Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Healed by Faith or Medicine?


When a person goes to a doctor, is that a lack of faith in God?

You have heard it said that disease is not from God...it is a result of The Fall (Adam & Eve's/mankind's initial choice to go their OWN way instead of God's way). It is fair to assume that God's ultimate desire is for His creation to be in perfect harmony with Him and itself...for example, no disease.

And some folks believe the treatment for all disease should be, therefor, leaving it up to God to restore a person's body to perfect health.

So, is it evidence of a lack of faith when someone goes to a doctor in hopes of getting rid of a physical ailment?



I really appreciate an ancient insight I recently read, attributed to Saint Basil of Caesarea (329-379 CE), who is thought to have founded the first hospital (from The First Thousand Years, by Robert Louis Wilken):


When [Basil} was a student at Athens, he had shown particular attentiveness in the study of medicine, not only in its practical side, but also in its theory and principles. He had gained enough experience to know, as he put it in one of his letters, that incompetent physicians often make people's illnesses worse. In one of his writings on the monastic life, The Longer Rule, he addressed the question as to whether relying on the 'art of medi­cine' is in keeping with Christian piety. Medicine, he wrote, like the know-how of a farmer or the skill of a weaver, is a gift of God. Because the body is susceptible to illness, God has given human beings the skills to heal illness. 'Just as we would have no need of the labor and toil of the farmer if we were living among the delights of paradise, so we would not require the art of medicine for healing if we were immune to disease.' The work of the physician who heals bodies [swells] to the glory of God no less than the work of those who care for the soul. As the Lord used clay for healing (John 9:6), so also it is good that physicians use the things of the earth for the cure of bodily ills.


Truth is...I don't have a definitive answer to the question "Healed by Faith or Medicine?", but as is often the case when presented with an either/or concerning God, the truth probably lies closer to both/and.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Pearls Before Swine Speaks Truth


I'm pretty sure I've never before tapped into Stephan Pastis' comic strip, Pearls Before Swine, for any kind of life lesson, but this past Sunday's strip, I believe, may have touched on something a lot of people are feeling.

It begins with the sweetest, most innocent character in the cast, Pig, as he is bombarded with current events.


Then, we see Pig's unique reaction.


But it's the final panel that plops us right in the middle of SadButTrueVille.


*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...No doubt, plenty of us wish we had a balloon that would float us away from turmoil and conflict. The hard truth is, we have to BE the change we'd like to see. I can be part of the solution, or I can be part of the problem.

(Now, let's discuss that pig snout on the front of Goat's face.)

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

The One Who Falls


It's dance. It's pantomime. It's performance art.

It touches on (at least) competition, cooperation, yearning, loving, separation, community, desperation, and death.

It's intriguing. It's fascinating. It's mesmerizing.

It's a great effect and it affects greatly.



It's a piece by sculptor/choreographer Yoann Bourgeois titled (roughly translated from the French) "The One Who Falls".



Truth is...between the song, the faces of the performers, the fact that the world keeps spinning no matter what...there's plenty to contemplate here. I long for the hopeful resolution that would surely be added if Yoann were a Christ-follower (making an unfair assumption here), and yet, this piece says a lot about life as we experience it here on Planet Earth. 

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

If the Bible Were Being Written Today


I'm not a force to be reckoned with on Twitter, but I did recently fall in love with something tweeted by @AshleaDavis, who describes herself as follows: "Wife, raising boys, avid reader & coffee drinker. Breaking rules, loving Jesus, & laughing when I shouldn't. I want a nap."

While I don't condone or recommend breaking rules, I do enjoy a nap now and then and really appreciate this quotable quote from Mrs. Davis:


I'm glad the early church isn't now. The book of Acts would be called the book of Thoughts & Prayers.
 

Truth is...I probably like that statement because it correlates to an earlier post of mine on the subject of Thoughts and Prayers. But it also has served to remind me of a song performed by the now-defunct group, 4 Him: A Man You Would Write About.



Thank You, Lord, for stirring up this kind of passion again within this old guy.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

When God Picks Out Your Worship Partner


I've got another story from CASH: The Autobiography that makes me smile at the mysterious ways of Yahweh.




