In Search of Irene

It’s that time of year – decorations, parties, presents, travels, coordinating with coworkers for time off…and each of those in abundance. During this time of the hope of and increased search for peace, many are busier than ever. And the situation isn’t helped by having to be wary of people stealing your gifts while they’re sitting in your car, or thinking of how to deal with THAT relative at the get-together…or a thousand other things that could go wrong.


Our language is infused with idioms dealing with peace – peace and quiet, leave someone in peace, no peace for the wicked, peace offering. Beyond just the words and phrases using the English “peace,” there are other not-so-obvious “peaceful” words. The Pacific Ocean is named because it’s relatively smooth sailing. Irenic efforts seek peaceful reconciliation.  The name Irene means peace; similar to the church father Irenaeus. Shalom is the Hebrew word and concept of peace (though it means much more than just that). Jerusalem means City of Peace (or it could mean Possession of Peace, or Foundation of Peace).


Despite this constant desire and search for peace, this world is not peaceful. Peace today seems to be thought of in a couple different ways by the world (meaning, the non-Christian world). One way is a personal tranquil state of being – harmony with other individuals; personal security and safety. The second way is on a group, even a national, level – national safety and security; group rights to prevent bullying; organizations devoted to human rights.


The world has the concept partly right – true biblical peace applies to both the individual and group level, and it is a state of tranquility, harmony, and safety. What the world has wrong, though, is that it seeks peace only on a horizontal level, only on a human-to-human level. The Bible’s concept of peace includes a harmonious and tranquil relationship with the Triune God.


The world sometimes has the strategy for peace half right – they fight for it. The Bible calls for Christians to be peacemakers, not peacekeepers. “Keeping the peace” means that one doesn’t rock the boat; one doesn’t mess with the establishment – in many cases, things are OK, so one shouldn’t do anything to make it worse (it’s not a matter of making things better, but of keeping the status quo because upheaval and disruption are painful).


But the Christian is to, in a certain instances, fight for peace. We are to be at peace, but peaceful is not the same as passive. Jesus brought the sword of the Spirit (which is the Word of God), and with that we are to make peace. True biblical peace often entails some kind of confrontation. Confrontation isn’t just simply fighting with someone; it can be as simple as “I’d like to talk about something you said the other day.”


The Bible tells us to live a quiet life, so there’s an aspect of being a pacifist (different than a passivist). But that exhortation is prepended with “as far as it depends on you.” Sometimes, we have to struggle for peace. The Holy Spirit gives us power, love, and self-control to deal with otherwise fearful situations (this explains why the non-Christian typically enacts “peace” by using fear-filled tactics).


You can win the struggle for peace during the holidays by being the one to choose. An oft-neglected word, which is a compete sentence, is “No.”  (though there’s no requirement to be a jerk about it – search for ’50 Ways to Say No’ and you’ll find plenty of options for saying No without being rude). It’s OK to say No. It’s OK to stay home. It’s OK to opt-out…not just this year, but every year.  If you go to a party, then you be the one who chose to go. If you travel for family, then you be the one who chose to take that invitation. If you don’t go or don’t give, it’s your choice which you made based on your current situation for you and your family.


In the end, the biblical idea of peace is that of wholeness. It’s a wholeness of relationship with Christ and wholeness with other people. And just as the Magi in their search for the Holy Child, the search for peace can entail intense preparation and hard work.

We need to spend more time learning from Jesus, the Prince of Peace. This idea is succinctly and emotionally shown in the story of Martha and Mary. It’s not a story pitting spiritual education against “grunt work.” It’s a story of the heart. It’s a story about anxiety vs. tranquility, about etiquette vs. righteousness, about being perturbed vs. being at peace.

“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

Choose and Make a Merry New Year!

Thankful, Even When You’re Not Ready

There’s a phrase that goes, “Already, but not yet.”

When a real war is being fought, there will be a “decisive battle.” At that point, the war has been won, but it won’t really be over until all has been communicated and everyone has gone home. Already, but not yet.

