Monthly Archives: October 2013

Am I in Heaven?

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Tree Sunlight

Recently, I had the honor of being in Costa Mesa, California to be interviewed on TBN’s Praise The Lord. The studio and the hotel I stayed at are just a block or so from South Coast Plaza. This trendy mall is one of the biggest and most expensive shopping venues in the country.

As you may know, I like to shop. (There goes any manly-man reputation I might have had.) For me, shopping is like hunting, so maybe that redeems my rep. I also enjoy people watching. I get a kick out of husbands being dragged along like they’re on a death march, and I even like window shopping. I know . . . weird.

South Coast Plaza is off-the-charts stupid cool. It has everything from a lowly Sears to Saks Fifth Avenue, and of course, the classics like Nordstrom and Bloomingdale’s. It’s three levels of heaven or hell, depending on your perspective.

I fell in love with one shirt in Saks until I looked at the price of $325. Ridiculous. It must have been made out of rare yak wool from the Himalayas to be that expensive. Needless to say, I didn’t even try it on, let alone take it home. I do have my limits.

For most of the morning, I sat at a Starbucks in the mall reading, writing, and simply watching one high roller after another walk by with arms full of Gucci, Prada, and Salvatore Ferragamo.

A WHOLE store of Rolex Watches!
A WHOLE store of Rolex Watches!

And you know what I noticed? Not one of them seemed truly happy or content. As the ladies click-clacked by me in their expensive high heels and extremely fashionable clothes, not one of them smiled. Honestly, I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen so many unhappy people in one place (except for the last time I went to a Cougar football game).

For many in our world, shopping at South Coast Plaza would be a dream come true. For some, being able to afford to shop there would be a bit like heaven.

But most of the folks I saw looked miserable and anything but heavenly.

It got me thinking, “Maybe Gucci is more like gotcha. Maybe Rolex is for losers, not winners.”

Jesus put it this way, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” (Matthew 16:24-26, NIV).

I’m not saying that all wealthy people are lost and losers, but Jesus did say, “We can have everything, and yet nothing of any eternal value” (my paraphrase).

Jesus also warned us in Mark 4:19 that the “worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things can come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.”

In other words, wealth can ruin us if we’re not careful. Without a doubt, I saw a bunch of ruined folks that day.

Conference at the hotel I stayed at in Costa Mesa.
Conference at the hotel I stayed at in Costa Mesa.

So if you happen to be rich, for the real heaven’s sake, be wise, and be sure that what you own doesn’t own you. And if you’re poor, be content; money truly isn’t everything.

“Keep your lives free from the love of money

and be content with what you have . . . .”

Hebrews 13:5 (NIV)

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3 Responses to Am I in Heaven?

  1. There is an old country song I love, and there is one line that I remember every time that I watch some of the fancy dressed television evangelists. “Would Jesus be wearing a Rolex when He comes back”?
    Don’t think so.
    Curtis

I Swear!

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soapxmas

I’ve never done well at following religious lists of do’s and don’ts. Something in me resists conformity, and the rebel in me likes to push buttons. At home as a child, I was frequently taken to the tool shed. In school, teachers kept their eyes on me with grave concern. In church, well . . . let’s just say my Sunday school teachers reminded me on a regular basis and with a good deal of exasperation that I was the preacher’s son.

Following rules has never been my forte. Sad but true.

About ten years ago, I was at a conference where a nationally known pastor spoke. He was good, passionate, engaging, and he swore. Some in the crowd smiled. Others gasped, “Did he just say what I thought he said?” Yup.

I remember thinking, “Cool. If he can do it, so can I!” Like William Wallace in Braveheart, my soul cried, “FREEDOM!”

About a month later, I dropped a relatively mild word in one of my sermons. It was more like a firecracker than a nuclear bomb (and it certainly wasn’t the F-bomb), but I got mixed reviews. Honestly, though I don’t like being a cookie-cutter preacher, I don’t like getting into trouble either, so I backed off of the public swearing.

Occasionally, however, I would use language in conversations that wasn’t crude or crass, but definitely over the line.

Fast forward to a conversation I had with my wife on a recent road trip. She said, in her gentle way, “Honey, I don’t understand why you like to use those words, and it concerns me.”

Of course, I went into my practiced arguments about being “culturally relevant and real . . . how words are just words and how it’s really not that big of a deal.”

ProfanityShe didn’t push back or push my buttons. She listened (a wise woman) and only said, “Just seems like that was a part of your old life and it bothers me.”

For the next couple of hours on I-90, I did a lot of thinking. I’ve heard and used all the relevancy arguments. I’ve justified my use of some words in certain situations as being non-hypocritical. I’ve always resisted being put on any super-saint religious pedestal, and I saw my language as a means to being a real pastor in a real world.

