Excuse Me, But Your Real Character Is Showing

The things you choose to do reflect your character. It is that simple. In fact, you don’t need any fancy-shmancy personality test. The cheapest personality test in the world is on both sides of your nose. Yup, it’s your eyes. If you want to know about a person’s character and personality, watch what they do, because what you do reflects who you are.

We find an easy illustration of this in the person of Jesus. We see that he took time to be around outcasts and misfits and take care of their needs. His behavior reveals that he is compassionate. We see that he went undeservedly to the cross so that we would not have to. His behavior reveals that he is self-giving and self-sacrificing. The hard part comes when we start honestly looking at our own character. People can see your character by the things they see you do. That could be good or bad, depending on what your character is like. If you want to improve your character, improve your actions.

There’s a biblical story that illustrates this principle. You can read it in 1 Samuel 25. Abigail is the wife of Nabal, a wealthy oaf who lived in Maon, sheep-rearing country (though described as wilderness). She and her husband are total contrasts to each other – completely mismatched. She is a woman of beauty and good sense. He is not. The Hebrew word nabal, often translated as “fool,” designates not a harmless simpleton, but rather a vicious, materialistic, and egocentric misfit. Other passages present the nabal as an embarrassment to his father (Prov. 17:21), a glutton (Prov. 30:22), a hoarder (Jer. 17:11), and even an atheist (Ps 14:1; 53:1).BiffThink of it like Biff from Back to the Future.

Most significant for our story today is Isaiah 32:6, in which the refusal to feed the hungry and give drink to the thirsty, precisely the sin of Nabal in 1 Samuel 25:6, is listed among the characteristics of a nabal. The story-teller wants us to know from the start what this guy is like.

I think we all know or have known people who’s actions really reveal their character. Now, we already know what Nabal’s character is like – the story tells us. But we see that his actions match up to the description of his character. His character is described the way it is because of his actions.

In the biblical story, as David and his men are traveling the countryside, he and his men come across Nabal’s men and David looks after them. Later on, David asks Nabal to repay the favor by showing hospitality in food and drink. David’s offer to Nabal seems to be negation with invitation into covenant. David is on the run from King Saul, who is trying to hunt down David in order to kill him. David may be trying to win support and provisions from several local farmers with his assistance and protection. Nabal refuses.

David’s claim that he has earned a share in Nabal’s provisions because he guarded the latter’s men and flocks is, in fact, a challenge to Nabal’s political authority, another way of saying that Nabal, despite his wealth and his marriage, does not control Judah or even his immediate territory. Nabal recognizes David’s words for what they are, the words of a servant breaking away from his master. Not to know David or even Jesse is to refuse them diplomatic recognition. In short, Nabal declares from the start his refusal to see in David anything other than a thief, thug, and rebel. Ironically, Nabal says David is a disloyal servant, but he’s setting up the behavior of his own servants who break away, telling their mistress of her husband’s stupidity and ethical emptiness.

When David hears what Nabal said he sort of flies off the handle. “Strap on your swords! No man in the house is to remain alive!” David’s response to Nabal is rooted in the categories of shame and honor. Nabal has shamed David rather than treat him with honor. The only way for David to regain his honor and remove the shame is to take it by force. Abigail realizes that her husband’s insult to David puts the whole household in jeopardy, so she takes it upon herself to take gifts and rations to David and his men.

The structure of her plea to David consists of two tiers. First, Abigail assures David that the vengeance of YHWH will visit Nabal if only David restrains himself from usurping the divine prerogative, and she offers the present as a token of her confidence in the Tightness of David’s cause (vv 25-27). Next she speaks of YHWH’s commitment to his chosen servant, one that vouchsafes to him a security which should enable him to overlook this temporary irritation, which must in no case impede David’s ascent to the throne. David sees the wisdom of her argument and backs down from his attack.

When Abigail returns home, Nabal is celebrating like a king. Here’s an interesting thing – Abigail has just affirmed that David is the God-anointed one who will take the throne. But back at the ranch, Nabal is the one acting like a king. It’s a classic conflict between wisdom and foolishness. Wisdom is realizing what God is doing and getting behind it. Foolishness is puffing yourself up and thinking you’re hot stuff.

