Thursday, December 6, 2018

But I Deserve It!

How do you respond when you don't get what you have earned? Do you get angry? Do you hide and sulk? Do you get revenge? Our own sense of what we deserve is strong and often drives us to unexpected places when violated.

We don't know much about Joseph. Based on what we do know, we can draw some conclusions and paint a picture of the man we think he might have been.

Joseph was an unassuming carpenter in a sleepy town. He likely had no aspirations of ever leaving. Joseph eschewed the spotlight, he probably preferred a simple night at home sitting around the fire with friends and family. He was looking forward to marriage and a quiet life with his bride.

He worked hard. He had earned a quiet life. He deserved it.


Instead, his fiancé got pregnant. She claimed it was a miracle. He wasn't so sure until an angel visited Him. Her child was going to be the Messiah. He was going to save the world from their sins (Matthew 1:18-23). This was Joseph's new normal.

His wife would never really be his. She would always be somewhat devoted to her firstborn. His oldest son would be the subject of gossips and whispers. His own children (he likely wondered if he would ever have any) would always have a stigma attached to them because of their brother. In Joseph's mind, this was not what he had earned. It was not what he deserved.

What would you do?

"When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife." (Matthew 1:24)

Joseph obeyed. 
Joseph obeyed immediately.

You may not have been visited by an angel last night, but you likely have an area of your life which requires a higher level of obedience to God. Perhaps you have delayed because of the possible consequences. Perhaps you believe your time and energy is better spent on your own agenda.

Obedience worked out okay for Joseph. It will work out okay for you also. Give it a try!

Monday, November 19, 2018

Pray Without Ceasing.

Last February, Marianne and I cashed in some frequent flier miles and spent three days in Florida celebrating our anniversary. One evening, I pulled out my phone and opened the "find my friends" app. It was odd to see that we were so far from our children and they were so far from each other. Emma was in Indiana and Liam was in Oregon. All of us were thousands of miles from each other.

Yet with a simple touch of the screen, I sent a group text and instantly the four of us were connected. It was as if we were sitting in the same room.

Technology has created a level of connectivity our world has never before experienced. Along with texting and facetime, we can use a multitude of social media platforms to stay in touch with one another. I can go through my day, carrying on a constant conversation with friends in all parts of the world. We've come a long way in the past 50 years.


We have always had this level of connectivity with God.
Ephesians 6:18 says, "And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests." 
1 Thessalonians 5:17 says, "pray continually" 
Colossians 4:2 says, "Devote yourselves to prayer" 
Philippians 4:6 says, 'Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God."
What does it mean to pray continuously, in every situation, on all occasions? If we are praying 24/7, how can we possibly get anything else done?

I believe Paul's desire was for Christians to be a constant state of connectivity to their Heavenly Father.  My goal is to be in a constant state of prayer throughout the day. It's almost like an ongoing text conversation between God and me.

As I move from hour to hour, I am asking questions like:

  • What do you want me to accomplish in this meeting?
  • What does this person need to receive from me today?
  • How are you using this conversation to shape me?
  • Why have you provided this blessing to me?

Constant prayer means constant connectivity. Prayer doesn't have to be a formal, verbalized ceremony which demands everything in life to grind to a halt. It can a quick sentence you send up to your Father over and over as you take each step on your day's journey.

Imagine how your day would change if you prayed as much as you texted or emailed or posted on social media. Maybe that would be a great goal for the weekend!

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

4 Bible Verses To Empower Election Reflection

Did your candidate win last night?

Some of mine did.
Some of mine didn't.

The truth is that none of the candidates were really "mine". First and foremost, the election belongs to God and He is not surprised by any of the outcomes. Secondly, my primary allegiance is to a higher Kingdom and a greater King than any who could be elected.  Here are some verses to contemplate today as we bask in the afterglow of another election.

Ephesians 6:12
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

Those with whom you disagree are not your enemy. Even if they mistreat you, Jesus' expectation is that you continue to love them, pray for them and bless them.


1 Peter 2:11-12
Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.

This world is not our home. We are like exiles waiting to return to our own kingdom. Until then, though, we must live honorable and praiseworthy lives so that we reflect well on our Heavenly Father.

Romans 13:1
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God

God is not surprised by the outcome of any election. For this reason, we must honor and obey those who are in authority. Whether or not you agree, as a follower of Jesus you are to show respect to those in authority.

Colossians 4:6
Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.

Seek out opportunities today to speak graciously with others. Whether it be on social media or in person, use your words as a gift which builds up everyone with whom you come into contact.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

You Don't Need a CCP For This Weapon

The sun was beating down, the wilderness air was dry. Jesus was thirsty and hungry. For 40 days, as long as the sun was up, he didn't eat. He was fasting and focusing on the mission God had sent Him to accomplish. He was tired, weak and lonely.

Satan chose this moment to attack. (he usually attacks when we are at our weakest)

  • He tempted Jesus rely on Himself instead of God.
  • He tempted Jesus to take a shortcut instead of following God's path.
  • He tempted Jesus to doubt God's protection.

These are the same temptations Satan throws at us. In Ephesians 6, Paul wrote that we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood but against the powers of darkness. He also wrote that we are to put on the armor of God so we can stand firm against Satan's strategies.

One piece of our armor is the Sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God. This was Jesus' weapon of choice against the devil. Each time Satan unleashed a new temptation against Him, Jesus responded by quoting Scripture.

  • "People do not live by bread alone"
  • "You must worship the LORD your God and serve only Him"
  • "You must not tempt the LORD your God"

The only reason Jesus was able to resist Satan was because He had prepared ahead of time. His time spent memorizing the Word of God made it possible for Him to fight temptation with truth.

If you want to fight temptation with truth, you need to be storing up Scripture in your mind. Start by memorizing a new verse every week. Then make it two. Eventually learn a new verse every day.

Here are two to get you started:

EPHESIANS 6:11
Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil.

EPHESIANS 6:12
For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Honor is not earned. It is given.

When you think about the idea of "honor", you probably think about people who deserve to be honored because of what they've done. We honor our sports heroes who win championships. We honor the high-achievers who win spelling-bees and robotics competitions. We honor musicians who entertain us with hit songs.

