A Teasing Sense of Humor and How to Crucify It

Slowly becoming better at this. You might pray for me in this matter.

Brandon J. Adams

crucifyGrowing up and as a young man, I always had to be the guy in the room with the joke.

Always. Whenever anyone said something, my brain would immediately look for a way to turn it into a tease.

Combined with not being very good at it, this resulted in years without a lot of friends. As I grew older, I got better at it. At the teasing part, that is, unfortunately, not the “just knock it off already” part that people were no doubt wishing I’d master.

And then…I would wonder why I wasn’t getting anywhere socially.

Clueless, I tell you.

Then, for some reason, one day I started asking myself, “What do my role models do to engender such trust with people?”

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How the Doctrine-Averse Can Know God Really Loves Them

lostOccasionally, you might spot a Facebook page promising a Toyota 4Runner to some random user who shares the page.

Naturally, those pages are fake. They’re newly created, lacking Facebook’s verification symbol. Reminds me of that watershed of generosity, the Nigerian prince, who somehow dug up your email address and settled upon you(!) to receive his inheritance.

Baloney radar, start beeping. It claims to be good news…but how do you know?

I’m staggered by our willingness to accept any agreeable thought that crosses our minds. If it feels good, offers resolution, or minimizes emotional resistance, it stays.

Me? I’m leery about even the most encouraging thought, like a hiker balancing on a shifty rock in midstream, unless I know it comes from God. Unless an idea has his royal stamp, I’m holding onto it loosely at best.

You’re probably bracing for a dry, theological rant about how what feels good is not necessarily truth.

Well, yes, but that “necessarily” matters. Sometimes, a thought tickles our ears for good reason. Some theological truths can make us feel amazing. Though he is too big to wrap his existence around our emotional states, God still cares immensely about them. Otherwise, vast swaths of Scripture would not have been bothered with.

So…how do we know?

I mean, you and I have crossed dark places because of lies we couldn’t spot. We believed we were inadequate, that we had to be someone else to be loved. We believed that we had to control others, step on them (or over them), to get due credit. Though they look like a dark alley now, those thoughts looked agreeable at the time because they seemed to offer a way out. It’s a testament to our minds’ deceptivity.

How do we know what will really make us happy?

Take the news that God’s grace is a free gift, independent of our merit. It’s the best news we could hear. Yet our baloney radar fights it tooth and nail – we insist on a system where it must be earned. That’s why we fear losing God’s love after we sin. Our incredulity at such abuseable love surfaces at the worst possible time.

How do we know it’s true?

Doctrine.

We know because God’s Word holds it true.

Massive allergy-trigger-word, I know. Doctrine isn’t popular. Too many feel that it’s used to stifle joy and freedom rather than give life.

Yet doctrine also conveys amazing, true-beyond-all hope. There is a steadying quality in elevating Scripture above all. It eliminates the middleman of our own minds. Though some doctrine is difficult, with the bad comes incredible good.

It’s true that cults invoke this logic, gaslighting our intellect to cow people into subservience. But those cults don’t rely on (or don’t correctly interpret) archaeologically reliable documents that claim God’s inspiration. I mean, Scriptures is our only source of Jesus (one reason he lived in obscurity – to prevent the existence of fifteen “historical Jesuses” waiting for their own A&E specials). If we love him, why would we reject the rest of his words?

This is why this blog elevates Scripture above all. I trust what’s outside of me. It’s not about chasing our own happiness, for only Jesus knows where happiness lies. It lies in him alone!

 

Thanks for tuning in today. If you found this post to be of value, please feel free to share it on social media. Thanks a bunch!

A Single Christian, Not a Christian Single

walkI’ve noticed that practically everything, from our job to our citizenship to a thorn in the side, has an easier time sliding to the forefront of our minds than does our identity in Christ.

Take singleness. You’ll find no suggestion on this blog that singleness isn’t hard for some people. And you could ask ten singles why it’s hard and get ten different reasons. For some, it’s just the loneliness; for others, it’s marginalization by the church, missing out on invites, being seen only for your marital status and not for you. Though singleness is a productive season in God’s eyes, there’s no doubt it has its thorns.

Gradually, over the course of time, you might find that singleness is hanging over your soul. It’s become your identity. You honestly don’t think of much else.

No doubt singleness is influential. It filters into all the details of your life as surely as marriage does (it’s like sand – it gets everywhere), and that matters to God. But once it becomes a bigger deal than your identity in Christ, when the latter just doesn’t seem to matter as much, it is possible that we’ve left joy and truth behind? No season of our lives should usurp our identity in Christ.

It’s even better to be noticed by God than to be noticed by a human.

It’s even better to celebrate Christmas than to have people to spend it with.

It’s even better to be mature in the faith than to be doing the things church people consider “grown-up stuff.”

It’s even better to take God’s word to the nations alone than to raise a family without ever telling anyone about Jesus.

It’s even better to have your name in the Book of Life than in a wedding guestbook.

It’s even better to be given by God “a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one else knows” (Rev 2:17) than to change your last name.

It’s even better to get invites to the Lamb’s wedding feast than to get invites from other married couples because you have kids, too.

It’s even better to be made acceptable by Jesus’ blood than to be accepted by people – though rejection still hurts.

It’s even better to get God’s unbreakable promises than human vows that will be neglected weekly (such as “to honor and cherish”).

And when we sigh and struggle just to care about God’s delight in us, we find how long we’ve spent outside the influence of Christ’s identity for us.

I don’t mean to guilt. Let us find God’s grace. I believe he cares very much about our heart’s desires and, for many of us, is still turning the cranks on his plan to fulfill them.