In baseball, if the batting team is down a point or two, and it’s the final bat of the game, with the bases loaded, and the batter hits a home run – the game has been won! But not until everyone actually runs to home base. Already, but not yet.

(Stick with me – this really has to do with thankfulness…)

In the Bible book of Habakkuk, in chapter 3, verses 17-19, we read, “Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places.”

The kingdom of Judah had sinned greatly, and God’s punishment for that sin was to send the Babylonian empire against Judah (here’s some background information, if you want to get into details:

But God, being a good God, was also going to protect His faithful people in the midst of the takeover, would restore Israel, and then would judge Babylon.

In the verses above, before all of the takeover started, Habakkuk was saying to the people, “Already, but not yet.” Peace was on the horizon – just not yet. God has won – you just haven’t seen it yet.

Frederick Douglass – a man who was born a slave around 1817*, but educated himself, escaped slavery, and went on to being famous as an abolitionist, suffragist, preacher, author, editor, and diplomat – had a hard life, but through harder work and reliance on Christ, he trusted that He would free him. First was spiritual freedom, then physical freedom. But there was an arduous time between the two. Already, but not yet.

There are plenty of people today who are undergoing trials – neighbors, those foreign to us, friends and family, coworkers. I suppose one could rightfully assume that everyone you come in contact with has some trial. They may be the next Habakkuk or Frederick, but they may not be. Because all people are made in God’s image, giving people hope is not relegated to the famous and influential, nor just to those who we hope will become so. We only know “now,” and that’s where we have to act.

Those who trust in God also hope in God. Those who hope in God also thank God. Those who know Him know, by faith, that He will bring salvation. Habakkuk gives us the famous verse, “The just shall live by faith.” Habakkuk 2:4, echoed in Romans 1:17.

Because we hope in God, we can, like Habakkuk, thank the triune God for what He hasn’t delivered yet – restoration, salvation, complete reconciliation. We are saved, but not yet; we are whole, but not yet; we are perfected but not yet.

On the practical side of things, for those who have the means, sponsoring children through Compassion International is a great way to spread hope. Those children who are unsponsored lack one or more of the basics of life – clean water, good food, hygiene, clothing…things that those of us with means can easily take for granted. (Here’s a fun video about this: Sponsorship provides these things. And you, the sponsor, provide the personal side of things. All of these children have hope, but they may not know who to thank. When you sponsor a child, you’re the immediate one they will thank, yet each one also needs to know that the one they really need to thank, the One who led you to sponsor them, is God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

You can let them know that they’ll graduate – just not yet. They’re already stronger – but not yet. They’re already better off than they were – but maybe they don’t see it yet. It’s astounding to think that, through Compassion, my family and I can have a positive, even life-changing, effect on people in other countries! In a simple way, we can help transform others’ lives.

Everyone has, or will have, tough times. We need to work together, to encourage each other, to exhort each other to hang in there, to hope in God, and be thankful for His good gifts, even if He hasn’t sent them yet.

*Because slave birth records weren’t kept (or even made), Frederick’s father was unknown to him, his mother was kept from him often, and she died when he was ten, we don’t know when he was born. Later, he chose February 14 as his birthdate because his mother had called him her little valentine.

My Word for 2017

We all need something to hang on to, right? It could be a routine, a promise, a plan, a ritual  – we just simply need to have a series of lifelines. That’s what gives us hope, and hope is foundational to living.

I’ve got many lifelines, plenty to hang on to. Plenty to do, lots of plans, loads of responsibilities, numerous good things going on. So why have a word? Because this just seems like the year to do it.

I know “word of the year” has been popular for some years, but I’ve had enough to do without adding something else. This just seems like a good year to do something different.

With all that goes on, I’ve been more into action items and daily life. Don’t get me wrong – I enjoy what I’ve been doing. I’m all for action and living and enjoying life. Maybe the Word challenge is a way to encapsulate what I’ve been doing and thinking, rather than being something else to do. Maybe this word of the year for 2017 is actually a metamorphosis for last year’s cocooning activity.

