Rockin’ out

van rock art

Click here for the video blog – aka, vlog.  😎

I love running in Vancouver.  The past couple nights while I’ve been here, I headed out after work down to the sea wall and do a six-mile loop along the water, through apartment complexes situated along the coastline, past park areas that are overloaded during the brief times during the summer when the weather gets particularly warm, and with views the entire time that are take-your-breath-away amazing.

One of the things I noticed the first time I came up here to work a few months ago, were these incredible rock formations along the rocky shoreline.  Rocks that were stacked up upon one another on top of a boulder, balanced so pristinely that they seemed to deny the certainty of the law of gravity.  It was hard to focus on the path I was running on because each of the formations was physics-defying and also unique.  And when I considered that each of those rock formations occurred by random, unaided chance over billions of years, it was nothing short of baffling.  I mean, we all know that given enough time, the right circumstances, and trial and error, rocks will eventually adapt to their environment and the beneficial surroundings that just haphazardly occur will allow rocks to simply settle upon one another in a balanced stack.

Okay, of course I’m being facetious.  I don’t think any reasonable person would look at the rock formations along the sea wall in Vancouver as uncaused.  I think we all would realize that rocks stacked in such an amazing and artistic way are purposely created by someone with vision, intelligence, a plan, and materials well-suited for the job.  No less certainly than when you visit Mt. Rushmore, it’s obvious to any observer that the mountain didn’t just evolve over time to include the faces of presidents Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt, and Lincoln.

I’m not trying to be snarky, but I was moved by those rock formations to these reflections especially after reading this week through Isaiah 35 – 58, Psalms 46, 76, 80, and 135, and 2 Kings 18 – 19, and in particular when I sort of camped out on Isaiah 40:12 – 15 and 26 …

Who else has held the oceans in his hand?  Who has measured off the heavens with his fingers?  Who else knows the weight of the earth or has weighed the mountains and hills on a scale?  Who is able to advise the Spirit of the Lord?  Who knows enough to give him advice or teach him?  Has the Lord ever needed anyone’s advice?  Does he need instruction about what is good?  Did someone teach him what is right or show him the path of justice?  No, for all the nations of the world are but a drop in the bucket.  They are nothing more than dust on the scales.  He picks up the whole earth as though it were a grain of sand.

 Look up into the heavens.  Who created all the stars?  He brings them out like an army, one after another, calling each by its name.  Because of his great power and incomparable strength, not a single one is missing.

Looking at those rock formations reminded me how we as people can attribute more power to creation than to the Creator.  We look around the planet we live on and pay homage to things we see.  Don’t get me wrong, when I run down the sea wall in Vancouver, or even when I’m on my long but beautiful commute to work along the California coast each day, I can’t help but marvel in the exquisite beauty of what my eyes get to behold.

That’s sort of the point … that is, God provides more than ample evidence of Who He is and yet some of us can carelessly look past it, and some of us outright deny it … and HIM!  The evidence is in everything we can behold.  Just like the rock art in Vancouver that no reasonable, rationale person would say happened by random chance with no help from an intelligence, isn’t it logical to conclude the same thing about the approximately 100 billion stars just in our Milky Way galaxy, and the 100 billion galaxies in the known universe?  Let’s face it, a star, let alone the 1 x 1024 stars estimated to be in the universe?

Frankly, the evidence is US!  How unique we all are, how complex our bodies are.  And yet there are some of us that would have us believe that WE are an accident.  We occurred out of the same ooze and sludge that everything else on Earth was.  Fortunate circumstances happened to some amoeba-filled mud and over billions of years you and I slithered out.  Oh yeah, somewhere along the way we figured out that we needed legs and grew them … even though legs were never a thing before that time.  Really?

Pastor Chuck Smith used to tell a story trying to describe how a spider would have “evolved” over hundreds of millions of years.  How they would have not yet been an actual spider in the way we know them today.  They would have been a hungry insect, hungry because they weren’t a particularly successful hunter.  So, somewhere along the way spiders – without intelligence, knowledge, design capabilities, or any other help – randomly figured out that they needed to create a web, setting aside for the moment that no such thing had ever existed before.  So somehow a spider figured out over millions of years how to create a substance in its body to secret the stuff to make a web.  Brilliant!  Only problem is, as the spider laid in wait to catch its food with this brilliant yet accidental invention, the food flew into the web and … “BOING!” … it bounced right off.  Hmm.  So, over millions of more years the spider figured out, “Aha!  I know.  I’ll make the web sticky.”  Interestingly, the spider figured out – without intelligence, knowledge, design capabilities, or any other help – how to make the substance in its body that was secreted to make a web sticky.  Brilliant!  Only problem is, as the spider laid in wait with its ingenious, yet accidental improvement, the food flew into the web … and stuck!  Brilliant again.  Unfortunately, however, while the food stuck to the web … so did the spider!  It couldn’t reach its food.  Curses!  But fear not … eventually our spider hero figured out over millions of years – without intelligence, knowledge, design capabilities, or any other help – how to make the substance in its body that was secreted to make a web, and a web that was sticky, not to be sticky to the spider.  Brilliant.  The trouble is … over those millions and millions of years of trial and error, of failure, spiders would have ceased to exist.

