Kung Fu Nunchuck Panda in the Parking Lot of the Food Lion

I’m going off the grid for a few days but I leave you with this video of a perfectly normal man doing a perfectly normal activity.

Easter Helps Us Hang On

Kids don’t care if you get enough sleep.

When they are babies, they scream about every two hours.  People who say that they slept like a baby have never been in the same house with a baby.

When the kids get just a little older, they come into your room in the middle of the night and stand over you as you sleep, waiting for you to wake up so that they can tell you that you forgot to give them an extra blanket.  I’ve almost died six times and five of them have been because of my kids waking me up this way.

This is one of the worst ways to wake up.

One of the worst ways.

My mom was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in the early 90s.  Her doctors gave her a bunch of videos and brochures, told her to buy some exercise equipment and gave her pretty much every new, experimental drug they could get their hands on.

“Mrs. Sanders, were going to prescribe these tiny gray particles to you and see if they help.  They’ve proven themselves very effective with cats.”

“Is that kitty litter?”

“Just take it.”

This is why they call it a medical practice.

All of those new medications and the adjustments that came along with them really did a number on my mom’s body.  There were many times, late at night, when her voice calling my name would function as my alarm clock.  When I ran to check on her I would usually find her stuck in a chair or on the side of her bed.  Her toes were curled under and her legs felt like rocks.  Her face gave me a pretty good description of the pain that she was experiencing.

I’ll be thinking about those rude awakenings in the middle of the night a lot this weekend.  I’ll also be thinking about friends who are caring for their own parents as they undergo chemo, radiation and blood transfusions.  I’ll think about the people in my church who, because of sickness and aging, are trying to figure out how to be parents to their parents.  I’ll think about fathers and mothers who suffer as they watch their sons and daughters suffer from cancer or the effects of some crazy accident.

And I’ll think about the One who, in his victory over the grave, has secured that same victory for his people and guaranteed their release from sin and death.

I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”

“O death, where is your victory?

O death, where is your sting?”

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.                                                                         1 Corinthians 15:50-57 (ESV)

There’s a good chance that you are trying to figure out how to care for a sick loved one.  Or maybe you are the sick loved one.  Whatever the circumstances, I hope that the events of this weekend help you to hang on.

Don’t listen to the crooked preachers on TV who promise health, wealth and happiness on this earth. Jesus didn’t die for that.  He died to atone for the sins of his people and to set us free from sin and death.  And while he certainly can and does bring healing on earth, we have to continue to trust in him when he chooses not to.  But our trust is not based on a hunch or mere faith for faith’s sake.

It’s based on an empty tomb.

And it’s based on a promise that springs forth from Jesus’ victory over the grave.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 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.” Revelation 21:3-4 (ESV)

 

Hunting Easter

Easter can be a tricky holiday.

Some churches stop being churches and transition into Hoppin’ Eddie’s Bounce House and Family Entertainment Emporium.  Every year around this time I get mail-outs from churches boasting “the southeast’s largest Easter Egg Drop” or “the loudest Easter celebration in northwest Henry County” or “free Easter chicks to the first 470 kids under 12 who buy advanced tickets to the Good Friday service.”

For others, Easter seems to be a time to redo Christ’s once and for all sacrifice on the Church’s behalf.

“Sorry that I can’t make it to your Easter lunch, or whatever pagan name you call it.  I’ll be busy shaving my head, sacrificing a gentle lamb and boiling it in wine.  But you go ahead and enjoy your mashed potatoes.”

People and churches are different and they worship in different ways.  That’s part of the beauty of the body of Christ.  But we have to be careful that we do not let Easter become a holiday about doing more, doing it louder and doing it bigger.  It shouldn’t take an egg-dropping helicopter or a new dress to help us grasp the weight of what Easter is all about.

Throughout the centuries since Jesus’ resurrection, the Bible has proven sufficient for that task.

It is in the Bible where we read that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is one of many things that sets him apart from mere revolutionaries or good teachers (Acts 5:33-42).

It is in the Bible where we read that death, while still stinging us today, will one day lose it’s power.  When Christ rose on the third day, death’s grave was dug.  When Christ returns, death will be finally and forever laid to rest (1 Corinthians 15:54-57).

