Monthly Archives: June 2018

Hello! My name is Holy

A friend of mine married a wonderful, widowed lady from another country who had two daughters from her first marriage.  One of the girl’s name translated into English is “Holy.”  When they were moving to the United States, there was some thought on whether she should add an “L” to her name and become “Holly.”  There are plenty of young ladies named “Holly,” but not too many named “Holy.”  (By the way, her sister’s name is translated as “Glory” and they wondered if she should go by “Gloria.”). In the end, it just seemed right for the girls to keep their given names.  So they are still “Holy” and “Glory.”  What beautiful names!

I wish more of us would equate ourselves with holy too. I’m not suggesting we all change our names.  It might be weird at Christmas time if my friend Jim Knight had a grandchild named “O. Holy.” Still I think we could embrace holiness like it were our namesake.

Most of the holy people I know are reluctant to describe themselves as holy.  Maybe it’s because they don’t want to be “holier than thou” or tout their holiness as if holiness placed them on some kind of pedestal (By the way, I don’t think that’s the case at all.  We all agree that Jesus was the most holy person to walk on planet earth, but Jesus never seemed to place himself on a pedestal.).  Maybe the truly holy people are reluctant to use this term to describe themselves because holiness and humility often go hand in hand. This humility causes the holy ones to honestly evaluate that they haven’t “arrived” and there is still room for growth into Christ-likeness.

In spite of not wanting to describe themselves as holy, make no mistake, people can be holy. When God says (repeatedly) in the Bible to “be holy as I am holy.” God wasn’t taunting us to an impossible holiness dream but instead provides a way for people to be holy.

I know people can be holy, because I see the evidence of God’s holy work in people every day.  I work with some very holy people. I have been privileged to pastor plenty of holy people. I know they are holy not because of the length of their dresses or how they cut their hair.  I’ve observed their holiness not in an outward appearance, but in an inward peace, a joy-filled heart and a servant’s attitude.

Holy people are quick to understand and quicker to forgive. They are slow to anger and refuse to speak poorly of others.  Holy people pray for their enemies and make every effort to transform their “enemies” into friends. Whether you call yourself “holy” or not, we need more holy people in the world today.  We need more people who are displaying Christ-like qualities in their conversations and in their interactions with those inside and outside of the church.

Your name might not be “Holy,” but let’s seek and embrace holiness like it is!

Following Jesus in Divisive Times

As you probably know, I am a pastor.  This has been my calling, my life, my “gig” since 1988.  Obviously, I didn’t pastor during the Viet Nam years (the country may have been more divided then than now), but we are sure divided these days.  So what’s a pastor to do when every issue causes more division than a fourth grade math teacher?  It seems that no matter what position a genteel pastor takes 50% of the crowd will cheer him/her on and 50% of the crowd will think he/she is a moron.

Jesus offers this solution: in his final recorded prayer (in John 17) Jesus prays for himself (not surprising since the next day He is going to be crucified); He prays for his disciples (again not surprising since the next day He is going to be crucified); He prays for the world (also not surprising since… well, you already know, the next day…) and he concludes the prayer by praying for you and me. On the night before his death, Jesus prayed:

I 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. (John 17:20-23)

Jesus prayed that we might be one. His prayer is that through our unity the world would know him. Hmmmm… now I’m just spit-ballin’ here, but if our old Enemy wanted people to NOT know Jesus, NOT follow him and think this whole Christianity thing was a bunch of doggy doo doo (sorry for the deep theological terminology, but you’ve probably noticed that’s exactly how many non-believers characterize Christianity these days), then maybe, just maybe that sly old Snake would do his best to have Christians at each other throats (just like everyone else).  Thereby throwing a proverbial wrench into Jesus’ prayer.

Listen, my brother and sisters, we MUST be united. The last thing that Jesus prayed was NOT for our happiness, health or safety (the things we seem to pray about the most). Instead, Jesus prayed that we would be one. Clearly our unity (more than Aunt Lucy’s case of the sniffles) is a big deal for Jesus. Over and over, He calls us to love one another. Couldn’t we do that?  Let’s not allow politics, skin color, national identity, language or anything else divide us.  The great commandment is to love God and love people. Period. So let’s live into the truth of the old song, “They will know we are different by our love, yes our love.  They will know we are different by our love.”

