A Hug From Dad

Work hasn’t been going the best lately and that’s caused my sleeping patterns to get out of sorts.  Here lately, I’ll be so worn out from the day that I’ll hit the sack around eight-ish, which means my eyelids will crack open around one-ish.  Then I’ll lay there and start to think about work, or start to think about how hungry I am, and then I’ll start to flop.  And when I start to flop, neither Sweet Wife nor myself will get any sleep.

So, lately, when the eyes pop open, I’ll stumble into the den, plop on the couch and lay there for a while. I don’t turn on the television or read a book, I just lay there and, usually after a while, sleep will come.

Last Friday night was the same routine.  Bed early, eyes open early, stumble to the couch and lay there.  I fell back to sleep fairly easily I guess, and then there he was, my dad.

Dreams are weird.  You saunter in and out of places and situations, but because you’re in a dream, everything seems so natural.  For some reason, in this dream, I was walking along the side of the house where my parents used to live and for some reason I looked into a window.  And there he was, my dad.  In the next instant, we were locked, arms around each other, in a bear hug.  Everything was so real.  His smell.  The feel of his skin.  His breathing.   I hugged him for all I had because I knew I was hugging my dad.  But in the same instant, I knew this wasn’t real and as quickly as the encounter came, it left and I woke up sobbing with my chest heaving.

Dad’s been in heaven now for over seven years.  I guess I think about him in some way everyday.  There’s hardly a part of my life that he hasn’t touch in some way and hardly a part of my life where I don’t want to make him proud.  I loved him very much and he loved my family very much, but I hardly cried when he died and I didn’t mourn much at the time he died.  I guess there was too much going on at the time.  But I miss him very much and I’m thankful for this sweet encounter.

Monday Colossians: Picking Back Up

It’s been a while since the last post in this series.  Actually, it’s been about seven weeks.  Sorry for the delay.  I guess summer got in the way.

In our last post, we examined Colossians 2:16:

Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath.

The topic of “judgment” is definitely a big deal nowadays, so the key to understanding this passage is to understand the context of this particular verse.  To help you gain this perspective, I’ll point you back to the last post, “Don’t Judge Me, Bro“.  To summarize, I’ll re-post this paragraph:

Here, when Paul says “don’t let them judge you,” what He is doing is pointing the audience back to the cross of Jesus Christ.  He’s reminded them he wants them to be mature in Christ.  He’s told them that others will try to delude with plausible arguments.  But he says that instead of falling prey to the judgment of others, Christians — us, we — should simply abide with Christ and walk with Him in the way we received Him.

Paul’s goal for the audience of this letter — then and now — is for them to be mature in Jesus Christ (v. 1:28).  Being “mature” in Christ obviously means having a clear understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  And when others try to make us feel guilty and pull and tug us back into “religious activities,” we need a firm and clear understanding of this gospel to aid our walk with Jesus.

In the last few verses of Colossians 2, the Apostle Paul will deliver a strong message against “self-made religion.”  This is a message I need to hear over and over again.  Lord willing, we’ll take a look at these verses in the coming weeks.


“Monday Colossians” is a weekly Bible study series from the book of Colossians.  All Bible quotations are taken from the English Standard Version (ESV) Bible translation.  You can read all of the posts in this series by clicking here.  

Sunday Worship: Worshipers of Images are Put to Shame

All worshipers of images are put to shame,
who make their boast in worthless idols;
worship him, all you gods!  (Psalm 97:7 ESV)

In this Psalm, there are a few words that jump off of the screen at us.  Here they are along with a short definition or example for each:

“worshipers” – Worshipers are people who worship and to worship something means to devote our praise, adoration and best toward the something being worshiped.

“images” – An image is a likeness of something.  It is a replica.  It is not the “real” thing.  In this Psalm, we are told the something being worshiped is an image.  The worshipers are not worshiping the real thing.

“shame” – The dictionary tells us that “shame” means to feel guilt, regret or embarrassment about something.  In this case, the “worshipers” will be made to feel guilt, regret and embarrassment for worshiping something that is fake.

“boast” – To “boast” about something means to talk about something with an excessive amount of pride.  This Psalm notes that the people devoting their praise and adoration to the “images,” or things unworthy of worship, are doing so with an excessive amount of pride.  Their comments are not in proportion to the value of their subject.

“gods” – These are small “g” gods.  These gods are the “images” that are being worshiped with excessive pride.  These gods are created, they are not the Creator, and they are not worthy of worship.