But remember – it is only out of our identity in Christ that we can do our part to fulfill God’s plan anyway. It’s only out of our identity in Christ that we will catch the notice of a true disciple, become a good spouse and parent, or live out our other kingdom purposes in the meantime.

“Single” works better as an adjective. The cross and empty tomb are our nouns.

Take back your joy and your status as “more than a conqueror” in God’s love. While we wait for our human families of our own, let us celebrate being invited into God’s. For when we thank him for it, meditate upon it, and celebrate it, it will take a turn overshadowing all else.

 

I’m glad you tuned in today. If you found this post to be of value, please feel free to share it on social media. Thanks a bunch!

In Which I Do NOT Brag About My Pastor

joeyI’d like to consider myself marginally capable with words, but today they fail me like the Russian winter failed Napoleon. (I’m coming up…short.)

Yesterday was the 20th service anniversary for Joey, my church’s generations pastor and former youth pastor.

This is the guy (Joey, not Napoleon) who caught me after my family’s collapse and became a second father. The guy who drove two hours to watch my black belt test. The guy who taught me how to parallel park. The guy I rode shotgun with, for surreal errands, on 9/11. The guy who brought in our worship band (my favorite ministry) for my going-to-basic-training party. You get the picture.

As was aptly said at his celebration today, he has been there for thousands of young people, now scattered across the world, some now pastors themselves. The fruits of his labor are now in their third, even fourth, generation.

Yet…

Knowing Joey as I do, I feel oddly hesitant to brag of him.

I could brag about his approachability, his way of listening and setting at ease those he speaks to…but I won’t.

I could brag about his passion for equipping, delegating, and developing those under his charge…but I won’t.

I could brag about his willingness to pick up a rake or shovel alongside any junior-higher he mentors, or dye his beard in loss of a bet to one…but I won’t.

I could brag about the near-unearthly wisdom he purveys to young people navigating the eddies and tangles of growing up…but I won’t.

I could brag about his ability to take what you dislike most about yourself and turn it into an asset and affirmation…but I won’t.

I could brag about the countless family nights he’s sacrificed to spend with a student or friend whose life has been violently upended…but I won’t.

I could brag about the spark you see in his wife and children, showing the life he’s speaking into them…but I won’t.

I could brag about his positive spirit, his cultivated fitness, or his infectious laugh…

…but I won’t.

For if he were all these things, but missed the most important lesson a pastor will ever teach, then he would have fallen short in his job after all.

But I am glad to say that in the matter of passing on this crowning lesson, he has not failed:

…that every good quality we see in him is a dozen times truer, a thousand times truer, a trillion times truer of God.

Soak that in for a moment, friends of Joey (and strangers). Everything you’ve come to admire and respect and aspire to in this man, is true of God in cosmic spades.

For many, a pastor is the introduction and entry point to the character of God. And because of Joey’s upholding of that office, I learned to come to God myself. Not because Joey ever turned me away in a moment of need, but because I came to thirst for the God I was glimpsing in him.

Hebrews 4:16 doesn’t say “So let us keep on coming boldly to your pastor’s office, so that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” It says to come to the throne of grace. Instead of always chasing down my pastor for words of life, I became someone who sought them from God. I don’t like the life I’d be living if I’d grown up under a stern, detached, too-busy pastor. Instead, I am coming to know God as he truly is.

Joey would have me brag of that.

And there’s no higher honor, I submit, that Joey could possibly be paid.

We Must Never Become Black Holes

Brandon J. Adams

holeI’m stoked. To convey this illustration, I get to be geeky – I get to explain the nature of a black hole, an exotic celestial object of great lifelong fascination to me.

Black hole are collapsed stars, grown so dense that their gravity, out to a certain distance, is strong enough to arrest their own light. Since an object is only seen by the light it sends to your eyeballs, a spherical region around a black hole appears, well, black to the outside observer. The star is still inside, but forever hidden because its light can’t escape.*

For a long time, I was a black hole. Sucking everything in, emitting little. God was working on my inside, but it was a process.

Several years ago, I chanced into a dating relationship. We had a good five months before she called it off. It happens. (She’s married now.) But it was a revealing…

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What If Jesus Announced That He Would Return On…

calendarThe following scenario will not happen. “Now concerning that day and hour no one knows – neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son — except the Father only” (Matthew 24:36).

I don’t anticipate the Lord going back on such long-laid plans. After all, the prior verse says, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will never pass away” (v. 35).

But humor me for a moment, and consider this hypothetical exchange:

Church: “Lord, we faint. We long for your presence. Please, please tell us when you’re coming back.”

Jesus: “Oh, very well. The Father has relented and authorized me to tell you. I will be returning on…”

Global bated breath. People in every village, city, region, and nation await the next words. One of the most significant, weighty questions ever pondered on earth is about to be answered.

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Satan and Bathwater Theology

Brandon J. Adams

hell.jpgRecently, I was emailed by a follower basically asking, “is Satan real, or an illusion?”

I can’t believe I’ve reached the stage of being asked questions – yeeeeeeeeeeee – but fortunately, there’s Scripture. I’ll just go there.

Satan is real. He is treated as a conscious being with intelligence and personality. And he is a (limited) threat.

This subject makes people sensitive. There’s a lot of (pardon the expression) heated opinion about Satan and his precise role in the Christian’s life. Good teachings, bad teachings, and bad teachings that spring off both the good and bad.

Personal conviction: I want Scripture, straight-up, as it truly is. I don’t want man’s “compensational” teachings. Np Scripture tossed aside or marginalized because “people will run the wrong way with it”, or because it frightens them, or because it diminishes God in their preferred system. Throwing out the baby with the bathwater, in other…

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