Warning. Warning. Warning.

Thankfully, tornados don’t touch down on Tuesdays. That’s what I grew up thinking at least.

Let me explain. For as long as I can remember the first Tuesday of every month was the day that our local tornado sirens were tested. Like clockwork, the sirens went off in the morning of each month’s first Tuesday. If you are from the Midwest, chances are that you too have a tornado siren testing day.

The practice makes perfect sense. We need to be warned if there ever is an approaching tornado, and a siren is no good if it doesn’t function. Therefore, regular testing to ensure the functionality of the siren is a wise and appropriate practice.

As a kid, I remember asking my dad, “what if a tornado comes on the first Tuesday of the month?”

My dad replied without missing a beat, “that’s easy. We just don’t schedule tornados on Tuesdays.”

Regrettably, I admit that I was satisfied with his answer for way too many years. Come to find out, tornados aren’t something that you can schedule at all!

Fast forward a bunch of years to today. It’s the first Tuesday of the month, as you well know. And I was walking outside when I received a phone call. I answered and was in the midst of a good conversation when the person on the other end of the line interrupted me.

“What is that noise?” They asked.

“Umm…what noise.” Was my response.

It took me a full 10 seconds to realize they were asking about the blaring tornado siren.

I had gone deaf to the warning I had heard all my life.

It’s actually a fairly terrifying thought if I’m honest. Warnings are there for us to keep us from harm and if we go deaf or blind to them what is to keep us from the coming danger? Now, I would like to give myself a bit more credit and assume that if there really was a tornado threat coming my way I wouldn’t need a siren to tell me to get to shelter. But the point is still valid.

We need to pay attention to the warning sirens in our life so that we don’t ignore them when we need them most.

The Bible gives us plenty of warnings.

Warnings…

  • about being careful how we talk. (James 1:19)
  • about not worrying or being anxious. (Matthew 6:25-34)
  • about avoiding unhealthy sexual temptations (Proverbs 5)
  • about the need to repent i.e. turn away from our sins. (Acts 3:19)
  • about not getting distracted by present suffering. (Romans 8:18)
  • about the need for humility. (Philippians 2:3)
  • about false “gospels” that creep into our thinking. (Galatians 1:6-10)

And many, many more.

The only problem? Many of us have heard these warnings before. We probably have heard the blaring sirens of these warning from our parents, Sunday School teachers, Pastors, friends, awesome online blogs, etc. But maybe we have heard them so often that we have, eventually, become deaf to them. I hope not. I pray not. But it is possible.

So, what do we do? We become even more familiar with the warning. Or better yet, we become even more familiar with the source of the warnings.

Read your Bible.

We need to be careful not to treat the Bible, or the awesome instruction and warnings in it, as background noise. God’s Word is living and active, (Hebrews 4:12) and its message needs to be loud, clear, and primary in our lives.

God’s warnings are there for our well-being, let’s pay attention.

And Then There Were Monkeys

There we were, roasting in the Caribbean sun, covered in sunscreen and looking for adventure.

A few years ago, my wife and I went on a family cruise. It was an extremely fun time. We ate food, walked on beaches, ate food, went to shows, ate food, visited a volcano, ate food, went parasailing, ate food, snorkeled, and oh…ate food.

As we were making our way into one of the island’s ports I remember we were immediately hit with a barrage of people looking to sell us something…anything really. There was no point in trying to hide the fact that we were tourists, so we decided to just smile, nod, and try to make our way through the crowd.

Now, I honestly can say that I have no clue how it actually happened, but before I knew what was going on there was a monkey on my back….literally.

My wife was laughing as a monkey suddenly appeared on her as well. Our smiles grew as the monkeys increased. There was a local man smiling and laughing with us as he egged our furry little friends on. Then he asked me if I wanted him to take our picture.

I should have known better.

After he snapped a couple of photos of us his smiled faded, the primates jumped from our shoulders to his, and he held his hand out.