Abigail is the personification of wisdom. Nabal is the personification of foolishness. So she waits until he has sobered up to tell him what happened with David. And when she tells him about her encounter, he has some sort of stroke or attack and becomes like stone. Ten days later, Yahweh takes his life.

It seems strange that David acts so quickly to take Abigail for a wife. There are probably political motivations that underlie the scene. To marry the wife or concubine of a ruler was to make a bid for his status and power. This was the story of Oedipus Rex. Oedipus kills the king on the road. Later on, he marries the king’s wife and takes the throne. This was true even as late as Shakespeare’s day. The whole set up of Hamlet is that Hamlet’s father, the king, is killed by Hamlet’s uncle, who then marries Hamlet’s mother and becomes king. David marries Abigail and secures her a new social position and estate. But he also gets something out of the marriage. Nabal was a Calebite, a necessary part of being ruler in Hebron. David’s marriage to Nabal’s wife was the pivotal move in his ascent to kingship at Hebron. David takes over Nabal’s land, his possessions, and his right to lead in Nabal’s place. Abigail is a fantastic prize that set’s David up for his future kingship.

The David of chapter 25 is a man who kills for a grudge. The episode with Abigail and Nabal is the very first revelation of evil in David’s character. He can kill. This time he stops short. But the cloud that chapter 25 raises continues to darken our perception of David’s character. By the time we get to 2 Samuel we find David killing an innocent and righteous man just to take the man’s wife!

The end of the story notes that Abigail is not the only woman married to David. In fact, David has another wife, Ahinoam. Only one other person in the Hebrew Bible bears her name, and she, amazingly enough, is a contemporary of David’s. In fact, her husband is King Saul (1 Sam 14:50)! Could it be that David swaggered into Hebron with the wife of a Calebite chieftain on one arm and that of the Israelite king on the other? A remark of Nathan’s to David suggests that there was but one Ahinoam, wife of Saul, then of David, “I gave you the household of your lord and the wives of your lord in your bosom, and I gave you the Houses of Israel and Judah. A little longer, and I would have given you more like these” (2 Sam 12:8). Nathan alludes to David’s marriage to Saul’s wives, as if it were well-known. The suspicion grows that v.43 and v.44 are connected by more than a similarity in subject matter. Saul’s action in v.44 is a quid pro quo to David’s in v.43. He deprived David of Michal when David asserted his right to the throne through marriage with Ahinoam.

The story of Abigail in 1 Samuel 25 precedes the story of David and Bathsheba chronologically, and in some ways it is a mirror image of it. First of all, Bathsheba’s husband Uriah is a good man while Abigail’s is quite repulsive and evil. Despite Uriah’s goodness, Bathsheba apparently does nothing (or can’t do anything) to save him. Abigail, on the other hand, resorts to elaborate measures to save her husband. Secondly, the story of Bathsheba capitalizes on illicit sex. This is completely absent in the Abigail story. Although David is obviously attracted to Abigail, as witnessed by the speed with which he married her when she becomes widowed, there is no hint of any unseemly behavior between the two, although there are opportunities. Finally, in the Bathsheba story David commits murder because of a woman. In the Abigail story David, as he himself recognizes, David refrains from committing murder because of a woman.

We are the sum total of all that we do, i.e. what we do is who we are. Abigail reveals herself to be wise and virtuous. Nabal reveals himself to be an evil, spiteful man. David reveals himself to be a man with a short fuse who is easily moved by a woman. But we are no different. Our own actions reveal our character. This is true because as adults we make deliberate choices in our actions. Therefore, our actions describe our inner selves, what sacrifices we’re willing to make, what evil we’re willing to carry out or tolerate. Our actions are the blueprint of our character.  blueprint-964629_1920

We need seriously to ask what we want our character to look like. Then we need to make sure that our actions reflect the character we say we want. What actions are we doing to reveal that character? It’s time to take serious account of our character; what it is and what we want it to be. And then, after taking account, we need to make sure our actions line up.

God’s Big 10: Let’s Talk About Sex

pair-97059_1920Let’s talk about sex, baby. Let’s talk about you and me….aaaaand that’s enough of quoting that song. Seriously, though, our culture is obsessed with sex. Many people seem to have an attitude that anything goes as long as you are not physically hurting someone else. After all, who are we to tell others how to live?

