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.

 

 

Dead Flies Aren’t Especially Tasty

So there I was, eating lunch in the dining facility on base. I had decided that I was going to eat healthy over the course of Officer Development School, so I regularly ate salads, fruit, yogurt, etc. You know, the kind of stuff my wife would be pleased to know I was eating even though she wasn’t around 😉 Fly on a Stretcher

After eating four or five bites of my salad I saw it.

I was a dead fly on the side of the bowl, hiding out on a spinach leaf.

That did it for me – I lost my appetite. I couldn’t eat one more bite of salad, not even from the “clean” side of the salad.

And, true story, I was instantly reminded of the passages in the Bible that talk about a little bit of yeast leavening the whole batch of dough. Dough

Paul twice talks about it:

Do you not know that a little yeast leavens all the dough? Clear out the old yeast, so that you may become a fresh batch of dough…. (1 Corinthians 5:6)

and

You were running well; who hindered you from following the truth? That enticement does not come from the one who called you. A little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough. (Galatians 5:7-9)

In both passages Paul is talking about how allowing a little bit of something to exist within the community can negatively impact the entire group. The first passage is dealing with personal sin in the group. The second passage is dealing with spiritual leaders who preach a false gospel and corrupt the group.

The principle can be extended into our personal lives as well. When we allow the wrongs things to continue to exist in our lives then our entire lives can be negatively affected. Rather than trying to tough it out and eat around the dead flies, we’re better off chucking the whole salad and starting fresh.

What is the dead fly in your salad?

What exists that can negatively impact your entire spirituality? Perhaps it’s a person. Maybe it’s a behavior. Whatever it is, do you understand that leaving it unchecked can eventually wreak havoc in your life?

Get it out. Start fresh.

Don’t eat that fly.

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