Sunday, April 29, 2012

Where are your affections?

I've become more and more aware of the battlefield in my mind. I have to constantly check myself and see where my affections lie. For the most part unfortunately, they're where they shouldn't be. I find myself focusing consistently on the wrong things. On things that damage my self-esteem, on things that fail to promote good tidings in my heart, and on things that are really just ...pointless.
All too often we worry like this. Some more than others, but I indeed find it true that our innate human nature is not to trust, but to disbelieve.
My goal and challenge to all my friends is this; discover where your affections lie and make sure they're where they should be. Ask yourself "What do I want my life to be? What am I scared of? What do I consistently worry about and how can I change my thinking? What do I believe in and how can I manifest more of it in my life and less of what i don't believe in? How can I keep my mind on the bigger picture and what is that bigger picture for me?" I think most of us believe in love. I think most of us believe in happiness and good morality. And yet I also think that most of us forget that we can not only have all of these things, but have them abundantly.
So there's my challenge to myself and to you. Make a list if you want. Do this challenge with a friend or just do it daily in your heart and mind.
And hopefully your life will become a little brighter.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Seminary if for deeper humility.

as some of my closest friends know, i've been considering going back to school to get my masters in counseling or my seminary degree. not sure which one i'll do, or if i'll even do either...but I read these thoughts today by a guy named ray ortlund that i thought i'd share. 
i am thankful for his insight.
If there’s any experience that can pull up to the surface the pride hiding down in our hearts, it’s seminary.  The very privilege of it can go to our heads.  Think about it.  What percentage of Christians over the past 2000 years have studied the Bible at the level of the original languages?  I have no idea.  But my hunch is, one percent is too high.  Studying Greek and Hebrew and biblical exegesis – with all the other majestic disciplines of a seminary education – should humble us into the dust.  What a privilege!  But if our hearts are not humbled, we will graduate from seminary in worse condition than when we began.
When I began seminary, my dad said to me, “Go through seminary on your knees.”  I did.  But I still discovered stirrings of my pride I hadn’t seen before.
I was studying under world-class scholars – Bruce Waltke in Old Testament, and others.  I worshiped the ground these godly men walked on.  Without realizing it, a new feeling began slipping into my heart.  It was this: “Hmmm.  If I become as smart as these men, whom I so admire, people will admire me the same way.  Then I will matter.  Then I will feel good about myself.”  Not that it was a conscious thought.  It was a subtle inward shift from Christ to Self.  It was justification not by trusting in Him but by leveraging my knowledge into human approval.  I starting seeing the world as my audience, and I was on stage to be noticed.  But the thing is, it was all in my head.  Everyone was displaying something of their own, hoping I would notice them too.  Everyone on the face of the earth is playing this game of self-exaltation.  It’s all wrong.  And seminary doesn’t prevent it.  Seminary can arouse it, if our hearts drift from the all-sufficiency of Jesus.
The Bible bluntly says to every seminary student, “Who sees anything different in you?  What do you have that you did not receive?” (1 Corinthians 4:7).  Seminary students should be the most grateful people on the face of the earth, because what they are receiving is the precious Word of God.  It is not their own, and it is not for self-display.  It belongs to God, and it is for Christ-display and for serving others.
I recommend that every seminary student read – and the sooner the better – Horatius Bonar’s classic Words to Winners of Souls, especially chapter four, “Ministerial Confession,” taking us back to 1651 and the repentance of the ministers of Scotland.  My dad gave me this little book the week before I left for seminary.  Reading it was eye-opening in an unforgettable way.
There is no shortcut to the personal significance every one of us rightly longs for.  Significance is not as simple as going to seminary.  It comes at the cost of deepening character.  And there is no way to go deep without humility before God.
This Scripture often comes to mind: “Receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:21).  Walk into every seminary lecture with that counsel in your heart.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

lookin forward to seein it.

Post by Don Miller:

I Like Your Christ, I Don’t Like Your Christian, Thoughts on Church Haters

All week I’ve been reflecting on themes brought up in the movie Blue Like Jazz. Today is a tough one. I’ll get hammered for this I’m sure. Still, I hope you give these thoughts and the film a chance. I’d appreciate it.
Since Blue Like Jazz came out years ago, I’ve been accused by some of being critical of Christians. To be sure, I have. But much less and much more objectively and without malice than I’m accused of. And I criticize myself much more than anybody else, I hope.
I love the church as I knew it, and I love the church even more as I’ve discovered it in the last few years (that is global, not bound by denominational walls instituted by feuding scholars). That said, I do not think the church is an elite organization that is beyond criticism. In fact, any organization that is defensive against criticism is suspect.
Would you work for a company that didn’t allow for criticism? Would a father be a good dad if he disallowed criticism? Would you want to have surgery at a hospital that rejected all forms of criticism? Then why would you want to worship through an organization that is hostile to criticism?
In my profession, I am daily criticized. I’d imagine I’ve received hundreds of blog comments, letters and @replies wishing me the worst. I get it. Criticism is hard. And not only this, churches get criticized for stuff that happened hundreds of years ago. I’d venture to say most criticism is unfounded and ill-informed. It can also be spiteful and hateful. So, I don’t want to be lumped in with the haters.
However, if the church has wronged people, we all need to admit that and apologize for it. There’s no use hiding it or covering it up or pretending we are perfect. The Catholic church’s handling of the sex-abuse cases has been disturbing. But in a way, I get it. If they admit fault, they’re going to go down hard, both financially and in global participation and attendance. Unfortunately, though, the ramifications of telling the truth shouldn’t be considered. The only thing that should be considered is obedience to God. And He wants us to tell the truth.

Rather than criticize, which I hope I’ve done little of, I want to maintain an objective view of the church. Is it perfect? No. Is it a good organization? Yes, the exploits of the church go far and wide into the world and have brought food, water, hope and Jesus to billions. Have they also brought harm? Absolutely, because the church is made up of fallen people.
I occasionally get shame-based letters and emails criticizing me for criticizing “the bride of Christ” lumping me in with men who beat women. I dismiss these accusations as well-intended but naive. Paul criticized the church, as did John and Christ Himself. We want to deify the church, or, more honestly, market the church. We shouldn’t. We should confess our sins and be open and honest about our depravity, both individually and collectively. Those who walk in the light have more, not less of their sins exposed. The very idea that those who make up the church pretend to be perfect indicates they do not walk in the light.
In the movie Blue Like Jazz that releases this Friday, the protagonist turns against the church. In fact, he protests (rather secretly and cowardishly) a local church in a way that is profane. It’s one of the scenes that almost got us an “R” rating. This will no doubt earn the film some criticism from the camp that does not walk in the light. But let me offer a few caveats before things get heated:
1. When people turn against the church, they are having a strong emotional response to having been hurt. The most harmful thing we can do to somebody who has been hurt is to invalidate their pain. The most kind thing we can do is to apologize and reach out in kindness.
2. In the film there is only one shady Christian character. The rest of the Christians turn the other cheek, perform acts of Justice, forgive their oppressors and are down-right heroic. Those who think this is an anti-church movie aren’t paying attention and, unfortunately, aren’t being objective. I hope people can view these scenes objectively.
3. Ultimately, Don finds God, not religion. Religious people will want God represented through a church (and lets face it, through their kind of church) but God’s not such a control freak. People find God and God finds them with and without organized religion. He is in control, we aren’t. If this is unsettling to you, this will be a difficult film. If it’s interesting or inspiring (that you don’t have to obey rules or jump through hoops to interact with God) the film will be comforting.
Regardless, the film opens this Friday. It’s too late to change anything. Let’s hope it starts some great conversation.

Saturday, April 7, 2012


Great thoughts on lying by Don Miller. 

