Random Thoughts for the Weekend


1. What if God does not look at 2020 like we do and does not think it is a bad year but a year in which his purposes for his people are being furthered?

2. The problem with slogans is they are propaganda. They are meant to do something besides say what you believe. They are more marketing than anything else. And because they are terse, they can be used to mean many things by a variety of people. And that can cause confusion. And what do you think about the ones who will not use the slogan you think is needed? Will you assume the best of them? Also, slogans are usually for a moment or a movement and not for the long haul over a lifetime. We ought to be very cautious with them.

3. To not hold Jesus up as a picture of spiritual, emotional, and mental health would be irresponsible.

4. Most people yearn for the life of the first century church they see in the Scriptures until someone points out the first century Christians lived and taught as if the Empire was a non-issue in their mission.

5. It is possible you can have spiritual health without starting your day with the Scriptures and prayer and instead reading the news and social media first thing in the morning. But I don’t how.

6. If you want to love like Jesus loved when he said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing,” I recommend starting with the cars that cut you off as you drive to and from work.

7. Anger at the Empire is almost entirely absent from the NT, except when we see how the disciples did not understand what Jesus was doing. It is possible the great majority of the American Church does not see what Jesus is doing, either.

8. You will have to dig for beauty in this world that prizes clever and cute and ugliness.

9. The primary political question of those who are citizens of the Kingdom of God is, “How do I love the King and other people?” This does not mean it is wrong to have any concern about the economy and the other concerns of earthly kingdoms. But those concerns are swallowed up in the love of God and neighbor. As soon as we look at the “other side” and scorn them and have no desire to love them, we have slid back into the operating according to the kingdoms of this world.

10. In setting up Redmond Christian Counseling, it is easy to think the important work is done by me and forget all the truly important work is done in places I cannot see.


Random Thoughts for the Weekend


1. Most every action and statement prescribed by the culture-makers (believer and unbeliever) assumes the highest realities are the seen realities. Think of how different things would be if we all took Paul seriously when he told us to keep our eyes on what is unseen. Not only would it make us more kind, it would make us more patient, and gentle. And loving.

2. Be so enraptured with the kingdom of God that the toppling of the kingdoms of this world are as nothing.

3. Arguments on social media seem to lead to more extreme positions taken by each person and they rarely seem to lead to more moderation or understanding of the other person’s conviction. They only escalate. So if you started at level 3, the argument leaves you at level 6. The next day something else happens and now you are at level 7. That is until someone else argues with you, and now you are at a 9 or 10. Then you “cancel” that person or write them off as a bad person, irredeemable. Though just a few days earlier you would have been far more willing to engage them. Our convictions are not becoming more firm. Our anger is becoming inflamed.

4. There is a moment In A Hidden Life when Franz is in prison and he is being asked to say he will support the Nazi Regime. He is asked, “Don’t you want to be free?” And he responds with, “I am free already.”

5. The news is rarely new.

6. A “canceling” culture cannot separate you from the love of God in Christ.

7. In my theological world, there is not much good news. One group is trying to decide who is Reformed enough and the other is trying out woke everyone. Again, there is not much good news among them.

8. I have twice recently seen someone wearing a shirt with “Change the World” on it. One was a boy who was about 8 years old. The other was a middle-aged woman. What are the assumptions behind such a statement? Do we have a responsibility to approach the world this way? Where does such an idea come from? Is this a command and from whom?

9. They will not stop with toppling statues.

10. I can find no teaching in the NT calling the church to fight anything except their own personal temptations and unbelief. Not the empire. Not the culture around them. Not the Gentiles. Not the Jews. Modernity has blinded us to this reality. It has told us there is always a fight to fight outside of ourselves. Modernity has blinded us to the ever-present need to fight for confidence in the King and his Kingdom.

Random Thoughts for the Week Ahead


1. Whatever you think about furnishes the “room” of your mind. So, if you watch a lot of the news, that will be what you think about. It will not only be the furniture in your head but will become what you find comfortable to think about. It’s where your mind will go when at rest. This is critical knowledge for those who want to follow Jesus.

2. “I want to develop discernments that say an unapologetic “no” to ways that violate the gospel of Jesus Christ.” – Eugene Peterson, The Jesus Way

3. The Apostle Paul seems to have seen every move by the state against him as an opportunity to display the glory of Christ.

4. You were not created to bear the emotional weight of daily tragedies throughout the whole of space and time. Social media and the news will try to convince you otherwise. But what if just as we are to focus on the present day’s troubles, we are also meant to focus on the troubles surrounding us? Sufficient are the griefs in our own sphere.

