I was going to ask my friend Robert Martin for permission to reblog this recent post he did looking at a Jon Foreman song that is almost straight out of the Old Testament prophets, but which I imagine still holds true today. It contains the following verse:

I hate all your show and pretense
The hypocrisy of your praise
The hypocrisy of your festivals
I hate all your show
Away with your noisy worship
Away with your noisy hymns
I stomp on my ears when you’re singing ‘em
I hate all your show

And you can go and watch and listen to the rest of it here if you want to.

But then I figured he has already done that and it reminded me of a man who influenced my life a lot and that is a guy called Keith Green who my favourite and most life-transforming book [after the Bible] No Compromise is the story of. If you haven’t read that book, I can’t encourage you enough to.

I have never been a fan of people calling songs or books or other people ‘anointed’ because of the certain understanding of the religious jargon that goes with that definition largely in the circles I have heard it used. But there are at least two of Keith’s songs which just connect with something in my spirit and a number of lines just smack me in the face every time I hear them [in the best of Godly prophetic ways]. If you have a lot of time then you can seek out the other one, which is his interpretation of the story of the Sheep and the Goats which you can find here, but the one I want to share with you is this one called ‘Asleep in the Light’ – listen to the words and hear the passion and feeling that Keith pours into them [this video comes with bonus Spanish subtitles so forward it to all your Spanish speaking friends] Just listening to this again has struck a chord in me [and a future blog post] about how comfortable we’ve made the Gospel in so many ways so that it almost doesn’t have to affect us at all:

The world is sleeping in the dark
That the church just can’t fight
Cause it’s asleep in the light
How can you be so dead
When you’ve been so well fed
Jesus rose from the grave
And you, you can’t even get out of bed

I hope this challenges and changes you. I hope this challenges and changes me once again.

[For last Thursday’s Definitive Guide to Insulting the Creator, click here]

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When the beautiful Val [tbV] and I finished our time at the Simple Way, our bossman Darin suggested this wooden artwork, that  a friend of theirs could put together for us, with some words that we had spotted on the Book of Facings, as a farewell gift, and we jumped at it.

These words are powerful and are a covenant of who we would like to be as a family and the kind of home environment we are working towards, both for ourselves and for the many people we hope to extend hospitality to who will come and stay with us, and, for a short or long time, become a part of our family.

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Some of these are definitely easier than others.

But all of them are valuable to us.

And it feels like we’re making progress on a couple of them.

This list is not all-inclusive by any means, or even close to. But it is populated with words, experiences and principles that we value and want to chase enthusiastically after.

Ah, wait, I’m doing it wrong. I said WE WANT TO CHASE ENTHUSIASTICALLY AFTER! 

[That’s better]

We didn’t come up with this list, so you are welcome to borrow them and embrace them. Even come up with some of your own.

So let’s hear from you then… What are two things you would add to this list if it was in your home?

[For last Wednesday’s Search for MEDS: Married, Engaged, Dating, Single, click here]

So today’s story is this inspirational one about a marathon running mom who, when she saw, her husband’s bicycle being taken out of the garage decided, ‘Not today mister!’ and took off after the thief.

‘Sarah Tatterson, 37, of West Seattle, Wash., is an accomplished runner, who has completed a dozen half-marathons in her lifetime. So earlier this month when she noticed a stranger walking up her driveway, entering her garage and making a quick exit with her husband’s bicycle, her running instincts immediately kicked in.’

marathon

Maybe the best part of this story [if there’s a better part than 37 year old marathon mom chasing 40 to 50 year old man on bicycle down the road] is that Sarah had just finished her Master’s degree in counselling and decided to put it to good use as she chased him:

“I was trying to get him to talk to me, and he wasn’t wanting to talk about his feelings,” she said. “The options were letting him go, or him going to jail. The full meaning of justice is that he’d be rehabilitated. I don’t know who he is, but I hope he gets the help he needs.”

