Hardwired to Hope?

Tomorrow is the beginning of Fall.  A new season.  It’s funny how we are wired to call out beginnings….. to a new year, a new football season – for some of us even a new bar of soap or bottle of shampoo doesn’t go unnoticed.

I think this is all rooted in Hope.  As humans we are hardwired to Hope.  Maybe this will be the season that….. the team gets to the Super Bowl….we complete the yard renovation….I start a new workout routine….we finally get the car INSIDE the garage, and on and on.  At the start of something new, our hope rises up naturally because (1) we haven’t blown it yet, and (2) all possibilities still seem available.  We have no losses, no weekends of rain to disrupt yard work, no missed workouts and TIME, yes, we believe we still have time.

On rare occasions, beginnings get stacked on beginnings, which we REALLY love to call out.  I still remember celebrating New Year’s Eve on Dec 31, 1999 – a new year, a new decade and a new millenium all at the same time. 

My wife was still my fiance at the time and we gathered with friends at a local dive known for its hot wings** and BLTs which bills itself as the oldest bar and grill in Kansas City.  We were at the original location (because why go anywhere else, right?) which features a long bar along one wall with tables opposite, a single small TV in the corner of the room which at the time was still an old cathode-ray tube TV (yes, kids, TV’s weren’t always ‘flat’) and horribly outdated and unkept bathrooms in the back directly across from the kitchen which always kind of grossed me out.  Ultimately the wings and BLTs are good enough that I didn’t, and still don’t, care how or where the food is prepared.  Several people that night had plastic glasses shaped with “2000” on the front where the first and last zeros became the eye holes, which led someone to mention 20/20 and the conversation briefly shifted to wondering what life would be like for us when the year 2020 rolled around, which in the moment seemed like the next interesting date milestone.

Yes, we are hardwired for Hope but we can’t sustain it for long…..at least not on our own.    Looking back, I realize in that moment we were already searching for hope in the NEXT date, 2020, before we’d even reached the date we were there to celebrate!   

Jesus refers to our inability to muster life on our own when he talks about the Vine and Branches in John Chapter 15.

Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you. In the same way that a branch can’t bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can’t bear fruit unless you are joined with me.  I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing.”

John 15:4-5 (The Message)

Whether or not we are willing to admit it to others or even ourselves, we each know the truth about how we cannot live well under our own power alone.  In part, our inability to muster up enough will power to walk away from the TV, the fridge, the computer screen, the phone, the relationship that shouldn’t continue is also why we have hope when new seasons come.  Our hope may not be directed at the right thing, or rather person, but the hope is real. We sense it and we grab on to these moments in time because of their reflection, however dim it may be, of real hope.  Hope in something new – an opportunity to change direction. (funny how that’s also, at it’s essence, the meaning of ‘repentance’ — to change direction.) 

With the autumnal equinox as our cue, it’s an opportunity for each of us to consider what we hope and desire this fall season to look like, to invite God into it, to allow Him to speak and then take a step in a new direction WITH Him or simply TOWARDS Him.

What are YOU hoping for in this next season?

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick,

    but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.”

Proverbs 13:12 (ESV)

P.S. If you find yourself in a season of isolation, or just feel a nudge to move towards God by gathering with other like-minded guys, join us this fall for our online Zoom study of Fathered By God by John Eldredge. Next Session is TONIGHT at 7:00PM CDT — Register to JOIN US!

** While the hot wings are massive, gloriously-covered in cracked black pepper and arguably the best wings in the KC metro, they are simply no match for the BEST hot wings in the midwest (if not the country), which can be found 130 miles east.

Are you laboring in vain?

I hope you are enjoying Labor Day — a holiday that arose 128 years ago during the Industrial Revolution to celebrate the accomplishments of the American worker.

It’s a great day for brats and burgers, friends and family.  If you grew up in the 80’s, it’s also a great excuse to listen to UB40’s albums Labour of Love and Labour of Love II because… you know…well, it’s in the name – even if they did use the awkward British spelling of the word.*

As Labor Day marks the unofficial end of summer and the beginning of the fall season it’s also a good time to pause and check in with ourselves. Particularly so, as we head into what may be the first “normal” fall season in 3 years since “normal” usually means busy, busy, busy.

