Before you give up something for Lent, read this.

Before you give up something for Lent, read this.

Lent is the season leading to Easter where many Christians decide to give something up for 40 days. The main point of this is to create some discipline in your life that will help you draw near to Christ by pondering Jesus love whenever you crave that thing you gave up. The season of Lent starts on Ash Wednesday and ends on Easter. However, if you ask Siri on Ash Wednesday how many days until Easter she will tell you, 46. Yep, that's right, 46 days. What gives?

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Hope, peace, death, sorrow, walking through the death of my father

Hope, peace, death, sorrow, walking through the death of my father

 I’ve told this story enough in the past week that I felt compelled to write it down. This is the story of how my dad passed, and also how I experienced the peace of Christ like never before after intense sorrow and sadness like I had never known. it encompasses my experience the past few weeks. It's not depressing, so if you're trying to avoid depressing news, you are safe to click here.

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An Adventure in Proverbs Chapter 20 - What's the deal with drinking?

What's wrong with getting a little drunk?

There has been much debate over drinking amongst Christians over the years. On the one hand the scriptures are very clear that we aren't to abuse alcohol or get drunk (Don't get drunk on wine, but rather be filled with the Spirit. -  Ephesians 5:18). Yet on the other hand, Jesus turned 100+ gallons of water into fine wine at a wedding party. (John 2)

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An Adventure in Proverbs - Chapter 19 - What to do about refugees?

The Syrian refugee crisis, terrorism, illegal immigration. These are hot topics in the news. I don't do politics on the internet (the reasons why are in a forthcoming post, not this one) but I think what I read in Proverbs 19 today addresses this in a non political way.  Here is Proverbs 19:17 in 2 different translations:

Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord,
    and he will reward them for what they have done.  NIV

Mercy to the needy is a loan to God,
    and God pays back those loans in full.  The Message

What does that have to do with refugees?  My hunch is most of these folks at this point are needy. I think being a refugee defines itself as being needy. Those of us who identify as followers of Christ know that we are called to help those in need, regardless of their race, creed, religion, etc.  In fact, giving people practical help is an incredibly effective way to share the good news about Jesus!  Jesus died and rose again so that we could live life differently! Is their better way to show the world the love of Jesus than caring for those most in need, and doing so because Jesus told us to?  I don't know how to take in to my house a Syrian refugee, but there are lots of organizations that are mobilizing and helping in the midst of this crisis.  World Vision is one of them, and perhaps you can make an investment that "God pays back in full". If you'd like to, you can do so here.  Click this.   Just to be clear, I don't think the Lord is going to pay you back in full in this life. I think this is an eternal investment you are making, one that "neither rust nor moth can destroy". This is an eternal investment.

An Adventure in Proverbs - Chapter 18 - I never thought about it like that

Everyone knows that gossiping is wrong. It is verbally assassinating someone's character. Even small children figure this out pretty quickly.  Here are a couple of great quotes about gossip:

“Gossip is just a tool to distract people who have nothing better to do from feeling jealous of those few of us still remaining with noble hearts.”  Anna Godbersen, Splendor

“Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people.”     - Henry Thomas Buckle

This isn't new information. Don't gossip. Don't speak badly about people. Don't say things behind someone's back that you wouldn't say to their face.  All of this I knew. But this morning I read verse 8 in Proverbs 18 and for the first time it jumped out at me.

"The words of a gossip are like choice morsels;
    they go down to the inmost parts."  NIV

Here is the message version, which is a little more colorful:

"Listening to gossip is like eating cheap candy;
    do you really want junk like that in your belly?"  MSG

While I knew better than to spread gossip, I had never really thought about what listening to it does to me. I know it hurts others, but does just listening harm me?  Maybe that's why the Message version resonated so well because of its use of the phrase "cheap candy". I know how cheap candy makes me feel........ terrible. I won't even go near cheap candy because I know it's not worth it.  The reality is I don't feel the same way about listening to gossip. While I may not be an habitual gossiper I am probably a regular gossip listener, which is not only harming me but is giving the actual gossiper a chance to harm someone else, not to mention themselves. I hadn't ever thought about it like that before. 



An Adventure in Proverbs - Chapter 17 - Don't be this guy

My freshman year in college I lived in a humongous dorm on the campus of the University of Texas. Like most dorms the people on my hall were a random assortment of dudes from all over Texas with a variety of backgrounds and belief systems. Many of us got along great and developed bonds that would last for many years. However, in any situation where random people are put together in a long term living situation there will be some people who don't quite fit in with everyone else. Most times these folks are just a little awkward or "different" and we had some of that on our hall. When reading Proverbs 17 this week I was reminded of a particular guy on our hall who wasn't awkward or terribly weird, but he definitely didn't fit in well with the rest of us. I thought of him (I don't remember his name) after reading this verse:

Provers 17:5
Whoever mocks the poor shows contempt for their Maker;
    whoever gloats over disaster will not go unpunished.

