Are you busy?

BusyWe wear busy-ness like a badge of honor. To be busy means that we are important, we’re not lazy, and that the world can’t go on without us. How wrong we are!

Kevin DeYoung wrote a book that was really convicting to me. If you find yourself too busy too often, you might find it helpful, too. It’s called Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book about a (Really) Big Problem. In it, he lists many of the poor reasons for our addiction to business:

  • Pats on the back (we like the attention we get)
  • Performance evaluation (we want people to know we are go-getter’s)
  • Possessions (we busy ourselves to get them, keep them, and not ever use them)
  • Proving ourselves (to show how much we matter)
  • Pity (so people will feel sorry for us)
  • Poor planning (because we just didn’t think about it)
  • Power (so we can be in charge)
  • Perfectionism (because good enough isn’t good enough)
  • Position (to maintain our image)
  • Prestige (to look good)

After considering these motivators behind our scheduled insanity, he asked one more question: Am I trying to do good or to make myself look good?

We praise the busy bee, but swat the buzzing gnat. Take a look at your week. Were you doing the things you really needed to, or were you just busy?crazy-busy

The Personal God of Heaven

theology-mattersWe really need to do our best to understand God on his own terms. Many Americans view God as some impersonal power behind the universe. They see him as the “Force” in Star Wars, or “Karma” in the eastern religions, or “Fate” in the Roman world.

God has not revealed himself as an impersonal background force or power. He is a “personality.” That word isn’t quite right. He’s not a man (Numbers 23:19), but man is made in his image (Genesis 1:27). A person and God share many things in common. Scripture frequently uses emotional words to describe God.

Check out this list of God’s emotions from GotQuestions.org:

Impersonal forces are unintelligent, simple actions. They make no choices. Gravity doesn’t sit around and decide whether or not it will cause you to fall out of your chair. Gravity always does what gravity does. It is the same with all of the impersonal forces (magnetism, electricity, atomic forces, etc.)

Personal forces, however, make choices and decisions. My dogs aren’t the same as I am, but they do have “personalities.” They make choices and exert power over their environments.

An impersonal God is the same as no God at all. He doesn’t choose to act. He would just act! A personal God decides to intervene on behalf of his people, to reveal himself, and to make himself known.

How Are You Communicating?

I doubt this story is true, but I’m going to share it anyway! A group of women were at a seminar on how to live in a loving relationship with your husband. The women were asked, “How many of you love your husband?” All the women raised their hands. Then they were asked, “When was the last time you told your husband you loved him?” Some women answered today, a few yesterday, and some couldn’t remember.

The women were then told to take out their cell phones and text their husband: “I love you, sweetheart.” The women were then told to exchange phones with another person, and to read aloud the text message they received, in response. Here are some of the replies:

  1. Sms message on mobile phone close-upWho in the world is this?
  2. Eh, mother of my children, are you sick or what?
  3. Yeah, and I love you too. What’s up with you?
  4. What now? Did you wreck the car again?
  5. I don’t understand what you mean?
  6. What did you do now?
  7. You’re kidding, right?
  8. Don’t beat about the bush; just tell me how much you need?
  9. Am I dreaming?
  10. If you don’t tell me who this message is actually for, someone will die.
  11. I thought we agreed you wouldn’t drink during the day. (my favorite)
  12. Your mother is coming to stay with us, isn’t she?

These replies don’t exactly point to the healthiest relationships, do they? Several years ago during our door-knocking campaign, I met a lady who told me that she already had a church home. “Great,” I replied. “Where do you worship?” She hemmed and hawed and stuttered and stammered…and she couldn’t remember. If you can’t remember the name of your church, you’re probably not going often enough. If you get a reply like these to a text message to your husband, you’re probably not communicating very well.

How is your prayer life? What would God say if you stopped right now, and prayed, “I love you?” Would it be the first time in months, or would it be continuing the conversation from moments before? It’s a challenge, but it’s a beautiful one. Paul told us to “Pray without ceasing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). That’s the epitome of constant communication.

Great Expectations

Imagine a girlfriend saying to her boyfriend, “If you really loved me, you’d win the lottery.”

You’re already hoping that he’ll find someone better to spend his time with, aren’t you? Obviously that is outside of his control. There’s no way he could arrange that, and if he could, wouldn’t he have already?

Expectations

Sometimes we get frustrated with people because we are unrealistic in what we expect them to be. If you go to McDonald’s and ask for an oil change, you’re going to be disappointed. A husband who expects his wife to also be his mother is in for a world of hurt, as this poem describes:

He didn’t like the casserole
And he didn’t like my cake.
My biscuits were too hard,
Not like his mother used to make.

