Sunday, February 3, 2013


Before answering that question, ask

Would I rather be right or happy?

Would I rather solve a problem or avoid taking responsibility for that problem?

When something goes wrong in a country, an organization, or a marriage the first move we often make is to blame someone for what went wrong. This makes no one happy and the problem remains.

An example is the U.S. economy, which is currently not good. Who's to blame? Each political party knows the answer. It's the other party. No one is happy and the problem worsens. Instead of spending vast amounts of energy and ink blaming and defending against blame, imagine both parties taking 100% responsibility for the problem and setting to work.

Blaming and defending against blame is not only exhausting, it also hardens positions. Ceasing that activity releases huge amounts of energy and creativity to address the problem.

I, for one, cannot see that happening at the Federal level, but I have seen it happen in marriages and companies.

For the past 40 years I have counseled hundreds of troubled marriages. Without exception, each partner blamed the other for their troubles. My first step is always to ask couples to suspend judgment and blaming for now. I asked them to think of their marriage sitting in a boat that is sinking. For now, I say, it doesn't matter who put the holes in your boat. I invite each of you to take 100% responsibility for the marriage and do everything in your power to plug the leaks. When I get agreement things improve immediately. Then and only then can the attitudes and decisions that caused the leaks be addressed. When each knows that the other is for the marriage and has the other's back, so to speak, can systemic problems be worked on.

I have seen the same happen in troubled companies I have consulted. When the stake holders decided together that the success of their business is more important than finding someone to blame, things immediately improve.

Blaming and shaming is useless for solving problems. Rather, it's for self-justification and defending one's ego. Protecting one's view of one's self is not a strategy for long term happiness and a better future.

After all involved take 100% responsibility and do everything in his or her power to solve the problems, the stage is set for a calm, rational examination of what went wrong and who did what. This is when bad decisions and attitudes of the past can be identified and corrected. When everyone knows that everyone else is committed to everyone's mutual interest, the atmosphere is created for long term systematic problem solving. A small price to pay for having to be right all the time.

Look at the evidence. 

Being right is often costly and in any event is overrated.  

Monday, August 27, 2012


Most of us have been taught that there is a heaven and a hell and that both are populated.

Rob Bell, in his book, Love Wins, and others have recently challenged the notion that hell is eternally populated with those who in life did not recieve Christ as Savior. 

Those on the conservative end of the church spectrum are objecting to Bell and the others in the strongest terms.

I never cared about getting my theology settled on heaven and hell and almost never think about either. The same is true for me about the End Times and other issues that are not clear that the church has not agreed on and that I can do nothing about anyway.

What does interest me about the hell issue is what the early church Fathers taught on it. The teachers of the first four hundred years of the church believed in UNIVERSAL RESTORATION. They taught that God's love was so perfect and the resurrection of Christ so powerful and inclusive that in time or eternity, God's love and power would win out in every person's life.

The early church Fathers got a lot right that we have lost over time. Maybe UNIVERSAL SALVATION is one of them. That said, we don't have to believe as they did, but we can.

The following may make their view of the cosmic significance of Christ easier to consider. 

First of all, they didn't simply make up their optimistic view. They based it on their reading of Scripture. For instance:

In John 23:34, Jesus says he will draw all people to himself.
In John 12:47, Jesus says he did not come to judge the world but to save it.
In Romans 11, Paul says God will have mercy on all.
In Romans 14:11, Paul says in the end every knee will bow before God and every tongue confess God.
There are dozens of verses like these.

The Fathers and the Bible give us permission to hope for UNIVERSAL RESTORATION, so why not? 

Think about the vineyard workers who were all paid the same. Then think about those who were offended because this isn't fair (Matt. 2).

Or think about the prodigal's welcome hom (Luke 15). Who today is the elder brother who becomes upset because the big sinner gets a banquet instead of a beating?

If we are fortunate enough to know Jesus and therefore, know we are forgiven and included, why not desire the same for everyone else? Most of the people who ever lived have never heard his Name. What about them?

We can and may believe that since God brought good out of the worst evil ever (the execution of his Son), he might bring good out of lesser evils.

It may be that love wins. 
We can hope.

Monday, July 30, 2012


Most Friday evenings we have a family dinner. My children and grandchildren who are in the area gather for a meal and a blessing. There are as many as 10-15 of us, along with friends who sometimes drop in.

After Patti lights the candles and before we sing and eat, I bless my wife and kids and they bless me. It's a bonding event and a nice ritual. But I think it's even more. I believe something actually happens as we bless each other.

I believe this for two reasons.

The first is what the Bible teaches about the act of blessing. 

In the Old Testament especially, we see fathers blessing their children and according to what we read, that blessing has weight and substance. 

Something happens. Something is changed for the child that can't be reversed - see Genesis 27 and Genesis 48.

The second reason I believe something happens when we bless each other is what I have experienced with the poorest of the poor children in slums and squatter camps around the world. When I go to these sad places in Africa, Latin America, India, Southeast Asia, etc., I find that most of the children are not sad. 

They live in a dump but their eyes are not dumpy. They shine with expectation because the pastor, father, or daddy (as the African kids call me) has come to bless them. 

They don't ask me to bless them. They just grab my hands and put them on their heads.

They don't wait for me to give a blessing. They take it. They demand it.

It always makes me cry.

These are the little children Jesus spoke of who are first in the kingdom. They don't wonder about being worthy of blessing. They just take what they want, somehow knowing it's there for them and knowing it's real.

Here is my blessing for you:

May the God of all forgiveness and love bless you. 
May the light of His countenance shine upon you and give you peace.

