When Fear Drives

2016 will be a defining year for Christianity.

The year we let fear drive.

The year we let fear lead.

The year we let fear dictate
our attitude,
our emotions,
our outlook,
our reactions,
our responses,
our interactions,
our posts,
our tweets,
and our votes.

This is the year we let fear overthrow our faith, and Christianity will lose its identity in the aftermath.

When Fear Drives…We Get Lost

Fear causes us to forget who we are and forget where we’re going. This year we have become guardians, defending tradition and doctrines. We’ve abandoned our tasks as gardeners, failing to cultivate and nourish our neighborhoods and our relationships with agenda-less generosity and compassion. Fear has hardened our hearts and turned us inward.

We have become spokesmen and spokeswomen of who’s in and who’s out. We have lost our first love and replaced it for being right. Fear speaks first and serves last, or serves just so it can speak, instead of serving for goodness sake.

When we follow fear we wander away from Jesus, and his way is the last thing on our mind or our feed. We’re lost.

When Fear Drives…We Go Too Far In The Wrong Direction

Once lost, fear won’t let us turn around–repent–because we’re afraid the way back, or the right way, may be wrong. Or it might just be judged and condemned and blasted on Facebook. We become too affiliated with a party or a denomination or a view point or an opinion or an interpretation that it’s the only voice of God we can hear.

Any other way or possibility becomes nothing more than something else to fear.

When Fear Drives…We Will Wreck

Our relationships.
Our reputation.
Our witness.
Our influence.
Our legitimacy.

When fear leads, we’ll be known by nothing more than the lyrics of a Derek Webb song:

They’ll know us by the t-shirts that we wear

They’ll know us by the way we point and stare
At anyone whose sin looks worse than ours
Who cannot hide the scars of this curse that we all bare
they’ll know us by our picket lines and signs
They’ll know us by the pride we hide behind
Like anyone on earth is living right
And isn’t that why Jesus died
Not to make us think we’re right

We’ll be known for slamming everything: Hillary, Trump, Joel Osteen, liberals, conservatives, Christians who are not like us, abortion, war, dancing, wine, Jen Hatmaker, MTV, CNN, NPR, pop music, processed food, global warming, gays, Oprah, tattoos, video games, Rob Bell, grown men who live with their parents, self-help, bi-racial relationships, single moms, Mark Driscoll, transgender, too much candy, quirky theology, women in leadership, and lists that a too short of things we don’t approve of.

We’ll be known for what we oppose, instead of the blessing we offer everyone.

When Fear Drives…We Can’t Enjoy The Ride

When we’re afraid of the dashboard lights going off all the time, we’ll never delight in the scenery.

If we drop the metaphor, fear will cause us to miss God because we’ll just be afraid of making him mad all the time. When we live by fear we can’t have joy. They can’t co-exist in the same space. Fear is a vacuum that removes wonder, joy, delight, and love from every space it fills.

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

When you live in fear of God, it’s impossible to experience the love of God (and share it with others).

We’re not the first to act this way.

A couple years ago, Jesus was asleep in a boat with his disciples, and they were freeeeeeeeeeaking out in the throws of a storm swirling around them. We are in the same boat. 2016 was the year we peed our pants of faith and abandoned all we believed in, while he was in our very midst. (Many Christians believe that the Spirit of Jesus resides within them.) We have forgotten he’s in the boat, and we’re fearfully trying to calm the storm on our own, instead of extending comfort and peace to those who are paralyzed by fear all around us.

We have not been given a spirt of fear, so stop quoting that verse until you can act like you believe it. Or at least fake it ’til you make it.

Stop letting fear drive. Let love drive instead.

Maybe we’ll start following Jesus again in 2017.

Date Well Without Losing Your Soul

When it comes to dating, there is no manual.

I had my first ‘official’ girlfriend when I was in the fifth grade. All I knew to do was tear out a piece of notebook paper, write, “Will you be my girlfriend? Check box, yes or no,” fold it neatly, and then use my classmates to smuggle it across the room into the hands of my crush. The paper ended back on my desk, after what felt like a million lifetimes, and I unfolded it to find the yes box undeniably marked. I had a girlfriend.