You can read the rest of this inspirational and fun story on the ABC News site over here.

[For next Tuesday’s Paint the town red [and green and blue] click here]

[For last Tuesday’s incredibly creative street art, click here]

It’s Monday and maybe you’re dreading the long week ahead and already looking forward to the weekend. Well do I have a message for you. And by “I”, I mean one of my all-time funniest people alive [if you appreciate his absolutely dry sense of humour] Bob Newhart.

This is a sketch he did called ‘The Psychiatrist’ and if Chris Traeger from Parks and Recreation [as brilliantly played by Rob Lowe] were here, he would tell you that, ‘This is literally the funniest thing I’ve seen.’ He tends to overexaggerate a little though, so it may not be that, but it is absolutely great and I hope it puts a smile on your face and encourages you to embrace this week:

And then a little bonus treat for the oldies among you who may have watched Newhart the series and one of the most iconic sets of characters in television history:

[For next Monday’s Music to move you [far, far, away from the source] click here]

[For last Monday’s Choose your own MADventure, click here]

The way I view the world, there are three forces/people at work:

[1] God – I don’t believe He runs the world like a puppet master but I do believe He is involved – When someone becomes a follower of Jesus His Holy Spirit comes and lives inside of us and directs, guides and prompts us and helps us to live a life that looks more like Jesus. I experience this in my life. Sometimes the voice of the Spirit is very clear and I really believe I am hearing from God on something and know how to act or what to say, but often it can be more subtle and sometimes I can feel like God is far away and distant. Because of the hugeness of God as I perceive Him to be, I have no problem with the fact that I do not fully understand how He operates or how He works – when He gets involved and when He chooses not to be. If He was able to create the Universe in a moment then it makes perfect sense that I would not be able to come close to understanding everything about Him. But I can have a picture of Him and as I spend time with Him and experience Him and learn more about Him so that picture goes.

[2] The enemy – The devil, satan, lucifer – once again I don’t really understand how the devil works but I do believe that God has an enemy who has some measure of power and is doing everything he can to thwart the work of God and take down people. Called ‘the father of lies’ the evidence is strong that there is a person or force in the world that is trying to move everyone more towards ‘the dark side’ – temptation, lust, violence, greed are a bunch of the tools of his trade and you just need to pick up a newspaper or turn on the tv to see the evidence of this.

[3] People – us. I don’t believe we are robots who don’t have free will and are living predetermined lives but that we have a strong measure of free will that influences how we live – the decisions we make and the actions we live out as well as the words we speak and how we act on our thoughts and inclinations.

So when it comes to how life happens, I believe all three people/forces are working all the time. God building His kingdom particularly through those people who follow Him; the devil doing anything in his power to thwart or uproot or break down what God is doing and to hurt and damage and destroy people as much as possible; and us living our lives while being influence by both good and evil and making decisions and learning and growing [hopefully] as we go along.

I had a friend at school who went for a bike ride on the night of his 18th birthday and was knocked over by a drunk driver and killed. A lot of people in situations similiar to those tend to blame God for what happened. “How could you take him like that?” But God didn’t kill my friend, a drunk driver did, when he made a really bad decision and then didn’t perhaps have the reaction ability he needed when he came upon my friend.

Some people have a ‘Whatever happens is God’s will’ approach to life, but I take issue to that as well. People dying is not God’s will, people being sick is not God’s will, abuse and divorce and rape, racism and sexism are not God’s will. They happen because we are in a broken and messed up world [brought about by our sin and disobedience or those who have gone before us] and so yes, God allows stuff like that to happen [a whole other discussion] but not everything that happens is because He wills it to. Holding a ‘Whatever happens is God’s will’ view to life often relinquishes us of the responsibility we should be having for our actions.

And so I do believe that everything happens for a reason in the sense that something or someone made it happen. Not necessarily in the sense that it has meaning and purpose and destiny. Sometimes things just happen because that is how we exercise our free will in that way. Which is why often the things that happen have the odour of crap to them.

