Random Thoughts for the Weekend

1. A gospel made up of only forgiveness of sins and heaven when you die will inevitably result in Jesus being a consolation prize when things don’t go your way in your life here on earth.

2. “Love your Karens.” – Jesus

3. It is not as Americans we take comfort in any promises made to Israel. It is as citizens of the Kingdom of God. America is no more a territory of that kingdom than China because American Christians are no more citizens of the Kingdom of God than Chinese Christians.

4. Followers of Jesus are the light of the world…a city set on a hill…a lamp so that others may glorify God, unless you’re a really cool band of Christians, and then you can just sing about a vague spirituality of love which cannot be distinguished from any other positive way of thinking.

5. If as followers of Jesus, we love his kingdom more than any country, then we will be more comfortable praying for those on the other side in politics than in talking bad about them.

6. If I was doing youth ministry again, I would talk a lot more about discipleship than I did.

7. I absolutely understand why some would not put a lot of hope for change in the overturning of Roe v. Wade. And I understand not looking to the government for change. But those who point this out need to remember this is also true for gun control, climate issues, and a host of other things you think are worthy of the church’s attention.

8. When I was falling in love with Bethany, I loved to say her name and have her name rolling around in my head. The name of Jesus is altogether more beautiful.

9. They are killing babies and they know it.

10. A life and culture of gospel presentations that do not include “the kingdom of God/heaven” will inevitably lead to many looking to politicians and politics for good news.

Random Thoughts for the Weekend

1. Contentment and love for our enemies will work better than what we commonly call evangelism.

2. Have you ever thought about how there is no description of Jesus’ physical appearance in the Gospels? Nothing. Other qualities are more important. So maybe following our Lord’s lead, we should not worry about it so much and focus on other things.

3. I don’t know who needs to hear this but…Surrender.

4. It just dawned on me the reason why we get excited when a Christian artist does a cover of a secular song is because we think secular music is the standard.

5. I kind of wonder if the trans movement is the end result of a generation of women defining their worth by how they to compare men at home, in the workplace, etc. I always thought women were the standard.

6. Jesus is always the smartest person in the room.

7. Counseling is more like what I thought ministry would be like when I was young and didn’t know any better.

8. If you order a TV from Amazon for $500 and they send you a $50 toaster, you would be livid if they insisted that toaster is now a TV. Logic and love have a way of working together.

9. My son has a “Would You Rather?” game on his phone. So that got me thinking…would you rather have some lower quality entertainment that pointed you to Jesus or high quality entertainment that was neutral?

10. For some reason we think it’s reasonable for athletes to work hard for scholarships, money, and excellence but working hard at following Jesus is legalism.

Random Thoughts for the Weekend

1. There is no subject of which Jesus is not the expert. He is always the smartest person in the room, no matter who else is in that room. So when he says to do something crazy like, “Pray for your enemies,” we must assume there is no better thing to do in that situation.

2. What we are entertained by forms us.

3. I can only assume a person who ghosts another person via phone is also the kind of person that just does not show up to work one day.

4. I don’t really have an opinion on gun control. I don’t have a gun. I don’t really like them. But this I do know, we are a culture of anger and a culture of contempt and a culture that assumes we are free to do what we want to do without regard to anyone else. And that is a deadly mix.

5. It seems like keeping something secret so as to exclude those not invited to participate should not be done anyway. And for followers of Jesus, it seems to be at odds with our Master and his character.

6. I’m pretty sure if Jesus and his Apostles thought it was helpful to complain about the the leaders of Rome, that would have made it into one of the letters or gospels. But instead what we have are commands to pray for our leaders and to honor them. Making fun of them on social media seems to be at odds with the Kingdom of God.

7. What happens in the gospels is more pressing news than what is reported in the news.

8. I think the reason why I have success with counseling teenagers is because I can tell them, “I know you don’t want to be here. You are here only because your mom (who you find annoying) wants you here. That doesn’t hurt my feelings at all and I would probably feel the same way. Let’s make the most of it anyway…where’s your favorite place to get pizza?”

