Holy Sheep!

885 Words – Approx. Reading Time 3.5 minutes

Sheep are not dumb. Forget the urban myths. They may lack swagger but they more than make up for it in social skills, emotional intelligence and loyalty.

Keith Kendrick is a professor at the University of Electronic Science and Technology in China. He studies sheep. He discovered sheep have impressive memory skills. They can recognize and remember at least 50 individual faces for more than 2 years.1

He also found out sheep are emotionally intelligent. Kendrick says,18 4 19 Holy Sheep 3 “The way a sheep’s brain is organized suggests they have an emotional response to what they see in the world.”2 In other words, sheep experience powerful emotions. They have facial expressions that match their emotions and sheep prefer to smile instead of frown. There is no doubt this furry animal experiences happiness, just watch this video of Winter the Jumping Lamb.

Sheep are also loyal. They are one of the few animals in the world that develops friendships and practices monogamy. That’s right…sheep don’t mess around on their partners. According to a 2009 study, sheep develop relationships because they feel fear, anger, despair, boredom and happiness.3 They need relationships to cope with baaahhhhd feelings, but they also share positive emotions with each other.

A sense of belonging is important to sheep. Sheep will problem solve and find their way out of a maze if they can hear their friends bleating at the exit.4 Remove their friends and the sheep becomes despondent and bored.

18 4 19 Holy Sheep 2As impressive as this information may be, sheep do have their faults. First, they are destructive. Herds of sheep can decimate a pasture.5 If left to follow their own desires, sheep will eat vegetation down to the nub, destroying plants’ ability to grow back. They do not possess foresight. They give no consideration to how their consumption of resources impacts other animals. Worms, birds, cows, horses and other parts of the eco system all suffer because of the selfishness of sheep. Without a shepherd to move them on, sheep will use up all the resources and every other animal suffers.

Another fault of sheep comes from one of their strengths. If sheep are left without a shepherd, they will follow one another. They follow each other because of their desire to belong. The problem is that sheep are directionless. They don’t know where they should go.

A sheep tragedy happened in Turkey in 2005. Turkish shepherds temporarily stopped leading their sheep. In horror they watched as hundreds of their sheep followed each other over a cliff. A Turkish newspaper reported,

“First one sheep went over…only to be followed by the whole flock. More than 400 sheep died in the 15 meter fall…the bodies cushioning the fall of the 1,100 others who followed.”6

Sheep have one last weakness. They are defenseless. Most animals have at least one of the two major defense techniques: speed to run away or strength to fight back. Sheep have neither. They are slow and do not possess an overwhelming strength to kick or bite. Again, this is another reason why sheep need a shepherd.

Why all this sheep information? In the Gospels, Jesus refers to people as being like sheep. It happened one day when Jesus was trying to get away from the masses to spend some quality time with his disciples. The crowd would have no part of it. They followed Jesus like the paparazzi into a deserted place. The disciples were miffed, but when Jesus saw the people, “he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd.”7

If sheep are dumb, senseless animals then Jesus does not have a high opinion of us. Fortunately this is not the case. We might not like the comparison, but if we look at the strengths and weaknesses of sheep it easier to understand what Jesus meant.

Humans thrive off of relationships. We love to belong…to feel like we are sharing life with others who value us. We go to great lengths to laugh together and we rally around each other when tragedy strikes. We feel life. We don’t just live life.

18 4 19 Holy Sheep 5

At the same time we are directionless. We are fickle with our priorities. Just start asking people, “What is the most important thing in your life?” You will discover there are as many different answers as there are noses. Plus, the answer changes with context. Americans have consistently said economic security is the most important thing, but I’ve been in Kenyan villages where the answer is clean water.

Honestly, the question is above our pay grade because we don’t possess the foresight to know. We, like sheep, can only see what is in front of us. Our selfishness keeps us from pulling back to see the whole picture.

We are even defenseless. We have contingency plans, social safety nets, insurance policies, police departments, the 2nd Amendment and the United States Army; but these things really only provide a perception of safety. Evil always finds a way to break through our defenses.

We are the crowd that looks like sheep without a shepherd. The disciples were bothered by the neediness of the people. Jesus was filled with compassion. He saw the people…us…and said, “They need a shepherd.”

