Monday, August 30, 2010

Are we more connected?

Much emphasis these days is on "being connected." We have instant access to information, communication, and relationships. Sites like Facebook & Twitter (not to mention old-school email) allow us instant communication with our friends & acquaintances. We can see pictures of these individuals, hear stories of the joys & frustrations of their weekends, and see all the annoying things they "like" or "dislike." And all of this can be done from a cell phone on a freeway!

Honestly, sites like Facebook are pretty cool. A great way to stay in touch, to stay connected. But are we really more connected now? Are we better friends? Are we closer to one another because of Facebook and other instant online communication? I say no, not necessarily...

Let me explain. Facebook is a great tool to enhance friendships. But it is a horrible replacement for face-to-face, voice-to-voice relationships. Facebook can give me information on what friends, family, and acquaintances are up to and how they are enjoying it. But the key is what do I do with this information? Do I encourage? Do I pray? Do I serve?

My main contention with Facebook's monopoly on interpersonal relationships is that you cannot fulfill the biblical "one-anothers" sufficiently via Facebook:
- "Love one another" (John 13:35; 15:12; 7 times in 1/2 John). 
- "Outdo one another in showing honor...Live in harmony with one another" (Romans 12).
- "Instruct one another (Romans 15:14). 
- "Comfort one another" (2 Cor. 13:11). 
- "Serve one another" (Gal. 5:13). 
- "Bear one another's burdens" (Galatians 6:2). 
- "Be kind to one another" (Eph. 4:32). 
- "Encourage one another" (1 Thess. 5:11; Hebrews 3:13; 10:25). 
- "Do good to one another" (1 Thess. 5:15). 
- "Confess your sins to one another" (James 5:16). 
- "Show hospitality to one another" (1 Peter 4:9).

I'm sorry, but I do not think that we can fulfill all these commands through online, virtual interaction.

Once again, use Facebook. But use it, not primarily to pass time or be entertained with the pics, comments, and posts of others (very funny at times). Use the information you gain from Facebook to enhance your relationships, fellowship, friendships, evangelism, and to fulfill the above convicting list of God's commands to one another!

I would write a little more, but I think I have a few notifications that I must checkup on...

Friday, August 27, 2010

Apathy- Spiritual Nakedness

I have noticed in many of my peers a heightened interest in health, dieting, and exercise. There are generally 2 components to getting in shape. First, you have to quit some unhealthy practices, like eating Taco Bell for every third meal or playing World of Warcraft 28 hours a day. Second, you have to start some active and healthy practices, like exercising or playing a sport. If you don't do both of these things together- quitting unhealthy practices and starting healthy practices- the quest for fitness will be greatly hindered.

And it's the same way with our spiritual lives. Following Christ by faith not only means that we stop doing things that don't honor Him, but also that we start doing things that do honor Him.

In my relative few years of counseling and teaching, both at my college and at my church, I have noticed that most of my fellow Christians aren't stuck in any blatant, crazy sin. What I have observed is that while many of have eliminated (or hidden really well) "huge sins" that dishonor Jesus, we also don't practice positive things for Jesus. We are apathetic. Let me explain. Many of us don't have a problem with murders, affairs, monetary fraud, drugs, alcoholism or child abuse. But many of us also don't practice things God's Word clearly tells us to do: evangelism, missions, disciplined Bible Study, giving money generously toward Kingdom work, ceaseless prayer, Biblical confrontation and restoration, helping the poor, or assisting the addict. In effect, we are the person who has stopped eating Taco Bell all the time, but we still refuse to get up and work out. As a result, we are not nearly in as healthy a spiritual condition as we should be. We are an apathetic people, glad that Jesus has saved us from hell, but confused and careless about the tasks we must pursue passionately while on earth following Christ.

The Bible teaches in Ephesians 4:22-24 that followers of Jesus should indeed remove all sins that dishonor Christ- "put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires." But we should also positively pursue Christ likeness- "put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness." If we only "put off" and refuse to "put on", we are spiritually naked, with no change and passion to show the world. Don't be an apathetic Christian. Remove dirty clothes that dishonor Christ, but don't forget to put on clean clothes that bring Him glory.

