4 Things about Self Respect Nobody’s Talking About


I just got an article published at Lifehack, an online journal that’s focused on, well, hacking your life so it works better.

The article covers 4 facts about self respect that typically won’t get much air time, but 4 things you’ll have to understand if you want to live with any measure of it.

I’d love it if you’d check it out here > http://www.lifehack.org/481683/4-self-respect-basics-that-nobodys-talking-about and let me know what you think.

Hope to hear from you soon!!!



How Changing My Mind about Changing Everything Changed My Life


I wish I would’ve learned this in my 30’s, it would’ve saved so much grief, frustration, relational entropy – emotional energy.

I’ve spent most of my life believing that situation determines happiness – the right job, a good boss, money, etc., and I’ve had multiple careers as a result – nothing salves a crappy life better than a drastic change.  There have been some fun moments, tons of things to be learned, not many of which have helped in my latest career – Stay At Home Dad (SAHD).  Regardless of where I’ve landed vocationally, there’s always been a nagging compulsion to change everything as soon as life becomes stale, boring, unjust, or downright bad.

Feeling like I can’t be happy until things change has always made me downright bitter, especially in those times where I was powerless to change things. There’s nothing worse than being stuck, feeling like you’re supposed to be somewhere else.

Everything changed in my late 40’s when I was assaulted in a men’s airport restroom.

I left my wife at the gate with 3 crazy kids, hoping to be back in time to board.  This particular facility was attended by a soon-to-be elderly gentleman of Middle Eastern descent. I’ve got some pictures in my head of what retirement will look like.  At worst I’ll be handing out carts at WalMart by day, smoking cigars and watching Lostreruns by night.  Bathroom attendant?  Not on the table.

This guy said nothing, and everything.  He had an air of dignity and self respect as he looked me in the eye and nodded. I felt like I mattered – a break from the desert of meaninglessness through which I usually trod.  I turned around and put some money in his tip jar, then felt like I should patronize one of the items neatly arranged on his counter. I dabbed some cologne on my neck, tried to give a similar nod, and headed back to the gate.

I couldn’t shake it. He seemed happy – working in an airport restroom all. day. long.  Funny how we can sense when someone’s happy.  Like hungry dogs can smell a bologna sandwich ten miles away, people smell peace.  This guy had it in spades; you couldn’t get past him without getting it all over you.

I’ve been a pastor, pilot, restaurant manager, banker, and now I have 5 hours five days a week to kick back while my kids are at school and my wife goes off to support us all.  This guy’s happy and I’m not? He’s at peace and I’m so typically torqued?  What’s missing?

In that moment I decided to at least try to look around at the things that are going well, the things I should be thankful for. I began to realize that expecting things to change before I can be happy is a truly miserable way to live.  The more I flex the “be happy now” muscle the more I’m able to be at peace, even when things aren’t going well.  The more I’m able to be at peace when things aren’t going well, the more I’m able to interface with the good/beautiful/powerful things of my life.

When the kids are crazy, when my wife and I are fighting, when I screw up and everyone’s talking about it, when I walk out of the doctor’s office with a diagnosis for Rheumatoid Arthritis – when my life seems like an endless day in a restroom – I can still be thankful, at peace. I might even be able to infect someone. I’m new to this and sometimes not very good at it, but slowly learning that, somehow, every day, I have what I need.

So, thank you nameless guy who’s cheap cologne I’ll never forget.  Our 20 second encounter, and the way you’re living your life has incited me to change mine – to get rid of some caustic attitudes, to open my eyes about what’s truly good and beautiful.  You slapped me in the face with your peace, your self-dignity, and your respect, and got some on me.

Didn’t see that one coming

The History Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why

A photo by Samantha Sophia. unsplash.com/photos/NaWKMlp3tVs

Our modern Bible, good book as it may be, was written thousands of years ago, copied millions of times, translated into thousands of languages, and therefore can in no way accurately represent the Bible that was originally written.

That’s the conclusion of Bart Ehrman’s best selling Book Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why. Dr. Ehrman is considered by many to be one of the most erudite New Testament scholars in the U.S; he’s overqualified to speak on the topic of “New Testament Textual Criticism,” the discipline of attempting to ascertain the original contents of the New Testament.  I think it’s a must-read, with one qualification.

