Friday, February 28, 2014

Who's Laughing Now?

Matthew 9:24
Jesus said, "Go away.  The girl is not dead but asleep".  But they laughed at Him.

My son wants to learn how to skateboard.  He got one for Christmas a while ago along with a really cool helmet and knee pads.  When he was all set up to go he took his first step on to the board...and promptly fell off.  He hasn't tried since. 

He was only 3 at the time, and in his little 3 year old mind, this dramatic failure was a sign of impossibility.  The pain of falling caused him to be fearful of even trying again.  I love my little guy, but he is easily frustrated by failure.  It is part of his personality makeup and will be something we have to work through with him for years to come.  Whether school work, new games or just life in general. 

Why do we keep lovingly helping him keep trying.  Because we know that sometimes things that are worth it aren't easy.  Sometimes, when you don't yet have a full perspective, you cannot see the success on the other side of trying and failing.  Bad parents support their kids giving up when something is tough.  Loving parents hold their hands and help them get up again.  What kind of adult do you think will be developed if the people in their life always tell them, "You're right, not worth it, impossible, you can't do it...."? 

A heartbroken father approaches Jesus with an impossible situation.  His daughter has died.  We have seen Jesus heal sickness, but death?  This doesn't dissuade this father though.  There is one thing he recognizes; If there is any hope of new life, it is only in Jesus.

When Jesus arrives at the home of the dead girl the funeral "celebration" is in full swing.  A crowd has gathered, musicians are playing whatever it is you play on flutes at a funeral....?  Jesus looks at all the people who have come to commemorate the end of life and has a pretty "odd" statement.  She is sleeping, not dead.  And they laugh at him...

Death is final...she is dead....what kind of idiot is this?

So they are sent out.

Jesus goes to the girl and simply takes her by the hand and she stands up.  Alive.  Healed.  A whole life in front of her.

There are three types of people we have to recognize in our lives.

1)  Those who are "dead"
2)  Those who have hope
3)  Those who mock hope

1-  Being dead takes all sorts of forms.  Sometimes it is us.  Sometimes it is those we love. Sometimes it is situations, relationships, things, communities, etc.  And like my skateboard falling off of son, we are always real quick to throw in the towel.

2-  Hope isn't a blind swinging in the dark.  The hope that this father displays is one built on the confidence of the Jesus he has come to discover and know.  The Jesus of impossible.  What is impossible for man, is possible for Christ.  He puts his hope not in a generic ambiguous idea, he GOES to Jesus to put his hope in the proper context.

3-  Everyone is a counselor.  Few are qualified.  Few care to speak truth, only what makes them comfortable.  The crowds gathered when Jesus arrives do not care to see hope in Christ.  They see life through the lens they are used to.  Death is final.  Even when the miracle worker shows up in their midst, they do not recognize Hope, they laugh at it. 

So how do we deal with these realities?  How do we make headway in the midst of death, heartache and tragedy?

First, embrace the reality that death is real.  That sometimes there are things that are beyond your reach of fixing.  This father could have stood over his daughter all day, shaking her, giving CPR, etc.  But it would have done no good.  He can't bring new life to that which is dead.  Embracing this reality doesn't mean resigning yourself to it.  It means accepting your inability to do anything about it.

Second, put hope into action.  This father doesn't just weep, he goes.  He places his hope not in new circumstances, miracle cures, special prayers...He places it in a person.  Christ.  We can say until we are blue in the face that we put our hope in Jesus to heal and fix and raise again, but we rarely go to Him.  We talk about Him, but do not dwell with Him.  Are you actively, consistently, and hopingly placing your life into His hands?
Third, who are your counselors?  If this heartbroken dad had gone to and listened to the gathered crowd, he would not have gone to Jesus.  What do you think would have happened if he said, "My daughter is dead, but Jesus can save her?"  The crowd that easily laughed in the face of the known miracle worker, would have talked him out of it.  With statements like, "That's just your grief talking.  Death is final.  The sooner you accept 'reality' the quicker you will heal.  Don't waste your time, false hope will just make you sadder." 

And if he had listened....his daughter would be dead.  He took his heartache and pain and hope and placed it as the feet of Jesus.  And Jesus responded.

We need to recognize that people who tell us to give up(in as many words) are lying to us.  Not intentionally.  But they are.  This does not mean that everything that YOU want to happen in the WAY you want it to happen will occur.  But without Jesus death IS final.  With Jesus, NOTHING IS OVER. 

Who are you listening to?  People who point you not to answers, or solutions, but to Jesus?  Or people who tell you to give up, accept death, move on?  Whether Jesus brings your "child" back to "life" or not, HE WILL GIVE YOU NEW LIFE.  The power of the Cross promises that even in death, with Christ as our Hope, beauty, hope, new life, will always be the answer He provides. 

There is nothing in your life with more permanence than actual death.  And Jesus has beaten it!

1 Corinthians 15:54-56

54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”[a]
55 “Where, O death, is your victory?
    Where, O death, is your sting?”[b]
56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Don't Rush Things

Matthew 9:14
How is it we and he Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?

Waiting for your kids to grow up can be paaaaiiinnnnfulll.  There are so many things that having kids under the age of...30....make difficult.  We can't leave them alone so we can go out.  They don't clean up well(or at all).  Dinner is a constant struggle and most of ends up in places we have to later clean.  Sometimes it gets so frustrating that I lose my cool and tell my son to stop acting like a baby.  Which, as a four year old, he finds very offensive.  But it doesn't cause him to change his behavior.

So we just wait.

And, at the end of the day it is worth it.  While there are moments I wish I could snap my fingers and they would grow up...for just an evening...I want to enjoy and celebrate the process of their growth towards adulthood.  How heartbreaking would it be to wake up one morning to see them as adults and have forgotten the journey they took to get there.

The journey of childhood is essential. How we celebrate it with them, enjoy it with them, teach them through it, is essential to them becoming the adults we dream about.  Ever know an adult who had to grow up too fast?  There is a lot of regret and heartache.  Don't rush it.

We rush our spiritual journey way too much.  And we expect others to be right where we are RIGHT NOW!  There is rarely a time we stop to revel in the moment that God currently has us in.  It is always about tomorrow, never today.  It is not that we shouldn't be, and couldn't be, moving forward, but we get our heads ahead of our feet, and inevitably fall.

When Jesus is confronted about why He is disciples aren't fasting He makes a very important point. 

It isn't time for that yet, the time will come, but not today. 

Just because John's disciples and the Pharisees are at that stage in their lives(fasting) doesn't mean Jesus' disciples are. 

