Thinking It’s Up to You: Another Wave We Mustn’t Look At

christ_walking_on_the_waters2c_julius_sergius_von_kleverThe lesson of Matthew 14:22-33 should be rote for us by now. Peter sees Jesus walking on the water, gets out of the boat, and walks out to meet him – until he starts paying more attention to the waves instead of Jesus. That’s when he starts to sink.

Keep your eyes on Jesus, the lesson teaches us (echoed by Hebrews 12:1), and not on the wind and waves of your circumstances.

Great lesson.

Unfortunately, we’re all still rather bad at it.

Sometimes I wonder if that’s because we don’t realize all the many forms that “looking at the waves” can take.

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What an Unbelieving Air Force Sergeant Taught Me About Obeying God

f-16-66232_960_720During my time in the Air Force, I had a boss named Sergeant Carlson.

He was the kind of leader you talk about years later and would still gladly shake his hand. He had a gift for balancing the needs of the mission with genuine concern for the troops under his charge. We knew he really cared. We also knew he wouldn’t hesitate to snap us back in line if we needed it. (As with any young punk, there were days when I needed it.)

A season came in which I was not performing well. I got two Letters of Counseling (LOCs) in a short span, one from Sgt. Carlson, one from another sergeant in our office. My mistakes had grounded a couple jets from their scheduled sorties. I had earned both reprimands straight up, and thanks to God, I had enough maturity to accept them with humility.

But inside, the story was different: one reprimand was a lot easier to accept. You can probably guess that it was Sgt. Carlson’s.

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Don’t Resist Gratitude

Don’t fall for the lie that supports your discontent: that gratitude is a cliche.

That it’s a wispy, Hallmark-level cop-out thrown at you to distract from how you’re really feeling about things.

That it’s God’s consolation prize given in place of just fixing your problems.

A grateful posture this Thanksgiving really can do you enormous favors.

It can calm the storm in your heart. I mean, how wonderful would it be to go an entire day emotionally ironclad, completely unperturbed by anything going on in your life?

It can make you more attractive to people. Gratitude shows on your face. It gets people wondering how you do it, how you maintain an attitude of thankfulness in the serenity while everyone else rags Jesus about how the boat’s being swamped.

It can drive worry, fear, and overthinking out of your heart.

It can actually get you closer to your goals, as all of the above benefits are conducive to moving forward.

But most of all, it acknowledges God. It serves as defiance against despair, a down payment of the victory to come. It bears witness to his supreme goodness, gives him the praise he deserves, and fulfills our life’s purpose by giving him glory.

When God leads you to be grateful this week, don’t hear “Stop pestering me with your problems”. That’s the enemy souring his words. God has heard. The only question is whether we will be grateful in the meantime.

The poorest, loneliest, sickest citizen of his kingdom has more to be grateful for than anyone on earth.

The Danger of the Character-Based Argument

Below are ten theological statements, each with a hypothesisand a conclusion.

1. “God does not share his gloryso Jesus must not be divine.

2. “God is loveso nobody will be sent to hell for eternity.

3. “God will not be mockedso he’ll remove your salvation if you keep sinning.

4. “God is sovereignso he is the one directly causing every event.

5. “God is generousso it’s never his will that you be poor.”

6. “God doesn’t make mistakesso there are people created only for destruction, to whom salvation is never made available.”

7. “God is justso he would never do #6.”

8. “God is welcomingso nobody should be excluded from church.”

9. “It’s all about Godso he does not attend to matters like our personal identites.

10. “God does not show favoritismso Christians will not be raptured out of the Tribulation.

5934706650_a50245dd9d_bNo doubt, like me, you agree vigorously with all ten hypotheses but disagree with some of the conclusions (I’ve deliberately set it up that way).

My point today is not to debate each one, despite the passion they’ve already raised in you just in reading them (and in me in writing them). My point is instead to highlight our common use of weak supporting arguments.

All ten of those statements have one thing in common: Each shows a broad principle of God’s character being applied to a specific doctrine. 

And that is a problem.

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Worship as an Act of Defiance

stormFear was again flooding my heart as I stood to sing in church this weekend.

The kind of fear that confidently insists, more like a certainty – things are going to go wrong and there’s nothing you can do. You might have some experience with that. My hours situation at one of my jobs was hitting a severe snag and the next step was uncertain. The worst case scenario is so easy to jump to.

I’d been praying. But I took it another step that night and chose to worship through intentional song.

It was an act of defiance against the fear.

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Maybe This Year?

14264163_10154519656294695_4557267216967126051_n (1).jpgThe time has come.

My Seattle Seahawks are again marching forward to war.

Every year, we go through this. We microanalyze the meaningless preseason games, discuss the September cutdowns to death, scrutinize every bit of offseason literature coming out of the city media, all in pursuit of one haunting question…do the Seahawks have a chance this year?

And every year, we Christians think about “that thing”. That breakthrough or victory or miracle or answer to prayer that we’re hoping for.

Maybe this will be the year that chronic illness finally goes into remission. The year you get out of debt. The year you get engaged. The year that gripping sin on your spouse finally gives way. Maybe you don’t know exactly what you want to see; you’re just hoping things will “get better” somehow.

Steven Furtick has a sermon called “Don’t Stop on Six”. It’s one of my favorites. The reference is to how the Israelites were commanded to march around Jericho seven times before releasing a shout, and how they would have missed the miracle had they stopped on the sixth lap. I love an inspirational sermon every once in a while, and “Don’t Stop on Six” is one of my favorites.

And yet…it makes me uneasy.

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Life at High Spiritual Altitudes

high(Forgive me if this sounds like Amateur Hour Confessions – that’s pretty much exactly what we are.)

My friend and I completed a 35-mile backpacking trip near our home a couple weeks ago, and the one thing I couldn’t get out of my head was how present God was during the whole thing.

It’s not just about seeing his majesty in creation, either (though there was oodles of that – and no, we didn’t get any pictures, evil teases that we are).

When we’re down in the valley, life is a blur. The cushion of first-world existence surrounds us. Our social structures and bank accounts shield us from pain. Though we acknowledge these as gifts from God, his fortuitous presence in these blessings doesn’t exactly jump out at us. It’s harder to see the flashing neon “I DID THIS! – God” sign on those things. Crediting him must be done more intentionally, out of a knowledge of Scripture (James 1:17). Although, to be sure, James seems to think it a sin if we don’t.

But when you’re on the trail, you live hour by hour. And his hand is much more obvious.

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