2010 in Review

Goodbye 2010. Hello 2011.

In 2010, I adjusted to life in America after coming home from Africa in late 2009. The year started out pretty good for me: I got married to my best friend Carly on January 16. Over the next 12 months, I worked three different jobs. My wife and I lived in three different residences. We became members at our church and it became home to us. We completed Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University…twice.  (Therefore, we paid off thousands of dollars of student debt and paid off our car loan.) I read through the entire Bible. I started raising financial support to work at my church as a pastoral intern.

The list could go on, but I’ll stop for now. The common thread with 2010, as with every other year of my life, was God’s faithfulness and grace. His presence was clear, his comfort was gentle, his grace was sweet, and his rebuke was heavy. More often than not, the many species of pride in my life — self-pity, anger, bitterness, defensiveness, envy — clouded my view of these glorious things.

Happy New Year, friend. And it will be a happy new year, if you have God in your life. I think a recent Tweet by John Piper is appropriate:

God promises new troubles (Mat. 6:34), new mercies (Lam 3:23), and new hope (2 Cor 4:16) for every day this year.

The troubles will only make sense, and the mercies and hope will only be fulfilling, if Jesus is at the center of your 2011. I pray he is.

(If you want to see some stats from 2010 for this blog, click on the link below.)


Happy Boss’s Day

Make sure you wish the head honcho a Happy Boss’s Day today.  I bet you didn’t know there was such a thing.

And now I bet you wish you didn’t know.


The Folly of Idolatry

We have heard over and over again that anything can be an idol.  It’s not only a sculpture, a carving, or a cast-iron statue.  It’s been jammed into our brains.  But how many of us believe it?

Isaiah 44 shows how foolish it is to worship an idol.  Isaiah’s logic goes something like this: a carpenter cuts down a tree, he cuts it into a log.  He uses half of it to make food and keep warm.  He uses the other half as a god to worship.  How stupid!

Well, that’s primitive and we (21st century people) would never do such a thing. Or would we?

Consider this: instead of cutting down a tree and worshiping it, we use “half” of our job, if you will, to give our families warmth and food.  We use the other “half” to obtain worldly success and fame and the praise of man.  What we are actually doing is sacrificing our family and our spiritual life so that we can worship at the altar of profit and recognition.

More than that, think about what we “love” (i.e. worship).  We “love” sports teams so that we can feel good when they win, and have an excuse to have self-pity when they lose. We “love” people so that they can be an avenue to get what we want.  We “love” our jobs so that we might receive the praise of man and get a fat paycheck to suit our ridiculous life-styles. We “love” food so that it can be a comfort to avert our attention from the sadness and depression in our lives and around the world. We “love” movies because it puts us into a fairytale story where life always ends up rich, happy, safe, or in love.  The list goes on and on.

Idolaters have fooled themselves into believing that idols can make their life fulfilling and satisfying. Instead, an idol is a life-draining, murdering, deceiving thing, because true idol-worship is actually self-worship.  We worship idols for our benefit.

These functional saviors cannot and never will deal with our greatest problem: sin.  Idols merely expose our sin and pride and desire to worship ourselves rather than God.  And the worst part is that when we get so deep into idolatry, we are like this man in Isaiah 44 who “cannot deliver himself or say, ‘Is there not a lie in my right hand?’ (v. 20).

Jesus is the only Savior who can bring satisfaction and happiness.  He said, “I came that you may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10b).  Jesus made this promise, and he still delivers today.  Every idol makes that same promise everyday, but not one has ever come through for anyone.


Pitfalls in Communication: Assumptions

Series Index 

Part 1 of a 6 part series. View series intro and index.

I have a degree in communication studies from the University of Nebraska. That’s not very special. It’s not like I’m an expert. You can ask my fiancée, my parents, my friends or…anyone to confirm this.  You don’t have to be a Ph.D. to be an expert in communicating however.  I love quality communication and desire to work harder at it.

If you think about it, it’s really amazing that any message ever gets across to anyone else.  Why are we so bad at communication? The most important thing is to remember what Paul Tripp says: “You are your biggest communication problem.” That has been revolutionary for me. It is taking me from pride, thinking I’m always right and understood, to humility and figuring what to say and how to say it.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be taking a look at common pitfalls in communication.  None of this is based on research. It’s just my humble opinion.  Let’s start with number one: assumptions.

Assumptions about Information
So often, we think that other people have availability to the same knowledge that we do. Sometimes they do, and don’t utilize it. Other times, they don’t, but aren’t to blame. Whenever we have meetings, phone conversations, a friendly get-together, lunch, or send an email or a simply text message, we need to be absolutely clear about all the information we know about. It never hurts to withhold information, even if you feel you might be repeating yourself. Get all the information on the table and don’t assume the world knows what you know. On the other end of the spectrum, it can be deadly to not mention even the tiniest detail. You might think it’s common knowledge, but if it’s not, then you’ve ruined it for everyone.

This is true whether it’s communication between a husband-wife, parent-child, manager-employee, friend-friend, or any kind of relationship imaginable. It’s a product of the human condition that when we speak, we assume that everyone knows what’s going on in our minds, what we were thinking, what we are going to think, and where we’re going next. The problem is, if information is lacking, everyone will be confused and you will be to blame.

Assumptions about Intention
Not only do we make assumptions about people knowing (or having access to) information, but we also make assumptions about people’s intentions when they speak or do something. Of course, the Bible says that out of the heart come evil thoughts and words and actions (Mark 7). So we know that at our core we really are wicked people. But by God’s grace, generally, in interpersonal relationships and in the workforce context, people tend to have the best intentions when they communicate.

This has been so difficult for me to learn. Sometimes I think people are always out to get me. Obviously, this is very wrong. Rather than having a “me against the world” attitude, we need to know that people we interact with, especially those closest to us, want to work with us, not against us. If I make an assumption that my ministry associate or my fiancée, for example, is working for my ill, and not my good, I will either withdraw, get angry, fabricate the truth, withhold communication, or do a number of other things.  In short, I need to believe the best about the person instead of assuming the worst.

Most relationships in life are joined together, in some way or another, to accomplish a common goal. In the Christian context (and so in all of life), the goal is to glorify God. In a family, it’s to be happy; in a business, it’s to gain a profit; in school, it’s to get good grades; in a neighborhood, it’s to maintain safety; in a non-profit, it’s to a cause.

If we make assumptions that people communicate poorly or do something wrong on purpose, then we will become a hindrance to communication and progress to whatever type of goal we are trying to reach, whatever it is.