Friday, December 21, 2012

No Compromise

As the fiscal cliff looms I am sure that no deal will be made prior to the deadline.  This is for one primary reason: self interest on the part of the politicians. A deal prior to the fiscal cliff would be reasonable and practical and helpful and wise.  These are not things American politics is primarily interested in.  

The way things will play out is the Fiscal Cliff will pass and only then deals will be made.  A secondary reason why this will be allowed to happen is because the fiscal cliff is not so dramatic as it sounds.  The financial impact will begin slowly, they are what the Atlantic calls a fiscal slope. Basically the cuts will be end up being very pronounced but the immediate impact will come slowly and eat into our recovery over time.  The takeaway is the immediate effects are not as bad as you may have been led to believe.  So don't freak out. 

As I said the primary reason for no deal prior to the deadline is political self interest on both sides.  Basically tax hikes and spending cuts that will necessarily begin on Jan 1.  Both cuts and tax increases are things that our politicians understand need to happen because  for the US to get healthy we need more revenue and less spending.  We need to get our budget under control. The problem is that Dems love to social programs and Repubs love low taxes.  They promise these things, they run on these promises.  Even if it isn't in the best interest of America they know what their constituents want to hear and how they will vote.

So here is the beautiful/sad irony of this arbitrary cliff.  Not making a deal plays into the hands of leaders on both sides. Once the spending cuts and tax hikes begin members of both parties can now keep their promises.  High taxes are thrust upon us poor Americans, cuts to our social services are enacted and we begin to feel the pinch.  A post cliff deal would allow the promises each party made to its supporters to be kept. Repubs can lessen the severity of the tax hikes and Dems can lessen the cuts to social programs.   Everyone keeps their promises! That way they won't lose in primaries!  Congressmen who are only in self preservation accomplish their primary goal of reelection! Yay for Congressmen! They finally compromised and saved the day!  Except they really just gamed us and the system. 

All of this to say that our hope should not be in governments or nations.  It should not be in individual leaders or institutions. 

Like Jesus we need to understand the basic nature of humanity. (John 2:23-25) That all have sinned, that all fall short.  That none of us is perfect.  Except for the One who came to us on Christmas day millenia ago.  

Jesus did not run on selfish promotion but self sacrifice.  Jesus came as a poor baby and ended up even lower, dying on a cross between thieves.  He laid his life down so that we might be lifted up. He turns the games of this world on their head. And because of that Jesus is the real hero.  The one who truly saves the day.  If you are sick of the games, sick of manipulation and alternate agendas trust in the One who already gave the greatest gift, for you. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Parting Words

I know from the title it seems like this could be the last post I ever write.  I hope that would be compelling enough for you to click through this post even though it's not my last post.

The real reason I'm writing is because of my parting words to my kids regarding anything.  They are going to school. Have Fun! They are walking over to a friends house.  Have Fun!
Pretty much that is my standard sendoff, and I think a lot of parents.  Even after church my first question often is, "Did you have fun?" As if that were the most important thing. (Hint: It's not)

Then I was thinking back to my parents or people in times gone by.  Often they would say Be safe! or drive safe!   Maybe my kids don't drive yet and so I don't think they could be hurt so quickly by being careless. Or maybe it's just a change in mentality.  

I don't think either send off is the right one.  Instead of reminding children to be careful, or encouraging them to be a bit reckless (that's how I would often have fun.) I think there is a middle way that is best. 

 Praise God!  or Glorify God!  seems like it should be the thing we are telling our kids.  You are going to school:  Glorify God! (by doing your best, by living with joy, by being responsible)  You are going to a friends house:  Glorify God! (by being a light for Christ, by listening to their parents, by having a great time delighting in this friend of yours who bears the image of God)

This brings me back to the tv show home improvement Where Brad, the oldest doesn't want to have his parents say I love you.  So they develop a code word imbued with meaning.  When Tim (the dad) says how about those lions?  He really means I love you. 

