I consider myself to be an introverted person.  While I enjoy good company, I get easily thrown off if it is company that I am unfamiliar with.  I like to be around people that I know.  I like to be involved with projects that I feel competent to complete.  I like to feel safe, free from injury as well as embarrassment. 

However, my need to feel safe often causes me to make mistakes.  Sometimes my fear handicaps my ambition.  Other times my timidity keeps me from taking advantage of great opportunities.  But, worst of all, my need to feel safe has also caused me to sin.

Ever heard of sin by omission?  Basically, the theory is that it is possible to sin against God without doing anything.  There are actions that we are commanded to take, and when we fail to take them we are rebelling against God, which is the definition of sin.  This is against what we usually think about as sin, which is an action directly defying a command from God.  Yet, some of the most powerful sins can come from not acting at all.

There are many examples of sin by omission: choosing not to speak up for your faith, neglecting to lend a hand to a neighbor in need, choosing to ignore a situation when you have an opportunity to love someone, choosing apathy over justice, and the one that I most often fall into, the lack of holding one another accountable.

So let’s stop condemning each other. Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not cause another believer to stumble and fall. (Romans 14:13 NLT)

We usually look at this verse in the context of being a good example and not leading others into temptation.  However, are you not responsible for someone else’s sin if you see it happening and do nothing to stop it?  Are we not commanded to help remove the specks from one anothers’ eyes?  So, then, is it not a sin to refrain from confronting the sinful behavior of a Christian brother or sister?  Does not that perfectly fit the definition of sin by omission?

Personal accountability should be paramount as we look to advance the kingdom of God.  If we are not helping each other stay on the narrow path, then we are not only being bad friends, but we are being blatantly sinful.  No matter how introverted or shy you claim to be, there is no excuse not to love people enough to confront them.

As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend. (Proverbs 27:17 NLT)

 
John the Baptist was sent to pave the way for the Messiah.  His mission was to prepare the Jews for the Kingdom of God to be walking among them, and for the new covenant that was coming with Him.

What kind of pressure would that be?  Of course he was guided by God.  But how intimidating would it be to prepare that sermon?  I, for one, think he made the right call by keeping it simple.

In those days John the Baptist came to the Judean wilderness and began preaching. His message was, “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.  (Matthew 3:1-2 NLT)

Repent of your sins!  Wow…really?  That was the first thing he felt lead to say?  It wasn’t a message about giving ten percent.  It wasn’t a message about judging one another.  He didn't even talk about heaven or hell.  John's first message was about turning away from sin.

You see, repentance is much more than confession.  Many people believe that repenting of your sins means to confess them to God and ask for forgiveness.  But it is so much more.  If you repent of something, that means that you turn away from it completely. 

If your life is moving in one direction, and you repent, then you turn around and walk the other way.  It is a complete 180 degree turn.  If you struggle with gossip, you do everything in your power to avoid talking about people or even listening to it.  If you repent of your sexual sin, you avoid any situation that could even be viewed as compromising.  If you have a tendency to act bitterly and say hateful things to people, your change your focus and settle for nothing but love.

When you give your life to God, if you truly make Him Lord of your life, then you have no choice but to change many things about yourself.  You must repent and run away from the sinful life that you used to lead.  Repentance is so vital to spiritual growth, in fact, that it was John the Baptist’s primary message.

Of course, Jesus Christ started His ministry about the time that John was imprisoned for his message.  And since Jesus was kind of the main event that John the Baptist had been opening for, He decided to deliver the real message of the Messiah:

From then on Jesus began to preach, “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.(Matthew 4:17 NLT)

Well…who would have thought that?  First John, then his cousin Jesus.  Repentance is the first message that Christ chose to deliver.  Perhaps that’s where we should start as well.

 
If you’ve read more than a couple of my blog posts, I’m sure you are aware of my love of Todd Agnew’s music.  He has a unique voice.  His music is a little rock, a little blues, a little jazz.  And his lyrics cut to the heart of what I feel about modern Christianity.  He says things that are not popular, not touchy-feely, and not all bubbly and nice.  His songs challenge you (or me, at least) to assess your walk with God and think about how to be more like Jesus.