As I briefly pondered the peculiarity of naming a holiday, Labor Day, God brought the question above to mind…. Are you laboring in vain?

God actually has quite a bit to say about labor and work in the Bible, but one passage stands out today – Psalm 127:1 says, Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.”  

Well, that sounds wise but what does it REALLY mean?  Check out the Message version of Psalm 127:1-2….

“If God doesn’t build the house, the builders only build shacks. If God doesn’t guard the city, the night watchman might as well nap. It’s useless to rise early and go to bed late, and work your worried fingers to the bone. Don’t you know he enjoys giving rest to those he loves?”

PSALM 127:1-2 (MSG)

God never ceases to amaze me. Who else can both convict and comfort at the same time? As men, it can be easy for us to labor. (it can also be easy for us to hide but let’s save that for another blog post) But the narrower path of not laboring in vain is much more difficult — in fact, it’s something that Psalm 127 says we CANNOT do without God.

If you’ve spent much time around us here at E6 you know that we know this to be true. Our passion is to help men learn to walk with God deeply, intimately and daily on the masculine journey. And yet, there are still moments – more than I’d like but far fewer than there used to be – where what FEELS true to me is that I can enjoy God’s rest AFTER all my labor is done. It’s in these moments when I am prone to march on ahead like a mindless sheep without listening to my shepherd.

The real antidote to laboring in vain is remaining connected to the Vine. In John 15:5 Jesus said,

I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing. 

John 15:5 (MSG)

Jesus offers countless beautiful, life-giving ways to remain connected to Him; however, there is one thing ALL of them require (yes, every….single….one….of….them) — TIME. I am convinced this is why it’s the one thing that God doled out equally to every person alive today and every person that has ever lived.

American culture puts a huge emphasis on learning how to steward one’s money (seriously, how many cable channels are devoted exclusively to this purpose??), but far less on learning how to steward our time. Sure, there are time-management seminars and books with their catchy tips and techniques, but if we’re being brutally honest, at the end of the day time-management is a heart issue. If there is something we REALLY want, we find time for it. Let me put it this way — I may not find time to run to the grocery store to get white rice if we are out before a weeknight dinner (sweet and sour chicken is perfectly fine without rice!), but if we need Rice Krispies to make rice krispie treats, I’ll likely find the time to go pick some up.

As I head into Fall, I want my heart to be oriented towards things that matter, things that last, the things of the Kingdom. Building time for God into my daily routine has become a life-saver in so many ways but God also intends for us to be in community. For men seeking to follow God, that means being in commmunity with other like-minded men. The wisdom of Proverbs 27:17 – “As iron sharpens iron, So one man sharpens another.” – is oft-cited when it comes to men’s ministry but it is cited because it reveals a deep truth. The truth that God uses men to sharpen each other.

None of us want to labor in vain, but the difference between those who do and those who don’t is a heart willing to keep moving towards God. It’s not about striving, but more about showing up to see what God will do today. God does the heavy lifting for us.

If you’re looking for ways to move toward God and be in community with other like-minded men this fall, we have a couple great options….

First, on Wednesday evenings, beginning September 14th, we will be meeting over Zoom from 7:00pm – 8:30pm CDT to dive into the book Fathered By God, by John Eldredge. This book does a fantastic job of laying out the stages of a man’s life from a Godly perspective and the video content is outstanding. For more info or to sign up, goto www.e6ministries.org/fbg

Second, if you have been to one of our Boot Camps, or any other Wild At Heart BASIC boot camp, seriously consider attending the Advanced Boot Camp which will be Oct. 20-23 at LifeChange Camp near Clinton, MO. For more info or to sign up, goto www.e6ministries.org/advanced

I hope to see you at one or both this fall!


Relying on God has to begin all over again every day, as if nothing had yet been done.” – C.S. Lewis

* If you’re interested in a truly iconic list of fitting songs for Labor Day, check out Chris Morgan’s article. He had me as soon as I saw Johnny Paycheck and Loverboy.