Dr. Ehrman rightly points out that there are over 5,000 complete copies, fragments, and other parts/pieces/manuscripts of the New Testament, ranging in date from early 100 AD forward (preserved in more manuscripts than any other ancient work). Some are full copies of the New Testament, some are mere scraps containing a few lines. Scholars have pored over these documents…

This post has been featured at revtrev.com.  You can view the full article here.


I saw something offensive on the golf course a few days ago that will stick with me for awhile – something that flies in the face of so many things we hold dear in our culture.

I was playing a par-three course in Denver that’s surrounded by a retirement community.  It’s cheap, plays fast, and they take really good care of it – a great place to practice your “short game.”  I was by myself and playing faster than the couple that had started a few holes ahead of me.  From a distance it looked like a man teaching his wife to play golf – his arm around her as she swung the club, very loving and patient, albeit slow.  As I caught up to them I realized it was a very old man and his son.

I got frustrated because they were playing so slow.  Each time the old man swung, his ball would go about 15 yards or so.  I waited forever on the last hole, but the longer it took, the more I was changed.  The son would help his father, bent almost 90 degrees at the neck, out of the cart, take his hand as he walked him to his ball, and hold his shoulders as his dad tried to swing.  I think it took 6 shots to get to the green, 195 yards total, and another 6 shots to finish.

As I waited, leaning against my 5 wood because I can’t hit a 5 iron that far, I thought about what it must take to be that patient, that concerned, that present.  I thought about what a hurry I’m always in, how I’m never that present with my own father, much less anyone else.  I thought about how offensive this was to the “me first,” “get it fast,” “what’s the next thing on the list” stereotypical Western values that we all hold onto so tightly.  I had one of those rare moments, reminded what really matters.  I felt at peace.

The old man and his son putted around on the green for a bit, then left.  I teed up my ball and swatted it – 15 yards or so – which really pissed me off, like it was some sort of anomaly.  I’m a shitty golfer, always have been.

I had a good second shot and 2-putted, which isn’t horrible.  As I walked off the green I passed the young man who had been helping his father.  “Can I tell you something?” “Yeah,” he said with a totally checked in peace on his face.  “I really appreciated watching you with your dad.  That changed me.”  “Oh,” he said surprised at the awkward/blunt confrontation, “Thank you.”  I felt like he needed to know that his submission to something higher than himself didn’t just affect him and his dad.  Few people could have seen what I did and not been affected.  We think our lives, lived in front of others, good are bad, are benign.  As awkward as it was, he needed to know, and I needed to say something.

As we parted company I noticed that he was wearing a black Yamaka, I didn’t see it before, I was a long way off, and he had dark hair.  Forgive me, I’m none too savvy on Jewish customs, maybe I should to refer to it as a “Kippah,” or “Yarmulke.”  Either way, I walked back to my car, popped the hatch on my crappy white minivan, put my clubs in the back, and thought about strength and humility for the rest of the day, wondering why, as an Evangelical, I don’t think about it more often, especially in those places where I really suck.

Action Required

Imagine yourself a Black man somewhere between the ages of 17 and 50, being pulled over by a police officer, believing that the chances you’ll be shot in the next 15 minutes just went up astronomically.  That police officer will most likely follow protocols, asking you to do some really simple things, things a 4 year-old could do.  But now your mind is in “fight or flight” mode – you’ve lost some ability to behave rationally – following simple instructions just got harder.  How will the officer respond to your agitation, or your lack of compliance?  What if he’s racist?  What if he’s scared?  Or both?  You don’t know.  I can’t imagine what that’s like.

I appreciate our police force.  I live in Denver – you can’t not have an armed police force in a city like Denver.  I appreciate their courage and commitment to keep myself and my family safe.  I know from time to time there will be accidents, very unfortunate ones.  I understand that it’s common for white cops, especially those in urban areas, to have some fear of Black people.  Especially now.  The guy that just pulled you over might be as scared as you are.

