Apologetics Made Simple

The world is no longer a simple place to share the Good News. The great evangelists of the 20th century spoke a simple message to people who could still accept that message. But we are living in a post-modern, Scientific (capitalization intentional), highly educated, polarized, multi-cultural, relativistic world where everything is both for sale and customizable. There are hundreds of very, very intelligent, eloquent people making strong, logical, persuasive (and occasionally demeaning) arguments against Christianity. And it’s all available for free from YouTube!

How should we preach the Good News in today’s world? How can we convince people of the truth? For some reason, Jesus and the apostles neglected to leave behind a step-by-step method for sharing the gospel.

It seems like it takes 4 Ph.Ds. and a master class in debate just to get started. Most of our famous apologeticists are incredibly well-educated with deep knowledge of the Bible, textual criticism, archeology, science, and lots of other things.

The average person just can’t do that. So what should we do? Outsource evangelism to hte pros? Ignore the Great Commission? Well, I have found a hint in Jesus’ prayer for future believers (that’s us) in John 17. Jesus gives us a fool-proof method for convincing people of the truth of the gospel.

John 17:20-23 (NIV) –  “… I [Jesus] pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one,Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

Easy enough, right? It’s a one step method. Believers come to complete unity, then the world will know that God exists, that He sent Jesus because “God so loved the world”.Yay!

Of course, whatever complete unity as the Father and Jesus are unified seems like a pretty tall order. That’s surely not the same as quiet affability, friendliness, or good-natured politeness. It is complete unity and love as modeled by the relationship of the Father and the Son.

I see two implications from that statement. First, every Christian is a missionary. The verse refers to the unity of all Christians, not some sub-group. That means the Great Commission depends, in some way, upon each and every Christian. Missions is not the job of missionaries! Second, words are necessary, but far from sufficient for evangelism. Our love for one another is the proof of the pudding, so to speak. It is what validates our words. The love of the church for the members of its own family is vital to the success of mission. It is one of our best apologetics.

But we never see a missions strategy begin like that, do we? Because it is much, much easier to give money to send people over there to love them, than to do our part in loving people (who, N.B., are sinful and hurt us). But we can’t outsource the Gospel, and we can’t pretend that being polite, relatively regular attenders of a church is anything near what God requires of His sons and daughters. In fact,

1 John 2:9-11 (NIV) – Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister[b] is still in the darkness. 10 Anyone who loves their brother and sister[c] lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. 11 But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.

The reality is, every Christian is a missionary, and the Great Commission is hindered in a very real sense by every church split, every irreconcilable difference, every selfish decision..Or, more simply, maybe the reason the Gospel is having such a hard time in today’s world is that there are so many Christians who don’t understand that the call to love Jesus is a call to complete, loving unity with Jesus’s family, with His body, with His bride. That, my friends, is a challenge for all of us. Loving people and unity are not easy. But it is a beautiful calling, and it should push us all back towards the Holy Spirit, who is the only one who can give us that kind of love.

Blurry Vision

I’ve spent the last hour or so watching a series of short videos by The Bible Project. They have some really cool stuff. In particular, I have enjoyed the series entitled Read Scripture. I enjoyed it for two reasons. First, the videos are short, informative, and well done. Second, and more importantly, they have clearly exposed a massive hole in my understanding of God’s Word.

In my life and education, I have spent a lot of time on the overarching narrative of the Bible (let’s call that the macro view) and on detailed verse-by-verse exposition / exegesis (let’s call that the micro view). The Read Scripture videos land right in the middle. They draw out the major themes in a given book and show how and why it was written. They are doing something that I can’t do. Yet. It’s kind of like realizing that I can count the hairs on a fly’s leg and I can read the text on a road sign 2 miles off, but I can’t recognize the face of the person in front of me.

I have memorized a lot of verses of Scripture over the years. I understand how they connect to the big picture. I understand the historical background of most of the books of the Bible and some of their major themes, though not all. But I couldn’t even begin to create a succinct, beautiful summary of a book of the Bible (verbal or artistic) like these guys have. In fact, I can’t even tell you if their videos are true or not. That’s sad. In fact, it’s kind of inexcusable. And it’s something that I’m going to start rectifying.

