Pocketing, Cookie Jarring, and Jesus
Pocketing, Cookie Jarring, and Jesus

Pocketing and cookie jarring. To paraphrase a line from The Princess Bride, “I do not think it means what you think it means.” One thing is for sure: neither phrase means what I thought they meant!

Both terms are now used to describe dating trends.

Pocketing occurs when the relationship seems as if it’s progressing, but your partner has not introduced you to family or long-term friends. They’re enjoying the fun relationship, but they don’t see a future with you. In the words of the owner of a matchmaking service, “Why get friends and family involved?”

Cookie jarring occurs when the person you’re dating keeps you as a back-up, while they’re pursuing a serious relationship with someone else. They consider it to be a practical back-up plan “just in case.” Sort of like keeping the cookie jar full in case you experience a snack-attack.

So who are you pocketing and who’s in your cookie jar?

I’m not talking about someone you might be dating. (And no, I’m not dating!)

I am talking about your relationship with Jesus.

How many professing Christians keep Jesus in our “pocket”? We hesitate to be open about our beliefs because friends and family wouldn’t understand. Even worse, there might be open hostility. The result is a compartmentalized life, keeping Jesus separate from other areas.

Or how many professing Christians treat Jesus like a cookie jar: dipping our hand in when we have a need. The rest of the time, we go merrily on our way pursuing people, interests, and activities that have little to do with a life committed to being a Christ-follower.

Commitment.

It’s a term used in describing relationships with other people and with Jesus Christ. Are we committed Christians or Christians in name only? Is Christ Lord of our whole life or do we limit His reign to certain “pockets”? Do we only seek God’s hand when we need something, or do we pursue His heart?

I’ve been studying and teaching from the book of Acts recently. And I’ve been impressed by the difference between the early disciples of Christ and many of us today. In Acts 4, Peter and John were imprisoned for their faith, yet afterward they prayed, “Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness” (Acts 4:29 NIV). They did not pray for safety, they prayed for boldness!

A short time later, these same men are jailed and flogged for proclaiming Christ again, yet they were “rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name” (Acts 5:41 NIV). Can I say the same thing?

If I’m honest, there are times when I’m less like Peter and John and more like someone who keeps Christ in a pocket or a cookie jar. Times when I hesitate to proclaim Jesus Christ because I don’t want to be that person—the one people avoid because she’s a religious fanatic. Times when I pursue things that are convenient, comfortable, and safe, rather than speaking up about the One who people need even if they don’t realize it.

Then I think about persecuted Christians today. In places such as China, the Middle East, Africa, and elsewhere Christians are imprisoned, beaten, and killed for their faith. These Christians understand Peter and John. What they do not understand are the people who are pocketing and cookie jarring the Savior.

Every Christ-follower has the indwelling Holy Spirit who gives boldness when needed to proclaim Jesus Christ. Let’s not keep Him in a cookie jar.


Everyone Gets to be God …Except God
Everyone gets to be God except God

I’m confused.

I understand atheists who say there is no God. I don’t agree with them. But if they choose to hold a position contrary to what the Bible says, they’re free to do so.

I understand Muslims who say Allah is god and Mohammed is his prophet. Again, I don’t agree with them. Still, if they choose to hold a position contrary to what the Bible says, they’re also free to do so.

And I understand Jewish believers who say the promised Messiah has not yet come the first time. Once again, I don’t agree with them, given the mountain of evidence found in their Scriptures (what Christians call the Old Testament) and the fulfilled prophecy recorded in the New Testament. But if they choose not to believe what their own Bible says, that’s their choice.

What I don’t understand is when a professing Christian seminary denigrates the Christian faith by equating the creation with the Creator, and still claims to be Christian.

Did you miss it last week?

Prayers to Plants

Union Theological Seminary in New York City recently held an event in which seminary students prayed and confessed the sins of humanity…to plants. Yes, you read that right. They prayed to plants.

Think I’m making this up or perhaps exaggerating? Here’s the announcement on their official Twitter account:

“Today in chapel, we confessed to plants. Together, we held our grief, joy, regret, hope, guilt and sorrow in prayer; offering them to the beings who sustain us but whose gift we too often fail to honor.”

When that announcement caused a backlash, the Administration dug in even deeper, defending the chapel service in a series of additional tweets.

I began by saying I’m confused. But a more accurate statement would be that my heart is breaking over their confusion.

I get it. Overall, humanity has not been a good steward of the creation that was entrusted to us. We bear the guilt and shame of such irresponsibility. But the shame is in our failure to obey the Creator, not His creation.

Still, there’s a bigger issue here than a rogue seminary. It’s the issue of letting God be God. These days it seems anyone or anything can be worshipped as God except for the God of the Bible.

Everyone Gets to be God Except God

Want to be your own god? Go right ahead. Believe in Allah? Have at it. Want to believe God is not separate from creation, aka pantheism, or as someone has said, “God is everything and everything is God”? You’ve got lots of company.

