Death to: comparison.

It’s subtle. It’s covert. It sneaks in without you even realizing it got in, like the spider you never saw until you wake up and it’s on your pillow. [how many of you did I just lose?]

I’m talking about comparison.

It’s hard to spot until it hits you in the face, and when it does, it hits you hard. All of a sudden, without any warning, you can be confronted with the harsh reality that you compare yourself to others a lot more than you think. Also really quickly, let me add that comparison isn’t unique to girls – guys do it too, probably more than we think. It manifests itself in a million ways, but the ones I relate to most are ones like these:

They’ve been to cooler places than I have.

They have fancier technology.

They’re less afraid of making phone calls or doing grown-up stuff.

They have more money.

They’re more generous with that money.

They’ve served Jesus more than I have or longer than I have.

They haven’t messed up as bad as I have.

They’re growing faster than I do.

They’re nicer than me.

They seek God more than me.

I usually try to write with a sliver of grace, but in this instance, I’m righteously angry. I’m angry because I’ve seen the effects of comparison in my own life and in the lives of people around me. Comparison is a lot of things, including the thief of joy, and the spawn of jealousy (and it’s effective.)

Comparison can make you look at your life with regret and lament, thinking that you’re not half the person you should be, or you haven’t done enough with your life. It makes you think that you’re not special enough and that everyone except you [and it is always that extreme, curious, isn’t it?] has something going on while you don’t.

Isn’t it funny how social media can make the lives of others seem glamorous? I’m not trying to dog Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, but while for some, these pictures we capture are moments of joy that we want to solidify and refer back to, for others, they can become a stumbling block. Again, I’m not getting on anyone for doing it, and if you’re reading this, I’m not necessarily saying that you shouldn’t share about your joy. In fact, back in January, I wrote about how useful I felt these sorts of things were for trying to find joy in the joy of others and being happy for the things that others have been able to do.

The difference between those two things is a heart condition: gratefulness. Comparison is, at its core, a personal problem. But it’s not a personal problem as obvious as addiction, lust, etc. It’s one thing if someone has a vice that they refuse to deal with, but comparison [at least often times] is extremely subtle deception, and yes, I’m talking about from Satan. He uses comparison to make you think you’re worth less and you’re less lovable, and when you think about it, it’s terribly absurd. He’ll use someone’s vacation photos to make you think that you’re boring and have nothing to offer in terms of experience. He’ll use someone’s job and financial wherewithal to make you think that you’re a bum and you’re lazy and irresponsible with your money [side note: maybe you are. But usually bums aren’t concerned with the fact that they’re a bum. They’re too busy enjoying spending what money they have on themselves and playing video games.] He’ll use someone’s physical fitness to make you believe that in a moment when a loved one needed protection, you’d be unable to come through for them.

So how do we combat this? The trouble with comparison is that often times, Satan’s lies are really well-spinned and seem incredibly true. I alluded to this earlier but I got way too fired up and off-track, so I’ll say it again: gratefulness.

I read a book once by a man named Dudley Hall [his spiritual heritage has since passed down to me, he’s my spiritual great-grandfather, if you’re into spiritual lineages.] One of his chapters dealt with a real man being grateful for his story. That has stuck with me since 2008 (I think) when I read it. It seems to come back to me every single year.

It can sound a little bit sentimental, but it’s really about contentment. When it comes down to it, everyone is unique. No two people have been at the exact same place for the exact same time for their entire lives (unless you’re a Siamese twin.) So in reality, it’s a disservice to everyone else around you to discount yourself for your experiences or your resources, when in some cases, they’re out of your control. I’ll exemplify myself here (until I become a pastor and can use anecdotes of other people, like blogging pastors do…)

I went through a two-or-three-or-maybe-longer week spell when I hated my job. I was so discontent because I was looking at how much (or how little) money I was making. I started looking for other jobs, and I stopped caring about mine. Why? Because my girlfriend is at a job that affords her a lot of opportunity and keeps her well financially. Comparison stole my joy. The job I once celebrated for being so fun and enjoyable despite (maybe even because of) late nights and early mornings became the job I cursed because I didn’t earn as much as she did.

Then the Holy Spirit, in the midst of my job hunt, told me to get “stuck in.” (It’s a phrase that football pundits use to imply a hard work rate, putting your head down, getting yourself established in the game.) He told me to start practicing all of the new brewing methods we were using that previously, I had despised. He told me to always find something to do instead of using every second I had free to complain with my co-workers or play Football Manager on my phone.

