First steps and last resorts

Related Scripture:
Philippians 4:4-7
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Guard your heart with all diligence

( of flickr)

Related Scripture:
Proverbs 4:23
Keep your heart with all vigilance,
for from it flow the springs of life.

"Guard your heart with all diligence" is how I remember it in my head, but it could be a mix-up of multiple versions since I can't find a version that has that exact phrase. Quoting verses I learned as a child is difficult because I learned in both the old NIV (which apparently they changed?) and the NKJV. The ESV is what I have quoted here. For future reference, I now study mainly from the ESV and the NET.

Philippians 4:4-7
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

5 things I want my kids to know about God

I read this blog post the other day and thought I would use the idea (the sincerest form of flattery). Also, today's "free Friday" is a bit shorter because I'm writing a paper and typing has gotten physically painful in my knuckles to the point that I think I might have early onset arthritis :/ Anywho...

Five things I want my kids to know about God

1. He's a Person, like with feelings and emotions and stuff. He feels things like anger, sadness, and joy. We like to think of God as entirely separate from us, and of course- he is, but at the same time, he reacts to things that we do. He feels, and I think that's really important.

2. The immensity of Him. We call this His glory. This is tied inexplicably with his holiness. The part of him that's not like us, the part that makes him Other. The part we can't explain except to say what he's not.

3. He's in control, even when things don't seem like He is. Even when things kind of suck sometimes. Which leads to...

4. He's good. When we can't see the good in our circumstances, the problem is with our sight and not with our circumstances. Yes, God's in control, and it's a good thing He's in control because He is good and the thing He controls will work out for good.

5. Only five? This is super tough, but I'd have to say that God pursues us. If God is good, then our best good is to be with Him. This doesn't happen a lot of the time, and it certainly doesn't happen from the beginning. While He is Other, He gave up that immensity to become like us. The person of God was made manifest in the person of Christ. There is a gap between us and God because He is so Other, and without Christ, we would have fallen in that gap. But because God feels, and one of those feelings is love, Christ bridged that gap for us. While this one-time act allows all of humanity that accepts it to bridge the gap, God's act of pursuit did not stop there. Instead, he pursues us daily.

What are five things you would want your kids to know about God?

No Big Deal

Photographer: vjeran of Stock Xchng

I delayed this post out of sensitivity to recent world events. By no means, am I minimizing the great tragedies that have hit Japan. It is a big deal. In fact, I exhort everyone to contribute to relief efforts in accordance with their ability to give and to pray without ceasing for our Japanese brothers, sisters, and neighbors.

However, the point of this post is to demonstrate that however dark and entangled circumstances may be, God is greater, and in Him and His power, we have hope. This was true when I first conceptualized this post, and it is still true today.

Related Scripture:
Exodus 14
Mark 4:35-41
Matthew 14:30-33

(Don't) Honk if you have manners

Photographer: Mattox of Stock Xchng

Witch Hunters and Gate Stormers

Hunters and Stormers

There are two extremes: witch hunters and gate stormers.

Some are engaged in a perpetual witch hunt. Witch hunters shut the gates of heaven and open wide the belly of hell for all to fall in. They come in two groups: those who condemn others and those who condemn themselves. There is the man who stands in the middle of a college campus, indiscriminately yelling (to someone he has never met, of course), "You are going to hell!" There is also the girl who has truly believed in faith all her life yet whispers the same phrase to herself in the quiet of her heart. Witch hunters pursue and fill their targets' minds. Sometimes they are right. Sometimes they are wrong. Always they make broad statements without comparing individual circumstances with Scripture.

Others are gate stormers. Gate stormers do not differentiate between others and themselves. Instead, they chain the gates of hell and storm the gates of heaven, casting it wide for any and all to enter. There is the one at the pulpit with cufflinks yelling, "You are going to heaven!" There is also the one wearing skinnyjeans proclaiming the same on book tours. Gate stormers pursue and fill their targets' minds. Sometimes they are right. Sometimes they are wrong. Always they make broad statements without comparing individual circumstances with Scripture.


Should theology be something that is always easy to understand? Should God be someone who is always easy to understand? What if we admitted that there are things we don't understand or things that make us uncomfortable? Are understanding and comfort a pre-requisite for belief?

What if we stopped simplifying theology and found beauty in its complexity? Why do we conceptualize God and heaven and hell by picking out some verses and leaving others? Is the Bible a buffet?

Is it bad to fear and good to be at peace? Is putting God in a big box any better than putting Him in a small one, or vice versa?


Pages and pages can (and have) been written about this in depth that I will not even attempt on this blog. Instead, I will leave you with the following two passages, both from 1 John 4.

1Beloved,do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.

God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 18There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.


(Fox News Insider and Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Matthew M. Bradley under CC2.0)

"By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth."