Because of his compassion, Jesus interrupted the crowd with one of the greatest acts of kindness ever recorded. We’ll look at more closely…next time.

1 – www.nature.com/articles/35102669 2 – http://www.news.bbc.co.uk “Amazing Powers of Sheep” 3 – www.ingentaconnect.com, “Animals’ Emotions: Studies in Sheep using Appraisal Theories” 4 – www.bbc.com “Sheep are not Stupid, and They are not Helpless Either” 5 – http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0163249 “Extreme Wildlife Declines and Concurrent Increase in Livestock Numbers in Kenya: What Are the Causes? 6 – http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/world/europe/4665511.stm “Turkish Sheep Die in ‘Mass Jump’ 7 – Mark 6:34

Kind Interruptions

854 Words – Approx. Reading Time 3.5 minutes

God is not ticked off. He doesn’t rant to angels because of people’s sins. He is also not scorned. He is not silently scheming to take revenge on people because they chose to love themselves more than they love Him. He is not apathetic. He still cares as much about us today as He did when He put Adam and Eve in the Garden.

Sure, we might think God feels this way about us. After all, humanity has made some awful choices that prove our selfishness has no limits. But our selfishness does not hurt him; it only hurt us. As a result, our view of Him, and how he feels about us, has been tainted. We have become suspicious of Him when in reality He should be leery of us.

In 2015 my family moved into a new neighborhood. We bought a house at the end of a cul-de-sac that butts up to a horse pen. Six beautiful rescued horses live on the other side of the white fence that borders our property.

18 4 12 Kind Interruptions 2The previous owners of these horses lost interest in them when they could no longer perform at a high level. Each horse used to be fast at the racetrack or a high stepping show animal. Their value was based on their ability to win, and when they no longer had a shot at being the best, they were neglected.

My neighbor rescued them. She cares for them and uses the magnificent creatures to teach people how to ride. They are beautiful animals and I enjoy seeing them each day as come and go from home.

My neighbor told me I could feed them treats. They like carrots and apples, but their favorite are peppermints. On several occasions I have loaded my pockets with mints, stood at the fence and called out to the horses. I want to run my hand down the side of their face, tell them how beautiful and strong they are, and give them a treat. I want them to know they are valued because they exist. But truthfully, I haven’t had much success.

I go to the fence and call out to them. I know they hear me because they look at me, but18 4 12 Kind Interruptions 1 they will not come to me. I whistle. I hold out the treat hoping it will entice them over, but they just stand there—looking at me—chewing on hay.

I don’t know why they don’t come. At first I thought it was because I didn’t know their names. So I learned their names. It made no difference. Sometimes I feel they look at me think, “How do you know my name?” But they still will not come to me.

Maybe they don’t come because they don’t know me. Maybe it’s because I remind them of someone who hurt them. Maybe it’s because they just don’t trust my intentions. Who knows? All I know is that if they would meet me at the fence, I would be kind to them. I would give them something they like.

One day, while trying to be kind to the horses, I had a thought, “I wonder if this is how God feels when He calls out to people.”

God is in the business of interrupting people. An interruption stops us in the midst of feeling, thinking, saying or doing something. It breaks our normal routine and gives us an option to do something different. As I’ve shared in previous blogs, one way God interrupts us is by hiding in the boundaries He has placed in our lives, but that is not the only way He interrupts our world. At times, He calls to us and gives us the choice to come to Him.

18 4 12 Kind Interruptions 3We can be like the horses. We hear Him calling. We see where He is, but we are not going to move. Maybe we don’t understand His interruption. Maybe we don’t trust His intentions. So, we stand there settling to eat hay when we could have something sweet. We prefer to stand-alone when we could have Someone gently touch us and speak kind words to us.

I think the reason the horses will not come to me is because they are not sure I will be kind to them. They are either afraid or don’t trust me. Maybe it’s both. Funny, but I think that is the problem we have when God calls out to us. Will He be kind to me? Can I really trust Him? 

I am a fair weather horse caller. If it’s cold outside or raining, I don’t call for the horses.  God is not like that. He lovingly and patiently interrupts us—rain or shine. Why does He do that? Because He is kind and He desires to show His kindness to us.

The Bible says, “Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?”1

His kindness interrupts and gives us another option. Let’s look at why God interrupts us with kindness…next time.

