Overweight Baggage


We all have strengths and weaknesses in life and I can readily admit that one of my weaknesses is not knowing how to pack light for a trip. Although I have become better over the years, I have found myself more times than not shifting items out of my checked bags and into my carry-on to avoid overweight baggage fees. In fact, I have practiced the art of making my carry-on bag look light as a feather when I lift and place it in the overhead bin so that no one will be suspicious of its weight.  As sweat drips from my brow and my arms want to shake, I keep a soft face and pretend the bag is light. The attendant asks if I need help and I kindly decline for fear they would feel the weight of my bag and send it below. The strategy has worked flawlessly… that is until an overseas trip I took this past September.

To my horror, I saw that they had a flight attendant coming around actually weighing our carry-on bags. “That’s it!” I thought, “I am doomed.” I was hoping somebody would make a scene, a disgruntled customer perhaps, a baby crying, or even better- a toddler in a tantrum- something to distract the attention of this attendant while I walked through the line….but no scene took place. The attendant took my bag, weighed it and told me it was way overweight. I would need to check my bag and they would give me a complimentary “bag” to place necessary items in. In my mind I am thinking, “These are my necessary items, that is why they are staying with me.” I had an overnight layover before I would even reach my destination. Needless to say, I did not make a scene (at least outwardly) and I took the complimentary “bag”. I am pretty sure a paper bag would have been more durable than the “bag” they gave me and I am pretty sure the gummy bears, chips, Snickers bar, three pairs of shoes, and five books (to name just a few of my items) in my carry-on may not have been as necessary as I would have liked to admit.

As I reflect back on the incident, I am reminded that sometimes that is how many of us approach life. We can have all these “necessary items” that we do not want to depart from. The problem is that all of these items can weigh us down. I am reminded of Hebrews 12:1 “..let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” Am I carrying a weight in my life that is hindering me in running the race set before me?

Several common areas that can hinder the race:

  1. Misplaced Identity: Your worth is not defined by what you do, by what you have, your family, your church, or your past. Your worth needs to be defined by God.
  2. Overpacked schedule: We don’t have time to run the race efficiently.
  3. Pride: So often we want to handle things in our own wisdom and in our own strength. Instead, humble yourselves before God and be surrendered to his will- ask him for wisdom and strength that comes from him. Seek wisdom by studying His Word and be in community with other believers.


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Take Off the Bubble Wrap


As a new parent, I no longer fear holding a baby, changing diapers, or knowing what he wants. The name of the game right now is simply “Keep him alive.”


Now I have new fears. Pretty soon the name of the game will become, “Shape his character, teach him about life, and introduce him to Jesus.” That’s kind of a big deal.

I find myself watching news and reading articles that once were irrelevant to me. Whenever the public school system is in the news, I no longer change the channel but listen intently, wondering (to be honest, fearing) what challenges my wife and I will face raising our son in a few short years. I’ve joked (only half-joked) with my wife that we can just wrap him up in bubble wrap and make sure he never leaves the house.

Recently in one of my classes at Western Seminary, Gary Thomas encouraged me to rethink the bubble wrap idea and to be careful to not raise my children to be scared of failure. He shared this quote by *Dr. Melody Rhode:

“The phrase ‘growing pains’ goes beyond aching knees to describe aching hearts and disappointed souls – essential experiences on the path toward maturity. If we ‘protect’ our children from all risk, challenge, and possible rejection, they likely will become developmentally stunted and will therefore remain immature.”

What parent doesn’t instinctually want to keep their children from adversity? However I was convicted by the reality that our attempts to protect our children from failure can sometimes set them up for it.

The “growing pains” that come from failure is hard to watch as parents, but it’s necessary for our children’s growth. First of all, failure will develop their character. Only in the light of failure will they develop humility, perseverance, and courage to try again. Only when they fail will they have the opportunity to learn, grow, and experience the success of handwork.

