10 October 2016

selling our birthrights for a pot of stew

Yesterday, someone asked me why my only political posts have spoken out against Trump. Although not technically true, I think I understood the nature of his observation. Here are few thoughts that have been rattling around in my head. Consider them for what they're worth.
Voting for Hillary has never been an option for me, not even for the briefest moment. I disagree with her on most policy issues, and especially the issue of sanctity of life. Her desire for protection for abortion even until very late term makes bile rise in my throat. I find her behaviors reprehensible regarding Benghazi and the email scandal to name just a couple. There has never been a time in this election or prior when I have thought that Hillary Clinton is a good idea for our country. I still wouldn't waste the ink to cast a vote for her.
I have voted Republican in every election I have voted in, not because I am a party guy, but because historically, the views of the GOP have generally matched my own. I have certainly had points of disagreement with various candidates, but nothing that I have found to be disqualifying. That has changed this year with Trump. I have enumerated these concerns ad nauseam before and I won't recount them now. If you are a brave soul, feel free to go back into my Facebook or Twitter history and see what I have written.
The reason I have spoken out about Trump so vociferously is that he is supposed to represent MY party. He is supposed to espouse the values that I hold dear. When I have told people that I am a Republican and a conservative, that has traditionally meant something. It doesn't anymore. Now I find that my party's candidate makes a mockery of what I want my leaders to stand for. Republicans, Trump isn't what we bargained for. Or maybe he is, and now I, along with thousands of others, are politically homeless.
I have been particularly disappointed in the dogged support of Trump by several well-known evangelical leaders. These (mostly) men who have historically stood on principle and family values, calling us to a higher moral plane have abandoned principle, often with rhetorical misdirection (e.g., calling Trump's words "dirty talk" or "locker room talk" instead of sexual assault) and promises that he'll get better.
I remain passionate about my resistance to Trump because of what evangelicals have resorted to in his defense. They have overlooked that he is a vulgar, narcissistic troglodyte who sputters out hateful invectives against anyone who disagrees with him. Too many Christians are selling their birthrights for a pot of stew.
Christian friends, Clinton will be undeniably terrible for the cause of the Republic. I acknowledge that clearly and consistently. BUT, Donald Trump threatens deep harm not only to the nation, but more importantly, to the cause of Christ. When James Dobson says that Trump has accepted Christ but that he is a "baby Christian", he shines a light on Trump not just as a representative of America, but as a representative of Christ. A watching world sees a man who appears unrepentant, hateful, and self-centered and thinks, "so that's what a Christian is." And yet we fail to weep.
So, briefly, there is no risk of people associating Clinton with biblical Christianity, but there is an immanent risk of people assuming that Trump must be what Christians look like. That conclusion is unthinkable.
O how terrible for those who confuse good with evil, right with wrong, light with dark, sweet with bitter.-Isaiah 5:20
Finally, brothers and sisters, fill your minds with beauty and truth. Meditate on whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is good, whatever is virtuous and praiseworthy.-Philippians 4:8

08 October 2016

a better Way, a better Truth, a better Life

I was deeply bothered by the audio clip of Trump yesterday. It seems to be yet another example that his lewdness knows no bounds. I wrote a deeply personal blog post today that I decided not to share. I was concerned enough about the content that I shared it with three people I really trust: my wife, my best friend, and my mother. Ultimately, though what I wrote is important and authentic, the detailed account is unnecessary for a general audience and potentially harmful for a young one. I don't want to risk harming those I love. 

But let me say this. Too often in my life, I have engaged in sins of omission and commission when it comes to women. I have treated women poorly and I have failed to defend them when I should have.

Men, we CANNOT continue to be party to a culture that debases women. We do not have the luxury of justifying ourselves by saying "all men do it." To all of the girls and women I have ever known, forgive me for the ways in which my thoughts, words, and actions have harmed you.

Dads, we need to teach our children that women are not sexual playthings. We live in a culture that tells us they are. If you listen to the culture, and even to our current presidential candidates, you will begin to believe it. Too often, I have failed to stand against the tide of sexual indecency. Forgive me for not consistently demonstrating what God calls men to be.

Men, Trump's words and behaviors have given us an opportunity. We can fail to speak out because we know we have done the same things. We can tacitly support Trump by laughing at the things he says and does.

