Acting Out Our Faith: A Different Kind of Currency


Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong.  He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God.  When all the people saw him walking and praising God, they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him. – Acts 3:6-10 (NIV)

I sure am glad that heaven runs on a different currency than the world.  When the world tries to fix a problem it is all about throwing money and resources at it until it is buried.  Issues are resolved by committee and conference.  We have programmed, politicized and popularized helping the needy, but I think we can come to depend on them more than the power of God.

It is comforting to me that poverty in the world’s eyes has nothing to do with the riches of God.  Peter has no silver or gold to give, but what he does have is better by far.  The power to transform lives, to heal and help those in need, cannot be replaced by material things.  It is gracious to give of our resources and we should give with grateful hearts for God’s providence, but we cannot forget to invest the currency God has made available to us through the Holy Spirit.

I don’t want to be rich in this world if it causes me to be a pauper in God’s kingdom.  I want to be wealthy in the things of God and spend that wealth on others.  I hope that the next time I see someone in need I will remember this and invest the currency that only God can supply.

Lord, thank you for Your Holy Spirit supplying me with kingdom currency.  Help me to spend it wisely and fearlessly for Your glory and the benefit of others. Amen.

Life in Community: Learning to Love Extravagantly


While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper,  a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table.  When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked.  “This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.”  Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me.  The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me.  When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial.  I tell you the truth, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”  – Matthew 26:6-13 (NIV)

In October of 2001, I was privileged to work with others at Ground Zero during the recovery efforts.  I was careful during my time away to call my 1 ½-year-old daughter every day to stay in touch.  However, this plan did not end up working out so well. About day four, she had grown quite tired of talking to me on the phone and wanted to know when I was coming home.  By day five she was no longer speaking to me and Mommy was dealing with many tears at night about Daddy being gone. I returned home after my two-week tour and was met at the airport by my wife and little girl.  As soon as she saw me, any thoughts of anger vanished in tears and excited cries of “Daddy! Daddy!”

She ran through that airport completely unaware and certainly unashamed of her extravagant display of emotion.  We held each other and cried and laughed and hugged and kissed and didn’t care a whit about what anyone thought.  For a moment the rest of the world didn’t exist.  This is the beauty of life among believers.  This is the power of fellowship.  We learn to love God with such abandon and extravagance in the presence of our spiritual family that we grow more capable of expressing it where less understanding eyes will see.

It is years later and I have not yet reached that point in my relationship with that once little girl where she is embarrassed to be seen with me.  I hope that I never will, but it causes me to ask the question, “Am I ever ashamed to express my love for God?”  I read the passage above and wonder if I would have loved Jesus enough to overcome my fears and doubts.  I wonder if I am more driven by self-preservation than I am by compassion and devotion.  Fortunately my current spiritual family is more than willing to seek an extravagant love for God together.

I want to worship God with abandon.  I want to weep with tears of deliverance.  I want to laugh with heartfelt joy.  I want to kneel at the feet of my Father and worship Him as He sees fit.  While the thought of this sometimes causes me to fear, I am assured that “perfect love casts out fear.”  There are not words to express the comfort and courage that are gained by knowing I am surrounded by others who desire the same experience.  We want to love God more than we love our reputations, more than we love our possessions, more than we love anything that this world has to offer.

So what is your alabaster jar?  What is it that you need to give up in order to love God as He deserves to be loved?  Who is it that looks with mocking eyes on your faith?  What price are you willing to pay in order to worship without shame? To be honest, I’m still working on answering those questions myself, but I am sure that I want to know the answers.

Life in Community: Everyone is Broken


During our small group meeting a gentleman shared about his recent journey to the Philippines and the life changing experiences he had there.  One of the most powerful truths he saw during his visit was the importance and influence of community.  It reminded me of some blog posts I did about two years ago on living life in community and so I submit them again for your perusal.  I will be posting the series again over the next two weeks while I am working on a set of posts about Acts.  I hope that this series is a blessing to you.

Everyone who believes has God’s approval through faith in Jesus Christ. There is no difference between people.  Because all people have sinned, they have fallen short of God’s glory.
Romans 3:22-23 (GW)

“If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:1-4 NIV)

My daughter asked me one day why people do bad things and I quickly replied, “Some people are just bad.”  It was a lazy answer, certainly wrong and dreadfully insensitive, but in the moment it satisfied the ponderings of a seven-year-old little girl.  Fortunately the Holy Spirit wouldn’t let me get away with such bad theology – and bad parenting – and kept bringing me back to her question.  Why do people do bad things?

I came across the passage in Philippians 2 one day soon after the conversation with my daughter (it is one of my favorites), and the words jumped out at me.  Obviously my view of “bad” people was not in line with what Jesus desired of me, especially in light of Paul’s words in Romans 3.  Somewhere I had let a false perception creep into my thinking and it had skewed how I thought of others.  The devastating realization was that I had in essence told my little girl she was a bad person.

