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

The Lion, The T-Rex, and The Movie Theater

There I was eyes wide, fingers buttery, with popcorn spilt across my chest, oohing and awing like a little kid…but let me give you some context.

My wife and I just recently saw the latest dinosaur movie, I forget its name, something like Jurassic Park: Return of the T-Rex Strikes Back. Honestly, I’m not sure how many of these movies there are, but I do know they will keep making them as long as the money keeps pouring in.

But I digress…the movie itself was very enjoyable. But it was one 2-second scene towards the end that captivated my attention. This particularly brief shot did not add much to the movie’s plot itself, but it did, however, send shivers down my spine and cause me to think about it hours after I had left the theater.

So, let me set it up for you, the dinosaurs have just broken free (spoilers, sorry…but the trailer kind of already gave that away) and the no-longer-extinct creatures are now running around places they don’t belong. Then suddenly the camera pans to the T-Rex’s feet which break down a sturdy metal fence as though it were made of toothpicks. There is a pan out and we see the entire T-Rex in all of its terror. He lets out an eardrum-rattling roar and then we see the full, wide angled shot. The T-Rex’s roar is met with an equally loud, but different and recognizable roar. We see a lion, standing defiantly on top of a cliff, face-to-face with the dinosaur king.

This is the shot that raised the hairs on the back on my neck. The King of the Jungle fearlessly facing off against a seemingly unstoppable foe.

As I sat and thought about this picture I couldn’t help but think about the day to day frustrations and problems that we face. When they come one at a time the problems may not seem too big. But problems, frustrations, and stresses all add up, and before you know it, we have a dino-sized weight dragging us down.

My favorite thing about imagery is that it helps us to wrap our minds around bigger and deeper truths. The Bible uses a lot of imagery as well. One picture that it paints is of God, specifically Jesus, as being the Lion of Judah. (Genesis 49, Isaiah 31, Revelation 4-5)

Pictured as the Lion, Jesus is unequaled in power, royalty, majesty, and triumph. He easily destroys His enemies and fervently protects His own. He is to be respected and feared, honored and worshiped.

C.S. Lewis chose a lion as the main character in his allegorical epic, The Chronicles of Narnia. And I believe that Lewis really gets to the point of it all when one of his characters, when speaking of the wonderful lion Aslan, says, “Safe?… Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

Our God is not safe, but He is good. He is the king, I tell you!

We can be sure of this, if we belong to Him, the Lion will fight for us.

Ephesians 6:12 tells us that our most terrible and overwhelming struggles are spiritual, not physical. And Romans 8 gives us wonderful news, “If God is for us, who can be against us?… Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?… No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

No matter how big or scary the dinosaurs in our lives look and no matter how loud they roar, we must be confident that our Lion is still unquestionably the King.

 

The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe. -Proverbs 18:10

120 Over 80

Don’t ya just hate going to the doctor’s office?

I mean, sure, it’s necessary and all…but come on. No matter how good I feel about myself going in I always feel like an unhealthy blob when I leave.

I feel like I should take a moment here at the beginning to be sure to thank all of the incredible men and women who dedicate years of their lives to medical training. I am incredibly thankful for all that they do in order to help ensure the health and safety of others.

With that being said, I still don’t like Dr.’s appointments.

I have tried to nail down my reasoning for being apprehensive. It is the long wait? The florescent-headache inducing lights? The uncomfy bed-table thingy covered in the paper stuff that they make you sit on? The slightly judgmental look when you answer the “how many cups of coffee do you drink a day” question?

No. It’s not that stuff. The reason I don’t like going to the doctor is that every time I go I am reminded that I should be doing better, but I am not.

I am not as physically fit as I should be and that is no one’s fault but my own.

My doctor can tell me to cut back on the donuts, exercise more, and drink less coffee. But ultimately it is up to me, and only me, to make those decisions that will actually impact my health.

My health is my responsibility.