Not only will failure help them grow and develop into a mature person, but it will also help them spiritually. It’s failure that will help them understand their need for a savior! Children who win all the time, who only do things they are awesome at, and have never faced a challenge, aren’t aware of the fact that they aren’t perfect and have weaknesses and needs. It’s only when we take off the bubble wrap and let them experience failure that we give them space to discover their needs and learn to ask for help. By allowing them to understand a basic premise of humanity, “I need help,” we are planting seeds that will one day blossom into their reliance upon the gospel about a God who’s power is made perfect in our weakness.

*Dr. Melody Rhode is a Christian who works as a Licensed Clinical Psychologist in Bellingham. See her profile here.

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Is the Father of Jesus the God of Muhammad?

The Muslim religion is prominent in American culture. Islam is in the American news cycle daily. Currently there are 1.5 billion Muslims in the world and Islam is the world’s fastest growing religion.[1] Yet, many followers of Christ are uninformed about Islam and confused about what their responsibility toward Muslims might be. In fact, many are so uninformed that they believe Allah, the god of Islam, and the God of the Bible are one and the same. Are they?

In his book Theology in the Context of World Christianity Timothy Tennent includes a chapter entitled: Is the Father of Jesus the God of Muhammad? Do you see where I got the title for this blog? Pretty creative huh? Seriously, Tennent’s question is a pressing one for Christians who are earnest about the integrity of Christianity and the global mission of Christ.

In this chapter he traces the etymology (word origin), history, and usage of the world “Allah” and concludes that though there are etymological links between the word “Allah” and the Jewish words for God, nonetheless, they are not the same. Pre-Islam, the word Allah was used generically to refer to deity. But as Islam came on the world scene the word Allah quickly began being used as the personal name for the god of Islam, which is not the God of the Bible. The god that Muhammad claimed to represent as a prophet is not the God of the Bible. Muslims believe that Muhammad is the last and final prophet sent by God to humanity. Wait? The Bible presents Jesus as the full and final revelation of God! So, the Qur’an and the Bible can’t both be right.[2] Moreover, Jesus himself said that no one comes to the Father except through him.[3] That means that no Muslim knows the Father of Jesus; who is God Almighty. Since Jesus and Muhammad made conflicting claims to truth and conflicting claims about God they can’t both be right.

Keep in mind, Christianity and Islam are both monotheistic religions. That means both groups hold that there is only one Supreme Being. Think about it, there can’t be more than one Supreme Being. It would be a contradiction. So, is Allah God or is the God of the Bible God? They are not the same being, so which one is Supreme and which one is false?

Tennent wrote, “From the Islamic perspective, we Christians do not know the ‘God of Muhammad’ because we have rejected the revelation of the Qur’an. We have turned away in unbelief.” Further, as Christians, our beliefs about who Jesus Christ is and what he accomplished on the cross, alienates us from their god. The good news is that though we are alienated from Islam through our belief in Jesus, we are reconciled to God.[4] Tennent reminds Christians of something vastly important, that, “A Muslim without Christ remains alienated from God. Muslims stand in need of a reconciliation that cannot come through human effort but has been freely offered through Jesus Christ.”

We conclude definitively that the Father of Jesus is not the God of Muhammad. That leads Christians to embrace the commission that Jesus gave his followers for Muslims. We are to share the good news of God’s salvation with them, a salvation that is only realized through faith in Jesus.

[1] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2015/04/02/chart-there-will-be-almost-as-many-muslims-as-christians-in-the-world-by-2050/

[2] The Qur’an or Koran is the book that Muslims consider sacred. It is supposed that Muhammad received the words of the Qur’an by revelation from the angel Gabriel.

[3] John 14:6

[4] Romans 5:10; 2 Cor. 5:18; Col. 1:22

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The Myth and the Reality of World Peace

babelWorld Peace.

What would it be like? What would it look like? How different would the world operate if humankind could all get on the same page?

These are questions many people have stopped asking. The dream of world peace is just that for most people: a dream that tantalizes the fancy for a moment, only to disappear quickly as we wake up to reality.

The Bible has two stories about world peace. One is world peace on humankind’s terms; the other is world peace on God’s terms. The first account is in Genesis 11:1-9.

