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.

Built To Last

“They just don’t make ‘em like they used to!”

Have you ever heard that phrase before? It’s usually said by a weary homeowner who has just gone through the process of replacing something expensive. Recently, I was having this exact conversation with someone who was frustratedly telling me about how companies used to guarantee their products, sometimes even for life. Refrigerators, dishwashers, heaters, and so on, all of these at one point would last for double-digit years at the minimum. Now, expect to replace those items in half that time or less. Our conversation left me pondering why. Why aren’t things built to last anymore?

A few months ago, when I was on the Greek Island of Lesvos (read why here) I saw one of the most magnificent sights I’ve seen. I have been blessed to travel to many places. I have seen incredible natural wonders and impressive manmade structures. But this. This took my breath away.

There, seemingly untouched by tourists, in the middle of an olive grove, accessible only by a footpath or a half-a-car sized dirt road was the sign the simply read, Roman Aqueduct.

I quickly snapped the picture shown above and then just as quickly put my phone away to just simply soak it all in.

The structure stands an impressive 600 meters tall (1969 feet) and was built in the late 2nd century. In its day it would carry 127,000 cubic meters of water a distance of 22 kilometers each day. While it certainly isn’t functioning today and is only a remnant of what it once was I couldn’t help but think, “now that was built to last.”

If that was built to last, then why isn’t my refrigerator?! The answer is sadly simple. That’s not a good business model. Many companies have gone under with the business model of “built to last.”

In our consumeristic culture where newer is always better and materials and production are dirt cheap, it makes no sense to build something that will last a long time. A disgruntled and yet repeat customer is preferred over a happy but one-time customer.

That’s a problem, but here is the greater problem…we have come to accept it. We have come to realize that doing repairs just isn’t worth the work when it is easier, and often cheaper, to go get a replacement.

And I’m not only talking about refrigerators anymore.

This thinking has crept into our mindsets concerning our relationships, faith in God, and how we view the churches we attend.

“Why fix it? Just walk away. Go find someone new. Go worship somewhere else. Go follow a God that doesn’t require quite as much from you.” These are the things that we are up against.

Nothing seems built to last anymore.

Please understand, I am not advocating against change. Change is a good and necessary part of all life. But I am advocating for a renewed commitment to the people in our lives, the churches we go to, and the God we follow.

Let’s build our relationships to last. When times get hard don’t run away. Don’t cash in for a new model. Fix what is broken. Work together to find reconciliation and honor God together.

Let’s build our churches to last. When times get hard don’t run away. Don’t cash in for a church that will meet your consumer needs better. Ask God to use you to fix what is broken. Work together to share Jesus’ love and to make His name great.

Let’s build our faith to last. When times get hard don’t run away. Don’t settle for a cheaper version of grace. Ask God to fix what is broken in you. Trust in Him and do not lean on your own understanding.

There is only one cornerstone, only one solid rock. The only things that we can build to last are the things built upon Jesus.

Matthew 7:24-27

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.