Tuesday, December 21, 2010


For a long time I've heard people talk about "the great reward" and being welcomed by Jesus in the afterlife. Most of the time these talks include Jesus saying the words, "Well, done my good and faithful servant" or something to that effect. As of today, I disagree.

In John 15:15 Jesus says to the disciples, "I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you."

The more I know God, the less what I do feels like work. The more my heart understands His heart, the easier it is to love others. The more I give to Him, the less I need for myself. The more I let go of myself, the less I feel like a slave.

When I get to the great hereafter, I'm not looking forward to some distant heavenly stranger approving my good deeds with a nod and a ceremonial pronouncement. I can't see that being fulfilling or worth the effort.

Now, I can't wait to see my friend, my partner, to run to him and feel the embrace that I've missed for so long. To reminisce about the things we did together, to laugh about how wrong I got things and cry about the highs and the lows. To welcome the others who lived out a mission with us and through us. To relax with good friends after a life well lived.

That's not a reward, that's heaven.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Could I have your attention please?

Let's say that God wanted your attention. What do you think this would look like? Isaiah found that this didn't happen in the form of fire or thunder, but a whisper on the breeze.

What if the fire and thunder thing was true? What if God sent a messenger who withered your hand and then fixed it and then made stone structures shatter before your very eyes? Would you listen any closer?

King Jeroboam didn't.

He rebuilt the altar that was destroyed and doubled his efforts to worship other gods and raise other priests. He ignored God's message and God's warning.

God's response is interesting. He tells Jeroboam that Josiah is coming and he will sit on the throne and put things right. What God doesn't say is when. Jeroboam never meets him, neither does his son or grandson or great-grandson.

It is over 400 years before Josiah shows up. It is so long that the people aren't just ignoring the laws that Jeroboam broke, they don,t even know what they are anymore. They've literally lost the book whee they a written.

Yet, God is there the whole time. He speaks through his prophets to those that will listen. He never gives up, never goes away, never forsakes them.

That's one of the wonderful things about God, he is patient beyond measure. 400 years of a nation ignoring Him and he was still there when they finally came back.

Of course he'll be there when we turn back too.

Location:Columbia Pkwy,Cincinnati,United States

Monday, October 18, 2010

David v. Solomon

Two kings, father and son, two men who grew and advanced what was at the time the greatest nation on earth. Two leaders who took care of their people. Two completely different stories.

In David's story we see the highs (Goliath, treating Saul right) and the lows (Bathsheba, his family falling apart around him). In Solomon's case we really only see the good stuff. He asked for wisdom instead of power and was given both. He ruled in a time of peace and expanded the kingdom. He built the Temple for God.

If you were to compare the accomplishments and failures of the two men as found in Kings, Solomon would come out on top. He didn't live in the chaos that David did. He never hid in a cave from his enemies. He was never forced to resort to acting like a madman so he could find shelter. He didn't have to deal with one of his sons raping one of his daughters or another son nearly taking over his kingdom. We don't hear about him murdering a man and stealing his wife or getting others to cover up his dirty deeds.

Yet, "his heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father."

Solomon was a winner. Everything in his life seemed perfect.
David was a fighter. Everything in his life was a struggle.

Too often we praise winners and think that fighters have done something wrong. Why is their life so hard, why can't they figure things out, why can't they just get past their issue?

Despite all the fighting he did, it was David who had God's heart.
Despite all the blessings he had, it was Solomon who turned away.

Or was it because of David's heart for God that he had to fight so much?
In a fallen world, will a heart like God's lead to what seems like constant struggle.

Will we someday find a heaven full of fighters and nearly devoid of winners?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


I've been reading Ezekiel for almost a month (does this book ever end) and something finally stuck out to me. As a shepherd myself, I found God's warning to the shepherds of Israel a little frightening.

Ezekiel 34:2-4
Thus says the Lord God: Ah, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat ones, but you do not feed the sheep. The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them.

Do we do this? Are we shepherds for ourselves or shepherds for our sheep? God is all about taking care of His sheep and those He has called have been called to help in that task, not to use the sheep to take care of himself.

Ezekiel goes on to relate that these sheep will be scattered until God himself takes care of them. If we don't do it right, He'll do it himself.

I don't want to be the guy who puts God to work doing my job.

Location:Columbia Pkwy,Cincinnati,United States

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


"I seek not what is yours but you."

Paul says it as a consolation to the Corinthians in that he wasn't going to collect a 'love offering' the next time he came to visit.

Jesus says it as a challenge, because the things we have aren't enough. He wants all of us.

How do we hear this statement?
How do we mean it when we say it?
How do people hear it when we say it?
How do I say it so people hear it how I mean it?

Location:Columbia Pkwy,Cincinnati,United States

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

For the Children

I didn't steal cable last night. I could've. I was right there, with the filter in my hands, ready to hook the incoming line directly to the distribution line, but I remembered something someone said to me,

"Is that all your integrity is worth?"

Is it only worth the price of a monthly cable bill?
Or a ream of paper at work?
Or a bit of embarrassment that could be covered up with a white lie?
Or extra change at the check-out counter?
Or one small moment of gratification?

Integrity is integrity. We spend too much time wondering where we should set the price. The value of something stolen doesn't determine how bad the offense is. The likelihood of getting caught doesn't determine if something should be done.

Maybe your integrity isn't worth that much to you. You might not think twice about trading it for a better parking spot or a pen that finds it's way into your pocket. But, as I read this morning, it isn,t just about you.

Proverbs 21:7 The righteous who walks in his integrity-- blessed are his children after him!

Location:Columbia Pkwy,Cincinnati,United States

Monday, September 27, 2010


"We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything."
- 2 Corinthians 6:8b-10

Society, culture, the world: whatever you want to call the collective of non-Christianity, it has a certain understanding of how things work. It sees things a certain way, establishes values a certain way, promotes success a certain way and judges you a certain way.

Jesus' call to follow him was a call away from all of these things.
It was a call to embrace the creator of the world.
It was a call to reject the values, successes and views of the world.
It was a call to life.
It was a call to death.
It was a call to exist in paradox.

Location:Columbia Pkwy,Cincinnati,United States

Friday, September 24, 2010

on Culture

"If everyone lives roughly the same lies about the same things, then there is no one to call them lies; they jointly establish their own sanity and call themselves normal."
- Ernest Becker

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Send / Receive

"Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me."

So many times we follow a preconceived notion of what God sends. We have the Bible, His word, and don't look any further than that. We believe that if we study enough and learn enough, we don't need anything (one) else. Lock us in a tower with the scriptures and we'll see you in heaven someday.

We're open to receiving the scriptures. "The Bible says it, I believe it, and that settles it." We might even be open to advice from someone else, but only if it is properly packaged around the right scripture verses and presented in a clear, logical way.

God didn't think this was enough.
See, people did this for thousands of years and they got really good at it. They knew every word of the scriptures and the hundreds of laws derived from them. They were called Pharisees. They knew the information, but not the application. They missed the point.

So, God sent something new. He didn't send more information, He sent incarnation. Jesus didn't bring the word, the logos, he WAS the word. It was time for imitation, not just information. He came and lived a life worth duplicating.

He said to his twelve guys, "Come, follow me." Not come and learn from me. Not come and listen to me. Not come and watch me. Follow me. Where I go, you go.
How I live, you live.
How I love, you love.
How I die, you die.

Many people couldn't receive this. They were down for more information, but not imitation. When the information got hard or confusing, those who weren't imitating were vacillating and then migrating.

But those who were imitating, those few guys, those disciples saw crazy things, incredible things, mind-bending things that changed them. They saw the Kingdom of God and what a life lived in the Kingdom was like.

And then they were sent. And some people received them. And those who received them received the one who sent them. And then they were sent and received.

And despite our predilection for information, God is sending someone to you for imitational purposes.
Will you receive them?

