Jul 4, 2019

The Mindset of Dr. Bull

Recently, I watched a TV episode of “Bull” (that’s the name of the show, not a disparaging description of TV programming).  In that episode, the main character, Dr. Jason Bull, flippantly admitted to a priest that he knew full well that he (Bull) was going to Hell.  I’ve also heard that same flippancy used by real people as they carelessly expressed the same idea - as if it’s no big deal, really.  But, on the other hand, if real, Hell actually presents itself to be the absolute biggest deal for human beings.

I suppose most who approach the subject of Hell in this careless way must simply think that Christians have it wrong.  Either that, or they just don’t think at all.  They don’t think about the emotional agony which would certainly attend that very last, life and death moment which could only be characterized as A Moment Too Late, when the creature stands before the Governing Creator. 

In that moment, even the best among us would surely be terrified by the knowledge that, in one more instant, whatever utterance comes from the mouth of the Almighty will determine our immutable destiny –  whether for better or worse.  And, that terror would be all the more gripping if, indeed, one knew that, in their flippancy, they had made no serious attempt to discover His requirements or to walk humbly before Him.

Nevertheless, if, as Christians purport, this final divine decree is to be, it will, indeed, be for every soul, whether good or bad, serious or flippant.  And, for those souls who are finally consigned to Hell, surely the incomprehensible magnitude of this fate would almost certainly wash over them like some merciless tidal wave.

And, no doubt, with that mental and emotional assault, would come the most terrified cries of raw fear.  And many, if not all, would crumple under the weight of this instant and seismic shift in their reality.  But, if the Christians have it right, no amount of regret or tearful pleading can defer the next moment – the first moment of eternal agony in that place called Hell - if it is real.

And, after a thousand years have passed, Christians believe that the agony will be exactly the same.  And, after ten thousand years have passed, still it will not have abated one whit.  And after a million years, still they believe it will be as it always was, and always will be. If there is a Hell, the pain of that place is one thing.  But, coupled to eternity, that pain becomes the most horrific thing which could possible befall a human being. 

But, maybe the Christians have it wrong.  These days, many seem to think so.  And I’m sure they have come to that conclusion only after a very careful study of the Christian faith and a humble pursuit of the God behind that faith.

So, I guess, for now, we’re merely left with that old adage, “Only time will tell.”  And certainly, that much we know to be true.  

Thus, when each of us find ourselves in that final and completely inopportune last moment, and we all will, whether in death or in the end of time – perhaps then we will know with absolute certainty, for good or ill, whether there actually is a God of judgement and a Devil’s Hell, as the Christian Bible teaches.  But, for now, it seems many are just very content to “dance flippantly on” in the mindset of Dr. Bull.

Jun 9, 2019

Warning: High Energy Area

Relationships are often very complicated animals.  Normally, if you are talking about a high maintenance relationship, we assume that to be a bad thing.  But, that really isn’t always true.  Sometimes it’s a very, very good thing.

For example, when I was chasing my wife through the dating stage, I was overjoyed to devote every spare moment I could find, to the upkeep of that pursuit.  It made my heart beat faster just to think about her (still does).  And, I happily devoted all of the extra energy generated by that elevated heart rate to getting to know her, besting the competition (and, there was some), and newly examining myself and my behavior through her eyes.

All of these relational activities and many more, though sometimes very challenging of heart, still, ultimately, just became blended and blurred into what seemed to me to be the most joyous thing in my young life.  And there was absolutely never any thought of these activities being “too challenging” or “too intrusive to my larger plan.”  Indeed, she was my larger plan.

A few years after my wife and I were married, I ran into another such high maintenance relationship with Jesus Christ.  And, it turned out to be the same kind of a deal.  This relationship with Christ also suddenly turn my world upside down, as everything started to be viewed through the lens of my relationship to Him.  

And, while that relationship also has been, sometimes, very challenging, it has never entered my mind that it is so challenging as to simply not be worth it.  Nor, have I ever thought of limiting how far I would go in this high maintenance relationship, or where I would let it take me, or how I would let it change me. 

And, why would I think such things?  Just as before with my wife, every aspect of this high energy pursuit of God’s friendship has now, also become blended and blurred into the most exciting and meaningful thing that I could imagine - joyfully impacting the whole spectrum of my life.

But sadly, the more modern Church seems now to be largely missing the excitement, beauty, and fulfillment of this high maintenance approach to the divine friendship.  Rather, now, in large numbers, we seem to prefer a much more balanced approach where God fits neatly into line somewhere between Facebook, family, friends, vocations, vacations, social obligations, and hobbies. 

The problem is, when it comes to relationship, God is never content to fit into our nicely balanced life line-up.  Contrary to the modern ethos, as He has always been, He is still a very high maintenance relational pursuit. 

But, indeed, this is a very good thing.  When it comes to God, we will only ever know this “with abandonment” kind of pursuit to be a bad thing if we insist on comfortable, neat, balanced, and limited in our relationship with Him.  God just doesn't do relationship that way.  So, we will never know a truly redemptive and deeply fulfilling relationship with Him if we insist on such a "low voltage" approach.

“And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” - Jesus

Mar 31, 2019

Little Life, Big Life

I have a small life which I thoroughly enjoy.  It involves buying groceries with my wife.  And, that usually involves going by our favorite donut shop to grab an apple fritter and sit and talk.  And, that stop typically involves looking at the latest new born pics of the couple who owns the shop.

I love to putter in my yard.  I enjoy building small kayak type boats.  And, I like taking my wife for dinner, after work - and breakfast on off days.  And, I love a thousand other things which don’t really amount to a hill of beans in the larger scheme of things.  But, all in all, it is a pleasant little life. 

