Looking in the Mirror

These days, I’m feeling a bit like that Tom Hanks character in the Spielberg move The Terminal. In essence, he’s a man without a country when the country he just left had a military coup and the United States won’t let him enter because of his own country’s uncertain status.

I don’t feel like I can endorse either the Republican or Democratic parties.

The Republicans and their zeal to build a wall and keep refugees out seem to have forgotten about Isaiah 58 where God’s idea of true worship involves taking care of the poor and needy, the least of these. I also seem to remember that quote on the Statue of Liberty about giving me your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free.

The Democrats seem to be heaping a lot of venom and vileness onto President Trump. While I’m far from a fan of his, I have a really hard time trying to reconcile #lovetrumpshate with people talking about burning down the White House with him inside and other posts that are full of nothing but hatred toward the man.

So I choose to remain an independent.

It’s easy to cast blame about what’s wrong with America and the world in general. It’s very easy to point the finger at the other side and to proclaim loudly that “they” are the problem and whenever we can get rid of “them,” all our problems will magically go away.

It’s far more difficult to look in a mirror and to see part of the problem staring back at you. It’s harder to realize that we all as citizens of America and the world bear responsibility to do our part to make our country and our world a better place not just for us but for all.

You can choose to pray for the President, Congress, House of Representatives, Supreme Court, and all those in power at the federal, state, and local levels. You can choose to follow Jesus when he said to love your enemies (even the Trumps of the world) and to pray for those who persecute you and treat you badly. You can serve others in many ways by getting involved and volunteering at homeless shelters and other community ministries.

I believe the saying goes that for those who are busy making a difference, there’s not nearly as much time left to criticize and belittle others.

Ultimately, the reality is that only Jesus can change America and the world. Only the Love that laid down His life for His friends (and enemies) is stronger than the hate and fear that are so prevalent these days.



Make Every Effort

“Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many” (Hebrews 12:14-15, NIV).

Living out your faith requires effort. You have to be intentional about striving for peace. We’re called to be peaceMAKERS who actively pursue peace and not those who passively accept it when it comes our way.

These days, peace means reaching across the aisle to those who think and feel (and vote) differently than you. It means learning to seek dialogue instead of demonizing anyone who disagrees with you. It means instead of always blaming “them” for what’s wrong with the world, looking in the mirror and realizing one of the biggest problems is staring back at you.

What are you doing to make your world better? How are you teaching your children to make a difference in their world? Is it teaching them to hate Republicans (or Democrats)? Or is it showing them how to learn to love your enemies and pray for those who persecute them?

I was reminded today that you might be far less eager to criticize someone’s journey if you only knew where they’ve come from or how far they’ve travelled. That was convicting.

It’s easy to bash someone’s views that run opposite to what you believe. It’s much harder (and much more rewarding) to seek common ground and understanding while loving them. It’s harder to live out the tension of loving people without condoning all of their behavior and beliefs.

Jesus died for everyone, not just for those who loved and followed Him. He died for the Pharisees and Sadducees who opposed Him at every turn. He died for the Roman soldiers who drove the nails into His hands and feet. His love led Him to forgive those who were in the very act of murdering Him.

That’s the standard of love we’re called to. That’s what we strive toward when we make every effort for peace. That’s what will ultimately conquer evil and hate.


State of Affairs

I’m offering up an additional candidate for President of the United States of America– my cat Lucy. I think she’s as qualified and fit to lead the country as either of the two major party candidates.

I continue to see how people are hypersensitive to the faults of the opposing candidate and equally blind to the faults of their own candidate. The other side can’t merely be wrong. They must also be stupid and evil. There can be no dialogue and no understanding between the two sides, according to this so-called logic.

I also continue to see how people justify character assassination and hate in the name of politics. After all, the other side really isn’t human, is it? They have no feelings with which to hurt, right?

Too many people still believe that there are political answers to spiritual questions and that laws and policies can fill the God-shaped hole in each of us.

Contrary to popular opinion, the world will not come to a screeching halt on November 9, regardless of who wins. As I’ve mentioned before, we are electing a President, not a Savior. That position remains filled and will be so long after last President leaves office.

Our battle as believers is still not against flesh and blood, against the liberals (or conservatives) and the Democrats (or Republicans). It is against spiritual forces in the heavenly places. That remains true.

