Friday, October 27, 2017

Complexity part 9: another aspect of diversity

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the concept of unity in "diversity." Otherwise known as the body of Christ. How our unique talents and skills can come together for the common good. Yet, there is another side of it that gets addressed even less often than the main point of the body of Christ concept. Ignoring it may lie at the root of many a failure in building the church Jesus intended.

On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. -1 Corinthians 12:22-26

Our God given diversity's primarily value may have to do with talent; and there should be equality between common and uncommon gifts. However, with those different abilities also come very different needs. While that may sound like a rather simple point, but our neglect of it has led to some complex problems in the church.

Differing gifts mean different strengths. This also means different weaknesses as well. But, if we do not recognize that, then we assume what is easy for us, should be easy for everyone. This may lead us to look down upon people who lack the same strengths, instead of sharing our strength with the church. We should absolutely share the strengths we are gifted with since we all have a weakness in a different area as well, a shortcoming that we need to receive help for from our church family.

In an ideal church everyone would share their gifts without keeping score. Yet be humble enough to accept the help of others graciously. Unfortunately, we often fall short in being that selfless. We can be rather greedy with our strength and gifts. So we tend to keep it all to ourselves. Or be so greedy with the help we desire that we drain the people helping us, which makes the drained individual less able to help the rest of the church. On the other side of it, many are too proud to receive assistance. While they often think of this as a virtue, they often do not mature as disciples in certain needed areas. Which ultimately means they have less to offer the church, which affects everyone. The dynamics of church community, if we don't follow them as intended we make our spiritual journey that much harder. This leads to our churches becoming that much weaker.


Have you ever revealed something or told a story to someone, and they just didn't believe you? They can't accept that you would behave or do as you described for the simple fact that is not how they would respond to the same situation. This is an example of what I refer to as "wearing your heart on your nose." Or looking at the world through the filter of your emotions or self, to state it plainly. Which causes people to unconsciously assume that everyone thinks, feels, and finds satisfaction in the same things as they do, or at least should. This causes us to believe that what is good for us, should be good enough for everyone. Such attitudes lead only to distorted interpretations, and the misunderstanding of others. This often leads to judgmental, critical, insensitive, and ultimately unloving behaviors. This should not be found in the church at all. Yet, we do see it in the church with all too much frequency, because we fail to see and value the depths of the diversity that God instilled in us. This has become a huge liability to the church universal. Especially in our ability to unify the church in all our talents, as well as the needs

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Complexity part 8: Challenged

Matthew 5-7 is what is known as the sermon on the mount. Jesus' only documented sermon, and arguably one of the most powerful passages in all the Bible. Jesus speaks on many subjects, but the overall theme is one of challenge. Specifically, he challenges our understanding of God, his word, and what it means to be holy.

With the beatitudes, he challenges our notion of what it means to be blessed. It's not simply a warm and fuzzy picture of prosperity, comfort, and ease that we want to be true. Then, he goes on to address many familiar subjects to the people of the time, many of which he starts with the phrase "You have heard. . . " Then proceeds to tell them how what they have heard is not entirely right. Yet, there is the implication that we need to be more active in our own understanding, to not simply follow what we have heard, but to seek truth for ourselves. As complex a task as that may seem to those who just want it explained to them, I know you are out there. It does not stop there either; he goes on to challenge our motivations in following the truth. Do we truly do it to honor God, or merely to impress people, or avoid their judgement.

Which begs the question, are we simply taking the easy way in and accepting the word of others on what people tell us about the truth, and risking incomplete and inaccurate information? Or are we taking the complex path and confirming it for ourselves? How might Jesus challenge us today? What subjects would he address when challenging our understanding of God and his word? Where might he indicate that we are applying truth wrong? In what areas would he address when challenging our motivations?

They are all valid questions in any age, but especially now in the age of social media. Where everyone is adding their two cents on every issue imaginable in rather impatient, unkind, rude, critical, unloving, and ultimately questionable ways. Where we can display our actions before everyone. In the midst of this information overload can we sort out the unfavorable facts from the desirable fiction, sincere actions from posturing, reality from mere feelings? Can we ask ourselves objectively, why am I sharing this? Are we sharing it in true humility or mere pride? Are we trying to do what is right, or just be right?

Are you up for a challenge, or is Jesus’ challenge too complex for you?

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. - 1 Corinthians 9:24-27

a person jumping over a mountain
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Friday, October 13, 2017

Complexity part 7: God's Holy Spirit

The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” -John 3:8

If you were to go to seminary, you would have to take a class called systematic theology. Which in all honesty, I find absurd. I liken that to phrases such as systematic marriage, or systematic romance. You never hear such things because it would be ridiculous. It would be treating people like mechanisms not living spiritual beings. Yet, somehow we think it's okay to think of God as a lifeless mechanism.

