Bad Boys, Bad Boys: They’re Everywhere


Every now and then I watch “Cops” on TV. While watching a recent gripping episode where city police officers had to deal with yet another unruly pair of meth addicts who committed numerous petty thefts and assorted crimes of distasteful vice, I realized that we as a nation spend billions of dollars for police services in order for street cops to deal with (how can I say this politely?) the dregs of society. And yet crime on Wall Street, and within banks and corporations across the land, gets nary any attention. Granted, watching a Wall Street broker illegally churn millions for fees from his unsuspecting clients is not nearly as entertaining as watching Las Vegas police officers wrestle a transvestite prostitute to the ground and place him/her in handcuffs. But it would be more satisfying to watch the police wrestle a Wall Street banker to the ground and zap him with the Taser; think of the TV ratings THAT would generate. And yes I know all Wall Street bankers are not corrupt . . . yet.

Most of us can probably protect ourselves against meth addicts who would commit petty crimes in our neighborhoods. It’s the Wall Street bankers in faraway offices that activate the flight or fight mechanism in the so-called reptilian part of my brain. Sure, I know the FBI and FTC (Federal Trade Commission) are there to protect American consumers, but their budgets pale in comparison to the budgets of city, county, and state police who spend most of their time interacting with the dregs. Maybe our entire criminal justice system needs restructuring so that the lion’s share of our criminal justice resources are shifted away from dealing with meth addicts and the petty crimes they commit and towards Wall Street and the grandiose crimes they commit. When Wall Street is morally compromised, it can threaten the very economic fabric of our entire society. Of course Wall Street and corporate America have lobbyists and spouses in high places in Washington. Meth addicts, not so much.

There comes a point in every nation where God no longer ignores the sins of his people, including their economic sins. The prophet Amos and Micah tried to warn the ancient people of Israel about this truth, but they did not listen. Here is one such warning from God in Micah 6:11:

“Shall I acquit someone with dishonest scales,
with a bag of false weights?”

Israel had experienced the rise of a wealthy upper class (sound familiar?), yet this brought intolerable corruption (yep, very familiar). The people of Israel thought great wealth was a sign of God’s blessing. In reality, God had reached the point of no return for their idolatry, property crimes, failed civil leadership, failed religious leadership, corrupt business practices, violence, and their belief that personal sacrifice satisfies divine justice. What was Israel’s sentence? The nation of Israel was dismantled and the people were scattered around the world. I do not know if America will suffer a similar fate, but we may well face divine judgment because our sins look eerily similar to those of ancient Israel. What that judgment will look like, I don’t know.

What can the average Christian do if God’s judgment comes to America? We can’t do much about corruption in high places, but on a personal level we can pray that we are part of his faithful remnant that endures and that we are found blameless. We would also do well to examine how we conduct ourselves in our spheres of influence within our communities. In other words, are there any unbalanced scales in our dealings with other people? If so, we need to replace our unbalanced scales with righteousness and integrity.

Beware the yeast of the mother-in-law: Unless she compliments your leadership


Recently my malevolent mother-in-law uttered a profundity that surprised me. She was spending a couple days at our house (what sin have I committed to displease you, oh Lord?) and I was vacuuming the floor of all the dog hair shed by our fell beasts when I overheard her say to my wife: “It must be nice to have a husband who does housework.” Granted, my mother-in-law is in her eighties and hails from a bygone era (think Jurassic period) when male and female roles in the home were more strictly segregated. But things have changed since then, right? It depends.

When I was a lad, almost fifty years ago, it was a regular occurrence around our house to see my father engaged in domestic labor such as washing the dishes (by hand) and doing the laundry, in addition to his other duties around the yard and his full-time job as a professional logger. Apparently he was ahead of his time as the feminist movement had just begun to gather steam in America. Fast forward to today when I hear many professional women bemoan how they have achieved greater equality with men but not greater equity of job distribution in the home. In other words, many women today are married to men who still expect their wife to take care of all the domestic duties in the home, raise the children, and have a career . . . oh, and be a seductress in the bedroom, as well. Unfortunately many Christian men still embrace this nonsense as somehow biblical.