However, of the unarmed people shot and killed in 2015, 40% were Black.  There’s something going on that transcends “accidents.”  You might be tempted to offer some statistics about the crime rate among Blacks in the US, blaming them for this outrageous statistic.  You might be outraged about the outrage, citing the very rare occasion when a Black cop shoots an unarmed white man and nobody says anything.  But if you’ve been responsible to study the statistics, and fail to see the injustice here, regardless of what’s underneath – racism, fear, or both – you should be outraged at yourself.

Everyone’s Problem

Ask most white people about racism in our country and you’ll get something akin to “We put that to bed,” or, “I love MLK.”  I’ve never gotten anything like that from a Black person.  From their perspective, systemic racism is alive and well in our country.  The more I study this issue, the more I find it to be true.  Either way, there’s a huge chunk of our population that feels powerless.  Now add fear.  So many of these people believe that there are armed government employees who, for whatever reason, are likely to shoot them for the slightest infraction.

Regardless of where you stand, understand the negative effect this will have on our world if unarmed Black people continue to die in outrageously disproportionate numbers at the hands of our police.

If we don’t deal with injustice, we will very quickly find ourselves victims of it.

If you’re a religious person, especially one that gives some weight to the Bible as I do, there’s another layer to this.  There’s an episode in the Old Testament where God sends messengers to His people, begging them to cease whatever injustices they’d embraced, and if they didn’t listen, they’d be punished.  Really punished.  They didn’t listen.  They weren’t slapped on the wrist, or infested with frogs, they were removed, all of them, to enemy countries, to places where they’d now be the victims of injustice.

If we do nothing, this problem will actually go away, sort of like forest fires go away – when there’s nothing left to burn, problem solved.

I dare you – attend an event hosted by your local Black Lives Matter chapter and get to know a few people there.  Listen to them.  Engage.  I know, the internet’s crawling with all manner of vitriol for this movement, but don’t listen to what others say about BLM, go hang out with them and judge for yourself.  I have, and I’m none the poorer for it.  My wife and I have made friends with BLM Denver activists.  We marched with them in the MLK marade this summer.  The most violent think BLM did during the marade was to break off from the main route, beat the mayor to the stage, and call the city to account.  He turned his back on them.  Symbolic.

These are good people, they’ve got something to say.  Hang out with them.  They’re not perfect, and yes they’re angry, and scared, but they’re doing something that we should all be part of.

My problem is that I land squarely on one side of the issue.  I’ve rubbed elbows, heard stories, mourned, lamented, and considered opinions of the people who agree with me.  If I’m to figure out my role in all of this I need to know what I’m talking about.  So I’ve been reading, watching videos and hopefully soon I’ll be rubbing elbows with people from the other side.  There are stories there, and ultimately, people.  Sure, I’ve come across some stupid stuff, there’s stupidity on both sides, but I think there’s truth on both sides as well.

Ultimately I’ll have to do something, something costly.  Problems like this will cost something to rectify.  I’m not going to excuse myself from responsibility with “Cops just hate Blacks – there’s nothing you can do,’ or, “All lives matter – BLM just needs to shut up.”  I just hope that when I get to that point of action, I have the maturity and courage to do something, and lead others to the same.

What Anger Does at Sundown

We should never live in fear, especially if we believe in an all-loving, all-powerful God.  There are however a few sins in The Bible that have such gnarly consequences that we should do our best to avoid them.

For example, Jesus said, “If you get in the way of someone who’s decided to come to me, it would be better for you to have a huge rock tied around your neck and thrown into the ocean.”  That’s a good one to avoid.  Sad that so many don’t.

Here’s another that should frighten us into obedience but we typically miss it’s meaning.  Paul’s letter to the new church in Ephesus says “Don’t let the sun set on your anger.”  Some Bible translations have it as “Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry,” which is a bit of an unfortunate paraphrase of the Greek text, implying that you have to resolve everything before you go to bed.  What happens if you get in a fight with your wife while you’re getting into bed?  That never happens…

Immediately following this commandment comes “Don’t give the Devil a foothold.” Regardless of whether or not our anger is justified, we’re going to have to put it to bed at some point, or forfeit control of our life to something else (or someone else depending on what you believe).  But you don’t have to believe anything to know this to be true.

