Dad you can have enemies right?

Enemies-e1520468752606.pngI have always believed that the Bible matters and is relevant to all ages. I just didn’t realize how true that was, even for little kids, until the other day when I was driving Asher to school.

As we were driving, Asher said, “Dad, you can have enemies, right? If someone hits you a lot, they are your enemy.”

He then preceded to tell me who his enemy was and what he thought about them. And, he outright asked if it was okay to have enemies. Because, in our technical language, it seems that Asher has a “frenemy.”

Sometimes I wish adults were this honest and open.

So, I told him about Jesus, and how we follow what Jesus asks of us. I told him how Jesus doesn’t deny that there are enemies in this world (people who hurt us, maybe even hit us, or people who aren’t good), but that Jesus says we are called to love our enemies.

I said to Asher, “If you have an enemy, we need to love them too. It’s okay to choose not to play with them. It’s okay to tell the adult in charge if you are being hit. But, we don’t want to hate anyone.”

I write this all because I think Asher’s question is a good one: Is it okay to have an enemy?

Yes, the Bible lives in the reality where there are hurtful, abusive and difficult people in our lives – people that we might call an “enemy.” What the Bible challenges isn’t the existence of evil, but rather our response to it. We are called to love our enemies, and we are called to love them because our God in heaven loves them. And, how we do that is complex, and my point isn’t to wade into all of that today.

Yes, with abusive people, boundaries matter.

Yes, with toxic people, you don’t have to become a doormat.

Yes, with evil, pursuing justice matters.

But, when it comes down to the base level, what I told Asher was, “We can’t let hate into our hearts.” We need to love people, even the ones who are difficult.

So, how might you do that with the difficult people around you?

That’s a question that’s worth thinking about, because after I dropped Asher off that’s what I thought about. My little guy reminded me of Jesus’ calling on our lives to love our enemy. And, it’s a reminder that I needed. And, maybe you need this as well.

 

Daddy are you Strong?

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The other day, Eden came into our room and into our bed, because, as she said it, “I scared.”

If you have kids, this has probably happened to you.

And so, like any good parent, I snuggled with her, calmed her down and then took her back to bed (because little kids are wiggly in bed and ensure that while they sleep, you don’t!).

When I took her to bed, I prayed with her, and ensured her that daddy loved her and that she was safe. It was then that she looked up at me and said, “Daddy, are you strong?”

And, I said, “Yes, honey, your dad is strong.”

“Like really strong?” she asked.

And, I told her this, “Yes, sweetheart, your dad is very, very, very strong. He is here and you are safe, and it’s okay to sleep and have sweet dreams.”

At that, she turned over and fell fast asleep.

Now, you might want to quibble or challenge the statement that I am “very, very, very strong.” And maybe, in your eyes, I’m not. Well, let’s be honest, in most people’s eyes the first word that jumps to their mind when they see me isn’t “strong.”

But, the point is that for Eden, knowing that someone stronger than her was watching over her let her feel safe and at peace. What she was looking for wasn’t for me to give a complex answer on the different magnitudes of strength out there, but rather to assure her that she is safe because of my strength.

When I went back to my bed then, the first thing that came into my head was how often the Bible talks about God being strong and mighty. We read of God being great and “mighty in power” (Psalm 147:5); that He has “acted with a strong hand and powerful arm” (Psalm 136:12) and is “mighty to save” (Zephaniah 3:17).

I think the reason the Bible talks like this isn’t because God is physically strong or that He has big muscles. The point is that God is strong enough that we can trust in Him, and feel safe in His presence, power and protection.

Of course, the world is broken and complex and, at times, bad things happen. I’m not denying that.

All that I am saying is that at some point what we need isn’t a complex discussion on the different magnitudes of strength, free will and evil. Rather, what we need to know, at a base soul level, is that God is mighty and able to save, and that He is for us and not against us.

What we need to know is that the One who looks after us and cares for us is “very, very, very, strong.”

 

Quit Keeping Score

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Today’s blog post is a little honest or vulnerable for me to write, but I think it’s important. I want to let you in on where I struggle the most…

I struggle with a deep desire to be perfect, to succeed and be good.

And, that doesn’t sound that bad on the surface. It makes me driven, it makes me get things done, it makes me be a better dad and husband in many ways. It means that I don’t tend to drop things, and I will push things forward. It means you can count on me.

It also means I carry a brutal weight around, all the time.

