Tag: love

Entitlement is our prison

Many different things in our society seem to have a common thread: Entitlement. This is a far cry from mere rights or exercising one’s rights. It even moves beyond can vs should into the realm of demand. Entitlement is the superhero of selfishness. It ejects logic and common sense and only seeks it own, to the detriment of others. Entitlement begs this question: Have we become a society of overgrown preschoolers?

Entitlement in politics. Solution: Attack the problem not people.
In recent months I’ve seen people destroyed for merely defending a political figure… by the same people who believe bullying is bad and that people should be accepted for who they are. We see this happening on a larger scale in the news as well. The glaring hypocrisy is baffling as people cry out for our ability to get along, or the dismal culture of our politics. Here’s a solution, stop attacking people and start focusing on the issues. Move beyond platitudes of political viewpoints into the depth of actual issues. Freedom of speech doesn’t equate to slander, libel, etc. We also have the right to remain silent, to listen, and to understand before being understood. This happens when we focus on attacking the problem and not the person.

Entitlement in public service. Solution: Just say thanks.
In recent months I’ve seen public servants taken advantage of, and I’ve seen public servants act as tyrants. Public servants are part of our community. They’re our neighbors. Public servants are not our slaves or our employees. While they work for our benefit, there is a tone of humility and appreciation we should have towards them. We should view them as partners. Be appreciative while dealing with your frustrations. At the same time, public servants are not kings. Power tripping or demanding homage misses the glory of public service, which is to humbly serve your community. While it is ashamed some are taken for granted, sometimes not being noticed means a job well done. Gratefulness goes a long way.

Entitlement in the marketplace. Solution: Be civilized, we’re not barbarians.
Black Friday news demonstrates this point well. Too often we forget where we came from. A BIG thing we can learn from other cultures is the need to SLOW DOWN AND RELAX! We all get that your time is important, but will the person who never made a mistake please raise their hand? If we want to be listened to and served well, do not others in the room deserve that same treatment? Too often we see people flipping out, going overboard, and generally getting sue happy. The key to being civilized is truly treating others the way you want to be treated. This includes how you want to be treated when you make a mistake or are overwhelmed.

Entitlement in the culture. Solution: Remember its not about you.
It’s not about you. You are not the center of the universe. You have a right to speak, but you also have a right to listen. Your have a right to pursue happiness, you also have the right to work hard when things don’t go your way. You have a right to be served, but also a right to be patient. You have a right to be cared for, but also a right to sacrifice. You have a right to be thanked, but also the right to be grateful for the ability to bless others. While you should take care of yourself, others have the right that you do the same towards them. Living in a civilized community only works if you realize its not about you.

The bottom line:
Entitlement is one of the worst prisons to be in. It is a cancer so malignant that it breeds chaos, injustice, abuse, and hate. At the end of the day entitlement forms you into a lonely tyrant lacking any joy or peace. Perhaps it shouldn’t be culture we are frustrated with, but rather the person we see in the mirror each morning. Jesus gives a way out of this mess. While he rightfully was entitled to all, he gave that up. Love, humility, and servanthood will get more done then entitlement ever will. If Jesus demanded entitlement, we’d all be in Hell. Perhaps true freedom isn’t in demanding our rights, but instead giving up our rights is the service of others.

Neo-asceticism: Why we cringe at being blessed

We tend to react or repeat things rather than respond to things. Many level headed Christians have grave concerns with the “prosperity Gospel.” This teaches that being in Jesus gets you massive Earthly blessings. Living it up is seen as being godly. This is wrong. In the last decade a “poverty gospel” developed that sees being godly as neglecting Earthly goods as a sign of contentment and holiness. This is also wrong. We need to learn how to live in contentment. This means when we have much or we have little.

