Daily Thoughts #15

My temporal comfort is way more important to me than it is to God. He knows exactly where to poke me to get me moving towards Him and away from my sinfulness.

Even the YouTube school of mechanics can’t teach you everything.

I’m tired…

Dressing well is surprisingly good for one’s spirits. It’s amazing how wearing clothes that fit and look good can make you feel better about yourself.

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All You Need is Love

“Love…is a many splendored thing.

Love… Lifts us up where we belong.

All you need is love…”

While Moulin Rouge might have been more of a lust story than a love story it at least gave us some memorable medleys about love (and was a darn good movie).

What is love? (Baby don’t hurt me)… Love, biblically is: patient, kind, not arrogant or boastful, selfless, forgiving, truthful, strong, trusting, hopeful, enduring, and everlasting… All the things that we as sinners seem to have such a hard time being.

Why is marriage so difficult? Because we aren’t loving. As soon as we lose our patience, or distrust our spouse, or hold onto a grudge about something s/he did, we are no longer loving. As soon as we decide we would rather selfishly sit on the couch then get in the kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, garage, home office, or nursery and lend a hand we are no longer a loving spouse.

Why is parenting such a hardship? Because it is hard to be patient with three year old tantrums or a nine year old’s backtalk. It is hard to be kind when you have been working your fingers to the bone and your six year old demands some attention. It’s very tough as a finite creature to give endless amounts of discipline and instruction to little people.

Love is tough, it does not come naturally to most of us. Movies make it seem so easy. All you have to do is kiss and say some sweet nothings and your life will blossom with joy. Not so with reality.

In reality love is holding your pregnant wife’s hair while she loses her breakfast for the third time that day (for the record my gag reflex was too much. My wife was gracious enough to let me out of this halfway through her second pregnancy). Love is sitting down and helping your nine year old figure out her feelings or giving your six year old a much needed piggy back ride. Love is making your spouse lunch every day. Love is getting up and going to work every day (or staying at home to take care of things there) so your spouse can live out their gifts and talents (at home or in a workplace).

Love is ugly sometimes. It forces us to confront our own narcissism. It makes us crush ourselves so others may rise to greatness. Love frequently leaves us feeling spent and used. There is not always an immediate or even short term return on our investments.

But in the end (the love you take is equal to the love you make), love is worth every struggle and hardship. Every pain will be counted and rewarded.

God rewards our good deeds, and those done in love all the more.

Judging A Book

Oh no, it’s that long haired hippie freak and his beard again…

What does your style say about you? Can someone really tell much just by what you wear or what you listen to? What do the various decorations you put on say to the world around you?

I walked into a country western store the other day. Everything in there was country, from the boots to the hats to jeans and the accessories. They even had redneck wine glasses. There was a guy in there with his son and they were both dressed to the hilt with rodeo garb. Needless to say my sandals, t-shirt, and long hair didn’t exactly fit in.

My wife works with a guy covered in tatoos. If you didn’t know him you would probably make an assumption that he has spent a bit of time in prison. Nothing could be further from the truth. He’s a hard worker who loves his kids.

I crossed paths with two guys in Wal-Mart who could have been drug dealers, but the well put together type. They were nothing but cordial when one of them almost ran into me. Definitely not the kind of reaction I would have expected if I had been judging them by their looks.

Even in church you meet some wiley looking characters. I grew up in a fairly well-to-do area where people dress up for church, and our church at “home” is filled with good-looking, tan, well dressed folks. It was a bit of a culture shock attending a mountain church. Mountain people live in a rough area, and they look the part. People come to church in jeans and graphic tees. They have mullets and scruffy unshaven faces. Some of them even smoke (gasp) in the parking lot. Yet they worship with sincerity and love God with all their hearts.

I love all these folks, from the tatooed characters in Wal-Mart to the well dressed folks in my home church. I may feel very conspicuous around many of them, and they may not always know how to talk to me, but every one of them is a person, created in the image of God, and worthy of love.

When we start judging people or expecting people to be just like us we risk alienating those who most need love. Christians stop spreading the Gospel. Imagine if Christ had avoided some of the people we do.

Now, this doesn’t mean we embrace sin. We shouldn’t be “inclusive” for the sake of political correctness or trying to make our church bankrolls bigger. Outright unrepentant sin should not be accepted by any true church.

But judging people by how they look and by their style is something no one should do.

Imperialism and Hobbes

Yes, I am bringing up Hobbes again. Since we have decided to drop bombs on Syria (again) it seems apt to point out that Hobbes would blame us all for the deaths of innocents abroad. In fact, Hobbes would also blame the Syrians themselves for whatever their dictator did. Come to think of it, in the world of Hobbes there are no innocents.

Over the past couple of days I have seen people saying that Trump voters have blood on their hands, only to be told that they, as non-voters, also have blood on their hands.

Isn’t it great to live in a world where no matter what you believe or do, you are “responsible” for the deaths of thousands and millions?