He told me that instead of lamenting how little money I made, to start setting aside a portion of my tips every day so that they’d add up and, when phone bills, insurance, etc. came around, I had money at the ready and I didn’t have to wait on a paycheck that was scarcely enough.

So I did.

Before long, I was working 6 days a week, earning good money and working good shifts. I had almost $200 set aside within the course of 10 days, enough to let me wait to cash my paychecks until I needed them more. My savings account has grown by about 33% in two weeks. I’m having fun at my job, meeting more people, developing more friendships.

Why?

I believe that the answer is that I got stuck in and started giving thanks for my job instead of lamenting it. I began to realize that, while I didn’t have the financial resources to do all the things I wanted to do (buy Erica nice things [or at least go on dates,] get out of debt, save money, etc.) I had the desire to do those things, and God has instilled in me the character. Let me try to explain or articulate that better…For example, I desperately desire to be a provider for my family one day. I want to have a wife who doesn’t have to work, at least not at a job she doesn’t like. So the question of “will you use your resources to provide for your family?” has been all but settled. The only thing that remains is the thing that God is responsible for (alongside my obedience to apply) – getting me into a job that will afford me money to provide for a family.

But for now, God has given me a job and resources to steward, and that’s my job right now. In fact, I’m almost convinced that God wants me to try my hand at getting out of what debt I have at my current job, even though it feels like a steep, steep uphill battle.

Comparison is the thief of joy. It’s a spawn and cesspool of jealousy. It breeds feelings of worthlessness. It does nobody any good. So let’s let it die, let’s enjoy our stories and our circumstances as well as we can. Let’s trust a loving Father – God – who always takes care of the needs of His kids.

Rest.

Warning: if you think God-stories are cheesy, you may not care to read this. If you’re feeling cynical, then you may not bother.

 

If I’m being really honest, I’m tired. I mean – physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, etc. Sometimes life goes a hundred miles an hour, and it’s easy to keep going, harder to slow down.

I recently approached my boss about having Thursdays off so that I could come down to the church and work in the office. There’s not a ton for me to do, so I do personal stuff like read books, I’m reading a commentary on 1 Timothy for our upcoming sermon series, I prepare for my life group that’s on Thursday nights, etc. So here I am in the spare office that was vacated at least a year ago, surrounded by books and notebooks.

I decided I was going to turn on Hillsong’s Pandora station, because that’s what you do when you are working in a church. I did it sort of out of compulsion. I actually thought that, too – it’s just what you do.

I’ve made a bad mistake of lowering my expectations [I could write a whole blog on my cynicism of late] when I listen to worship music. At one point I decided I was going to be a theology snob and not listen to much worship music. That’s not really a great reason, either – because a lot of music is coming around and becoming more and more theologically sound. So I’ve made a habit of not worshipping on a regular basis.

[now, spare me the lecture on worship being about how you live life. I know. The Bible also tells us to exhort each other with psalms and spiritual songs. so there is Biblical precedent for worship music.]

It was the best choice I’ve made all day, all week, month, etc. It’s not a substitute for reading the Bible by any means, but when you’re like me and you’re not in the habit of reading the Bible every day to remember and be reminded of who God is, then worship music is a great tool to use to bring your mind and your heart back to a place where you’re gazing upon Jesus and reflecting on who He is. As I listened, God brought to my mind the events of the last week.

As of Monday night, I had been unable to take Erica on a date for about two weeks. I saw her intermittently for about 30 minutes at a time. She popped by the coffee shop one night after she got off of work, but then we got busy and she left to go home. One night I dropped by her apartment, spurning a delivery at work because I only had a few minutes between when I got off and she had to go to an event, so I got to see her for about a half an hour before we had to part.

It was nice, but it wasn’t enough.

