Imagine you're watching Star Wars (episode 5) and there is Luke, and he's working with Yoda, and he's trying to learn how to use his Jedi mind tricks to pick up his fighter from a swamp. You with me? He looks at Yoda. He looks at the ship. Looks at Yoda. Looks at the ship. And then, the General Lee comes flying over the swamp. Yup – Bo and Luke Duke come crashing into the scene. And you hear their horn go off, and they land on the other side (because they always land it!). How angry would you be? Even if you loved Dukes of Hazzard and Star Wars, there's no reason for those two stories to collide. And further, wouldn't it make you mad? Ruin a perfectly good film. (As an aside, if Bo and Luke want to enter Episode Two, I have no issue because that movie sucked).
Some stories just don't belong together. And when you try to combine them, they get ruined. And it makes you mad. With me?
If you read Revelation 3, you find three letters written to churches, and the last one is written to the good folks at Laodecia. And God basically tells them, I've seen your lives and you're neither on fire or cold towards me, you're lukewarm. And the result is that he's ready to spit the church out of his mouth. Now seriously, how bad does something have to be to have God spit it out of his mouth?
I think it's really two different factors:
1. It's unexpected. If you order a hot coffee, and it's a Starbucks creation, it's going to come in that paper cup that you know so well, and you expect it to be hot. If it's ice tea, you see the ice, you see the beads of sweat on the glass. Now pick it up and drink. If it's lukewarm, it's just not what you thought it would be. And that would make me angry. Apparently it does the same for God.
2. Think about how something gets lukewarm. It's not like it starts there. You get hot coffee and let it sit out. Same for cold lemonade. You let it sit. And the external forces have more impact on the beverage than you'd hoped for.
I think it comes down to this: God doesn't want us to try to live in two stories – our own and his. Because when we try to mix the two, they don't go together and you end up with a really bad result.
Now what do I mean by two stories. Let me give you some simple examples.
- I know that God is the provider of all things. I know it. I believe it. It's in my head and heart. I promise. But if you watch our family in our house and see how hard and much I work, you'd think I was believing that I was the source of provision for our family.
- I know God is wiser and can make better decisions than I can. But if you listen to how we make most decisions in our family, God and prayer aren't part of it.
- I know I was created to love, enjoy and serve God. But if you look at my time and money, more often than not, what I give comes from what's left, not the first parts.
In each of these cases, there's the story I want to pass on to my children, the faith I want them to own as much as I do. But the other story, the story of how the external world has shaped my habits and beliefs, is what my kids see daily.
Here's what I wish for: That my heart would live like it believed what my head already knows. It's that simple.
Do you have the same struggles?
Here's a quick way to test.
When you think about getting to heaven some day, do you really think God's going to ask you about little league 2010, or ballet or gymnastics 2010, or basketball 2010 for the kiddos? Not a chance. But don't we live our lives like those things are essential?
Here's another way to test it out: Do you spend more time asking “can” instead of “should”? As in, “can I afford it?” instead of “should we spend our money this way?”
If you're like me, you're struggling in living between two stories, and that's not good.
A quick look in the Gospel of Mark finds a story Jesus told about a farmer sowing seed on all sorts of land: a path, rocky soil, thorny soil, and prepared soil. He later explains that the rocky soil is like us when God's Word lands it sprouts for a bit but the challenges of life kill it. He says the thorny soil is like us when God's Word lands and the cares and distractions of the world around us pull at us and cause there to be short-lived benefit of the Word. It's only prepared soil that produces a crop.
We're like that second and third soil, aren't we? We get caught sweating the small stuff. We get caught distracted – believing the wrong story- telling ourselves we need that new car, house, boat, outfit, vacation, etc. And in both cases, we sprout up, and we look good for a second, but it's short lived. In that way, we're like the coffee or lemonade that's gone lukewarm.
So what does it mean to live in one story? What does it mean to be good soil?
My take comes from looking at some Marine friends. You know those guys – they're always prepared for anything that comes their way.
- Marines never sweat the small stuff.
- Marines don't get distracted.
- Marines don't yearn for a pain-free life.
Marines are on a mission. They're prepared soil. Marines let that mission drive their priorities and they sacrifice for the good of the mission. If they have to do stuff they don't normally like to do, they tell each other, “Learn to like it.”
I think we're to be a little more like marines. Perspective drives Purpose. Purpose dictates Priorities.
Good soil living is a daily choice to live in a single story.
How do you become more like them? I think the trick is to start living like we're part of one single story. The more we live it, by making little and big choices, the more we actually end up living a single story. I say this because no Marine starts a Marine. He had to act like a Marine. In training. In camp. In practices. He or she acts like they are one, and eventually, they become one and the acting has stopped.
So will you make a decision where you make a trade-off between your own story and God's? Will you choose specifically for God's story to reign? Will you explain it to your family and tell a few friends? And then will you let me know what you decided?
Think back a couple thousand years ago. 12 guys changed much of history after Jesus headed back up to heaven. What could a few hundred do?