5. We live in a world dominated by entertainment. It was not always like this. Entertainment as we know it and experience it is new on the historical scene. This is why no one stops to think about its effects on us as individuals, families, and a culture. It is neither a right nor should we assume it is good. Even how we evaluate it needs to be thought through. To evaluate entertainment by assessing its entertainment value, assumes it ought to be done for that reason, to entertain. But that ignores God, wholly. Think about it, we are so accustomed to watching TV as a culture, the decision to watch something is made based on its quality. And that quality usually has no reference to God whatsoever.

6. Anxiety is addictive.

7. Silence is not violence. But the statement that says otherwise, by definition is.

8. Nothing in our culture is an aid to contentment. Everything leans into “more” and “better.” Outside of the Scriptures, I would have nothing to convince me of that need.

9. I love that Paul says in Romans 8 that setting our minds on the things of the Spirit is “life and peace.” It would be easy to rush past those words. But that’s important teaching.

10. What if God created us and the world in a such way that not worrying about tomorrow is the healthiest way to live: spiritually, biologically, physiologically, physically, emotionally, and financially?

“What’s Going On?” She Asked.


Last night a friend of mine, in a text group, wondered out loud what was going on in response to the protests happening around the country and literally just down the road from us.

I responded with Paul’s words from Ephesians 6:

10 Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and by his vast strength. 11 Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this darkness, against evil, spiritual forces in the heavens. 13 For this reason take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand. 14 Stand, therefore, with truth like a belt around your waist, righteousness like armor on your chest, 15 and your feet sandaled with readiness for the gospel of peace.

And I made clear that no one really believes this anymore. That is an obvious exaggeration. But my point was that if you see the violence and destruction as necessary and excusable, we have lost the worldview of the New Testament. The liberal and the conservative both now see the kingdom of the heavens as an afterthought. There is no focus on the unseen. The highest realities are the seen realities in the modern world and the church is really no different.

But really a better answer to my friend would be this essay, “The Violence of Modernity” by Stephen Freeman. Some of you may get lost in some of the language and philosophy of the piece, but I think it would be fair to sum it up with the following quote:

“Changing the world,” under a variety of slogans, is the essence of the modern project. Modernity is not about how to live rightly in the world, but about how to make the world itself live rightly. The difference could hardly be greater.

In other words, Modernity asks “How do I change the world?” But that is not the right question. The answer to that question requires a violence and control foreign to the Kingdom of the Heavens.

The question we should be asking and answering is, “How do I live rightly in this world?”

A few more quotes:

Modernity has as its goal the creation of a better world with no particular reference to God – it is a secular concept. As such, that which constitutes “better” is, or can be, a shifting definition. In Soviet Russia it was one thing, in Nazi Germany another, in Consumer-Capitalist societies yet another still. Indeed, that which is “better” is often the subject of the political sphere. But there is no inherent content to the “better,” nor any inherent limits on the measures taken to achieve it. The pursuit of the better (“progress”) becomes its own morality.

The approach of classical Christianity does not oppose change (there is always change), nor does it deny that one thing might be better than another. But the “good” which gives every action its meaning is God Himself, as made known in Christ. In classical terms, this is expressed as “keeping the commandments.” Those commandments are summarized in the love of God and the love of neighbor. There are other elements within the commandments of Christ that minimize and restrict the use of violence.

There is, for example, no commandment to make the world a better place, nor even to make progress towards a better world. The “better world” concept is, historically, a heretical borrowing from Christianity, a secularization of the notion of the Kingdom of God, translated into terms of progressive technology and laws (violence). But, in truth, the management of history’s outcomes is idolatrous. Only God controls the outcome of history.

We now live in a time in which the call to love your enemies and the oppressed is seen as nonsensical. And the reason why is because we assume the mindset of modernity that requires rage and fear. The call to be angry and support other people’s rage is now ubiquitous (Romans 8:32). And if you question the right and righteousness of rage, you are obviously part of the problem.

Rage and the resultant violence are now a virtue.

And if you say nothing or do nothing, then you are doing nothing to change the awful world we live in. He addresses that too.

My experience is that questioning our responsibility for history’s outcome will always be met with anxious objections that we would be agreeing “to do nothing” and the results would be terrible. Keeping the commandments of Christ is not doing nothing. It is, however, the refusal to use violence to force the world into ever-changing imaginary versions of the good.

Think with me for a moment and ask yourself this question – “Have you so rationalized the world around you that prayer and obedience to Christ and his teachings now feels like doing nothing?”

Is that because of what you read in the Scriptures and see in the life of Jesus and his Apostles and their teaching? Or is it because you cannot put your phone down for long periods of time without picking it up to look at social media?