I don’t think God is too concerned about hurting feelings. He’s not giving us 10 suggestions. That’s more of Dr. Phil’s lane. God’s giving us the commandments that are to be foundational for our lives, and that includes human sexuality. So we get to the 7th commandment:

You shall not commit adultery.

One line!

It’s just one sentence. I wish it were that simple. I wish we could say, “Here’s the word for today. Be on your way.” It SEEMS self-explanatory. We can open the Bible, read the sentence, and say, “Huh! I didn’t know that. Now I’ll go change the way I live!”

But real life doesn’t work that way, does it?

While the Old Testament was about the behavior and monitoring the actions of people (like committing adultery), the New Testament is about the heart BEHIND the behavior. So once again we turn to the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away.eye-211610_1920 It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.

Man, Jesus doesn’t pull punches! It’s not just about the bad behavior, but everything that leads UP to the behavior in the first place. He would seem to be pretty serious about this topic. Why is it so important to catch lust early and to refuse to tolerate it? I think there are some reasons

First, affairs don’t just happen to you. It’s not something you fall into, no matter what garbage Hollywood tries to show us. You don’t go walking down the street and then, BAM, you’re in an affair. “WHY IS THIS HAPPENING TO ME?!?”

No, they start long before that. Where our eyes lead our hearts will follow. And just as we build up a tolerance to substances, we can build up a tolerance to adulterous situations. It’s just a look, a glance. It’s just a little innocent flirtation. It was just a long hug….

Nobody jumps into bed with another married person in one day. If we don’t keep ourselves in check, we start to go down the wrong road. We don’t even have to go looking for it – it seeks us out. It finds us!

If you want to see how our culture has become numb to lust over the years, just look at department store catalogs. Way back in the day, underwear and lingerie sections of the catalog would simply have the picture of the clothing lying on the table. You see it, but it was not appropriate to see it on a person.head-1069140_1280 Now catalogs don’t just show the underwear on people, but the editors try to make them look as tantalizing as possible.

But I’m pretty sure if I put on the boxer briefs the guy in the photo has I won’t suddenly have 6-pack abs. Are they trying to sell me on the underwear or on the image that goes with it?

How prevalent is this problem in our society? It’s so prevalent that Playboy Magazine has made a move to remove nudity from its pages. It’s no longer a nudie mag. Why? Because you can find the same content (and worse) online for free. So Playboy is shifting its publishing priorities to keep up with a sexually bankrupt culture.

The problem of lust doesn’t apply only to men. Women are also susceptible to lustful thoughts. Stereotypes aren’t always accurate, but men seem to be more visually oriented and women seem to be more imaginatively oriented when it comes to lust. For men, lust tends to accompany images (magazines, websites, videos, etc.). For women, lust tends to accompany things like romance novels and stories! Their imaginations can take them to far off lands with Ricardo. Romance stories about teenage vampires or 50 Shades of Grey drive women’s lust.

God’s design for healthy sexuality, in behavior AND thought, is between a man and the woman he is married to. Anything outside of that falls outside of God’s intended design for sexuality. It’s easy to make sure our behavior is right but be twisted inside. That’s why Jesus says our inside needs to match the outside. It’s not just about behavior but the thoughts that no one else can see.

In our culture we like to ask the question, “How far can I go?” But that’s the wrong question. The real question is, “How holy can I be?” Christian liberty allows us to do a variety of things while our conscience is still clear. But be clear – liberty does not give us permission to engage in lustful behavior, no matter how we try to justify it.

“It’s not porn, it’s just the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition.”

Or

“It’s not lust, I’m just reading the novel and fantasizing about someone doing that to me and taking me away from here.”

Any sexuality that moves beyond the husband/wife relationships is not appropriate.

Look at Samson. He was a strong dude physically. He was a weak dude morally. He was like Superman. Superman is impervious to everything EXCEPT kryptonite. Samson is impervious to everything except women. They are his weakness. This isn’t a condemnation on women. This is condemnation on the lust within Samson that brings about his own downfall.

His eyes find the wrong woman. His heart follows.