Location:Columbia Pkwy,Cincinnati,United States

Monday, September 20, 2010

Motivating Factors

His friend Lazarus is dying. To get to him, Jesus has to go back to where the people had just tried to kill him. His disciples say say he can't go back there, because of the danger he will face.

Jesus answered, Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him
- John 11:9-10

At face value, it looks like Jesus is saying they should make a day trip. "As long as we're home before nightfall, we have nothing to worry about."

Until you get to that last line: "the light is not in him."
Jesus isn't talking about morning and evening and the rotation of the earth. He's talking about motivation.

What drives us? Why do we do the things we do? Are we driven by light or dark? Do we follow the call to love our neighbors or do we hide because that might not be the safest thing to do?

Light or dark?
Love or fear?
Good or evil?

What drives you?

Location:Columbia Pkwy,Cincinnati,United States

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Paul's Words

"Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ."

So very needed today.

Location:Salem Pike,Cincinnati,United States

Thursday, September 16, 2010

In the midst

But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God.

We each have wildly different reactions when faced with adversity. We question why God would let something like this happen to us. We lash out with reckless abandon. We weep, cry and despair. We launch a counter-offensive. We try to find and fix what we think is the cause of the situation. We run and hide. We blame others. We recruit others. We pull others down with us. We give in. We cave. We fall.

Rarely, rarely, do we worship.

David led his 600 men into battle for Achish, the Philistine Lord he had been serving. (Yeah, you read that right. Look it up.). The other Philistines said there was no way they were fighting alongside Hebrews. Dejected and rejected, David led his men home only to find that their homes had been burned, their goods had been stolen and their wives and children had been carried off into slavery.

What would you do?
Cry? Run? Scream? Fight? Quit?
But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God.

David and his men got everything back they had lost. The cattle, the gold, the wives and children - everything. They had the help of an Egyptian slave who had been left to die. They were the beneficiaries of a tremendous 'coincidence.' They were in the right place at the right time.

But only because in the midst of the struggle, when things were at their lowest, David worshipped, abided and strengthened himself in the Lord his God.

Location:Columbia Pkwy,Cincinnati,United States

God of Destruction

1 Samuel 5 recounts the events of God's capture by his enemies. (Well, the Ark of the Covenant, an early example of "God With Us", was captured. God was still doing his thing free and clear outside of our concepts of space and time.) These guys knew how to handle gods. It wasn't their first time around the block. They set up the ark in their trophy room and I'm sure they got their best story together.

Yeah, we hunted this fellow for two days before we got a good look at him. When we finally took the shot it landed a little high, so we had to track him another day and a half before... well, you can see for yourself. We've got him mounted right over here next to Dagon...

But, something happened in this particular case. That trophy just wouldn't behave. The next morning, they looked in the room and found the statue of Dagon lying face down next to the Ark. They set him back up, wondered about adding some braces to the floor and went about their business. The next morning, Dagon was face down again, only this time that face was no longer connected to the body and neither were the hands. Dagon had become a headless, handless, worthless trophy. And things only got worse.

Men in the town got sick. They shipped the ark to another town and the same thing happened there. They moved it along to town number three and it happened again. Finally they got smart and just said, "get this accursed thing out of here," and they sent it back to the Israelites. Unfortunately, many times today we do the same thing.

We consider God just one more thing in our lives and we try to place him alongside so many other important things.
Church is great, as long as it doesn't interfere with football.
I love my Lifegroup, but not when I've already had a busy week.
The bible is great, but not as important as getting that extra hour of sleep.
Love my neighbor, but Jesus never met MY neighbors.
I know prayer is important, but not so important that I should plan out time to do it when I won't fall asleep mid-sentence.

Should we be at all surprised when things in our life fall apart. God deserves and demands to be the centerpiece of everything we do. He's a consuming fire that destroys anything and everything that comes between us. He's jealous of our time, energy and affection.

Is some area of your life falling apart? Could it be because you're holding that area above God?

Location:Columbia Pkwy,Cincinnati,United States

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Where's your God Now?

10 You felt secure in your wickedness, you said, No one sees me; your wisdom and your knowledge led you astray, and you said in your heart, I am, and there is no one besides me. 11 But evil shall come upon you, which you will not know how to charm away; disaster shall fall upon you, for which you will not be able to atone; and ruin shall come upon you suddenly, of which you know nothing.
- Isaiah 47

Sin has an amazing way of making us feel, well, amazing. It can let us escape from troubles, it can give us a leg up on others, it can make us feel superior and help us get ahead.

Sin also has a way of making us feel special. "I know that some people have issues with this, but not me. I've got it under control. I can make it work and no one will get hurt. And besides, I'm strong enough to handle it if something changes or goes wrong."

Something does change and something will go wrong. It always does. And what happens next is as obvious from the outside as it is invisible from within. The superiority and false sense of control turn on us. What we once saw as a sign of strength becomes the prime source of our weakness. What we most need in those times are the other people we have distanced ourselves from.

The journey back is excruciating. It hammers the ego and tears at pride. It stings and burns and feels like you are losing everything you have gained - because that's what is happening.
And that is what we need.
And it goes against all our 'primal' instincts.
And the result is more than we could have hoped for.
And that is how God planned it.

Sin isolates and none of us can escape it on our own.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Trees and Power

Judges 9:
8 The trees once went out to anoint a king over them, and they said to the olive tree, Reign over us. 9 But the olive tree said to them, Shall I leave my abundance, by which gods and men are honored, and go hold sway over the trees?
10 And the trees said to the fig tree, You come and reign over us. 11 But the fig tree said to them, Shall I leave my sweetness and my good fruit and go hold sway over the trees?
12 And the trees said to the vine, You come and reign over us. 13 But the vine said to them, Shall I leave my wine that cheers God and men and go hold sway over the trees?
14 Then all the trees said to the bramble, You come and reign over us. 15 And the bramble said to the trees, If in good faith you are anointing me king over you, then come and take refuge in my shade, but if not, let fire come out of the bramble and devour the cedars of Lebanon.

Who are you serving?
What do you give power in your life?
Are you settling?
Don't get burned.

Location:Columbia Pkwy,Cincinnati,United States


If you read through the gospels, you may notice something about Jesus. He didn't just wander from town to town rattling off catchy sayings and doing good deeds. He wasn't just a clever guy who people listened to. Peace and tranquility didn't really surround him. Like some variation of King Midas' curse, everything Jesus touched got messy.

In the middle of one of his messages a naked woman shows up, followed by a mob of men with stones. A demon-possessed maniac shows up from a cemetery, hundreds of pigs die. People push through the crowd to grab his clothes. He makes a whip and destroys a marketplace. He touches people who are unclean. He's constantly harassed by the authorities. Even his death didn't go as expected.

So, why do we insist on order? Why do we want extended plans and things done in a certain order? Why do we cringe when things go out of order or something unexpected happens?

If Jesus is involved, things are going to get messy.
Given the alternative, I'll take the mess.

Location:Harrodsburg Rd,Keene,United States


Jeremiah 18:14 Does the snow of Lebanon leave the crags of Sirion? Do the mountain waters run dry, the cold flowing streams? 15 But my people have forgotten me; they make offerings to false gods; they made them stumble in their ways, in the ancient roads, and to walk into side roads, not the highway, 16 making their land a horror, a thing to be hissed at forever. Everyone who passes by it is horrified and shakes his head.

Location:Columbia Pkwy,Cincinnati,United States

Monday, August 30, 2010

Shelter from the Storm

Honestly, I was a little disheartened at our community gathering last night.

After a great conference followed by a week of vacation, I was a little bummed about getting back into the regular grind. Couple that with several downer conversations, the return of the sweltering heat and a not-so-packed 'house' (garden) for our gathering and I was below my emotional norm. C'mon God, this isn't what I need right now.

In the midst of our discussion time, I noticed that one of our normal talkers just wasn't. She didn't say a word. She didn't take communion with us. If I was a notch below normal, she was 9 or 10.