So here’s the point.  To me, it makes no logical sense to look at all that is created within and around us … frankly, to look at us … and assume that it happened essentially accidentally.  Rather, it points to a Creator who took the time to fashion it all with pristine design, balance, forethought, intelligence, and – here’s the best part – LOVE.  The God that created all of the universe and the CRAZY amount of stars, planets, and everything within it all, the POWER that was able to speak all of that into existence, also created you and me.  He cared enough in all of His creation not to forget to make you and me.  Why?  LOVE.  He cares about us so much that He didn’t want to live without us.  All that creative power is also available to us to care and provide for our needs, to offer us the best life possible, and crucially, to save us from our sins.  Now that’s brilliant!

When we consider all of creation, we have to wonder … did that all happen essentially by accident over billions of years or did a great Designer craft it.  Maybe you should head to Vancouver sometime and check out the rock art and then give me your answer.

Soli Deo gloria!

MR

How do they do it?

spud webb

 

[This week, a new feature … a video version of my blog, or my vlog 😎 ]

I remember it like it was yesterday.  It was one of the most amazing sports moments I think I’ve ever seen.  Anthony “Spud” Webb, with the Atlanta Hawks but originally from Texas, was participating in the annual NBA slam dunk contest, which on its face isn’t a particularly big deal.  That is, until you consider that Spud Webb was 5’7” tall.  One of the smallest players ever to play pro basketball and definitely one of the smallest participants in the slam dunk contest.  Despite his diminutive stature, Spud Webb beat his teammate to win the 1986 NBA slam dunk contest.  Talk about an incredible athlete!  It’s one thing to be 5’7” and play in the NBA, let along to be able to dunk a basketball when he can’t even palm the ball, let alone be able to WIN the slam dunk contest!  It makes you wonder about athletes of that caliber … how do they do it?

Do you ever wonder how people do some of the amazing, crazy, miraculous things they do?  We see some incredible talent, or feats of strength, balance or endurance in our world.  At times it’s almost impossible to believe they can do whatever it is we see them do.  It’s like, “How can they possibly do that?  I could NEVER do that!”  And in most respects it’s probably true.  If I were 5’7” like Spud Webb, I can assure you that I couldn’t dunk a basketball … given that I’m 6’1” and could never do it.

Think about some of the amazing accomplishments we’ve heard or seen people do.  I don’t know how they do it and there’s no way that I could.  That thought rattled around in my brain as I read this past week through Isaiah 5 – 34, Amos 1 – 9, 2 Chronicles 27 – 31, 2 Kings 16 – 18, Hosea 1 – 14, Psalms 48, and Micah 1 – 7.  Specifically, when I read Amos 8:11-13

“The time is surely coming,” says the Sovereign Lord, “when I will send a famine on the land—not a famine of bread or water but of hearing the words of the Lord.  People will stagger from sea to sea and wander from border to border searching for the word of the Lord, but they will not find it.  Beautiful girls and strong young men will grow faint in that day, thirsting for the Lord’s word.

Reading through the prophecy God laid upon Amos’s heart and through Amos’s words gave me a bit of a shiver.  Essentially, God is saying to Israel, “okay, you don’t want to listen to my words, how about if I just take my words away?”  I can’t imagine how the Israelites could manage to go on for a single moment, let alone a prolonged time, not hearing the word of God or having God residing and presiding over them.  It begged the question … how do (did) they do it?

To me, the same is true about how people can go through the hardships and challenges in life without the Lord in their life.  Honestly, it’s not really all that long ago that I was in those shoes.  Going through the ups and downs of life without hearing – that is, being willing to hear – from God is a dismal, depressing, dark reality.  I guess what’s all the more dismal, dark, and depressing about it is not knowing it.

On the one hand, I used to fool myself into thinking that I was free to do whatever I wanted without having the accountability to anyone else, God included.  Yet on the other hand, there was nothing free about it.  Frankly, I wasn’t free, I was bound.  Bound to choices and a life that had no context, no backdrop, no foundation to rely on in order to feel any protection or safety from the potential ramifications of my choices.  Worse yet, the tough situations in my life – without the knowledge of a benevolent, loving, all-knowing God – were no more than a product of absolute randomness and unfortunate luck.  Horrific.