Don’t get me wrong, I am NOT suggesting that men need be more feminine or women more masculine. God clearly made men and women different in many ways. For instance, I like to hunt, but my wife, Cindy, is unlikely to join me in the woods, shoot a buck, gut it, butcher it, and serve it for dinner. And I am unlikely to join her at a women’s retreat where the ladies and I sit around the table and do arts and crafts. Even so I think a lot of Christian men have misused verses like Ephesians 5:23 where men are told that we are the head of our wife; a verse which establishes a system of authority in the home. But what type of authority? Authority and work are two different things, right? Certainly there are verses in the Bible that describe labor responsibilities along conventional gender roles almost two thousand years ago. But since when was Christ and his followers conventional? Take for instance the washing of feet. Jesus clearly acknowledges his own authority. His disciples recognized his authority. But Jesus also got down on his hands and knees and served his disciples by washing their feet. This was much more than a symbolic act. It was both practical (their feet were filthy from walking long distances in sandals on dirt roads) and it demonstrated God’s definition of what leadership looks like—leadership serves, often in menial ways.

Guys, if you want to receive the blessing and responsibility of leadership in your homes, do the dishes, do the laundry, iron your own shirts, pick up after yourself, clean the toilet, parent your children, get the kids ready for bed, and learn to cook. These are the ways you wash the feet of the precious people in your home. This principle also applies to leadership in your occupation, as well. If you can’t humble yourself to do these things, you risk becoming one of those guys who can only get your family to do your bidding by barking orders because you have the unholy attitude that your word is final. Period. End of discussion. That’s called lording it over others and it has no place in God’s plan for leadership in the home. Many guys want to be leaders, but they don’t lead by example. It is counter to the Kingdom of God leadership model to demand that family members under your authority do things you are unwilling to do. I’m just saying.

Wait For It: The Kingdom of Heaven is Like a Snail

Snail's pace

Snail’s pace

God often speaks to other people. To me, not so much. And yet ten years ago I distinctly heard God. Don’t worry, it was not an audible voice like those muttering homeless guys hear. It was ten words that took shape in my mind on the night after my eldest daughter’s wedding. It was a promise from God: “I am going to bless you and increase your house.” I wept for joy. But the days and weeks turned into years, and still no grandchildren were forthcoming. It wasn’t until seven years later that my eldest daughter informed me that Cindy and I were going to be grandparents. Luca was born on September 5th. He is now three years old and the lad has been more of a blessing to me than I can articulate. He has become more precious than career, a comfortable retirement, possessions, you name it. In short he is more precious to me than me myself.

A week ago my youngest daughter informed me that she is pregnant. Then last Friday my eldest daughter told me (via text) that she is also pregnant, again. My cup runneth over. My wife, Cindy, has nearly lost her mind with excitement and utter joy over the soon-to-be additions to our clan.

We are an immediate satisfaction society. But God does not act on our timetable, no matter how often we pray, beseech, plead, or throw a tantrum. I can’t stress that enough: God DOES NOT act on our schedule. We either have faith that he knows when and how it is best to bless his people, or we don’t. Ten years ago I was forty-nine years old. Back then I would not have appreciated grandchildren as much as I do now that I’m knocking on sixty and the things I once thought so important have faded into the background. The place I’m at has freed me to be completely present when I am with my grandson. He gets my undivided attention. So will the grandchildren who are on the way.

If God makes you a promise, he might deliver right away, or you might have to wait for it . . . a long time. With the benefit of hindsight (a skill I employ with expert proficiency), ten years ago I was not ready for grandchildren. In the church, we often hear it preached that God’s timing is perfect. That isn’t just a trite slogan to help us develop the admirable character trait of patience. It is a reality that must work itself into our faith. So why does God reveal what he intends to do and then he makes us wait, sometimes for many years? I don’t know, but I have a theory: he does it so we can see how much he has helped us grow and prepare for receiving his promised blessing. In other words, so he gets more veneration than he would if he’d simply given us the blessing right away. And that’s very appropriate.