We’re all guilty of this at some point.  It feels good to feel anger, to be “right,” so we hang onto it. Many religious people live live this way, trying so hard to get God’s approval, to not be “that guy,” to be “holy” at the expense of everything else.  That kind of life truly sucks – live it long enough and things like anger will be attractive.  Consider the people who support the Orlando shooter, quoting scriptures and condemning the dead.  I’ll guarantee you those folk are living some pretty angry, un-Godly, shitty lives.  Pray for them.

I’ve attracted an Evangelical Christian to my blog – someone from my own camp –  who’s been trolling one of my posts.  She can’t utter a word without an insult.  You know you’re angry when even the things you write reak of it.  We all know someone who’s so beat up and pissed, who’s been holding on for a long time, for whom anger has become a part of everything they do.  That’s what happens when “the sun goes down” on it.

There’s a window, a period of time that we’re given to deal with our anger, and if we don’t resolve things within that window, ie, “while the sun still shines” as St. Paul puts it, darkness grows roots and becomes a living part of us.

This is one of the reasons I’ve remained Christian.  It’s clear in the scriptures that I have no business living in anger for any significant period of time.  I think God has grace when I decide to suckle that teet longer than I should, but it’s patently “un-Christian” to stay there, and utterly destructive to my life and the lives of the people I love.  What’s worse, the anger that I’ve entertained for too long is nigh unto impossible to get rid of.  There’s still grace, like there would be if I jumped off a cliff, or had seconds at Casa Bonita, but that doesn’t trump the consequences.

Another reason we hang on to our anger is because our culture values “venting,” talking about the injustices others have perpetrated against us – over and over again, while our well-meaning friends say “man, that’s really hard,” or, “I can’t believe they did that to you,” instead of something akin to “That really sucks, tell me how you feel, what’s your plan for letting it go?”  “You need to let it go” is anathema in our culture.  We don’t value resolution or reconciliation nearly as much we should.  Anger’s a lot easier to get rid of than we’ll typically acknowledge, unless, again, it’s hung around for too long.

Personally, when I hang on to anger, it’s because I’ve become convinced that whatever injustice I’m experiencing is something I’d never do.  Christianity blows that to bits as well – there is no sin that can be committed against me that I haven’t committed myself – not in God’s eyes at least.  See Jesus’ sermon on the mount, specifically His thoughts on the really bad sins and who’s guilty of them.  By indicting us all, he’s not trying to be mean, or make us feel guilty, he’s inviting us to let go of our self righteousness so that we might grasp the life He wants for us.  The belief that I’m just as guilty as anyone else has brought more freedom to my life than I can say.

Ultimately, The Bible doesn’t give us any kind of a timeline, or instruction on how long we can stay angry before it causes problems.  I say best to dump it as quickly as possible.  Or be mad for 24 hours then do something about it.  Or, give yourself until sundown?

If you can’t get rid of it, get some help.  Find someone who is at peace, who’s somehow managed to deal with their anger (in a healthy way – some people merely act like it’s not there).  Tell them you want to kick it, vent if you want, then do as they say.  While that’s going on, pray like hell for God’s help.  That’s a prayer I’d guarantee He’ll answer.



The Holy Finger

I always chuckle a bit when I think of our Western concept of “The Finger.” We all have 10 fingers, and refer to each one as “a finger,” with two exceptions.  We call those “The Finger,” even though there’s two of them. This has little to do with what I’m writing about today, I just think it’s funny.

Anyway, there’s an episode in the New Testament where Jesus does something with his finger in a way that’s deeply insulting to the crowd he’s addressing.  The story goes like this:

A crowd of religious leaders, seeking to put Jesus on the spot and expose Him as a fraud, offers up a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. This particular sin, at the time, was considered to be one of the worst a person could commit. They declared, “Our law says we should throw rocks at her until she’s dead, what do you think?”

Jesus knelt down and began to write in the sand with his finger. I’m not sure if he used “The Finger,” but he might as well have. There’s a lot of speculation among Biblical scholars about what Jesus was writing, but that’s not what the author of this passage wants us to think about. He goes out of his way to use the phrase “His finger” and expects us to ask the question “what does Jesus’ finger have to do with the story?