Because, I can’t be perfect and the truth is (while it’s awkward to say), sometimes my desire to be perfect is greater than my desire for God. This is where this becomes downright dangerous, because all of sudden what matters more is my expectations, rather than God’s. What matters most then is moving things ahead, rather then sitting with God. What matters most is perception of perfection, rather than the real, honest, messiness of life. And, what this leads to at its most base level in my life is this…

I keep a scorecard of success and losses.

While you may not personally be driven to be perfect (that may not be your struggle), what I think you can relate to is this idea of keeping score. Because I believe this “keeping score” mentality drives so much that we measure ourselves  against our brother or sister, our parent’s expectations, our co-workers, or that neighbour down the street. We measure ourselves by what “other parents do” or what “society says we should do.” And, we end up keeping score to know that we are worthwhile and meaningful.

We keep score to know that we matter.

In my desire to be perfect, I keep score all the time. But, this is just absolutely true: There is no keeping score in God’s kingdom.

Because whether you are perfect or not, whether you can keep up with your perfect sister, or that co-worker, or your perfect parent friend, you have this truth…

You are loved by God.

You are a child of God

You are redeemed by God.

I think what we need in life is less keeping score, and more submission to the fact that you matter and are already included in God’s kingdom. I write this as much for me as anyone else.

What if you gave up keeping score?

What if you gave up striving for all that stuff around you? What if you just rested in the fact that you are loved, you are okay and God is for you? What if we let that centre us and lose the scorekeeping cards? What would life look then?

Because the short answer is this: Your life would look better, wholer, and certainly more full of God. 

So, give up the scorecard this week and see how it feels to simply be accepted by God.

 

When Christians Fight Online

christianfight.pngToday, I want to talk about a reality that I bet many of you have seen on Facebook, Twitter, blogs posts and comment sections all over the Internet: Christians fighting online, publically and with vitriol (which is a big word for being nasty).

I bring this up because, not only do I think that this harming the reputation of the church, I also think it’s harming the Christian community and people.

Now, of course, right off the bat there are going to be some who say, “But shouldn’t we stand up for truth?,” “These issues matter!,” or “Shouldn’t we be able to debate within Christianity?” And, of course, I agree with all of that. We should remain firm to what we believe. Some issues do matter immensely and need to be addressed, and, of course, discussion and debate have always been part of Christianity and always will be.

My problem isn’t with the truth, discussion or addressing important social issues. My problem is subtler than that: It’s about what goes on in our hearts. My problem is when Christians actually start to enjoy all the debate, division and arguing.

Because, what I’m starting to see all over the place isn’t just people who love certain issues, topics and perspectives. It’s people who love to fight. It’s people seeking out to engage others in nasty back and forth arguments. It’s people who call out others and say “farewell” to so and so. It’s people who intentionally provoke, not to discuss, but to divide, distance and ridicule other positions. It’s people who actually relish in the fighting, provoking and dividing over whatever their issue is.

And, the problem with this is ridiculously obvious: If we love to fight, we are probably forgetting to love. If we love the conflict, the fray or the issue more than people, we are missing the point. Because, in a fight or argument, the goal is to win, convert and conquer – all of which can lead us away from loving. And, loving others isn’t optional in the Christian walk, but when we start looking for fights to have, we’ve stopped looking at Jesus and loving others.

So, to be clear, I’m not saying that certain issues don’t matter, that discussions are pointless or that we shouldn’t stand up for injustice.

No, what I want to raise to the surface is something that has happened in my heart, and something I think I see online all the time. Sometimes under the cover of standing up for truth, justice or whatever, what is really going on is that we are angry, looking for a fight and more interested in winning our theological or social agenda, rather than loving and listening.

Please hear me! Some things need to be changed. Some things are evil. Some things need to be called out. But, before we ever call someone else out online, I think it starts with calling out the sin, hate, anger and a pathological love of division within ourselves.

And, I’m pretty sure Jesus said something similar.

Cut the Labels

peopletaketime“People take time. But in our haste, we size them up or cut them down to what we take to be a more manageable size, labeling people instead of trying to hear, understand or welcome them.”

This statement by David Dark could not be truer. Because, the truth is, people take time. It takes time to get to know them. It takes time to understand them. It takes time to learn about their complexity and their story.

Yet, rather than taking the time, we find it easier to label others. Why? Because it’s faster. Labeling someone short-circuits the distance it takes to get to know them. It allows us to cut them down to a manageable size, and allows us to distance ourselves from them. Labeling allows us get out of the hard work of getting to know someone.

The problem is that labeling people, as a Christian, isn’t our calling. Our calling is to love others. And, to truly love people means pushing past labels and to get to know them.