What is asceticism
Asceticism is a movement throughout Christian history where people under go significant discipline or give up on the pleasurable things in life in view of trying to be godly. Some have even taken to actually beating themselves. (The cutting movement seems to have ancient ancestors.) Asceticism is taking on new forms today (hence neo-asceticism), but it is not a new movement. Here is why asceticism is problematic:

Problem #1: Things don’t control us
It is easier to blame an object than take ownership for our own responsibility. This comes up all the time in the area of technology. An object has no power over us. It is the choices we make that is at issue. I often take breaks from technology to keep me from choosing technology over more important things.

Problem #2: Collecting things is a form of worship
Solomon repeatedly said “Eat, drink, and enjoy the fruit of your labor, for this too is a gift from God.” Having things that we enjoy is truly 1) A blessing from God and 2) Enjoying Him. When Paul discusses contentment, it includes when he had much as much as when he had little. BOTH require the power of Christ, and hence the “all things” that we can do through Jesus. Giving up things can be as unholy and unspiritual as hoarding things selfishly. Saying God blessed me when we gained a good job or things are going well or we received game tickets to our favorite sports team. Life is a gift that God intends for us to enjoy.

Problem #3: Godliness trumps working out
Yes, we are to take care of ourselves. But, we are also at times called to sacrifice ourselves. We can worship the temple instead of the God of our temple. We can worship the Bible instead of the God of our Bible. We can worship worship, instead of the God of our worship. Paul warns us that we can go to far in the health craze. Being healthy and working out has value, but it’s not the most important thing. You can have a great health and body, and not be holy.

Problem #4: Works is a false gospel
The point of Jesus is we cannot earn our way to heaven and we can’t good enough. Deep down the problem with asceticism is we think that God doesn’t REALY love us. We blame other things for our lack of holiness, or worse we take the asceticism route to look better than what we are. (Ironic that giving up things or being extremely disciplined can actually be really selfish.) The point of Jesus is that he free’s us to be our best. Fear, anger, etc. is antithetical to being a Christian. Jesus us gave us his best up front. There’s nothing we can do to earn more of his love. He gave it all! So what’s the cure for neo-asceticism?

Cure #1: Learn to make wise choices
We are often the choices we make. God does give us free will. Use it. Freedom does not have be anarchy. So take responsibility for your own actions.

Cure #2: Enjoy the Earthly blessings
I love fountain pens. I collect them. Such were gifts from friends and family. I use them for work and take great pleasure in using them. This is a gift from God. I had a friend recently buy his dream car. Life is going well, he’s blessing others, generous to his church family, and he enjoyed the fruit of his labor. Enjoying life is part of worship. (When he had little he gave up what he loved because that was the wise choice.) Like a dad taking delight in giving his kids something they love, God delights in us when we enjoy the blessings he gives us. A big part of this cure: Learn to be happy for others when they’re blessed and you’re struggling.

Cure #3: Be healthy, and eat that piece of cake
The purpose of being healthy is to splurge. Sometimes it’s about sacrifice, sometimes its to party. God instructed Israel to collect money for the poor. God also instructed them to save up to party. Same God. Sacrifice and splurging are both aspects to worship and godly living. With work also comes rest. God worked. God rested.

Cure #4: Cease striving
Know that God is God, and that he deeply loves you. Stop operating out of fear and learn how deep the father’s love for us is. Jesus did the asceticism thing so we wouldn’t have to. While there are times of frugality and suffering, God also gives times of plenty and wealth. Whichever you’re in, focus on who God is and how you can bless others. If you’re trying to be a good Christian, you’re really missing the point.

The bottom line:
We too often struggle with the idea that God loves us, deeply, and significantly. We often choose to live less than comforting lives in order to be more noble or holy. We can easily blame things or other such things for lack of whatever, and family to recognize our own choices. Let’s stop operating our of fear and guilt and enjoy the life God gives. As Solomon said: Eat, drink, and enjoy the fruit of your labor, for this too is a gift from God. Cheers!