I doubt that my children want to hear me say glorify God to them as I send them off.  Simone doesn't even like me to kiss her goodbye, and Gabe is gone the moment we touch school grounds.  So maybe it's talking to them, and telling them what this kind of thing means and then encourage them with Live Well, or Do Good (like literally, do "good")

The point is, we should send our kids out with reminders that all of life is filled with significance. We need to underline that significance rather than utter vacuous statements that don't instruct or instruct in error.

Alright, until next time.  Live Well!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Blog Commenting Perils

I probably spend too much time commenting on blogs.  After reading I react. After reacting other people react. Often I get drawn into this discussion. I feel like I am doing a good job wisely and sensibly responding to error and misunderstanding. I feel like I have a chance to present the gospel, use apologetics and unearth people's preconceptions about the nature of God and Scripture and truth.  Sometimes these conversations go well.  We end up at a point of understanding and mutual learning.  Other times people attack rather than deal with arguments. I don't do this...but often I want to.  

Here is some Scripture to inform how we should post, because as Christians our posts should be different. They should be redemptive and true.  

"Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt" (Col. 4:6).

"By your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned" (Matt. 12:37).

"Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor" (Rom. 12:10).

"Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear" (Eph. 4:29).

Speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:1525).

"If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person's religion is worthless" (James 1:26).

Scripture passages From
This article has more wisdom on commenting as well, for those of you who have found yourselves in my shoes.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

I Should Write a Book

This week I was looking at these amazing graphs about the impact of the Industrial Revolution over at the Atlantic. Basically they show the creation of wealth since the 1800's and how rapidly things changed during this time.  Within the article there is a book that is plugged Guns, Germs and Steel.  I didn't read the book and don't know the extent of his argument, but one aspect of his book is that Europe came to dominate the world partly because of the geography.*  This is a theory that I developed on my own years ago.  I should have written this book!

For me the argument goes like this.  In Northern Europe (and later the American Northeast) it is cold and yet a lot of people live there.  So you have a lot of ideas being passed around with the advent of the printing press.  You also have a lot of people with a lot of time on their hands to think. Especially in the winter when you are stuck inside for month and month.  In Southern and tropical climates it's so beautiful that you are outside all the time its easy to get distracted, you don't have as much time to process things before you go out again. Also because life is so "good" you also don't have as much incentive to improve on life as we know it.  

I fear that today we may be falling into the same kind of lull since we can so easily fill our reflective time with angry birds or TV or whatever your pet interests are that the necessity and opportunity to create are lessened. 

In this line of thought there is also a line of thinking that relates to faith.  In Scripture, observing creation is designed to point us to the creator.  Over and over again the Psalms (8, 19, 29 etc) emphasize how the created world inspires and reinforces belief in God.  Observing creation shows us how majestic this world really is and we confront the brilliance in it. The design. Until recently we all came into contact with God's created world every day.  Today, to escape the city and its confines is a choice. Some don't choose to escape, others can't afford that choice. Creation as a reminder of God's power is often missed. Today as we are distracted, not by the beauty of God's creation (as in warm climes) but by our own creations, we observe the growth in Atheism. We see people no longer awed by God's handiwork, but by their own. This is something to contemplate.
I should write this book!

Or maybe watch another episode of Mad Men...

*(His thrust however is that the lower classes died off due to disease and the poor living conditions and the upper classes with education and a greater stress on integrity and character were the perfect blend for the burgeoning increase in productivity.)

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


Right now I'm reading Bible Gateway's devotional featuring Dietrich Bonhoffer's meditations.

Today's hit home. 

They seek out all those who have fallen into sin and guilt. No need is too great, no sin too dreadful for mercy to reach. The merciful give their own honor to those who have fallen into shame and take that shame unto themselves. They may be found in the company of tax collectors and sinners and willingly bear the shame of their fellowship. Disciples give away anyone's greatest possession, their own dignity and honor, and show mercy. They know only one dignity and honor, the mercy of their Lord, which is their only source of life.