Number two on my Christian music playlist is probably Casting Crowns.  A little more popular, a little more feel-good, but still some pretty convicting stuff from time to time.  They've got the goods.

I was recently directed to a song of theirs I had never heard before called “Jesus, Friend of Sinners.”  Obviously, it is about Jesus loving sinners and the fact that He spent a lot of time with them during His time on earth.  It is a good song with a great message.  However, there are a few lines in there that I can’t get out of my mind.  So, like I often do, I am now going to write about those lines in an attempt to clear my mind.

Nobody knows what we're for only what we're against when we judge the wounded.
What if we put down our signs crossed over the lines and love like You did.


Wow.  I have felt this way for a long time, but I have never been able to find the words.  I see “Christians” protesting, picketing, complaining, writing hateful letters, and verbally attacking folks for what they believe to be sinful behavior.  They want to make it abundantly clear that the Bible teaches that certain things are wrong.  They want their stance to be known, and they want to be seen and heard proclaiming that stance so there is no confusion about their opinions.

Yes, the Bible tells us that certain behaviors are sinful.  But aren’t we all sinners?  The Bible does say that we are to purge evil from among us.  But doesn’t it also say that we should remove the plank from our own eye before worrying about the speck in someone else’s?  We are commanded to gently restore our brothers and sisters when they fall into sinful behavior.  Yet, Jesus said that the greatest commandments revolve around love.

If all the world sees is Christians condemning, judging, and looking down on people that are struggling to find God, why in the world would they be interested in knowing the Christ we claim to follow?  If we are only outspoken about what we are against, how will people ever know about the love and freedom that a relationship with Jesus provides?

The only people that we see Jesus confronting in the Bible are the religious leaders that were missing the big picture.  He spent most of His time with the lowest of the low in His society.  He had meals with them.  He prayed for them.  He loved them. 

So if the term Christian really means “like-Christ,” it seems that we are way off base.  And if we want to change that, it starts with you and it starts with me.  Let’s show this world who the real Jesus is.

 
As I have mentioned before, I have been called a lot of names and I have given people a lot to make fun of over the years.  But I have always been pretty quick to embrace those parts of my life.  While I like to think the real reason is that I am a good sport and I like to play along, I think that deep down I just want to keep all of my laundry (dirty and otherwise) out in the open so people have less to say about me behind my back.

Gossip is a dangerous thing.  Not only can it hurt somebody’s feelings, but it can ruin reputations and relationships, and it makes trust almost possible to come by. 

I know that some people gossip because it makes them feel important.  Others do it because it is their only way to feel connected.  However, sometimes I feel like the most dangerous type of gossip is the kind that people convince themselves is not actually gossip.

There are several ways that people do this, and it is sometimes hard to detect.  So much so, in fact, that I truly believe some do it without realizing that it is, indeed, gossip.  So here are a few common ways that people use camouflage gossip.  I encourage you to use this information for good (to stop yourself from doing it and to hold others accountable for it) and not for evil (to perfect the craft and become the most covert gossiper this world has ever seen).

1.  Business – Due to the nature of my work, I am often in meetings where concerns about individuals are discussed.  Over the course of my career, I have witnessed several times when brainstorming ways to support a student has turned into an all out dishing session about every known fact about them.  Since it is done in the context of a meeting, it is passed off as important information.  However, it is often nothing more than gossip wearing a business suit. 

2.  Baiting – While this is a more intentional kind of gossip, it is always masked as genuine concern.  Whereas blatant gossipers come out and say what they know, baiters hint and hint until you ask them about something.  Then they justify sharing the gossip by saying “it just came up” or “well, since you brought it up.”  It may be premeditated, but some people can make it look like they have no choice but to share what they know.

3.  Celebration – This may be the hardest method to detect because it is framed in such a positive way, but that is what makes it so dangerous.  Celebratory gossip is usually made in the form of a gleeful announcement that has deeper implications.  For example, “Did you hear that the Smiths got to keep their house after all?  How great is that?!”  Or “I heard that Joe has been sober for two months now.  Praise God!”  Of course they would have to tell the story of how the Smith family almost lost their home or how Joe’s alcoholism impacted his life.  It’s like the flea flicker of gossip plays.

