Spiritual

Reality Is Rude, Impolite and Uncomfortable

by admin

I don’t pretend my current life is the most successful version of my life that could exist in the multiverse.  I am absolutely confident that in alternate universes, different choices I have made may have led to much better outcomes.  In many ways I have blown it.  But in other ways I believe the choices I have made have brought me to a place where I am certain the world is a better place with me in it.  And that makes me feel good.

But still, I continue to muck it up.  I woke up this morning at 2am with a serious case of “I am screwing EVERYTHING up!”  And I don’t even think that feeling is true, but I do have self-confidence issues that are not fully resolved, and maybe never will be.  But nonetheless, I couldn’t go back to sleep, so here I am blogging at 4 in the morning.

I am here bringing you something I ran across looking for something to cheer me up.  I was hoping for lighthearted, but ended up finding something profound and wise.  I warn you: before I bring you what I discovered, its source is unlikely.  If you are averse to reading about reality, and worldly wisdom spoken in a tone and using language that… let’s just say I wouldn’t be letting my kids read until they are 18, then don’t follow the link.  But nonetheless, the following article is one of the best examples of condensed life wisdom that I have ever seen outside the Bible.  Funny thing is, despite the author’s decidedly unChristian perspective, he freely admits towards the end that this is actually what Jesus taught, albeit in much less rude and offensive ways.

I take you to Cracked.com.

6 Harsh Truths That Will Make You A Better Person.  Read it, if you dare.  It could well change your life.  I promise, it will hurt to read.  In more than one way.

4 Nuggets I gleaned from it (that I REALLY need to hear):

On asking the wrong questions:

Because that’s the step that gets skipped — it’s always “How can I get a job?” and not “How can I become the type of person employers want?” It’s “How can I get pretty girls to like me?” instead of “How can I become the type of person that pretty girls like?” See, because that second one could very well require giving up many of your favorite hobbies and paying more attention to your appearance, and God knows what else. You might even have to change your personality.

On wasting time:

Do the math: How much of your time is spent consuming things other people made (TV, music, video games, websites) versus making your own? Only one of those adds to your value as a human being.

Harsh, but true.  Do you want your life to have meaning?  DO SOMETHING WITH IT.

An extended thought on not doing anything… which rams home an important truth Jesus taught (I bleeped out a few choice words):

…A hundred million people watched that Kony video, virtually all of whom kept those poor African children “in their thoughts.” What did the collective power of those good thoughts provide? Jack (bleepity bleep). Children die every day because millions of us tell ourselves that caring is just as good as doing. It’s an internal mechanism controlled by the lazy part of your brain to keep you from actually doing work.

… Don’t you have that annoying Christian friend whose only offer to help anyone ever is to “pray for them”? Doesn’t it drive you nuts? I’m not even commenting on whether or not prayer works; it doesn’t change the fact that they chose the one type of help that doesn’t require them to get off the sofa. They abstain from every vice, they think clean thoughts, their internal dirt is as pure as can be, but what fruit grows from it? And they should know this better than anybody — I stole the fruit metaphor from the Bible. Jesus said something to the effect of “a tree is judged by its fruit” over and over and over. Granted, Jesus never said, “If you want to work here,close.” No, he said, “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”

The people didn’t react well to being told that, just as the salesmen didn’t react well to Alec Baldwin telling them that they needed to grow some balls or resign themselves to shining his shoes.

And lastly, why you won’t listen to a word he writes:

Remember, misery is comfortable. It’s why so many people prefer it. Happiness takes effort.

Also, courage. It’s incredibly comforting to know that as long as you don’t create anything in your life, then nobody can attack the thing you created.

So, do something.  Even if it sucks.  Everyone sucks when they start something worth doing.  And there will always be haters.  The difference between the haters and you is at least you had the guts to try, which most haters really hate you for the most.  Because haters generally don’t have the guts to do what you are doing.