This Psalm gives a good example of reaping and sowing.  Those who sow the praise of worshiping false gods and who boast in these worthless things will be put to shame.  Those who worship in this way will be made to feel the guilt and regret and embarrassment of not worshiping the one true God.

The true is stated with emphasis in the last line of this Psalm, “worship him, all you gods!”  Of course these gods can’t really worship because they are dead and powerless.  But I think we get the point.  The created things are designed to worship the Creator, not the other way around.

Our world gets this wrong most of the time and, in fact, we get this wrong a lot of the time.  We are the created and we are designed to worship the Creator.  But our sinful, idol factory hearts try to pull God off of His throne and try to elevate ourselves to this position.  O Lord, please forgive us!

We have a God to worship.  He is the one true God.  He is our Creator.  Let us all worship Him today.

Amen and amen.


“Sunday Worship” is a weekly series that can hopefully be used to help prepare our hearts to worship God Almighty.  You can read all of the posts in this series by clicking here.

Saturday Music: God Have Mercy

I am posting this song today in honor of Sweet Wife.  She sent me a link to this song a little over a week ago and it came to mind when it was time to put up today’s music piece.

The song is “God Have Mercy,” from the David Crowder Band and comes from the band’s sixth and final studio album, Give Us Rest, which was released in 2012.  I know most of this because I looked it up on Wikipedia.  The band broke up and parted ways following this album.  I also know this because I found it on Wikipedia.

I probably should know more about this band.  They were a Christian band, they were quite good, if not a bit eccentric, and I also saw them in concert when they were touring for the Remedy album.

Though Sweet Wife really loves them, they’ve always been sort of _________ for me.  There’s a blank there because I don’t really know what to say.  It’s cool, especially in Christian circles to love the David Crowder Band, but maybe it’s the voice, maybe it’s the techno sound…I don’t know I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I’m not in sync just yet with the DCB.

But maybe it’s time to change that.  I’m sort of thinking that, especially after reading this review of the Give Us Rest album posted on Wikipedia:

Zach of Alpha Omega News graded the album an (A+), and wrote that “Overall, what David Crowder and his band have created here is a fantastic collection of worshipful anthems, each able to stand up on its own, while each having a similarity to the other that never fails to share the love of God with the listener. It is a concept album in a way, if you pay attention to its lengthy subtitle and how many of the songs celebrate the life and death of Jesus. Even if the band was never quite your cup of tea in the past, I advise you not to pass up on this album. Not only is it a masterpiece in Christian music alone, but also sure to be the year’s very best.” Jeremy Dunn of Gospel Music Channel wrote that the album is “the band’s most extensive body of music to date”, in which “the listener is taken through the poetic patterns of this time-honored liturgical funeral mass, not for the sole purpose of mourning but also to celebrate what has passed.”

I think I’ll load it up and give it a listen this week.


“Saturday Music” is a weekly blog series about the music of our lives.  Click here to read all of the posts in this series.

Friday Picture: Double Rainbows

img_1447I took this picture with my iPhone last Sunday and, yes, it’s obviously touched-up a bit.

But after touching it up, I noticed that there were actually two rainbows present, though the second could barely — if at all — be seen by the naked eye.  That’s neat, folks.

What do I take away from this?  One thing in particular.  Most of us probably know that the rainbow signifies a promise to us made by God and maybe some of us know that it had something to do with a flood.  But like the unseen rainbow, God’s promises are always alive and active and working.  They are there whether we know it or not and whether we like it or not.


“Friday Picture” is a weekly blog series about life…one picture at a time.  You can read all of the posts in the series by clicking here.

Thursday Hebrews: Growing Old and Ready to Vanish Away (v. 8:13-9:1)

In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.  (Hebrews 8:13 ESV)

Now even the first covenant had regulations for worship and an earthly place of holiness. (Hebrews 9:1 ESV)

This quarter in Sunday School, our teacher has been rolling through the book of Hebrews.  This past week, he pointed out something that helps to clarify what we are reading in this section of Hebrews:

  • Jesus is a better high priest;
  • God has provided a better covenant; and
  • Jesus is a sacrifice.