From there He has this interesting little explanation.  Don't put new wine into old wineskins, and don't put unshrunken cloth on old clothes to patch.  At first, when I read that I had trouble understanding the contextual significance of these ideas.  So, I did what we always should do when in doubt, study some more.

Here is what I found:  Jesus is reinforcing the idea that putting too much on (or in) to someone before its time will break it.  Now was there time to celebrate, and when they were ready, then they would fast.

Could you imagine what would happen if I expected my four year old to act like a teenager?  And, held him accountable to his failure to live up to that?  It would be emotionally devastating for him.  Every day he knows daddy has a high expectation of him, one he can't possibly succeed in, and he knows he will be punished for his failures.  It would create a sense of unworthiness and failure that would undermine his further development.

God's grace is one that comes to you right where you are at.  There is NO expectation for you pulling yourself up by your bootstraps.  There is only the expectation to be loved. 

Now, don't go thinking this is a way of justifying no growth, of staying right where you are.  Because the powerful thing about being lavishly and undeservedly loved by God through Grace is that it will begin to change you.  Not you changing yourself.  But God changing you from the inside out.

One day you will wake up different, not because of what you did, but because of what you allowed Him to do in you. 

My kids will become adults one day.  Not because of some hoops they had to jump through.  But because it is inevitable.  My job is to keep loving them deeply so that they get there.  If I stopped taking care of them, they wouldn't live very long.  Not that they aren't great kids, but they are incapable of preparing meals, and even getting their own milk out of the fridge.  To become adults from where they are right now requires them to let me take care of them and nurture their growth.

Are you letting God nurture your growth?

Are you letting God nurture the growth in others?

Be patient with yourself.  Be patient with others.  Loving them, and sharing truth with them, and giving them what they need when they need it will be the process through which we see them grow and change.  You won't help someone grow and change by telling them to buck up and try harder.

There is no reason to grow up too fast

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Jesus Wants To Take You Somewhere Better

Matthew 9:9
Jesus told him, "Follow Me"

There once was a man on a journey.  He was going from where he was, to where he needed to be.  For most of the journey the path he had chosen was easy.  After a while, though, he found himself at a large swamp that did not have an easily discovered route or much in the way of safe footing.  Not long after he had taken his first step to get through to the other side he discovered that he was quite stuck.  The mud and grime had covered his feet past his ankles. 

Each time he tried to move forward he found himself lodged ever more deeply into the swamp.  And each try to dislodge himself was exhausting.  Seeing that he had plenty of food, and the water of the swamp was at least potable enough for drinking, he resigned himself to staying right where he was.

It was lonely and dark where he was.  But he was alive and that was at least valuable enough to not give up completely.  After some time he saw another man walking towards the spot that he had found himself stuck.  This man seemed to have a masterful sense of where to safely place his feet and kept moving forward.  Soon this man had arrived at the exact spot our friend had found himself.

He said, "I thought you might be stuck.  This journey can be treacherous.  Here is my hand, allow me to pull you out.  I know the way, if you follow my steps we will safely arrive on the other side and we can journey the rest of the way together."

The man who was stuck contemplated the offer with suspicion.  Perhaps this traveler only meant to help him so that he could take what food he did have.  Or, maybe he didn't know the rest of the way out, and would only lead him to even deeper mud without the comforts he was making due with in his current place.  It may be bad here, but who knows where I could end up?

So he replied, "Thank you sir for your offer.  While I do not particularly enjoy where I am, it is possibly much better than where we may end up.  Instead of continuing on, can you just stay and sit awhile.  It isn't a lovely place to be, but if you were to join me here, we may find it to be a much more enjoyable experience than being in the swamp alone." 

The new traveler looked sadly at the man who was stuck.  With a deep sigh he replied, "I am sorry, but I cannot stay where you are.  This swamp is not where I intend on dwelling.  My home is on the other side, and I have come from there and know the path back.  I would be gladdened to have you join me.  It is likely that there are others, who like yourself, have found themselves stuck here.  If I were to stop my journey home, there would be no one to show them the way."

After hearing the reply the stuck man replied, "I appreciate what you say, friend, but I don't know you well enough to trust where you are going.  Perhaps if I continue to wait someone else will come along who will be my companion to pass the time"

With a sad look in his eyes, the new traveler faced back in the direction he was heading and continued on.

Saddest Moment in Cinematic History

There is a damaging lie that we have decided to embrace and live by;  Jesus wants to hang out with you right where you are.  Where does it come from?  We start with the truth that Jesus loves us right where we are, that grace is free, that we are loved because we are His.  This is all true.  God is not afraid of our problems, grace is not for those who have cleaned up their act.

But we stop there.  God loves me right where I am.  Christ died for me while I was still his enemy.  I am so blessed that He has come to my place to hang out and make things better......

When Jesus approaches Matthew, the tax collector, we need to see two essential truths that are not mutually exclusive. 

1)  Jesus DOES go right to where Matthew is.  He is not afraid to talk to a man who is doing that which is sinful and hurtful to others.  Boldly He approaches Matthew in the midst of his sinful behavior.

2)  Jesus THEN tells Matthew to follow Him.  And Matthew gets up from his table, the place where his sin is put into practice, and follows Jesus.

Today it is so common to hear the refrain that we should just "affirm" people right where they are.  If it makes them happy, if it is what they want, if it is what they believe...then it is perfectly fine.  To say otherwise is hurtful, intolerant, hateful.  The name of Jesus is invoked often in these claims.  Don't judge, err on the side of love...LIKE CHRIST...etc etc.

The problem, the damning problem, that is inherent in this view, is that it tells us a lie that we are all, at our core, just fine.  The troubles in our life aren't "sin", or, "being wrong", they are just not being loved enough, or, loving enough.  If we just had a bit more love then everything would be ok.

But our problem is not a lack of love, it is a lack of honesty about our sin.  We don't like to hear the ugly truth that there is something wrong inside of us, something that we can't just change or fix by adding more "positive" stuff.  The Jesus we want is one who just comes into our lives to make everything better.  To be the icing on the cake of the life we want.

So, when things are rough, and things don't get "better" in the way our soul cries out for.  Our approach is just to try to get more of it that we think will make it all better.  And, for the pseudo-Christian spirituality of this age, that means adding more "Feel Good and Affirming Jesus"(tm). 

Jesus talked a lot about unconditional love, he lived a life of grace, he gave lavishly to those who did not deserve it(me!).  But He was unapologetic about our problem.  Sin.  And unapologetic about the solution.  Repentance.

