Stocks & Socks

2019 was a big year for me.

My son was born! I got to scratch off 6 more countries from our countries visited map. We remodeled our kitchen. A Chick-Fi-A opened just a 5-minute drive from my house. I got a driveway basketball hoop for my birthday. I ate bear meat. And I bought my first pair of Birkenstocks.

If you don’t know what Birkenstocks are, go on Amazon right now and buy a pair, your feet will thank you. If you do know what they are, why don’t you have a pair already? (No, they are not a paid sponsor of this blog.) I bought the waterproof kind and so, they provide the comfort and support of the standard kind but with the benefit of being waterproof as well as incredibly light.

But enough about the shoes, this isn’t a commercial. What I wanted to talk about today is how I choose to wear this fantastic footwear. I’ll admit the embarrassing truth…

My name is Josh and I like to wear socks with my sandals.

I have found myself walking out of the house even when there is snow on the ground in this “Socks ‘n Stocks” combo many times. Why? It’s incredibly simple, it’s crazy comfy. The socks keep my feet warm and cozy while the “Stocks” allow me freedom and comfort.I don’t have to give in to the rigidity and stuffiness of shoes, but I also can keep my feet warm. It’s the best of both worlds!

Unfortunately, while this kind of compromise and dual living is OK for footwear, it is no way to live our lives.

Far too many people who claim to be Christians are trying to live dual lives. The temptation to try to “follow Jesus” while chasing after our own desires is very great. Far too many have fallen into that trap.

You can’t live for Jesus on Sunday and live for yourself the remaining 6 days a week. It doesn’t work like that. It looks funny and it’s uncomfortable.

Jesus told us that it is impossible to serve two masters. We cannot love both God and money. We cannot follow both Jesus and the ways of the culture. We cannot serve both God and ourselves.

I don’t have to choose between sock and sandals, I can have both. But I must choose between Jesus and myself, I cannot have both.

Jesus told us that in order to follow Him we must be willing to die to ourselves. That means dying to our own plans, sinful desires, and selfish expectations.

Don’t live a dual life. If you say that you follow Jesus, then follow Him in every aspect of your life. Follow Him when you make your budget. Follow Him when you use technology. Follow Him when you talk to your coworkers. Follow Him when you sit in traffic. Follow Him when you plan for your future. Follow Him when you are alone, and no one is watching.

Serving Jesus and serving yourself is a combo that just simply will never work….unlike my sock and sandals. 

Swimming Against the Current

Water is so versatile. It can sit, as still and clear as glass in a sleepy pond. It can rush, violently and chaotically over a waterfall. An ocean will overwhelm you with its vastness, and a stream will calm with its trickle. It can also flow steadily and relentlessly in a river.

I once heard someone compare the spiritual life to a river. We are in the middle, they said, and our goal is to get upstream towards a deeper relationship with God.

We are left with three options. The first is to actively swim with the current. This option is obviously easy, but we very quickly will find ourselves farther from God. The next option is much, much more difficult, we swim upstream, against the current. If we choose this option, we will inevitably be hit by debris that is being swept along by the current, our strength will fade, and we may feel as though we are not making much progress.

When we compare the two options it is clear that one looks much more attractive than the other. Now, let me be clear, I am talking about maintaining a relationship with God, not earning salvation.

The Bible is very clear salvation is a free gift of God, not something that any amount of good works can earn us. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

So, while we cannot earn our salvation, it is clear that the depth of our relationship with God is impacted by the choices that we make. We are either being conformed to the world around us or we are being transformed by the renewing of our mind in Christ Jesus. (Romans 12:2)

Our choices either bring us closer to God or drive us further from him.

So far, I only talked about two options, but there is a third. The third option is sneaky and dangerous, and it often takes us farther than we ever intended.

We drift. We just simply do nothing.

This option is by far the easiest because it requires the least amount of effort on our part. We aren’t actively running towards God, but we haven’t decided to sprint the other way either. The problem is, we are still moving.

The current is sweeping us away, sometimes quickly, sometimes so slowly we do not even realize we have moved.

My fear is that far too many people are content to just drift.

Drifting in the current may seem like an innocent enough option, but there is no such thing as inaction when it comes to the spiritual life. We will always either increase in the depth and quality of our relationship with God, or we will decrease. We are either moving closer to God or further away. There is no in-between.

Will you join me in my commitment to swimming against the current? Let’s unashamedly live for Jesus. Let’s happily live different from the current of the culture around us.

Let’s be messengers of truth and neighbors of love.

Let’s swim against the current and not just simply allow it to drag us along.

Pass The Ball

A few days ago, the sports world was rocked with the awful news that 9 people had died in a helicopter crash. The victims were girls’ basketball coaches, mothers, fathers, a pilot, and teenage girls. Among them was soon-to-be Basketball Hall of Famer- Kobe Bryant.

As I reflected on these tragic events, I was reminded of something I wrote back in 2018 that I have found eerily relevant for today. Feel free to check it out here: Life and Basketball.

Kobe played in the NBA for 20 years and through those 2 decades, I can remember cheering both for and against him. His incredible skill matched with his relentless work ethic helped form him into one of the best to ever play.