Then God had the audacity to interrupt my rationalizations as He spoke to my heart, “This is a heart issue.” Not what I expected or wanted to hear.

Immediately, I flashed to these words of Jesus, “A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart” Luke 6:45 NLT.

Hmm . . . what you say flows from what is in your heart. Busted. Again.

There was no denying the fact that the overwhelming majority of the time when I used bad language it was because of something bad in my heart.

Contempt for a person or a thing.

Bitterness.

Anger.

Disgust.

Sure, occasionally, I used a word as a descriptor or to define something in a positive way, like, “That was a heck-of-a-ride!” But generally, my words expressed my scorn or disdain for a person, place, or thing.

Here’s what Paul wrote, “Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior” Ephesians 4:29, 31 NLT.

It’s hard to really argue with the clarity and power of this admonition to control our tongues. But I know what some of you are thinking . . . I’ve been there. However, I would challenge you on two points:

1) What’s in your heart when you color the air with your words?

2) Is everything you say “good and helpful . . . and an encouragement to those who hear” you?

For the record, here’s where I’ve landed: I can be relevant without being rude. I can be real without being foul. And I can be holy without being hypocritical.

Truth is, I simply want to be more like Jesus, and I find it hard to imagine Him saying anything unwholesome or unholy.

For those of you who figured this out a long time ago, God bless you, but please don’t say, “I told you so.” Even my wife just smiled.

 

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13 Responses to I Swear!

  1. When I was raising my sons, one of the rules that I tried to remind them of, “If you don’t want anyone to know about it, then don’t do it.”

    I wish I had thought of adding” speak and think as Jesus would have.”

    I try myself to live by these rules, and I can’t say that throughout my life, I have always lived by these rules. Thank you God, for I appear to be a slow learner and appreciate your love and forgiveness and am so thankful for your epic grace!

  2. Pastor Bubna, this is something with which I have recently been struggling! I always try to think of justifying foul language as simply words of our culture, but it is truly a heart issue as you discussed. As Christ followers, everything we say and do reflects God to those around us. This really clears things up for me. Thanks!

    • Thanks, Jon. Sometimes it’s about UNlearning some things we pick up in our culture so that we can learn how to be more like Jesus. Praying for you…

  3. “Cursing is a feeble mind trying to express itself intelligently”. Don’t know where that came from, but I heard it somewhere. My Father was a “boss” of Seattle longshoremen and it was “manly” to use foul language. The air in our house was a permanent shade of blue. For 18 years I grew up in that environment, and then the Military, and then the “job” get together with the guys. So, once in awhile a word or two pops out, but with the help of Jesus and the Holy Spirit, it has been really diminished. The only way we can NOT curse or use foul language is by the help of the Holy Spirit in our lives, learning about what God has to say about it, and then making up our minds to consciously make an effort to curtail such expressions. Lets just pray for each other, and keep a big bag of forgiveness with us at all times!!! Thanks Kurt, you are always an inspiration.

    • I agree…my creative writing teacher once said, “Use of foul and crude language is a sign of ignorance…when there are so many other/better words to use in the English language!”

  4. I appreciate your ability to be “real” in your posts. I think transparency is the best testimony believers can give to those around us we are trying to win or disciple.

  5. Kurt, I understand what you are saying and for those pastors who do cuss, they probably have to address their motives too. I think there are some people who live in the muck of life and they won’t accept a helping hand from some one who comes to them without dirt stuck under their nails. For this reason, some choose to step into the muck themselves. For me, God is always challenging me to get creative with words rather than crass.

    • I agree… I’m just being challenged by Jesus to be “in the muck” (i.e relevant, real, relational) without being yucky. Thank you, Paula.

Banks Fold! Market Crashes! Millions Lose All!

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fear 1

What if?

What if the headlines above were true? What if the world as we know it came to an end? What if the relative affluence of the western world became a distant and haunting memory?

How would this personally affect the quality of your life (especially if you define “quality” as having a lot of money and stuff)? How would it affect your happiness or your peace of mind?

Some expect a major financial reset in the years to come.[1] When you live in a country with 17 trillion dollars of debt and an economy built on the belief “it’s okay to buy now and pay later,” it’s not hard to imagine the shoe dropping soon and hard.

At some point, something drastic and radical must happen. You can only kick the can down the road so long. Our American economy is a paper tiger, and it doesn’t take much for a paper tiger to go up in flames.

If you’re like me, this is a disturbing reality. In fact, many live with a deep fear of losing everything, at least everything that is a thing.

And fear is powerful de-motivator.

If you’re afraid of getting eaten by a shark, you won’t spend much time in the ocean.

If you’re afraid of heights, you’re probably not going to go parachuting anytime soon.