9. Also, teenagers are more likely to be interested in following Jesus than what we call “Christianity” in America.

10. If you say “no” to something because by doing so it will help you follow Jesus, they will release an album just to make it harder.

Random Thoughts for the Weekend

1. Obedience to Jesus is the path of life. It is not the path of legalism.

2. When Jesus said, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and it’s righteousness,” he was saying you have to want God’s reign and rule in your life more than all the physical things –– food, drink, clothes, sleep, money, reputation –– that you think you need to make your way in this life. Faith is not merely believing your sins are forgiven and you will go to heaven when you die, faith is following Jesus as a disciple, knowing he will care for you.

3. We have now moved to a place in our culture in which our default mode when something tragic happens…and in a 24-7 news cycle culture, that’s nearly every day…we use that tragedy to rail against groups of people. We are looking for not only blame but control. If we can say, “Well, they did that because they are part of this group or that group,” then there is a reason. And if there is a reason, we can understand why and what happened. And then we have some semblance of control over the situation. Because if we can’t do that, then the only reasonable response is pure fear. Or so we think.

4. I was asked recently if I was a professional counselor and I responded, “I am not a professional anything. I want my counseling to be the least professional thing in your life.” If I could answer again I would say, “I want to be as professional as Jesus, weeping at Lazarus’ tomb.”

5. The hardest part of following Jesus is not when suffering comes, it’s when success and wealth come. It is easier to look to Jesus when the day is hard than when the day is flush with ease and fun and all things go well. Maybe that’s just me.

6. Worse than an evil system is working that system against others for your own benefit.

7. “To not act is to act.” – pre-resurrection Peter

8. Pro tip: set reminders on your phone to pray throughout your day.

9. I bet the people who make money off of the news, love that we have made anger a primary virtue at the expense of patience and kindness and joy.

10. Because we live in a world in which the air we breathe is filled with complaint, I give my clients the daily homework of a gratitude list as part of their journaling. They have to list 10 things every single day they are thankful for. No repeats. Some get frustrated with this after a awhile, but they all realize at some point that it works. Of course it works, everything God has told us to do “works.”

Random Thoughts for the Weekend

1. Jesus is not a consolation prize when things do not go our way in life. He is the King.

2. I find it interesting how much we complain amidst so much.

3. Look, everyone has to miss church every now and again. But if you are not going every chance you can you are communicating to your children that something else is more important…almost anything is more important. Think about the logic, if it doesn’t take much for you to miss, then church attendance gets your leftover time, maybe.

4. Sometimes you have to say “no” to things that are wrong for you to do if you want to follow Jesus.

5. With the technology we now carry around in our pockets, we can access tragedy after tragedy. That is what the news outlets want. However, you were not created to be in a perpetual state of anger or grief over national and world events, of which there will be no end.

6. I am approaching two months of only listening to music that is explicitly about following Jesus. I’m not listening to anything with just a vague nod of spirituality in the direction of God. It’s all explicit. You would probably have to do it yourself to be convinced of the difference it would make in the way you think and act.

7. Lecturing never works. Think about it, the only time we use the word “lecture” in a positive sense is when we voluntarily go to one, which we have probably paid for. That tells us that sometimes we need to wait for the ones we love to come to us for help and guidance and entrust them to God in the meantime.

8. In between talking about how slaves should conduct themselves and marriage, Peter, in his first letter, says, “…Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.” I am not sure what else you need to convince you that Christ, the suffering servant, who had every right to demand he be treated fairly, is our example of how to live in this world. That is not legalism. That is the path of life.

9. Deconstruction kills joy.

10. When I worked at the bank a few years ago, I noticed something I could barely understand at the time. Nothing was never enough. A sales goal would always be moved when you achieved it. What was good enough last month was then seen as failure the next. I kept being told I was making “progress.” One day I asked if I would ever arrive and my boss had no answer. The goal was to keep in a perpetual state of unrest so that I would always make them more money. Social and political movements do the same. Nothing will ever be enough in the name of progress. But Jesus and his kingdom is always more than enough.