We rightly honor our veterans who were willing to give their all to ensure our well-being. It is good and appropriate for us to often honor the sacrifices made by those who served our country.


Most of the time, we honor those who have earned it through their actions. However... God also expects us to honor people, not because of what they've done, but because of who they are! Paul writes in Ephesians 6:2:

“Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise).

To honor is to:
- prize
- respect
- value
- view as worthy

Paul expects people to honor their parents, not because their parents have earned it, but because they have been appointed by God to that position of authority, responsibility and accountability.

We all have people in our life that may not have earned our honor/respect/value, yet God expects that we honor them because He has placed them in a position of authority over us. They might be a teacher, a boss, a manager, a police officer, an elected official, a coach or something else. If they are in a position of authority, God has allowed them to be there and He expects us to honor them.

As long as they are not leading you into sin, are you willing to demonstrate honor to them as you would to Jesus? This is a tougher challenge, isn't it? But it is a key element of living the Jesus-life. I hope you'll give it a try.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Everybody Hurts. Yet Joy Can Be Found In Suffering.

It is a joy to serve God.

If it isn’t, you’re probably just serving yourself by pretending to serve God.

Being a servant of God means several things which on their own should bring enough joy to sufficiently quell any unhappiness.

  • Being God’s servant means I am dwelling in the household of God. Although it isn’t Eden exactly, it is the closest we on the post-fall earth can come. 
  • By serving God, I am willingly participating as a member of his family and community. 
  • Being a servant of God means I have meaningful and eternal work to accomplish. God does not call us to mundane, repetitive work; but rather to the greatest, most important task imaginable; we are called to participate in his redemptive work. 
  • Being a servant means I have security. I do not need to worry about my safety or my future. My master will take care of me. If I trust that God is more powerful than any force, I can be certain He will not be overpowered or surprised by anything that comes into my life. Thus, I can trust his provision and protection, knowing whatever I face I do so by my master’s choice and with my master’s permission.


Therefore, suffering (or the entrance of undesired circumstances into my life) is nothing unexpected to my master, and therefore is is something about which I can be joyful. These aren't my ideas, but rather those of James, the brother of Jesus. He said:
"Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds."
Truthfully, the key to understanding James 1:2 is found in James 1:1 and it is the word "servant". If I truly understand servant and sovereignty, I can count anything joy (including trials of various kinds) if I understand that I am a servant of God.

REM (musical group from the 1980s) said, “Everybody hurts.” The truth in this broken world is that everyone faces trials of some kind. For some the trials are extraordinarily difficult, life changing, horrific circumstances. For others, the trials are relatively much smaller.


James doesn’t differentiate between small trials and large trials, and thereby let those who suffer greatly off the hook. Rather, he says whatever the variety of trial may be, these truths still apply. No matter what your trial is, you can approach it with joy. After all, most of us, no matter how big our trials are will never face the scope of trials dealt with by Job or Jesus.

Even though we may not always bring our trials upon ourselves, often we are somewhat responsible for some of the circumstances leading up to our suffering. Even when we are not, we can always point to poor decisions we have made which mercifully did not lead to severe suffering. Jesus, however, never acted once in a way which deserved suffering. Yet, no one in history suffered more than he did when he died. Yet, he counted it joy because he counted himself as a suffering servant!

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Find Someone Who Will Tell You When You're Wrong

On Sunday, we talked about gaining wisdom. I thought I would make the most of this opportunity by diverting to Proverbs for a day. Since it's the 25th day of the month, my Proverb for today is chapter 25.

Verse 12 says this:
Like a gold ring or an ornament of gold is a wise reprover to a listening ear.

I have only ever owned one gold ring. It is precious to me. Several years ago, I was on a youth mission trip and was playing an old African drum with my hands. Suddenly, my wedding ring flew off my finger... in two different directions. I was devastated. No earthly possession was more important to me and now it was destroyed. (read to the end for the conclusion of this story)

A gold ring (or other gold ornaments) is valuable because it is created from a precious metal. The reason my ring was so important to me was because it represented my relationship with Marianne. Gold is not at the heart of this proverb. Value is the primary idea.


Solomon (the author) is telling us that we must place a HIGH VALUE on those who are willing to reprove us.
"REPROVE" = reprimand, rebuke, reproach, scold, admonish, chastise, chide, upbraid, berate, take to task, rake/haul over the coals, criticize, censure; 
If someone is willing to correct you or warn you that you are headed in a bad direction, don't ignore them or attack them. Value that correction! We do not gain a great deal of wisdom from those who tell us we are doing everything right. We gain wisdom from those who tell us we need to change.

In Ephesians 5, Paul says to PAY ATTENTION to how you fill your life. He challenges us to walk wisely. Solomon makes it clear that a wise walk places a high value on those who challenge us to be better.

--------------------------
In case you are wondering, the reason my ring broke was because I had spent so much time that summer in swimming pools (I was a youth pastor and a father of young children). The pool chemicals had exposed and then exploited a tiny weakness in the metal. I was able to get my ring repaired and today it is as good as new and as precious as it was the day Marianne put it on my finger.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Jesus won't unfollow you; So keep following Him

I remember sitting at the beach one day watching our kids play in the surf and build sand castles. As I scanned the beach, I noticed a father and son walking along the waters edge. The boy was probably only three or four years old and trailed behind his dad by several yards. What caught my attention was that the son was doing everything in his power to walk in the footprints of His father. He had to jump each step in order to land in the next step, but it was clear that more than anything else, he wanted to be like his dad.

We are created to be followers. We follow our parents, we follow our friends, we follow our favorite sports figures. Growing up, I followed Isaiah Thomas because he was a short basketball player having great success in the NBA. I watched his games, I studied his style and I tried to imitate his game (in case you're wondering, it was a poor imitation). To follow someone is to watch them, study them and imitate them.


This morning, my Ephesians study took me back to the beginning of the book to review where we've been to this point. I didn't get past the first verse before I was struck by Paul's description of the Ephesian Christians. He wrote:
This letter is from Paul, chosen by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus. I am writing to God's holy people in Ephesus who are faithful followers of Christ Jesus.
Paul knew these people because he had spent three years leading their church. When given the opportunity to describe them, he called them "faithful followers". They were watching Jesus, studying Jesus and imitating Jesus; and they faithfully kept doing it day after day after day.