When we were finished up, I made my way over to her picnic table to find out what was going on. She told me flat out, "I'm trying not to go to jail." She told me about a bunch of stuff that is going on with her family and how she's been a 'dancing chicken' to keep everyone happy recently. She knew that the chicken couldn't dance forever and she would soon have to make a choice that someone wouldn't like. It was rough. She didn't want to make a choice. She didn't want to go home.

She said, "I came here tonight to be alone, to get away."

Okay God, I get it.
It isn't about what I need at all.
It's about what she needs.

Someday maybe I'll figure it out before God has to hot me upside the head with it.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Technology in Action

Its nice to be able to use what God blesses us with to help others.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


What do you do when every avenue in your life is filled with frustration? When someone you've poured into suddenly disappears? When you're generosity and cooperation are taken advantage of? When your decisions and advice are second guessed and circumvented? When you are abandoned by those you thought you could count on? When the help you hoped for isn't coming? When you're doing the work of others? When the thing you were looking for to help and comfort you is taken away?

What do you do?

I try to believe that God is challenging me, that he's helping me to grow closer to Him, that if I trust and have faith He'll be more real to me on the other side. But I honestly don't feel that now.

I feel abandoned, dumped on and alone. I feel some tiny fraction of what Jesus felt.

I want that to be enough, but I sure could use more.

Location:Columbia Pkwy,Cincinnati,United States

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Frighteningly Comforting

"The prophets prophesy lies,
the priests rule by their own authority,
and my people love it this way.
But what will you do in the end?"
Jeremiah 5:31

There are times when I feel like a professional outcast. It seems like there is some key piece that I am missing or some angle that I don't understand. It seems that "success" in ministry (most commonly accredited as attendance and giving) is attained in one of three ways (or some combination).

1. Entertain - If you can put on the best Sunday morning show, you can succeed.
2. Entice - If you promise people what they want, you can succeed.
3. Enrage - If you point out what is wrong with the world outside, you can succeed. (Yeah, I'm toeing the line with this right now.)

If people are dazzled or hopeful or angry, but they aren't any closer to Jesus, what have we accomplished?
Are we just ruling by our own authority?
Are we giving the people what they want to hear?
Are we making them feel better without connecting them to the only God who can actually make their lives better?

That's not enough for me.

Location:Columbia Pkwy,Cincinnati,United States

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Generosity Killed the Cat

I reread the parable of the workers in the vineyard in Matthew 20 this morning. This is one of those stories that always sticks out because it hits close to home.

It is an older brother parable, one that doesn't seem fair. Actually, it is a story that is totally unfair. That's really the point of the story, God doesn't work around what we think is fair. He doesn't operate under a fairness doctrine. He operates under a grace doctrine - a crazy, over-the-top, beyond what we can believe or ever deserve, outside the realm of possibility, messing with your mind grace doctrine.

Today , the second half of verse 15 really stuck out to me. Here it is from several translations:

Is thine eye evil, because I am good?
Do you begrudge me my generosity?
Is your eye envious because I am generous?
Are you going to get stingy because I am generous?

It describes what happens when we try to understand grace in terms of fairness. It messes us up. We can become so entrenched in our society's understanding of fairness that our first reaction to God's generosity is envy, grudge and stinginess.

That isn't a fault of God or the grace doctrine, it is a result of us becoming more and more of the world.

How do we rectify the situation?
Make a habit of regularly marveling in that bountiful grace.

Location:Columbia Pkwy,Cincinnati,United States

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Psalm 136

"His steadfast love endures forever"

This line is repeated over and over and over and over in this psalm. Through blessings and curses, victories and defeats, good times and bad, this phrase is repeated.

And it should be. We live in a world of shifting sand, where nothing can really be counted on. Jobs change, the economy recesses, stock prices drop. People pass on, move away, fail in the clutch, and disappoint us. Our hopes and dreams whither and die on the vine, before they have the chance to become reality. We see death and destruction around us, violence in nature and in mankind.

There is really only one constant.
"His steadfast love endures forever"

There is really only one thing we can always count on.
"His steadfast love endures forever"

When our world shakes and trembles around us.
"His steadfast love endures forever"

When we are unsure of our footing.
"His steadfast love endures forever"

When people betray us and put themselves first.
"His steadfast love endures forever"

When we feel lost and alone.
"His steadfast love endures forever"

When all else fails.
"His steadfast love endures forever"

Location:Stanley Ave,Cincinnati,United States

Thursday, June 24, 2010


How many times have you asked, "Why me, God?"

We look at the world around us and the things go through, or we look at others and the things (good or bad) that they go through and we can't help but wonder where fairness and equality are.

From our point of view, this world makes no sense.

We really need to remember that our point of view is simply that - our point of view.

"Woe to him who strives with him who formed him,
a pot among earthen pots!
Does the clay say to him who forms it, 'What are you making?'
or 'Your work has no handles'?

Location:Columbia Pkwy,Cincinnati,United States


The Israelites are on the border of the promised land and Moses is giving them some final instructions before they are allowed to enter. (Kind of like those last minute warnings parents give before they take their kids inside an amusement park... "If you hit your brother, we're going home. If I hear you whine or complain about one single thing, we'll get right back in this car. Don't even THINK about pulling Mickey's tail this year!". They're instructions were called Deuteronomy.)

Included in these instructions were three special cities. These places were to be marked off and set aside as safe havens for a particular group of people. Can you guess who? Yep, you got it. Killers.

If you were careless or slipped up in some dangerous activity and killed your next-door neighbor, you could pack your bags and head out to one of these three cities where you would be safe from vengeful friends and relatives.

It is a crazy kind of justice. One where God protects those who don't know any better. How crazy is that? It makes no sense. What about the victims? Where's their justice? Where's their peace?

There are a couple of things God is showing us here. He loves us even when we make mistakes. And in extension of this, should love others even when they are off course. Who are we to judge someone's sins? How can they know they're sinning if they don't understand the same moral code?

Motive matters. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus begins several statements with, "You've heard it said, but I tell you..." He's not rewriting or changing the law, he's getting to the motive. An accidental killer deserves a reprieve. Someone who's heart is filled with hate for his brother...

Confused, shaken people need sanctuary. They need a place that is free of condemnation to find their footing, recuperate and figure out how to fix things. God gives a command to set up three cities (and eventually three more) before his people enter the promised land. How many cities of refuge are we building? Are we providing sanctuary?

Location:Columbia Pkwy,Cincinnati,United States

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Still Today

The more things change...

12 The ironsmith takes a cutting tool and works it over the coals. He fashions it with hammers and works it with his strong arm. He becomes hungry, and his strength fails; he drinks no water and is faint.13 The carpenter stretches a line; he marks it out with a pencil. He shapes it with planes and marks it with a compass. He shapes it into the figure of a man, with the beauty of a man, to dwell in a house.14 He cuts down cedars, or he chooses a cypress tree or an oak and lets it grow strong among the trees of the forest. He plants a cedar and the rain nourishes it.15 Then it becomes fuel for a man. He takes a part of it and warms himself; he kindles a fire and bakes bread. Also he makes a god and worships it; he makes it an idol and falls down before it.16 Half of it he burns in the fire. Over the half he eats meat; he roasts it and is satisfied. Also he warms himself and says, Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire!17 And the rest of it he makes into a god, his idol, and falls down to it and worships it. He prays to it and says, Deliver me, for you are my god!

18 They know not, nor do they discern, for he has shut their eyes, so that they cannot see, and their hearts, so that they cannot understand.19 No one considers, nor is there knowledge or discernment to say, Half of it I burned in the fire; I also baked bread on its coals; I roasted meat and have eaten. And shall I make the rest of it an abomination? Shall I fall down before a block of wood?

Maybe not a block of wood, but a car or a TV or a phone or the paper we use to buy these things...

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Ask your Mother

My son, keep your father's commandment, and forsake not your mother's teaching.

I don't know about you, but in our house growing up, my father's only commandment was whatever my mother said it was.

"Dad, can I go to Matt's house?"
"What did your mother say?"
"She said to ask you."
"Ask her again."