Random Thoughts for the Weekend

1. What if God created the Universe in such a way that if you spend your time and energy in fellowship with him instead of sleeping longer or working more, you will find time and energy like fish and loaves?

2. Wisdom is realizing you are free to do a lot of things that would be good for you, as a follower of Jesus, to say “no” to.

3. I read an article this week about how many moms are on antidepressants. It was enlightening and sobering. I’ve seen it in my office and it can be heartbreaking. But the article was also frustrating because it neglected one critical factor. The article did not discuss about the need for those moms to make some changes in their life outside of medications. This is complicated because we immediately think, “If he is saying they need to change, then it is all their fault.” Not only is that not true but it is also always more complex. Everyone who comes to me comes knows I am a follower of Jesus and will counsel accordingly. Therefore, I assume there are things wrong in the way my client thinks, just as I assume there are things wrong in the way I think. Why? Because that is the case for everyone. I also assume everyone who sits in front of me would like to change and be different. This does not only require changing the way a person thinks but also what they do day in and day out. And this was missing in the article and it’s missing in much of the way we talk about these things.

4. At every step Jesus seemed to confuse his listeners. I’ve been reading the gospels a lot over the past year. A few chapters at a time. And Jesus is constantly confounding the expectations of everyone. Except those who are desperate for his healing. They expect him to heal them. But those who want him to overthrow Rome seem consistently disappointed and thrown off kilter. Of course, it was never his mission to overthrow Rome. At least not with armies and swords. The American church has never learned this lesson.

5. Resentment and bitterness ought to be fought against not just because they are “wrong” but because they steal joy.

6. I don’t really do parenting advice because I am in the middle of it and sometimes I feel like I am just barely hanging on myself. But goodness, I have a lot of adult clients with parents, who are discouraging, judgmental, and controlling. They manipulate, smother, and dominate. They are without joy, contentment, and mercy. It’s heartbreaking and fills me with fear.

Dear God, please begin even now making me an encouraging, joyful parent of my kids as they grow into adults.

7. The prevailing idea since I attended Seminary 20 years ago was that whatever the culture is watching and listening to, that is what we should be watching and listening to also. The goal was to be on “the front lines” so we can “speak into” and “redeem pop culture.”

Over the past few years I have become convinced that this is a wrong way of thinking. I am now convinced that when the culture zigs, we should zag. What they call important, maybe we should more than often, ignore. Not because we dislike them, but maybe our attention should be elsewhere. let’s be honest, we know that there is something compelling about a person who is not always in the know.

Also I have a suspicion that much of that talk was an excuse to be entertained by what would otherwise be deemed as objectionable.

8. Because I’ve been listening to so much music made by followers of Jesus, I’ve discovered some new music. Two of the artists have at least one song that addresses the Devil directly. Speaking to him. That’s different, at least in my musical universe. But I gotta tell you, I’ve learned something…that maybe some of the thinking and acting required to be an emotionally healthy and mentally healthy follower of Jesus is recognizing the power of the Father of Lies and the Accuser.

9. I want you to imagine that Jesus is with you right now. Think about it. Imagine what that would feel like. Would you now think, feel, and talk about “the news” of the day the same way if he was sitting with you now.

Here’s the thing…He is.

10. We do a lot of shopping at Aldi and Walmart and we also enjoy some of their brand’s items. Because of this, we go to that store to get those items. When we find them, we are glad. Not always joyous per se, but satisfied. But if we went to Target and looked for those items, we would be disappointed. Not finding it there, we might then try Publix, where the rich and beautiful shop. Even there we would be frustrated. Maybe angry. Possibly sad.

So many of us, who identify as Christians are looking for life in the wrong place. We are looking for life in politics, work, money, sex, substances, power, body image, reputation, (kid’s) sports, and even doctrine. And it is making us sad and angry and full of anxiety. But life is only found in one place, the person of Jesus.