Thursday, August 26, 2010


Chinese school has a solution to help boys be more like boys.

Apparently, some "global warming" claims are based on faulty thermometer readings. Like, really faulty.

Mark Driscoll's blog post on "Boys Who Can Shave." Very good and moderately funny.

Switchfoot singer Jon Foreman gets forcibly removed by a cop from one his acoustic after show in a Tampa parking lot.

Jon Foreman responds to the police situation.

"Don't Waste Your Life Sentence." Piper's ministry to prisoners who got saved after getting behind bars. You can buy the documentary HERE.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Just a Big Hole in the Ground

(written previously on that facebook thingy)

Some time ago, I visited the Grand Canyon in Northern Arizona with Kelley. For anyone who has seen this majestic sight in person, he or she can relate to the unexplainable feeling of awe and wonder that fills our finite imaginations at this beautiful sight.

One will often hear in regards to the Grand Canyon the sarcastic comment that it's "just a big hole in the ground." I got to thinking -- that's exactly what it is! When explaining this sight from a standpoint concerned only with physical matter, there is a vast absence of matter that creates a sizable hole in the ground. For miles and miles around the Grand Canyon, there is relatively flat land; yet, strictly 
speaking, it is just a big hole in the ground.

So what then attracts humans from all over the world to this place? It is not physical matter, it is not science, it is not even history. It is beauty. It is majesty. It is glory. There is an unquantifiable, immeasurable reality of the beauty that our hearts enjoy when viewing a creation so vast, so glorious, so breathtaking, and so awesome in its splendor, that cries out that we were made for a great God. One simply cannot explain our universal attraction to places like the Grand Canyon without admitting that Someone has created natural beauty and deserves to be admired and praised for that creation. Science can attempt to posit the natural causes that formed the Grand Canyon; but science can never explain the beauty, the awe, and our sense of our own smallness when we visit the Grand Canyon.

Not only does the Grand Canyon in its splendor point to the existence of the one true God, but it also points to the GREATNESS of this God. Standing on the edge of a steep canyon wall that reaches downward for thousands of feet into beautifully colored rock makes us realize that we were not created for personal significance, and we were not created to live for ourselves. It's undeniable! We were created to worship and enjoy the only God who is truly significant! Our identity, our joy, our pleasure, our purpose, our lives must come from Him, and our lives must be lived to give Him glory and praise. That is why all humans love places like the Grand Canyon, or the Rocky Mountains, or cliffs overlooking the northern Pacific. We find true happiness, not when seeking to glorify ourselves, but only when we are seeking to glorify this Great God. Are we happy with displaying and enjoying this immensely beautiful God?

Monday, August 23, 2010

No Excuses

And a scribe came up and said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” Another of the disciples said to him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.” (Matthew 8:19-22)

In the passage above, we see 2 characters express a desire to follow Jesus. Jesus had been calling disciples to himself with the simple command, "Follow me." Each individual has an excuse for not following Jesus in that moment. One wants to wait until his father dies and he receives his inheritance. One is afraid to leave his hometown. But Jesus demands obedience greater than these examples.

As a follower of Jesus, we too often resemble the characters above. Jesus commands us to follow, and our most frequent response is, "Wait." Many times, we claim that we are trying to "figure out God's will" or say that we are waiting for guidance, direction, or a specific calling from God.

There is nothing wrong with trying to figure out what God wants. But I fear that many of us use this as an excuse to not follow Jesus, like the 2 characters above. I don't recall many of us waiting to watch Avatar or Twilight 12 times until God led us in that direction. When the Angels' game is on, I don't pray to determine whether I should watch or not- I simply watch & cheer (I should probably pray for their mediocre record this year!). My wife doesn't wait for a sign from heaven when Nordstrom Rack is having a sale!  Many of us don't wait to see if God wants us to buy those new clothes, or play that new video game, or head straight to the beach at the first sign of a south swell. No, rather, we simply do those things we love to do.

