Saturday, February 26, 2011

GNT Limousine, Thanks Tom!


Some of you know I returned home from Los Angeles late last night.

On my way to LA last Tuesday, I left my hat in the limousine. I knew I better call the limo service right away because it was a Yankee hat. This kind of hat is regularily used to start fires in the Chicagoland area. I usually have to apologize to everyone for wearing it around here.

I have many Yankee hats. This one was special because it came from my son, known as "Braff Zackton" on this blog. Braff is our diehard yankee fan along with his wife ... so I like this hat quite a bit.

The hat was returned earlier today and was carefully placed between the doors. Thanks Tom, you're the greatest. It doesn't even smell funny. Thanks GNT for sending this back out to me.

I'm tippin' my Yankee hat to ya Tom. Is that a good thing? Just glad to have it home again.

NikonSniper Steve

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Tear Down Those Walls!

Some half baked thought here. That means I'm thinking out loud.

Did you ever have to lay it all on the line with someone?
Did you ever have to throw down and speak your heart?
Did you ever risk being mocked and ridiculed for what you believe?
Do you KNOW answers to problems people are having but fear they will think your nuts if you speak up?

The world causes us to be good at building walls! I have built walls for years. But I have also tried to live very candidly these last bunch of years.

When I was a kid … families used to hang out in the frontyard as much as the backyard. Back then, many homes were designed with large porches in front of the house. We used to have our names on our mailboxes, clearly declaring who we were. We used to know our neighbors. We used to drink iced tea on the patio with them and laugh till late hours. Now, that is no longer the norm. In America, those kind of relationships have become the exception! This all seems like a million years ago now.

Has “the system” shut down relationships in your world?

We avoid interaction with almost everyone. Now we have that handy dandy Caller ID to keep us from even talking to our relatives. You wanna talk to me? Get an appointment! The lyrics ring in my head. “Don’t call us, we’ll call you!”

Too many of us drive into our driveway after work and head straight into the garage, close the door and are in the house before we realize that we just crushed some kids bike that was left on the driveway while they were hopelessly ringing the doorbell trying to get someone to answer in an attempt to sell all that baseball candy. That was good sentence run on there, huh?

Hey kid, get lost!

As a nation we have removed the names from our mailboxes. We have taken our names out of the phone book.

In a world that is so communications savvy, … we sure don’t have very many REAL relationships, do we? This morning I spoke to my daughter in South Korea while I was barricaded in my San Diego hotel room. That's serious communications! It sounded like she was in the next room.
And yet, I am often guilty of picking up a ringing phone in our home and simply hanging up to get it to stop ringing. No one calls me on the house line. It seems we don't have time for people.

Do you think the Great Wall of China is big? They say you can see it from space. I believe the biggest wall most of us will ever see is the wall that we erect around ourselves. After all, I don't wanna risk anything by having a relationship that may hurt me. I don't want anyone to really know what hurts me. The world system is pushing us into closets. You are supposed to be invincible. If not, fake it! Protect yourself. Don't risk anything. Be politically correct and never talk about religion or politics. If something hurts, build a higher wall higher so it won't happen again.

Here are the words to the Alan Parsons song, “Don’t Let It Show.”

It goes:

If it's getting harder to face every day, Don't let it show, don't let it show
Though it's getting harder to take what they say, Just let it go, just let it go

And if it hurts when they mention my name, Say you don't know me
And if it helps when they say I'm to blame, Say you don't own me

Even if it's taking the easy way out, Keep it inside of you
Don't give in, Don't tell them anything, Don't let it, Don't let it show

Even though you know it's the wrong thing to say, Say you don't care, say you don't care
Even if you want to believe there's a way, I won't be there, I won't be there

But if you smile when they mention my name, They'll never know you
And if you laugh when they say I'm to blame, They'll never own you

Even if you feel you've got nothing to hide, Keep it inside of you
Don't give in, Don't tell them anything, Don't let it, Don't let it show.
I am not picking on Alan Parsons here. I used to celebrate this kind of negative attitude toward the relationship with my own parents back when the song came out in the late 70’s. I loved the tune and the lyrics. It basically screams, “Who Cares?” If you really think about the words, ... it would really be difficult to imagine a more depressing way to live.

Friend of mine, people live like this everday. They live to be unknown. Not just with strangers. Some live like this even in their marriages! This song isn't just some, "Don't speak to strangers in the mall", song. It's like the national anthem for silent disfunctionalism.

I can still have days where I feel like that towards some people. Have you ever felt unjustly ostracized, banished, cut off or black-balled? You want to withdraw to protect yourself. That happened to me for years. I am very familiar with hurt and it has brought about silence in some relationships. Should I risk speaking again?

Is that you? Do you ever find yourself going there? Do you ever hide? Do you ever refuse to tell people things because of one kind of fear or another? Do you ever just walk past people saying nothing when you know you could be an encouragement? I don’t want to live like this way ... but sometimes I still do.

Why? Why do I even care? It's not cool to care.
I'll tell you why. It isn’t God honoring in any way!

I know many people from all walks of life read this blog. I know they read it … because they make comments to me about something they saw. It's always easier to discuss something you think was funny or a cool photo. Perhaps, I may be thinking specifically about you when I write these thoughts here.

But either way, there are thousands of you who understand that we are all guilty to some extent of losing sight of exactly how short life really is and what really matters.