Repentance is not saying, "I'm sorry".  It is the daily act of turning away from self and aligning ourselves with God.  To stop moving inward towards our selfishness, and outward towards His Truth.  You cannot have the loving Jesus without the Jesus who preached, "Go and Sin no more, Follow me, Put down your nets" etc.  They are not mutually exclusive Christs. 

You and I find ourselves in swamps.  We are stuck.  Unable to move forward without help.  Incapable of finding the next safe footing.  Jesus walks right through the mud and grime to find us right where we are.  The dirt doesn't deter him.  The risks do not frighten him.  And when He arrives he says, "Follow me".

Are we going to follow Him out to where we need to be?  Or, are we going to expect Him to give up home to dwell in our mud?  Who are we to demand that Jesus has to give up heaven and dwell in our own hell?  He is offering you more than you can get where you are.  Get up and follow where His feet may lead.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

When Others Cannot Walk

Matthew 9:2
"When Jesus saw THEIR faith, he said to the paralytic, 'Take heart son; your sins are forgiven'"

My daughter is only 2.  Some of the difficulties of being only 2 is that she walks veeerrrryyyyy slowly.  Even when she is motoring along at a decent pace, it never lasts long, because there are too many distractions.  We took a family walk on the beach yesterday and about 1 minute in I realized that she was going to have to get carried if we were going to get anywhere.

For what felt like a long long long walk, we journeyed over the beautiful white sands.  My wife claims we didn't walk that far, but she didn't have a 30 pound toddler squirming on her shoulders.  To make matters worse, that precocious little girl did not appropriately align her weight with my shoulders, she leaned hard against my head, putting all the strain on my neck.  This morning, I have a sore neck. 

It was worth it!

She can't get very far on her own.  If we had just kept walking at a pace we were comfortable with, we would have lost her about 2 minutes into the walk.  We would have reached our destination, but it wouldn't be the same without my little princess.  Though it wasn't "easy", I wouldn't give up her being with me for anything.  Not to mention, that the reason she leaned so hard on my head was because she kept giving it hugs!

Jesus took notice of THEIR faith.  There was only one man in this story who was a paralytic, but Jesus recognized the faith of the men who carried their friend.  We actually do not hear any sort of commendation from Jesus to these faithful friends, He gets right to the work of forgiving and healing. 

We so often treat faith as an individualistic experience.  We walk alone.  We grow alone.  We minister alone. 

Even if there is someone else in the room.

I believe this little snapshot of friendship gives us a real convicting challenge.  Are we willing to carry those in our lives to a place where they can experience saving faith?  No one journeys towards Christ alone in a closet secretly.  It is most often through the loving encouragement and fellowship of those who are currently "stronger" that leads us to healing.

A couple of examples of people you should be willing to "carry":

1)  The hurting friend.  Something is going on in their life that causes them to just crumple to the floor.  Are you wrapping your arms around them and being the friend they need to get through "this".

2)  The backsliding friend.  Are you willing to speak truth into their life?  To help them get on track with truth and life?  The friend in sin often knows it.  They just get lost in it.  Do you love them enough to enter into their experience and walk them back?

3)  The unbelieving friend.  You can lead a horse to water.......It is true that you can't make anyone, through your power, come to Christ, but you can love them so deeply and selflessly that they see Christ's truth come near because you have "carried" them to Him through your love for them.

Who are you willing to "carry"? 

How about yourself?  Do you know that you need to be carried towards Jesus more than you care to admit?  You cannot just pull yourself up by the bootstraps and get yourself there.  So often our own weaknesses and sins get our feet stuck...paralyzed...somewhere.  Who are you letting into your life to carry you when you can't pick up your feet?

Monday, February 24, 2014

The Cost of Healing

Matthew 8:34
34 Then the whole town went out to meet Jesus. And when they saw him, they pleaded with him to leave their region.

You know what my kids love?  Band aids.  You know what my kids hate?  Taking them off. 

No matter how gentle you pull, how loose it is to start with, my son screams as if we are stabbing him....even before we remove it.  You can't keep a band aid on forever.  At some point, for the healing and fresh air, you have to remove it.  But it stings like the dickens.  I am in my 30's and still cringe at the moment right before I take one off of myself. 

You know what I love?  Not having the flu.  You know what I hate?  Shots.  Needles.  Any sort of pointy and stabby pain giving device.  My wife thinks I am ridiculous.  As a nurse she loves stabbing people with needles, and can even set herself up with a blood draw without blinking.  The pain I am afraid of is pretty much 99% in my head.  And for some reason, I would, for a moment, rather be sick then experience that pain.....that is mostly in my head.

In this passage of Matthew we see Jesus arrive in the region Gadarenes.  Upon disembarking from His boat He is greeted by violent and crazed demon possessed men.  It tells us that they are so violent that no one can even pass through this area.  So, a whole region purposely avoids even venturing near where these men are.  It is sort of like Detroit.....  No one wants to be there, and no one is willing to do anything about it. 

Jesus, being God and all, deals with the demons quite simply.  He casts them out of the men and sends them into a bunch of pigs nearby.  The pigs, now themselves possessed by demons, throw themselves to their deaths off of a cliff.

Here we have a whole region paralyzed by fear of what these violent men were doing.  Two men had shut down reasonable travel for all the inhabitants of the area.  And how did the people respond to this fantastic miracle?  They begged Jesus to leave.

The deed was done.  The pigs were dead and the men were no longer violently possessed lunatics.  Why would they want Jesus to leave now? 

They were afraid of what else He might heal.

We become comfortable in our uncomfortableness.  The cost of moving forward feels to great too do more than just sit right where we are.  These men had ruined the comfort of the region for who knows how long.  And, instead of being glad of the miracle, the people are worried that Jesus might just keep on fixing problems.

Sin has a cost.  Healing has a cost as well.  Why hadn't these people done something previously about the problem?  It was just much easier to pretend that part of town didn't exist anymore.  So, while they weren't happy about it, they became comfortable with it.  The healing Jesus offered took something away from them.  You can replace pigs though.  You can't replace a missing chunk of your town.  But they didn't care. 

The cost of healing, the pain of healing, is often a problem we just build up in our minds.  And we become so consumed by the fear of how it might feel, or what might happen, that we would rather just not get better.  The other day my son asked if he could just keep his band aid on until he was a grown up!

Don't be mistaken, healing will come with a cost.  But, it is worth it.  The pain we allow ourselves to dwell in is so much greater than the split second of pulling off the band aid.  Or getting the shot.  Or confessing our sin. 