Legacy, Team and a GOAT

After last night’s Super Bowl victory by the Los Angeles Rams, I was thinking this morning about how nice it will be to not have to listen to the national sports media fawn and gush for the entirety of the NFL off-season about how Joe Burrow is the new golden child and heir apparent to Tom Brady. I have nothing against Burrow personally, but the national sports media doesn’t just beat a dead horse, they beat it, grind it up, make some glue out of it and then try selling the glue with the classic Middle School Theory of Persuasion – talk as loudly and as often as possible to try to get your way.

My thoughts of gratitude toward the Rams for enabling us to avoid this painful alternate reality were interrupted as I was checking out post-game comments and came across this quote from Aaron Donald, defensive tackle for the Rams and who many would argue is currently the best defensive player in the NFL (Sorry, Watt)

“Legacies aren’t built from individual stats but team success.”

In the context of the game of football the quote doesn’t seem that profound — in fact, it seems fairly obvious, right? Tom Brady wouldn’t be considered the GOAT if he hadn’t made it to 10 Super Bowls, winning 7 of them. Swap TB12’s Super Bowl numbers with Dan Marino’s (1 SB, a loss) and tell me Brady is still the GOAT. No way.

However, Donald’s quote didn’t stop me because of it’s application to the game of football, it stopped me because of it’s application to the game of life. It was one of those moments where the Holy Spirit nudges my own by shining light into the shadows of my inner thought life.

Oh, Father – how often am I inclined to look at my “individual stats” in my marriage, my relationships, at work, or even in ministry?

Sure, I want to build a legacy through my walk with God, but I’m once again reminded that life doesn’t work that way – legacies aren’t built that way. Aaron Donald has it right. Building a legacy – even a legacy through your walk with God – requires teamwork.

Of course, this implies we are on and have a team and I was reminded that I (and you) do have a team — two of them.

First, we have the ultimate team in God the Father, Jesus the Son and the Holy Spirit. If you’ve been around E6 enough you know we often begin pray with “Father, Son, Holy Spirit”. That’s because if we desire to create a legacy in the Lord they must each have a role in our lives. God is our Father, creator of heaven and earth and sustainer of life. Jesus is our king, our redeemer, our savior and friend. The Holy Spirit is our counselor, our comforter, our guide. Like a football team, there is some overlap in their roles – receivers sometimes block, running backs sometimes pass (like Mixon’s TD pass last night). The point isn’t to put God, Jesus or the Holy Spirit in a box – the point is that when you accept Jesus as Lord and Savior, you have a team walking with you in life and it’s a team effort, not an individual one, that creates a legacy. I’ve had periods where I’ve lived my life, and measured it, based on my “individual stats” and that road always leads to a dead end.

Which leads us to the second team we either have or need. Brothers. Specifically, other men who are also seeking to follow God daily. Without this second team, I might not have ever realized the true value of, and my desparate need for, the first team. There is a reason that Solomon, who God gave immeasurable wisdom, says in Proverbs 17:7,

“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.”

God designed us as men, and he designed us in a way that if we desire to become all that God created us to be we must be in relationship with other men. How does this happen? We must ask our first team – Father, Son & Holy Spirit – to identify, draft and build our second team. Don’t miss this point. It’s all too easy to go back to relying on our own stats and our own skills to attempt to build our second team. This is where we have to lean in and trust that God our Father, truly knows best and desires the best for us, because He truly does. If that last statement seems impossible or ridiculous to you, I get it. I really do. If you long for those words to actually ring true for you personally, consider coming to our Spring Boot Camp. It’s a place where God has shown up to reveal that truth for many, many men.

If you look around and realize that you don’t have much of a second team, or perhaps none at all, I would invite you to do two things. First, pray – pray for God to put Christian men in your life who are looking for the same thing and then continue to pray. Just like a championship football team, a band of brothers directed by God doesn’t happen overnight. Be patient and focus on your first team in the meantime. Second, sign up and join us for our upcoming Brew & Chew. We can’t wait to see what God does when guys take the active step to gather together as men to share a beverage and have conversations about things that matter to God. You might even meet some other guys needing the same thing as you in this season of life.

Lastly, if you’re wondering if building a legacy in your walk with God is actually worth it, consider this promise from God recorded in Exodus 20:6 as He spoke directly to the children of Israel from Mount Sinai,

“I am loyal and gracious to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.”

