Political Mess

Political Ads. Yuck.

I feel like I could end this blog post right now and I would have already said enough. You all understand exactly what I mean with those first three words, don’t you? The slew of political Ads that we have all been subjected to for the last few weeks on T.V., Social Media, print, etc. have just been plain…yucky.

It seems that the majority of Ads are vehemently bent on personally destroying the character, integrity, and very being of opposing candidates. I don’t need to go into depth here concerning the outrageous lengths that these ads go to in order to tear down opponents in every conceivable way. But frankly, it’s pretty appalling. And I have seen it come from both sides.

Thankfully, today is election day (and you should go vote your conscience, by the way) and that means that the ads will go silent, at least for a while. But even though the ads will go away for a time, that doesn’t mean that the underlying problem will.

Every single human being is made in the image of God. (Genesis 1:26-27) Human beings, both males and females, have inherent value and dignity simply because they are beautifully crafted in the image of the one true God.

What is the problem then? It is that people fail to recognize this Image-Bearer status and fail to treat one another with dignity and respect.

All throughout the Bible, it is clear that God loves all of His creation. But His absolutely most prized creation is mankind. We see time and time again that God cares for people, usually even in the midst of their unbelief and open rebellion. All of God’s love, care, kindness, and grace for mankind, of course, reaches its climax at the cross where Jesus willingly died in the place of all of people.

The Bible also warns and encourages people to treat one another with respect and to humbly think of others before themselves. We are instructed to encourage one another, seek the good of others, and love one another. We are even instructed to love and pray for those who, not just disagree with us, but who are our enemies! (1 Thessalonians 5:11, Hebrews 10:24-25, Ephesians 4:29, Mark 12:30-31, Colossians 3:16, Proverbs 10:12, Leviticus 19:18, Luke 6:27-31, Romans 12:20…and so on…you get the picture.)

James chapter 3 talks about the power that our words have over others. Our words can build up and bless. Our words can also tear down and curse. As Image-Bearers we need to understand the huge responsibility that we have to control our words.
Now, you may be reading this and think, “Sure, I get what you are saying but that person/program/policy is just so stinkin’ bad!”

I hear you. We live in a fallen and broken world. Ever since the events of Genesis chapter 3 mankind has been under the curse of sin and death. The results of The Fall are devastatingly obvious. But the fact is people still bear the Image of God, even if it is a broken and scared version of the original.

We won’t win arguments by shouting louder. We won’t gain friends by being rude. And we certainly won’t win people over to Jesus by abusively insulting others. Speak the truth, but do so in love.

So, go ahead and vote today.

Just remember, the candidate that you did not vote for is, despite everything we have been told to believe, a living breathing person made in the image of God.

Good Pitching, Boring Game

Just a few days ago a group of friends and I went “out to the ballgame.” It was a beautiful night for baseball, 75 degrees and not a cloud in the sky.

As we found our way to our seats my expectations were not very high. You see, I am still dealing with the fact that my favorite team is no longer the better team in the city. Our fan base once had 108 years’ worth of trash talk for the other team…and all that came crashing down just a few years ago. But I try not to be petty.

Instead, I look to the future. The team has fully embraced the concept of a “re-build” as they have traded away stars in order to acquire young prospects. They have told us, the fan base, “we are going to be bad now so that we can be good in the future.” It sounds weird, but I’m on board. After all, this approach did work out well for our Northside frenemies.

Anyway, back to the game. My expectations were low, but I was looking forward to seeing a few of those new young prospects in action, particularly the one who was on the mound.

The starting pitcher for the home team has been absolutely incredible of late, and he has been the talk of many local sports radio talk shows. So, even though my expectations were tempered I was excited.

The game began, and one inning slipped to the next inning routinely and mercilessly uneventful. The pitching was very good, particularly from our new young pitcher who finished 8 innings with a big fat zero earned runs and only gave up 4 hits.

But, aside from the stellar pitching and a pair of exciting doubles from our offense, the game was one of the most boring games I have ever been to.

We were entering the 9th inning still tied at 0-0. My wife and others in our group had gotten to the point of cheering for any batter, home or away, for no other reason but to end the misery of a scoreless game. No one wanted to prolong the boredom.

And that’s when I realized. Good pitching produces boring games. The average fan doesn’t sit there and analyze the pitcher’s performance. Casual viewers do not appreciate the beauty and skill that is involved in the pitcher just simply doing his job well. Instead; flashy catches, line drives, wild pitches, and close calls are what is preferred.

