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Thanks for popping in and reading. I appreciate you taking the time to pick up what I've laid down.

Comments are welcome.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A Message on the Back

After dropping off my son at school this morning I found myself following a car that had a message for everyone, "End Hate", albeit in license plate form.  My immediate internal response was, "I couldn't agree more!"  Hate, that loathing mentality that exceeds the temporary emotion of anger and holds hands with bitterness, is typically fueled by fear and a lack of understanding.  Fear and ignorance are two traits that Christians are never supposed to embrace; love and truth are to be prominent features of Jesus followers.

I also started thinking about "hate" as a verb, directed at something or someone specific.  I don't know the owner of the vehicle and I can't say for certain but I'm pretty sure the long version of their two word message would be something like, "stop hating each other".  I don't think we're supposed to remain neutral on evil though: the actions of Isis, abuse, corruption, perversion, lying, stealing, murder, (the list could go on) ... sin, I think we should hate sin.  People, we're not supposed to hate people, we're called to love them.

Somewhere between the words on a page and the actions and nuances of everyday life, interpretation and confusion can settle in.  What is hate exactly?  What does it look like?  Can I hold a strong opinion, a firm conviction, that someone else's opinion or behavior isn't just different but wrong? I don't think anyone would believe that a firm spine equals hate but set two strong-minded folks on opposite sides of an issue and you'll see respect, love, and decency all tested.  Feelings may be violated, one or both may feel as though the other hates them.

"You shall not hate your fellow countryman in your heart; you may surely reprove your neighbor, but shall not incur sin because of him." ~ Leviticus 19:17 (NAS)

Sometimes just one verse speaks volumes.  Hate is never to be a part of the equation.  Period.  And yet we see room to "reprove" (correct, rebuke) as it pertains to sin, anything that displeases the Lord.  The people of Israel were to love each other and speak into each other's lives.  God alone sits in judgment of our heart and actions however the notion that we are called to live as muted, passive spectators tolerating any and every choice made by one another is nonsense.  

Need some New Covenant confirmation?  The balance of love and correction carry through here as well.

"You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.'  But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.  If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?  And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?  Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect."
~ Matthew 5:43-48 (NAS)

and 

"And concerning you, my brethren, I myself also am convinced that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able also to admonish one another."
~ Romans 15:14

Maybe license plates can produce more conversation than I thought!  One last ingredient: personal relationships.  Hate has a tough time developing roots in respectful, face to face conversations or in the context of shared lives.  It blossoms behind the anonymity of a computer screen (see comment sections in political news articles) and behind fences and in propaganda.  Of course our primary relationship is with Jesus, He is the one who continues to refine and transform us.  He has loved us sacrificially, forgiven us exponentially and wants us to be with him eternally.  Want to remove hate from your life?  Walk closely with Christ!



Wednesday, October 22, 2014

What I've Learned As A Fan

To be fair, I wasn't even seven at the time and life is far more dramatic and intense and serious when you're only six.  I was absolutely invested into my hockey team, the Vancouver Canucks, as they made an improbable run through the playoffs.  Our goalie went from "some guy" to "King Richard" as they knocked off better teams one by one.  It was impossible not to get sucked in to the excitement and anticipation of what might ultimately happen.  Could they actually become NHL champions and win the Stanley Cup?

I knew they would win.  It didn't matter that they had a losing record during the regular season.  I was cheering for them, so that would surely (and miraculously) give them the extra skill/luck/energy to conquer everyone else.  And it was working!  They made it into the finals, a best of seven series against the New York Islanders.  The Islanders were tough, mean and really, really good but I had faith in my guys even if their jerseys were super ugly!

Sometimes a child's faith is misplaced.  Those Islanders were way too much for my beloved Canucks and they swept the series 4-0.  The first game went to overtime to be decided but the rest featured domination by the other guys.  I was SO MAD, and frustrated, and sad.  I was mad at my team for playing so good and then being so bad.  I was mad at the Islanders for being so good, and for not letting my team even have a chance and for being so pushy on the ice.  I think my parents got a little concerned for their son who had clearly geeked out and lost it over a game.  There may have been more than a few tears.

