What Religion Really Is, and Why It’s Good

The Bible looks at religion not as a way to understand God but as a way to treat the people God has put in our lives: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” (James 1:27.)

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Hitting Slave Owners in the Wallet – why the Emancipation Proclamation was lawful and proper

[From the archives.]

In the Emancipation Proclamation, President Abraham Lincoln ordered that all slaves in Confederate controlled areas were set free. Some say Lincoln overstepped his presidential authority, arguing that slavery was allowed under the U.S. Constitution.

They’re wrong.

220px-abraham_lincoln_o-77_matte_collodion_printOne of the oldest rules of war (although to say that war has rules is a bit counter-intuitive) is that armies and governments exercise dominion over captured enemy property, even private property. That is what Lincoln contemplated on September 22, 1862, when he issued this preliminary order:

That on the first day of January [1863], all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free … .

The delay from September to January was designed to allow States in rebellion, or portions of those States, to cease rebelling against the United States and take themselves out of the Proclamation’s scope. (Lincoln letter of August 26, 1863, to James C. Conkling.) The order only extended to property of those living in areas governed by the Confederacy.

A central tenet of the Confederacy and its slaveholders was that the people held in slavery were property. They objected to anyone interfering with their property rights. But just as armies appropriate property from conquered people, this order declared the necessity of terminating the property rights of those in Confederate held territory for the purpose of advancing the cause of the United States.

On January 1, 1863, President Lincoln “as Commander-in-Chief … and as a fit and necessary war measure for suppressing said rebellion” issued the Emancipation Proclamation enforcing the September order:

I do order and declare that all persons held as slaves within said designated States, and parts of States, are, and henceforward shall be free; and that the Executive government of the United States, including the military and naval authorities thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of said persons.

The proclamation made the war effort explicit in several places, including this invitation to join the battle:

And I further declare and make known that such persons of suitable condition will be received into the armed forces of the United States to garrison forts, positions, stations, and other places, and to man vessels of all sorts in said service.

In 1864, Lincoln estimated the number of black soldiers and sailors exceeded 130,000 men, and said those who joined the Union’s cause in any way were owed what had been promised in preserving their freedom. (Lincoln letter of August 17, 1864, to Charles D. Robinson.) Lincoln’s sense of duty to the freed people was tested more than once.

Several politicians and civic leaders argued for peace with the Confederacy through compromise. Some sought reunification by reinstating the status quo on slavery before the war. Others were willing to recognize the Confederacy as a separate nation that could make its own decisions on slavery. Lincoln would have none of it, pointing out more than once that without slavery there would have been no war and with it there could be no real peace. He considered it his duty to preserve the nation, not preside over its fragmentation.

Keeping Promises

Lincoln felt his oath of office to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States required every lawful effort to preserve the union governed by that constitution. He also considered himself honor-bound to keep the promises of the Emancipation Proclamation.

This sense of duty to keep your promises reminds me of Jesus’ words:

“Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’ But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all … . All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.” (Matthew 5:33-37.)

A paraphrase might be: “Say it if you mean it, don’t say it if you don’t mean it, and follow through on your promises.”

Jesus knew what he was talking about because it is his job to keep promises. In fact, the Bible tells us that when it comes to God’s promises Jesus is the one who keeps them all.

For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. (2 Corinthians 1:20.)

God promised to set people free, and did it in Jesus Christ. (Luke 4:18-21.) Just as Lincoln ordered the army and navy to take part in guaranteeing the freedom of the slaves, now we get to take part in Jesus’ ministry of freedom.

Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8:35-36.)

Freedom indeed. There’s no going back.

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People of Other Doctrines – the new drunkards and gluttons

A friend sent me an email saying she’d started getting criticism from those in her blogging circles. The criticism? She was perceived as interacting too much with me on line. I was not proper company for her to keep. The doctrinal lines were being drawn.

