But I assumed…

2 09 2015

What if you went to Chick-Fil-A and saw a hamburger on the menu?  They would have some explaining to do and they may want to rethink their ad campaign.

We have expectations and those expectations lead to assumptions.  I have been convicted about the importance of key assumptions we need to effectively live out our Christian Faith.  I will spend the next few blog posts talking about them.

Assumption one:  We are equal

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” -Galatians 3:28

In the United States we love to believe we get it when it comes to equality.  We point to the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal…”

Of course, we gloss over “all men” did not include slaves or women.  Isn’t that how it often goes?  We say everyone is equal but our actions often reveal some different assumptions.

The biggest assumption I see when it comes to Christianity is “my sin is bigger than other people’s therefore I can’t be forgiven or be a part of God’s plan.”  Too many people sideline their relationship with God and others because of this.  If we can grasp that we are equal then we recognize that sin is sin and we all struggle with it.  We have to hear Paul’s words, “no temptation has overtaken you but what is common…” (1 Corinthians 10:13).  Once I realize you and I are the same, then I see there is hope.  Sin is put in proper perspective and managed by God’s grace and transforming work in my life.

For those who have overcome sins in their life, there is another dangerous assumption: “I am not like them.”  This assumption often plagues those inside the church.  We acknowledge that we were once sinners like “them” but we add a subtle twist to the story of God’s grace.  We take credit for our victory.  We will use spiritual terms but our actions show what we really believe.  Those with this assumption often make decisions for God about who is in and out.  This was exactly the mindset of the Religious Leaders Jesus fought against.

This idea of being equal before God has very big implications.  It sets the stage for all of us have the chance at redemption and helps us stay balanced as we grow and mature in our faith.  It builds bridges and helps us connect to others…all others without discrimination.

Today there are lot’s of discussions about racism and discrimination.  Political solutions look bleak as politicians label and attack anyone who has a different point of view.

It is an amazing opportunity for the Church.  We can step in and truly engage our world in a uniquely powerful way.  We see everyone as someone just like us.

Do you really believe we are all equal or do you find yourself making assumptions that limits you or excludes others?

If you do not see us as equal, I invite you to pray and consider the implication of being made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27).  When we grasp our equality, it is an incredible truth that ripples through our life.  It will deepen our relationship with God and each other.





Same Old World

1 08 2015

In preparing for a sermon I read “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley.  It was written in 1931 and published in 1932.  He attempted to capture a potential future if our primary focus was happiness.  He got a lot right.

Happiness is a tyrant that is never satisfied.  It tricks us into believing it is just around the corner.  If we can just make a little more money. get one more item. have a “new” experience.  Sure enough it visits us as we get a raise, open the box or play the latest “cool” game on our phone.  Then, it evaporates leaving a hunger so intense we blindly chase after it.  When it becomes our primary focus, we become addicted.

We know this.  So the only proper response to happiness is.suppress it.  We use rules or good old fashion guilt to conform ourselves into proper citizens.  Meanwhile, happiness whispers in our ear until we throw off the rules, justify our actions and the addiction is satisfied.but it never is.

What does it cost us?  A life of meaning and purpose.  Time marches on.  Relationships grow cold or even worse become something we use for our own satisfaction.  Our focus is divided.  It becomes harder to speak out against injustice because we waste our time being entertained.

If something is important, someone will tell us what to believe.  We will even support them as long as all we need to do is click a link or “share.”

We do an excellent job of complaining about it.  Scroll down any social media site and you will see a post or a re-post of dire warnings.  We “like” it then notice a fun distraction and get lost again in our own world of personal happiness.

Aldous Huxley warned us of just how easily we can fall into a trap that tells us, “just be happy.”

I have some great news.  All you have to do is clink on this link. not really.  The great news is the trap can be avoided with a simply shift in perspective.

Happiness is not bad.  It just has to be put in its proper place.  Jesus said, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33)

What are you seeking first?  It is a simple question with huge ripple effects.

