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Living smart in a smartphone world.

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There is an old adage…

“You can’t judge a book by its cover.”

The problem is, we live in a time of sound-bite-driven and movie-trailer-style culture. We want to be able to wrap up our assessments of others into nice, neat packages, put a bow on them, and divide life into “simple” categories. We want to define others by how they fit into our agenda, without the messiness or benefit of personal relationship. We have become “experts” at the 30-Second Evaluation, without considering the years (and moments) leading up to that evaluation. We don’t often take into account the bad morning (of history of events leading up to that bad morning) before we pass judgment. We look to the surface of appearance and circumstance without considering the depth of another person’s experience, psyche, or soul.

So how do we remedy this as a society? How do we regain the decency and humanity we have lost in our social-media-driven, sit-com addicted culture? Here’s three ideas that may be a good place for you and me to start…


It sounds a little simplistic, and a bit of a throwback to the ’90’s (remember the WWJD bracelets?), but there’s a lot of truth in that little acronym. “What would Jesus do?” is a legitimate question, especially for anyone who calls himself or herself a follower of His. So, when it comes to relationships, what is the example He sets for us? How did Jesus treat those close to Him? We find in the Gospels many examples of how He responded to people in various situations.


  • judasAfter Peter denied Him, He gave Him another chance without throwing His failure up in His face (John 21).
  • When the woman accused of adultery was brought before Him, He offered her mercy, then with a simple question, shined a light on the hypocrisy of her accusers (John 8).
  • He wept at the loss of a friend (John 11), lovingly corrected Martha over her frustration with Mary (Luke 10), and used the Truth as a defense in the light of criticism.
  • He quietly dismissed Judas from the upper room and Last Supper without calling attention to his imminent betrayal.

So how does Jesus see those around you; the odd, disagreeable, quirky, and unpleasant? In the face of the misfortune of another, would Jesus break out His camera phone and put that misfortune on public display, or would He pick that person up and become an agent of healing?

ACTION STEP: Before you react to another person, make the decision to ask yourself how Jesus would respond in that situation. Better yet… ask Him.

Open your eyes.

In the “ME” culture in which we live, it’s easy to pass by and not notice the suffering of those around us. When we are surrounded on every side by voices that are telling us to “look out for #1”, we must make a conscious effort to get out from in front of the mirror, get our noses out of our smart phones, and stop staring at the ground. We must notice what is going on around us, the beauty of God’s creation, and the needs of others at the end of our reach. It’s amazing, for a society as connected and “caught on camera” as we are, that we have become as blind to the needs of others as we have. Jesus didn’t wait for someone to come into the synagogue to be healed or ministered to. He hit the streets, visited the homes of “publicans and sinners”, and made Himself available to the masses. His life was the antithesis of the self-preservation mindset we see today.


ACTION STEP: Commit a couple of times a day (for starters) that, when you go into a public place, you are going to turn off your ringer, put up your cellphone, and take notice of those around you, looking for a way to be of assistance to someone else.


Monitor 1One of the things that drives me crazy about politics is when, in a debate or interview, someone won’t answer a direct question. It is as though they have paid no attention to the question, and simply use their response as an opportunity to change the subject, and advance their own agenda. In the Bible, the apostle James encourages us to be “quick to listen and slow to speak…” (James 1:19). Too often, instead of really listening to what someone else is saying, we are simply working on formulating a pithy or intellectual response while they are talking. We are HEARING, but not truly LISTENING. Really listening requires undivided attention, focusing on the person who is speaking, and if they are in front of you (ie: not on the phone), observing facial expression and body language. There was a time not long ago when we were NOT connected 24/7; NOT constantly looking at Facebook and Snapchat, and NOT at the instant beck-and-call of every email or phone call. And you know what? We survived! We probably had a better quality of life, and definitely had better interpersonal relationship skills. Honestly, short of some sort of personal or dire emergency, when you are having a conversation, there should be nothing more important at that moment than the person sitting across from you with whom you are conversing.