I know I personally struggle with this. I know that, in my haste, I label people so that I don’t have to listen to people. I might say to myself, “Well they are just a “_____”, or “Of course they would argue that they are “_____”, or “Why listen to that [insert a group of people]?”

And, my point isn’t that labeling isn’t easy – or fast. My point is that it isn’t very Christ-like. Love requires getting to know people. Love requires some time. And, people require some time.

So, I write all this for one reason: the next time you are tempted to label someone, why not take the time to actually get to know them?

There is always more Corn Pops

cornpops.pngAsher had a meltdown the other day. And, by the other day, I mean, well, a lot of days. Asher is four and just feels everything really deeply, which makes him wonderful. But, on this particular day, he had a meltdown over the fact that we run out of Corn Pops, his current favourite cereal.

And, so he cried and was really distraught that there are “no more Corn Pops!”

As any good father would, I knelt down and held him and said, “Daddy can get you more Corn Pops. Would that make you feel so much better? Daddy can buy more.” And, instantly Asher looked up and said, “Yes daddy, please can you buy more Corn Pops.” And then, because I price match, I found another box in the pantry, and Asher started running around yelling and cheering.

I bring up this little story (one that happens in various ways with all our kids throughout the week) because of one reason: As a dad, I love to give good things to my kids. If I have the ability to give them something that they love, need and lights up there day, I’m going to do it. Especially if it’s like $3 for a box of cereal.

But, here is what struck me: If I love to give good gifts to my children, why do I ever think that God, the true Father, is any different? Have you ever noticed how sometimes we feel like we need to convince God of or can’t be really honest with Him about our desires, wants or needs? That somehow we believe that God isn’t into abundant giving of all that is good and needed.

Now, of course, I’m not saying God will give us all millions – or anything close to prosperity gospel (all health and wealth). But, on the other hand or other extreme, neither is God stingy, scarce or miserly in the gifts He wants to give.

Jesus says this, “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:11, NIV).

Or, in James 1:17a (NLT), we read, “Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father.”

What I realized is that just as much as I love to give good gifts to my kids (and follow with me – it gives me GREAT JOY), I believe the same is true with God – that He loves to give to us and it gives Him GREAT JOY. He isn’t up in heaven with a spreadsheet, calculating what we deserve or what He can afford to give. God is in heaven ready and willing to give good gifts to us as His children.

I write this to remind you all of something that we should already know: God is a good Father, who loves to give good gifts to His children. So, let’s live out of that reality today – not out of scarcity, but out of one in which there are lots of Corn Pops in the pantry for all of us.

 

You are NOT a Layperson

I want to be honest and say I’d like to get rid of the word “layperson.” And, if you’ve never heard it…well, that’s good…but here is what it means: “A person without professional or specialized knowledge in a particular subject.”

At a base level, there is nothing wrong with this idea. That in some spheres or disciplines we might be a hobbyist or an amateur at something – like being an amateur filmmaker or electronics enthusiast or racing hobbyist.

The problem happens when this terminology gets infected with consumerism and spreads into the church. Because, here is what can subtly and quickly happen: We end up with two classes of Christians – the professional and the layperson. And, what can easily happen is that we expect more from the professional than the layperson, or we encourage the layperson to live vicariously through the professional.

Eugene Peterson puts it this way: “If I can be convinced that layperson designates who I am…then I am wide open-market for experts who are ready to tell me how to live my life and, in some cases, even live it for me…And so, I end up delegating the operations of my soul to the experts. I no longer deal with God myself – I’m a layperson, after all…following Jesus gives way to following Jesus-experts.”

I couldn’t agree more. This is a problem in the North American church. We are tempted to follow Jesus-experts, rather than get out into life itself and follow Jesus for ourselves.

Now, of course, this doesn’t mean we don’t need people who give up decades to studying the Bible and God. Our theologians, scholars and pastors can help us and they matter, but they can’t follow Jesus for us. We can’t delegate the core of following Jesus to experts who are trained in evangelism, knowing the Bible, hospitality or teaching. They can point us to Jesus, help us understand Jesus,  train us in the way of Jesus, but they can’t follow Jesus for us.


I write all this to remind you to not buy into the idea that you are layperson in the church. If you are a follower of Jesus, you ARE the Church. And yes, some of us have been doing it longer than others (and we should look to these people for help!), but they can’t fill our role or our calling

So, we need our models, leaders, pastors and teachers. But, let’s never let “following Jesus give way to following Jesus-experts.” Because the world needs all of us – including you.