The writer of Hebrews is covering material that isn’t Christianity 101 (v. 6:1).  He is trying to lead the readers — both then and now — to maturity in their walk with Jesus Christ.  Though the gospel message is simple — we are sinners separated from God, we need a Savior and we have one — the application of the gospel to our daily lives can be very tough.  For example, I tend to think I can be the high priest that I need if I live right and my theology morphs God’s better covenant into something unrecognizable and I think I can be a good enough sacrifice so that I don’t need Jesus.  In my mind I understand and accept the gospel, but on a daily basis, I try to pull God off the throne and take on the world by myself.

This kind of thinking is what makes a proper understanding of the gospel so important.  And thanks be to God that He has provided us clarity through the book of Hebrews!

So with this in mind, let’s pick our study of Hebrews back up and look at the last verse of chapter eight and the first verse of chapter nine:

In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.  (Hebrews 8:13 ESV)

Now even the first covenant had regulations for worship and an earthly place of holiness. (Hebrews 9:1 ESV)

We’ve previously looked at Wayne Grudem’s definition of a covenant:

“With respect to covenants between God and man in Scripture, we may give the following definition: A covenant is an unchangeable, divinely imposed legal agreement between God and man that stipulates the conditions of their relationship.” (p. 515)

Grudem also notes this related to Biblical covenants:

  1. Man can’t negotiate the terms of these divine covenants. God delivers the covenant and man either accepts or rejects the covenant;
  2. The terms are one-sided, that is, they are handed down by God;
  3. The terms handed down by God are unchangeable; and
  4. Though the terms are unchangeable, covenants can “be replaced or superseded” in their entirety.

Chapter 8, and specifically verse 8:13, make it very clear that God is replacing the Old Covenant with something new.  The last verse of the chapter notes that, “what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.”  Accordingly, it makes sense that the “regulations for worship” under the “first covenant” would also change.  Specifically, these “regulations” gave instructions for making acceptable sacrifices to God.  In Chapter 9, we’ll see that Jesus Christ is not only a better high priest, but here we’ll also see that He is a much better sacrifice.

Next time, Lord willing, we’ll continue looking into the details and find out why Jesus was the perfect sacrifice for our sins.

 


“Thursday Hebrews” is a weekly Bible study series from the book of Hebrews.  All Bible quotations are taken from the English Standard Version (ESV) Bible translation.  You can read all of the posts in this series by clicking here.  You can catch up on chapters 1 -7 by clicking here.

Killing the American Dream, part 2

A while back I posted some thoughts on how our country’s recent regulatory binge is killing the American dream.  My general idea was this:  Gorging on new regulations not only costs each American real dollars, but it also greatly inhibits the movement of businesses into and out of markets.  Eventually, most individuals will lack the skill and or capital to enter these markets and these markets will, therefore, eventually morph into quasi-government units.  (Stunning analysis, right?)

According to a recent New York Times article, this wasn’t the original plan.  He was forced into it:

Once a presidential candidate with deep misgivings about executive power, Mr. Obama will leave the White House as one of the most prolific authors of major regulations in presidential history.

Blocked for most of his presidency by Congress, Mr. Obama has sought to act however he could. In the process he created the kind of government neither he nor the Republicans wanted — one that depended on bureaucratic bulldozing rather than legislative transparency. But once Mr. Obama got the taste for it, he pursued his executive power without apology, and in ways that will shape the presidency for decades to come.

Holman W. Jenkins, Jr., writing in The Wall Street Journal calls horse feathers on this.  His basis for this?  Well, Jenkins points out that from the January 2010 special election resulted in the election of Scott Brown in Massachusetts through three successive congressional elections, the president was never presented with a mandate for any of the changes he wrought.  As Jenkins notes,

If Mr. Obama was “deeply frustrated,” the reason was the American people’s lack of support for his agenda. And what the Times calls his regulatory strategy would better be described as unbridled rent seeking.

The examples he provides are stark:

Mr. Obama’s bank policy dramatically consolidated the banking industry, which the government routinely sues for billions of dollars, with the proceeds partly distributed to Democratic activist groups.

His consumer-finance agency manufactured fake evidence of racism against wholesale auto lenders in order to facilitate a billion-dollar shakedown.

His airline policy, urged by labor unions, led to a major-carrier oligopoly, with rising fares and profits.

His FDA is seeking to extinguish small e-cigarette makers for the benefit of Big Tobacco and Big Pharma (whose smoking-cessation franchise is threatened by cheap and relatively safe electronic cigarettes).

His National Labor Relations Board, by undermining the power of independent franchisees, is working to cartelize the fast-food industry for the benefit of organized labor.