And guess what? The same goes for spiritual health.

Pastors, teachers, and mentors all are of tremendous value in pointing us the right way and helping us to grow in our relationships with God. It is so important that you have a person, who is more spiritually mature than you, to help guide and direct you. We need godly examples in our lives to help motivate, correct, rebuke, and instruct us.

But as the saying goes, “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink.”

Pastors can show you the good news of the Gospel, preach to you the truths of God’s Word, and exemplify Jesus’ love…but eventually, you must make your own choice.

You, not your mom, dad, spouse, pastor, teacher, friend. No, you choose whether or not you will live out a spiritually healthy life or not.

You choose what unhealthy things you will cut out of your life or not.

You choose whether you will exercise your faith or not. Whether you will stretch your discipleship and evangelism muscles or just allow them to atrophy.

But what will you choose to be?

Will you be spiritually obese? -Going to church on Sundays and reading your Bible every day, but yet never sharing with others what you have learned? Maybe you know a lot about Jesus and the faith, but you never actually do anything with that information.

Will you be spiritually malnourished? -Never cracking the Bible open for yourself? Maybe you try to do a lot for others, but you never actually allow your own soul to be nourished by the truth.

Or will you be spiritually fit? -Consuming truth both on Sundays as well as every other day and actually allowing that truth to transform you. Being both a hearer of the Word and a doer of the Word.

It’s time that we get serious about our own spiritual health.

“Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.” Colossians 2:6-7

Priceless

How much is a single human life worth?

How much is the life of a stranger worth? How much is a life of a “bad guy” worth? How about the life of a celebrity? What about the life of someone from that country or region? How much are their lives worth? How much is your life worth?

They all have the same answer.

Priceless.

I’m sure we all have read many history books that describe the “dark days” of civilization. Back when human life was viewed as cheap, and atrocities were commonplace. Unfortunately, for millions of people worldwide, those dark days are not just history, but a present reality. The human race isn’t as sophisticated as many would like to think.

Today, many of us will be waking up, drinking our coffee, checking social media on our pocket screens, and going about our normal everyday lives.

At the same time…

Today, many others will be waking up in slavery. Today, many others will not be waking up at all. Today, many others will decide that their lives are worthless and will choose to end them. Today, many babies will die and never be allowed to see the light of day.

It is incredibly hard to think of these things. The rush of emotions is a combination of heartbreak, sorrow, bitterness, anger, numbness, despair, and outrage.

But then there is hope.

There is a God who listens when the oppressed cry out and He rescues them when they call upon His name. (Psalm 107:6)

There is a God who created each and every one of us in His image. A priceless work of art. (Gen. 1:26)

There is a God who left heaven in order to save the helpless and hopeless. (Romans 5:6)

There is a God who offers unrestricted hope. (1 Peter 1:3-6)

There is a God who offers life. (John 14:6)

So many people in our world have proclaimed with their words and actions that life is cheap, meaningless, and in many cases just plain worthless.

We must be louder. Our message that life is precious must be uncompromised and unrelenting. Because that is God’s message. Life is so precious to Him that Jesus laid His own life down in order to ensure that others could have it.

So, what do we do? What do we do with the fact that tens of millions of people are being trafficked every day? What do we do with the fact that over 20 million babies have been killed since January? What do we do with the fact that suicide seems to be such a normal thing that there are now T.V. shows that glorify it? What can we do?

We can love our neighbors. (Matthew 19:19, Luke 10:25-37)

We can speak up against injustices. (Proverbs 31:8-9)

We can be a reflection of our Savior. (Romans 12:2, Matthew 5:13-16)

We can pray. (1 John 5:14-15, Matthew 5:44, Philippians 4:6)

We can remind people that God has made them and sees them as priceless.

 

If you need help, or if anyone you know who needs help, please check out these websites below.

https://needhim.org/

http://pricelessmovement.com/

http://anthemofhope.org/