Always running

We’re flying down 290, it’s a beautiful morning

, and I’m burdened with the knick knacks and spider bites of life.

I’m in a tough spot at work with a project that is significantly overdue.

I stayed up till nearly midnight last night deploying another project that is also significantly overdue.

Why can’t I catch up?

I think this feeling is common to humanity. Seems we’re always running somewhere: either chasing after something we can’t quite catch or being chased by something that’s gaining ground on us.

I had a moment a little over a year ago. It was an important moment. It happened, as a matter of fact, at high velocity 30,000 feet over the Atlantic.  I was headed to Eastern Europe for non-work activities; what I had left behind was a project that was struggling and a sharp encounter with my boss that had put me in the pit of anxiety.

I’d spent a day shifting gears, leaving the pile at work behind to fester while I prepared for some new challenges in the upcoming week and started the comfortable but still tiring grind of a modern intercontinental journey.

It was late. I was sitting in my seat and the anxiety was as heavy as the darkness around me. Then, in a moment, the burden was gone. Gone. This has only happened to me one or two other times in my life. It was almost as if a Voice had said “Bill, it’s going to be alright, and all of it will be alright.” It was the peace that passes understanding.

And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.
Mark 4:39 ESV

It was kind of like that. And everything did turn out alright and better than alright.

I’m running against the wind right now. So I say to my soul, remember. Remember.

“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah
Psalms 46:10‭-‬11 ESV

Bigger fish to fry

I’ve been thinking recently about past controversies in the theological circles I run in. The worship wars, the Calvinist vs Arminian debates, “emerging” vs “emergent” (remember that one?), and so on.

Many of these are still going on, and others are being cooked up all the time. If you’re incensed because someone used the phrase “reckless love” in a worship song, for example, you’re still in these battles.

I’ve been in them too. Case in point, over the past fifteen years or so I inched closer to Calvinism though I never fully embraced it. For various reasons I’m now crab-walking away from that brink as fast as I can, but that’s a post for another time (and, no, my pigeonholing friends, I’m not an “arminian” either).

Things have changed. The few topics I raised above, and many others, are important and deserve to be worked out fearfully and respectfully. But they seem, to me at least, to be mainly side shows these days.

Bigger questions are looming now. For example

, what is the future of the evangelical church in America? Have we learned from our unholy alliances or are we going to double down? Will the church become a leading force for good and needed change? Will we continue to automatically dismiss certain concepts, such as “justice”, as being aligned with theological liberalism? Will it continue to be impossible to blame ourselves for anything because we are GOOD PEOPLE?

A few days after the resurrection Peter and some of the disciples decided to go fishing. It’s unclear why; they may have been hungry, they might have needed some money, or maybe it’s because that’s what they always used to do. When in doubt, catch a trout.

You know the story. They didn’t catch a thing until the Lord showed up on the shore and told them to cast their nets on the other side. Then the catch came.

When they got out on land

, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” John 21:9‭-‬10 ESV

They had gone back to what they always did. Jesus showed up to, among other things, remind them that there were now bigger fish to fry. The old pursuits weren’t the main thing anymore.

I think we’re in a moment like this, and have been for a long while. In John 21 Jesus connects love for him with love for the sheep that he has entrusted to us. This echoes the greatest commandment, doesn’t it? Love God and love your neighbors.

“Feed my sheep” surely does mean to feed the people in our care (our neighbors) with the truth. But what’s needed is the whole truth, not just those truths and semi-truths that are comforting and convenient (such as “We’re GOOD PEOPLE”).

“Feed my sheep” is not an other-worldly command. It often means literal feeding. It means valuing and advocating for justice,  turning the other cheek, giving of ourselves, going the extra mile, giving up our treasures.

I wonder if, while we claim to be rich and whole, we’re sick and broken and poor.

We’ve wasted a lot of time on small distractions. There are bigger fish to fry.

Pressing on

I started writing a post this morning about all the things about myself that drive me crazy. I’m not the person I want to be.

Thankfully, I’ve abandoned that self-indulgent bit of navel-gazing for the time being.

This is better:

Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 3:13‭-‬14 ESV

Isn’t that good? There’s so much wisdom in that passage! Still, it’s the straining forward that wipes me out. Seriously. It’s really easy to lose sight of the prize.

We have an upward call. Up. Higher. Further up and further in.