We have a really dear friend going through a radically challenging diagnosis of brain cancer.  It’s the type that doctors say gives someone a life expectancy of 18 to 24 months.  As we talked about her ordeal and her incredibly positive perspective, strength – and the fact that she’s going to kick her cancer’s butt – we marveled, understandably, at how so many people go through disease, trials, turmoil, tragedy, etc., without God at their helm.  How do they do it?  I wish I could tell you.  I truly don’t know.

Because our friend has been a follower of Christ for so long there’s a “one way or another,” sense she and her husband have about her current season.  That is, they have conviction that one way or another, God is at work.  Whether or not she truly kicks her cancer’s butt, they know that one way or another they can trust God.  Somehow, God has a plan, God is using her diagnosis, God is working in and through them.  This is NOT to say that they are all fine and dandy with this gnarly brain cancer, because that’s not real life.  They have sadness, fear, confusion, anger, and all the other emotions God created us with, and which every one of us as normal humans would experience.  However, they know that they know the God who created not just the universe but everything in it, including people, bodies, brains, cells, DNA, and everything else.  So maybe He will heal her through doctors and treatment, or maybe He will heal her miraculously, or maybe He won’t.  In the face of that harshest of realities, our friends stand tall, nose to nose with their reality, confident that they are where they’re supposed to be, dead center in the bullseye of our loving and sovereign God’s will.  That’s how they do it.

Friends, if you’re going through the tough stuff of life, and you’re trying to do it without a relationship with Jesus, I have to wonder how in the world you can do it.  I honestly do not think it’s possible.  The God I know, follow, and trust gives me assurance that He’ll never leave us, fail us or abandon us (Joshua 1:5).  That God wants you to know the same thing.  He is the Foundation, He is the Context, He is the Reason.  Of and for everything.  Yeah, I realize that means the bad stuff as well as the good stuff, but in all honesty I can’t imagine the bad stuff without Him or the good stuff without Him.  He understands, controls, ordains all that happens to us … and it’s all – whether we understand it or not – a direct result of His unimaginable, unquantifiable, unconstrainable, and unconditional love.

Soli Deo gloria!

MR

Milestones

milestone_in_design

It finally happened.  I always knew it would – or in fairness might – but even as it got closer, it always seemed somewhat intangible to me.  It happened to a bunch of my friends and it always seemed distant, because at that point it had happened to them, but hadn’t yet happened to me.  I sort of liked that, but I knew it would come about for me at some point.

Of course, I’m talking about turning 50 last week.  The big “5-0” as they say (of course “they” are the ones that haven’t turned it yet).  And as much as it was weird and cathartic, I still recognize that it was a milestone.  There are many milestones we go through in life, obviously, some positive and some not so.  I remember thinking as a kid how I would be 32 when we reached the year 2000 (that was a common thing some of us older folks used to think of in the 1900s – haha).  I remember thinking, “oh my GOSH … I’ll be T-H-I-R-T-Y T-W-O!!!!!  That is sooooo ollllddddd!”  Oh, how I miss being in my 30s.  I was sooooo younnnnnggggggg.  😎

So yes, this past week was a milestone.  As will usually happen, as I was heading into the week and the milestone was staring me straight in the face, it caused me to think and reflect on a number of things.  But I really sort of hunkered down on this notion of milestones.  My reading over the week has been through some pretty rich historical sections of scripture, and that pushed the milestone button in me a bit more as well.

In particular, my reading brought me through 1 Kings 16 – 22, 2 Kings 1 – 15, 2 Chronicles 17 – 26, Obadiah 1 – , Psalms 82 – 83,  Jonah 1 – 4, and Isaiah 1 – 4.  When I read through 1 Kings 19:19-20, I dialed in to the milestone in Elisha’s life it represented.  Here’s what it says …

So Elijah went and found Elisha son of Shaphat plowing a field. There were twelve teams of oxen in the field, and Elisha was plowing with the twelfth team. Elijah went over to him and threw his cloak across his shoulders and then walked away.  Elisha left the oxen standing there, ran after Elijah, and said to him, “First let me go and kiss my father and mother good-bye, and then I will go with you!”  Elijah replied, “Go on back, but think about what I have done to you.”