I'm very pleased to tell you that I've grown up since then and I've grown up because of then.  There are a lot of articles and books that talk about the lessons and values we can learn from playing sports and many of these have had an impact on me.  I think there are also important lessons we can learn from being fans of sports.

I shared this particular story with you because it is the most disappointed I have ever felt as a fan.  My young heart and mind weren't able to place the event in proper perspective; I didn't understand emotionally that it was just a game and that yes, the sun would come back up the next day.  I still invest emotionally into my teams because it is part of the experience.  Life has taught me, though, that I'm not actually the one writing the script and that there may be a result that I don't like at the end.  And that my life is still incredibly blessed regardless.

I've learned that as a fan, Henry Russell Sanders couldn't be more wrong when he said, "Men, I'll be honest. Winning isn't everything," (pause) "Men, it's the only thing!" (commonly attributed to Vince Lombardi).  My happiness isn't dependent on any of the teams or athletes I follow.  Disappointment, like euphoria, is fleeting.

The most important lesson I've learned as a sports fan is an ongoing one: be careful as to who (what) you give your heart and passion.  It almost seems silly in a conversation about sports but all I need to to do is pull up my Facebook feed during a Seahawks game to know that I'm in the ball park here.  The lesson certainly applies to much more than sports.  If you need people constantly applauding your achievements to feel satisfied you will be disappointed.  If you need flirtatious attention from the opposite sex and admiration from your own to be happy then, at some point you will feel neglected.  If you need promotions (read victories) to feel like you're important then you're pursuing dreams that ultimately lead to emptiness.

As the Scripture says, "Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame."  ~ Romans 10:11

That verse has kept me afloat through so much.  It reminds me that it's safe to go all in with Jesus and cheer for His Kingdom.  Put my heart and passion on the line.  Don't hedge the bet.  Watch the whole thing.  Buy the jersey and get the hat.  Paint my face and cheer like I don't have to use my voice for the next week.  Don't be fooled, there's pain and heartache along the way, gut-wrenching moments that knock me back but never defeat.  Not with Jesus.  With Jesus I can be six again.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Get Smart

It doesn't matter what I'm doing or where I happen to be in the house at the time, I WILL drop everything and go as fast and directly as possible to the source.  I despise that sound.  It triggers an inner response that would make sense if say - the house was on fire or there was an earthquake.  Something terribly wrong must be taking place if that noise is being made; danger is certainly immanent.  It is unfortunate that the oven still works just fine because I'd love to give the timer a little Elmer Fudd treatment.

It is precisely for this reason that I've been hesitant about getting a smart phone.  I do not want or need something in my hand or pocket that chimes, beeps, whistles, flashes or in any other way alerts (read "alarms") me and plucks me out of my peaceful (albeit ignorant) moment to inform me of impending doom... or Facebook updates.  It has appeared to me that at times, our technology bosses us around.  I know this isn't actually true but occasionally I've wondered if smart phones are actually the ones taking us out and showing us around instead of the other way around.

But I'm learning stuff and sometimes learning can change your mind.  It turns out that you can actually train your device to obey and serve you like a good device should.  If you don't want it to buzz at you just change the settings.  Want it to assist in being more productive?  There's an app for that.  You don't actually have to play Angry Birds, Fruit Ninja or Candy Crush to use the phone correctly.

So I think I'm going to get one.  I think data rates are ridiculous but I'll pay them anyway.  There are enough actual perks to smart phones that I'm ready to go for it.  This phone will be a part of my life; I will own it and it will do as I command, subject to my control. In fact, for this relationship to work well I will need to practice phone-control self-control.  You may recognize it as part of the fruit of the Spirit.  It is an incredible gift from God and we get to use it more than any generation before us.  It is the counter-punch to impulse-based-gratify-now-don't-think-just-feel world we live in.

Want more self-control?  Hang out more with the Holy Spirit and less with the people selling you something.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
~ Galatians 5:22, 23 ~

Friday, October 10, 2014

Thinks I've Thunk

“Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try!” ~ Dr. Seuss 


So I've been thinking.