Random Thoughts for the Weekend

1. I love the Psalms…David is like, “You have totally forgotten me and neglected me God, life is awful, my enemies have surrounded me and want to kill me, but are a faithful God, I know that, and now I will sing a song to you.” So when life is hard, maybe we should think, “I will sing along to those worship songs based on Coldplay song structures because it is good for me.”

2. To be honest, I’d be more excited if Chick-fil-A took over Twitter.

3. Contrary to popular opinion, you don’t have to watch the news. Ever. You’re welcome.

4. Just spit-balling here but it may not be a good idea to treat our kids as celebrities with photo sessions for every occasion.

5. It’s true that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ. But when I was a kid, nothing could separate me from my parent’s love. And yet I would often go through seasons when I looked for every opportunity to be nowhere near them and to use them for their gifts. I wanted the car keys to get away. I did not seek out their presence just to be with them. And I suffered as a result.

6. My wife is on a women’s retreat right now and I don’t know what to do.

7. I have never regretted sitting down and reading my Bible.

8. As a counselor I give more homework now than I did as a teacher.

9. I read Paul’s letter to the Philippians a lot. And I noticed recently he is not too worried about the motives of preachers as long as Jesus is preached (1:12-20). So then it dawned on me that I shouldn’t be too worried about the motives of Hillsong, Bethel, et al. So I stand corrected on that.

10. Against all odds, Anne Wilson’s new album, My Jesus, is my favorite right now. Bethany says some of the songs sound like sitting in the back of the truck drinking beer music and I am kinda okay with that as long as we talk about the complex characters of Jane Austen Austen novels too. Videos below.

re: Awards Day

To the parents with a kid (or kids) who never get any awards on awards day,

I’d like to encourage you with two things.

One encouragement is monumental and the other is quite small.

First, let me encourage you with the monumental reality of God’s love. According to Paul in Romans 8, nothing can separate you or your child from that love. There may not be anything wrong with awards day, but it functions the way the world works. And the world works according to résumés. But God does not. So be encouraged by his lovingkindness and see to it your child is too.

Now for a small encouragement…

I never won an award.

Not even one.

I never had perfect attendance.

(Btw, perfect attendance is saddest award ever.)

I never made any honor roll.

I once made a 70 in math and my dad took me to McDonald’s he was so relieved.

I rarely did my homework. And if I did it was at the last minute and I might have copied it from Mario Roosley.

I barely graduated from High School.

I was not even sure I would till they gave me that diploma. I only passed because my Algebra 2 teacher got tired of me. It was my 2nd time to take the class. I failed the first time. 64 was failing. The 65 I got was all grace.

I hated every day of school ever.

I was skipping school by my Senior year.

What’s worse is I was kinda nerdy but didn’t make good grades. Not a winning combination.
Why might this be encouraging?

All but the truly desperate parents may want to stop reading here. Because this is going to sound like bragging but I’m going to risk it.

You were warned…

Before all was said and done, I had a Master’s degree which has the hour equivalent of a doctorate. I have studied five languages. I’m a voracious reader who can intelligently discuss a number of disciplines and how they relate to one another: theology, history, philosophy, literature, etc.
I read at least one hundred substantial books a year. I never made the best grades on book reports or when you had to analyze a poem. But I still read those books and I know some of those poems by heart. I collect poetry books for crying out loud.

I know more about Jane Austen, Bach, and Dante than anyone I know.

I am now a published author. People pay to read what I have said and to listen to me. My book has now been used as part of a college course.

More than all that, I married far above me to a girl who after 23 years still makes me swoon and laugh.
I have three children.

My oldest daughter, who has ASD, is about graduate from HS.

My middle son and I now have regular conversations about how to follow Jesus as a teenage boy.
My youngest son is the nicest person I’ve ever met.

They’ll probably never win awards at school.

I have best friends who are worth more than the treasures of this world.

I’m a member of a great church and they’ve entrusted me to help disciple their young children on Sunday nights.

**Awards day is not indicative of future success.**

My advice?

If your kid gets no award or just one of those lame ones like a participation trophy, take them out to their favorite restaurant and make sure they know you love them just the same.

That’s a killer award. Take it from me.