Yet, there is one part of Christian teaching that cannot be made systematic, mechanized, or simplified into a rigid definition. Which would be the Holy Spirit. An important player in the life of a true disciple, for he is our connection to God, his strength, and his wisdom. Someone we very much need to deal with the many variables found in the human heart, not to mention our complicated culture. Since the spirit cannot be defined simply, he is often overlooked by many in the church. Yet, followers who ignore him wonder why their faith lacks true power.

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people. -2 Timothy 3:1-5

I honestly believe true understanding of the Holy Spirit cannot be achieved by just having him explained to you. He can only be understood by experiencing him. Which means you got to seek him out for yourself. Not the simple, systematic, or formulaic answer you were probably looking for, but a true one. People keep telling me; they just want someone to explain it to them. Do you ask someone else to explain your relationship with your spouse to you? That would be absurd, just like wanting God's spirit explained to you wold be absurd.

A place to start, every one of the verses reveals something about the spirit.

John 14:26

Acts 1:16, 2:4, 7:51, 8:29, 11:12, 13:2, 16:6-7

Romans 8:26-27

1 Corinthians 2:10-11, 12:11

a person consumed by holy fire of the spirit
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Thursday, October 5, 2017

Complexity part 6: Facing issues

Forgiveness is an important part of the Christian creed. Even among those who have a hard time accepting it, like the idea, and want to believe in it. (At least as far as it applies to self, not so much when it applies to others.) Yet, many people seem to believe that forgiveness somehow excuses us from having to face and deal with our complex issues that lead to the actions that we need forgiveness for. That seems to be how many people are applying it at least, if not in actual words. But is this perception true? Well the story of the woman at the well (John 4:1-26) and the rich ruler (Luke 18:18-29) seem to indicate otherwise. In both cases, Jesus puts a proverbial mirror up to their hearts to reveal exactly where they were lacking, and ultimately what they had to deal with. Which begs the question why? This Old Testament passage is a strong clue.

But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land, those you allow to remain will become barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides. They will give you trouble in the land where you will live. 
-Numbers 33:55

Forgiveness is of great value in being able to move forward. But that in itself does not prevent these same destructive patterns of behavior from recurring and having a negative impact upon our lives. These issues that we try to avoid often become barbs in our eyes, and thorns in our sides if we don't face them, and eliminate them at the root.

Obviously, the woman at the well looked to relationships for hope, and amassed many ex's; as a result. I'm sure it doesn't take any explanation on how past relationships can become a set of virtual thorns in the side. She would have done well to seek another source of hope. The rich man clearly looked to riches for hope. If the never ending cycle of celebrities dying young has taught us anything, it's that fame, fortune, and achievement are no guarantee for wholeness and peace of mind. We need to seek the eternal wholeness that Jesus offered, not the temporal things of this world. All the things that we try to avoid, stand in the way of finding that completeness. An obstacle that we refuse to acknowledge is no less an obstruction after all.

With that being said, what complex issues are you avoiding? What do you look to for hope other than God himself? What is keeping you static and unchanged? What issue do you need to face to move forward as a disciple.

A person unsatisfied with who they are being consoled by Christ.
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Thursday, September 28, 2017

Complex part 5: Passion

The word passion often has a negative connotation attached to it in the church. Unless it is Easter time, then we attach the word to Christ. So why in the world do we freely accept the concept in this singular context without question? Yet categorically condemn it in every other context, also without question. Granted, many so-called "normal" passions that we gravitate to the most can have many consequences. That in itself does not mean that we can't be passionate about positive and constructive things. Although many are assuming, righteousness is the same as being dispassionate.

I contend that the reason for the decline of numbers in the church is the result of a lack of passion. How do we honestly expect people to live with purpose and commit to the work of the church without sincere passion? If we assume all passions are bad, then we end up killing our own heart in an attempt to be holy. That is definitely not what Jesus meant by denying self. (Matthew 12:35, 22:37) Not only that, when we end up applying this all or nothing notion about passion, it will fall on the "fruits of the spirit" as well. Which will make us guilty of quenching the spirit. (1 Thessalonians 5:19) So all our efforts will end up being puny and powerless, since they are only done legalistically, and not with sincere passion from the heart.

We need to move past such simplistic notions about passions, and seek the more complex notion of discerning the difference between passions of the flesh, and passions of the spirit. (Galatians 5) Otherwise, the church will continue to die a slow stoic death.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. - Colossians 3:23-24

The Visual PARABLEist

A person trying to drive a very large nail with a tiny hammer
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Thursday, September 21, 2017

Complexity part 4: Diversity

The word diversity has become a rather common buzz word in the world. So much so that church people have become rather suspicious of it, even with the parts we have no moral problem with. Despite that it plays a vital part in Christian theology. (1st Corinthians 12) A complex part that the church has failed miserably at I dare say. Allowing the world to uplift their redefined concept in a seemingly positive way, and attaching it to themselves as a badge of honor. As well as give them a reason to accuse the church. Which has only caused the church to neglect true Christian diversity even more, only to embrace the misguided notion of normal that we talked about last time. This has been detrimental to the church universal.

