Two Tents

I’m writing this blog from a tiny “puddle-jumper” airplane – up around 30,000 feet in the air. It’s a beautiful morning as the sun is coming up over California, and soon, Oregon. Without question, my trip home to Salem is much better than the trip down to California. Not only did I have to blaze out of the 11 am Sunday service quite abruptly, but I then drove with great focus (ie: fast) to the airport. Then I ran through the terminal to get to my gate just on time…or so I thought…unknown to me, my flight had been delayed. There was no way I was going to make my connection in Las Vegas and get to a 6 pm event in California! I quickly switched airlines and destination airports…twice. Finally, with sweat on my brow, I jumped onto a California bound airliner and settled into the only remaining seat next to a young lad and his grandmother.

The young boy was quite active (and I know active ’cause I have three boys!). He was moving and shifting – always turning around to look at and talk to his parents in the seats behind him. This wasn’t a big deal until the drinks were served. He ordered hot tea first and then on the second round he got a glass of Coke. For about an hour those drinks sat precariously perched on the edge of his little tray…with his arms and legs moving wildly…papers and crayons shuffling around…twisting and turning. Now this wouldn’t have been a big deal except I was dressed to the nines, in full suit and tie, all ready to jump off the plane and be a part of a momentous event involving many highly esteemed dignitaries of our Foursquare family.

So there I restlessly sat. I could not relax. Wig-wam, tee-pee: I was two tents – get it, too tense?!? Every sudden move by Boy Wonder caused me to flinch and compulsively reach for the glasses before they could be dashed into my only set of clothes. Now, this story would be so much more dramatic if something legitimately had happened but alas, I made it to LAX without incident…and that’s the point of my story…

• How many times to we allow fear to rob us of our peace and joy?

• Why do we let the unknown drive us into worry and compulsion?

• How much of our life is shaped by unfounded fears – wasting time and energy?

You know, the Bible encourages us to not worry about tomorrow, because today is all we have. Live it. Don’t let fear control it. Let the boy play. Let the drinks spill. What’s the worst that can happen? So often we allow worry and fear to shape and control us rather than placing our full trust in the Lord. Today, perhaps you are facing something that is producing fear and worry in you. The situation may not change but our response to the situation can – we can hold tightly to the Lord – the one who says, “Do not fear, for I am with you.”

Evidence of the Kingdom

Today’s Scripture: Luke 17:20,21“The Kingdom of God doesn’t come with your careful observation or will people say, ‘Here it is’, or ‘There it is’, because the Kingdom of God is within you.”

So often we try to get to the exact location of a particular event or experience. People make trips to Graceland to get immersed in all-things Elvis (even though he’s currently a waiter at Denny’s outside Rockford, Illinois – I saw him there!). Others want to get back to the home they grew up in. Still others travel around the world to visit holy sites such as Israel, Mecca or Lambeau Field (Green Bay Packers, of course). In all these place, and so many others, there is a sense of the significant, an awareness of awe-ness. We like to be in places such as these – we like to be where something great has happened or, better yet, where something great IS happening. Especially when this involves GOD.

Hey look: “God is really moving HERE!” Check it out: “God is doing something THERE!” We are people that like to pinpoint the activity of God. But Jesus says that the Kingdom of God cannot be isolated or pigeon-holed. He says it is within us (or more accurately translated among us. It permeates. It encompasses.

Don’t look so much for the epicenter of the Kingdom of God. Look for the evidence.

Change Required

It has been said that only a baby with a wet diaper likes change. Without a doubt change can be difficult. Starting a new job, playing with a different team, or experiencing the physical and emotional changes that come with growing older can all be a struggle.

For example, I have just moved to a new state and took on a new job…in a nutshell: huge change. I just assumed the lead pastor role at West Salem Foursquare Church. After 16 great years at another church, my wife and I sensed a change in our hearts, and so we leaned wholly into God – who, by the way, is strong and sure in times of flex. With this new assignment there is so much excitement, and yet with it comes so much change…and that can be intense. Intense for my marriage, my kids, both churches and for me personally. Often we would rather have things stay the same for as long as possible to minimize the adjustments and the corresponding season of awkwardness.

God is all about change though. The Bible calls us to “repent and turn” (Acts 3:19) and demands that we become a “new creation in Christ “ (2 Corinthians 5:17). We are even challenged by Jesus to be “converted and become as little children” (Matthew 18:3) in order to enter the kingdom of heaven.

Perhaps my favorite biblical example of change is found in Saul/Paul in the Book of Acts. The road to Damascus can be called the “highway of change” – both as a place and as a prototype of conversion. When Saul was knocked off his horse, he experienced the initial point of spiritual change. The ripple effects are visually found in the scales falling from his eyes, his baptism, the regaining of his strength and the subsequent season of learning and ministry (see Acts 9).

Alan Roxburg in The Sky is Falling writes, “On the road to Damascus, his [Paul] world was radically undermined. The experience literally blinded him, and that blindness was a metaphor for his sudden separation from his world framework and liminality. It was in that state that this defender of Judaism had to trust the very people who, up to a moment before, had been his sworn enemies. What emerged…was a new man – Paul the bondservant of Jesus Christ.”

What we see in the Apostle Paul could not have been possible without significant change. Change was, and continues to be, required. Change is good. Change keeps us fresh. It cultivates a dependence upon God. It sure keeps things stimulating, rather than life-less and boring (and who really wants life to be that way?). It’s important to commit to an ever-growing, ever-changing and ever-blossoming relationship with the Lord.

Here are some “change concepts” that I have considered (and ask those I lead to consider)…
• Listen to a different style of music for a month.
• Read the Bible out in the middle of an open field or empty parking lot.
• Sit in a different place at church next weekend.
• Eat some food that have never tried before.
• Introduce yourself to someone you don’t know
• Go on a short-term missions trip or a vacation to a new area of the world.

Change is good. As a matter of fact, it is wonderful. Jesus went to the cross so that we could experience the greatest change of all…salvation…a change of heart.