So, check out The Bible Project. I’ve included a video below that explains 1 John really well (I think?) in about 9 minutes). Support their work if you like it. When you finish watching, consider your own understanding of God’s Word? Could you explain the book of 1 John to someone else? If not, let’s get to work together.We only have access to the Scripture that is in our heads, and, frankly speaking, God didn’t write His Scripture in verse-size fragments. He chose to inspire it in larger chunks: letters, books, gospels.

I am certain that God has a lot to teach us on the way!

Dreams, Visions, and Hearing from God

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Have you ever had a dream that you are sure meant something? Or have you ever had something happen to you in real life that you had dreamed about earlier? It’s a kind of weird, amazing experience, isn’t it?

Dreams and visions have fascinated many, if not all, of the cultures and religions of the world. Many religions were (and are) built around putting one’s self in a state to receive dreams and visions (often using hallucinogenic substances) or by dreams and visions given to the founders. Even the modern “non-religious” often place great stock in the revelations provided by dreams as windows into the unconscious self. From Old Testament times (remember the dreams of Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, and Daniel?) and New Testament times (Peter, Ananaias, John), for believers (see previous examples) and non-believers (the Midianite in Judges 7:13-14, Pilate’s wife in Matt 27:19). Many people are coming to hear about Jesus for the first time because of dreams and visions today. I have met one or two personally. Given the universal occurrence of dreams and visions, and human interest in them, it is unsurprising that the Bible has given us a few ground rules for Christians in this area.

1. God Pours Out Dreams and Visions

Let’s start with the obvious. There are dreams and visions that are from the Lord. There is no getting around that. It has happened, is happening, and will happen. Read with me Peter’s speech at Pentecost.

Acts 2:14-18 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. 15 These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! 16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:the last days, God says,
    I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
    your young men will see visions,
    your old men will dream dreams.
18 Even on my servants, both men and women,
    I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
    and they will prophesy.

Dreams, visions, and prophecies happen. If you are a modern person, that probably makes you uncomfortable. That’s okay. It’s still true. You might as well get used to it.

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2. God Provides the Interpretation

Genesis 40:8 – [Joseph to the Cupbearer and Baker] “Do not interpretations belong to the Lord?”

When we talk about dreams and visions from the Lord in the Scripture, as far as I can tell (and I could be wrong here), the interpretation is given by God as well. I haven’t been able to find a single instance of someone coming up with an interpretation on their own and calling it a revelation from the Lord. The dream is either so simple that it needs no interpretation (like Joseph’s vision of the sun, moon, and stars), or God provides the interpretation (the Baker and the Cupbearer in Gen 40, more interestingly, the Midianite in Judges 7), or no interpretation is provided (some visions in Ezekiel, perhaps the book of Revelation?).

I’d like to stress here that dreams and visions from the Lord have a correct interpretation and a definite meaning. “You should still marry Mary, she has not been unfaithful.” “Flee Bethlehem for Herod is coming to kill you.” “After 3 days, Pharoah will lift your head from your body.” Very, very, very different from psychoanalytical interpretations of dreams (“The white horse represents X”)  which are supposed to give insight into your condition. It is also different from the vague generalities that we see in horoscopes, self-help books, psychics (“This dream represents you experiencing a major shift at some time in the future.”) There are biblical exceptions, most particularly Ezekiel and John’s Revelation. But let’s notice that these kind of revelations are extremely rare, even among biblical prophets, and were only given to prophets who have already been proven by God through divine miracles and other true prophecies.

3. Dead Wrong

Related to point 2, dreams and visions from the Lord have a definite interpretation, which is either true or false. If false, the penalty is death. Do not pass go, do not collect $200.

Deuteronomy 18:20-22 But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, is to be put to death.” 21 You may say to yourselves, “How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the Lord?” 22 If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not take place or come true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken. 

In other words, dreams and visions are verifiable. And you DON’T want to be wrong. This is a serious, serious message for people who have said, “God told me / revealed to me / etc. that X is going to happen.” and then X doesn’t happen. That’s real bad. But that is not all.

