A Thank-You To My Pastor of 18 Years

I was a squirrelly 15-year-old, so I don’t remember what started the conversation. But I do remember the first piece of doctrine I learned from my senior pastor.

Interestingly, Daniel’s lesson to me that day was one he’s teaching this very month: from Matthew 5, about outer realities versus inner. It isn’t enough, he taught me, to technically adhere to the law while still longing to break it. Jesus “raised the stakes”, he said to me; he taught that inner darkness is the real sin, and inner righteousness is the real treasure. A crucial lesson, and a very “Daniel” one.

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The Biblical Case for Loving Yourself

selfPicking back up with Humble Pie Week on Brandonjadams.com…

I screwed up yesterday. I missed a lunch with a friend. Spaced it. Sesame Street’s Forgetful Jones would be proud.

You might not think it a huge deal. My friend doesn’t. He and I have been friends for many years, and he’s hardly a petty man. We just rescheduled.

But you know how it is: our frustration is proportional to how highly we esteem the person we disappointed, and this guy pegs my scale. Plus, I want to be a fully reliable person, and this memory lapse business is all too common. I’d been looking forward to the lunch all week, remembered it two hours prior, even set a phone alarm. And of course it dodged all those layers: my phone managed to get buried on my desk and have its vibrate turned off by my pocket at some point. Fabulous.

And just to add insult to injury, the very next hour revealed an important task I’d forgotten to do for my boss.

Needless to say, the day was sliding into Beat Yourself Up territory on a greased pole.

As if that ever changes anything.

And given how brutally hard I am on myself, with the failure-barrages of marriage and ministry still hopefully ahead of me, one thing is clear: I’m going to have to start loving myself.

Loving myself.

Whaaaaa? you say. Loving yourself? That’s not right. We should be dying to ourselves, becoming less selfish. Being proud and putting ourselves first isn’t Biblical at all!

You’re right.

The catch is…that’s not love. Pride isn’t love. Self-focus isn’t love. We have love’s definition down in black and white, in 1 Corinthians 13. Sure, this is a bit of a “war over words” that I’m engaging in, but maybe love is a word we should defend. Why should we fear applying proper, Biblical love to ourselves? When is the last time we even tried?

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A Blogger Sharpened

coticuleWe cannot be sharpened if we have thin skin.

That idea has been bouncing around my head for months, since my blog started taking off.

Whenever I see another blogger criticized in a way I disagree with, rather than diving in, I take a deep breath and retreat to that idea. “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” (Prov 27:17)…and it won’t happen if we bristle at disagreement. We’ll duck and dodge, remain dull.

So far, I hadn’t gotten a lot of adversity myself. Late last week, that changed.

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Pardon Me, Your Blog is NOT Showing

WordPress bloggers! You know that little square of your face that shows up whenever you like or comment on a post? It leads to your Gravatar profile.

I like to click those squares. I’m a voracious reader like you, and idly sifting the depths of WordPress is rarely disappointing. It’s also a good way to get yourself seen; that square is a tiny invitation saying “Hey, your stuff is epic, come check out my little corner and we can be epic together!” (Aren’t I corny this morning? So much Fanta!)

But there’s one problem.

Fellow bloggers, half your profiles don’t contain a link to your blog! There‘s no breadcrumb to follow back to your corner!

I was amongst these until this week. After clicking several squares and batting low for links, my slow brain thought to ask, “Hey, does my profile contain a link back to my blog”? I clicked my square, repressed an ambushed shudder at the weirdness of my full-res face, and looked down. No link. Garn. How many people have wanted to find me (for some strange reason) and couldn’t?

Now, I suppose if someone wanted bad enough to find my blog, they could use Google. But the rule of thumb with marketing or social media is, make it easy. We’re creatures of least resistance. Most people will just give up a task if it isn’t convenient.

So I took the following easy steps:

  1.  Click the profile link in the top right corner of your WordPress page (the one to the right of “Write”);
  2. Scroll down to the “Profile Links” section
  3. Click the “Add” button and then “Add WordPress Site”
  4. Check your blog and click “Add Sites”

Easy as that.

Maybe some of you have no blog at the moment, or just prefer to leave no trail. You’re probably also knowledgeable on good prices for bottled water and ammunition. But for those who would like more visitors, well, here’s your public service announcement. Hope it helps.

