Sauntering up the hill, little children peek from houses, and when they see my white skin, wild waves and shouts of “wuzungu” are flung my way. Because I’m behind schedule, I’m not walking the 3 miles to the school today, instead I’m hopping in a dala-dala. Uncomfortable with the amount of people stuffed into the first 8 seated mini-bus, I float over to the second one and secure myself a seat.
By the time we were to leave, all 8 seats were occupied. As we journeyed toward the school, the dala-dala would slow down every 50 feet as the driver waved more people in. First, 4 toddlers crammed in front of my feet, jammed between my knees and the passenger seat. Two stops later we had 4 people standing between the 3 rows of 2 seats. When I didn’t think it was possible to get any more people in, an older lady and the chicken she had bought at the market stepped in. People squeezed, her butt jammed the toddlers a little farther into my knees, and we sped on as the chicken was held at the window enduring a flight it had never experienced before.
And there I was, incredibly uncomfortable, no room to move, body odors filling my lungs, and I still was smiling my wuzungu smile.
In Tanzania, there is always room for one more. Whether it is a dala-dala, a motorcycle, truck-bed, or boat–they are always willing to fit one more in, even if it means everyone else is going to be uncomfortable.
That’s the best part about Africa for me–I’m always uncomfortable. The food I have to eat, the language barrier, the cultural flip, the many challenges I have to overcome everyday, they teach me more in 3 weeks than America does in a year.
Which gets me thinking, how comfortable are you with the amount of people going to heaven?
Let’s put aside the arguments for predestination and election, forget about how only God knows who is going to heaven and who isn’t, and think about our mission in the kingdom of God, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:18-20).
Believing in God is nice, but living for God is great. Right? We can’t just say we believe and not live like Jesus is our savior. Our role as Vital Men is to extend the kingdom to the uncomfortable parts of the world. And not just get people saved, but equip them by teaching them how to live for Jesus. It could be the next door neighbor, the local butcher, a CEO, anyone.
And it’s not going to be easy or comfortable; it’s not going to go as you planned. You’re going to have your knees jammed, patience tested, and abilities challenged. It’s all worth it though, because you are the tool being used by God to get one more person to live a vital life, live a life dedicated to God.
We have to be aware of the power that lives in us. We aren’t filled with the Holy Spirit because we have extra room, we’re filled so we can fill others. We are stewards of a great gift that God has given us, and that is eternal life in heaven. Don’t you want others to have that, too?
Be willing to move when God says move, speak when he says speak. Because in heaven, just like Tanzania, there is always room for one more, and you may be the little push that gets someone else there.
Hebrews 10:24-25, “Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works, and let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.”
Look up from your device of delusion. This past week I saw a video on this very topic. A young man made a poem video on the device of delusion. He shared how many friends he had on his device and yet how lonely we have become in the loss of true friendship that this device we call a cell phone has become. That we choose to text or Facebook someone as opposed to having a true relationship with them.
He talked about missed opportunities we choose to make as we stare at our devices instead of looking up. The choices we make to looking at our devices instead of spending time with the friends and family we have around us. Those missed opportunities that I think will haunt us as opposed to the time we truly can spend with each other.
Normally I write my devotional out by hand and then place them on the computer so that my thoughts are not missed, but today I’m challenged by the Holy Spirit to write as He speaks to my own heart on “Looking Up.”
This past weekend I had a good friend give me a call about how his mother had just passed away that day. He needed to talk to me and not text me. He shared with me that although they will miss their mother, that she was ready to go home. That she lived a full life and was a daughter of the King of Kings. That the family needed prayer and that I would call the men he called friends and let them know. He didn’t text or Facebook me. He needed me and my friendship.
The other thought that I had while watching the video was how the young man put himself in a crowd looking at his device as people passed by. He chose not to look up as to looking at his device. That the crowds were passing by him and that he didn’t even notice while his eyes were fixed on the device of delusion.
It’s by looking up that I believe the Holy Spirit uses us best. It’s in the eyes of people that we see the joy and the pain. You see a young family with their first child looking so proud and full of love that we miss that moment when we are fixed on the device. It’s in looking up that we see the sorrow or loneliness in people’s eyes.