I have always enjoyed the writings of C.S. Lewis and his essay, “The Weight of Glory” is one I need to return to from time to time.

“It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare.”

It is very easy to lump people into categories and affix our labels and go about our lives in the comfort of our well-organized world.  However, if we are looking for a better life, a richer experience of God’s presence, a deeper understanding of His love at work in our lives and the lives of others we will change our perception of what humanity is and what it can be.  When we understand that each of us will either be forever broken or forever made whole, we should be motivated to work toward the one and work against the other.  Instead we think we are okay because of how bad someone else is or because we are good at hiding our own brokenness.

After reflecting on these passages, I had to sit down with my daughter and explain that people do bad things because they are broken and that all of us are broken.  It was a simple conversation and a simple explanation, but her education in this area will advance with years.  She needs to know that we are all broken, that we all do bad things, and that it is the love of God that heals us and makes us whole; that in loving Him we find the grace and mercy to love ourselves and others because His love is greater than our own.  She will need to know that brokenness is not an excuse for our transgressions.  I will need to teach her that humility is the key to loving other people in the midst of their brokenness.  I will try to show her that it is a far great thing to be better for the sake of others than it is to be better than others.  I will try to show her what it looks like to move toward wholeness so she will know her way along the journey.

Broken and Beloved


Here we are, the broken,

Waiting while we praise

Praying for Your hand, oh God,

To heal, to help, to raise

Your people from their fallen ways

 

Here we are, the blessed,

Watching for Your grace

Praying for Your love to change

Our hearts, our heads, our hands

Your children need to learn Your ways

 

We are beloved and broken,

Children of the living God

Marked by grace, transformed by love

Your kingdom come today we pray

 

Here we are, beloved,

Washed in the blood of Christ

Praying for clean hearts and hands

To serve, to teach, to reach

Your lost sheep, Your broken lambs.

 

We are beloved and broken

Children of the living God

Saved from sin, changed within

Work Your will in us we pray

 

We are beloved and broken

Our God can make us whole

We are beloved and broken

He heals the wounded soul

We are beloved and broken

Your kingdom come

Your will be done

Make us whole

 

By Chris Yeager

Remembering September 11th and What Followed: A Moment of Honor and Nobility


The rest tent is the white rectangle in the middle of the picture.  You can view a current picture of the World Trade Center here.

Something I post every September 11th.  Pray for peace.

“But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate — we cannot consecrate — we cannot hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

The Gettysburg Address

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
November 19, 1863

It was early on Tuesday morning as I got dressed and ready for work.  Molly and Keely were still asleep when the phone rang and my Mother’s broken voice came across the line, “Turn on the TV, Christopher!”  The image of that first tower smoldering in the New York Skyline is still fresh in my mind, ingrained there with so many other images that came into homes and business throughout that day on screens too small for the enormity of the event.

A few weeks later the call came from The Salvation Army Headquarters that they needed officers to volunteer for duty at Ground Zero; I had my name in the same day.  There were five of us from California and we arrived in New York October 15th of 2001.  We went through the standard briefing, received our assignments and then they took us to Ground Zero.  When the subway arrived at the Chambers Street station you could feel the quiet, the normally bustling crowds subdued and solemn.

Words fail to describe the scene at the World Trade Center.  Photographs may be worth a thousand words, but a thousand words would not be enough to describe what that place of desolation felt or smelled or sounded like on that day.  Those with me said little and walked on in silence around the perimeter of Ground Zero.  With each stop we would meet the men and women who worked diligently to recover those who had fallen what seemed ages ago.  They would smile and welcome us to the work, but the weariness and sorrow in their eyes was deep.

Our team worked at Ground Zero for two weeks and much could be written about what we saw and heard in those 14 days, but I will only share one event as the nation remembers September 11th, 2001.  I was assigned with a fellow officer to man a rest tent across the street from the World Trade Center and what was now called “The Pile.”  We provided drinks, snacks, basic first aid supplies, magazines and other items for the recovery workers, but we also served as chaplains as the need arose.

I was by myself one evening (I worked the shift from 11pm to 11am) when a firefighter asked if I was a chaplain.  I answered “Yes” and followed him to The Pile.  The crews had just uncovered an elevator car and were recovering the remains of seven people; seven sons and daughters taken from their resting place to be identified and laid to rest again with honor and dignity.  As they lifted each stretcher from the hole, an American flag was draped across the body and then they placed the stretcher on a motorized cart to transport them to the morgue.  I was asked to accompany one of the fallen and took my place at the foot of the stretcher and waited to make the walk.