I usually do a pretty good job of watching Jesus and studying Jesus, unfortunately I'm not always so good at imitating Him. My words don't always sound like His words. My attitude isn't always the same as His (check out Philippians 2 for more on that). My actions don't always impact others the way His did.

I need to follow Him more closely. I need to check myself regularly and ask whether or not I'm imitating the person I most admire. I hope you'll do the same!

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

I'm A Secret Agent...

I've been reading through Ephesians 4 repeatedly for the past few weeks. This chapter is full of lists and practical applications so I'm enjoying it.

One of my observations has been that Paul is really focused on how our relationship with God changes EVERYTHING about us. In this chapter, he points out that it changes our words, our attitudes, our work ethic and our relationships. Everyone of these changes serves to make us more mature and to look more like Jesus.

At the same time, all these changes are also beneficial for the people around us. When our words match His words, they are building up others. When our attitude matches His attitude, it is inspiring for those around us. The same is true for our work ethic, our generosity, etc...


So the question I'm asking myself today is:

Has God's work in my life made the lives of those around me better?

If I think God is only interested in making my life better, I've missed the point. He is redeeming His entire world and that means I am one of His agents of redemption. I'm going to try to pay close attention this week to see how God is changing me to change the lives of others.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Thursday Thirteen: 13 Simple Tricks to Improve Your Bible Study Time

We all need a foundation in life. Some look to gurus for ultimate wisdom, others take their cues from celebrities. Podcasts are a new source for personal growth and ancient literature still informs the worldview of many.

My foundation is God's Word. Everything starts there for me, so I want to know it as well as I can. Here are 13 different approaches I take to help me open myself to the insight of the Bible.


1. Pray first

2. Re-write the passage in your own words

3. Jot down the first things that come to mind as you read

4. Make a list of questions you have

5. Use commentaries, friends, and the internet to find answers to your questions

6. Consider if the passage brings to mind teachings of Jesus

7. Think about Old Testament stories which may apply or be similar to the passage

8. Identify several key words and meditate on them

9. Use a concordance to find and consider other passages which use the same and similar words

10. Consider every day experiences which illustrate the passage's main idea

11. Write a personal response to the passage

12. Draw a picture illustrating the truth of the passage

13. Set a daily goal based on the teaching of the passage

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

3 Absolutely Unassailable Laws of Leadership

Proverbs 18 includes great advice for anyone who is trying to lead or influence people. Of course, everything in the Bible is really good advice for anyone trying to do anything. So, whether you are a leader or just someone who wants to be more wise (particularly in relationships), here are my three key lessons from Proverbs 18. I've included some of the specific proverbs so you can munch on them today:

1) Everything doesn't rise and fall on you; you are a part of a bigger whole.
  • Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment.
  • A brother offended is more unyielding than a strong city, and quarreling is like the bars of a castle.
  • A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
2) The most inspiring speeches are meaningless if they aren't preceded by big ears.
  • A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion
  • If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.
  • The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.
3) Constantly attempting to cultivate favor influential people is a quick fix with devastating results
  • It is not good to be partial to the wicked or to deprive the righteous of justice.
  • The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels; they go down into the inner parts of the body.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Thursday 13: Lessons We Can Learn From Suffering

It's Thursday again. And 13 is still my favorite number. So here's another edition of 13 for Thursday.

SUFFERING...


1. reveals our true identity

2. allows us to focus on our priorities

3. teaches us to rely on God and others

4. strengthens our resolve

5. proves our faith

6. develops our ability to persevere

7. teaches us what is truly important

8. enables us to be more in tune with the Holy Spirit

9. builds our strength

10. gives us a taste of the cost Jesus paid for our salvation

11. identifies our true loyalties

12. reminds us of the effects of our sins

13. fosters patience in our lives

Thursday, July 19, 2018

13 For Thursday: Thirteen Lessons from the Book of Philemon

I originally wrote this 10 years ago. And since it's Thursday, it seems right to post a "Thirteen for Thursday" just for old-times sake. Philemon is one of the shortest books in the Bible yet it is overflowing with great lessons. Take a minute to read the book and see if you can glean some other lessons. Here's my 13:

1. Church ministry is team-oriented, not individual-centric. (vs. 1-2)
2. Our prayers should be laced with thanksgiving for others (vs.4)
3. Love should be the identifying characteristic of all our relationships within the church. (vs.5 and more)
4. As believers, our lives should be refreshing to other believers (vs.7)
5. Love chooses not to take advantage of an authoritative position (vs.9)
6. Spiritual children are evidence of a missional life (vs.10)
7. Faith in Christ revolutionarily changes our lives (vs.11)
8. God is in control of every situation (vs.15)
9. In Christ, there is neither slave nor free... (vs.16)
10. We are all partners in ministry (vs. 17)
11. Forgiveness is necessary for love to flourish (vs.18)
12. Even if it means sacrificing, we should be catalysts of forgiveness between other parties (vs.19)
13. As much as you can, always give credit to others (vs.23-24)

Monday, July 16, 2018

Don't Be Defined By Your Past

Whichever translation of the Bible you use, Ephesians 2 begins the same way. It is a description of "you" (it's actually the Ephesians, but it applies to you). The different versions use different words, but they all have the same meaning:

NIV - "As for you, you were"
NLT - "Once you were"
ESV - "And you were"
NASB - "And you were"

The opening thought is about the life you once lived, your past. The picture Paul paints of the past isn't pretty, he says we were dead in sins.

Verse four is the exact opposite. Paul takes his eyes off us and puts them where they ought to be, on God"

NIV - "But... God, who is..."
NLT - "But God is..."
ESV - "But God, being..."
NASB - "But God, being..."

The contrast is between how we acted (dead) and who God is (merciful). The lesson is obvious. No matter what evil exists in your past, God's mercy extends to it. No matter how much wrong you may have done, God's love covers it. No matter how much blame you place on yourself, God is bigger.

Today, take a minute and remind yourself of this powerful truth:

What I've done before
Is not who I am anymore
Not because of my good deeds
But because of who God is!

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Rescued For Free -- But At How Great A Cost?