There is profound depth in what Jesus said.  I could tell you what it means.  You might “like” it or even “share” it.  I have too much faith in you and God created you with the capacity to grasp the depth.

So dive in and wrestle with Jesus’ statement.  Let it ripple through your life.  Hopefully I will see you on the other side and we will have shaken off the tyrant of happiness and be living a life of significance.





These are socks…Love

16 01 2015

This is my final devotional in this series.  It has been based on how Coach Wooden, the legendary basketball coach for UCLA, would begin his first practice.  He started off each season by teaching his team how to wear their socks.   He believed the basics are what wins the game.

What are the Christian’s socks?  What are the basics we have to remember to be effective?  I believe there are three; faith, hope and love. Today I want to focus on love.

Love is the most overused word in our vocabulary.  Everyone has their idea of what love means.  I think there are two distinctive for the unconditional love we need as socks.

First, it must come from a place of strength.  John 10:18 is a uniquely powerful verse.  Jesus says he has the authority to lay his life down and pick it back up.  In other words, he was the only one who could die sacrificially in place of humanity.  This is critical to understand.  There are a lot of people who would die for another person.  While that is admirable, it does not have the same power as what Jesus did.  When Jesus laid down his life, reality was fundamentally changed.  Our relationship with God was fully and completely restored.  God did this out of the purest form of unconditional love.  There were no strings attached and no other agenda except love.

As Christians we tap into that love.  This is why Jesus says the two greatest commandments are to love God and love others.  It is only in my relationship with God I have the understanding to unconditionally love anyone else.

As a pastor and a Chaplain I have often seen people who love from a place of weakness.  They do things because they need to feel accepted, they want to portray an image or they want to cover up an area of their life.  The majority of the time they are not doing it with evil intent.  They are doing it because they are longing for love.  They will join churches and even go into ministry all with the hope of being good enough or accomplishing something significantly enough that will let them feel loved.  Sadly they are missing the true depth of Christian love. They are missing their socks.

God’s unconditional love comes from a genuine place of strength.  When I accept this type of love, it transforms me.  I rely on God to show others love.  In other words I operate from God’s strength.  Will there be sacrifice?  Of course but it comes from pure motives and a right perspective.  It is truly powerful and transformational.

This is a deep concept so I encourage you to meditate on it and talk to God about it.  Once it clicks, I promise you will be amazed and in awe of God.

The second aspect of unconditional love is boundaries.  Healthy relationships have boundaries.  The very concept of love implies a relationship so it makes sense there would be boundaries.  A great example is the marriage relationship.  If I say I love my wife but hurt her or cheat on her you could legitimately question my love.  Because God has invited us to freely choose to enter a relationship with him, it is reasonable that we would live within the boundaries of that relationship.

We need three things to know God’s boundaries.  First, we have to have an active prayer life in which we are not just asking God to do things for us but we are slowing down to listen for God’s voice.  Second, we have to read the Bible.  This is the sacred text of Christianity.  We believe it is inspired by God and unique in both it’s power and authority.  Finally, we have to be connected to a healthy church.  In a healthy church we can have good relationships to keep us grounded and help us grow and mature.  I know I often sound like a broken record when it comes to the importance of being connected to a church but I see the difference in lives of people who are connected and those who aren’t.

So do you have your socks on? I hope this series has given you something to consider.  Let’s make sure we have our socks on and let’s get into the game.





These are socks…Faith

22 10 2014

Coach Wooden was a legendary basketball coach for UCLA in the 1960s and 70s.  He won ten NCAA Championships in twelve years including a streak of seven.  He knew how to win.  Coach Wooden always began his first practice by teaching his team how to wear their socks stressing the importance of protecting their feet.  Getting a blister on your foot makes you ineffective on the court.  Bottom line remembering the basics helps you win the game.

This got me wondering.  What are the Christian’s socks?  What are the basics we have to remember to be effective?  I think there are three; faith, hope and love.  Today I want to focus on faith.