God promises some important things to those on the fence between healing and persisting in pain: 

Matthew 11:30 "My yoke is easy and my burden is light"

Jesus tells us, come walk with me.  It might look heavy, but I am the one carrying the load.  What you are carrying now, by yourself, will grind you down into the dirt.  Do you feel like your problems are grinding you down?  Lay them off, and walk with Jesus.  The act of laying them down might cause your back to hurt...a bit...but then you are free to walk with freedom!

Hebrews 4:15  " For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin."

One of the biggest issues we have when facing our own demons is the fear of judgment.  There is no lack of love and empathy for you, no matter your struggle.  Doesn't it feel good to tell someone your problem and know that they couldn't love you anymore...STILL!!  Stop allowing the fear of reactions keep you from embracing Grace.  Unmerited and perfect Grace!

Stop being afraid of healing.  Even the "pain" of healing is so much easier than the ongoing pain of persistent hurt.

Bacon is so cute!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

How Prepared Can You Be?

Matthew 8:25-26
25 The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”
26 He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?”

Do you know how many books I read about babies and parenting before I had kids?  Way too many!  How many of their inspiring thoughts and pithy anecdotal insights do I find myself leaning on each day as a parent to a 4 and 2 year old?  About zero.

Is it wrong to try to prepare then?  Of course not.

But your life, and your kids lives are going to be uniquely your own.  There is no formula that you can come up with that will solve every practical and existential crisis you will face.  There is only so much general thinking you can do to lay a helpful foundation for when the real poop hits the fan....and I mean that literally..... 

Just the other day my 2 year old cleared out the pool at our Florida resort by dropping some major floaters in it.  I didn't need to read a preparedness book to know that the best solution is to not make eye contact, run out, and let someone else "discover" it......

I don't feel bad about this....

In the passage preceding the "storm event" that we read about in Matthew 8 we see Jesus very explicitly explaining that being a follower of Christ is going to be a lot harder than you could have ever imagined.  Then, He gets on a boat, his main cadre of Disciples(Matthew, Shadrach, Mishack, etc....I think those ones) get on with Him.

While many of the looky loos might not be willing to follow Jesus when He threw down the gauntlet, these guys weren't afraid.  They could totally handle not having a place to sleep, and not burying their dads. 

But then something they hadn't thought about previously struck.

The storm came out of nowhere, it was violent, it caused the disciples to not just fear for their lives, but to suddenly second guess this whole "following Jesus" thing.  They say, "Don't you care that we are going to drown?!?!!?"  Then Jesus rebukes them.

Why are you so afraid??? 

Don't they get it.  Moments before they had just heard all about how hard it is to follow Jesus.  And now, it was getting really hard.  And they suddenly realized they were out of their depth.  This is not what they had prepared for.

A real popular phrase in the Christianese dictionary is "The Cost of Discipleship"(read out loud with booming baritone).  And it is an encouragement to get real serious about what it means, and will mean to follow Jesus.  There is nothing wrong with that statement.  One of my favorite books is actually called that. 

But here is the mistake we make.

We think that we can quantify and make solid pre-event analysis of what it will cost us.  So, we measure ourselves up against some generic stories we have heard or read and say, "I can totally do that.  I mean, my parents are already Christians, but if I had to let them kick me out for my conversion and disown me, I would totally be strong enough for it......"

So there are a list of ambiguous concepts that we put together in our head as we "count the cost".  We feel up to the challenge(of those ambiguous ideas) and dive in.

But then a storm hits. 

The cost of Discipleship is not about quantifying some specific set of circumstances that we can prepare ourselves for.  Like parenting, nothing prepares you for what it will really look like.  No one can tell you what is going to happen to you on the 5th Tuesday of your kids 3rd year of life.  What happens happens.  And you just have to be willing to face it.

One of my favorite TV series is "Band of Brothers".  There is a Lt(can't remember his name, I think it was Lt LT Smash) who has a reputation of being fearless.  In one scene he jumps over a protective barrier, runs right past an enemy tank, blows up some enemies, and runs right back to his original spot.  One of the other men asks him how he can be so brave.  He replies simply, "I have already accepted that I am dead, so what is there to be afraid of?"

To be a Disciple of Christ means to literally die to yourself.  Nothing in your life matters compared to the Richness of Knowing Christ.  When you have already accepted that it is not you who lives, but Christ who lives in you, it will radically change how you perceive the Cost of Discipleship.

It is not about the cost of this event or that event.  This scenario or that problem.  The cost was already paid.  You have given all, and received Christ in return.  So whether it is a storm, a heartache, a deep pain of life, or, a kid crapping in a pool.  You have already come to terms with it, it has no power to take anything more from you.

To pay the Cost means to no longer have anything that can be taken from you.  You have been given that which is imperishable, and permanent.  No matter the issue, your hope is eternal. 

Ready to get on the boat?

It was definitely poop.....

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Absolute Morality? Absolutely!

"If I am convinced that the highly educated Nazis are wrong, and that we highly educated English are right, what is it that validates our values and invalidates theirs?  The English intellectuals who now cry to Heave against the evil incarnated in Hitler have no Heaven to cry to.  The whole trend of liberal thought has been to undermine faith in the absolute.  It has tried to make reason the judge.  But since life is a changing process the attempt to find human space for keeping a promise leads to the inevitable conclusion that I can break it whenever I feel it convenient.  Either we serve the Unconditional, or some Hitlerian monster will supply an iron convention to do evil by."
    -Poet W.H. Auden 1907-1973

I recently read this quote in a book by Timothy Keller, "Encounters with Jesus".  In it, Keller was making a case for the "skeptical student" regarding the reasonable argument for a system of absolute morality. 

Auden was a man who had walked away from faith as a younger man, but the rise of Nazism caused him to rediscover the essential need of a non-subjective system to be able to make any claim of "right" or "wrong".  And that the God revealed in Scripture is the only reasonable and trustworthy answer to that which is written onto our very souls.

My intent is to not post a air tight philosophical case for absolute morality.  Many others do a much better job than I would be capable of doing.  Personally, quotes like Auden's are powerful enough on their own, in my opinion, to illustrate the absurdity of subjective ethics and morality.

Instead, I want to speak to those who would agree that there IS an absolute and objective morality, yet are inconsistent in their application.

When I say inconsistent, I mean it something like this: 
1) I believe in objective morality.
2) I believe that objective morality is knowable.
3) I believe that the God of scripture is the unmoveable author and source of this objective morality.

And here is the illogical "break"

4) I don't believe "this" choice is really subject to that objective standard....