     I was walking down 57th Street with June one Sunday morning when we happened on the First Baptist Church of New York, which we hadn't noticed before because its entrance doesn't look like a church's. We saw from a sign outside that services were just about to start, so we went in, and the strangest thing happened. The congregation was seated as we entered, but about halfway down the aisle a young boy was turned around watching the door. He saw us, immediately jumped up, and yelled, "JOHNNY CASH! Johnny Cash has come to church with me!"
     As it happened, the only free seats were right next to him and his parents, so we took them, and that's when we saw that the boy was mentally handicapped. He was so excited. "I told you!" he kept saying to his parents. "I told you he was coming!"
     The preacher came over and explained to us that, yes, the boy had told his parents, and the whole congregation, repeatedly that I was going to walk into that church, sit down beside him, and worship with him. And that's what I did. Being next to him was such a pleasure. He was so happy.
     When the service was over, we walked down to the corner with him and his parents, and they filled in the story. They were Jewish, they said, but their son had decided to become a Christian after listening to some of my gospel recordings. That's why they were in a Christian church on a Sunday morning. They were in that particular Christian church because that's where he knew I was going to walk in the door.
*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...I've got no great lesson to share from this story, other than to be more willing to speak boldly what God whispers in your ear.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Virtue Reality


Virtues are funny things.

Virtues are the fruit of faith and whenever paraded, become parodies of themselves and the worst kind of vanity imaginable. When they are not the fruit of faith they become its greatest obstacle....



Take, for example, wisdom. Wisdom has at its source the "fear of the Lord"  -  the highest regard and reverence for Him. The tendency among many of us, though, is to confuse wisdom with omniscience and to think ourselves wise in proportion to how much stuff we know. God calls us to be wise and provides us with Christ. We pressure ourselves to be all-knowing and fret over where Cain got his wife and how the earth can be as young as the Scriptures claim when geologists say that it takes millions of years more than that to produce a barrel of oil. We tend to suspect that wisdom lies in the ability to answer imponderables rather than in Christ. And we sometimes end in self-contempt and even abandonment of our faith, not because our faith is false, but because we focused on a wisdom that is not a virtue but a vanity.

It is the same way with strength. God calls us to "be strong" and we mistake that for a call to omnipotence. We confuse strength to endure trials with an ability to walk unfrustrated through life. We convince ourselves that if we were strong we would never fail, never tire, never hurt, never need. We begin to measure strength in terms of ease of progress, equate power with success, endurability with invincibility and inevitably, when our illusion of omnipotence is shattered, we condemn ourselves for being weak.

God has called us to be lovers and we frequently think that He meant us to be saviors. So we "love" as long as we see "results." We give of ourselves as long as our investments pay off, but if the ones we love do not respond, we tend to despair and blame ourselves and even resent those we pretend to love. Because we love someone, we want them to be free of addictions, of sin, of self  -  and that is as it should be. But it might be that our love for them and our desire for their well-being will not make them well. And, if that is the case, their lack of response no more negates the reality of love than their quickness to respond would confirm it.

Love is a virtue and not a feeling. It is fed and fired by God  -  not by the favorable response of the beloved. Even when it doesn't seem to make a dime's worth of difference to the ones on whom it is lavished, it is still the most prized of all virtues because it is at the heart of the very character of God. By loving we participate in His Life and Essence. When we stoop to bait and buy good behavior we are no longer loving as God loves. We are manipulating and cheapening the dignity of the person whom we are called  -  not to save, not even to change  -  but to love. If real salvation is possible (and we know it is) it is because real love is there. And love that is real, love that is truly a virtue and not just an act  -  agape love  -  gushes from God through those who know Him. It is not strung along by those who don't.  (Rich Mullins, "Virtue Reality", Release Magazine, July-August 1994)


*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...The more we try to knuckle down hard and produce good fruit like wisdom and strength and love, the more disappointed in ourselves we will be. That's called walking by sight and it's a recipe for depression and disaster. Our call is to allow the Holy Spirit  -  "Christ in [us], the hope of glory" (Colossians 1:27)  -  to grow His goodness within us...and then let it spill out and drench everyone we come in contact with.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

When Johnny Cash's Voice Changed


I'm in the midst of reading CASH: The Autobiography, by Johnny Cash with Patrick Carr, and particularly enjoyed The Man In Black's account of when his voice went from a boyish tenor to his manly baritone/bass.