4.  Prayer request – This method of covert gossip is by far the most heartbreaking.  How dare we use something as sacred as talking with God to spread rumors and damage reputations?  You have heard these requests.  “We all need to pray for Larry and Sandy; you know they are having marital problems.”  “Johnny has really been struggling with making ends meet lately, let’s be sure to pray for him.”  Yes, those are things we should be praying about.  And while I believe in full disclosure of needs, blessings, and sins alike, it is not our place to share other peoples’ baggage.  You can request prayer without going into detail.  You can speak to God on their behalf without sharing their secrets with everyone in the room.  Seriously…not cool.

There is no question that it is wrong to share gossip.  That is why we look for ways to camouflage it and pass it off as something positive or productive.  That kind of justification, though, is never real.  If there is something you have no business sharing, then you have NO BUSINESS sharing it in any setting.  Let your words be few.

A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid anyone who talks too much. (Proverbs 20:19 NIV)

 
I once saw an alternate definition for the word “feet."  The definition stated that feet are “devices for finding legos in the dark.”  I can personally attest to that.  And boy does it hurt.  However, I am coming to find that there is an even more painful way to step on a toy.

You see, when I walk around in the dark, I am very cautious.  I know that tiny toys and elusive pieces of furniture are out there, and I try to be light on my feet just in case I am lucky enough to encounter one.  However, when the lights are on, I throw caution to the wind.  I mean I can see what is in front of me, so there is no need to be careful.  Right?

That’s where Chewie comes in.  My son has a very small Chewbacca action figure that just happens to be a perfect match to the color of my living room rug.  About three out of every five times, I completely look over Chewie when I am cleaning up toys.  Then, inevitably, I will be stomping through my living room on my way to get a donut and get a sole full of Wookiee.  The pain is indescribable.

The parallel to Christianity is obvious on this one, right?  No need for me to go any further.  But if you insist, I’ll elaborate. 

I feel like the greatest dangers that we face in our faith are hidden in plain sight.  Whenever we talk about temptation or sin, we dramatize it and make it out to be a predator lurking in the dark or an assassin hiding behind a bush.  So when we feel like we are in a shady situation or in a moment of weakness, we are quick to put our guard up.  If we have been soaking in righteousness and living out our faith, we will be prepared to withstand that temptation and defeat the sin that threatens us.

However, there are troubles waiting all around us that are so easy to ignore.  There are temptations around every corner than we barely notice anymore because we have allowed them to blend in with our environment.  There are stumbling blocks everywhere in our path that we don’t see because we aren’t cautious enough to watch where we step.

Affairs don’t begin in sketchy hotel rooms.  They start by spending a few extra minutes every day in a coworker’s office.  Losing your sobriety doesn’t just happen in an old country bar.  It begins with a decision to turn down a familiar street or to hang out with some questionable old pals. 

The enemy is sneaky and very cunning.  It’s like Keyser Söze (Kevin Spacey) said in The Usual Suspects, "The greatest thing the devil ever did was convincing the world he didn't exist." 

Unfortunately, we fail to recognize the dangers that are right in front of us every day.  We lack the awareness and constitution to distinguish these stumbling blocks from the background of our everyday routines. 

Personally, to avoid the pain and suffering that comes with ignoring those dangers in plain sight, I plan to paint Chewbacca bright red so that he will never go unnoticed again.  Perhaps we should do the same with those temptations and sins that always seem to blend in so well. 

Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! (Matthew 18:7 NIV)

 
Sweat stinks.  There is no way around it.  From the time you hit middle school until the time you die, sweat is one of your worst enemies.  The stains, the stink, the bees.  It’s a hot mess.  (Note:  That is possibly the worst joke I have ever made.)

Poll question:  What do you apply to your body to avoid the horrific aroma of sweat?  Chances are that 98% of you said deodorant.  Whatever the other 2% said, please say it from a distance.

One of the first awkward moments of my marriage was when I went grocery shopping and bought deodorant for my wife.  I knew it was the same brand I had seen her use, so I grabbed a stick and threw it in the buggy.  (Note:  Feel free to call it a “shopping cart,” but where I am from it’s a buggy.  Back off.) 