As He wrote, with His finger, these leaders kept bothering him for an answer, so He stood up and said something akin to “you’re not righteous enough to condemn this person,” then bent down again to finish whatever it was that He was writing as the formerly self-righteous crowd dispersed.  See the whole story here.

This passage is written by one of Jesus’ Apostles and can be found in the New Testament’s “Book of John.” If you read the entire book, you’ll learn early on that John believed Jesus to be God in human form – “God in the flesh, fully God, fully Man” as He’s so often referred to throughout history.

Let’s go with that idea for a minute. Let’s say that Jesus was God, and these religious leaders, who confessed to be sold out to God – heart and soul – are standing in His presence.

They know by heart another story in their scriptures of God doing something with His finger, an episode where God writes their law, ironically enough. So here they are, God’s holy army, standing next to Him in every sense of the word, and here He is, again, writing something with His finger, just like He did in the presence of Moses on Mount Sinai. Any one of these leaders would have given their left arm to stand next to God while He writes, but all they want to do is discredit Him, and kill someone.  They’ve somehow become convinced that they have the right.

Jesus knows they don’t understand who He is, nor will they get the insult He’s hurling at them, but their hypocrisy makes Him angry.  Hence the “gesture.”

In the Old and New Testament stories, it’s the people who think they’re in good standing with God who really make Him angry.  They’re also the ones who wouldn’t recognize God if He were standing right in front of them.

Therefore let anyone who thinks that they stand take heed lest they fall.

Apostle Paul from his first letter to the church in Corinth


Self-righteousness, i.e. the idea that the way you live has given you favor with God, is one of the most toxic beliefs a person can embrace.  It’s also something that’s doing a ton of damage in our world today.  You’ve met these people, they love to look at the sins of others while swimming in their own.  They search the world to make a convert and when they find one, to use Jesus’ words, they “make them twice the son of Hell” that they are.

Jesus and the rest of the New Testament give ample warning about all of this, but it frequently falls on deaf ears.  It feels good to think I’m right and you’re wrong.  It gives me a sense of power, makes me feel like God.  But it also strips away the ability to hear God, to see Him, and ironically, to do the stuff He wants us to do while avoiding the things that He truly hates.

Some (painful-for-me) Thoughts on Letting People off the Hook


I’ve learned something recently, something that I know will change my life if I can get my head around it, something I wish I would have realized 20 years ago, but nobody was talking about things like this when I was 30.  If I could fax my younger self I’d say without hesitation – master this.

Brene Brown, in one of her recent books “Rising Strong,” relates some powerful advise from a friend:

Steve said, “I don’t know. I really don’t. All I know is that my life is better when I assume that people are doing their best. It keeps me out of judgment and lets me focus on what is, and not what should or could be.” His answer felt like truth to me. Not an easy truth, but truth.

This sounded great, so I tried it.  Massive fail.  I don’t have it in me.  I’ve built an entire world around judging others, comparing myself to others, using the “laziness” of others to make myself feel good, labeling people based on what they have or haven’t accomplished in their lives.  I tried to lay it aside but it’s become part of me.

It feels good to tear someone down.  It makes me feel valuable, ironically, when I take someone’s value away.   But ultimately I have to put myself under the same microscope, which is especially hard these days.  I”m a washed up, has-been pastor, now a stay at home dad.  Not much in my life to tout.  All the judgments, all the “can you believe that guy” thoughts that I’ve used to create my little accomplishment-based caste system have come back to haunt me.  In spades.  Over and again I come up just as short as everyone else.

I spend more emotional energy ripping myself apart than I care to mention.

Sadly, the only way out of it is to take Steve’s advice and let as many people off the hook as I can.  But it’s nigh unto impossible when I’ve spent my life in an activity that’s brought so much meaning, and is such a powerful salve for my carefully hand-crafted crappy self-view.

I will say that I’ve gotten a little better at it.  I’ve been trying to think of other things when I see someone driving like an idiot, or making excuses – clearly not “doing their best.”  Irresponsibility, selfishness, arrogance, sloppiness, people that don’t vote the way they should, people who try to hurt me – all used to be opportunities for a “boost,” now I see them as an opportunity to let myself off the hook, to live a better life.