My word for 2017 is: Why?


Over the past year, it has become clear to me that I need to know more about why I’m doing something. Why do I make the rules that I do for my children? Why do I workout? (or, why don’t I workout?) Why do I respond to this-and-that situation in the way that I do? Why eat healthily (yes, it’s “healthily” instead of “healthy” if you wondered, but it’s not a big deal – just anticipating a question about it)? Why do I dress, or dress our kids, the way that I do? It’s also to remind myself about why I work, why I’m married, why we homeschool, etc. It’s in the reminders that I learn even more.

Not everything can be answered with a Why, but far more is made clear when I ask the question and get down to the motive.

It’s not that I’ve been doing things without knowing why – I have been to the best of my ability. But I’ve reached another point in growing up (something we all need to reach at various times throughout life). I’m at the point of refining what I do and what my reasons are for doing them.

The main principle behind this “Why?” refinement is this: Do I do what I do because I fear God? Or because I fear Man? (Matthew 10:28; Psalm 118:6; Proverbs 29:25; Hebrews 13:6)

Case in point: Have I made society’s dress code equivalent to Scripture’s code? Scripture has limited advice on how we dress, and one main point is to dress modestly. This past weekend we all stayed the night somewhere else. One of our younger ones ended up, for Sunday morning, with a dress shirt and…sweat pants. At least the pants were black – a good power color, and the goes everything. I wanted to be upset – how could he chooseTHAT?! Doesn’t the boy have any sense? He doesn’t have fashion sense (he’s like me), but AT LEAST get some decent pants.

But was his action a lack of will? Or was it lack of skill? It was a lack of skill. So what if he doesn’t have matching clothes? Any onlooker can tell he’s dressed modestly. Are my standards biblical? Or am I afraid that someone would say, “Your boy sure doesn’t know how to dress, does he?” Maybe he doesn’t know how to pick matching clothes, but that is not anywhere near a moral failing.

Why do I do things? Why do I think the things that I do? Is godliness my motivation? Is my impetus Christ-likeness? Or is it making sure that people don’t make fun of me or my family?

I want to delve into my motivations so that I can please Christ, not man.

Why am I writing this post? Am I trying to prove to someone that I can do it (wanting “man’s” praise)? No, I’m not. As any writer really wants to do, I’m writing so that I can share my burdens and encourage you, the reader, on to Christ-likeness.

Happy New Year!



Liberty, Hope, Life

I wake up, pretty much, whenever I like. Sometimes it hurts to rise-and-shine, but my wife and I have 10 kids, including a nursing infant, to get going each day, so getting up at a proper time and setting a good example aren’t option! I have a job I have to do, though I, as most Americans, have days I can take off pretty much whenever desired. I get breakfast and coffee (home-roasted, btw!); work out (I won’t say how often); we homeschool; I work from home (which I really like). A hot shower is always available. If something breaks, I have one or more ways to get it fixed.

My family is far from what many would consider rich, but we have all that we need, plus a lot more. We have choices to make each day, though many choices such as food, activities, weekend events, and weekly church are already settled into our weekly routine. And even those “settled” things can be changed as we need.

This is all the fruit of liberty. I won’t go into any specifics about the different aspects of things such as capitalism or about the founding of the U.S.A– I’ll just leave it at liberty.

Most people reading this have liberty. You have an internet connection, a house (and mortgage?), a car (and car payment?), your choice of schooling, your choice of your place of worship. These, and so much more, are the fruits of liberty – in general, people with money have choices. There are rough spots in life for everyone, but with the financial system we have in the USA even those who are strapped for cash can buy a house or car using a loan; we can use a credit card; we can save and invest; we can get a job; we can work from home; we can own a business. You’re correct in thinking that it’s not all easy or easily accessible, but most of you reading this have liberty, and therefore you have choices.

