Monthly Archives: September 2019

The Moment Everything Changed

This morning my wife rushed to get everything together and loaded to head to the Farmington Fair for Ag Day. Pots and pots of applesauce to be milled with the students who would come to the Fairgrounds. She was running late, she was planning to arrive at the Fairgrounds close to 8:30 am, but still home when there was a very loud noise close to 8:30 am, heard all over our county. In that moment everything changed.

For our family is was a pretty minor change. It changed our schedule and plans for our morning. Others in our community experienced much greater changes. At least one life was lost, a workplace and community resource was destroyed, and for many life after that explosion will never be like it was before the explosion.

We all experience these moments of profound change where life shifts sideways or upside down or just stops. An accident, a diagnosis, a call with news unexpected, and suddenly everything is different. I will never forget the phone call where I learned that they had discovered cancer in my father.

We like to think that we are in control of our lives and destinies. We like to think that we know what is happening and what is going to happen. We even tend to think that we deserve things to happen in a certain way, always positive for us. So often we then face moments where those ideas a ripped from us and we face an event that becomes a focal, turning point.

The Bible tries to warn us that this is the case. It warns us that we do not know what a day will bring forth, that our lives are like a vapor, or like grass that quickly whithers, like a flower that only blooms briefly. It even warns us that the world as we have constructed it in our humanity is no respector of good planning and virtue.

Again I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to those with knowledge, but time and chance happen to them all. For man does not know his time. Like fish that are taken in an evil net, and like birds that are caught in a snare, so the children of man are snared at an evil time, when it suddenly falls upon them.
(Ecclesiastes 9:11-12)

Today my heart aches for families and friends in my community who are facing the death or serious injury of loved ones. I’m also thinking of my friends who are facing more personal and private turning points. Divorces, job changes, relationship strife, health issues, and any number of other events that suddenly make everything different.
This is why I hold onto Christ. God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He does not suddenly shift or change, and events to not overtake Him. This world is full of uncertainty and evil. Our lives are fragile and short. My hope is beyond myself.

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God. Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. Selah
(Psalms 62:5-8)

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Of Coarse

I read an article that got me thinking about a trend in our culture that is bleeding into the People of Jesus. A coarsening of language. “Swearing” is nothing even remotely new to the human condition and society. What is changing is our view and acceptance of it. How this has changed is less about some arbitrary behavioral standard or attempt to “act good” and much more an outward manifestation of our inward values, both as indivuals and as a culture.

There are a few different words in English that we use to describe “bad” words. Each one has a particular meaning, although in common usage, most people don’t diffentiate. For fun, let’s consider them though.

  • Obscenity: This holds the idea of something repulsive, normally concerning things bodily or especially sexual. Many of our modern swear words come from this. Words describing body-parts/functions and sex-acts. No need to list them, I think we know what we’re talking about.
  • Profanity: From profane which means to take something holy (special) and make it unholy (common). These stopped being considered overly taboo by the general culture a long time ago, but are still sometimes considered swearing by more conservative religious people. “Holy Cow!” “Heavens to Betsy!” etc, are no longer considered taboo by most in even our churches, but a subset of profanity, Blasphemy, the profaning of God Himself, taking His name in vain still has greater pushback. Using “God” or “Jesus” as exclamations, or linking them with other words (g-d–) is generally avoided by those seeking to follow Christ.

You used to not be able to say pretty much any of these things on TV, then not on TV except late at night. Then cable and satellite came along, and it became more normal. At the same time more language became ok for PG movies instead of getting you an “R” rating. Now, it is part of our discourse, or perhaps I should say discoarse. The president, and now many of the next presidential candidates feel free to not only use such language, but to feature it. This is not about just a shifting set of language norms, but a reflection something greater.

The reason words become Taboo is because we don’t like the misuse things we value. The way we treat the names of the things, show how much we value those things. Our culture as a whole stopped being worried about “holy” things quite a long time ago, and as a result, those words stopped being “bad.” Now in today’s culture, sexual and bodily things are no longer special but common and open to mockery. So, the words that go with those things are now fair game. At the same time, our culture has started to embrace what was formerly considered crude as now a mark of “authenticity” since watching your words and being careful, respectful, and pure are probably just acts that no one really does. If it is all an act, than being crude, sexual, edgy, must be a sign that you are real.

