Monthly Archives: December 2014

Resolution Link Wrap

Note: This post is a little different than others on the blog. It’s more a collection of stuff about resolutions (you’ll notice a lot of links). Some are Christian sources, some aren’t… sorry, not sorry. If you hover over the links, you’ll see some additional notes. Each piece is pretty interesting. Happy New Year. See you in 2015.

You should resolve to do something, because if you don’t know where you’re going, it’s unlikely you get to the place you intended.

Making new year resolutions probably started with the Babylonians (but they did it in March). Then the Romans caught the resolution  bug. Then the Puritans did it as a way to avoid the parties. John Wesley created covenant renewal services (which seems pretty cool.)

The problem is that resolutions aren’t biblicalunless they are. (That’s also a free lesson in the importance of context.) Just make sure you’re resolving to do things honoring to God.

Regardless, some famous people have made resolutions. Woody Guthrie, Marilyn Monroe, Benjamin Franklin, Jonathan Swift, Jonathan Edwards.

Don’t bother resolving to go on a diet, stop smoking, get more exercise, lose 20 pounds, or stop biting your nails. Also, big goals are for losers. So what if you resolved to do less rather than more?

Whatever you do, if you make a resolution, you might as well keep it. What’s the point of always resolving and never actually resolving? Jerry Seinfeld keeps resolutions by not breaking the chain. I found some success with a similar method in a notebook. Remember, what get’s measured gets done.

Happy kitten New Year.

 

Fuel for work

(You are going to think this doesn’t apply to you. It absolutely does.)

You will be tempted to work through the holidays. You will be tempted to work Christmas morning even. Maybe for your day job, maybe not. But the temptation to work will be alive and well.

  • Cook breakfast that will impress everyone
  • Be winsome and funny
  • Fit in at dinner
  • Make sure everyone knows you did ________
  • Make sure no one knows you did ________
  • Hide this
  • Embellish that
  • perform, perform, perform
  • Think about work
  • Check email
  • Check twitter
  • Take 15 pictures, post one to instagram
  • Post one to facebook
  • Write a comment about how great everything is
  • #blessed
  • perform, perform, perform
  • Worry about how your comment was taken
  • Worry about how your gift was received
  • Worry about who gave you this and who didn’t give you that
  • Worry about what that means about how they think of you
  • Worry about what it all means about you
  • perform, perform, perform
  • work. work. work.

Christmas morning is God’s gift to you to lay down your work. Not just your “day job” work, but the work beneath the work. The work of defending and protecting yourself. The work of modifying and correcting your image. The work of proving your worth (to others and to yourself). The work of striving for _________. The work of earning the love of those around you.

Christmas morning is the ultimate gift of rest and provision and peace and comfort.

Jesus is the ultimate gift of rest and provision and peace and comfort.

His birth (and his death and resurrection 33ish years later) are the fuel for your rest this coming Thursday. That rest, deep soul rest, is the fuel for your work every day forward.

This Christmas, rest in God’s completed promise, wrapped and laying in a manger. Rest because God told you to. Rest because if you know Jesus, you don’t have to work.

More than anything, I hope you get that peace this Christmas. I hope your heart and mind and soul rest in the good news that God wrapped himself in flesh to be with us. I hope you find the rest that can only come from knowing that because of Jesus, God loves you specifically and unconditionally.

I hope I get that rest too.

Merry Christmas. (Restful Christmas.)

Sin is a Liar

And [the prophets of Baal] cried aloud and cut themselves after their custom with swords and lances, until the blood gushed out upon them. – 1 Kings 18:28

They cut themselves. And not just a little.

You and I do the same thing.

Sin is a liar, and it’s always demanding more of you. And if you’re like me, you keep giving more and more of yourself to sin in pursuit of what it promises you. But here’s the crazy thing: sin never ever gives you what it promises to give.

The prophets of Baal in 1 Kings are a great example of this. For background, the prophet Elijah is going to settle the score on whose God is real, so he challenges the prophets of Baal to a sacrifice-off. Who can get their God to light a sacrifice on fire? The prophets of Baal go first and their efforts go like his:

Prepare the bull for sacrifice, call on Baal. Nothing happens.
Call on Baal a little louder. Nothing happens.
Limp around the altar while calling on Baal. Nothing happens.
Rage and scream, cut themselves in sacrifice. Nothing happens.

They started out preparing the bull for sacrifice. They wind up bleeding themselves. Gushing even.

At each stage sin offered them the promise that if they would give just a little more… then their false God would come and save them.

“Just a little more.” Sin whispers. “Just give me a little more, and I’ll give you what you want.”

But in the end, no one comes. Nothing happens. No one pays attention.

And that’s the hiss from the same sin we listen to everyday. It is making promises to you today that it will never keep. Can you hear them?

  • Forget your family, spend a few more hours at work. I promise that will make you successful.
  • Don’t be generous to your coworker, don’t share what you’re working on. I promise that’s the way you’ll do better than him.
  • Work hard when the boss is looking, but don’t worry about it otherwise. I promise it doesn’t matter anyways.
  • Skip time in the Word today, it’s been such a long demanding day. I promise you’ll be more rested if you don’t spend time with God.

What has sin promised you?

Control? Power? Approval? Comfort? Rest? Peace? Money? Stuff?

It will never provide those things. It can’t.

Sin always asks more from you and never gives back.

What false promise are you believing? What has sin offered you today at work? How has that gone?