And then we never talked again.

My romantic relationships in high school were a little different. More talkative, for one. They were exciting and dramatic, sustained and bolstered by best friends who served as mediators and moderators of feelings and information between us. It was fun and way too serious.

College was a step up, less dramatic but more intense. Everyone of the opposite sex possessed marriage potential. Every relationship was evaluated and every date inspected with scientific precision. If you made it past an undefined number of months together, it was assumed that a proposal was the next logical step.

This was not the case for me.

I graduated college without a girlfriend.

When it came to dating, I had no idea what I was doing.

That’s because there’s no clear how-to for dating.

No recipe. A touch of affection here. A measure of romance there. With a pinch of sensitivity for taste.

No rule book. Do this. Don’t do that. To pay or not to pay, that is the question.

No guidelines. A first date should look like… You should only talk about… What you should wear, how you should dress…

No instructions. Compliment without being creepy. Open doors and chew slowly. Be genuine, yet cautious.

No directions. Signals to pay attention to. Warning signs to look out for.

No nothing.

We only have examples and customs that we imitate or impersonate. How our parents dated. How our friends date. How they date on sitcoms and in the movies. Then we take all the observations and advice and behaviors, along with a leap of faith, and give it our best shot.

The product of this method of dating, this trial and error, has now been turned into countless volumes of dating ‘manuals’ and direction. There are plenty of tips and techniques for being a good date-er out there, but it takes special attention to date well without losing your soul.

Dating According to The Bible

The bible has absolutely no dating advice. Only examples and customs. Which are completely ancient near east and slightly outdated.

Adam and Eve didn’t have to get to know one another, they were their only option.

Cain killed his brother, Abel, before he ever got the chance to ask a girl out.

When we first meet Father Abraham he’s already married. Not helpful. His son, Isaac, used the age old pull-the-lid-off-a-well maneuver to get a girl’s attention. And his son, Jacob, got into a heap of trouble by getting intimately mixed up with two sisters.

Song of Songs, the bible’s erotica, is hard to understand and even harder to read without blushing or laughing, let alone figuring out how to apply it to our lives.

The bible doesn’t have much ‘how to’ when it comes to dating, but it does contain a wealth of how to’s when it comes to taking care of one another’s souls, which can come in pretty handy for dating.

It’s easy to date and neglect your soul–the eternal, sacred, immaterial part of your being, your connection with God. When dating is limited to fun, pleasure, or not being alone, the soul is at stake. We are more than physical, we are spiritual, and so is dating.

The writers of the bible have some useful guidance for your soul that will help you date well.

Guard Their Heart

Proverbs 4:23 says, Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life. Heart in this verse is similar to our understanding of identity–who we are. When someone is unsure of who they are it’s easy to be manipulated or controlled by someone else. This leads to an understandable identity crisis. We are created in the image of God, loved by God, and capable of doing good as God would. When this is misunderstood, dating can alter someone’s identity instead of being influenced by the identity God has already given us.

Guard their divine identity so you both can live more authentically.

Protect Their Purity

Matthew 5:8 says, Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. As mud and grime on a window obstructs our vision, sin and impurity obstructs our focus, making it difficult to see the work of God in and around us. Sexual intimacy was given to us as a gift from God to be enjoyed within marriage. Sexual boundaries are healthy for any relationship, especially when it comes to dating. Purity in dating allows us to treat sex as God designed it, which will spare us from being controlled by sex now and sexual regret in the future.

Protect their purity so you both can see God more clearly.

Encourage Their Faith

1 Thessalonians 5:11 says, Encourage each other and help each other grow stronger in faith. As human beings, we need each for our faith to grow. A dating relationship creates a unique closeness that can lead to greater spiritual inspiration in one another. Personal faith can be a sensitive aspect of any relationship, as it can be intimidating for some and overwhelming for others. But it’s important for everyone, wherever they are in faith. Don’t force it, but pray for one another, support the steps taken, and celebrate the growth along the way.