God said, as He reminded me of that, that the way I love Erica pales in comparison to how He loves me. He showed me that the longing I had just to be with Erica for a little while is just a glimpse of how God delights in me and being with me [and I don’t mean that in a self-flattering way, the Bible says that God rejoices over us with singing.] Not to be cliché or guilt-mongering, but it’s easy for me to neglect spending time with the Lord, even though He loves me and wants my attention for at least a little while (side note: I found an old worship mix I made when I was in high school, and one of the songs was talking about how the singer loves God “endlessly.” this is one of the songs for which I took my theologically snobby hiatus from worship music. I do not love God endlessly. I’d contend few if any do. He loves me endlessly, but I do not even have an idea how to love God endlessly. Just food for thought…)

By the end of two weeks with no real date night with Erica, it’s all I wanted. How much more would God love to spend a little time with me, who He died for and gave Himself for?

 

All that is to say that God told me to stop what I was doing and just lay down. My mind has been in a million different places between work, navigating the waters of being in love with a woman, job hunting, leading a life group, thinking about licensure with Foursquare, working my second job as a janitor at my church, managing money, etc. And God said, “stop.”

“I never want to use my busyness as an excuse not to invest in our relationship,” I told Erica.

But I haven’t applied that philosophy to my relationship with the Lord.

 

All this is to say that I found myself indulging this morning – music in my ears, time on my hands, and the Lord said, “stop. I just want to be with you.” And what sweet rest that is! How sweet it is to sit in the presence of God, not bringing to Him the million things I’m working on – not coming to Him because I need to know what to say in life group, not coming to Him because I’m trying to put together a sermon, but coming to Him because He wants me to just sit with Him for a while and rest in His presence.

 

I was reminded of Jesus’ words (which we usually relate more to legalistic effort, and that’s true, but I felt they were appropriate in this case as well) when He said, “come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Sometimes life is a lot of labor and heavy loads – work, relationships, school, kids, money, meetings, trips, tax season, small groups, etc – but Jesus wants us, in the midst of all of it, to stop and be with Him.

On idolizing and demonizing; Kindle vs ‘real’ books; and iTunes vs CDs.

Something Mark Driscoll said in a sermon (though surely more than one sermon in his day) is (and I’ll destroy this quote, so my apologies, Pastor Mark) that we tend to demonize the things we used to idolize. In other words, our perspective can quickly shift from thinking that something is God to thinking it’s purely evil.

I remember this principle at work in high school.

As a youth in America, it’s easy to love sports. It’s easy to obsess over sports. Then when you go to church, it’s easy to feel like sports are an idol. So then we respond viciously and decide that Jesus doesn’t want us watching football on Sunday afternoons or going to the park to play basketball. Eventually [at least hopefully] we come to a balance at which we realize that sport can be something that we enjoy and participate in for the good of our minds and bodies, but it doesn’t take up the intellectual and emotional capital it once did [I still struggle with getting emotionally involved in sports. Don’t we all have our vices?]

But as you go through life, it’s not always so overt. Sometimes it’s harder to spot and easier to foster. Lately for me, it’s been about stuff.

[side note: if you’ve been reading my blog at all in the last two or so months, you’ve seen the documented struggle I’ve had with money. This is related, but I like to think I’m reflecting from the end of this season. Yet another point for the sanctifying quality of relationships, too!]

Erica has a kindle. She loves her kindle, and she explained that part of her reasoning is that when she travels, she can’t carry a lot of books, but her kindle is small and compact, and it can hold all of her books digitally. Win-win.

When I was in the idolatry phase of stuff and money, I lamented that I didn’t have a kindle. It became all about me and my woes, and I felt inferior because after all, I didn’t make as much money and couldn’t afford all of the cool stuff that Erica did.

But then I started demonizing stuff.

I began thinking about how much better I was for having the “real thing” and preferring physical books to digital ones. How I was better for buying real CDs and being frugal and finding a deal instead of spending money on itunes and amazon for my music. I began finding myself angry when, at work, people would push their credit card my way to pay for their coffee. I thought things like, “all of these people who don’t pay in cash – I hate it when people rely on a card to solve all of their problems. Makes me sick.”

I wasn’t right in either case.

Here’s the reality – for some people, digital things are more functional. When you’re listening to music and you’re on the go, often times CDs aren’t the best option. Sometimes you don’t have the desire or the time to go to the store and buy a physical CD, so you buy one on your computer, phone, or tablet. It’s not malicious.

For some people [Erica being the perfect example] having a kindle is more functional. They don’t really care about having a physical book and being able to flip through pages and smell them. They care about compactness and efficiency. That’s all well and good. One’s not better than the other.