1- Romans 2:4

God in Strange Places

951 Words – Approx. Reading Time 4 minutes

No one likes being told they can’t do something. The 2-year-old who hears “No!” feels the same as a teenager who is given a curfew or an adult who is harnessed by a boss. We pride ourselves with the ability to do what we want and it frustrates us when we reach the end of our rope. When it happens, we have reached a boundary. A boundary is the place that marks the spot where we are forced to stop.

The Bible tells us God created boundaries for each person. He did not create them to limit us. He created them so we could find Him. He is located in the boundaries. They are one of His most effective interruptions.

18 4 4 God in Strange PlacesBoundaries are frustrating because they stop us in our tracks. They come in all shapes and sizes. Some are temporary, and unfortunately, others are permanent. There are health boundaries, financial boundaries, emotional boundaries, age boundaries, educational boundaries, career boundaries and even spiritual boundaries. We can grow and move in all of these areas, but they each have their limits.

I have a dear friend who is talented, wise and productive. She is a contributor to society. Her family, the church she attends and her co-workers all benefit from her presence. She was diagnosed with a terminal illness. Doctors say she has a year. She has bumped into a boundary.

My mom recently broke her foot. She is healthy and active. She was doing laundry. She just stepped the wrong way and pop—her foot broke. She found a boundary.

I know a man who feels stuck in his career. He has held the same title at his company for 12 years. He has done continuing education. He has received annual high performance ratings. Yet, he has been passed over 5 times for a promotion. He has run into a boundary.

I know a student athlete who desperately wants to be a starter on his team. He works out. He runs. He has skills, but there is always someone who seems to be stronger, faster and a little more skilled. He is rubbing up against a boundary.

You know you have found a boundary when what you want is just beyond your reach; and no matter what you do, you can’t change it. God uses boundaries to interrupt our lives. He is not being cruel. God did this so that you would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, because he is not far from any one of us.1

When we reach a boundary, it feels like God is nowhere near. We feel pain, sorrow, frustration, disappointment and fear. Yet, it is in the boundaries God has lovingly hidden Himself. If we look for Him we will find Him and the grace of God will become practical.

God can interrupt us before we hit a boundary (there will be more about that in some upcoming blogs), but sometimes we need to be reminded of our limits. Without boundaries, we would build our lives and leave God out.

Gary was one of four sons. His first religious memories are of his mother taking him to 18 4 5 Gary Wallace familychurch as a child. His parents argued often and his dad did not see any value in turning to God for help. To have one less thing to fight about Gary’s mom gave up attending church. Gary stopped too.

As a teen, Gary’s home life was tense. He felt disconnected from his parents and lacked moral guidance. For thrills he started stealing bikes and selling them. This activity laid the foundation for more poor decisions. He eventually started breaking into homes.

After graduating from high school, he realized he could make good money selling drugs and fencing stolen property. After some trouble with the law, he determined his life needed a new direction so he joined the National Guard and became mechanic. He says of himself at that time, “I looked good, but I was living on thin ice.”

After his time in the guard ended, he found a job at the water department with the City of Akron. In spite of a stable job, He took up his old habits selling drugs and stolen property. His life was in a downward spiral. He was at the end of his rope. It is here that God sent an interruption named Steve. Steve worked in the same department with Gary.

At the end of a workday Steve would catch Gary and walk with him to his car. He would share Scripture and talk of his relationship with Jesus. His persistence and patience was irritating. Finally, Gary told Steve, “I have no need for your Jesus.” Steve backed off, but Gary said, “I started missing those conversations.”

Two weeks later, Gary was involved in a severe car crash. When his truck finally stopped moving and the noise of wreckage went silent, he heard Someone say, “Gary, have you had enough.” It is here that Gary found God in his boundary.

He walked away from the crash, but he walked back to Steve. All he could think about were the Scriptures Steve had shared with him. He was ready to listen and learn. The next day Gary received God’s grace and became a follower of Christ.

18 4 5 Gary Wallace and wifeEighteen months later, Gary married, started a family and became the father of three children. Looking back on his life Gary says, “God has blessed me. My life hasn’t always been easy, but God has been faithful. I’ve learned to look for God when I hit a boundary.”

Before you try to break through your next boundary, pause and look for God. His presence and grace are close at hand.