And the Bible tells me that I have an Enemy.  That Enemy is not the leftist homosexual activist, the fundamentalist preacher, the environmental terrorist or the politician with whom I might disagree.  No, my Enemy has been a liar and a murderer from the beginning (John 8:44).  He has set his sights on my brothers in the faith (Job 1-2; Luke 22:31).  And he is out to get me too (1 Peter 5:8).

He even tried to get Jesus but he failed (Matthew 4:1-11).  And when Jesus rose from the grave, he guaranteed the eventual and eternal defeat my Enemy and his weapon of choice, Death (1 Corinthians 15:20-22; Revelation 21:4; Revelation 20:7-10).  The resurrection means that Jesus wins.  And the Church, because our identity is found in him, wins too.

Whether you worship in jeans or a new suit, at a huge domed stadium or a small church doesn’t matter.

What matters is that Jesus is alive.  Death is dying.  Our Enemy will soon be gone forever.

And that’s reason enough to celebrate.

My Trip to the Kingdom Hall

I’ve always wanted to know what it looked like inside of a Kingdom Hall building.

Last night, I found out.

It all started with a flyer.  I found one on my door several nights ago that had a picture of Jesus on it.  The picture of Jesus was apparently drawn by the same guy who drew the pictures of Jesus in my 3rd grade Sunday School book.  In both pieces of literature, Jesus looked like Kenny Loggins.

Below Jesus’ picture, there was an invitation.

You are invited to consider answers from the Bible on Tuesday, March 26, 2013.

I made up my mind to go.  And then I remembered that my son had soccer practice.  I prayed for several days that God would make it rain so that practice would be cancelled and I could go and tell the Jehovah’s Witnesses the truth about Jesus.  Eventually I quit praying for rain and started praying for God to forgive my idolatry.  There’s a fine line between letting things like work and hobbies come before your family and letting your family come before Jesus.  I was letting my sons come before Jesus.  They could live with me missing soccer practice for one night because I’m telling people about Jesus.

I spent a lot of time in prayer before I showed up to the Kingdom Hall.  I’m not a smart man but I do have a smart mouth.  To be more specific, I’m a jerk by nature.  I asked the Spirit to help me not to try to win a debate but to speak the truth in love.  I also have a huge ego. I want to be known as the man responsible for shutting down the local Kingdom Hall.  I asked God to give me a greater passion for the lost than for my own glory.  Like I said, this took a lot of prayer.

When I pulled into the parking lot, I knew that I was terribly underdressed.  I was wearing old hiking boots, jeans and a huge black coat.  I looked like a terrorist.  All that was missing was the camouflage ski mask.  It was at the dry cleaners.  Everyone else was dressed like they were going to the prom.

My heart sank when I saw the people walking in.

No longer was this a building where people talked about things that were contradictory to Scripture.  It was now a building full of real people.  People that looked just like the people in my church.  People with firewood in the back of their truck.  People with small kids.  People that rushed from work to make it to this meeting in time.  People that I had seen at the gym before.

If I didn’t look suspicious when I got out of my car, surely I did when I sat down.  I was the guy in the big black coat and jeans sitting in the corner next to the offering box.  I felt like the Unabomber must have had he ever shown up for Vacation Bible School.

The meeting started with a song I had never heard from a book that I didn’t have.  No one offered me one until much later when the guy next to me let me look on with him.  Neither one of us sang.  We both just looked down at the words like a couple of baptists.

The sermon came after just one song.  On the surface, it sounded like any sermon one would hear at an Easter service.  Well, until the speaker started talking about the 144,000. He told us that very few people were counted among the 144,000 that get to go to heaven.  The rest of us have to settle for paradise on earth.  He then talked about taking the “Lord’s meal.”  I knew that he meant communion and I immediately decided not to partake.  It turns out that I wasn’t the only one.

“This bread and wine is only for the 144,000.  If you are not among the 144,000, please do not partake.”

And so we literally passed the bread and wine.  I didn’t see anyone eat the bread or drink the wine.  I still want to know how one finds out if he is among the 144,000.  After the passing of the elements, a prayer and a song, the service was over.

Now it was my turn to talk.

I figured that I would start with the guy sitting next to me.  The one that shared his song book with me.  But he actually got the first word in.