     I was singing as I walked in the back door, and [my mother] wheeled around from the stove in shock and said, "Who was that?"
      I sang some more for her, exploring my new range, and as I found out how deep I could go, her eyes teared up and she said, "You sound exactly like my daddy." Then she said, "God has His hand on you, son. Don't ever forget the gift."
     I don't think Moma really wondered who was singing; she knew it was me. And that was the first time I remember her calling my voice "the gift." Thereafter she always used that term when she talked about my music, and I think she did so on purpose, to remind me that the music in me was something special given by God. My job was to care for it and use it well; I was its bearer, not its owner."

Truth is...any innate ability or talent any of us has can rightly be called a gift. We have not, nor cannot, create them. We can certainly develop them, harness them, and train ourselves to use them with excellence, but their existence within us is absolutely dependent on the grace of God.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.  James 1:17 (NIV)

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Taking a Knee


According to every sports-related movie I've ever seen  -  and when it comes to sports, watching movies is the only experience I have to go on  -  to "take a knee" means to gather around the coach and listen up because he's about to lay some important words on you.

Of course, for the past several weeks, the idea of football players taking a knee carries a totally different meaning.

For those on one side, it is a form of silent protest against the inequality and injustice that exists within the borders of "the land of the free and the home of the brave". For those on another side, it is a disgusting show of disrespect for those who have fought and died for the star-spangled banner that is our nation's flag.


For me, taking a knee is something completely different.


  • It is the first step in retrieving one of Beloved's earrings from under the bedroom dresser.
  • It is a necessary posture to get eye-to-eye with my grandchildren; either to let them know I love them or to let them climb onto my back.
  • It is a sign of humility before the almighty Creator God.


If I were to kneel in protest of anything it would also be completely different.


  • I would kneel to protest my lack of kneeling to pray.
  • I would bend my knee to protest the bending of my will toward the things of this world instead of the things of God.
  • I would collapse in grief to protest the sickness of human hearts and the greatness of my own selfishness, greed, and gluttony.
  • I would lay spread eagle on the ground in utter amazement at the One who sacrificed all so I could be free from sin's stranglehold.


Truth is...my life could do with a little more of that kind of humility, amazement, and life-changing grief.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Jesus Was NOT Self-Sufficient


You may be surprised to hear that Jesus didn't feel like He could depend on Himself.


I mean, there He was, God in the flesh. Able to heal the sick, raise the dead, and leap tall buildings in a single bound, but, according to Hebrews 2: 11-13, not comfortable in seizing the day without the Father's active presence.

So now Jesus and the ones he makes holy have the same Father. That is why Jesus is not ashamed to call them his brothers and sisters. For he said to God, “I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters. I will praise you among your assembled people.” He also said, “I will put my trust in him,” that is, “I and the children God has given me.” (NLT)

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...(From my journal, February 20, 2001) If the Son of God saw the need to rely on Yahweh and not Himself, how much more must I (one who has the same Father) abandon all hope of self-sufficiency and throw myself into the loving care of the Most High God?

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Explaining the Joke


Because his video for "The Color Green" was in black and white, and the one for "Here in America" was filmed in Ireland, it is somehow fitting to commemorate the 20th anniversary of singer/songwriter Rich Mullins' death by reprinting the first of a series of articles he wrote for Release magazine; this one published in Spring 1991.



