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.


 
Is It a Conviction or a Preference?
Convictions and Preferences

I’m a person of strong opinions. It’s a rare occasion when I don’t have an opinion on a subject.

Lately, though, I’ve been wondering about the art of disagreement. Without meaning to, I’ve come up against passions that run high and emotions that run deep. The subjects cover everything from the national debt to exercise preferences to application of Scripture. While I understand the strong feelings—I have them myself—I don’t understand the hostility that targets and denigrates anyone who believes differently.

A few examples…

Several years ago, I wrote a blog post describing my observations about yoga. Do I have strong feelings about it? Yes, I do. However, what surprised me were the comments that went far beyond thoughtful agreement or disagreement (which I welcome). Many comments attacked those in the opposite “camp.” I found it necessary to delete some because of their uncontrolled vitriol. By the way, the hostility came from both sides—Christian and non.

On another note, friends, acquaintances, and strangers have been posting scathing denunciations of Republicans or Democrats, depending on which side of the aisle they identify with. Hyperbole abounds in an effort to portray the opposing party as unintelligent, elitist, or communist. And those are some of the more civil terms!

Finally, I had a conversation with a young lady who disagreed with something I taught from Scripture. The position I hold is one supported by many well-respected Christian denominations. The position she holds is held by many well-respected Christian denominations. Unfortunately, rather than agree to disagree, she gave vent to vehement indignation at what she pronounced to be “false teaching” simply because she did not have the same view. I should add this was not a matter of interpretation, but simply a matter of application.

These three experiences cause me to wonder: have we lost the ability to disagree without attacking those who hold an opposing view? These days disagreements quickly deteriorate into ad hominem arguments, where the person is targeted instead of the position they hold.

Convictions and Preferences

I am not saying we should compromise our convictions. But perhaps the issue is that we don’t understand the difference between a conviction and a preference. A conviction, according to Webster’s Illustrated Contemporary Dictionary, is “a fixed belief.” A preference is “the choice of one thing or person over another.” A conviction is something we would die for. A preference is not. A conviction is something we would stake our reputation on. A preference is not.

Before we engage with others on everything from politics to shampoo brands, perhaps we should spend some time—and prayer—determining our convictions and our preferences…and deciding which is which. And most importantly, listening to what the Holy Spirit has to say to us about both.

Then we have a series of choices to make.

We need to choose our motive. When we respond to those who disagree with us, are we doing so out of anger, self-righteousness, or love for others caught in error?

We also need to choose our venues. The book of Ecclesiastes tells us “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1). A social media venue such as Facebook is not the place for Christians to unleash a torrent of negative comments about non-believers, and then expect to be a witness to our unbelieving friends! Come to think of it, Christians shouldn’t be doing that anywhere!

Finally, we need to choose our words. Some words are more emotionally-charged than others, igniting fires and leaving charred remains in their path. Certainly not what we want to do if our goal is to persuade others to our views.

The art of disagreement does not require compromising our convictions. It does not even entail parking our preferences. It does involve respecting those who disagree with us. Who knows? Someday, they may even be won over to our way of thinking…or we may be won over to theirs!

Your turn:
How might distinguishing between preferences and convictions help you better handle disagreements?


 
How Well Are You Known?
Know and Be Known

Twenty years ago, I moved from New York City to a much smaller city in Florida. More of a small town, actually. I welcomed the fresh air, the slower pace, and the improved quality of life.

But I also needed to make some adjustments…

  • About a week after our move, after a particularly long day unpacking boxes, we tried getting a pizza delivered. Several phone calls later, we discovered nothing remained open after 10PM.
  • The satellite post office near our home closed for lunch each day.
  • I was late for church one morning because a cow stood in the road and a sheriff’s deputy blocked the street with his car while we waited for the cow to move.

One of the biggest adjustments I had to make was in realizing I could not leave the house without running into someone I knew. Someone from church or from our neighborhood. Someone from the interdenominational Bible study I attended or from the non-profit agency where I volunteered. The anonymity of living in a big city disappeared faster than a bag of M&Ms® at a chocoholic’s convention.

