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Posted on Aug 15, 2016 in Blog, Culture, Deliberate Living, Encouragement, Featured

Recovering Pessimist

Recovering Pessimist

I don’t know if I’ve always been this way.

It’s hard to remember not being this way. I think some of us with certain personality types are a little more prone to it. However, I think a lot of my habitual pessimism came to me during my time in college.

There’s this way of thinking in college, and it’s in a lot of churches…well, it’s pretty much everywhere.

I’m afraid we’re becoming more and more pessimistic as time goes on.

It can feed your brain and ego to be negative and pessimistic. There are studies showing the way your brain rewards you for being negative and for other negative behaviors like gossiping.

I think that’s party of why we do it. I think we also do it because it makes us feel smart to be able to put something or someone else down. Being negative and pessimistic is a way of lifting ourselves up over whatever it is we’re putting down.

I’ve been trying to be a more positive and optimistic person for a while. But, I haven’t made it public yet. So, I wanted to do that today.

Hi, I’m David. And I’m a recovering pessimist.

I refuse to define myself as a pessimist. I’ve been and am being set free from it. That’s not who I am, that’s who I was. It is a journey. It’s a challenge. It can be tough to change ways of thinking and talking and interacting that have been pressed deeply into your psyche.

But, that’s not who I am, that’s who I was.

However, my confession is not merely a way of me going public with my journey.

It’s also a plea.

Will you join me? Will you go with me on this journey? Will you make a choice to abandon your negative, pessimistic ways of thinking, talking, interacting and seeing the world through that lens?

Especially for those of you who are Christians, we have so much to be thankful for, joyful over and to celebrate! We have been set free from the corruption and brokenness of the world. And while the world around us remains broken, we cannot be instruments of redemption with a mindset of corruption and pessimism.

I’m not saying we won’t have to endure hardships. I’m not saying we have to hide our pain and our struggles. Some of us have gone through unimaginable pain and sorrow. There will be seasons and times of our lives where we walk through the shadows.

But, they are merely that – shadows. They are passing. They are temporary. They exist because there is light. And, as dark as the shadow may be, as dense as the forest around us is – if we just keep walking, we will eventually find ourselves in the light again.

Will you join me in this pursuit? Will you help me in this pursuit? Because I don’t think we need anymore negativity in our world.

Instead, I think we need more hope in our world. We may be the only source of hope for this world. You may be the only source of hope for the people in your life. We cannot provide hope to the world through pessimism and negativity.

Should we be dishonest? Should we put on a front? No.

But, we should practice. It’s one thing to be fake. It’s another thing to practice being someone you’re trying to become. Athletes practice. Musicians practice. Artists practice. People learning to drive have to practice.

We need to practice our positivity, hope and optimism. And maybe if I, if we, practice it enough, it will become who we are.

And maybe someday, people will call you that optimistic person that they love being around.

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Posted on Apr 26, 2016 in Blog, Culture, Featured, Lost Virtues

It’s Like Taking Advice From A Compost Pile

It’s Like Taking Advice From A Compost Pile

We’ve always had compost piles in our family. We dump grass clippings and leaves in a pile. We throw food scraps in there. Corn Stalks and other dead plants from the garden. We never had the fancy tumblers like people use today. Just a pile. And the pile would always decompose. The pile would start out huge, but over time, it would shrink down as the things in it continued to die. They were dead already. They were dead when we put them in the pile. But, as they continued to die, the pile got smaller, slimyer and smellier.

The following spring, it would be used to help the next years plants grow as we would put it on the garden and mix it into the ground where we would soon be planting seeds for another crop.

Can you imagine taking advice from this heap of decomposing death? It sounds ridiculous. I know.

BUT WE DO IT ALL THE TIME!!!

This world we are in is broken. It’s cursed. It’s falling apart, piece by piece. It’s literally decomposing. It is death. And yet, for some unknown reason, we allow this world to have influence in our lives on a daily, hourly, even minute by minute basis.