In actual fact, when we talk about milestones, I think this story represents a milestone in each of Elisha’s and Elijah’s lives.  Elijah had served the Lord incredibly faithfully in a difficult time in Israel’s history.  In fact, most of what Elijah did and said on the Lord’s behalf were in themselves milestones, especially as we look back over the accounts of Israel and Judah.  Not only that, but now we read about the appointment of Elisha as a prophet to take the place of Elijah, and as you read further in 1 Kings and into 2 Kings we see God use Elisha in powerful ways.  Also incredible milestones in Elisha’s life.

Clearly we all go through milestones.  But what’s the purpose of milestones?  Regardless of the context, I think there are some generalizable and always beneficial reasons for them.

In general, milestones serve the purpose of showing us where we are in light of where we’re going.  When I think about traveling on the road, something I enjoy doing, a milestone is represented by the mile markers on the road and sign posts along the way.  If I am at mile marker 43 and I know that my next exit is at mile marker 82, that serves to show me that I still have 39 miles to travel.  On the other hand, if I first pass mile marker 43 on the way to mile marker 82, and in a couple miles I pass mile marker 41, I can ascertain that either I’m traveling in the wrong direction or traveling on the wrong road.  That, then, makes the milestone helpful to know where I am in light of where I’m attempting to go.

In a similar sense, when we lead projects in business, oftentimes we break down the overall deliverable for which the project is undertaken into smaller steps, and along the way, milestones.  In the same way, these serve to provide us feedback about where we are in the project in light of where we’re going in terms of trying to complete the project.  That milestone could be rendered in terms of time (a deadline) or in terms of finance (a budget).  But it’s incredibly important to allow the milestones to provide input about progress and direction.

Applying that to life, leadership, and our faith journey, we see that just as God used milestones in Elijah’s and Elisha’s lives, and in the manner in which he used milestones through the history of the kings and judges of Israel, He uses milestones in our lives.  That is, He allows us periodic opportunities to judge where we are (in our walk with Him) in light of where we’re going (hopefully becoming more and more aligned to the likeness of His Son).

Those situations – those milestones – can take the form of situations in our lives that He uses to carry out that Christlikeness He desires for us.  The question isn’t where we were, or where we are, but where God is taking us through those milestone situations.  I can say without hesitation that the journey I’ve been on in the 18 years I’ve been walking with Christ has afforded me multitudes of milestones, and earlier in the journey it was clear that I was not far along.  Clearly I haven’t arrived at whatever destination He’s got intended for me, but I can see the difference in the mile marker I am at now, and the previous mile marker at which I was formerly.  That’s not to toot my own horn – trust me, I don’t deserve to in any way – but it’s to toot His.

God designs our journey, and He alone provides the mile markers along the way.  When we go through struggles and trials, even those of our own making, let’s remember it as simply a milestone, a way that He is allowing us to see where we are in light of where we’re going.  The fact is, we’re all journeying … we’re all going from a starting point to an end.  And while the milestones aren’t always enjoyable, they are always instructive.  They are always important feedback to allow us to figure out if we’re heading in the wrong direction, or if we’re even on the wrong road.  My prayer for all of us this week is that we’ll start to see milestones as the blessing they are.

Soli Deo gloria!

MR

Consequences, schmonsequences

consequences schmonsequences

By now I’ve more than exposed my love of television, movies, and music, and the manner by which it tends to permeate a variety of ways I look at the world.  Messed up as that might seem, at least for me – and perhaps more common to my generation – those were some of the most significant influences on me growing up.  It’s an understatement of understatements to say that there were some incredibly iconic television shows during my childhood and formative years and certainly preceding them.  None were more influential on me, perhaps than all the Looney Tunes brands.  All the more, Bugs Bunny specifically.  Without question, I can probably recite near-complete seven-minute episodes of the shows, which of course originated as content for previews or intermissions in movie theaters way back in the 1940s.

Anyhow, one particular episode got me both laughing and scratching my (bald) head this past week as I was doing my Bible reading from 1 Kings 7 – 15, 2 Chronicles 8 – 16, Psalms 134, 136, 146 – 150, Proverbs 25 – 31 and Ecclesiastes 1 – 12.

It was in many ways a memorable and classic episode in its own right, 1957’s “Ali Baba Bunny.”  It includes numerous lines and quotes that many of us still recite today in reference to Bugs Bunny, probably not totally realizing they’re from this singular episode.  In this edition, Bugs and Daffy are on their way to Pismo Beach, only to mistakenly arrive somewhere else to Bugs’ chagrin … “I knew I should have taken a left toin at Albuquoyquee.”  They stumble upon the riches of a sheik, guarded by a dolt named Hassan (“Hassan chop!”).  After Bugs and Daffy dispense with Hassan, Daffy takes over the riches and begins to wheel it away (where, we have no idea), only to stumble upon a dusty lamp that he figures can fetch “four bits on the open market.”  As he dusts it off, naturally a genie comes out (because that’s what always happens when you dust off an old lamp) offering Daffy the customary three wishes.  Believing that the genie was there to snatch his newfound wealth, Daffy forces him back into the lamp (no idea how, but hey, this is a cartoon, not real life – as though having a talkative duck and sarcastic Brooklyn-born rabbit needed any clarification).

