Tuesday, December 20, 2011


How about we take this a little further? The only thing we hate more than being wrong is admitting when we are wrong. At least, that's where I have often found myself. Unfortunately, if I am being honest, I’m wrong more than I care to admit. And no matter how wrong I am, I usually try my hardest not to concede. Very rarely do I end an argument with the phrase “You are right!” Even rarer is the occurrence I end an argument with the words “I was wrong!” Even if we know we are wrong, we can argue ourselves into believing we are right.

This has always been the case with religion and politics, because these two arenas are at the core of our being. For the most part, who we are and what we do emanates from them. No wonder it is difficult to admit there is even a possibility we have missed the boat when it comes to these topics. If you don't think that's really the case, look at the history of Christianity! The Church has been responsible for far too many atrocities to mankind. Off the top of my head comes: the crucifixion (although good for us, I’m sure it really wasn’t that great for Jesus). Then there's the whole disagreement about the earth not really being the center of our solar system. That debate didn’t end so well either. And let's not forget two scars most people refer to as The Inquisition and the Crusades. Did the church ever miss the point on those ones? Last, but certainly not least is Martin Luther’s reformation. Now tell me that religion isn't divisive and we hate to concede when individuals take a stand and speak out!

As we begin this discussion, I need you to see why it is essential we question things and seek the truth--no matter the cost. First and foremost, we (rightly so) claim Christianity as the Truth. However, if we are going to be so arrogant to make this claim, it is imperative we know why! The other reason being that many of us, in the Church, have been spoon-fed. Sunday morning has served as an indoctrination of sorts, in which everything spoken from the pulpit has been taken as fact. Understand, in no way am I claiming this is everyone in the Church. Neither am I saying heresy is purposely (or unintentionally) being taught from every pulpit. Nor am I saying we need to debate every idea or principle that comes from those in leadership. But we should, on our own, take the time to weigh things against Scripture. The Bereans did this when Paul (the guy who wrote most of the New Testament) spoke. And God credited their earnestness and sincerity for the truth as righteousness. Shouldn't we be all the more eager to do the same?

I spent four years at a Christian university and was required to go to something like two-thirds--I think somewhere around 50--of the chapel services every year (most of which I enjoyed). I give you this information in hopes you will realize I have heard my share of preachers and I'm not just spouting off about one fortuitous incident. And not to be stereotypical or hate on televangelists, but far too much of what I hear from those broadcasts is the Pepsi One of Christianity; it just isn't quite the same as the real thing. Names will not be mentioned, but some of what I've heard preached from a pulpit or seen proclaimed on television is a far cry from the Gospel I read in Scripture. Hopefully you realize I don't have the market on Jesus or Christianity either--so, by all means, question and research it.

At the onset, I admit some of this, I probably misunderstood. On the other hand, some of the teachings were impossible to misconstrue.

During this particular chapel at college, the guest speaker proclaimed "Jesus wasn't really asleep before the disciples woke him and he calmed the storm." Apparently he was just laying there, half awake, with one eye open waiting for the disciples to come to him for help--even though Scripture says Jesus was sleeping. Now, this does not create some large theological riff, but it simply isn't true. Another interesting thing I heard spoken from a pulpit was that, at the wedding party, Jesus turned the water into grape juice not wine. In my professional opinion, that is no miracle. Give me 15 seconds, a can of juice concentrate, water, and a spoon. Again, this doesn't really take away from the overall message of Scripture, but it could make one wonder how we are to believe the Bible is accurate when it comes to something more sizable like salvation. Of all the ridiculous things I've heard preached from a pulpit, the worst was...well, before I fill you in, make sure you are sitting down. This particular service, the message was concluded with the shocking statement that “Jesus didn't die for you!" No further explanation was given even attempting to clarify his point. That was it! Following the concluding prayer, the shocked listeners ushered themselves out of the service and went about the rest of their day.

Hopefully, I have made my case as to why it is crucial we question things (I reiterate, not necessarily in public--there is a time and a place for everything) and weigh them against Scripture. Even the most well intentioned Christians get it wrong from time to time. I warn you, asking these questions is no easy task. Answering them is even more difficult. But, as Martin Luther said, "Peace if possible. Truth at all costs."


During my tenure as a youth pastor a while ago, I went to several conferences. At one of these said conferences, in Indianapolis, I was first introduced to Bobble-Head Theater. What exactly is Bobble-Head Theater? It is a series of nine videos in which bobble-heads do what they do best. You guessed it, bobble! Well, that and other things. I’m not sure who created the videos—my guess would be a fellow youth pastor—and posted them on YouTube. Of this I am sure, they are quite comical (I have to warn you that you may find them to be, what’s the word--dumb). In each video the main bobble-head, Davey, learns a somewhat valuable lesson.
Episode six, titled What If You’re Wrong, inspired me (que cheesy inspirational music). This episode would serve as a spring board of sorts for me. After leaving the conference, I began rethinking and retooling some of my beliefs. For years I had just accepted the pat answers as fact. Finally, I was able to muster up the courage and actually do some research to find honest answers to my honest doubts.
This episode involves Davey asking each of his friends (which include Mr. T, The Lucky Charms Guy, and Hank Williams, to name a few) “What if you’re wrong?” about their various endeavors. Like Davey, at the end of the episode, I got to thinking, "What if I'm wrong?" What if some of my deeply held beliefs weren't really true at all? Could some of my beliefs be slightly skewed? How would that change things? Having said that, let me give you a disclaimer: in no way is this an attempt to discredit the church or Christianity! My desire through all of this is only to find the truth!

It is here, I have decided to add to the discussion and raise some questions. Take what you will, from the posts that follow, and discard the rest. Through them, I hope to clear a few wrong theologies that have weaseled their way in, thus making our paradigms either blatantly false or at the very least, somewhat skewed.

Now, I know there are some who just cringe at the very thought of asking "What if you're wrong?" Why? Perhaps it is because you, like me, have been raised to believe it is wrong to question your faith or what the Bible says; but most of all we never question the church. Or maybe it is just easier to go with the flow and not rock the boat. Then again, we may not want to honestly answer the question because pride stands in our way. We are right and that’s it; end of discussion. Or we have been avoiding this discussion because it only goes to show we don’t really know it all. And furthermore, we aren’t as in control as we think or would like to be. There is also the possibility we would actually have to alter the way we have been living our lives. You never know, asking the tough questions might even support and strengthen everything we already hold to be true.

If you care to check it out, here's the episode.

To be continued...

Friday, December 9, 2011


As I have previously mentioned in my blog, I don't just get ink for something to do. Let's be honest, having needles breaking your flesh repeatedly isn't the most enjoyable activity. While some aren't too painful, I could still think of other, less painful, things to do. And in case you weren't aware, tattoos don't come cheap either. Actually, let me rephrase that, good tattoos don't come cheap. For that reason, you don't see me with any tribal designs, some popular brand or logo, or various Chinese characters (no offense if you have any of these). Granted, the aforementioned tattoos can have some sort of significance or story behind them; I even know a few individuals like that. But, for me, there wouldn't be a point to them.

Today, we will pick up with the tattoo on my right forearm. More often than not, this is the tattoo I have random people ask me about. It may have something to do with the fact that it isn't in English. Or maybe it's the fact that most of my tattoos are covered and I don't walk around shirtless. When I inform them it's Hebrew, I get two common reactions. The first is a shocking look followed by the question, "Are you Jewish?" (this one never fails to amuse me.) After they come to the realization I'm not, they usually follow it with something like, "The Hebrew language is so beautiful, isn't it?" Remember, I'm a dude! Getting some lettering because it is beautiful isn't my style. While I want my tattoos to be aesthetically pleasing, how beautiful the letters are isn't in my criteria for choosing them. All of this was to tell you that I took a while to decide on this particular phrase. A lof of time was put into researching this and making sure I got it right. This was something, I needed to be constantly reminded of.