For some people, paying with a debit or credit card is easier. Maybe they get direct deposit and don’t find themselves at the bank very often. Who am I to judge and say that they’re irresponsible or they’re assuming because they have no problem pushing a card my way?

Here’s the other thing I have to remember: how many times do I effortlessly spend money I shouldn’t? Maybe I’m frugal in a lot of ways, but how many people spend more money than I do and are more generous than I am? Is one better? Who’s to say? But often times I find myself judging people for spending money on a digital book or album when they could get the physical one for a third of the price, and yet I go out and with hardly a second thought pay $70 (at least) for a soccer jersey that I’ll wear once a week which represents a team I have no geographical or traditional connection with.

It’s easy to idolize. It’s easy to demonize. It’s easy to assume that other people have the problem and I don’t. But at the end of the day, we’re all just people – we all need Jesus, and we all need to learn to see things through His eyes, and do what He tells us to do. It’s not necessarily my job to decide who’s wrong, who’s right, and what people’s motives are.

Noise.

It was a Saturday night. I was at the end of a 10-day stretch of working, with lots of late nights, early mornings, and naps just to survive. That particular work day has been stressful and annoying. I got in my car, turned on some music, but I couldn’t do it anymore. I began to vent-pray. You know – when you tell God everything that’s wrong with your life and all about the rough week you’ve had. I prayed and prayed and repented for my bad attitudes and asked for grace and peace. When I was done, I turned my music back on. But just like a parent who needs to get a word in over their teenager who just put in their earbuds, God yelled over my music: “HEY, WAIT A SECOND!” I paused the music again, and that’s when God said something that is simple yet profound (seems to be His way of doing things…)

Who said you’re done praying just because you’re done talking?

Guilty as charged.

Even though I’ve long since subscribed to a definition of prayer that is simply “talking with God,” I’ve forgotten the simple art of conversation: it’s a two-way street. That is, if prayer really is conversation with God, then prayer isn’t over when I’ve said all I need to say. I need, still, to leave time for God to speak.

But I like noise. I like to keep things lively. I like to have music in the car or a podcast in my ears. I like to have movies or television on in the house. I like to always be doing something. I like to be on the go. And primarily, I like to talk.

And it’s all noise. It’s all distraction. They’re all ways I am self-serving and leave no room for God to talk to me in return. The sad thing is (and you’ll have to follow me through some thought,) they’re ways in which I refuse to let God love me. I’ll explain:

 

I’m a ashamed to admit that I used to dread getting phone calls or texts from my dad. I figured they’d always be about money that I owed for insurance, or how I needed to get my car fixed, or how I needed to save more money. Basically I thought that every time my dad would talk to me, it’d be to bother me and point out ways in which I wasn’t doing things right.

That all changed the other day when he took me out to dinner, and contrary to what I was expecting, we had a really great time, and I actually ended up in tears because of how encouraging and affirming my dad was to me. He encouraged me that while life can be hard and managing money never gets easier (“more money, more problems” is a true statement) it’s never too late to start. And it’s never too late to start learning the things I was too bone-headed to learn as a teenager, like fixing my car and working on things around the house. Somehow, despite all my fear, my dad managed to encourage me and show me that I could do it.

 

What was different?

 

For once in my life, I didn’t shut my dad out. That’s all.

And that’s my earthly father – how much more will my Heavenly Father speak life and affirmation over me if I let Him talk? I’m not saying that God won’t ever correct us or speak things that are hard.

God is a Father. He consistently uses Fatherly language to refer to us and to refer to Himself (we are His children and He is our Father.)

If there’s anything I’m learning, it’s that relationships between children and their father is a two-way street (just like aforementioned communication…)

If a child only ever expects their father to love them, that’s all they’ll choose to hear. They’ll never choose to hear the hard things, and they’ll perceive it as non-loving.

If a child only ever expects their father to be involved in the necessary evils (such as fixing cars and paying bills, like I was afraid of with my dad,) then that’s all they’ll choose to hear. It becomes uncomfortable to think that they’ll speak anything loving, because it just seems like it’s not the role of the parent (ironic as that sounds.)

We often talk about how fathers need to relate to their children, and it’s true. But just like a child can position him or herself to receive love from a father who doesn’t, a child can position him or herself not to receive love and it can make their father seem like he’s uninterested.