Broken heart
Image courtesy of samuiblue at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Before you know it, his eyes have led him into a series of jacked up relationships, and his lust ends up bringing about his own death. All because he cannot control his eyes. So how do we protect ourselves?

Job says, “I have made a covenant with my eyes that I have not looked upon another woman.” It starts in the heart long before it ends up in the bed. Where our eyes wander our hearts follow.

Where are your eyes? Where is your heart?

Stop wondering about how far you can go as a Christian. Are you doing everything you can to protect yourself, your eyes, and your heart?

 

Questions for Reflection

  • Do you desire to be a faithful person – faithful to God and faithful to your partner (or potential future partner)?
  • What are you willing to do to fight lust in your life?

I Think Your Face is Not So Ugly

I recently saw a short video about compliments that are not related to physical appearance. Among them were:

1. I admire your confidence.squint-518072_1920
2. You’re empowering.
3. Your positive energy is infectious.
4. You’re intelligent.
5. You’re a light.
6. You’re so funny.
7. You have a beautiful soul.
8. You inspire me to work hard.
9. You’re so talented.
10. Your passion is contagious.
11. I can always depend on you.
12. I’m happy you exist.

No, they’re not all winners, but I think the folks who put the list together were trying to make a point that it is possible to compliment someone without falling into the usual physical features that we find attractive.
While there is more to people than the outward appearance, physical features are the go-to method of evaluating everything. Our sight tends to be the sense that is first engaged in any inter-personal connection, so of course that will be our default method of complimenting someone. And our sense of sight not only guides our compliments of others, it also regulates how we behave towards.

Think about it.

When you see you’re about to interact with a child you put on a certain persona. When you see a spouse you put on another persona. When you see your boss walking up you have an entirely different persona. Culture itself primes us to behave differently around celebrities than around “mere mortals.” Nobody goes ga-ga when I walk into a room, but when a pop star does – WATCH OUT! The place goes berserk

But Jesus wasn’t like that. Not at all. In fact, he was even complimented on his ability NOT to be like that:

And they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone’s opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances. (Matthew 22:16)

Jesus said what he had to say regardless of the identity of the person creepy-157657_1280standing before him. That’s integrity. Can you imagine a world where we lived with that kind of integrity? Can you imagine a place where we behaved the same way I the presence of the high-and-mighty and the low-and-humble?

I have a hard time imagining it – probably because I also have my own fair share of personas for myriad situations. But I think that should be our goal. Forget what culture says about celebrity and popularity. Forget about human standards of power and importance. Let’s be authentic in every circumstance.

That’s how Jesus did it.

Hello – The Gospel of Adele

hand-977641_1280It’s difficult to go anywhere and not hear Adele. She’s everywhere. The other night my wife and I saw a Target commercial that was simply 60 seconds of the newest Adele music video. Her new hit that’s taking the world by storm is “Hello.”

Hello from the other side
I must’ve called a thousand times
To tell you I’m sorry, for everything that I’ve done
But when I call you never seem to be home

Hello from the outside
At least I can say that I’ve tried
To tell you I’m sorry, for breaking your heart
But it don’t matter, it clearly doesn’t tear you apart anymore

The lyrics are rather sad. woman-1006102_1920They are about loss. They are about heartache. They are about a broken relationship. They are about missed opportunities. Those themes resonate with all of us, for we’ve all experienced them in our own way.

In fact, they are actually themes that Jesus speaks to. Throughout the Bible, God demonstrates that his primary passion when it comes to humanity is restoration. From the Garden of Eden to the Book of Revelation, God is in the process of restoring humanity to himself.

But God ALSO cares about restoration when it comes to human relationships! Jesus says:

If you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift. (Matthew 5:23-24)

Later on Jesus says:

If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother… (Matthew 18:15)

While the second passage is about a Christian model for handling disputes and conflict, these passages show us the basic principle that restoration of broken human relationships matters to Jesus. Instead of letting brokenness win the day, Jesus calls us to be proactive in fixing broken relationships. Integral in the process of restoration is forgiveness, which the Apostle Paul talks about:

Be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ. (Ephesians 4:32)

How we treat each other is important to God. Human relationships are important to God. And that means that we cannot be passive when things are broken. Sorry, Adele, but it’s not enough to wait and call from the other side – to apologize long after the fact.

