Monday, June 29, 2020

Is Jesus Asleep in Your Boat?

In the struggles and difficulties that we often face, we may be tempted to think that God doesn't care enough to help. We have been abandoned. The disciples felt that way when their boat started to fill up with water while Jesus slept in the back of the boat. Let me explain why Jesus asleep in the the boat is actually good news.

Monday, June 15, 2020

1 Corinthians 10:13

I know things can be overwhelming and sometimes you wonder if you're even going to make it. How can you know that you will? I Corinthians 10:13 shows how you can know that you can handle anything that comes your way. Watch my nest "Wait! What?" to find out.

If you find it valuable please share it.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Hebrews 11:1 Faith is a tangible thing

Do you struggle with your faith? Have you ever said, "If only I had more faith?" Perhaps the problem is with your definition of faith. What is it really? I think a real understanding of what faith means and how we use it will revolutionize your spiritual life.

Here's my next "Wait! What?" video. Let me know what you think. If you find it useful, please share it.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Colossians 3:15 The Umpire in Your Soul

Every so often, I read a Bible verse or hear a commentary that makes me stop and say, "Wait! What?" So I'm going to try to create short videos about surprising or misunderstood verses and such. Mostly, I want to share my thoughts and comments that I've never heard someone else say.

I know the video quality isn't great, but the first one is on Colossians 3:15 "And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts..." The word rule actually means "umpire." Wait! What? What does that mean. Click the link to find out what I think.

Please share it if you find it useful.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

How do you become a friend of God?

In my last post, I claimed that being a “friend” of God is a higher metaphor than child or servant. The question then becomes, “How do we get there?”

As I said then, friends are in agreement. They see things the same way. Is your worldview and perspective in line with His? If not, how do you get there? The answer, I believe, is what Paul calls, “character.”

First, you must accept that your view and understanding of the world is not identical to his. In fact, it is likely that your worldview is farther away from His than you think it is. In any case, your worldview should always be changing. It must be brought into line with His. It is a process.

But this process is not about an intellectual agreement; it is about a change of “heart.” By this I mean a change at the core of your being. Two be a friend is to be like-minded, and for that to occur it has to come from who you are. I’m arguing that as your understanding changes, it becomes a part of who you are. When you act, you act out of who you are, who He has made you. This is what I mean by “friend” of God; it is part of your character.

Your character is who you are. We tend to use the word character as a positive. “That boy has character,” by which we mean by that is that he naturally behaves well, or his behavior meets or exceeds expectations. The key is that it is natural, that is that it comes out of who he is; it is not acting, or doing what he has been told. This description is part of it, but character is who you are for better or worse.

If you are naturally (innately) on the same page with someone, that is because you are the same kind of person - you have the same character. My goal is to be on the same page as God, which means a change in my character.

Paul describes this process in his letter to the Romans, when he says that “suffering produces endurance (other translations, “perseverance”), and endurance produces character, and character produces hope..” (verses 5:3-4). James says something very similar in 1:3-4. The point here is that when you endure through a struggle, it gives the Spirit a chance to change your character. The change becomes a part of who you are: character. When you react to similar situations in the future, you will react differently. You will ultimately react according to this new character that God has produced in you.

The key is that you must endure in trust. You must trust God that he is in control and that he will use the situation to change you. You must be able to look back afterwards and see how your faithful perseverance was the right way to go. If you go through the experience kicking and screaming, complaining and especially doing everything you can to avoid the pain; you may learn nothing. If you’re lucky, He might still be able to change you, but it will take so much longer.

Worst case scenario, you will be like the Israelites wandering in the desert for 40 years because they never learned to trust God. They finally perished without ever entering the promised land.

Here is an example of a kind of suffering that you may not think about, but illustrates the point well. Paul says (also to the Romans) not to avenge yourself when someone has wronged you, but let God take care of it (12:19). This can be a hard bit of advice for most of us. We want to hold a grudge. We want the person to know that they have wronged us. We want to retaliate in some way shape or form.

To let it go is to suffer. When we read Romans, we tend to think that suffering is being out of a job, or being stressed about whatever we get stressed about. This character building can certainly apply to those situations, but it seems to me that it is harder for most of the people I know to take an offense and not respond in kind (or at all). The offender might think he won! He might do it again, since there were no consequences!

It is hard to trust what Paul says and let God take care of it. Even those who believe that God will avenge them, still struggle because the vengeance is not immediate. So the first step is believing that is the right thing to do. Then the suffering comes as you bite your tongue, or you keep your mind off all the ways you can get back at the offender.

It helps to be truly convinced that Paul is right. It’s no coincidence that Paul starts the chapter with the admonition to be transformed by the renewal of your mind (12:2). But even if you are thinking, “Ok Paul, I don’t know about this, but I’m going to take your advice.” You set your heart to resist the calls in your head to retaliate. You persevere through it like a an addict in withdrawals. But when you come out the other side, you are at least a little bit different.