Let me put some flesh to that idea....  Someone can very readily admit to the objective standard of morality when it comes to murder, or, stealing.  Basically, any really obvious "no no" that can be personally offensive to the party standing firmly on that solid foundation.  But, when it is time to evaluate the choices of their personal life, objectivity goes out the window. 

We are comfortable applying objectivity to others behaviors, but refuse to apply it to ourselves.  And, we become offended by those who may hold us accountable to such behaviors.

Murder is wrong.  But sex outside of marriage know...not recommended.....but...umm...who am I to say?  Whatever makes you happy right?

See, this is where the problem comes from.  Either objective morality comes from a source outside of our own personal reasoning, or it is unknowable and ultimately always up for debate.  So, if we are to be opposed to murder at all times for all reasons, then we have to point to a source for that Objective Truth to be founded in.  All things that are not eternal and unchangeable, will, by definition....change.

If the source of murder is wrong, is not from the Author of Life, then where does it come?

And here is where the rubber meets the road for my challenge to those who would already agree on this point....

If we trust God's truth about murder, stealing, etc...why do we mistrust His truth on subjects that we feel more inclined to?  No one sits around and debates whether God told us not to murder.  But we do love to debate whether there is something such as sexual sin, anger issues as a sin, greed as a sin, and a whole host of others.

So here is my challenge.  Do you believe in God's truth as absolute?  Absolutely in all things?  Or just the things that are convenient for you to agree with? 

Because, if you began to negotiate away Objective Morality for your personal preferences, then you have accepted the logical progression that even the Truths you hold dear will eventually be washed away.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Good but not Right

Matthew 8:21-22
21 Another disciple said to him, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”
22 But Jesus told him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”

Last night my son Kai got out of bed to ask me an "important" question.  He comes up with all the most essential questions after he is supposed to go to bed.  When he came into the living room he saw that I was cleaning up the room.  Immediately he forgot whatever his primary excuse was for getting up and asked if he could help me clean up.

Doesn't that sound awesome?  What a responsible young 4 year old.  Of course I said, "NO!"  And warned him that if he got out of bed again he would be in big trouble.  He begged me to allow him to help saying, "But daddy, when  will I ever get to help clean??!?!!"  I wouldn't let him help, and 5 minutes he was crying in bed because there will never be anything for him to clean......

This morning, I offered for him to help me pick up some stuff before breakfast.  Guess who had zero interest in cleaning?  That kid!

Ultimately, his issue last night was not his heartfelt desire to be a helpful kid, it was his unwillingness to do what he was supposed to do...Go to Bed!  He is too smart to just say, "Can I watch a movie and eat candy??"  He says, "Daddy, let me clean for you"  Hoping that pretending to be a good kid will get him more traction with his dad to get what he wants. 

We create these false comparisons in our heads all the time.  Sure, I am not doing what I really should be doing, but look, I am doing something REALLLLLYY important right now.  We avoid primary responsibilities by filling our time with peripheral distractions.  The trick is that the things we use to avoid what is Right is not by doing something "bad", but in doing something that in a vacuum is a good thing as well.

In college I was the king of only cleaning my room if I had a paper to write.  I could guarantee that during midterms and exams my stuff would be spotless.  For weeks I had no concern about piles of laundry and unvacuumed floors, but the minute something I didn't want to do that I absolutely should do came up, I became a cleaning machine. 

Our ultimate purpose, the essential truth to what is Right and Good, is to follow hard after Jesus.  And when the call comes, we have all sorts of legitimate sounding reasons to put off the true life of Discipleship. 

I knew a guy in college who never had time for the things of God because he was so busy doing "school" and other such important things.  He most confidently assured everyone that once college was over he would be sooooo serious about Christ.  Guess how that worked out?  Just up and left his wife for another woman without warning 3 years after getting married.....

That which is the Right thing to do, is the primary thing we should do.  Not just what is "good".   

When the man tells Jesus that he will follow him after he buries his dad, he is saying, "I totally know you are a priority, but let me do this other stuff first."  The language doesn't indicate that his dad had just died, it indicates that he was just going to wait for his dad to die, whenever that might be.  See, he claimed he wanted to follow Jesus, as long as it didn't interfere with his plans.  

We want to relegate Jesus to a little convenient box in the back corner of our heart.  When we "need" Him, we'll pull Him out and let Him do His thing.   But, most of the time, we just want Him to keep quiet in there since we "got this".

There is nothing more essential, more valuable, more Right, than following Christ.  What are the "good" things that you use as excuses for why today is not the day you start?

Catching up on sleep?


All that family "stuff"?

Gotta fix this "problem" first?

Waiting to "feel" more into it?

Once the kids grow up?  Or, you grow up?

If we start with that which is merely "good", we will never do that which is RIGHT.  If you prioritize that which is Right, we will find ourselves constantly successfully living within that which is Good.  When Christ goes before you, all the other issues that have been distractions to walking with Christ will be accomplished in ways beyond your imagining.  When we don't start with Christ, those things will never cease their consuming nature in your life.

No more "legitimate" excuses.  Become a disciple!

Is this how you deal with priorities?

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Astonishing Jesus

Matthew 8:8-10
The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”
10 When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.

There are many different ways my kids approach me when they need something.  The "how" often is much more important than the "why."  Consciously or not, we all do a bit of quick thinking evaluation of what is really going on when someone approaches us for something.  Attitude plays the largest role in how we discern the heart behind the request. 

When my son approaches me angrily I know before I even hear his words that it is going to be a request most likely rooted in selfishness.  His anger betrays his heart.  Sure, it might be legitimate that he wants "this", but his attitude informs me that it is all about him and God help those who do not bow to his wishes.  At that moment I exist, in his head, to simply be a conduit for achieving his self-centered desires. 

On the other hand, when he approaches me quietly and meekly, I know that there is a much different heart going on.  He isn't coming to demand, but instead to ask for help from the one person he knows is capable of helping him.  Usually, this approach follows earnest self-attempts to do whatever it is he wanted.  And when he realizes that he can't accomplish what he wants without his daddy, he comes hoping for help, knowing that I am capable.

When we read this account of the Centurion coming to Jesus to heal his servant we see a man who is outside of the Jewish community, but having a faith that amazed Jesus.  How would you like to have a faith that Jesus is amazed by?  All scripture is for our edification and so what can we take from this and apply to ourselves. 

I see two important parts to the visible display of the Centurions faith:

1)  Humility. 