Are you kidding me? A thousand generations?? Now THAT is a legacy worth letting go of “individual stats” and allowing the team’s needs and the team’s success to be your success.

Never forget – there is only one true GOAT and He’s already on your team.

Hummingbirds and Hammocks

For me there is something magical about encountering a wild animal. Whether it’s an 8-point buck casually tip-toeing through the forest less than thirty feet away from my temporary perch during a recent Boot Camp, or catching a glimpse of a family of five raccoons strolling through our backyard late at night from the comfort of our couch, or waking up and finding hundreds of starlings blanketing our lawn as they use it for a brief pit stop during a fall murmuration, there is a part of me that leaps to life when it happens – I can feel this mixture of joy, excitement and curiosity begin to rise up. There is a sense of, ‘I don’t want this encounter to end because it feels so true.’  For me, it is also often where God shows up.

Yesterday, it was hummingbirds. Our puppy was, once again, up at the crack of dawn ready to start the day and so I found myself lying in the hammock in our backyard rather than crawling back into bed. The hammock is nestled between our deck and a nearby maple and provides a perfect view of the hummingbird feeder hanging off the corner of the deck. It was early enough in the morning that neither the sounds of the neighborhood nor the wind had woken up, but it was not too early for the hummingbirds. I barely had time to get myself situated in the hammock before a ruby-throated hummingbird darted to the feeder for a refuel. As I watched it hover, briefly land, and then hover again, that familiar sense of wonder returned and God began to connect some dots for me.

During the past few months, Jesus’ words about the vine and the branches in John, Chapter 15, have really stuck with me.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. 5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”   – John 15:1-5

This choice to ‘remain in Him’ has come up for me in Sunday sermons, in favorite podcasts, in books I’m reading, in the wise words of trusted friends, and now… hummingbirds.

A couple weeks ago I watched an episode of Nature which focused on hummingbirds.* Did you know a hummingbird has to feed on nectar every 20 minutes that it is awake?  Every. Twenty. Minutes. For it’s entire life, which can be twelve years or more.  Their little avian fuel tanks are so small and the rate at which they burn that fuel is so high, if they don’t feed almost constantly they will run out of fuel and be unable to fly.

Speaking of flight, what these tiny guys can do in the air is nothing short of a miracle. Their wings beat 50-80 beats per second and, unlike any other bird, they can hover, fly backwards and sideways, and at speeds of more 55 mph. As I watch this little guy from our hammock I think how incredible it would be to fly like that!

To get a sense of how deeply reliant hummingbirds are on nectar, consider this. Experts have estimated the amount of nectar a hummingbird must consume daily to sustain their unmatched flying abilities is the human equivalent of eating 1,300 hamburgers a day and washing it down with 16 gallons of water.

Hummingbirds must stay close to the flower – their source of energy – in order to hover, dart and zip through the air — in order to be what they were created to be and do what they were created to do.

It’s in this moment, in the stillness of the morning as I marvel at this little guy above me, that I realize their flower is a reflection of our Father.

“If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” – John 15:5

Oh, how I long to have an impact for the Kingdom, to know Him more intimately, to bear the kind of fruit where others can’t help but see the truth and glory of God through my life in the same way that I am absolutely captivated by this hummingbird, BUT…. how often do I go more than 20 minutes without drinking from my Father’s well?

Once again, I hear Him say, “Remain in me.”  There is no condemnation, no judgment for my past and present wanderings.  It is a simple but profound invitation.  “You want to fly like the hummingbirds – you want to be what I created you to be.  You can be – even this very day – all you need to do is drink from My well – not weekly, not daily, but minute by minute.” That’s a standing invitation for each of us.

I’m reminded of Jesus’ words,

33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.  – Matthew 6:33-34

I cannot solve tomorrow’s problems today, nor can I change yesterday’s failures, but I can walk with Him today, in every moment.  When I make the choice to do so, I know I am being exactly who he created me to be.  And so I pause in the moment and say, “Jesus, oh, how I want to remain in you. Not just each week, each day or even each hour, but every minute of every day. Thank you for this reminder through your amazing creation!”

Job 12:7,10 says, “But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you … In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.”