Bernie Sanders: A problematic acronym, to say the least


Don’t hold it against me, but several days ago I watched CNN’s Anderson Cooper interview presidential candidate Bernie Sanders at a town-hall forum. Someone in the audience asked Sanders how he would respond to critics who say he has no religious faith or spirituality. Sanders insisted that he does indeed have a religious/spiritual faith. He went on to elaborate that his spiritual faith is found in his strong desire to correct injustice in the world. Sanders said he has always been like that, even when he was a kid in school he stuck up for kids who got bullied by bigger kids. Sanders said he simply hates injustice in society and he’s dedicated his life to fighting it. I immediately felt sad for Sanders and his tragic confusion regarding good works. Why? The Bible verses below guide us on this topic:

James 2:17-18 (ERV)
“If it is just faith and nothing more—if it doesn’t do anything—it is dead. But someone might argue, ‘Some people have faith, and others have good works.’ My answer would be that you can’t show me your faith if you don’t do anything. But I will show you my faith by the good I do.”

At first glance the verse above seems to support Sander’s worldview, but it doesn’t. This principle is a sword that cuts both ways. Faith without good works is dead and meaningless. But good works without faith is also dead and meaningless. The two are essential to have any heavenly value. Don’t believe it? Read the following two verses:

Isaiah 64:6
“All our righteous acts are like filthy rags.”

Hebrews 11:6
“And without faith it is impossible to please God.”

Don’t get me wrong, some of the values Sander’s embraces are in alignment with those taught by Christ. But without embracing Christ first and foremost, those values fall squarely into the realm of the secular world, and that makes them subject to change and interpretation according to the whims of whoever happens to be in power. Some of the most horrible things imaginable throughout human history have been committed by men who perverted God’s values because those men did not really know God.

Sander’s strives to convince us to embrace elements of socialism, though he offers no assurance as to how socialism will not be corrupted by sinful people (as history has shown us) with the predictable result that a small segment of political and financially connected elites will siphon off the wealth of our country while the rest of us get the leftovers, if any. Sadly, many of my conservative brothers and sisters are in denial that capitalism is headed in the same direction as socialism because of fallen humanity’s ability to corrupt every socioeconomic system that a country embraces. The solution is not the adoption of another system of order such as socialism. The ONLY solution is for Americans to re-embrace Christ.

God gave Bernie Sanders the gift of hunger for justice. It would be a tragedy if Sanders never learned to worship the Giver of that gift. Without a relationship with the Giver, the gift can only frustrate. Flawed human beings can never enjoy complete satisfaction deep in our souls via our gifts unless we embrace the Giver. If you try to do it without the Giver, that’s vanity.

“He who seeks from God
anything less than God
esteems the gifts of God
more than the Giver.
Has God, then, no reward?
None save Himself.”

St. Augustine

The Zen of Lent: He is more than a God who smites


Are you feeling joyful as we enter the season of Lent leading up to Easter? If so, try reading Leviticus 20, 24, and 26 where God tells his people the penalty for sexual deviance, blasphemy, disrespect, and disobedience is death. From such a reading of the Scriptures one’s ebullience can quickly turn to depression. One could also develop a distorted perception of the nature of God. You see, the Bible contains an abundance of verses that describe God as a hard person to get along with. Have you ever encountered a harsh person? Maybe it was a parent, teacher, or boss. You know the type: a real . . . jerk (yes I was tempted to use a special word from my vast secular vocabulary, but the penalty could be death). For some people the only God they ever knew growing up was the strict hard-handed God. Unfortunately many strains of the Christian church promoted this one-sided image of God, and still do today. This incomplete picture of God is the reason why many people, when they were younger, walked away from God and the church. The only God they knew was the all-powerful God who would smack them if they screwed up.

Certainly it is possible to make God angry, though I do not recommend you try. And certainly he has been known to allow his people to experience unpleasant consequences to help them learn and grow out of toxic and/or sinful ways of living. And just because we now live under the umbrella of New Testament grace through Jesus, I seriously doubt that God is entirely out of the smiting business. (Clearly a just God smote the haughty Carolina Panthers in last week’s Super Bowl.) Yet we who are fortunate to have been churched where we learned about the complete God know that he is much more than a smiter. But what about the people who walked away before they had an introduction to the God of love and grace? I believe there are millions of people in the world who have an incomplete comprehension of God. Perhaps the crushing cares of this life have made them ripe for an introduction to the complete God, the God who longs to shower love and grace on everyone who seeks his heart in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. Maybe you or I could be the person who makes that introduction to one of those who ran away from the scary God before they really got to know him. Of course that would require that we not be scary ourselves.