I know.  There are lazy people in this world, people who don’t give a rat’s ass about anything, selfish people, folk who need to get their shit together, etc., etc.  But there are also stories behind why they approach life the way they do.  Painful stories.  Consider “Dave,” who, as a child, would do violence to himself to get his checked-out mother’s attention.  As a college student, everyone tried to figure out why he didn’t bother to shower, or study, or come to class.  He was sent to a psychiatrist who bothered to look deeper, and show him some compassion.  He found the deeper story.  The kid was doing the best he could.

There are a million ways to pass judgement without feeling like you’re passing judgement.  There’s only one way to believe that everyone’s doing their best.  As hard as it is, I’m convinced that it’s  the surest, most complete way to follow Jesus’ commandment to “judge not” anyone, including yourself.

If you’re someone who struggles like I do, it’s a quick path to freedom.

The Most Misunderstood Thing about Faith

Most Church folk don’t define the word “Faith” as the Bible does, at least not according to a passage in the “Book of Hebrews” (a book in the New Testament, most likely authored by the Apostle Paul).  This letter to Jewish Christians gives the most clear Biblical definition you’ll find, but it’s one that, ironically, requires a level of faith most people don’t have.  I didn’t ether, until I was recently asked to preach a sermon on this passage, then it hit hard, which is somewhat embarrassing given my education and background as a pastor.  I should have seen it a long time ago.

This definition of faith will make you mad if you hail from a camp that has some level of respect for the scriptures.  Typically, especially on Sunday mornings, we’re taught to think about God and faith differently – drastically so.  St. Paul is cognizant of how “out of the box” his thoughts are, so he takes great care to unpack things so his audience will have an understanding of faith that’s almost guaranteed to lead to something good.  The stuff he’s peddling is intended to change your life. It’s been changing mine.

Hebrews chapter 11 says:

Without faith it is impossible to please God.

Everyone can quote that part, but define “faith” as some combination of “believing the right things about God,” “doing what you’re supposed to do,” “Living a moral life” and/or “Avoiding sin.”  Very few people can quote the following from the same passage:

“Faith is the assurance of things hoped for.”

Or this:

“Anyone who comes to God must believe a) He exists and b) that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.”

These two statements are rarely preached because they have a significant aspect of “there’s something in it for you.”  As churchy people, we don’t like that, although we rarely pursue anything unless it promises some significant aspect of “there’s something in it for you.”  When we think about what God wants, we think in terms of reverence, respect.  No questions asked.  Here it states that you can’t please God unless you believe that you’ll get something out of the deal.  If you’re choking on this paraphrase, I get it, but read these three passages again, very carefully.

God isn’t pleased with you unless you have FAITH

To have FATH, you must

(A) Believe that God exists
(B) Believe the things that you’re hoping for will come to fruition
(C) Believe that if you follow God you’ll be rewarded

The author then goes into detail about the lives of people who had this kind of FAITH.  One of the most popular to his readers would have been the guy who started it all – a guy named Avram (“wanderer”), who’s name God changed to Avrahim (“father of many”). We call him Abraham.  Everyone knew his story – Abraham was a hero, but started out a normal ancient middle-Eastern man with normal ancient Middle-Eastern hopes and dreams.

In his day it was considered a huge blessing to have a large family and a good piece of land.  We don’t think that way today, we hope in terms of more “modern” things – huge house, sweet job, big paycheck, etc.  these things are not only enjoyable, they communicate something about the bearer – strength, smarts, savvy, etc.  Abrahams’s hopes and dreams would have been different than ours, but they had the same meaning, the same weight.  There was nothing spiritual about Abraham’s hopes and dreams either, he didn’t hold them because of some religious obligation.  You might say they were “selfish.”

But Abraham had a problem.  He was old, and his wife Sarah was even older, way past her child bearing years.  So Abraham had to reconcile these huge desires with the fact that they would never come true.  Maybe that’s why God picked him and promised to deliver the things Abraham was hoping for.  The guy who thinks it’s all over will do some crazy shit if you prove to him it’s not.

