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.


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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."


*  *  *  *  *  *  *

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.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Bride of My Purpose-Driven Journal

More annotated quotes from Rick Warren's The Purpose-Driven Life:

"The closer you live to God, the smaller everything else appears."  -  ♪♫ And the things of Earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace. ♫

"Death is not your termination, but your transition into eternity."

"...eternity with God...like trying to describe the Internet to an ant."



"Our culture says, 'If you don't own it, you won't take care of it.' But Christians live by a higher standard: 'Because God owns it, I must take the best care of it that I can'."  -  I wonder sometimes if I am using all my abilities and talents in a "stewardly" manner. Am I sitting on some of my talents because of false humility? Lack of assertiveness? Fear of rejection? Love of security?

"2 Corinthians 4:18 - 'We fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.' When life gets tough, when you're overwhelmed with doubt, when you see evil prospering, or when you wonder if living for Christ is worth the effort, remember that you are not home yet. At death you won't leave home - you'll go home."  -  I remember walking down the dirt "sidewalks" of David, Panama and trying to imagine what it would be like to actually live there...not just be visiting for two weeks. I figured almost anything was bearable for two weeks. Maybe I could get that feeling about life on this side of the grave  -  undesirable conditions are nothing to fret about, because it's only temporary. Almost anything is bearable when you know it's not permanent.


*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...It IS all about God. Why were we created? So God's glory would be multiplied. (Isaiah 43:7: "They are my own people, and I created them to bring me glory.") Why did God free the Israelites from Egypt? So the honor of His Name would be spread throughout the nations. Why did Jesus die? So the volume of heavenly praise would be deafening.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

My Purpose-Driven Journal


Rick Warren's The Purpose-Driven Life and all its ancillary products are kind of the Barry Manilow of Christian publishing: wildly popular in its day, but now hardly anyone admits to having been a fan except old ladies.

I certainly understand some of the second-guessing that has been done since its publication, and I'm particularly NOT a fan of how Bro. Warren bounces around translations until he finds a phrase that fits his outline, still, as evidenced by some notes I made in my journal, there was definitely some food for thought within those pages.



"You were made for God, not vice versa, and life is about letting God use you for his purposes, not your using him for your own purpose."  -  Which is exactly the opposite of popular culture today: God can help you reach your full potential. Or even: If believing in a god makes you happy, then that's great  -  for you.

"If there was no God, then we'd all be 'accidents,' the result of astronomical random chance in the universe. But there is a God, he made you for a reason, and your life has profound meaning! We discover that meaning and purpose only when we make God the reference point of our lives."  -  Woe to those who have faith only in randomness and time. How can they face each day, knowing that they are just a happenstance - an accidental configuration of DNA that is just as much a result of circumstances as a snowflake?

"Your value is not determined by your valuables....Real security can only be found in that which can never be taken from you - your relationship with God."  -  Let my driving passion be to live as God's man - wherever that may take me.

"Everyone wants to be remembered when they're gone. Ultimately, what matters most will not be what others say about your life but what God says about you. How will you answer God when he asks, 'What did you do with my Son, Jesus Christ?'"  -  I loved Jesus with all my heart and carried Him to others/carried others to Him.

Truth is...as I look at my fervent responses and ardent desires; as I think back to the long-gone years as a youth minister, the sweetest words I've ever heard are "You made a difference."

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Best Sellers Aren't Always Best


Dan Piraro's comic strip, Bizarro, usually lives up to its name...in spades.


And there's absolutely nothing wrong with that; especially when the humor also includes a big, heaping helping of Truth like this recent panel did:


Truth is...The time will come [and is now here, IMHO] when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. (2 Timothy 4:3, NIV)

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Sacrificial Love


Mark 14:3-9 (The Message)
Jesus was at Bethany, a guest of Simon the Leper. While he was eating dinner, a woman came up carrying a bottle of very expensive perfume. Opening the bottle, she poured it on his head. Some of the guests became furious among themselves. “That’s criminal! A sheer waste! This perfume could have been sold for well over a year’s wages and handed out to the poor.” They swelled up in anger, nearly bursting with indignation over her.