When faced with the word diversity, we need to remind ourselves that worldly diversity and Christian diversity are completely different concepts altogether. Worldly diversity is about race, culture, and sexuality. Where Christian diversity applies to, talent, skill, and ability. Worldly diversity is supposed to be about equality, but in practice is only applied to those who think, feel, and believe a certain way. Where Christian diversity is meant to be about the common good, helping one another, and establishing your unique place within the community of church. Allowing all our best qualities to work together, so we as a group can be truly Christ like in a way that we can't as an individual. Yet, in practice the church doesn't do any better than the world does in living up to their definition.

True church diversity cannot happen if we as individuals have no sense of whom God made us to be. We will never discover that if we are following a one size fits all legalistic theology, or if we choose to be content with a simple whitewashed faith, instead of deal with the complexities of the brokenness in our heart. See my post titled talentless for more on this.

With all that being said, let me remind you of a very vital truth about diversity. Humanity does not naturally gravitate to it. Most people prefer the more comfortable but inefficient uniformity. Mainly because many of us feel threatened by people who think, feel, and do things differently than we do. Even down to innocuous subjects, and trivial details. I've seen people lecture others on how to eat an ice cream cone. I’ve seen people debate which ingredient should go first when making a root beer float. I've seen people fight over the proper way to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich as if their happiness depended on winning that argument. So it is no wonder that humanity is so terribly divided on important issues. Such attitudes reveal the core of whom we are as humans. A core that we should seek to overcome, but do we want to? Even those who uplift diversity as a virtue will become rather hostile towards those who define and apply it differently than they do, since nobody is applying diversity and equality to schools of thought.

Even beyond issues of mere preference, the church is making a big push on evangelism out of necessity right now. So much so that if that is not where your gifting lies, you are made to feel guilty for it. That necessity doesn't stem from just a lack of outreach in years past, but because of the many parts of the body that we have neglected, alienating a large group of people who have those gifts. The more the church fails at unity in diversity; the more desirable worldly diversity appears. We as a church should not be letting this happen, but clearly we are. The question is, what are we going to do about it?

The Visual PARABLEist

Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit. -1 Corinthians 12:13 nlt

many bodies becoming one
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Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Complexity part 3: Normal?

Awhile back I was looking through reviews of CCM albums. I came across one where the reviewer criticized a song called Anti-conformity. It seemed rather evident that this person saw holiness and righteousness as normal, and that Christianity is merely a matter of conforming to normal. A rather common, yet completely inaccurate and superficial perception about Christianity. 

Holiness is anything but normal. The word holy literally means "set apart" so obviously true righteousness is more about growing beyond normal, yet, sinful human instincts and tendencies. Even the secular world knows this on some level. Even they are trying to rationalize their sinful behaviors under the term of "normal." But, just because something is "normal" does not make it right or holy by default. So much pain, suffering, and abuse has been brought into the world in the name of "normal." Often "normal" is just an excuse to conform to the masses, indulge the evil in our hearts, be selfish, and treat people as irrelevant. If Christianity was really about normal, we wouldn't need a religion or doctrine centered around it, because everyone would be doing it already, and find it rather easy. Clearly that is not the case.

While words like normal, conformity, and rebellion, may have certain stigmas attached to them. Relying on such broad notions is really over simplifying complex truths. Since even so-called rebellious people seldom rebel in original and isolated ways. They are typically part of a larger movement of people all rebelling in the same way collectively. In other words, conforming to one another in an attempt to create a counter culture where they can find acceptance outside the mainstream. Like most counter-cultures, if they become popular, they will eventually become passé over time. Just as holiness, is a choice to rebel against worldliness and wickedness. So it's not merely a matter of if we are rebelling or conforming or not, since we are all doing both in some fashion. It's a matter of what we are choosing to conform to, and what we choose to rebel against. Weather that is a misguided notion of normal, or striving for better than that.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. -Romans 12:2

a unique person wanting to join the normal bandwagon.
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Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Complexity part 2: Legalism

It truly is a complex world with complex problems. Yet, many people don't want to face that complexity and make efforts to keep their beliefs simple and comfortable. One of the ways we do that is through legalism. It is a simple cause and effect theology after all. Perform X task, get Y result. Don't perform action A, you don't get consequence B. The why never really comes into it ever.

