What Christians Fear Most

monsters

Sometimes I feel like a monster.

Not when I lose my temper. When that happens, I’m just being a typical fallen human – my old fleshly self.

But sometimes I feel like a monster from Monstropolis. You know, the ones from Monsters Inc. who are afraid of children.

Sounds silly, doesn’t it?

But we’re not much brighter. We fear man.

We clamor for man’s approval and stop at nothing to gain the respect of the masses.

And if we’re honest with ourselves, on our worst days, we’d rather be judged by God than by our bosses.

This is the wrong way of living. Jesus is very clear in Matthew 10:28: “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both body and soul in hell.”

We’re so anxious to please others and remain certain not to offend ignorant people with the Gospel, but we’d much rather offend the One who commanded us to do just that!

Think about it. There are plenty of reasons why we don’t witness the way we ought. Laziness and carelessness may be at the top of the list, but fear is most certainly right up there.

Why won’t you witness to your boss? Because you’re afraid of getting fired.

Why won’t you witness to your neighbor? Because you’re afraid of making future front yard conversations terse and awkward.

Remember. These people who do not know the Gospel are as harmless as a child in Monstropolis. You have the Holy Spirit fighting with you, and enabling you to carry on the task.

Easter’s coming up. Invite someone to church. Just a simple, harmless invitation.

After all, who doesn’t like an invitation somewhere, right?

And don’t loose sight of who the real enemy is: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12).

Don’t be like the monsters who are scared of little children. Know who your real enemy is and realize the potential – through Christ – they’re keeping you from.

Rescue Me

captain-phillips-movie-624x346Sarabeth and I just watched Captain Phillips last weekend.

I’m telling you, I haven’t been that on edge in a movie since Mission: Impossible III. 

At the end of it, as I was trying to catch my breath, Sarabeth made a very astute observation. She said, 

“It’s amazing how far we’ll go just to save one American.”

She’s absolutely right. While other countries couldn’t give a rip about their citizens, our military will go to the ends of the earth to bring back our own.

I needed to see this movie, because it’s been a long time since I’ve felt proud to be an American.

It’s crazy though, because God is the same way with His children, and we can say the same thing about Him.

It’s amazing how far He’ll go just to save one of His children.

Aside from His Son dying for us and breaking free from the grave for His glory and on our behalf, He doesn’t just stop there.

He keeps a careful eye on us. When we stray, He searches us out.

I’d say that He’ll go to hell and back to save us, except hell wouldn’t be hell if He went there.

But He’ll go wherever you are. 

You may not be held captive by Somali pirates, but you might be held captive by your sin, or your addictions.

If so, and you’re God’s child, and you’re pleading for help, take heart, because He’s coming for you.

In Captain Phillips the SEAL Team tells Captain Phillips to stay where he is, to not move from the very seat he’s sitting in.

That’s what we’re to do. We’re to be still and know that He is God.

Don’t try to save yourself. It won’t work.

Just sit still, and pray.

God is coming after you, wherever you are.

It may be that you don’t want Him to. It may be that you’re happy in your sins. That’s all well and fine, and if you’re not a Christian, He’ll let you have at it, turning you over to your desires. (Not such a controlling, dictating God, is He?)

But if you’re His child, He’s coming after you wether you like it or not. No father will leave the mall without his child (hopefully).

And God won’t leave you enslaved to your sins if you ask Him for help, over and over and over again. Who knows, a rescue mission may already be under way.

Just stay still and wait.

And pray.

 

The Bark Collar

DSCN0297

So our oldest dog, Pixie, has had this barking problem for almost as long as we’ve had her. 

It’s possible we didn’t socialize her enough or something.

Or it’s just the fact that she’s a dachshund and they’re prone to excessive barking.

But our youngest dachshund, Primrose, who’s almost a year old, doesn’t have this DSCN0295problem. In fact, she gets right up in people’s faces and just starts sniffing them – excessively.

She doesn’t lick them or bark at them. She just sniffs them.

I seriously think her nose carries all five of her  senses.

But seeing that not all dachshunds are prone to excessive barking, we decided that we could try to help Pixie overcome this little problem.