Encourage their faith so both of you can strengthen your identity and elevate your purity.

There is no manual for dating, but you can date well by taking care of one another’s souls. It might not make dating less confusing and complicated, but it will benefit your identity, purity, and faith when you do.

Your College Choice for Kindle

I have some exciting news report.

A couple years ago I wrote a book for high school seniors and college freshman called Your College Choice: How To Go To College Without Leaving Your Faith Behind, and now it’s available at Amazon.com for Kindle.

Your College Choice Pic

Check it out here.

Here’s a blurb about it:

The item most ignored by college freshman when packing for school is their faith. They remember the essentials, such as clothes, deodorant, make-up, and the cellphone charger. For some reason it’s hard to find room for faith among all that luggage. 

Personal faith is by far the most important thing to pack as someone prepares for college. It will influence the decisions and relationships students make as they navigate the exciting and intimidating years of college. When students leave it at home they start off school with no foundation. When they don’t unpack it, they will enter an influential environment lacking a worldview. 

For faith to increase during the college years it must be acted upon. Your College Choice provides four clear and helpful choices students need to make for growing their faith instead of forgetting it. 

If you’re going to college in a couple weeks or know someone who is, this is for you and them.

If you’re already in college and you want to get your faith back on track, this is for you.

If your son or daughter, or niece or nephew, or grandson or grand daughter, or god-son or god-daughter, you get the point, going to college, this is for them too.

If you have a friend, or a kid in the youth group, or some random stranger you just meet going to college, this is for them.

Thanks for checking it out. I hope you, or they, find it helpful for their faith and future.

Grace+Peace.

Todd.

A Fragrant Life Remembered

I look back over my dad’s life and remember wonderful memories. Moments I still can recall–I can still cherish.

I remember baseball, soccer, and basketball–in the backyard and out on the field. Cheering us on and jeering the refs.

I remember Armand’s deep dish and Slurpees (Coke and Coke).

I remember campouts in the pop-up, ski trips, Disney and Colorado.

I remember the ping-pong table and train table, with the train that never worked.

I remember bagels and chocolate milk every other Friday before school.

I remember the Grand Prix and riding wave after wave at the beach.

I remember John Maxwell and Bill Hybels, and respect them because he did.

I remember watching the Redskins, Orioles, Bullets and Terps–proudfully because he was.

I remember sports talk radio on the drive into school, trips to the hardware store, and Chinese food.

I remember sledding for hours, soaking wet and ice cold.

I remember his suits, his ties, his coaches shorts, his hats.

I remember being captivated watching Audie Murphy: To Hell and Back, Indiana Jones, and Hoosiers.

I remember the prayers he prayed by my bedside in the middle of the night, and watching him meditate with a Bible in his lap.

I remember the stollen bread, Christmas decorations and such.

I remember his presence, something we never doubted one bit.

I remember his passion for Jesus and for people to know Him.

I remember and I am grateful.

He lived a full life. I don’t remember a mid-life crisis or a break in stride. He wasn’t excessive, but invested in what mattered. My memories attest to that fact. Significant to many, most significant to us. His heart was so big, and so bright, and so deep. His eyes we so focused and his mind was fixated on leaving a legacy, but he’d never admit it. The life he lived was the only one that made sense. There was no other option, no better way.

One of the most challenging aspects of pursuing a life of faith is that there’s always a sensitivity to doing “it” right. There’s no divine review or input from heaven. Just instructions, commands, and examples. I know this troubled my dad–was he doing it right, was he doing it well?

I can affirm to the end, without a doubt, dad lived the best life.

There was no other way.

He. Left. His. Mark.

We are better people, sons, daughters, spouses, children, employees, friends, and followers of Jesus because dad lived his life to the fullest.

The Son of Man came so that we could have abundant life. Dad tasted it and drank it to the dregs. He believed it and seized it. He filled up to overflowing. His life was abounding with a love for God and for others.