Permanently on my forearm is the phrase 'B'tzelem Elohim.' This Hebrew phrase, used in the creation account, is deep with meaning. Essentially, it is a summation of Genesis 1:26-28 where God turns his attention to the creation of man. When translated, at it's most basic level, B'tzelem Elohim means "created in the image of God." I realize this is a pretty basic truth; however, it's the most basic things we have the tendency to gloss over. Reality is that many of us struggle with this truth on a daily basis. Our understanding of its importance is lacking. And, let's be honest, this is a truth we all forget pretty day in and day out. My thinking, then why not get the constant reminder?

This phrase came to me at just the right time in life (funny how God does that). At the time, I was really struggling with some identity issues. To a point, I was unsettled about how things had been playing out lately. To be completely honest, life wasn't how I had expected it to be at that stage in life. I had been out of ministry for over a year, which was kind of rough for me. Afterall, that's why I went to college. I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted to do through most of my college career. But, this was making me question why I spent an exorbitant amount of money for that degree to just hung on my wall. Over several months, the questions began to surface. Did I totally misread God on my calling? Who am I without ministry? What am I really doing with my life?  Am I making a difference at all? Am I a disappointment to those around me?

Every time I look at this tattoo, I am reminded that none of that matters. What is truly important is the fact that I am created in the image of God. Not just any god, but the God. And my identity is solely defined by that reality. Nothing else! A glance at this tattoo eases the need I sometimes have to perform. It reminds me to take my focus off trying to please others and live in the reality that the only one worth pleasing is the one in whose likeness I have been created. And the funny thing is, because of this amazing thing called grace, that will never change...as long as I'm pursuing my creator.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


When I say the word surrender, what kind of images come to mind? For me, the first image is the guy against the wall, in the spotlight, with his hands and feet spread being frisked and handcuffed by the cops. I also envision the army, heads hung in shame, waving the white flag in defeat. And I think this is the idea many of us have when we think of surrender. Surrender is this negative thing for us! No wonder when we talk about surrendering our lives to God it seems like such a terrible ordeal. It’s as if our surrender to God is a punishment for all of these terrible wrongs we have committed. Like God's plan all along has been to make cookie-cutter molds of each one of us. To get us in line. To have us follow marching orders. None of that is, in essence, what surrender is all about.

I want to paint a different picture of surrender; but before I do that, we need to go over a few things. There are some lies about what it means to surrender that need debunked. Let me tell you what surrender is not. It's not about giving up my Sunday to go to church. It’s not entirely about activities I now avoid. It's not all about avoiding fun or certain people. Surrender is not about passivity, conservatism, or pacifism--or any other ism, for that matter.

Surrender, in reality is the solitary thing Christian faith comes down to. Something so simple, yet so profound; and not to mention, so freakin' difficult! How easy it should be for us to just surrender to the very God of the universe. The one who created everything--including you and me. The one with plans to prosper and not to harm us. The only one who is truly good. And the only one who willingly laid down his life for us!

Surrender--to relinquish control. Why is it so difficult? I'll tell you why it's so difficult--at least for me--because I no longer make my own decisions. Well, I guess I do, but it means it is first filtered through Godly counsel, Scripture, and perhaps God Himself.

Surrender is a proactive, conscious decision to align our lives with the teaching and life of Christ. Living a life of surrender is about learning to walk with God. It is about transforming and renewing us into what we were created to be. So, you see, surrender is much more of a positive thing than we realize. This may mean there are certain actions I do away with. I might even have to limit or avoid some behaviors. And to be frank, surrender may involve cutting off certain relationships.  Attitudes may need to be suppressed or put away entirely. But none of these is the goal of surrender! When viewed under this microscope, surrender really isn't about avoidance at all.  It is about learning to walk in fellowship with God. This means it is about giving up the normal, the ordinary, the mundane. It turns into laying aside my monotonous plans for life in pursuit of something bigger and better, far beyond myself.

With this view of surrender, it should become a little easier to do. To realize that God owes me absolutely nothing, but desires to give me everything! Allow me to take a moment and make this personal. Often, I have felt that God owes me, all because I accepted His call to ministry (very reluctantly if you know the story). Really? What better could I have done with my life? If anything, I owe God for making something of my life and giving me something real to live for. I owe him for not just the promise of new life, but the reality of the new life he has given me.

In light of this, I want to surrender more and more everyday!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


I would like to take this time to tell you about the most painful (physically) moment in my life. It wasn't in college when I broke my ankle in one of those stupid inflatables for kids. Nor was it any of my 8 tattoos--although the one on the inside of my bicep ranks right up there. No, the most painful moment of my life was born out of boredom and stupidity one evening in a friend's basement in high school. Before I go any further, I'd like to emphasize the stupidity of this and the fact that I was in high school (translation, I was naive). Here is where I should also preface this with the warning: Do not try this at home!

One night, in an un-sterile environment, one of my best friends pierced my nipple--yes, my nipple! I won't even go into the details, but I'm sure you can use your imagination and get an idea of how painful it might have been. It was so painful, in fact, that I was only able to pierce the one. Granted, I haven't experienced giving birth (nor will I ever experience it--just to clarify), but I might rank having your nipple pierced right up there with child birth on the pain scale.

If you are human, you likely aren't a fan of pain and suffering. If that is you, I am in the same boat. However, I read something a while ago that got me to thinking and is changing my perspective. I stumbled across a statement something along the lines of "the most powerful words in the English language are 'me too.'" Most of us don't wish one another to go through the same pain and suffering we experience, yet on the other hand it is extremely comforting to know someone else has been there. It makes the pain and suffering more bearable to know that you're not alone. That others have been there...and survived (or perhaps even thrived afterwards). The knowledge that there is hope makes whatever pain and suffering comes our way a little less, well, painful.

Even in our most painful experiences (physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually) none of us has even come close to the torture and agony of my savior. He was mocked, tortured and crucified. But even the physical and emotional pain combined didn't compare to the pain he experienced the moment his father turned away and withdrew for just a moment. Yet, Christ endured it all, as Scripture says "for the joy set before him...enduring its shame." I can't speak for you, but surveying the last 28 years of my life and the pain and agony (most of which I was responsible for myself), nothing comes close to what Christ endured. Granted, there were some pretty painful times; times I even thought God was absent, but in reality he was there! And I can't even begin to imagine (nor do I want to) how things would have turned out differently if God had turned away, like he did in that moment Christ was hanging on that cross for you and me.

And here comes the point to all of this. We, like Christ, are to endure the pain and suffering that comes. I have to tell you I'm not (nor is Paul) talking about suffering simply for the sake of suffering. There is no significance or joy found in suffering without a purpose. For example, starvation is not a positive thing. Our 3 for $3 challenge on the other hand, was a way we were able to "suffer" and catch a glimpse of what it's like to be hungry. The suffering had no meaning when it was separated from its purpose. The significance came when our pain and suffering gave us a bit of solidarity with those who go hungry on a daily basis. It was deep with meaning because it created (hopefully) a paradigm shift and drew us closer to the heart of God. It allowed us, to a point, to be able to say "me too!"

Not only are we to endure suffering, but we are to find joy in it as well. There is a big difference! I have endured plenty of pain. My countless hours in the tattoo chair, my relationship problems, and my rebellion from time to time will all attest to that. But I am unable to say I have found joy in all of it. However, there is a change rising within me. One that is allowing me to catch a glimpse of joy through some of my pain and suffering, because it is expanding my horizons and opening doors of ministry I never thought possible. The pain and suffering I have endured through my lifetime (which is minuscule compared to many) is developing within me a heart of compassion. I am able to see that while the pain and suffering was never God's plan, he is using it in ways unimaginable. I am still a long way off, but I find that in some ways, my pain and suffering allows me to relate a little more to Christ (which is weird to say, I know). I can tell you from experience, when it's all said and done that there really is joy found in that kind of suffering. I can't explain how it works, nor can I explain why it works. But I can promise you that this joy of knowing Christ, in his pain and suffering, is the only thing that will bring you through the messy parts of life in one piece.