1 – Acts 17:27

One Way to Find God

906 Words – Approx. Reading Time 4 Minutes

Hide and Seek…it is one of the oldest games in history. Historians have evidence of children playing the game in the 2nd Century, but it is believed it was played earlier. Not only is it an old game, it is also a worldwide game.1 Children in Asia, Australia and Africa play this game as well as the kids in Russia, Brazil and Ohio. Everyone understands the concept of the game. One person closes his or her eyes and counts while everyone else hides. The purpose of the game is for the person who is “it” to find those hiding. The goal of those hiding—don’t be found.

If you read the Bible it might be easy to get the idea that God is playing a cosmic Hide-and-Seek game with us. Notice the word “seek” in these verses.

  • If you seek him, he will be found by you; but if you forsake him, he will reject you forever.1
  • The Lord looks down from heaven on all mankind to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God.2
  • Evildoers do not understand what is right, but those who seek the Lord understand it fully.3
  • Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near.4

Seeking the Lord is a common theme in Scripture. “Seek the Lord” or “seek him” are mentioned 33 times. Even Jesus got in on the whole “seeking” theme when he said, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness…”.5 It would be easy to think God created us and then said, “Come find me!” Thirty-three times we are told to seek God, but it is not until the 32nd time we discover God is not playing Hide-and-Seek.

The 32nd time happens in Acts when Paul was speaking in Athens. The people there had never heard of the relational God Paul talked about. To them God was a mystery, a Being they were constantly seeking. They had fully bought into the idea that to find God one must look for him like a child looks for her friends hiding behind a tree or under the bed, but Paul informed them, and us, that God is not playing Hide-and-Seek. Notice Paul’s words:

The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.6

When a child is muffling her giggles hiding behind the curtain, she is playing the game at its best, but a hiding God seems cruel. Paul clarifies; God is not hiding so He can’t be found. He is hiding so we can find Him. The two most common ways people seek God Paul debunks.

1) People build structures for God and then go there to find Him. The Creator cannot be contained in a building, monument or sanctuary. We can’t build something to find God.

2) People make sacrifices to find God. The Creator is not disabled and in need of our services. He doesn’t need anything we have to offer. Therefore, we can’t find God by being pious, generous or volunteering.

Finally, Paul gets to the point. God created all the different ethnic groups that make up the nations. He determined when people would live, where they would live and what boundaries they would have to rub up against. All of this is still in play today.

We were created by God to live in this time and in the places we find ourselves. We too have boundaries. The key to seeking God is seeing the boundaries as God’s interruptions. They are His reminders that He is relevant and close.

18 3 26 Easter Egg HuntDo you remember Easter Egg Hunts? In my family the adults would hide colorful eggs all over the yard for the children to find. They thoughtfully and purposefully “hid” them so the kids could find them. Eggs would be hidden in easy and challenging places, but the goal was for the eggs to be found not lost forever. No one has fun when Easter Eggs can’t be found.

God, like an adult hiding and Easter Egg, has carefully hidden Himself in the boundaries of your life. Boundaries look like limitations, feel like frustrations and are untimely interruptions, but it is also where God hides Himself for you. Remember what Paul said, “He [God] marked out their [your] appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands [your life]. God did this so that they [you] would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.”

God is not hiding from you. He is hiding for you. He does not play Hide-and-Seek. 18 3 26 Easter Egg Hunt 3Instead, he has planned an elaborate Easter Egg Hunt. Whenever you bump into a boundary, you just rubbed up against God. He is hiding there for you. Seek Him there. Reach out for Him there. He is close and can be found.

Let me give you some examples…next time.

1- http://www.Britannica.com, 2 – 1 Chronicles 28:9, 3 – Psalm 14:2, 4 – Proverbs 28:5,  5 – Isaiah 55:6, 6 – Matthew 6:33, 7 – Acts 17:24-27

Is God Still Relevant?

