Sunday, November 30, 2008

The gospel is everywhere, part 1000

One of my all-time favorite books is Michael Lewis' Moneyball (pictured above). While nominally about baseball, in reading the book you'll realize it's actually about being efficient in life.

One of the themes that stuck with me is that of a decision being evaluated not on the result, but on the process involved in making the decision. So, if you trade for a bad player who coincidentally sets the world on fire upon his acquisition, that does not mean the trade decision was a good one. To use a real world example: my friend Wesley once survived a car accident only because she wasn't wearing a seat belt. Just because she survived, however, does not validate the decision to drive without wearing the seat belt*.

I always thought this "the value of the decision is not in its result" philosophy extended to the gospel as well. Like, if I talk about the Lord with a stranger but it does not result in the stranger coming to the Lord, I shouldn't feel like I made a bad decision**.

Reading Luke 4, I found my scriptural reference. Here, Jesus is tempted by Satan, who offers Jesus authority and splendor over all the kingdoms in the world. One problem: while the result would make a certain amount of sense, the process by which He got there would be, well, a bit troubling.

I think Christians can be similarly tempted by the allure of a seemingly positive result. What I think we need to remember, though, is that the result we ought to always be seeking is not one of worldly pleasure, or even one which looks good to other Christians. The result we should simply, unequivocally be seeking is the approval of the Lord. After all, it is He, not men, who ultimately judges us.

* = I know this sentence is a double negative. If you have a better idea of how to phrase it, please do let me know

** = same thing

Friday, November 21, 2008

Phone calls with God

Every few months, the CEO of my company will open up an hour from his schedule to host calls from employees from throughout the country. If your request is received early enough, he’ll spend five minutes on the phone only with you. This is seen as an impressive gesture from someone who presides over 37 different branches of the company.

Now let’s think about God: the Creator and presider over all the universe. The one who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine according to His power that is at work within us. Must be a busy guy, right? Yet we have access to him not every few months for five minutes, but all the time.

Think about that for a moment. All we have to do is talk to Him. The thought absolutely blows my mind. Wow.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


How defines it: confidence or trust in a person or thing

How I tend to define it: the belief that, however improbable the situation, God is in charge

Not bad, right?

Here's what the Greek word pistis (which appears as "faith" in our Bibles) is actually defined:
reliance upon Christ for salvation

Kind of changes your view of things, right?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Bring Jesus to work day

One of the things I sometimes have trouble with when "spending time with the Lord" is that I can't actually see him. Even though I conceptually know He's there at every second of every day, if I'm not actively feeling His presence I easily forget about Him.

My friend Kevin suggested picturing Him on my shoulder, or picturing Him walking next to me. Would that affect how I proceed through my day? Would I stop putzing around, stop procrastinating, stop finding ways to shirk responsibility?

What if I took Him to work with me? Would that affect my effort? Something tells me I wouldn't be spending time on so many websites, sending so many emails to friends and doing anything besides what I'm being paid off to do.

So I'm thinking that should be my attitude throughout life -- not so much "what would Jesus do?" but more like "what would you do if Jesus were right next to you?"

(which, of course, he kinda is)

Scriptural reference:
Colossians 3:17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

On fear (again)

I was talking about this with my men's group the other night:

A conclusion we reached is that much of fear is generated by free will. As an example: when you were a kid you didn’t have the option of not playing prison dodge ball. It was prison dodge ball week in P.E., so you had to play. Now that we’re older, we can hand-select which activities in which to participate and suddenly we’re terrified of failure.

(insert any of a million different variables for prison dodge ball, i.e. other sports, foods your parents made you eat, etc)

Obviously I’m simplifying it a little; probably you did have some fear of prison dodge ball, but you got over it because you had to. Later in life, you don’t have to. You can choose to stay scared forever.

Makes sense, right? Free will is what brought us original sin, fear is maybe Satan’s greatest weapon…and this is why I think Jesus is always saying “do not be afraid.”

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


The other night I didn't feel like doing anything that required firing more than a minimum of brain synapses, so I went down to browse my roommate's DVD collection. There I noticed a title I'd never heard of, a sort of kung-fu action movie called "Hero." It features Jet Li and had some good-sounding reviews on the back (but don't they all), so decided to watch it. I don't think I had ever watched an entire Chinese or kung-fu film before, so I won't try to write a full review of this one. I would like to comment on the fantastic fight scenes, though. Most of the main characters were very thoughtful and reflective, and this heavily colored the way they fought. In one part, the combatants even stopped, closed their eyes, and continued the contest in their minds for awhile. Ok, so that might sound a little weird, but the battling was just so poetic, and it occurred to me that, not only does the 90s hit video game "Street Fighter" make a lot more sense now, but also people seem to desire the transcendence achieved by these fighters, the ability to rise above our human nature. We want to repel arrows like flies, to face life's challenges with spinning, leaping, soaring duels on top of a quiet mountain lake without getting more than our feet wet. Of course, I'm not saying everyone, or even most people, are consciously entertaining such thoughts, but I'd wager that these sentiments are ingrained in more than just Asian assassins. Maybe it's a desire to be gods, or perhaps a longing to be with Him; in either case, it has long been recognized across the globe that there is more to this life than the eye sees or reason infers, but sometimes as present-day Americans we forget this as we scurry about pursuing our happiness. So our innate longing for transcendence manifests in strange places, like subtitled movies. Fortunately, as a follower of Christ I know that I don't have to bank anything on perfecting that killer swordstrike, or performing any other kind of extra-normal shenanigans. I don't even have to be an ace at the regular stuff. As Paul reminds us, "But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.'" (2 Cor. 12:9) And again, "I can do all things through him who strengthens me." (Phil. 4:13) It's quite a relief, if you think about it. Sure saves me a lot of hours at the dojo, anyway.