Before they’re sponsored, Compassion children don’t have many, if any, choices. They don’t get to choose where they eat breakfast, or necessarily what and how often they eat and drink. They don’t get to put milk/honey/cream/etc. in coffee or tea (if they even have those).  As odd as it sounds, they don’t get to go into debt, because they don’t have a sound financial system upon which they can draw to even get started. Unless someone from outside reaches out to them, they are stuck.

When you sponsor a child through Compassion, you give them the one thing that underlies pretty much every good thing in life – hope. What gets you to the next day? Hope that things will be just that much better tomorrow; hope that I’ll get it right next week; hope that our kids will do better next month; hope that, with treatment, our loved one will be in remission next year.

Sponsoring a child lets them know that they’ll get good food this month. Next month, maybe a new toothbrush. Your Christmas gift to them may be the only way they get a new school uniform. As they look down the road, through the years, they see that as the support continues, they can break the cycle of poverty. And it gives their parents hope – hope that their child can live a different and better life. It gives the child the hope that he can come back and help his parents. Or that she can come back with her husband to help their village. The fruits of hope are almost boundless.

Sponsoring a child through Compassion means you give up some of the fruits of your labor and liberty. However, giving up some of the fruits of your liberty doesn’t take away your liberty, but rather gives liberty to someone else. And liberty brings hope. And hope brings life.


Chesterton says of the sane man: “His spiritual sight is stereoscopic, like his physical sight: he sees two different pictures at once and yet sees all the better for that.”

Christians see just that way – they see both sides. People are mortal, and immortal. There is great good AND great evil. The earth is beautiful, and it’s tragic. One’s loved family member can be loving AND hurtful. Life is enjoyable, and downright drudgery. Youth is great, as is old age; and both are temporary. We can be happy and sad at one and the same time.

We’d like to see and experience just the comfortable points, but there’s more to life than comfort and ease – there’s Jesus’ lordship to ponder. He is Lord over evil, too, and we need to see and experience that. We can’t be conquerors if our only battle is what we should watch and wear.


I was thinking earlier today that 2 things I want to work on in the New Year of 2016 is to enjoy life and fight sin (some background here:

I just heard on the radio that a recent survey shows that the top resolution of many people is to enjoy life to the fullest in 2016. What a coincidence!

I’m not the only one who wants to release themselves from busy-ness and constant connectedness. What should be added, though, is an active participation in fighting, in both ourselves and in others, the sin that gets us hung up in life.

While we are desiring and seeking the good in life, we need to fight the bad.

So enjoy your new year, but be ready to dig in and get dirty, too.

Saved is Saved

If you were saved from drowning, would you say afterward “It would have been better if you used nicer equipment”?Or if you were pulled from a car wreck, would you say, “It would have been better if you had a PhD”?

Saved is saved.

It’s the same when it comes to spiritual salvation. When Christ saves you, you’re saved – there’s no “extra special” or “better” to it. People want to make salvation “better” by adding translations, special days, calendars, special people groups, degrees, commendations, and ministries. There’s nothing better than salvation, and nothing beyond.

It’s Christ, and Christ alone. There’s no way to extend it, expand it, or enhance it. No understanding of the Old Testament, no inclusion in a group, no special observance, no particular training will make one a better Christian than another. It’s knowing the Christ that makes the Christian.

At Christmas time, celebrating Christ is not made better by presents, trees, and cinnamon wreaths. Those things make our surroundings more comfortable and can promote nicer emotions (depends on why you bought things – to please God? or to please man?). But Christ is pleased only if we’re saved, and we should only be pleased by His work on the cross.

Family time, carols, gift-giving – we should enjoy them all. But is that the basis of my Christmas? If I wouldn’t be joyful and fulfilled just to breathe a prayer of thanks to God the Father for the gift of God the Son, then the carol bells will ring hollow, my tree will not bear fruit, and my songs will only be clamor.