Today I’m reminded why my heart loves seeing wild animals – because they remind me of, and occasionally even teach me about, our amazing heavenly Father and how to walk closer with Him every 20 minutes of every day.  The more I lean into Him, the more of my life I give over to Him, the more myself I become…..and the more he can use me, as he uses the hummingbird, to do amazing things that will draw others closer to Him.

* P.S.  – If you want to learn more about what an incredible miracle of creation the hummingbird is check out the full episode, of Nature’s Super Hummingbirds on PBS’ website.

Remembering Relationship

Less often than in years past but more often than I would like to admit, I at times find myself at the end of a day, sometimes even at the end of a few days or (ugh) a week, when it hits me.  I’ve gone the entire day (or longer) without walking with God.   That’s not to say I haven’t spent time reading a daily devotional, reading scripture, listening to a Christian-oriented podcast or reading a book by a Christian author, but rather that I’ve not invited Jesus into the intimate and endless moments of my day, that I’ve not sought or listened for the Father’s direction, that I’ve not been mindful or open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe each of these other spiritual practices are good and helpful and God-ordained.  In fact, I mention them because there aren’t  many days that go by without me spending at least a few minutes on one of them, BUT….. I have to remind myself that devotionals, scripture, podcasts and books are all TOOLS to strengthen my relationship with God.  They are NOT the relationship.

Let me put it this way.  I have three school-age kids who are wonderful and who I love dearly.  With the combined data that my wife and I receive on our smartphones from their teachers and schools and from the papers that come home in their backpacks I can read their stories, review their assignments, view photos of them in class and even occasionally watch videos of their projects.  With these tools I can learn an awful lot about what my kids are good at and what they like to do.  I can begin to understand each of their personalities and how they see themselves and others.  However, none of this actually provides me a relationship with my kids.  For that to happen, I have to spend time with them – talking to them, listening to them, spending time in their presence.

Our relationship with God works the same way.  We can spend all our time learning about God or we can spend our time in relationship with Him.  In His divine goodness He has given each and every one of us on this planet the exact same amount of the primary commodity required in any relationship – time.  1,440 minutes of it every day for each of us.  We then have to decide how we are going to spend it and, more importantly, with whom.

But I know this already so why have another 1,440 minutes (or more) of my life gone by without walking with Him?  This is a question I have to dig into – one that we each have to ask ourselves and one that I would encourage you to talk with God about if you find yourself living moments of life apart from God.

  • Do I believe in my heart of hearts that God is truly good and that He is for me? If not, it’s far easier to devote time to learning about Him rather than spending time with Him.
  • Do I believe that he would ever want to speak to me personally? Do I truly believe that Jesus’ life, death and resurrection was enough to pay for my sins and make me righteous before the Father?  If not, I’ll wallow in shame or self-pity and allow the lies of the enemy to rob me of the relationship that God desires with me.
  • Do I so value the comforts of the World over God’s promises for me that I’ve over-committed my time, resources or personal energy so that I can build a better earthly kingdom to comfort myself and my family? If so, I will be more inclined to medicate my sheer exhaustion with television, sleep, or mindless games on my phone.
  • If I don’t “feel” God’s presence at any moment do I draw the conclusion that He either isn’t here or doesn’t care about me personally? If so, I am more likely to see him as unapproachable and less likely to see His presence in the world.
  • Do I attempt to manage my daily life and control my daily schedule in such a way that I’ve left no room for God to show up?  If so, I either succeed and begin to think I can do it on my own or fail and blame it on God.

When I’ve neglected my relationship with God, sometimes it’s a gentle nudge of the Holy Spirit that draws me back with a jaw-dropping sunset, or the wet kiss of a blanket of fog on the way into work, or the smell of a pine tree or the sound of a stream or the timely words of a song. Sometimes it is one of the spiritual practices I mentioned earlier that draws me back.  Sometimes it’s a comment from one of my kids, or one of the many selfless acts of my wife, or a timely word from a good friend.