Hopefully you are truly asking yourself these questions and not just blowing them off, because blowing off such questions may just be the ember of the very violence we are talking about.

But after asking these questions, you can then ask, “How should I now live?” Freeman answers the question beautifully:

How should we live?

  • First, live as though in the coming of Jesus Christ, the Kingdom of God has been inaugurated into the world and the outcome of history has already been determined. (Quit worrying)
  • Second, love people as the very image of God and resist the temptation to improve them.
  • Third, refuse to make economics the basis of your life. Your job is not even of secondary importance.
  • Fourth, quit arguing about politics as though the political realm were the answer to the world’s problems. It gives it power that is not legitimate and enables a project that is anti-God.
  • Fifth, learn to love your enemies. God did not place them in the world for us to fix or eliminate. If possible, refrain from violence.
  • Sixth, raise the taking of human life to a matter of prime importance and refuse to accept violence as a means to peace. Every single life is a vast and irreplaceable treasure.
  • Seventh, cultivate contentment rather than pleasure. It will help you consume less and free you from slavery to your economic masters.
  • Eighth, as much as possible, think small. You are not in charge of the world. Love what is local, at hand, personal, intimate, unique, and natural. It’s a preference that matters.
  • Ninth, learn another language. Very few things are better at teaching you about who you are not.
  • Tenth, be thankful for everything, remembering that the world we live in and everything in it belongs to God.

I cannot recommend this essay too highly. If you find it hard to read, then dig into it. We live in a world that accepts simplistic clichés and bumper stickers slogans without blinking. This essay is worth the hard work.

U2, a Worldwide Pandemic, Streets on Fire, and a Need for Grace


I try not to do any social media on Sundays if I can help it so I most likely will not see any comments till later tonight but I wanted to post this, well…post-haste.

We, as a family, were listening to U2 in the car because, well it’s a day that ends in “y” and we heard the following lyrics:

Sixteen of June, Chinese stocks are going up
And I’m coming down with some new Asian virus
JuJu man, JuJu man
Doc says you’re fine, or dying
Nine-oh-nine, St. John Divine on the line, my pulse is fine
But I’m running down the road like loose electricity
While the band in my head plays a striptease
The roar that lies on the other side of silence
The forest fire that is fear so deny it
Walk out into the street
With your arms out
The people we meet
Will not be drowned out
There’s nothing you have that I need
I can breathe
Breathe now
We are people borne of sound
The songs are in our eyes
Gonna wear them like a crown
Walk out, into the sunburst street
Sing your heart out, sing my heart out
I’ve found grace inside a sound
I found grace, it’s all that I found
And I can breathe
Breathe now

Jesus and the Usual Gospels


Normally on Saturday mornings I post some random thoughts. But as I prepare to teach a class on Dallas Willard’s The Divine Conspiracy, I thought it would be better for you to hear from him.

It is almost impossible these days for people to “focus on what is unseen.” We are tethered to the news and various modes of entertainment. And these mediums of the seen spur intense emotional reactions. And we lead our lives with those emotions. And this is why we believe other gospels. Take your pick: conservative or liberal. There are many gospels for you to choose from.

There is another way.


Jesus offers himself as God’s doorway into the life that is truly life. Confidence in him leads us today, as in other times, to become his apprentices in eternal living. “Those who come through me will be safe,” he said. “They will go in and out and find all they need. I have come into their world that they may have life, and life to the limit.

But. intelligent, effectual entry into this life is currently obstructed by clouds of well-intentioned information. The “gospels that predominate where he is most frequently invoked speak only of preparing to die or else of correcting social practices and conditions. These are both, obviously, matters of great importance. Who would deny it? But neither one touches the quick of individual experience or taps the depths of reality of Christ. Our usual “gospels” are in their effects–dare we say it–nothing less than a standing invitation to omit God from the course of our daily existence.

Does Jesus only enable me to “make the cut” when I die? Or to know what to protest, or how to vote or agitate and organize? It is good to know that when I die all will be well, but is there any good news for life? If I had to choose, I would rather have a car that runs than good insurance on one that doesn’t. Can I not have both?

And what of social or political arrangements–however important in their own right–can guide and empower me to be the person I know I ought to be? Can anyone now seriously believe that if a people are only permitted or enabled to do what they want, they will then be happy or more disposed to do what is “right?”

Jaroslav Pelikan remarks that “Jesus of Nazareth has been the dominant figure in the history of Western culture for almost twenty centuries. If it were possible, with some sort of super magnet, to pull up out of that history every scrap of metal bearing at least a trace of his name, how much would be left?”

