What Are We Building?

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It was another warm, sunny evening in Northern California.  I was checking out at the grocery store on base (called the Commissary), and I had a decision to make like I always do.  Should I use the self-checkout, or should I use the human-assisted checkout?  We so often overlook the potential difference a small decision like this can make in a person’s life…

I am always inclined to use the self-checkout, because I feel it’s easier and faster.  In reality, I don’t think either of those are actually true…and it’s definitely not a more pleasant experience!  They recently “upgraded” the voice of the woman in the machine to an extremely impatient, irritated-sounding lady.  Boy, if you don’t get your food item in the “bagging area” within about 0.7 seconds, you’re in BIG TROUBLE!!  So why do I still decide to fight the self-checkout fight when I know I will just end up arguing with a digital person?!?

One of the big reasons I am deterred from the “real humans” is the fact that the baggers are only paid from the tips they make.  I usually don’t have any cash on my person, so I feel bad about utilizing someone’s service, only to say “Thanks, but I don’t have any cash… :/” There’s also something inside of me that doesn’t really want to make the effort to interact with people.  That’s the sad truth.  But, as you’ll find out, I’m sure glad I did today!

When I saw there was a lady in the self-checkout line with about 25 items, I decided to use the person checkout.  It was on the far end, and I almost couldn’t believe they were open!  The gentleman was manning his post like a zombie, arms crossed, head back, balancing on his heels.  His demeanor seemed to say, “I would rather be stranded on a desert island than standing here right now.”  But he motioned to me, so I went over.  He asked me what kind of bags I wanted, and I addressed the bagger, “Whatever’s easier for you, man.”  “Okay,” he replied.

For whatever reason, the Commissaries give the baggers “number tags” instead of name tags.  My bagger today was “BAGGER # 57.”  Bagger # 57 quickly bundled up my meager amount of groceries, and was going to let me carry them out.  I said, “Hey…I don’t have a tip, but if you walk out to my car with me I can grab it for you.”  So we walked out, and he started chatting.  It’s amazing how just going somewhere with someone can begin a rapport that causes conversation to begin.  Movement is powerful!  He told me he had just graduated school, and was working another job in landscaping.  I found out eventually that his name was Blake.

Standing in the parking lot, I pointed to his “BAGGER #57” badge and said, “You know, I think this is one of the worst things in the world.”  I told him that HE HAS A NAME, and that it’s important.  I also told him that God knows his name, even if nobody else does!  I was shocked when he exclaimed, “In my ten months of working this job, you’re the only person to EVER ask my name.  And, you’re the only person to ask about me.”  This was hard for me to believe.  But at the same time, it’s all too much of a reality in our fast-paced, me-focused, modern world.

The reason I tell this story is not for me…it’s for people like Blake.  In our culture today, we have bought into a lie that says, “I am my own person, I can do what I want and there is NOTHING wrong with that.”  While this is somewhat true, it’s really a half-truth.  We are our own, in a way…we are the only ones that can make choices for ourselves.  But what we do (and don’t do) can have significant impacts in our lives and in the lives of those around us.

So, I leave you with this:  “What are we building?”  Are we trying to build our resumes, our bank accounts, and our likes on Instagram?  I know that I do!  And that’s okay, but are we trying to build things that will last as well?  Are we trying to build relationships?  Are we trying to build things not just in our own lives, but the lives of those around us?  I think when we get away from the nagging, pestering demands of life, we can start to see a bigger picture:  The fact that God didn’t make us just to live for ourselves.  Relationships matter, love matters, and these things matter because God made us for them.  Let’s start building something that will LAST today!

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Preaching the Gospel (to Myself!)

Thanks for reading my first blog post!  Hope you enjoy it…

I think we overlook the Gospel far too often and take it for granted.  So many people recognize Christianity and know that Jesus was a real person, but if you ask people what the Gospel is, you may get some surprising responses!  I think the cause of this is that our human nature and the nature of the Gospel message are so dramatically different.  When we hear a message or a sermon, our minds automatically try to categorize it based on its relevance to our lives.

The Gospel message is clear:  None of us deserves life (Romans 3:23), but God gives life through his Son Jesus Christ because of his righteous life (Romans 8:10), his death on the cross as an atoning sacrifice for our sins (Romans 3:25) by bearing our sins on himself (2 Corinthians 5:21, 2 Peter 2:24, Isaiah 53:12),  and his resurrection from the dead (Romans 10:9).

One of the biggest challenges of receiving the Gospel message is accepting that we don’t make the cut.  This is humiliating and frustrating because we feel we need to be good enough on our own.  It’s also difficult because, while the Gospel directly affects us, it does not revolve around us.  The message centers around Christ and his righteousness.

As a believer, I find that I need to preach the Gospel to myself on a regular basis.  Why do I need to do that?  If I believe everything the Bible says, I know that I am forgiven and accepted by God.  So what difference does it make?  The answer is that I still try to be good enough and strive for perfection.  But it’s such a relief when we rest in knowing that Jesus is the only one who can, and is, perfect and met the standard for us.

We cannot take the Gospel message for granted, nor can we leave it at the door of our churches, homes, and workplaces.  If we forget about our identity as fallen, but forgiven and redeemed children of God, we will only find ourselves frustrated when we don’t live up to our own expectations or the expectations of others.  Let’s look to Jesus and trust that his grace is enough (2 Corinthians 12:9), and his Spirit will help us in our weakness (Romans 8:26).

God bless you today!