People are not Pawns

Disclaimer I:  I am not a chess player.  I played some chess when I was a teenager. I am certain that any half-witted chess player could beat me with half their brain tied behind their back.

Disclaimer II: I am not a lawyer (that’s my sister and nephew in the family).

Disclaimer III:  This is not meant to be a political post. I love republicans. I love democrats. I love green party folks, libertarians, socialists, and communists. Jesus said something about how far the extent of our love to others should reach when he said, “Love your enemies.” I am pretty sure Jesus means love everybody no matter how they voted in the last election or their perspective on God and country.

OK, with these three disclaimers behind me let me simply write:

People are not pawns.

People are people, created in the image of God.  (The previous sentence includes all people no matter what their passport says. No matter what language they speak. No matter if they acknowledge God’s existence or not.)

People are not negotiation tools.

People are not expendable.

People are to be treated with love and respect.

Didn’t Jesus also say: Love your neighbor as yourself?  In case you forgot the answer to that rhetorical question: Yes, he did say that with his words and actions, he said it.

Moreover, God cares about how we treat people. Jesus also said, “Whatever you have done for the least of these you have done to me.”

The problem comes when some folks begin to see themselves as the Kings, Queens, Bishops and Rooks but everyone else as the pawns.  Pawns are fodder. If you lose one or two protecting the king and kingdom, well that’s just part of the game.

Jesus reminded us that He is the Good Shepherd.  He is the type of shepherd that leaves the 99 sheep to look for the one lost sheep. The implication is that in his Kingdom every single sheep matters. In other words:  People are not pawns. People matter. All people.

Life is not a game where the last king standing wins.  In Jesus Kingdom, the King laid down his life for the worst of us. Why would the King do this?  Because people are not pawns. People are people created in the image of God.

I think sometimes we forget this.

Got Holiness?

This spring, Karla and I have bought numerous bags of mulch.  We got them on sale, loaded them in our cargo van (aka Karla’s car) and brought them home. We’ve put 45 bags of mulch (maybe more, I lost count) around our flower beds and shrubbery. All done it to make our yard look nice and clean and for the most part it has been mission accomplished.


There is a house in my neighborhood that has a sign in its front yard that reads “Got Mulch?” It is advertising for a company that does what Karla and I did for ourselves. The company puts the mulch in your flower beds and you don’t have to make four or five trips in your cargo van (aka wife’s car) to the home improvement store to accomplish this goal. I don’t know the cost of their services (maybe next year I will check them out), but I doubt that it will be cheaper than Karla & Rob’s Mulching Company

Why the mulch mumbles? The family that has the “Got Mulch?” sign in their yard, I assume like Karla and me, wanted their shrubbery and flower beds to look nice. No weeds. Just shrubs, flowers and mulch. But here’s the deal:  They haven’t mowed their grass. I don’t mean that they didn’t mow their grass last week.  As if they were on vacation and whoever they asked to mow their grass forgot to do it. I don’t think the yard has been mowed all year. The grass is a foot high. Maybe higher. It’s so high that you have to look through the jungle of a front yard to catch a glimpse to prove that they indeed “got mulch.”  They “got mulch” but I assume they “don’t got a lawn mower” (poor grammar noted).

Which leads to my question: Why spend the money to get mulch if you aren’t mowing your yard?  It’s this like the old philosophical question “if a tree falls in the woods and no one hears it, does it make a sound?” If there is mulch around your bushes but no one can see it, do you really “got mulch”?

Maybe my neighbor’s mixed messages are not so unique.  I see the same thing happen in people’s lives. People focus on minor things, yet ignore major problems. I’ve known folks who say that say they want to be followers of Jesus, yet spend very little time with him.  Got Jesus?  “Well occasionally” is not the acceptable answer.  Or people that claim to live holy lives, but are angry, resentful, and bitter.  Got Holiness? “If it doesn’t cause me to change, ask forgiveness or challenge my preconceived notions, then yeah I got it.” Ummm… no you don’t.

Holiness involves allowing God to look over the grassy fields of your life, and if there is anything unpleasing to Him, then it’s giving God permission to mow down any over grown or unpleasant thing. That was David’s point when he prayed in Psalm 139:23-24:  Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

It’s saying “don’t let me simply spruce up my flower beds, while I ignore my lawn.”  It’s praying keep all areas of my life holy and pleasing to you, not just a few areas of my life. Search my blind spots, point them out and make me the person you want me to be. That’s holiness.