Be active in reconciling and repairing relationships before it’s too late and the damage is too great.

 

The Big 10: Swear to God

Welcome back to our journey through the 10 Commandments! We’ve already looked at the first two commandments. Now God continues with the 3rd commandment.

“You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.

How many of you have ever been taught that the commandment means “Don’t have a potty mouth” swearingand don’t swear and curse. But it’s not about profanity. It’s about making oaths and promises.

At some point, most of us have been lied to by someone. Sometimes the liar declares with total conviction that he’s telling the truth. Have you been in a situation like that? You don’t believe the story and they tell you, “SWEAR TO GOD!” In the military, Sailor’s stories often start with, “I s*** you not.” Military member’s stories are less believable than any other stories – maybe only 20%!

Just because someone says, “Swear to God!” doesn’t mean that their words are going to be true. They can say that and still tell you lies. I asked some people about jobs that have reputations for being filled with liars: lawyers, contractors, politicians… It’s impossible to go through an election season without hearing both sides declaring the other guy is a liar! “He’s a lying lying-pants.”

I genuinely believe that most politicians are not trying to deceive the public. I think that they hear and believe spin and then repeat bad info without ever hearing the truth. Then they sully their name with “lies.”

Dale Carnegie talks about the power of the name. Our names are the most important word in our language. If you have an unusual name or a name that’s spelled or pronounced oddly, how do you respond when people say it incorrectly? Or when people are writing your name and misspell it? Like having the last name Linzey with no “d” and no “s.” Or when telemarketers call for my wife…

When I was in Chaplain School we had a Nigerian national whose name was 6 syllables long . Chaplains and Chaplain Assistants would approach him, look at his name, and resort to simply calling him “Chaplain O.” They would never learn how to say his name. In his culture it was an insult.Name He took it as an insult every time someone refused to learn his name, so I took it upon myself to learn his name and the proper pronunciation. When I said it his eyes got wide and his jaw dropped open.

The name of God is more important. God is saying, “Don’t take my name lightly. Don’t think you can throw my name around in your lying and in your declarations. My name is not cheap. My name is not dirt – don’t treat it as such. My name is holy. My name is sacred.”

He’s saying, “Don’t use my name to add weight to your words.” That’s what oaths are all about. It saying that our words alone are not trustworthy, so we give them added weight. “I swear….” If that’s not enough we’ll swear on the Holy Bible. As though throwing God into the mix will increase the truthfulness. Have you ever heard, “Swear on a stack of Bibles!” As though each Bible increases the truthfulness of your statements. If we have to swear on a stack of Bibles to convince people, what does that say about all of the other words that come out of our mouths?

It tells me that we’re untrustworthy people. It tells me that people think we’re full of it – that people think we’re habitual liars unless we swear on a stack of Bibles. Don’t use God’s name. It really comes down to our character and our honor. Deuteronomy 25:13-16 says:

Do not have two differing weights in your bag—one heavy, one light. Do not have two differing measures in your house—one large, one small. You must have accurate and honest weights and measures, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you. For the Lord your God detests anyone who does these things, anyone who deals dishonestly.

The scales were used to buy things. Some shop owners would put bogus weights on the scales to make the cost seem greater than it should be. But God is calling us to live a life that is so sparkly that resonates with honesty in every fiber that nobody EVER requires us to swear any kind of oath.

Even kids learn early on: “Do you pinky-swear?” Why the pinky? pinky-swearWhy not the thumb? Who knows. What about “Scout’s honor”? Is if my credibility as a Scout gives my words MORE weight than normal. Why do we swear? To give our words weight. Even the Apostle Peter, when being accused of being a follower of Jesus, swore that he wasn’t part of Jesus’s crowd (Matthew 26:72; Mark 14:71).

We are people who will swear false oaths to protect ourselves from trouble. Sometimes we do it to manipulate others (used car salesmen, anyone?). We make all sorts of oaths, but it all comes down to adding credibility to our words because we feel that what we’re saying isn’t trustworthy enough. It’s a problem when we feel we have to call God in to lend weight to what we’re saying.

