September 7, 2021
Jim White tells that kids in the children’s ministry of his church sometimes play the game: “Would You Rather.” The children all sit in the middle of the room. Questions are posed such as: “Would you rather have a birthday party at a pool or a birthday party at a park?” Then the children get up and go to one side of the room or the other, depending on which answer they prefer.
One Sunday the questions in the game were: “Would you rather spend your summer vacation at the beach or go to the mountains?” and “Would you rather watch fireworks or eat watermelon?” Children got up and went to one side of the room or the other.
Then came the question: “Would you rather have bad sunburn or 18 mosquito bites?” Children jumped up and went to one side of the room or the other—all but one five-year-old girl named Maddie. She just sat there alone in the middle. The adult leader said: “Maddie, aren’t you going to pick a side?” To which she said: “I don’t want to have to pick either one.” The leader wisely said: “I can understand that.”
What Maddie did took both courage and determination. Rather than simply follow the lead of her peers and accept that both bad options were the only choices available, she stood firm and questioned the possibility of something different. She refused to accept that she had to choose between the lesser of two evils. She was going to remain firmly away from both. She didn’t like the choices presented to her, so instead of choosing one, she refused to play the game.
We need more Maddies in the world, and more of us in the world need to be like her. We need the courage to stand up for our beliefs, even when the world is quickly dividing into one camp or another, and none of the camps reflects Jesus. We need the courage to swim upstream, stand alone, hold our ground and, if need be, to stay seated—alone—refusing to choose to give in to the lesser of two evils.
We need the determination to refuse to let the world set our moral choices, standards, and values. When pressured to conform, backed into a corner to make a “would you rather” decision that only presents compromise or sin, we need the determination that says: “I am not going to pick either one.” In other words, we find a third way.
Followers of Jesus should be “third way” people. The early church had an interesting nickname. It was sometimes called the “Third Way”. It referred to the early church refusing to be co-opted by culture or isolating itself from culture.
If the church had allowed itself to be co-opted by culture, it would have undermined the uniqueness of their belief system and way of life. If it had isolated itself from culture, it would have become irrelevant. The early Christians refused to play that game. They chose a very visible “third way” that simultaneously engaged the world while not compromising their beliefs. They chose to be in the world, but not of it. Maddie would’ve fit right in. How are you doing with that?
September 13, 2021
How many times do a lot of us find ourselves making these statements? “Sorry, I just don’t have the time.” “I just can’t do it right now because there’s not enough time.” “I’ll do it later when I have more time.” When we say things like that, are they true?
We all have the same amount of time each day to use as we choose. What if we were to proactively say the things that are more honest? “I have the time; I just don’t want to do that right now. It’s not a priority for me.” “I could do that, but I’m choosing not to.” I’ve decided not to do that at this time.”
What if we were to commit to use our time differently?
“I am going to pray and read the Bible daily.”
“I am going to worship each week.”
“I am going to serve others in some way each week.”
“I am going to prioritize time playing with my kids each week.”
“I am going to spend quality time with my spouse actually talking about important things three times a week.”
“I am going to exercise three times a week.”
“I am going to meaningfully connect with friends each month.”
“I am going to ______.” (You fill in the blank.)
We have the time to do what we commit to do. What will you choose to do with your time?
September 20, 2021
It was fun. Plain fun. There was laughter. Joking. Kidding around. And, yes, it was truly fun to work.
Peeling potatoes. Dicing plums. Slicing squash. Cutting cake. Making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Organizing lunches. Stacking cans of food. Fun, you say? Absolutely! (Though truth be told, I was a little cautious when Jackie Taylor was chopping up vegetables and waving a big knife around, because evidently she cannot talk without using her hands!)
I had the privilege on Saturday morning to serve along with 15 other people from Journey at the Roanoke Rescue Mission. It was a wonderful time! It brought joy spending time with others in our church family, but also in knowing we were making a difference helping people in need and showing in concrete actions the love of Jesus and not just talking about it.
In a time when many words are spoken and posted on social media, it was very meaningful to engage in loving actions which reveal what’s truly in our hearts more than simple words. My hope, my prayer is that in this challenging season, people in our Journey family will choose to speak and post encouraging and caring and helpful words and back them up with actions in Christ-like serving and caring that can overcome all divisions and disunity and disharmony.
Serving together in the one Lord, with one mind, in one hope, grounded in the one never failing love of Jesus. May it be so in all of our lives.
September 27, 2021
Carey Nieuwhof writes about signs that the Evil One is winning in your life. He says the key to overcoming the activity and influence of evil in your life and the world is to recognize it. When you expose it to the light of Christ, evil loses its power.
Here are some signs that show evil is alive and well in individual lives and in churches:
1. You’re Being Divisive
If there’s one strategy Satan comes back to again and again, it’s creating division. Strangely, in our culture, some Christians wear their divisiveness as a badge of honor. It’s not.
How do we know division is a sign of the activity and presence of evil?
Paul defines which human behavior is motivated by God and which is motivated by the Enemy in Galatians 5.
Paul begins by listing characteristics of people whose lives are under the influence of evil.
Impurity and debauchery
Fits of rage
Sadly, too much of that takes place in our human lives and in the church.
Contrast that with what the Holy Spirit generates. When the Holy Spirit is active in a person, a church, a culture, the Spirit produces:
2. You’re Growing Arrogant
There are two primary ways Christians succumb to arrogance: success, and by using a common but false definition of “maturity”.
The most difficult test of character is not failure. It’s success. It’s pretty easy to be humble when you’re failing. It’s easy to take all the credit when things go well. If the battle against pride isn’t daily, pride will win.
A second way arrogance creeps in is when Christians falsely characterize Christian maturity as knowledge. The more you know, the more mature you are. Scripture suggests that’s a false test. After all, as Paul points out, knowledge puffs up; love builds up.
3. You’re Starting to Blur Moral Lines
How do moral breaches happen? Not overnight. As C.S. Lewis writes in The Screwtape Letters: “the safest road to hell is the gradual one—the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.”
It happens when you start to compromise on the small things. The first moral lapse is the hardest. Then it gets easier from there.
If you refuse to compromise now, it becomes much easier to resist compromise in the future.
4. You’re Full of Self-Pity
Self-pity is dangerous because it moves you to the sidelines. Living in a state of self-pity means you don’t need anyone to take you out of the game because you’ve taken yourself out. It’s an incredibly effective strategy and completely counter to the gospel.
Self-pity robs us of joy. Satan delights in stealing our joy. Don’t let him.
If you’re stuck in self-pity, how do you get out?
Self-pity is basically confession without repentance and forgiveness. Self-pity leaves you acknowledging that there’s a big problem, but not fully owning it (confession) and moving forward (claiming forgiveness). It’s acknowledging sin without claiming hope.
The gospel never leads to self-pity. It leads to transformation.
Based on how you are living your life, at this
time who is winning out? Christ or the