Oh, and one more thing…

stupid

[For next week’s The Route of all Evil [And it’s NOT money!], click here]

[For last Friday’s Well maybe I SHOULD jump off that bridge, click here]

leftovers or your best?

‘Those who oppress the poor insult the Creator, but those who are kind to the needy honour him.’ [Proverbs 14:31]

Tweet from my good friend, Sean du Toit that I saw this morning as I logged in.

And it’s the part of Christianity many of us don’t gravitate to quite as quickly. Give me worship [me], good teaching [me], fellowship with my friends at church on Sunday [me], weekly small group meetings [me], encouraging promises from God [me] and eternal life [me, and maybe you if you live right] but turn the volume down just a little when you start focusing on the looking-after-the-poor aspect if you don’t mind.

But James, the brother of Jesus, had quite a lot to say about our treatment of the poor as well in chapter 2 of his letter:

14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”

Even earlier on in that chapter, he encourages us not to discriminate, with a reminder that it is usually not the poor who are the ones giving the rest of us a hard time:

1 My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. 2 Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. 3 If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” 4 have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?

5 Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? 7 Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong?

Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. 19 You believe that there is one God.Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.’

In fact he ends chapter 1 with this verse:

27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

While it doesn’t mention the poor specifically there, it is understood that orphans and widows would have been among the poorest of the poor, because not only do they not have money, but they don’t have anyone to look after them either. Worthy religion is the type that makes sure that they are well taken care of.

Which brings us back to our original Proverb and the writer is pretty specific about the implications of not treating them well. Here are two other translations of the same verse:

You insult your Maker when you exploit the powerless;
    when you’re kind to the poor, you honor God.

Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker,
    but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.

I think it’s pretty clear. And I’m sure none of us are looking to insult or show contempt to our Creator and Father God. But let’s be honest for a second – those people who really needed to hear this stuff more than likely stopped reading at the first mention of the poor…

For those of you who didn’t though, there was an article that Val linked to yesterday on the Two Cents blog page that takes this question to a whole other level for those of you who employ domestic workers. Moving the discussion from the point of “good enough” to actually “good”. We would love to hear your thoughts on that one, having been reminded of these words in the Bible.

Can it really be ‘Good News’ before it is Good News for the poor as well?

[For last Thursday’s The Same Question, click here]

If you ask me, ‘Is it better to be married or single, or even maybe to be dating or engaged?’ my answer to you would be, “Yes!”

‘Sometimes I think the so-called experts actually ARE experts.’ [Jack Handey]

True story. And if you don’t know who Jack Handey is, all the worst for you. Go and ask Uncle Google. [On the other hand if you don’t know who his lesser known virtual rip-off second cousin Brett Andy is, you can rectify that by going here]

But that’s not important now. What we’re going to be looking at t0day is Relationships. As in the romantic kind as well as not being involved in the romantic kind. This is not a new post but rather a compilation of posts [and unless you have a good attention span and a large mug of coffee this may require multiple visits to take it all in, so bookmark it] but what I want to suggest strongly is this: If you are presently single, start with the married posts. And if you’re married, make sure you read the singleness stories. Often we let the label of where we’re at in that dictate the stories we decided to read, but I want to suggest to you that it will be so incredibly helpful for married people to be reminded of some of the stuff you used to face when you were dating and to hear some of the struggles and joys of those who are currently single. For the singles and datings to read and get a glimpse inside of the lives of those who are married, especially some who have been for a long time, can give you so much wisdom that will benefit you in your time of singleness or dating. We need to get a lot better at being around those who are in a different place from us in terms of this stuff [and to boldly declare with them that neither place is better than the other, just different, each with its own benefits and challenges].