We surround ourselves with input sources from this decomposing pile and then make decisions based on what we see happening in the pile. Then we are surprised (when really it should come as no surprise at all) when our own lives start falling apart, decomposing.

Not only should you check your input sources, but you should surround yourself with sources that give life instead those that take it.

I talk often about the importance of being rooted in biblical community. It’s very important. I know this as someone who has been without it for a while. I know what happens when we aren’t in community with other believers. I know it can be weird to go back to church after you’ve been gone for a while.

But, I also know the potential of what you can find there if you’ll plug yourself in.

Who cares what the world thinks? It’s death. Why do you care what the world thinks of you as a Christ follower? You’ll never blend in enough with them to win them over. It’s not possible. All they’ll see then is someone who compromises their morals. They’ll see another hypocrite who claims to believe one thing, but lives another.

It’s like the scene from “The Walking Dead” where Rick Grimes covers himself in the decomposed tissue of a zombie so he can walk among them without being detected. Then it starts raining, and the dead around them pick up the scent of life as the rotting flesh gets washed off of Rick. The same will happen to us, if we try to blend in with a dead and decomposing world, eventually we will be exposed for the life we actually are. And, the death around us will just try to consume us.

The lost around us don’t need us to try to be more like them. They need us to be more like Christ in their presence. You’ve been washed clean of death, why would you try to put it on again? You’ve been set free from the power of death, why would you submit yourself to death’s pull and lure?

John 12:24-25: “Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”

We have passed from death into life. We have been buried with Christ through baptism, and raised to a new life in Christ. If we have been given new life, why would we continue to live in the death we have been resurrected from? Why would we allow that death to have any say so in our lives? Why would we try to be like it? It’s death. It’s decomposing. The only hope for it is that the seed of the gospel be planted in the midst of it so it can produce new life.

What if you’re the one that supposed to plant that seed? How can you plant the seed if you’re trying to blend in?

When the world tells you the bible is outdated, don’t listen to it – that’s just death talking.

When the world tells you that church is old fashioned, don’t listen to it – that’s just death talking.

When the world tells you that you should work hard and ignore your family, don’t listen to it – that’s just death talking.

 

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Posted on Nov 19, 2015 in Blog, Culture, Featured

Why We Are So Easily Offended

Why We Are So Easily Offended

I wrote a post a couple of days ago about how annoying Social Media has been lately. If you haven’t read it, you ought to. As a follow up to that post, I have a question to ask you: Have you noticed how easily offended we have become?

Why do you think that is? Why is it that, no matter what you say, there is a good chance you’re going to offend someone? I have offended people by talking about the old school tupperware sippy cups. Seriously. Why have we become offended about everything?!

Let’s try it out. I’m not going to say anything offensive in this paragraph, but tell me if you get offended. It’s offensive to be a Christian, and people are offended by Christians. It’s offensive to be American and americans are offended by people being american. It’s offensive to eat meat. It’s offensive to drink cow’s milk. Those are some of the easy ones to talk about. I don’t even want to mention the others because I don’t want people to be distracted by them.

Why? Why are we so easily offended? I don’t think it used to be this way. People have always been offended by things, but not like this. In the past, people would get offended if you said something that they took personally. We would get offended if someone called us fat or ugly, rich or poor, stupid or smart.

Why are we offended by silly things like milk and meat now? I think it boils down to this one thing: truth.

Truth, morality and reality used to be something that was defined outside of ourselves. Definitions to reality existed outside of who we are. Honesty was defined. Integrity too. Our humanity was defined by biology, and for Christians by who God says we are.

That has all changed. Now we define truth, morality and reality within ourselves. We decide who we are and who we want to be. When we make a stand on something, we are doing so because we are that thing. Whatever the issue is, it’s not just a battle of ideas, it’s personal.

That’s why we are so easily offended. Because when you disagree with someone who has defined their own truth, morality and reality, you aren’t just disagreeing with an idea. You’re actually disagreeing with the very foundation of what makes that person who they are.