I think a lot of the Trump-mania has to do with some folks feeling like the Republican majorities have been a bunch of do-nothings.  The do-nothing label is true to a certain extent, but there wasn’t much the do-nothings could do in this regulatory era, short of shutting down the government.  And that was never going to happen.

Technology Tuesday: How to Win the Email War

This article from The Wall Street Journal caught my attention recently, “Zappos CEO Has His Own Way to Manage Email.”  In you didn’t know (and I didn’t), Wikipedia tells us that Zappos is an online shoe retailer that was founded by Tony Hsieh and he remains the company’s chief executive, though the company was acquired by Amazon back in 2009.  Also according to Wikipedia, the company has about 1,500 employees.

So how does Hsieh win manage his email?  Check out these blurbs from the article:

Several years ago, Mr. Hsieh devised an email management technique he calls“Yesterbox.” The idea is to go through yesterday’s messages today. That way, Mr. Hsieh says, “you know exactly how many emails you have to get through,” rather than constantly battling incoming missives throughout the day. At the end of the day, you can reach a point when you have no more email left to process from the day before, he says.

Mr. Hsieh says he often completes his emailing by noon. He rarely responds to a nonurgent email the day he receives it, and says the methodology has speeded up his email response time because he procrastinates less often on tough-to-write responses, which used to take up to several months.

On top of that he adds:

One of the toughest parts of the technique, Mr. Hsieh says, was training himself not to answer emails that come in that day, even if the response is a simple one-word reply. He first determines if the response can wait 48 hours without causing harm. If the response time doesn’t matter, as is the case with most email, he says he forces himself to wait until the next day to answer it. (He does, however, allow today’s email to be deleted, forwarded or filed—but no responses unless urgent.)

First off, it sounds like Mr. Hsieh’s job title should be changed from CEO to “Chief Executive Emailer.”  He’s the CEO of a company with billions of dollars in sales and “he often completes his emailing by noon.”  Unless he’s normally arriving to work late, he’s spending about half of his time emailing people — plus, he’s bogging down his billion dollar organization because he’s waiting 24 to 48 hours before replying to his emails.   And, to make things even crazier, there are texts and groups of texts that are thrown on top of the problem:

Given his strict system, Mr. Hsieh turns to another technology to ensure that he doesn’t miss pressing messages. “Anything urgent I prefer to just use text messaging,” he says.

This sounds like insanity to me but, unfortunately, this is the world in which many of us live and work.  You can probably tell by my tone that I’m not a fan of Mr. Hsieh’s system, but in reality, that may be the best he can do when managing a billion dollar company with thousands of employees.  However, try that system in a smaller work place and you’ll likely find yourself literally being thrown under a bus.  Take 48 hours to respond to a co-worker’s email and you’ll find yourself constantly chaffing that co-worker.

So what do we do? Well, that probably depends on our role within an organization.  If we’re order-takers, our response is probably a little different than if we are change-drivers (not that there’s anything wrong with either of those).  If we’re order-takers, we need to process and sort an email in a way that pleases and helps our superiors.  If we’re change-drivers, then we have an opportunity to change our email culture.  Here are a few ideas for change-drivers:

Examine our own email practices.  A good place to start is with ourselves.  If we want to change the culture and if we have the influence to change a culture, our first look should be inward.  If we’re constantly griping about emails, then first take a look at the example we’re setting.  Do we respond promptly to email?  Do we help keep the flow of work going?  Do we bombard others with emails as attempt to empty our own inbox?

Recently, I’ve studied my own email practices.  I found that I hardly ever send off-topic emails and almost all of them provide clarity, instruction or correction to things that are very important.  But I also found that I send too many of them.

If we want to change the email culture, we need to first figure out how we fit into the culture and how we are influencing it.

Send less email.  If you are a change-driver, then you probably send too many emails.  I speak from experience.  As I mentioned above, my emails are important and cover important topics.  But emails from change-drivers tend to feel like hammers.  People cringe when they see these messages pop up in their inboxes.  We may think they inspire and clarify, but instead, others tend to see these messages as a slow-drip torture treatment.

We’re probably not getting away from email any time soon; some messages absolutely have to be sent.  But if you want to change the culture, perhaps the first thing we should do is slide the keyboard away from ourselves.