     The only thing worse than a joke you don't get is the explanation that is bound to follow: an explanation that, while it may help you see why you should have seen the humor that you so lamely missed, is little likely to make you laugh. It may provoke you to muster a sympathy snicker so as to avoid more of an already tedious and misdirected lecture. It may inspire a mild giggle of recognition, but it will hardly ever raise a real belly-laugh, which was the original desired effect.
     And so, here I go  -  me and a dozen thousand other people  -  trying to explain a joke that we would do better to learn to better tell. I am setting out to explain again why Jesus is the only true hope for the world, why we should put our faith in Him and what all of that won't mean. I am collecting the information, selecting from what I hope will be usable as evidence, arranging my findings into arguments, framing it for presentation and recognizing that, while it may all be fine as far as it goes, it doesn't go far enough.
     But then I remember two things. The first thing I remember is how I once won an argument with a heathen friend of mine who  -  after I had whacked away his last scrap of defense, after I had successfully cut off every possible escape route that he could use, after I had backed him into an inescapable corner and hit him with a great inarguable truth  -  blew me away by simply saying, "I do not want to be Christian. I don't want your Jesus Christ." There was no argument left to be had or won. Faith is a matter of the will as much as it is of the intellect. I wanted to believe in Jesus. My friend wanted to believe in himself. In spite of how convincing my reason was, my reason was not compelling.
     So, the second thing I remember is this: I am a Christian because I have seen the love of God lived out in the lives of people who know Him. The Word has become flesh and I have encountered God in the people who have manifested (in many "unreasonable" ways) His Presence; a Presence that is more than convincing  -  it is a Presence that is compelling. I am a Christian, not because someone explained the nuts and bolts of Christianity to me, but because there were people who were willing to be nuts and bolts, who through their explanation of it, held it together so that I could experience it and be compelled by it to obey. "If I be lifted up," Jesus said, "I will draw all men unto me."
     So, here I offer what is possibly the worst thing that can be offered: an explanation of a joke. And, what makes this more inexcusable than the fact that this is that, is the added fact that this is an explanation to a joke you've already gotten. I offer it anyway. I offer it in the hope that it might somehow encourage you to live out your lives and, by your living, tell the joke that I, in my writing, so feebly attempt to explain. Love one another, forgive one another, work as unto God, let the peace of Christ reign in your hearts. Make it your ambition to lead quiet lives. Obey. Greet one another with a holy kiss. No one will argue with that.
     And I will keep rattling on about how good it all is and won't expect to be taken too seriously. I and a dozen thousand other bores will fill up book shelves and record bins and magazine racks with writing that is fine as far as it goes  -  hoping that it will help you somehow to go farther. Much that I have read has challenged my opinion and hardened my convictions  -  I am thankful for it. It is for you (and for me, more in my living than in my writing) to let our light so shine before men that they may see our good works and glorify our Father in Heaven.


*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...In the words of Meredith Wilson (The Music Man), "You can talk, you can talk, you can bicker, you can talk, you can bicker, bicker, bicker..." but it is by living out the truth of the Gospel with a transformed life that those around you will come to know Jesus.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Apparently, It's Not Easy Being Gray


Oh, the needless anxiety we heap upon ourselves.

Allow me to use a recent Sunday comic from Sandra Bell Lundy's Between Friends as an example.

Regular character, Susan, is in the grocery store and sees a stranger with gray hair. Of course, Susan starts comparing herself to the stranger and ends up feeling inferior.




Little does Susan know what's going on in the stranger's mind.



Truth is...Comparing ourselves to our idealized assumptions about other people often has negative results for everybody involved. Be yourself, as God created you to be. That's beYOUtiful enough.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Thoughts and Prayers???


If you've been around Truth is... for a while, you know I try to keep things positive as much as possible.

Today, it might be a struggle to live up to that precedent, but I'll give it a shot.


Most-notably with the recent weather-related emergencies in Texas, but also widespread across the social media landscape, there have been uncountable uses of variations on the theme "Our thoughts and prayers are with you."


  • We're thinking of you!
  • We would appreciate any positive thoughts you could send our way.
  • Our thoughts and prayers go out for...


Let's look at each of these specific examples:

We're thinking of you  -  This seems to be a non-religious synonym for "We're praying for you"...meant to be an encouragement to the person hearing it. But why would it be an encouragement? If we don't believe in the power of prayer to affect change, what possible use would it be to think about a person and their negative situation? Wouldn't it be better to say "You've crossed my mind and I'm on my way over"?

We would appreciate any positive thoughts you could send our way  -  Apparently, the speaker isn't comfortable asking for prayers, but has faith that people thinking positive thoughts about them will be of some use. And if "positive thoughts" is politically-correct code for "prayers", why send them toward anyone other than God?

Our thoughts and prayers go out for...  -  I really don't get this. If I'm going to pray for someone, I'm going to pray for them: ask the Lord of all creation to intervene on their behalf. How does additionally sending "thoughts" into the ether have any bearing on what may or may not happen?

