That Deescalated Quickly

Click here to read Psalm 34 on

“Seek peace and pursue it.” – Psalm 34:14

slapThere are a lot of downsides to getting older. Joints get creakier, bruises take about six years to heal, the increasing bran in the diet, fashion gets more ridiculous, music gets more baffling every year, and so forth. But one downside you rarely hear about is boredom. It seems that every “new” thing is just an “old” thing with new pants on. Did you know that certain scholars have argued that every story can be broken down into seven basic plots? True story.

Hollywood finds even that too many, and it seems that every movie that comes out is a either a sequel or remake, or follows one of two plots. Wanna hear em? The first is one girl, two guys – she has to choose between the charming yet somewhat stodgy rich feller, and the unpredictable funloving rascal that is a little light in the wallet. The second?  Revenge. Oh, sweet revenge. Especially if the offenders are heavily armed and yet somehow can’t figure out how to shoot in a straight line and conveniently attack one at a time.


Imagine with me if you will an alternative story. A man is out working in his field; the evil cattle baron comes along, burns down his house and kicks his dog. So the farmer picks up his tools, forgives the cattle baron, and moves out of state.

Sound like a good movie? Not to most of us probably. We want action; we want drama; we want justice; we want “the good guy” to end up on top. And yet forgiving and keeping peace is the command of the Bible. Most of us don’t have any problem with avoiding making idols, or even maybe giving up lives at a martyr. But forgiving those who do us wrong? Why do we find that so hard to follow?

Instead our response is “How dare they do that to me? I’m going to…” After all, that’s only fair, right? One bad turn deserves another. If She talks bad about me to that guy, I’m going to make sure he knows all about Her. If he cheapshots me in on the court, he’s getting an “accidental” elbow in the noggin. If we get pushed, we push back. It feels so good. We are taking control of our destiny; we won’t be a doormat for anyone. We are called to be more than conquerors after all. Surely God did not mean for us to be weaklings, right?


The command is not to make things fair – as hard as that is to accept. Our job is more challenging than putting on our armor and standing up to tyranny. Our call is to love our enemies; turn the other cheek; do good to people who are jerks to us; live at peace with everyone. Are you seeing a pattern? There is no call to stand up and be a man (or woman). There is no call for defending your rights. That’s God’s job. Our job is seeking peace.

That doesn’t mean we will always live at peace with everyone. David did have to fight Goliath; Joshua did defeat jericho. But notice what they were doing. They were not taking revenge for their sake, or even for their loved ones. David tells Goliath that he is there because Goliath defied the Lord; when Joshua defeats Jericho, he burns the whole thing as an offering to God. Zeal for God is sometimes dramatic, but no where in the Bible is fighting back for ourselves seen in a good light. In fact, David is commended for not fighting back against Saul, even when he had good reason.

This is a tough truth for us in our society. We are rugged individualists; we want to do everything ourselves and rely on no one. We want to be respected, and in some regards, feared. But if the Bible says the Lord is to be feared, aren’t we putting ourselves in God’s place when we want to be the Godfather?

Seeking peace is not the weak way; it is far more difficult and takes more strength to trust God than it does to fight back. It strikes at our pride, and forces us to remember that we are not in control. It reminds us that our identity is in Christ, and not in what we can do in ourselves. That’s never easy.

But don’t worry; I’m pretty sure the peacemakers will be blessed. I think I read that somewhere…

The One Habit of Highly Effective People

Click here to read I Samuel 17 on

“All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s” – I Samuel 17:47

leaderBookstores are full of books on leading; biographies of great leaders, methods of leading, new approaches to leading, new terms for leading (hello “team management”), and so forth and so on. It seems that everyone has this desire to be one of the drivers instead of one of the oxen. Naturally, being the best book in the bookstore, the Bible has a thing or two to say about leadership, and manages to get right to the heart of the matter in a few sentences. Convenient.

One of the many great things about the Bible is the way in which multiple stories and points can be crammed into one little section. Obviously, the David and Goliath fight is the main point of the chapter today, but as always in the Bible, there’s more than the main point going on. We also get a glimpse of David’s older brother, Eliab, who makes a cameo or two in the preceding chapters.


So what do we know about Eliab (Can I call you Eli? No? Alright.)? He was the oldest in the family, the firstborn son of Jesse, and that in itself was a pretty big deal in the ancient world. Firstborns got the largest part of the inheritance, and were more or less seen as the successors to the father in the home (taking over the land, caring for the rest of the family if something happened to the father, etc). We also know he was tall and good looking; not a bad combination, or so I’ve heard.

So imagine one day, there you are being all attractive and not-short, and along comes Samuel, the most famous traveling preacher in all the land. He shows up at the house, and says “guess what, God sent me here because he’s picking a new king.” Don’t you think Eliab probably had a few thoughts running through his head? And then to hear “nope, not you, we’re going to go with your baby brother.” Had to be a mild letdown.