914 Words – Approx. Reading Time 4 minutes

Maybe God is out of touch with what is going on in the world? It is a popular thought. People are being bombarded with one crisis after another. The tragedies unfold in all shapes and sizes from human inflicted pain to natural disasters. It is easy to wonder if God is paying attention. Sixty-three percent of Americans still believe in God, but a growing number of individuals are joining Stephen Hawkins’ conclusion: “There is no God.”1

For most people the role of God in their life is not as black and white as “I believe in God” and “There is no God.” Most think He exists, but they struggle with understanding His ability to relate to them. They believe He knows more, sees more and cares more than the average human. They think He wants to help, but the world has become too complex…too far-gone…too advanced. He is like an endeared politician, who at one time was a political juggernaut, but now appears to have lost a step.

In 2008, during the prime of his political career, Martin Wisckol of the Orange County Register interviewed Senator John McCain. In an odd exchange of questions Senator McCain was asked, “When was the last time you pumped your own gas and how much did it cost?” The question obviously caught the senator off guard. Here was his response:

“Oh, I don’t remember. Now there’s Secret Service protection. But I’ve done it for many, many years. I don’t recall and frankly, I don’t see how it matters. I’ve had hundreds and hundreds of town hall meetings, many as short a time ago as yesterday. I communicate with the people and they communicate with me very effectively.”2

I am not picking on or disrespecting the senator. I consider him an American hero who has dedicated his life to civil service, but his answer clearly showed just how out of touch he was with the common American in 2008. At that time he was an above-average political leader (a six-term U.S. Senator and Representative from Arizona and man-pumping-gas-at-gas-stationpresidential candidate), an honored war hero and a political maverick. He had earned the reputation of challenging the status quo in American politics, yet he could not remember the last time he pumped his own gas. Instead, he rattled the Secret Service did that for him. How nice. Caught off guard by the question, he inadvertently revealed just how privileged his life was, and apparently had been for a long time. He flippantly excused the menial task of pumping and paying for gas as irrelevant to his ability to know and connect with the average American.

In spite of his popularity and achievements, he exposed just how far removed he was from the people he was trying to help. This is the convoluted view many people have about God. They respect Him and remember His great reputation, but doubt He really understands where they live?

In spite of our 4G, 4k, Alexa world, spiritually we have not advanced much past the 1st Century citizen of Athens, Greece. They too were confused about God. Peering into their social, political and philosophical world we discover their city contained a forest of idols; statues that represented the different gods accepted by their society. They, like us, valued being religiously inclusive. No one had the right to tell someone else their god didn’t exist or the morals their god represented were wrong. There were many truths—not one. Does that sound familiar? The only difference between them and us; we don’t make statues. Our idol is our right to believe whatever we want.

In their efforts to leave no one out, they even erected a statue to “The Unknown God.”3 They did not want to overlook a deity or offend its followers. They were open to new ideas and truth could not be absolute. This created another issue that closely relates to our current times. They were addicted to information.

recreated image
Digitally created image of the Areopagus.

They did not have Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat. Fox News, CNN and NPR did not exist. Instead, they had the Areopagus. Imagine a gathering of intellectual elites who had the authority to form public opinion. That was the Areopagus. We are told people gathered there to spend “their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.”4 Sounds like surfing the Internet or watching national news. They were addicted to hearing something new and then adding their 2 cents. Even if the process was futile, they did not stop. They could not stop, because they were so unsatisfied and frustrated with what they already knew. Again, sounds like us.

It was in this environment that God sent an interruption. His name was Paul. We are told Paul walked among their statues and started talking to people about Jesus. He spiked their curiosity because they had never heard of this God. They wanted to hear more so they scheduled him to speak at the Areopagus. Some were sincere in their quest to understand Paul’s God. Others were just looking for a good debate. Either way, God interrupted their world.

The reason this episode recorded in Acts is so important is because God reveals His relevancy. He proves He knows what it is like to stand at the pump, but reveals the pump could be the interruption we need to find God. Through Paul, God reminded everyone He is intricately involved in every human’s life. We will dig into it in the next time.

1- Religious Landscape Study from The Pew Forum, 2014 and “Stephen Hawking makes it clear: There is no God” by Chris Matyszczyk. www.cnet.com September 26, 2014.
2 – “John McCain Doesn’t Know the Price of Gas/Can’t Remember the Last Time He Bought Any” by Chris Kelly. www.huffingtonpost.com The Blog, July 5, 2008.
3 – Acts 17:23
4 – Acts 17:21

The Interrupter

920 Words – Approximate Reading Time 4 minutes

I think God likes interrupting us. Interruptions are a part of life so it should not surprise us that God would use them to get our attention. Interruptions happen at a frantic pace. Because of this, we know what they are but we may have forgotten what they actually do. Interruptions stop us in the midst of feeling, thinking, saying or doing something. They break our normal routine and create a reaction either by force or coincidence.