Everyone laughed at God’s promise, so when Sarah had a son they named him Itzach (laughter). While it’s common to name our kids “Isaac” today, it would have been weird to name a kid “laughter” back then.  But that’s how crazy this story is.

So, as St. Paul puts it, Abraham decided to make God the boss “by FAITH,” believing that a) his hopes and dreams would be fulfilled and b) that he would be rewarded for following God.

Faith and Expectation

Most people attempt to align their lives to God’s desires out of a sense of obligation, duty, sacrifice, shame, and many times, fear.  Some of those people manage to live very “holy” lives, but in my experience they’re not very much fun to be around, much less listen to.  Many fail, and with that failure comes more shame and bitterness towards church and the idea of God.  You want to avoid that kind of faith.

People who believe that they’ll “get something out of it,” that there’s a reward somewhere in there – something in the shape of the things that are running amok in their hearts – are far more likely to be holy, and happy, and be the kind of people who are willing to take great risks (there is no holiness without happiness and risk).  St. Paul’s list of ancient Jewish heroes all lived with great expectation (they lived “by FAITH”), and as such did amazing things.  Whatever reward they received helped them to trust God, which helped them to follow Him even more recklessly.

Expectation is a fundamental part of FAITH.

I try to make my kids clean the kitchen after meals, although I usually skip it because it’s miserable.  The whining really gets under my skin so I tend to avoid it.  Things go much better however if I promise treats or TV when they’re done.  A friend of mine says that’s wrong, “you’re only teaching them to expect treats after work.”  Most psychotherapeutical types would say that I’m teaching them to trust me, and that, over time, they’ll learn to do the things they need to do without treats.  They get “something out of it” on both ends.

Our hopes, dreams, and desires are very powerful things and as such can be powerful motivators.  We can expect God to meet us there as He invites us to do his stuff.  Either way, there’s something in it for us.

There’s one problem though.  I’d like to have a private jet, but God hasn’t delivered yet.  I’d like to look like Daniel Craig.  I’d like to have 100K people follow my blog.  I’d like to be independently wealthy.  Silence.  Abraham didn’t get what he wanted either.  He was promised more kids than grains of sand on the seashore.  He was promised a huge spit of land, a really good one.  He only got one son, a crazy life, then he died.  But even in death, because of whatever reward he was given, and because that reward was in concert with his hopes and dreams, he saw something beyond death, something that gave him hope even as he drew his last breath.

Death is not the end of anyone’s story.  If there is a God, by definition there’s more.  If God put these very powerful desires inside of us, we can expect that he’ll deliver.  He won’t deliver on the corrupted versions of our desires – greed, lust, injustice, etc..  He’s got His eyes on the good desires underneath – intimacy, significance, peace, adventure, mystery, pleasure, etc.  So God granted Abraham a part of what he wanted, enough to open his eyes to the fact that God can do whatever He wants, and for some reason He wanted to fulfill Abraham’s desires.  The heroes of the ancient Jewish scriptures had their eyes opened in similar ways.  As such they were burdened by a very powerful hope and lived a life that was very pleasing to God.

St. Paul is forcing us to ask the question “What am I dreaming of?  What am I hoping for?”  I’d caution you to use some care as you explore these questions, to dig deep into what you want and why, and get used to the idea that God knows what you want better than you do.  But I’d also caution you to expect great things from God, not religious things, or things that seem boring, but at least a glimpse of things that are tailor-made for what’s living raucously in your heart.

A Revisionist’s Take on the Wrath of God


Years ago I sat in a bar with a friend who had been raised in a conservative Evangelical home, who now questioned everything, attempting to transcend the cultural views of Christianity and religion that had become so stifiling and irrelevant to his life.

“I don’t believe in an angry God” he said. “God is love.” His statement made me uncomfortable. At the time I was a dyed-in-the-wool, conservative Evangelical, with quick answers and little patience for people that didn’t believe as I did. I had a rare moment of respect for his process, stirred my drink, and let him talk.

He was bucking up against the idea of a “vengeful God,” one who spends most of His time angry, meteing out retribution and punishment to the unfaithful hordes of our world. I agree – that’s a horrible view of God, but the idea of God never getting angry is what made me uncomfortable. God might not be angry all the time, but I have a hard time believing that He doesn’t lose His shit every now and again.