If what he had was rich here, on my, I dream to fathom the abundance he’ll have there. Forever. His longing fulfilled. His suffering removed. His body renewed. His soul set free. In the presence of his most constant passion.

I can still smell the fragrance of his life–so sweet and robust.

I can still see the joy on his face and the light in his eyes.

I delight in the memory of my dad. His life is etched on my heart and sealed in my mind.

I remember.

And I am grateful.

Love you Daddio!

See you soon.

Getting High Off Christ or Taking a Hit of Jesus

Everyone has faith.

Everyone is putting their faith in something.

Everyone is putting their faith in something they hope will save them.

What are you putting your faith in?

Faith is popularly associated with religion, but it’s narrow-minded to seclude faith to those areas alone. People don’t just put their faith in God. People also put their faith in the nonexistence of God.

Or Wall Street.

Or a relationship.

Or a job.

Or a political party.

Or beauty.

Or an opinion.

Or a feeling.

What are you putting your faith in?

I have grown up in church-world. It’s a realm filled with choir robes, hand bells, pews, Sunday and Wednesday worship gatherings,vacation Bible school (worst summer activity title EVER), ties, dresses, flannel graph, hipster clothing, Sunday school, moving lights, puppets, Veggie Tales, and potluck dinners. Amidst this fascinating (and at times odd) sub-culture is the zenith of activities…church camp!

I’ve been to a bunch of church camps over the years. You go to play pranks on your bunk mates, get your first kiss, and ask Jesus into your heart…again. (I always got pranked, never got kissed, and asked Jesus in so many times He took up all the spots in My Circle.) You had to work at the first two but the last one was impossible to avoid. It was the combination of extended singing, intense message, bonfire by the lake, and girls crying that made asking Jesus into your heart unavoidable.

Most everyone who has left church camp leaves on this incredible high. It’s as if they put a little speed in the haze machines or in the Kool Aid on the final day. You leave jacked to read your Bible more and not fall asleep reading the book of Numbers, pray for 24 hours a day, and save everyone you meet.

And then you get home. And camp’s not there when you wake up the next morning. And you didn’t get pranked, but the girl you had a crush on lives 3 states away. And the high starts to fade.

And then we meet the faith dilemma face to face.

What did we put our faith in?

God?

Church camp?

Or a feeling?

When our feelings are telling us, “All systems go,” it’s easy to follow suit. But when our feelings don’t feel as energized we begin to doubt or disregard the faith we were so certain about.

Here’s another example for the non-church-camp-going-type. Consider when people fall in love with one another. Love is one of the strongest feelings experienced. But like all feelings it can fade away. Many couples break up and or get divorced because they just didn’t love their partner any more. When this happens were people committed to a person or a feeling?

What did we commit to? What did we put our faith in?

This doesn’t just happen, or always happen, at church camp (it’s just an easy example) or with love. It can happen at church one Sunday morning or after a late night conversation about God with a friend. It can happen after viewing a inspiring movie or hearing a invigorating speech. It can happen with a particular routine you love or Bible study you’re a part of. It can happen with a promising opportunity, “success,” or a great expectation. It can even happen the moment you decide to surrender your life to God and follow Jesus.

All these moments and experiences can super charge our feelings and cause us to believe that our faith will bring about these feelings every time. Instead of putting our faith in the One who gave us our feelings we place our faith in the feelings. In the emotion instead of the One who gave us our emotions. Feelings are a gift from God but He never intended them to be worshiped and permanently trusted in place of Him. A.W. Tozer writes, “God’s gifts now take the place of God, and the whole course of nature is upset by the monstrous substitution.” It’s easy to get high off Christ without putting our actual faith in Christ. Jesus didn’t suffer and endure agony, pain, and death on a cross so we could put our faith in our feelings but so we could put our faith in the One who gave us feelings.

When the feelings fade or confuse what will become of our faith?

Feelings, the high and the low, are but a catalyst, an igniter, to greater dependency and faith in the one who gave you feeling.

Will your feelings be just another high or a jump start to faith?