Monday, July 9, 2012


In John 4 we find a story that shows us what happens when God interacts with someone who is a marginal outcast. The Samaritan woman at the well has been rejected by five husbands and is now "living in sin," as some say it.

She is a loser by all counts. She is a low class member of a despised minority.

What happens when God meets someone like that? 

He doesn't begin by judging or imposing his agenda. He starts off by patiently hearing her story on her terms, then he asks her for something practical that he needs. This is to say, there is social give and take.

Only then, when the woman is ready, does he dig into her life and reveal to her that he already knows all about her complicated and troubled life. Still no judgment. Only implied forgiveness and acceptance. 

Then comes his agenda.

And what is it? 

He gives her the work and honor of being the first non-Jewish, non-male Apostle to the non-Jewish world.

What he doesn't do is take her through a moralistic type repentance. He doesn't tick off the commandments she has broken. He moves from healing her story, knowing the rest of her story straight to honoring her and giving her honorable work to do.

If we think that God is in any way a moralizing accountant who is in the very least disappointed with us, we have it precisely and exactly wrong.

No matter how your history has gone so far, no matter how many bad choices you have made or sins committed, your life will be honored.

When you meet the true God, 
you receive forgiveness, love, and honor. 
When you meet forgiveness, love, and honor, 
anywhere, any time, 
you meet God.

Saturday, June 23, 2012


One of the greatest, if not THE greatest cause of suffering in the world is the pervasive tendency for one person to judge and condemn another or for a group to judge and condemn another group. One of the most ironic and instructive themes in the New Testament is how judgement and condemnation plays out.

Tax collectors, prostitutes, and various other "sinners" are judged and condemned by the religious elite in the New Testament. So Jesus makes friends with these losers and is judged and condemned as well. One such loser was the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4. Jesus honors this woman of questionable character by making her the first missionary to the non-Jewish world. Remember that she was an outcast within a despised minority. She was the portrait of the absolute loser.

Surprise! The Samaritans whom Jesus so honors judge and reject him in Luke 9:52-53. The disciples accepted Jesus as their Messiah and they are offended by the Samaritan's rejection of their Messiah. So they ask to call fire down from heaven to destroy them in John 9:54.

Despite all Jesus has said about forever, unconditional forgiveness and watching him befriend the worst people in the society, the disciple's tendency to judge was so powerful that they jump at the chance to do it. They are right and righteous in their own eyes because they believe in the true Messiah, therefore, they are in a position to judge and condemn those who don't.

Imagine their shock when Jesus pulls the rug out from under them by becoming the most rejected, despised, low class loser of all time by dying a criminal's death. He was rejected by all, judged by all, and executed in the way reserved for the worst of the worst criminals.

The irony is that after Jesus is vindicated by the Father when he rises from the dead, the disciples follow Jesus into the world where they are rejected as he was. The judgment they wanted for the Samaritans falls on them. They are judged by others, condemned, and destroyed. They suffer the same fate that they at one time wished on others.

When Jesus, the only person worthy to judge, let himself be judged by us, he put an end to the legitimacy of all judgment. The disciples got that and followed him, knowing that, like him, they too would be resurrected.

As I have said before, judging others is bad for us in so many ways. 

Jesus and his true followers show us that we don't have to do that anymore. 
Truth and health come with forgiveness and love.  

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


The crucifixion of Jesus is finally a mystery. We are told that when Jesus died, all died. That when he was raised from the dead, so were we. We are to believe that in the death and resurrection of Christ, something historical and objective happened which saved us and the world.

But how exactly does that work? Ho do we make sense of that? Lots of theories, but no one really knows.

While the cross of Christ is historical and did something to us objective and concrete, it also offers us healing for our minds, emotions, and relationships. In other words, the cross did something to us and for us whether we feel it or not and can also change the way we think and feel about ourselves and others. Contemplating the Son of God dying a criminal's death for us because he loves us, frees us from a lot of guilt, judgment, and self-hatred.

We spend much of our time thinking about what we and others should be and are not. This leads to sadness and anger. But, contemplating the death of Jesus frees us from much of it. The cross gives us a radical reorientation regarding what we and others should be.

  • On the cross God became limited and confined. Now I can more easily accept my own limitations and the limitations of others.

  • On the cross God became inferior so I don't have to pretend I am superior.

  • On the cross God became weak so I don't have to be strong or judge the weakness of others. 

  • On the cross God became disapproved so now I don't need the approval of others.

  • In the religious and civil courts God was proved wrong so I don't have to always demand justice for myself.

  • In the world's eyes and in the minds of his friends God was a failure so now I don't be a success or demand it from others.

  • On the cross God became poor in every way and he got over it. Now I don't have to be rich in any way.

We suffer far too much and too often because we don't measure up to what we think we ought to be. We judge others in the same way. Once we see that God became one of us and took on himself everything we don't like about ourselves, and got over it, so can we.

We are just human and Jesus showed us that that's good enough.

Thursday, May 10, 2012


On June 29, 2004, twelve U.S. soldiers coming home from Iraq were flying American Airlines Flight 866 from Atlanta to their home in Chicago. 

While passengers were waiting to board, a business man approached one of the soldiers and asked, "What is your seat number, soldier?" 

The soldier replied, "23B, sir."

The business man said, "No, son. That's my seat. Here is yours in first class." He handed the soldier his first class ticket and pointed him to the first class boarding entrance.

Word quickly spread throughout the plane and other first class passengers exchanged their boarding passes with the other eleven soldiers. 

That flight turned into a celebration. Jaded business people, exhausted soldiers, and everyone else on the plane experienced the Kingdom of God.

The best thing we can do for God, is to love and bless his children. In doing so, we make him happy and have a party in the process.

The Kingdom of God is a glad celebration.

We can throw one anytime we want.