Practical Faith

Trusting Jesus (and GPS)

Trusting Jesus (and GPS)

Can I be honest for a minute? The last year of my life has been pretty difficult. I've had to look for ideas and concepts to keep my sanity.

One of the things I've focussed on comes from the famous Corinthian love passage: "Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love."

I'm not very in touch with my emotions, but I love God as best I can. 

Hope has become too painful in my life because I confuse it easily with creating my own expectations, so I'm trying to stop doing that. I call this the Shawshank protocol.

I equate faith with trust. Trust is essentially the last thread left that I'm holding onto. 

Blessed Are The Peacemakers

Blessed Are The Peacemakers

Recently, I've spent time thinking about what would have happened in the 1960s if people had ignored Dr. Martin Luther King Jr and listened to more militant voices.

America would almost certainly have descended into another civil war.

I am very worried that we are moving towards learning the reality of that "what it" question today.

3 Things Kentucky Clerk Kim Davis Teaches Me

CODzL-XW8AAPGCdLast week, a county clerk in Kentucky blew up your social media feed. The Supreme Court legalized gay marriage earlier this year. In light of this ruling, James Yates and Will Smith went to their local courthouse to obtain a marriage license. County Clerk Kim Davis refused to issue a marriage license to them.

Mrs. Davis has cited her Christian beliefs as the reason for refusing the marriage license.

She has since been held in contempt of court for refusing to comply with the orders of the federal court system.

If you search for #kimdavis on social media, you're going to spend most of your time reading about somebody on the fast track to sainthood and a new American hero...or a simpleminded, bigoted law breaker.

We continue to demonstrate that we aren't very good at having a discussion in our society, but we're great at having arguments.

We've been trained by 24 hour cable news and politicians and various other outlets that the best way to communicate my viewpoint is by trashing the opposing viewpoint. If you don't agree with me, you're not just wrong, you're also evil and dangerously stupid.

As somebody who wants my faith to impact my daily life, I don't want to be part of insulting, hateful arguing. So what can I learn from this situation - that is, how can I be part of conversation and discussion rather than fighting?

1. Start with respect.

Kim Davis is not a monster. Neither are James Yates and William Smith, the couple who tried (unsuccessfully) to get a marriage license on multiple occasions from Mrs. Davis.

None of them wake up in the morning and ask "How can I undermine the fabric of humanity today?"

Clearly they have different viewpoints on what is right and what is wrong in the case of gay marriage.

We'll get into that in a minute.

As a Christian, I must believe that each person in this argument - including internet trolls on both sides - are made in the image of God. Every single person bears God's imprint.

Next time you're about to call someone a moron or an idiot, remember Matthew 5:22 where Jesus says:

"But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell."

Now that probably hits our ears as a threat - if you get angry and insult or curse someone, you're going to get some kind of spiritual payback. God's gonna get you, so to speak.

But what if Jesus isn't threatening us, but he's warning us in a loving way? What if he's essentially telling us that when we start making ourselves superior to other people, it can lead to our own destruction?

Jesus loves us. If he's giving us a warning, it's for our own good. We need to start with valuing other people - not devaluing them -  because God loves them as much as he loves us.

2. Seek to understand the other viewpoint.

Let's take a minute and get introspective. You have an opinion on gay marriage. The way you got to that opinion was by running the topic through your personal worldview. That worldview is influenced by your experiences, your culture, your faith, your family and peers, your education, etc.

Realize that it is completely reasonable for a person with wildly different experiences, culture, family, friends, etc to come to a different conclusion than you.

The preachers outside the courthouse are doing their best to help people. The people ripping those preachers to shreds online are doing their best to help people.

If you can start from that assumption, that the 'other side' isn't satan's personal envoy to you, you can actually start to talk instead of argue.

3. Don't choose a side. 

When you pick a side, it becomes necessary for you to prove the other side wrong.

So don't choose a side. Choose to love people.

You can hold an opinion, but when your opinion is more important to you than other people, you're out of line with God's values.

Jesus shared plenty of unpopular opinions, but he did it in such a loving way that everyone wanted to be around him, including what Matthew 9:11 refers to in one translation as the 'scum' of society.

Pretty much everyone (except the exceptionally self righteous) wanted to be around Jesus because he was the most upright, noble person who ever lived and he made them feel better about themselves. He made them want to have a better relationship with God.