The most hated concept in the Bible is love

heart-001Based on actions, I find that love is the most hated concept in Scripture. Love is the most wanted yet least acted on focal point in Christianity. Often the worst perpetrators are those who scold the church for being judgmental and unloving. If we are honest with ourselves, there really is very few people who have this concept nailed down. Ironically, they most likely don’t read blogs and do much social media. Likely that’s correlation not causation. We despise love and the church would be radically different if we acted on love. Here is what I mean…

Love fights for the relationship
A friend once stated that many Christians lack the relational maturity to fight for the relationship. Personal preferences, demands for perfect justice, hurt feelings, etc drown out what the Bible instructs is love. When these occurrences arise, we blame the church for being unloving/judgmental when the person standing in the mirror is guilty. A HUGE part of love is the concept of reconciliation. In North America we can walk across the street to the next church, but biblically we often shouldn’t. Biblical love fights for the relationship.

Love is servant minded
The first offerings of the church were 100%. The Biblical patter of church giving was sacrifice and not 10%. People cringe when a discussion of money comes up and pastors often have to couch carefully the discussions on money. This is a lack of love issue. The flip side of the coin is how we invest our time. We are a very impatient and demanding society. Church leaders have to be cautious when asking people to invest time into ministry given busy schedules. When people say they are burned out, it’s often things outside of church life that is the cause. Often people will give money so as to not have to sacrifice their time. (Ask most churches about volunteering to clean.)

Love assumes the best
A significant portion of christian misunderstandings happens from people assuming the worst. The “yeah, but…” crowd is the worst offender. Their hair-trigger on being easily offended and church-correct language demonstrate this in spades. So does the last election. (Oops, a card game reference.) The social justice crowd in the church is quite guilty of this as well. In some extreme instances, people often have to prove why something is not wrong before they can teach how it is right. Bringing up the needs to act on social justice issues brings this to light. I bet many reading this are thinking: Who is T. Woznek addressing? Is he guilt tripping someone?

We need repentance
Repentance is the key. Those not guilty are the exceptions. If you find an exception, spend time with them to learn what it means to be loving. I find every church has a least a couple. Christians as a whole need to repent and realize we are not loving, as defined by Scripture. Seeing as this is the greatest commandment, a new commandment, and the most excellent way, perhaps we should be much more focused on dealing with this area of repentance.

We need sanctuary
Church is to be a safe place where people can be wrong and broken so healing may result. Often we do not what to go through the pain of making that happen. This would mean fighting for relationships, being a servant, and assuming the best in people. It means choosing forgiveness over justice, submission over arrogance, being a listener over being right. On the other side of the pain is healing and worship, because there we so how profound the Gospel is. Jesus already modeled this for us.

We need a mirror
We hate love. Some reading this will think amen and be thinking of names. Others will say this is laying on the guilt trip. A group has a whole list of “yeah, but…” while another will try and read between the lines. Theologically right of center will say Im going liberal, left of center may ask the the same. The guilty will trying to reason their way out of guilt. The offended will scoff and roll their eyes. Love takes work, it takes choosing to value people first. It means there is a lot of bridges that need to be rebuilt. It is inconvenient.

The bottom line:
Look in the mirror and read what Paul wrote about love in First Corinthians Thirteen. Jesus and the Holy Spirit invested a ton of time teaching on love because we really don’t want to be loving. We need to be. We really do want to be loving. We really what our churches to be a place of sanctuary. If it really is about Jesus, we must master this area of repentance. Jesus already died for this, demonstrated it, and gave us a road map. So, look in the mirror, repent, and why not make love the most cherished concept instead of the most hated. That would be a radical.

P.S. Ok. Who or what am I thinking about? What is between the lines? You, because in biblical love there is no catch. I think our actions speak differently than our words in how we value this concept. So, let’s repent together and be better, because change is possible.

Love your neighbor

IMG_3241Jesus did a plain summary of the Torah: Love God, love your neighbor. The amazing thing about the Bible, the Old Testament in particular, is how many levels it works on. Too often we regulate the Bible as merely a theological book and fail to realize it is so much more. Loving your neighbor is a massive part of the Bible and covers and area we do not like to discuss: how do we live with our neighbors?

