Missing Our Mission?

Are we missing our mission? And by that I mean are we, as Christ followers, forgetting that our primary mission is to introduce others to Jesus? There is more to it than that as we grow, but if we try to make it as simple as we can, we should be living in such a way that we are able to share Jesus with other people.

Their acceptance or rejection of Jesus is then up to them. That’s not on us. But what is on us is sharing His love with all those that we can. As I look around our world today, however, I’m afraid that the answer to my first question is a resounding ‘YES’! We are missing our mission. But before I go any further, let’s take a look at some of Jesus’ last words, both before and after His crucifixion.

After washing His disciples’ feet and commanding them through His own actions to become servants, Jesus added what He called a “new command”. John records it this way in John 13:34-35:

34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

People will know you are Christ followers by the way you love one another.  That’s basically what Jesus is getting at here. Pretty simple.  William Barclay, in his commentary on this passage added some good information. Jesus is calling His disciples to love each other as Christ has loved them. In other words, for us, it is a call to love those we come in contact with, especially other Christ followers, the way that Christ has loved us.

But how has Christ loved? Barclay added four ways that Christ has loved us; Selflessly, sacrificially, understandingly, and forgivingly. That’s how we are to love one another if we want to be known as His followers.

Then, on the mountainside after His resurrection, just before ascending to Heaven, Jesus leaves us with His final command.  Matthew records it in chapter 28, and most of us know it as “The Great Commission”. These are His final words to His disciples, and it is a command that is passed to us as Christ followers. Verses 18-20 read:

18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Sharing Christ with others, making disciples, and baptizing them into Christ. That’s our mission. It’s not complicated, although, I think we make it complicated. One note, baptizing others is something we are commanded, and we get caught up on that, however, we miss another essential part of this command. Making disciples. That means helping others grow in their relationship with Christ. Christ followers make other Christ followers.

But back to my first question. Are we hitting this mission? Maybe to some degree, but I have to admit, my heart aches as I continue to watch Christians rip each other apart because they interpret passages from the Bible differently than one another. I am a part of a few different minister and restoration movement pages on social media. Instead of encouraging one another, what I see more often is attack after attack.

I’m all for a good debate. Debate is healthy. But what I see all too often is the attitude of “I am right and there is no room for anyone to disagree with me. If you disagree with me you are completely WRONG, and therefore are less of a Christ follower than I”. And let me just say this: I am sick of it.

Disciples make other disciples

We are called to make disciples. You can’t make disciples if you are not a disciple yourself. Disciples make other disciples or Christ followers make other Christ followers. Remember what Jesus said in John 13. I’m paraphrasing, “Love one another as I have loved you. By your love they will know you are My disciple”. How did Jesus love us? Selflessly, sacrificially, understandingly, and forgivingly.


What I am seeing from other Christ followers is anything but loving one another. And I’m talking to both sides of the debate. Most recently it has been over the topic of “women in leadership”. I’m not going to get into the debate. I’ve got friends and respected minds on both sides of the issue. For my purpose today, however, where you land on this topic is not the important part. It’s how you choose to present your interpretation.

We should be better than the world around us!

We focus so much on our differences. We are saturated by that in out culture today. It’s not just in the Church. But we should be better than the world around us! None of us are going to have it all figured out correctly. And we’re never going to agree 100% with anyone. But just because you disagree with someone doesn’t mean that you can just completely rip them apart either.

I’ll wrap up with this. Again, I’m talking to both sides of any debate, especially debates among Christ followers.

John 13:34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

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Where Was God?

*I am blessed to have the opportunity to write articles for our local newspaper from time to time.  Below is the article that should be published in the Oct. 12 edition of the Canton Times.*

Where is God in all of this? You hear that question all the time, especially after something horrible takes place.  You get a cancer diagnosis, a loved one dies, you lose a job that you really needed, or 59 people are tragically killed and over 500 are injured at a concert in Las Vegas. Another question that is often asked along the same lines is “How can you believe in God with all the pain, evil, and suffering in the world?”

I get it.  Tragedy makes us stop and wonder. In fact, in response to the tragic events of Las Vegas, I posed this question question to the teens in our youth group this past week because they are going to hear questions like this as their friends discuss the broken world that we obviously live in.