Last, but certainly not least, you should know, the pain and suffering will come! It is inevitable. Of course, I don't need to tell you that because, you live on Earth and are already privy to this reality. As disciples, we can't say Jesus didn't warn us. He made it pretty clear, "if the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first." There really isn't much more to say, other than perhaps "Knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect (mature) and complete, lacking in nothing." And it is through that pain and suffering we are united and are given a testimony and a witness which none can deny. It is this, according to Henri Nouwen, that allows us, like Christ, to be a wounded healer--meaning our "me too" moments allow us to help others through the healing process.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


When I was little--scratch that, 'cause I'm still only 5'4".  When I was younger, I was afraid of the dark. Any of you that know me will find this hard to believe since I am so rugged and manly, but it's true. At night, when I was heading to bed, I would turn off the light and sprint across my room. About three feet away from my bed, I would jump and launch myself directly into the middle of my bed. Why? Because I was certain there was something living beneath the box spring that would take out my feet and suck me under if I got too close in the pitch black. I am elated to report to you that this fear no longer holds me captive. I calmly walk to my bed and crawl under the covers every night--alone, without the use of a night light. You laugh now, but you would have developed the same fear being a small child and watching the movie Little Monsters.

We have a bad experience and, often times, allow it to shape and form the way we live our lives. All of our decisions in that specific arena of life are dictated by that one experience. That is what we call fear--a circumstance, situation, or outcome that causes feelings of dread or apprehension. Fear is the very thing that creates a paradigm shift and keeps us from taking similar risks again. To many, our fears may seem very plausible; and to a point, they may be. However, they move from the plausible to the implausible when we allow them to control and dictate the trajectory of the rest of our lives.

Fear is like a disease! It creeps in, often times unnoticed, and cripples us. It becomes detrimental and debilitating to our very existence. Granted, there is such a thing as healthy fear. To fear God is a healthy fear, according to Scripture. Healthy fear can keep us from making un-wise decisions. But most often, our fears would fall under the category of the unhealthy (even our fear of God has moved into the realm of unhealthy for many of us). As I already pointed out, fear becomes unhealthy when we give it control. It is this fear that makes someone sleep with the light on, never go outside, keep relationships on a superficial level, never commit to marriage, not share their faith. The fear of death would lie on the same playing field as the rest of these. I think you get the picture.

The sad reality is that this is where a majority of us live our life everyday. We live in a perpetual state of fear. This fear holds us back. It keeps us from pursuing things beyond ourselves--the very things we were created to do. When we give fear control, we live far less significant lives than we were intended to. Unfortunately, I am no different from the many. This is where my life has been spent the past several years. Far too long, I have allowed my fears to hold me captive. My fears have been determining the course of my life. Because of fear, I have been eeking my way through life, missing numerous opportunities. Well today, I say no more! No longer will my life be controlled by fear (and regret).

A big fear of mine has always been the fear of failure. By nature, I am a very competitive person. It is hardwired in my DNA. If I know I can't succeed, I usually won't even make an attempt. Knowing this, it is time I make a conscious decision to combat this fear. Here on out, I vow to take risks, even if they will inevitably end in failure. Afterall, I cannot predict the future, so I will never know the outcome until I make the attempt. For the last 4 years, this fear has kept me from pursuing the calling God placed on my life. What if I pursue my dream and fall flat on my face? Can I really make a go of it? Am I even gifted in this area? These are the questions that continually plague me. Please understand, I am not fishing for compliments or a pat on the back. I know the answer to these questions has less to do about me and my ability than my faith in God's ability.

My divorce brought a fear of rejection to the surface. Granted, most of us have this fear innate within us; but, for me, it grew exponentially when the one I vowed to give myself to heart and soul rejected me. Not that I'm the only one that has gone through this, or ever will go through this, but it hit me pretty hard. There was a sense that it was my fault; that I had pushed her away; that I was to blame. I lived with the tension of that fear and guilt for months thinking I wasn't deserving of love and wouldn't find it again. For the better part of a year I built up walls to keep any female at bay. I wasn't going to allow women to hurt me again. And to be completely honest, this is still something I have to be on the lookout for.

Again, these may sound like legitimate fears. But I want you to see why they are not ! In Scripture, John tells us that "perfect love drives out fear." The reason we fear is obvious—we lack perfect love. Since we are imperfect beings, we are incapable of displaying perfect love; however, you should know we are all capable of receiving perfect love that comes only from our heavenly father. If you and I would begin to trust that He knows what He is doing and has our best interest at heart, we could overcome our fears. The result would be phenomenal. It would change the way we make every decision (not to mention the way we see everyone else). His perfect love will drive our fears away. Then, and only then, can we face our fears head on!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


What do we mean when we talk about following Jesus? When we say we desire to follow Christ, what exactly are we getting ourselves into? Is it about going to church? How about reading and memorizing Scripture? Does following Jesus mean we manage our sin better? Pray more? How about getting plugged into community? Or, perhaps it is about something totally different! Something more encompassing than each of these individual disciplines. To answer what it means to follow Jesus, we must first determine what theme(s) are central to his message. If we can discover and implement the heart of Jesus, everything else should inevitably align itself.

If we were to read the Bible only to find the heart of Jesus, we would readily find it. Too often, we miss it because we are reading the Bible with our own agenda—to find an answer to our problem, to gain wisdom, to defend our cause (the Bible can do all of these things, but that is not the main purpose God has given us the written Word). God has given us his written Word, in order that we might catch a glimpse of his heart and his plan for his creation.

For starters, I'd like to tell you what isn't at the core Jesus' message. To begin with, it isn't about sin management. His sole desire isn't to keep us accountable to the law. The heart of Jesus isn't about judgment and condemnation. Nor is the core of his message about time or money management. As a matter of fact, Jesus' message is exponentially more others centered than me centered! It's not about church growth. You might be shocked to hear this, but the central message of Jesus isn't even about evangelizing the lost. While all of these are great things, Jesus had far less to say about these than the more pressing matters close to his heart. Don't get me wrong, everything I just listed is important in the life of a follower, but they are all subservient to the overarching theme of Jesus' life.

The central themes of his message are of love, grace and hope. At one point, Jesus tells us his purpose is to seek and save the lost (I've come to conclude he was talking more about redemption and restoration and less about evangelizing, so to speak). And his plan for that, was to walk with us. Take on flesh and live as we lived. To actually live a life of action, not merely theologize and debate the issues. Jesus lived a life worth emulating by humbling himself and serving the least in the kingdom (who we find out have always been the greatest). And his deepest desire was that this might teach us (those who have taken his namesake) only one thing. Jesus hoped we would learn to establish his kingdom here on Earth. And the only way to do that is to, first, love our fellow human beings. And second, to love God. Perhaps I'm off base to mention love for man before love for God, but I believe it is impossible to love God, whom we cannot see, if we care unable to love those we see face to face everyday. Come to think of it, I'm pretty sure that exact statement is found in scripture, so I must not be too far off base.

That is the core of Jesus' message. That is his very heartbeat. In case you missed it, let me succinctly lay it out for you. Jesus wants each of us to love as he loved--unbiased, unhindered, uninhibited. We begin to do this by developing a heart of compassion towards not only the marginalized and the less fortunate (whom I have come to find are pretty easy to love) but the religious, the Pharisaical, the pious, and those who feel entitled and far superior to you and me as well (let's be honest, those are the ones we find more difficult to love). It is only when I begin to do this that other things, like tithing, avoiding temptation, sharing my faith, etc. become easier. Jesus' kingdom would come much quicker and easier, if only you and I could learn to love as he loved--in selfless action, not just word!

Thursday, October 20, 2011


I enjoy technology--for the most part. Actually, a more correct statement would be that I enjoy technology when it works as intended. Technology and I have a love-hate relationship. Technology definitely makes life easier, but I have begun to see the tendency it has to complicate things as well. In spite of all this, I have to admit that I may be a technology junkie--and I don't even have a crackberry. It seems I can't be anywhere without making use of some sort of technology. And heaven forbid I am somewhere without it, I usually feel pretty disoriented. Lately I have discovered it is pretty difficult to disconnect. This presents a huge problem. But it is making me re-evaluate things and hopefully make some changes.

