Hey, Good Buddy, Ya Got Your Ears On?

original photo credit: Travis Isaacs via photopin cc
photo credit: Travis Isaacs via photopin cc

There was a season during my teenage years when CB radios were all the rage. People installed them in their cars and sometimes even their houses. My buddy’s dad had his own little CB station set up in the corner of his living room to keep him entertained through the long winter evenings.

“CB Lingo”—once only the language of truckers and rednecks—became common jargon for all of American society. Whether by radio or by phone, it was common to greet a friend with, “Hey, Good Buddy, Ya Got Your Ears On?” Little did I realize then that it was Jesus who coined that phrase—only His was a slightly different version.

Talking on CB Radio
photo credit: Andrew 鐘 via photopin cc

Matthew 13:3-9 records what is often called “the parable of the sower.”

And He spoke many things to them in parables, saying, “Behold, the sower went out to sow; and as he sowed, some seeds fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate them up. Others fell on the rocky places, where they did not have much soil; and immediately they sprang up, because they had no depth of soil. But when the sun had risen, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. Others fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked them out. And others fell on the good soil and yielded a crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear.” (NASB)

Did you notice how Jesus ended His little story? “He who has ears, let him hear.” It’s similar to, “Hey, Ya Got Your Ears On?” but with a slightly different twist. Jesus commonly used this phrase when in the process of making a difficult statement. In a sense, the Son of God was saying, “Listen up folks, you may not like what I’m saying, but you really need to hear this.”

photo credit: Natanis Davidsen via CreationSwap
photo credit: Natanis Davidsen via CreationSwap

After Jesus presented the parable of the sower, the crowds went on their way marveling about the eloquent stories that He told. Christ’s disciples, however, pulled Him aside and began to ask questions in an effort to get to the heart of the matter. The Messiah’s followers didn’t just hear what Jesus said; they actually listened.

You know, one thing about Jesus is that He is just so darn easy to ignore—at least in the short-term. A few people in Western culture totally reject what Jesus had to say, and I’ll say that, at the very least, I applaud them for their honesty. Most of us simply pick and choose, approaching the teachings of Christ like we would a restaurant buffet. We keep what tastes pleasant to the palate, while conveniently ignoring anything we deem to be distasteful.

Buffet
photo credit: Andrew Michaels via photopin cc

The problem with this approach is that the words of Jesus Christ can never be simply a matter of preference—they are the very words of life. Whether we choose to reject His teachings, or simply ignore them, I can guarantee that we will find ourselves paying a steep price in the end. The Creator of the Universe is not to be trifled with.

Personally, I really do prefer the pleasant parts of Christianity. I like, for instance, going on retreats—taking time to linger in the presence of God and sitting around the campfire singing Kumbaya with my brothers and sisters in Christ. But along the way, I have also learned the life-giving value of less palatable things like hard truth, correction, and discipline. The fact that I don’t like something doesn’t mean that I don’t need it!

How about you? Ya Got Your Ears On?

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Let’s Believe (Not Grieve) for our Nation!

Photo by jurvetson — CC BY 2.0

I tried to pray on Wednesday morning after the election, but found myself having trouble getting through. Apparently so many angels had been watching campaign ads run by The World Will End If Obama Wins PAC that they were inconsolable when the final election results came in. Angels are a high priority with God, of course, and so He was awake for much of the night doing damage control. When it came time to hear my prayers, the lines were jammed, leaving me without guidance or strength for several hours. Scary times!

Regardless of how any of us voted (or did not vote) on Tuesday, I hope that we realize the importance of putting everything in perspective. One man did not create the problems that we face as a nation and one man will not be able to fix them. I know that many of my friends were deeply grieved by the election results, but it is not like Mitt Romney was going to wave a magic wand and return the U.S. to some romantic yesteryear that never really was.

Photo by Mikamatto — CC BY 2.0

I am not saying that certain current trends are not disturbing. It does not take a rocket scientist to realize that the sense of animosity that divides us as a nation continues to intensify. We were all put off by the caustic nature of the recent campaigns, but if our government is representative of our people, it says something about what drives the average person. We are not dealing, however, with hatred for hatred’s sake, but rather an animosity driven by fear. If there is anything that was woven into the fabric of every negative campaign ad, it was fear. Even with the election over, the residue of that fear will continue to linger for a very long time. Fear is the fourth and final trap that I want to highlight in relationship to Christians and the political arena.