Integrity matters. Character matters. Why? 1) God is a person of integrity and character, so we need to be. 2) Relationships thrive on honesty and integrity but shrivel up and die without it. In marriage, it means that your spouse believes your behavior when you’re by yourself is the exact same as it would be if he/she were right beside you. That’s integrity. Honesty and integrity breeds trust.

People will never have to wonder or question our words when we live lives of integrity and honesty. How do we live swear-free lives (not profanity, but integrity)? It comes down to a yes/no lifestyle. Jesus says in Matthew 5:33-37:

Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’ But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.

Jesus says don’t try to back up your words with something stronger. You’re saying that you’re not normally trustworthy, so you’re bringing in your big guns. Jesus says it’s not supposed to be that way. We’re supposed to live lives of honesty and integrity that does not throw around God’s name lightly. No oaths necessary. You should know that my character backs up my words.

I want to be known as a person of honesty and integrity. This world trains us to gloss over the truth. We are okay with “partial truths” and “white lies.” We train ourselves to be dishonest. We must start living a yes/no lifestyle. Forget about oath-making, just live honestly. “Do what you say you’re going to do, when you say you’re going to it, to an agreed upon standard.”

Practice being honest in the little things. Practice being honest in the big things. No promises and oaths needed – we just live as people of our words in everything we say and do. When we become people of integrity, people will notice. They will take our words seriously. Don’t misuse the name of the Lord. Instead, live a life of honesty, regardless of the consequences. Let us be trustworthy people.

Questions for Reflection

  • Am I a person of integrity?
  • Can people trust my words or do I need to add weight to convince people?

I’m Not Judging You, Jesus Is

This past week my wife and I were watching an interview with a celebrity when the interview asked about how she wanted religious people to respond to her when she was clearly living a life that conflicted with biblical values (granted, as read from a conservative Christian point of view).

The celebrity noted that she just wanted to be left to live her life without feeling judged by Christians.judging

There it is. That’s the kicker. What non-Christians really want from Christians is not to feel judged for who they are and what they do. Sounds simple enough, sure, but it’s an impossibility.

You see, the judging doesn’t come from people. The judging comes from the Bible. Yes, it might be communicated by people. Some do a better job at biting their tongues and not speaking the judgment, but the judgment originates with God, not with humanity.

People are quick to bring up Matthew 7:1 ~

“Stop judging, that you may not be judged.”

But they ignore the rest of the passage. Matthew 7:2 says,

“For as you judge. So will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you.”

Then in Matthew 7:5 Jesus says,

“Remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you sill see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye.”

These passages are not telling Christians to avoid judging. They are telling us to take care of our own lives before trying to deal with issues in the lives of others. Truth be told, the Bible DOES judge. It’s filled with stories of good and bad character examples. It’s filled with lists of sins to avoid and qualities to embrace.

It is impossible to be a follower of Jesus and avoid feeling judged on our behavior. You should just shut the Bible and toss it in the trash. If you’re looking for a religion that lets people do what they want without any judgment, keep on looking – Christianity isn’t for you.

As for the rest of us who are Christians, while God is the one who passes judgment and tells us about it through the Bible, we CAN exercise discretion and wisdom in how we talk about judgment to people. Non-Christians typically don’t want to be hit upside the head with talk about judgment. Usually that kind of talk works best when you have a relationship with someone and, through conversation, they give you an “open door” – a green light to talk about the Bible and about faith.

We can go a long way in improving the relationship between Christianity and the world if we would understand that God DOES judge but that we don’t always have to shout it from the rooftops.

You know, we can be shrewd as serpents yet innocent as doves. I think I read that somewhere once.

I Wish the Pope Would Start Behaving Like a Christian

Pope FrancisThis guy.

Who does he think he is? I mean, he’s supposed to be the spiritual leader of millions of Catholics but his behavior doesn’t line up very well with American Christianity.

Surely you’ve heard about it.

He talks about climate change and being caretakers of God’s creation.

He talks about caring for the poor and the neglected.

He has even washed the feet of prisoners.

Clearly he needs to work on his Christian behavior, because American Christians just won’t tolerate this kind of Communist, liberal, Jesus-esque behavior. Give us good ol’ boy Christians who go for the photo op with persecuted county clerks. Give us Christians who know what it’s like to work your way up from nothing – to pull yourself up by the bootstraps. This is the kind of faith we can get behind.