If it’s been much longer than a day of not walking with God it’s sometimes less of a nudge of the Holy Spirit and more like a painful shove down the stairs brought on by my own sin.  It might begin with an unintentional, unplanned harsh word spoken out of frustration which quickly escalates into verbal hand grenades – indiscriminate, imprecise lobs of nouns and verbs exacting pain on anyone within range –  and end with regret, tears,  and damaged relationships.  There is a reason Jesus says to abide in Him.  There is a reason he says branches cannot bear fruit unless they are connected to the vine.   It is out of these experiences that I realize even more how desperately I need (and want) to walk with God from moment to moment and minute to minute.

Whether the renewal of my conversation with God begins with joy and gratefulness as I experience one of the countless ways His glory is revealed through His beautiful creation or begins with sadness and repentance from my own actions, I am thankful that our heavenly Father, like the father of the prodigal son, who, in Luke 15:20 saw the son “while he was still a long way off”, never stops looking for us to come home and never gives up on the relationship, whether it has been a day, a week or a lifetime.


How BUSY are you?

I don’t know about you but too often I feel like I’m living the words of Professor Hinkle in Frosty the Snowman , “Goodbye everyone … I’ve got to get BUSY… BUSY, BUSY, BUSY!” (it’s after Halloween so we can quote Christmas specials, right?)

Just think about the types of conversations you have on an almost daily basis.  Perhaps with co-workers it’s something like…

“How’s it going?”

“We had a tournament for our oldest’s team all weekend. It is just crazy BUSY right now with school, sports and the kids’ activities.  I can hardly tell if I’m coming or going.”

Or with a neighbor maybe it sounds like…

“How’s it going?”

“Oh man, it is so BUSY at work right now!  Feels like I almost live at the office but, you know how it is – whatever it takes, right?”

How about with your spouse (over text, of course, because there is not time to actually talk in person) …

“How RU?” 

“BUSY!  Are you picking up kids today – or me?  Don’t forget we have to meet with the roof guy at 6:30pm after I drop off kids at practice.  SIGH, could we be more BUSY??”

Whether it’s work, home, kids, parents, neighbors, sports, or even church or volunteer work, in today’s culture it is insanely easy to find yourself so BUSY that by the end of the day Monday you are already strung out, strung up or completely unstrung.  Either because of what happened that day or what you know is supposed to happen later in the week.  Oh, and it’s only Monday.

I’ve begun to wonder if here in America we all suffer from Superhero Sickness.  No, Superhero Sickness is not a rash you develop after binge watching Val Kilmer and Ben Affleck as Batman back-to-back (even though that is enough to make one sick).  Nor does it describe the chronic fatigue from discovering yet another B-list (or even C-list) superhero has made their way to the movie theater or Netflix.

I’ve been a fan of superheroes a long time….and still am.  Ever since I was a kid and rode my bike to the local QuikTrip to buy comic books with money from my paper route, there has been something about a superhero that stirs my soul.  I think, in part, it’s a superhero’s ability to tackle seemingly impossible tasks.  However, even more than turning back time by causing the Earth to spin in reverse on its axis, or running 1,500 MPH without chafing, (both of which seem to me to be impossible tasks), I think what I love most about superheroes is their ability to ‘do it all’ while still maintaining a laser focus on their higher calling.  For example, take the Green Arrow, who hardly could be considered a quintessential superhero.  Oliver Queen is the mayor of Star City, a single dad, has run a billion dollar company and, oh, on top of all that he takes out bad guys and saves the city, if not the world, nearly every night.  Yes, he’s someone who can apparently do it all.

Now, while superheroes can inspire us and often do, there is a risk that our admiration morphs into something less healthy.   This is what I’ll call Superhero Sickness.  When we begin to feel the pressure to be a superhero in our own life.  In other words, when I experience a behavior-impacting sense that myself, my family, or my kids have to do it all, be it all, experience it all; and, that if we don’t then myself, my family or my kids will either fail or fall woefully behind everyone else.

Unfortunately, we live in a culture that has made this “sickness” a way of life – where being BUSY is treated as a badge of honor.  Ask any adult to tell you how they’re doing in one word, and you’ll most likely get “Busy” or some synonym of it.  The level of BUSY-ness in America may be at an all-time high and it shows.  Rates of suicides, addictions, anxiety and depression are all on the rise.  Employees are so BUSY in today’s work environment that several companies, such as Netflix and LinkedIn,  now offer unlimited vacation days for employees.  Not because they they think employees are too BUSY but  because they know  it actually results in people working even more.  We have even have incorporated being BUSY into our internet memes because “Ain’t nobody got time for that.”