In response to Daffy’s stingy and disrespectful rebuke, the Genie bursts angrily from the lamp threatening, “Stop!  You have desecrated the spirit of the lamp.  Prepare to face the consequences!”  Daffy’s reply shrunk him to size, literally … “Consequences, schmonsequences, as long as I’m rich.”  And yes, that entire story wraps around a short section of scripture that while brief is incredibly potent and profound.  Proverbs 28:6

Better to be poor and honest than to be dishonest and rich.

I guess in some sense Daffy was relatively honest, but it’s clear he was willing to do anything to be rich.  And yet, God’s word gives us a warning that carries broad applicability across a variety of heart-related desires even though it speaks specifically about our heart’s condition related to wealth.  The crux of the proverb is effectively that while being rich is not in itself something evil or sinful, the push for wealth, the willingness to pursue wealth at all costs, to run over others, to cheat, to steal, to subordinate our values for wealth, is evil and sinful.  And so it is for anything to which we are willing to say “consequences, schmonsequences.”

The Bible teaches that all things belong to God and that He alone determines wealth, success, and favor (1 Chronicles 29:10-13).  So, setting our sights unwaveringly on a goal of our own determination is inherently putting ourselves in the role of God … and isn’t that the original sin propagated by Adam and Eve in the first place?  And if so, then we have that same tendency, inherited through the millennia and over the generations … the propensity to say, “consequences, schmonsequences, as long as ____________.”  That is, we have the disease, even though the target and effect may differ.

The fact is, there are always consequences.  There are consequences to us of our sinfulness, and there are consequences to those around us (whether or not we are related to, or even know, them).  In Daffy’s case, he was literally shrunk to a fraction of his original size, and forced to concede to a tiny pearl (in a clam, and both large in relation to his now-diminutive stature).  Bugs also suffered consequences in the loss of his friend, the termination of his vacation to Pismo Beach, etc.  Yeah, that part’s a bit of a stretch, but work with me.  😎

Anytime we pursue our gluttonous desires at the expense of “consequences, schmonsequences,” we and others suffer.  We also rob God of what He most desires to do for us … to demonstrate and express His immense love for us.  And in the process, we cheapen His love and His plan, and ironically, we choose in a suboptimal way, deriving for ourselves less than God would bless us with if we would only allow Him.  Consequences, schmonsequences?  Not quite.

My prayer for us this week is that we’ll pray … and ask God to reveal to us whatever it is we would fill in the sentence, “consequences, schmonsequences, as long as ____________.”   Because whatever we fill in that blank, is what we’ve placed above God in preeminence and importance.  It’s what we’ve traded the God and Creator of the universe for, and the lie we’ve allowed the enemy to serve up on a silver platter.  All to fool us into a false sense of security, value, and eternal – not temporal – blessing.

Consequences, schmonsequences?  Not so much.

Soli Deo gloria!

MR

No remainders

long division

Long division.  You, like most others, probably just cringed.  Let’s face it, who really liked long division?  Actually … I did.  Haha.  There was something intriguing about it for me.  I was blessed and fortunate … for as long as I can remember, I’ve always loved math.  Any kind of math.  All kinds of math.  Including long division.  BUT, I have to say, one of the things about long division I did NOT like was remainders.  You know, when you go through the process of doing the long division and you get to the end – and stop.  Seriously?  I can say with all sincerity that I can remember getting to the point of long division when we continued to the point of at least solving the long division to some number of decimal places.  At least then you sort of finished the job.  That is what I guess I hated about remainders.

It’s the same reason I get perturbed about ties in sports … like soccer or hockey (don’t even get me started about ties in football).  It just doesn’t make sense.  You play an entire game only to get to the end and stop.  Without finishing the job.  Without determining a winner or loser.  Ties.  Remainders.  Bad.

Reading this week through Proverbs 7 – 24, 1 Kings 5 – 6, and 2 Chronicles 2 – 3 brought this to mind as it relates to God.  In particular, a bit of a mosaic formed around several verses, conveying an encouragement that I hope serves to be one for you too.  Following are some verses from Proverbs 10:25, 10:28, 10:30, 11:8, 11:18-19 that got me thinking …

When the storms of life come, the wicked are whirled away, but the godly have a lasting foundation.