Most of us, I fear, have become far too dependent upon technology. Can you remember the phone number of some of your closest friends--without looking at your cell phone? If the Internet goes down for an extended period of time, do you become less productive? Does the television need to be on while you are preparing meals? While you make your commute to work, how much of that time is the radio infiltrating your ears? Do you actually interact with the people in front of you, or are you preoccupied with the mobile web? Can you make use of a map if your GPS were to stop working for some reason? I hope the picture is becoming clear by now.

Technology can be a great tool; but that means it can be a great hindrance as well. If I am honest with you, I have to admit that technology has had the tendency to be a hindrance for me. When it comes to friends and family, I have used technology as an excuse to disconnect. Phone calls, text messages and emails have become an acceptable replacement for face time. I can make shallow connections with numerous people, all at the same time, without leaving the comfort of my own home. If I'm avoiding someone, caller ID allows me to screen all of their calls (yes, I have done this once or twice...or more). When it comes to text messaging, if I told you I never received it, you would likely accept that as a reasonable excuse since technology doesn't always work as intended. You might think it was still floating around somewhere in cyberspace.

When I am actually in the presence of other human beings, technology has a tendency to distract me. I can be sitting across the room from someone half-heartedly engaging while I am busy texting someone. It seems I can't even get away from technology when I go out to eat--everywhere I look there is a TV mounted to the wall with at least one show I don't mind watching. When it comes to spiritual disciplines, sadly I have embraced technology as a legitimate distraction. For example, when I decide to sit down and spend some quiet time with God, numerous technological devices are at my fingertips. The remote control lays there beckoning me to pick it up. While my cell phone is on vibrate, it makes just as much noise and is just as distracting as if it were to ring. When it comes to every avenue of life, I am finding it more essential that I be intentional and disconnect from technology. Only when I disconnect will I be able to truly connect!

Bottom line is that I can make excuses and blame technology for so many things. Reality is that the only thing I can blame is not a thing at all, but a person. And that person is me! Technology is a neutral medium that can be used for both good and bad. What I do with it and how I make use of it is totally up to me!

(Of course, the irony is that I typed this on a computer and posted it on both my blog and facebook for all the world to see. And we all know, everyone in the world is dying to read my latest blog update.)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


Let's be honest, some of us are terrible at making decisions. We all know people that couldn't make a decision if their life depended on it. If you were to leave the decision on where to have dinner up to them, there is a possibility you might starve. During those times, I often wonder what is going through their mind that makes it so difficult to decide. More importantly, I wonder what happens when the decision that needs to be made is much more significant, say for example which job to take, where to move, whether or not to marry this or that person, etc.

We are bombarded with decisions around every corner. Some of them really have no bearing on how our day or even our life will play out (i.e. what to eat for dinner). However, there are many decisions we make that have huge implications on life. These decisions will effect every decision that follows and will change the entire outcome of our life. How we respond to each of these decisions we encounter is of utmost importance. I also believe that our response to these decisions has a lot more to say about our faith than we probably realize.

As Christians, we spend a majority of our time waiting on God (and if you've read my post on waiting, you know this is something I'm not great at). We can all think of instances in Scripture in which individuals were told to wait on God. The disciples were told to wait for the Holy Spirit. David waited patiently (sometimes) for God to make Him king. The Israelites waited for guidance and direction (again, sometimes). The authors of Lamentations, Psalms, Hosea, and others encouraged us to continually wait for God. Although waiting is a Biblical principle, I often wonder if it is possible we have taken it a little too far when it comes time to hunker down and decide.

Do we really need to wait on God before we make any decision and take action? Does God really have something to say about everything in life? Is it necessary everything is filtered through prayer? Or in some instances, do I just need to make a decision and take action? My answer to all of these is both yes and no! In the following few paragraphs, I am going to lay out three different types of decisions and how we are to respond.

First off, there are the decisions that should be quick and easy. I believe God’s Word is clear on many things. We should avoid sexual immorality. We should encourage one another. We should feed the homeless. We should share his message. Do we really need to wait on God to give us direction on whether or not to do things such as these--the Biblical mandates Christ has given us? Probably not; because, he has already given us his answer via Scripture. And let's not forget that He has blessed us with common sense (well, some of us at least). So, these decisions shouldn't require a waiting period. And let me add to this category, decisions on what to eat for dinner, what color of car to purchase, etc. Decisions like this just require that we make a decision and live with consequences (both good and bad). These decisions I refer to as the "just make a decision" decision. And let's be honest, to say we need to pray about these decisions is just a delay tactic!

For some Biblical examples of these types of decisions turn your attention to the creation account, the words of Jesus found in Matthew 28, and Paul’s writing found in Philippians 4:8-9. In the first passage we find that Adam and Eve, in the garden, have been given one “No!” and what seems to be a limitless number of yes'. There is no need to ask God and wait to see if the fruit from each tree is acceptable to eat. They already have the answer. The second passage is often referred to as 'the Great Commission.' Jesus' words, 'therefore, go...,' couldn't be more clear. Not wait. Not pray about it. Just go, and make disciples. Now for the final passage. 'Whatever' is the key word here. In two verses it is said seven times. Again, the possibilities are endless. Think about and do anything that is true, honorable, etc.

The second type of decision is the "wait on it" decision. I can't deny the fact that there are many things the Bible is unclear on. It is in those areas, I know waiting on God is a must! And for those decisions, waiting should be coupled with prayer. The Bible clearly tells us that prayer should be our first response. And that we should be in prayer continually. If you want a list of these types of decisions, I can't give them to you, because they will be different for different people. The important thing is to make prayer a priority with these kinds of decisions. However, the key here is that at the time of decision, make a decision, don't wait until then to pray about it. If you have spent time leading up to decision d-day, you should be able to comfortably make a decision. God has hopefully given you direction; if not, perhaps this decision has just turned into the third type.

Finally, the third category of decisions we must make. These decisions are kind of like a walk in the dark. We can't deny there are times in all of our lives where God doesn't give us clear direction, yet a decision is required. More often than not, these decisions will have time tables on them. And in these cases (and all cases), indecision is a decision (and it's usually the wrong decision). While some people may argue that something on a time table isn't God ordained, I would disagree. This is where the whole concept of faith comes into play. Sometimes we have to make decisions based on what little knowledge we have.

You will find Paul and Silas making these kind of decisions in Acts 6:6-10. Even though they didn't have clear direction, they trudged forward in faith, that somehow, someway, God would make things apparent. And when they were headed in the wrong direction, Scripture tells us 'the Spirit of Jesus stopped them.'

It is these times God builds our trust. These decisions teach us that God really does "work things out for the good of those who are called according to his purpose." While it may be difficult to take that step not knowing where it will lead, we need to realize that even if it is wrong, God has the ability to fix and reconcile. If we are seeking God, He will direct our steps. Even in the midst of indecision and wrong decisions, God is sovereign. So, if you are still waiting on God, perhaps he is waiting on you.

Thursday, September 29, 2011


Behind each of my tattoos there is a story deep with meaning. As I have been getting my most recent sessions of ink, several of you have asked why I was getting this one. That may have been partly due to the fact that until a week ago, it kind of looked like urban camouflage on the inside of my arm. Now that we are close to finishing this piece, it is easy to see Moses parting the Red Sea (or at least I hope it is). Having said that, I thought my blog was a great place to share the stories and significance behind each of my tattoos.

It took a while to figure out what was going to cover the inside of my arm. Granted, I have wanted a half-sleeve for a while, but I wasn't just going to get anything. It, like my other tattoos, had to be something worth permanently putting on my body. I was reading a book a friend gave me called Plan B: What Do You Do When God Doesn't Show Up The Way You Thought He Would. I know, it's a long title, but the book is phenomenal, so I suggest you read it! At the time I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt what God wanted me to do--and I was beginning to see some of that come to fruition. However, I was still a little unsettled as it wasn't happening when or how I had hoped.

