A Firewall for the Soul

All of us are aware of (and more than a little anxious about) the issue of identity theft. Hackers, using stolen passwords and sophisticated software packages, can invade our computers and steal important personal information. This information is then used to set up fake accounts in our names and, well, it’s a mess. Our credit is messed up for years. We lose money along with our patience.

A Firewall for the Soul

Whenever you talk to someone who’s been through this, they’ll inevitably talk about how violated they feel. It’s about more than just losing account numbers. Somehow, they lost part of themselves.

Which brings me to this interesting question: How do you create a firewall for your soul? How do we keep the world from “hacking” into our lives and stealing the essence of who we are and what we believe? And how does someone hack into your soul?

OK, I know I’m beginning to sound like a bad sci-fi movie about some alien life form coming to earth, sucking the souls out of people, and leaving behind nothing but an empty sack of flesh. Perhaps it’s not that bad, but it’s close. Our society is filled with circumstances, people, events, and institutions that literally suck the life out of us. So, how do we protect ourselves from this?

The first answer is counterintuitive. We’re tempted to think that retreating from the world will protect us. It won’t. To be honest, most of our problems aren’t with the world, but with us. You can retreat from the world, but you can’t get away from yourself.

When Jesus was talking to the woman at the well in John 4, He promised her that living springs of life-giving water would flow from within her as she came to know Him as Messiah.

Paul told the Philippians to “think on these things.” That is, fill your life with beauty, truth, goodness, excellence, etc. Pay attention to the beautiful, graceful, wondrous person and work of Jesus. Being filled with good things means you don’t have any room to keep bad things in your life.

Second, pay attention to your thought life. What kinds of images, thoughts, or desires fill your mind during the day? Now, I know you’re going to say that you can’t control what you think about, but Martin Luther, the great Reformer, once said, “You can’t keep birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from building nests in your hair.” We may not have control over an initial thought, but we don’t have to dwell on that thought. We can think about something else. We can let the negative thought go. Whatever you need to do, do it. Don’t let unhealthy images or desires take root in your soul.

Lastly, confess to your friends about those things that keep you hung up. Now, I don’t mean stand up on Sunday morning and lay out all of the details about your inner life. I am saying find a friend you can trust with your life and talk about what’s going on with you. Sometimes, just getting the issue out in the open is enough. Other times, if the friend really knows you, he or she can ask insightful questions that help connect your thoughts to what’s gone on in your life.

Here’s why it matters: what you think soon becomes what you desire, and what you desire becomes what you do, and what you do becomes who you are. That’s why we have to guard our hearts and minds so diligently; they determine our character, and character determines our destiny.

So, what about you? Do you have a firewall for your soul? Have you checked it lately?

Fixed Point

Sailors used the stars to navigate the oceans. Explorers used natural landmarks like rivers and mountain peaks to mark their journeys. Early on, travelers learned the value of knowing the fixed points of the landscape to guide their journeys.

fixed-point

Navigation requires a fixed point—a lighthouse, a star, a mountain, a river—something that will always be at the same place no matter what else may happen in our world. Can you imagine the confusion if the Rocky Mountains changed places? What if at times they were out west and at other times, they might be in the Deep South? How could we ever know where we are, much less which way we need to go? No, we need some things in our lives that never change…like the Rocky Mountains.

Spiritual journeys, like all other journeys, require fixed points also—things that never change—in order for us to find our way. Spiritual journeys are hard enough on their own, but what makes them more difficult is the lack of fixed points to map our progress. The world offers a variety of mile markers for the journey such as fashion, money, fame, adrenaline-charged hedonism, but none of these are fixed. They keep moving. If you make $1, then you have to make $2. If you win a trophy, you have to win another one or the public will forget all about you. These markers of achievement never stay put.

Instead of giving you a reference point, these false markers lead you in an empty chase for meaning and hope. You can’t find your way home because you’re never quite sure where you are.

And if you’re not quite sure where you are, you never really know which way to go.

That’s one of the reasons we trust Jesus. He never changes. We always know exactly where we are and which way we need to go in relationship to where Jesus is. We can tell if something brings us closer to Him or takes us further away from Him.

Jesus doesn’t change. His Word doesn’t change. That’s why Christ followers are so confident in the journey. Jesus is our fixed point. He never changes, so we always know exactly where we are and exactly which way leads home.

What Chick-Fil-A Could Teach Local Churches

According to a recent survey released in the American Customer Satisfaction Index Restaurant Report 2015, Chick-Fil-A® is the nation’s favorite fast food restaurant.

What Chick-Fil-A Could Teach Local Churches

On one hand, I’m not surprised. They have the best chicken sandwich around, and they have great chicken tenders. Their restaurants are clean, and their staff is friendly. It’s a good consistent place to eat at a reasonable price. (And, you can get ice cream).

On the other hand, I was a little surprised. You may not remember, but the CEO of Chick-Fil-A made some controversial comments concerning gay marriage and encountered a great deal of blowback from the public. There were all kinds of protests and counter protests. And then, as is usually the case, the news cycle moved on to something else. The public’s attention moved on as well.

All the while, Chick-Fil-A kept making chicken sandwiches, and people kept coming in to buy them. They didn’t come to discuss politics or argue about cultural events. They just wanted a good chicken sandwich, and Chick-Fil-A does chicken sandwiches better than anyone. 

With all that’s happened lately and from all we’ve seen in the media, you’d think that everyone wants to argue and fight about this issue or that issue. You’d be wrong. Most people just want to live their lives. They want to love and be loved.

And no one does love better than Jesus. Telling about His love and living out His love in a world that is searching desperately for a love that’s real and lasting, is what the local church does.

And we do it better than anybody. When people come to our churches, they don’t want to argue and fight. They want to be loved, and they’ve heard that no one loves better than Jesus. Like Chick-Fil-A, the local church does one thing—We share the love of Jesus.

Finding the love of Jesus is why I go to church. It’s why you go to church, too. Love is the only reason any one comes to church. We do one thing…and we do it better than anyone else in the world.

Image Source: http://inside.chick-fil-a.com/gallery/

Finding Family

One of the good things about being part of a local church is you will find a new extended family; you will find brothers and sisters, uncles and aunts, and grandparents who will add a lot of love to you and your family. I’ve talked about how important these people who became like family are to me (even though they’re not blood relatives).

But finding this family can be a little daunting. Say you’re a young couple who’s just moved to a new city and found a church you like. What’s next?

Find a family; that’s what’s next. Now, like I said, this can be a little uncomfortable, but let me give you some things to think about:

1. Most senior adults would relish having a young couple to hang out with. Most would respond very eagerly to an invitation to lunch, dinner, or just a cup of coffee.

2. Most senior adults mistakenly think they have nothing to offer to the younger generations. A lot of the time, senior adults don’t understand the digital world—and really don’t want to. They don’t think you would be interested in anything they have to say.

3. Don’t expect them to make the first move. You make it. Find a couple you think you might have something in common with—perhaps you grew up in the same town, went to the same college, work in the same career, or like to play golf. Any reason is a good reason to start the conversation.

Then, start the conversation. Ask them (or him or her) to lunch after church. Ask about their lives. Introduce them to your children. Tell your stories and listen to theirs. They’ll bring incredible wisdom to your life if you’re wise enough to hear it.

Find out their birthdays and anniversaries and celebrate them. You know, act like family.

The rewards will be more than you can ever imagine. You’ll get back more than you’ll ever give.

And all it will cost you is a cup of coffee.