Defining the good life
The Bible quite clearly demonstrates that the good life is one that pursues God in a simple quietness. The issue of quietness meaning peace. It is not the pursuit of wealth, prestige, or achievement. Worship of God, hard work, and the companionship of good neighbors go quite well together. The later part, companionship of good neighbors, goes by a different word historically: Politics.

Ignorance breeds injustice
It was said that the only thing evil needs to succeed is for good men to be silent. While true, another key aspect is needed: wisdom. All that is needed for evil to succeed is abandonment of wisdom. In Ephesians 5 wisdom is the keystone to being spirit filled. To quote a chief of staff of a democrat senator: “If people knew how the government is supposed to operate, we would all be fired. Both parties.” His statement is quite correct. People dislike politics so they remain ignorant. This breeds injustice.

Avoiding conflict brings disruption
Avoiding conflict is a sure way to bring on huge conflict. Today people cannot believe the turmoil in the election process. This is a result of being ignorant and avoiding conflict. We then shut out other voices, do not engage, and then we avoid politics because of the mess that it is in… from our avoiding it. We the people, we the problem. And, the funny thing is, by avoiding it, you’re actually not loving your neighbor.

Better your city not your party
One of the ways the Old Testament unpack loving your neighbor is instructions on how to live in captivity. During the exile God tells Judah in the book of Jeremiah to build houses, marry off their children, and work for the betterment of their city. You can engage in politics- loving your neighbor- without having to deal with the party system. On a national level politics is a mess, but on a local level it does not have to be. On a local level politics is all about living with your neighbors and the betterment of your city.

Responsibility constrains freedom
The constraint of freedom is human responsibility. This is the difference between the tyranny of anarchy, or the tyranny centralized government. Either extreme gets born out of selfishness. For freedom to work we cannot be about ourselves. We must also be diligent in loving our neighbor. This involves engagement, humility, and responsibility. It is to work not merely for ourselves, but also our city. When we say “there ought to be a law that…” we fail in loving our neighbor. Rather than engaging the issue responsibly, we desire to create a higher power to deal with it… so we don’t have to. The process of peacemaking is a much more loving way to deal with situations.

The bottom line:
Jesus, God, the Bible says we need to love our neighbor. This is more than just kind actions of individuals, but also how we live in community. By avoiding politics, we actually fail to live up to the standard Jesus set. Politics, for the Christian, should not be about party but rather the betterment of their city. To do good, and not evil.

A big vocabulary is not a vice

Big vocabulary, complexity, and academia are not a vices. Too often I am seeing pushback when smart people use big words, many words, or complexity. We need to stop with the anti-intellectualism.

The Bible takes three views on a person: wise, foolish, and naive. Only one is acceptable. In Proverbs to be truly wise is to be godly. In Ephesians to be truly godly is to be wise. Naive people are children. At a certain point you are no longer naive but a fool. Pursuit of wisdom is an essential spiritual practice. 

Passion is not enough
Jesus said we are to love God with all our mind. Paul said we are to renew our mind. Peter commends Paul for his wisdom. Theology & philosphy are immensely practical. Developing the mind is intensely spiritual. One doesn’t need degrees to be smart and have an impact. Like Peter, we should not denounce intellect either. Foolishness should not be acceptable. We should develop our mind to the best of our ability. 

Hey Siri…
In our age we can easily look things up. Rather than castigate someone for using big words, look it up. Learn. A person’s use of the mind is not a vice. Learn from them and be sharpened. What we should not be is comfortable in our ignorance. Degrees do not always equal intelligence or education, but lack of degrees is not an excuse. 

Paul did not apmilify foolishness at the cost of intellectualism. Paul upheld humility in the face of arrogance. Knowledge puffing up points to arrogance. Love edifying is using knowledge to build up a person. Knowledge was not the vice, arrogance was. Passion is not in opposition to intellect, it requires it!