The reason we live in a broken world is not because there is no God or that God has chosen to be absent.  It is because He has decided to give us free will. Free will is what makes us human. We get to decide how we live our lives. It is through free will that we get to chose to love God. Without free will, our love for God would not be a real love. Think about it. If you are forced to love someone, is that real love? No.

But at the same time, because we have free will, we can choose to do something that harms ourselves or others. Free will led to Adam and Eve sinning in the Garden of Eden. Free will is what allowed Cain to kill his brother Abel over jealousy. But it was also free will that allowed Jesus to choose to go to the cross as payment for our sins.

Why does God allow events like Las Vegas to happen? Where was He? He loves us enough to give us free will because He wants our true love. Events like Vegas happen because we forget God. He doesn’t forget us. Where was He? You can see Him all around in the stories of people sacrificing their own safety in order to help one another.

Romans 8:28 reads, “28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” That doesn’t mean that He causes bad things to happen. But when bad things do happen, something good is always going to come out of them. We might not ever see the full effect, but all things are worked for the good of those who Love God.

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Living in a Small Town

Canton CC logoWe’ve been in Canton, OK for almost three weeks now.  To say that it is a small town would almost be an understatement.  When we decided to move here, I really believed that I would like it, but that it would take some time to adjust.  I was a little off in my belief though.

I absolutely love it here.  Living in a small town is different than most places I’ve been, but I feel right at home.  It is amazing to me how this community is a true community.  We watch out for one another.  We speak to one another in town.  It really seems that people genuinely care for one another.

Let me tell you about a couple of our experiences so far.  There is a grocery store here in town, which means we don’t have to drive 30 miles to the nearest Walmart all the time.  Kelley and I went shopping the other day to get some groceries.  We were getting enough that we needed a buggy.  When we got up to the checkout, there was a high school age girl working.  She checked us out and then did something that completely blew my mind.  She didn’t even ask.  She picked up all our grocery bags and started out the door with them.  The only question she asked was where we were parked.

I had never had that happen before.  Most stores will help you take your things out if you ask, but this was different.  I’ve been in a few other times to get a few things, and when I tell them that I can take my things out myself, they almost insist on doing it for you. 

Yesterday was probably the most eventful day that we’ve had since the move.  We had our normal church activities in the morning, went to lunch with a couple from the church, and then was back at the church by 2 for a retirement reception for the previous minister here.  This was open to the entire community, not just those that attend church with us.  And this community did not disappoint.  For two solid hours people came and went, congratulating Steve and Betty, and welcoming Kelley and I to the community.  And it didn’t matter if they went to church here or not, they were genuinely excited to meet us and welcome us.

Here’s my point.  This is what true Christian community should look like.  If you are a Christ follower, then we are all on the same team.  It doesn’t matter if you go to the Christian Church, the Baptist Church, or whatever church.  One of my favorite statements about the Restoration Movement is “We are not the only Christians, but we are Christians only.”  We are all in this together, and in a small town in Oklahoma, I’m starting to see that actually play out.  Is it perfect?  No, because we are human and we will never reach perfection this side of Heaven.  But when a Christian Church minister and a First Baptist Church minister can sit down with their spouses around a dinner table and talk for hours, I think we’re headed in the right direction.

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God is Always Faithful: Times of Transition

You may have noticed that I have been unusually silent on Thoughts From a Crosseyed Jesus Freak.  Life has been a little hectic to say the least over the last couple of months.  With all the craziness, however, one thing has remained perfectly clear.  God’s plan and timing so perfect, especially when we don’t understand exactly what is going on.

At the beginning of July, I was informed that my job in Carlsbad would be ending at the end of the month.  Around the same time that that happened, I was contacted by two different churches asking me to come visit with them for potential preaching positions.  We worked out the details to travel to these two church beginning in August and began fervently praying that God would open the doors to where He had in store for us next.

Well, God never disappoints.  I knew that in my head, but I also knew that His timing is not always when we want things.  I was preparing myself for the possibility that I would not step directly into another ministry position right away.  But this time, God had different plans. 