The reason I thought of him was because of the following horrible story that caused this guy to become an outcast on our hall. There are quite a few homeless people in Austin, and at the time many of them lingered around the University of Texas. According to witnesses; this soon to be vilified hall mate saw a homeless man lying on the ground. He proceeded to approach the man and then offered him a candy bar asking "Would you like this?"  When the man responded and reached out for the candy bar he laughed at him and then ate the candy bar himself taunting the man who was clearly not in a good place and most likely very hungry. When we heard about this on our hall, even the most callous person wanted to fight our hall mate. It was truly disgusting behavior.

It seems that everyone, regardless of their awareness of scripture, agrees this is horrible behavior. Let's take it to the next level though, how often do we gloat over someone else's disaster? Maybe not in your community, but I think our culture has created an environment where we do gloat over the disaster of people who are more well known than we are. It seems the country, the press, and twitter users are anxiously waiting for some celebrity to fall from grace, make a mistake, go through a divorce, or have a mental breakdown. Our willingness to pile on these people is equally disgusting. While it is specifically wrong to mock the poor, it's also a real problem if we seek to make ourselves feel better by relishing the bad fortune of someone who is rich or famous or powerful or all three. Let's stop participating in the cultural pile on and instead remember that while "famous" people may look like their life is some kind of pleasant fantasy, the reality is they have at least as many problems as the rest of us and probably more. Maybe we should take some time to pray for them from a distance instead of mocking them from a distance.

An Adventure in Proverbs - Chapter 16 - Rudy T style

Pride goes before destruction,
    a haughty spirit before a fall.

The appetite of laborers works for them;
    their hunger drives them on.

Today's selection is two separate verses (18 & 26) that work together and reminded me of one of the great moment in Houston sports History. The Rockets second Championship season.  After Rudy's squad won an unlikely 2nd championship in a row Rudy gave an amazing speech (you can read it here) that ended like this.

"While our opponents were talking trash and guaranteeing that we would loose, when we had the upper hand, we did it the right way. We stayed HUMBLE and HUNGRY."

Rudy could have been reading straight from Proverbs 16. The warnings against pride and for hard work in the Proverbs are numerous. Life experience and much observation have proved to me that hard work + humility does result in success. It has the added bonus of earning you respect and friendship along the way. What else could you ask for but to have worked hard, had some success and made deep friendships along the way? 

Enjoy the Rockets second championship, including Hakeem Olajuwon hitting a three at the end of the game to sweep the Orlando Magic in four games.

An Adventure in Proverbs - Chapter 15 - Team Sports

I'm a big fan of team sports. While I enjoy individual sports, if there is ever an opportunity to play as a team, I'll pick that option every time. Running is an individual sport and at this point in my life it's the only sport I participate in regularly. A few years ago I had the opportunity to run in a 12 person relay race across 230 miles and it was a blast. Why? Because whenever you get to do things with people and work together towards a common goal, that just makes the experience that much better. When it comes to big decisions in my personal and professional life I prefer team sports as well, which is a segway to the verse I chose from Proverbs 15:22.

Plans fail for lack of counsel,
    but with many advisers they succeed.

The Message
Refuse good advice and watch your plans fail;
    take good counsel and watch them succeed.

Too often I've seen calamity take place in friends and coworkers lives when it could be avoided by consulting a few trusted friends or colleagues. In any situation where we are required to make a decision we can always use others input, because we only see thing from one perspective. I'm continually surprised by insight I get into sticky situations, topics, issues and events by including others in the conversation. Even more so when I get the perspective of someone who disagrees with my initial opinions. I think one of the great crimes of growing older is that we naturally begin to surround ourselves with people, ideas and inputs that we already agree with and we start to shut out the people we know we don't agree with. We essentially surround ourselves with "yes" people and don't let anyone or anything challenge our ideas and opinions. This doesn't make our ideas and opinions stronger, it actually makes them weaker because they aren't tested anymore. It's like a muscle that goes unused, it gets weaker. So bring on the counsel of wise advisers and make sure you get some dissenting opinions in your life every once in a while to keep you fresh.

An Adventure in Proverbs - Chapter 14 - Dead Ends

When driving I always seem to choose the wrong lane to drive in. Traffic is heavy, cars are backed up, and I make a decision to switch lanes into the lane that looks like it will move faster and save me time. Invariably I choose wrong and that lane ends up being the slow lane. This drives me crazy, because I feel like I'm getting tricked by the false hope of a better traffic experience. Oftentimes life presents the same conundrum.  Here is where this thought popped up in Proverbs 14:
"There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death. 
Even in laughter the heart may ache, and joy may end in grief."