Sometimes I have deep thoughts and other times they're just thoughts.  Maybe my deep thoughts would only cause a stone-skipped-across-the-pond-sized ripple compared with the thoughts that thinkers think.  But they're deep for me.  See, the trouble mostly comes from reading, well - reading and listening.  Better yet, it is what I'm reading and listening to.  It's not that I detest the summary, nutshell, snapshot, or meme but when you walk away from cliché and stroll towards articulate, thoughts are thunk.

I've been thinking a lot lately about what it is that I really believe.  And why I believe it.  Not for a theological paper, or debate, or sermon, or this blog post even... not for you, for me.  I'm not grappling with which side of the fence to be on politically or theologically or whatever-ly; these are thoughts about God, and me, and God and me.

"As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another." (Pr 27:17)  My personal experience agrees with that statement; conversations, disagreements, friends, tough times and good times with people all have served to "sharpen" me.  But it is in the solitude, in the secret place where push back and counterpoint can only peer in from outside that these thoughts, this intricate and intimate faith, overwhelm.  God meets with me in the quiet and I am known.  Fully known in every way; no hiding, no running, no one to be an ambassador for me, just me.  And in the moment that I am aware of His absolute awareness, I am equally consumed by His great love.  His awesome, cleansing, sacrificial abounding love that drives out fear.

I am known.  I am loved.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Marriage Stuff You Should Think About

A couple of Saturdays ago I got to attend the wedding of two young people who are clearly in love.  They couldn't stop smiling and their joy was contagious to all of us.  The ceremony was short 'n sweet but it seems like they're committed to each other for a long time, as in a lifetime.  They said vows before God and before us.  Honestly, I believe they'll make it.

I had a skeptical thought just for a moment.  It went something like, "Weddings are always happy and optimistic events but there sure are a lot of marriages floundering and failing these days."  The thought surprised me only because I'm usually the optimist.  Shouldn't the bliss of wedding day last longer?

All of us (even me) know that marriage isn't designed to designed to sustain fairy-tale happily ever after status.  Life just doesn't quite lay out  like that.  We know that struggles are normal and can even be a good thing in a healthy relationship but the frequency of pain, defeat, and divorce should alert us to make good changes and better choices.  Marriage is, after all, a lifetime covenant by design and definition.

Before You Marry
Get good counsel early and often.  Attraction and romance are wonderful gifts to us from the Lord but so is the advice of faithful and loyal friends - even parents.  I'm not saying you need to substitute emotions for logic, just don't let the stars in your eyes blind you to things that matter in the long run.  Friends who genuinely love you may be picking up on unhealthy trends in you or your beloved but may be afraid to approach you about it - who wants unsolicited advice right?  Ask them what they see and what they notice.

Get formal counseling from a pastor or an experienced older couple who love the Lord.  Have those conversations about parenting, money (especially debt), dreams, expectations and faith.  Learn how to work through conflict.  Pray a lot!  Pray for your future spouse but also pray for you.

During Your Marriage
Get good counsel early and often.  Sound familiar?  Good, that's what I was going for.  If you're marriage appears to be thriving keep working at it.  If you're starting to drift apart or having knock-down-drag-out episodes, fight for each other.  Call in the cavalry.  Don't wait until things are desperate and if things are already desperate don't despair.

I suppose the very best thing I could tell you is that I believe with my whole heart that God uses marriages to sculpt and shape people.  Your happiness is secondary to God's process of making you more like Jesus.  While not the most romantic notion in the world, understanding God's desire to complete his good work in you (Phil 1:3-6) and your marriage's role in that work can be powerful in your relationship with your spouse and with the Lord.  It isn't that God doesn't use other circumstances or relationships to change us but marriage gives us incredible opportunities.  In the marriage relationship we learn what it means to lay down our lives for another; to make choices based on "us" instead of "me".  Our character is revealed to us (sometimes in higher definition than we'd like) which keeps us humble and can prompt us to seek Him for refinement if we are willing.

People have written scads on the subject of marriage, a lot of it is great stuff.  This is just stuff on my mind that I thought you should think about.

Be well!


Thursday, May 1, 2014

Not As Think As We Smart We Are...

... we just say things more often - and wow are we insecure.

My Facebook feed tells me I joined in March of 2008.  I have a solid 6 years of social media experience which has been fascinating, obnoxious, confusing, awkward, hilarious, fun, helpful, and at times discouraging.  I'm not here to condemn Facebook, or even the Internet for that matter, I have just found myself wondering what in the world we - as in all of us - are doing.