It especially needed to be fixed if our foster daughter’s social worker will be coming over every week. We can’t be having serious conversations with Pixie yapping up a storm in our open loft.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. We’ve tried many different ways to control her barking.

Saying “No barking,” clearly translates to, “Bark like crazy as though the zombies are after us,” in Dogesse.

Spanking her must tickle, because she just goes from barking to yapping.

Locking her up in her cage makes her think that we can’t hear her so she just barks louder.

So after much thought and discussion, we gave in to the last resort.

We bought her a bark collar.

No, not one that fries her, but one that sprays citronella in her face whenever she tries to bark.

I’m a really bad person, because I kind of think it’s funny when she’s about to bark, but then there’s this “Ffftth” that cuts her off and sends her jumping back about three feet.

Like those cat videos on Youtube where something jumps out and scares them. scared_cat-300x281

Sarabeth hates the collar and pities our pup. She refuses to ever be the one to put it on her.

But the thing is, it’s working.

We had a friend over the other day and Pixie, left without the option to bark, was able to drop all her defenses and run and jump and play with him.

It was pretty awesome.

It kind of makes me wish God would hand out Sin Collars.

But one that actually electrocutes you.

You know, like if you’re about to curse - Zap!

If you’re about to tell a lie - Zaap!

If you get frustrated at the baby for crying at 2 AM - Zaaap!

If you’re looking at a girl inappropriately - Zaaaaaaaap! Ffffppphhh! Zaaaap!!!

Yeah, I guess that’d be pretty great if God could give those out.

But then, there wouldn’t be much use for faith at that point. Or prayer.

So they’d really just defeat the whole purpose of what God wants from His people.

Anyway. That was just a thought I had.

Oh, and my daughter just told me that if I don’t get more likes on Facebook for my book, she’s going to give you a sin collar. So don’t hurt her feelings.

Read her impromptu post here.

How Salvation Works

kids-in-classroomOn the first day of school, Mrs. Shermann passed out the kid-friendly syllabi  to her students and asked, “How many classroom rules do you notice on the whiteboard?”

“Ten!” they all shouted in unison.

“That’s right,” said Mrs. Shermann.

What she was about to teach them was her favorite lesson to teach. And she wondered who, if any, would learn it.

Rules 2-10 were the standard RAISE YOUR HAND BEFORE SPEAKING; BE COURTEOUS TO YOUR CLASSMATES; WRITE YOUR NAME ON ALL ASSIGNMENTS, etc.

But Rule No. 1 was the heart of it all.

It said, “ALWAYS SAY YOU’RE WELCOME.”

She spent probably eight minutes stressing the importance of this rule. A simple rule at best, a curious one for the 21st century at worst.

But the No. 1 rule, nonetheless.

But as the year progressed, it proved to be so much more complicated than it ever needed to be. And many kids had their feelings hurt by it, and others cried, and many were grounded by their parents for bad grades. All because of that dreaded Rule No. 1.

Mindy’s parents went over her assignment with her at least twice before declaring that it was indeed a perfect 100% (a 99 at worst if Mrs. Shermann was counting the missed comma in one of Mindy’s answers). But the 0/100 blotched in red ink at the top was a curious and disdainful score.

Dylan came home crying to his mom for the second time that week because, “Missus Shermunn calls on me and I give her the right answer, but she says I’m wrong. I raise my hand and say the answer is Benjimin Franklin and she says no. Then she called on Lindsy and she says Benjimin Franklin, and Missus Shermunn says she’s right.”

Every year Mrs. Shermann meets with a lot of parents the first couple of weeks of school. But the parents walk out appeased and relieved almost every time.

“It’s come to my attention that most of you think I’m unfair with my grading,” said Mrs. Shermann one Thursday morning before diving into the day’s agenda.

Some of the kids skeptically nod their heads. Others sit stiff upright, as though not wanting to show disloyalty or doubt to the fuhrer.

“A lot of you feel that your answers are correct in your assignments, but you get 0′s. And some of you give the right answer in class, and I say you’re wrong.”