See also: Before-and-after satellite images

The Twitter tag #prayforJapan has received a lot of flack as empty sentiment without providing tangible results. For those of us who have been blessed both spiritually and materially, let us not close our hearts against our brothers (in Christ) and neighbors (the ones who are in need) in either of these areas.

American Red Cross

Samaritan's Purse

Churches Helping Churches

Update 3:44:
How You Can Pray

Lessons from the Centurion

(vlx of flickr under CC2.0 and re-released under a comparable CC3.0)

Sometimes I write down ideas for future blog posts well in advance but forget the lesson-learned in the meantime. This was one of those instances, and I'm marveling at this man's faith once more.


Photographer: smohundro of flickr under CC2.0, and this is released under a similar CC3.0 license.

Based on a true story

Sometimes I wonder if bloggers make up scenarios to put on their blogs. I see the blogging platform more as a type of memoir than a strict biography, unless the author represents it as such. (Although, if you're wondering, I really do have TS, I really did almost get run over (twice), and today's comic really happened as stated.)

Parables make it easy to miss the point sometimes

It's not particularly profound, but I think it's important. When we look for stuff, we're looking because we need something. Even with the shepherd metaphor that we use so much, I'd imagine that the guy wasn't altogether altruistic. Wouldn't he lose his job or get a pay cut or something if he just let sheep wander off? These are parables, to show us what God is like...but different. It reminds me of when the kids and Puddleglum were trying to convince the witch (and to an extent, themselves) about the world outside the cave: Aslan - he's a lion,which is a cat, but not a cat; it's bigger! And totally not like a cat at all...

Good News

God didn't need us. And yet he searches for us, and earnestly- like when you need that last quarter so you can do that final load of laundry. But even though He didn't need us (we're worthless, really), He considers us much more important than a quarter. Much more than a sparrow or a lily, even. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us. He has given us eternal life, and that life is in His Son. This can't be described as anything but good news!


Now, this isn't the time to get self-congratulatory. We're unspeakably blessed, but we're not particularly special. Not in and of ourselves. There is no room to boast: of works, of faith, or of being "chosen." This is no time to stand in the temple and thank God that I'm not a thief or a swindler...or a Pharisee.

The whole redemption situation is quite shameful, really. The cross is a horrible, twisted place- a testament to our utter failure at the self-sufficiency we so much clamor for. But it's also where we find our glory.

Where be your gibes now?

Image/ info: Screenshot at 2:41:10 from RSC's film version of Hamlet, which can be found on PBS.  The production was the first to use a real human skull in live performance, which was bequeathed years earlier by Andre Tchaikowsky to be used on stage.

Ash Wednesday

 1Blessings on this Ash Wednesday

If you forgot that Lent starts today, I hope you didn't already have your morning coffee, donuts, ham and eggs, and cigarette. But if you have, never fear (except if you had that cigarette- seriously, you should stop for the next 40...decades) because I have an idea.

Memorize Scripture

If you remember, I started memorizing the book of 1 John in January- on Sunday, January 23, to be exact. I decided to memorize two verses a day; I calculated the days and then added 10% (to give myself a bit of "wiggle room.") 2My projected end date was March 16 (next Wednesday, which was convenient because we all know that 3:16 is the magic number.)

If I'm diligent this week, I will actually end up finishing the book of 1 John on 3Friday. This actually means I will have finished 1 John in 41 days!  Now, 1 John has 105 verses, so technically at the rate of 2 a day it becomes 52.5 days, but if you hustle a bit and memorize an extra verse here and there (and also remember that there are 46 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter), it's totally feasible to finish memorizing a book of the Bible between now and Easter.  Also, a number of the epistles are significantly shorter than 1 John, so feel free to pick one of those if you want.

The Technique

You should take a look at this guide because there are a lot of tips and wisdom in it. The guide also has a list of how many verses are in each book, if you decide to go with something shorter (or longer!) than 1 John.

Basically, it goes like this:
1) Figure out how many verses to do each day and write it on a calendar. (If you use my scheme, it will be approx. 2 verses a day in approx. 41 days.)
2) Day 1: read your two verses 10 times. Then recite it memorized 10 times.
3) Day 2: Recite yesterday's verses 10 times. Read today's verses 10 times. Recite today's verses 10 times. Recite all the verses starting from Day 1 together, once. (On Day 2, this means reciting Day 1's and Day 2's verses. On Day 3, this means reciting Day 1, Day 2, and Day 3's verses.)
4) Repeat Day 2's steps until you finish. By the end, you will be reciting the entire book in one siting.