If you’re afraid of ending up in the poor house, you’re probably not going to be known for your sacrificial generosity. 

Fear causes us to hoard rather than help. Fear causes us to be stingy rather than to sacrifice. Fear cripples.

So what’s the answer to fear?

First, maybe it’s time to reprioritize what truly matters. The bible makes it clear where our priority should be—on God and His kingdom. Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness . . . ” Matthew 6:33.

When the kingdom of God is first, we tend to live with faith; when it’s not, we live in fear.

The second answer to the beast of fear is to remember a greater reality when life is hard: God is with us. Always.

Here’s what the psalmist wrote:

Psalm 46:1-3

1 God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.

How can we live free from debilitating fear? We remember that God is with us. He is our refuge, our strength, and our help even when everything around us gives way and falls to pieces.

I don’t know what the future holds, but this much I do know: He holds our future. So do your best to put God first and live in the shelter of His care.

 



[1] http://www.texasmonthly.com/story/predicting-next-financial-collapse/page/0/1

http://z3news.com/w/prophetic-warnings-october-economic-collapse-fulfilled/

http://www.freedomyou.com/usa_future_economic_collapse__freedomyou.aspx

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4 Responses to Banks Fold! Market Crashes! Millions Lose All!

  1. Deep fear. Deep, deep overwhelming fear. What about our home that isn’t paid off? What will we do, where will we go, how will it look? Those headlines send deep seated fear throughout my body, almost paralyzing fear. i know Jesus is in charge, but how does that keep my family from living on the street? How does it protect us from people who will do whatever to others to protect themselves? How does it protect us from a gov’t that is out of control?

    • No easy, pat answers here . . . the only thing I know to do is rest in His love and trust in His care one day at a time. Praying for you Jane.

  2. hi just wonder if there may be an other means of traden and barting. for food and gooods in the system otheer than money.. which would bring about large change in the world as we know it… seems as though the rich have lock up all the money for there selfs,. and do what they readeem legal to there own means of life.. so can we as a people change that I think we can just be very diffferent way of handling thinks out of the so called normal ways.. that are dien any way hope to see the us people live for ever and not the plans the {rich people have planned for the us…}} if you know what is being said

    • I think we will always find a way to survive (or at least try to). Trusting God no matter what is what’s at the heart of this issue. Thanks Carol.

What Frog and Toad Taught Me About Life

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Frog_and_toad_coverFor decades I’ve been reading to my children, and now grandchildren, the fun adventures of Frog and Toad. These children’s books, written by Arnold Lobel, have been some of my favorites.

Frog is taller, friendlier and much more positive than Toad. Toad is shorter and the more serious and anxious of the two. Their humorous escapades include some wonderful lessons for children and adults.

For Toad, the glass is not half-empty or half-full—it’s just dirty. For Toad, even acts of kindness (like attempting to bring Frog some ice cream), usually end up in a mess or a disaster of some sort.

Frog is kinder and wiser. He sees the best in life and the best in his friend. Frog will say, trying to encourage his buddy, “I saw everything. You did very well by yourself.”

Toad, in reaction to a scary sled ride replies, “I did not. But there is one thing I can do all by myself. I can go home. Winter may be beautiful, but my bed is much better.”

Toad is such a toad.

What have I learned from these two?

  • It’s better to be a frog (positive) than a toad (negative).
  • Attitude affects everything.
  • Life rarely goes the way we want or expect.
  • For those who have eyes to see, adventures are everywhere.
  • Friendship is costly and priceless.

Yesterday, while reading a chapter to my grandson, Caleb, I started to wonder, “Is life really that simple? Can most of the world be described as toad-like or frog-like?”

I’m still pondering that question (and would love to hear what you think), but here’s my deep philosophical and spiritual insight for the day: I’d rather be a builder than a destroyer, an encourager than a discourager, and much more of a frog than a toad.

 “From now on, brothers and sisters,

if anything is excellent and if anything is admirable,

focus your thoughts on these things:

all that is true,

all that is holy,

all that is just,

all that is pure,

all that is lovely,

and all that is worthy of praise.” 

Philippians 4:8 (CEB)

happy frog

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8 Responses to What Frog and Toad Taught Me About Life

  1. I tend toward being a toad if I am not on guard. Thankfully I was kissed by a beautiful princess 32 years ago who has been slowly turning me into a frog.

  2. So true! Now I know what I’m going to buy my grandson for Christmas! He loves books and I love to read to him, especially books with a message for all of us, young and old. God bless you! Love your blog and your book is amazing. I’m giving it for Christmas too. 🙂

  3. Catching up on my reading… and am so blessed by your words, Kurt!! You and Laura have been some of mine and LeRoy’s biggest cheerleaders/frogs in our lives!!! We are incredibly grateful for your friendship and encouragement! Thank you!

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