Maybe you don't know what God wants you to do with your whole life. Maybe you are torn between being a brain surgeon and kick-boxer, and that's ok. But God has given you today, and he has filled His Word with clear directions about what to do today. Be a light (Matt. 5:13-16). Love your neighbor (Matt. 22:37-40). Love your enemies (Luke 6:27-36). Be holy (1 Peter 1:15-16). Rejoice in the Lord (Phil. 4:4). Give thanks and pray always (1 Thess. 5:17-18). And, trust me, there's more.

No one devours a whole tri-tip in one bite (though some of my college friends could challenge that assertion). And no one lives a whole life in a day. Open God's word, and find a bite-sized portion, and (drumroll please) apply it to your life. Today. No excuses.

Friday, August 20, 2010


It is reported that nearly 1 in 10 adults have what is classified as "mood disorders," most of whom are categorized as being "depressed." One of the leading causes of such depression is "trauma and stress." It seems like a reasonable connection. People go through really challenging events in their lives, and they end up in prolonged, relentless states of sadness and emptiness.

I cannot profess to be an expert on depression. I can't say I've ever personally struggled with it, though am very close with some who have. Some Christians would debate on the validity of medications such as antidepressants and otherwise. I don't wish to do that here. Whatever it is, and whatever combinations may cause it, it is clear that a large amount of adults deal with it, and a wide variety of cures & aides are suggested. Whatever the case may be, the largest ammunition humans have to fight their bouts of depression is the truth God's Word. When earthquakes strike, the buildings with firm foundations stand. When lightning & fire ravage the forest, the tall & strong Sequoia trees live on. And I believe there is a solid foundation offered to us in the example of David.

If you or I think we experience "trauma and stress," I'd like to posit that David experienced more. Consider the below:
- David is anointed to be God's chosen King over Israel (1 Samuel 16).
- Saul (the current king AND David's father-in-law!) tries to spear David twice while David is playing music for Saul (1 Samuel 18).
- Saul gives David military tasks, hoping David would die in battle (1 Sam. 18).
- Saul orders his servants and his family to kill David (1 Sam. 19)
- Saul tries to spear David a third time (1 Sam. 19).
- Saul chases David through the wilderness attempting to kill him. David has a chance to kill Saul, but spares his life. This happened TWICE (1 Sam. 24 & 26).
- Wars occur between Saul's family & David's kingdom (2 Sam. 3).
- David's son, Amnon rapes one of David's daughters, Tamar. David's son, Absalom, then murders Amnon for revenge. Absalom then revolts against David's kingdom. Yikes (2 Sam. 13-18).

As you can easily see, much of David's life was covered by the blackness of family drama, fear for his life, and trouble at work. And yet, read below what David himself writes when recalling these decades of drama (read it slowly, and read it a few times).

Psalm 18:1-2- "I love you, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold."

Consider those words: strength, rock, fortress, deliverer, refuge, shield, stronghold. These are words of power and safety. These are words describing the immovable foundation that upheld David's life during decades of drama, stress, and likely depression. Reflecting on those years summarized above, David's conclusion is that a life founded on our unchanging God and his promises is a safe, secure life to live.

Everyone has a rock. Some found their lives on friends, sports, work, money, popularity, hobbies, sleeping, facebook, blogging, reading, self, love, or family. These "rocks" are things we feel we need, that we must have in order to function properly.  These are foundations on which we build our lives, and everyone's got one. The question is whether your rock of choice can actually hold you, protect you, and guide you through the good & bad of life. The depression- or a wide variety of other struggles that often plague us- will come, and it may injure us for a time. But God our Rock will uphold, will protect, will sustain. Don't take it from me. Take it from David. 

Whether stoked out of your mind this morning or depressed & in the dumps, what efforts are we making to set God alone as our Rock?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Church: What if no one Yelped?