Our eyes are what share the stories of our lives. A few weeks ago I went with a friend to Chicago to see the Cubs, and it always makes me realize how we have become a faceless generation. People walking in the crowds, on the train, on the subway staring at their devices. Not wanting to look up but stay fixated in their own little worlds.
It’s in those times that the Holy Spirit nudges me. Strike up that conversation. Listen to them. Although they act like they don’t want to look up, they really do, and I will give you the words to say. I can give you countless stories of how God has used my friend and I listening and laughing with people. We have even gotten people on a train car to laugh and sing with us. The crazy men from Iowa.
I encourage you today to choose to Look Up. Put your devices away, and see the people around you. Your spouse, your family, friends, and even people you don’t know. We only have a few days on this planet to live and be the people Jesus has called us to be in this time, this generation. Live a Vital Life! Connect with people, Look Up. Stay the course men, and don’t allow the device of delusion cause you to miss opportunities that you may only get once.
Strength and Courage,
Tired eyes, stiff neck, sore back, and a hoarse voice provide the evidence that high school football camps are underway once again. This past Thursday we kicked off the camp circuit with the first of three that Central College hosts providing instruction and skill enhancement to campers ranging from 7th-12th grade. With just under 200 campers in all, athletes are sectioned off in groups of 10-12 along with two coaches undergoing drill-work, conditioning, and competition over the three day period.
Having worked these camps for almost a decade now, I’m reminded each summer as these small groups rotate through their stations how wide of a spectrum these athletes really are on. Some junior-high-aged athletes might be entering into organized sports for the very first. Certain high school kids might be as advanced if-not-more-so than the collegiate athletes I work with on a regular basis. There might even be some instances where the inverse could be true.
Despite their levels of talent, skill, or development that these athletes hold, I try to keep in mind that they all have one similarity. They’re there to get better! That’s their sole reason for attending a camp rather than staying at home on the couch, by the pool, or playing video games. That fact in-and-of-itself is what is so encouraging about being a coach. We have the ability to work with young men who have a desire to improve and better themselves.
In our spiritual lives, are we comfortable with where we are or do we look at our current standing recognizing that we could use some development? What about our attitude? Do we want to get better? There are so many of us at varying places along that faith spectrum that some of us could be compared to those junior high kids stepping onto the field for the first time. There might be others whose image looks more that of professional athletes, seasoned veterans whose expertise has come through years of experience. Whether we grow over time though revolves around that one common thread. Do we want to get better?
2 Timothy 2:15 [NLT]
15 Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth.
Through our relationship with Christ, having just a few characteristics is all we’ll ever need. It doesn’t take special talents that only few possess to be a ‘true Christian’. Instead it takes recognition that we’re not perfect, a desire to grow, and a willingness to work at it. Through those things, God will bring our coaches into our lives to guide and shape us, happy to do it because they can see our willingness to improve.
2 Peter 3:17 [NLT]
17 You already know these things, dear friends. So be on guard; then you will not be carried away by the errors of these wicked people and lose your own secure footing.18 Rather, you must grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Men, reflect on whether you’ve just begun your ‘sport’ for the first time, are still developing, or are at the professional level. Work toward improvement no matter what stage that might be. Remember, even professionals go to practice. And once you’ve honed your craft, you’ll become that resource for others who are at the level you once were.
Set a Fire Down in Your Soul,
“Don’t say, “I will get even for this wrong.”
Wait for the Lord to handle the matter.
There are situations in life that happen either by circumstance or by intention that leave us wondering why it happened and why we had to be the victim. These moments can blindside us or be so clear, but collision is still somehow unavoidable. When these occur, what is our action? What is our thought process and our reaction to this action? We know how we should respond, but can we be clear enough in our thinking to recognize the moment when it presents itself and not have a would of, could of, or should of moment? So what should our move be? King Solomon lays out a course of action in this simple proverb that so many of us forget in the timely wisdom ordained through the Holy Spirit’s teaching. Our move should be no move at all.