God is interested in loving us through the hard stuff (the stuff that forces us to change our character, the correction of our thinking, and even the practical stuff like paying our bills, managing our money, etc.) as well as just pouring love and affirmation on as a Father. It’s not either/or. it’s both/and.

 

We’d all do well to recognize and turn down or turn off some of the noise in our lives. When God speaks, it’s important. And while I’m at it, we’d also do well to realize that hearing God isn’t especially complicated. Maybe we complicate it because we try to do it in the midst of the noise of life, but often times, it’s as simple as stopping, shutting up, and listening.

What have we overcome?

This past Sunday, we sang “Overcome” (by Desperation Band, a 2006 or 7 release, I think) and it led to a time of people sharing words and one testimony in particular. The bridge of the song goes like this: And we will overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony. Everyone overcome.

It got me thinking about trials, and it got me thinking about this very issue of overcoming. The skeptic in me arose, and I began to find myself testing the steel of that statement – “we will overcome.”

What if we don’t overcome what we think we’ll overcome?

That is, what if someone loses their battle with cancer when for months they and everyone around them has prayed for healing?

What if someone fought for their marriage and their spouse didn’t reciprocate the vigor, and the marriage fell apart?

What if someone fighting for financial stability didn’t get the new job they’d been hoping for?

What if someone doesn’t receive their funding to go on a mission trip?

What if life doesn’t make sense? What if it doesn’t all pan out the way we think it will? Are we still then overcomers?

The answer is yes. I think that the key to this question lies in realizing what exactly it is that we’re overcoming. The Bible speaks very clearly about the fact that we will face troubles. Jesus said that in this life we will have trouble, but we can take heart because He has overcome the world.

I can’t help but think that when Jesus said that, He’s trying to get us to expand our horizons a little bit and see beyond the immediate. Maybe that sounds callous when dealing with tough issues like cancer, broken relationships, jobs, dreams, etc. But the reality is that the battle that Jesus won was for our soul.

This means that regardless of what happens in the arenas of work, relationships, and physical health, the battle for our soul has been won. It means that Satan is going to try to attack those arenas to ultimately test your faith and give up in the sovereignty of God. Follow this train of thought with me…

If I’m struggling to make ends meet, Satan will come in and try to convince me that God is disinterested and unable to help meet my needs. If I begin to believe that and find that despite my attempts, I can’t get a new job that better pays the bills, then I reinforce that belief that God isn’t interested in taking care of me. If God can’t even help me pay my bills, then why is God even interested in my soul? The Cross is irrelevant because God doesn’t love me.

If God doesn’t heal my friend/family member/me, then He must not really care. If He doesn’t care about my physical health, He doesn’t care about anything else, either. The Cross is irrelevant, and God doesn’t love me.

If God doesn’t help me realize my dreams and aspirations, then God must not love me personally. The Cross is irrelevant, and God doesn’t love me.

I’m convinced that every attack that the enemy brings is an attempt to undermine our belief that God loves us. Because if we can be convinced that God doesn’t love us, then we can be convinced that the Gospel is bunk, and believing the Gospel is the way to salvation. So to go if-then with this, we could say that if we can be convinced that God doesn’t love us, then Satan has stolen another soul from the Kingdom of God and subjected it to torment in hell.

Is that simplistic? Maybe.

But my point is that it’s easy to think that the battles we face – sickness, joblessness, financial depravity, relationship strains, etc  – are the ultimate battle. But they’re not, because Jesus already won the ultimate battle – the battle for our soul. In the world, there still exists sin, folly, and rebellion, so bad things happen. People get sick. Relationships can break and be strained. Money can be hard to come by. But our rest can come from the truth that Jesus won the ultimate battle for us, and despite the best efforts of the enemy, the gates of hell can’t prevail against Jesus’ church, which is built on the truth that Jesus is the Christ – the messiah, the liberator of mankind. Whatever happens, when we believe the Gospel, we can know that we will live eternally (that is, now and beyond physical death,) with God, as it was always supposed to be.

Impact.

There’s a phrase I hear from time to time that is simultaneously my favorite and least favorite phrase.
“You don’t even know the impact you have on people around you.”

Sometimes I love hearing that, because it encourages me that without even making much of a conscious effort, I’m positively affecting people around me.
But other times I hate it, because as a friend and I were lamenting, it’d be nice to know just exactly how you’re positively affecting someone. Sometimes what I do doesn’t feel like it’s “enough.”