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...for Christ followers, prayers are powerful tools for making the world a better place. For non-believers, who think that prayers are nothing more than wishful thinking, wishful thinking is all they can offer. And for both groups, linking those thoughts or prayers to actual involvement where the rubber meets the road is the best of both worlds. 


Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Pastoral Potpourri from Rich Mullins


I admit I probably quote the songs of Rich Mullins and just generally refer to Rich far too often, but I refuse to apologize for bringing to folks' attention gems like this...





Truth is...even without being able to hear the questions, there are plenty of sound bites of wisdom in the answers Rich gives in these 11 minutes. Listen closely to what God brings to your attention today. Favorite quote: "If God wants you to go to Egypt, he will provide you with 11 jealous brothers who will sell you into slavery."




Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Beautiful Outlaw


Do you find it hard to believe Jesus loves you?
Do you feel like you are always disappointing him?
Is he mad at you? Ignoring you?
Does Jesus seem like a hard man who wants you to work harder?
Does he seem distant  -  loving, sure, but disengaged?

I was recently confronted with these questions while reading the book by John Eldredge, Beautiful Outlaw.

I say confronted, but truth is...they weren't really that personally challenging, except for that last one. Yeah, I knew that Jesus loves me...enough to die for...but with age comes a level of familiarity with that thought that borders on complacency.

And then you read a book like Beautiful Outlaw and get reacquainted with the personality of Jesus. All the layers of super-serious religiosity get stripped away and you see a real person with real feelings and even a sense of humor:



Does Jesus have a sense of humor? Well, he created laughter.
     And think of the crowd he dined with. These rabble-rousers quickly earned Jesus a reputation as a drunkard and a glutton, and it wasn't because they served water and crackers. This was a wild group, and surely such a crowd got rolling in laughter from time to time, if only from the joy they were experiencing being with Jesus. Now, surely the creator of these colorful characters didn't sit there frowning, looking pious, Mr. Killjoy, Mr. I'm-Above-All-This. Imagine his own happiness at having these very lost sheep back at his side.
     But the religious tight-shorts didn't like it one bit. They constantly griped about it.
* * * * * * *

Truth is...the more I can relate to Jesus on a human level, the more gloriously divine he is revealed to be; the closer I feel to him; the more I can celebrate how he loves me and saves me and supplies me with joy.

* * * * * * *

To see a little-over-three-minutes-long trailer of the book Beautiful Outlaw, CLICK HERE.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Truth from an Elephant


A trip to Walt Disney World can be a lot of fun...and exhausting.

Max Lucado, however, learned something about human nature and has passed the lesson on to us in his book, In the Grip of Grace.


One of the most popular attractions at Disney World is the Jungle Cruise. People will spend forty-five minutes waiting in the Florida heat for the chance to board the boat and wind through snake-infested forests. They come for the thrills. You never know when a native will jump out of the trees or a crocodile will peek out of the water. The waterfalls drench you, the rainbow inspires you, and the baby elephants playing in the water amuse you.

It's quite a trip  -  the first few times. But after four or five runs down the river, it begins to lose its zest. I should know. During the three years I lived in Miami, Florida, I made nearly twenty trips to Orlando. I was single and owned a van and was a sucker for anybody who wanted to spend a day at the Magic Kingdom. By the eighth or ninth trip I could tell you the names of the guides and the jokes they told.

A couple of times I actually dozed off on the journey. The trail had lost its secrets. Ever wonder why people sleep in on Sunday mornings (whether in the bed or in the sanctuary)? Now you know. They've seen it all. Why get excited? They know it all. There is nothing sacred. The holy becomes the humdrum. Rather than dashing into life like kids to the park, we doze through our days like commuters on a train.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...Lucado makes a sad-but-true observation from his experience at The Happiest Place On Earth: "Ironically, the more we know, the less we worship. We are more impressed with our discovery of the light switch than with the one who invented electricity."

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Calling Out Your Name


We are quickly approaching the twenty-year mark...twenty years since the untimely death of singer-songwriter-ragamuffin Rich Mullins. And yes, I've done more than my fair share of posting thoughts from him and about him. (Feel free to explore those by clicking here.) Today, how about just letting him lead us into worship? How about a musical meditation on Psalm 19:1-6 entitled Calling Out Your Name?