These past couple of months have been an whirlwind of emotion as we have said goodbye to friends and the town that we have called home for the last three years, and as we have moved to Canton, Oklahoma to begin preaching at Canton Christian Church.  Canton CC logoWhile I understand God’s faithfulness to us, I am absolutely blown away at how quickly He led us here to Canton.  We arrived in town just under a week ago, and I preached this past Sunday to officially begin my ministry here.

 

I don’t know what you are going through.  Times are tough and life has a way of throwing curve ball after curve ball at us.  Don’t lose hope.  God’s timing and plan is perfect.  He has proven that to me over and over again.  If you are going through something that you need prayer to help keep you focused on God, please reach out to me or someone else you trust.  I would be honored to pray with and for you.  Above all, never lose sight of the fact that God loves you!  Life is never promised to be easy, but it is worth it when we follow Him with our whole lives. 

As I get settled in here in Canton, I plan on trying to get back to regularly posting.  I’ve missed writing the last couple of months as life has just been crazy.  As my wife said after this past Sunday, “The best is yet to come!”

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Thoughts From That Other Jesus Freak

*Yesterday, I posted an article that I had written as a guest post for a friend of mine.  He has written a guest post for Thoughts from a Crosseyed Jesus Freak, and I am excited to share his words with you today.  Peter writes at https://www.onlyopendoor.com/ about the Church and why we need to be involved.  He’s also the youth minister at First Christian Church in Lovington, NM and in his own words is, “That Other Jesus Freak”.*

My 15th birthday was a day of joy and total sorrow. Just like any other birthday, I got to choose a friend to join me and my family for dinner at a restaurant of my choice. After dinner, I was told we would take my friend home, then head home for a bit before anyone was allowed to do anything that evening. It was then that my parents sat my brothers and I down in the living room. I knew something was up, we never met this way. That evening, my parents broke the news that my father only had months to live.

Years later, I had the opportunity to become a youth pastor in Arizona. I was fresh out of college, well, I was 26 at the time I graduated, and this was my first chance to work in the ministry. I was excited and scared to be moving from Minnesota to Arizona. Things started off so well, but they didn’t end up that way. After only months, I started to feel the negative attitude of some in the church, and it never really got any better, which ultimately led to my negative departure.

These stories are not meant to depress you or make you feel sorry for me. I share these stories because as a Jesus Freak, I feel the need to share the positive side of these negative stories. You see, God answers all our prayers. You might be thinking, you prayed that God would take your father? That would be insane. I prayed for my father to be healed. I prayed to be able to do God’s work and to grow in my own spiritual walk. God’s answer is not always the one we want though.

You see, my father was healed. He was a Christ follower, and I truly believe that he has a new body, free of tumors, in heaven. Not exactly the healing I wanted at the time. I also would have loved to continue working with the students I had in Arizona, but God wanted me to take some time away from ministry to grow personally before landing me in New Mexico as a youth pastor once more.

There will be trials in our lives, especially if we choose to follow Jesus Christ. It isn’t an easy life to be a true Christ follower. If it were easy, there would be more people that would give up the things this world offers to follow Christ. There will be tough times ahead.

But we can have comfort in Christ through these tough times!

John 16:33 “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.” (CSB)

Being courageous is sometimes easier said than done. It is not easy to be courageous when you are faced with uncertainty and loss. But Jesus also tell us this in Luke 12:25-26

“Can any of you add one moment to his life-span by worrying? 26 If then you’re not able to do even a little thing, why worry about the rest” (CSB)

We cannot live our days worrying about what will come. We MUST learn to trust that God will provide us with what we need. When the times are tough, call on Him. When things are going well, thank Him. Don’t worry about what the world will think of you when you follow Christ.

“I don’t really care if they label me a Jesus Freak, there ain’t no disguising the truth.”

Thoughts from that other Jesus Freak, Peter Wernimont.

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Make It Your Own

*This post originally appeared on my friend Peter’s new blog here.  Check it out and follow his work there.*

CHRCHPeter asked me to write a guest post for his new blog.  It’s been great getting to know him over the last few months since he moved to New Mexico.  We’ve collaborated on a lot of stuff for Guadalupe Christian Camp, and he is the only other person I know with a “Jesus Freak” tattoo.