So think before you take a jab at a candidate or those who support him or her. Remember that in the Kingdom of Heaven, love is the currency we spend and the language we speak. Hate does not become us.

By the way, my cat Lucy’s platform is More Naps for Everyone. It’s something I fully endorse. She’s much less high-maintenance than either Clinton or Trump, plus she’s much cheaper on the economy. Vote for Lucy.



The Prince of Peace

“Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that” (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.)

It seems like every time I turn around, there’s more hatred and violence. There’s more racism and division. I know ultimately that it’s not a hate issue or a race issue. It’s a sin issue.

It’s the sin that indwells the hearts of every man, woman, and child. It’s the same sin that indwells my own heart, the sin that causes me to not do what I want and to do what I don’t want to do.

That same sin issue won’t go away by electing the “right” President. It won’t go away by passing the “right” laws or by deporting the “wrong” people.

The answer to all the hate, violence, racism, and division lies within the Prince of Peace, who chose to keep silent in the midst of His own injustice and suffering.

He chose the wrongful death so  that we could live. He chose to bear the weight of my sin and shame so that I wouldn’t have to be a slave to it any longer.

That’s what brings me comfort on nights like these when the world outside seems to have lost its collective mind. There are a lot of talking heads out there offering a lot of different ideas about what can solve the mess we’re in, but only one real solution: Jesus.

The sobering thought is that I am just as sinful and in need of grace as those who shout racist epithets and those who riot and loot. In the deepest part of my heart, I see that same darkness. I see glimpses of what I am capable of apart from the incessant grace of God.

So I’m praying for peace to the Prince of Peace and resting in the promise that the victory over evil has already been won and that one day everything wrong will be made right.

Words That Create (More Goodness from Henri Nouwen)

“Words, words, words. Our society is full of words: on billboards, on television screens, in newspapers and books. Words whispered, shouted, and sung. Words that move, dance, and change in size and color. Words that say, ‘Taste me, smell me, eat me, drink me, sleep with me,’ but most of all, ‘buy me.’ With so many words around us, we quickly say: ‘Well, they’re just words.’ Thus, words have lost much of their power.

Still, the word has the power to create. When God speaks, God creates. When God says, ‘Let there be light’ (Genesis 1:3), light is. God speaks light. For God, speaking and creating are the same. It is this creative power of the word we need to reclaim. What we say is very important. When we say, ‘I love you,’ and say it from the heart, we can give another person new life, new hope, new courage. When we say, ‘I hate you,’ we can destroy another person. Let’s watch our words” (Henri Nouwen).

Choose your words carefully. Speak life and not death. Speak hope and not despair.

Even your lack of words can have tremendous power. Your choosing to ignore someone sends a more powerful message than any words of hate ever could.

So choose words that head and not harm. Choose words that will build up and not tear down.

That’s all I have on this Thursday evening in February.


A Clear Command

If someone claims, ‘I love God,’ but hates his brother or sister, then he is a liar. Anyone who does not love a brother or sister, whom he has seen, cannot possibly love God, whom he has never seen. He gave us a clear command, that all who love God must also love their brothers and sisters” (1 John 4:20-21).

That’s one of those verses that most of us wishes wasn’t in the Bible. Maybe if John had said “anyone who does not try to love a brother or sister,” then it would have been a lot easier to swallow.

But as my pastor says, Jesus never gives us an out when it comes to obedience. We’re never given the okay to be disobedient.

Even when the other person is hard to get along with? Yes.

Even when the other person does and says hateful things? Yes.

Even when it seems beyond our capacity to love that person? Yes.

If it seems too hard, remember that God loved you while you were His enemy and set against everything He stood for. Plus, it’s not really your love that you love these people with anyway.

It goes like this. Jesus fills you up with so much love that you can’t contain it all and it splashes onto those around you. Even those people who aren’t your favorites.

The key isn’t to grit your teeth, eat your Wheaties, and try harder when it comes to loving these people. The secret is spending more time with Jesus, enough time for His love to really soak in. And while you’re with Jesus, you could pray for these people, because it’s hard to keep hating someone after you’ve been fervently praying for them.

