’t understand the joy found in the Christian walk. I think of church members, relatives, friends, and so many more that struggle. Someone that they love is not doing as well as they should. Perhaps they have prayed for them to attend church and no matter how much they pray…nothing seems to happen.

Or perhaps you are frustrated in your own spiritual growth (though I think sometimes we obsess over that more than we should). You think you should be at some heightened state of spiritual strength, you should have figured it out. And yet…you struggle.


I have been so encouraged this week by the love shown to us by the nurses and doctors at this hospital. They have loved us and our boys incredibly well. They will continue to love on our Henry until he gets a chance to come home. So what is God teaching?

We can’t control everything, no matter how hard we try. We can’t make people develop faster than they do. We can’t be responsible for results.

What we can do is be faithful in the tasks before us. Asher eats like a champ. Taking care of him is very similar to any other healthy newborn. We celebrate the good days and the time spent with him. We cheered as he got to come home.

20180504_181521
And for Henry, he struggles, but we know that his day will come. We cheer at signs of progress, we pray when we see setbacks, and we continue to care for him until it “clicks” and he starts doing the things that a typical newborn should. We know that he will. We also know that this situation could be far worse. It’s just that sometimes it is hard to wait. 

20180506_103508I don’t know your story. I don’t know your situation. I don’t know the hurt and the heartaches and the long nights praying for those that you care so much about. I also can’t promise that things will always get better. Life is fragile. Relationships are fragile.

What I can do is encourage you to be faithful in the circumstances in which you currently find yourself. Encourage when you can. Celebrate when you can. And mourn, when appropriate.

Today we wait for one milestone but we know that there will always be more times of waiting. And so, we place our faith in a God that we believe can and will redeem this situation and trust that God can use this opportunity to help us see the ways that he will work through this situation.

While our stories might be different, that statement is the same. Take heart. God is at work. And we’ll see the answers at just the right time.

(I’ll end with a few more pictures…because that’s what dads are supposed to do.)

Grover, Elmo, and Jesus…

Almost every morning, I have the privilege of going downstairs into my daughter’s room after she wakes up so that we can start our day. The girl loves books. I love the girl. And so we read. This morning when I went to pick her up she didn’t want a book, she didn’t want two books, she wanted “Alllll books.” On the table next to her bed sat probably 7-8 books that we have read together over the last few days. I was ready to read them to her, but today she said “No, daddy. Me read.”

This would have been okay…but she picked one of my favorites : “Another Monster At the End Of the Book.” Doesn’t she know how good my Grover voice is?AnotherMonster

I sit there and I listen to her read.

Page one: “Elmo…Elmo…Elmo…No.”

Page two: “Elmo…Elmo…Elmo…No.”

I mean yes she is adorable, but she’s missing the plot! She’s missing the intricacies. If only she’d let me read it she’d REALLY understand what was happening.

But she turned each page. She laughed. She got some of the words right.

Being married to an elementary teacher, I’ve been taught that what she is doing is actually really good. She’s not reading, but she’s hitting developmental milestones. Someday, she’ll see that book as no challenge at all. But this is where she starts.

Sitting there this morning I started thinking about reading the Bible. I started thinking about all of the questions I have, things I used to believe that I no longer believe, deeper understandings I have, and more questions that come as a result of that reading.

I wondered if for a moment that the way I feel about watching Crosley read is the same way that God must feel looking down on me as I read and study. Sometimes I get things right. Sometimes I make mistakes that make him laugh.

But he’s encouraged because it is as much about the process as it is the end result.

There is a quote from Rich Mullins that says “We were given the Scriptures to humble us into realizing that God is right, and the rest of us are just guessing.”

I know that might not sit well with some of you. Please here me out when I say I believe that there is absolute truth, there are things about the Christian faith that I feel we need to believe.

I just also happen to believe that we are trying to figure these things out together. I don’t believe God looks at us in disappointment when we get things wrong (and I believe there are definitely times when we are wrong.).

Instead, I believe God is happy that we are trying. God is happy that we want a deeper relationship and that we want to do better. And for that, I am thankful.

Arguing About Water

Last summer I had a chance to serve with a mission team on a trip to Guatemala. Having never been out of the country for anything other than personal vacations, it was a learning experience to stay the least. One of the greatest opportunities that I had was to help bring water filters to people that had no real access to clean water. The lack of clean water creates a health crisis and without clean water it’s hard to focus on doing other things well.

Having received a brief training on how to install the water filters I had the opportunity to help place new water filters in the homes of a few people. With the help of an interpreter my group and I explained how to use the filter. It was great because we knew that we were giving them a chance to have clean water.guatemalawater

For almost my entire life, I have never had to be in a situation where I had to think about the cleanliness of the water I was drinking. Being in the high altitude of the mountains and working throughout the day, we had to constantly remind each other to make sure that we were staying hydrated and only drinking from clean sources. It broke my heart to think that those that we were serving had to depend on these water sources every single day when it was tiresome for me to only do it for a week.