Have you been paying attention to the soccer team and their coach who are stranded in a cave in Thailand? As of this morning, almost all of them have been rescued and everyone is hopeful that the last two will be saved soon. This rescue operation has been incredible to witness as hundreds of people from many different countries have bonded together to find and retrieve this group of young men. 
Professional divers are swimming through caves (sometimes so tight the have to remove their equipment and pull it behind them) for 4-6 hours just to reach the boys. One-by-one the boys are being carried out in a return journey which takes as much as 9 hours! I have no idea how expensive the entire effort has been, but I know there has been great cost.
Consider the price for the hi-tech equipment, the diver's equipment, the vehicles, the vehicles, the communication devices and whatever other items might be used. In addition, the full amount of time being spent by professional divers, soldiers, volunteers and others will likely never be known. The greatest cost to this point has been the life of one rescuer, who ran out of oxygen because he wanted to be sure the boys had enough.
No expense has been spared to accomplish for these boys what they could never accomplish for themselves. Every one of these boys has been carried from death to life at a cost they could never afford. And they will never be asked to repay their debt, this is a gift which has been freely given. Imagine how grateful these boys and their families will be for the rest of their lives!
How much greater is the free gift we have been given? We've not been saved from a cave or physical death, but we have been saved from our own sin and eternal death! How grateful should we be? How should that gratitude overflow into every area of our life?
Ephesians 1:6 - to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Give Me Jesus...

We just wrapped up week 2 of a new Ephesians series at The Gathering. During this series, I've been sending a couple emails out each week with some devotional thoughts on the passages we are studying. If you'd like to receive these emails, click here to sign up.

Here are my thoughts from today:

In the first 14 verses of Ephesians, Paul wrote the phrase "in Christ" (or something similar) at least 12 different times. Every time I read through these verses, I am impressed at how important Jesus was to Paul.

I want Jesus to be that important to me. I want to understand every part of my life through the filter of Christ. I want my actions, my thoughts, my plans, my hopes, my hurts, my expectations, etc. to be wrapped up in Jesus.

I am reminded of some of the words from a Jeremy Camp song:
In the morning, when I riseGive me Jesus.You can have all this world,Just give me Jesus.
I'm also reminded of an ancient Irish song/poem known as St. Patrick's Breastplate. It's a great anthem by which to live one's life:
Christ with me,Christ before me,Christ behind me,Christ in me,Christ beneath me,Christ above me,Christ on my right,Christ on my left,Christ when I lie down,Christ when I sit down,Christ when I arise,Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,Christ in every eye that sees me,Christ in every ear that hears me.
Praise be to the Great I Am!

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Changing Diapers and God's Grace

*I wrote this many years ago (Liam will turn 19 this month). I came across it while doing some personal study on the topic of grace. The sentiments are still true.

Grace is like changing diapers. No matter how often it happens, or how bad the mess is, I still change Liam's diapers. This, in spite of the fact that he has done nothing to earn it.

The reason is because I look on him with favor.

God's grace can be defined as his unmerited favor toward us. Being a recipient of grace (through Christ) means that God looks on me with favor, regardless of what I do.

Liam's worst diaper cannot begin to compare to the stench of my sin before God. Yet, he continues to look on me with favor. He provides for me. He guides me. He has a future for me. None of this is merited, but it is all given me because I am in Christ.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Grace and Peace to You.

Ephesians 1:2
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Grace
In the New Testament, “grace” almost always is another word for “gift”. Everything God gives us is a demonstration of His grace toward us. We deserve nothing, yet He gives us everything. In the same way, grace should characterize all our relationships with others. We should be gift-giving people. Our gifts may not always be material, sometimes our gifts may simply be time or lending an ear to a friend. Even presence can be a great gift when someone is walking a difficult road.

Peace
We are at peace with God because of His grace to us. Once we were His enemies, now we are His daughters and sons. Likewise, grace is the key to peace in our relationships with those around us. When we are willing to look past the shortcomings of others (as God has looked past ours), we can experience full peace.

You cannot experience peace until you’ve experienced grace. Today, because of Jesus, you can be at peace with the maker of the universe. You can be free of guilt and shame. You can face tomorrow with joy, hope and confidence. You can know that whatever this brief life holds you will spend eternity in the glorious presence of God your Father. This is PEACE and it is yours because of God’s GRACE.

You cannot live at peace until you’ve extended grace. As people who have been given grace, we must be people who give grace. A peaceful life will be the result. 

Read more about GRACE and PEACE here:




Monday, June 25, 2018

God's Will vs. My Will

Ephesians 1:1
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,
To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus:

Paul was sold out to God's will. He was willing to do whatever, go wherever and be whoever God wanted Him to be. As a result, he found himself traveling the world, sharing the good news of Jesus with everyone he encountered. Everything about his life was shaped by God's will rather than his own.

One of the greatest temptations we face is to spend all our time and energy telling God what we want Him to do, how we want Him to provide for us and where we want Him to take us. Unfortunately, life never goes well when we are trying to impose our will on God. One of the best decisions you can ever make is to live your life according to God's will instead of your own.

Read More about God's Will:

Faith Is Focusing On God's Authority, Not My Own Ability

Commandment One: Nothing Shall Compare To Me

Thursday, May 24, 2018

4 Questions For Better Bible Study

Studying the Bible can be overwhelming. It's not always easy to know exactly what we should be learning when we read. We can become discouraged and give up  looking into God's Word. Before discouragement sets in, consider 2 Timothy 3:16.

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for
teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,

Because Scripture is "God-breathed", we have confidence that it is truthful and we know that it is authoritative. Because we are promised that "ALL" of it is profitable, we must apply it to our lives. I like to use 2 Timothy 3:16 as a template for Bible study. Paul's four "profitable uses" of Scripture can provide us with FOUR QUESTIONS which will SIMPLIFY and ENHANCE our BIBLE STUDY.


God's word is profitable for teaching. It tells us what is right.

Question One: "What am I presently doing that I should continue doing?"

God's Word is profitable for reproof. It tells us what is wrong.

Question Two: "What am I presently doing that I should stop doing?"

God's Word is profitable for correction. It tells us what we need to change.

Question Three: "What am I presently doing that I should be doing differently?"

God's Word is profitable for training in righteousness. It tells us what we need to add.