A group of ministry friends of mine were having dinner with the pastor of a church where they were ministering; five or six men sitting in a restaurant conversing over a meal. About three-quarters of the way through the meal, the pastor looked up and exclaimed, “I just want to point out something. As we have been sitting here, the thing I have noticed is the way John (one of the guys at the table) has engaged everyone here. He has been listening to everyone, and has made it a point to draw every person here at the table into the conversation. That is a rare and wonderful ability.” In pointing out this observation about John, the pastor revealed that he, too, had been listening and observing, and had taken an interest in all of the men at the table. He was right… these days, that is a rare ability. Too often, we simply use our silence as the time in which we formulate our next opportunity to say something seemingly wise or clever.

ACTION STEP: The next time you sit down for a meeting, dinner, or just a conversation, encourage those you are with to turn off their phones, and put them in a place to the side, out of sight and mind. Whatever it is, it can wait. Commit to being a better listener.

We are made in God’s image, and it is the nature of God to want communion and fellowship with us, His creation. We all need someone to confide in, someone to talk to, and someone to listen to. It preserves our humanity. It makes us (and others) less lonely. It improves the quality of our lives and the lives of those around us.

For those of us who are believers in Christ, I am reminded of this saying…

“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

So, I encourage you… saddle up, head out, go forth, and reconnect with the world around you. See others the way Jesus does, and take the time to draw them into your circle.

By drawing them into your circle, you might find them drawn into His heart.


Pastor Ron

Friendship Through The Looking Glass

The Human Touch

Through the Looking GlassIn A Letter to Arthur Greeves, C.S. Lewis wrote:

“If I had to give a piece of advice to a young man about a place to live, I think I should say, ‘Sacrifice almost everything to live where you can be near your friends.’”

In the age of Facebook, Twitter, and the plethora of other social networks, it is easy to lose the human touch. Through instant messaging, texting, and email, we think we can show affection, settle conflict, and stay close to our “5,000 closest friends”.

However, when times get tough, how many of those 5,000 friends are going to show up on your doorstep to help? When you get the bad diagnosis, how many of your Twitter “followers” are going to offer you a ride to the doctor, or come visit you in the hospital? When you just got news that your company is laying off, and you’re probably going to lose your job, is a “poke” on Facebook going to touch you like a hug from a true friend? While social media has its place, no amount of online chatting can take the place of sitting down across the table from a friend, sharing a cup of coffee, and engaging in a heartfelt conversation.

Jesus said that there is no greater love a man can have than to lay down his life for a friend. He understood the value of deep, abiding, face-to-face friendship.

Take a moment today (now is a good time) and reach out to someone in a very real way. Schedule a lunch together. Go grab some coffee with them. Make it a point to reach out and be real. There’s no telling the difference you can make in someone’s life today.

Friendship The Life of Faith Through The Looking Glass

Faithful Are The Wounds

Through the Looking GlassI like this quote by British author J.R.R. Tolkien:

“Faithless is he that says ‘farewell’ when the road darkens.”

It reminds me of the words of Solomon:

A friend loves at all times,
And a brother is born for adversity. ~ Proverbs 17:17

So what is your definition of a true friend…

The one that gives expecting nothing in return?

The one that is willing to tell you the truth even if it means making you angry?

The one who can sit with you in silence during your darkest hour, and not say a word – who understands that just being there is enough?

The one you trust to hold the other end of the rope you are dangling from the proverbial “cliff” by?

Solomon said that “faithful are the wounds of a friend”. Does that mean faithful are the wounds a friend gives us? Or, could it possibly mean that faithful are the wounds a friend named Jesus took on your behalf?

In memory of Bob Martin ~ 1931 – 2013

Friendship The Life of Faith

That One Thing

FriendsAt Abba’s House over the past several Sundays, I have been speaking on the subject of Friendship (I’ve even had a couple of blog posts on the subject).

With that said, tell me in a few words: What is one thing you can do for someone in your circle of friends to make a difference in their life? What is a tangible way you can share the love of Jesus with another? (Just in case you need some inspiration, I recommend referring back to my post A Love Stronger Than Death.)