My father is a very wise man.

Location:Columbia Pkwy,Cincinnati,United States

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


"Don't overdo it."

We live in a society where overdoing it has become the norm. It isn't enough to play soccer (or basketball or baseball or any other sport), you've got to start on the U3 team and progress up to a travel team and then a select travel team (while at the same time playing for the club team the school's coach runs) just as a way to make the varsity team and then...

It seems that everything we do has the tendency to pull us in, to demand more and more of our time and resources, to suck as much from us as it can.

That isn't to say that any of these things are inherently bad. Many times in moderation, they are good. But, when we over do it, when we let them pull us in and give over more than we should, they become poison. They separate us from what is truly valuable in life, they slowly, silently tear us apart.

What is most important? What is worth giving your life to?

Thursday, June 10, 2010


When I was a toddler, my parents were hanging out at a neighbor's house. I don't know if it would technically qualify as a party, it was really a gathering of friends. At this gathering, beer was plentiful.

Somehow, during the course of the afternoon, I earned myself a job. When someone finished their beer, I would toddle the empty bottle out to the trash can, then toddle my way back in.

Now, at this gathering, which I remember, folks weren't getting drunk. They were drinking and socializing and having fun. It remains my earliest memory of the fun that can be had in community.

I cannot truthfully say that no one was getting drunk. I was. Unbeknownst to my parents (or anyone else), when I was toddling those near-empty bottles out to the trash, I was also finishing them. I remember the beginning of the afternoon, but I have no clue about the end. I found out from my parents years later about how sick I was (and about how bad they felt).

I've been reading an outstanding book called The Culture Code by Clotaire Rapaille (yeah, he's French). In it, he describes how our culture imprints us with certain ideas or codes that determine how we look at specific things in life. Through a process of working with groups of people, he has determined what a number of these codes are for Americans and for folks from other cultures. These codes play a part in how we act, what we value and how we spend our money. It is really interesting stuff.

He also discusses the idea that a strong stand-out event (particularly from childhood) can lead someone's code in that area to diverge from that of their culture.

In America, people's first exposure to alcohol usually has a few things in common. It is before they are of legal age; it is rebellious and dangerous; it is to get drunk. Afterward, people see alcohol as a tool to get drunk and to rebel against the establishment. In the US, most people drink to get drunk and to thumb their nose at the world.

My first major exposure to alcohol was much different. Alcohol was about community. It brought people together. Drunkenness was a consequence of going too far, not the end goal. I've never had a drink to get drunk, that's not the way I relate to alcohol. This is why the French have their kids dip cookies in champagne; they are trying to imprint them to relate alcohol to food and taste.

This doesn't mean that one view of alcohol is right or wrong, just that it means different things to different people - with good reason. Sometimes we think about our view of the world and struggle to understand how others could see things differently. If your culture code is different than mine, how could I expect you to look at things the same way?

Location:Columbia Pkwy,Cincinnati,United States

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


Poetry is the conflagration of the tangible and the intangible. Words and pictures are used to conjure feeling and emotion. Two very different things come together for a moment so that both things can be enjoyed in a new way.

I'm not writing any, but I certainly enjoy it.

Steadfast love and faithfulness meet; righteousness and peace kiss each other. Faithfulness springs up from the ground, and righteousness looks down from the sky

Location:Columbia Pkwy,Cincinnati,United States

Monday, June 7, 2010

Upside Down

Who's in charge?
Who is the one who has the final say in my life?
When push comes to shove, am I the one who decides the way to turn?
Is it a mutual decision between my wife and myself?
Do I do what I feel/think is best, regardless?

You turn things upside down! Shall the potter be regarded as the clay, that the thing made should say of its maker, He did not make me; or the thing formed say of him who formed it, He has no understanding?

Location:Columbia Pkwy,Cincinnati,United States

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Running Away

I have a friend who first tried to run away from home at the age of four. He packed up all his belongings in his little suitcase and headed off down the road. As would happen repeated times in the future, he encountered something that sent him home again... money for ice cream, large bugs, finally reaching the corner. These were all obstacles too big to overcome.

He loved his parents and his siblings, he wasn't trying to escape. He simply knew his life was bigger than the tiny town where he was growing up. Now he's far from home and doing his part to change the world. He wasn't really running away, he was running to.

Running away is something entirely different. Running away is trying to escape. It is trying to avoid. It is chickening out. It is backing down. It is giving up. It is quitting.

We've all done it. We run into something that's too big or too scary or too different from what we've known and we decide we can't handle it. We give up the pursuit, we let the dream remain just a dream.

So, how do we keep from running away? How do we succeed in making dreams reality? How do we obtain the ice cream money, brave the giant insects and know which turns to make? We don't.

Dreams aren't the stuff of well thought out plans and perfect strategies. They are the result of faith, determination and partnership. When God is behind your dreams, He's the one who provides, who protects, who plans.

He puts the people in your path who help you along, he provides the strength and endurance, and if we pay attention he even tells us which way to turn.

Location:Columbia Pkwy,Cincinnati,United States

Stomach Punch

Have you ever read 1John 3? You should. But first, do some crunches or sit-ups or P90x, because you're about to get a firm shot to the breadbasket.

6 No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him.

17 But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

All this from the disciple Jesus loved.

Location:Columbia Pkwy,Cincinnati,United States

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Tyranny of the Now

The Israelites were hanging out in the wilderness, awaiting the appointed time when God would lead them into the Promised Land - that place that was "flowing with milk and honey". The inheritance that God had promised, a paradise handed down from the time of Abraham.

In the midst of the waiting, some of the tribes started looking around at wheee they were now. Reuben, Gad and Manasseh, specifically, looked at the neighboring people, shepherds like themselves, and they liked what they saw. "This land is good for grazing, it would support our flocks. Hey Moses, why don't we just stay here? I mean, you guys go ahead and take the land on the other side of the Jordan, we're good here. We'll even help you fight for it, but we like what we have now and we're done waiting. Just give it to us."

Moses consulted with God and the answer came back, "sure, as long as you go out and fight with your brothers, you can have this land". So, there they stayed, outside of the promised land, outside of what was rightfully theirs, outside of what God had promised to them and their forefathers. They stood on the wrong side of the Jordan, looking west at what could have been.

How often do we do this? How often do we look at what we have now and give up our God given right to something better? We're still going to have to fight, we're still going to face trial and temptation, why not make it worth the fight?

Your relationship with God, with your significant other, with your kids, with your friends and family - why settle? Your spiritual life, your job, your legacy - why settle? God wants so much more for us, and he wants us to fight for it.

To do that, we've got to get past the Now. We can't settle for the status quo, we can't assume this is as good as it gets. We must believe the promises of God and be willing to give up the offerings of society. If we settle, we'll only find ourselves on the wring side of the Jordan looking west, wondering what could have been.

Location:Columbia Pkwy,Cincinnati,United States

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Honor, Love and Fear

Honor everyone.
The word translated as honor from Greek is the word “time” (prounounced tim-may’). It means to value or highly esteem. This word means to treat as precious, weighty or valuable. -Craig Groeschel

What do we honor today? I didn't ask WHO we honor, because I think in many cases we honor things more than people these days. Things don't let us down like people do, they don't quit or turn their backs on us.

Before we put the cart ahead of the horse, lets talk a little more about what honor is, because it isn't a prominent thing in American culture. We're much more into respect. There is one big difference between the two. Respect is earned, but honor is given.

We choose to show honor to someone, regardless of what they have done or haven't done.
We respect authority and wisdom and accomplishment. We honor effort, motive and existence.

Who do we choose to honor?

Love the brotherhood.
This can mean two things, I think it means both.
Love the people in the brotherhood.
Love the brotherhood itself.

What's the difference? One is loving the believers around you, the other is loving the bond that makes us an extended family. There are plenty of ways to demonstrate love to people, but how can we show love to the bond that keeps us together?