Have a good one. And stay off Facebook this weekend; it might help your blood pressure.

Not By Works: The Calling Card of Christ

cardI had a Muslim housemate a few years ago, a transfer student from (if I recall) Saudi Arabia. I got to sit down with him a couple times and hear about his life. He was discombobulated, a devout follower of Islam living in a Christian area. Hypercharged homesickness. I felt for him.

But that was nothing next to what I felt after hearing about his faith.

This guy had no idea whether his religion was “breaking through”. He practiced, as best he could, the Five Pillars of Islam and their attending rituals – a dizzying mass of minutiae including five daily prayers at proper times, even kneeling in a specific manner. Charity work. Fasting. He hadn’t yet made a Mecca pilgrimage, though he hoped to. But he admitted that all these observances were doing nothing to reassure him that God accepted his work. He was “flying blind”, as the saying goes.

I couldn’t help but think, “that’s an awful way to live.”

Then I read something today from a Catholic…: “If I take off my scapular prior to surgery and die on the operating table, will I still go to Heaven?” A scapular is a ceremonial apron that Catholics believe will grant you eternal life if worn at one’s death. I was like…good gravy! The sheer paranoia if such a talisman carried that kind of weight. Forget it in the morning and forget about heaven! I’m bad enough at remembering to pick the right shoes for the day.

You’re probably thinking, I’m glad we Christians don’t go there.

If only.

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The 3 Ways Jesus Sifts Our Desires

siftThis one might lose me a few followers.

Desires. Dreams. Prayers. Goals.

Whatever you want to call them, they are fire to Christians – powerful, vital, destructive when handled wrong. We must be careful with desires these days. There is such bad teaching out there about God and desires, so much energy mischanneled into pursuing your dreams without a thought as to God’s dreams, that we must handle the subject gingerly.

My testimony involves the sanctification of my desires. I found over the years that viewing God as annoyed, threatened, or dismissive of my desires did not bring me closer to him. Of course, nor did clinging to them ahead of his will and love. Neither view is flattering to God, nor entirely Biblical.

Jesus ran into a lot of deep desires in the course of his ministry. Healing, justice, provision, greatness, life. His responses to these pleadings contain surprises for everyone. He granted some, denied some, but most importantly there seemed to be a sifting. He didn’t always heal/feed/deliver immediately; he’d ask a question first, or deny a desire flat-out, in order to get at the heart of the person. Whatever the desire, Jesus was determined to sanctify it, to make it holy.

Interestingly, his denials seem to undergo three distinct tests: faith, paradox, or eternity.

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Godrise

riseWe’ve had a couple spectacular moonrises this last week, the enormous full orb majestically cresting the Swan Range, glowing against the cold, solid purple of the Earth’s shadow at twilight. My friends Mark and Cheryl were able to grab a camera and make a whole album out of it. (That is heroism, by the way – it was below zero temperatures that night. Again.)

No fussy, garish special effects extravaganza in today’s movies can give you chills quite like that simple sight, can it? Or like the conjunction of Venus and Jupiter that took place two Junes ago. Your mind knows that what it’s seeing is real, and you are awed – and humbled. Such is the power and artistry of God.

I had a random thought, do what you will with it: The moon prevents our earthly existence from averaging 50% light, 50% darkness. Its “sneaking” the sun’s light back into the night via reflection means that the overall balance ends up tipped in light’s favor…kind of like the balance of good and evil being ultimately tipped in God’s favor.

“Nothing can be so evil as God is good,” wrote Stephen Charnock. That idea stuck with me when I read it years ago. Some unconsciously believe that evil and good are opposite but equal. Cancelling each other out, neither ever quite going away (lest the movie have no sequel). But Scripture says God has won the battle, is winning the battle, and will ultimately triumph entirely.

 

Indeed, in the wintertime with snow covering the landscape, the moon is bright enough that you could drive at midnight without headlights (though I do not recommend it, or accept liability for what happens if you do). A fascinating parallel to the way God can be greatest and closest at the darkest solstice of our own lives.

Some darkness must come today. There will remain a groaning “as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:23).

But one day, it will be defeated. Every tear wiped away. The day is not so far off now. God’s final victory is rising.

I wait eagerly.

In the meantime, God has given me a heckuva universe to watch. I sit slackjawed like a geeked-out kid before his cosmic theater.

 

Photo credit: Mark and Cheryl Reasner