It’s the same as calling someone fat, ugly or stupid. (All names I’ve been called, by the way.) You may think you’re discussing an idea, but you’re not. You’re discussing a person.

This is one reason why absolute truth is so important. Without it, we are at the mercy of the most popular idea of the time. Without it, we are at war with each other. Without it, everyone is left to decide what truth is for themselves.

With absolute truth, we are at the mercy of truth and the God who created it. And He is a God who loved us enough to send his Son to walk in Grace and Truth. He is a God who sent His son to die to pay the ransom for my sins and to restore me into the likeness of His son.

Without absolute truth, there is no right or wrong. There is no way to come to a decision about what’s right. And there’s no legitimate way to decide who even gets to decide. Just look at the world around us. We’re trying to decide truth by consensus, and how’s that working out? How does that work out when there are two differing opinions and the split is pretty much even between them? There is no way to determine if I am right and you are wrong. With absolute truth, there is a right and wrong. And, even though you may not think so, that’s a good thing.

Why is it good? Because, let’s say someone breaks into your house, steals your stuff and harms your family. You go to the trial, only to hear the defendant say that he was only doing what he thought was his right. And it just so happens that the jury and judge agree with him. He was doing what he thought was his right. It doesn’t matter how it affected you, because it is what was right for him.

It may seem ridiculous, but it’s not that far off. “But we have laws that protect us against that!?” I know! That’s what I think. But, those laws are continuously being changed to match our new moral relativism. It is not too far fetched to imagine that most, if not all laws will be done away with over time.

And, how do we decide what should be laws if we don’t have any absolute truth to base them on. You may feel that all life is precious and valuable, but that doesn’t mean I do, or that the judge does. If we all disagree, how do we decide what is right and wrong? We are left to do what’s right for us. And if that affects you negatively, that’s just your too bad.

I think this is why we’re easily offended. Because we have become the be all end all for everything. We are the source of our own truth. And when something conflicts with that truth, the person doing the offending is in the wrong. I can’t possibly be wrong because I decided it was right in the first place.

And then, like Jesus, let’s be gracious with one another. Especially in areas where God’s truth directly confronts our lives. When there are those around us who have believed a lie for a long time, it’s going to take time for that lie to be rooted out. Let’s be gracious with one another and walk with one another towards the truth.

If you find yourself being offended about an issue, try to dig into it a little bit. Try to discover if this belief is based on absolute truth or something you have created. If it isn’t, try to discover what the truth is. If you don’t know how to figure it out, ask someone. Ask me, and let’s see if we can’t find the truth together.

As long as you’re interested in the truth. The whole truth. And nothing but the truth.

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Posted on Nov 17, 2015 in Blog, Culture, Deliberate Living, Featured

The Social Media Joy Revolution

The Social Media Joy Revolution

I wasn’t one of the first people to jump on Facebook. It took me a while. But, it didn’t take me long to discover there was tremendous potential in this tool.

As a pastor, I do my best to keep up on what’s going on in people’s lives. Prior to Facebook, this was quite a challenge. It took a lot of time, a lot of phone calls and coffee, etc.

Once I learned how to use Facebook, I could be in the know with a lot more people. It wasn’t necessarily the deepest knowledge, but I at least knew what was going on. I could make a list of people and scroll through their updates in about an hour.

Then I got on Twitter. I’m still not huge into it. I try. I’m not a big conversationalist. I can do better, I’m sure.

But, Facebook has changed. Twitter too. We’ve gone from sharing about our own personal lives to sharing news and politics. Social Media has become a platform for whatever propaganda we agree with.

You can’t get on Facebook right now without being bombarded with people’s politics and other opinions. Which, if you think about it, is kind of funny. We won’t talk about these issues with people face to face, but we’ll destroy our relationship with someone behind the security of the blue and white.