Most of the time when I am merciful it is something that I think enhances my dignity.  What I mean is lots of times I am doing some "great service" at least in my book.  Missions trips, service projects, even my job in an inner city youth center.  All of these things that when I do them make me look good. 

However, there are a couple of experiences lately where I have understood what Bonhoeffer is getting at.  

A while back I was at an event at Gabe's school talking to the parents of his friends.  Gabe's friends are the good kids, with great families that all look and feel like they have it together.  They are like us.  That's where we belong. Life was as it was supposed to be.  

Then I saw a friend of ours whose life is a mess.  I hadn't seen them in a while and they looked bad.   But when I saw this person I left my group of high status people and walked over to this individual to catch up and talk.  But, as I did it I felt my association with her making me dirty in the sight of my peers.  There was a sense of loss, even a slight anger with this person for "doing this to me" at this time. 

All of this to say that it's easy to be friendly to people in the right circumstances, but what about when I have to pay a price?  And that brings us back to Jesus, the one who paid it all.  The one who bore all our shame to give us dignity.  The one who came to hang out with losers like you and me. That's the person God wants us to be.  And the price to be like him really is costly. 

"Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy." Matthew 5:7

  • Why is "renunciation of their own dignity" necessary if disciples are to be truly merciful?
  • How might a church renounce its own dignity in order to be merciful?
  • How is Jesus our model for renouncing dignity in order to be merciful?
  • Is there anyone beneath a disciples' mercy? Why, or why not?

Monday, June 11, 2012

Music Lover

My favorite genres of music are folk and funk. For some reason there isn't much of a CCM (Christian Contemporary Music) market for either, at least that I'm aware of.  I did discover Newworldson a little while ago and they play some excellent funk. 

You should check out Working Man and Empty Heart. If you want more traditional then try here. Listen to Wash Me Clean and Learning to Be the Light. (Which is getting play on CCM radio.)  

Regardless, I love these guys. 

Not only do I have really good taste in music, but I'm also a dad.  And as a dad I've been thinking about my kids and how I get my kids to do the good that they know they should do.

For example, my son picks on my daughter.  Me: "Gabe, why do you do that?! you know better."  
Simone starts her piano lessons then dissappears.  "Simone, you know you are supposed to be working on your piano.  Get back on the bench!"

I have the same problem, and so did Paul in Romans 7:18,19 "I know there is nothing good in my sinful nature. I want to do what is good, but I can't. I don't do the good things I want to do". 

I know what is right good and best, but don't do it.

I just read something that made sense. More than knowers, Christians are supposed to be lovers. Christian maturity is really about what we love, not what we know.  It's easy to teach knowledge, but only God can move hearts to love what he loves.  Don't get me wrong: knowledge is good and necessary, but love powers us to choose the good. 

For people in the church it's easy to appear spiritually mature.  Just say the right stuff.  Speak the lingo.  Know your Doctrine. BUT, the real measure of our lives isn't what we know.  It's what we love. It's who we love.   Do we love others? Do we really love Jesus? Love is shown by what we do, not what we say, right?  

So my question to all of you is how do we love better?  How do we  learn to love what and who God loves?

*All songs played on Grooveshark a free music service that I regularly use and prefer to spotify, pandora, and lastfm. Play what you want, when you want and it doesn't have to be broadcast to all your fb friends.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Christian Athlete. Oxymoron?

Not too long ago David Brooks wrote an article  about sports and faith.  Basically he said you can't be a Christian and an athlete.

He's wrong. But he does highlight how it is difficult to live out a self sacrificial faith in an arena that is based on dominating another person/team.  

As a (former) athlete myself I know there were times where I failed to be loving and gracious and Christlike in the heat of the battle. But I also know that in competition, I wanted my opponent to give their best.  I know that when all parties are trying their hardest the sport is the most fun. The gifts God has granted us are most enjoyed when every possible skill and attribute is maximized. There are times where I have lost that I loved knowing I had given my best effort, and accepted the other team/person was simply better.