Worship Everybody Does It

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Here is the truth…

Everybody worships something. Everybody moves toward something. Everybody has a goal that, for them, is ultimate and to which they are subservient. Even people who say, “No, I don’t worship. I’m totally independent.” In that case, what you worship is your independence. This is just the reality of life.

David Foster Wallace makes a startling claim about this in his famous commencement address at Kenyon College. And he says this not as a Christian, but as an observer of humanity…

“In the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship.”

That’s just what I said, but now read what Wallace continues to say…

“An outstanding reason for choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship…is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things – if they are where you tap real meaning in life – then you will never have enough. Never feel you have enough. It’s the truth. Worship your own body and beauty and sexual allure, and you will always feel ugly, and when time and age start to show, you will die a million deaths before they finally plant you. … Worship power and you will feel weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to keep the fear at bay. Worship your intellect – being seen as smart – and you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out.”

I couldn’t agree more. If you worship anything other than God, ultimately your desires and wants will eat you alive.

Wallace ends with this…

“The insidious thing about these forms of worship is not that they’re evil or sinful; it is that they are unconscious.”

And, this is the difficulty.

We all know living after these things aren’t healthy, but we still do it. We live a life that is unexamined and suffer the consequences. We slip into this kind of worship without ever being fully aware that that’s what you’re doing.

So, what is the solution? Well, it’s simple…

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” – Proverbs 4:23 (NIV)

Guard your heart, examine your heart, challenge what you worship and put your trust in God. Because our desires lead us.

Where is your heart leading? Set it on God and follow that. And, most of all, guard your heart against these other desires that slip in silently and set you up for difficulty. Don’t let your heart go unexamined and unguarded because that will never lead you into life.

So, what do we do? We sit and really reflect on the question, what do I worship? Don’t answer it too quickly, but do answer it. Because your life, and experiencing life, might just depend on it.

Happiness in Life’s Everyday Moments

happiness blog.png“For the happy heart, life is a continual feast.” – Proverbs 15:15

Who could disagree with that? That when we are happy, life is great – a continual feast, full and vibrant. The struggle is in finding a happy heart. The struggle is in maintaining a happy heart.

Our culture seems to impress upon us that the way to find happiness is to do great things, achieve fame or success, or to pursue anything of that nature. In essence, happiness is equated to really big moments, mountain-top experiences and big highs.

The writer of Proverbs, though, has a different take. For him, happiness isn’t always found in the big moments, but often in the regular ones, such as a word of encouragement (Proverbs 12:25), some good news (Proverbs 15:30), a smile (Proverbs 15:30) or laughter (Proverbs 17:22).

The point being, we look for happiness in the big moments, but it’s often found in the everyday moments.

And, what is interesting is that social psychology is teaching us the exact same thing. Author, Ron Friedman, puts it this way: “Small, frequent pleasures can keep us happy longer than large, infrequent ones.” Not only is that true, it’s biblical.

So, today, rather than just seeking happiness in the large, giant things, seek to find it in the small and frequent things, such as a good cup of coffee, a smile from a friend, relaxing with your kids or whatever else it may be.

Because, it will not only be good for your soul, it’ll make your life a continual feast.

Are We Looking?

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If we’re honest, at certain times in our lives God can be difficult to find. If you’ve walked with Jesus long enough, there seems to be these seasons when God is either difficult to find, elusive or seemingly absent.

There are a lot of complexities and facets to this reality and feeling. There are a lot of potential reasons and points to consider when you are in this place. And, while I don’t want to offer a simplistic or one-size-fits all explanation for this reality, a new reason why God might be difficult to find did occur to me the other day. It happened as I played hide-and-seek, with my kids.

The truth is this, when I play hide-and-seek with my kids, I hide to be found. I don’t want to win; I want them to enjoy the search, to seek, to feel joy when they’ve found me and to celebrate when they discover me.

Then it hit me, does God sometimes “hide” for this same reason? That we might search for Him? That we might find Him? That we might be stirred to action?

This thought occurred to me as I stuffed my big 6 foot 4 inch body into a cupboard and desperately hoped my kids would find me, as it was incredibly uncomfortable. And, the longer they took, the louder I got yelling, “Over here, Asher, Eden, Hudson!!”

I wonder, does God ever do this? Remove Himself so that we might seek Him? Call out to us so that we might find him? Intrigue us, draw us and ask us to move toward Him?

Now, I certainly don’t want to downplay what you are going through or to dismiss any of your current realities, especially if you’re in a season when God seems absent. This isn’t saying that anytime God seems difficult to find, this is what going on, but perhaps, maybe God hides simply to be found.

The question is then: Are we looking?