I have always been intrigued by the Parable of the Sower, now seeing it as one of the pillars of Christ’s teaching ministry.

And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world [age] and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. Matthew 13:22 (NASB)

Photo by jenny drowning — CC BY 2.0

The seed suppressed by thorny weeds refers to those who have willingly received the message of the kingdom. Unfortunately, not all who embrace Christ will produce the necessary fruit of His kingdom.

The worry of the age is that collective sense of anxiety that accompanies the large scale problems of any era. As Christians, we are especially susceptible because we care. But if we allow a sense of worry to build a nest in our hearts, it will choke the vitality of our lives, rendering us fruitless.

I have the privilege of interacting with Christians from a variety of spheres in the universal Body of Christ and a common thread I see running through most of their lives is an underlying sense of discouragement due to the collective worry of the age. But I don’t believe that God wants us to grieve for our nation and our world as much as He wants us to believe for our nation and our world. It is our faith-filled prayers and not a foreboding sense of fear that will move mountains.

Photo by Lincolnian (Brian) — CC BY 2.0

If there is anything that is going to turn the tide of unrighteousness in our world, it is a vibrant Church. But if the people of God are mired in fear and worry, what platform do we have to make any real and viable impact on our culture?

The key in all of this is not to remove ourselves from the political arena, or to simply ignore the issues around us. The key is learning to take the things that burden us to Christ and to prayerfully roll our concerns onto His more than capable shoulders. You and I were never meant to carry the weight of the world. Let’s not allow campaign induced fear to build a comfortable nest in our hearts.

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;

And the government will rest on His shoulders;

And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,

Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.

There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace,

On the throne of David and over his kingdom,

To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness

From then on and forevermore.

The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this.

Isaiah 9:6-7 (NASB)

More Secrets for Permanent Weight Loss!

Photo by Don Hankins (CC by 2.0)

The world around us, which promises so much, isn’t making any significant deposits into my joy account these days. In fact, it’s been quite a drain recently. I suppose that much of it is linked to the economy and, of course, the continually rising price of fuel. Just when the economic outlook begins to brighten, chaos erupts in the Middle East, creating an unnerving sense of instability all across the globe.

But this isn’t all we’re dealing with! Consider the following: Massive federal debt with extreme partisanship and no viable solutions. Local and state governments struggling to stay afloat. The gap between rich and poor continuing to widen. Global warming and natural disasters. New diseases and ineffective antibiotics. Continued moral decay in all facets of society. The collapse of the nuclear family. Increased violence. A broken educational system. A declining Church.

The mention of each issue (and they are brought up continually) gives the feel of yet another weight being piled upon our already strained shoulders. Add on other concerns and the burden can at times seem unbearable.

A primary problem is that these are burdens we were never meant to carry—at least not in the form of worry or anxiety.

Isaiah prophesied of the coming of Christ: “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders . . . .” Isaiah 9:6 (NASB)

This is really good news, but it does bring some questions to light. I mean, if you look at the state of our world, it may not seem like He knows what He is doing. This is where our understanding of the kingdom of God is crucial.

While I don’t believe that God directly controls all that takes place in this world, He does reign, ultimately steering even negative forces toward His sovereign purposes.

Photo by mira66 (CC By 2.0)A huge problem arises, however, when humans try to usurp God’s authority by seeking to control their own lives and all that’s around them. The sad state of our world is due to man’s quest for control and independence from God. Unfortunately, this is exactly what we are doing when we carry the weight of the world on our backs. We’re trying to shoulder burdens that only God can bear. (Herein lies the power and beauty of the Lord’s Prayer)

The result of our independence? Pain. Frustration. Worry. Anxiety. Exhaustion. A withering faith.

“And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world [Or age ] and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.” Matthew 13:22 (NAS)

Christ is speaking here of Christians—people who willingly receive God’s word. Ouch!

So how do we shed the weight of unnecessary burdens? Some choose the road of irresponsibility, developing an “I don’t care” attitude. This approach, however, is totally inconsistent with God’s heart.

1 Peter 5 is a chapter well worth reading in its entirety, but I’ll just quote verses 6 & 7: “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.” (NASB)

Surrender control of your concerns to God.

Pray for Him to work in each particular situation.

Believe that He will do awesome things according to His good will.

You may feel lighter already but the secret is learning to do this as a way of life!