Or we can humbly confess that we have failed to honor women and take a stand. We can say that we will not be part of a culture that continues to degrade and demoralize women. We can choose to move strongly against a hypersexualized culture. We can give ourselves in love and service to those who have no voice in a culture that tells them their beauty lies only in their sexuality. We can show by word and action, that there is a better Way, a better Truth, and a better Life.

Men, let's take a stand.

17 September 2016


Feeling gray in a sea of colors
your sadness monochrome;
shiny, happy, joyful others,
yet you feel so alone.

How can they grin and laugh
while you are sad and low?
You hate their smiling masks,
they see you, don't they know?

You force a smile and put on cheer
'tis better to pretend,
if they can't join your misery,
you'll act like one of them.

A world full of actors,
portraying joy unshaken,
meanwhile 10,000 hurting people
feel utterly forsaken.

06 September 2016

what is the counsel of the ungodly?

Reflecting upon Psalm 1, John Ortberg said,

"Now, what is the counsel of the ungodly? I grew up in a Baptist church, so I would think the counsel of the ungodly is someone encouraging me to go smoke a cigarette or have sex or be an atheist or something like that. Dallas [Willard] says that the counsel of the ungodly is just the way most people talk. It is the counsel to live as though it were not true that you are unceasing spiritual being with an eternal destiny in God's glorious universe. The counsel of the ungodly is 'Live as if it matters what people think of you.' The counsel of the ungodly is 'Live as if the outcomes of your life are on your shoulders and you control them.' The counsel of the ungodly is 'Live as if aging is something to worry about.' The counsel of the ungodly is 'Live as if satisfying your desires and appetites is central to your well-being and a wise strategy for living.' That's the counsel of the ungodly. It goes on all the time, and we rarely even see it."

--Living in Christ's Presence, page 46

01 September 2016

should I wonder any less?

Eight legs upon the web
weaving in unison
I watch in awe that God would allow such precision
Then I button my shirt
fingers dancing together upon the fabric
          should I wonder any less?

Storms rage
Winds blow
The power of God in whirlwind
Then I sneeze
such force from within
          should I wonder any less?

Squirrel dancing upon the wire
twitching tail for balance
God's meticulousness in this frolic
Then I walk
Feet and eyes and ears and neurons cooperating
          should I wonder any less?

Sunflowers looking to the heavens in praise
Sunset genuflect
The created worshiping Creator
Then I write
   and speak
      and sing
         and dance
            and breathe
all things in worship of my King.

should I wonder any less? 