“This is a lot different from the baptist church I belong to.”

“What?!  You’re baptist.  I’m a baptist preacher.”

“What?!”

We wouldn’t have been more surprised if we had ran into one another inside of a liquor store.

I gave him my card and invited him to my church before he got caught up in a conversation with a few ushers.

Another usher came to me and asked me if this was my first visit.  I told him that it was and that I had a few questions about Jesus.

He got another usher and they both stood ready for me to share my concerns.  There was a bit more small talk before they told me to go ahead and ask my questions.

“Is Jesus an angel?”

“Yes.”

“Is it okay to worship angels?”

“No.”

“Okay.  Can you please explain Hebrews 1:6?”

And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says, “Let all God’s angels worship him.”

They told me that Jesus eventually quit being an angel.

“But you just said that he is an angel.”

One of the ushers walked away.  The other asked me why I was here.  I told him about the Kenny Loggins flyer that someone left on my door.  It all started with a flyer, remember?  I told the man that I would be praying for the Holy Spirit to work in his heart so that he could see that Jesus is God and “much superior to angels.”  He told me that he would take all of the prayer that he could get.  I think he was really on to something.

Next I went up to the front of the room to talk with the speaker.  He was busy putting away the bread that no one ate and the wine that no one drank.  We exchanged pleasantries before I told him that I had a question about Jesus.  He told me to ask away.

“You don’t believe that Jesus is God, right?”

“Right.”

“Well, why does God the Father call him God?”

But of the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom.”  Hebrews 1:8

His answer broke my heart.

“I’m not a walking dictionary so I’m not prepared to answer these questions.”

This man was not my enemy but he certainly was in the enemy’s grip.

In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.               2 Corinthians 4:4 

As I left, I thought about all of the other people there who were in the enemy’s grip.  There were a lot of black people there.  Maybe half of those in attendance were black.  I wondered how many of them were made to feel unwanted at churches that supposedly preach the truth only to find refuge in an organization that is built on lies.

I moved in next to the Kingdom Hall about a month ago.  One of my church members joked that he hoped they didn’t convert me.  I joked back that the place would be shut down within a year.

Now, no joke, I’m really praying for that to happen.  Not because the baptist preacher came by and rattled off a few verses but because of the Holy Spirit’s sovereign work to remove Satan’s blinders from their eyes so that they can see that Jesus Christ is God.

It all started with a flyer.

I’m praying that it all ends with a mighty work of God.

The Sounds of Parenting

My house is loud.  Sometimes that’s a good thing and sometimes that’s a bad thing.  But no matter what, almost every noise that I hear is saying something about the future.

Last night I heard the sounds of laughter coming from the other room where my wife and two sons were playing.  Those sounds told me that no matter where my sons go in life they will be able to look back on some really good times of playing games in the floor with their mom.

Before that, there was the sound of screaming.  Good screaming.  I was the Joker and my boys were Batman and the Green Lantern.  Whichever one is the Green Lantern is the one that didn’t make it to the Batman mask in time.  No one wants to be the Green Lantern.  No one.  Anyway, the Joker was causing all kinds of trouble for these two.  Those screams gave me hope that my boys will grow into men that can tackle tough obstacles with confidence because they know that they are loved by their father.

But, like I said, it’s not always good.

Sometimes there’s the sound of weeping and gnashing of teeth.  Like when one of my boys gets beat at Candyland or the other one finds out that he can’t have a piece of cake for breakfast.  Eventually, if my wife and I do our job right, our boys will stop crying about things like that.  But there will always be heartache for them on this earth.  Maybe because things don’t work out with a girl.  Maybe because they don’t make a team or get accepted to a school.

And there’s the never-ending sound of my sons calling out for dad and mom.  Those cries often come at bad times.  Like when one of us is on the phone.  And it’s hard to stop that conversation, or whatever else it is that I’m doing, just to hear a long story about how Batman threw the Joker out of the Bat Cave.

If I’m honest with myself, I don’t always want to hear those stories.  It’s easy to be a good dad when I feel like playing but fatherhood can be very difficult when I’ve got other things to do.

But the calls for dad and mom remind me of a time that older parents tell me is coming all too quickly.  A time when my kids are almost grown.  A time when they will need to talk to someone.  A time when my wife and I will want to be that someone.