Set a goal (say… the end of the month) to accomplish this by. If you’re like most of us, if we don’t set a deadline, we never get it done.

Make the decision. Decide that, by faith, you are going to reach out to that person(s).

Take the leap of faith.

Leave me a comment on your thoughts, your ideas, and maybe even a follow up on how it went. Who knows? Your idea may spark someone else to do the same (it could even start a movement). You never know what a difference the smallest act of kindness can make.

Friendship The Life of Faith

A Dangerous Business

1227101031aLet’s start with a question: What would you risk for a friend?

Ok… talk is cheap. Let’s start with another question:

What have you risked for a friend?

What friendship comes to your mind that you have taken a risk on? Did it pay off or cost you? Did it lead to fulfillment or heartbreak? True friendship is one of life’s greatest riches. However, a fading friendship can be a devastating force. Victor Hugo once said, “The Supreme happiness of life is the conviction of being loved for yourself, or more correctly, being loved in spite of yourself”. Like a child who fears going into a kitchen after having been burned by a hot stove, many people shut themselves off from relationships because they have been burned by them. When you add the walls that society erects to the equation, the problems grow exponentially.

Do you first view the people you see every day…

… as black, white, Hispanic, Asian (etc)?

… as male or female?

… as young or old?

… as a Yankee or a Southerner (for those of us in the United States)?

… as local or foreign?

… as wealthy, middle class, or poor?

Sadly, we in the church have our own “walls” list, on top of these I’ve mentioned…

… Baptist, Episcopal, Pentecostal, (etc).

… clean-cut or rough-around-the-edges.

… reserved or expressive.

… (musically) traditional or contemporary.

Subsequently, have we limited our vision to only those like us?

If we as Christians are going to follow the example of Jesus, we MUST set the societal and cultural biases aside, and tear down the walls that divide us.

When Jesus spoke to the woman at the well (John 4), in that one conversation, He crossed the borders of gender, society and race (Samaritan), religion, and morality in order to touch her heart.

When Jesus befriended Mary Magdalene, she had been previously demonized (Luke8:2). Mary went on to be one of His closest and most loyal friends. In fact, she was the last to leave Him at the cross, and the first to see Him at the tomb! Here was a woman who took risks to display her friendship, who was elevated by their friendship, and who was generous and unselfish in her expression of that friendship (Luke 7).

Stepping out from behind the walls we erect can be a scary proposition. It can also be among the most fulfilling in life. Taking a risk on another person is part of what makes life worthwhile, and if we are to live out God’s ideal for our lives, we must tear down the walls!

 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. ~ Galatians 6:26-29

So, break out your emotional and spiritual sledge-hammers! What are the walls you are going to tear down today?

The Life of Faith

A Love Stronger Than Death

He could not believe his good fortune. He had gone from a young man in hiding to the front of the line, in a manner of speaking. This was relatively unheard of, especially for someone like him, with the physical limitations of being crippled. Yet, here he was… sitting at the table of the king. As he sat eating, he pinched himself for the five thousandth time to make sure this wasn’t a cruel dream – a dream from which he would wake and once again find himself in destitute obscurity.


“Nope… still here”, he mused, taking another bite of the delicacies set before him.

On this particular morning, the king was unusually quiet. The normal laughter and conversation that the king engaged in was replaced by a pensive quiet. The king seemed introspective today – almost sad. As he ate, his perpetual gazing out the window betrayed a mind that was lost in thought, a lifetime away. As the king reached for a piece of fruit, his sleeved slipped down from his wrist. It was then that the young lad noticed it…

A scar.

As the king continued eating, the sight of the scar became a focal point. He knew the king was a fierce warrior, but there was something different about this scar – something that beckoned him to inquire about its origin. In what heated battle did this great man receive this mark? What assailant could have gotten close enough to such a skilled swordsman to make such a mark? It only took a few minutes of his mind racing for his lips to form the words, and his heart to muster the courage to break the silence:

“Sire?” he said, his voice cracking with the single syllable.