The problem with that is that legalism looks only at surface behavior, and ignores where our heart is at. Which makes it rather easy to fake. The Pharisees were prime examples of a heartless legalistic approach, yet Jesus told them it wasn't enough. (Matt 15:1-10) Christ tried to tell everyone that the root of our behavior is the heart, so that is what needs to be addressed to truly change our actions in a real and steadfast way. (Mark 7:20-23) Yet thousands of years later people still struggle to draw the line between surface legalism and sincere actions from the heart.

It just seems to be human nature to desire such simplistic answers to complex issues. Even the secular religion of political correctness is very legalistic in its approach when you get down to it. It is about living by a definition, about using the right terminology. It doesn't seem to matter what your intent is, or if you actually mean it. Just as long as you are using the right pre-determined words, and stay away from the established taboo words.

For example, say the problem was a drippy sewer pipe. A legalist sees the symptom and mops up the mess to make everything look clean, because that is the pre-determined way to deal with spills. Yet, they fail to look into the source of the leak. So the problem always returns, so they spend their lives mopping up the same mess. Where a true disciple seeks out and fixes the pipe that is responsible for the leak. It's a more complex solution, which takes effort to hunt down the source, special tools, and training in how to use them. It also requires more time to implement than a mere mop up. Plus, repair jobs are often messy in and of themselves, and make the mess worse before it gets better. However, the result lasts much longer. But, we are not really talking about leaky pipes, we are talking about the brokenness in our heart, and it is indeed a complex thing.

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. -Ecclesiastes 3:11

What we must always remember is that holiness is the goal, and not the means of obtaining that goal. It's been said that if you try to be righteous by simple acting righteous, then every impure thought imaginable will go through your head. Which is true, Paul indicated so in Romans 7:5. It's why we need the council of fellow believers who have actually dealt with the issues of the heart to help us, not legalistic white washers who only know how to teach us to fake it. This is a method that requires transparency, which is a scary prospect that makes legalism more desirable to many. It also requires the council of the Holy Spirit, which is another complex issue which legalists ignore. Which we will address later.

a person painting over his blue heart
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Wednesday, August 30, 2017


Awhile back I came across this quote. Which got me thinking that this is something that needs to be addressed. While I cannot speak for all religions, I will speak for the one that I chose.

"Religion leaves no room for human complexity." - Daniel Radcliffe, actor

As a believer it would have been very easy to dismiss his words, and become defensive. Especially since Mr. Radcliffe has a history of turning to alcohol to deal with the complexities of life. However, acting as if you are beyond reproach is not at all helpful in creating better understanding of your beliefs. If anything, such attitudes are more likely to cause people to dismiss what you are trying to endorse. I see just that all the time, not just in my own belief either.

Yet, speaking as a Christian educator, I can see why he would say something like that. Not because I think he is right, but from a shortcoming in the way people sometimes follow the gospel. One thing that I have learned in trying to expand people's knowledge of the gospel, is that many people are content with their two-dimensional faith. There is little desire to explore the depths and complexities of truth. By keeping their beliefs shallow, they never have to challenge themselves or accept any kind of spiritual responsibility. Such people offer Jesus as a blanket answer with no specifics or practical application. For someone who is facing truly complex problems, such broad non-specific answers are of little help. If anything they are discouraging, and create people who think like Mr. Radcliffe. In the end, it is uninspired followers who are not addressing human complexity, not the gospel that they say they are following.

For many, the only exposure they get of Christianity is through the unmotivated people who claim to follow it. But, as I have often said, you cannot judge any belief system by those who claim to follow it. (Yet they do.) No matter how good and true it may be, people are still people. They are imperfect and prone to error. Being a disciple does not automatically make us immune to error overnight. Let’s not pretend otherwise. Just look at Peter, he was known for his mistakes.

This is far too complex an issue to address exhaustively in a single post, so I'll be writing a whole series on where the church needs to delve into the complexities of truth to a greater depth.

The Visual PARABLEist

How long will you who are simple love your simple ways? How long will mockers delight in mockery and fools hate knowledge? -Proverbs 1:22 

a person holding onto a security blanket that is tied to a huge weight
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Thursday, August 3, 2017