There is a lot here, and you don’t need to read it all, but there is some really good stuff so give yourself a chance… and if you read something that you know will benefit someone else you know then share it or send them here or cut and paste it into your own blog and pretend it’s your own…

Hopefully there is some huge encouragement or wisdom or maybe just a different perspective that you needed to read.

And please leave your mark in the comments sections of the blogs – agree, disagree, ask questions, leave doodles… as long as you are engaging…

Singleness – A blessing for some, really painfully difficult for others – read some incredible stories that some brave friends of mine have offered to share with us. Marrieds, you really need to hear some of this stuff”

http://brettfish.wordpress.com/2012/09/04/taboo-topics-singleness-intro

I Kissed Dating [The Parts] – Including the always popular “How Far is too far?” in which the answer at the time was, “Belgium. Belgium is too far!”

http://brettfish.wordpress.com/2012/09/19/i-kissed-dating-the-parts

Marriage to the right person – You know, your ‘Neo’ person – the “One” – Do they even exist? And how do I track mine down?

http://brettfish.wordpress.com/2010/07/04/marriage-to-the-right-person-highly-recommendable

Sex in Marriage – A great read for anyone, single or married, as two [and hopefully more later] brave friends of ours share some of their very different journeys:

http://brettfish.wordpress.com/2013/04/29/taboo-topics-sex-in-marriage-intro

Ten Ways to Love – These are just some powerful ideas of how to love people in your life well and so extends past romantic relationships and is great:

http://brettfish.wordpress.com/2012/10/20/ten-ways-to-love-intro

On the Honeymoon phase [specifically for newlyweds and those heading towards being married]  – written by my wife, the Beautiful Val [tbV]:

http://valanderson.wordpress.com/2010/08/31/on-the-honeymoon-phase

How to love your woman better [this covers women loving their men better too] – Val and I looked at some different important aspects of really treating the person in your life who you love well:

http://brettfish.wordpress.com/2012/09/11/how-to-love-your-woman-better-the-parts

One way to love your husband/wife better – Another great series, this time with a bunch of my friends sharing some advice on how to love your person in a deeper, more significant way:

http://brettfish.wordpress.com/2013/02/28/one-way-to-love-your-husbandwife-better

How to save your marriage [Before you need to] – This is an excellent series where I invited a number of my friends [from different stages of marriage] to share one key aspect they felt was crucial to help build a strong marriage together:

http://brettfish.wordpress.com/2012/09/17/how-to-save-a-marriage-before-you-need-to-the-parts

Love, even [especially!] when you don’t feel like it – This was an early post on The Weekly Mash [and Peace!] and dealt with such a difficult topic – how do you continue to love your person well when you are in a time of not feeling it [because of a fight or an attitude or incident]:

https://mashandpeace.wordpress.com/2013/04/10/wednesday-wed-day-episode-3-love-when-you-dont-feel-like-it

It’s not about the nail – More discussion is probably needed with this one to get beyond just the humour of the point it is making, but I encourage you to take some time to honestly talk this through with your person – looking at the idea of a time to point things out honestly and a time to just hug [while gently tilting your head to the side so as to avoid the nail]:

https://mashandpeace.wordpress.com/2013/06/05/wednesday-wed-day-episode-11-its-not-about-the-nail

How to love well and long – Another The Weekly Mash [and Peace!] post, this one looked at four aspects hidden within a potentially cheesy saying that each contain incredible depth and are worth looking at even further:

https://mashandpeace.wordpress.com/2013/05/29/wednesday-wed-day-episode-10-slow-and-insane-and-true-and-quick

How much sex in Marriage? [Oh go and look, you know you want to!]

http://brettfish.wordpress.com/2013/04/22/how-much-sex-in-marriage

And no list of important relationshippy things would be complete without some deep words of wisdom in cartoon strip form via the crew of Pearls before Swine:

Tongue Before Swine

[For next Wednesday’s From I do to We do, click here]

[For last Wednesday’s It’s Not about the Nail, click here]