And if we want to be that someone when our sons are 17, we have to be that someone when they are 6.

I once heard a pastor complain about the number of parents who come into his office, with tears in their eyes, wondering why they can’t connect with their teenagers.  In almost every case he said that the parents had almost nothing to do with their kids when they were young.  Now that they were almost grown, they thought it would be a good time to start engaging them.  They were too late.  They had tuned out the sounds of parenting.  And now their kids had tuned them out.

The sounds of parenting aren’t always good.  But they are always important.  And it’s important for parents to respond to those sounds with wisdom.  Even when we don’t feel like it.

Because, if we don’t, the sounds of parenting will one day be replaced by the sounds of silence.

Not So Friendly

The dog at the end of my street is friendly.  Well, at least that’s what some kid told me.

I have my doubts.

While the kid was telling me all about animal friendliness, that dog had a look on his face sort of like a young Ozzy Osbourne might have while gazing at a winged creature.  My kid was standing next to me, scared to death.  I told him not to worry because the dog wouldn’t bother him.

Judging by the look on my kid’s face, he had his doubts.

A few days later, my morning run took me by that house.  You know, the one with the friendly dog.  As I ran by, he came out to tell me good morning.  Nice and loud.  He was even kind enough to chase me a little.  On the way back, he wanted to say hello again.  This time he showed me his teeth while saying it with a growl.  But this time, I had a stick.  A really nice stick.  An Old Testament stick.  It helped to keep the dog from being so, well, friendly.

People have a way of hiding the ugly truth.  No one ever says that their dog is an annoying nuisance to society that would be better off if it were shipped to some glue factory.

And the same is true of the human heart.

It’s like we are in a never ending theatrical performance where our job is to convince others, ourselves and even Jesus that we really are just fine.

But Jesus sees through the performance.

One day he sat down with a lady from the wrong side of the tracks.  A lady with a past.  A lady that wanted to keep that past a secret.  A genuine performance artist.

Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.”  The woman answered him, “I have no husband.”

“I’m just fine, Jesus!  Nothing to see here.  How about some water?”

Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands and the one you now have is not your husband.  What you have said is true.”  John 4:16-18 (ESV)

Jesus could have ended the conversation with that gotcha moment and continued on his way.  In fact, he could have avoided the conversation all together.  But instead he kept talking.

The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ).  When he comes, he will tell us all things.”  Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”  John 4:25-26 (ESV)

And then something happened to the woman.  Her theatrical performance had come to an end.

So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did.  Can this be the Christ?”  John 4:28-29 (ESV)

The woman that wanted to hide everything was now celebrating the fact that a man cared enough to look beyond her act.

The beauty of the gospel is that Jesus sees through our performance to the very core of our heart.  Warts and all, as they say.  And he has every right to simply walk away.  But instead, he showed his love for us by laying down his life for our sins.

We never truly appreciate the love of Christ until we grasp the depth of our sin.

People like to say things like, “We are all God’s children” or “God is a friend of us all.”  But nothing could be further from the truth.  These are just lines from the theatrical performance.

Apart from Christ, we are not friendly with God.  We are children of wrath who fight against him.

But in Christ, we are no longer enemies with God.

In Christ, we are God’s children.

In Christ, warts and all, God calls us his friends.

You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.  John 15:14-15 (ESV)

Follow the Guy with the Gun

I thought that the sound was coming from under my bed.  I had never heard anything like it before.

I prayed.  Out loud.

“God, I hope I’m not going crazy.  Please help me not to be the only one in the house hearing this.”

After I said Amen, my roommate screamed at me from his room on the other side of the wall.

“Jay!  Do you hear that?”

Answered prayer is a beautiful thing.  At least now, if I was going crazy, my roommate was going with me.  But my comfort didn’t last very long.  The noise was still there and it was sounding creepier by the minute.

The house had a history.

It was one of those old houses that you will find in every small, southern town.  It was old and pretty much everyone has lived in it at one time or another.  Oh, and they all said that it was haunted.

A friend came over one time and stopped in the hallway leading to our kitchen to point out the fact that there used to be a transmission from some old car sitting over in the corner.  His uncle lived there and apparently liked to keep transmissions in the kitchen.  Sadly, the transmission wasn’t there anymore so that couldn’t be what was making the noise.