Offering Salvation

   Salvation is a vital element of Christian theology. Of course, this is not news, and this has not changed at all over the centuries; nor should it. However, the world has changed a lot, and has made people rather immune and prejudiced towards the concept of salvation. I say this for the simple fact that the world is telling everyone that they don't need salvation. They are being told to embrace self at face value, brokenness, and all. Including the self-destructive behaviors we tend to adopt to cope with our brokenness. Also that anyone who is saying otherwise is an intolerant hater. Which people are believing, because they want to believe it, since it caters to the tendencies of human nature. Such reckless self-indulgence is only proving to magnify all the hurt, pain, and suffering in the world. 
   This is something that we the church really need to keep in mind in our outreach efforts. To go deeper than merely saying they need salvation, and to start explaining why they need salvation. We can start to do that by recognizing and being empathetic towards the pain, and suffering of the lost. Rather than criticize people for the sinful ways that they are dealing with their hurts. Since behind much of our sin, is a spiritual, or emotional wound. Much of the bad we do services a need in an artificial way, by provoking a feeling we wish we had, or covering up a feeling we wish we didn't. Judging such people is like slapping someone for having cancer, or forcing a person with a broken leg to run a marathon. Which is not helpful or beneficial for the individual being judged, or the church the judge represents. If anything it creates the illusion that the world is somehow right in rejecting the notion of sin and salvation. As well as redirect the failure of the worlds ways back at the church, by making it seem that the only thing keeping it from working, is the lack off acceptance of church people. A falsity the world is exploiting rather effectively, and many in the church are unwittingly reinforcing it with their unloving ways.
   As tough as it may be, sometimes we must allow people to suffer the consequences of their own actions, as God often did. It is the only way for people to see their actions for what they are. When that moment arises, we need to be prepared to help, not hurt. 

Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen. -Romans 1:24-25

Therefore the Lord was very angry with Israel and said, “Because this nation has violated the covenant I ordained for their ancestors and has not listened to me, I will no longer drive out before them any of the nations Joshua left when he died. I will use them to test Israel and see whether they will keep the way of the Lord and walk in it as their ancestors did.” -Judges 2:20-22

A person getting a distorted view by looking through his wounded heart.
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Thursday, June 22, 2017

Hardened generation

   In a world so overrun by anger, hatred, criticism, and violence; and so much of it being done in the name of reason, love, and tolerance. It leads one to ask "what is up with the world?" Well Jesus had this to say about such misguided attitudes.

In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah:
“‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding;
    you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.
For this people’s heart has become calloused;
    they hardly hear with their ears,
    and they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
    hear with their ears,
    understand with their hearts
and turn, and I would heal them.’
-Matthew 13:14-15 niv

   The key phrase here being "Calloused heart." Apparently, a literal translation from the original Greek would actually be "Fat heart." However, culturally speaking a literal translation does not have the same impact in English. So many translators give it a functionally equivalent word instead. Other translations have used words like heavy, dull, stubborn, gross, and hardened. To give you a better idea of what Jesus was trying to tell us about the heart of humanity.
   Yet, what is even more striking, is the implication that this sickness of the heart will indeed put a blockade between us and God. That if we hold onto a heaviness within an area of our hearts. It will prevent us from receiving spiritual healing. That those who have hardened hearts will be completely blind and deaf to the truth. 
   Which reveals a lot about how we should and should not deal with this affliction of the heart, weather it is with others or even ourselves. What value are things like impatience, unkindness, rudeness, anger, criticism, and mere definitions with the hard of heart after all. Yet that is often just what we do in the face of the spiritually blind, and emotionally deaf. If anything, such callous treatment will likely make the sickness worse.
   I dare say only love has any hope of softening the hard callouses on the hearts of the lost. Which makes Jesus' emphasis of the subject rather relevant and appropriate. Which can be a very long and slow process, but necessary if we want any real and lasting results. Granted we have decades of poor methodology in love, correction, and teaching to contend with. But we must restart somewhere.

The Visual PARABLEist

A person breaking a baseball bat over another heart, but they don't seem to notice.
click to enlarge 
While the hard-hearted might seem impervious, keep this in mind. The harder things are, the more brittle they become.

Thursday, May 25, 2017


The English word talent is defined as a natural aptitude or skill. The word is actually derived from the parable of talents. (Matthew 25:14-30) Which is what the parable was metaphorically talking about. But literally speaking, the Hebrew word talent was a unit of money equal to 6,000 drachmas. To give you perspective of how much that really is, one drachma was a standard days wage at the time. (Some newer translations replace the word talent with something more recognizable, like bag of gold.)

The aforementioned parable is probably more relevant today than ever. Since we are truly living in an age where most bury their talent in the ground only to falsely accuse God of not giving them any talent, just like the unfaithful servant does in the parable. But why is this? The parable itself says he did it out of fear of failing the master, which still rings true today. Church people are often too afraid of putting their talent to use for fear of judgment, or messing up and displeasing God. Not realizing that not trying, disappoints God far more than failure ever will. (See also Matthew 15:1-20 & 16:5-12) Yet it goes much deeper than that, so let me address these fears and perceptions about being talentless with a little science that just happens to make the truth of this parable come to life.

A group of developmental psychologists seeking to answer the question, is creativity inherent or merely learned, embarked on a long term study of the subject. They did so by observing many different children over the course of years. Their conclusions were, all children are born creative, it's non-creative behavior that is learned; REALLY. All their observations indicated that all children start showing signs of creativity very early, but things like routine and structure tend to teach us that creativity has little use. Also, a lack of encouragement, and a desire for acceptance teaches us it's better to forsake creative efforts. To just bury that part of our lives in a hole if you will.