I’ve heard this before from people trying to tell me who to interact with. Sometimes people tell me to be careful of who I hang out with and sometimes they tell me my friends are bad people because of their doctrine. The criticisms can come from someone being Complementarian, Egalitarian, Young Earth Creationist, Old Earth Creationist, Evolutionist, Calvinist, Arminian, Pentecostal, Catholic, Eastern Orthodox or any other matter of doctrine.

This happens in non-church circles too, of course. There the criticisms can focus on political matters – too conservative, liberal or libertarian –  or they can relate to social issues – capitalist, communist, environmentalist, gun rights advocate, home schooling and more.

Then there are the criticisms that cross over both secular and religious issues, such as drinking or LGBT issues. Go out for drinks with a friend and you can get ostracized in some circles, yet if you refuse to associate with those same friends you’re likely to find you get judged for that too.

Jesus faced the same criticisms.

Jesus went on to say, “To what, then, can I compare the people of this generation? What are they like? They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling out to each other:

“‘We played the pipe for you,
    and you did not dance;
we sang a dirge,
    and you did not cry.’

For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ (Luke 7:31-34.)

Jesus got called out for being with the wrong people. Then again, his cousin John was called out for not doing the things Jesus was accused of doing. Jesus’ accusers included the Pharisees, who thought they were above both Jesus and John. Yet Jesus welcomed a Pharisee to come to him (Nicodemus in John 3), and someone from the opposite party – a Zealot – as well. (Simon, noted in Mark 3:18.)

There was no satisfying some people.

Matters of Fellowship

Being a Pharisee or a Zealot did not disqualify someone from fellowship with Jesus. And as much as I might disagree with someone’s doctrinal stance, if they belong to Jesus then I am in fellowship with them as well.

This doesn’t mean ignoring doctrinal issues. I am in agreement with the creeds of the early church which correctly summarize Scripture and have guided us through the centuries. But a disagreement over doctrine does not draw a line that puts one Christian inside the kingdom of God and another outside.

This is the mark of a believer in Jesus:

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:9.)

Connections among those who belong to Jesus go deeper than merely coming to agreement over whether it’s best to be Calvinist, Arminian, Catholic or another gathering of Christian thought. Or whether to baptize infants. Or whether the communion bread and cup represent the body and blood of Christ or are transformed into those elements.  Or whether to hold egalitarian or complementarian views (the particular dividing point that led people to criticize my friend according to the email she sent me). *

When it comes to deciding who has it right, I like the way Paul put it when writing to his friends in Philippi:

All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained. (Philippians 3:15-16.)

Paul did not reject those who held other views. Instead he had confidence God would bring everyone into agreement eventually. In the meantime Paul knew the important thing was to work together, living up to what God had already accomplished in their lives and moving forward from there.

Don’t let anyone’s criticism keep you from being in fellowship with someone else in the kingdom of God. Whether the fellowship takes the form of robust engagement over doctrinal issues with a friend, or caring compassion as you come alongside a person in need, or any other way God would have you interact within his kingdom, remember that it all is just that: within God’s kingdom.

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Some might be tempted to use the comment section to argue the doctrinal issues I’ve mentioned, such as infant baptism or whether communion is merely symbolic of Jesus’ body and blood. Please resist the temptation, and instead discuss ways to engage in true fellowship with those who hold differing views.

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Two Aspects of Easter

[From the archives.]

Easter, part one:

The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.” So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. (Matthew 28:5-8.)

The first Christians: afraid, filled with joy, and running to spread the news! Want to join them?

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Easter, part two:

In case you’re feeling pressured to show up at church in your fancy Easter clothes, here’s how we do it. Sunday Clothes 1God doesn’t care if you have on suits or shorts. He just loves being with you.

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The Carpenter and the Cross – Good Friday’s blessed irony

[From the archives, a blessed irony.]

God became a carpenter who worked with wood and nails, and was then nailed to two pieces of wood. Yet he knew this gruesome irony before time began and submitted to it just the same.

And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:8.)

and,

For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2.)

for you,

For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. (Colossians 1:19-20.)

meaning,

Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! (Romans 5:9-10.)