You should find it wasn’t as bad as you thought. Maybe you will feel good that you were able to let go of the situation. Maybe there will even be a positive outcome you didn’t expect. But your heart softens. Your character changes, even if only a little bit. The next time an offense comes, it will be a little bit easier to endure. And then a little bit easier. And then a little bit more. The beautiful moment will eventually come when you don’t even react to the offense. Or better yet, you didn’t notice the attack. That, my friend, is character.

Your newfound character produces hope (according to Paul) in that you see that your change in character is from Him and in itself proof that He is working in you. It is now a part of who you are, who He has made you. You will know in the core of your being why it is better to not retaliate.

This is a crucial step in the process of transforming your mind. You must take practical advice, apply it to your life in faith and let the experience change you. It is only in the living it out that you are transformed. You can’t be transformed sitting in a church, or reading a blog post.

So, try some biblical advice that seems strange or illogical to you and see what happens. Allow what happens to change you.

Can you leave vengeance to God? Can you love your enemies? Can you truly turn the other cheek without worrying about being a doormat? Can you swallow that juicy piece of gossip? Can you go the extra mile? Can you truly stop worrying about the future?

What is God asking you to try right now?

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Are you a servant, a child, or a friend?

Not that these are mutually exclusive, but these are the three main metaphors that I have encountered to characterize our relationship with God. In this piece, I intend to argue that the best one is to be is a friend of God.

First, there is nothing wrong with having a servant’s heart. Paul tells us that Jesus, finding himself in human form, humbled himself by being obedient even the point of death on the cross (Philippians 2:8). It is wise way to live. 5 verses earlier Paul tells us to esteem others as higher than ourselves. We should live this way.

But the danger in seeing yourself as a servant is that you may come to see your value as utilitarian. That is, that you only have value to God as long as you are useful. A servant’s relationship to his master works this way. If he doesn’t work, he doesn’t stay in the relationship. In fact, even if he does work, his value in the eyes of his master is judged according to the value and/or volume of his work. This is not your relationship with God.

Consider the story of the prodigal son. He had, I think, the right attitude when he returned home. He would offer himself to his father as a servant. Considering the way he left and what he did while he was gone, this is probably how he should feel. But his father wouldn’t hear of it. Your children are always your children, especially when they don’t behave.

Have a servant’s heart, but you are not a servant. You are a child of God. Children have an inheritance. Children have a permanent place. The relationship with the Father is one of love, and it cannot be removed. Your behavior is not a factor in determining your status or His love. It is better and truer to understand your position with God this way.

The son in the story who didn’t leave is the one who makes this mistake. He sees his value as based on his own faithfulness and hard work. He is perhaps the bigger disappointment to the Father. It’s basically like saying, “I don’t really love you. I just want something from you.”

My daughter used to come up to me and with the sweetest voice would tell me that she loves me, and I would respond, “Ok, what do you want?” It was a little game we played, but imagine if she really did say she loved me because she wanted something. How disappointing.

Is that what you want your relationship with God to be like? Are you trying to earn his favor? Are you loving Him because it’s required, you’re supposed to, or that’s how you get blessings? Imagine how you would feel if that’s really what your children wanted.

As children of God, we listen to our Father. Why? We love Him. We trust Him. We believe that he knows best.

But there is a deeper, more mature relationship beyond obedience.

Jesus says, “No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you” (John 15:5).

Friends. That’s what he called them. A friend is something different. In its simplest expression, a friend is someone who agrees with you. Friendship “love” is phileo in the Greek. I remember reading in the book, The Four Loves, by C. S. Lewis, he describes agape as a one way love that gives without expecting in return. Eros is a “face to face” love, and phileo as side by side. In Eros the lovers look at each other. The love is about the relationship. However, in phileo the friends are looking at the same thing. Their love is bound up in how they are of the same mind.

Friends are joined together by their common interests. They see things the same way. I am arguing that this is, if not the ultimate goal, the next step in our relationship with God. We can and should come to the place where we agree with him and act out of our agreement. A child still does what he is told, whether he agrees or not. That is obedience. A friend acts because he is on the same page.

Imagine if you had a sense that God wanted you to do something and you realized you were thinking the same thing. Imagine if you acted upon an instinct that you knew was in line with God’s heart. This is what I want.

Last year, I had a colleague who thanked me for being patient with one of his students as they struggled to pass my class. I could have been tough on the student for not turning in work, but that’s not how I work. In that conversation, I sensed God telling me to use the word “grace.” In my heart, I thought, “That sound like a great idea.” So, I did. I said, “You know, I know we sometimes need to be hard on them to hold them accountable, but sometimes what they really need is grace.” And the conversation went on.

The next day, the colleague came up to me and said, “I thought about what you said about grace yesterday. It really got me thinking. I’m really starting to rethink how I approach these kids.” I’m not sure what makes me happier, that God was able to use me, or that I didn’t have to ask twice. Anytime I feel that I am in agreement with Him, it lets me know that it’s working. He is changing me.

The other example that comes to mind was a day that I was having the librarian do presentations to my classes. Between classes, she did a quick trip through the library to pick up trash when she found a $5 bill. Her in initial reaction was, “Cool, five bucks!” Without thinking, I said, “How sad. That could be someone’s lunch money.” I think she immediately felt guilty, which made me feel bad because that wasn’t my intent. But I realized that my first response was one of compassion for the kid. The significance is that this represents a change for me over time. I am instinctively seeing things in terms of the effect on others without regard to self.