Another lady that lived there at one time told me about her friend Virginia that used to come and visit.  By the way, Virginia was dead when she was coming over for those visits. As the story was told to me, Virginia would come in to the bedroom with a set of keys and pull on people’s toes.  What is it with stories about dead people carrying keys?

I don’t believe in ghosts so I laughed off the story about Virginia when it was told to me.  But I have to admit, while I was laying there in my bed, listening to the sounds of death, I thought about Virginia.

My roommate and I met out in the hallway where we had a conference to try and figure out what that noise was.  When we couldn’t reach a consensus we decided to follow the example of every idiot in every horror movie that has ever been made.  We were going outside to check it out.

You do realize, right, that there would be no such thing as horror movies if it wasn’t for the idiot that decides to go outside and check things out?  People don’t like to watch movies about responsible adults that just roll over and go back to sleep when they hear a weird noise.

I led the way out.  When I put my hand on the doorknob, I thought that this might be the last time I ever see this house again.  I had lived a good, full life.  There were worse ways to die than at the hands of a crazy lady with keys.

I opened the door and stepped out onto the porch, into the cool night air.  My roommate told me to stop and then disappeared back into his room.  He came back out carrying a .38 Special.  The gun, not the band.  Suddenly I felt more confident as I led us back out to our hopefully now less certain death.  Can you shoot dead people?  Or the undead?  Whatever they are.

And then a thought hit me that I had to share with my roommate.

“Hey.  You’re the one with the gun.  Maybe you should lead the way.”

And so he did.

Eventually, we made it back inside.  It turns out that Virginia wasn’t coming back to look for her keys or pull our toes.

There was, however, a cat having babies under our house.  Cats having babies, they tell me, make strange noises.  Noises that sound sort of like old ladies carrying keys.  And that leads us to the moral of the story.

It is perfectly normal for a strong, mentally stable, and macho young man to be afraid of a pregnant cat.  But if you happen to hear one and decide to go check it out, just follow the guy with the gun.

The Weatherman’s Clothes

You can tell a lot about what’s happening outside by how the weatherman on TV is dressed.  If his hair is neatly sculpted and his coat and tie are in perfect agreement with one another, it’s 75 degrees with low humidity and a 10% chance of rain.  Oh but beware when the coat comes off.  When that happens, maximum sustained winds are somewhere around 200 miles per hour and the water in the river is starting to look sort of like blood.  Words can’t describe what’s going to happen if he ever rolls up his sleeves.

Earlier this week, the weatherman took his coat off.

My four-year-old knew that this was bad news.

We were getting ready for dinner when a siren stopped us in our tracks.  Living on the mean streets of Jackson, Georgia, we hear our share of sirens.  They start out quietly from a distance, get louder when they come by our house and grow quiet again as they head to their destination, safely away from our home.  But this siren never went away.  That’s because it wasn’t coming from a police car or ambulance.  It was our town’s way of telling us to get down to the cellar because there’s an 80% chance of cows flying by our window.

We turned on our police scanner to see what was going on.  My wife has a police scanner to help her stay a step ahead of the law.  But it doesn’t really help because no one in our house has any idea what a ten-eighty-one is.

So we turned on the TV.  And that’s when we saw the weatherman without his suit coat.  My wife wanted us to hide in the closet but I decided that it wasn’t time yet.  When our favorite television meteorologist rolled up his sleeves, that would be our cue to seek shelter.

As we watched, my youngest son got quiet.  I guess you could say that it was his calm before the storm because it wasn’t long before he started to cry.  Loudly.

I grabbed him, held him close and told him that I always read the Bible and pray when I get scared.

We sat down and prayed for Jesus to protect us and we thanked God for being in charge of the storm.  And then I read to him from The Jesus Storybook Bible about how Jesus is in charge of the storm (Mark 4:35-41).  He laughed at the pictures of the disciples hanging on for their lives while Jesus was sleeping.  When the story was over he asked me to read it to him again.  I was happy to do it.

Later that night he turned to that story, just to see the pictures.  And again the next morning.  Each time, I prayed that the message would penetrate his fears and show him that Jesus is bigger than anything, even things that make the weatherman roll up his sleeves.