Fear God.
When was the last time you just sat back and thought, "Sweet merciful crap, God is incredible!"? When was the last time you let Him knock your socks off? When was the last time you had a Holy Sense of Divine Wow?

Like so many things, God doesn't force this on you. It happens only if we let it.

Honor the emperor.
"Everyone" includes the emperor, president, governor, police officer, elder, parent, group leader, boss, manager, _________

We choose to give them honor. This isn't an option, or something we withhold until it is earned.

1 Peter 2:17

Location:Columbia Pkwy,Cincinnati,United States

But God, people will think I'm Crazy

What are "acceptable" things for God to ask us to do? In some areas, it depends who you ask.

Fast for a _________ ( meal, day, week month)?
That's crazy! OR That's all...why not 40 days?

Sleep less to spend time in God's word?
That's crazy! OR That's the smartest time-management ever.

Give away a hefty hunk of cash?
That's crazy! OR You'll never feel more a part of what God is doing.

Quit your job?
That's crazy! OR You mean you haven't done that yet?

Tear off your loincloth and sandals and walk naked for 3 years?
That's crazy! OR So, you've got an important message for Egypt like Isaiah did, huh?

Change what people call "church"?
That's just crazy!

Location:Columbia Pkwy,Cincinnati,United States

Thursday, May 27, 2010


What does your soul long for? What is it that you want most in life? What competes for your heart? What do you desire?

So many times we hear this word and think of erotic passion, but it doesn't only have that particular meaning. U2 sings about desire as ambition, addiction, power, riches, love, position or fame:

Lover, I'm off the street
Gonna go where the bright lights and the big city meet
With a red guitar, on fire

She's a candle burning in my room
Yeah, I'm like the needle, needle and spoon
Over the counter with a shotgun
Pretty soon, everybody got one
And the fever, when I'm beside her
Desire, desire

And the fever getting higher
Desire, desire
Burning, burning

She's the dollars, she's my protection
Yeah, she's a promise in the year of election
Oh sister, I can't let you go
I'm like a preacher stealing hearts at a travelling show
For love or money, money, money...
And the fever, getting higher
Desire, desire
Desire, desire

Your desire might be one of these. Or, it might be something particular for you, something that is uniquely yours, something special. Desire drives us, pushes us, moves us on to bigger and better things.

Or it destroys us.

But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. The desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

It all comes down to what you desire.
Are the desires that drive you God's desires, or your desires?
Are you regularly working to bring your desires in line with God's?
Who is helping you?
Who knows your true desires?
Who is holding you accountable?

ESV props

"While Israel lived in Shittim, the people began to whore with the daughters of Moab."

My compliments to the translators of the English Standard Version. Using whore as a verb is always an accomplishment. (And so much more readable than 'live in whoredom'.)

Location:Columbia Pkwy,Cincinnati,United States

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

False Advertising

I drive by a certain church on my way to work (also at a church) that ummm.... creatively uses their front sign to ummm.... educate? entertain? amuse? Invite? Anyway, they put lots of different sayings on their front sign. Right now it says, "Free trip to heaven! Details inside."

Fun. Funny. False. For too long this is how we've presented Christianity. It's easy, it's fun and you get a great prize for playing. We've cheapened it.

Our society caters to the consumer. We offer choice and price competition on nearly everything. Why should church be any different? If we can advertise the lowest cost and the best pay-out at the end, we should get the most customers, right?

Apple doesn't play this way. They are convinced their product surpasses all others and they refuse to cheapen it with sales or slashed prices. APPL stock is at an all time high. Coincidence?

Why don't we place the same value on Christianity? If you take your faith seriously you know it is the furthest thing from free. In fact, it will cost you everything you have. Yet, we try to portray it as cheap or free.

Instead, we need to remember that nothing out there compares to a relationship with God. Christianity surpasses all and it is worth the cost.

Thursday, May 20, 2010


You can't consume your way to discipleship.

- Alan Hirsch

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Love is a Battlefield

Two blocks from my house I saw a teen being lead away in handcuffs this morning. I have no idea who he was or what happened, but seeing that sucks. It makes me feel like this:

My heart is in anguish before me;
the terrors of death have fallen upon me.
Fear and trembling come upon me,
and horror overwhelms me.
And I say, "Oh that I had wings like a dove!"
I would fly away and be at rest;
yes, I would wander far away;
I would lodge in the wilderness;
I would hurry to find a shelter from the raging wind and tempest.

There are things that make us want to run and hide, to bury our heads in the sand, to escape from the evils of the world. That's what I wanted to do this morning. I didn't want to deal with the junk that goes on just yards from my house. I didn't want to help in the lives of others. I just wanted to escape.

Destroy, O Lord, divide their tongues;
for I see violence and strife in the city.
Day and night they go around it on its walls,
and iniquity and trouble are within it;
ruin is in its midst;
oppression and fraud do not depart from its marketplace.

But, this is where I live. This is where God has called me to live. This is my calling.

For it is not an enemy who taunts me
-- then I could bear it;
it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me
-- then I could hide from him.
But it is you, a man, my equal, my companion, my familiar friend.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Double Edged

It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

I've spent a lot of time over the last week thinking about and studying fear. Particularly, I've looked at the fear of God as it is described in the Bible. In many instances, this fear is an awe or reverence. We used the phrase "Holy sense of divine WOW" this weekend, and in general that's true. But not always.

There are times when fear of God means shaking in your boots, teeth chattering, sweat breaking out, hairs standing on end fear. Read Hebrews 10:26-31 and try to interpret it any other way. You can't. Crossing God is a dangerous thing to do and we should be afraid to do it in any sense of the word. Just ask the followers of Korah... of wait, you can't - because the earth cracked open, swallowed them and closed again. That's a holy sense of "I'm gonna need some new pants."

Monday, May 17, 2010

Grace in Black and White

Too often we think of the Old Testament as the black and white part of the bible. There are no words in red, no words from Jesus, and we can look at this with a negative connotation. If Jesus wasn't there, what else was missing? We tend to think that grace and mercy would be missing as well. That's all Jesus, right?

Before Jesus, God was just smiting people left and right. He was condemning entire nations and making examples of people. If you messed up, BAM, fire and brimstone - no room for error, no room for second chances.

But, that's not entirely the case. There are some egregious examples of God's wrath in the OT, but there are also examples of God's grace.

In Numbers 13 and 14 a group of Israelites had lied about the promised land and invoked God's anger. They suffered the consequences. In Numbers 15, God talks to Moses about sacrifice. He explains how to make up for sins and wrongs. Then he brings up the idea of unintentional sin. In the case of this sin, which people don't even know they've committed, we might think that the OT God would just let 'em have it. They messed up, they pay the price, right?

Instead, God says that a sacrifice will be made on behalf of all the people, to cover over all these sins. He's not looking for an opportunity to punish, he's working to save. That's grace. The NT shows the same grace and highlights the lengths God is willing to go to offer it to us.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

When Metaphor and Reality Mix

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in times of trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at it's swelling.

I have never once seen a mountain moved into the heart of the sea. Chances are, I never will.

But, if I ever find myself in that situation, scripture and song have both taught me that I should turn to God in this situation. In the face of mountains sliding in the sea, most people's natural reaction wou,d be to turn to God.

When we are faced with huge, insurmountable situations, God seems like the only possible help. Not many of us have the personal strength or access to resources that can make any difference when confronted by moving mountains. God is our only recourse. What about moving molehills?

Most of the "times of trouble" we face aren't mountainous. They're more molehill like. They are things we feel like we can control on our own, situations we can handle, "I got this".

When faced with death we turn to God. I've got no power when it comes to the afterlife. (Plus, I'll be dead, which tends to cramp my abilities.). But my checkbook, on the other hand, I got that. My job I can handle. I am fully in control of my ____________, no problems there.

It's these small things that cause many more of our times of trouble. Those are the times we need to turn to God. If we turn to him with the small things, we'll be right where we need to be when the big ones come.

Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!