But the Holy Spirit reminded me that maybe, just maybe, it’s better I don’t know. Because for me, it could easily become a source of pride and complacency, that I would be able to put a finger on the good things I do for others. Maybe it’s better to have no idea so that I keep doing the very things that are good for others, even though I don’t know what it is.

God, why do You love me?

Before I have friends put me down for questioning the love of God, know that I believe it, and I receive it. This short discourse is merely a reflection on how it baffles me. I can do absolutely nothing for God, and I can’t possibly love Him the way He loves me.

 

God, why do You love me?

I’m not lovely. I never was. I’m inclined toward selfishness, and I have been since I was born. I’m prone to complaining and my perspective on life is entirely warped. I’m prone to ask what others can do for me, not what I can do for others. Even since You’ve saved me, I don’t see everything through Your eyes. I’m impatient, I’m far too quick to speak and far too slow to listen.

I relate far too many experiences in life to myself. I always think about things in terms of how I would feel about it, how I would react, and how I would do things differently.

But mostly, Lord, here’s what baffles me about the fact that You love me –

You don’t need me. Not even in the slightest. You never even had to create me. You never had to come in the form of a man and die on a cross to pay the price – to exact justice – for all of the bad things I’ve done and ever will do; for every ounce of selfishness I exude; for all the times I look at life the wrong way; for all the times I act in ways which deeply affect others. You don’t need me to exist, you don’t need my money, and you surely don’t need my love.

So why, then?

It must be for some other reason. It must be because You want me. It must be that You choose me.

Lord, as a needy, needy man, help me understand that, because it makes no sense whatsoever. 

Death to: fear.

I have so many different quotes I want to use to start this entry off, but I have to choose only one…

“The world is big. It’s scary, it’s dangerous, and it’s risky. Sometimes it’s just easier to stay home.”

Yesterday afternoon, I was taking Erica to the airport for a work trip and as she made a pit stop at the bank, I frantically scribbled these words in the notebook I had in my car. It sounded to me like the beginning of a children’s book, but maybe that’s because I have a child’s fear.

In all of literature and film history, I have several characters I relate to, but I especially (today anyway) relate to L. Frank Baum’s Cowardly Lion in the Wizard of Oz. He was less generally afraid and more afraid of anything he didn’t know – anything he hadn’t seen before. When he encountered something familiar, he lashed out in the primal way scared animals do – an angry fear.

I feel that way sometimes.

When Erica has to travel for work (or even for pleasure) I comment on how stupid I think airports are. Are they? No. Of course not. But I don’t understand them, and to be entirely honest, I am deathly afraid of them. Afraid I’ll go to the wrong desk, afraid I’ll leave out some detail that will leave my luggage in another city, afraid I’ll miss a connector flight, afraid because I’ve never flown and I just don’t know the processes and procedures. And the last thing I need is for someone to tell me it’s not so bad. You know what I need? I need to just do it.

I don’t know if this is some sort of curse of being the youngest child (growing up it felt like everyone did everything for me, so it’s almost like when I had to do things for myself, I didn’t know how to) but I’m just afraid of doing things for myself. Booking a hotel? Scary. Calling to follow up on a job application? Scary. Travelling? Scary. Going to a concert in a city I’ve never been in before? Mortifying.

Silly, right?

I know.

I live in a little bubble sometimes, I fear. I know what’s safe, I know what’s comfortable, and I know what’s familiar. I am at my job – even though it doesn’t make me a lot of money – because it was practically handed to me, I didn’t have to interview or even go through the application process. It’s easy. It’s safe. I don’t travel because I don’t have money, and even if I did, then I would have to deal either with an airport or a train station (neither of which I have before) or get my car fixed, which means I’d have to deal with a big, scary mechanic.

Isn’t that ridiculous?

I can’t help but think that I wasn’t meant to live in this kind of fear. I know that, when Jesus said what He said in John 10:10, He wasn’t necessarily talking about money and material stuff. But at the same time, a lot of my fears inhibit my ability to travel, and I think that God is reasonably pro-travel. He’s not travel-obsessive (He’s not sitting there commanding people to travel all of the time, but at the same time, Jesus said go and make disciples of all nations.) I think God is interested in having a people not bound by fear, a people interested in all of the world He’s made and all of the people He loves. I’ve heard it said that travel is good for your spirit because it helps you see the enormity of the world and how small you really are, and it helps break our fantasy that this is the only place there is – the crazy idea that sinful men and women aren’t in the glamorous places in the world.