Which is why so many creative adults tend to be loners. I say that because the trait that makes loaners the way they are, is that they are not as motivated by acceptance as the average person is. They would much rather be true to their gifts than compromise themselves for the sake of social integration. A tendency that they are often criticized for, which only reenforces their behavior, not change it. Since that constant criticism teaches them that relationships are a source of misery, not fulfillment.

Which is a huge obstacle for the church. Since the Biblical model for church (1 Cor.12:12-31) of sharing our diverse talents through service of one another, so that all benefit (Rom. 12:10, 1 Cor. 12:7) completely defies human nature and social norms. Since the people who are most self-aware, and have developed their talent often feel out of place within group dynamics. Where the ones who want to be part of a collective, tend to not be self-aware enough to know what they have to offer the group. So as you can see, we need more than mere human knowledge to make this lofty model for church work. However, the church was never meant to use human understanding to apply the unity in diversity concept, but rather scripture reveals that it's the Holy Spirit that makes it work. And guess what, the Holy Spirit will not necessarily revolve everything around your comfort, or your preferences, and he definitely will not direct you towards uniformity of gifting, which is what most people prefer, and are comfortable with. Nor, will he tell you to leave your talent buried in the ground and merely warm a pew every Sunday. That is not what the biblical model of church is about.

As you can see, discovering our talent isn't just a learning process, but an unlearning process as well. Unlearning what the world has told us about our talent, and a matter of remembering when we chose to forsake it, and where we buried it. A matter of embracing a role of a servant, not an entitled consumer. A matter of embracing all our diverse skills, not seeking a one size fits all church.

A man digging a grave for his own heart.
Click to Enlarge
. . . throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. -Matthew 25:30

Wednesday, April 19, 2017


Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. -1 Peter 5:7

   The above verse is a very popular and often quoted verse. But, how does one actually do that? Not long ago I was discussing this verse with someone. In that conversation they flat out admitted that they had no idea how to apply it, or how it is supposed to work in a practical sense. I didn't have an answer for him either. 

  Well in my routine reading I came across this very verse, and noticed something about the context that I hadn't before. Which I might not have if not for that earlier conversation. This verse is actually part of a larger passage on the subject of humility. Take a moment to contemplate that.

   Casting our anxiety upon God actually requires humility on our part. Which brings up the question, have you been treating it that way in application? Or are you just pleading with God to take your anxiety away without having to humble yourself, or admit to anything. The very fact that a believer is experiencing anxiety, might very well be a sign that they are taking part in a less than Christ like attitude in some way. Like giving into fear, not truly trusting in God's provision or council, confusing your preferences for principle, not correcting in a loving manner, or basing your happiness on human approval rather than being God's heir. These are all things that need to be repented of, and apparently repentance requires having enough humility to address misguided behaviors and willful sins honestly. 

   While this one detail may not be all there is to know about 1 Peter 5:7, but it is a start that needs to taken into consideration.

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. -Romans 12:3

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. -James 4:10

A person finding himself in God's presence through his humility.
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Thursday, April 13, 2017


 The other day in my routine reading I came across Mark 10:35-45. Which got me thinking that within the church, the idea of leadership training keeps coming up more frequently all the time. Sometimes a church will even go as far as to have a workshop or host a seminar on the subject. Yet, Biblically speaking, shouldn't it be servant training? Service is a rather crucial part of discipleship after all. A very neglected part of discipleship I dare say. Which begs the question, why is this?

For one, servanthood has a rather negative stigma in our self-indignant culture. If we did indeed try to host a servant training seminar, rather than a leadership one, how much response do you think we would seriously get. Yet are the kind of people who would be turned off by the humble role of a servant, the kind of people we would want as leaders of the church. Yet, aren't such people the ones with the most influence in the church right now? Is this not a sign that worldly values may have too much influence within the church? 

However, the desire to possess authority is not the only thing that dissuades people from servanthood. Sometimes it is just the opposite. There are plenty of people who have absolutely no desire to take on the daunting task of leadership, but such people are not necessarily interested in the responsibility of servanthood either. Presently there is a rather large group of people in the church that only wants to be served. An attitude that stems from a sense of inadequacy, brokenness, or they are just too wrapped up in their battle with self to get involved with servanthood. A sign that far too many people are fighting their battles all alone. Which is an indicator that our leaders haven't served the church the way they should be, by standing by them, and advising them through their battles with the flesh. Nor have we taught them to walk with God or seek his council in our spiritual struggles in a practical enough a way. 

I contend that if we were embracing Biblical servanthood as we should, we would be inspiring people to become servants themselves. Plus, we would be getting past this shallow faith that is so common right now. Instead, I see a bunch of broken soldiers. Many of which are going awol when our leaders push them onto the front lines of outreach. The ones that remain seek only the emotional boost the church offers once or twice a week. A boost that they have grown dependent upon to ease the pain of their wounds, since their two-dimensional doesn't get them any farther than that. 