Question Four: "What am I presently not doing that I should begin doing?

Next time you sit down with your Bible, ask yourself these four questions and see if you don't discover a practical "next step" along your spiritual journey.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Keeping Up With Your Neighbors Is The Path To Poverty

Proverbs 12:9 says, "Better to be a nobody and yet have a servant
than pretend to be somebody and have no food."

If I were going to paraphrase this proverb, I would say: It doesn't matter what others think if you are wisely saving your money. If you spend your money trying to keep up with those around you, you'll end up with nothing.
Last night I was in a "tech" store just playing around with tablets. The salesman asked me a couple questions, pulled up my phone account and informed me that for a small cost I could upgrade to the latest and greatest iphone.
I told him my current phone was only a year old and worked great.
He said, but this is the iPhone 6! You'll be really glad you upgraded.
Everywhere you look, someone is telling you to buy the newest and best. Whether you need it or can afford it means nothing. You may think everyone is impressed by your collection of gadgets and toys or by the size or your wardrobe, garage or house. They will not be impressed, though, when your spending causes your bank account to run dry and you are begging them for food.
It's better to live in a small house, wear old clothes and drive used cars. Living beneath your means is the most likely path to financial security.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

What Does the Bible Say About That?

What if, in church, we made it our habit to begin our answer to every question we’re asked with:

“Here’s what the Bible says about that…”

I don’t mean that this should be done in a smug or snarky way, but in a way that makes it clear that we (particularly in the church) should approach every issue (particularly those pertaining to the church) by STARTING with the Bible’s teaching on that topic.

Of course, some will read this and say, “But the Bible doesn’t speak to every issue!”

To which I will respond, “The Bible may not answer every question you can ask, but it most certainly addresses any topic which may come up!”


At first, this approach to question-answering, problem-solving, strategic planning, etc. may sound even better than a visit to Pablo’s Tacos on dollar-taco-Tuesday. After a little reflection, however, some may not be too happy with this approach. Consider some of the ramifications:
1) Our own personal opinions will be subjugated to a higher authority. 
2) Our past experiences may not be enough to validate a path of action. 
3) Some really “good” ideas will not be acted upon. 
4) Some really “bad” ideas will be carried out. 
5) The person who knows the Bible best (and I don’t mean the person who is most opinionated about the Bible or the person who beats a few particular Bible passages to death, but rather the person who best understands the larger message of the Bible while being able to interpret the smaller and more specific portions) will be the person who speaks most authoritatively when questions are being answered. 
6) I will not be able to just state my opinion without taking the time to hear what the Bible says about that issue.
By the way, I’d just suggest as an aside here, that number five might be a RADICAL shift in the way business is done in most churches in America.


So, how would this happen in reality?


Q: I’d like to talk to you about the music the teenagers are listening to.
A: Here’s what the Bible says about that. We’re to worship God with a variety of instrumentation and musical styles that reflect the wide diversity of his character and His church. Check out Psalms and Revelation for examples.

Q: I think every one of our small groups should go through this Beth Moore study.
A: Here’s what the Bible says about that. We’re to encourage one another and teach one another and bear with one another and love another and be devoted to one another. So we let each group figure out how they can best carry out those and other "one another" commands on their own.

Q: I’m tired of the legalistic old people in our church.
A: Here’s what the Bible says about that. We’re to honor and respect those who are older than us. We’re also to learn from them. Maybe we need to find better ways to show honor to them rather than just criticize them for legalism.

Q: I’m tired of the rebellious young people in our church.
A: Here’s what the Bible says about that. We’re to find ways to impact those who are younger than us. We need to not just teach them, but significantly invest in their lives so that they can grow up in the faith. Maybe we need to find better ways to build into them rather than just criticize them for being rebellious.

Consider also, if this way of doing things became standard operating procedure in a church.

1) People would center their discussions around Scripture. 
2) Most of the discussions about church would be about what the Bible says instead of about what people think or what “works” 
3) People would go to great efforts to become more Biblically literate, just so they’d have more ability to discuss questions that arise. 
4) Pastors and teachers would speak to and lead captive audiences. 
5) People might begin their questions/suggestions/criticisms by saying, “What do you think the Bible says about…” (and then they might pause to listen to the response!)

So, yeah… now that I’ve hashed all this out, I’m not sure any of us are ready for a church that looks like that! Maybe I should rethink my initial thought.

What if we made it our habit as pastors to begin our answer to every question we’re asked with:

“What does the Bible says about that?”

Friday, May 11, 2018

Do you know the one word that can change your life?

One word, just two letters, can open a world of opportunity for you. The word is "no".

I know we often think of "no" as a negative word and we want to be people who say "yes" more often than not. However, when you choose to say "no" to one thing, you create an opportunity to say "yes" to something more important.


Every time you say "yes", you are saying "no" to something else.
Every time you say "no", you are saying "yes" to something else.

If you say "no" to that show on Netflix, you can say "yes" to time with your family. If you say "no" to 30 minutes of Facebook scrolling, you can say "yes" to 15 minutes of prayer and 15 minutes of Bible study. If you say "no" to that Swiss Cake Roll, you can say "yes" to a more healthy lifestyle. If you say "no" to complaining and worrying, you can say "yes" to joy and peace.

I could go on, but I think you get the point.

God has called you to an amazing life. He has gifted you and prepared you to live that life. If you are too busy or too scared or too tired to live God's way, perhaps it's because you are saying "yes" to the wrong things instead of saying "no".

Over the next few days, when will you choose a "no" that will allow you to say "yes" to something better?

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Some animals were made to be ridden. And some were not.

Rarely does a day go by when I don't see an animal cross the road in front of my car. In Michigan, it is often a turkey. In Ohio, it is often a goose from Canada. Occasionally, this gets me thinking about how roads have impacted the population of animals like deer, rabbits (perhaps you've heard my sermon story about the indecisive rabbit and my old Honda Accord), turkeys, geese and squirrels.