A few more heads nod.

“You can do all the right things, and have all the right answers, but none of that matters if you don’t follow the rules. Especially the most important rule.”

Her gaze directed the others’ toward the whiteboard. Rule No. 1 seemed to be written in a much brighter color that day.

ALWAYS SAY “YOU’RE WELCOME.”

“If you turn in your assignment and I say ‘Thank you,’ and you don’t respond with ‘You’re welcome,’ then what good is it if you have all the answers right? You broke Rule No. 1, so nothing else matters.”

She continued. “If you give the right answer in class and I say ‘Thank you,’ and you ignore me or just nod your head, then I’m going to call on someone else until they obey Rule No. 1, then I’ll tell them they have the right answer.”

“Let’s say you live in a small town and the most important rule is that you must wear a blue shirt all the time. If you don’t wear a blue shirt all the time, but you do a lot of amazing things like save kittens from trees, give money to the poor, be nice to your enemies, none of that matters, because you’re not wearing the color blue. You’re breaking the most important rule. It might not make sense to you, but the rule in this classroom is to say ‘You’re welcome’ when thanked.”

“Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Matthew 22:37-39

“All have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.” Isaiah 64:6

You’re welcome.

A Father’s Love

handsofGodParentI always thought it would be easy to be a baby.

I mean, I know I was one once, but I honestly don’t remember a thing about it.

Think about it:

No taxes

No dishes to wash

No homework due

No fight up the corporate ladder

Just lots of food, lots of cuddling, and lots of pampering.

I used to think it would be nice to be a baby, but since taking Baby A. into our home, I’m realizing that it’s not so easy.

Poor girl can’t even hold her own head up. She’s completely, and 100% dependent on us.

For everything.

And if she has an itch on the back of her hand, we have no way of knowing about it.

She’s thinking, Stop rubbing my belly and scratch that darn itch! 

(Except what’s really going on in her mind is, Poeihaoiehagpoei papoe apoeiemb!)

Here I am shoving a soggy bottle in her face, and for all I know she just wants a better look at the picture on the wall behind her.

And don’t even get me started on diaper changes. Imagine being soppy down there, then stripped bare and exposed to the elements, and then having a cold wipey rubbed all over – and all this done by an amateur, and somewhat clumsy, father.

So already, we’re not perfect parents, but we’re doing the absolute best we can.

It’s nice though, that God is a perfect Father. And though we don’t know every single need our baby has, we know the basics.

And God has provided us with the patience and love that we need to see her through every obstacle in her little fragile life.

Seems to me we as Christians have a pretty good resource to tap into for extra help.

And when we need that extra bit of love and patience at three in the morning, I’ve been learning that prayer over my child is a pretty good tool to have to remind me that my job is to love Baby A just as God loves me in my fits of rage.

Chuches, Why Have We Not Yet United?

Russian_orphansPastors, deacons, elders, church members, Sunday school volunteers – I’m curious.

(And please know that I ask myself this same question.)

Two questions, actually.

Two questions that could revolutionize the world.

A question that could shout volumes to the planet of God’s love.

And here’s the first question:

Why are our orphanages so full?

The way I see it is, the fuller the pews are, the emptier the orphanages ought to be.

Doesn’t that just make sense?

Here’s the second question:

It’s a bit more personal.

The last question was directed at the universal Church.

This one’s directed at you. And me. And my wife. And my neighbors. And my brothers and sisters in Christ.

Okay, so here it is:

It’s a scenario, really.

Suppose you received a text message from an unknown sender.

And it said

THERE IS A NEWBORN IN A DUMPSTER SOMEWHERE WITHIN A SIX-MILE RADIUS OF WHERE YOU LIVE.

FIND HIM. SAVE HIM.

Would you not call all your neighbors and friends and family to comb the entire neighborhood, day in and day out, until you found him?

Would you not be dumpster diving in every dark alley?

Folks, there are babies and kids dumped in the orphanages and the hospital every day.

When Sarabeth and I were visiting our Baby A. in the hospital last week, there was a premature baby tucked in the back of the room all that time, crying.

Crying.