Thank you, Hobbes, for planting in our heads this ridiculous idea that just because we are born in a certain geographic region under a certain tyrant we are somehow not only subject to his whims but responsible for his sins. Thanks for giving us this preposterous idea that tyranny is legitimate as long as it is passed down successively under a set of rules laid down two hundred years ago.

Why Join a Cult?

21 JUMP STREET
From Texas Monthly

One of the Facebook groups I am a part of was invaded last week by two cult members. At first it seemed like a troll, since the posts were almost too ridiculous to be believed. But as the posts piled up it became apparent that these people were serious. They sincerely believed what they said.

The question came up, “Why would anyone want to join a cult?”

Well, my answer was this: “Anxiety and depression mostly. Some of us are prone to believing that our horribleness requires penance in the form of self depreciation and asceticism. The Gospel is sweet, but the bitterness of the law is strong and guilt can be hard to shake. By doing something, like fleeing alcohol or anything pleasant, it feels like we are actually doing something towards our salvation. Being confirmed in our thinking is a comfort, and our ability to deny ourselves gives us assurance. It can be pretty ugly. I have to stop talking to people like that because it can be quite alluring. I have to flee and preach the true Gospel to myself.”

Basically, people join cults because they doubt the promises of the Gospel. They deny that the Mercy of God is a free gift, not something they have worked to earn. The want to have their salvation based on their works because it gives them a sense of assurance. And they frequently have a very negative view of the world.

Interestingly enough, the same week my wife sent me this video and asked “why don’t I like these people? You would figure it would be right up our alley.”

It is a great question. We are very much a part of the “unconventional” crowd. Why are these people so offensive? Why are cults so offensive?

Immediately I thought what makes these people so unfriendly is their attitudes of judgment and anger.

Conservatives and liberals have this in common: everyone should be like them. They want a homogeneous culture. The consistent ones go and cloister themselves into little communities in the woods or small towns.

They aren’t really living happy lives, despite their claims. They want to claim that they are untangled with the culture, however, they are completely engaged with it. But instead of helping it or changing it, they vomit all over it. They throw all their judgement at it and yell at it.

They are not making the world a better place with their opposition. They are just making it uglier. Those that sequester themselves into enclaves out in the boonies focus entirely on the bad of the world, never on the good things. They are pessimists. They constantly talk about “when the shit hits the fan”. They make plans to completely cut out of the world when it does. Frequently, they are already living in cardboard huts anticipating it.

I don’t care if you want to have the situational awareness that tells you it might hit the fan. There is always the possibility things in society could go south. But to live with the assumption that it will? Why does it have to? Why assume that the world will ultimately collapse and leave you as the lone group of nutcase survivors?

Why not take an optimistic view that the world will at least be a neutral place?

There is evil in the world, but there is also Common Grace. And if we are Christians, we should definitely be optimistic.

I’m not saying we all adopt a PostMil worldview and assume the world gets better and better and when we finally have a Christian State, Jesus will come rule it. Nor should we take the negative approach and assume it all just goes bad and worse before Christ finally returns and makes it all better again.

A neutral view is far more Biblical. In the end days there will certainly be wars and rumors of wars (bad stuff) but people will be marrying and giving in marriage (good stuff).

“Post”-apocalyptic is a funny term. Christians should understand that after the apocalypse comes the new heaven and the new earth. Why be pessimistic about that?

We are put into a box in this world. God drops us in to a specific place and time in the universe, we have to engage with what we are given, not wish that we were somewhere or sometime else. Many have tried the ascetic way of pulling completely out of the world, and all of them have failed at bringing about any positive change on the world.

Instead of denying Christ’s promise of deliverance from the Law, and hiding in fear from the world, let’s be in the world but not of it like Christ described us.

Why join a cult? I have no idea. Enjoy the world that God has placed you in. Engage it and make it a better place.

Love Your Wife: Love Yourself

Simpson Selfie
Sometimes I see myself as a Simpson, apparently…

From stay-at-home moms being called bad moms for wanting an hour to themselves, to husbands and fathers who just want some time away in their “mancaves” being called irresponsible, self-care gets a bad rap.

In blogs and books and sermons, folks are told that they should give up everything and give themselves to everyone else’s needs far above their own. People are beaten to death with the line that true happiness is only found in complete and utter self-denial.

But the Bible implies something very different, especially to husbands, in Ephesians 5:28-30:

In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.

In order for a man to properly love his wife, he must first love himself.

But… This is not the selfish, narcissistic, self serving “love” that many men demonstrate through cruelty, waste, disrespect, slovenliness, and misplaced passions.

The self-love spoken of in these verses is informed by a proper perspective of self. The man who practices this self-love is enlightened by Gods own view of him. This man sees himself as God sees him, frail and sinful, fallen and weak, but loved, saved by grace, imperfect, but being sanctified daily and made more holy. God is pleased to see us as image bearers reflecting His glory back to Him. Instead of wretches clothed in rags He is pleased to see us in the robes of His Son.