The bottom line:
Developing the mind is an essential part to loving God. Anti-intellectualism is actually a vice, not those those who use big words. The smarter you are is the better that you can love. To be wise is to be godly and to be godly is to be wise.

Euthanasia and the art of dying

The topic of euthanasia is in the news again. The discussions on the topic are quite troublesome to me. It is not really a question of should we or should we not. The issue goes far deeper. As a culture, we lost the art of dying.

The problem with ethics is we try to define right apart from God. The question of whether something is ethical is actually unbiblical. Biblical “ethics” is what we call progressive sanctification. Here we align all things to the image of Jesus, over time, and as the Spirit leads. This includes death and suffering.

How one views death determines how one views life. The issue with euthanasia and its kissing cousin abortion is our view of death and suffering. We as a culture, including Christians, are buying into the notion that inconvenience and suffering are not worthy of life. Such a view dehumanizes us. Seeing euthanasia as dignified or abortion as wise is robbery at best. To view suffering as God not blessing is to ignore the cross.

Long ago there was a nobility and aspiration to how we faced death. It was viewed as a testament to ones character and constitution. The process of mourning and lamenting was accepted, encouraged and viewed with dignity. We need to return to this.

The worst crime in our culture, including Christianity, is suffering. To be in-convinced, to be in pain, to be lamenting is to be an unwelcome burden. In a culture so enthralled with authenticity, we jettisoned a massive part of being human. Many of our churches worship in more hip-hop fashion than in grief. Both are essential. Euthanasia is the symptom not the disease.

I could share stories of people who wake up in severe pain and call it a good day. They get up and live. I could recount people who died, suffering in pain, and did so with dignity. One of the greatest honors in life is to serve the helpless who suffer. Because of this we have lost the value of suffering. Because of this people who do suffer have the added burden of feeling less human.

We are drunk with happiness and it is robbing us all of our humanity, Christians included. Let us as a culture admit that we hide from death. Let us also admit that this means we do not truly know how to live. To suffer is not to be less alive or less human or less spiritual. Sometimes suffering is the most spiritual thing you will walk through or walk through with someone. Let us also admit as a culture that hiding suffering is to also remove compassion and love in one of its purist forms.

In running from pain, Christians, we also lose sight of the Gospel and Jesus’ process of making all things new. God painfully allows suffering for a number of reasons, and often for more than just one reason. But His delight is not in the suffering but in the new covenant whereby all pain, sin and suffering are dealt away with. Sadly, in suffering we see the glorious hope of Jesus’ return and our desperate need of God. We see our need to love one another.

To those suffering, facing death and are tired. You are facing a most noble challenge. Your value is in Him who knit you together in your mother’s womb. When you see Jesus face to face all pain and suffering will pale in comparison with the majesty of God. You are not less human. You are not an inconvenience. We, your fellow humans, need to do a better job of showing love in its purist form. We need to mourn and see that as dignified. We need to sober up. You who are suffering have much to teach, much wisdom to impart. We need you. Rather than hide you, we need to compassionately embrace you.

People don’t have enough cheerleaders…

DSC_0527People don’t have enough cheerleaders, but they have plenty of critics. I’ve found the difference is really a choice a person makes. We can choose act as a cheerleader or we can choose act as a critic. In our hyper-critical church world, the choice is often to be a critic.

Biblical love is HARD!
Practicing 1 Corinthians 13 love, or Philippians 4:8-9 is HARD! How hard is it to trust and believe all things? Just by saying that the ‘Yeah, but’ crowd starts bubbling up about discernment or sin. Truth does not trump love nor love truth. How can I assume the best knowing that many are [insert the worst possible stereotype you can think of here]? Because that is what the Bible instructs me to do. After all, love is the more excellent way. Excellence is hard, messy and an intentional choice.