Jump ahead a bit, and now Eliab, being the man-of-the-house, is off fighting with Saul against the Philistines, taking his responsibility seriously; and here comes that little rascal again. David brings some sandwiches and soda to his brothers, and starts walking about the camp, asking “so, what you guys doin?” Imagine the thoughts running through Eliab’s head.


And yet David was the one who faced Goliath. Why? Why wasn’t it Eliab? He’d had his chances; forty days’ worth at least. He could have stepped up to Saul and volunteered. He could have had the victory and admiration and perhaps a little of the glory he craved.

But he didn’t. Instead he got angry with the one who was willing. His disappointment became frustration rather than inspiration; and that’s when you lose sight of Who you serve, and start focusing on what you “deserve.” And God rarely uses people like that.

Real leadership isn’t the one with the best look, the best degree, the best family. Many times, it’s not even in the one with the best training or experience, though that helps. It’s the one who steps up and says “I will trust God; I will take the chance; I will be risky.”


David recognized the real issue. This wasn’t a battle between the best men; it was a battle between men and God, and he already knew how that would turn out. Five times in a single response to Goliath he says “it is the LORD who will defeat you.” David was not seeking his own ambitions, or wealth, or even revenge. He was simply accepting to be the hands and feet of God.

That’s what leadership is. Not a seven-step plan, not a good “vision” of the future, not an MBA, not motivational speeches. Do you want to do great things for God? Learn to love the not-great things first. Leadership is knowing that you are first and foremost a servant of Christ; and being willing to do what he asks. That’s the kind of heart God is looking for. That’s what it takes to be a shepherd, or carry a meal, or face a giant.

That’s what it takes to be a king.

Biblical Vegetarianism

Click here to read Romans 14 on

“Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters.” – Romans 14:2

vegI am not a vegetarian.

Now I don’t say this as a point of contention; that is, it doesn’t bother me if other people are vegetarian; or vegan; or only eat organic farm-fresh pesticide-free non-genetically modified turnips. I don’t even mind if they’re a little vocal about it. We have enough division in our society without separating people on the basis of caloric preference. If people choose to eat only plant life, then I hope that they will be blessed and I thank them for living more of the pork chops for me.

I would just like to point out, in all humbleness and gratitude the Creator of Charcoal, the Bible says that people barbecuing is a sign of deep spiritual commitment.

Oh, I know people will challenge me on this. “Nay, good sir, for ye will find the elements of the Daniel Fast clearly in scripture, wherefore meat is clearly reserved for the wicked and veggies alone for the Holy Ones of God.” (for some reason, I always read vegetarian literature with a wealthy-brit accent. Maybe it’s just me).

But I’m afraid the facts are against you , my healthy friend. Romans 14:2 – “One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables.“ Clearly, the more meat one eats is an outward manifestation of their inward faithfulness. This is why crockpot roasts and slushburgers are so popular at church potlucks; that’s holiness right there.


Now watch this graceful transition into an actual point.

We love to find issues in our society. As the great Gordon A Eadie once said “if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.” It is virtually a guarantee that you will be passionate about something in your life. It may be getting a spouse, running a business, education, a sports team, racism, healthy eating, politics, or good ole fashioned greenbacks, or just about anything, but you will become passionate. It’s who we are; we can’t help but live that way.

For Christians, it should be an easy choice; we should be passionate about Christ, to become as close to him as we possibly can in this life. But it is all too easy in the church to lose sight of that, and put our passion into something else, even good somethings else. Like ministry. Like the poor. Like social change. Like a healthy lifestyle. Like worship music. Like children.

These are all good things, but if we start to focus on them, we will lose our passion for Christ in the busyness of tending to our activities.  We will start to equate our “position” with “God’s truth.”  Therefore our vegetarianism is the only way to truly honor God; our style of music is the only one that is really in tune with God’s heart; our preaching method is the one that Jesus intended; our stance on alcohol is how God determines holiness, and so on.  We may even quarrel with people who think differently than us, after all, if they really had “discernment,” they would agree with us.


Our love for others needs to flow from our intimacy with Christ. Our generosity to the poor needs to come from our understanding that all finances belong to God. Our push for social justice needs to be because under Christ there is no male or female, no slave or free. If our focus is lost, eventually our passion belongs to something other than Christ, and there can be none before Him for his people.

So study to teach the Word; practice to lead worship; buy a puppet or two to teach those children. But remember that they, and your spouse, and your children, and your job, and your ministry, are all second to Jesus. He alone can fulfill your passion.  You will find it much easier to accept other believers and their multitudinous foibles (look it up) if we are in love with Christ first.

That’s all for today.
Time to go increase my faith with some smoked ribs.