I’m a lot like Peter in how he described his experience growing up in the church.  My grandparents weren’t in ministry like his, but I grew up basically in the church anytime the doors were open.  And that was great.  I love that I grew up that way, but I came to a point in my life that I walked away from the Church.  Here’s some things I’ve learned from and about my experience of walking away.

I used an excuse of something I was frustrated about to justify walking away.

During my time in youth group, I was all in.  I was a leader in the group, especially in the last two or three years of high school.  It was that youth group that helped me through the death of my father as a fifteen year old.  One of the main things that we fought hard for during my time was a united group.

As we entered the youth group as seventh graders, it became pretty apparent that there were some major cliques in the group.  The students in the class before me and my class fought very hard to dispel the cliques, and try to be as united of a group as we could be.  Not trying to brag, but I feel that we did a pretty good job of that.  We tried to be friends with everyone in the group, and hang out with everyone as much as possible. 

After graduating high school and moving to the college age Sunday school class, however, I found out real quick that those cliques had reformed there.  Instead of trying to get rid of the cliques, I used them as an excuse to start slowly walking away from the Church.  There were other subconscious factors that lead to this as well, so I used it as an excuse.  It started as just missing Sunday school, but slowly and surely it go to the point I would miss a Sunday altogether.  And then the next thing I knew, I was skipping multiple Sundays and using my job as an excuse.

I thought it was possible to be a Christ follower on my own.

I convinced myself through this whole thing that I could maintain my relationship with Christ on my own.  I didn’t need to be going to church every week.  I was planning on going into ministry any way, so I was in a good place.  Pay attention to this section if you don’t pay attention to anything else.  I was dead wrong.  One thing I have figured out in my life is that God created us to be in community with Him…and with fellow Christ followers.  Christianity is not a path that can be easily walked without love, support, and accountability from a community of other believers.  It just can’t happen.

The more I tried to follow Jesus on my own without that community, the more I just started really going through the motions of my belief and faith.  When I ended up going to Bible College a couple of years later, that translated into just having fun and not taking my faith, or my studies seriously.  Here I was, living on campus surrounded by fellow Christ followers, but I was still just pretending and going through the motions.  You cannot follow Christ on your own…at least not very well.

The longer I was away, the harder it was to go back.

I think subconsciously I started realizing this, but I had walked away from a true Christian community for a few years now.  A simple turn back to God was all that was needed.  Think of the story of the Prodigal son.  God is ready to run to us when we finally take a step back toward Him.  But it’s not always easy to get to a place where you are ready to take that step.

Pride in trying to do it all on my own was a huge stumbling block.  Again, I really think I saw what was happening, but I thought that I could fix it on my own.  I had this.  I could come back anytime I wanted to.  But the longer I was away, the more pride got in my way.  It’s hard to stand up and admit, even to God, that you’ve messed up. 

It wasn’t until a relationship ended in a very hurtful way that I truly began to wake up, to realize that I desperately needed God and a strong Christian community to truly live out my faith.  But I also realized something that would really change everything for me…

My faith was not my own…yet.

I realized that the faith that was so strong even through my youth group years wasn’t really my own.  I had been raised to believe in Jesus, to know the Bible stories, to go to Church, and all of those things are great.  There is nothing wrong with any of it.  But at some point, you have to take that faith that your parents instilled in you, and it has to become your own.

I was baptized because all my friends were getting baptized.  It was just the natural thing to do.  I loved God, don’t get me wrong, but I was living on a faith that was given to me by my parents and my friends.  And that’s a good starting place.  You just can’t stay there the rest of your life and truly live the way that God is calling you to.  It has to mean something to YOU…not for someone else, but for you. 

There is a passage in Mark 8 where Jesus is talking to His disciples.  He asks them the question “Who do the crowds say that I am?”  They respond, “Some say Elijah, others John the Baptist, still others a prophet.”  And those were good answers.  They were putting Jesus up there with some of the heroes of Hebrew history.  But that’s not who Jesus really was.  He then turned the question from who the crowd thought He was to the disciples.  “Who do you say I am?!”  Peter spoke up and gave the first confession of faith.  He said “You are the Christ!”