Well the moon moved past Nebraska 
And spilled laughter on them cold Dakota Hills 
And angels danced on Jacob's stairs 
Yeah, they danced on Jacob's stairs 
There is this silence in the Badlands 
And over Kansas the whole universe was stilled 
By the whisper of a prayer 
The whisper of a prayer 

And the single hawk bursts into flight 
And in the east the whole horizon is in flames 
I feel thunder in the sky 
I see the sky about to rain 
And I hear the prairies calling out Your name 

I can feel the earth tremble 
Beneath the rumbling of the buffalo hooves 
And the fury in the pheasant's wings 
And there's fury in a pheasant's wings 
It tells me the Lord is in His temple 
And there is still a faith that can make the mountains move 
And a love that can make the heavens ring 
And I've seen love make heaven ring 

Where the sacred rivers meet 
Beneath the shadow of the Keeper of the plains 
I feel thunder in the sky 
I see the sky about to rain 
And I hear the prairies calling out Your name 

From the place where morning gathers 
You can look sometimes forever 'til you see 
What time may never know 
What time may never know 
How the Lord takes by its corners this old world 
And shakes us forward and shakes us free 
To run wild with the hope 
To run wild with the hope 

The hope that this thirst will not last long 
That it will soon drown in the song not sung in vain 
And I feel thunder in the sky 
I see the sky about to rain 
And I hear the prairies calling out Your name 

And I know this thirst will not last long 
That it will soon drown in the song not sung in vain 
I feel thunder in the sky 
I see the sky about to rain 
And with the prairies I am calling out Your name
Words/Music by Rich Mullins ©1991 BMG Songs, Inc.



*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...The heavens declare the glory of God;
    the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
    night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
    no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
    their words to the ends of the world.
    In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun.
It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber,
    like a champion rejoicing to run his course.
It rises at one end of the heavens
    and makes its circuit to the other;
    nothing is deprived of its warmth. (Psalm 19:1-6 NIV)

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

My Purpose-Driven Journal, Final Episode


Quotes from Rick Warren's Purpose-Driven Life, with my personal notes:

On becoming like Christ...

"From the very beginning, God's plan has been to make you like his son, Jesus. What does the full image and likeness of God look like? It looks like Jesus Christ! On earth, God's ultimate goal for your life is not comfort, but Christlike character."  -  Loving, accepting, forgiving, straight-forward, unflinching, dedicated to the cause, selfless  -  betrayed, despised, humiliated, railroaded, killed  -  restored, respected, revered, acclaimed, adored, exalted



"Spiritual growth is not automatic. It takes an intentional commitment. You must want to grow, decide to grow, make an effort to grow, and persist in growing. Discipleship - the process of becoming like Christ - always begins with a decision."  -  Spiritual growth doesn't "just happen"? Hmm...I see your point, but there is growth that happens (after the initial decision to follow Christ) just from living life. It's not as a result of study or discussion with a wiser disciple, but God brings it about through the circumstances of life. In fact, it is the Holy Spirit working on me and in me that constitutes spiritual growth.

"Thinking of others is the heart of Christ-likeness, and the goal of spiritual growth. This kind of thinking is unnatural, counter-cultural, and rare. The only way we will learn to think this way is by filling our minds with the Word of God."  -  Transformed - by the renewing of my mind (Romans 12:2)

"Everything that happens in the life of a child of God is Father-filtered, and he intends to use it for good."  -  Which is not the same thing as saying that everything that happens is God's will. Being able to use something is not the same as creating that something. I can make a wrong turn and still end up at my destination. But it was still a wrong turn.

"God develops the fruit of the Spirit in your life by allowing you to experience circumstances where you're tempted to express the exact opposite quality! Character development always involves a choice, and temptation provides that opportunity. Every time you defeat a temptation, you become more like Jesus!"  -  Love instead of hate. Joy instead of bitterness. Peace instead of worry/anxiety. Patience instead of selfish me-firstism. Kindness instead of sarcasm. Goodness instead of a mean spirit. Gentleness instead of gruff coarseness. Self-control instead of obeying impulses.