He got me.

Now, I want to be clear, I don’t begrudge this man for trying to make a living. My wife and I certainly aren’t missing the few “American dollars” our monkey pictures cost us. But I think what irritates me (only a little bit honestly) these years later is that fact that I had been “gotten.”

I should have seen it coming. I should have been ready. I should have just kept walking.

It could have been the scorching sun, the fresh air, my wits dimmed from the all-you-can-eat buffet, or just simply the excitement of the day. Whatever the reason, the reality was that I had been suckered into paying for something I didn’t need.

My defenses were down and it happened so fast.

We need to be careful how we live our lives, because the monkeys on our back can be crazy dangerous.

It’s frustrating, but this is usually how sin works in our lives. It jumps on to us (or we willingly put it on) and before we realize what is going on, payment is due. There is a quote from Ravi Zaccharias (although it has been attributed to several people) that goes like this,

“Sin will take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay.”

That quote is, unfortunately, so terrifyingly true. We can get caught up in something, and before we even realize it, we are neck deep in the consequences of our actions.

James 1:14 reminds us that, “each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.” Those words “lured” and “enticed” could even be translated as “dragged away by.” That’s an unpleasant thought.

So what do we do when we are faced with temptation?

We keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. (Hebrews 12:1-2)

We remember the truth of who we are in Him. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

We put on the protective armor that He has supplied us. (Ephesians 6:13)

Run away from those monkeys. They may be fun, cute, and cuddly at first…but they will always end up costing you.

“Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.” Romans 12:9

Good Pitching, Boring Game

Just a few days ago a group of friends and I went “out to the ballgame.” It was a beautiful night for baseball, 75 degrees and not a cloud in the sky.

As we found our way to our seats my expectations were not very high. You see, I am still dealing with the fact that my favorite team is no longer the better team in the city. Our fan base once had 108 years’ worth of trash talk for the other team…and all that came crashing down just a few years ago. But I try not to be petty.

Instead, I look to the future. The team has fully embraced the concept of a “re-build” as they have traded away stars in order to acquire young prospects. They have told us, the fan base, “we are going to be bad now so that we can be good in the future.” It sounds weird, but I’m on board. After all, this approach did work out well for our Northside frenemies.

Anyway, back to the game. My expectations were low, but I was looking forward to seeing a few of those new young prospects in action, particularly the one who was on the mound.

The starting pitcher for the home team has been absolutely incredible of late, and he has been the talk of many local sports radio talk shows. So, even though my expectations were tempered I was excited.

The game began, and one inning slipped to the next inning routinely and mercilessly uneventful. The pitching was very good, particularly from our new young pitcher who finished 8 innings with a big fat zero earned runs and only gave up 4 hits.

But, aside from the stellar pitching and a pair of exciting doubles from our offense, the game was one of the most boring games I have ever been to.

We were entering the 9th inning still tied at 0-0. My wife and others in our group had gotten to the point of cheering for any batter, home or away, for no other reason but to end the misery of a scoreless game. No one wanted to prolong the boredom.

And that’s when I realized. Good pitching produces boring games. The average fan doesn’t sit there and analyze the pitcher’s performance. Casual viewers do not appreciate the beauty and skill that is involved in the pitcher just simply doing his job well. Instead; flashy catches, line drives, wild pitches, and close calls are what is preferred.

Good pitching can easily be undervalued and yawned at.

And you know what? Unfortunately, we can also be guilty of having that same attitude in life as well. A life well-lived, free from scandal or offensiveness, can easily be undervalued and seen as boring by many.

Following Jesus is NOT boring at all, I promise you. However, there are times where a certain, steady faithfulness is required.

Steady faithfulness when you can’t hear God speak.

Steady faithfulness when the mountains don’t move.

Steady faithfulness when church seems routine.

Steady faithfulness when all you see are plateaus.