Oh, and by praying for them, I don’t mean praying for the earth to swallow them up or for them to get hit by a bus. You pray for them like you pray for those you love– that they will know and understand the love God has for them, that they find healing from the people who wounded them in the past, and that they prosper and succeed.


What I Read This Morning


I’ve been reading through the Bible this year in a different translation. It’s called The Voice, and I really like it. It’s not perfect, but I have yet to find a translation that was perfect. That’s why I tend to use more than one and go back and forth between different ones.

That being said, I was struck by reading a familiar passage in a different way. Here it is:

If you’re listening, here’s My message: Keep loving your enemies no matter what they do. Keep doing good to those who hate you. Keep speaking blessings on those who curse you. Keep praying for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, offer the other cheek too. If someone steals your coat, offer him your shirt too. If someone begs from you, give to him. If someone robs you of your valuables, don’t demand them back. Think of the kindness you wish others would show you; do the same for them.

Listen, what’s the big deal if you love people who already love you? Even scoundrels do that much! So what if you do good to those who do good to you? Even scoundrels do that much! So what if you lend to people who are likely to repay you? Even scoundrels lend to scoundrels if they think they’ll be fully repaid.

If you want to be extraordinary—love your enemies! Do good without restraint! Lend with abandon! Don’t expect anything in return! Then you’ll receive the truly great reward—you will be children of the Most High—for God is kind to the ungrateful and those who are wicked. So imitate God and be truly compassionate, the way your Father is.

If you don’t want to be judged, don’t judge. If you don’t want to be condemned, don’t condemn. If you want to be forgiven, forgive. Don’t hold back—give freely, and you’ll have plenty poured back into your lap—a good measure, pressed down, shaken together, brimming over. You’ll receive in the same measure you give” (Luke 6:27-38).

That’s a hard teaching. I know I could never do all that in my own strength. But that’s what t I’m aiming for. That’s what we’re all aiming for if we truly follow Jesus.

I had another thought. People want to paint Jesus in their own colors. Either they make Him into an ultra-rightwing conservative or a peace-loving liberal fanatical. I do think there’s some merit to both, but yet each side falls short in its vision of the Messiah. Jesus Himself prayed for Jerusalem that she might know His peace, but yet He also said that He didn’t come to bring peace but a sword.

To me, Jesus was so much more than either conservative or liberal. He was (and is) the Eternal God-Man and, just as God’s thoughts and ways are so much higher than ours, so in a way is Jesus. He’s beyond any of our categorization.

One thing I know. Jesus didn’t come to legitimize one side or the other. He didn’t come to justify a belief system or a political platform. He came to seek and save the lost, no matter where they came from.

He asks one thing of us. His command is, “Follow me.” More than an ideology or a systematic theology, Christianity is and has always been about following the person of Jesus. That’s it.

My Take on Boycotts and Christmas and All That Jazz


First of all, let me throw out this disclaimer that these comments do not in any way reflect the opinions of WordPress, A&E, The Duck Dynasty, Cracker Barrel, Starbucks, ABC, or any other establishment. They are mine.

With that in mind, let’s get started.

I’m not in any way a fan of boycotts.

I’m not saying every boycott ever is wrong and everyone who prarticipates should get automatically put on Santa’s naughty list and get coal in their stockings. Here’s what I am saying.

I think boycotts communiate what we as believers are against, not what we are for. To me, that’s not what true Christianity is about. It’s not about what we don’t do anymore or what we’ve stopped doing, but what we do– love others and become more like Jesus– because of what Jesus has already done.

Also, if we boycott a particular place of business, what if one of the results is that people lose their jobs? What if one of these is a decent guy who’s only trying to provide for his family. A guy who didn’t get the luxury of choosing a job where the company’s beliefs line up exactly with his own?

Maybe it’s a guy who goes to my church. Or yours. Is that okay? He didn’t do anything wrong other than try to make a living, yet because the company he works for is “evil,” he is out of a job.

What if God had chosen to boycott humanity? What if God had looked down at Sodom and Gomorrah and all the other epic fails of humanity and decided to give up on the whole lot of us and shop elsewhere?

There would be an empty manger in Bethlehem.

There would be no Shepherds telling miraculous stories about angel choirs and teenage virgin mothers.

There would be no crown of thorns, no purple robe, no cross, no Golgatha.

We’d all be lost without any hope.