Act don’t react
Cheerleading is an intentional act, criticism is a reaction. Cheerleaders promote what they are FOR. Critics promote what they are AGAINST. Cheerleaders see what’s wrong, but push for what’s best. Critics see what is wrong, and push what is wrong. Cheerleaders praise in public and criticize in private. Critics criticize in public and (maybe) praise in private, hedged with said criticism. Cheerleading is hard because there are things seen that are frustrating. Criticism is easy because it is easier to destroy instead of build up. Cheerleaders trust God. Critics play God. What are you FOR?

Yeah, but the truth must be stated, right?
Promoting what you are for is stating truth. The statement “telling the truth is the most loving thing you can do” often puts truth above love. Think of it this way: out of the heart the mouth speaks. If I speak truth critically instead of lovingly, there is a theological error in my heart. We act based on what we believe. The ‘Yeah, but’ Crowd often speaks truth out of theological error.

God is God and we’re not
Paul didn’t mind his critics judging him or his motives. Why? Because God does. In fact, Paul didn’t even bother to judge himself for the same reason. Paul didn’t mind preachers making a name for themselves. Why? Because the Gospel was still being proclaimed. Paul didn’t go nuclear on false teaching in the Ephesian church. WHAT!? Paul sent Timothy to to instruct false teachers and bring them inline with the Bible. Cheerleading is a patient, long-suffering work that “GOD may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth…”

The bottom line:
I choose to be a cheerleader rather than a critic. Praise in public, criticize in in private. Cheerleading is about building up. It is not being naive about faults. Cheerleading is recognizing the value of one’s strengths that we can learn from. The Holy Spirit is really good at his job. He will accomplish his task of making people Christlike. Keep what you are for as the main thing. Promoting such naturally and patiently deals with the things you are critical of.

Social Media, Politics & The Gospel

IMG_1746Speaking the truth in love is a conversation, it isn’t a statement. To separate social media, politics and the Gospel is counter productive. Life isn’t a group of separate boxes. Life is a unified whole where one area does affect another. As Christians we often use the phrase ‘speaking the truth in love,’ but we often fail to realize that is a conversation, not just making an uncomfortable statement for the benefit of another.

The social media dance
There are three groups in relation to social media, politics and the Gospel. 1)The why can’t we get along group. 2)The politics (left, right or libertarian) over the Gospel group. 3)The drop politics and only focus on the Gospel group. The dance is about trying to figure out the right balance or being naive about things beyond our focus. The danger is we see the three things as separate things.

Social Media
The first group is most vocal when there is an online ‘war.’ They’re the ones who say the online war turns people off from the church, social media isn’t the place for the discussion, etc. The problem is this group often says the same thing in private conversations too. Avoidance of conflict does not bring about peace. It sacrifices love and truth.

We the people in order to form a more perfect union have to talk. Again, speaking the truth in love is a conversation. Avoiding politics because we don’t like it hinders forming a more perfect union. How do we expect to act civil with something we don’t converse about and how are we to hold our leaders accountable if there is no conversation? We can blame our leaders, but they’re a reflection of us. Maybe many avoid politics because it forces us to look in the mirror and think. (Obnoxious political posts not withstanding.) Groups that often put politics over the Gospel forget love.

The Gospel
The Gospel should permeate ALL our life. It’s not just about getting into heaven and listening to Christian music. Truth AND love are essential. As Christians we should be prayerful, respectful and speak truth. Politics should not be about loyalty to a party, but bringing truth to bear. Justice, mercy and humility are three essentials often missing in our political discourse. To avoid politics to keep a focus on the Gospel removes influence towards peace. Love, truth and respect are needed in political discourse. After all, much of what Jesus taught should affect our political viewpoint.

The bottom line:
We need to get back to speaking the truth in love as a conversation. We shouldn’t hide from speaking to the larger issues our society is struggling with because the Bible has answers and speaks to the soul of each person. To the first group, choose courage. To the second group, tone it down and pursue truth over party. To the last group, show how the Gospel sheds light onto the challenging issues of our day.