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.

Continue reading

Pizza Lessons #5: Down the Barrel of the Gun

pizza4Every once in a while, on a pizza run, I’ll catch a glimpse of a future that worries me.

It’ll be some older male customer who’s living alone, in a tiny, isolated trailer way out on the edge of our delivery range, without a vehicle to his name. Some of these guys have a way of sharing a bit much about their lives, so I know they aren’t getting any visits from people. Just alone, filling their later years with television. Some of them by choice, some of them because of past choices.

I’ll just be real vulnerable for a second: that’s a future I’m afraid of.

I often worry about ending my life alone and broke, driving people away through advanced curmudgeonry. It sounds like overthinking, but my personality does tend that direction, and I worry about it a bit. I’m putting quite a bit of effort these days into avoiding that future.

Now, your typical response might be, don’t worry, Brandon. That won’t happen.

But maybe there’s an even better response.

Continue reading

When “Not Good” is Very Good

When we were young, our parents said “no” to save us. No, you can’t stay up all night watching scary movies. No, you can’t have that sucker that’s bigger than your head. No, you can’t hang out with that gang of boys reenacting Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles down the street. (Wish I’d listened before I got a nunchuk to the head.)

But there’s also the sense that parents say no simply to teach us that this ain’t Burger King and you don’t always get it your way. We all know what a kid becomes when he’s given whatever he wants: a spoiled brat. As a teacher, it wasn’t hard for me to spot the kids who’d never heard a “no” in their life. It was more often the “denied” students who exhibited respect, work ethic, and people skills in the classroom; it was those who’d been given less that actually had more.

And I like what I’ve become through my singleness.

We singles often think that God calls us to singleness mostly to help us dodge bad matches. That’s part of it. But let’s be honest: God could bring us a compatible person at any time. That he does not, suggests another purpose. (Sound Biblical theology is silent on the question of “one match for everyone”. As Steven Furtick has pointed out, such theology would require one who misses their match either stay single for life or marry the wrong person and thus cause a chain-reaction dislodging of God’s will for the entire human race.)

I want to say loud and clear: I don’t necessarily believe all singles are being kept there by God. Some are single because they choose it, or because they rarely groom themselves. But it’s undeniable that God has called some to this track. And when we see his hand in such a way, we have an opportunity to uncover an uncomfortable, but powerful, truth.

Like a coastal shelf carved by waves, sometimes God says no simply to refine our character.

Continue reading

Six Things I Told My Past Self

timeLast week, on a roadside after a delivery, I found a small, unmarked box containing a time machine.

Weirdly, it didn’t appear in any pictures or videos I tried to take with my phone. It wasn’t a huge device, either, closer to the size of a toaster. Unlike the ones in movies and TV shows, it seems you can actually only do so much with this kind of technology, no fitting in a whole person or any such. It would, however, accommodate a small letter. 

The instant I realized that, I knew what to write.

I had to drive down to Phoenix to take the exact GPS coordinates of my old Union Hills apartment, so the device would land when and where I wanted it. I set the sequencer to place it there in late 2004 (the dial wouldn’t go further into the past than 15 years), hoping that my younger self might find it and. at the very least. face the next few years better equipped. Then I pressed the big red button. Thank goodness for big red buttons.

The device vanished soundlessly. Nothing in my life appears to have changed. Either it didn’t work, or it did work and the result was a separate branching timeline with which we can’t interact. I guess I have no way of knowing.

But I can share what the letter contained. Maybe, if you’re further back on the trail God once assigned to me – well, I just thought it might be of help.

 

 

I know things are tough right now. Man, are they tough. Everything feels like a suffocating mattress of isolation and confusion. That “amazing plan for your life” you heard about isn’t materializing, and you’re struggling to readjust to adult life away from home. You feel hurt, helpless, and hopeless.

You are under attack.

That’s how you need to see your present circumstances. That’s the lens you need. Things are actually going okay for you, but the onslaught of lies and fired-up emotions is making it hard to see – and threatening to sabotage it all.

There are six things you really need to hear. I hope you will be willing. Part of you doesn’t want to hear anything except “things will change tomorrow”. But if you will listen, you could find a much better life for yourself in the next few years.

Continue reading

Would You Like to Become Ironclad?

To my unbelieving friend:

There is a wondrous treasure buried within the New Testament.

Rumors of it reach your ears occasionally, its light glinting for the briefest of moments from beneath the religious dirt. The word “buried” is apt, for reading a massive text like the Bible feels much like digging. Without a map, it’s hard to know where to start. That’s one reason people rarely find it.treasure

But it’s there. And the Apostle Paul says that if you knew what was inside, there’s nothing you wouldn’t sacrifice to find it. 

Haven’t you ever asked yourself what Paul was so jazzed about, so obsessed about, that he would “consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus” (Phillippians 3:8)? The man is either bonkers, or he knows something we don’t.

You’re probably thinking one of two things right now. One is, I’ve never heard Christianity described like that. It’s usually just a set of rules, a moral obligation to believe. No. It’s much more. Rules don’t get anyone out of bed in the morning. Paul speaks almost giddily of what he’s found, as if it’s a prize worth losing his very life to seize.

The other is, The prize is heaven, right? Cherubs on clouds with harps? May I say here that it’s tragic that religious imagery has distorted heaven like veal into a gross caricature. So bear with me if, although heaven is the greatest gain, and its true nature is far beyond our wildest dreams, I choose to speak of another treasure.

It is a secondary prize of Christianity, yet one the world itself is constantly chasing and has developed many counterfeits for, one that generates books and magazines and TV segments and entire industries and religions, and astonishingly, one that many of its Christian possessors don’t even know how to use.

It is the ability to become ironclad.

Here’s a map.

Continue reading