However, I learned long ago that there has to be more than just my small, everyday little life, because “little” tends to become empty if it’s not connected to “big.”  And, I actually found the door to “big” some years back, too.  It is a vital, daily relationship with the living Jesus.  Since then, He has constantly challenged me to embrace the bigger life, a life that involves something larger than the present moment, my small surroundings, my health issues, and my little hobbies and happy times.

Rather, His guidance, and sometimes insistence, connects me to the larger life issues of character growth, and principled living, and the values and truth of my Creator, and the needs of my neighbors, and my society, and even my world.   So, I still enjoy and find meaning in my little life.  But, praise God, my little life has not made of me a little person, because He has connected me to the “big stuff” too. 

And, I’m convinced that God is big enough to provide this same blessing for a needy America which has now become so widely self-absorbed in the infinitely small issues of materialism and technology.  Those little things only truly contribute when there is a larger context of bigger issues, those involving character transformation and truly principled living.  And fortunately, there is a wonderful “app” for that.  It is called penitence and humility before God (faith). 

Mar 15, 2019

Haughty Naivety

When I was learning to fly, I can remember how complex and sophisticated that little 2 place Cessna 150 trainer seemed as I sat looking at all of the instruments, gauges, and switches.  But, later, as I graduated to the cavernous, 4 place Cessna 172, I was then embarrassed at how I had struggled with the child’s play of that first little plane.  Surely, this 172 was the be-all, end-all of the general aviation world.

And, indeed, that was true.  Well – it was true until I went to check out in a Piper 235 with retractable landing gear, a constant speed prop, an autopilot, and a GPS navigation system.  And then, I knew for sure that I had finally arrived at the ultimate aviation experience.  It could not possibly get any bigger or more sophisticated than this.  And, that was, indeed, true – until…

Since those early aviation object lessons, I have discovered that it is actually typical of human beings to experience life, itself, in the same way as I did those airplanes – and for precisely the same reason – our naivety.  In other words, wherever we are and whatever we’re doing today is as big and important as it gets.  Well – until tomorrow, when yesterday is again dwarfed by today’s new level of bigness and sophistication. 

So, in our brave new world, we have watched digital swallow analog.  We have seen computers morph into multiple forms and become progressively faster, more sophisticated, and bigger – even as they slide into ever smaller cases and drag us in after them.  And now, we stand in the very foyer of an AI World.  And, again we think, “Surely, this is it, life’s final form of “Big and Sophisticated.”  But, as always, it is not.

In fact, in the space of one very consequential moment and one note from the divine trumpet announcing the return of Jesus Christ to this world, our present “techno-craze” will be instantly exposed for the child’s play that it is.  Then – all naivety past – mankind will be confronted by what truly is enduring “Bigness and Sophistication” – ready or not.

Feb 13, 2019

Small Devils In Oversized Chairs

Some years ago, through my roles as a parent, a pastor, and occasionally, as a work place boss, I discovered that there are two ways to move people. You can oppress them; or, you can inspire them. 

Eventually, I began to notice the distinct differences between these two methods. I began to see that when I chose the former method, there were no lasting results and morale was always in the basement. 

Granted, oppression (or authoritarianism) is typically the shortest path to a given behavioral end. But it is also the most antagonistic, and thus, the most resented method. 

So, as soon as the autocratic “hammer” is subtracted from the picture, people simply revert to what they wanted to do or be in the first place. Thus, the use of oppression comes to this: “No present hammer, no present result.”

On the other hand, if you choose Inspiration to move people, though it usually is a longer and more draining way, this method of motivation actually changes the level of peoples aspirations. Thus, inspiration produces enduring motivation, even when the authority figure is subtracted from the picture. So, inspiration eventually comes to this: “No present hammer, no real problem.”

My deep regret is that I did not understand these differences and embrace the Inspirational Method of motivating people much earlier in my life. Had I done so, I could have been a much better parent and made the childhood of my older children a happier existence. 

And, I am convinced that I would have alienated fewer people (and truly changed more) in the churches that I pastored. And, I would have been a much more effective boss at work. But sadly, I was just too slow on the uptake.

So, I simply offer this to spare others the same mistake. Laugh! Laugh! Laugh! as often as you possible can with the people who look to you for direction. Real and worthy authority is never endangered by seasonal humor. It is only enhanced by it. 

Don’t take yourself and the minor issues so completely seriously. In spite of what you may think, you are not really that critical to the process. Life went successfully on, long before you directed it. And, it will take little note that you are missing when that day comes. So, get over yourself. 

And remember, the minor issues are just that. They are not the major issues, so quit turning them into such. Excuse everything you possibly can. The little stuff is just the day dust which gives everybody a mostly harmless way to remember the human frailty, learn from it, and grow beyond its present limitations. 

If perfection is your rigid demand, you better go ahead and drag out a tall stack of cryin’ towels – 'cause perfection ain’t happnin,’ Honey. Reasonable consistency is about the best you can hope for - and even that, only at the end of a long line of, “Oops.” 

So, you have a choice mom or dad, pastor, or Mr. VP, etc. You can choose to puff up, and rant and rave, and belittle and berate the people around you. Or, you can choose to inspire them by wielding your authority with laughter, and forgiveness, and wisdom, and the shared life tricks that you, yourself, have previously learned. 

Your choice. But, know this: the traffic on the shorter path never really varies. The "bosses" who travel that oppressive pathway, always just come off as really small devils in oversized chairs.