God became human so you could be reconciled to him. He loves you that much.

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The Last Supper: lessons of love for the Apostles and you

[From the archives, a look at lessons Jesus taught before and after Easter Sunday.]

Getting Personal

John paints a portrait of Jesus in words of love. Not so much about John’s love for his Savior, but words of his Savior’s love for him.

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.  This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. (1 John 4:7-10.)

John knew this love firsthand, right up to the last night he spent with Jesus.

The evening meal was in progress … . Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved. (John 13:2, 23.)

So when John wrote “God is love” in that letter to friends and fellow believers a half century after his last supper with Jesus, he spoke not only from personal experience but from up-close-and-personal experience.

Jesus and John at the Last Supper, Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632) Wikimedia

St. John and Jesus at the Last Supper, Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632)
Wikimedia

Is there more to experiencing this love than leaning into it, though?

Getting to the Personal Point

Has anyone ever asked what you love most, what’s important to you, or what it is that motivates you and keeps you going? That’s the time to remember the words of another one of Jesus’ closest friends, Peter.

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. (1 Peter 3:15.)

Peter wanted answers too, once even when it came to John.

Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is going to betray you?”) When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?” (John 21:20-21.)

It’s often like that for me. I know I should be concentrating on my own relationship with God and then I go and start wondering about what he’s going to do with other people instead. After all, there are a lot of people I can name who need straightening out. But Jesus didn’t allow Peter to take him down that side path.

Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” Because of this, the rumor spread among the believers that this disciple would not die. But Jesus did not say that he would not die; he only said, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?” (John 21:22-23.)

Peter learned that the important thing in his life was to concentrate on Jesus, and that seems to be the basis of his instruction about being ready to give an answer whenever anyone asks what is most important to us: why we hope in God.

He and John together had the opportunity to practice this early on in their ministry following Jesus’ death and resurrection. They had just performed a miraculous healing and then spoke to the crowd of onlookers about finding true healing in Jesus. The religious authorities were not pleased.

The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John while they were speaking to the people. They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people, proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. They seized Peter and John and, because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day. … They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: “By what power or what name did you do this?” (Acts 4:1-3, 7.)

Peter was ready for this question about the hope he operated from.

Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people! If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. Jesus is ‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.’ Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:8-12.)

And speaking of answers, the religious leaders had no answer to this except to try silencing John and Peter. It didn’t work.

Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John replied, “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:18-20.)

Peter’s boldness came from his relationship with Jesus, a relationship in which he knew the same love John did. At that Last Supper where Jesus allowed John to rest his head upon him Jesus had also ministered to Peter’s needs.

Jesus Washing Peter's Feet, Ford Madox Brown (1856) Wikimedia

Jesus Washing Peter’s Feet, Ford Madox Brown (1856)
Wikimedia

Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”

Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” (John 13:3-7.)

There’s Peter again with the questions, and Jesus giving an answer that likely didn’t satisfy Peter at all. But one thing probably stood out in Peter’s memory, and that is that his Lord washed his feet because he loved him. It is based on this love that Peter could write to those who never met Jesus in the flesh:

Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:8-9.)

This salvation – your salvation – is what Jesus accomplished with his death and resurrection. This is his love demonstrated fully in and for you.

Personally getting Personal

Have you experienced the love of Jesus, your Savior? Are you ready to give an answer to anyone who asks about the hope you have within you? Are you ready for someone to even ask such a question of you? Remember that if – and when – the question comes, it is the Holy Spirit within you who is ready to give the answer. Jesus promised as much:

[D]o not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. (Matthew 10:19-20.)

Like John and Peter, you can lean on the Spirit of Christ.

He loves you, you know.

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Billy Graham’s Rule – misusing it to hold back women and men of God

[Kelly Ladd Bishop writes today’s guest post on a well known rule, and how it (like rules generally) gets in the way of people following God and doing the work he’s called them to do.]