I loved being able to know what was happening in your life. I loved that I can connect with friends and family who are thousands of miles away and see what they’re doing today. I didn’t even mind the posts about food and coffee.

It’s fun to be able to celebrate when a new life is brought into this world. It’s fun to be able to celebrate a new job or a new house. Those are the things Facebook was meant for.

I don’t even mind you sharing when things are going bad in your life, and you need encouragement. That’s you. That’s your life. I don’t think our social media lives should be only the good parts. It’s good to share the raw parts too. The point is, I want to hear from you. I want to hear about your life. I know there’s a bunch of junk going on in the world. We all do. I don’t troll Facebook & Twitter to see the garbage. I do so because I want to know what’s happening in the lives of the people I care about.

But, for far too many, social media has become the prime landing strip for all the things we don’t like about the world, politics, religion, culture, society, etc. etc. etc.

I understand why we do it. Those things matter to us. They matter to me too. We want to have a voice in the discussion. We want to be heard. If we post something on Facebook, we can gauge if people have heard it. We see the metrics right before our eyes. These important things, that we’re probably too scared to share face to face with someone, have become the status quo for what’s in Social Media.

Right now, my Facebook and Twitter feeds are full of people arguing about Syrian Refugees. Last week it was full of people arguing about a red cup.

Considering this is the week leading up to Thanksgiving, could we all try to overwhelm our Facebook feeds with the things we love & the things we are thankful for. I know some of you are going through tremendous struggles right now, and I don’t discount them. But, the majority of us, if not all, have a mountain of blessings in our lives.

So, before you hit share on some political propaganda that will spread wide the divide, stop and think about something positive, encouraging, uplifting and inspiring you can share. Not a meme. Not the equivalent of an email forward. Something encouraging in your life. Something you are thankful for. Something good that is happening for you.

Will you join me in this joy revolution? I may not be able to start a revolution on my own. But I’m going to try. I could use your help. I’m not asking you to share this post, instead, all I’m asking is that you go share something about you on Social Media. Share something joyful and encouraging. Share something that has happened in your life. I have a feeling, that’s what we’re all wanting to hear.

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Posted on Nov 3, 2015 in Apologetics, Blog, Culture, Featured

The Two Main Reasons We Get Disappointed With God

The Two Main Reasons We Get Disappointed With God

Have you ever found yourself disappointed with God? You can’t believe He let you down, He didn’t do what you wanted Him to do or what you thought He would do. Maybe you feel like God has broken one of His promises, or that God doesn’t seem to be consistent – sometimes He gives us what we ask for and other times He seems silent.

I know I have felt those things. There have been plenty of times in my life when I have expected God to act one way, only to experience Him in a completely different way. Why does that happen?

I think there are two basic reasons for this that we all relate to. And when we understand them, I think it’s quite simple, and we can recognize it.

1. We are trying to define God from our humanity.

God is infinite. God is immutable. God is both transcendent and immanent. That’s just four characteristics of who God is, and we, in our humanity do not have the ability to really understand any of them. God is immortal, immovable, all powerful, all knowing, all seeing. God is huge.

God is infinite. He is not constrained by time. He has always been, will always be and always is. We have a birthday. We celebrate it each year. We go to funerals. We have a beginning. We have a start date.

God is immutable. God never changes. We change all the time. We are growing. We grow in our understanding of God’s word and ways. We adapt our lives to Him. Our lives were never perfect. We are fickle. We change our minds all the time.

At these two foundational aspects of God’s nature we discover that we cannot possibly come to a complete understanding of who God is. We are constrained by our humanity.

Problems arise when we critique God because we can’t understand his nature. Let me give you an example. Because we are constantly changing, we can’t understand how God could stay the same for all of time. Because we are confined by time, we can’t understand a God who isn’t.

So, out of frustration we change God. Certainly God would change if He knew what I knew. Certainly, if God knew how long it was going to take to do this or to change this or to become this, he would circumvent the process.