About half way through the book, the discussion turned to Moses. From there, I replayed in my mind how his life had played out, specifically after he finally stopped resisting and handed the reigns over to God. In case you aren't familiar, I will catch you up with his story. Moses, a Hebrew, was adopted into Pharaoh's household. During his years in the palace, Moses' people were living in the bondage of slavery to Egypt. Eventually, seeing one of the Egyptians beating a Hebrew, Moses killed the slave-driver and buried the evidence. Lo and behold, this incident came to light and Moses went on the run. Now we jump ahead in the story and find that Moses had been living a pretty normal life until he encountered God and received a call to head back to Egypt and rescue his people. After some wrestling with God, Moses agreed to confront Pharaoh. Through some persuasion and a few miracles (you might call them plagues), Pharaoh let the people go and the Hebrews took off toward the east with Moses. Eventually they come face to face with the Red Sea (I should tell you at this time Pharaoh regretted his decision to let the Hebrews go and his army was in pursuit). Here Moses and his crew find themselves between a rock and a hard place. Moses knew what God had called him to. He knew the promises that were made. But first, they had to overcome this obstacle.

And it is here, we pick up and I put myself in Moses' shoes--the past in hot pursuit, looming over everything and a giant obstacle in the way of the life that has been promised. Over the past few years of rebuilding my life God had given me some big dreams and made some outstanding promises. Occasionally, I even saw glimpses of the future He had in store for me. But that's all they were, glimpses. There came a time (right when I was given the book Plan B) I kind of felt like God was just teasing me. It was as though He was dangling the proverbial carrot right in front of me, always just out of reach. I felt I was ready for what He had in store and wanted to see things start moving. While opportunities were presenting themselves, the progress was still too slow for me. It was then I began thinking about Moses. Thoughts flooded my mind about how he must have felt and what must have been going through his mind standing there at the Red Sea. God had proved himself faithful already (just as He has for me, time and time again), yet, here he was face to face with this insurmountable obstacle. Even though God had been faithful up to this point, I can't help but think Moses still had some lingering doubts. Will you really going to come through God? Are you sure you know what you're doing God? This all had better not be a cosmic joke or I'm going to be furious! There, in the midst of the anxiousness and fear Moses takes a few steps into the Red Sea (there's a lot of significance there), raises his staff and waits for God to do what it is He plans on doing.

That's exactly where my life is at right now. Things seem to be at a stand still. My past can still overtake me if I give up on God and allow it to. I can wait here at this crossroad and allow my mind to be flooded with numerous questions of why, how and when. Or I, like Moses, can take a few steps into the Red Sea, raise my staff (maybe I should get myself one of those to walk around with) and see how God comes through--yet again! I know the dreams and vision I have of restoration and renewal are much bigger than I can accomplish on my own. And I am no longer willing to stand on the shore, letting my mind become flooded with questions to which I may never have answers. So, like Moses, I am wading into the Red Sea, a giant ball of fear and anxiousness, to see what God comes up with this time. And when I cross, on dry land, hopefully I don't have to spend the next 40 years wandering like Moses and his crew.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


At the risk of sounding bragadocious, you should know God has bestowed some wonderful talent upon me. I'm not saying I'm the best at what I do. Nor am I saying there isn't room for improvement. Reality is, I will probably never receive large sums of money or huge accolades for this. However, I am passionate about this God given talent. So much so, that if I could quit my job and have a guarantee that pursuing this talent would make ends meet I would do it (at least that's what I keep telling myself now). What is this talent I speak of? Cleaning! Actually, that's not what I am talking about. But, if you do know me you would probably agree with that one as well. What I am talking about is preaching (and possibly writing).

Now, can I be honest with you? For the past several years, I haven't done much with this talent. The word that would most accurately describe my use of this talent God has blessed me with is squander. Jesus told a parable about a couple of guys who were given "talents" by their supervisor. Right now, I'm feeling kind of lazy. That means I'm not going to retell you the parable, so I suggest you open your Bible and turn to Matthew 25:14-30 and read it for yourself.

Did you read it yet?

If you haven't, stop reading this until you read the parable!

Now that you have done so, we can continue.

Start off by taking a moment and putting yourself in this story. I would like you to think about which of the servants you can relate to most. Sadly, I can most readily identify with the last one. I am identical to the guy that took his talent and buried it--all out of fear. What caused me to bury my talent was the fear of never measuring up. Never amounting to what I thought God wanted. Only, I never even knew what it was I thought He wanted for me.

By nature, I am a very competitive person. Competitiveness pumps through my veins. It is hard-wired in my DNA. I get upset when I don't perform the way I know I can. This means, I am constantly striving to be the best (not necessarily a bad thing). However, in all my striving I find myself constantly comparing myself to others. When it came to my two talents, I was comparing myself to the guy with five talents (think Andy Stanley, Rob Bell, Craig Groeschel). Of course I was never going to measure up, I haven't been entrusted with five talents; I have been entrusted with two. Nor do I have the experience many of these five talent guys have. This entire time I have been playing the comparison game (which, by the way, never works out for anybody), I wasn't even comparing apples to apples. No wonder I was frustrated and fearful.

Not only have I denied myself the life God intended for me. I have also denied God the opportunity to use me. Furthermore, I took away from others the opportunity to be edified with this talent. In case you were wondering, this is completely unacceptable! If this were baseball, I would have just struck out. Thankfully, that isn't how God operates. I am grateful for the second (third, fourth, fifth, etc.) chances that He offers a guy like me. He had every right to take my two talents and give them to someone that was going to make use of them...but He didn't. I just hope I move beyond the fear and burying aspect, even though a lot of times I feel ill-equipped and completely incapable.

With that I resolve to, first and foremost, dig up my two talents (it's doing nothing buried beneath the fear and unrealistic expectations). Next, I am going to make myself comfortable with the fact that I am a two talent guy, not a five talent guy. The third thing I have decided to do is continue to develop my two talents. Finally, due to my detail oriented personality, it is necessary I set a time-frame to make use of these two talents. The time-frame I have set is one year. I can't waste more time squandering this talent when God wants me to make the most of it and the world needs me to use it.

Monday, September 12, 2011


God has managed to wreck my life...yet again! I am approaching two years since my marriage ended in divorce and have finally sorted out the mess and began putting the pieces back together. Not too long ago there was a peace about how everything was playing out and I was really seeing what God was up to. I know very well what the devil intended for harm, God is turning into good. However, since that peace had set in I had basically been in coast mode. Granted, not everything turned out how I would have liked it, but I had faith God was doing something. And a majority of the time, I was comfortable with that. At least that's how it was until I made a trip to Chicago with the leadership team from the church. A group of us took a few days off work and headed to the Willow Creek Leadership Summit, which apparently was the motivation I needed to think through some things and to begin making some changes. It was this point God stepped in yet again, turned off my coast mode and shook things up.

Let me give you some snapshots of my highlights from the conference:

Bill Hybels started the conference on a high note (of course). What he said that stuck with me the most was that, "Leaders rarely learn anything new without having their world rocked." This statement put much of the last 2 years of my life into perspective. Well beyond the shadow of a doubt, I can say my world was rocked to the core 2 years ago in the form of a note on the kitchen counter. That note was the first sign my marriage was falling apart and heading for divorce. But, like Hybels said, there are many lessons I wouldn't have learned otherwise. To begin with, I learned to trust God more--it's kind of necessary when you don't have much else to cling to. It also gave me an opportunity to re-evaluate what was most important to me. There was a lot of time I got to spend getting comfortable with the real Jordan and finding out who he is and what makes him tick. To keep this brief, let's just say there was a lot I learned from having my world rocked by the dissolution of my marriage.