Reflective reading: Psalms 103:8-12
8 The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in love.
9 He will not always accuse,
nor will he harbor his anger forever;
10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

The Zen of Dog Poop


My daughter and son-in-law moved back into our place while they start a new business. They brought with them two dogs, which brings our household total to four canine quadrupeds. I know what you’re thinking: “Who scoops all that poop in the back yard?” Well, the same guy who types these pearls of wisdom, that’s who. Most likely I was assigned the job of household pooper scooper because of my uncanny ability to relate to the fell beasts in our home, and that occasionally includes the dogs. Some call me the misfit dog whisperer, though I’m not entirely sure who is the misfit. In any case, I have come to embrace the scooping of dog poop as a transcendental path to wisdom.

How, you might ask, does scooping dog poop lead to wisdom? Well, one has to humble oneself to scoop dog poop. You won’t catch a narcissist scooping dog poop. But first let me say that selecting the proper tools is crucial to successful poop scooping. A simple shovel will not do, for ergonomic reasons, when scooping volume poop. A shovel requires the scooper to repeatedly bend his or her back when scooping. It’s better to go to one of those warehouse pet stores and buy an official scooper and pan with long handles so you don’t have to bend over repeatedly while scooping. You also need a pair of old shoes that you detest because, trust me, no matter how careful or persnickety you are, you WILL step in poop . . . a lot. This, or course, teaches us to not hold on to material possessions, which isn’t all that difficult once they’ve been baptized in dog pooh.

Need more examples of the mystical benefits of scooping poop? Scooping poop requires the dulling of one’s senses to a certain degree, especially the sense of smell. When you dull one sense, others senses come alive with greater intensity. When I scoop poop, I become more keenly aware of the breeze on my skin, the chirping of birds in the yard, and the looks of my dogs (who watch from a safe distance) that seem to inquire: “Why do we call you Master when clearly your status in this home is not what you’d have us believe?” Ignoring their condescending expressions, I encourage myself with the thought that I have become a master at spotting petrified dog poop amidst a sea of like-colored decorative bark. Occasionally I am rewarded for my efforts by a dog poop that reveals the diversity in diet that our canine friends enjoy, often unbeknownst to us. Yep, just yesterday I found two poops containing large chunks of Cindy’s chartreuse flip flops. This gave me an epiphany—we humans, like the dogs, consume both good and evil throughout our lives, but only the good can nourish us. Or it might just mean that Cindy has poor taste in flip flops.

But let’s return to the topic of humility. The most important life-lesson I’ve learned from scooping dog poop has to do with male pride. If a guy has to scoop dog poop, it keeps his feet firmly planted on solid ground. Dog poop does not suffer pride in a man. If a man can’t bring himself to enter the domain of his own dogs to scoop the poop, well, he may be headed for the proverbial fall that follows pride. Perhaps presidents, and members of Congress, and captains of industry, and even some high priests in the clergy should all be required to own a dog and scoop the pooh. We’d likely have less crap going on in the world. (I crack me up sometimes.)

Scooping dog pooh in volume requires such concentration that one does not have room in the cranium to worry about life’s cares and woes while transferring poop from the yard to the waste bin. In other words, scooping poop enables the mind to zone out for a while. Scooping poop also buys a guy a lot of chore cred at home. When my wife berates me for neglecting to load the dish washer or failing to take out the trash, I need only remind her, in a gentle tone, who it is that scoops the poop, and the berating comes to an abrupt end. Of course I still have to load the dishwasher and take out the trash. I’m not THAT dimwitted.

Making music after church conflict


To be honest, I don’t have a Norman Rockwell image in my head of what a church looks like any more. That image of a sublime country church where kind, loving people gather each Sunday morning was wiped from my consciousness a long time ago by, you guessed it, much time spent in the real deal. In the real world, church life doesn’t always go well for congregations or pastors. In other words, conflict happens. One such brouhaha in church life occurs when a once cherished pastor leaves the church as a result of conflict that reaches critical mass behind the scenes. It can be especially ugly when the pastor does not recognize, for whatever reason, his contribution to the split. When the breakup happens, the congregation can tend to divide into four camps: those who are angry because they feel the pastor was treated unjustly, those who are relieved that the pastor left because they experienced the pastor’s questionable behavior firsthand, those who use the event to find another church, thus avoiding the unpleasantness (in which case they are no longer part of the equation), and those who are bewildered as to what happened (often the largest group). All four groups can include people who feel wounded by the event.