Losing, when you know you could have played better, sucks. But you should know that.

Not only that, but there have been times where my opponents haven't given their best, where they really haven't cared to win, the last game of any pickup basketball night comes to mind, and it makes the experience terribly unsatisfying (at best) or insulting (at worst). Sports are a microcosm of life.  Do your best with what you've got, but do it with love.

The recent act of sacrifice and mercy by Meghan Vogel presents this difficult balancing act in perfect alignment. Watch this video She had already won the 1600 earlier in the day.  She's gifted and competitive.
However, in the finals of the 3200 didn't have enough left in the tank to win,  but when another racer collapsed in front of her with about 20 meters left she helped her across the finish line, allowing the other girl, only a sophomore, to finish in front of her.  

Meghan Vogel was able to love her neighbor, even while using the athletic gifts she has been given to her very best. She was able to see the needs in others and place them above her own when needed, but also able to put forth the highest effort in pursuit of her own goals and a desire to be and do the very best that we can.  

All this to say, if you are interested in playing some bball I'll be glad to kick your butt and help you up afterwards.  

Friday, February 3, 2012

Transformed by Jesus

This week I am preaching on Paul and his conversion.  Now Paul is the last guy you would expect to become a Christian, but it's pretty important that God did take this guy who was killing his people and make him into his child.  God transformed someone who was clearly his enemy and made him a vessel to bring the message to many others who were far from Jesus. 

So part of my message this week is about God's power to transform.  God transforms people who are far from him and makes them into his children, his beloved children.

That's what God does, but its hard for us to really believe this.  

When we think about who we want to invite to our church, who we think will accept Jesus as Lord and Savior we think of our nice neighbors who seem to have their stuff together.  They are so much like us, except for the Jesus and church part that we think they are so close to seeing God and knowing his grace.  To be sure, God calls these people, but this week I've been reading testimonies.  Most testimonies that have impacted me, and impacted, deeply impacted people far from Christ are testimonies of people far from Jesus whom he draws near.  

This week I listened to Ravi Zacharias testimony and Lee Strobels.  Then this morning I was listening to the national prayer breakfast and heard a little bit of Eric Metaxas Testimony

These are people who were far from God.  God took people who didn't look like Christians already.  God found people who were hopeless, some  losers, some antagonists but all lost.  He rescued them from where their plans and hopes and direction had failed them.  God is good, and God is powerful.  He is mighty to save. 

Russell Moore had some thoughts on this recently

Russell Moore recounts a memorable conversation with the evangelical theologian Carl F. H. Henry. As Moore and some of his friends were lamenting the miserable shape of the church, they asked Dr. Henry if he saw any hope in the coming generation of evangelicals.
Dr. Henry replied:
Of course, there is hope for the next generation of evangelicals. But the leaders of the next generation might not be coming from the current evangelical establishment. They are probably still pagans. Who knew that Saul of Tarsus was to be the great apostle to the Gentiles? Who knew that God would raise up a C. S. Lewis or a Charles Colson? They were unbelievers who, once saved by the grace of God, were mighty warriors for the faith.
Russell Moore added:
The next Jonathan Edwards might be the man driving in front of you with the Darwin Fish bumper decal. The next Charles Wesley might be a misogynist, profanity-spewing hip-hop artist right now. The next Billy Graham might be passed out drunk in a fraternity house right now. The next Charles Spurgeon might be making posters for a Gay Pride March right now. The next Mother Teresa might be managing an abortion clinic right now.

So when we pray, let's not only pray for people we like, and people who are like us. People who, if they walked into our churches, would fit right in.  Let's also pray for people who are far from God. Let's pray for God to work in powerful ways and show that he is the redeemer. Let's pray that God changes people far from him and be glorified because he has worked in ways that we didn't see or expect.  Let's pray that God continues to show that he is the way, the truth, and the life to a perishing world