There’s a way of life that looks harmless enough;
    look again—it leads straight to hell.
Sure, those people appear to be having a good time,
    but all that laughter will end in heartbreak.

The world is always offering us the easy answer, the quick fix. But rarely is the easy answer the best one. More often the quick fix leads to less pain and struggle now but significantly more later. A few examples that illustrate this:

eating that greasy (and delicious) fast food instead of taking the time to make something healthy for yourself

spending money now on fun instead of saving for future needs

saying "yes" to someone now so you won't have to say "no" until later

choosing to live a lifestyle that focuses on your own pleasure and comfort instead of giving your life away to Jesus and to other people

cheating on your homework when you were in school to get it done, but missing out on learning the information for the test later.

You get the point. So what do we do?  How do we avoid the way that leads to death?

In my office, we've worked hard to create an environment of thinking things through. We try to make every decision with next year, the next 3 years, and the next 5 years in mind so that we don't rob from the future to satisfy our immediate needs. Personally I try my best to implement this principle in my own life, to varying degrees of success. Ultimately the best way to take the way that leads to life is to cling to Jesus, walk with him daily, put into practice the way Jesus lived and taught. Think differently than what you see on TV or Facebook. We are called to be different, not weird different, but different than how the rest of the world functions. Jesus wasn't like anyone else in his town or culture. He lived a life that was in many ways opposite of everyone he knew. We are to do the same thing. If our lives don't look any different than our friends who aren't serious followers of Christ then we have to ask ourselves whether we are a serious follower of Christ. Don't get caught up in the way that leads to death, it's the easy way, the way that everyone else is going. It may look in the moment like it's the best or the most fun, but we know it ends in tears. 

I could write a lot more on this topic, but my goal was to keep these short and sweet so people will actually read them.


An Adventure in Proverbs - Chapter 13 - the need for hope

"Hope in reality is the worst of all evils because it prolongs the torments of man." Friedrich Nietzsche

I'd like to respectfully disagree with Mr. Nietzsche, and while I'm at it I'd like to flee with great haste his outlook on the world. I hold to the idea that hope is a valuable ally. Something to cling to and focus on in times of trouble or doubt. Today's proverb of choice speaks directly to this.

"Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life."  Proverbs 13:12.

Have you ever had a hope extinguished? It is more than likely that you have. If that is the case you know how demoralizing it is when something you longed for, excitedly expected, and hungrily anticipated is snatched away. It's like a kick in the gut or more beautifully stated, "it makes the heart sick". The moment you realize that some great dream won't come to fruition or some long sought opportunity is gone is a taste ( or a big gulp) of despair. Sometimes that can send us into a tailspin and a pit of thought that begins to compound negativity. However, just because we begin to circle downward and hear voices that tell us there is no hope, that still doesn't mean those voices are true or that hope is lost.  

That's the great thing about hope is that just when it seems extinguished it often flickers back, sometimes when we least expect it. And when that hope blossoms into a raging fire and then ends with a "longing fulfilled" there is nothing more encouraging, satisfying and inspiring, and that of course leads to future hope, and helps ignite that flame years later when we once again face a "hope deferred". 

The Message version:

 "Unrelenting disappointment leaves you heartsick,
    but a sudden good break can turn life around."



Israel - Day 12 - Jesus real tomb, the Cross and the places he spoke and walked in Jerusalem

Israel - Day 12 - Jesus real tomb, the Cross and the places he spoke and walked in Jerusalem

It's our last day here in Israel and I have to admit I am going to be sad to leave this place (although I'm anxious to be home with my family). It is such a treat and privilege to be here and experience and see all these wonderful things that I don't want the exploration of the biblical context to stop. However it must, so here is what we did this morning. It's a big deal!  

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Israel - Day 11 - Masada, Dead Sea Scrolls, the Dead Sea

Israel - Day 11 - Masada, Dead Sea Scrolls, the Dead Sea

Today we left early and headed out to the sight known as Masada. Masada is a fortress/palace that crazy old Herod the Great built. He was basically a paranoid prepper type who had several fortresses built in case he ever needed to flee Jerusalem and survive the Roman coming after him

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Israel - Day 10 - Jacob's Well, The River Jordan, the Judean Wilderness

Israel - Day 10 - Jacob's Well, The River Jordan, the Judean Wilderness

We are coming around the home stretch on our trip and there is still much to see and more to learn. The sheer amount of interesting cultural and contextual (1st century context) that we are getting is formidable. I'm only scratching the surface on the amount of info we are digesting.

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