I then began to think of an encounter at the airport prior to leaving the USA to head to Guatemala. I went to buy a drink and noticed water in some crazy kind of container. Not sure what it was exactly, but I do know that the marketing was convincing enough that I for a moment thought about how maybe I should spend a little more for that water that must have been the purest water ever sourced. The cheaper bottle of Aquafina was surely going to kill me.

Sitting in Guatemala one night, I thought about that water and I thought about the families that we served. In addition to water filters, we had the opportunity to talk about the Gospel with them, offer prayer requests, and always pray before leaving. Because of the great ministry we served with, most had already heard the Gospel, so we were simply continuing the relationships that they had formed. They did not have a million churches to choose from just as they did not have a million water sources to choose from.

I started thinking about how silly it must seem for those without clean water to then go into a place like an American store and see 25 different overpriced options and find out that some people are fiercely loyal to a particular brand and scoff at others (I’m Team Dasani over Team Aquafina by the way). We argue over the little differences instead of being thankful that we have what so many don’t…clean water.

I then started thinking about churches and the desire that so many have to start arguing with each other instead of focusing on what really matters. I am admittedly not always concerned with exploring great theological intricacies in my spare time. I think beliefs are important. I believe we have a responsibility to study more and ask better questions. There are some issues that I feel strongly about and I understand that I have my own theological tendencies and preferences.

guatemala

But honestly, I think the church has started to argue more about their favorite water instead of rejoicing in the fact that they have water at all.

I am not telling you which side is right. There are so many church battles out there that you don’t need me to list them all. What I am trying to say is that perhaps we should stop looking at where we disagree, what really are the little things, and begin to see the core of where we do agree.

Churches need to stop arguing out there about the details of God and realize that there are so many out there that would be grateful to even hear the name of Jesus for the first time. Theology does matter. Studying does matter. Asking questions does matter. But more importantly, we need to remember that the way that we do so matters as well.

Loving doesn’t require agreeing with someone. Serving doesn’t require agreeing with someone.

We can talk about our favorites and I think those discussions can be healthy. But, let’s not forget we have more important things to do and until we master those, we’re just arguing about water and not helping those that are without.

Why I Hate IKEA But It Taught Me About Faith…

There were many things I expected about marriage and parenthood. I was not prepared for the amount of time I would spend assembling pieces of furniture from IKEA using a little Allen wrench and every last bit of my patience (which my wife would say isn’t all that much to begin with). I feel like the Lord has blessed me with some skill sets, but this type of work usually takes me a lot longer than it should.

As part of the move and getting things ready for the arrival of twins, we decided that it was time for Crosley to transition from crib to a big girl bed. For over a year my wife had already picked out the bed that she wanted and of course it came from IKEA. My in-laws were kind enough to purchase it for us and all that was left was the assembly. And so it begins.
Cardboard IKEA
The first lie I told myself is that it wouldn’t take very long and so I started the project later at night than I should have. How long could it take? I stared at the task at hand and saw somewhere between 4 and 400 boxes, each numbered, but with no indication of where to start. I chose Box A…no instructions. Box B…no instructions. Whether it was Box K or Box Z I can’t remember, but I found the instructions. Lie number two was that from here it was smooth sailing.

If you are familiar with IKEA instructions, it is similar to a form of hieroglyphics. No words, just a bunch of pictures. I found the bag of 1,000 assorted screws, nuts, and bolts and looked for the white flag in one of the boxes. Perhaps it was time to surrender.

No white flag to be found, I began to work. “How infuriating are the folks that wrote these instructions?” “Why couldn’t they write out instructions?” How do I know that I won’t get ten steps down the road only to realize I had messed up and have to start back over?

But I worked. I watched. I noticed. Step one: complete. Step two: complete…..”Okay…I see what they did here.” “This makes some sense.” “Maybe they do know what they are doing.”

I won’t lie and say that it was my favorite experience ever. There were times when it didn’t make sense. I lost at least an hour having to go back and repeat one step or another.  Slowly but surely though, there was now a bed in the room!
crosleybed
I learned that night that God can speak through anything…even IKEA. Faith is hard because the instructions aren’t always laid out the way that I expect. There are times when I think I have finally figured it out only to realize I missed a major step and I have to go back and start over. There are times where I question God and wonder why he chose to do things a certain way.

But, the more that I push through, the more that I follow the instructions the best that I can, and the more that I witness when things do fall into a plan decided with a purpose in mind…the more I remind myself of who is in control.

If you are struggling to believe, I don’t expect to be able to help you understand from the beginning. Faith is a process. I’m learning that I need to take my time, follow the steps in order in the ways that can best…and look to see what God will do through it all!

I still don’t love IKEA. I don’t look forward to the next assembly project. But I think I am better prepared because I’ve done it before. On most days, that explains my next leap of faith.

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