An interruption can infuriate us or recalibrate our thinking. It all depends on how we interpret the interruption. A well-timed and well-received interruption can stop us from making a mistake, rescue us from faulty ideas, and spare us from embarrassment. It can even set us on a new course with a new perspective. But, if we are in a hurry…or cocky…or totally self-centered…an interruption can set us off. It can feel like an emotional traffic jam at the worst possible time.

The way we handle an interruption can be an indicator to the spiritual well-being of our heart, and our heart is the most important piece of equipment when it comes to recognizing God’s voice. If our heart is alive to God and practicing trust, a divine interruption can be a lifesaver. If our heart is cold toward God and skeptical of His intervention, then the same interruption becomes a nuisance. There are many examples of this in the Bible.

Early in his ministry before becoming a national celebrity, Jesus was a traveling teacher. The bible tells us he went from one town to another speaking in synagogues all through Galilee.1 On the Sabbath he would arrive at the local gathering. It was the custom to let a traveling teacher speak, but by our standards he was an interruption. No one had invited him. His presence stopped them in the midst of what they were going to say or do and they would allow him to speak.

These synagogue interruptions had mixed reviews. When he taught at Capernaum, the people were pleasantly shocked by his teaching.2 The group received the interruption as a blessing and were introduced to the One who came to save them. God got their attention and they gained a new perspective.

When Jesus spoke in Nazareth, his hometown, the mood got ugly quickly.3 Again, he showed up unannounced interrupting their Sabbath routine. We are told his teaching at first amazed the people, but the excitement quickly faded. He claimed to be their Messiah and that was just too much. After all, they had seen him running through their neighborhoods as a boy. They hauled Jesus out-of-town intent on killing him. His words offended them because of their pride. They simply were not receptive to God’s interruption.

Think about it: Jesus interrupted both synagogues, but we find two very different reactions. The people at Capernaum welcomed the interruption and experienced joy. The people at Nazareth were offended by the interruption and tried to kill Jesus.

Here’s another example: Shortly after Jesus’ resurrection and return to heaven, the disciples were overcome with the Holy Spirit. We are told they left the upper room they were huddled in and went to the streets of Jerusalem interrupting the religious celebration called Pentecost. Language groups from all over the world where in Jerusalem that day. Due to the power of God’s Spirit in them, the disciples were able to give a powerful explanation of the life, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ in each person’s native tongue. These Galilean men were speaking languages they had never learned. What an amazing interruption that must have been?

Yet, there was a mixed response. Three thousand people were amazed and believed in Christ. Others saw and heard the same interruption and claimed the disciples were drunk.4

Not all of God’s interruptions involve large crowds. Once, Paul and one of his missionary partners were put in chains and placed in a maximum-security cell. At midnight God sent an earthquake. Their chains fell off and every cell door to the prison was opened. The jailer woke to see the cell doors open and his first thought was to kill himself. Before he could impale himself with a sword, Paul interrupted him. This interruption spared the jailer’s life and influenced him and his family to become followers of Christ.5

I could share more (and I will), but here is the point: God uses situations and people in our world as an interruption to get our attention. Remember, an interruption is anything that stops us in the midst of feeling, thinking, saying or doing something. God can use a spat with your spouse as an interruption. He can use a disappointment, a failure and even a disaster in an attempt to get our attention. Not all interruptions are negative. He can use the comments of a friend, the kindness of a stranger or the birth of child to interrupt our world in hopes that we might recognize Him.

Is it possible for us to recognize His interruptions when they happen? I think it is, but it all begins with the condition of our hearts. If our hearts are unconvinced about God speaking, then recognizing His interruptions will be a challenge. If our hearts are struggling to trust God, then seeing an interruption as God’s intervention is almost impossible.

I bet God has been interrupting you. If you haven’t recognized it, it is because something is cattywampus in your heart. Let’s go there…next time.