I didn’t think about the deodorant again until the next morning when she went to use it.  Apparently, there is fine print on each stick of deodorant.  By fine print, I mean bold letters under the brand name.  If the package did not say “Deodorant and Antiperspirant,” my wife refused to use it.  The stick I bought only said "deodorant."

I may be the only person in this boat, but it was a shock to me that those were two different things.  I had always assumed that "deodorant=antiperspirant."  Luckily, my wife was ready and willing to give me a very direct lesson on the difference.  Apparently, deodorant does nothing more than cancel out and cover up the smell of sweat, while antiperspirant prevents the sweat from ever making an appearance.  (Note:  I am still not convinced that this difference actually exists.  I believe it may just be a marketing ploy.)  (Note:  I think I just set a record for the number of “Notes” in one post.)

I believe that we live in an era of “deodorant Christianity.”  Instead of trying to help each other become pure and just by holding each other accountable, we come up with creative ways to cover up the stink of our sinful nature. 

Think about it.  When was the last time when you heard somebody stand up and confess their sins in public?  When was the last time you saw a fellow Christian directly confront the sinful behavior of another Christian?  Is that not what we are supposed to be doing? 

We are all called to be Christ-like; as sinless and full of love as possible.  But instead of going through the pain of such purification, we mask our faults and struggles so others will not know that we have fallen short of perfection. 

We have confidential giving statements, unspoken prayer requests, spectator-style worship services, prosperity gospels, secret internet lives, destructive sinful habits, and a mind-your-own-business mentality.  I’ll handle my relationship with God, you handle yours.  Let’s leave it at that.

How on earth can we read the Bible and come away with the conclusion that any of that is okay?  Jesus loved people enough to tell them when they were straying from the Way.  He called out the Pharisees, He turned over tables, and He cursed the fig tree for not producing fruit.  He pulled no punches.  He wanted people to be righteous and just.

The early churches literally pooled all of their money together and shared as they had need.  Paul’s letters are full of loving accountability to be sure that the churches were accurately following Christ’s teachings.  Many early Christians gave up their lives for their faith, and we are too proud and selfish to risk our comfort and reputations.

THIS is not the way we are commanded to live.  This is NOT the life of sacrifice and persecution we are called to.  This is not CHRISTIANITY.

Try and justify it however you want, but we are doing something wrong.  I pray that God will help me to be different.  I’ll pray for you, too.

 
As I’ve said before, I love movies.  Not all movies, but most.  I enjoy watching them, talking about them, researching the stories of how they came to be, and reading ahead about the movies currently in production.  I am apparently pretty fascinated by the entire industry.

One theme of the industry that boggles my mind, however, is the tendency to remake movies.  You take an old movie that was popular, perhaps change the time aspect of the setting, and then use modern technology to bring the story to the 21st century.  Being a person that enjoys variety and thrives on surprising twists, the general idea of remaking a film bores me.

And with the recent examples of The Karate Kid and Footloose, and upcoming copies of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Robocop, I feel as though my childhood is being personally attacked by those remaking these films.  I hate to be the old guy that always defends the old stuff, but geez, some things just need to be left alone.  Seriously, raise your hand if you can think of a single remake that was better than the original.  See, that’s what I thought.  (Note:  If you just raised your hand, chances are we aren’t that close anyway.  So what do you say, no hard feelings?)

I get almost as frustrated when I see my Christian brothers and sisters constantly trying to make up for the mistakes they have made or re-do a missed opportunity.  Many people seem to think that the only way to have a bright future is to overcome the past.  If I am interpreting the Bible correctly, it seems pretty clear that, once I accept Christ as my Savior and acknowledge Him as my Lord, my past is not only forgiven but forgotten.  “As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103:12 NIV)

Sure, it is very difficult to move on from your mistakes and even to forgive yourself sometimes.  But when you start putting your focus on who you were, it becomes increasingly more difficult to become who God wants you to be.  Until you can accept His forgiveness and allow the Holy Spirit to guide you in His plan, you will spend all of your time spinning your wheels. 

Just like it was a horrible idea to remake Footloose just to teach somebody how to Dougie, you will be making a huge mistake if you spend time trying to make up for your past.  Seek God’s face and submit to His will.  When you find yourself doing these things every day, you will quickly realize that the past is nothing more than a weapon the enemy uses to distract you from your eternal journey with the Creator.