All humans spoke the same language, and were striving for the same goal: to build a city for themselves with a tower to the heavens. They were out to make a name for themselves, a human culture centered on self-actualization. The tower of Babel wasn’t so much about reaching heaven; it was about invading it. The Serpent’s voice still echoed in their minds “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be open, and you will be like God.”

God mercifully wrecked our plans. The Tower of Babel was a monument of confusion. It was humankind’s attempt to become gods, to live out world peace without the God of peace. We lost a common language, but we are better for it. A single language is only useful if those speaking it tell the truth. If human communication perpetuates the lie that we can be gods, it’s better to misunderstand one another. In this context, confusion is mercy. If we’re going to speak lies to each other, a language barrier is an act of God’s mercy.

When God reached out to humanity, he didn’t do it from afar. God didn’t sit in the heavens and send a lighting bolt of confusion to thwart human progress. He came down (Genesis 11:5) because the myth of progress had us on a road to self-destruction.

God coming down in mercy is at the center of the Bible’s second story of world peace. Jesus came down and hung on a cross to ransom people from every tribe and language and people and nation (Revelation 5:9). God’s mercy dispersed us into nations with different languages; God’s grace will put us back together again.

Human-centered world peace built a monument of arrogant confusion and ended in disintegration. God-centered world peace is the end of the story. Because of Jesus the story will end, not with humankind’s tower of arrogance reaching into the heavens, but with God’s heaven coming to earth.

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.
Revelation 22:1-5




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Praying for the Persecuted

IDOPI have been reading of some of the persecution and hardships that Iraq and Syria have faced as a result of ISIS. I recently came across an article on a family living in Iraq whose home, money and all of their belongings were seized by the Islamic extremists because they were Christians. I cannot even imagine what it would be like to be kicked out of my home and out of the state of Washington or even out of the United States. What would it be like to wander in another country where you may not even know their language?  What would it be like to only own whatever can fit in your backpack? How would it feel to not know where food for dinner would come from that evening? And yet, more than 140,000 Christians have been forced to flee from their homes since ISIS infiltrated Iraq last year.  Iraq has a population of over 35,000,000 and only 1.4% are Christians. [1]

Unfortunately, Iraq and Syria are not the only places where Christians face many hardships and persecutions. There are many countries where Bibles are illegal to own and being a Christian can cause your family to disown you, land you in jail or a prison camp, and even have you killed. This Sunday, November 1 is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. This is a day we can take extra time and pray on behalf of fellow Christians in other parts of the world who are being persecuted for their faith. Each month, an average of 322 Christians are killed for their faith and 214 churches and Christian properties are destroyed. [2]

1 Corinthians 12:26 says, “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.” Let’s pray for those in the body who are suffering from persecution.

Some ways to pray for the persecuted church:

Pray for their physical protection and deliverance
Pray for God to give them the words to speak so they can fearlessly make Christ known (Eph 6:19-20)
Pray that they will endure
Pray for their families
Pray that they would rejoice in sharing the sufferings of Christ ( Matt 5:11-12)

If you would like to be more informed on issues of the persecuted church, check out Open Doors (www.opendoorsusa.org) or – Voice of Martyrs (www.persecution.com)

[1] http://joshuaproject.net/countries/IZ

[2] https://opendoorsusa.org/christian-persecution/

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Calling all Singles: Par for the Course

The concept of par is a pretty simple and familiar concept from the game of Golf: The course designers give each particular hole a level of difficulty. With the par they assign to a hole they are providing an expectation by which each player can grade his or her performance. “This hole should take you three strokes, and this one should take you 4 strokes.” 

Now imagine a buddy of your plays a cruel joke. The night before you go out to the golf course, he sneaks around and changes the signs on all of the holes so that you expect each one to be easier than it actually is. The Par 4’s now say Par 2 and the Par 5’s now say Par 3’s.

What would happen?