All this is to say that yet again, by the grace of God, He’s pointed out something that needs to die in me. I’m too afraid all of the time. Too afraid of things I’m not used to. Too afraid of things I don’t know. So I don’t know what it’ll look like, but I intend to meet those fears head on and get out of this bubble I’m living in.

What if David were gay? [on the function of Old Testament heroes.]

I took an Old Testament class in my senior year of college, and it was taught by a rabbi, who practiced his Judaism. His knowledge of the Old Testament was solid, and he provided a lot of interesting insights I’d never heard before.

one of them was this idea that David and Jonathan weren’t just really close friends, but lovers. The language, he told us, suggested a marital or erotic relationship, which I immediately dismissed.

“David couldn’t be gay. He was a man after God’s own heart!” I thought.

I heard him, but I blocked it out.

A year later, I was thinking about this, but my perspective is different. Here’s what I think now:

So what?

So what if he had a homosexual relationship? Of course I’m not advocating it, but I don’t advocate adultery, and that’s what he had with Bathsheba, and it’s in the Bible!

Two things to keep in mind:

1. The Bible doesn’t advocate everything it records.

Moses killed a man. Abraham pimped out his wife. Solomon had a ton of wives. David slept with Bathsheba and had Uriah killed. Peter cut off the ear of one of the men who came to arrest Jesus. Peter rebuked Jesus. [sheesh, Peter.] Job complained. Jonah ran from God. Joseph scared the crap out of his brothers. Keep in mind that the Bible (mostly the Old Testament) records the histories of sinful men and women. Sure, they may have done heroic things, but they were still just sinful men and women. We have to remember that. Because…

2. The Old Testament heroes weren’t the real Hero.

Jesus is clear that scripture is about Him [Luke 24:27.] We are remiss to read the Old Testament and think, “I should be like David [or Moses, or Abraham, or any other “hero.” But they’re not the real Hero – they only point to Him. If I read the story of, say, Moses, and decide that I want to be like him, I’m missing the whole scope of the Bible. The Bible is all about Jesus – and He was the ultimate deliverer. Grace and truth comes through Him [John 1:17,} I can boldly approach the throne of grace through Him [Hebrews 4:16,] I’m saved through faith in Him [Ephesians 2:8,] I’m hidden in Him [Colossians 3:3,] I’m the fragrance of Him [2 Corinthians 2:15] – not anyone else!

The Gospel According to Jesus, by Chris Seay

[quick introductory note: I’m never sure how to preface a book review. So I’ve decided this time around that I won’t. I’m just going to dive into what it’s about and what I liked/disliked. thank you.]

 

“A faith that restores all things.”

That’s the subtitle of this book, and as hard as it was for me to grasp an idea of what exactly this book was about, it all seemed to come back to this idea. When I picked it up, I thought it was going to be one of those types of books which corrects your thinking on a lot of concepts and ideas, and to a degree, it does. It forces us to re-evaluate our definitions of righteousness, justice, justification, and peace (shalom, wholeness.) But if I’m being completely honest, it seems just a little vague. Either I was perpetually tired while reading this book, or it was divided into unique sections which didn’t gracefully tie into each other.

 

the message of this book is clearest by the last couple of chapters, when it talks about shalom, which is the fruit of justice. Justice flows out of the believer and his or her righteousness which is found in Christ. So the gospel according to Jesus, Seay writes, is a gospel that speaks of a righteousness which births justice in believers, believers act out justice, and God, through believers, restores all things.

 

Perhaps the issue most clearly addressed is the tendency of people to shy away from sinners. Since we like to categorize life and in that, people, we tend to have the “good” people and the “bad” people. The guys who go to church, and then the guys who go to the bar; the homeless; the poor; people who can’t help themselves; drug addicts; people who cuss; etc. Problem is, this isn’t how Jesus looked at people. Jesus came for the “bad” people, the people who were broken, the people who needed Him. And that’s who we should be running to – at one points Seay actually uses the language of “chasing brokenness.”

 

It’s a “justice book” (if I can so loosely use such a term) and it may not be the most well-written, but it’s definitely worth a read.