We take our humanity and try to define God. And we fail. Miserably. When God’s nature isn’t measuring up to our standards, it is not God who is incorrect but our standards. We adapt to his nature, we can’t change his nature to adapt to ours.

2. We are trying to understand His ways in the context of our ways.

Because God is all of these things, He has a way of doing things. The way that God does things is in perfect keeping with His nature and character. God is not hindered by imperfections and flaws like we are. God is not tempted by sin like we are. God is not hindered by time, by a lack of knowledge, by a lack of wisdom or any kind of lack we can imagine. God lacks nothing. There is no part of God that is not perfect. God is perfectly complete and completely perfect.

So, when God doesn’t answer our prayer the way we think He should, He isn’t doing so to punish us or to keep us unhappy. God isn’t out to get us or to keep us miserable. God’s wisdom is perfect. So, when the timing isn’t right, He leads us in a different direction until the timing is right. If it ever will be.

We don’t critique God for not working as we think He should. He is God, we are not. If God doesn’t move like we think He should, it’s not because He doesn’t love us but because He does. If God doesn’t do what we want, it’s not because He doesn’t care, but because He does. He cares enough to lead us in the everlasting way. He cares enough to say no to something good because there is something great that He can see and knows is what we need. Not only does He see it, He has planned it.

Another example: Culture around us is constantly changing. Currently at a pace that is hard to keep up with. There is great pressure on believers to change their beliefs to adapt to culture. And it’s hard not to. It feels wrong to stay the same when everyone else is changing.

But, God never changes. His wisdom never changes. His understanding never changes. This system He created operates on the same foundation as it did when He created it. The promises God made to Abraham are still in keeping with what God’s nature is for us today. The value God placed on life at the beginning of creation is the same value He still places on life today. The way the whole system functions today is the same way God created it to function in the beginning.

When God’s ways do not measure up to our ways, it is not God who has failed but our understanding of His ways that has failed.

So, no matter where you find yourself this day, I hope you are encouraged. And if you are not encouraged, but discouraged because God isn’t measuring up, I hope you have found definition for your discouragement. Our frustration with God is because we can’t fully comprehend and understand, not because God has failed. God cannot fail, it isn’t in his nature. We fail all the time.

If the answer from God right now is no, it’s not because He doesn’t love you, it’s because He does and He exists outside of the confines of time we experience and He knows and sees better for you. If you are frustrated that God isn’t giving you something you want, He hasn’t given it to you because He knows what it will do to you right now to let you have it. That’s because He is God and can see things we can’t see. He is God and knows things we will never know.

God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. If your frustrated with the way your life is working out, could it be that you’ve been fighting God for your way and not following His?

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Posted on Oct 21, 2015 in Blog, Culture, Featured, Humility, Lost Virtues

The Definition Of You

The Definition Of You

Facebook is filled with it. The world wants desperately for you to choose it. It’s a secret most don’t want you to know. Because if you find out, there’s a good chance it will have devastating consequences for the way of life that is derived from it.

What is “it”?

“It” is the way we define ourselves. “It” is about the source of our identity.

You see, the world wants you to find your definition in all of the things that keep the world’s profit margins up for the shareholders.

They want you to define yourself based on the compare and contrast model. You contrast yourself to someone else and see how you compare.

I’m not just talking about possessions. Yes it is one of the areas. You see that your friend has a new phone, so you want a new phone. Your ride in your friends new car so you want a new car. You start to define your level of success based on your ability to keep up with your friends. A big part of the danger is that you’re not just comparing yourself to one person, but to many. One friend has the means to buy a new phone, but not necessarily the means to buy a new car. While the one person you are trying to keep up with may make close to the same amount as you, that’s not true when you add them all up. You are trying to keep up with a multimillion dollar enterprise when you consider the incomes of all the different people. Possessions is an aspect, but it’s only one.