Deuteronomy 13:1-5 If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to you a sign or wonder, and if the sign or wonder spoken of takes place, and the prophet says, “Let us follow other gods”(gods you have not known) “and let us worship them,” you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. The Lord your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul. It is the Lord your God you must follow, and him you must revere. Keep his commands and obey him; serve him and hold fast to him. That prophet or dreamer must be put to death for inciting rebellion against the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt and redeemed you from the land of slavery. That prophet or dreamer tried to turn you from the way the Lord your God commanded you to follow. You must purge the evil from among you. 

Even if the prophecy is right, if it is 100% true, if it isn’t in accordance with the revealed will of God, then the prophet is to die. Because, as they say in Texas, “Even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while.” Don’t ever think that a dream, vision, feeling gives you a special pass. “But I have received a word from the Lord that I should divorce my wife and marry this other woman whom I love.” Nope. Sorry. Doesn’t work like that. And, in this case, the sin of saying that the Lord told you to is actually much worse than the sin of divorcing your wife because you love another woman.

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The point here is not to start handing out the death penalty to people. It is to see that there are extremely explicit, serious boundaries that God has providentially set on the claim of direct divine revelation (including, but not limited to, visions, dreams, callings, prophetic words, prophecies, and Scripture).

Rule 1: The dream or vision must come true. (which basically means, you gotta KNOW that an interpretation is from the Lord, not just guess, logic, etc.)

Rule 2: The dream or vision must be in accordance with the Bible.

Which leads us to …

4. Test the spirits

This idea is EVERYWHERE in both the New and Old Testaments..Deuteronomy 13 and 20, 1 John 4, 2 Peter, 2 Corinthians 11, Matthew 24, Matthew 7. It is all over the place. The idea is this. People have dreams. Pretty much every day, in fact. And they dream about stuff that is often relevant to them and comes true relatively often (though, dreams don’t come true even more often). But to say a dream, vision, calling, word, thought is from God is to claim to be a prophet, to receive direct revelation from God. And that, my friends, is an extremely serious thing to say. Just look at some of the visions that led to the major Christian cults (Joseph Smith, Ellen White, etc.)

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As Christians, and as a church, we are constantly, consistently, regularly taught, exhorted, encouraged, lectured, reminded, and exhorted again to TEST everything that calls itself a revelation from God. We have 2 very simple rules. Does the dream come true? yes/no. If the dream doesn’t come true, the dreamer is/was deceived, and their visions should never be trusted again. Including by themselves! (That’s the polite way of saying that they deserve death as a false prophet, but are forgiven by the sacrificial work of Christ as we all are). Even believing in our own dreams as revelations is serious, serious business! The second rule is that whatever the claimed word of the Lord is, it also has to be in line with the Word of God as handed down to us. Simple enough?

And one to grow on … false prophecies from God?

Ummmmm … this is one of the more disconcerting facts in Scriptures. Sometimes God sends (or allows to be sent) false dreams and visions. That is difficult to reconcile. I choose to think about it in the second way (God permits false dreams) in the same way that I choose to believe in God permits bad things to happen. But it is something to think about. More importantly for us, these false dreams are, according to Scripture, either for judgment OR as a test. Most likely both at the same time. It’s a pass / fail test.

Concluding Thoughts

I have never had a true dream or vision that I have received from God. I have had dreams that have kind of come true. My brain is a pattern-seeking machine! But there is a big, big difference between a dream that comes true (or can be interpreted as coming true), and a dream that comes from God. BIG! Nor do I use the language of “God told me to”. That’s dangerous language unless you KNOW (not guess, suspect, hope), that GOD told you. Are you willing to stake your life on it being a message from God? That’s rule 1.

In my mind, the prophets of the New Testament KNEW when they were speaking / seeing / dreaming a revelation from God and when not. If not, how would they have had the bravery to face the death penalty? I don’t think that they were guessing as to the meaning of the revelation either, Only with that certainty were they willing to say, “Thus saith the Lord”.

I hold myself to the same standard, and I hope you do to. I don’t try to interpret my dreams, even if they feel really real and / or significant. At most, I might pray about a dream. If God wants to reveal something to me, I am absolutely confident He will get my attention (cf., for example, Saul, donkey, and blindness).

