When 1 Samuel 16:7 Rescues a Disappointing Life

crossingI’m not where I hoped to be.

That’s a common phrase amongst us, but there are seasons that echo it louder than others.

It used to be that when I looked around and saw others living larger lives than mine, I’d console myself with the knowledge that they were older than I. You’re young. Just give it a few more years, I’d say. Then I’ll be there.

Didn’t happen.

Well, I overstate. Getting a bachelor’s degree and being almost out of debt from it is an elephantine blessing. I could certainly be in worse health. I’m not desperately miserable at work. The list goes on. I’ve known for a while that there will always be someone better off, and that chasing that is chasing after the wind.

But the battle rose to a new pitch recently when I took another look around at the powerful men surrounding me and realized with a start…they’re all my age.

Continue reading

Not Excited Enough

catA few years ago, I and my friends DJ and Sarah, married for 2.25 years, took a road trip to Seattle. We were visiting our respective families, and as a bonus, DJ and I were going to catch a Seahawks game (during what turned out to be their Super Bowl season).

As we drove along a remote highway with the sun just dawning behind us, I remembered that I needed to check something on our online tickets. I’ve never bothered keeping up with the Joneses, so I had no smartphone. I asked DJ if I could borrow his, and I went to Google to type in my mailbox’s address. Well, as you know, when you use Google, it brings up the user’s Google “search history”. Here’s how DJ’s search history looked:

“what to eat while pregnant”
“how to exercise while pregnant”
“maternity clothes”

My mouth dropped open. I showed the screen to DJ with raised eyebrows and in his classic aw-shucks form, he grinned, “Oh. Yeah.”

They were gonna have a kid!

I was ecstatic. Two of my favorite people in the world and now there would be more of them??? Hot dog!!!! The world could only be improved by this development.

But the cool part was – I was actually the first person to find out besides DJ and Sarah themselves. Their real purpose for their trip (Seahawks, psh) was actually to announce the coming baby to her family; his family hadn’t heard yet. By accident, I, just a friend, intercepted a giant gobsmack of very privileged information. It was humbling, but also quite sneakily cool. Now, of course, that gobsmack is a delightful little girl of almost three, running around the church sanctuary with hands in the air and jumping up and down on the pews during worship.

And as I sat in church this last weekend behind that very family, hearing about the mystery of the Gospel, a question occurred to me.

Why was I more excited about that news than I ever am about my salvation?

Continue reading

I’m Going Back to the Czech Republic!

church2An update and a humble request.

It was Saturday afternoon, so there was nobody else around the small, square, gray Baptist church – so incongruous from the soaring double-spired cathedral down the street – in Vysoke Myto, Czech Republic. Its pastor, my friend Zdenek, and I had just finished loading our team’s luggage into the church (a relief after three days of travel). It was 2013; we were preparing for an English camp the upcoming week.

Continue reading

Love the Inconveniencers

lineI’m notorious at my church for car troubles.

In two separate cases over the years, I’ve experienced car troubles that forced me to drive markedly slower than the speed limit. One time, I had a engine trouble to where it would stay reasonably cool as long as I stayed under about 55 MPH. The other instance was a weird transmission problem – if I slowed down from fourth gear, there would be a noticeable bump, and then my car would refuse to get back up into fourth gear. Meaning I could not travel over about 55 MPH for fear of over-rpm’ing the engine. (I’m not a car person.)

No doubt this caused consternation for drivers behind me, especially on Montana’s many one-lane highways. Keep in mind that this is the state of “Reasonable and Prudent” fame. I can guess what was going through their minds as they stared endlessly at my tailpipe.

Continue reading

Do Even Harder Things

shovelThere’s a book out there, Do Hard Things, by Alex and Brett Harris. I’ve never read it, though having heard it cited by a number of teenagers hopelessly on fire, I’m intrigued. It seems to have inspired Christian youth to break out of comfort zones, live sacrificially and selflessly.