Len Schlesinger, the president of Babson College, gave a rousing discussion on what to do in the face of unknowability. And for me (and everyone else), there is nothing more unknowable than the future. His advice was so simple and logical, "If you can't predict the future, create it!" That sounds like a great idea to me. I wrestled with that idea and how I had been coasting and not creating my future. In case you were wondering, that is completely unacceptable. So, let me lay out some of his advice to create your future. First things first, take small steps with what you have in hand. Small steps tend to limit your risk and helps build momentum. Next, it's important to quit letting the fear of failure dictate the trajectory of your life (which I have been doing with some things for the last 4 years). Failure doesn't mean game over! Failure only means it is time to try again with what you have learned. His last and most timeless piece of advice: take action! It is impossible to get anywhere just by thinking about it. Do something, but always keep in mind, there is no guarantee for success! All of these were things I definitely needed to hear. So far, Willow Creek is up on Jordan two to nothing.

Next we have the mayor of New Jersey, Corey Booker (he definitely didn't disappoint). He shared some of his struggle to bring beauty to one of America's most violent cities. On several occasions he made the statement, "Do somethin'!" This tends to fly in the face of what some of us have been taught in the church. We are told to pray about it and wait on God. Sometimes we fail to see the danger in just waiting. Now don't get me wrong, it is important to pray and wait on God. If we are going to do something, we definitely want to make sure he's in the midst. But, far too often we play the waiting game and use it as a crutch. We fail to act because "God hasn't opened the door," but we fail to see that while he may not have opened the door, he hasn't closed it either. I wonder how often we miss out on what God is doing because of our inaction. If only we would take a step of faith, then he would make it apparent to us (whether that means we fall flat on our face or move on to bigger, better and more challenging things). More often than not, we need to approach the door and turn the handle. (Alright God, I get it! I will take some action and do somethin').

Steven Furtick really rocked the boat for me. "If the size of your vision isn't intimidating to you, chances are it's insulting to God." Thanks, Steven! I have already been wrestling with the vision God has given me for my life. I know very well it is going to be a stretch and will require the miraculous. I'm not comfortable with the vision because I cannot do it...on my own. As if the guilt of that wasn't enough, now you have to tell me I am insulting God. Awesome! According to all of the speakers so far, I really don't have an excuse to not pursue the vision God has given me. I guess I had better set my audacious goals like Furtick suggested and start asking God to make them a reality. Afterall, if he called me, he can equip me and make it happen. If you're keeping score, like me, that's four for Willow Creek and a big fat zero for me!

Another speaker I had the privilege of listening to was Erwin McManus. I have to admit, this is the guy I was most looking forward to hearing all week. Everyone of his books sits on my shelf at home. Numerous times I have read through them and lent them to friends and family. Seeing as how he was finishing off the conference, I knew whatever he had to say was going to be a kick to the face. During the conference he made such a simple, yet profound statement. I have been mulling over for a while now trying to process it and do something with it. McManus said, "No one is born ordinary, unfortunately many of us die ordinary." (Yep, that was definitely a kick to the face). While I have not died yet (obviously), I have allowed some of my hopes and dreams to die. For some time now, I have settled for the mundane and the ordinary. Why? Because ordinary is easy. Orindary I can handle all on my own. The ordinary isn't challenging and doesn't require God's help. Living an ordinary life allowed me, at times, to remove God from the equation. (I'm not saying I lost faith, I just wasn't using it unless absolutely necessary).

Alright God, you win! I guess it's time I take some risks and start pursuing your purpose for my life--yet again. Afterall, I know I will be miserable until I do so. I've seen it play out like this every time I decided to run from you before. I'm not going to be so dumb as to do it again. So, here I am! I don't have all the answers. I'm not ready for all of this. But I guess I'm willing to step out in faith and watch you work and provide as you always do. Just stop wrecking my life for a little while!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011


During high school, I was one of those annoying teens driving down the road making everyone listen to, not only, my music, but the rattle of my car from the 15” sub woofer I had in the trunk. Knowing that I was a white, middle-class kid growing up in western South Dakota, you may find that hard to believe. What probably made it more annoying to innocent bystanders at red lights and stop signs was that I used to be big into gangsta’ rap (I know, I was both original and cool). And to be totally honest and bare my soul to you, I still occasionally need my fix. Among my favorite was Tupac Shakur (you less hip folks probably know him as 2Pac).

'Only God Can Judge Me' is one of his more popular songs. Unless you are a few cards short of a deck, you would probably guess the one line he continually repeats is: 'only God can judge me.' Little did I know that the church considered 2Pac a prophet, or at least a great teacher. If you hang out with one of Jesus' followers today, you will probably hear them recite the same line--'only God can judge me.' More than likely, this is the only instance in which Christians agree with the philosophy of 2Pac. But it is not only Christians that believe 'only God can judge me.' Even secular society (including atheists, which just baffles me) can be heard saying the same thing.

Here is yet another case in which the church, and the rest of the world, is sadly mistaken. Now, before you begin casting stones and labeling me a heretic, hear me out. Yes, God is the only one capable of judgment. You would be entirely accurate to point out that Jesus said "let he who is without sin cast the first stone." One day, we will all be accountable to God (Romans 14:12). But I think we are missing something here. While there may be a lot of truth to 2Pac's statement, the Bible, in some instances, seems to have a contrary teaching. Perhaps we can simply equate it to a misunderstanding of terminology; but the fact remains there are clear Biblical teachings showing we are responsible--to an extent--for the actions of one another.

Paul gives us some guidelines on calling out a brother caught in sin (Galatians 6:1-2). We can find similar guidelines to confronting another in Matthew 18:15-17. Paul also informs us we are to use our spiritual gifts to help cultivate spiritual growth in each other (1 Corinthians 12). We are also told to "spur on one another toward love and good deeds" (Hebrews 10:24). At least one occasion Jesus himself uttered the words “stop making false judgments and start judging correctly” (John 7:24). In Thessalonians 5, we are advised to "encourage one another and build each other up. If you care to look up more Scripture, be my guest and turn to Hebrews 3:12-13 or James 5:16 just to name a few.

Please understand, in no way am I saying we are given free reign to cast judgment upon one another and the world. That is not what these passages are talking about and that isn't even close to what Jesus was referring to. However, I do think these (and other) passages make a very bold and important statement about how we are to live and our responsibility to one another. And this is a message we all need to hear. The message is this: Yes, only God can judge me, but that doesn't let me off the the hook from being accountable to others for my actions (or inaction).

We will begin by tackling the more difficult discussion on this idea of judging. In the matter of Christians judging other Christians, we often miss the mark. On one hand, there are those who cast judgment on their fellow followers of Christ for anything they do that doesn't align with Scripture. While this takes some gumption to do, it can be some dangerous territory to navigate. But, in just as dangerous territory are those who, on the other hand, agree with 2Pac and shun any discussion on how they ought to live, having no regard for another Christian calling them out. I believe both of these is an incorrect interpretation of Scripture and an incorrect assessment of our responsibility to one another as Christians. It seems to me, the answer lies somewhere in the middle. While we are not called to judge one another, I do believe it is our responsibility to do something that looks an awful lot like judgment to some. That something is called accountability.

At this point, I need to throw some warning flags out when it comes to accountability. The first is that, for accountability to work, a relationship is required. True accountability cannot exist outside the confines of a relationship. There must be a two way avenue of communication and trust built; otherwise any attempt at accountability will always fall flat on it's face. The next warning is that, believe it or not, in the Christian life, there are some gray areas. Scripture doesn't clearly lay out each and every behavior that is appropriate or inappropriate (while it clearly lays out some, it is in no way exhaustive). What is acceptable behavior for you may not be acceptable behavior for me--and vice versa--for several reasons. This is why it is important that we have some convictions in place; but more importantly, we need to be sure our convictions are Biblically based. Furthermore, we need to understand that we cannot place our convictions on everyone else. While you are probably hoping I will lay some of these gray areas out for you, I am going to plead the fifth. The reason being, I do not want to make a list that fuels one persons legalism or adds to another's licentiousness. I don't know where you are at in your walk of faith, so I am going to simply refrain.

