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.