Location:Columbia Pkwy,Cincinnati,United States

Monday, May 10, 2010


What does it mean to be blessed?

The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and given you peace.
- Numbers 6:24-26

Often, we seem to think it means God has given us stuff. You see someone's family photo and exclaim, "You are so blessed." Someone tries to explain away their beautiful house or fortune with, "I've been blessed."
Is that what it means to be blessed by God? He's given you stuff?

Blessed is the one who considers the poor! In the day of trouble the Lord delivers him; the Lord protects him and keeps him alive; he is called blessed in the land; you do not give him up to the will of his enemies.
-Psalm 41:1-2

When we were growing up, we used to go with my grandmother to get our Easter baskets blessed. We'd pack the baskets with certain foods and then head to the basement of the church building with all the other families. We'd line the tables with our baskets and wait for the priests. I could never understand what he said when he finally arrived and I never knew what was in the censer he shook over our eggs, horseradish, lamb-shaped butter and chocolate cross. But, that was what you were supposed to do and that was how you received the blessing on your Easter basket.

Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust, who does not turn to the proud, to those who go astray after a lie!
-Psalm 40:4

The best picture I've seen of what it means to be blessed came from watching Rocky. In the movie, before his big fight, Rocky goes to the closed church building and wakes up the priest. He begs him for a blessing as the priest hangs out the window in his bedclothes. Rocky doesn't ask for victory, just for protection. He wants to be in God's hands.

Rocky Balboa, theologian.
Who woulda thought?

Location:Columbia Pkwy,Cincinnati,United States

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Perspective, Please

Show me, O Lord, my life's end
and the number of my days;
Let me know how fleeting is my life.

You have made my days a mere handbreadth;
the span of my years is as nothing before you.
Each man's life is but a breath.

David begs God to put him in his place. He wants to understand just how insignificant he is. This sounds crazy in our positive self-esteem age. Why would someone possibly think they need to be knocked down a peg?

Maybe he just got finished watching a American Idol audition show and he was afraid he was as deluded as some of those hopefuls. "I don't care what Simon says, I know I can sing good!"

Maybe he was tired of failing on his own and wanted to finally be in a place where he could rely on others for help.

Maybe he was truly a man after God's own heart and knew he needed some help staying there.

Thursday, May 6, 2010


We're individualists. Almost to a person, we assume it is best to do things on our own. We celebrate the self-made man, talk of pulling one's self up by one's bootstraps and love watching the lone-wolf hero save the day against all odds.

We are so inundated and enamored with this ideal that we don't even realize it at times. We expect individuality and independence to such a degree that we assume anything else is an aberration.

The Flying Pig marathon this past weekend was in many ways a celebration of individual drive, individual effort and individual accomplishment. 18,500 runners set out to prove themselves. Each one on a personal mission to overcome a 26.2 mile obstacle. Except when they weren't alone.

Somewhere in the midst of the main throng of runners, something stood out. It had volunteers talking and radio operators alerting stations further down the course.

The scene could be interpreted in two completely different ways.

A senior gentleman was clearly struggling through the race. He was panting and wheezing, but this was common and didn't set him apart from so many other runners. What did set him apart was the fact that he couldn't stand upright. He was leaning... at something close to a 45 degree angle.

I'm no running expert, but I'm pretty sure that standing upright is crucial to proper running and plays a big part in endurance. Leaning hard to the right side is a recipe for a short run.

But this man was going strong at mile 21 because he wasn't running on his own. He had a partner. Next to the gaunt old man was a younger, thicker, muscular runner who was quite literally holding him up.

The senior man's right elbow was tucked in the crux of the younger man's left arm and they ran together.

When they approached our location, you couldn't miss them. The radio operator called to teh medical tent and the next station, letting them know that a runner was coming who would need their help. It was the obvious explanation. This man had bit off more than he could chew and was now struggling.

But, I don't think that was the correct interpretation. The younger man wasn't wearing a race number. He wasn't a runner that had stepped in to help a struggling stranger. But, he was clearly a runner. He was dressed for the event and knew what he was doing. He was not a spectator who stepped in either. The two men also didn't stop when they reached us. They didn't ask for help, signal a need or even slow down when they got to us.

This wasn't an emergency help situation. This was a team. A team that was determined to accomplish something that would be impossible alone.

There was no way the older man could run a marathon on his own. From the look of things, he couldn't even stand upright. But this impossibility became a 26.2 mile opportunity when he did one simple thing. He abandoned individuality and embraced community. If he did his part and depended on his partner to do his part, they could accomplish the impossible. I wasn't at the finish line, but something tells me this is exactly what they did.

How often do we judge something as impossible because of our individual limitations?
How much could be do if we embraced mission in community?
What would it take for you to step out of individuality?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Journey, Complimentary

My wife takes the same route to work every day. She passes the same buildings, the same trees and the same signs everyday. And everyday, one of those signs sticks out. It began as an ordinary Stop sign, but someone with a can of gray spray paint changed that red octagon, so it brightens my wife's morning again and again.

The sign now reads, "Don't STOP Believin'" instead of the everyday ordinary STOP. The sign now brings a little joy to her heart and conjures up a few notes in her head. Not bad for a $1.29 can of spray paint and a misdemeanor.

As we were driving to her office this past weekend, I was putting together a playlist for the Flying Pig marathon water station we were going to be working. I put together all the songs we had in our library that had the word "run" in the chorus and anything that had ever been in a Rocky movie.

As we drove by that STOP sign, I decided to splurge and buy the Journey song that my wife found herself humming every morning. It wasn't in our library, although I'd considered buying it many times. Up until now it just didn't seem worth it.

If you've never spent 6 hours relentlessly encouraging complete strangers as many of them struggle through one of the hardest things they've ever done, I highly recommend it. Five miles from the finish of a marathon is a grueling thing to see, but inspiring as well.

There were people who looked like they were simply out for a (very wet) Sunday morning jog and people who looked like they were in complete and utter agony. There were people who were extremely fit and looked the part, and there were people who looked like they should never consider running at all. There were people in costumes, there were people in trash bags, there were people in expense running gear, there were people in sweatpants, there were people running barefoot. And it was my job to cheer for them all (and pick up their trash).

It was a rain-soaked blast. Cheering for these people was so much fun. Some of them had desperation written all over their faces. You could see their struggle in every inch of their tired, aching bodies. Shouts and cheers from complete strangers were the only things holding them up and keeping them going. It was gratifying to see the physical impact of encouragement.

As I stood with my trash bag held out, cheering for people and telling them they could make it if they kept pushing, one woman stopped. She finished her drink and dropped her cup in my bag. She smiled and exclaimed, "You're right! I can do it - just "Don't stop believin', right!?!"

She turned and jogged off as Journey blared from the speakers behind us both. $1.29 well spent.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


Every day we are bombarded with information. We see more, hear more, read more and have access to more data than anyone at any time in history. Throughout my day I am constantly bombarded. And I like it that way, I've grown up that way. I function better that way.

When I need to study, read and focus I go to a noisy coffee shop. The constant chatter and change allows me to get lost in what I'm doing without feeling lost and disconnected. My study of scripture happens best and (therefore) most often in this situation.

When I'm alone in a quiet room, my mind tends to wander (and wonder) about what else is going on. I have trouble maintaining focus and find myself looking... for something else, for what I'm missing, for what I haven't seen yet, for what everyone else knows except for me. It is most often in these times when my thoughts go in directions I'd rather they not go. When I struggle with my thoughts, it is usually because my brain isn't active in some other way.

I realized recently that I've developed a complex series of filters to deal with the world around me. There is a great deal of information that I'm presented with that never gets processed. It just gets filtered out.

Here's where my engineering background takes over. A filter is designed to let certain things pass through while stopping others. I've designed a bunch of them. I've built a few. Low-Pass filters cut off anything that contains signals over a certain frequency. High-Pass filters do the opposite. Band-Pass filters only allow a select set of frequencies to pass through. A diode in an electric circuit can act like a high-pass voltage filter. In your car, filters hold back oversized particles in gasoline, oil and air so that only the real stuff passes through your engine.