One of the reasons why people permanently sour on the church has to do with the unfortunate tendency of congregations and church leaders to overlook the wounded who get hurt in conflicts between congregants and pastors. When a pastor leaves a church due to conflict reaching critical mass, there is often an outpouring of support for the pastor, which can be a healthy and proper response (but not always). That said, I wonder why we do little to offer support to our fellow congregants who were wounded in the melee, as well. The use of social media exacerbates this problem. Some people think nothing of jumping on Facebook to express their fawning support of a pastor who leaves a church due to excessive conflict, yet it seems like nary is any support forthcoming for the wounded who left the congregation as well as the wounded who remain in the congregation. Granted, we all have a Biblical mandate to forgive those who hurt us and to apologize and seek forgiveness when we hurt others. But a valid question remains: is there an unhealthy one-way street when it comes to forgiveness and healing in church culture today? An example will help answer that question.

Steve (not his real name) was a pastor on staff at Good Shepherd Church (not its real name) before Cindy and I became members. Apparently some of the good folks of Good Shepherd had treated Steve poorly, which eventually prompted him to resign and join the staff of another local church. We started attending Good Shepherd about the time they recruited a new senior pastor, long after Steve’s departure. Our new pastor eventually became aware that a few people in the church had mistreated Steve in the past. One day our new pastor asked the congregation to go to Steve’s new church during an evening service so we could apologize for hurting him and seek his forgiveness. It was a moving and healing experience to witness. Our new senior pastor simply became aware of an injustice and sought to make it right in accordance with Romans 14:19. Our pastor discerned that the church would struggle to move forward until we made amends with Steve. But what happens when a pastor’s actions or words hurts people in the church? Should the church expect an apology from the pastor? What happens to the wounded if no apology is forthcoming? Should those who were wounded turn their backs on the church forever and retreat to their darkened bedroom with a bottle of vodka and a book of teachings by Friedrich Nietzsche?

People naturally want to move forward after a bad experience. But after a major conflict in the church, I wonder if moving forward too quickly sends the unintended message to the wounded that their pain and disappointments are inconsequential and they should get over it and move on. Also my gut tells me that The Almighty isn’t too pleased when some in his flock are left to nurse their wounds as best they can after a significant conflict. We humans are complex beings. Some of us recover quickly while others require years to work through anger and disillusion following emotional or spiritual wounding, especially if the wounds come from a spiritual leader for whom we had great admiration. When our wounds run deep and raw, God’s tender spirit often does not rush us through the healing process. You see, healing requires a malleable heart, which, like it or not, can require a lengthy season of crushing and softening on the road to healing. And even those who weren’t directly hurt in a church conflict may have their own issues to work through in its aftermath. All of this takes time to heal. It takes time spent in the Gospels or in the books of wisdom like Proverbs and Psalms. It takes prayer, patience, and time with other men and women of God who have the wisdom to navigate turbulent times in the church. A softer heart filled with God’s love can indeed emerge from the aftermath of conflict in the church.

Unfortunately, untended wounds can fester and rob us of contentment and spiritual growth. Such situations are stressful and destabilizing in a church. The best medicine is to forgive. And forgive. And forgive again. But we must also acknowledge our culpability, if any. Not sure if you have any flaws that made you culpable in the conflict? With a sincere heart, ask God and he will be glad to show you (and don’t I know it). And if you know brothers or sisters who were wounded in a church embroiled in conflict, encourage them to not give up on God, or the church, and what God wants to show them. Perhaps it would be wise of church leaders to provide trusted and credible professional or spiritual counselors to aid the wounded in the aftermath of a church conflict with the pastor. Yet ultimately our source of healing comes from God and the people in the pews who love us as we love them.

Metaphorically, I believe God wants the people of his church to experience the divine joy of singing, dancing, and making music in harmony. It can happen. Finally, pray that God will give our church leaders the vision, time, wisdom, and resources for healing the wounded that come under their care. This will help people grow in deeper faith that Jesus is real because the response of the church is very different from a world that chews people up and spits them out like rubbish.