I’ve heard a million sermons about Jesus calming the storm.  A lot do no justice to the original intent.

“Storms of life will come.  What’s your storm?  Jesus can calm it.”

My son wasn’t facing an allegorical storm.  He was dealing with a real one.  And he needed a picture of a real Savior King, not an allegorical one.

It’s interesting how Mark describes this event.  After Jesus makes the storm go away with just a simple command, Mark writes that the disciples were, “filled with great fear.”

This great fear was after the storm had gone away.  But why?  Why would they still be afraid after the storm had gone away?  I think that it’s because they finally realized that the real power wasn’t in the storm.  It was in the boat.  Peacefully asleep.

Scary situations have a way of bringing us to our senses.  Our fear isn’t always the result of some great power that is out to get us.  Sometimes fear happens simply because we forget about the Greater Power that is for us.

What then shall we say to these things?  If God is for us, who can be against us?       Romans 8:31 (ESV)

Tool or Toy?

I’m getting older and here’s how I know it.

1.  Pimento cheese sandwiches have started to taste good.

My grandmother used to eat pimento cheese sandwiches.  Whenever she offered me one, I would politely decline and tell her that pimento cheese sandwiches were for old people.  Looking back, that’s not too polite.

2.  Sometimes I watch RFDTV.

If you don’t know what RFDTV is, here’s a quick introduction.  For 12 hours every day they show what appears to be footage of cows that was filmed with a video camera in 1983.  The cows aren’t doing anything but, apparently, if you see one you like, you can call in and order one.  The other 12 hours of programming are devoted to obscure country musicians sitting around and telling stories about the time when they got to open up for Barbara Mandrell at Gilley’s.  The fact that I watch this says two things.  One, there’s never anything good on TV and two, like I said, I’m getting old.

3.  Christmas just ain’t what it used to be.

Don’t get me wrong.  I love Christmas but I still remember the first Christmas that I didn’t get any toys.  It was depressing.  All I got was a bath robe and a shoe horn.  Both come in handy while I’m sitting around eating pimento cheese sandwiches and watching RFDTV.

People haven’t stopped giving me gifts.  It’s just that those gifts have become more practical.  When my wife and I got married someone gave me a tool box.  There were no action figures or monster trucks inside.  Just plenty of space for tools.  The lady who gave it to me told me that I was going to need it.

When my dad gives me a gift there’s always strategy involved.  I have at least three different sets of sockets that he has given me.  Each time he told me that I might need this someday.

Someday finally came when I became a homeowner.  I use those sockets and that tool box almost every day.  Changing light bulbs can be tricky, you know.

As I grew older, somewhere along the way, my gifts stopped being about my own personal entertainment and started being about something deeper.  Gifts that I can use to help others.  Gifts that, in their own way, shine a spotlight on the giver.  I can’t use that tool box or one of those socket sets without thinking about the person that gave them to me.

Every believer has been given a gift by God.  If you’ve grown up in the church, you’ve been told that thousands of times.  You’ve probably even taken tests to figure out what your gift is.  But simply knowing what your gift is, or even how to use that gift, isn’t enough.

It’s important to know why that gift was given to you.

God has not given us gifts for our own personal glory or amusement (1 Corinthians 12 – 14).  His gifts are meant to help us to love Him and others better.  To put it another way, he gives us tools, not toys.  Toys are hoarded by tiny little creatures that like to yell, “Mine!” when someone else wants to play.  Tools are instruments in the hands of servants who are looking for ways to help.

If we are to properly understand our money, our home, our talents or any other blessing from God we must view those blessings as tools rather than toys.  There was a man named Barnabas that viewed his property as a tool so he sold it and gave the proceeds to his church so that needy people could be helped (Acts 4:36-37).  Apparently he was really good at this because Barnabas was a nickname that meant Son of Encouragement.  Other than Flame Thrower, Son of Encouragement would be my nickname of choice.  Instead, I got Jay Bird.

Some in the body of Christ are rich and some are poor.  If you’re reading this, you’re probably one of the rich folks in God’s kingdom.  We live in a time when people act as if it’s a sin to be rich.

It’s not.

Just as long as you remember that the riches that God has given to you are tools instead of toys.