However, I have lower standards when talking about things that have already happened. It seems like we are allowed a little more leeway to interpret our past (“God allowed this event to happen so that … “). But, even when talking about facts that I know are true,  I still like to use qualifiers when talking about why, “It seems like God ..”, “I think that God … “. Why? To remind others (AND MYSELF) that I don’t know! God is the Creator and Sustainer of all things. His thoughts are above my thoughts, as are His reasons. So whatever reason I think may indeed be true, but it is very unlikely to be the whole truth. The true meaning of that event may only be found a thousand years from now. We only know the mind of God as far as it is revealed through His word (and I like to use qualifiers a lot even there!)

History is full of those who were so sure that God was speaking to them that they didn’t see  how their errors were hurting other people (hear, hear those who have prophesied the end of the world … or the presidential election). It is also full of those who were so sure that nothing new was happening that they rejected everything (remember the Pharisees?).I want to avoid both errors, if possible. I am totally open to revelations from God, but I hold them to the standards that have already been given, which are high standards indeed.

Sometimes You Gotta Ignore Your Brain, Sometimes You Don’t

This blog post fits perfectly in its category, “Random Thoughts”.

My first real injury was a herniated disc in my back when I was an aged 5 months past my 15th birthday. Of course, I didn’t know it was herniated at the time, I just knew it hurt. I figured out it was herniated 17 years later during a brain / spine MRI. Anyhow, I spent some 7 years trying to relearn how to run (without a hunched back) and how to avoid tweaking my back again every time I lifted something heavy. With mixed results. Since then, I’ve destroyed my back again, requiring a nice spinal fusion from T10-L1. I’ve also played operation in Asia (not recommended), and came out with a nice set of plates and screws. Which had to be taken out in another operation. All that to say, I’ve had some injury experience. From that experience, I have drawn 2 very simple rules that I have found helpful.

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Rule #1: You need HEART to get strong and in shape.

To become fit, grow stronger, develop endurance, you have to … endure. And that requires ignoring your brain. Research (and the Navy Seals) tell us that your brain wants you to quit when you still have about 60% of your true performance left in the tank. If you feel like you are done after 10 pullups, if you were in a life or death situation, you could do 15 more. That’s more than half. Your brain pulling your up short and guarding your reserves is a really good idea when a tiger may come along to chase you a minute or two after you finish hunting a woolly mammoth. But to get truly strong and in shape requires us to ignore our brains and all of its clever excuses. Your brain knows there is no real reason to need to run 400 meters in less than 50 seconds or to pick 500 pounds off the ground. So if we want to do those things, we’ve got to find that place inside of us, whether you call it heart, drive, grit, whatever, that allows us to push through our self-imposed barriers. It really helps to have a training plan defined before we get tired. (Not just doing “What feels good today”). It also really helps to have a training partner or coach. (That being said, don’t train like a moron. Create a smart training plan. But don’t try to rethink the plan in the gym. )

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Rule #2: You need BRAINS to get healthy.

I have traditionally been long on grit and short on brains when it comes to the injury department. Partly that’s the way I was raised. Partly it is because the body is really complex and trying to figure out what to do is often overwhelming. But “putting the hammer down” or “digging deep” when you are injured is the pathway to PERMANENT injury, not health. When you’ve got a busted joint or a busted back or a twisted ankle, you’ve got to figure it out. What’s the cause? What makes things better? What makes things worse? Maybe you can’t figure it out on your own. That means its your responsibility to borrow someone else’s brains and get them to figure it out. The body is NOT simple. Everything is connected. Your crappy ankle may clear right up when you cut out the saturated fat and start eating more fish. Or it may be related to your shoulder health. It’s unreal how interdependent the human system is. It is very rarely the case (in my experience) that treating the body part that hurts will remove the cause of the injury. The cause tends to be above it or below it or beside the thing that hurts. To beat an injury, we’ve got to keep trying new things, experimenting, rigorously testing what our bodies response is to what we are doing. We need patience.

That’s it. Those are my two rules. Break them at your peril. Because we’ve all seen that the internet guru who knows everything about everything training-related, but is still weak, overweight, and unhealthy. They used brains when they should have been using heart. But we also all know that person (like me) who kept trying to push through the injury and the injury kept getting worse and worse and worse. Don’t be those people.