And yet…

  • The earth is the Lords and all it holds, the world and those who dwell in it. For he founded it on the seas, established it over the rivers. (Psalm 24:1-2)
  • While Jesus was at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat with Jesus and his disciples. The Pharisees saw this and asked, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” He heard this and said, “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do.” (Matthew 9:10-12)
  • Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to care for the orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained by the world. (James 1:27)
  • If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,” but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it? (James 2:15-16)

Perhaps the Pope is doing something right after all.

We Can’t Talk About This Sin…

Once upon a time the church talked about it. It was even considered one of the seven deadly sins.

Yes, I’m talking about gluttony. Junk Food

The dictionary defines it as greedy excess or indulgence, especially when it comes to food and drink. No, this blog post isn’t about healthy living and nutrition. I’m actually very fond of junk food. I’ve hardly come across any ice cream flavors that I wouldn’t eat. My favorite candy is Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, followed closely by Twix. I’m also a big fan of meat lovers pizza and bacon cheeseburgers.

No, I’m not going to talk about proper nutrition. Ultimately, I guess, I’m talking about self-control (or the lack thereof). Because in my own life gluttony and self-control are inextricably linked.

This topic has been on my mind recently – I’ve been hit from multiple sides. My wife shared an article with me about 9 sins the church is okay with now (when it didn’t use to be). On the MSN homepage I saw an article about foods you should never eat – ever! On top of that, add in the very public mess with the hack and release of users of the Ashley Madison website designed to help people looking to commit adultery (why can’t people be satisfied with their spouses?).

So I don’t really want to write about food, but self-control. It seems to me that the lack of self-control is actually at the heart of many of the sins humanity wrestles with. But we don’t like self-control. Shoot – we don’t like ANY control. We prefer to live like my 8 year old, who bristles any time she is told that she can’t have her way right now. That part of our humanity seems to stick with us even as adults.

The problem is that self-control seems to be a REALLY big deal to God. The Bible has multiple passages relating to self-control:

– A fool always loses his temper, But a wise man holds it back. (Proverbs 29:11)
– But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)
– Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. (2 Peter 1:5-9)

There are more, but you get the idea. Self-control seems to be one of the characteristics of God that we are supposed to embody ourselves. Can you even imagine a world where we demonstrated self-control consistently?

I will confess that I struggle with self-control. Self Control For me one area where my lack of self-control manifests is in my eating.

“Oh, here we go, Chris. We KNEW you were going to bring it around to health and fitness.”

No, I’m not really going to spend a ton of time there. But I do confess that it’s a personal struggle. I’ve had to find tools the help me combat my own weakness – and even with good tools I have a hard time. A book I read once (for the life of me I can’t remember the name) in seminary asked how pastors can possible hope to preach about self-control as a godly virtue when so many pastors are obese. It was personally convicting.

Perhaps food isn’t an area where you struggle, but the lack of self-control can hit us in so many different areas of life. If you stopped to think about your life, you might be able to pinpoint how your spiritual life (and perhaps even your physical or mental life) could benefit from greater self-control.

If we understand what the Bible says about self-control and believe that the Bible ought to be the standard for Christian life and thought, then perhaps we ought to examine how we can implement self-control more. For me it’s how I eat. And my anger triggers and responses to my wife and kids. And…

Geezy-Pete, I’ve got some work to do.

How about you?

Subway, Jared Fogle, and Sex Trafficking

You have to be living under a rock if you haven’t heard the news about Jared Fogle,Jared Fogle the formerly obese man who dropped a ton of weight by eating only Subway sandwiches who was then hired by Subway to be a spokesperson for the sandwich chain who was investigated for possession of child pornography who, it turns out, did a lot more than simply posses the material.

This whole case has brought two major thoughts to my mind.

1. He was a spokesman for a sandwich chain! I’m rather frustrated by the people who are treating this as a terrible fall from grace. Turns out the sandwich dude was a real scumbag. He was never hired to be a beacon of morality and virtue in a dark and dreary land. He was obese. He dropped a bunch of weight. I cannot believe the level of celebrity afforded this guy.

2. The REAL tragedy and story is revolves around human trafficking. If Jared’s case does anything, please let it point to the problems this world faces when it comes to human trafficking, Human Trafficking one of the fastest and most lucrative criminal enterprises in the world today.