Random Thoughts for the Weekend

1. What you give your attention to forms you.

2. Last night we sat outside at a restaurant with friends and ate and talked and laughed and hurt together for the pain in the world and in us and it was a reminder that some of the most simple things are the best things.

3. My wife and I have a joke about the books she reads and when the gay character will show up. Usually it’s within the first fifty pages but it’s inevitable. It’s as ridiculous as the Christian romance novels in which someone has to get saved before the book has ended. For each, that is what legitimizes the book.

4. Surround yourself with reminders that the unseen realities are the highest realities.

5. I am pretty adept at finding reasons to not do things that are good for me.

6. You cannot coast into wisdom.

7. Listening to the birds sing in my front yard at 6 am is free.

8. For nearly a month I have only listened to music by those who follow Jesus. It was an experiment and has proved to be very good for me and I assume good for those around me. I assumed it would have some benefits, but I also assumed I would crave the music I loved and sat on the beach and listened to for hours the day before I started. Nope.

9. Don’t underestimate the power of gratitude.

10. Sometimes I give my clients a social scenario I know, that if real, will cause them a good deal of anxiety. And then I add to the scenario – they have just come into a great deal of money. I then ask them if they walk into that same situation with the knowledge they are now very wealthy, would it be easier? Without fail, they say “yes.” I then tell them I am about to get real spiritual on them…and ask them if they would rather have that money or Jesus. This is why Jesus talked about money so much. He did not talk about it so that your pastor could get you to give your money to the church. He talked about money because we are far more likely to feel safe in the world with money than with the King.

re: Happiness

Listen, I have never been unhappy in a Mexican restaurant.

But what if there is a happiness you can have had even when you cannot afford to go to the Mexican restaurant?

A happiness that is higher than queso and margaritas.

Within evangelicalism (and maybe beyond) there is a tradition of saying there is a difference between “joy” and “happiness.”

Usually it goes like this…”Happiness is temporary and joy is eternal.”

Happiness is shallow and joy is depth.

Sounds good.

But the Scriptures never really make this distinction. Actually, there is not really any distinction between joy and happiness to be found in the Scriptures.

The Scriptures seem to be more concerned with what we are happy and joyful about.

About three years ago I began memorizing passages of Scripture in earnest. The goal was to fill my mind with a voice of truth and peace amidst a world of lies and chaos.

This was not long before I lost a job I loved, by the way.

So I memorized Psalm 1.

The first line? “Happy is the man…”

And yes, even though you might have memorized it as “blessed,” that word’s primary meaning is “happy.”

I wanted to be happy then and I want to be happy now.

What is interesting is that pretty much everyone wants to be happy. There are exceptions…those who want to exert no effort in that direction, come to mind.

And happiness does require effort according to the Psalmist. You have to say “no” to some things and “yes” to others.

He lays it out like this:

A happy person does not:
– walk in the advice of the wicked
– stand in the pathway of sinners
– sit in the seat of mockers

And a happy person does:
– delight in the LORD’s instructions
– and mediates on them day and night

Pretty straight forward.

So, what are you meditating on day and night?

Facebook? Instagram? The rage machine of Twitter? Disney Vacations? The hurt caused by another? Your 401K? Sex? Your body shape? Your frustrating job? Your kid’s travel ball team?

Where does your mind go? Does it help you avoid a life characterized by the list of what happy person does *not* do in Psalm 1?

What are you filling your mind with day in and day out? What is animating your imagination?

Is it giving you a happiness that cannot be taken from you regardless of the grief and sorrow you are feeling?

Is it giving you a happiness far above an emotional reaction to pleasant circumstances?

If you feel a longing for this…a longing for something you know but are rarely experiencing why not put forth that effort?

Set a goal of reading the scriptures throughout your day so that it is more than just a box you tick off.

Set a goal of memorizing passages of Scripture so that those words of truth are filling your mind day and night.

Listen to music that helps you keep your mind on Jesus, the resurrected King.

It’s going to require some effort…you will have to say “no” to some things and “yes” to a vision of the Psalm 1 person.