But just think how unlikely it would be that this great world-historical force, Jesus called “Christ,” could have left the depths of moment-to-moment human existence untouched while accomplishing what he has! More likely, we currently do not understand who he is and what he brings.

And what is it, really that explains the enduring relevance of Jesus to human life? Why has he mattered so much? Why does he matter now? Why does he appear on the front covers of news magazines two millennia later? Why, even, is his name invoked in cursing more than that of any other person who has lived on earth? Why do more people self-identify as Christians–by some estimates 33.6 percent of the world population–than any other world religion? How is that multitudes today credit him with their life and well-being?

I think we finally have to say that Jesus’ enduring relevance is based on his historically proven ability to speak to, to heal, and empower the individual human condition. He matters because of what he brought and what he still brings to ordinary human beings, living their ordinary human lives, and coping daily with their surroundings. He promises wholeness for their lives. In sharing our weakness he gives us strength and imparts through his companionship a life that has the quality of eternity.

He comes where we are, and he brings us the life we hunger for. An early report reads, “Life was in him, life that made sense of human existence” (John 1:4). To be the light of life, and to deliver God’s life to women and men where they are and as they are, is the secret of the enduring relevance of Jesus. Suddenly they are flying right-side up, in a world that makes sense.

The Divine Conspiracy, 12-13

Random Thoughts for the Weekend


1. The other night we went out to dinner for the first time in months. I was nervous because cases continue to rise in Alabama. But the more I thought about it, the risk was not much more than going to the store. And Emma (17) had been begging to go get Mexican for her birthday which was almost a month ago. So we sat outside on the restaurant’s patio in the dusk’s sun and drank mango margarita’s (non-alcoholic for Emma) and had chips and queso and salsa and I had shrimp tacos and a guy in a trucker hat sang Bob Seger and Alan Jackson songs while bronzed women with fading tattoos sang along. I sang along with them. And I gotta tell you, it was good for my soul and I don’t even really like Bob Seger and Alan Jackson. Still felt a little risky, though.

2. Assume the best of everyone. It is less exhausting and the path of peace.

3. I was given an Amazon gift card as an end of the year teacher gift and I figured I should be responsible with it, so I bought records and books.

4. Elgar’s Violin Concerto by Nicola Benedetti is worth your time.

5. If you go back and read the Gospels and look for how Jesus is trying to get people to see that the unseen realities are the highest realities, his teaching will make more sense to you.

6.  While I understand the statement, “I don’t wear a mask because I trust God will protect me,” there are problems with that line of thinking. The main problem is wearing a mask is a way to love your neighbor, which is a primary way in which we trust God. We place our confidence in his teaching to love our neighbors sacrificially when we willingly lay down our “rights” and “privileges” to care for others knowing it is the best way to live because God knows what he is talking about.

7. I’ve been listening to a lot of U2 lately. Although, it seems even when I am not listening to their music, I am still listening to them. Those songs are in me in a way no other artist’s are. 32 years I’ve been listening to them and they’ve informed and challenged my faith in a way few have. I don’t always understand it. But I’m always thankful.

8. There is a third way. There is a third way between the Scylla of Nationalistic God-and-Country bravado and the Charybdis of grievance-and-victim Progressivism. Both see everything through a lens of news-driven politics. And their preferred political party is the answer to whatever question and problem. And the other side is evil and dangerous.  Each feed on a toxic mix of fear and anger. There is a third way, though. However, you must put a premium on the gospel of the unseen reality of the King and his Kingdom. You must seek it first. And you need to know its modus operandi is love.

9. I am reading Merton’s The Seven Storey Mountain again. At one point, he is shocked because a professor, who is Thomist, recommends Augustine to him because he sees so much Augustinian thought in him. That shocked him because he did not expect someone from one line of Catholic philosophy to recommend and celebrate another. It was rare for Catholics to do so. Merton thought is was great. You don’t need to understand that scenario at all to understand the need the evangelical church has of this.

10.  I feel sorry for everyone who has not been quarantined with my wife, Bethany.

Random Thoughts for the Weekend

High school cheerleaders perfoming during football game

1. Jesus is not a cheerleader. When I was in High School, our football team was never good. Everyone expected them to lose most of their games. Even the Cheerleaders expected them to lose. And yet they kept cheering as if our defense could stop the other team and our offense could score. They knew this was fiction, however. Everyone did. When Jesus says things like “Don’t worry about your life…seek first the Kingdom of God and everything else will be provided for you,” he is not cheer-leading. He knows what he is talking about.

2. Many discouraged pastors need to hear, “Celebrity and popularity are not fruits of the Spirit.”

3. No political party is consistent. Republicans/Democrats can get mad all they want, they both ignore in themselves what they hate in the other. There is no hope in this.