That is when the siren sounded.  One long, deep clarion tone and everything stopped.  Truckers stopped their dump trucks and shut off the engines.  Cranes paused with loads of debris still in their grasp.  Dozens of workers stopped where they were and faced the Pile, hats off and held over their hearts.  A hush settled on that hallowed ground and we began the long procession to take the seven on their way to loved ones and a better resting place.  It was one of the most noble and honorable moments of my life.

Over the next few days that moment rested in my heart and mind and changed the way I saw what was around me.  Perspective comes at a high price sometimes, but then it can help us value what we ought.  Our team headed back to California on October 29th, ready to be with family and to consider all that we had seen the past two weeks.  I remember seeing my little girl, Keely, waiting with her mother in the concourse.  The sound of, “Daddy! Daddy!” was the sweetest sound I had heard in weeks.  She ran toward me and I toward her and we hugged and cried and mommy joined in soon after.

It has been 15 years since the towers fell and America rose to the resulting challenges and I have not forgotten that moment.  Each day is a day to live the life that hateful men tried to destroy. I will spend this September 11th with my family.  I will go and worship God with my brothers and sisters in Christ.  I will rest at home with my wife, daughters and extended family.  I will celebrate the life I have and give thanks to God.  We will play and laugh and eat good food.  We will snuggle and watch funny cartoons and read a book or two.  There will be days ahead when grief will visit us again, but we will not let it stay for long.  If you let it settle in and get comfortable, it is harder to kick out and it does not suffer roommates. This day is about God’s grace turning mourning into dancing.

Love your family, be grateful, remember what was sacrificed so you don’t forget what was gained and never take freedom for granted.  Remember the words of Abraham Lincoln, “It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Read the Directions: Do Not Over Inflate


If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.  Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus. – Philippians 2:1-5 (NIV)

I have played a few different sports over the years, and in that time I have inflated a number of balls.  Footballs, basketballs, soccer balls, volleyballs.  They all have the same thing in common – they should not be over inflated.  Several things can happen and all of them are bad.  Over inflation can stretch the ball out of round, cause leaks and weaken the seams, all of which make the balls useless for their respective sports.  Imagine what overinflating can do to an ego.

God has designed us to work the right way.  Just like a soccer ball is designed to cut through the air when it is kicked or thrown, we are designed to work a certain way.  If we are over inflated, we won’t fly right.  We will be off balance, wobbly and inaccurate.  We can also be under inflated.  We can fall flat and unresponsive.  On the one hand we can have a view of ourselves that ignores our limitations.  We see ourselves as better than we are and even worse, better than others.  On the other hand, we can have a diminished view of what God has created us to be.  We are blind to the abundant life He can produce in our lives.  Somewhere there is humility that refuses pride but engages the fullness of life in Christ.

It is easy to get over or under inflated.  In our culture of narcissism, over inflation seems to be the norm.   We are even taught to talk ourselves up and say positive things about who we are, whether they are true or not.  Plenty of the popular talk shows are based on the “You are Special” appeal to their audiences.  They sell them on ideologies that don’t demand true change of character, only a change of perspective. You are a princess because you believe you are.  Nonsense.  There is a great gap between your belief defining the truth and the truth defining your belief.

It is just as easy to become under inflated.  Pride breaks people, whether it is the proud one or the ones who got in their way.  That brokenness can begin paterns of thinking that deny the image of God in His creation.  It is this brokenness that allows people to go into self-destructive behavior, wrecking themselves and their relationships.  Under inflated people get stuck, living flat and empty lives.  This is not the abundant life God calls us to.

There is a level of inflation that puts in the right place with God and man.  We are not full of ourselves, but what He has put in us.  We understand this, so we have no desire to fill up on anything other than what He supplies.  This gives us the ability to fly right and suffer the blows from the world without being punctured or falling flat.  When God is at the heart of what we believe about ourselves we can understand our brokenness and the hope for wholeness with confidence, not arrogance or self-pity.

I pray that God helps me see when I am trying to over inflate.  I hope that my friends and family will, in love and gentleness, point out when I am being full of myself instead of the God who loves me.  I pray that God will guard me from losing air, limiting my expectation by my brokenness instead of His power to heal and renew.  Lord help us be filled with you and nothing else. Amen.

The Good Shepherd: Tending a Blemished Flock


I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down, declares the Sovereign LORD. I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice. – Ezekiel 34:15-16 (NIV)

Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. – Isaiah 53:4-6 (NIV)

Not too long ago, I came home from work to an unhappy wife and a very quiet older daughter.  Missing was the younger daughter, who had locked herself in the bathroom.  I was asked to step in and see if I could extricate the youngling and began working on the lock, little whimpers punctuating my fiddling and tinkering.  The extrication became a little more involved once the door was open.

Big trouble for a little girl.