31 August 2016

Sin affects your ability to think clearly

I have been involved in a few conversations recently that reminded me of the noetic effects of sin. The word noetic relates to thinking or intellect, so the "noetic effects of sin" implies that thinking is affected by sin.  Sin affects our ability to think clearly. In a talk at Desiring God 2010, Albert Mohler gave an excellent talk entitled "The Way the World Thinks: Meeting the Natural Mind in the Mirror and in the Marketplace." I would commend the whole thing to you. One of his take home messages, however, is the many ways in which sin affects our cognitive abilities. 
Albert Mohler:
There are many facets of the daily intellectual life of human beings that are directly linked to the fall. While the noetic effects of the fall are inexhaustible, it is helpful to sketch out some of the ways in which they are noticeable.
1) Ignorance: had there been no fall, there would have been no ignorance. The things of God, even his invisible attributes, are clearly seen in creation, but the fall has clouded our ability to see these things. Ignorance would have been impossible until the fall, whereas it is now axiomatic.
2) Distractedness: every single human being has theological “attention deficit disorder.” We are easily distracted.
3) Forgetfulness: everyone has committed to memory things that he has now forgotten. Forgetfulness would be impossible had we not sinned.
4) Prejudice: intellectual prejudice is one of our besetting problems. The problem is that we do not know ourselves well enough to know our intellectual prejudices, because we are prejudiced even in our thinking about our prejudices. One of the great achievements of the postmodern mind-set has been the forcing of an honest discussion of intellectual prejudices.
5) Faulty perspective: because of our finitude, we all have a finite perspective on reality. Had we not sinned, we would all share a right and accurate perspective. As it is, we are shaped by cultural, linguistic, tribal, ethnic, historical, individual, familial, and other blinders. We do not see things as others see them, but we assume that others who are right-minded must see things as we see them. The famous “parable of the fish,” often attributed to Aristotle, asks the question, “Does a fish know that it is wet?” The idea conveyed in the parable is that if you want to know what being wet is like, then do not ask a fish, for he does not know he is wet.
6) Intellectual fatigue: with the fast pace of modern life and the multitude of matters pressing for our attention, we can begin to feel depleted in our intellectual capacities and mental reserves.
7) Inconsistencies: it would be bad enough if we were merely plagued with inconsistencies. The bigger problem, however, is that we do not even see them in ourselves — though they are more readily detected by others.
8) Failure to draw the right conclusion: this is a besetting intellectual sin. Most people do not even recognize that they are drawing the wrong conclusions. There is the willful denial of and blindness toward data.
9) Intellectual apathy: if we did not bear the noetic effects of the fall, we would be infinitely passionate about the things that should be of our infinite concern. Our intellectual apathy, which works its way out in every dimension of our lives, is one of the most devastating effects of the fall.
10) Dogmatism and closed-mindedness: we hold to things with tenacity that we should not hold onto at all, because the intellect seizes upon certain ideas and thoughts like comfort food. They are only taken away from us with great force, even if reason and data directly contradict them.
11) Intellectual pride: the Scripture states that “‘knowledge’ puffs up” (1 Corinthians 8:1). One danger of higher education is the besetting sin of human pride that comes alongside human achievement, for intellectual achievements are some of the most highly prized trophies.
12) Vain imagination: Romans 1 indicts vain imagination, exposing the fact that we make images of God out of created things — even “birds and animals and creeping things” (verse 23). As the psalmist writes, “Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain?” (Psalm 2:1).
13) Miscommunication: translation is difficult, and miscommunication is one of the great limitations upon intellectual advance. We live on the other side of both Genesis 3 (the fall) and Genesis 11 (confusion of language at Babel). From the story of the Tower of Babel, we understand that this issue of miscommunication is not an accident. Some of these noetic effects are because God has limited our knowledge.
14) Partial knowledge: we know only in part, and sometimes we do not even know how partial our knowledge is.

29 August 2016


I love words.
Because God loves words.
When He created the universe, the Word Himself spoke it into existence with words.

"Light," He whispered and, at His word, light awoke for the first time. And God was delighted. He spoke again and again. "Heavens. Earth. Life." Each utterance shaping His creation just as He intended.

In the beginning was the Word.
The Word was with God.
The Word was [is] God.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.

The eternal Word that used words to speak creation into being Himself entered His creation in the flesh. And He spoke words to His creation.

His words gave life to the universe.
His words gave life to the hurting.
They still do.

As those who were created in the image of the Word, our words can also give life to creation. Cherish them.

23 August 2016

Write into deeper reality

I came across a wonderful section in Eugene Peterson's book Under the Unpredictable Plant. (If you haven't read Eugene Peterson, he is the artist's theologian. He respects words. His eyes are trained for beauty better than most). 
Consider this: 
"My son, a writer, gave me a story that clarifies the distinction between culture-prayer and psalm-prayer. He was teaching a creative writing course at the University of Colorado. Students typically enroll in such courses because they want to be creative. As they hand in their early attempts at creative writing, the poems and stories reek of self-absorption. They are narcissists one and all and suppose that writing is a way of becoming better narcissists. Everything is reduced to and then recast in terms of their own experience. 
"Real writers know that this is not the way it works. While personal experience often provides the material and impetus--how can it be otherwise?--the act of writing is primarily an exploration of a larger world, entering into more reality, getting away from ourselves, moving beyond ourselves into other lives, other worlds. It is, precisely, creative: bringing into being something that was not there before. Meanwhile, my son, reading these stories and poems, was getting thoroughly bored. 
"In a moment of desperation, he took them out of the classroom one day and marched them across the street to a cemetery. They spent the hour walking over the graves, among the tombstones, reading the epigraphs and taking notes on what they observed and what they imagined. They were then instructed to write stories or poems out of the cemetery. It worked. There were glimmerings of genuine creativity. The writers were imaginatively entering into a world other than the self, an immensely larger world, even though it was only a cemetery. They wrote themselves into more reality." 