(1) – Mark 1:39 (2) – Mark 1:21-22 (3) – Luke 4:16-30 (4) – Acts 2:1-41 (5) – Acts 16:22-34

Divine Interruptions

How does God get our attention? We live in a world flooded with information. How do we know when an event, a conversation, a news story or a Facebook thread is more than just an interesting fact or tidbit of information? How do we know when God is trying to get us to notice Him? I believe God uses interruptions to get our attention, but how do we know when something is a divine interruption or just normal noise?

I grew up in Birmingham, Alabama right in the middle of what is known as the Bible Belt. In case you don’t know, the Bible Belt runs from Texas to Georgia and roughly from Florida to Virginia. This region of the United States was given this strange title in the 1920’s because Christian church attendance in these states was higher than the national average. The statistic is still true and as a result conservative evangelical Protestantism plays a strong role in the South in both culture and politics. Let me give an example. In 1987 the social activity of horse racing was completely acceptable in New York and California, but in Alabama it was frowned upon, and it was creating cultural clash in Birmingham.

I was seventeen years old and Birmingham had just opened its first and only horse track. Gambling was the hot topic in social and religious circles. Churches from all over the city began sending its members to the racetrack…not to gamble, but to evangelize. The poor souls at the racetrack—either employed there or just gambling—needed to be saved. The churches of Birmingham saw it as mission field. My church was no different. I signed up to go “witness” to people at the racetrack. For some reason I thought I was on high moral ground and I needed to do my part to scourge the city of this evil. I didn’t go with love. I went with contempt.

I prepared myself by studying a curriculum called CWT: Christian Witness Training (don’t waste your time Googling it…no one uses this or remembers it). The reason I remember CWT is because it encouraged me to start a conversation about God by asking this question: “If God were to ask you, ‘Why should I let you into my heaven?’ what would you say?”

The material provided different responses someone might give to answer the question and armed me with Biblical comebacks. The purpose of this: To encourage someone to think about a relationship with Christ, and hopefully influence them to accept Jesus as their personal savior. I went to the racetrack ready to talk to someone about God, but little did I know God would interrupt me.

When I arrived at the track, I was given permission to go to the stables. I spoke with a jockey. It was the only conversation I had and I’ve never forgotten it.

He was a small man, at least six inches shorter than me, and really thin. He was rugged. His face looked experienced and tired, but he was friendly. I don’t know if he knew why I was there, but he stopped tending his horse and began to speak with me. I went through the pleasantries of introducing myself and getting his name (although I don’t remember it). Finally, I asked him the question I had come prepared to ask. Let me recall for you word for word what I remember.

Me: If God were to ask you “Why should I let you into my heaven?” what would you say?Jockey: If God were to speak to me, I’d shit in my pants.

Needless to say, CWT had not considered this a possible response to the question.

I was unprepared for his comment, but I noticed something. He looked sincere. I’ll never forget it. He wasn’t trying to shock me. He wasn’t trying to trip me up. He wasn’t mocking me. He was sincere. And because honesty was in his eyes something moved in me, I began to care about him. BOOM! God interrupted me.

I internally cried, “God, help!” I then departed from the CWT script and said the next thing that came to my mind. “Why would you do that if God spoke to you?” I then got an education on how some people view God.

I learned three things as I talked with him:

1) He felt his life was tiny and unimportant. In the grand scheme of the universe, why would God even want to speak to him? He did believe in God, but he believed God had more important things to do.

2) He felt his life was far from God…so different from God’s expectations…that even if God did speak to him would it be relevant? He believed God was out of touch with his life. What could God say to a jockey that would remotely help him?

3) He felt God personally speaking to him would not be pleasant. In fact, the thought terrified him. Hence, his bowel moving comments. He was not being crass or irreverent. He was being honest. If God were going to speak to him, it certainly must not be good and it would absolutely be terrible.

As we talked, God interrupted this man’s life. He was just tending his horse, like he had done hundreds of times before, but this time God sent a humbled, foolish 17-year-old to question his thoughts about God. Using the same moment and conversation, God interrupted both of us for different reasons.

I realize what I’m calling an interruption others might call fate or chance, but God does not work that way. He is intentional with his interruptions. He says, “I know the plans I have for you.”1 God is the Master Interrupter, but how do we know when He is interrupting us? That’s the next blog.

 1 – Jeremiah 29:11
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