Good pitching can easily be undervalued and yawned at.

And you know what? Unfortunately, we can also be guilty of having that same attitude in life as well. A life well-lived, free from scandal or offensiveness, can easily be undervalued and seen as boring by many.

Following Jesus is NOT boring at all, I promise you. However, there are times where a certain, steady faithfulness is required.

Steady faithfulness when you can’t hear God speak.

Steady faithfulness when the mountains don’t move.

Steady faithfulness when church seems routine.

Steady faithfulness when all you see are plateaus.

Steady faithfulness when doing what is right is hard.

Steady faithfulness when doing what is wrong is easy.

Steady faithfulness when life is boring and dull.

Steady faithfulness when you don’t receive recognition for your hard work.

Steady faithfulness when life “over there” seems so much more exciting.

Colossians 2:6 encourages us who have received Jesus to, “walk in Him,” and to be, “rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith.” And Colossians 1:23 describes those who continue in the faith as “stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the Gospel.”

The Christian life is not a boring one, I can assure you of that. But there are times when being stable and steadfast and unshifting in the faith may seem like a boring way to live. The reality, however, is that the things that our culture calls “exciting” are often the things that lead to the most frustration and destruction.

I am committed to following Jesus, if the people around me call that “boring” then so-what, my mind is made up and my game plan is set.

By the way, there was only a single run that was scored in that game I went to. It was a walk-off solo home run that sent the entire crowd into roaring celebration. That celebration was only made possible because of the good pitching that kept the other team’s score at zero.

There is a celebration in store for those who follow Jesus, and that party will be anything but boring.

 

 

What’s In A Name?

I recently was having breakfast with a very good friend and he asked, “So, why do you call your blog “The Sidebar? What’s the meaning behind it?” I explained it to him and now I feel as though this would be a great time to explain it to you as well.

You see the definition of a sidebar is something along the lines of a ‘thing’ that is written, spoken, or given in addition to something else. Let me put it this way, have you ever been talking to a person and all of a sudden, a thought pops into your head and you interrupt yourself? Something like, “Hey, look at that beautiful German Shepherd—by the way, did you know that German Shepherds are the second most popular dog in America?”

This additional information usually is connected to the original thought and provides helpful details. In websites and newspapers, sidebars help to support the main articles and provide a roadmap for reading the whole issue.

Sidebars are secondary to the main point but helpful nonetheless.

So, why would I want my blog posts to be secondary to something else? Because the Word of God is always the primary, everything else comes after.

If you read and enjoy my posts, praise God! That’s awesome! I am so glad and thankful that you take the time and effort to read what I put together. But please, and hear me on this, please don’t let these Sidebars be a substitute for the real thing, for the main thing. The main thing is and needs to always be the Bible, God’s written word to us. His love letter to us, the people He created.

Psalm 119:9-11 is a passage that is a good reminder of why we ought to be soaking in the Bible on a daily basis.

“How can a young man [or young woman, or old man, or old woman for that matter] keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.”

We read the Bible in order to draw us closer to God, to keep us from sin, and to guide us in the way of life. The incredible man, D.L. Moody is credited as saying, “The Bible will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from the Bible.”

It’s called The Sidebar because it is secondary to the main thing but still helpful. There is another reason why I chose this particular name.

Have you ever sat down with a friend to enjoy coffee and some deep conversations when all of a sudden something that is said catapults your mind in a completely different direction? You begin talking about one subject and by the time you walk away the conversation has changed topics a dozen times.

If you are anything like me then this probably happens to you a lot. It’s not a bad thing. People and things remind us of other people and things. One idea makes us think of another related idea. It’s just how our minds work.

That is the goal behind a Sidebar. As we face various situations, issues, and events may our minds be continually drawn back to the truth. What if everyday situations would cause us to focus, or refocus, on something relatable and far more important. What if we continually related the real-life situations we face with the real-life biblical truth. These connections between everyday events and the truth we find in God’s Word are not hard to make when we allow God to work in our lives.

Romans 12:2 challenges us, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

I hope that this quick little Sidebar in your day has drawn you to focus on the incredible God who loves you and the awesome Word He has given you. That has been and will continue to be the goal of this blog.

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” -Philippians 4:8