God Speaks: Don’t abuse his voice


Over the last 16 years I have known a few pastors who regularly invoked the assertion “God told me” or “God gave me a sense that . . . (you fill in the blank).” Before going any further, I need to make it clear that God does indeed communicate to his people. I’ve experienced divine communication myself, albeit mostly directed at my bad attitudes, sins, and assorted shortcomings that God wanted to change in my life. And I’ve no doubt more such fun dispatches from above will be forthcoming in the future. Fortunately God has also graciously affirmed his love for me on numerous occasions. Yet I worry about an unhealthy trend coming from some pulpits these days. It’s the God-told-me-what-we-are-supposed-to-do-so-the-discussion-is-over message coming from some pastors. This worries me because at worst it feels like an abuse of power bordering on the edge of cult-like behavior, or at best an effort to avoid the hard work of convincing hardheaded people (aka congregations that disagree, criticize, and debate everything down to the soul-sucking minutia of the mundane) about the correctness of the vision and direction of a church that is set by our pastor and church leaders. It could also indicate that something has gone awry in the mind and heart of the pastor who drops God’s name in an effort to gain concession without much protest. Who, after all, would dare to challenge God’s will?

But what happens when the pastor says God told him that the church needs to do X and the chairman of the board of elders says God told him that the church needs to do Y? It’s a sticky situation. When a spiritual leader, such as a pastor, claims that God told him that the church needs to do X, even if X seems outrageous, the mere invoking of God’s will creates doubt in the minds of those who might otherwise disagree with the plan to do X. The doubt goes like this: what if God really DID tell the pastor we need to do X and I just don’t have enough faith or spiritual savvy to comprehend God’s will? This seed of doubt in the congregant’s heart gives the pastor more power and authority. Is it too much power? Certainly knowing God’s will helps his people accomplish great things, but it is also an aspect of church life that can be abused.

So what can be done to make sure our clergy do not abuse this power? Having a strong and theologically astute board of elders or a governing board can help hold pastors accountable. In addition, we would be wise to follow, as much as possible, the format for making crucial decisions in the church found in Acts 1:12-26 where the disciples set about to select a replacement for Judas. The process used by the disciples involved much prayer, and probably some discussion about the qualifications of the candidates. They narrowed the field to two qualified candidates, but they left the final decision up to God by casting lots. Perhaps the church should reintroduce the practice of casting lots. In any case, I am struck by what is missing in this scene where the disciples chose a replacement: nobody stood up and said God told them who should replace Judas. It was a group effort with God making the final decision. Well, you say, we don’t do things that way anymore because we hire professional clergy and church administrators to make decisions. And that’s my point: we have given pastors and church leaders a lot of autonomy, and we expect them to hear from God when it comes to crucial church decisions. But should we?

Some of my brothers and sisters in Christ get very accustomed to hearing God’s voice in their lives. And who am I to say they are wrong? But the human heart is deceitful. I’ve watched fellow Christians face crisis and bewilderment when the voice they thought was God turned out to be something else, or God was silent and life took them in an unexpected and painful direction. Perhaps we are wise to proceed with more caution when we think we have heard from God, especially before we claim to know his will in much of our earthly matters. A little mystery about God and life isn’t a bad thing.

And the truth shall set you free . . . IF

Truth th
In John 18:38 Pontius Pilate asks Jesus, “What is truth?” It seems humanity has struggled throughout the ages to discern truth. Yet in the movie A Few Good Men, Colonel Jessep, played by Jack Nicholson, uttered those famous lines, “You want the truth? You can’t handle the truth!!” While ruminating on the nature of truth I began to wonder if we Christians are a people who want the truth, not matter how grotesque it might seem because it flies in the face of the ideologies we create to live by. If so, then why are Christians so politically divided in America?

In John 8:31-32 Jesus tells the Jews, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Jesus then engages some of the Jews in a lengthy argument about the veracity of his claim that he is the Son of God and the Jews claim that they were sons of Abraham (which in their minds was their ticket to heaven). You see the Jews had cobbled together a religious system, made up in part of customs and traditions, that they believed with all their heart was the path to heaven. And here this upstart Jesus comes along and tells them that their “truth” was actually a lie from their real father the devil. This was simply too much for many of them to bear. Jesus offered them a paradigm shift that would put them on the path of truth and eternal life free from bondage, but they rejected it.