When we are living by someone else’s faith, even if they are correct in their understanding, we can be like the crowds.  Jesus is important.  No doubt about it.  But He may not be seen as Lord of our lives.  We have to answer Jesus’ second question.  It’s not one that He just asked the twelve disciples 2,000 years ago.  He is asking us as well.  Who do you say that Jesus is?  Until we view Jesus as the true Lord and Savior of our lives, and therefore put Him in the proper place in our lives, we will not be living our own faith.  If we are not living our own faith yet, then it’s easy to make excuses and not gather with other Christ followers.  That’s why the percentage of people who claim to be Christians and the percentage of people who are actually active in Church is so drastically different.

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Kraig Birchfield is the main author on crosseyedjesusfreak.com.  You can check out more of his articles there.  He is first and foremost a Christ follower.  He is a husband to Kelley, a writer, preacher, and a Crosseyed Jesus Freak.

Defending the Faith Conference

--How do you stand up for truth in a word gone mad--

I wrote a bit of a teaser for it yesterday, but as promised, I want to tell you about Guadalupe Christian Camp’s upcoming “Defending the Faith Conference”.  This is the first annual apologetics conference that the camp is going to be hosting on July 29-31, and I would absolutely love for you to join us.  Let me get some housekeeping issues out of the way.  If you are interested, make your plans now, because there are only a few days left for the early bird rate of $45 per person.  After July 3, the price goes up to $55 per person.  All you need to do to register is to contact David Shaw at dcshaw529@gmail.com, letting him know how many will be joining your party.  Then you pay when you get to the camp on Saturday. 

How do you stand up for truth in a world gone mad?!

So let me pose a question.  “How do you stand up for truth in a world gone mad?!”  That’s exactly the question that we are going to be trying to walk through during the main sessions and the Q&A times throughout the event.  And that is one of the most important and relevant questions that we as Christ followers need to answer in our own lives.  We have to be ready to give a defense of our faith at a moments notice.  That doesn’t mean that we have to have all the answers.  That would be impossible.  But we need to be prepared.  In fact, Paul challenges Timothy with that specifically.  In II Timothy 4:2-4, Paul writes the following to Timothy;

2 Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; rebuke, correct, and encourage with great patience and teaching. 3 For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, will multiply teachers for themselves because they have an itch to hear what they want to hear. 4 They will turn away from hearing the truth and will turn aside to myths.

Verses 3 and 4 sound like Paul was looking directly into our time.  There is no absolute truth anymore, according to the society we live in.  There are many ways to God, and the fact that Christianity claims to be the only way to God is insensitive…or at least that’s what the world around us is screaming at the top of its lungs.  All paths lead to God.  Well, if you are a Christ follower, then you know that that is not what Jesus taught.  Jesus made a very bold claim in John 14:6-7.  He said;

6 Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you know me, you will also know my Father. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

Like I said, that is a bold claim.  But Jesus backed that claim up by going to the cross and God raising Him from the dead.  We have to stand firm.  We have to be bold.  We know the truth: Jesus is the only way to God.  But we have to speak that truth in love.  That’s what we are going to be discussing in this inaugural event held at Guadalupe Christian Camp.  I, along with three other area preachers, will be presenting on a variety of different topics.  Stephen B, a Christian comedian will also be there on Saturday night presenting his comedy routine.  This promises to be a great weekend, and we would love to have you join us.  The camp is located at 56 Christian Camp Road, Carlsbad, NM  88220, about an hour outside of Carlsbad. 

Let’s come together, and answer the question.  “How do you stand up for truth in a world gone mad?!”

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Refreshed and Refocused

I’ve been absent for a little while.  My apologies for that.  But I was working a week of church camp last week at Guadalupe Christian Camp for Jr. and Sr. High students.  While I had access to internet there, I felt my time was more valuable investing in the week there instead of trying to write for “Thoughts From a Crosseyed Jesus Freak”.  I mean, I had to write a sermon while I was there anyway, so I didn’t take anymore time for this.

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It was a great week.  We had 38 teenagers and quite a few adults from West Texas and Southeast New Mexico that attended the week, and I do believe that lives were changed.  We had a speaker from Illinois that blew it out of the water, as well as a Christian band from El Paso that was just as interested in investing in the lives of the teens there as they were about playing music for the evening sessions. 