But dare to claim God the Father redeemed humanity through God the Son, Jesus Christ, and then applied this salvation by indwelling Christ-followers with God the Holy Spirit. Such a statement is vilified as bigoted, narrow-minded, and uneducated.

Everyone gets to be God except God.

  • We can confess our sins to plants, but not to God.
  • Morality is fine, as long as we’re the ones who define it, instead of God.
  • Science is the altar at which humanity worships…until science itself becomes inconvenient:

> Ultrasounds reveal the baby in the womb, so don’t look.

> Biology reveals two genders: male and female, so let’s dismiss the evidence of our own eyes.

The bottom line? The only god we want to worship is ourselves. And once again everyone gets to be God except God.

It Was Predicted

Ironically, the very Bible dismissed by our culture predicted this would happen.

“For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools.”
~ Romans 1:21-22

“They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator.” ~ Romans 1:25 NIV

“For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.”
~ II Timothy 4:3 NIV

How sad that these things have come. And how sad that those who chase these pursuits fail to recognize their ultimate end. Stephen Covey once said, “We are free to choose our actions, but we are not free to choose the consequences of these actions.”

Does it break your heart to hear these things? Are you shedding tears at the folly that will have eternal consequences? Don’t rejoice that such people are facing the torment of eternal separation from their Creator. Instead, pray for softened hearts. Plead for eyes to be opened. And always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope you have, doing it with gentleness and respect (I Peter 3:15).

Regardless of what the world does, in your own life will you let God be God?


Get Real with God
Get real with God

Bible study can be encouraging…until we begin to put the people of the Bible on a pedestal.

It’s so easy to think of them as almost mythical individuals. Abraham, Moses, Joshua, David, Solomon, Peter, Paul—we read their accounts and imagine them to be larger-than-life. We even excuse their foibles, frailties, and outright sins because, well, they’re biblical heroes of the faith!

But doing this creates a problem. The problem is that we begin to believe the lie that the transformative power of God isn’t for real people like us with real problems and real sin. After all, the people of the Bible didn’t live lives that included the kind of things we deal with today…or did they?

Then we get to the book of Psalms. In the Psalms we read authors who bare their hearts and tell it like it is. They get real.

Here are just a few examples:

Ever feel as if God doesn’t care about your troubled circumstances? So did David in Psalm 10:1 (NIV):

“Why, Lord, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?”

But David did not remain stuck there. He refocused on God’s character in verses 16-18:

“The Lord is King for ever and ever; the nations will perish from his land. You, Lord, hear the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry, defending the fatherless and the oppressed….”

We see a similar response in Psalm 13. David began with verses 1-2:

“How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart?”

Then he concluded in verses 5-6:

“But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing the Lord’s praise, for he has been good to me.”

Ever feel envious of the wicked and wonder why they prosper while you’re trying to do what’s right? So did Asaph in Psalm 73:3-5:

“I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong. They are free from common human burdens; they are not plagued by human ills.”

But just like David, Asaph changed his perspective by the end of the Psalm in verse 28:

“But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds.”

Perhaps you’ve been falsely accused. David understood that, too, as he wrote in Psalm 109:1-2:

“My God, whom I praise, do not remain silent, for people who are wicked and deceitful have opened their mouths against me; they have spoken against me with lying tongues.”

And once again, he concluded with a different perspective in verses 30-31:

“With my mouth I will greatly extol the Lord; in the great throng of worshipers I will praise him. For he stands at the right hand of the needy, to save their lives from those who would condemn them.”

David and Asaph did not allow their circumstances to define God. Yet they were authentic and transparent about their struggles. And from reading passages such as these, I’ve learned three things to help me as a follower of Christ in my relationship with God:

  • Problem:
    I can be real about my problems in talking with God and with others. Being a Christian doesn’t mean we slap a plastic smile on our face and pretend life is wonderful while we’re crying on the inside. Being authentic means facing reality, whether it’s pleasant or not.
  • Pour out your heart to God:
    God can handle whatever I need to tell Him. He is omniscient—He knows everything. Which means He already knows what I’m thinking, so nothing I say to Him will be a surprise.
  • Perspective:
    It’s okay to tell God how we feel. Even Jesus did it in the Garden of Gethsemane, when He prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me…” (Luke 22:42). But like David and Asaph, He also refocused on who God is—in this case, His sovereignty—when He finished the sentence by saying, “…yet not my will, but yours be done.

    I can be real about my circumstances and my discouragement, but I can’t stay stuck there. As a child of God, in Christ, and with the indwelling Holy Spirit, I need to look up. To consider the character of God. To rest in the truth of His attributes. And to trust that He is always at work for my good and for His glory.

Those people in the Bible? Yes they were real people with real problems. Let’s learn from them and model the same authenticity. For as we read what they wrote, we hear echoes of the cry of our own heart.

And when we get real with God and others, a watching world will see His power lived out in real people.


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