Without re-tracing my entire thought process, I'll simply say I've concluded that we may have gone wrong when we started harnessing animals. While the invention of the wheel was a great thing, The choice to use animals to pull us around (initially the two reasons were conquest and commerce; one could argue both are greed and self-driven) seems to have been where we really lost the symbiosis between human and creation

(okay, so we lost it at the fall, and whole carnivore vs. human thing didn't help, but stay with me here)

Now... what I'm NOT saying is that we should not use animals for transportation. I just don't think we should harness them. It's clear to me that some animals were created to be ridden. You can't help but notice the obviousness of this if you simply observe the animals. So, here are two lists for today. The first is "Five Animals Made to Be Ridden". The second is "Five Animals You Really Shouldn't Ride".

FIVE ANIMALS MADE TO BE RIDDEN:

1) Horses. (duh)
2) Camels. (the duh of the middle east)
3) Mules. (I know, they're part horse, but there are enough of them to warrant their own spot on the list)
4) Centaurs.
5) Deer. (Mostly for light people, but they have built in handles)

FIVE ANIMALS YOU REALLY SHOULDN'T RIDE:

1) Bears. (piggy-back rides are for humans only)
2) Giraffes. (Horse-like shape is deceiving, but too far a fall to safely ride)
3) Dogs (another deceiving horse-like shape, but with most breeds, your feet will drag a little too much to make it worth your time)
4) Cheetahs (very fast, but hard to stay on)
5) Squirrels (i feel like this is a duh as well)

I hope you'll find an opportunity to apply this truth to your life today.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Thursday, April 19, 2018

We Need A President Everyone Can Support

I was search through old files looking for some thoughts on Ecclesiastes. I came across this blog post from 2009. Nearly a decade later, it seems strangely appropriate and timeless.

This was printed in the Fruitport paper. It's an essay by Liam entitled:

If I Were President

If I were president I wouldn't let people who aren't in charge fire people. Smoking would be illegal because smoking can kill. I might spend time experimenting and helping other scientists. And the Iraq war is over, but I want some Iraqi people to be happy for our help. I'd pray for them every day. I'd try not to make a second Great Depression. Soon, when I get the feel of being president I'd explore justice to my country. If there's a war, I'll try to settle it with kindness. Maybe we just misunderstood each other. But if we must have a war, I'll pick a general who is wise and honorable like George Washington, troops who will listen to their general and who will do their best. When the war ends, it might be time for me to leave office. I might get elected again. I'll do the same thing. But then it will be time for me to go. I'll be an old man by then and I hope some day somebody will say, "Wow, what a great president Liam David Rudd was." This country is a great country.

Commentary:

- It took me a minute to figure out what he meant by the first sentence. I'm pretty sure he's referring to the labor union's co-opting personnel decisions from management. (really.)

- I love his take on war.

- His desire for a legacy was a bit surprising, but clearly common to man (read Ecclesiastes).

Friday, April 13, 2018

13 Reasons Your Vertical Relationship Is Not Independent of Your Horizontal Relationships

Your standing with God cannot be viewed as an isolated relationship, disconnected from the rest of your life. Your vertical life matters, however it is a great unbiblical error to ignore your horizontal life.

Vertical Christianity is good, but incomplete. Here are 13 reasons why.

1. When we were saved, we were baptized into a body (1 Cor.12)

2. Christ's final command was to "love one another". (John 13)

3. Christ's one prayer for the church was "unity" (John 17)

4. Man was created in the image of God. Unity with diversity. (Gen 1-2)

5. It is not good for man to be alone. (Gen. 2)

6. The mission of the church cannot be accomplished if we do not love one another (John 13,17)

7. The message the apostles taught new believers from the beginning was to "love one another" (1 John 3)

8. A mature church is a unified church. (Eph. 4)

9. Our "spiritual worship" is necessarily tied to our love for each other. (Rom. 12)

10. Jesus' example was to sacrifice solitude in favor of service. (Luke 9)

11. We are called to think more highly of others than ourselves. (Philp. 2)

12. Jesus expected us to seek FIRST the kingdom. (Matt. 6)

13. Righteousness requires justice and mercy. (Amos)

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Thoughts and Prayers

Thoughts and prayers are not the same thing. We need to stop acting as if they are. Thoughts and prayers do not go hand-in-hand. We need to stop acting as if they do.

Every time you hear someone say, "Thoughts and prayers are not enough", you are being manipulated and you need to understand why.

THOUGHTS ARE NOT ENOUGH

Unless accompanied by action, thoughts accomplish nothing. Your thoughts may be a step along the way toward an action, but on their own, they are ineffective and in many ways without consequence. Every person chooses not to act on their mind's thoughts hundreds of times a day. A person who always says or does whatever comes to mind is considered posses little to no self-control.

The idea of "sending thoughts someone's way" originated out of a desire to not have to tell someone you were "praying for them." It is a tool used by those who desire to empathize or want to give words of comfort but are unwilling to do so in religious terms.

Other variations of "sending thoughts" might be:

  • "Sending my love."
  • "Thinking of you."
  • "Wishing positive energy for you."
  • "You're on my mind."
  • "Sending good vibes."

None of these are wrong or harmful, but in real life, none of them really accomplish anything other than perhaps cheering up a friend or encouraging a downtrodden soul. This is why James said, "If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, 'Go in peace, be warmed and filled,' without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?" Words, even kind and caring words, are no good without action.

When encouragement is needed, expressed thoughts may be the perfect solution. When change is necessary, thoughts are not enough.

But thoughts and prayers are not the same thing.

PRAYER IS MORE THAN ENOUGH

The reason we pray is precisely because we know we are incapable of accomplishing what needs to be done yet we trust that God is more than capable and has already promised to always accomplish what needs to be done.

We pray for those who have been hurt because we know God can bring comfort and sustain them through their pain. We pray for those who have done the hurting because we know God can forgive them and change their hearts. We pray for those must find solutions because we know God can grant them the wisdom and discernment necessary to lead us well. We pray for those with whom we disagree because we know God can empower us to listen and find unity in our action.

Thoughts, on their own, will never accomplish anything.
Prayer is all that is needed to accomplish everything.

In recent days, we have all heard it said, "thoughts and prayers are not enough." More often than not, this is in regards to gun violence. While this clever and memorable sound-bite sounds convincing, it is actually misleading, harmful and deeply pagan. Although one might expect this to be the mantra of an activist atheist, these words should never pass the lips of a professing Christian.