I didn’t perk the coffee right
He didn’t like the stew.
I didn’t mend his socks,
The way his mother used to do.

I pondered for an answer
I was looking for a clue.
Then I turned around and smacked him,
Like his Mother used to do.

expectations31Impossible expectations always guarantee failure and frustration. People cannot give us what they do not have. Don’t expect your children to be perfect when you’re not. Don’t expect everyone else to always be perfectly kind when it’s okay for you to be a grouch because you’re having a bad day.

The only place you can expect perfection is from God. “For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him.” (Psalm 62:5). “The hope of the righteous brings joy, but the expectation of the wicked will perish.” (Proverbs 10:28).

Let’s have high expectations for each other—but not impossible ones!

Phony Gospels

counterfeit-gospelsWhen we studied the book of Galatians together, Paul warned about deserting the gospel for “another” gospel—even though there is no such thing as another gospel (Galatians 1:6-7).

There are several “phony gospels” that are common in modern churches. Each of these has some kernel of truth, but fails because it overemphasizes one aspect of our teaching while neglecting others. Let me illustrate a few of them:

The Gospel of Sin Management: Believers in this gospel believe that the whole purpose of church, religion, and faith, is basically to help keep them nice, moral, and good. They view the church as a pill to prevent public, shaming sin. It’s true that Jesus transforms us and we aim for holiness, but we need to remember that the reason Jesus came is because we aren’t perfect and won’t be in this life. 1 John 1:8-10 warns against pretending like we don’t sin.

The Red Bull Gospel: Named after the energy drink that keeps you awake and alert, the Red Bull gospel emphasizes how we feel over everything else. If the worship service isn’t “uplifting and exciting,” this false gospel says that it didn’t count. It thrives at the end of mission trips, camps, and revivals. This gospel fails to account for the rigors of every-day life. Not every moment can be a mountain-top experience. Much of the substance of our faith comes from obedience when we don’t feel great. It causes us to forget that love is a choice worth pursuing (1 Corinthians 14:1).

The real gospel is this:  “You were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked…But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus…” (Ephesians 2:1-6).

The real gospel is life for those who were dead, hope for the hopeless, and sight for the blind. It’s not a nice “add-on” to our experience in this life—Christ “is our life” (Colossians 3:4). Our goal for the year is to be “Simply Christian.” That means we focus on the real gospel for real life!

East TN Motorcycle Trip – Days 2 and 3

DCIM102GOPRO

I never remember if I turn the camera on or not!

Wayne at the campground was kind enough to give us some suggestions for the ride Thursday. He didn’t steer us wrong at all! Before we left, he made a call or two to verify that we had fuel where we needed it. What a great service!

We left out of the campground on TN-315 until we hit TN-30 at the Hiwasee River in the booming metropolis of Reliance, TN. We continued south on TN-30 until we hit US-64 at the Ocoee. TN-30 was a great little twisty road in the woods without a lot of traffic.

2015-03-26 11.41.15We took US-64 east to Murphy, NC. I love riding by the Ocoee…but there’s just too much logging traffic here. It wasn’t too bad being a Thursday mid-morning. We hit a few light showers, but not even enough to cover the visors.

Lunch in Murphy at a BBQ joint was nice. While we were stopped, we took off John’s home-made air filter. Evidently that combination of paper towels was chocking him out at speed. You’ll have to ask him for the details on that one!

We hit US-129 south into Georgia. Even though it’s the same road as Deal’s Gap, it isn’t the same road. Lots of big rigs here. We peeled off on GA-325 to circle Nottely Lake. GPS didn’t completely agree about where we were here, so we were pleasantly surprised to end up back on US-129 north of Blairsville. We continued south until just north of Vogel State Park where we picked up GA-180 towards Suches.

This road was the hidden gem of the trip. It winds through switchbacks in the Chattahoochee National Forest. WOW! This may have been the best riding of the week. Great switchbacks, tight turns, and good views. We came upon a couple of eastern Europeans who went a little too fast for a curve…they were picking the leaves out of a bike but were otherwise unscathed.

We picked up GA-60 going northwest through the forest towards McCaysville, Georgia and Coppertown, TN.

At one point we turned in behind a 15-passenger walk-on bus. I think John and I both groaned a little bit to be on such a good road behind such an awful vehicle, but we were wrong. The lady driving that bus actually made us work to keep up with her. It was obvious she knew where she was!

GA-60 becomes TN-68 at the state line. It takes us through Coker Creek back to Tellico Plains.

We got in about 150 miles today. The pace was a little bit quicker and the roads were all new to us. Great riding!

2015-MC Day 2

Day 3 – Friday, March 27th

Taste Testers

Taste Testers

It was cold.