"I do not deserve" was such a great line.  How many times I approach God with demands and expectations.  We treat God like a Holy Vending machine so easily.  Here are my prayer are my goodies?!?! 

We cannot hope to approach the cross on our feet.  The only way forward is on our knees.  The very act of living with self-righteous justification towards our right to approach God with demands shows how far our hearts are truly from God.

Is God simply existing to be a conduit for providing for our desires, or, is He a Holy and Righteous King who exists not for our pleasure, but His own?

2)  Belief in the authority and power of Christ.

The Centurion doesn't just say, "do you think you can do this".  He basically says, "I know you can with no more than a word". 

I am about as far from the "name it claim it" camp as one can possibly be.  So, don't take this the wrong way.  But we live so often paralyzed in fear that God isn't who He says He is.  We do not live in the freedom and satisfaction of knowing that God is in control and is working all things to the good of those who love Him. 

We have a very limiting view of the problems we do have, and, the problems we may have.  They consume us, we allow anxiety and worry to rob us of hope and peace.  Do you know that there is a Limitless God who loves you beyond measure?  No matter the immediately "felt" realities of the difficulties in life, our hope is not in "today", but the forever Tomorrows.

The Centurion isn't just hoping that Jesus is who He says He is.  He trusts it completely, and humbly places his hope in Christs' hands.

How about you?  Let me challenge you, and me, to pursue a heart that is rooted in Trusting Humility.  Jesus is who He says He is.  And, we are who He says we are.  We have no right to ask Him for anything.  But He invites us to come to Him out of love and see that He is indeed who He promised He would be.



God With Us


Don't judge me, This is a pretty amazing Astonished Jesus

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

If I Had a Hammer

I Corinthians 1:18
For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.

One of the greatest life truths about how we operate as people is, "To the man with only a hammer, every problem appears to be a nail!"  Our tendency is to fall back on to what it is we are most comfortable with.  That which we feel we have the most success with. 

For example, if the only thing you know how to do when there is an interpersonal problem is to argue and fight, when there is a problem, your go to place is anger and antagonism.  Whether or not it is the most effective tool for that particular problem, it is what you know, so that's what you do.

Generally speaking, we are very one dimensional as people.  We adopt behaviors and mindsets pretty early on in our development and we stick to them.  Making new choices can be difficult, and, even painful.  So we avoid those.  Even when the "hammer" causes as many problems as it fixes, we keep using it.

A few months ago I went with a team of men to help build a turkey coop for a troubled boys home in rural Ohio.  No one told me that I needed to bring anything.  I really only own a hammer, so I did bring that.  Everyone else brought a truckload(no exaggerating) of power tools and other assorted specialty items.  Needless to say, when we got there, the only help I could provide was on those rare occasions they actually needed something hammered.  I felt pretty silly.

The problem in our lives is not just that we only have one or two tools at our disposal, but that we are constantly facing problems that are in constant flux.  You can clean up one mess, to only find yourself in completely uncharted territory that you still aren't prepared for.  It can feel like we are always playing catch up. 

But what if there was one universal tool that spoke directly to every problem?  One second it is a hammer, the next it is a power drill.  If you could invent that, you would have ALL the money.  Everyone would have a tool bench with this one miraculous tool that adapted to perfectly fit the need.

People are a lot more difficult than nails and screws, wood and metal.  Our hearts are an ever changing, and often hurting, cornucopia of heart ache, old wounds, new frustrations and anxiety.  And we often approach everyones problems with our very limited self-created tools.  And, sometimes it helps, sometimes it.....does the opposite.

There is one tool that is perfectly suited for every problem.

The Cross.

In the very midst of our labyrinthic messes, the Cross comes in and speaks the exact truth that is needed.  Applies the correct salve to the wound.  Picks up the very thing that has fallen apart.

Paul reminds us that the one power we have is that of Christ Crucified.  The cross.  For the very reasons your life is falling apart Christ went to the cross.

Your problems will always change.  What works today, will be broken tomorrow.  How you cope with something now, will fail  you later.  Only the power of the Cross will ultimately satisfy. 

What anger causing you to boil?  Christ died to give you peace.

What resentment is eating you up?  Christ died to bring healing.

What relationships are broken?  Christ died to restore you to fellowship.

What self-hate is destroying you?  Christ died to give you perfect and lavish love.

When we bring our hurts, pains, disappointments and concerns to the Cross, Christ tenderly takes them from our shoulders and hangs them there with Himself.  With Christ they die.  And through Christ you will live. 

If everything feels hopeless, come to the Cross.  Even if you don't believe it fully.  Come to the Cross.

Every problem is a nail.  The hammer is the Cross.

What will you do with the hammer? 

Monday, February 17, 2014

Touching A Mess

Matthew 8:3
Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. "I am willing," he said.  "Be Clean!"  Immediately he was cured of his leprosy.

When my sister and I were little we would often end up at my dads church to play while he worked.  They had an electronic super powered stapler that we were absolutely not allowed to touch.  It was the kind that you didn't push on, you just slid something in the slot and "BLAM!"  Staple in.  We had been told on multiple occasions how playing with it would lead to big problems.

Clearly, I was the well behaved child, so I listened and followed these instructions.  My little sister did not.  She stuck her thumb into the slot and had a staple shoot right through her nail and into her flesh.  At the time no one knew.  Though she was in great pain, she was sure that the pain of her impending punishment for disobeying would be far worse.  She couldn't get the staple out on her own so she just sat around whimpering while holding her thumb in her hand so no one would see. 

Being the sensitive and caring soul that I am, dripping with empathy clearly, I didn't even notice that she was so upset.  She acted fine enough that we got home without anyone noticing and it wasn't until my mom got involved that she recognized that my sister was not acting normal.  After holding her in her lap and gently asking what as wrong and telling her that she could share anything, my sister, through tears, showed her thumb while begging to not get in trouble/spanked.

My sister did not get in trouble at all(I am still bitter about that).  Instead my parents took her to get it taken care of right away.  They were sweet and loving with her as she dealt with the great amount of pain she was going through.

It's funny seeing how we can become so concerned about what people will think about our problem that we don't even share it with those who can help.  Though she was in excruciating pain the driving logic was that admitting she had done wrong and possibly getting in trouble would be worse.  Obviously, the logic of a child didn't think through the long term consequences of having a thick piece of metal jammed into her thumb.  She was too concerned with the fears of what COULD happen if she asked for help.

Leprosy is a disease you can't hide.  It is literally written on your face.  Arguably, the worst part of leprosy is that your disfigurement could make all personal relationships change radically.  You were disgusting, possibly contagious, dying.  Who wanted to be around you? 