The hopes of the godly result in happiness, the expectations of the wicked come to nothing.

The godly will never be disturbed, but the wicked will be removed from the land.

The godly are rescued from trouble, and it falls on the wicked instead.

Evil people get rich for the moment, but the reward of the godly will last.

Godly people find life; evil people find death.

When I reflected on these (and other) verses, what I was left with is a reminder that God doesn’t have remainders.  What’s that?  Nothing is ever “left over” with Him.  Nothing goes unused.  He always finishes the work.  We may not know how or when it’s used but it’s always used.  There are at least a couple different implications, I believe.

First, nothing that happens in our lives goes to waste.  That’s one of the things with remainders that always bugged me.  Here you go to all this work and you’re left with this little number that just sort of dangles out there, useless.  Well the great thing with God is that whatever our plight, nothing dangles out there useless.  God uses all of our circumstances, all of our situations, all of our experiences … for a purpose.  For His purpose.  So as we go through whatever it is we go through, we can rest in the assurance that He uses it.  Not just for His purpose, but also for our blessing.  Now, that’s not to say that everything that goes on will seem good or feel good or appear good.  In truth, there are all sorts of things in our lives that are anything but.  I get that, and I’m not trying to minimize the real treachery that any of us have gone through, are going through, or likely will go through some day.  But what I am saying is … there will be no remainders.  God will put every bit of it to use, and somehow, some way, some day, in His economy it will be good (Romans 8:28).  But not necessarily good in the way we might want or expect.

Second, it seems to me that the fact that God doesn’t have remainders means that there is nothing in our lives that is insignificant.  There are no unimportant things to God.  We might think, “Oh, God doesn’t care about this or that,” but I’d have to say I disagree.  It might not be that God cares about it for the reasons we would assume, but He cares about it for some reason, whether apparent or not to us.  I think about “white lies” or the things that “no one will notice,” and while in some respects those are small matters, God may care because of what it says about the caliber of our character, or because of an unseen or unforeseen downstream circumstance that comes about.  Let’s face it, rarely do we as temporal humans have the full perspective on what is or isn’t significant.  I’d argue that it’s all significant.  There are no remainders with God.

So what do we do with this?  In my mind, this brings me a sense of encouragement and hopefulness.  To know that the Creator of the universe and of every single living thing, cares enough about me (and you) to bring to fullness every single situation in our lives truly blows my mind.  God loves us so much that never, ever, ever will He let there be a remainder in our stories.  Never will He not finish the problem solving.  Never will He let the seemingly insignificant number just sit there dangling.  He loves us too much.  Let’s face it, that’s what we see in Jesus.  Never once did Jesus cut a corner.  Never did He leave something undone, unhinged, incomplete.  He went all the way … to a horrific death … so that you and I could go all the way … through eternity with Him and His Father and the Holy Spirit.  It wasn’t just on Calvary’s hill, it was and is and forever will be always.  No remainders.

Know with assurance, then, whatever you may be going through, struggling with, encountering, wondering, searching for, etc., the God of the universe is at work.  He is going the distance to solve the problem – in His way – but going to the very last decimal point with NO remainders.  And He’s doing it for YOU.  I pray (and let’s pray for one another) that you feel that in this very moment.  That you draw comfort and fortitude knowing that there will never be a remainder in our lives because of our great, all-knowing, all-powerful God.

Soli Deo gloria!

MR

Defective bubble wrap

bubble-wrap

I used to drive my grandmother NUTS!  She hated the sound, but whenever presented the opportunity, I couldn’t resist.  I still can’t.  Whenever the opportunity arises, I have to jump in.  Pop.  Pop.  Popopopopopopop.  There’s something fun and irresistible about taking even a small swath of bubble wrap and popping the bubbles.  Big ones, little ones … it matters not.  It’s one of the methods of proof that Helen can point to that I truly haven’t grown up since being nine years old, haha.

It’s true of many of us.  Admit it.  Popping the bubble wrap, whether by one bubble at a time or by “wringing” it and getting the multiplicity of pops that sounds like a brick of firecrackers … or both … is just plain impossible to pass up.

So it’s understandable, then, how frustrating it can be to attempt to pop the bubble wrap only to find it’s messed up, defective.  You know, when you go to pop a bubble, only to have the air (you know, the thing that actually allows the bubble to “pop”) transfer to the bubble adjacent to it.  So you figure, “okay, I’ll just pop the other one,” and all that happens is it transfers back!  Ugh!  Hate that!  Defective bubble wrap is no kind of fun, and trying to make the pop but only moving air from one to the other takes all of the luster away from the bubble wrap in the first place.

