Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Standing Boldly

God calls us to make a stand. He wants us to think different - to live different - to love different. Our love should make us stand out from the world, it should make us odd, peculiar and unusual. This is hard. The world and its subtle pressures are powerful. I still want to be liked, to be understood, to be believed and admired. I worry about what people think. I worry about making sure things are taken care of. I worry. I worry about being different and not in the way that its cool to be different. I'm scared to stick out too much. I'm scared to take a real stand.

Elijah made a stand with Elisha. He didn't nicely ask him if he would perhaps maybe consider the possibility of potentially becoming his apprentice. He walked up to him and wrapped his cloak around him. It was a bold move. It was something that would not easily be ignored. It was nothing compared to Elisha's response.

Elisha, when given the opportunity to follow Elijah didn't balk at the chance. He didn't weigh his options. He didn't think about the potential consequences. He kissed his parents good-bye and made a stand. When Elijah found him, Elisha was plowing with 12 yoke of oxen (that's 24 huge animals). Ergo: 1) Elisha was a worker. 2) Elisha had some money.

It would have been easy and understandable for Elisha to take some precautions - to keep things under control at home in case things with Elijah didn't work out. But Elisha did the opposite. He uses his plowing equipment to make a fire and he proceeds to kill and cook all of his oxen. There was no going back now. He fed the whole town and set off on his new life. that was crazy. That was faith. That was a stand.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Theology of the Handicapped Space

We all know why it is there. We all know who is supposed to use it. We all know who isn't. You'd think the handicapped parking space would be a simple matter. If you are handicapped enough to get a license plate or a card that hangs from your mirror (who qualifies is a whole 'nother discussion), you can park in the space. No plate, no card, no parking. Easy, right?

I sit here 3 or 4 mornings a week and I can't help but notice the handicapped spot - and who parks there. It's a small parking lot and it is often full, but not always. There are 5 different ways this spot is normally used:

1. The lot wasn't full, a middle aged woman in a Mercedes SUV pulled in from the parkway and swung directly into the spot. There were other spots open. She left her car running (in fact, the turn signal was still blinking), ran in to get her coffee and ran out again. "I can park here if it's fast."?

2. The lot was full, an elderly woman with a noticeable limp and the appropriate handicapped card in her windshield pulled into the spot, walked in to get her coffee and left.

3. The lot was completely full, any one of a number of cars (I've seen Rovers, Passats, Minis and Priuses pull this one) creeps through the lot and finally pulls into the handicapped spot. The driver then either sheepishly slinks or confidently marches (there is no in between) inside to get their coffee. a) "I guess I can park here if there isn't any other option"? b) "I can park here because they need my business and they should have a bigger lot"?

4. The lot was busy, a well-used and well-stickered early 90's model Corolla pulls up to the front door. A woman gets out and walks in while the man driving the car backs halfway into the handicapped spot and half into the "no parking" area, narrowly missing the A-frame sign placed specifically to prevent him from parking directly in front of the store. "I can park here because you won't let me park where I want"?

5. The lot is pretty full, a beautiful car (subjectively or objectively) pulls into not just the handicapped spot, but also half of the spot next to it and proudly makes their way inside, turning halfway to arm the car alarm and admire their ride. "I couldn't park anywhere else because parking lots are dangerous places for cars like mine"?

There are plenty of places in life that should be a simple matter. Right and wrong, black and white, yes and no, do or don't. Yet, we can still find ways to muddy the waters, to create shades of gray. We do this by looking only at ourselves and considering only our needs instead of thinking first about the needs of others. "I can do it if it is right for me right now"?

Update 12/10 - When it's snowing the spot is nothing short of a free-for-all. "Extreme circumstances remove all guilt"?

Saturday, November 21, 2009


It doesn't make a difference to me what Obama did or didn't see in China, but I love the determination, bravery and moxy of the house churches in China. (It's also great to see this message slipped into the Wall Street Journal of all places.) When people fully turn their lives over to Christ and become disciples, no government can keep Christianity down.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Unaffiliated... for now

The Pew research group recently completed their Landscape survey and reported the results here. The focus of the survey was to examine the practice of switching religions. In the survey they found that Americans are switching religions at a faster pace than ever before. All this switching leads to some groups growing and some shrinking. The group showing the most shrinkage is Catholicism. The group growing the most is those who say they are unaffiliated. The reasons for unaffiliated growth are telling:

About half of those who have become unaffiliated say - in response to the survey's yes-or-no questions - that they became unaffiliated, at least in part, because they think of religious people as hypocritical, judgmental or insincere. Large numbers also say they became unaffiliated because they think that religious organizations focus too much on rules and not enough on spirituality, or that religious leaders are too focused on money and power rather than truth and spirituality. . . Fewer people, however, say they became unaffiliated because they think modern science proves that religion is just superstition, indicating that the belief that science disproves religion is a less important reason for becoming unaffiliated than disenchantment with religious people or institutions.