I have a call on my life. Many calls, actually. God has called me to be a husband and a father and to sacrifice for my family. He’s called me to be his son, growing in relationship to him. He’s called me to spread the great news about Jesus to others and to be his ambassador at work and on campus and in my neighborhood. He’s specifically called me to make disciples of Jesus among the college students that surround us in this part of town. All of these calls lead upward.

Gravity pulls me downward. That’s why all of these calls are often  a strain and require pressing on. It’s hard.

Gravity isn’t hard. The downward calls on my life are easy

Compra Levaquin Online

, really.

I don’t have to “press on” toward being depressed or “strain forward” toward feeling resentments and anger. I don’t have to strive to be lazy or dig deep to work up some despair. There’s no great effort expended in saying the wrong thing or missing the mark. It’s no trouble at all to ignore my neighbors and lock myself in my fortress each night.

God calls us upward. We are downward people. That’s why it’s a miracle when we find ourselves pressing on.

Christ, as always, leads in leading us upward. I think it’s meaningful that the most heart-wrenching scene in the gospel narrative is of Jesus, already torn and bleeding, carrying his cross to Golgotha. He was taking a machete to the wild, untamed jungle of sin that bars the way to the upward call of God, opening the way by the tearing open of his own flesh.

He strained forward. He pressed on toward the goal, the prize, the upward call of his Father.

Because he did, now so can we.

the right bus

First post in a while written while not sitting on a bus. I’m at home, with a few spare minutes before we head off to church.

There was another mass shooting at a high school on Friday. More rationalization today about our violent culture.

There was more froth and whataboutism on facebook this morning about Trump. More rationalization.

It’s amazing how many busses I’m not riding on these days. I’m not on the Republican and Religious Right bus anymore

, for example.

Heard a series of great teachings at a College retreat I attended this weekend. Russell Minick, dear friend, wise counselor and also my daughter-in-law’s dad, hammered home a great truth: Jesus is right.

Jesus is Lord.

I am on Jesus’ bus. I am working to make that the only bus I ride.

Same boat

Good morning. The bus is taking us on a different route this a.m., trying to nose its way down Jones road as an alternate to taking West to get to 290, now that the HOV bridge is no more. It’s a crazy plan, but it just might work.

It occurs to me that I’m on a bus, but I’m also in a boat. You may know this boat. We may be in the same boat, as a matter of fact.

Do you have too much to do and not enough time to do it? Are you facing problems at work that seem unsolvable? Are you just trying to do your duty well but feeling like you’re not quite making it? Do you feel like you’re less than you should be? In that case

, we are in the same boat. Here, have some tea.

I’m really not trying to complain. On a relative scale things are so incredibly good right now; I know this. I’ve just got a few rocks in my shoes and my guess is most everyone else does as well. My little dinghy, bouncing on the waves, is not anything you’d notice. Just a dot on the sea.

There was a time when Jesus was in a boat with his closest followers on a stormy night. His follwers were terrified because of the waves and wind, and justifiably so. Jesus, however, was sleeping. That in itself is amazing; personally, I’m not even able to sleep in a moving car, let alone on a ship in a storm.

We know the story: his disciples were overcome with fear, they woke him up, and he, after gently jabbing them for being afraid, with a word took control of the winds and waves and all was calm. That in itself is awesome and the implications of the power he demonstrated are staggering. But this also stands out to me: I’m pretty sure if the disciples hadn’t woken him up Jesus would have been perfectly content to remain asleep. They were all in the same boat, but he was the only one who wasn’t afraid.

I’d also like to have no fear, and so I remember: We are in the same boat. It’s his boat, a little dot on the vast sea, containing the One who fills all in all and contains in himself vast oceans of peace and rolling waters of justice and righteousness.

Peace, be still.

Behold, your king is coming to you

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your king is coming to you;
righteous and having salvation is he,
humble and mounted on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey. – Zechariah 9:9 ESV

I’ve spent a lot of time recently writing about current events. These things may be important, in a way, but they are temporal and will quickly pass.

I may lose some sleep over who will be the next president of the country I live in, and I’m not saying that doesn’t have weight and import and historical ramifications. But our true King has already come

, and is coming again. In contrast to our politicians, and every politician who ever stumped a speech anywhere, our King is completely righteous. Our political leaders and systems won’t save us, ultimately. Only he comes bringing salvation. And in contrast to every blowhard who ever beat his or her chest from a podium, our King is humble. He humbled himself for us all the way to the cross, and he now has been exalted by his Father to the highest place imaginable and even beyond our imagination; every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that he is Lord!