Here are some common objections that I've heard to memorizing Scripture and my response to each:
I'm not that smart. It's not about smartness, it's about repetition. I bet you know most of the words to The Day the Music Died. Do you know how freaking long that song is??? And you didn't even sit down to memorize it. (Presumably.)
No, seriously, I'm not that smart. Then use the same technique used to memorize 1 John and study the verses instead. Instead of repeating 10 times and memorizing 10 times- repeat the verses 20 times and focus on each word, the meaning of the words, sentence structure, and paragraph structure- these are the types of things you'll notice if you actually memorize the book. (It's a great study, and you'll be surprised how much you actually pick up. This way, you can alleviate some of the pressure and just spend time in the Word.)
This sounds like a lot of time and energy commitment. Well...yes. But I'm a law student. If something is important enough, then you can manage. Trust me. Plus, it's Lent, and Lent is about sacrificing our Selves and devoting ourselves to God.  (To be fair, around chapter 3 I stopped my daily Bible reading plan to focus on this because it took a lot of time.)
I haven't memorized Scripture since AWANA. And that was years ago. Well, sounds like it's a good time to start! The journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. Gotta start somewhere. Start with 1 John 1:1-2 today.  :)

If you have any questions about memorizing a book of the Bible, drop a comment, and I'll get back to you. (And I promise to be nicer to you than the comments above. I don't actually talk to people people I'm not very close to like that in real life.)

And if you  don't want to memorize 1 John, choose a book that has personal meaning to you.  Or, make a list of passages that you want to memorize: armor of God?  the love chapter?  the 10 Commandments?  The goal is to be in the Word and hide His word in our hearts.


I don't think there's *one thing* you have to do for Lent.  This is just a suggestion.  Or that Lent participation is even mandatory; at the same time, it's not a bad idea. It's not restricted to Catholics or Anglicans or Lutherans, and for those of you who may be liturgi-phobic, just think about it as a "you and God" thing as your prepare heart for Easter.

For me, I always try an affirmative rather than (or in addition to) a negative. Personally, cutting out sweets would be difficult, but won't make me actually focus on Christ. For my practically-vegetarian friend, cutting out meat doesn't make any difference at all. That's why we decided to do something positive (which usually inherently involves an element of self-denial) and make sure that whatever we're denying is actually something that will make us think about our sin and the cross.

(As an aside, technology fasts are rather effective, especially when paired with some sort of affirmative spiritual discipline.  The LeechBlock addon for Firefox cmes highly recommended, and you can use it to re-route to Youversion, Biblegateway, or a site of your choice.)

Lent, or any spiritual discipline is what you make of it.

Do you "do" Lent (or don't do it?) Why? If you have, how have past Lenten seasons benefited you? If you don't do Lent, do you do anything else specifically to prepare your heart for Easter?

(Footnotes after the jump)

A wish; A fear

Today's comic consists of 2 panels superimposed on top of one another. Mouse over for the second panel. (This may not work in IE or in your reader.)


Photographer: Tanya_Little of flickr under CC2.0 and this new work is released under a similar CC3.0 license.

Sidenote: I didn't intend for this to come off as emo; it was more of a passing thought.

Also, for anyone who is having trouble viewing the panels, this is the first panel, and this is the second panel.

Free Book: A Million Miles

Good news for Donald Miller fans! A Million Miles in a Thousand Years is now available on paperback!

What story are you telling? from Rhetorik Creative on Vimeo.

If I won a free book from Don Miller's blog, I'll pass it along to a commenter (US and Canada only):
What kind of story do you want to tell with your life

Edit: If I'm counting Don's comment trail right, looks like I was the fourth poster, which means I scored us a free book. Comment away!

4/2 Edit: Got the book in the mail today!  What kind of story do you want to tell with your life?  Best comment before 4/10 at 12am Pacific gets the book. (US and Canada only)

The Rational Economic Actor (2)

A Parable

One's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.

The old rich man said to himself, "Soul, you have amassed much for yourself in many years. Relax and enjoy!" That night, he lay down to a deep and happy sleep, dreaming of another garage for his cars and a larger house with a white fence for his family to enjoy.

But before the man awoke, God said to him, "Child of dust, this night your soul will be required of you."


(bdebaca of flickr, CC2.0.)

Francis Chan spoke at my high school once. He showed us a spray bottle and pulled the trigger a few times. "You see that?" We saw a white mist for a second, maybe a second and a half before it disappeared into the air. "That's you." *spray* "There you went. Let me do it again, because it was too quick the first time."


"There. You're gone."


Do not store up for yourselves treasure in heaven, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.

Which one of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost?

"He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose."

The Rational Economic Actor (1)

Photographer: JMRosenfeld of flickr under CC2.0.

1) My professor is *really* into Coase, so the title is a bit of a tribute to that.
2) While I'm referring to generalities such as time, energy, and self-indulgence, Justin Childers/ Tim Keller/ M'Cheyne approach this from a monetary perspective.