Keep the process moving.  If you are a change-driver, chances are people need your feedback to keep assembly line moving.  (Unfortunately, I’m using the assembly line as a metaphor.)  If that’s your role, and if your response to emails is necessary to keep things moving along…then keep things moving along.  Don’t wait 48 hours to respond.  You may not want to be notified every time an email arrives, but perhaps you could take a peek once an hour and respond to the items that will improve your workplace efficiency.

Delegate authority.  If you’re the main cog that keeps the assembly line moving, maybe you need to think about training others to help with the decision making.  This is especially true in situations where you are making the same routine decisions over and over again.  If you can share your logic with others, the plant won’t stop moving if you are away from your inbox.

Pick up the telephone.  I abhor using the telephone.  I cringe every time it rings and look for any excuse to send callers to voice mail.  Telephone calls interrupt our schedules and can run on for what seems like forever as callers ramble about whatever comes to mind.  But using this old-school technology is very handy for reducing email overload.  Instead of 30 emails throughout the week, perhaps a 10-minute call mid-week could cover the same ground?  Instead of scheduling an hour to skillfully craft a 1,000 word email, perhaps a five-minute call would suffice?  It’s definitely easier to tap out a short email instead of dialing the phone and talking for 30 minutes, but isn’t a pat on the back better when you can hear the giver’s voice?

Schedule more meetings.  I enjoy meetings about as much as telephone calls, but like using the telephone, something as simple as scheduling a meeting can improve how your organization works.  Could a 15 minute meeting save 100 emails a week?  Sure it could.  If your team is working on a project, periodically schedule brief face-to-face meetings to solve simple issues.  This is a much more effective way to get things done versus having to read dozens of emails.

How we handle email is tied to where we work and our position at work.  At times, reading and responding to emails may just be our job.  That may be all there is.  At other times, we may be able to effect change.  In those cases, take a step back and consider suggestions like these.  Often times simple or overlooked ideas can generate big improvements in our work flow and office culture.

Blogging Update

The plan for the year was to blog every day.  So far, thank the Lord, that has happened.  They haven’t all been quality posts, that’s for sure, but…life happens.  Back in January I laid out a plan for posting:

  • Posting something everyday provides a challenge to write;
  • Posting something everyday provides an opportunity to discipline myself (and hopefully that will encourage me in other areas);
  • My life tends to go up and down and during the swells, I tend to cast stuff off. Hopefully, a commitment to posting every day will help me through some of the rough spots to keep doing normal stuff; and
  • I kind of enjoy it.

Those things still apply.  Sitting down to write usually provides some sort of benefit, even if the benefit is just sitting down for a while and thinking about something else besides life.  And lots of times, sitting down to write about something allows for me to remember some of the good things about life…Sweet Wife, the kids, the gospel…you get the picture.  Sometimes whatever comes out of hitting the keys is actually a prayer.  That’s good too.

As the year got started, I’ve tried to build several series of posts:

As the year has rolled along and gotten more harried and hectic, I haven’t been so regular with these, but in general, these posting by these topics allows for some structure and guides my thoughts when otherwise nothing would come out.  I’ve been especially tardy with the Colossians and Hebrews posts, but hopefully these can get back on track in the weeks ahead.

I don’t always operate well during the swells of lives waves and normally shuck everything when in the midst of storms.  So far during the swells of 2016, I’ve continued to post during these storms.  That’s a good thing too.

Thanks for reading.

 

Sunday Worship: That They May Seek Your Name

Fill their faces with shame,
that they may seek your name, O LORD.  (Psalm 83:16 ESV)

This past week wasn’t a good one.  It was filled with stress at work, I didn’t sleep well, and to top it off, Sweet Wife left Friday afternoon and isn’t scheduled to be home until later today.

I didn’t perform well this week.  I was bad.  I didn’t live by faith.

So how does that tie into this Psalm?  Well, this week in particular, I’m the one filled with shame.  I’m the one beaten and defeated and the one who lost the race to do what is right.  This week, I am the one filled with shame.

But God has been gracious to me.  As He filled my face with shame, He had a purpose in it.  In filling my face with shame, He used this as an opportunity to show me — to instruct me — to seek His name.

I’m not real proud of my behavior this week.  But I am thankful for God’s mercy and grace and for another opportunity to seek His name.

Let us all praise Him today!

Amen and amen.


“Sunday Worship” is a weekly series that can hopefully be used to help prepare our hearts to worship God Almighty.  You can read all of the posts in this series by clicking here.