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Recently a reporter noted that vice president Mike Pence never dines with women alone, nor does he attend functions without his wife if alcohol is being served. This is a version of, what some call, the “Billy Graham rule.” The name for this rule refers to one of the rules Graham set for himself in the 1940s, when he was a traveling evangelist drawing crowds of thousands to stadiums to hear his preaching. The rule was part of a set of rules designed to protect the integrity of Graham’s ministry, as so many celebrity preachers had fallen to the temptations that surround them.

This particular rule, about never spending time alone with someone of the opposite sex, has been adopted and adapted by Christians over the decades. I have heard it many times from Christian men, particularly male pastors. To avoid any appearance of sin or temptation, many Christian men choose to never be alone with a woman. Since the report that Mike Pence follows a similar set of rules, the conversation has been back at the forefront of Christian discussion.

While there are times when it is appropriate for a person to set up boundaries that protect his or her marriage, it is not appropriate to make blanket statements or rules regarding the opposite sex – especially when it puts one sex at a real disadvantage in business, ministry, or life in general. It also doesn’t respect either men or women. It assumes that men can’t control themselves in the presence of a women who is not their wife, and that women are temptations that must be avoided. As brothers and sisters in Christ, we can do better.

While many people have been speaking out about the problems with this rule, some Christians have been fiercely defending it. Kevin DeYoung is a pastor and a blogger for The Gospel Coalition. He tweeted the following in defense of the rule:

The problem with this tweet is that it’s not a defense of anything. A straw man argument is an argument that sounds like it is refuting an opposing view, but is actually refuting an argument that was never made. No one ever argued that the “rule” is troublesome because all wives really want their husbands to spend more time with other women. No one ever said a marriage is better when one partner spends a lot of time alone with other people of the opposite sex. These types of arguments are nothing more than a distraction. They cause people to think they are agreeing with a great response to an argument, which is actually not a response to anything at all.

Generally speaking, Kevin DeYoung is probably correct. There aren’t many women who would say, “I’d feel better if my husband spent more time alone with other women.” And it’s also likely true that there aren’t many men who would say, “I’d feel better if my wife spent more time alone with other men.” But there are many men and women who would have a difficult time in their careers, or wouldn’t have a career, if they refused to have a business lunch with a client, customer, or associate of the opposite sex. Doctors, nurses, counselors, and therapists regularly have patients of the opposite sex. And, generally speaking, pastors should be able to meet with staff and church members of the opposite sex. Even friendships with someone of the opposite sex aren’t inherently dangerous. Every person is not a walking sexual temptation, or an out of control libido. Every person IS a child of God. Maybe we should start there.

DeYoung’s tweet implies that wives finding the so-called “Billy Graham” rule problematic is equivalent to those wives desiring that their husbands spend more time with other women. This argument is ridiculous. It is possible that a wife can accept that her husband has a legitimate reason to meet with another woman, and that it is not a threat to their marriage. This is called trust. It is also possible that a husband can accept that his wife has a legitimate reason to meet with another man, because he understands the situation, and trusts her. Not only does DeYoung’s argument have nothing at all to do with the concerns people have regarding Pence and Graham’s rule, but it is a bit of an insult to people who are negatively affected by these rules – to all the women who have been refused mentoring by their bosses, who have been denied meetings, who can’t advance in their careers, and who have been treated like nothing more than temptations. Don’t be side tracked by a straw man argument.

Sorry Kevin DeYoung, you are way off base on this one.

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Kelly holds an M.Div, and a B.A. in Biology. She spent seven years working in youth ministry, and has most recently worked as an associate pastor. She preaches, teaches, writes, speaks, and mentors teens. Kelly is passionate about exploring God’s word and issues of faith and culture. She is a Huffington Post contributor and blogs at www.kellyladdbishop.com. You can follow Kelly on Facebook and on Twitter.

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Why “WHAT WOULD JESUS DO?” is the wrong question

[Today’s guest post  is from Jeannie Prinsen, one of my favorite people to read on the internet. ]

“What would Jesus do?” We’ve all heard this question. We’ve seen the “WWJD” bracelets and key chains.