As Christians we believe God does the work and we respond by faith.  This is foundational to the Gospel.  We believe Jesus died for us and we are saved by God’s grace through our faith (Ephesians 2:8).

Living by faith goes back to Abraham.  His faith was credited to him as righteousness (Genesis 15:6).  In other words, Abraham’s righteousness was based on trusting and following God.  Abraham was human.  He did some good things and some bad things.  His relationship with God was not based on his work but on his faith.

Most Christians understand this intellectually.  However, it is hard to do.  Why?  Because living by faith is scary.  Faith leads to action.  The actions are directed by God.  Living by faith means God can lead us anywhere.  If God wants me to go to Africa, I go to Africa.  If God wants me to forgive someone, I forgive that person.  If God asks me to give up something, I give it up.

What does the Bible say about this?  Noah built an Ark.  Abraham left his home.  Jonah went to Nineveh.  Daniel prayed even with the threat of being feed to lions.  Jesus told a rich young man to sell everything.  I could go on but you get the point.

Not living by faith is much easier.  Some become legalistic.  In other words, they come up with the list of rules to keep God in a nice safe box.  Others just reject or ignore the things of God.  They never let themselves slow down long enough to actually hear God’s voice in their life.

However, if we put our socks on correctly and live by faith two incredible things happen.  First, we become less busy.  We serve as God leads and we say no to things that are not a part of God’s plan.  We focus on the right things.  Second, our thankfulness increases.  We become grateful for the work God is doing in our lives and we have peace because we are in step with God.  It is a great place to be.

Are you living by faith?  Can God truly ask anything of you?  The first step is to slow down and really listen.  This means spending time in prayer, reading your bible or talking with a respected mentor.  God will show you areas where you are not in step.  It will be an opportunity to change and truly follow where God is leading.  Take the opportunity to thank him.  The more you see God working in your life the more thankful you will be.  Before you know it you will be living out your faith…by faith





Living beyond laws

8 08 2012

I am back!  I returned from deployment at the end of June and I was able to spend some down time with the family.  To be honest it can be hard to get going after a break.  The good news is that the need to write is pushing me to the point I had to get started again.  So here it goes…

Within the last several weeks we have had two terrible shootings that have rocked the nation.  After the grieving there are a couple of normal responses the community has.  First, we try to figure out who the person was and why he did it.  Second, we evaluate our laws to see if they need to be changed or new laws need to be added.  I want to focus on the second response.

Laws establish boundaries for what we believe is acceptable behavior in the community.  In reality laws only control some behavior some of the time for some of the people.  Want proof?  Did you break any speed limits this week?

As Christians we believe that God transforms our lives.  In Galatians Paul lists the byproduct of being in a healthy relationship with God (Galatians 5:22-23).  We call them the fruits of the Spirit.  He says something interesting at the end of the list, “Against such things there is no law.”  That makes sense.  How do you legislate gentleness?  Can you force a person to be joyful or have peace?  These things have to be byproducts of something deeper.  I would offer the discussion we need to have is not about laws or the one individual but our own personal growth and how to be a healthy community.

I am grateful we live in a country that gives us freedom.  We are able to have a “market place of ideas.”  The church brings Jesus to the market place.  We offer that a relationship with him will transform us.  It gives us new life.  It results in communities built on love that are good and faithful.  Has the church ever gotten it wrong?  Absolutely.  I offer we get it wrong when we shift our focus from Jesus.

Now what?  If you are not a Christian I would invite you to consider Jesus.  Talk with a Christian you respect and explore what it means to have a personal relationship.  For those who are in a relationship with Jesus, take a peace of paper and write the 9 fruits that are mentioned in Galatians 5:22-23 (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control).  Consider each one and ask yourself “Am I growing naturally in this area?”  If you are human you will have mixed results.  There will be areas you are growing and there will be areas you need to work on.  For those areas you need to work on avoid the easy answer which is to make a rule (or law) to try and change.  Instead pray and ask God to change you. Please be willing to listen.  God will open opportunities for you to grow.  It may be by talking with someone, reading your bible, getting plugged in with a church or looking for a way to get involved in your community.