“What is it Mef?” came the almost startled reply. His friends all called him Mef, since his given name was somewhat of a tongue-twister.

“That scar on your wrist… In what campaign did you receive that wound?” he inquired.

The king paused for a moment, almost as if suddenly being transported back in time to an event of life-changing significance. As he began to rub the wound, a smile crossed his face.

“I received this mark in a campaign that lasted for many, many years,” he said, now turning his full attention to his young inquirer.

“But you are a most skilled warrior, my lord. What fierce enemy could have ever gotten so close as to wound you in such a way? Have I heard of this great warrior in the stories and ballads of our land?” Mef’s mind was racing, trying to anticipate the answer.

“Enemy?” replied the king, almost laughing. “This mark is not the result of an enemy’s rage-fueled blade. No Mef… this mark came from one I loved more than life itself. I received this wound because of your father.”

Mef was dumbfounded. “My father???”

“Yes… your father. You see, I was a peasant. Your father was the heir to the throne. We were an unlikely pair… the statuesque son of the king, and this ruddy-faced shepherd. But when God chose to make me to ascend to the throne instead of your father, one would have thought that to be the end of our friendship.”

The king’s face lit up. “But you know what? It only made it stronger!”

“Ours was a covenant that not even death could nullify. Your father recognized the gift God had placed in me, and he was determined to see me succeed. He was the most unselfish person I ever knew. By birthright, your father should have been the next king, but he put his own ambition aside to see me succeed. I mean, even when your grandfather, the king, wanted to kill me, your father risked his own life, and the wrath of the king, to protect me. This scar is from a time your father and I made a covenant in blood that sealed our destinies. My friendship with your father taught me that we could accomplish more together than either of us could separately. There was power in our unity.”

Just then, the door across the room opened, and a slightly weary queen appeared at the entrance.

“David, there is a matter with your young son that requires your attention,” she stated, trying to remain poised.

The king laughed. “I’ll be right there, my queen.”

King David stood up, wiped his mouth a final time, and turned to his young interviewer.

“Mephibosheth, I want you to understand: Your presence here is the manifestation of the covenant between your father Jonathan and me – the culmination of a life devoted to a friendship both miraculous and wonderful. And just as a prince would (normally) be heir to a throne, you are heir to the promise I made to your dad. As I loved him and had his best interests at heart, so I brought you out of Lodebar – a place of no hope – and have made you like a son. My table is your table. All of the wealth of your father is at your disposal.”

With that, King David turned and left the room, leaving Mephibosheth alone with his new-found appreciation, not only of his father, but of the power of the covenant of friendship. (For more on the story of David and Jonathan, see 1 Samuel starting in chapter 18 and continuing into 2 Samuel).

This dramatic account of a very real story illustrates the covenant power of friendship. As the lives of David and Jonathan illustrate the power of unity in friendship, we participate in such relationships on a daily basis:

Our relationship with God (a covenant Jesus died to enforce);

Holy communion (the covenant meal reminding us of our obligations in our covenant with God);

Marriage (the covenant relationship between a man and a woman);

Friendships (who is your “Jonathan”?);

Church membership (we are members of the body of Christ, and in that unity is the manifest power of God at our disposal).

As Jonathan and David found strength and purpose in their friendship, so we have power in the unity of faith with other believers. Think of the promises of Jesus:

“If any two of you agree…” Matthew 18:19

“Where two or three are gathered in my name…” Matthew 18:20

But the miracle power of unity is not just our unity with other believers. It is also our unity with Jesus – it’s a package deal! John 15 spells out in great detail the importance of abiding in Him, as well as loving each other, and the power available to us if we do. The unity of the Spirit creates an atmosphere of peace – nothing broken and nothing missing.

So what are you waiting for? As the tabernacle of David, we must call the broken, crippled, and wayward to the table. We must go to “Lodebar” – the place of no hope – and announce to them that someone has made an everlasting covenant… a covenant that includes THEM!!!

Who is the “Mephibosheth” you are going to seek out?


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