I think it is time we consider the role of servanthood in our discipleship again. Without it, we will remain stuck where we are. 

Jesus' example on servanthood 
John 13:1-17

Joshua's instructions for taking over Moses' role as servant.
Joshua 1:1-9

A well dressed man serving a poor person the word, God shows his approval.
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Thursday, March 30, 2017

Fear of Self

For Lent this year, rather than giving up something, I set a goal for myself. To make some real progress on something that I started, but have been neglecting. I must admit I did not get off to a very good start. Rather than beat myself up over it, I asked myself why am I avoiding this particular journey. I processed the answer through art, as I often do. Hence the drawing below, which I call Annabelle's Box. Which is a take off of the myth of Pandora. (Annabelle, being a recurring character that represents the lost part of ourselves.)

A girl holding a box filled with the unknown.
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The simply stated answer being, The task requires facing some difficult questions about myself. I'm sure many believers have some virtual Pandora's box in our lives. That one thing we fear facing because of the pain behind it, and try to pretend is not there. The issue we would just assume leave alone, because we may let loose something too dangerous to contain again. Not that ignoring anything ever helps. It's not as if we have to acknowledge something in order for it to have an adverse effect upon our lives.

Yet, what this attitude may reveal is that we are choosing to believe in the shame, and weakness we feel about ourselves, rather than have faith in God's promises about forgiveness, deliverance, transformation, and the strength he offers those who seek him. 

2 Corinthians 4:1-12 & 12:1-10, Psalm 33:1-22, 1 Corinthians 1:18-31, Isaiah 53:1-12

Or even worse, we are treating God's comfort as an excuse to avoid, rather than a means to overcome. Take Elijah; for example. When he sat under the broomtree, he was clearly looking for a way out. Like we look for ways out of our spiritual responsibilities, including facing our brokenness. But, what Elijah got was the strength to press on. (1 Kings 19:1-18)

Consider this Jesus may be placing something before you right now, a scar from your past, a self-destructive behavior, an error in the understanding of your beliefs, a bad attitude, an unanswered call, something you want to forever leave locked away in your heart.  Like he did with everyone from the teachers of the law, to the rich man in Matthew 19. The question is, will we respond as the pharisees did, and maintain a cosmetic righteousness that only camouflages the wickedness in our hearts. Or will you respond like the woman at the well did, and embrace it as an opportunity to overcome.

I can only image how much these attitudes of avoidance have paralyzed the "Body of Christ." Just imagine what the church could accomplish if we had the courage to finally face ourselves, and deal with the things that impede us.

By the way, I am in deed moving forward on my goal again.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Nourishment for the church

John Eldridge has re-released a revision of his book Waking the Dead: The Secret of a Heart Fully Alive Having read some of his other works, I picked that one up as soon as I heard about it. A book I highly recommend. While much struck me about this, one detail I would like to highlight is what he calls the four streams that nourish the church. In going through this one can clearly get an indicator on why the current church is so very malnourished. 

The first is Discipleship. As Mr. Eldredge says in his other writings, many people think this is all about being a nice guy or a good girl, and nothing more. If that is really all it was, the church would be having an easy time of it. Clearly, many churches are not having an easy time of it, so take this as an indicator that we need to go deeper. Mr. Eldridge actually re-names the concept as Walking with God since that is what the original 12 did, and true discipleship is meant to be intimate, not systematic. For the path of holiness is walking in the footsteps of the very nature of God. With discipleship being one of the broadest elements of Christianity, if we get this wrong, everything we build upon it will come up short. 

The next stream is God's intimate council, which branches off of walking with God. Let me put it this way, The Pharisees tried to take the guess work out of life by creating thousands of rules just so they would know how to apply the Ten Commandments. Yet, Jesus said it wasn't enough. (Matt. 5:20) Life just has too many twists, turns, surprises, ambiguities, and exceptions for such a systematic approach to be enough, we need something far more intimate. We need to apply it from the heart. Yet, many in the current church have repeated the mistake that the Pharisees did centuries ago. By relying exclusively on doctrine, and forsaking the council of the Holy Spirit, just because legalism is far easier to wrap our minds around. Yet, they wonder why the church seems so powerless. (2 Tim. 3:5)