The same writer also scripted 7 Ways the 21st Century is Making You Miserable, an article I didn’t tell Community of Hope I actually preached on, because the article was laced with profanity… but also really, REALLY insightful truth.

I am pretty sure this article will also find its way into a few messages: it’s too important not to. Sadly, I don’t think I will credit it at that time either.  Although maybe I will…


What Would You Give to Gain Eternity?

by admin

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” – Jim Elliott

I was reading “Not a Fan” this morning and ran across the above quote.  I did not recall who Jim Elliott was, so I looked him up and discovered he was one of the people the movie, “The End of the Spear” was based on.  I have always intended to watch that film, but never got around to it until today.

Wow.

First thought: the tribespeople looked so familiar – then I realized that is exactly what the indigenous peoples of Panama look like.  Cheryl and I had a chance a month ago to walk in jungles almost identical to the film.  We visited a village very much like the one in the film.  We met people dressed, today, just like the villagers of the film.  These people still exist, maybe not as warlike as in the past, but they are still out there, and they still need Jesus just as much as they did back when the events of the film happened.  They are in fact being reached, by people who have given their lives to show them Jesus.  We are proud to be taking a Christmas offering this weekend and next weekend, to be sent to the Gamboa Union Church for the furtherance of God’s grace and love in the jungle of Panama and in the nearby towns and prisons.

Second thought: I live in a nice town, in a nice house, with two cars, 4-6 hours away from our nearest family.  By choice we moved here, believing that God wanted us to start a new church that would love people into the Kingdom of God.  In two years through Grasslands Church 10 people have been baptized and begun new life in Christ.  It is a small thing, but changing the eternities of 10 people is something I thank God that He has given me a small part of.

But we have not yet begun to sacrifice for Jesus.  We really haven’t.  Not like that.  Not like the people in that film, who abandoned all the wealth, all the security, all the family, their whole lives to live in a jungle, so that a people who killed their husbands and fathers could come to know the love of God.  The final scene where the son of a missionary who was killed says to the man who killed his own father, “You did not kill my father.  He gave his life.” I begin to hate everything I enjoy, everything I take security in.  We have not truly sacrificed yet.  I find myself becoming more determined to give, and desiring to lead my family in giving ourselves away that others may know Jesus too.

God, I want to do it right.  Your way.


Tech Victory: Sermonizing with Tablets and Kindles

by admin

For over a year I have been enamoured with the idea of preaching from a tablet.  I bought a tablet – an ASUS Transformer Prime, and proceeded to attempt to set it up to be a preaching tool.  Unfortunately I could not get it to do what I wanted, too much of my work still needed to be done on a PC so I retired my tablet, and resold it.  I had bought the same tablet for Cheryl but it stayed around.  I became convinced that tablets weren’t strong enough platforms yet for what I wanted to do – to basically be a replacement for my laptop.

Not that kind of tablet.

However, I still really loved the experience of reading ebooks on tablets.  I became convinced that a Kindle was the better option for me.   Just this week, I managed to convince my wife of this, but I had a problem.  I planned to do my Sunday message from the top of a ladder, and I couldn’t have my laptop up there.  It was either memorize my message, or figure out how to make a tablet work for a preaching platform.

Now, before I get any further, I will say this: I am a bit of a rebel pastor.  I refuse to jump on the Apple bandwagon.  So before you start telling me how much simpler my life would be if only I bought an iMac, Macbook Pro and an iPad (which, by the way, they don’t sell as a discounted set for pastors – I’d be looking at shelling out in the neighbourhood of $3000 for such a package, to say nothing of the purchase of a new version of MS Office for Mac, Logos for Mac, and so on and so on…) needless to say, as a church planter of a yearling church, I don’t draw the salary to be able to afford such extravagances, and am not convinced that they will do what the many Mac evangelists in my life claim they will do.

