Hurts So Good

Sometimes “nice” words can deeply wound. Sometimes “hurtful” words can build up.

Let me explain. A friend telling us that we have food in our teeth may make us embarrassed, but it is for our own good. We can run to the bathroom and remove the spinach and move on with our life. Alternatively, a person who would tell you “you look so great today” may make us feel good about ourselves, but the reality is the food is still there.

Proverbs 27:6 says, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.”

What this verse is not giving us permission to do is to be rude. We need to speak truth to our loved one in love. Truth without love is harsh and not in line with the example that God has given us. The Bible is filled with truth, and yes, most if not all that truth can be hard to digest. But as much as truth flows through the Bible, love flows just as much.

Many of us have grown up with our moms instructing us, “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” While I appreciate the wisdom of biting your tongue, I would slightly amend the saying. My version goes like this…

If you can’t say anything kind don’t say anything at all.

Kindness and niceness are very different words. Kindness is defined as the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate. And you know what? Sometimes being friendly, generous, and considerate can actually hurt another person’s feelings. But it is still necessary.

Sometimes kindness hurts. But that’s because kindness isn’t just about feeling good, it is about what is good for us.

Niceness, on the other hand, is only about making us feel good. There is a lack of depth and substance in a nice comment compared to a kind comment.

Let’s say that you rob a bank and go out and buy a brand-new car. A frenemy who didn’t care about your soul, or the quality of your relationship with God, or even whether or not you went to jail might just simply compliment you on your beautiful new car. But a friend, a true friend would kindly and lovingly tell you that you have done wrong.

We need more people in our lives that are willing to, in love and kindness, tell us the hard truths. We need to know when there is food in our teeth, when we have made mistakes, and when we have drifted in our faith.

So, friends please be kind to me. Please do not be afraid to lovingly wound me. But also, please be sure that your criticism is constructive and not just simply complaining.

We all need to welcome the wounds of our true friends because they are ultimately for our good. This is a scary thing because it makes us vulnerable and it causes us to trust others with our feelings. But eventually, if we are willing to put our pride aside, we will grow for the better.

Be thankful for the wounds of a friend. Beware the kisses of an enemy.

Swimming Against the Current

Water is so versatile. It can sit, as still and clear as glass in a sleepy pond. It can rush, violently and chaotically over a waterfall. An ocean will overwhelm you with its vastness, and a stream will calm with its trickle. It can also flow steadily and relentlessly in a river.

I once heard someone compare the spiritual life to a river. We are in the middle, they said, and our goal is to get upstream towards a deeper relationship with God.

We are left with three options. The first is to actively swim with the current. This option is obviously easy, but we very quickly will find ourselves farther from God. The next option is much, much more difficult, we swim upstream, against the current. If we choose this option, we will inevitably be hit by debris that is being swept along by the current, our strength will fade, and we may feel as though we are not making much progress.

When we compare the two options it is clear that one looks much more attractive than the other. Now, let me be clear, I am talking about maintaining a relationship with God, not earning salvation.

The Bible is very clear salvation is a free gift of God, not something that any amount of good works can earn us. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

So, while we cannot earn our salvation, it is clear that the depth of our relationship with God is impacted by the choices that we make. We are either being conformed to the world around us or we are being transformed by the renewing of our mind in Christ Jesus. (Romans 12:2)

Our choices either bring us closer to God or drive us further from him.

So far, I only talked about two options, but there is a third. The third option is sneaky and dangerous, and it often takes us farther than we ever intended.

We drift. We just simply do nothing.

This option is by far the easiest because it requires the least amount of effort on our part. We aren’t actively running towards God, but we haven’t decided to sprint the other way either. The problem is, we are still moving.

The current is sweeping us away, sometimes quickly, sometimes so slowly we do not even realize we have moved.

My fear is that far too many people are content to just drift.

Drifting in the current may seem like an innocent enough option, but there is no such thing as inaction when it comes to the spiritual life. We will always either increase in the depth and quality of our relationship with God, or we will decrease. We are either moving closer to God or further away. There is no in-between.

Will you join me in my commitment to swimming against the current? Let’s unashamedly live for Jesus. Let’s happily live different from the current of the culture around us.

Let’s be messengers of truth and neighbors of love.

Let’s swim against the current and not just simply allow it to drag us along.

Counting the Cost

Free coffee!

I saw the ad and immediately was intrigued. The flyer promised free coffee shipped to your house, all you had to do was pay $1 for shipping.

I went to the company’s website to get my free coffee, and I was pleased to see no hidden fees. I searched the site and was confident that all I was signing up for was free coffee with $1 shipping. A few days later I got my free coffee and was proud of myself for finding a good deal.

The problem came when I failed to check my email.

You see, in fine print (even though I thought I had checked that) the company informed me that an email would be sent to me and that unless I “opted out” I would then be signed up for a monthly coffee program. I didn’t know this until a box arrived at my door.