21 August 2016

Daily prayer for transformation

In Romans 12:2, Paul admonishes us to avoid being conformed to the world, but to instead be transformed by the renewing of our mind. The difficulty for all of us is that we have to live in the world and are thus pressured into the world's mold. Passivity will not work; transformation takes intentional practice. Bible reading, silence and solitude, worship, and prayer are but a few examples. One of the practices I've more recently developed is that each morning, I try to pray through a list of traits I want to see growing in my life. The list started with Paul's description of the fruit of the Spirit from Galatians 5:22-23, but I have expanded it from there. Here is what I try to daily. Some days I am too distracted. Some days I only get part way through the list. Some days I simply forget. But God is gracious and patient.

I begin by spending a few moments trying to settle my mind. I am one of those people whose mind chases 10,000 thoughts and I have to purpose myself to be in the moment. It is so easy to find my mind wondering and wandering. Typically, I can calm my mind some before I begin this prayer, never perfectly, and sometimes not at all. On those days, quite frankly, I try to spend my time simply quieting my mind, which in and of itself is an important practice.

After I quiet my mind some, I begin to pray through a list of character qualities I want to develop in my life together with their opposites. As I am slowly inhaling, I will pray, for example, "make me more loving." As I exhale slowly, I will pray, "rid me of hate." I do that for each of the traits, or as many as the morning allows.

Here is my current master list.
  • Love--Hate
  • Joy--Pessimism 
  • Peace--Anxiety
  • Patience--Hurry
  • Kindness--Mean-spiritedness
  • Goodness--Evil
  • Faithfulness--Disloyalty
  • Gentleness--Harshness
  • Self-control--Impulsivity
  • Presence--Distraction
  • Truthfulness--Dishonesty
  • Humility--Pride
  • Other-Centeredness--Selfishness
  • Curiosity--Disinterest
  • Compassion--Cruelty
  • Wisdom--Foolishness
  • Justice--Unfairness
  • Passion--Indifference
  • Mercy--Callousness
  • Godliness--Ungodliness
  • Hope--Despair
  • Generosity--Selfishness
  • Beauty--Ugliness 
  • Thankfulness--Demandingness
  • Settledness--Frenzy
  • Perseverance--Apathy
This is a fairly long list and if you do not rush, it will take a while. In addition to taking a few moments to settle my mind, I have found a few other things helpful.
  1. Try to do this everyday, even if it is just a part of it. 
  2. Write down the list on a note card to reference as you are praying. The words will eventually begin to take root, but it takes some time and help. 
  3. Visualization can help. As I am praying each of the words, I will sometimes picture a color I would associate with each word. For example, peace may be white; cruelty, black. It can also be beneficial to picture plucking fruit from a tree associated with each word. 
  4. Listen.  If you are praying slowly enough, you can listen for and begin to hear the Holy Spirit. As you pray, what is He telling you? Sometimes, a certain word will trigger me and I will sit and ponder it for a bit--sometimes with curiosity, sometimes with confession. 
  5. Choose a word to bring with you for the day. If you are going to be interacting with difficult family, perhaps you meditate on patience. 
  6. As you conclude, thank God that He promises to sanctify you by His grace and ask Him to carry these characteristics forward into your day.
Finally, like all spiritual practices, you will not be perfect, but you will grow. Fruit does not appear on a tree fully grown. It takes time. Someone who is out of shape does not get up and immediately do an Ironman triathlon. He works up to it. We also train ourselves for spiritual growth. Dallas Willard introduced me to the concept of "training versus trying." Too many believers, myself included, try to do right and when we fail, we give up. Training expects failure as a part of growth. According to Proverbs 24:16, "the righteous falls seven times and rises again."

Train yourself for righteousness.
Train yourself to watch for the Spirit's movement.
And above all, thank God for His continual grace toward you.

If you want a Google Docs printout to put in your Bible, you can follow this link.

17 August 2016

Abandoned beauty

An image came to me this morning.
An ancient church
     standing alone
     the wilderness fast overtaking the church yard.

Once a place of sanctuary
     a place of worship.
Sans people, is it any less beautiful?
The majesty of man's design overtaken by God's?
     Human creation divinely recreated.

Is God any less in this place?
     Do the stones sing any less than we do?
     Do the trees fail to lift their arms in worship?
     Does the moss fail to appreciate the warmth of its Maker?

God brings beauty wherever He presents Himself.
     Give us eyes to see.