*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...When the Holy Spirit controls our lives, he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23 NLT)

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Criticizing Critics


Speaking of the television series Blue Bloods, and we were doing just that just two weeks ago, an episode Beloved and I watched recently included the oldest grandchild of NYC's police commissioner encouraging her grandpa by reading the following manly-man quote from Teddy Roosevelt.




“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Truth is...in these days when people posture and complain and protest at the drop of a hat; when we think we know the facts of a matter when as a matter of fact we have only been reading a Twitter feed; when The Freedom of Speech is defended only for those who agree with me; it seems this quote is as timeless as it is tough.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Still More From My Purpose-Driven Journal


Fifth in a series: Rick Warren (from The Purpose-Driven Life) and me on church...

"Here are seven biblical steps to restoring fellowship:
   Talk to God before talking to the person.
   Always take the initiative.
   Sympathize with their feeling.
   Confess my part of the conflict.
   Attack the problem, not the person.
   Cooperate as much as possible.
   Emphasize reconciliation, not resolution."  -  In other words, the relationship is far more important than the issue at hand.

"The Trinity is unified and God wants us to be unified, too. Our heavenly Father, like every parent, enjoys watching his children get along with each other. Jesus, in his final moments before being arrested, prayed passionately for our unity. And the Holy Spirit is the one who unites us in love."  -  So, if I find myself saying something that emphasizes any disunity, I should stop talking. Rather than point out bones of contention, I should focus on the strengths.



"Nothing is more valuable to God than his church. He paid the highest price for it, and it is worth protecting. Part of your responsibility as a believer is to protect the unity where you fellowship. You need to think of yourself as an agent of unity, commissioned by Jesus Christ to promote and preserve the fellowship among believers."  -  Wow! Imagine what a church would be like if every member saw it as his/her priority to promote and preserve unity. [As it is, most of us just want a church that "meets my needs." Hmm...kind of like the difference between infatuation and love.]

Truth is..."Sometimes you'll have to do what's best for the body, not yourself, showing preference to others. That's one reason God puts us in a church family - to learn unselfishness."

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

An Unfunny Funny


Lio is one strange kid.

GoComics.com has an accurate description of the comic strip, LioThe world of Lio is filled with the extraordinary - monsters under the bed, wild reptile pets, robot inventions, weird science - but it's all commonplace for this most uncommon first-grader. Mark Tatulli renders this pantomime strip in pen-and-ink style, giving the artwork a dark, spidery feel to match the strip's dark humor. Lio explores the twisted realm of a kid's imagination - at once bizarre, creepy, and fun.

And in a recent Sunday installment, you could add Good Example to the list of descriptors. It starts with a television set that seems to have become self-aware...and very, very honest.



And then little Lio shows amazing maturity in how he responds to this Truth.




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Truth is...even with the lack of advertisements on Netflix, it's a little disingenuous for me to hold this up as a good example when I'm typing this between binged episodes of Blue Bloods

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

More From My Purpose-Driven Journal

Fourth in a series of posts based on annotated quotes from Rick Warren's Purpose-Driven Life

Talking about love:

"Since God is love, the most important lesson he wants you to learn on earth is how to love. It is in loving that we are most like him, so love is the foundation of every command he's given us. God wants us to love everyone, but he is particularly concerned that we learn to love others in his family. This is the second purpose of your life and it's called fellowship. Jesus said our love for each other is our greatest witness to the world."  -  This is how men will know we are Christ's disciples: if we love one another. If I have not love, I am a crashing cymbal (and quite possibly, a crashing symbol.)



"The local church is the classroom for learning how to get along in God's family. It is a lab for practicing love. Only in regular contact with ordinary, imperfect believers can we learn real fellowship, and experience the New Testament truth of being connected and dependent on each other."  -  How sad when people throw a hissy-fit and leave a church - either to go somewhere else or nowhere at all. They don't learn anything.

"Jesus summarized what matters most to God in two statements: love God and love people."  -  Faith, hope, and love remain, but the greatest of these is love. Why? Because it's the only one of the three attributes that we share with God.
     Does God have faith? If so, in whom or in what? No - God is the object of our faith and He does not exercise faith Himself.
     Does God hope? No - He stands outside of time and knows the end of all things. There is no need for hope. In fact, we will not hope when we get to heaven. There, all our hopes will be realized; the time for hoping will be over.
     But love? Ah - there is the one eternal attribute that not only we will always practice, but so will God.