4. Josh Garrels new album on a loop.

5. Have you ever stopped to wonder what you are surrounding yourself with and how it might be affecting you?

6. I have had in mind lately the question, “How different is my life than those who do not believe in supernatural realities that are unseen?” In other words, do I live as if there is a God, Who is there, as Schaeffer said.

7. Goodness, it was hard to say “Goodbye” to students this week. I loved them far more than I liked being a teacher.

8. I just assume “deny themselves” includes Constitutional rights. That sounds harsh and hard. Like a kind of death. You could say it sounds like a cross, even.

9. It cannot be pointed out too often how much money and time and attention is given to fit bodies in our culture and how little attention is given to our hearts and minds.

10. I was named after the Apostle Matthew. Former tax collector. Gospel writer. The name means “gift of God.” To see him portrayed in The Chosen as someone with Asperger’s as the father of one with Asperger’s is…something I cannot yet put words to.

Random Thoughts for the Weekend


1. What if we all lived as if Paul was serious in Colossians 3? What if we lived as if we had died the only death that matters? What if we had not only died but actually been raised from that death? What if now our lives were eternal lives? What if our lives were now hid with Christ in God?

2. I’ve been reading Psalm 1 and it just dawned on me this past week how profound it is.  When the Psalmist says the one who delights in the Lord’s instruction is like a tree bearing fruit in its season with leaves that do not whither, he is saying that just as a tree is what it is created to be when it does what it is created to do, we are who we are created to be when we do what we are created to do. God’s instruction makes us more holy because it makes us more human. Movement toward holiness is movement toward humanity.

3. It has always confused me as to why Jesus kept drawing away from the crowds and telling people to keep things quiet. But I think I now understand. Celebrity is the world’s power. A power offered to him in the wilderness, by the way. The world sees that kind of power as only good. It is the power of the seen and a denial of the power of the unseen. And it is a deadly power.

4. There was a long stretch of history in which entertainment by entertainers was not part of the daily life of normal people. I have to keep reminding myself of that.

5. Convictions are not emotional jewelry.

6. Setting your mind on “things above” and not the things of this world is not resignation, it is relentless engagement in the highest realities.

7. “God and Country” almost always becomes “Country” with a rumor of God.

8. I do miss baseball.

9. Joy may be the best and most helpful marker of confidence in God during this time, when walking into the grocery store feels like walking into a funeral home.

10. I have stopped saying “amen” at the end of my morning prayers. I realized I was “signing off” psychologically – hanging up the phone as it were. Saying goodbye.  So instead I now ask, “What are we going to do today?” That may sound cheesy to some. Whatever. But I assume the disciples often asked that of Jesus in the morning. I assume they asked sometimes with eager anticipation. Sometimes with fear. And often with joyful wonder, I suppose.

Random Thoughts for the Weekend


1. I want a joyful contentment in Jesus with no qualifiers. I want in sickness and in health, poverty or wealth, to be at odds with the world of circumstances. When someone asks me how I am doing, I want to consider the presence of Jesus, my union with him and his love for me, and smile knowing I am safe and I have what I need.

2. There is a scene in The Chosen TV Series, in which Peter, Andrew, James, John, and Zebedee are trying to pull in that miraculous haul of fish and Jesus is watching them. And then he does something that makes more sense than all the stoical pictures of Jesus that have formed in my mind for 48 years.

He laughs.

It is a beautiful scene. We should assume that Jesus was happy to see the will of his Father displayed on earth as it is in heaven.

3. It is the most reasonable thing in the world for a believer to want to listen to songs about Jesus. It is unreasonable to demand they be the best songs before they are listened to.

4. As those who follow Jesus, sometimes we must say “no” to things that are not sinful. It will feel like a death because it is a kind of death. It is a tearing of the flesh. It is often painful. And the pain can be compounded when you see others following Jesus, who do not have to say “no” to that particular thing.

5. It is interesting to read the gospels and notice Jesus does not really argue. He teaches and he responds. But there is no real arguing to speak of.

6. And he doesn’t complain.

7. The life and teaching of Jesus are no less powerful than his work on the cross.

8. For those who follow Christ, our decisions on how to engage people and businesses should be based on our love of Him and our neighbor. Not a particular political persuasion. It is possible we may disagree on how that plays out. But let your politics be love for the King and the advancement of his kingdom, on earth as it is in heaven.

9. There is a wealth that is not affected by the economy.

10. It is hard for me to believe Jesus would be very happy with the way Americans have turned the church into a business that requires funds to survive.