We got to get away from our normal hectic schedules and spend time with fellow Christ followers, up on a mountain, away from distractions.  Although it was a scorching hot week, we were able to enjoy God’s creation together in a few different ways as well.  One of those was spending time at Sitting Bull Falls, hiking and swimming one afternoon (the temperature gauge in the van I drove read 108 degrees when we parked at the falls).  On Friday morning, we went on the annual hike to the ridge that has quickly become one of my favorite places that I have seen in person on this earth. 

As tired as I have been since returning, the physical exhaustion has been well worth it.  I came back mentally, emotionally, and spiritually refreshed.  That’s something that I’ve needed for a long time.  I got to spend time with other ministers, discussing our churches and what things we need prayer and support in.  Just bouncing ideas off of others is so beneficial.  I got to have some good laughs with the other adults there as well.

One thing happened on two separate nights, however, that may top any camp experience I have ever had.  Well, not really because I received my call into ministry at a week of camp, but this was awesome anyway…just not on the exact same level.  On Thursday night, we were having a camp fire/smores night, and a couple of the band members were there playing acoustic guitars.  The night was coming to an end, and I jokingly asked the lead band member if he knew “Jesus Freak” and explained my website.  They didn’t know the song by memory, but looked up the chords and started playing.  That is when a bunch of the other adults and I started singing our lungs out to an impromptu jam session of “Jesus Freak”.  It was incredible.

Then, the next night at worship was supposed to be more of a concert style worship with the band.  Wally told me early that night that he was going to call me from the sound booth to come up to the stage to help him with something, but that it was for the kids.  I asked what, but he wouldn’t tell me.  When he finally called me up, he handed me a mic and said they were going to play “Jesus Freak”.  I got the other guy at camp with a Jesus Freak tattoo to join me on stage, handed him the mic, because I don’t sing into mics, and we got to sing on stage to a live version of “Jesus Freak”.  As you could imagine, this Crosseyed Jesus Freak was flying high after that.

It just reminds me of where our focus should be though.  Where does your passion lay?  This world tries to distract us, but if I’m going to claim to be a Crosseyed Jesus Freak, I need to be focused on Jesus 100% of the time…or at least as much of that time as I can be.  We have to be strong in our faith.  That’s why this event that I want to tell you about is so important. Guadalupe Christian Camp is getting ready to host its First Annual “Defending the Faith Conference” at the end of July.  Check back here tomorrow for an article about that, but if you are in southeast New Mexico or west Texas, consider joining us for this conference.

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Graduation or Golf?

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Erin Hills Golf Course

As you know if you read my articles regularly, I often find stories about sports or athletes that relate to elements of our Christian walk.  I’m a huge sports fan, so these stories just seem to stick out to me. 

Erin HillsThis week, the U.S. Open golf tournament is set to be played at Erin Hills Golf Course in Erin, WI.  Actually as I type these words, the tournament is already under way.  The U.S. Open, for those of you not familiar with golf, is one of the four annual tournaments that are classified as “Majors”.  These are the toughest tournaments of the year, with usually the toughest golf course set ups that truly test the skills of professional golfers that are good enough to earn their way in to them.

Majors have the most prize money and the most prestige for those that are fortunate enough to win them.  To win a major tournament is to set yourself apart from the rest of the golfing world.  That’s why the story that broke officially this morning is so special.  Phil Mickelson, otherwise known as “Lefty” because he plays left-handed, has won multiple majors over his 25-year professional career.  He’s won three of the four majors at least once.  But he’s never won the U.S. Open.  He’s come close, earning second place six times, but he’s never been able to win it.

He’s been playing professional golf for 25 years, which means that he is getting close to the end of his competitive prime, and will not necessarily have too many more chances to win this elusive tournament.  Yet, Phil officially withdrew from the tournament this morning before play started.  Why?  It wasn’t an injury.  It was so that he could attend his daughter’s high school graduation in San Diego, CA.  He waited until the last minute to withdraw, because there was a chance he could make it to his tee time if there was a weather delay, but once it was clear that there would be no delay, he withdrew.