Whether it be for sex or manual labor, human trafficking now generates over $32 billion a year.

$32.

Billion.

Let Jared point to this travesty. His trips to New York trying to find 14 year old prostitutes isn’t about his own issues. There’s a bigger problem – the 14 year old trapped in prostitution.

No 13 year old wakes up and says, “You know what I wanna do next year? I want to be a prostitute.”

There is no country in the world that isn’t touched by human trafficking in some way. This is not right. This must change. We cannot treat people like this.

This blog is about helping turn the Bible into behavior. So let’s be clear on this.

The Bible is quite clear that humanity, all humanity, bears the Imago Dei – the Image of God. This means that every single human being on earth has some intrinsic value that goes beyond what we say and do or even how we behave. While some of us behave poorly, we all bear the Image of God. We all have a measure of worth and can be redeemed.

When we abuse and mistreat others we are not simply treating people poorly – we are abusing the Image of God. The Bible makes clear that God created us and knew us from before our birth. Human trafficking messes with what God has designed, created, and has known before taking a single breath.

Okay, great. I think every decent person will agree that human trafficking violates God’s creation.

But let’s take it a step further.

The Bible also tells us to be people who love and pursue justice. JusticeWhen it comes to human trafficking, it’s not enough to read stories about people like Jared and simply shake our heads. We ought to be pursuing justice for the victims of human trafficking and seeking to put an end to future trafficking.

This is the only course of action Christians should find acceptable. We cannot be passive about it.

– You can support organizations that rescue people from slavery.
– You can keep your eyes open for possible situations around you and report it when you see it.
– You can educate others about the worldwide problem that is human trafficking.
– You can go to http://traffickingresourcecenter.org/ to get more info about this human travesty.

If you or someone you know is a victim of human trafficking you can call right now 1-888-373-7888 and get help.

So please – let’s take the focus off of Jared and put it on to a problem we can do something about.

For the victims’ sake.

For God’s sake, people.

Target Wants to Sissify Your Boys (but so does Jesus)!

Target made a BUNCH of people angry last week when removing gender-based labels in some of its departments. TargetAnd when I say a bunch of people I’m referring to people who would most likely self-identify as Conservative American Christians.

Social media lit up with many people blasting Target and accusing them of things like trying to subvert moral and decent society. Others accused Target of caving to the LGBTQ agenda.

Of course there is always the stand-by “sissification” argument. Any time the liberals get their way they end up contributing to the sissification of good, decent, conservative way of life.

  • You’re taking away our guns – sissification.
  • You’re making worship music in church about feelings and emotions – sissifcation.
  • You’re removing gender labels from store signage in some departments – sissification.

But that’s not what Target is doing. Target is recognizing that there is a lot of social construction in how we view gender in society. What, exactly, are boys toys? Are girls not allowed to enjoy them? On the flip side, are boys not allowed to like something labeled as a girl product? I can’t help that my 5 year old son enjoys watching Dora the Explorer thwart Swiper the Fox.

SwiperAre all Dora products off-limits to him?

Target is simply saying that the social constructs of what is manly or girlie are not going to play a factor in how they merchandise. Bravo to them. And here’s the funny thing – Target isn’t the first one to take such an approach to gender constructs.

I read somewhere once that now there is neither Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free, there is no male or female. We are all now one in Christ Jesus.

Oh, yeah – IT’S IN THE BIBLE! (see Galatians 3:28)

It’s not that God is saying there aren’t differences among people. He’s saying that the social constructs that divide people do not play any part in how we relate to being part of the kingdom of God. Perhaps it’s time for red-blooded Americans to throttle back a little bit on the gender stuff. I’m not saying you have to stop loving NASCAR and start attending tea parties in the rose garden (see what I did there with gender stereotypes?).

I’m saying that it’s not a big deal for Target to change how they label their stores.

I’m saying it’s not a big deal for worship music to be emotional and poetic.

I’m saying that our idea of what is for boys and what is for girls comes more from society than we’d care to realize. We have done it – not God. If Paul can tell us that the social constructs that divide humanity play no part in God’s kingdom, then the idea that a store can embrace that philosophy seems…

well…

right on target.