Crying.

And no one, that we saw, ever came to visit him.

A newborn left to his own devises in this great big, cruel world.

Our social worker told us that she was on the very brink of calling us the day we brought Baby A. home because, for the life of her, she could find no one to accept the placement of another little boy who needed a home.

But she didn’t want to overwhelm us with two newborns in one day.

The title of this post is, “Churches, Why Have We Not Yet United?”

I think it’s possible, and necessary, for churches to finally come together and encourage, no - admonish, implore  – their members to go out and adopt the local orphans and unwanted children.

We observe Orphan Sunday.

That’s great to name a Sunday after those we’re to care for. But what’s the point if we’re not all going to go out and care for these orphans?

It’s like celebrating Christmas paying no mind to Christ. Or uttering no one word of thanks on Easter.

Or eating pretend food at dinner, Neverland style.

If you smell a universal Chruch-wide calling in the air, if you’re wondering the same things I’m wondering (like why aren’t we as a whole taking this calling seriously), please forward this post on to your pastors, your elders, your deacons, your Bible study groups.

Let’s start something here.

Let’s start a revolution in the name of God.

Let’s flood our country’s orphanages with not only the love, but the presence of believers everywhere, and wash those children into our homes.

Our imperfect, flawed, loving, caring, warm, welcoming, Christ-centered homes.

And change their lives – and the world – to be a little bit more like what God had intended.

If you are interested in joining me in getting the word out to churches everywhere, or if you would like your church to be involved in this, please email me at andrewtoy1208@aol.com.

Please include your church status as a church employee or member,

and please include your name of the church you’re apart of, with their website address, and tell me the city and state.

One last thing, please share your interest in orphan care, by choosing one of the following:

a) I’ve not given it much thought until I read this post

b) I’ve always wanted to be involved, but just didn’t know where to start

c) I’ve adopted/fostered, and would like to educate others about the process

d) I’ve wanted to see something like this happen for a long time – Let’s do it!

Let’s get something started.

 

Welcome Home, Baby A!

baby hand

First off, happy Valentine’s Day to everyone!

I don’t remember when I’ve been so happy. Sarabeth and I have been waiting for a baby for a long time.

We learned about our foster daughter a week ago yesterday and took her home from the hospital a few days ago.

A question Sarabeth and I ask each other often is, “What’s your favorite thing about her?”

“Everything,” is always the answer. And we’re not at all exaggerating.

You parents know what I’m talking about.

I don’t need to describe the feeling of her wrapping her hand around your finger.

Or her not taking her eyes off you while she eats.

Or how she reaches for you when she’s crying, and tweaks your nose when you get up close for a kiss.

Or how she wraps her toes around your arm when you’re holding her.

It’s a feeling unlike any other in the world.

Now that Baby A. is home, we love the midnight feedings because that means we get to get up and hold her, and sing to her (Shawn Mullins, the Temptations, and Beach Boys have given us dads some pretty great go-to nighttime songs).

Because she’s still just our foster daughter, I told Sarabeth that if I’m ever angry having to get up to take care of her, to just remind me that Baby A could be somewhere else and not here in our house.

And our dogs! Our two dachshunds, one still a puppy, are so curious about her. I think our little girl has gotten more kisses this week than all the babies in the world have gotten this month.

Luckily she doesn’t seem to mind.

I don’t want these days to pass. I don’t want her to gain another pound or grow another inch.

But at the same time, I’m so excited to watch her grow, and learn, and play, and laugh, and run.

I hope, and pray, that we will have her for all of that. I hope I will get to teach her to drive, chase off curious boys, and walk her down the aisle.

But look at me, getting ahead of myself.

For now, I’m just happy to keep her tummy full, her ears full of music, her eyes fixed on her mommy and puppies, her heart full of comfort, and her hand warm with my finger.

For as long as we possibly can.

Help us new parents out by liking my debut novel on Facebook. (If I get enough likes on it, a bigger publisher will want to publish it.) Liking it will also give you a chance to win a free autographed copy of the second, bigger, better edition coming out soon (so don’t buy it just yet)! 

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