I am now 53 years old. I am pretty much done with games. Sorry, folks. I guess I am what I am by now. This is it! This is all there is. I can’t hide. Those closest in my life know exactly how flawed a man I am. Many you already have proof that I am looney! I plead GUILTY as charged.

When I tell someone about Christ, I risk failure, I risk exclusion, I risk accountability and I also risk ridicule.

Failure
Exclusion
Accountability
Ridicule

Hey that spells FEAR!, … not bad for a guy who chewed a lot 0f lead base paint chips.
I could talk about all of these fears at length.

Today, I just want to address the fear of accountability.

The fear of accountability can cause us to avoid speaking for Christ because we know we are not perfect. Once you become a Christian, you STILL fail big time! We continue to fall short of what God wants for us.
The fear of accountability can keep you from sharing Christ and the good news of the gospel message with anyone. I believe it is because we fear we will be called hypocrites every time we stumble.

As a Christian, I should progress in the difficult areas I struggle with in life. I might get better. I might control my temper more. I might not kick the dog as much (so to speak). I might yell at fewer people in traffic. But the standard that most people attach to the declaration of being a Christian is to be perfect or. ... SHADDUP! If you aren't perfect and you don't shut up ... you're charged with being a hypocrite! That sucks!

Big problem here. We aren't going to be perfect in this life.
Jesus knew that! And yet He still told us to go into all the world and tell people about Him. See Matthew 28:19, 20. Imagine that! Jesus knew I would be a flawed individual ... and yet He still is willing to use me. I don't have to be perfect ... I just have to be forgiven. I just have to trust in Him. WOW!

The fear of being held accountable by people can stiffle and silence even the most loving and caring Christians. This is why we need to live our lives in a manner worthy of our calling. That is convicting!
We need to be more concerned with our accountability to God than with what people think about us. We will all stand before the judgement seat of Christ. See 2 Corinthians 5:10.

Laying it on the line is not easy.

I care about YOU.

I do not have a lot of time left here, when you consider the water of good years that has already gone under the bridge. Time is running short.

I don’t want to stand before God and just wish that I would have told YOU about the free gift of eternal life Jesus offers (John 3:16).
I don’t want to think that it was me who needed to pull down my Great Wall and tell you that, “JESUS IS ALIVE and HE IS COMING BACK”.
I pray you would place your faith in Him! I can't keep quiet.

Some of you may look at me and think, … Gee, if that’s what being a Christian is, ... no thanks!
Please don't look at me thinking that I am a picture of the goal. I am clearly not the goal!
The Bible tells us to "Fix our eyes on Jesus". I'm not immitating you ... and you shouldn't immitate me. We aren't role models for Christianity. Christ IS! Read Hebrews 12:2.

I only know that our lives are a process of being transformed into the likeness of Jesus after we become a believer in Him. Sometimes, that transformation is 3 steps forward, 2 steps back. The process is very long, especially when you are stubborn. The process is happening in me ... but not fast enough for your wishes. I also want to say that I truly am sorry that I may have disappointed you as a Christian. I will try to yield more to the Spirit in my life in days ahead.

But listen up, … just a bit more.
I am not flawless. And I don’t have to be.
I strive to become more Christlike,
not because I am trying to be good enough to earn salvation ...
rather because I want to thank Him for what He already has done for me.
I already know I am going to heaven.

Most people believe that God saves good people. If that were the case ... you could never know if you were good enough. You would just be guessing.
The Bible teaches that God is saving those who trust in Him alone.
God is saving people that realize their effort will never be worthy and are calling on Him to be their Savior. Scripture teaches that those who are trying to be good enough on their own are failing.
I'm not "good enough" now ... nor will I ever be!

You want to know if you're going to heaven?
Try reading the book of 1st John.
In the concluding remarks of 1st John, John gives his purpose for writing the letter saying, "I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life". 1st John 5:13
Are you getting this? The purpose of writing was that you can know that you have eternal life. So many faiths today teach ... "be good and hope for the best".
The Bible teaches that you can know with certainty that you are heaven bound. I would sure want to read the rest of what John said in 1st John because it ends with a declaration that I could know with certainty that I have eternal life.

If it was possible to be good enough to go to heaven, … Why would God send His precious Son to endure death on a cross? Read Romans 3:20. Why would God allow His Son to endure the cross if He wasn't serious about punishing sin? God laid my sin on His Son because there was no way I could do anything worthy of its payment. I could never be good enough. Jesus paid it all on the cross for you and me. I have accepted His payment for my sin.

Christ made the only possible payment for sin. Please don't live your life trying to be good enough. God has made it clear that obedience to the law was never a way to earn heaven. Read Romans 3:20 again!. Even in the Old Testament people were saved by faith. Read Hebrews Chapter 11.

Jesus came and poured out His life for you. Jesus is offering you life. Will you accept it? Will you trust Him?

A short form of the gospel message can be found in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8a where Paul records the following: "For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance : that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also" ...So many of the people mentioned in that passage knew Christ personally. They saw Him! And many gave their lives refusing to deny that he rose from the dead. Why?
Because, they had seen the risen Jesus. They were emboldened by seeing the risen Savior. Yes, they knew that JESUS IS ALIVE!Romans 1:16a says, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes”.

Hebrews 12:2 says, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God
.”
The world wants you to go into your garage, into your house and out into your backyard and firmly plant your head into the earth so that these words cannot penetrate your heart. The world wants you to keeping building your wall. God is trying to break through to you. Will you listen?

NikonSniper Steve