Despite what online forums and message boards may lead you to believe, people aren't leaving church for science (which is too bad, because science is an easily knowable enemy). Instead, they're leaving because of their perception of religious people. Hypocrisy, judgmentalism and insincerity are much more difficult opponents. They are matters of the heart, matters that each individual must master on their own.

The survey has some rather inspiring findings as well.

At the same time that the ranks of the unaffiliated have grown, the Landscape Survey also revealed that the unaffiliated have one of the lowest retention rates of any of the major religious groups, with most people who were raised unaffiliated now belonging to one religion or another.

Unaffiliated equals unfulfilled equals uneasy. People need God, no matter what the practice of science can or cannot prove. People also need people. So, what are each of us doing to tear down the walls of hypocrisy, judgment and insincerity in our lives?


Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.

The smallest voice can have the greatest power, but only if we humble ourselves and listen.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

After the Peak

There's a pattern that shows up in Elijah's life. He stands up to the reigning powers and authorities, only to find that immediately afterwards he is thrown down into the pit of despair. What a reward! All that effort and all that bravery, only to find himself struggling with a purpose for living?

"I have had enough, Lord. Take my life, I'm no better than my ancestors."

The same thing happens to us. We work up our courage, we fight off our fears, we make a huge step out on faith and things look perfect - for about a minute and a half. Then, we find ourselves doubting everything. Why did I do all that work? Why so much effort? Why did I risk this - if this my reward is feeling worse than before?

Look at the story again (1 Kings 19:1-9). What do you notice about Elijah? Okay, you notice a lot of things - but pay attention to this one - he's all alone. He leaves people behind, heads out into the wilderness and hides. He isolates himself, he's alone with his feelings - those feelings of doubt and inadequacy and worthlessness. No wonder he's a mess.

Look ahead and see what God does next. 1) He consoles Elijah. 2) He gets Elijah a partner.

Whether you're a powerful prophet or an average Joe, you need people. They catch us when we start to fall into despair, they build us up when it is time to act. They provide the balance and cushion that we need to get by day to day. God doesn't lead us out into the wilderness and hide us in rocks anymore. He talks to us through his servants - those people in our lives we chose to live and grow with.

Monday, November 16, 2009

No Small Feats

Elijah prayed for God to light a fire. Well, not exactly. Elijah actually prayed that the Lord would let the people know that he was God in Israel. And he did.

God didn't just start the fire with some sparks or some smoke or some really intense beams of sunlight focused by some properly placed raindrops that happened to start a tiny piece of the wood on the altar. Because this wasn't about the fire.

Elijah prayed that God would let the people know that he was God. So, God did. Fire fell from heaven. The wood was consumed. The sacrifice was consumed. The rocks of the altar were consumed. The soil around the altar was consumed. The water soaking it all was consumed. This was no small feat. There was no doubting what happened here.

We pray for healing. We pray for wisdom. We pray for stuff. Most of our prayers are just like praying for fire. Why don't we pray for God to show himself? Pray for the big things to show his glory.

Saturday, November 14, 2009


At today's funeral, for a gentlemen I never met...

Little Girl: May I ask your professional opinion?

Me: Sure.

Little Girl: Would you say that my Uncle is, you know, up there?

Me: Um...

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Heart, Hands, Head

Abraham Piper over at 22 Words posts an interesting idea:

"Wouldn’t our terminology better represent what should happen between people, their Bibles, and God if we called it something other than study?"

Which is more important: knowing intricate details about the Bible or changing your life because of what is inside? For me, I think that all of the Bible knowledge in the world won't amount to a hill of beans if you don't live your life by it.

Far too often we focus on knowing the right things or the newest things instead of doing the right things.

Don't get me wrong, knowing the Bible is terribly important, but that alone won't change the world. (Neither will belief by itself - "You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that and shudder.) Let's move out of just focusing on our heads and start engaging our hearts and our hands.

Bible Application? Personal Redirection? Scriptural Restructuring? Relationship Building? Bible Meditation? What else ya got?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Look at Me! Look at Me!