Often in politics, a person can be discredited not by anything they have said or done but because they are connected with someone else who has acted inappropriately. This is why many campaigns often try to link an opponent with a different nefarious character. Even though the politician may not deserve scorn or anger, their attachment (real or invented) to someone else can be an anchor that drowns their campaign.

This is precisely what has been done to prayer through the "thoughts and prayers" campaign.

We who follow Christ often send our thoughts to others (albeit always through words). We encourage one another, we build one another up, we let them know they are important to us. However, thoughts are very different than prayers. By allowing the social media universe to link "thoughts and prayers" to one another, the power of prayer has been lost to the inefficiency of thoughts.

Thoughts and prayers do not belong together. They are not the same.

It is a noble sentiment to express to someone that you are thinking of them. Your friends and family members are encouraged to know that they are on your mind. Yet, it is a far greater gift to bring those you love (and even those who don't love you) before the throne of God.

We can all agree that thoughts are not enough. How can someone who believes in God say prayer is not enough? The time has arrived for us to abandon "thoughts and prayers", not because they aren't enough but because prayer truly is more than enough!

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

How Jesus Demonstrated Leadership To His Disciples

If you aren’t sure what I mean by Leadership E-Words, go back and see this post about what every leader MUST do.
A while back, I came across some verses in Mark that prompted me to think about how Jesus guided the spiritual development of his disciples. So I used the Leadership E-Words as a template and was able to very quickly identify how Jesus used similar concepts to prepare the disciples for ministry.
These are all from the first half of Mark. I think you could do this exercise even better if you used the book of Matthew. It might also be interesting to look for similar patterns in Acts. I have no intention of doing either (unless some LifeWay editor is reading this and thinks it might make an interesting book, then I would be willing to write more… otherwise, probably not)
Here we go:

Jesus established a direction for his ministry.

Of course it was more about just identifying and clarifying God’s direction for His ministry… but that’s what we should be doing as spiritual guides anyway.
Mark 1:15 – “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!”

Jesus explained to the disciples their role in the ministry’s direction.

Mark 1:17 – “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” (aside: If you aren’t a fisher of men, are you sure you’re a follower of Jesus?)

Jesus equipped the disciples to accomplish their role.

Apparently, Jesus’ plan was two-fold. 1) Let the disciples/apostles hang around and 2) Send the disciples/apostles away. Mark 3:14 – He appointed twelve—designating them apostles — that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach

Jesus enabled the disciples to be effective in their roles.

(an even better example of this step in in Matthew 28 and Acts 1, when Jesus gives the Holy Spirit as the ultimate enabler) Mark 6:8–11 – These were his instructions: “Take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. Wear sandals but not an extra tunic. Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town. And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave, as a testimony against them.”

Jesus encouraged the disciples in their efforts.

Mark 6:30–32 – The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place.

Jesus evaluated their success and incompletions.

The two stories found in Matthew 6 (feeding the 5,000 and walking on the water) both serve as labs in which Jesus evaluated whether or not the disciples had learned from the job he had given them (going out and preaching). Unfortunately, they failed their evaluation. Fortunately, Mark has 16 chapters, so it isn’t over at the end of chapter 6. The final evaluation comes in Revelation!

RELATED:

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Friday, March 2, 2018

18 Absolutely Incontrovertible Laws of Leadership

The three core components of leadership (especially “Christian” leadership) are character, courage and competence. Courage and competence are important, but without character neither matters.

Beyond these three components, you can glean many leadership principles from many leadership gurus. Because my starting point is the Bible, my leadership principles might be a little different. Here are 18 of them:

  1. Leadership does not replace the Holy Spirit
  2. Leadership is a gift, not a position
  3. Leadership can be nurtured, but not created
  4. Leadership is a team sport
  5. Leadership "principles" do not trump Scripture
  6. Leadership is important, but not indispensable
  7. Leadership is not "the greatest gift"
  8. Leadership requires patience
  9. Leadership requires humility
  10. Leadership requires discipline
  11. Leadership requires discernment
  12. Leadership is not pastoring
  13. Pastoring is not leadership
  14. Leadership is not a dynamic personality
  15. Leadership is "giving away"
  16. Leadership happens right now, not in the future
  17. Leadership requires holistic vision and thought
  18. Leadership requires comprehension of systems

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Thursday, February 22, 2018

My Four Week Preaching Template

I love crockpot cooking. Allowing the meal to sit in it's own juices for hours seems to heighten the flavor of every bite. I look for chances in life to add a crockpot mentality to my tasks. Taking the crockpot approach to sermon preparation allows me to let passages soak in my mind for several weeks before I present them. This means when I stand up to preach, the wrestling is done and the passage feels like an old friend.

Untitled Design (3).png

Most of my sermons take four weeks to prepare. That doesn't mean I'm working on one sermon for four weeks, but that every week I'm working on four sermons. Each week I have a specific goal to accomplish for each sermon:

Week One: I need to understand what the text says. I have two study sessions set aside during week one in which I devote my efforts to exegeting the text.

Week Two: I need to determine how this text applies to our church community. During week two, I work through several exercises to help me look at the passage from several different angles. The fruit of week two is several short "next step" ideas.

Week Three: I need to discern the most effective method for communicating the truths I've unpacked. As in week two, I've created several exercises which help me consider a variety of possibilities for my sermon presentation. The goal of week three is not to create or find new content, but to arrange the content I've already discovered.

Week Four: I need to get ready to preach. Throughout this week, I have several tasks to accomplish so that Sunday's sermon will be clear and concise. I also use week four to create a variety of follow-up materials for those who desire to go further with the sermon.

You can download the google doc template I use to work through my planning process at the link below:

Untitled Design (4).png

Different sermons lend themselves to different processes, so I may deviate from this template from time to time, but it is my starting point for every sermon. I'll post later about some of the exercises I use each week, but you can see them all listed at the template link above.

If you have questions or would like to chat more about this template, feel free to leave a comment or shoot me an email.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Immigration and School Shootings Are Not Problems That Cannot Be Solved

WHY DON’T THEY SOLVE IT?
Most problems require more than one solution because it is the complexity of the situation that has made a problem. Most problems have a presenting and immediate symptom, a long-term pattern which is unhealthy and a mess that needs to be cleaned up.
Over the next few paragraphs I’m going to tease out the three steps needed to solve most problem and then I’ll demonstrate how these three steps should be used to solve some of our countries most “unsolvable” problems. Finally, I’ll share some thoughts on why our elected officials often seem unwilling to address these difficult issues. This is a long post, but I think it will give you some mental beef jerky on which to chew if you make it to the end.