Natural is Good, But It Shouldn’t Be

“Natural”! It’s the newest (and oldest) buzzword in existence. Romans were talking about great natural things were before Christ was born. Natural equals good has been a pretty common Western mindset until now, with a few exceptions (like the Platonists and the Gnostics, for example). The natural underwent a bit of a downturn with modernization. NEW! was the thing, as was IMPROVED!. But, for whatever reason, discontent with urbanization, Monsanto, we are returning to nature, at least in our rhetoric. We may sometimes use a bit fancier terminology like primitive, organic, ancient, grass-fed, locally sourced, etc, but the main idea is natural is good. From the way that we eat to the way that we exercise, natural is a powerful influence no how we dress. live, work, and raise our children.

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As it often has been, the idea of natural is being used to provide answers to moral problems. Right now, as the most sexualized society in (as far as I can tell) the history of the world, most of these moral problems are related to, unsurprisingly, sex. For example, there are homosexual animals and many people report having homosexual desires from their earliest youth, therefore homosexuality is natural, and therefore homosexuality is good. Most of us probably have felt the emotional appeal of this kind of argument, but we may never have stopped to consider its truth.

Let’s take a few very simple examples of natural things that are negative. As we saw above, there are appeals to nature for goodness and then appeals to our nature (the way we were made). Appeals to nature are almost too obvious. If we don’t accept rape, murder, and infanticide as good, then we shouldn’t really appeal to nature because those are very natural occurrences. In addition, pay a LOT of attention to when people don’t appeal to nature. For example, homosexuality is natural, therefore good, right? But what about abortion? Birth control? Medicines? Surgeries? Transgender operations? You get the drift? Nature is a justification that is used only when it is convenient for the argument. Nature has been used to prove both sides of many arguments. Why? Because nature is a mixed bag, you can pull whatever you want out of it. You want child molestation to be okay, not to hard to find in nature. Infanticide? What about absentee parents? It’s all there, which means that none of it is proof.

But the appeal to our nature, the way that we were made, is much more persuasive. “This is who I am, you can’t judge me for following my nature!”, says the (post)modern person. It is a strong emotional appeal to tolerance, one of our deepest cultural values. But the logic is still fallacious. There are many simple examples. What about the children of alcoholics? They are, naturally, much more likely to become alcoholics. Shouldn’t they just follow their nature? People love sex. Shouldn’t we just live in to that and watch all the porn and have as much sex as possible? If not, why not? There is no good reason to become a child molester, which at least hints at the fact that child molesters are also born that way. Why would they make a choice with such terrible risks? Natural is not good. Theologians have a name for this. It’s called original sin. We all have a proclivity to do evil that came to us naturally (“NOT MY FAULT!”, some will cry.), but which we are still responsible to avoid / overcome by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 1 (and many of the other lists of sins) are about condemning natural behavior because (I think) their negative consequences and inherent not-goodness (or unlovingness).

So buyer beware! The natural argument is a fallacy. Don’t use it. That doesn’t mean that every thing which uses the natural argument is false. It just means that we need other reasons. You know, reasons which are actually rational.

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Fertility is not an option

There are a lot of fertility metaphors in the New Testament. A tree bearing fruit. Spiritual father. The multiplication of wealth in the parable of the talents. There are also a lot of commands to reproduce, most particularly the Great Commission, but including also Paul’s “ambassadors of reconciliation” in 2 Corinthians 5. So for all believers, spiritual fertility is the sine qua non of mature spirituality. Spiritual parenthood, to borrow Paul’s terminology, is not an option!

But what about regular old parenthood? You know, the kind that starts with nine months of pregnancy? Of course, there are many who are to not get married, and there are others who can’t have children for whatever reasons. And I don’t care to deal with the issue of married couples who don’t want children (that’s way too complicated). But what about the majority of people who are honest, God-fearing Christians, married, and considering parenthood?

There is a small, but significant percentage who are making a choice to intentionally avoid having children. These people make some really good points. This world is a dangerous place to bring a child into. There are already too many people for the resources that we have and the population explosion isn’t even finished yet. There are so many children who need adoption, how can an ethical person even consider having children? It’s quite simply not a good time to have kids, in a lot of ways. I think we would all agree that these are all true! So, should Christians focus all their attention on the spiritual and choose not to have children of their own?