It was raining.

We already rode everywhere we really cared to see…

So we just went to a Mexican place in Athens, TN and toured the Mayfield Dairy.

Chocolate ice cream was a pretty good way to end the trip!

East TN Motorcycle Trip – Day 1

If you haven’t heard of it, March Moto Madness is great. It’s a weekend dual-sport rally in Tellico Plains, TN. It’s close to my favorite paved twisties and all sorts of forest service roads. This year, my buddy John Gabriel and I decided to head out to ride this weekend.

Day 1 – Wednesday, March 25th

We were planning on leaving Thursday and staying Thurday-Saturday…but the weather forecast showed that Wednesday was beautiful and Friday and Saturday would be cold. So we shifted our schedule up a day.

John "riding" at a gas station in Cookeville.

John “riding” at a gas station in Cookeville.

We loaded up the bikes on the trailer about 8:30. The V-Strom and Vulcan make odd traveling companions, but they fit together fairly well. The weight was a little too far back on the trailer, so we made fairly slow time. (I need to move up the second wheel chocks by about 8 inches before the next trip.) My max speed was about 65mph to avoid that awful fish-tailing wobble that an unbalanced trailer brings.

The trip to East TN was uneventful, but slow going. We had to make it through a wreck near Mount Juliet and two or three rolling pothole repair slowdowns.  John considered hopping on the back of the bike and just riding through traffic, but we weren’t sure the THP guys would find that as funny as we would…

We made it to the cabin a little after 4pm local time. Rather than camping at MMM, home base was Cherohala Mountain Trails Campground. As far as I’m concerned, it was about the perfect motorcycle campground.

2015-03-25 15.26.40I usually like to write more about the rides than the accommodations, but I’ve got to tell you about this place.

Now, your wife might not be impressed with the campgrounds; the cabins don’t have bathrooms, but it had the nicest, cleanest bathhouse I’ve ever used. Great fire pits, gazebo, creek. Really nice place.

He really caters to motorcycles, though. It had EVERYTHING a motorcyclist might need. Each cabin had a glove/boot dryer, a stone for the kickstand, racks to hang jackets, helmets…you name it. There was a bike washing station. He had special towels for cleaning up your bike.

2015-03-25 15.37.24Wayne (the owner) even lets his guests use his shop and tools to get some repairs! There was a little breakfast stuff in the morning, Wayne sold hamburgers and Philly cheese steaks in the evening. When we asked him about a fuel stop, he called the station to verify that they were open and what grades of fuel they had in stock. He had great advice on routes and weather.  I can’t recommend the place enough.

Once we got the bikes unloaded and got ourbearings, we decided we’d go hit our favorite roads first. We went back in town to the Skyway and took TN-360 North to TN-72 East to US-129 South. That’s where you pick up the Dragon’s Tail. Good ride with very little traffic. Took US-129 to the Cherohala Skyway back into Tellico. It definitely got a bit cool on top of the Skyway, but we got back into town just after sunset.

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We stopped at the Tellicafe for dinner. We didn’t realize it, but I think we walked in about 2 minutes after close. We got great service and the food was good….and they only looked like they were thinking about murdering us a little. Hopefully over-tipping was enough to keep them from slashing our tires that night.

John the Pyro

John the Pyro

Got back to the camp, built a nice bonfire, and headed in for the night. (Man, it’s nice staying in a place that had firewood, kindling, and a covered ring ready. This place was really cool!)

About 140 miles of riding on the day on my two favorite roads in the world. Weather was sunny and in the 70’s—can’t argue with that one bit!

I could tell that it had been way too long since I had ridden any distance. I slept better than I had in a while.

Day one was definitely a success! Stay tuned for day 2!

Day 1 Route

Day 1 Route

Missing Children

missingkidsIn April 1987, seven million American children vanished without a trace. Law enforcement agencies have done their best to locate them. Hundreds of individuals have been investigated for their role in the disappearance of these children.

What happened to these kids? I’ll give you a hint: the FBI, TBI, and CIA have not been investigating their disappearance. The law enforcement agency involved? The Internal Revenue Service.

Here’s what happened. The Tax Reform Act of 1986 went into effect. Tax returns filed for that year had a new stipulation: if you claimed a person over the age of five as a dependent, you were required to include his or her Social Security number to verify them. When the tax returns started rolling in that year, the IRS noticed some strange trends. 60,000 families that claimed more than four children in 1986 claimed zero in 1987. Another 11,000 families claimed seven fewer children in ’87 than ’86! While seven million children went missing and were never found, the IRS did locate something they had been missing: an extra $2.8 billion in taxes paid in ’87!