Why are these moments important to me? I believe they show that my relationship with God is changing me. I am (ever so gradually) becoming like him. I am coming into agreement with him.  Check out verses like Romans 8:29, or 1 John 2:6 and many others. I think this is what they are talking about. I want to be like him naturally, instinctively, because he has made me that way.

I believe this is the next step in the maturing process for a believer. I want to be considered His friend.

Monday, July 3, 2017

How to “Hate” Your Father and Mother

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple…” Luke 14:26.

One thing that drives me crazy about Christians as much as any other is this phrase, “Yeah, but that doesn’t mean…” When confronted with a statement like the one above, we are so immediately agitated by the notion it appears to contain that we must explain it away. The problem is that we never get back to what it might actually mean. Don’t assume anything, but sit with the phrase for a moment and contemplate what the actual challenge is here.

There are many readily available explanations that are reasonable, accurate and useful, but I want to suggest two things that I hope will be transformative. First, it may be connect with (and perhaps alter our view of) the greatest commandment. Second, what is hate?

“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” Mark 12:30. That’s the greatest, and I would argue, only commandment (but more on that later).

I want to connect these two verses by asking this question, “if you love God with your whole heart, mind soul, and strength, what else can you love?” Is there room for your family, your dog, your house, your car? There might be a little sarcasm in here, but I want to emphasize the point that perhaps we are not talking God at his Word. If you love Me completely, there should be no room for anything else. Don’t love anything else.

If you love your family, or anyone in your family, then they must of necessity compete with God. You must let go of anyone else and love only Him. That, in a nutshell is what He is saying. Take your family, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer them there as a burnt offering. (That’s a personalized version of Genesis 22:2.)

There will be no competing loyalties. This goes beyond those times when families members are pulling you in other directions. It’s not only when you must choose between the two. It is always. A man cannot serve two masters. You can’t serve God and your family. You must let go.
Now, before you move out, kick your kids out, or file divorce papers. Let’s move on to why I think there is only one commandment, even though Jesus says, “And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39). It seems a simple phrase to say that this second commandment is like the first, but how is it like the first? I believe that the two are necessarily connected. You can‘t have one without the other.

I am arguing that you can’t love God without loving your neighbor. To put it another way, if you love God, you will love your neighbor. You love your neighbor because you love God. The simplest explanation I can give is that when you love someone, you care about what they care about, often just because they care about it. God loves your neighbor, so you will love your neighbor. The same thing applies, obviously, to your family. Or did you think I was suggesting that you should forget your family and care more about the guy next door?

How does this connect with the Luke 14:26? Well, how else can you demonstrate your love for God? What can you give the God who has everything? I suppose you can worship, you can do devotionals, but is your quiet time really the only, or even best way to give to God? Paul says that presenting ourselves as living sacrifices is our spiritual worship (Romans 12:1). We worship (demonstrate our love) by sacrificing our lives, but you do that by living for others. Your love for others IS an act of worship.

In other words, you cannot love your family, your neighbor, or anything in a way that competes with God. You cannot juggle your commitments, or schedule whom you will serve. Your Love is for Him and your love (small “L”) for others is actually allowing Him to love them through you. All of your actions toward others are Him working in their lives through you. If you really care about them, you will realize that is the best thing for them.

This is how we become the “parts” of his “body.” We become His hand that reaches out to those in need. We become his mouth that brings healing words. We become his feet that run to the rescue.

It is important to note how this affects your decision making. There is a difference between they way you will handle a loved one who is the most important thing in your life and someone you have been entrusted to care for. Your vision for your loved one is what YOU think is best for them. You cannot help but insert yourself into the process and you become entangled in their lives. Your entanglement then skews your decision making process. You lack objectivity.

However, if you have given them into the hands of the One who knows what is best for them, you will defer to Him. You will trust Him more to protect and bless them. If your consider this for a moment, you will start to see other differences that I believe will ultimately benefit those you love.

I would like to leave it there, but what about this word, “hate?” This is yet another example of the need to transform our minds. What if biblical “hate” isn’t what you think it is?

The danger in reading the Bible in our old minds is that we interpret it in light of what we already “know,” despite Proverb 3:5 that tells us to not lean on our own understanding. Why would Paul tell you to transform your mind, if there wasn’t something wrong with your thinking?

So here, we have the word, “hate,” and we assume that He means to be angry, to shun, ostracize, be mean to, or who knows what else your mind conjures up with that word. What DO you do when you hate something?

What does God do when He “hates” something? Consider this, “These six things the Lord hates, yes, seven are an abomination to Him: A proud look, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that are swift in running to evil, a false witness who speaks lies, and one who sows discord among brethren” (Proverbs 6:16-19).

And what did God do to those people? He died for them. I could go on with other examples from the Bible of God’s longsuffering, and desire for our redemption, but the bottom line is this is how God “hates.”

Go ahead, hate your family, but hate them in the way that puts their redemption first and foremost. That’s what God would do.