So I plea to all Christians (and movie producers), please stop working on remakes.  Nothing good can come from it.

 
I am going to be perfectly honest, I have a situation weighing on my heart pretty heavily right now.  I have always been prone to worry about things.  And while I am doing better about not worrying about the less significant things, I very quickly slip into a worry coma when things get real.  But even as I sit here, my stomach turning and heart aching, I believe with all my heart that worry is a sin.

First of all, the Bible is pretty clear about where God stands on the subject.  Matthew 6:34 says not to worry about tomorrow, but to let tomorrow worry about itself.  Jesus teaches that since God makes sure the birds in the air and the flowers in the field are taken care of, it should be obvious that He will take care of us.

When we worry, we are not trusting God.  We are essentially saying, “God, I know you said you would handle this and usually I believe that You know better than me, but I’m not quite sure about this one.”  Really?  Seriously?  For realz?  How ridiculous does that sound?  Worrying is just a selfish way for me to try and control a situation that I usually have no business being in charge of.

So if worrying is wrong, what should I do if I have a huge problem in front of me?  The answer is very simple.  First, you need to completely assess the situation.  See if there is anything you can do to help your cause or resolve the issue. 

If you find that there are things you can do to take on the problem, then do them.  Take your fate into your own hands (after praying to make sure it is what you should do, of course), and get to work.  Then don’t worry anymore because you are doing all you can do.

If there is nothing you can do, then you simply need to give the situation to God, pray for resolution, and trust that God will take care of the situation as He sees fit.  On the scale of “easier said than done,” I realize this is near the top of the list.  Trust me, this is something I struggle with a great deal.  So if you would comment below and let me know I am not alone, that would help me not to worry so much about how much I worry.  Sad, right?

“Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD, the LORD himself, is the Rock eternal.” (Isaiah 26:4 NIV)

 
_ I don’t know about you, but I think the story of David and Goliath is the one of the most under-utilized stories from the Bible.  I know we hear it all the time, but I really don’t think we take the time to see passed the “underdog story” part of the lesson.  To be honest, David and Goliath references are probably heard more often on ESPN than from the pulpit. 

Here is a summary of the David and Goliath story and the lesson we typically take from it:

Israel is at war with the Philistines.  In the main event, you have the giant Goliath going up against an Israeli mystery opponent.  All of the soldiers are scared even though God promised they would win, and nobody wants to fight.  Then a little shepherd boy named David comes to deliver some food.  Trusting God, he volunteers to fight Goliath.  Instead of wearing the clunky armor the Israeli soldiers offered him, he decides to freestyle it with his sling and stones.  With a fastball to the forehead, Goliath goes down and loses his head.  Because of David’s victory, we should feel confident enough to take on anything.  With God’s help, we can roll up on any of the “giants” in our own lives and walk away unscathed.  We should not be scared of anything.  We can be just like David

A few years ago, I went to a Todd Agnew concert and he told the story a little differently.  (Note: There is no Todd Agnew version of the Bible.  People probably wouldn’t accept the Gospel in a deep bass.)  In his version, we do not play the role of David.  In fact, we are the scared, shivering, cowardly soldiers.  How’s that for a pick me up?

Let’s assume that Goliath represents the greatest enemy that any of us have, the giant that separates us from our Creator.  Goliath is sin.  If any of us try to take on sin by ourselves, we will surely lose.  It is absolutely impossible to defeat sin on our own.  So it is fitting that we play the role of the frightened soldiers.  We should be scared.  We.Can’t.Win.

Luckily, there is One who can defeat sin.  While we are sitting on the sidelines shaking in our booties, Jesus Christ goes all David on sin and puts it down for the count.  He is the true hero in this story.  Without Jesus riding in to save the day, we would have no chance against the giant sin standing between us and God.

While most people will encourage you to be like David and conquer the world, when it comes to sin you should never go into battle alone.  That’s one fight that none of us are equipped to win.  Sometimes we just need to step aside and let Jesus take out the giants for us.

Are there any battles in your life that you need to let Jesus step in and fight for you?