In Jesus, this leper sees hope.  That someone would see him, not as a diseased and deformed monster, but as a hurting person with a condition that he couldn't fix on his own.  Would Jesus finally give him a life not defined by his problem?

What is powerful about this passage is not that Jesus healed the man.  We have already seen multiple occasions where Jesus is able to do the miraculous regarding disease.  What blows me away is this:  Jesus reached out and touched him!

The leper did not ask to be touched.  He asked to be healed.  A leper was not someone who could expect human contact.  Their flesh was literally rotting right off of them.  Who would want to touch that? 

Jesus healed the man.  But He did something even more profound.  Even before the leprosy was gone, even before the ravages of this mans problems were erased, He touched him.  He was not turned away and cringing at the sight.  There was no statement of, "Sure, I'll heal you, but can you stand a bit farther away??"  In the very midst of this mans mess Jesus touched him.

We are messes.  Absolute rotting, disgusting messes.  And often, when we are honest, that mess has a lot to do with our own choices.

So we hide from people.  We shut down.  Instead of transparency, we present the image of ourselves that we wish was true.  Like my sister was, we sit nursing great pain, but the fear of actually asking for help, and what might come from that confession, causes us to try to just endure.  And we never endure.

Jesus loved the leper enough to not be turned away by the mess that he saw in front of him.  No, he showed tenderness, love, intimacy.  He touched the disease with his own hands.

God's people are called to be Christ's hands and feet. 

Are you touching peoples messes with love?  Or, are you averting your gaze because it disgusts you?

Are you willing to trust that the hand that touches your mess is the tender hand of a loving savior?  Or, are you still believing the lie that you are no longer worthy of being loved like that?

We need to start touching messes.  And we need to start letting people touch our own messes.  Healing comes from being touched at our deepest level.  Stop hiding your face.  God calls you beautiful.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Finding Love on Valentines

1 John 3:16
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.

Yayyyyy Valentines Day!


Don't get me wrong.  I love LOVE.  I love loving my wife.  I love loving my kids.  In general, I just love love. 

But what I don't love is what our society tells us about what love is. 

Goosebumps, heart racing, sweaty palms, lust, attraction.

You know what is the common denominator about all of those feelings of "love" we are encouraged to seek and "maintain"?  They are about what that person does for YOU.  When we celebrate something like Valentines day we are giving gifts and having dinners to tell that person how pleased we are that they make us feel a certain way. 

Think of the things that you would typically hear on a Valentines date:

"You are so beautiful"

"You make me so happy"

"You do such nice things for me"

None of those statements or sentiments are themselves necessarily a bad thing.  But they are not the core component of what love is.  We dangerously build all of our romantical notions around the idea of what that person produces in us. 

And, when they no longer create that sense of euphoria and desire in you anymore, than you have "fallen out" of love.  Typically, the response of the world is that this is a sign that it is time to move on.  They don't make your toes tingle anymore like that barista at the Free Trade Coffee bar does, so, go find love!!

What is Love?  True love?  Selfless love?

Jesus laid down his life for those who were his enemies.  When Jesus went to the cross, he did not do it with the expectation that everyone was just going to start cleaning up their act and return his act of love consistently, or, at all.  But he did it anyway.  True love, the love that God designed us to desperately need, is found in not what others do for us, but giving up of ourselves for others.

When we live out of a sense of selfishness, whether consciously or not, we are creating a life where the love our soul cries out for will always be out of reach.  We will just keep roving, hoping that around this next corner we will finally find it.  But we won't.  Because Love is not about getting.  It is about giving.

Any time we base our satisfaction in the current status of our relationship based on the feelings it provides, we are in trouble.  When we commit our hearts to acting and serving in love without expectation of getting, but only for the sake of their receiving, a funny thing begins to shift in our hearts and minds.  We begin to discover a more permanent joy and satisfaction in the relationship.  A love that surpasses the giddy feelings of "first love(attraction)" begins to develop and shape your entire perspective.

Where is your heart today?  Are you still hoping to find love? Are you hoping to feel loved?

Begin to ask yourself who the primary relationships in your life are.  Spouse, kids, parents, friends, co-workers.  What would it look like to start loving them for their sake, and not yours?  Even if it could cost you everything. 

You can't do that alone.  In our imperfect and sinful nature we are constantly seeking self gratification.  Prayerfully and humbly come to the cross, seek the breaking of your selfishness, begin to make new choices that challenge the "comfort" of the ones you have made before.  To experience the love your heart desires, stop doing the things you did before.  Lay it down.  It is worth it.

Best cards out there!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus

One of the greatest challenge for evangelism in the modern age is the profound lack of intimate relationships with those outside of our "group".  Whether it is politics, lifestyle, or, religion, it is a far deal more comfortable to talk "about" another person/group than it is to talk WITH them.  Christians have become far too comfortable with talking at people and doing what I like to call, "Drive by Evangelism". 

My purpose is not to unpack the whens, why's and hows for how this came to be.  What matters is that it is wrong.  Deadly wrong.  And if Paul's letters in the New Testament are to be considered Scripture, then we must to be willing to engage our hearts and lives with the people who are in desperate need of the Gospel.  And, not just for the sake of the Gospel, but for the reality that the "other" is someone who is made in the image of God and we are called to love them regardless of the artificial and man made walls that may exist between us.

With that in mind, Nabeel Qureshi's new book, "Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus", is an insightful and challenging personal story that does much, for me at least, to engage hearts and minds with the message of the Gospel in a "foreign" culture.

Regardless of the interesting information a book may provide, it is important to understand the purpose and themes the author intends to convey to be able to be accurately informed  by that information.  My reading of "Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus"(SAFJ) led me to believe that Qureshi had three main themes he was trying to communicate;

1) Insider perspective on Islamic culture, especially that of 1st and 2nd Generation immigrant culture and families. 

2)  Apologetic argumentation.  Primarily for Biblical Christianity, but also for comparable Islamic apologetics. 

3)  Personal biography that served as a backbone for the "nuts and bolts" of Nabeel Qureshi's journey from Islam to Christianity.

To best evaluate the book I think it is important to understand and address each of these themes separately. 

Review of Theme 1:  Insider Perspective on Islamic Culture

As a Pastor of a small rural Church in the corn fields of west central Ohio, my personal familiarity with Islamic culture is very limited.  "SAFJ" was like drinking information from a fire a good way.  In college I had taken an early Islamic literature course and had a very brief exposure to the culture.  On nearly every page I felt I was being provided with insights and information that blew away some of my misconceptions. 