This is difficult to fathom given a world that tells us to “not get mad, get even” or wait with anticipation until the other shoe drops, and they get theirs. I was presented an opportunity this week at work that caught me by surprise. There had been some minor procedural errors that I needed to have what we call an investigation or ” a fact finding” to determine if any other more major policy violations had occurred. One is bad enough but two in one week and I was asking myself, “how much more cow pie can I possibly step in this week?” Initially I was frustrated about it because it was circumstantial and occurred more as a set up due to the faulty ways in which the system was set up to begin with. The choice that most of us accept is to deal with it showing a brash amount of criticism, “This is so petty, don’t these people have anything better to do than to come down on us all the time?” But in the midst of all of it I heard a word, “Grace”. I realized that at that moment I needed to be cautious of how I handled the situation. Or better yet as Proverbs says “Let God Handle The Matter”. Because in that moment I realized the greater impact.
Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation – Colossians 1:5-
To take it a step further we are the visible image of Christ who live within us
17 Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. 18 Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. – Romans 12:17
I realized that my impact in that moment could witness greater than any ounce of the Gospel I could share to anyone. The most praise worthy thing is that because I had chosen to abide in His “Grace”, I felt Joy, not anger or worry, after I was done. I didn’t regret that I didn’t argue with them or shift blame of all the reasons why I messed up or point someone else’s same mistakes out. I said very simply that I would work on doing a better job of my job. A lot of people misquote an old piece of scripture that says “an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.” In reading some commentary on this, it says that it was never intended to be applied by individuals in the OT or the NT; rather it was a standard for the collective society to enforce good conduct among people. Simply, actions and consequences.
Like the game of Chess, we have moves that we can choose to make everyday. If we are not careful, we can find ourselves making the wrong moves that bring us to a wrong frame of mind and attitude of heart.
Let God always be the ones to keep us in check
How much is too much? Too much of anything…work, stress, obligations, food, fun, sleep, money, vacations, etc. It is probably true that too much of anything can kill you, so the adage about everything in moderation may have some merit. What do you have too much of in your life? What are you lacking? How can you tell?
But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. I Timothy 6:8
My wife and I are currently attempting (again) to downsize the volume of stuff we have accumulated that is mostly taking up space in various parts of the house. It is amazing at the sheer number of things that we have on hand and use very little. It makes me almost want to take a minimalist approach to things, but which goes against my natural tendencies. I think I mostly want to be efficient with what I have and if it is not being used, to get it to someone who can; but instead much of it sits underutilized. There is the challenge; I think it is much easier to leave things as they are than to take the time/effort to sort through it all and make things better. Maybe that is the same with our spiritual lives also…easier to not deal with things than to do some housecleaning that needs to get done, until things start to stink.
For everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. I John 5:4-5
Most often, I do not realize I have taken on too much until after I am already in way over my head. I think “I can handle that” for a while until things start to unravel, and I realize I have become overloaded/committed/obligated. Is finding a balance in everything the goal? The more I learn, the more I should be able to say ‘no’ to things that will burden me and ‘yes’ to things that will benefit me, when in fact I still make similar mistakes, but just in different areas. Maybe our tendency toward this or toward sin in general just helps keep us humble. I take joy in knowing that Christ has overcome the world and has enabled me to do the same, but also know that it will not necessarily be a walk in the park till then.
You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. I John 4:4
A really good book I read years ago called ‘The Overload Syndrome: Learning How to Live Within Your Limits’ had many good illustrations on how to keep things from getting out of control in your life. We have thousands of books, tips, tricks, and how-to videos at our fingertips on everything under the sun, but it doesn’t necessarily make our lives easier. In fact it probably complicates them because we just find more to do with the time we save. Maybe we should just enjoy the time instead of filling it with more things.
One contradictory thing I have found that helps bring balance into my life is when I spend time in prayer and bible study. Even though I take more time to do this, it helps bring a better balance in my day, regardless of what else is going on. What else can help me appreciate each day more fully, or to find joy in all my work regardless of what it is? More of God in my life brings more life to my day. He enables us to overcome any obstacle that we will face – even death itself. What more could we need?
To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. Revelation 3:21