But Jesus said, “Let her alone. Why are you giving her a hard time? She has just done something wonderfully significant for me. You will have the poor with you every day for the rest of your lives. Whenever you feel like it, you can do something for them. Not so with me. She did what she could when she could — she pre-anointed my body for burial. And you can be sure that wherever in the whole world the Message is preached, what she just did is going to be talked about admiringly.”



From My Journal: February 1, 2001
I ought to be able to relate to this woman. I know what it's like to spend what you can't afford in order to express love. I've done it with Beloved more than once.

Lord, have I done it with You? Have I truly sacrificed in order to say, "I love You, Lord"? Have I been lavishly extravagant in my devotion to You?


*  *  *  *  *  *  *
Truth is...He has been more than lavish showing His love to me. "See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!" (I John 3:1)

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Can We Talk?


I've been reading a book by Richard Zoglin, Comedy at the Edge: How Stand-Up in the 1970s Changed America. Each chapter either profiles a specific comedian (e.g., Lenny Bruce or George Carlin) or subject (e.g., New York comedy clubs or improv).

In the chapter about female comics (and how few of them there were in the 70s), there's a nugget of truth hiding in a paragraph about Joan Rivers.




Rivers struggled for years, driving in from the suburbs in her broken-down Ford, lugging a Wollensack tape machine to record her act. She watched contemporaries like Bill Cosby and George Carlin, whom she worked alongside and got to know in the Village, break through on television, while she continued to plod along, undiscovered. She was past thirty, and agents and managers were giving up on her. "You're too old," said Irvin Arthur, the agent for whom she had once worked as a secretary. "Everybody's seen you. If you were going to make it, you would have done it by now." Some of the few words of encouragement came from Lenny Bruce himself, who saw her act at Upstairs at the Downstairs and left her a note: "You're right and they're wrong." Says Rivers: "That kept me going for a year and a half."

Truth is...You never know whether what seems to you like a small word or act of encouragement might feel like the weight of the world being taken off someone else's shoulders. So pass out those encouraging words with abandon. You have the power to keep someone going for a year and a half.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Pornography on NPR


Well...if THAT title doesn't get this post a few extra clicks, I don't know human nature at all.

But it actually happened.



I was running some errands...well...driving around doing some errands on a recent Saturday, and had NPR playing on the radio. It was an interview with the outgoing (as in leaving his position, not as in gregarious and extroverted, though he kind of appeared to be both...but I digress) cartoon editor for The New Yorker, Bob Mankoff. And he used the word pornography, so there you have it...pornography on NPR.


But you're wondering, I hope, what the context was and why it was "important" enough for me to write about.

It was just one sentence, but it was all I could think about the rest of the afternoon:


"Jokes are the pornography of humor."

Truth is...Mr. Mankoff wasn't trying to make a profound point. In fact, the line was just kind of mumbled at the tail end of a longer thought, and the interviewer didn't respond to it at all. But for me? For me, it deepened my understanding, not only of what a sense of humor is, and its relationship to a go-for-the-guffaw joke, but also my understanding of pornography's relationship to sexual intimacy...how it cheapens and spoils the concept of romance, turning it into a commodity instead of a relationship.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Wright Brothers Go Wrong


I have not read the book by Lawrence Goldstone, Birdmen, nor do I ever intend to read it, but I am grateful to DelanceyPlace for the following introduction and excerpt.

After their historic 1903 breakthrough in flight, the Wright brothers were granted patents on their invention that were overly broad -- both by the standards of their time and the standards of today. The Wright brothers' vigorous attempts to enforce these patents (especially against their arch rival Glenn Curtiss) created enormous resentment and left a trail of rancorous litigation. More importantly, the brothers, especially the older brother and design genius, Wilbur, pursued this litigation to the neglect of pursuing improvements in their technology, and soon found themselves trailing other pioneers in the aviation industry:



"In pursuing damages over technology, the Wrights had rendered themselves anachronisms. Their lack of moderation was equally self-­defeating. Wilbur and Orville thought anyone who did not see things their way was either ignorant or duplicitous; anyone who overtly disagreed with them was either a liar or a cheat. The fact that the performance of their competitors improved while Wright airplanes remained substantially unchanged was, according to the brothers, only because the rest of the aviation community were a bunch of craven patent in­fringers. ...