The truth is that the things you are seeking have already been provided. They were purchased for you years ago. Don’t buy what sin is selling.

The Function of Struggle

“Hope is a function of struggle.”
-CR Snyder

People really hate math class. They love to say, “I’m 40 and I’ve never once used calculus.” But you never hear people say, “I’m 40 and I’ve never once used the knowledge that Genghis Khan died in 1227 AD.” Why is that? It’s weird. Especially since math is everywhere. Even in suffering and struggle.

My mom is a math teacher, and the other day she was commenting to me how she appreciates that algebra math students are now instructed to solve a function rather than just solve for a variable.

For her, f(x)=1+x^2 > y=1+x^2. (Don’t worry, all the math in this post is made up and unnecessary to understanding the main point. It is fun though, to find a Gospel application even for algebraic notation.)

At first, this made no sense to me. It’s all the same, right? It’s just a semantic difference. Swap y for f(x) for z for the word banana… it’s all just a representation of a variable right?

But no, she said. Functions are different than variables. Once you solve a function, you can apply it to any number set, or combine it with any other function. Functions become building blocks that can be combined, transformed, modified and shifted. They are much more than an individual variable, they are a single component in a broader tapestry of understanding the world around us. And it’s not just math. Functions are everywhere and can be applied to anything. Once you start thinking with functions, you can better understand almost any causal relationship.

CR Snyder (who I don’t know… obvi) didn’t know I had that conversation with my mom. He did, however, give us an interesting function to test our theory with.

So: If hope is a function of struggle, what are its properties? What are its components? How do we get from struggle to hope? How do we define the struggle function? (What does “function of” mean?)

Multiple choice tests taught me that it’s always easier to work backwards (and that’s the only thing), so let’s start with the product. What is hope a direct function of?

Hope is a function of character.

Brene Brown describes hope this way: “Hope is not an emotion, but a cognitive behavioral process that we learn when we experience adversity, when we have relationships that are trustworthy, when we have faith in our ability to get out of a jam.” That cognitive behavioral process could be described as your character. After all, who you are… what your character is… is just a combination of all the different behavioral processes you exhibit. (That’s as clinical as it gets… stick with me.)

Hope is not an emotion. Hope is a function of character.

hope = hope(character(x))

Or: more character leads to more hope.

Character is a function of endurance.

We have a useful start, but remember we can modify functions, we can combine them and transform them. So what is character a function of? Endurance.

Endurance is the ability to continue through discomfort. Research shows that the best distance runners in the world have a higher pain tolerance than the average person, but not a higher pain threshold. That means they feel pain at the same point but don’t succumb to it as quickly as you or I. They have trained themselves to be able to endure.

Which sounds a lot like this function which produces character right? Things in our lives will hurt, they will be uncomfortable, but in enduring (and in properly addressing and dealing with those issues) we build character. The ability to do it again tomorrow, but better. We’re distance runners building our endurance.

character = character(endurance(x))

Or: more endurance leads to more character.

Endurance is a function of struggle.

Maybe you saw this when we were talking about building endurance, but you can’t have endurance if there is nothing to endure. I mean, by definition, endurance implies pain or discomfort. The Google definition for endurance is, “the fact or power of enduring an unpleasant or difficult process or situation without giving way.” The without giving way part is interesting because it implies a control or effort being exerted. A resistance to the pain being presented.

There is no endurance without struggle.

endurance = endurance(struggle(x))

Or: more struggle leads to more endurance.

And with that, we have all we need to make our proof:

hope = hope(character(endurance(struggle(x)))

Or: more struggle leads to more endurance leads to more character leads to more hope.

CR Snyder’s logic was right, but it wasn’t complete. Hope is a function of struggle, but what is struggle a function of? What sets this whole chain reaction in motion?

Struggling is a function of suffering.

Endurance is “the fact or power of enduring an unpleasant or difficult process or situation without giving way.” It’s the ability to prolong your struggle, which can only be brought about by struggling. We can only struggle in the face of pain. In the face of suffering. I mean, try to struggle while comfortable on a beach with a tiki drink in your hand. Just as we cannot build endurance without first struggling. We cannot struggle without first suffering.

struggling=struggle(suffering(x))

hope = hope(suffering(x))

Or: more suffering leads to more hope.

Solving the suffering function gives us hope.

And are we surprised?

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5:3-5 ESV)

All of this is to say that in a non-intuitive way, your suffering today is a gift. The losses and difficulties are building in you a hope for the one who will not disappoint you. Tomorrow might not be brighter than today, but there is coming a day that will be much much brighter.

Take a minute to think about a struggle you have had. What is something you struggle with at work? Can you feel traces of endurance building up? Can you see shadows of your character strengthening? Do you find even the smallest amount of hope where previously there was none?

Now, what’s a hard or painful thing you could do at work today? What is a pain or suffering to struggle against? Start struggling.

The Wrong Questions

Sin will say anything to anesthetize you.

“Everyone has that calling, it’s not special. You’re silly for thinking it is.”

“No one else thinks like that. No one is doing that. Do you really think you’re smarter than everyone else? Don’t be so naive.”

Two sides of the same coin. And no matter which side you call, the end result is the same. You won’t do that thing you’re supposed to do.

The funny thing is, those are the wrong questions. The question isn’t “Is this calling unique to me?” Or, “Will I be alone in my calling if I say yes to this?” The question is “What is obedient?”

Sin, of course, knows this. But it wants to distract you. Because if it can get you asking the wrong questions, it doesn’t have to worry about the answers.