STEP ONE: SOLVE THE URGENT AND IMMEDIATE PROBLEM.

Imagine your boat is sinking. While you may decide it’s time for a new boat and you may realize a need for boating lessons so you can stop running into rocks, neither of these problems are urgent and immediate. In the moment, you need to start bailing water and patch the whole causing you to sink. The reason most problems never get solved is because people are too concerned with long-term fixes or too worried about past causes and they never deal with the present emergency. Before anything else, solve the urgent and immediate problem.

STEP TWO: FIX THE LONG TERM PATTERNS CAUSING THE PROBLEM.

Once you’ve gotten your boat safely to shore, it’s time to start thinking about why your boat sank? Have you been lax in your care and inspection? Have you run aground too many times? Although you’ve solved the initial problem, you must know address the negative patterns in your boating life or else the original problem will return. Too often we find ourselves in a cyclical pattern of defeat because we solve the problem in front of us but never address the habits and patterns which caused that problem.

STEP THREE: CLEAN UP THE MESS.

Having fixed your boating issues, you need to inspect your boat to make sure there is no long-term damage from your near-sink experience. When we make a mess of things, a little time spent cleaning up can go a long way to a much smoother future.

SOLVING THE IMMIGRATION PROBLEM.

Allow me to briefly suggest one example of the three step problem-solving method which could help us address our countries immigration struggles.

SOLVE THE URGENT AND IMMEDIATE PROBLEM.

Simply put, we need to ensure that the people who are entering our country are the people who should be entering our country AND the people who shouldn’t be entering our country are not entering our country. A wall might be one solution to this problem (it is likely more symbolic of a new commitment to security than it is a foolproof solution). The point is that before any discussion about deportations or future policy happens, the first problem needs to be solved which is to open the doors to the right people and close the doors to the wrong people.

FIX THE LONG TERM PATTERNS CAUSING THE PROBLEM.

Here is where policy debates should happen. We should have wide discussions about what immigration should look like in the future and we should have reasoned debates about how immigration should be carried out. However, these conversations should be saved until after the urgent and immediate problem is solved.

CLEAN UP THE MESS.

Once policy is clear and the future has been decided, we can begin talking about how to deal with those who are already here illegally. Having this conversation before the first two steps only ensures we’ll be addressing the same issues again in 10–20 years.

SOLVING THE SCHOOL SHOOTING PROBLEM.

I vividly remember Columbine. Marianne and I were getting ready for a sports banquet for her cheerleaders as we watched that horrific event unfold on television. It’s hard to believe that was almost 30 years ago and we haven’t figured out how to stop these shootings. Here’s my suggestion.

SOLVE THE URGENT AND IMMEDIATE PROBLEM.

Simply put, we need to keep evil people from entering schools with guns. Before we talk about anything else, our first conversation should be about how to secure our schools so those who wish to do ill cannot even get in. This might mean walls or fences, it might mean modifying entrances and exits and it might mean more armed security guards. Right now, the only problem we should be trying to solve is how to protect our students.

FIX THE LONG TERM PATTERNS CAUSING THE PROBLEM.

Once we’ve secured the schools, we should address the systemic issues involved. We can then discuss background checks, improving mental health care, gun purchasing policies and any other contributing issues. We must realize, though, that these are all long term solutions and will not protect students today or tomorrow. I might also suggest looking at more severe punishments for those who commit crimes with guns.

CLEAN UP THE MESS.

I’m not sure what the extent of the mess is in this situation. Certainly we need to deal with the huge amount of illegal firearms in our country. Once we’ve solved the initial problems, we can figure it out.

WHY IT ISN’T GETTING SOLVED.

Columbine happened in 1999. Bill Clinton was the sitting president. SInce then, George W. Bush and Barack Obama have served 8 year terms. Donald Trump has been president for a little over a year. None of them solved this problem. There have been 9 midterm elections in which an entire new House of Representatives has been voted in, none of them have solved this problem. Every seat in the Senate (100) has turned over at least once, half of them twice since then. None of them have solved this problem.
Our leaders don’t solve these problems for two reasons (there are more, but this is getting long).

THE MYTH OF COMPREHENSIVE REFORM.

You’ve heard the term. We need “comprehensive health care reform.” We need “comprehensive immigration reform.” We need “comprehensive gun reform.” Comprehensive reform really means, “Unless we can solve every problem related to this issue, we aren’t going to address any of them.” It is also code for “I’m pretending to work on this so you’ll keep voting for me, but I’m not really going to do anything.”
Comprehensive reform never happens because it is impossible. The three-step solution I’ve outlined here is not rocket-science, but it requires difficult decisions that won’t make everyone happy. Your elected officials would rather twiddle their thumbs and work on comprehensive reform than make unpopular decisions that actually lead to solutions.

THE INABILITY TO COMPROMISE.

Our nation is a melting pot. That means lots of people have lots of ideas and not all of them are the same. The constitution was written because those men were willing to compromise. They all realized that they’d all have to give some things up so that they could all have something good.
We all make these kinds of decisions every day. I don’t spend money on a new book, because I’m saving it for vacation. I’d like to have the book, but I want vacation more. Sometimes I go shopping with my wife, not because I like shopping but because I love my wife. I am happy to give up my preference to avoid Ulta if it means the benefit of being with her.
Our leaders don’t compromise… ever. If they would be willing to get together, find the solutions on which they all agree and then decide on solutions with which they may not agree but might work, we could solve these problems and more in an unbelievably short amount of time.

CAN WE SOLVE IT?

Yup. Start modeling in your own conversations, the behaviour you want from Washington. 
Instead of arguing to convince others to think just like you, listen to others to determine how you can find common ground.
Instead of posting memes on social media (these do nothing to promote solutions and everything to promote division), ask questions and suggest solutions.
Instead of voting for those who will “hold the line” at all costs, vote for those who are willing to give up a little to get a lot more.
That’s all I have to say about that… and it was probably too much.