Sep 05

“Tobacco and Rifle Shells”

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” – Ephesians 2:8-9

As a child, I often sat and listened to my family tell stories, an exercise that was entertaining, but also an activity that made me wonder about my family’s collective IQ.

Like the time my uncle told about his uncle. The one who kept his pipe – and his rifle shells – in the same pocket. One day, the inevitable happened – one of the bullets ignited and a loud explosion emanated from the pocket of my uncle’s uncle (Does that make the protagonist of this story a blood-relative? I hope not.), who pronounced curses upon himself if he knew what had happened.

He knew what happened. Or, at least, he should have known. Like the day my dad drove – forward – into a concrete barrier in a parking lot. Or the many, many times Kimberly has sent me to the Grocery Store for milk and eggs, only to discover that I have returned with bacon and orange juice (at least I didn’t stray from the “breakfast” theme!).

Isn’t it a good thing that we’re saved by grace through faith? That it doesn’t depend on your – or your family’s – IQ? That it doesn’t depend on your having obtained a perfect past? That it doesn’t depend on your past good decisions but on your present and ongoing decision to follow Christ, no matter what you might have done five minutes ago?

Some of us are frustrated, angry and fearful that we might be discovered making some kind of mistake. I understand – I have walked in your shoes – and they’re a pretty tight fit! I can’t cover much ground when I wear them. And they’re not the “Good News Shoes” Paul tells us about in Ephesians 6. No, those shoes don’t bring good news. They bring news of frustration and stress, because when we wear them, we are always worried about how we look to others and too often looking back rather than ahead.

Take those ugly, uncomfortable and useless shoes off. Put on the Gospel Shoes. Walk in them, secure in the fact that your sins are forgiven. And “press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14).

Aug 28

“Jesus and Wal-Mart Chicken”

But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.” – 1 Peter 3:15

Kim sent me into the Wal-Mart to pick up some potatoes – Yukon Gold, if they had them (they didn’t). I was hungry, so I was happy to run this errand for us – and pick up a snack for me! Upon walking in the door, I decided to inquire about the Buffalo Wings.

I walked up to the counter and was greeted by a twenty-something young man with those earlobe-stretching earrings. His looked to be about an inch in diameter. I’ve never understood that particular fashion accessory, but by now I’m used to seeing things I don’t understand. Anyway, I was asking him about the chicken and he was trying to answer, but seemed distracted. Turns out he was. He asked me a question:

“What religion are you?” He asked. I was a little surprised at the question: I mean, when you’re wearing a button that says “Jesus is Lord”, usually people know what your religion is. “I’m a Christian,” I said.

Then he began to talk to me: “I’m thinking I need to get into religion. You see, I was homeless until I was sixteen years old. And now I’m in a little trouble. And I’m thinking maybe I need religion so I don’t get in trouble again.” We spoke for a few more minutes. I gave him my name and number. Told him I was a Minister (He didn’t know what a “Minister” was!). Explained that my job was meeting people, learning about them and helping them find the help they need in Jesus and His church. Then we parted company and once again I was surprised at how Jesus had come to Wal-Mart.

You never know what path people are traveling. So we need to be prepared. Prepared with Good News. Prepared with confidence in Christ. Prepared to listen. And, above all, prepared to be pleasantly surprised when people don’t fit into the boxes we’ve prepared for them. What if all of us were more open about our Christ-following as we went about our daily business? How often would we be pleasantly surprised at Jesus’ coming to Wal-Mart, revealing Himself to someone we wouldn’t normally know?

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