Let’s consider a brief thought experiment with the following assumptions:

  1. Every person is a unique combination of genes and experience.
  2. Our moral formation is, in part, inherent. Some people are born with more willpower, empathy, patience, compassion, thoughtfulness.
  3. A significant portion of our moral formation is determined, for good and for ill, by the way that we are raised.

Do those assumptions seem fair? Good, let’s continue. Each generation is the results of generations upon generations of people trying to pick the best spouse possible, which includes considering their non-physical qualities (like patience, etc). Their children are then born with moral predispositions that are generally in line with their parents, some better and some worse. Then they grow up, learn from the successes and failures of their parents’ struggle to raise them, and try to do just a little bit better with their own kids. That process has continued to this generation of people. Every potential parent in history faced a choice just like the one that we are facing, The ones who chose to have children are the reason that we are here. And so, one of the easiest ways to answer this question, is to cheat off the answers of our ancestors. (For the computer nerds, we are borrowing the concept of recursion to help us answer our question.)

So let’s just ask ourselves a few questions.

Have I suffered? … Well, of course, yes, we all have. The follow up question “Have I suffered more than humans have usually suffered over time?” should be answered with a no, by all but the very rare victim of exceptional trauma.

Is the world a better place with me in it than if I wasn’t in it? …. I hope we can all answer Yes to that question!

Am I glad that I am alive? …. Again, I hope we can all answer yes.

And so, we can see that, even though our parents may not have asked themselves the same question in the same way that we are asking it, we can pretend they did, and then check the answer. The answer is that the world is a better place because of us and we are glad that we are here. Do we think the answers of our children would be any different?

More importantly, if we acknowledge that morality / goodness is influenced by both nature and nurture, then, if the good people choose not to have kids because they are good people, then humanity as a whole is going to experience a rather quick decline. In other words, it took God a long, long time to produce your family and to make you. Don’t throw that away.

Which leaves us with adoption. Adopt! That’s awesome. But adoption and reproducing naturally are not mutually exclusive. There is something profoundly biblical about having a mixed family (Jews and Gentiles) who are equally loved. Then these children become not only your natural and cultural children, but also your spiritual children (though they better not be your ONLY spiritual children! ) 😀 .

 

Goodbye and Thanks for All the Fish?

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I just came back from one of those celebrations for people who have finished their time somewhere. They are all pretty much the same. People share stories about how meaningful that person or their friendship has been, People cry, people laugh. Then, of course, we eat.

I enjoy those formulaic little celebrations if we are saying goodbye to a good person. There are always some awkward folks who say weird things. But there are also stories of sacrifice, service, goodness. At their best, these little dinners remind me of how people should act. They remind me of what I want to be like and why. In honoring the person who is leaving, we take their best and set it up as something worthy of emulation.

That should always, always bring us back to the question: “Who is going to cry when I leave?” “What are they going to say about me?” Not because it’s important what people think about us or that tears are some sort of barometer of significance! But because it is important what kind of people we are and how we live and how we love people. I can’t even really imagine anyone choking up at my farewell, or saying anything besides generic pleasantries. But I want to live the kind of life that provokes the kind of responses that I saw today. Luckily, the option to love and serve people is always open!

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Landing a plane at an airport is difficult. Landing a plane (or helicopter) on a grass field on the side of a mountain … that is … more difficult.

Side note: I have attended lots of these things (farewells, retirements, funerals) in lots of different contexts. I have never seen anyone break down and cry because someone did something easy or fun. Nor have I seen tears because someone followed their dreams or lived their passion. Success does not cause tears. Significance seems to come from difficulty encountered faithfully while serving others. When people get choked up, it’s almost always because someone did something hard, or distasteful, or out of the ordinary for someone else.

If significance were easy, then it would be, well, kind of insignificant, wouldn’t it?

The farewell ceremony should not only encourage us, it should also remind us of another ceremony still to come, in which we will (hopefully) both receive honor and give honor to the Lord of Lords.

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever” I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize” – 1 Corinthians 9:24–27

For who is our hope or joy or crown of exultation? Is it not even you, in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming? – 1 Thessalonians 2:19

Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: “Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.” (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God’s holy people.) – Revelation 19:6–8