A man who loves himself will care for himself, he will take pride in himself. He will understand that his value and loveliness is not in his success, his wealth, his looks, or his health, but simply in his createdness. Only when he understands this will he be able to take care of those things. When he properly loves himself he will be able to properly love those things and care for them.

And when he cares for those things he can care for his wife. Only when he cares for himself will be able to care for her. When he takes care of his health he is able to care for her. When he tends to his wealth he is able to care for her. When he is successful in any number of other areas, he will be able to care for her.

A man who eats too much, sits too long, and invests far too much time in pursuit of wealth and “security” is not a man who is able to care well for his wife. A man who hates himself and takes no pride in the fruits of his labors is most often married to a miserable woman.

Christ cared for Himself, He took time away from the crowds, the disciples, and from healing. He knew enough to rest, because His humanity was frail like ours. By taking the time to care for Himself, Christ was better able to care for His bride, the church.

About a week ago I was forcefully informed that my self-hatred was killing my marriage. My life to some degree has been falling apart because I have been refusing to take pride in my own life and worth, and refusing to care for my responsibilities (because what’s the point?). Even what I learned back in February seemed to be going by the wayside.

I tried to take care of everyone, tried to make everyone else better, but neglected myself.  I shut myself down, never expressing feelings thoughts or emotions. I never had an opinion that didn’t agree with someone else.

I became a nothing. And my wife despised it.

She wants a man who loves himself, who takes charge of himself, who disciplines himself, who prioritizes himself. She wants a man with a voice, opinions, thoughts, challenges to her daily life. not a lump of flesh. Certainly not the weak-willed mumble I was quickly becoming.

I am learning, slowly, to love myself. I’m figuring out how to to do the things I want, to make time for me, to refresh my soul and take care of my body. I’m making sure to take care of my appearance as well, as this is important.

And for the first time in my life I’m learning to take some pride in what I do, instead of loathing the silence from critics or friends, I’m taking it as a sign to improve and keep striving. Eventually I’ll get someone’s attention. At least I’ll know my capabilities.

It’s refreshing and terrifying all at the same time.

Sometimes Life Is Like A Multiple Guess Test

F… F is always a good choice…

If there is anything that sticks out and bugs me most about the culture we live in, it’s the insistence that everything in life should be handled like a test. Every problem has a simple and clear solution, every question has a clear concise answer. We see magazines and videos touting “5 Easy Ways to____” or “Top 10 Solutions to X Problem”. We treat parenting and marriage like there are simple ways to navigate them. We even water down theology to catechism and assume our rote memorization will suffice for true knowledge. 
I think much of the reason we expect our questions in life to have simple succinct answers is that we grew up reading textbooks in school. Then, because of standardized testing we spent great energy applying textbook answers to test questions.  We were essentially trained to think life must have these textbook answers as well. Why would school mislead us? 

We become adults and face decisions and only see “A” or “B”. If we know “A” is wrong, we assume that it must be “B”. 

But is this how life actually works? No. Of course not. Usually there is a “C” option, more often than not there is a “D” as well. The more we look the more we discover that the direction we can go looks more like alphabet soup than a single textbook course. 

Sometimes we arrive at an impasse. There is every conceivable choice with every conceivable outcome. Life becomes a multiple guess test, sometimes with a few random essay questions thrown in just to keep things interesting. 

This of course can be quite paralyzing. To our “A” or “B” trained minds, “C” to “Z” can seem impossible to consider. We can’t possibly interpret all the data being thrown at out heads. We seek out articles and books and videos like the ones I mentioned above to help us parse out and narrow down the data.

But sometimes. Sometimes. There are just too many data points to consider. We can’t make our choice based on textbook solutions. So what do we do? 

We act. 

It is really that simple. 

We may not always know what to do, but we can at least be fairly sure that doing something is preferable to doing nothing. Sometimes you have to stumble through those multiple guess answers to arrive at something of a clear destination. 

Frequently, if we are acting, we “fail”. In the short term our failures seem catastrophic. We chose “C” but the best choice would have been “K”. This bad choice suddenly derails us and we find ourselves wondering if any of our guesses were correct. 

The only answer we know about our lives is that there is a beginning and an end. Often there are no answers about what comes between. Life is not a test. There are no simple ways to navigate its many paths, one just has to pick the path and take it. 

If there is any textbook answer in life it can be found in Scripture. We are promised that if we seek God’s will our paths will be made straight. If we choose our path with an acknowledgement that God is sovereign over all outcomes He will direct our steps down that path. 

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths. – Proverbs 3:5-6

Commit your works to the Lord and your plans will be established. – Proverbs 16:3

The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps. – Proverbs 16:9

So go, do something. Stop expecting easy answers. Stop looking for a textbook to tell you step by step instructions for every detail of life. Even the Bible doesn’t give specific directions. Sometimes you just have to step out in faith and do instead waiting around for a specific instruction. 

Make the guess, let God determine how it all turns out.