But that was nothing compared to what I’ve experienced lately on the Internet. Facebook seems to know exactly what ads fit my interests. One order on the Barnes & Noble website resulted in emails touting products geared to my interests. The website Spokeo.com contains detailed information about me and anyone for whom I might be searching.

Total strangers seem to know me very well.

To know and be known – truly known – is our deepest desire. Even the apostle Paul noted, “Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known” (I Corinthians 13:12).

God created us to know and be known. He created us to be intimately related to Him. He revealed Himself in His Word using a variety of names and attributes to help us know who He is and how He works. We learn from His Word that He is perfectly righteous and just, absolutely faithful and merciful, and truly trustworthy and holy. And because He is who He is, we can trust the most intimate facets of our life to Him. His Spirit resides in His children and nothing surprises Him – He knows the ugliest details and loves us anyway.

When we’re in a right relationship with the Lord, we’ll have the confidence to be vulnerable and transparent in our relationships with others. To know and be known is a gift, not just with God, but with fellow travelers on the road of life.

If you’re not as intimate with the Lord as you would like, what will you do about it?


 
Taking Offense
Taking Offense

Were you offended today?

We live in a society where taking offense is now the norm. And the catalog of culprits multiplies by the minute, with politics and religion topping the list.

Sadly, it seems our culture is especially offended by the claims of Christianity, more so than any other belief system. I used to think it was because of the exclusive salvation claims Christians make. But that’s not the case, since Muslims make similar claims.

Perhaps it’s because the enemy of our souls knows Jesus truly is the only way to the Father, and has blinded the eyes and stopped up the ears of those who need to know it. The exclusive claims of other beliefs continue to be proclaimed without obstacles because the enemy knows they don’t matter.

So what’s a Christian to do when others are offended by our faith in Jesus Christ? I recently read an article in which the author proudly proclaimed her refusal to apologize for the gospel and for her faith in Christ.

I agree with the apostle Paul who wrote, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile” (Romans 1:16 NIV).

Still, what if we do need to apologize, but not for the truth of the gospel message? Not for our faith in Christ. And not for the transforming power of God’s salvation by the Holy Spirit.

Content vs. Delivery

What if we need to apologize for the way we communicate that message?

We’ve all seen and heard derogatory comments by self-described Christians addressed to abortionists, homosexuals, and others who commit sins different from our own. Comments such as:

  • Judgment will come!
  • God will punish you for this!
  • You’ll burn in hell for eternity!

If we close our eyes, we can almost picture the speaker proclaiming the words with a fist raised high in anticipated victory over the forces of evil.

And the world continues to close its ears, shut its eyes, and turn its back on the gospel message.

But what if we said those words with a broken heart? If we spoke them from a place of tenderness for the eternal destiny of others created in the image of God? And what if we talked about hell with tears streaming down our face—grief stricken over the judgment to come?

Finally, what if the cry of our heart and our mouth is, “I love you and I don’t want you to experience that terrible judgment.”

What if we would say, “I was right there with you.” What if we would identify with the apostle Paul who said, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am the worst” (I Timothy 1:15 NIV). Not someone else. Me. Us.

But God. But God intervened. He saved me from my sin. He saved me from myself. And He saved me—us—for Himself. Not because we’re better than other sinners, but because of His lavish grace.

So what if we would apologize for our arrogance and self-righteousness? What might happen? We might still be mocked and denigrated, but that happens anyway.

Or…

Maybe, just maybe, the other person might walk away having experienced real love from an unexpected source. The kind of love the Holy Spirit can use to speak to their heart and mind long after the conversation ends.

Speak truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). Not arrogantly. Not rejoicing that “they’ll get theirs.” But with a tender heart and tears in our eyes.

Then if anyone is offended, it will be because of the gospel, not because of how we delivered the message.


 
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