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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

The Real Triumph for the Christian Single

triumphAs Frodo and Sam clung to the burning flanks of Mount Doom in Return of the King, the One Ring destroyed and their quest complete, Sam thought of Rosie Cotton, a girl back home in the Shire. If there were anyone who caught his eye, Sam lamented as the lava crawled near, “it would’ve been ‘er.”

Yet even as he mourned, there’s no doubt that the two hobbits’ hearts were full and glad. All of Middle Earth was saved! The darkness had been vanquished, the armies of the West delivered, and a new age of peace was dawning thanks to their bravery and sacrifice – even of their lives, they suspected, as the volcano melted down around them amidst the Ring’s death throes.

Of course, we know that Sam got his girl, because a bunch of eagles appeared out of nowhere and pulled the pair off the mountainside before they crisped. (Seriously, where were those eagles and their convenient carrying ability five volumes ago when Frodo first faced thousands of miles to Mordor? Talk about your continent-sized plot holes…)

But I digress.

My point is, it would have been silly to think that Sam underewent those unbelievable travails just for Rosie. He didn’t reach Mount Doom to find Rosie chained there, waiting for rescue. Had Rosie never existed, Sam would have gone. Much, much more was at stake – both outside the two hobbits and within.

Continue reading

Moon Landings, Conspiracies, and the Reliability of the Bible

A common strategy to watch for from Biblical skeptics.Did you know that some people don’t believe we landed on the moon?

Seriously. They think that NASA tried, couldn’t, and faked it on a TV soundstage to save face before Russia.

They’ll tell you there is “evidence” to prove it. They’ll pepper you with dozens of “facts” that will supposedly doom your beliefs about the Apollo program.

Some of these facts are actually intriguing and can catch the layman off guard. “Why aren’t there any stars in the lunar photographs?” “Why didn’t the lunar modules leave any craters?” “How could the astronauts’ air-conditioning work in the vacuum of space?” “Why is so much Apollo 11 telemetry missing?” “Why do the astronauts’ memories seem to contradict each other?”

Their strategy: to present an elephantine list of supposed problems with the Apollo accounts, and then hope you’re overwhelmed by the sheer length of the list.

And when you launch into a blow-by-blow rebuttal of each and every point, they spring their trap.

“OH, COME ON!!!” they say. “You look ridiculous. If there are this many holes, it can’t possibly be true!”

And yet…they’re still wrong.

Continue reading

Just Drop the Pen

penEver had one of those moments when you’re sitting on something you think someone needs to hear, and finally you say it – and it isn’t until the moment it escapes your lips that you realize how needless and stupid it was all along?

Yeah. That’s probably happened to me more times than I can remember. I’ll think someone needs to hear something, and it will inevitably turn out that I had neither the timing nor the right information, and my comment comes off as flippant and insensitive.

I apologize, ask for forgiveness, turn to God as best I could. And God usually comes through in my relationships.

But you know what? That’s not enough. I don’t want this sort of thing to happen anymore. At all.

So I asked myself, where did that come from? What well of muck deep in my soul even spews forth such things?

The answer came from God via a friend who was examining her own heart: a “critical spirit”.

Continue reading

Why We Might Not Want to Live Without Suffering

The other day, I learned the physiological mechanics of a mosquito bite.

Yee-haw.

Some of you might have seen the same animated video that I did as it makes the rounds on Facebook. I learned that it’s really all about the mosquito’s saliva (ick) – it acts as both an anesthetic and anticoagulant, allowing the female to get the blood she needs (what a wonderful provider God is!….I think…).

Then the video concluded with an interesting point: the actual swelling and itching of a mosquito bite isn’t directly caused by the saliva. It’s caused by the body’s immune  response to the bite. The saliva is an allergen, which triggers antibodies to attack the foreign intrusion, and that causes the swelling and itching we’re all familiar with as we writhe around upon the grassy ground, scratching like gangbusters.

I was reminded of other bodily responses. A lot of symptoms we experience to various problems aren’t actually caused by the problem: they’re the result of our body fighting the virus or the infection or whatever.

We would not want to live without physical pain.

Continue reading