To a point that is probably true, because there have always been plenty of people whose purity and character was an act. However, that is not always the case, and the failures of character shouldn’t become the new rule. That is what the world has done, and too often people who call themselves Christians have conformed to this world on this point.

Jesus calls us to something else, something better. It is not about just “watching your mouth.” It is about letting your words have value and valuing what God values. There are implications that might make us as Christians uncomfortable.

  • I don’t joke about mother-inlaws and how bad they are because I love and value my mother-inlaw.
  • You will never hear me joke about my wife in a disrespectful way (“the old ball & chain”, “my old lady” etc.) because I love and value her and would never want to give a different impression.
  • I don’t use either profane or obscene language, not because I’m trying to keep some rule, but because I love and value both my God, and human sexuality as given to us by God.

Your values WILL be reflected in your language, and people end up literally “telling” on themselves as they let loose. Jesus, in His Word, encouraged us to a different spirit that then will show up in our words. Let’s close our discussion with some words in red and take some time to consider what is proceeding out of our mouths.

But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.
(Matthew 15:18-19)

You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.
(Matthew 12:34)

This is the article the sparked my thoughts today:
https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-uttered-what-many-supporters-consider-blasphemy-heres-why-most-will-probably-forgive-him/2019/09/13/685c0bce-d64f-11e9-9343-40db57cf6abd_story.html

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The Show Must Go…..

” All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players “

William Shakespeare, “As You Like It”

For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.


(Psalms 51:16-17)

It is so easy to put on a good show. Well, maybe not easy, but it seems clear by what I see around me so often that many consider it much easier than the alternative. I find this particularly true for many who call themselves Christians.

Now don’t get me wrong, I know many honest, dedicated people of God who are authentic and who’s true lives are the same lives that you see in public and even online. There are many more, unfortunately, who are working hard to project an image of what they believe they ought to be or work to live up to what they think is expected of them, either by God or church, or whoever.

Our human pride means that all of us like to “polish the apple” a little when it comes to ourselves. It is natural to try to put our best foot forward and to be a little extra charitable in our self-explanations. What is unfortunate is how this quickly can become an act, a performance, a false front that we show the world to seem more noble, more spiritual, more vituous that we really are.

And therein lies our danger. When you are performing, rounding up, putting forth your best image in lieu of showing your true self, you are always in danger of being unmasked. This is why sometimes “preachers kids” can be bitter. When the view of their father at church and around others is at odds with the man who they live with at home when the mask is dropped, they are turned off to the message of the “church dad” as they know it to be a performance.

An alternative is to be REAL. This is harder on the ego but easier in the long run. It requires that you work on one person, not one image. That means actually being ready to die to self, being honest about your failures and sins, your short-falls and weaknesses. This can be brutal on your ego but marvelous for the work of God in your life. My personal experience has been that as I am honest with my wife about my fears, insecurities, and struggles, my bond with her grows stronger, her patience with me and her mercy towards me grows greater, and my ability to face the worst parts of myself in Christ is more real. In the same way, I have found that I can parent my children more effectively by pointing out my own struggles as a guide to them dealing with their own. As I confess my sins to them, I can more effectively help them confront their own sin and selfishness. This also means that the Dad they see in church is the exact same man that they spend time with at home. They have even heard me confess my failures at home to the church. This means that when I speak the truth of God’s Word at church, they don’t have reason to doubt my honesty.

Sadly, there are many who name the Name of Christ and yet are still putting on a suit of spirituality when the occasion calls for it, but are hiding a lot of mess underneath. That calls us back to Psalm 51. God doesn’t want a big showy performance or an elaborate act of sacrifice. He wants brokenness. A broken and contrite heart will not be despised. Time to drop the act, start killing that pride, and be real.

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