Where you expect to be able to skate by on two strokes, it takes you four. Where you expect to make things work with 3 strokes, you feel incompetent as it takes you a whole five! And so without changing your swing, altering your golf game, or messing with your clubs, this practical joker will have ruined your entire golf experience! By making you think each hole should be easier than you’re experiencing, he has affected your expectations and therefore has set you up for a most frustrating day. Why? The reason is obvious:

Our expectations affect our experiences. 

Whether or not you’ve ever played a game of golf you can probably imagine this simple truth playing out in many different contexts. Perhaps this truth is seen no more clearly than in the context of marriage.

James 3:2 says “For we all stumble in many ways.” Everyone, sins, PERIOD. My single friends, pay attention: This indictment is all-encompassing, which means it includes your future spouse. This is an expectation with which every single person should approach marriage: your spouse will sin you. How many sins? I defer to the great theologian Lebron James: “Not two. Not three. Not four.” You get the idea.

However somewhere along the way our culture has subtly “changed the signs” like our hypothetical practical joker above, altering our expectations for marriage. Today we’re told to enter into a marriage relationship expecting to have our needs met. We are told to look forward to having our souls satisfied. (Cue a John legend song – any of them.) Secular culture leads us to believe that marriage is supposed to make us feel good, giving us romantic and pleasant feelings, and obviously this will only happen when we find the one who can make this happen: Mr. or Mrs. Right.

The results are what we should expect: We have been set up for a very frustrating and disappointing experience. “Things shouldn’t be this hard,” we reason. “This is not what I signed up for,” we cry. Many are even tempted to quit marriage, concluding they made a mistake.

In his book Sacred Marriage, Gary Thomas seeks to improve every Christian’s marriage. He doesn’t give 7 timeless principles or 3 easy steps. Instead his strategy is simple: let’s adjust our expectations.

The thesis of the book is “What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?” He’s attacking the very core of modern expectations for marriage. Contrary to our culture’s narrative on marriage, God didn’t design marriage to produce in us fleeting feelings of pleasure and delight that come from us selfishly pursuing our own needs. If you expect that you will become confused and frustrated.

Instead you should expect a relationship, in which two spouses are guaranteed to sin against each other, probably daily. As they do, they will be made more like Christ as they both learn to love their spouse in spite of their sin, while consistently confessing and repenting of their own.

With the expectation that marriage is a God-given means to becoming like Christ, marital conflict and spousal sin are no longer reasons for concern; they are God’s opportunities for growth. When newlywed affections and delight are replaced with afflictions and difficulty, we don’t need to conclude “something is wrong.”  Instead we remember that God designed marriage to bring our sin to the forefront that he may confront and change us. He designed it not simply for us to be loved, but to teach us how to love others when they appear unlovely, just like He does. With these expectations we can rest assured: this is par for the course.

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Platform by Michael Hyatt

hyattMichael Hyatt knows what he is talking about.

I just finished his 2012 book Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World. It is a step-by-step guide to building a platform. Literally, if you are looking to get noticed, build a business, start a new brand, or market some existing entity, there is no good reason for you not to own this book.

The book is an extremely easy read. It is practical in nature. You’re not going to get hypothetical philosophizing of any sort. Hyatt has a purpose and an audience in mind, and he doesn’t mess around cutting to the chase. The chapters are really mini-blogs, 60 total. They all have clear action steps and applicable guidelines. There is an aspect to this book that is almost idiot-proof. If you just read the chapter and implement his counsel, I think you’ll be on your way to meeting your goals.

That is, if building a platform is your goal. I admit I read the book mainly because I was curious. In the last 6 months I have started inching my way toward finishing a manuscript, and I picked up one of Hyatt’s e-books to help. He is the former CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishing, one of the largest Christian publishing houses in the world. Platform gave some really good practical advice that helped hone my thinking on content creation and publishing.

I think this book is a great read for those just coming out of college, or for someone who is an entrepreneur or inventor. If you want to build a brand or market an existing product, this book is great. Also, I do think Hyatt gives great advice from which pastors and church leaders can learn. We’re not in a business selling a product, but we do have a message (the gospel) that we want to get out to the world.

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