Right now I'm filtering out whatever is going on outside my office window, cars and people and sunshine to focus on writing. I'm also filtering out Weezer playing in the background.

This happens all day, every day. My mind decides what is most important at the time and focuses on that. (From an instantaneous perspective, you can't multitask. You simply switch back and forth between tasks very quickly.)

There are some filters that I've worked very hard to implement. They keep out stuff that I don't want to infiltrate my mind. Others are still in process. Others I'm trying desperately to fine-tune or eliminate altogether.

Sometimes my mind chooses the wrong filter and I miss entire sentences my wife says to me. I've got to work on that.

Sometimes my mind choose the right filter, and ignores information... but I forget the inherent value of the source. (People who say stupid stuff aren't stupid, and they still deserve love.)

Sometimes my filters fail me and I find myself drowning in stuff I want no part of.

Sometimes they work perfectly and let through valuable insights that help me through my day:
Like this or this.

Most definitely... when LeBron James is single-handedly destroying a playoff opponent, nothing else is getting through any of those filters.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


In The Jerk, a Steve Martin classic, there's one scene that regularly pops into my mind. Martin's character has made a fortune in record-setting time. He's also found a wife and things in that department aren't going so well. He boldly declares to his wife that he doesn't need any of the stuff that they've accumulated... well, except for a few things. Also, the character is a moron.

In times of hardship, what are the things we grab onto?
When we look at our lives, what is truly important?
Where do we invest our time and effort?
How much time have we devoted to ashtrays, paddle games and remote controls?
(Watch the clip)

There are really only two things that are important. There are two things that we should spend our time on - two things that we desperately need a connection to, two things that will last.

God and neighbors. And that's it and that's the only thing I need, is this.

Two are better than on, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him -- a threefold cord is not quickly broken. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? When evildoers assail be to eat up my flesh, my adversaries and foes, it is they who stumble and fall. Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war arise against me, yet I will be confident. - Psalm 27:1-3

*I don't know what's going on with the green lines in the clip. If you know of a better version online, I'd love to swap it.

Monday, April 26, 2010


In the middle of Leviticus, that book of seemingly endless rules and regulations, you can find a veritable description of heaven on earth. Imagine if people lived like Leviticus 19:

When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, neither shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. And you shall not strip your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the Lord your God. - 9-10

You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor. - 15

You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord. - 18

You shall stand up before the gray head and honor the face of an old man, and you shall fear your God: I am the Lord. - 32

You shall treat the sojourner who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God. - 34

You may look at this as a lot of rules, but I think it sounds like a great place to live.

Saturday, April 24, 2010


"For in much wisdom is much vexation, and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow."

"With great power comes great responsibility."

"Mo money, mo problems."

Friday, April 23, 2010

Flesh and Blood

What would you trade for your soul?
How often do we put the physical before the spiritual?
Would you let your blood be shed to save your soul?
Would you even get off the couch?

For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life.

Leviticus 17:11

Thursday, April 22, 2010


My wife is a therapist. She spends a good portion of her day listening to children talk about their problems, their feelings and the things that could be better in their lives. Some times this is a joy, sometimes it is torture, but it is always really hard work.

If I look back over my adult life, I bet I've heard 25 sermons that revolve around one common theme. It might be called, "Knowing God's Will for your life" or "Finding your Purpose" or "Who is the Holy Spirit?" or "Hearing God". They all revolve around the disconnect that we feel between us and God.

When we look at the Old Testament, we see God talking directly to Abraham and to Moses. We see angels showing up with messages, we see prophets doing crazy stuff and then proclaiming the word of the Lord. In the New Testament, we get a couple more angels, then God actually shows up in human form and talks to us, then we see people blinded and receiving visions. None of this stuff has ever happened to me.

There have been times when I took this as a personal slight. Where was my message from God? Why don't I get visions or dreams? Am I not important enough? Am I not good enough? Am I too terrible of a sinner?

All those sermons I heard said some combination of a couple different things.
1) God's word as found in the Bible is perfect and that's how he talks to us now. Keep reading.
2) We don't hear God because we're too busy.
3) You don't hear the Holy Spirit because you're not really a Christian.
4) Something else in your life (sin) is blocking you from hearing God.

My life is radically different because of what I've heard from God. Five years ago I completely changed the direction my life was heading. At that time I was sinning, I was terribly busy and I wasn't really reading my Bible all that much. Somehow, God still got his message across to me.
I wish that I could explain what that was like or how anyone can hear a clearly defined message from God. I can't. I just knew what God wanted me to do, and I couldn't not do it.

Recently, I've partnered with a group of people to focus on paying closer attention to what God is saying to us. How? By listening. We meet together each week and start by simply asking the question: "What is God saying to you now?" That's a tough question. It's one you can't make up an answer to. It's one you have to prepare for.

That preparation is constant. It's a 24-7 thing. The last couple weeks, I've found myself more aware of my surroundings, more attuned to my thoughts, to how they change and what they're about. I'm constantly looking for God, listening for Him to speak to me in some way.

It's amazing what you hear when you actually listen.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Doors

At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ...

How many doors do you walk through in a day? Do you walk through the same 7 doors thousands of times? Do you walk through a hundred different doors a day? Do we walk through doors so often that we forget the significance of them?

Paul doesn't. He recognizes that doors are the barriers between worlds. They keep outside out and inside in. The separate the wild from the domesticated, what we fear from what we trust. Walking through a door can change your life or the life of someone else.

Paul prays for God to open doors for the word, for people to let something new come into their world.

He knows that he can't open those doors. He knows that forceful entry isn't acceptable. He knows that the only way to enter someone's world is to be invited. He knows the only way they'll invite is if God has been there first.

We can't change people's hearts. We can't make them believe. We can't make them open their doors and let us in. Only God can. That should be our prayer, too.

God, open doors for your word. Open them in the people we see every day; open them in our community; open them in our world. Be with us as we walk through life, help us to see the doors that are open. Give us the awareness to see the openings. Give us the courage to walk through.

What doors exist in your life?
What doors do you walk past every day?
What doors have you known but never walked through?
What doors do you pray for?
What doors do you keep trying and trying and trying, even though it's been
locked for years?

Monday, April 19, 2010

Who cares?

Saturday morning you wake up, head to the kitchen for your morning cuppa' and open the paper. As you do, you look back over the last week and realize you've been too busy to spend any meaningful time with God. How upset are you?

Saturday morning you wake up, head to the kitchen for your morning cuppa' and open the paper. As you look at the business section and see that your stocks have plummeted. You skip from four-letter symbol to four letter symbol and each one has not just dropped, but been cut in half. How upset are you?

You walk out of the super-crowded mall and make your way across the parking lot, pushing past people heading the other direction, desperately ready to get out of this people-infested mess. As you approach your car, on the door you see a dent & scratch that wasn't there before - clearly the result of someone who had slammed their door into yours. How upset are you?

You walk out of the super-crowded mall and make your way across the parking lot, pushing past people heading the other direction, desperately ready to get out of this people-infested mess. As you approach your car, you look back at the crowd you've left and realize that even though 94% of those people claim to be Christians, they have no idea what a real relationship with God is like. How upset are you?

What is it that you really care about?
What breaks your heart?
How upset are you?

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

deja' vu

Leviticus is a tough book. The first 3 chapters simply describe how to perform different sacrifices. There isn't even an explanation why - just blood and fat and flour and oil and a pleasing aroma. Without context (and reading it from a completely different one) it can be difficult to understand or even care about. But, there are some things that seem oddly familiar mixed in.

The first one that jumps out is leaven (yeast). Just a few chapters back, the Israelites were commanded to bake bread without leaven because they would be in such a hurry to leave Egypt that they wouldn't have time to let the bread rise. Now, unleavened bread has become a staple. They are forbidden from offering anything with leaven in it as a sacrifice. We see leaven again in the New Testament. Jesus uses it as a simile for how things (incorrect teaching for example) spreads amongst those who are exposed to it.