But sometimes I wonder how helpful a question it is – especially when we turn “what Jesus would do” into “what we should do.”

It’s true that when Jesus walked this earth as a man, he called people to follow him – implying that they’d be doing at least some of what he did. When he knelt to wash his disciples’ feet, he said, “If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet” – showing that imitation was an important part of a disciple’s calling.

Many other New Testament passages reinforce this idea that we should do as Jesus does:

  • The apostle Peter says Jesus left us an example “to follow in his steps” (1 Peter 2:21).
  • Paul calls himself an imitator of Jesus (I Corinthians 11:1).
  • John says we should “walk in the same manner as [Jesus] walked” (I John 2:6).

So if we are Christians who want to grow spiritually and have an impact on our world, we should ask “What would Jesus do?” and then try to live that out – right?

To be honest, I’m not so sure – and my hesitation comes mostly from the way we sometimes apply this concept.

Often we choose episodes from the Gospels in which Jesus interacts with a particular person, and we try to use that distinctive, unique encounter as a template for how we should speak to those we meet. But I wonder if we’re sometimes more interested in using Jesus’ words to justify our own frustrations and preferences than in deeply understanding why he might have done or said something.

“Jesus did turn over tables in the temple” … so we’re allowed to get angry and throw things sometimes too, aren’t we?

“Jesus told the woman caught in adultery that he didn’t condemn her, but he also told her to go and sin no more … and didn’t he also tell the man he’d healed, ‘Sin no more in case something worse happens to you’” … so we should be sure the words of grace we say to people are accompanied by admonitions to improve behaviour.

“Jesus did tell the Samaritan woman that he knew she’d been married five times and was now living with a man who wasn’t her husband” … so that must mean it’s OK to tell others that we’re aware of their questionable lifestyle choices. (Leaving aside the fact that the Bible doesn’t actually say why the woman had been married 5 times or was living in an extramarital relationship: maybe instead of being the harlot she’s so often portrayed as, she was actually more sinned-against than sinning.)

This approach bothers me for a couple of reasons. One is that we can end up simply using these episodes in the Gospels as manuals for dealing with people. I heard myself using that very phrase – “dealing with people” – recently, and I was struck by how impersonal and project-oriented it sounded. The life-changing stories of Jesus shouldn’t be reduced to a set of techniques for confronting or converting people.

But the main reason I find these readings problematic is that when we jump straight into the role of being Jesus in these stories, we miss out on being ourselves: ordinary people encountering Jesus.

When I put myself in the place of the woman the crowd condemned, I see how Jesus reaches out to me to offer compassion and shalom.

When I put myself in the place of the people who wanted to stone the woman to death, and I hear Jesus say “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone,” I see my own judgmental assumptions about others, and I marvel at Jesus’ wisdom, forbearance, and love – even for the self-righteous.

When I put myself in the Samaritan woman’s place, I encounter truth and grace, fully embodied in Jesus, and I feel known, seen, and endowed with dignity.

If I try too hard to be Jesus, I risk focusing too much on communication skills and results. The truth is, I’m not Jesus. I’m just me: just as weak and needy as the people who came to Jesus for help and healing, and just as loved.

So instead of asking “What would Jesus do?” and working hard to do it, I’m asking, “Jesus, what are You saying to me through these words of Scripture, these encounters with ordinary people?” And if that involves becoming more like Jesus – as I trust it will – let that be a work He does in me, not a strategy. Not a method, but an abundant life.

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Jeannie Prinsen is an online writing instructor at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, where she co-created and currently teaches a course called Fundamentals of Academic Essay-Writing which she describes as “no more, or less, exciting than it sounds.” She’s also a gifted communicator who blogs about faith and family and writing at Little House on the Circle. You can find her on Twitter and Facebook, too.

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Everyone Should Pay Attention to Me!