Christians are not God's police officers. We are God's ambassadors. If Azerbaijan sent ambassadors to DC who walked the streets telling Americans how bad and dumb they were, nobody would want to go visit Azerbaijan.

People won't hear what we have to share if all we're doing is trying to prove them wrong.


We have an amazing opportunity to have huge conversations across the globe thanks to social media. Wasting that opportunity on insults and vitriol is a huge mistake.

I love Kim Davis, I love James Yates and I love William Smith and I want to be part of the conversation they have prompted.

I want my involvement to point to the fact that we are all made by God and loved by God so that people want to keep hearing what I have to say. Because the best way to have influence of any kind is to be invited to participate. Maybe that's why Jesus made such a difference.

How to Respond to Tragedy

aylankurdifatherWe live in an amazing age where people anywhere in the world can get up close and personal perspectives on tragedy happening in other parts of the world. The effects of the war in Syria, the actions of groups like Boko Haram, labor and sex slavery, and many, many others show up in our twitter and facebook feeds.

So how should a person who wants their faith to inform and affect their daily life respond to the ability to learn about the heart breaking realities in our world?

Let's start with what not to do. A to-don't list, if you will.

First, don't respond by ignoring them. These stories are upsetting. They hurt to learn about. We must follow the example of our creator, who, even when we hurt him, refused to ignore us. We are part of this world and when we refuse to allow anything to interrupt our starbucks-work-gym routine, we're going to miss out on a large chunk of our makeup - with is an individual called to be in community with other humans who are also made in God's image.

Second, don't respond with guilt. You have a computer or smartphone that you can use to surf the internet. Endless entertainment and distraction is available for your leisure time. That doesn't make you a terrible person for relaxing or enjoying life while others are in hellish circumstances.

Lastly, don't respond with pity. I know this may seem strange, but pity is shaking your head, saying 'that's terrible' and wishing you could do something about it - but knowing you can't and giving up. Pity helps no one.

So what is the right way to respond?

Respond with compassion.

Compassion seeks to care about the pain others are experiencing and asks 'what can I do to help?' Here's three things you can do in order to have a compassionate response.

1.Learn the stories.

2.Weep with those who weep.


Discovering the humanity in tragedy helps us to have compassion. Hearing that refugees are fleeing is a news story. Seeing the body of a toddler washed ashore and hearing his father talk about watching him perish is a human story. I have a three year old son. I wept when I saw that picture and read the story. I hate crying. I'd rather ignore or gloss over these painful stories, but I'm not called to avoid caring about others in this life. The story of the good Samaritan says I'm supposed to keep my eyes open for people who are beat up and laying on the side of the road so I can offer help. Helping starts with knowing and caring. Jesus wept when he arrived at the tomb of Lazarus - and Jesus knew he was going to resurrection the guy. Luke 7:12 and Matthew 14:14 both talk about Jesus being moved with compassion into action. You probably can't walk away from your current life and invest yourself into personally resolving one of these issues. Even if you could, you can't do it alone and there are many different problems. So what are the practical things you and I can start doing today which can contribute to a better future?

1.Pray unceasingly

Prayer is a limitless resource available to you. God is very clear in the scriptures that he wants us to ask him for his help and involvement. After learning about a tragic situation, you can spend as much or as little time as you like asking our loving Father to bring life and healing into situations of despair and death.

2.Donate generously

Find worthy organizations that can and are helping. World Vision is a great one, Salvation Army does wonderful things. Do your research and sacrifice some of what God has given you to help others.

3.Invite others to join you.

Most people would be happy to help others, but they need some encouragement and direction. Guilt or information overload may have them frozen in place. Ask some friends to join you in praying for Syria this week. Tell facebook how you’re donating $20 a month to help the refugee crisis and ask everyone to join you.

You can’t solve any crisis on your own, but the thing is: you aren’t supposed to. This whole ‘Body of Christ’ thing that God has given us is about each of us contributing and all of us together as a whole making huge differences. It’s why Jesus said in John 14:12 that his followers would do even greater things than him. If the 1-2 billion people who follow the teachings of Jesus each do something, together we’ll be an unstoppable force.

So don’t try to boil the ocean. And don’t get discouraged that you can only do a little. Do it, and invite others to join you, because that’s the mission of the church.