What I have done takes a PC desktop or laptop, MS Office, and a 10″ tablet of any variety. And I mean any.  You can use an iPad even, if you want (I promise I will try not to judge you.)  The end result is you will take your document prepared in the word processor of your choice, and convert it into a perfect Kindle book, where you can repaginate based on your font sizes, and adjust the margins, font sizes and all other Kindle-tweakable settings you want, allowing you to read, at a glance, your notes while holding your tablet or reading it off a table.  

Here’s how.

Read the rest of this entry »


Bill Nye: “Creationism Not Appropriate”

by admin

I don’t mind a healthy conversation about origins, but really, the arrogance of some people is just nauseating, and the sad thing is that if you agree with him, you are probably blind to it.

Bill Nye, “the Science Guy”, has gone public in a video stating a number of things that are simply, on their face, wrong.  Some are lies, some are half-truths, some are misrepresentations, to be completely fair, so I won’t call him a liar.  But take a look at this.

“Your world becomes fantastically complicated if you don’t believe in evolution,”

  • Really?  How so?  My life is not complicated at all.  I still live, breathe, buy groceries, clean my floors, and get along with people.  Same with my kids.  In fact, the cool thing about not worrying about billions of years of “prehistory” is I don’t have to explain how the fossil record is absent in some places, interrupted in others, and incomplete everywhere.  I don’t have to explain the absolute absences of transitional species now, or ever.  I don’t have to assume that “…everything goes on as it has since the beginning…” (2 Peter 3:4).

He contends that kids shouldn’t learn creationism because “we need them”.  He goes on to say that the world needs the following: scientifically literate voters and taxpayers and engineers.

Funny thing is evolutionary science is one corner of science, that evolutionists like to pretend impacts everything and everyone, but the truth is it is really only of significant influence as a theory in biology.  And even then, humanity was classifying animals and plants for millenia without evolution – why do we need it again?

But hey, catch the last example he picked: ENGINEERS.  I want to meet a SINGLE engineer in any field that needs to presuppose evolution as our origin.  Good grief.

Personally, I love science.  I love chemistry.  I love physics.  I love biology.  I love geology.  I don’t need evolution to understand any of it.  In fact, in my experience, it gets in the way. It complicates things that are simple.  I’ll give an example.

In most places in the world, the fossil record is out of order.  Evolution requires the smallest life forms to be in the lowest strata of sedimentary rock, because they are the “oldest”.  And small life came first, right?  Simple to complicated?  But in may places the rocks contain the biggest fossils at the bottom and small simple forms above.  Why?

Well, there is demonstrable, repeatable science in the way physical objects settle when in water.  If you take big and small rocks, and agitate the water to suspend the objects, then let the water settle, what happens?  The big ones settle to the bottom first, then the small er ones, until the smallest settle in a layer on top.  This science is called sedimentation.  It explains the complications of the fossil record quite well.  But of course, this known, demonstrable physical process MUST be explained away by complicated evolutionary theories.

So, whose world is fantastically complicated again?


Woman at the Well, Part 3: Cutting to the Chase – Herstory

by admin

The Woman at the Well is a fascinating anecdote in John’s Gospel.  It is featured in no other account of Jesus’ ministry but so much is going on in this story that I can’t help but reflect deeply on this story and all of the layers of impact it has on life today.

In Part 1 of this series, I reflected on the beginning of the story – the reason the story even came about.  Jesus was on a long hot journey by foot from Jerusalem to Galilee via Samaria.  He stopped at Jacob’s Well for water around noontime, and began an innocent conversation with a woman drawing water for her household.  Sounds normal right?  In that day, at that time, a Jewish man interacting with a Samaritan woman at a well in the heat of the day add up to a bizarre, almost singular occurrence.

In Part 2 I pried into the reality of how many cultural norms were being shattered by Jesus in addressing this nameless woman.  Many people today view Christianity as the conservative, regressive religion that oppresses people but this story as it unfolds demonstrates the shocking irreligious nature of Jesus and His message.  It spells out a countercultural Jesus, a Jesus who had enough of people treating Samaritans like scum; women like chattel; sinners like pariahs.