Thank you Lord Jesus for your indescribable gift!

Who’s approval?

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man

, I would not be a servant of Christ. – Galatians 1:10 ESV

Oh boy.

Confession: I have been a people-pleaser my whole life. I really have to work hard in keeping my focus straight, because my natural inclination is to work hard to win the approval of those around me.

God has been dealing with me in this for a long time. One reason this battle is so tough is because pleasing others isn’t always wrong, and so it’s sometimes hard to discern my own motives. Paul is not saying here that we are to actively seek to displease people. It really comes down to what we are seeking. If we are seeking God’s approval, God’s kingdom, and God’s glory and that happens to result in our actions blessing others, that’s fantastic.

But seeking the approval of others first and foremost is deadly, for many reasons. For example, it kills courage. People-pleasing is a form of cowardice, because it is based on the fear of rejection. I know that fear very well.

One reason Christ is so admirable, so excellent, is because he didn’t seek to please people. He went to the cross out of obedience to his Father and as a result of really displeasing the wrong people. My Lord, Jesus was brave.

May I become more like him. Lord, make me your servant, not the servant of my fear of what others think. Amen.

Good, good news!

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. – Galatians 1:6-9 ESV

Can you hear Paul’s urgency, his frustration, his sharp edges in this passage? It is rare for Paul to launch mortars this early in one of his letters, but he’s certainly lighting them off here. The reason is because turning to a different gospel is not just bad, it’s deadly.

The word “gospel” means “good news”. I remember when I first understood the good news as good news. This was quite a while after I had first heard it, because it took a while for me to understand how good this news really is, and I didn’t really get that until I understood how bad I am.

Good news! Jesus loves me. Good news! He died for me. Good news! He’s perfect, and obeyed and obeys God perfectly, so his death was a perfect sacrifice for me, paying the penalty that I simply could not pay.

Good news! He rose again from death and lives forevermore, interceding for me.

Good news! He is everything I’m not so I need to receive his gift and lordship, giving my meager everything to him in exchange for his infinite everything so that all he is can fill the howling vacuum of my emptiness apart from him.

Such good, good news this is!

Astonishing, isn’t it, if my eyes stray from this good news toward some other salvation-scheme that’s less Jesus and more me? Why would I do that? But how susceptible I am

, as so many of us are, to replacing this good news with something else.

Oh my soul, focus on this good news, learn all of its music by heart, and sing it well for those who don’t know it, so that they can pick up the tune as written by the Lord of all good news.

Turning the tide

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen. – Galatians 1:3-5 ESV

“To deliver us from the present evil age.” There’s something there, tangible, that I often miss.

Through his death and resurrection, the Lord Jesus delivered us from death and hell, and has given us eternal life. It’s easy to think of that deliverance only in the future tense. But if you’re paying attention you’ll notice that the New Testament resonates brightly with a sense of the Now.

Salvation in Jesus is forever, of course. But forever started that moment that he took you into himself. These days have enough trouble of their own; deliverance from these days, these evil days, is happening now.

Deliverance from, not teleportation out of.

The Lord is with us – that’s his forever promise – and he is turning us each day into immortal beings like himself who are becoming immune to the evil of our times, and indeed are daily more and more a part of his heavenly host, turning the tide.

Your kingdom come

, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  – Matthew 6:10 ESV


The Lord is good. He is so good.

Think about it: we believe that Jesus came to earth to live a perfect life and die for our sins. This is, of course, true. But he did more than just die for our sins and forgive us and give us eternal life, all of which are, of course, both true and huge. But sometimes we forget that there’s more. We’re content with the idea of just barely being admitted into the Kingdom as anonymous citizens, to sleep on the streets of gold.

Listen, he did more.

He could have made us his servants. That sounds better – to serve him in the Kingdom and sleep in the servant’s quarters. Yes, much better.

No, there’s much, much more.

We’re not just servants. OK, perhaps we’re like foster children. Now we’re eating at the table.

Wait, there’s more.

We’re not foster children. We are fully adopted children of the King. This isn’t a temporary arrangement or a semi-commitment. The implications: we are heirs. Heirs of the Kingdom, princes and princesses, adopted with full rights of sonship and daughtership, brothers and sisters of our big Brother Jesus who went before us and gave his all for us.

Listen, he gave us all. Literally “more than we can ask or even think”.

From what country, from what universe does this love come from?

Thank you Lord Jesus!

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

– Galatians 4:4-7 ESV