Steady faithfulness when doing what is right is hard.

Steady faithfulness when doing what is wrong is easy.

Steady faithfulness when life is boring and dull.

Steady faithfulness when you don’t receive recognition for your hard work.

Steady faithfulness when life “over there” seems so much more exciting.

Colossians 2:6 encourages us who have received Jesus to, “walk in Him,” and to be, “rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith.” And Colossians 1:23 describes those who continue in the faith as “stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the Gospel.”

The Christian life is not a boring one, I can assure you of that. But there are times when being stable and steadfast and unshifting in the faith may seem like a boring way to live. The reality, however, is that the things that our culture calls “exciting” are often the things that lead to the most frustration and destruction.

I am committed to following Jesus, if the people around me call that “boring” then so-what, my mind is made up and my game plan is set.

By the way, there was only a single run that was scored in that game I went to. It was a walk-off solo home run that sent the entire crowd into roaring celebration. That celebration was only made possible because of the good pitching that kept the other team’s score at zero.

There is a celebration in store for those who follow Jesus, and that party will be anything but boring.

 

 

Overwhelmed

Have you ever used a word to describe something; a situation, person, or event, but then later you question if you were using the word correctly?

Recently, my wife and I went and experienced the full and incredible force of Niagara Falls. There we were, in the famed Maid of the Mist boat in the very center of the Horseshoe Falls and one word kept coming to my mind. Overwhelmed. I even tried to shout it out loud to my wife, “this is so overwhelming!” But she couldn’t even hear me over the roar of the waters.

Later that day, because I’m a nerd, I looked up the definition of overwhelm just to be sure I was using it as accurately as possible. Here is what I found…

o·ver·whelm

verb

  1. bury or drown beneath a huge mass.

Yep. I would say that fits.

If you have never been to Niagara Falls I would highly recommend that you put it on your to-do list. It is such an incredible sight to take in. The sheer power of the water literally does overwhelm every single one of your senses.

I have said it before, but I just have to say it again, we have an incredibly creative creator.

The Falls were so spectacularly impressive, but they don’t even come close to the wonder and splendor and majesty of The Almighty God. And here is the crazy thing, you don’t need the rushing roar of the world’s most famous waterfall in order to experience the full power of our creator. (Fun fact, although Niagara is not technically the largest waterfall in the world, it is the waterfall with the largest volume of water passing through it. So, there ya go.)

Anyway, back on topic. The really awesome thing about God is that you can understand and know the full force of God’s power anywhere and everywhere. It can be in the middle of the roar of the horseshoe of Niagara. It can be in the stillness of the morning where the only sounds are chirping birds. Your physical location does not matter. Your spiritual location? That is what really matters.

I have talked with a bunch of people over the years who end up saying something like, “I’m just not feeling it” or, “I really would like God to make Himself more known to me.”

But here is the problem with that thinking, we are humans that change on a regular basis. God is eternal and does not change. Ever. (Hebrews 13:8)

So, if the discussion is, who needs to move or give more to the relationship, us or God, the answer is always going to be, us. That is why the Bible tells us to, “draw near to God, and He will draw near to you” (James 4:8) not the other way around. And once again, that nearness is not a physical location, it is a condition of our heart.

With all that said, I am very thankful that I was blessed to go see the incredible sight of, what the Native Americans called, “The End of The World.” Because, in seeing it, I was both reminded and challenged.

Reminded that if the things that God created can be overwhelming, then God Himself is completely overwhelming.

And challenged to be overwhelmed by God each and every day, no matter what my situation or location.

God is so big, so beyond anything that we can comprehend, He is eternal, holy, perfect, and wonderful…and yet so personal, loving, approachable, caring, and knowable.

So, let us draw closer to Him and be overwhelmed by Him, by His love, by His mercy, by His glory, and by His grace.

“There is none like you, O LORD; you are great, and your name is mighty in power.” Jeremiah 10:6