This pressure to maintain a BUSY pace of life has even infected many Christians in America.  While each of us are called to serve in our church, if you find that you’re spending more time doing things for Jesus, than you are spending time with Jesus, then you’re probably BUSY and it’s time to reevaluate your church commitments.  I’m reminded of what Jesus said to Martha in Luke 10:38-42.  Martha was doing all of the work preparing the meal and was upset that Mary was sitting there listening to Jesus rather than helping her with the meal.  Feeling righteously indignant Martha went to Jesus and asked Him to tell Mary to help Martha work.  What was Jesus’ reaction?  He told Martha that “Mary has chosen what is better.”  A good reminder that even my choices to be BUSY doing good things can be the wrong choice if it takes away from what is better.

Does that seem like too strong of a statement?  Consider the effect of trying to keep up with the madness of the world, and the resulting BUSYness it causes in us?  Does it bring life to you?  Does it help you develop an intimate, personal relationship with Jesus?  How about the impact on your spouse?  Or your kids, coworkers, neighbors?  What is your impact on others when you are BUSY? I don’t know about you, but it becomes pretty difficult for me to reflect the light of Jesus in a way that draws others close to Him when I allow myself to be so BUSY that I’m exhausted, frustrated, tired, or scared.

If this is the consequence of being BUSY, then perhaps it’s time we start thinking of BUSY as B.U.S.Y –  Being Under Satan’s Yoke.

Consider Jesus’ words found in Matthew 11:28-30,

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Now I know why I love all those superheroes – because all of them ultimately point to the one true superhero….. Jesus, who actually did a seemingly impossible task when he walked out of the tomb and paid the price for my freedom as well as yours.   Take some time out of your BUSY schedule, just as Mary did, and sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to what He has to say to you today.  You will never regret it.




Is Duty a Four Letter Word?

Let me start by saying I love Boy Scouts. I was fortunate to earn the rank of Eagle many, many years ago and more recently, I’ve had the joy (and pain) of serving as a cub scout den leader for an energetic bunch of boys (my son included) for three years and counting. While the Boy Scouts have had ups and downs in the past few years, they, along with the Girl Scouts, are among a handful of organizations, I’m glad to be able to say, who still acknowledge the God-breathed differences between male and female. In addition, unlike so many of the overscheduled and overstructured activities for kids today, scouting actually lets boys be boys. Like I said, I love Boy Scouts. Now for those that may not be familiar, one of the foundations of scouting is the Scout Oath which all scouts must learn and recite. Whether a brand new Tiger Cub in 1st grade or a seasoned Boy Scout in high school, most of your meetings begin by reciting (from memory) the Scout Oath. The Scout Oath begins, as it has since the first BSA Handbook in 1911, “On my honor, I will do my best to do my duty to God…”

The idea of duty, and in particular duty to God, has been interwoven into the fabric of scouting since its origin. Nevertheless, Boy Scouts, remarkably, doesn’t attempt to define what actually constitutes one’s duty to God. Instead, scouts are encouraged to discuss with their parents or faith leader what duty to God means. Thinking back to my own time as a cub and boy scout I don’t recall any specific discussions about my duty to God but 25 years later I still remember the Oath. So what exactly then is one’s duty to God?  Merriam-Webster defines duty as “a moral or legal obligation” and Dictionary.com defines duty as “something that one is expected or required to do...”

So we could say that duty is something that one is expected or required to do out of a moral or legal obligation.  Hmm, that sounds reasonable in the context of assigning household chores to my kids, or a military leader assigning responsibilities for defending one’s country, but can that understanding of duty define our relationship with God?  Having lived a lot of years of the Christian life on the hamster wheel of ‘try hard, try hard, fail’, ‘try hard try hard fail’; I have come to believe that duty alone should not define our relationship with God.

But don’t take my word for it.  Let’s see what God’s word has to say.  Surprisingly, there are not many instances of the word duty in scripture, and all but two of them are found in the Old Testament. The most notable passage in the Old Testament is found in Ecclesiastes when Solomon, nearing the end of that book of the Bible, says, “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13 NIV)  Whoa.  Strong, resounding words from the wisest (sinful) man who ever lived.  Could I be wrong about duty as defining our relationship with God?  I needed to look further.