I’ve only had two friends (that I know about) who’ve looked me in the eye and told me lies. Both of them were trying to cover up mistakes. I certainly had grace for their mistakes, but I’ve wondered looking back if I didn’t have grace for their lies. Neither of these two friends are in contact anymore. We don’t talk. Being in a relationship with somebody who lies is tough. It’s not that you don’t love them or care about them, it’s just that you can’t connect. Without trust, there’s no relationship.
Henry Cloud and John Townsend say that people lie for one of two reasons. The first is out of shame or fear. Somebody may believe they won’t be accepted if they tell the truth about who they are, so they lie. (You can see how religious communities that use shame and fear to motivate might increase a person’s temptation to lie, then.) People who lie for this reason can get better and learn to tell the truth. Until they do, however, it’s impossible to connect with them, all the same. The second kind of liar is less fortunate. Some people lie simply because they are selfish. These liars are pathological. They will lie even when it would be easier to tell the truth. Cloud and Townsend warn that we need to stay away from these people. Personally, I think people like this are pretty rare, but I agree, we simply can’t depend on them emotionally or practically.
Still I wonder if people who lie understand what they’re doing. I think some people want grace and certainly they can get grace, but when we lie, we make the people we are lying to feel badly about the relationships and about themselves. We like people who make us feel respected, cared about and honored. Lying to somebody communicates the opposite.
Here are the things that lies did to my two relationships:
  1. • When my friends lied, I felt disrespected and unimportant. They didn’t seem to care about me or trust me enough to tell the truth. This made me feel bad about myself, as though I were not important or trustworthy enough to be told the truth.
  2. • When I found out the extent of one of the lies, I felt like a fool. Technically, my friend didn’t really lie. She just told me “part” of the truth. It was as though she were testing out whether she was safe to be vulnerable. (She told many other lies, but this was just one of them.) But it backfired. When I found out things were worse than she’d made them seem, I felt tricked and deceived. Again, without meaning to, she’d made me feel bad about myself because I felt like somebody who could be conned.
  3. • I thought less of my friends. I knew they were willing to “cheat” in relationships. When we lie, we are stealing social commodity without having earned it. People can lie their way into power, and in one instance with a friend, she lied her way into moral superiority. Still, none of the authority or moral superiority (such a thing exists, and while it’s misused, it’s not a bad thing not unlike intellectual superiority or athletic superiority. It just is. An appropriate use of those two examples of superiority might be to lead a team or teach a class.)
  4. • I felt sad and lonely. When we think we are getting to know somebody, we are giving them parts of our hearts. But when they lie, we know they’ve actually held back their hearts while we’ve been giving them ours. This made me feel lonely and dumb.
  5. • I felt like I couldn’t trust them. The only thing more important than love in a relationship is trust. Trust is the soil love grows in. If there’s not trust, there’s no relationship. When my friends lied, our trust died. As much as I wanted to forgive them, and feel like I did and have, interacting with them was no longer the same. I doubted much of what they said. Sadly, I think both of them began to tell more and more of the truth. But it didn’t matter. Once trust is broken, it’s extremely hard to rebuild.
  6. • If they didn’t confess (and in one relationship lied in their confession) I felt like they didn’t care enough about me to come clean and make things right. They were still thinking of themselves.
Here’s what didn’t happen. I didn’t think less of them, and while I was angry, I wasn’t angry because I thought they were a bad person. The person who lied probably assumed I felt such things, but I didn’t. What really happened was I felt terrible about myself and when somebody makes us feel bad about ourselves, we tend to get hurt and move away.
To be sure, somebody who lies has a lot of other stuff going on and it’s not so easy to come clean. For a liar to change, they need a lot of help. Lying is manipulation, so if a person is a manipulator and gets caught lying, they are most likely going to keep manipulating. They may tell more lies to cover their lies, or manipulate by playing the victim. They may try to find things other people have done that they see as worse and try to make people focus on that. What they will have a hard time doing is facing the truth (which would be the easiest way out of their dilemma. It’s just that they don’t know how to do it. (They’re survivors, scrappers and have learned to cheat to stay alive socially.)

If you’ve lied in a relationship, though, and are truly wanting to LEARN to live on the up and up, what can you do? Well, there’s plenty. Life isn’t over yet. Here’s some places to start:
• Confess. And don’t half confess (just another lie) but actually confess. This may take some time for you. You may have to sit down with a pen and paper and write it all down. Your mind will want to lie, but you have to tame your mind. It may take you some time to even understand what the truth really is. You’re going to feel ashamed and at risk, but you have to go there anyway. People are much more kind and forgiving than you think. And if they’re not, you should confess and find people who are more safe.
• Accept the consequences. You’re going to have to pay for your lies. People will not and should not trust you as much as they did before. However, getting caught in a lie and confessing a lie are two different things. The former will cost you a bit, but you can rebuild quickly. The latter will cost you everything. Another thing to consider is that the truth might have lost you a small battle, but you’d have won the war because in the long run people would have trusted you. From here on out, be willing to suffer the slight, daily consequences of telling the truth. You’d be surprised at how much less tension there is in your life when you walk openly and honestly.
• Don’t expect the relationship to be the same, but if the person doesn’t forgive you, just know you can move on. You’ve confessed and hopefully apologized and you aren’t beholden to them anymore. They need to wrestle with forgiving you and that’s now their burden. It’s an unfair burden, but we all have to face such things.
• Don’t lie anymore. It’s not important that everybody like you or approve of you. Allow people to get used to who you are. Telling the truth may mean you don’t get to be in control anymore or that people won’t like you as much. That’s fine. At least they are interacting with the real you. The deep connections you’ll make from telling the truth are worth it.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

a huge reason why i'm at all strong today is because of my friends.
if you don't have friends in your life that encourage, challenge, and push you to be a better person, then.......................(cricket, cricket)...
i'm just sayin.