We see someone with a different body style and chemistry post a picture of themselves on Facebook or Twitter. We see, in one snapshot, the effects of a journey they have been on. They have been working on it for years, and we see the progress they have made. And we compare ourselves to that picture. We don’t compare ourselves to the journey, we compare ourselves to the results we see. And we don’t measure up.

We see someone who has a gift or talent that we don’t have and what they are able to do with it. And we compare. They have a natural ability that makes them so good at what they do. We aren’t even close. We wish we were.

We see the highlights of someone else’s life that they post and we compare ourselves to them. We see the snapshots of what they did today but didn’t see the work that went into that one snapshot. We see the picture of their kids, but we didn’t see the coercion that took place before the picture was snapped to get the kids to look at the camera. We don’t see any of that. We just see the one moment of perfection and compare it to our lifetime of imperfection.

We see someone all dressed up and going out for a fun night, but didn’t see them before they got into the shower.

I currently have 1,137 friends on Facebook. How many of you instantly compared yourself? How many of you instantly decided you were more or less successful based on whether you have more or less friends than I do?

I have 1,137 friends on Facebook. That’s 1,137 different lives. That’s 1,137 different highlight reels. That’s 1,137 different snapshots. It is impossible for me to keep up with what’s going on in that many lives. I can’t do it, let alone try to keep my life up with their lives. I can’t compare my life to that many lives and keep up. I may be able to keep up with one other person. Maybe two. But not 3, 300 or 3000. It’s impossible.

And that’s what we do every day. We look at the 50 people who post updates that morning and we compare ourselves to them. But for those 50 moments in time we see, there were also thousands of moments that led up to that one moment we saw.

For instance, my mom has been posting pictures of my dad’s progress in painting his barn. I see drastic differences in between the pictures. It’s amazing. But my dad has been hard at work scraping and pressure washing and painting a coat of primer and a coat of red paint. There has been a lot of work I haven’t seen. Hours and weeks of hours working to get to the point I saw.

Why do we define ourselves by comparison? Why do we contrast our lives with the lives of others and see how we measure up?

I think the answer is simple. It’s because we are still at the center of our universe. We are still responsible for our own identity. And when we are responsible for our identity the only way to know if we are making any progress is to look around us and see if we are ahead of or behind of the others around us.

But, what if we’re not supposed to be at the center of our own universe? What if we weren’t built for everything to revolve around us? How would that change things?

What if you weren’t defined by what you do? What if you weren’t defined by your successes or failures? What if you weren’t defined by your abilities and talents? What if you weren’t defined by your possessions? What if you weren’t defined by your highlights? What if you weren’t defined by polished moments you are willing to share with the world?

Wouldn’t that be freeing? Wouldn’t that change everything?

The truth of the matter is, that is the truth of the matter.

You aren’t defined by comparison. You aren’t defined by you.

You are defined by whose image you are made in. Your value does not change based on your ability to outperform people on Facebook. Your value does not change based on anything you can do or own. Your worth is not based on the amount in your account. You are made in God’s image. That means you have value no matter what. That means you are irreplaceable. There is only one you. God created you and designed you. You have worth just as you are. You have worth because you are made in God’s image.

You have so much worth that God sent his son to die for you. You have so much worth that the creator of the universe left behind his kingly throne, walked this earth, paid the ransom for yours and my sins. You have so much worth that God went through all that so that He could walk with you, know you, dwell in you.

That’s who you are. That’s your definition. It’s not your past. It’s not the mistakes you’ve made. It’s not your sexuality. It’s not your income. It’s not your family. It’s not your body type. It’s not your blood type or your skin type. It’s not the color of your hair, the size of your pants or your address. It’s not how up with culture you are. It’s not which political party you affiliate with. It’s not the causes you fight for. It’s not who you were. It’s not the others you wish you could be. It’s none of that.

See yourself, today as God sees you. Made in His Image. Worth the life of His son. Valuable. Priceless. Irreplaceable. Loved. Sons and Daughters of the Most High God.

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