To this day, people tragically look the truth in the eye and deny it. For example, Carol (not her real name) has been a political progressive all her adult life. She believed with all her heart that the Affordable Care Act (aka Obama Care) was a wonderful program that would make healthcare affordable for everyone in America. The Affordable Care Act was a perfect fit within her worldview ideology. But recently her son and daughter-in-law found themselves unemployed and without healthcare insurance. When her son and daughter-in-law attempted to enroll in the Obama Care program, they were told their premiums would be $800 a month. Obamacare considers $800 a month for an unemployed married couple with no income to be “affordable.” When Carol’s son and daughter-in-law shared this with her, she found it difficult to accept the truth and became angry. Oh the irony of the unaffordable Affordable Care Act.

Now before you blast me for using a program cherished by lefties as an example, allow me to offend my brethren right-wingers. My gut tells me that before all is said and done, conservatives may have to eat crow on the issue of climate change. My point is still valid: many on the right will deny the truth of climate change even if the proof becomes indisputable.

As Christians, we must be the ONE group that enthusiastically pursues and venerates truth wherever it is found. But in order to find truth we can’t indulge the tragic luxury of worshipping and living by flawed human ideologies we create to give us purpose, or to feel morally superior, or to feed bitterness and resentments, or to justify our lifestyle, or to grow our little kingdoms, or even to help others. Truth alone is purpose. And Christ embodies truth. Without Christ living in a person’s life, it is impossible to know truth consistently. Even with Christ living in our life, our sinful human nature has a powerful urge to cling tenaciously to those old ideologies we created to make us comfortable. Yes we can know truth, IF we are willing to find it with God’s guidance and embrace it even though it initially rubs us the wrong way.

The Best Thanksgiving Ever


God richly blessed me this Thanksgiving by allowing me to get a cold in the nick of time to graciously opt out of the feast at my in-laws. I told Cindy I was likely contagious and I did not want to get everyone and their children sick. I’m just that kinda guy, always thinking of others. Oh don’t get me wrong, my in-laws are wonderful people. I’m just not a social type. And the cold allowed me to endure Thanksgiving on my own terms: fading in and out of consciousness on the couch watching football while high on cold medication. It was glorious.

In any case, I got to thinking about gifts for Christmas while “languishing” on the couch. What should I get for my long-suffering wife, my adult children, our ill-mannered dogs, the geriatric cat, and, most importantly, my grandson? While thinking about these things it dawned on me that there is nothing I want for Christmas. This might be a first. In years gone by I have always had my eye on a new tool, or fishing rod, or shotgun, or camping gear. This year there is literally nothing I want. I’ve been praying for a season of wantlessness (yes I just made up that word). Apparently the Lord has answered my prayer, or I finally got tired of accumulating junk that goes unused only to eventually be thrown out as fodder for the county landfill.

I assumed it would feel good to want nothing for Christmas, but I find that I have an uneasy feeling where that feeling of want once resided. Perhaps this is due to living all my life in a culture that incessantly encourages us to want more possessions and experiences. Or maybe the hole left by want makes me ill at ease because want had become a part of my very identity. The reality is that our entire economic model in America is based on a growing population constantly in a state of want. I hope I don’t get culled from the herd for failing to do my part this Christmas season. Yet all my life in the church I’ve heard it said that we should let Jesus fill all our wants and needs, which always sounded like an empty catch phrase to me. But now that want has abandoned me, I find myself leaning more towards Christ and what he has to say about life. I would be lying if I said Christ has filled ALL the real estate formerly occupied by want. The truth is I feel (despite being an uber-introvert) a growing inclination to get closer to family and friends, as well as Christ. People are becoming a higher priority; and that part feels good.

In Psalms 23 we read “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” These nine words take on a whole new meaning and significance when want fades from being a motivation in life. Just wish I’d got here a few decades back. So in the spirit of the real meaning of Christmas: I encourage you to get out there in the malls, shops, and on Amazon and want nothing . . . but Christ. It may be your best Christmas ever.