It was evident that my beautiful little girl had ventured into the world of cosmetology and home décor.  Unfortunately she had done both with the same medium – my wife’s lipstick.  While I could appreciate the artistic flair evident in the strokes of red on the wall, door and daughter, I was pretty sure my wife would not be a fan of the arts that day.  The room and child needed to come out of this experience unblemished.

My little girl didn’t need to be told that what she had done was wrong.  Her tearful demeanor and cowering in the corner were clear indicators that she was afraid of punishment.  We will never know if she was not able to unlock the door, or was too afraid to face mommy and daddy and so refused to unlock the door.  She needed to know that we still loved her, that we were okay.

It is very easy for us to lock ourselves away from God and fear what He will think of us if we open up the door.  Our sin or disobedience can seem so great that we would rather try to hide it away and hope that He will ignore us.  But God is a seeker…He is a good shepherd who finds His sheep wherever they may try to lose themselves.  He is the healer and redeemer, cleansing us of our blemishes so we can stand before Him unashamed.  All it took to clean up that lipstick was soap, time and effort.  For our sin it took the perfect Son of God, coming in the fullness of time and taking our place on the cross of shame and punishment.

I cannot think of anything my daughter could do that would cause me to stop loving her or trying to provide all she needs for this life and the life to come.  In a far better way, God loves us and will not relent in calling us to safe pastures.  He will call us out from behind our locked doors.  He binds up our injuries, self-inflicted or otherwise, and He watches over us with compassion and grace.

The evidence of the lipstick incident is gone.  There are no red stains left behind on door, wall or daughter.  They are unblemished in that regard, but sadly my daughter can still get herself into trouble.  She stops listening to those who would guide her in good directions, and finds herself in trouble again.  It is a beautiful thing to see a lost lamb returned to safe pastures; it is tragic to see that lamb lose her way again and head into harm’s way, but that is the life of parenthood.

Our heavenly Father is no less longsuffering than the best of us.  He watches us as we wander our own way, putting our souls in harm’s way.  Patiently He waits for us to unlock our doors that we try to hide behind.  Gently His voice keeps calling to me with the promise of forgiveness and restoration.  With strength beyond anything we can imagine or understand, He carries us from the “the valley of the shadow of death” to lush pastures and quiet waters.

Do you have any locked doors?  Are there any blemishes on your soul that no one else knows about?  Do you worry about the stains of your past being too deep for the Shepherd to cleanse?  I pray that the love of God, the Good Shepherd, would overcome our fears; that we would heed his voice and enter His rest. I pray that we would learn the beauty and power of being His sheep.

Handling Brokenness Part 2: Whitewashed Tombs


“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.” – Matthew 23:27-28 (NIV)

I know – not a very cheery passage to open with, but give me a chance. It is clear from this warning from Jesus to the Pharisees, and many others like it, that He was not pleased with how they were representing Him and His Father in heaven. They had pillaged worshippers of God in the temple courts, they had so convoluted the interpretation of the laws that they spent more time arguing about them than helping God’s children and they had lost sight of their own brokenness.

The Pharisees are the repeated example of where a religious, legalistic life will take a person. All glitter; no gold. Whitewashed tombs. There are plenty of us out there right now heading down the same path the Pharisees trod and Jesus is warning us. Each time we bristle at someone questioning our holiness, every time we deny any need on our part, every time we hold out our good deeds for others to see and admire we build the walls thicker and paint them whiter. When the world has wounded us, but we don’t want anyone to see us as weak; when our hearts are broken and we put the mask of contentment on to hide the pain; when we clothe ourselves with rationalizations to cover the sin in our lives – we are getting darker and closer to death on the inside.

There is another incident earlier in Matthew that gives us incite to how we can avoid this condition: Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there. (Matthew 19:14-15 [NIV]) I don’t know about you, but I have to be careful what I am teaching my children about what it means to be a good Christian. When I tell them to be strong or tough, am I teaching them to be like the Pharisees? When I am telling them to be “appropriate,” am I teaching them to love God within a box? Am I showing the same level of excitement and pride for their Spiritual successes as I am for those gained by physical prowess or innate skills? I think the problem is that we spend too much time teaching children to act like “grown ups” and not enough time teaching them how to be wise.

In the end we have to remember that in God’s eyes we will always be children. This is important if we want to experience healing in our lives because Children very seldom hesitate to let someone know that they are hurting. While they may not always like the cure, most children will still run to mom or dad with a skinned knee or hurt feelings. Maybe that is where my children need to learn about being strong – the part where they get cured. Maybe I need to be more like my daughters in my life with God. Maybe I need to learn to cry when I get hurt. Maybe I need to be brave when my Father tells me to hold still while He does His healing work. Maybe I need to be more like a child. Let the healing begin.