The "big deal" about the Internet arriving and being accessible to all of us is the wealth of information suddenly available at the end of a few key strokes and the click of a mouse.  And there is!  Search engines are gazillion dollar businesses for a reason.  If there is a wealth of information, however, there is a mega-wealth of opinion with social media flinging the gates wide open to all of us regardless of our experience, intelligence, expertise and general understanding to chime in on pretty much any subject we fancy.  In my opinion, the freedom to discuss issues and ask questions with friends can be a good thing and places like Facebook can be a great spot for a variety of discussions provided we all understand and remember what we actually know versus what we think we know.

When we approach a subject with humility, when we seek to understand others, and when we pursue truth both by receiving it and sharing it appropriately a lot of good things can happen.  I just don't think that is what is happening as a rule.  Of course, there are always exceptions.

What I have noticed is...

A lot of people working hard to win an argument
      and a few people trying to understand the issue.

A lot of people searching for acceptance and admiration (selfies, "look what I did" statuses, etc)
     and people giving it to them but only on a basic (and at times impersonal) level.

A society that is infatuated with self and broadcasting it anyway we can.

A society that has confused itself about what it means to be correct; exchanging sound logic and empirical evidence for personal logic and popular opinion.

My assumption is that most of you reading this are followers of Jesus.  As a result of that you area also representatives of Christ.  I'd like to challenge you to do three things in regards to your online interactions with the rest of the world.

1) Remember Mark 12:31 - "The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these."  Love your online neighbors!  Even the ones who disagree with you or are rude and short-sighted.  Sometimes discussions work well online and sometimes they don't.  Think about your responses and comments and if possible upgrade your communication to a phone call or even a face to face.

2) Don't debate above your pay grade.  I'm not saying the average person shouldn't weigh in on topics related to government, economics, education, health and medicine but how you weigh in matters.  Remember, just because you have an opinion and it makes sense to you doesn't make you an authority on the subject.  You can still participate meaningfully by asking good questions and looking up reputable sources (since you're on the Internet already anyway ;) ).

3) Remember where true acceptance and love comes from or rather who it comes from.  1 John 3:1 tells us that the Father lavishes His love on us.  If you're becoming dependent on the praise of others and how many "likes" or comments you get to feel good about yourself then you've not yet accepted the reality of Christ's love for you.  Sometimes, before we can embrace the genuine we need to let go of the knock-off.  This isn't just about your relationship with Jesus, it is also about forming meaningful friendships with people who get to really know you and who you really get to know.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Time to Cheer

A couple of Sunday's ago I had just finished preaching through 2 Corinthians 6:14 - 7:1, a passage where Paul challenges the church to break away from allegiances with the world; to be different and set apart, to be holy.  An observant brother approached me with a great thought afterwards which went something like, "It can be hard to pursue holiness because when you do, not everyone wants to be around you." Unfortunately, he's right.  When we follow Christ and make the choice to live the way He asks us to, people - including Christians, can respond less favorably than we'd like.  Maybe not everyone but enough that it can have an effect.

The person wanting to follow God may conclude that they need to stop watching certain kinds of movies, or TV shows, or complaining about their spouse, or engaging in locker-room conversation, or drinking, or using foul language (not to be confused with fowl language - which is for the birds).  I know that some people who makes these sorts of choices do so with an attitude is less than gracious and filled with self-importance.  Those people are not the real deal and are seeking glory instead of trying to give it.  There are other people, though, who are genuinely desiring to love God, to be excellent before Him.  Why would any of us do anything to discourage that?  Are we just uncomfortable with our own choices?  Do we resent their ability to live differently?

So here's my encouragement for today:  encourage people when they make choices in an attempt to please and follow Christ.  Maybe they've tried the same thing before and failed and you are skeptical that it is going to stick this time but speak encouragement anyway.  The Holy Spirit may not have brought you to the same conclusion at this time and that is okay.  Cheer them on, celebrate with them as they break free from old things and embrace new.  And maybe, maybe consider following their lead.

"Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ." ~ 1 Corinthians 11:1

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us." ~ Hebrews 12:1