$75 worth of coffee.

I like love coffee. But I was unprepared to pay $75! Especially because that was certainly not what I had thought I signed up for. I was unready and unwilling to count the cost.

There are many things in life in which we must “count the cost.” If you want to be physically fit, you must work out and eat healthily. If you want to have a family, be prepared to say goodbye to sleep. If you want to do well at your job, show initiative and work hard. If you want to follow Jesus, be prepared to give up everything.

But here is the problem, like me and my coffee fiasco, many people are unaware of what it truly means to follow Jesus, and unfortunately, too many are unwilling to count the cost.

Unlike the coffee company, however, Jesus has no hidden fees. He is very clear on what it means to follow Him as well as all the potential risks involved.

In Luke 14 Jesus proclaims, “any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” In Luke 9:23 Jesus calls for His followers to deny themselves and take up their crosses. Galatians 5:24 reminds us that true followers of Jesus are those that have crucified their own passions and desires. And Matthew 7:13-14 says, “For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”

Jesus offers hope, life, love, grace, and mercy. This is good news, but we cannot expect to take all that Jesus offers and remain unchanged by it. Jesus changes us.

If we claim to follow Jesus, but our lives look exactly the same as they did when we were not following Him then something is very very wrong.

Romans 12:2 tells us, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” Following Jesus transforms us.

And as believers, we have a responsibility to share this truth. For far too long Christians have tried to “sugar coat” the Gospel message. For far too long people have tried to hide the costs of following Jesus. With messages like, “Jesus loves you just as you are, come let Him be a part of your life and watch how He will make it better. No pressure, no risk, no obligations.” This message may sound good, but it sounds far different from what Jesus Himself said.

That kind of sales pitch is pathetic and unworthy of our Savior. The fact is that we all have sinned and fallen short of His glory. The relationship between us and God has been broken and it is our fault. God graciously sent Jesus to restore that relationship. He offers life to anyone who would believe, but we must leave our old ways behind and be willing to give up everything for Him. Anything short of that is convenient and consumeristic “Christianity” and I want no part of that.

Is following Jesus easy? No. Is it worth it? Yes.

Will you have to give up everything to follow Him? Maybe not. But must you be willing? Absolutely, because He gave up everything to save you.

Why I Stopped Blogging And Why I’m Now Back

A lot has happened since my last post back in April of 2019. There were a few reasons why I took a step back from posting my thoughts online for almost a year.

But, I did not stop writing.

I oftentimes would find myself writing multiple pages of material just to exit the page without saving. I can’t tell you how good it felt to write down my thoughts knowing that only God would know and remember them.

So why did I stop posting? Well, I want to be clear, there was no scandal that rocked my world. No moral failure. No deep tragedy that I was dealing with. In fact, quite the opposite.

In May, my son was born. Just typing that sentence out brings water to my eyes.

God is so good.

I cannot express just how good God is and how worthy He is of any and all praise that we can offer. If you know me or have been following my writings for any time you are aware that my wife and I were in the process of adoption for what seemed, to us, forever. If you want to read a few posts on that topic check these out…

But God, in His infinite wisdom, used that time to teach us lessons and to grow us in ways we never would have fathomed. I am incredibly excited to share with you all a few of those lessons and thoughts in the future.

As life-altering as the birth of my son was, it wasn’t the main reason why I stopped posting. Yes, he did play a role, and these last 8 months have been spent trying to figure out how to be the kind of dad that God has called me to be. But it would be unfair to “blame” my absence from the blogging world on the little dude.

The main reason why I stopped blogging for a while was I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t just simply adding to the noise. You see, in today’s world, we are inundated with information, stories, and opinions. It seems like everyone can claim to be an expert about anything, and if they have an internet connection, they can tell the world. Facts go unchecked and mere opinions rule the day.

I didn’t want that to be me.

The whole reason I started this blog in the first place was to help remind us that we can take everyday topics and events and look at them from a biblical perspective. (What’s In A Name) It is from the Christ-centered worldview that we should interpret both the mundane as well as the spectacular things that take place each and every day.

And so I stopped.

I stopped because I was slowly approaching an area that I did not want to walk into. I was slowly walking towards caring about approval from people rather than from God. I was beginning to care more about how many people read my content more than the content itself.

I was beginning to become noise. If not to others, then at least to myself.

I needed to refocus. I needed to ask God to change me. I needed to be sure that I was writing with the right motivations. And I needed to make sure that I wasn’t simply adding to the noise with my own opinions.

But, as I said, I’m back. I am sharing my writing again because after months of evaluation, prayer, and reflection I know that God has put things on my heart to share. My commitment is to make His Name great and to talk about His Word, His heart, and His thoughts.

I look forward to posting about trusting Jesus and the power of prayer. I am excited to have “Sidebars” about traveling, cross-cultural experiences, mission trips, milestones, baby vomit, coffee, and the lifechanging experience of wearing socks with sandals.

Stay tuned.