The result will be transformed individuals living in communities that are vibrant and healthy.  Will we still have tragedies?  Sadly, until Jesus returns we will.  However, we will have given ourselves the best chance to avoid them and an effective way to respond.





It’s complicated

16 02 2012

One of the people I listen to is Tim Keller.  He is a pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City.  I like both his teaching style and his depth.  I was listening to one of his sermon’s about struggling with personal issues.  What leaped out at me was the simple idea: it’s complicated.  He did a great job of illustrating how sometimes a physical condition will impact our emotional wellbeing, how sometimes our emotional wellbeing impacts our physical wellbeing and how a moral issue can harm our emotional wellbeing.  Our tendency is to try and make it simple.  The medical doctor will try to connect everything to the physical ailment.  The counselor will tie everything to an emotional issue.  The religious person will make everything a question of morality or the amount of a person’s faith.  The reality is the water is muddier than that.  Even as I listed the simplistic ways doctors, counselors and religious people handle situations, you were most likely thinking of examples of people who don’t fit that mold.  Tim Keller was primarily focused on passages in Proverbs.  The title was called the “Wounded Spirit” and it podcasted on August 5, 2011.  I would like to take his idea and take a broader look at our relationship with God.

If we were honest, we tend to oversimplify God’s view of us and our circumstance.  We will keep God at a distance because we already know the “right answer.”  We see the problem as being more complex and we are not sure how we can follow the “right answer” given the situation we are in.

Exodus 1 tells the story of midwives put in a situation where they were told to kill Hebrew boys as they were born.  They did not kill the infants (right answer).  However, they lied to Pharaoh about it (wrong answer?).  What if they had told the truth?  Pharaoh may have simply killed them and replaced them with midwives who would follow his orders.  This was an incredibly difficult situation.  The Bible does not try to make it simple.  God blesses the midwives for protecting the children.  So, does this mean it is okay to lie?  Of course not.  It means sometimes life is hard and there are not always simple answers.  However, God was right there helping those women walk a difficult road.

Fast-forward to Jesus and we see an interesting pattern.  There is no pattern.  For two blind men Jesus touched them and they were healed (Matthew 9:27-30).  For one man he spits in his eyes and only partially heals the man and then completely restores his sight (Mark 8:22-26).  Another time he put mud in the person’s eye and the man washes out the mud in a pool (John 9:6-7).  Why the differences?  I don’t know but I am going to give Jesus the benefit of the doubt.  I bet there was special significance for each one of them.  In fact, study Jesus’ life and you see over and over again he treats each person in a way the person needed to be treated.  His focus was on the person and not just taking care of the problem.

I have to pause.  I have just taken one story from the Old Testament and briefly touched on the life of Jesus.  The Bible paints a very realistic picture of life.  As you take time to read and study it, you will find a rich and deep understanding of life and an amazing picture of God.

What does this mean for our day to day lives?  I believe the implications are huge.  As we invite God into our situation, we can have confidence God understands the complexity.  God may simply touch an area and we will see a dramatic change.  God may give us a partial glimpse at what he is doing and we will have to wait to get a clearer picture.  God may have us go and do something before we see God’s work.  If you are like me, it won’t always make sense.  However, if I can give God the benefit of the doubt and assume he is more concerned about me than just solving my problem I get pretty excited.

This also helps me stay balanced as I help others.  Where am I being too simplistic?  Am I focused on the person or just solving their problem?  Am I looking to God to give me wisdom and insight?  Do I have confidence God understands the complexity of the situation better than I do?  If we can remember to keep ourselves balanced and focused on the right things we will find ourselves in step with God and a blessing to the people around us.

See how easy is it is?  Just repeat after me: It’s complicated.