When laying a foundation for accountability and establishing some convictions, Andy Stanley gives us a great question to ask ourselves: "In light of my past experiences, my present circumstances, and my future hopes and dreams, what is the wise thing to do?" I may have a past that doesn't allow me to participate in certain behaviors that Scripture does not condemn. For example, if my past involves addiction, drinking (not condemned by the Bible) would not be a wise thing for me to do. If my present circumstances involve some sort of purity battle, dating (perfectly legitimate way to interact with the opposite sex) may not be a wise thing for me to do. Perhaps my future hopes and dreams hinge on being debt free; buying that brand new vehicle would not be a wise thing for me to do. As I hope you see, there is nothing wrong with any of these things in and of themselves--until they are put under scrutiny and we ask ourselves, "what is the wise thing to do?"

Now, let's address our (Christianity) judgement of the secular world. One thing is for certain, as disciples of Jesus, we cannot hold everyone to our standard of living. If people don’t claim to know or live in the truth--of Christianity--why would we expect them to follow and obey it? This would be similar to a vegetarian trying to convince me, am omnivore, that eating meat is bad. Even if it's logical and you have sound scientific support that eating meat is bad for me, I'm not going to relegate meat from my diet. I enjoy charred cow off the grill and am more than willing to take the risk that it could shorten my lifespan. No amount of dialogue will make me change my mind. The same is true with faith issues. No matter how much we try to convince people this way of life is the fullest, they won't buy into it by simply hearing us make those statements. For this reason, trying to hold those with varying beliefs accountable to our beliefs will never work. If they do not claim Jesus as Lord, what makes us think they would willingly subject themselves to his teachings? (Another warning: It is absolutely essential that we take a stand for our faith and convictions. It is more than acceptable that we voice our beliefs. However, we need to be careful how we do so. Personally, I don't think standing outside an abortion clinic with signs picturing the process is either acceptable or Christ centered).

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


I have to tell you that I don’t think our current view of salvation is completely wrong; I think it’s just too narrow. There is something we are missing. What many of us have been taught about salvation seems to be incomplete.

If we buy into our current view of salvation, I think the only reasonable conclusion we can take it to is best summed up by N.T. Wright, “As long as we see salvation in terms of going to heaven when we die, the main work of the church is bound to be seen in terms of saving souls for that future, but when we see salvation as the New Testament sees it, in terms of God’s promised new heavens and new earth and of our promised resurrection to share in that…then the main work of the church here and now demands to be rethought.” Essentially, I believe, if we buy into what has been taught about salvation--that it is about saving souls and getting into heaven--then we must conclude that life here on earth is meaningless. And I will not buy into that kind of theology. That is the very reason we must rethink what we believe about salvation.

If our understanding of salvation is wrong, then what should it be? Salvation, we all agree, deals with rescuing creation. But what are we to be rescued from? The obvious answers are sin and death. But, the true meaning of salvation goes beyond that.

Take a minute and read 1 Corinthians 15:19, 58. Once you have done that, we will begin this discussion.

The first thing I see Scripture teaching us is that: salvation is about the present, not simply the future. To say this flies right in the face of many within the evangelical church. But, reality is that life on earth matters; Jesus wasn’t focused on the future, in fact, he didn’t say much at all about the future.Very little of what Christ said and did was about the future and about heaven. Reading through the New Testament I see that he was primarily concerned with the here and now. With preparing to bring heaven to earth.

In Jewish culture heaven was more of an afterthought. They didn’t give much thought to heaven because they viewed it as a temporary stage on the way to the resurrection of the body. In reading much of the Old Testament, you should see that the Jewish people weren’t thinking much about God saving them from this life for something better. The salvation they sought was most engrossed with the here and now. They were concerned with the promises of God’s covenants and how they related to this life, in this world, not the afterlife in heaven. Think of the Exodus (being rescued from Egypt), Shadrach, Meshach and Abendango (being rescued from the fire), Daniel (being rescued from the lion’s den), or David (God, crush my enemies; rescue me now…). As a matter of fact, 90% of the passages in the Old Testament referring to salvation, spoke of temporal salvation. The salvation that takes place here on earth. Furthermore, roughly 50% of the New Testament passages regarding salvation speaks of this same kind of salvation. 

How many of you have ever thought this: the world is such a terrible place, I can’t wait to get to heaven. I have. I’ve thought it many times. It really would be nice if God would just end it all now and make things the way He intended them to be. But He isn’t. Because that is such a cop out. That’s the easy way out. That is what Paul, I believe, is talking about in Philippians 1:20-25.

Unless, you have a proper view of eternity. Eternity doesn’t start way in the future. Eternity starts today.  The day of salvation is here. Salvation has come today. I will argue until I am blue in the face, that salvation has more to do with the present than the future. Salvation is more embodied with the here and now than the then and after. Why is it wrong to view salvation in terms of the future? Because it separates body and spirit, heaven and earth. It assumes they aren’t one and the same. It is our mistake of bifurcation.

What is bifurcation? It is basically separating two things that are inseparable. Let me give you an example.  How many times in your youth did you find yourself saying "this doesn’t matter, I’m not even 18." Been there, done that, and trust me that wasn't the case. I found out the hard way that my actions did matter and had consequences well beyond turning 18. I still live with many of the consequences for some of the stupid mistakes I have made.

As Christians, we think so much about the future that we lose sight of the here and now. We forget that God offers salvation today. This goes into an age-old debate about temporal vs. eternal salvation. I do not for one minute believe it is one or the other. I believe a true, Biblical view of salvation must include both.  Although temporal is a poor word--giving the impression that it is only temporary--it is still fitting when in reference to the salvation God provides while we are here on earth. And when it is combined with eternal salvation, it makes it that much sweeter. 

God is about providing salvation for some of the things we’re dealing with right now. When God speaks of offering salvation and deliverance, it isn’t just from sin or death. It extends well beyond those two aspects.

Secondly, I see Scripture teaching us that: salvation is about the entire person, not just their soul. We all believe, I hope, that Jesus’ resurrection was a bodily one, not just a spiritual one. If we believe that, then how is it that we believe our resurrection will be a spiritual one? And how is it that we believe God cares only about our souls. What we believe about salvation and its relation to eternity, not only denies the physical resurrection of ourselves, but the physical resurrection of Christ as well. How can we believe that heaven exists as a place beyond this world that is inhabited by disembodied souls, when the Bible clearly states the resurrection is a physical one. It is simple. We cannot believe this and be a disciple of Christ. We must believe that salvation involves much more than just saving our souls and getting them into heaven.

If salvation is just about getting our souls into heaven, why then did Jesus waste most of his life on this earth performing miracles most of which dealt with the very physical and real aspects of life. Let me give you one example. John 9 records a miracle in which Jesus heals a man born blind. Why would he heal a man born blind, unless he cared about the physical stuff of life? I believe the answer to that question is simple. Jesus didn’t come just to get people into heaven. Jesus came to bring a little bit of heaven to earth, and since heaven is a place for the physical body, he came to take care of some of the physical stuff. As a matter of fact, what most Christians believe about salvation and heaven was written off by the early church as Gnosticism. We need not worry about the physical or the flesh aspect of life because it is bad and will be done away with one day; all we need to worry about is the spiritual aspect of life because it is good and will last for eternity.

We were knit together in our mothers womb, physically and spiritually. God knows the exact number of hairs on our head. For some of us that is a little easier to keep track of than others, but that fact alone leads me to believe that if God cares about how many hairs are on our head, he must care a lot more about our physical body that we lead on. In fact when Scripture speaks about salvation some of it refers to a physical salvation and some refers to a spiritual salvation.

Another idea I see Scripture teaching us is that: salvation is about all of creation, not just humanity. In Genesis we read that everything God created he called "good." Nothing was bad. Nothing was scrapped. Sure, down the road we find that God was so upset that he caused a flood to wipe out his creation; however, it was man that upset him, not the rest of creation. Jumping way ahead, Jesus informs us that he makes ALL things new, not just humanity, but ALL things--plants and animals. God is about all of creation. He is about redeeming every last bit of it. All of creation speaks of the grandeur of God, one author wrote. In the Psalms, we find that if we cease to praise God, surely the rocks will cry out.