It’s a little like how many of us going through life.  Let me elaborate by sharing something that struck me as I read this past week through 1 Kings 1 – 4, 2 Chronicles 1, Psalms 37, 71-72, 94, 119, Proverbs 1 – 6, and Song of Songs 1-8.  A passage I’ve read many times before in 1 Kings 3:10-14 moved me …

The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for wisdom.  So God replied, “Because you have asked for wisdom in governing my people with justice and have not asked for a long life or wealth or the death of your enemies—I will give you what you asked for! I will give you a wise and understanding heart such as no one else has had or ever will have!  And I will also give you what you did not ask for—riches and fame! No other king in all the world will be compared to you for the rest of your life!  And if you follow me and obey my decrees and my commands as your father, David, did, I will give you a long life.”

This familiar passage is often used to depict Solomon’s wisdom, and rightly.  But to me, it also is super instructive about the folly of how many of us choose to chase after life.

The verses immediately follow a time after Solomon was anointed king of Israel, and the Lord appeared to him in a dream.  God asked Solomon, essentially, “What do you want?  Whatever you ask, I’ll give to you.”  Now I don’t know about you, but that would definitely have gotten my laundry list of “wants” unrolled and ready to recite.  But that’s not what Solomon did.  He did the wise … and uncommon, unforeseen, unpredictable … thing, and asked for wisdom, to lead God’s people well.

Okay, so tell me … if God came to you and offered you anything you ask, on what page of the long, long, long list of “wants” would wisdom be?  Yup, me too.  Nowhere on the list.

We don’t chase wisdom in life.  We choose wealth, prestige, honor, success, comfort, homes, toys … you name it, any number of things that we believe will lead to fulfillment in life.  Purpose.  We attach our dreams and hopes to stuff.  Material, and therefore fleeting, things that we believe will make life worth living.  The problem is, chasing those things as mechanisms to bring our life meaning is a lot like playing with defective bubble wrap.  It no more brings us the fulfillment we seek than pushing on a bubble on a defective bubble wrap sheet makes the bubble pop.  It just moves the air to the adjacent bubble.

Pursuing stuff doesn’t help solve life’s problems.  It just shifts the problems over to another problem.  Defective bubble wrap.  Just ask anyone that you think is wealthy, or at least wealthier than you, if the wealth you perceive they have (or know they have) has made life way easier, worry-free, or allowed them to have everything the way they’ve always wanted it.  Nope.  Just moves the air to the adjacent bubble.

Here’s the deal … when Solomon asked for the thing that matters most – wisdom to lead God’s people well – God endowed him with all the rest.  Why?  Because in making such a request, Solomon aligned his desires to God’s desires and God could then fulfill his “wants” because they were God’s wants too (Psalms 37:4).

The point is we should align our hearts to God’s heart.  We should seek not the material, but the eternal (Matthew 6:19-21).  When we do, we put ourselves in a position for God to work, for Him to provide those things He knows we need, and perhaps even those things we want.  In short, God allows us by seeking wisdom to achieve fulfillment and purpose.  In an eternal sense, we’ll receive that which matters most, whether or not we have wealth, prestige, honor, success, comfort, homes or toys.  Sure, God may grant us some or all of those, but our fulfillment and purpose won’t be affected.  Pursuing it the other way just makes it like defective bubble wrap.

Let’s pray this week for the Lord to show us true wealth, value, purpose, and meaning.  Let’s ask Him to reveal in us – and to cleanse within us – any nature that is like defective bubble wrap.  After all, that “popopopopopop” sound is what makes it all fun and worth the effort.

Soli Deo gloria!

MR

Tell me something good

chaka-khan-rufus

First of all, I would be horribly remiss if I didn’t express my eternal gratitude and immeasurable respect for all those who have fought, served, and died for our country.  Your sacrifice allows me and others the freedom to devote ourselves to reading God’s word and working to share its transformative power in the lives of others.  Thank you!

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There are few, if any, songs that I think have a greater funk and groove to them than “Tell Me Something Good,” the 1974 hit by Rufus and Chaka Khan.  There really isn’t a single song more dripping with “cool” that I can think of.  Given that it was originally written by Stevie Wonder (one of my all-time favorite singers, writers, musicians), there’s no surprise that there aren’t enough O’s in “smooth” for the song.  When it comes on I basically stop anything else I’m doing.  I’ve never quite mastered the drum groove in it.  But one things for certain … it’s so good!