It astounds me the things churches do for attention. They might build a giant Jesus statue or a giant cross, they might go through a sermon series on sex and look for media attention, they might get billboards (this is even attempted by those anti-church churches) to intrigue motorists, they might offer $500 to the person who happens to sit in the lucky seat, they shock or scare or dazzle or beg or pay people to pay attention. As time goes by, it seems like they get more and more drastic in their attempts to get people's attention. There is nothing new under the sun.

Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal to a contest. He told everyone. In many ways, this can be seen as a cry for attention.

The prophets came and they set up their altar. Then they proceeded to more and more drastically call for Baal to answer them. They called. They shouted. They danced. They cut themselves with swords and spears. They bled. They became frantic.

"But there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention."

People didn't want to hear empty words. They didn't want to see pointless actions.
They wanted something real. They wanted action. They wanted change.

They still do.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


I had a great lunch yesterday that included some lively discussion and a tasty belgium waffle. That has noting to do with this post...or does it?

"How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him." - Elijah on Mt. Carmel

From the top of Mt. Carmel you can see the entire valley spread out before you. On a clear day, like the one I was there, if you squint you can even see the Mediterranean sea. There is no doubt that in Elijah's day many people spent every moment of their entire lives in the area that you can see from this peak. Their entire lives is exactly what Elijah was talking about.

The people of Israel liked to waffle. They would follow the Lord when it suited them, when they were greatly in need, when they had no hope. They would follow Baal when it suited them, when they were unhappy, when they wanted to fit in or go their own way. Elijah had had enough.

Imagine what he would say to us. Waffling can be a weekly or daily event in many of our lives. We wake up in the morning and whisper a prayer asking God to be with us throughout the day, but by 2:30 we've done everything in our power to forget about him or drive him away except actually tell him to get lost. We go to church on Sunday morning and sing and listen and contemplate what implications God's word has on our lives and forget about all of it until next time. We love our neighbor when we like our neighbor. We despise them when they get on our nerves. We're not sitting on any fences, we're hopping back and forth over them like jumping rope.

ENOUGH. Elijah's cry for a decision still rings true today. We can't do both, yet way too many of us think we can. It's time decide.

"How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if you are God, do whatever the heck you want."

Monday, November 9, 2009


Trouble 1 difficulty or problems : I had trouble finding somewhere to park | thegovernment's policies ran into trouble | our troubles are just beginning.
the malfunction of something such as a machine or a part of thebody : their helicopter developed engine trouble.effort or exertion made to do something, esp. when inconvenient : I wouldn't want to put you to any trouble | he's gone to a lot of trouble to help you.a cause of worry or inconvenience : the kid had been no trouble up to now.a particular aspect or quality of something regarded as unsatisfactory or as a source of difficulty : that's the trouble withcapitalism.a situation in which one is liable to incur punishment or blame : he's been in trouble with the police.2 public unrest or disorder : the cops are preparing for trouble by bringing in tear gas.
King Ahab called Elijah a "troubler" of Israel. He was upsetting the status quo, he was rocking the boat and challenging the way things were. This is exactly what needed to happen. Israel was content in their ways - even though those ways were in direct conflict with everything God had for them. They needed to be troubled.
Are we troublers? Do we cause unrest and put people ill at ease? Far too often we are so very concerned with being nice and unnoticed and quiet. We hide in the background, we blend in and dread confrontation or anything that might actually make a difference. Why? What is holding us back?
Isn't it time for things to change? Isn't it time to upset some status quo? Isn't it time to cause some trouble?

Thursday, November 5, 2009


As a coach, part of my job was to teach players the right way to play. They had to have the right form and be in the right place. They had to know when to move and when to stay, how to read the other team and how to react to them. That was the easy part of coaching.

Another part of my job as a coach was to "get the most out of the talent I had." It was to challenge my players to play bigger than they were, faster than they were, better than they were. This wasn't always as easy. I offered food money for certain accomplishments; I threatened the team with more conditioning for mistakes. Once, I had an opposing coach pull me aside and tell me that my team plays hard, but "you just don't have enough bullets in the gun." In other words, we weren't big enough, good enough or fast enough to compete. As a coach looking for ways to challenge my team, this was a gift. When we played against that coach's team every player on the court had a chip on their shoulder and something to prove because those words were playing over and over again in each player's ears.

The coaches I had challenged me. Some yelled, some set high expectations, some offered praise. Is this something only coaches do?