"By the end of 1911, Wilbur's frustration had begun to gnaw at his health. He had by his own admission worked harder and for longer hours pursuing the case against Glenn Curtiss than he had developing the Wright Flyer. He drove himself to exhaustion traveling around the country, meeting with lawyers and giving depositions, and grew so thin as to appear cadaverous. Family members began to express concern about the crushing pace he insisted on maintaining.

"In January 1912, Wilbur wrote a singular letter to the Hungarian anthropologist Guillaume de Hevesy. 'During the past three months, most of my time has been taken up with lawsuits,' he began. ... Then Wilbur made an extraordinary assertion. 'When we think what we might have accomplished if we had been able to devote [the past five years] to experiments, we feel very sad.'

"There is little question that the patent wars were devastating American aviation. By January 1912, France boasted 800 aviators a day making flights to only 90 in the United States. As early as July 1911, Aeronautics ran an editorial whose opening line read, 'What is the matter with aviation in America?' The journal lamented that 'in three short years' after the 'epoch-making flights of the Wright brothers in France and at Fort Myer [that] electrified the world,' America had 'changed places from the head to the foot of the procession.' The magazine blamed a combination of a fear of innovation, an unwillingness to spend money, and a desire by the government to sit on the sidelines and wait to see what Europe came up with. Nowhere did the editorial mention that America's two greatest designers were either spending a good part of their time (Curtiss) or all of their time (Wil­bur Wright) trying to best each other in the courtroom."


*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...looking backward will seldom get a person ahead. If we spend all our time trying to recapture, protect, or fix the past, we will miss out on enjoying the present and preparing for the future.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Nixon's Henchman Speaks Truth


To many, Richard Nixon and Watergate and erased tapes and all that are ancient history; relegated to a section of the brain alongside Washington crossing the Delaware and One Direction being popular.


Earlier this week, Christians around the globe celebrated another piece of ancient history...the resurrection of Jesus.

Whoa! Wait...what do those two sentences have to do with each other?!!?

The connection is the following quote from Charles "Chuck" Colson, who served prison time because of his role in the administration of Richard Nixon and Watergate and erased tapes and all that.


Truth is...this single line of reasoning may not be enough to convince the skeptical that Jesus really did raise from the dead, but it's a fairly solid rung on that ladder.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Troubled by the Truth


The normal phrase is "the truth will set you free", but sometimes the truth will get you in hot water.


Mark 12:1-12 (The Message)

Then Jesus started telling them stories. “A man planted a vineyard. He fenced it, dug a winepress, erected a watchtower, turned it over to the farmhands, and went off on a trip. At the time for harvest, he sent a servant back to the farmhands to collect his profits.

“They grabbed him, beat him up, and sent him off empty-handed. So he sent another servant. That one they tarred and feathered. He sent another and that one they killed. And on and on, many others. Some they beat up, some they killed.

“Finally there was only one left: a beloved son. In a last-ditch effort, he sent him, thinking, ‘Surely they will respect my son.’

“But those farmhands saw their chance. They rubbed their hands together in greed and said, ‘This is the heir! Let’s kill him and have it all for ourselves.’ They grabbed him, killed him, and threw him over the fence.

“What do you think the owner of the vineyard will do? Right. He’ll come and clean house. Then he’ll assign the care of the vineyard to others. Read it for yourselves in Scripture:

That stone the masons threw out
    is now the cornerstone!
This is God’s work;
    we rub our eyes—we can hardly believe it!”


They wanted to lynch him then and there but, intimidated by public opinion, held back. They knew the story was about them. They got away from there as fast as they could.

From my journal, January 22, 2001

"They" knew the story was about them, but instead of repenting in tears and agreeing, "Yes! We have rejected God's claim on our lives and lived our own way. Dear God, forgive us!", they get angry and seek out revenge  -  revenge for Jesus having told the truth.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...if I find myself getting angry at the truth about myself, I just may be standing on the wrong side of the issue.