But Kobe was not perfect. Off the court, he had legal issues that put a strain on his family. While, on the court, he often would feud with teammates and, especially in the first half of his career, was known for being incredibly arrogant. However, despite those imperfections, Kobe worked hard to mature as a person and a basketball player. He worked to repair the damage done to his family and now is remembered as a loving husband and father who championed the efforts of female athletes. In the basketball world, he became a mentor to many young players and worked to repair broken relationships with old teammates. He went from a “punk kid” straight out of high school who made many mistakes, to an elder statesman of basketball and a good role model to many.

His journey to maturity is inspiring and should be seen as a wonderful example.

While reflecting on the recent tragic events I found myself, like many, watching videos of Kobe highlights. I found myself watching portions of his final NBA game where he scored an incredible 60 points. It was the most “Kobe” game I could think of. He took 50 shots, rarely passed the ball, (in fairness because others simply wanted to see him score) and was the hero in crunch time sinking 2 free throws to put the game out of reach and secure the win.

But the thing that struck me the most from his whole performance wasn’t the shooting or the slick moves. It was his final stat recorded as an NBA player.

An assist.

Kobe Bryant’s final act as an NBA player was to pass the ball.

Wow. Incredible. First, that’s incredible because he was not necessarily known for sharing the ball. Secondly, and more importantly, it was symbolic.

In the final seconds of the game Number 24 collected a rebound and then made a beautiful near-full court pass to a young player second-year player who then threw down a flashy dunk.

Kobe had passed the torch.

In life, torch-passing is an essential need. Each and every one of us has a responsibility to teach, mentor, and pour into those that are younger than us.

As followers of Jesus Christ, it is imperative that we are teaching, training, listening to, supporting, and championing younger generations.

There are numerous examples of this found in the Bible. Moses trained Joshua. Elijah taught Elisha. Paul mentored and supported Timothy. In each of these cases are excellent examples of experienced followers of God pouring into younger believers for the good of God’s people.

The Bible also commands parents to raise their kids to know and love God and His Word. (Proverbs 22:6) As well as to share with children all of the wonderful things that God has done. (Joshua 4:6-7)

The church of Jesus Christ needs to invest in younger people. You need to invest in younger people. I need to invest in younger people.

I have talked about the issues of being “Too Young For Church” as well as “Too Old For Church” in the past. Feel free to give those a read.

But the point is, if we are going to reach more people with the Good life-giving news of Jesus, both now and in the future, then we need to be including people younger than ourselves.

It’s all for the glory of our God and the good of our team.

If Kobe could pass the ball, so can you.

Pain: An Excuse To Sin?

Recently I was asked a question that I suspect many people have wondered about at one time or another in one way or another.

Is my pain an excuse for me to sin?

What about if life is extra-hard?

What if I have been “dealt a really bad hand” in life?

God understands right?

Let me begin by saying that if you are experiencing some sort of pain or turmoil right now as you read this, I am right now praying for you.

I don’t know who you are other than the fact that you probably have experienced some sort of frustrating pain. So, I pray that in the midst of whatever circumstance you are going through that you would keep your eyes on Jesus. I also pray that God would draw you closer to Himself during this time.

Concerning pain, there are several different types; physical, mental, emotional, even spiritual. The Bible is clear that God cares about us humans in every aspect of who we are. Jesus, when He was on earth, healed the sick and healed people who were out of their minds (taking care of physical and mental pain.) Psalm 34:18 says that the Lord is close to the brokenhearted (addressing emotional pain.) And certainly, Jesus came to address our greatest need which is spiritual when He died on the cross. In doing so He made it possible for us to be free from the pain and ensnarement of sin.

It seems that human beings ever since The Fall have experienced pain of one sort or another in a variety of degrees.

Pain is so much a part of our existence on this earth that God has to go out of His way to declare in Revelation 21 that in the New Heaven and the New Earth there shall be no more pain of any kind! “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

Additionally, Romans 8:18 gives a promise to those who have trusted in Jesus. “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”

Wow! God has some really incredible and pain-free things in store for those who have faith in Jesus!

If you are going through some sort of pain at this moment I would encourage you to read the whole chapter of John 9, it really is an awesome and easy read! At the beginning of the chapter, Jesus and His disciples run across a man who had been born blind. When they see the man the disciples ask Jesus who had sinned, the man or his parents? Jesus’ response? Neither. The disciples couldn’t wrap their heads around the fact that this poor man had been dealt such a “bad hand.” They were looking for a reason for his pain. Maybe his parent’s sin had caused him to be blind. Perhaps his own?

Instead, Jesus goes around all their expectations and says that the man was born in blindness so that God could be glorified! Jesus goes on to miraculously heal the man. At the end of the chapter, the man can now see both physically and spiritually!

So, to answer the initial question, no.

Pain is never an excuse to sin.

God wants us to have faith in Him no matter what our current situation.

He calls us to follow and obey Him no matter what the circumstance.

We may not always understand His reasons or ways, but we still ought to honor Him with our actions. Because He is good no matter what.