I would contend, after reading this book, that most Westerners have a very caricatured understanding of Islamic culture, and for that alone I would recommend reading this book.  Qureshi did a fantastic job of not just explaining the information regarding his culture, but detailing how it practically influences behavior and familial relationships.  What was especially interesting was the explanation and examples of how Personal Authoritative structures(people that must be respected), and honoring those structures, take precedence over the Western ideals of Logic and Reason superseding personal relationships.  Coupled with a deeply interwoven Honor and Shame system of reinforcement it illustrated the great difficulty that trying to communicate across cultural lines creates.

The main weakness I have with this theme of the book is that Qureshi's heritage is far from normative for worldwide Islam.  Most people know that there are a number of "sects" within Islam, but learning the depth of those differences was very interesting.  And, Qureshi, in his journey discovered how much different his particular doctrinal and theological influences were than the majority of Islam.  It was eye opening to hear him retell a story where he listened to an Islamic Apologist(of his "tribe") go on a rant about how terrible it was that other Muslims claimed that their group were not truly Muslim.

Review of Theme 2:  Apologetics

If one is coming to this book antagonistically, I do not believe that they will appreciate his frequent, and limited, references to Christian Apologetic arguments.  While Qureshi is currently on staff with Ravi Zaccharias ministries, I do not think his main point was to make an airtight case for Christianity.  So, if that is what you were hoping to find, look elsewhere.  The apologetics served mainly as a narrative engine to assist in driving the biographical journey forward. 

If you already are on board with Christian Apologetics you will find it very refreshing to see how the reasoning for Christianity played a large part in Qureshi's faith journey.  But I would caution anyone to take passages from the book whole cloth as future arguments with non-believing or Muslim friends.  One of the strengths of the book is that each chapter leads you to review more in depth resources regarding that chapters particular theme.  If you are looking for more Gospel apologetics, utilize those resources, not the book. 

As more Islamic apologetics work their way into the narrative it was helpful to see how the Authority structures within Muslim thinking and scholarship effect the way they even approach answering "tough" questions.  Whether you agree with Qureshi's sentiments about the inability of Muslim history and scholarship being unable to withstand careful scrutiny, it can be very helpful to see how the typical Western thinking approach to apologetics is not necessarily helpful in "debate".

Review of Theme 3:  Biography

The backbone of the book, that which all the other points hang on, is by far the best part.  Qureshi does not desire to simply give you "facts and figures" to make a case for Christianity vs Islam, he wants to change your heart about Muslims.  There are many touching and heartbreaking stories that give real life to what really hangs in the balance.

If this book was just an apologetic or a cultural primer, it would not be that helpful.  By interpreting all the information through the lens of deep personal experience what changes will not be your mind, but your heart.  The end of the book brought tears to my eyes as I was deeply moved by the personal trials that this journey has brought to Nabeel.


This book is a great read regardless of your intentions for reading it.  It was engaging, entertaining and very insightful.  In my life there are a number of books that I wouldn't recommend to people at certain places in life, but this is a book that I feel is universally valuable regardless of where they are currently. 

Full Disclosure:  I received "Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus" as an advance copy for the purpose of reviewing it.  I do not personally know Nabeel Qureshi, or, any of his associates.  Nor have I ever read anything else by him, or heard him speak on any topic. Other than receiving the book for free, I will receive no compensation for reading and reviewing. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

When the Rains Come Down, the Floods Come Up

Matthew 7:24
"Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who builds his house upon the rock."

The other night I was hanging out at my wives place of employment waiting for her to get off of work.  I was sitting at the bar, nursing my diet Dr Pepper, when a regular of the place sat down next to me and started to chat.  Over the course of the conversation it came up that I was a Pastor.  After apologizing for his cursing(which I don't really care about), he asked me how I am able to encourage people when the world is so messed up. 

In the parable of the wise man there is an unstated accepted reality; The rains will come.  It doesn't say, he built his house on a rock so there were no storms in his life.

CS Lewis once said that our problem is not that we don't believe that God will see us through storms, we are just worried about how much it will hurt while we go through them.  We have bought into a philosophy of life that tells us that the highest ideal in the human existence is "happiness". 

This is a terrible lie.  This is a destructive lie.  It is a goal that when we set our sights on obtaining we are guaranteed to never possess it in permanent consistency.

What is happiness anyways?  How do you define it?  And there is the problem.  How do YOU define it?  While there is nothing inherently wrong with the experience of "happiness" it is an ambiguous and subjective concept that is constantly in flux. 

When I was about 13 years old my best friend and I spent an entire night sleeping in shifts so we could complete an entire video game in one sitting.  It was awesome.  If you asked me if I thought staying up all night to play video games was something I wanted to do this weekend, I would want to vomit.  As I have changed and grown and my priorities have evolved, what made me happy when I was 13 would do the opposite for me today in my 30's. 

We change. Sometimes we change daily.  When our goals for life become "to be happy" we have set for ourselves an impossible standard that leaves us always coming up empty in the ultimate sense.  If I based my future around the fun experience of staying up all night playing video games what would my life look like today?  When happiness becomes the standard we become arrested in our development and are locked in a spiral of ever decreasing experiential happiness.

Happiness, as it is most often sought for, is ultimately a selfish pursuit.  If happiness is the goal, it is rare that others will be brought into consideration.  And even acts of perceived selflessness are rooted in feeling good about oneself, or, helping create or maintain a personal image that gives happiness.  And, when there is no longer a direct sense of happiness being experienced by the selflessness that had previously been shown, it will come to an end. 

This goal of happiness does not protect against the ravages of the storms that the world throws at us.  We will all suffer at some point, if we aren't suffering now.  The foolish man builds his life on the sifting and ever changing sands of "happiness".  When life creates change, when circumstances eliminate the source of where you sought happiness, or, if the former source of happiness is now a source of pain, you are lost.

How do we help people(and ourselves) in a world that is full of such crap?  Where is encouragement found when this world is such a mess?

Our ultimate goal needs to be Truth.  The Ultimate, capital T Truth, is found in God and God alone. 

When we become rooted no longer in self, but Truth, there develops a sense and experience of security and peace.  The self is going to betray you.  The things you seek after for visceral momentary feelings of "happiness" will turn on you.  Instead, plant yourself on the unmovable foundation that does not remove storms, but takes the rain that floods and makes it rain that grows.

What are you seeking?  Are you seeking happiness, or truth?  If you seek happiness, you will have neither.  If you seek truth, you will have both.

Storms are coming, are you really prepared?