The third stream builds off of the stream of council, which is healing, since that is where the spirit's council inevitably leads us. Or deep restoration as Mr. Eldredge likes to call it, and for good reason. Let me draw from one of my own experiences to explain why. One time, when I was praying for healing. The response I got was this "You are focused on your flesh, but I am more concerned about your heart." The idea of healing in the church may conjure up images of spectacle, but just because certain truths get handled badly on occasion is no reason to dismiss them entirely. What these spectacles have in common is they fixate on physical healing that people prefer, and not the spiritual that God favors. Let's face it, it is very easy to fixate on our physical well being and ignore the spirit, since perfect flesh is often equated with ease. Often, we seek healing just because we desire an easier life. Where spiritual healing of the heart, is not an easy path to walk at all. Since healing of the heart often involves facing and reopening our emotional wounds. I have no doubt, that the church is full of broken-hearted people who revolve their lives around protecting their wounds, rather than deal with them. Yet, the tragic reality is, until our hearts are healed, we won't be able to obey in a consistent way. Since so many of our sins are there to provoke feelings we wish we had, or cover up ones we wish we didn't. So our failures in holiness all come back to the brokenness we are trying to avoid through precepts.

The final stream is Spiritual warfare. Again, this may hold some negative stigma among those who prefer the two-dimensional good boy gospel. To address this let me share a seemingly unrelated story. One time at a family gathering, some guys were looking for a fourth to play pitch. Never having played the game before I denied the invitation at first. But, they insisted that they would teach me, so I gave it a try. In their impatience they elected to teach me through playing a few rounds, rather than explain anything before hand. Yet, their explanations consisted mostly of strategies, not basic rules of play. To this day, I still do not know how to play pitch. My point being, most messages on spiritual warfare I have heard revolve around systematic strategies, yet don't define the battle well enough so that we see the value in said strategy, let alone apply it. Well Mr. Eldredge defines it simply yet effectively this way. Spiritual warfare is ultimately your defense in a battle for your heart. Protection against an assault by the one who knows what you could be and fears it. The enemies advantage is this, he doesn't care what you do, as long as it's not God's will, and you are just sitting on the sidelines, rather than getting involved in or preparing yourself for the mission of the church. One does not have to look very hard to see that the devil has utilized the weapon of apathy effectively.

Consider this, in our following of the “good boy” gospel, in our search for comfort above growth. Have we inadvertently resisted the wrong spirit? Is it possible, that the things we see as condemnation from the enemy, may in fact be counseling from the Holy Spirit to direct us towards restoration. Even if it weren't, if we chose to face and deal with these points of conviction, rather than avoid them, they would lose much of their effectiveness in hurting us. As Joseph said at the end of Genesis, you intended it for evil, but God intended it for good. What could possibly be a better retaliation against the enemy than making his attacks into a source of growth for God's kingdom? 

Maybe we need to stop asking God for an easy life. Or asking for means of avoiding discomfort and pain. Rather start asking for guidance on how to get through it. Maybe we should start drinking deeply of all four streams, rather than just sipping from the one or two we're comfortable with. Then the church might experience the power of resurrection again. That is obviously what it needed right now after all, resurrection.  

If this post leaves you feeling thirsty, then might I suggest you go buy the book. Barnes & Noble, Amazon

a person examining a stream of memories.
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Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Rend your heart?

Rend your heart and not your garments, return to the LORD your God. For he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity. - Joel 2:13 (niv)

I have probably read this verse dozens of times. Yet, this last time I came across it, I was inspired to make a drawing based upon its imagery. So l looked up the word rend for a more specific definition, since it's not a commonly used word these days, and I wanted to make sure I portrayed it right as well. Only to be quite surprised that my presumed understanding of the word was nowhere close to the actual definition. While I am sure there are plenty of people who know that rend means to tear or rip without looking it up. I bring it up now to reveal that more knowledge, and understanding can find its way to us anytime, and in a variety of unexpected ways. 

Needles to say, the imagery was far more intense than I realized. Not to mention it refers to an action that I was familiar with, but hadn't tied to this verse before. The Hebrew practice of tearing ones clothes in frustration, the most famous Biblical example being Caiphus during the trial of Jesus. (Matt. 26:65)

Which makes this verse something the church should consider during these rather-frustrating times. What this verse indicates is a far cry from what we actually see being practiced by many in their frustrations. Things like sulking, complaining, blaming, or criticizing people. 

Rather it speaks of owning our mistakes, and allowing our brokenness to be evident before all, including God. Since it is often through our brokenness that God finds his way back in. But that won't happen if we are being over-protective of our wounds, or whitewashing ourself with false joy.

So the take away should be, when we're frustrated, look to the one thing you have the most power to change, yourself. Rather than throw it in someone else's face as garment renders did. Look also to the one person best equipped to reveal the truth behind your heartache to you, God. Don't be like Caiphus who refused to own his brokenness and blamed someone else, for his frustration. By relying only on himself rather than seek God's wisdom. Yet claiming to be doing God's work, when in reality he was only protecting his authority. A man despite all his knowledge of scripture, lacked the insight to see truth staring him in the face. 

a man revealing his brokenness to Jesus
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