Another that catches the eye is salt. The opposite of leaven, the sacrificial instructions say that nothing should be offered up without salt. When Jesus comes back to salt, he says that it is something we all need to be. We are the salt of the earth.

You can't possibly read Leviticus without encountering copious amounts of blood. (This could really catch on with all those Twilight fans.) It is poured out on the altar, splashed on the sides of the altar and even at one point in Exodus sprinkled on the people. Blood is everywhere - but it cannot be ingested. There are copious amounts of blood in the new testament too, most surrounding the sacrifice of Jesus.

His blood was poured out when he was whipped, when they nailed him, when they pushed down the crown of thorns, when his side was pierced. The similarities are undeniable. But at the last supper, Jesus flips it all upside down. He passes around the cup and everyone has their drink. Then he says, "This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many." The one thing that was forbidden about blood was to ingest it.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Can you blame them?

Friends of ours recently got a puppy. (Even though they swore they never would.) We hung out with them and their kids and the puppy on Easter. It was interesting to see how they dealt with their new puppy and their kids. It sure seemed like the puppy had full immunity in everything. If he was horse-playing with one of the kids, it was always the kid that got reprimanded when things went too far. When they talked about house breaking and staying in his cage and barking, non of it was the puppy's fault. He didn't know any better, after all.

They couldn't blame the dog, because he didn't know. If he knew better, he wouldn't be any problem at all. Their son knew better, so he was the one who got the harsh tones. He knew.

Paul, in Ephesians, writes the same thing about the Gentiles compared to the Christians.

Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice eery kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!

Because they know Christ, they know better.

Notice that Paul does not say, "learned ABOUT Christ." He's talking about an intimate knowledge of the savior. He's talking about having a real relationship with God. It is only this relationship that can turn us from sin. It is only this relationship that can keep us from serving ourselves. It is only this relationship that can keep us on the straight and narrow.

The world is filled with things that entice and enthrall. It tells us what we need to be happy, to be fulfilled, to be whole. If people don't truly, intimately know God they believe everything else. Can you blame 'em?

Monday, April 12, 2010

Back on the Dreadmill

After 2 weeks of illness and recovery, I got back on the dreadmill this morning. I know it's good for me and I know its the right thing to do, but I don't like it. Partly that's because I don't get anywhere.

I could run outside, but then I wouldn't be able to watch Sportscenter. (I've never actually typed that word before. Now I can't stop thinking that it is a product to make things smell like sports. Like a Glade plug-in for an unused locker room. "Sport-scenter: the scent of sport, wherever you need it." I digress.)

The treadmill keeps me on pace in my running and helps me track my progress better. It records my workouts to my phone which uploads them to Nike+, which tells me how many cheeseburgers I've burned through. It's safe and convenient. But, I don't get anywhere. In many ways, my running seems like it is in vain.*

Paul worries about this too. In Galatians 2:2, he takes some precautions to ensure that his running is not in vain. He has a goal in mind and he doesn't want to waste any steps along the way. His goal? To spread the gospel to the gentiles. To become all things to all men so that he may save a few. To do what Jesus called him to do.

So, when he visits Jerusalem, he tells them the gospel. He doesn't hold it back. He doesn't assume they already know. He doesn't worry about repetition or about what they will think of him. He presses onwards toward his goal... no matter what it takes.

Are we spiritually running in vain? Are we doing churchy things or religious things without ever moving closer to the goal Christ has given us? Are our steps making disciples of the whole world or are we journeying in vain? When was the last time I shared the gospel with someone? When was the last time I ran toward the goal I've been given?

*If my goal in running was to get somewhere, I would totally be running in vain. But, since my goal is to get in better shape and take care of my heart, the treadmill is perfect.

Thursday, April 8, 2010


After Moses talked face to face with God, the skin of his face shone and it freaked people out.

When Jesus met the demon-possessed man of the Gerasenes, the man went from being a raving lunatic, to sitting quietly, dressed and in his right mind. It freaked people out.

After Saul met with Jesus on the road to Damascus, his name became Paul and who he was radically changed. It freaked people out.

Listening for God and doing what he says radically changes people. Who have you freaked out lately?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

God's Heart

The middle of Exodus is a list of rules. They seem harsh and brutal and barbaric and in some cases they are. But, they were written for a brutal and barbaric people in a brutal and barbaric time.

Still, in the midst of them you can see God's heart. When dealing with oxen or murderers or sorcerers, God tells the people what the proper judgment and punishment should be and how to carry it out. These rules were about keeping the peace and keeping order.

When God gets to wrongly dealing with sojourners, widows and the fatherless, things change. The punishment isn't talked about, isn't discussed. God basically says, "If anyone messes with these people, you leave them to me. I'll take care of them."

The shift is subtle, but significant. God wants to be intimately involved in bringing justice here. He wants to play a part. He wants to make things right.

These are the people who cannot fight for themselves. These are the people who are marginalized. These are the people who fall through the cracks. These are the people who break God's heart.

They should break our hearts too.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Power to the People

Right from the get go, God wanted Israel to be different. He wanted a "kingdom of priests and a Holy nation." As soon as he delivered them from Egypt (as soon as they found freedom) he gave the proclamation that this was what they would be. After this invitation, he challenged them with a frightening show of lightning and clouds.

We see the people of Israel move away from this position. The priesthood rises and becomes more powerful, until Jesus arrives. And Jesus once again tells the people that they can be the priests, they can be holy. Yet, the priesthood rose again.

What is keeping you from connecting to God on your own? What is keeping you from reading the Bible for yourself? Why don't we learn to feed ourselves? Why don't we become what God has repeatedly call us to be?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Weapons and Warfare

"For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but have the divine power to destroy strongholds."

What's a stronghold?
It is those things that hold us back, that keep us from being who we were created to be. A stronghold is a lie that we believe - a lie with some supernatural support. Picture this...

A young girl from a broken family eagerly awaits her next birthday. It is one of the few times she sees her father, one of the only times she sees her parents in the same room anymore, one of the only moments she feels normal. Leading up to the big day she gets a call from her dad and he asks what she would like for her birthday. She tells him she would love a new pair of jeans. She tells him her size and says it doesn't matter what brand or shade, just that they were from him. She tells him how excited she is, how much she misses him and how she can't wait to be a year older.

Finally the day arrives, the party is a success, everyone is there. There is cake and ice cream and balloons and dresses and toys and laughter. There are no jeans. When the party is over and the crowd has passed, she looks back on the day. She smiles at the fun and friends, she remembers the balloons and the cake. She realizes there were no jeans.

Soon, the other memories fade and all she can think about are the missing jeans. Why? Why didn't he buy me the jeans? Doesn't he love me enough? The days go by and the questions persist. What did I do wrong? What is wrong with me? How can I be so worthless that my own father won't even get me a pair of jeans for my birthday? Over time, the questions grow and become stronger. If he can't love me, how could anyone love me? I must not deserve to be loved. How could anyone love me? I must not be lovable.

When Jesus was on the scene, demons were apparent. His very presence brought them to light and flushed them out. We don't see that today. In fact, we've got scientific explanations for some of those demons. Epilepsy. Disease. Schizophrenia. Even if we can't explain their expulsion, we can reason away the causes of the demons we see in the Bible. Can we do the same with how a small slight becomes a life-changing belief?

Satan is the father of lies, that is his native language. When he works in the world today, he works with these lies. He uses the fallen world we live in, the broken homes, the broken relationships, the diseases and disasters we face. He uses our flesh, the clothing we need, the stuff we desire and the people we admire. And he uses lies. He speaks into them and makes them grow. He puts them in front of us, knowing we'll fixate on them, knowing we'll feed into his plan by feeding the lie. He helps us jump to the next conclusion, the next assumption and he makes our landing there seem safe and secure.

If you want to see demons today, look at the lies you believe. That's where you'll find them.

"We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ."