Arachnophobia!

I’m not a fan of spiders.* Watching the movie Arachnophobia as a child didn’t help any.  Seeing that farm overrun with too-many-to-count 8-legged critters kept me up at night. Literally.  Every tiny tingle on my arm in the dark after I watched it caused me to dart for the lights to be sure I wasn’t being hunted by one (or more) of those evil minions.

I was reminded of that spider disdain again recently as I was driving to work. While Brown Garden Spiderattempting to pray during the drive (with my eyes open I might add) I looked out my driver’s side window to notice a large, brown garden spider flailing in the passing air. As I slowed the car coming up on a traffic light, the spider quickly scurried to repair parts of its web. In case you were wondering, the second I saw my mortal enemy on my mirror, I gave up praying and entered into all-out war.  When I sped up again, it tightened its grip on its web, slowly creeping toward the mirror on my driver’s door.  If it didn’t get blown off, which I was valiantly—or should I say violently—attempting, I determined this small, hideous creature would meet a quick exit from the world of the living upon my arrival at work. But as I slowed down again coming up to a stop sign, I felt a rising, “No!” reverberate in my chest as that spider slinked in behind the mirror.  I wouldn’t see it again until the next morning. Again the creature had spun its web and flailed in the air as my car traveled down the road. And again, before I could sling it off or see it met a timely death, the spider snuck behind the mirror.  It wasn’t until the evening of night two that I noticed it out from his hiding place and evicted it once and for all.

In many ways, that tag-along arachnid parallels the hidden sins that fasten themselves onto us. They find deep, dark corners away from the brilliant light of God’s presence. They latch on deeply resisting eviction.  They scurry to build sticky webbings binding themselves to other parts of our lives making it more and more difficult to rid ourselves of them.  Anger sticks closely to bitterness.  Gossip with slander.  Lust with laziness and selfishness.  Dishonesty with theft.  One becomes two, and two becomes ten.  Before we know it, the enmeshed web caused by our sins may even begin to feel like those countless spiders that took over that farm in Arachnophobia. And just like that tiny creature distracted me from praying that morning, each one of these evils seeks to keep us from spending time from God’s presence and obeying His will.

Thankfully, the Bible tells us exactly how to address these fowl, hidden sins.

5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming. 7 In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. 8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. 11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.

12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Colossians 3:5-17

What hiding spiders are lurking in your dark closets?  Why don’t you exterminate them before they overrun you?

*I addressed my spider hatred for the first time in my book, The Filling. If you want to find out about the Holy Spirit’s work in the Christian life, or just more about the origins of my hatred for 8-legged evil, you can get a copy here.

 

What Facebook Taught Me about Remembering

Facebook gets it. Every day, I get one or more “On This Day” reminders about what I posted or did on Facebook one year, three years, or ten years ago. These reminders reveal my corny first posts (you know you had them too before you figured out your social media skills).  They call my mind back to who I became friends with and how long we’ve been connected. They let me remember a photo, usually of my son, in his ridiculously adorable toddler or young child days.  Just this week, I saw this picture pop up on my memories.

Joseph hanging on the tub_9.11.2010

That’s my son trying to play in the tub when he was just nearing his first birthday. He toddled over to the bath and tried to dig something out managing to get himself stuck. He was too cute to miss the perfect opportunity to snap this pic. I’m so glad I did and posted it. That was a good day.

You might find this next statement odd, but it’s been true for me—these Facebook memories have helped me grow as a Christian. You see, Facebook gets what the Bible has been emphasizing for thousands of years. We have been created to remember. Moses warned the Israelites to remember God’s deliverance from the slavery of Egypt when they entered the promised land so they would continually obey him (Deuteronomy 6:10-15). Joshua commanded the Israelites to make an altar of stones from the dry river bed of the Jordan River to remind them of this same deliverance into the promised land and the parting of the river as they crossed over (Joshua 4:4-7). Jesus told his disciples to partake of the Lord’s Supper regularly to remember his sacrifice for us (Luke 22:14-21).

But one of my recent favorite Scriptures calling us to remember is one short, simple verse David writes in the Psalms.

I remember the days of old; I meditate on all that you have done; I ponder the work of your hands.  – Psalm 143:5

I’ve gravitated to this verse because of David’s progression of emphasis: remember, meditate, ponder. He wants us to call back to mind and dwell upon God’s past care for his people and for us specifically.

When was the last time you remembered when God first changed you? When did you last take the time to simply meditate on God’s goodness in your life? Can you recall when you just sat and pondered the ways God has worked around you and through you?

Facebook gets it, but the Scriptures got it first. We need to remember. So the next time Facebook pops up a picture or a post that takes you down memory lane, follow it. Then let it turn you to Jesus. And remember him and his works too.

9/11

I’m not sure any of us could have imagined the life-altering impact a number, a slash, and two more numbers, in that order, would have on American history. Sixteen years ago, I found myself sitting in science lab at North Greenville University when a TV was brought in to show the shock, devastation, and confusion that began at the hands of Islamic terrorists on that fateful day. During our midweek worship at Mud Creek that week, we did what thousands of other churches did — we gathered to pray. Then we responded. Teams left to help put the pieces back together spiritually, emotionally and physically.

Fast forward 16 years. One hurricane just left Houston under water. Another is pounding Florida, Georgia and large parts of the Southeast. Yesterday, we prayed for those caught in its path and the many still reeling from the one that decimated Texas. In the coming weeks, we will respond.

That’s what the church does. We pray. We respond. We seek God’s gracious intervention in the tragedies, disasters, and hurricanes. Then we ask Him to empower our hands and feet to give provision, relief, and aid to those caught under these calamities.

Why? That’s what Jesus did. When the devastating hurricane of evil, the vicious attack of the enemy, and the overwhelming flood of sin sought to bury us under their wake, Jesus prayed for us (see John 17) and the strength to fulfill His Father’s will (see Matthew 26:36-46), and then He responded by defeating Satan, evil, and even death upon the cross. We pray and respond to the hurts, battles, and disasters of others because Jesus did just that for us.

Today, pray. Tomorrow, respond. Like Jesus did for you. And as we do, the 9/11’s and the Hurricane Irma’s become the springboards for God to continue to display His grace and power in this world through us.

Church Clothes

Sometimes, an artist reaches through the speakers down all the way to your soul and pinches a nerve. The first time I heard Kelleigh Bannen’s song, “Church Clothes,” that’s exactly what happened. Her words squeezed and twisted and tore at deep, guttural places because they expose the far-too-real truth that we feel this need to cover up our hurts, struggles, and battles. I get it. Her song stings me because I’ve been there. I’ve covered my sins with a smile. I’ve tucked in my questions and doubts behind a dress shirt and sports coat. I’ve squirreled away my failures and fears underneath a happy disguise so no one else will know or see how broken and confused I felt.

Then it happened. I confessed. I confessed to God. And he didn’t cast me away. He didn’t throw me out with the trash. He didn’t run me off. He didn’t turn away in shame.  He showed me the way to reconcile with him. He often gently guided me to confess and seek the forgiveness of others.  He repaired me step by step through the counsel of his words in the Bible. He listened and shaped my prayers to him as he walked me away from my sins, failures, and messes. He let me bask in the kind joy of his loving mercy.

If you feel the need to wear “church clothes” to hide your shame, let me say, I am sorry. Church clothes are the sort of thing well-meaning but often times Pharisee-like church people expect. You don’t show your messes. You put on your Sunday best. You mind your manners.  But at all costs, you don’t show all that’s going on under the surface.

While some church folk need to work on receiving you as you are, remember: Jesus will without hesitation. You don’t have to hide from him. He sees and knows you all the way down anyway. He doesn’t look away. He doesn’t cast sideways glances with raised eyebrows. He doesn’t smugly gloat over you in haughty self righteousness. He’s the one to welcome the long lost son with open arms (Luke 15:20). He’s the type to pray for the forgiveness of his murderers (Luke 23:34). He loved and died for us when we were his enemies (Romans 5:10).

If you haven’t heard Kelleigh’s song, you can watch it here. My guess is, you will probably have a wide range of emotions like me. And that’s ok. Just be sure to remember that Jesus will meet you where you are, how you are, warts and all. Oh and by the way, you can leave the church clothes at home when you meet with Jesus. You’ll never need them with him.