Craving Attention over the Years

When I was a four year old we visited some friends with a swimming pool. My Dad had been in the water with me for a while, and some of the older kids – teens or so – had taken turns with me as well. After a while everyone got out, with the grown-ups gathering near the grill as they cooked dinner. Me? I wandered back to the pool’s edge.

Then I stepped in.

Splash!

Down I went, but soon I felt myself being gripped and drawn back to the surface, and my Dad unceremoniously plopped me on the pool deck.

“What were you doing?” he asked.

“You guys were supposed to watch me.”

I know the dialog is accurate because my Dad has gotten a lot of mileage out of that story over the years.

***

Coolness was not one of my childhood attributes. Simply put, I wasn’t one of those kids in elementary school. So in fourth grade when I thought I might get to join in with the cool crowd, I jumped at the chance.

We were supposed to be working on a list of questions about something we’d been studying. The teacher wasn’t in the room at the time, and a few of the kids started doing a different list of questions: something about your likes and dislikes.

One boy asked, “What about getting the questions done?”

A girl said, “Let’s get Tim to do them.”

What I thought I heard, though, was “Let’s get Tim to answer these questions.”

So I set down the worksheet and walked over to the small group in the back of the room and waited for my turn. Eventually the boy who wondered about getting the work done said, “So are you already done with the questions, Tim?”

I told them I hadn’t even started. How could I, I thought, they haven’t asked me yet.

“Shouldn’t you get on it? The teacher will be back soon.”

It dawned on me. And so, rather than admit I thought they had invited me in – and still wanting to be part of their group even if not in the way I’d hoped – I said, “Yeah, it’ll just take me a minute.”

I hurried through the worksheet and gave them the answers.

***

I got into student government a bit later on. I even thought I might get elected senior class president, so I put my name in for the election. When it came time for the candidate speeches, my ambition to make it into the top post of the inner circle got the better of me.

I trashed my opponent.

Not badly, but I focused more on him than on my own qualifications. It didn’t go well. For me, that is. He won and I lost.

Getting the Attention I Need

What is it about craving attention? Even now when my introversion seems to grow stronger with each passing day, I still crave it at times. It might be from the crowd (and Jesus had a lot to say about that type of attention-seeking in Matthew 6:1-18) or from individuals, but in either case it’s wrong if I am seeking approval from anyone but God.

Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ. (Galatians 1:10.)

And yet God attends to us in ways that should satisfy us completely.

You have searched me, Lord, and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. (Psalm 139:1-6.)

Getting attention from the coolest of the cool kids is insignificant in comparison. And on top of that, did you know that the original Hebrew in verse 17 of Psalm 136 could be translated:

How amazing are your thoughts concerning me! How vast is the sum of them!

Seriously? The sum of God’s thoughts about me are vast? God is an infinite being and his thoughts on everything are without number.

The same psalmist, David, recognized how incredible it appears, that God would give us a thought:

What is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? (Psalm 8:4.)

Yet God does care for us, he is mindful of us all.

So rather than have everyone to pay attention to me, I think it’s better that I pay attention to the One who is always attending to me, the One who thinks about me all the time.

That’s the attention to crave.

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Achieving Peace Is Not the End of the Matter

[I have a guest post at Jeannie Prinsen’s blog today. Here’s the opening, along with a link to the full post at her blog Little House on the Circle.]

We don’t use the phrase “public servant” much these days but the concept behind it is as old as the first community that ever gathered together for mutual support, aid and society. As a trial court judge, this quote reminds me of what that means for the public I serve.

“It is at all times proper that misunderstanding between the public and the public servant should be avoided.” Abraham Lincoln, September 1863

A retired judge once advised me in handling courthouse administration, “I’ve found that more communication is almost always better than less.” And in following his advice I’ve found in turn that more communication works well not only in my courtroom, but also with my colleagues, my community, and in my personal life. There are times when judges are barred from disclosure but …

[Click over to Jeannie’s place to read the rest of my post, and while you’re there be sure to check out Jeannie’s wonderful writing.]

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