When planning an activity, date night, or a visit to an unfamiliar place, I use a few online tools to aid my research. Yelp and Trip Advisor are two of my favorite places to get ratings and reviews on local activities, restaurants, and lodging for wherever it is that I may be going. The websites provide basic info and listings (much like an old school phone book) on businesses: addresses, phone numbers, menus, prices, etc. But the most helpful part about sites like these is the user reviews. A hotel may look like a great place to stay until a recent user review points out the large cockroach infestation. A restaurant looks like the perfect setting for a date night, until a user reports the recent drop to a 'B' rating. These user reviews provide firsthand information and insight so that other users (like me) can make good & knowledgeable decisions.

When I visit Yelp and Trip Advisor, I do so selfishly. I only read others' reviews; I don't leave any of my own. The thought recently occurred to me, "What if no one left reviews?!" If everyone acted like me & didn't leave reviews, sites like these would lose their value.

I figure that many of us church-goers today have the same relationship with church that I do with Yelp. We attend when it is convenient for us, or when we want or need something specific, yet we never offer our gifts, experiences, wisdom, and insight to help other members of the community. We are content to use the church, but we are often too selfish to be used in the church. Yet the church as described in God's Word clearly mandates that all Christians use their gifts to serve the community: "As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ" (1 Pet. 4:10-11).

If everyone treated Yelp selfishly & refused to leave reviews to benefit others, no one else would be served. Likewise, in the church, you & I are mandated to not merely show up, but to "Yelp" so that others in the community can glorify God. The church was not set up so that a few select people could carry the majority of the work of service. The church was meant so that "each one" who has "received a gift" could come not only to be served, but to serve. As Paul writes, "For the body does not consist of one member but of many...But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be?" (1 Cor. 12:14-31).

And so I encourage us this morning- how are you "yelping" at your local church? What gifts, talents, experience, and wisdom has God given you so that you can bless others? If you aren't active in your church, what would happen to your church if everyone had the same inactivity?

Monday, August 16, 2010


A few intriguing news stories and other random selections for your mundane Monday.

- If I were a Lake Tahoe resident, I'd be wondering if a few members of our local church youth group mocked the pastor for his receding hairline. No other explanation for the intriguingly humorous bear invasions reported in this article.

- It's not everyday you hear a young NFL running back (and fantasy football handcuff for Frank Gore owners) call it quits in response to God's call on his life.

- A thought-provoking article on Christianity's efforts to be hip, by Brett McCracken.

- Tongue-in-cheek Christian Guidelines for twittering. Or tweeting. Or whatever.

- If my daughter was bitten by a barracuda, I'd probably react differently than this guy. At least I hope...

- Fried chicken AND red velvet cake batter? Not the best meal idea.


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Big gulps, huh?

HT: Eric Durso for finding this remake.

If my friends and I had as much % of the Bible memorized as we do the Dumb & Dumber script, we would be very holy people. Enjoy the humorous remake.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Progressive Sanctification and God's Patience

My wife and I had a great conversation recently on struggling with sin. The question came up as to why God would save His people from their sin and yet somehow allow us to still sin. If I am really a redeemed creature, why wouldn't God make me perfect on Day 1? Why still allow me to sin against him and struggle daily? In my uber-finite human wisdom, it doesn't seem to make much sense as to why our Heavenly Father would allow his children to remain in the self-inflicted muck...

Now, certainly, God's will for me is perfection. Paul said as much: "By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? ... So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus" (Romans 6:2, 12). But why in his great plan does he not immediately remove me not only from sin's punishment, but also from it's practice?

My answer to this question is from some bible inferences & my own experience. (If anyone has biblical support for this specific idea, please pass it along.) We know that all God does is to show his glory and thus receive the praise he is due. This can range from the creation of man (Is. 43:7), the creation of the heavens and earth (Ps. 19:1), to the salvation of mankind (Eph 1:3-14). So we know that God chose to not make us perfect right away and that this glorifies him somehow.

My estimate is this. God certainly had the power to make us perfectly holy right away. But it would not allow him to show the fullness of his discipline and patience that he, as Father, has on us, His children. If I never messed up in my family as a child, I would never have experienced the mercy & patience that sometimes my dad gave me by not dealing out a hefty swat. 