Salvation isn’t just about making humanity the way it was intended to be; although that is a huge part. It is about redeeming all of creation. Salvation is about extracting all the beauty and grandeur of everything he created. As much as I hate to say it, I think there is a lot of truth to some of these hippie tree huggers. Granted, they may take it a little overboard, but hear them out. We can’t keep treating creation the way we have been--exploiting it, using it for our advantage. We were called to care for it. We are to be good stewards of all that God has given us--and that includes creation. I don’t think that God had Adam give names to each of the animals for lack of something better to do. I believe He had Adam do this in order to give him ownership. I hope you are seeing where I am going with this. We are to be agents of salvation to humanity, yes (1 Corinthians 6 tells us that), but more importantly, we are to be agents of salvation to all of creation. It annoys me that we think we can continue to treat creation with the disrespect we do and think there will be no eternal consequences.

A guy I know, who happens to be a smoker, was talking to me about creation, eternity, and how we treat what God has entrusted us with. During this discussion, he asked a somewhat outrageous question. He said, "What if I spend the first part of eternity picking up all the cigarette butts I just threw on the ground?" My answer to him, "That would suck!" While it may be a bit absurd (and doesn't take into consideration the grace of God), I think he poses a question we need to ask. What if all of us have to spend the first part of eternity righting a lot of the wrongs we did to creation? Would that make us better stewards of the creation God has given to us to care for?

Salvation isn’t this great plan that God had while Jesus was here. It isn’t something that came when Jesus died on the cross and is basically to be forgotten until we die. To view salvation in this way does such a disservice to reality. N.T Wright, speaking on our current view of salvation put it best. He says this: “Life before death is what is threatened by the idea that salvation is merely life after death.”  

Salvation is meant to be lived out in our everyday lives. Perhaps this is taking the Scripture out of context, but I believe that is exactly what Jesus was talking about when he said he came that we might have life and have it abundantly. He wants us to enjoy life (not necessarily this health, wealth, and prosperity gospel; but you don’t have to be any of those to truly enjoy life). Sure you may suffer, things may happen, but those are only a chance for God to teach you and show you how He wants you to live life. Back to the man born blind in John 9. They thought he was born blind because of his sin or his parents sin; but Jesus said it was only that God’s power and grace might be displayed--get this--in this life!

I believe if Jesus were standing here today, discussing with the church how it has missed the point regarding salvation, he would probably bring us back to “The Lord’s Prayer.” He would point out the part that says: “on earth as it is in heaven.” Jesus would inform us that when he came down here 2000 years ago, he brought a little piece of heaven with him and gave it all to us. I believe he would then ask us what we did with that little piece of heaven? Did we forget about it since, as we believe, heaven is a thing of the future, or did we try to expand that and truly make the two become one?

Sunday, August 14, 2011


Switchfoot poses a great question for all of us, "This is your life, is it everything you dreamed that it would be?" The sad reality is that for many of us, the answer to that question would be a no. Why? Why is life not what we had dreamed it would be? What is keeping our dream (or better yet, God's dream) for our life from becoming reality? The answer to each of these questions is the same. Far too many of us have settled. We have ceased to take risks. We have settled for the easy and the ordinary. Our fear of failure and rejection has become the overarching factor determining the shape and form of our dreams. The problem is that deep within our souls we long for something more. We long to find purpose. There is a war between the way we have chosen to live life and the way life should be. I fear we have not dreamed big enough. For this reason, so many of us find our lives mundane, monotonous and unfulfilled.

Statistics prove time and time again that a majority of us are simply "eeking our way through life" (yes, that was a Dumb & Dumber reference). We wake up every morning and head off to the same routine only to wind up tired and unfulfilled at the end of the day. For this very reason, we are constantly seeking greener pastures. I guess we have this belief that if only we could change our circumstances life would be better.

Ask just about anyone how they feel about their job and they would likely tell you they are not happy for a plethora of reasons. We think that if only we got paid more, had the corner office, worked with different people, things would be different. Then there are those of us who put ourselves into financial disaster trying to keep up with the Jones'. Constantly on the lookout for the new and improved, the bigger and better, thinking these things will make life what it is supposed to be. The first and biggest problem with this is that the Jones' aren't even fulfilled. The second issue with this idea is that keeping up is dang near impossible; there is always something "better" on the horizon. Of course, we have to bring relationships into this discussion. Over half of all married couples will experience divorce because of their supposed "boredom" with their spouse. They make up excuses like: we just weren't compatible; we fell out of love; the romance died; someone else gives me more attention. But that's all they are--excuses. To be blunt and to quote my father, "Excuses are like butt holes (I opted for the PG version here); everyone has one and they usually stink." I could spend a few hours and waste your time and mine discussing the arenas in life our hopes and dreams do not match with reality, but I think you are wise enough to get the picture.

The sad reality is that we can always find something to complain about. Someone else will always seem to have it better (but, this also means someone will always have it worse). There are many seasons in life that downright suck. Problems will always arise. Circumstances will always be less than ideal. But that doesn't mean life can't be the way we dreamed it to be. We just need to make a choice to rise above the negative, shallow thinking. We need to have a paradigm shift and choose to look beyond the temporal.

Just the other day I was having a discussion with a good friend about some big life decisions I have been pondering in hopes to make life less mundane and more fulfilling. I will spare the details, but it was this conversation that lead me to the answer I have been looking for all along. Who would have guessed the answer was always right there, sitting on my nightstand in the holy Scriptures (sarcasm is difficult to convey in writing, so take note this statement is dripping with sarcasm)? As a follower of Christ, you think I would have been skewering the Bible for the answer, but this was another instance I failed miserably. Unfortunately, I was looking somewhere else and came up empty. My friend and I were discussing the life of David (he seems to keep popping up) and how his life was far from mundane and unfulfilled. It seemed inevitable he bring up Psalm 37:4. The reason this verse was inevitable is that the premise of this verse is finding your heart's desires. Psalm 37:4 was exactly what I needed to hear; "Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you your heart's desires."

Do you notice it doesn't say he MIGHT; rather, it says he WILL? God will give you your heart's desires. This isn't something David just spouted off. This truth was a reality for him. This particular Psalm was written later in David's life (or so I read). Reflecting on his life, it became clear to David that when he delighted himself in the LORD, he was given his heart's desires. When he didn't, he often found himself in a state of bitterness, loneliness, agony and even depression. (Please understand I am not saying, nor is this passage saying, that God is a genie and life will be rainbows and butterflies. There are limits and guardrails here. And we don't always get what we want.)

 I can't seem to get away from how simple this seems. Delight yourself in the LORD and you will find your heart's desire? Can I really believe finding my heart's desire is that simple? If it is that simple, why do so many of us (especially those who call ourselves Christians) find life unfulfilling? Why does finding our heart's desire seem to be improbable or even impossible, especially when the answer is right there in plain sight? Perhaps it is because we think everything has to be so difficult. Either that or we don't believe what Scripture tells us.

To find the answer, I had to turn to my dictionary and see what exactly it means to delight myself in something. According to the dictionary, to delight is "to find great pleasure or enjoyment." Again, it seems too simple. If we really find great pleasure in God, will we find our heart's desires? Yes! Reality is, the answer is that simple. When we find our pleasure and enjoyment in God (not what he does or how he responds, but in who he is), the desires of our heart will soon align themselves with his desires for our life. It is then we will see how futile and insignificant some of our hopes and dreams are. It then becomes obvious why life has been so unfulfilling. We will often find that we have been chasing after these temporal things (I even include relationships in this) which have (and will) always result in frustration and unfulfillment. The moment we, like David, delight ourselves in the LORD we will find something fulfilling to live for and pursue. And it is only then will we realize God has big things for us; and only with his help can we make whatever that is become reality.

I'm not sure about you, but I think I have already wasted enough time delighting myself in things other than the LORD!