In the New Testament, there is really only one reference to duty as an obligation towards God and it’s found in a passage in Chapter 17 of the Book of Luke.  At the beginning of the chapter, Jesus has some harsh words for the disciples about sin and the seriousness of leading others into sin.  The disciples, understanding the weight of Jesus’ words, ask Jesus to, “Increase our faith!”  They had seen the many miracles Jesus performed and were hoping for a bit of (ZAP!) instantaneous spiritual growth.  Instead of describing for them how to increase their faith or doubling down with an additional weighty directive, in verses 7-10 Jesus instead offers the disciples a somewhat confusing parable about a servant and how the servant’s duty is to do what he is told to do.  Many biblical commentators interpret this passage to mean, at least in part, that obedience is our duty.  Sound familiar?

So what do we do with this?  Certainly, we are called to obey Jesus’ commands. Remember what Jesus said in John 14:15, “If you love me, you will obey what I command.” (NIV)  However, it seems that too often the American church allows duty to be a viewed as a reasonable end point for one’s spiritual journey with God.  Actually, perhaps it’s more accurate to say that too often Christians (particularly men) within the American church settle on duty as a reasonable and acceptable foundation for their relationship with God.  Sadly, far too many guys today think duty is the only way they relate to God. An intellectual acknowledgment of the existence of our Creator has wrongfully taken the place of an intimate, personal relationship with one’s heavenly Father. Don’t think so? Take a look at the average worship service on any given Sunday morning and see how engaged the men are in worship. You might ask, “why would someone go to church if there is no personal relationship with Jesus?” One word – duty. Countless men (and women) go to church on Sunday morning simply because they believe it is “something that one is expected or required to do.”

The problem with this, of course, is that duty can only get you so far.  For starters, it can never make you right with God.  Thus, if all you have a is a sense of duty to God, and no relationship, each time you blow it you’re prone to go to shame, self-doubt and self-loathing – “Man, I [insert your sin of choice] again!  I really do suck!  why would God ever want to use me, bless me, love me?”

I suppose it’s not so much that the Boy Scouts or the American church are offering something wrong with regard to duty but rather that they are offering something incomplete.  The Christian life rooted in duty alone can be a horribly burdensome road.  I know, as I was stuck on duty as the foundation of my relationship with God for far too long on my walk with God.  During that time Jesus’ promise in Matthew 11:30 that “my yoke is easy and my burden is light” seemed laughable.  Really? That certainly didn’t seem available to me.

And this is where I bristle at the “duty to God” language in the Scout Oath. While I won’t go so far as to suggest changing an oath that has survived more than one hundred years, I find myself wanting to remind my son and the boys in my den that experiencing God through the lens of duty only is like watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy on a thirteen-inch, standard definition, black and white TV  (“Umm, what’s a black and white TV, Dad??”).   In contrast, experiencing God through the lens of a personal, intimate relationship is like watching the Battle at Helm’s Deep in IMAX 3D with a bottomless tub of buttered popcorn and your best friend in the recliner next to you.

Following Jesus was never meant to be some long, boring slog through life.  Jesus says in John 10:10, “I came that [you] may have life and have it abundantly.” (ESV) The abundant life cannot fit through the keyhole of duty alone.

Perhaps you’re asking, “What do I do if I’m stuck on duty?”  If you’re asking that question, you’ve already taken the first step – acknowledging where you’re at and that it’s not where you want to be.  One of the most beautiful things about our heavenly Father is that he is always, and I mean ALWAYS, willing to meet you wherever you are.  He is the ultimate boy scout – always prepared.

So, how is your relationship with Jesus today? Have you talked to Him lately? Ever? If the idea of having an actual, intimate relationship with the creator of the universe seems laughable to you, start there. Seriously. Tell Him how crazy you think it is that he would be interested in you…….BUT then give Him a chance to respond.  He’s dying for you to reach out to Him……..better put, He died so you could reach out to Him.  And He will respond, for He promises us in Matthew 7:8, “For everyone [yes, everyone means EVERYONE] who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”