In part 3, I am going to expand on what the real issue was.  It wasn’t her Samaritan background that was keeping her from the living water that Jesus was offering.  It wasn’t her femaleness.  It was her story.  Her history.  It was the emotional aftermath of the life she had been living to this point. Read the rest of this entry »


Woman At The Well, Part 2: Crossing Barriers

by admin

The Woman at the Well – John Chapter 4 was one of the first texts I ever spoke on.  As the years have passed I have become more and more mesmerized by this anecdote from Jesus’ ministry and all the different issues it impacts in our life today in the 21st Century.

In Part 1, we began this study by examining the woman herself.  Why was she fetching water at midday?  What is the significance of this?  Who was this woman Jesus was talking to?  Can we relate to her at all?  Turns out, her story is becoming more and more common today, but the biggest difference between her day and ours is that today the zeitgeist tells us that this woman is a healthy, successful woman who has had a life of personal self-fulfilment.  In contrast, what led to her isolation in her day was both her own acceptance  of and society’s censure of the outcomes of the immense pain in her life, and the calluses that were forming over those wounds insulating her from love, closeness and intimacy both with other people and with God.

Here in Part 2, I want to wrestle with the reality that this conversation should have never happened.  There were too many reasons that Jesus, an unmarried devout Jewish man, should not have been talking to this half-pagan, Samaritan five-time divorcee, living with a man she was unmarried to.  How did it happen?  What does it mean that Jesus set aside all these barriers to speak to her?  And what was it that he had to share with her that carried such urgency? Read the rest of this entry »


Woman At The Well Part 1: Thirst and Avoidance

by admin

One of the first times I ever spoke was on John 4 – the woman at the well.  It’s a fascinating little anecdote from Jesus’ early ministry, and it holds a number of unique insights about both Jesus’ purpose, method, and outcomes, as well as a couple of unique insights about human nature and how people deal with stuff in their lives.

It’s a very contemporary story, because the woman Jesus encounters sounds very familiar to us.  She’s an intelligent, independent woman.  She has been educated.  She is up on the issues of her day.  She doesn’t sound like an undereducated, burkha-wearing middle eastern woman of 2000 years ago that most people imagine.  She isn’t a beaten down woman.  She isn’t a woman who is enslaved.  She follows her heart.  She makes her own decisions.

What plays out in this story is something many women and many men can relate to, because while the above description sounds quite modern, she carries burdens that most of us don’t carry today.  So I am going to do a series of posts here on this story, drawing out 6 fascinating truths from John chapter 4.

The first detail I want to point out is – the story begins with thirst.  And avoidance. Read the rest of this entry »


Why You Should Read the Hunger Games (and Other Books Too)

by admin

“All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up.
(1 Corinthians 10:23 ESV)

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.
(Romans 12:9 ESV)

…but test everything; hold fast what is good.
(1 Thessalonians 5:21 ESV)

I must admit: I am offended.  I am offended by the tendency of too many Christians to simply refuse to engage with anything in the world for fear of contaminating themselves with the world.  I am offended by the idea that we should throw into the trashbin anything that we suspect might maybe be a little bit offensive, uncomfortable, or controversial.  Is this the spirit of the age – to be so terrified by everything that our first instinct is to duck and cover?

I could take this in so many directions but the one that has my goat this morning is books.  I just finished reading “The Hunger Games“.  Now frankly, it is not the finest literature ever produced, but it is worth the read in my opinion for two reasons.  First, the books engage a number of cultural realities that presently have far-reaching influence over Christians and non-Christians.  Second, the books (and the new movie) are incredibly popular, especially amongst young people.  What is so grabbing their imaginations and keeping them interested?  Should we not investigate such icons as a basic responsibility of a parent, or at least someone who at some levels “is my brother’s keeper”?

Some say no.  One vociferously opposed such an idea.  One told a friend of mine that it was wrong to read the Hunger Games.  Why?  Because it has violence in it.  I’ll give the benefit of the doubt and I’ll assume she meant the books feature children killing children. Read the rest of this entry »


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