Obadiah worked for King Ahab, even though he was a believer and a servant of the Lord. He had done great things in the past, but never publicly stood up to his boss. Along comes Elijah to challenge him. We don't know if Elijah was purposefully challenging Obadiah or if the same brash attitude he displayed was just expected of others. Either way, he tells Obadiah to go and act, to stop resting on his past accomplishments and live for today.

Who in your life needs to be challenged? Who can be bigger, faster or better? Who needs a push or a pull or a nudge in the right direction? Who can do great things if only you challenged them?

What's stopping you, don't you have enough bullets in your gun?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


Elijah is staying with a widow and her son. The son dies. The woman blames God, Elijah & herself.

"What do you have against me, man of God? Did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son?"

Sin. Guilt. Shame. They crop up and creep in whenever something bad happens. Whether right or wrong, they point fingers at us. They make us less than what we are, less than what we are created to be. They are the seeds of distrust, envy and bitterness.


I hate failing (especially when other people know).

Can you picture Elijah throwing himself over the lifeless body of the widow's son, crying out, "O Lord my God, let this boy's life return to him!" and then... nothing.

Ouch. But Elijah doesn't stop there. He goes for it again.
And nothing.

Chances are, if I fail at something, I'm not going to do it again.

Elijah goes for it a 3rd time and succeeds. There's a lesson here somewhere.


No water --> new friends & opportunities
No food --> unlimited food
Death --> resurrection

Elijah's life could be seen as an ongoing list of problems, obstacles and obstructions. But nothing stops him. Nothing gets in his way. With God's help, each of these problems is turned into an opportunity - a way for God to show His power and control.

What are the problems or obstacles in my life? How can I turn them into God's opportunities? What (besides my point of view) is the difference between a problem and an opportunity?

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Dried Up

In some ways it would be nice if things stayed the same - if we could just find our niche and stay there indefinitely. It would make things easier, it would be comfortable, it would be safe and secure and boring.

Sometimes we think that way about following Jesus. We find him, we figure out something that is in his will and we do it. Nice. Things are good, things flow naturally, life has purpose and meaning and ease. But, sooner or later (usually sooner) that changes. It doesn't happen at once, it is usually a gradual thing, that sneaks up and gently changes. By the time we realize what is going on, we're lost and we can't figure out how things got where they did. Why?

Elijah is out in the wilderness, being fed by birds and drinking from a stream. One day the stream dries up (when it doesn't rain, this is what happens). Elijah had been in a relaxed place, he was where God wanted him to be, things were easy and flowing. Then the stream dries up.

God tells Elijah to move, to do something new, to change. Luckily for Elijah, he doesn't have a choice. No water is a good motivator. God tells him to go and be fed by some people who couldn't even feed themselves. Elijah knew that he wasn't really relying on this widow and her son for food - they were all about to rely on God for everything.

When we get comfortable, God calls us to change. What we rely on Him for eventually starts to dry up. That's not because we've done anything wrong, its because it is time for us to move on. It is time for us to find other ways to rely on God. The more we're relying on him, the easier this is to see and feel. When we depend on God for something as basic and necessary as water, it is hard to miss any change that occurs. When we depend on God for less, it is easier to miss. What do you rely on God for - how will you know if it dries up?

Monday, November 2, 2009

Act & Relax

There was a bird in our attic this morning. My wife was not okay with this. The bird was not okay with this. Because of these two factors, I was not okay with this.

I don't know how the bird got in the attic, but I knew he wasn't getting out the same way. He was trapped - and frantic. I'm not sure if he was frantic before my wife saw him, but he was certainly frantic once he knew that we knew that he was there. He was flying all around the main room of the attic, hurling himself into the windows and looking for some way out.

We know next to nothing about Elijah's background. He was a Tishbite, from Tishbe. That's all we get. From relative obscurity he bursts onto the scene and makes crazy statements to king Ahab. (Crazy until those statements are proved true.) From out of nowhere, Elijah is suddenly in the spotlight. Everybody knows about him now - and most of those people are out for his head.

Elijah responds relying on God. He doesn't go running all over the place, he doesn't criss cross the countryside. He sits and waits and hides. More importantly he relies on God. For food, for water, for what to do next - and he is safe.

I got one of the windows open (only the bottom of this particular window opens) and eventually the bird found his way out, but not after a number of bumps and bruises (do birds bruise?) along the way.

Of course the bird went crazy. But, that doesn't mean we have to. That's what faith is - trust when things get weird or crazy or scary. Elijah trusted God and was able to relax after his strong words. We can find the same thing. We must find the same thing.