It is likewise with our Heavenly Father. Every time we stumble, "he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 Jn. 1:9). We see firsthand the patience of God as he leads us on to holiness, one step at a time. It is a patience that we would not experience in the same way if we were immediately made perfect upon our conversion. No, his patience does not excuse our all-too-frequent-sin- "What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?" (Rom. 6:1). But our status as an "already, but not yet, resurrected, fallen man" enables us to experience God in a deeper way, and praise him with a deeper passion, and shine for him with a brighter testimony.

Therefore, we claim with Paul, "But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life" (1 Tim. 1:16).

Monday, August 9, 2010

America's Religion

In my news updates this morning, I came across an interesting USA Today column that highlights the need for and value of religion in 21st century America. While I will always find intrigue in articles that wrestle with the big questions of life such as this article does, the conclusion is disconcerting.

"Yet as important as community, worship and service are, I am convinced that religion's greatest contribution to society is even greater. Religion makes us want to live."

Essentially, the gospel preached in the USA Today is this. "Truth matters not. Meaning, purpose, and quality of life reign supreme. It does not matter where you find that meaning or purpose, only that you find it. Call it Jesus, call it God, call it a higher power, call it spirituality. Call it what you wish, for it is not consequential what you find, only that you think you have found it."

Sound satisfying to you? Because the Bible tells us that our hearts are deceitful (Jer. 17:9), a statement we have empirically proven accurate over the millenia, I cannot trust that which simply makes me feel good, since it may very well be the wrong thing. Does my warm affection for something make it right, or prove it true? Does my child-like enjoyment of Christmas render the myth of Santa's late night visit a historical fact? No, no, no. What matters ultimately is not our feeling of purpose gathered from so-called religion. But, at the end of the day, the question we must answer is not, "Do I find purpose in this?" The question is "Is what I find purpose in true?" As for Christianity, Paul wrote clearly, "And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins...If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied (1 Cor. 15:17-19)." If Jesus isn't true, and if his bodily resurrection wasn't historically factual, you should pity my purpose, not celebrate it.

Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life..." He proved this statement by raising from the dead. His death took place in history on this planet, and his resurrected lips bid us to believe. Though his call, his redemption, and his presence in my life indeed brings me a sense of purpose, the purpose is not the ultimate reason why I believe. The truth is.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Get to Give

Sorry for my all-too-infrequent posts. It's been a busy summer on the road much of the time. Mom, I promise to write more.

I've recently been reading the life of David. The prequel to David's life begins with the birth of Samuel. As you may know, Samuel's mother, Hannah, could not give birth for a long time. Since she was 1 of 2 wives of Elkanah, she felt inferior to the other wife, as thought God had deliberately cursed her (this is a great reason why you should probably avoid polygamy!)

To make an average-length story average-length, Hannah prayed that God would bless her with a child. As part of her prayer, she vowed to God, "If you will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life (1 Sam. 1:11)." In Hannah's case, God granted her request upon the birth of Samuel. Yet she did not merely vow to give Samuel back to God in a spiritual or emotional sense. She actually gave Samuel physically to God. Samuel would live in the temple and serve and worship God alone. This young boy would not live day in, day out at home with his mother. Rather, because God had blessed her very specific request, she made good on her very specific promise, sacrificing the enjoyment of having her son at home with her in order that God and his worship could be furthered.

I ask for a lot of things. But not often do I ask for something for the sole purpose of giving it back to God. I've asked for a job, a place to live, a wife, a car that runs for longer than a few months AND has locks on the doors. But most of my requests are for, well, me. I get the job to pay MY bills. I got the car to drive MY butt around. My requests, though not sinful in and of themselves, are not the same as Hannah's.

Many times, we give to God so that we can eventually get from God. We serve, love, and sacrifice with only our own benefit in mind. Let's think about the things we ask for. Is there something we can request from God solely so we can give it back to Him in order to further his worship? In order to spread his gospel? In order to make his love more known in this dark world? I, all too often give so that I can get. We, like Hannah, must get from God so that we can give to God.