For example, a group of people, who aren’t like other people, decided long ago to march across a bridge in Selma, Alabama, in a peaceful attempt to assert their rights as humans, and got the holy hell beat out of them for it. That makes me angry. I think it would make God angry too.

Or let’s say, hypothetically of course, that there are some kids who are dying from hunger on the other side of our world – a lot of kids. Imagine there’s this huge country, full of people who claim to be “God’s people,” who could wipe out global poverty in one very quick swipe. But it never happens. Another funeral.

Refugees, child abuse, dirty politicians, racism. Injustice. I’m not saying our world’s all bad, but there’s plenty for us to get mad about. If we’re mad, imagine how mad God is – He sees a lot more than we do. He sees it all.  The idea of God being mad all the time makes sense to me.

But I also think that God gets mad at things that might not make us mad. If there truly is this thing living somewhere that’s beyond our ability to comprehend, who can make the cosmos, do whatever He wants, etc., He knows more about this place than we do. We’re like kids to Him, we don’t have the full picture. If God exists, and if He’s just, He will, by definition, get mad in ways that seem unjust to us.

Jesus, who seemed to think He was God, got so angry that He cleared out the temple with a whip. Some say He didn’t actually hit anyone, the idea of God getting that angry doesn’t settle well with us (unless it’s a story in the Old Testament, then it’s OK).  There’s no way to clear out that many people, some of whom were there to make money, without causing some pain. On another occasion He issued a threat. “If you make it difficult for people to come to me, it would be better for you that someone tie a huge millstone around your neck (a rock so big that only a donkey can move it), and be thrown into the sea”  (Oops.  Hope that doesn’t apply today).

Jesus’ anger is fascinating to me. He didn’t get angry like the God of the Old Testament got angry, but He also did’t seem to have any issues with the Old testament, or the stories of God therein. He was a Jewish man living in the first century, the scriptures were just as central to His life as they were to everyone else’s.  He didn’t get angry with all the people who were sinning their brains out. He had some things to say on a few occasions, but his followers were less-than-model-citizens at best. The people He did get angry with were the ilk who believed they were “in” with God – so righteous, so moral, so obedient, always looking down their noses at the “sinners.” Oops.

The God of the Old Testament revealed Himself to be someone who has rules that don’t always make sense to us, and, on occasion, punished people for breaking them. Then God pays us a visit in the New Testament, everyone expecting Him to be like the God of the Old Testament. But He’s not – peace and grace for the “sinners,” wrath for the “righteous.” So the righteous returned the favor, removed His clothing, beat the holy hell out of him, then put his dying body on public display saying, in a nutshell, “If you were God, you wouldn’t allow this.”  But He did. His followers and authors of the New Testament claim that His death is the reason why sinners now get an unprecedented break, and why “come to God” is now the most important thing to God. He get’s really mad at people who don’t understand this, especially the people who read their Bibles “religiously.”

Come to me all you who are weary, and I will give you rest ~ Jesus

Are you a “sinner?” Are you someone who has a lifestyle that the “righteous,” religious people frown upon? Go to God, He’s waiting. He’s not mad at you.  He knows more about what you want than you do.  He’s on your side.  Good. News. Are you a religious person who thinks morality is the most important thing, always telling people, first and foremost to get their shit together, doing things in God’s name that He would never do? Has morality become more important than God Himself?  Oops.

…You don’t love me anymore. Remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did when you loved me; or else I am coming to you and will punish you ~ Jesus

I surrendered my life to Him years ago – I made Him the boss. Sure, I’ve changed some things, embraced some aspects of morality that I wouldn’t have otherwise. It’s so ironic that I still sin my brains out.  I can be an outright jackass on occasion, ask anyone in my family.  And God, who should be heating up the lightening bolts, instead walks beside me, speaks to me. Heals me. I have yet to meet anyone who drank the Jesus Cool-Aide who regrets it.

I do however know tons of “righteous,” “It’s all about morality,” “Sin management” people who are truly and utterly miserable, who seem to love doing things that, according to their own Bible, make God really angry.