None of us loves paying taxes. Somebody said, “Be thankful you’re not getting all the government you pay for!” We need to remember, though, that despite how we feel, we have an obligation to “be subject to the governing authorities” (Romans 13:1) and to “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s” (Mark 12:17). Don’t pay more than you have to—but don’t pay any less, either.

Understanding an Imperfect Church

16x9-imperfect-church_edite.jpgJames Hinkle likes to say that if you find a perfect church, don’t join. If you do, you’ll ruin it! Another of my favorite Hinkleisms is that the biggest room in anyone’s house is the room for improvement.

It’s popular in our culture to bash the church. Many have a “give me Jesus, but keep the church” mentality. (It’s worth noting that Jesus excludes this option by being the head of the church and calling the church his bride. Many of our critics don’t pay much attention to this!)

Unfortunately, the church has made mistakes. There have been times in our history when we chose the wrong hills to die on or represented the faith in a way that was unbalanced and unbiblical.

Eugene Peterson had an interesting take on our imperfections and weaknesses. When Christian believers gather together, everything that can go wrong eventually will. Outsiders notice this and conclude that religion is but an empty promise, a hypocritical gathering of the pious. We insiders see it differently, though. Just as a hospital collects the sick under one roof, the church collects sinners. Many of the people outside of a hospital are just as sick as those inside, but their illnesses are undiagnosed, disguised, and untreated. So it is with sinners outside of the church. Christian churches are not, as a rule, model communities of good behavior. Rather, they are places where human misbehavior and sin is brought together to be dealt with. Of course the death rate at a hospital is higher than an elementary school; it is where the sick gather. No one should be surprised to find sin in a group of sinners coming together to deal with the sin problem.

Jesus works to heal us sin-sick church members. His whole mission was to rescue the messy lot of us. Paul told the Ephesians, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” (Ephesians 5:25-27)

Jesus knew that you and I needed “cleaning up.” We actually needed more than that. We were dead, but he gave us life. Is there room for improvement in our church family? Absolutely. I wouldn’t dare join a perfect church.

The Paradox of Our Age

paradoxOne time Jesus spoke to his disciples and warned about the danger of materialism. It’s easy for us to pay more attention to what we have than who we are. He told his disciples, “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.” (Luke 12:15 NASB)

Dr. Bob Moorehead, who preached at Overlake Christian Church wrote an essay called “The Paradox of Our Age” where he described how far we’ve come financially, but how little we’ve progressed spiritually.

We have taller buildings but shorter tempers; wider freeways but narrower viewpoints; we spend more but have less; we buy more but enjoy it less; we have bigger houses and smaller families; more conveniences, yet less time; we have more degrees but less sense; more knowledge but less judgement; more experts, yet more problems; we have more gadgets but less satisfaction; more medicine, yet less wellness; we take more vitamins but see fewer results.

 

We drink too much; smoke too much; spend too recklessly; laugh too little; drive too fast; get too angry quickly; stay up too late; get up too tired; read too seldom; watch TV too much and pray too seldom.

 

We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values; we fly in faster planes to arrive there quicker, to do less and return sooner; we sign more contracts only to realize fewer profits; we talk too much; love too seldom and lie too often.

 

We’ve learned how to make a living, but not a life; we’ve added years to life, not life to years. We’ve been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet the new neighbor.

 

We’ve conquered outer space, but not inner space; we’ve done larger things, but not better things; we’ve cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul; we’ve split the atom, but not our prejudice; we write more, but learn less; plan more, but accomplish less; we make faster planes, but longer lines; we learned to rush, but not to wait; we have more weapons, but less peace; higher incomes, but lower morals; more parties, but less fun; more food, but less appeasement; more acquaintances, but fewer friends; more effort, but less success.

 

We build more computers to hold more information, to produce more copies than ever, but have less communication; drive smaller cars that have bigger problems; build larger factories that produce less. We’ve become long on quantity, but short on quality.

 

These are the times of fast foods and slow digestion; tall men, but short character; steep in profits, but shallow relationships.

 

These are times of world peace, but domestic warfare; more leisure and less fun; higher postage, but slower mail; more kinds of food, but less nutrition.

 

These are days of two incomes, but more divorces; these are times of fancier houses, but broken homes.

 

These are days of quick trips, disposable diapers, cartridge living, thow-away morality, one-night stands, overweight bodies and pills that do everything from cheer, to prevent, quiet or kill.

 

It is a time when there is much in the show window and nothing in the stock room.

 

Indeed, these are the times!

My first response is to feel a bit depressed, but then I remember that society has always marched in this direction. Christianity calls us to march to the beat of a different drummer—even if that means marching alone.