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Truth is...it's not that God loves, but that He IS love. (1 John 4:8)

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Keep Swinging!


According to The Selling of the Babe, by Glen Stout, the Sultan of Swat, Babe Ruth, did more than hit his way to a long-standing home run record:

It wasn't just the home run that Ruth was popularizing. He was also taking the stigma out of the strikeout. Even before the pitching distance settled in at 60 feet, 6 inches and pitchers started throwing overhand, the strikeout had been considered the ultimate embarrassment, the batting equivalent of tripping over a base or throwing the ball over the backstop; something to be avoided at almost any cost. Guys like Joe Jackson, Ty Cobb, and others took pride in keeping their strikeouts down to only 20 or 30 a season. It was considered better to ground out, pop out, or fall prostrate over the plate and fake a heart attack than strike out.

Not anymore. Fans found Ruth's strikeouts exciting -- and he didn't much care if he struck out, either. Ruth figured it was all part of the process, one that might result in a home run the next time. Every swing and miss resulted in a correction in the following at bat.

No one paid closer attention to that than Ruth's Yankee teammates. He was conducting a clinic in a new way of hitting every time he picked up the bat. Not worrying about strikeouts gave them license to swing and swing hard. And they did. As a team, even without Ruth's contribution, their strikeouts would skyrocket in 1920, but so would their power and number of long hits. The same would hold true for almost every other team.


Truth is...sometimes, you learn what works by learning what doesn't. Besides, you miss 100% of the swings you don't take. So keep swinging!


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Son of My Purpose-Driven Journal


Rick Warren and me, on worship:

"When we worship, our goal [should be] to bring pleasure to God, not ourselves. Worship isn't for you. It's for God."  -  We must come to God to compliment Him - not in order to feel better about ourselves. Now, when I praise unreservedly, it always results in me feeling better, too; but that's a by-product, not the goal.



"Like a proud parent, God especially enjoys watching you use the talents and abilities He has given you."  -  This is especially encouraging to me. At times I feel like I am showing off or that I might be trying to get attention for myself (really, it's more like I'm afraid that others will think I'm doing that) - and the real deal is not "Look at me!" but rather, "Look at what God has enabled within me!" Like Eric Liddell saying, "When I run, I feel God's pleasure."

"When we completely surrender ourselves to Jesus, we discover that he is not a tyrant but a Savior; not a boss, but a brother; not a dictator, but a friend."  -  Slavery to Christ is freedom from sin's stranglehold.

"You know you're surrendered to God when you rely on God to work things out instead of trying to manipulate others, force your agenda, and control the situation. You let go and let God work. You don't have to always 'be in charge.' Instead of trying harder, you trust more."

"Nothing is more powerful than a surrendered life in the hands of God."  -  Is it possible that my life is having more impact as an elder than it could have as a youth minister? And every change of direction along the way has been an attempt to follow Christ. So, it's all good.

"Intimate friendship with God is a choice, not an accident."


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Truth is...To a certain extent, me "getting to know" God is like an ant getting to know the Internet. There is no real comprehension at all. Yet, there is real appreciation, gratitude, awe, love, wonder, respect, joy...

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

A Day in the Life


The 50th anniversary of the release of The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band has been making a few waves in pop culture recently. Detractors will want to say it's just a Baby Boomers thing...a desperate grasp for relevancy in a culture increasingly dominated by Millennials and beyond.

Maybe so, but I've got video evidence that it's a little more than that.

Thanks to editor Tom Compagnoni and the Australian arm of Huffington Post, the following 50 Covers... video suggests it's not just old codgers that appreciate creative composing and performing...and music can bridge a lot of gaps that many would say are insurmountable.





Truth is...there's not necessarily anything to be excited about in the lyrical content of A Day in the Life, but this video is a testimony that the world is not as divided and hateful and "us vs. them" as a browsing of headlines would suggest. People of all ages, nationalities, genders, economic standings, and political opinions are more alike than they are different. And if a fifty year old song can help point that out, then crank up the turntable, because I'd love to turrrrrrn youuuuuuuu oooooooon.