But far more than the incredibly delicious tune that it is, the title reverberated with me as I read the past few weeks (yeah, there was a bit of an unintentional hiatus) through the rest of 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel and 2 Chronicles as well as a host of Psalms.  In the course of digesting God’s word especially through the life of King David, this sense of telling [someone] something good pressed me in important ways.  As Christians, as leaders, as parents, and on and on and on … it’s crucial to “tell me something good.”  I’ll explain.

In 2 Samuel 12, we read an illustrious and central account that shaped the life of King David, and one that I think should have similar implications for you and me.  Verses 1 – 10

So the Lord sent Nathan the prophet to tell David this story: “There were two men in a certain town. One was rich, and one was poor.  The rich man owned a great many sheep and cattle.  The poor man owned nothing but one little lamb he had bought. He raised that little lamb, and it grew up with his children. It ate from the man’s own plate and drank from his cup. He cuddled it in his arms like a baby daughter.  One day a guest arrived at the home of the rich man. But instead of killing an animal from his own flock or herd, he took the poor man’s lamb and killed it and prepared it for his guest.”  David was furious. “As surely as the Lord lives,” he vowed, “any man who would do such a thing deserves to die!  He must repay four lambs to the poor man for the one he stole and for having no pity.”  Then Nathan said to David, “You are that man! The Lord, the God of Israel, says: I anointed you king of Israel and saved you from the power of Saul.  I gave you your master’s house and his wives and the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. And if that had not been enough, I would have given you much, much more.  Why, then, have you despised the word of the Lord and done this horrible deed? For you have murdered Uriah the Hittite with the sword of the Ammonites and stolen his wife.  From this time on, your family will live by the sword because you have despised me by taking Uriah’s wife to be your own.

To set the stage for those who might not be familiar, this passage follows a time when King David had his army battling the Ammonites.  When King David was on the top of his palace he happened to notice beautiful Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, bathing.  David called her to him and committed adultery with her, impregnating her.  To cover up his sin, he tried calling Uriah home thinking that Uriah would have relations with his wife.  Despite trying to finagle his way out of his sin and dishonor, Uriah remained honorable and refused to have relations with his wife while his fellow Israelites were engaged in battle.  David eventually positioned Uriah on the front lines in order to get him killed, which came to pass.  Essentially, David committed both adultery and murder.

The passage above shows how God used the prophet Nathan to confront King David and speak truth into him.  Nathan carries the message, demonstrating obedience to God and ultimately love to David … in the manner of wanting to point out his failure to help realign him with God’s desire for him.  That is, Nathan told him something good.  Even though David was the king, and there was an inherent risk in Nathan being confrontational and plain with David, Nathan knew he had a duty to God, and a duty to David to tell him something good, even when it could have been received or perceived as bad.  There is the model for you and me.

Too often as Christians, parents, business leaders, friends, we shy away from the type of loving confrontation that we see exhibited by Nathan.  We short-change ourselves and others either by lacking the courage or the foresight to understand that when we tell someone something good … the truth, or feedback, or even in admonition … we are demonstrating love and care.  As a business leader, I’ve lacked that vision to know that when I don’t guide someone on my team or within my sphere of influence, I am not helping them.  Quite the opposite, I’m hurting them.  That is, when I love like Jesus does, I am compelled to provide input, feedback, guidance, admonition.  Even when I need to tell them something bad, if I tell them in a way that honors God and honors the person, I tell them something good.

Let’s be clear … just because we tell them something good, that doesn’t absolve us from the way that we tell them.  Intrinsically, for us to tell someone something good, it has to be driven by a focus on doing the right thing, and doing the right thing in the right way.  While Nathan’s delivery to King David was pretty plain and frank, he was following the guidance of God, delivering God’s words, conveying God’s message.  In our case, we should be striving to do the same.  A direct report whose performance is not up to par should be communicated with in a plain but God-honoring way.  If a friend is harboring sinful behavior, we are called to step in and communicate in a way that glorifies God.  When our kids make poor choices, we must step up and correct them, as Jesus would.  Tell them something good, even when difficult.

Needless to say, we tell them something good when there’s something good to tell, also.  Not just the bad stuff.  This applies equally in our homes, communities and work places.  When we notice something worth accolade and don’t provide the input, we’re not telling something good.  Missed opportunities and loss follow.  As parents, as Christians, as friends, as leaders in organizations and businesses, our greatest calling is as builder, developer, encourager.  To miss the opportunity to edify is equally as destructive as missing the opportunity to correct.  Silence is most assuredly not golden (a different song from a different era – courtesy of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons).  Our calling, our responsibility, the way we should the love of Jesus to others … tell me something good.

Soli Deo Gloria!

MR