But I haven’t read it. So perhaps it is redundantly that I ask –

Are we really doing hard things?

A young man from our youth group preached a sermon from Acts 10 last night. I hope he will not think of me as simply regurgitating what he so finely said (is that illegal?), for something fell together for me in my own words, and I’ve got to get it out.

It was not ten chapters into our current era – the era of salvation through Christ, of his church on earth – that the gospel went from being “just for Jews” (in the Jews’ mind) to open for all nations. You’d think this turn of events would have been obvious from “and Judea and Samaria and to all the ends of the earth” (1:8), but whatever. To get his message across, God orchestrated an encounter between Peter and a Gentile – a centurion of the hated Italian Regiment, natch – and brought the Spirit upon him in full view of Jewish believers. After that, there could be no doubt that the gospel was for all people, Jew and Gentile alike, who would hear the Word and respond.

What’s crazy is that God had to send Peter three visions to get him into position.

Would Peter have gone with Cornelius’ messengers without the visions immediately beforehand?

Somehow I doubt it. It looks safe to say that Peter would rather take the Gospel to his own countrymen than to the Gentiles.

Continue reading

We Are The Consumer Culture Problem

I’m on vacation until Monday, so this is an auto-post. But please feel free to leave your usual comments and accusations of heresy, and I’ll be back on Monday to answer, with a post following on Tuesday. Keep it real.

cart

Rant time.

I’m not the sort to promise hell upon people for enjoying simple entertainment. (In fact, I’m not the sort to promise hell for anything short of not believing in Jesus, because that’s, y’know, un-Biblical.)

But something has been brewing in my mind for a while, sending a mighty WALLUMP to the top of my brain every time somebody complains about the bombardment of cheap shallowness we call American consumer culture.

Which I certainly understand.It’s true that our culture seems to have about as much depth as a piece of paper these days. Everything the networks deem noteworthy for us is carefully packaged and marinated in bias, while a great deal more goes unseen. Meanwhile, Beyonce and her bizarre religion-mocking getup are blasted at us, television and movies can’t decide whether to glorify or condemn evil, and our holy holidays are commercialized beyond recognition.

But one factor seems to be escaping us.

It’s our fault.

Continue reading

Why Evil for Evil Doesn’t Work

cubesIt’s cold.

As I write this on January 4th, the temperature is 8 degrees below zero. The air is painful to breathe. I’m keenly aware of all my nose hairs. Pipes are freezing, and every traffic light in town has somehow been reprogrammed to turn yellow at the exact moment where I must either slam on the gas and risk a ticket or slam on the brakes and risk destruction. I blame the Russians.

Now, you would not walk into your house in these times and say “Man, it’s sub-Arctic in here, let’s open the door.” That would fix nothing. In fact, it would worsen the problem; sub-Arctic would become Mars. Instead, you turn on the heat. It just makes sense.

Don’t worry, I’m going somewhere with this.

Someone at work triggers you in some way. They yell at you, or circulate an unfair or inaccurate comment about you behind your back. Our first instinct in these situations? Hit back somehow. Defend our honor. Eye for an eye. Maybe we yell back; maybe we spread a rumor about the other person, or just bring up a genuine flaw in them to “balance things out”, even if it has nothing to do with the matter at hand. At the very least, we feel like we haven’t just rolled over and taken it, right? That would look weak.

Except…has it ever worked? Really? Does the other person ever just roll over themselves and go “Oh, yeah, I was wrong” ?

Maybe sometimes, depending on how it’s handled. But typically, all that “evil for evil” does is leave the two parties hating each other, and everyone else gets to deal with it. Workplaces, churches, and families across the world are infected with this stuff. Nobody’s ever proven right; nobody’s vindicated; instead, resentment festers, and the whole environment is left feeling awkward, fragile, and, well…

…cold.

Enter Jesus, wielding advice.

Continue reading