I’m just throwing out my own opinions. I think that we don’t have to endorse everything that a company does, but we do have to love the people who work there.

I still love what my pastor said. You don’t fight hate with more hate. That’s like going to a fire and fighting it by starting another fire. You don’t fight fire with fire; you fight it with water.

You don’t fight hate with more hate; you fight it with love, because nothing in the whole universe is as strong or lasting as love.

Especially the love of God as revealed in Jesus, born in a manger on Christmas Day.


Back to Loving Being Me


It really is okay to love yourself. After all, the Bible does say to love your neighbor as yourself and you can’t very well do that if you’re not too fond of you. I think there’s a kind of false modesty that gets passed around where we have the “aw shucks” mentality and downplay any compliments that come our way. I can tell you for certain that kind of thinking doesn’t come from God or the Bible.

God made you. He created you exactly how He wanted you to be and no matter how many scars and breaks and bruises and messes you may have accumulated along the way, He still loves the work of His own hands– you. No matter how you may have been rejected or friend-zoned by girls or guys, God is enraptured and enamored and captivated by you. He is completely and totally crazy in love with you.

I’m loving being me. I can say that I’m not like anybody else out there. That doesn’t make me odd. That might make me eccentric. What that does make me for absolute certain is unique. There is no one in the whole wide world quite like me, and I like that.

I love that I can be socially awkward at times. I love that I can be overly enthusiastic in my friendliness and sometimes be perceived as coming across a little creepy.  That’s okay. Aside from maybe needing to visit Decaf-land from time to time, I’m fine if not every single person likes what I have to offer. Many people were turned off by Jesus.

I love that when God sees me, He sees Jesus. He sees beauty and perfection and wisdom and strength beyond measure. He sees my very best self, the one only hinted at in my best moments of selfless devotion. He sees the finished product of who I will become.

As of this moment, I refuse to take on myself any names other than the ones He has given me. Not from family or friends. Not from co-workers. Not even from me. I don’t have to be defined by words spoken in frustration or anger or resignation. I am no longer the mistakes I’ve made or the chances I’ve missed or the good intentions coming up short.

I am Forgiven. I am Set Free. I am Redeemed. I am A New Creation. I am Blameless.

Of all the names God has given me, my favorite is this: I am His Beloved Son in whom He is well pleased.

My hope and prayer for you tonight is to let go of all the names you or anyone else has called you out of hate or anger and embrace the name given in love by your Creator and Redeemer and Savior. Listen to Him calling you His Beloved Child. Hear Him singing His delight over you and smiling over you. Let your life be defined by God’s pleasure over you instead of people’s disappointment in you.

I truly hope and pray that you will come to the point where you can truly and honestly say that you love being you.

Just Some Thoughts From Another Good Night at Kairos

In spite of the cold and rain, it was a good night. At Kairos, Mike Glenn wrapped up the series called “What’s Love Got to Do With It?” with some final thoughts on what true love is. And yes, you know that Tina Turner song is now stuck in your head.

I remember reading somewhere that love isn’t sentiment as much as it is service. It isn’t feelings as much as it is action. As the old dc talk song says, “Love is a verb.”

Most of the time, we think of love as a contract. I’ll love you if you love me back, but don’t expect me to keep loving you if you quit. In other words, you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.

But God’s love isn’t a contract. It’s a covenant where he essentially says to his people, “I will always be your God, your Savior, your Lord, your Provider, and your Defender.”

His love isn’t contingent on ours. I’d be in serious trouble if that were the case. His love is forever.

In Matthew, Jesus defines real love. It’s one thing to love those who love you back and be friends with those who are easy to get along with that. Anybody can do that, with or without God’s help. But it’s entirely another thing to love your enemies and do good for those who despise you. It takes supernatural grace to do that.

In other words, people expect you to give as good as you get. They expect you to fight fire with fire, anger with anger, grudges with grudges, and hate with hate. But Jesus is calling us to fight anger with kindness, grudges with forgiveness, and hate with love. That’s the only way to end the seemingly endless cycle.

Love doesn’t stay put. It goes to where the hurting people are, to where the need is greatest, to the dangerous places that most people won’t go. It looks for and draws out the best in the other person, even when that other person can’t see it.

We need more love like that. I need more love like that. An unbelieving and lost and hurting world needs to see love like that.