Phil chose family over the chance to finally win the U.S. Open, not knowing how many more chances he will have at this tournament going forward.  And I applaud him for that!  I think it is incredible that he would make this choice.  He had been talking about this for a couple of months, so it’s not necessarily a huge surprise.  But then again, in the culture that we live in today, it’s refreshing to see someone choose his family over potential prestige and money.

Our society glamorizes work and “providing” for our family so much that it tells us that we should do anything and everything to get further ahead, for our family, even if that means taking valuable time away from our family.  Or, society tells us that we need to take care of ourselves and then our family comes second, only after we have done what we need to do to get to the top.

We even find this in those in ministry sometimes.  There is so much pressure to make sure you are taking care of the people of your church, visiting hospitals, showing up at every event, being on call 24/7 because you are doing what you have been called to do, that often the family suffers.  I get it.  We all should strive to make God first in our lives above anything else.  Doing ministry is often equated to putting God first.  But doing ministry as our job is not the same thing as keeping God first in our lives.  Whether we are in vocational ministry or not, as Christ followers there needs to be a certain order of priorities in our lives.  Something like this; God first, family second, career third.

That is what is so refreshing about Phil this week.  Sure, most people that have commented on the story as it broke officially this morning are commending him for it.  But honestly, there were some that were saying he made the wrong decision.  I don’t know if Phil is a Christ follower.  I’m not sure I’ve ever heard him discuss his faith.  So, I don’t know if he puts God first in his life.  But he at least gets the family and career stuff in the right order.

We can learn a lot from Phil this week.  Keep God first, absolutely.  But after that, your family should come way before striving to grow in your career.  Priorities matter.  He will probably get another chance at the U.S. Open.  He wouldn’t have gotten another chance to see and celebrate his daughter’s graduation.  Props Phil!  Well done.

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Betrayal

I was texting with a friend of mine back east this week.  I hadn’t had a chance to check in with her in a few weeks, and I could just sense something was wrong through some things on social media.  So I checked in on her.  I asked if everything was ok.  She had recently started dating someone, and I just had the sense that something bad had happened to that relationship.  And unfortunately I was correct.  He had ended the relationship with my friend, and she felt betrayed.  Her heart was broken, and she was still processing what was going on. 

We didn’t have a lot of time to chat at the time, but the whole situation got me thinking about betrayal.  I don’t know what it is, but there is just something in human nature that seems to make us betray one another.  If you have never faced the betrayal of another human being, I would count you very fortunate.  Even Jesus Himself was betrayed.  And that betrayal came from one of His twelve closest companions over the last three years of His life. 

My heart hurts for my friend.  She deserves so much better than what happened.  But the fact remains that we all face betrayals from time to time.  That doesn’t make it any easier to process them when they happen though.  Whether it’s a significant other turning their back on you, a friend spreading a rumor about something that you told them in confidence, a co-worker stabbing you in the back to get ahead, or whatever other betrayals you could imagine, being betrayed hurts.

Betraying others hurts as well.  And whether we want to admit it or not, as much as we have faced betrayals from others, we have probably betrayed someone ourselves at some point. Whether we wanted to or not.  That doesn’t make it right, but that is the reality of sin.  It makes this world that we live in broken.  And broken people treat each other horribly at times.  That’s where God’s grace comes in.  Through a relationship with Him, through the blood of Jesus, we can set aside that human nature, and strive to treat each other with love and respect. 

God will never leave us or abandon us.

That doesn’t mean that we will never sin or mess up again.  Of course we will, because we live in a broken world.  But that is no longer our default setting if we have truly given our lives to Jesus in being a Christ follower.  People are going to betray each other, and that hurts.  Pretty much everyone of us knows that firsthand.  But here is the best news of all.  God will never leave us or abandon us.  He will never betray us.  The author of Hebrews puts it this way in Hebrews 13:5; “Keep your life free from the love of money. Be satisfied with what you have, for he himself has said, I will never leave you or abandon you.”  He is quoting a passage from Deuteronomy 31, where God promised that He would never abandon His people.

Put your trust in God.  Give your life to Him.  Life will always be tough.  We will mess up, and we will hurt one another.  But we have a promise from God that He will never betray us!

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