Always On the B-Team

When I was in high school, I played basketball and tennis. I wasn’t particularly good at either sport. There was a time when I was the best basketball player on the team, but during my freshman year I hurt my ankle and was out for a few weeks. After that, I just never seemed to get it back. Most of my friends made varsity our junior year, but I was still on JV. At our school, you were guaranteed to make varsity your senior year, regardless of how good you were. So I did get to play on varsity one year….if you consider sitting on the bench “playing.” I was always a B-team player.

The same was true of tennis. I didn’t even know I liked tennis until I watched my friends play our freshman year. I tried it out, and decided to play starting my sophomore year. I wasn’t great…I was a first time player among a ton of people who had played their whole life. I obviously played B-team. I didn’t even get to play my senior year, because there were already so many good players from younger grades, that I would have done nothing but travel with the team and cheered for them. They would have let me do that, but I decided it wasn’t for me.

When I was in high school, being on the B-team didn’t bother me that much. I figured sports didn’t really matter in the scheme of things. Now that I’m an adult and in the big world of work and adulthood, I’m starting to see that it’s totally possible to be on the B-team even when you’re no longer playing organized sports. I’ve come to realize lately that I’m on the B-team at work.

You see, I work at a software company as a web developer. I’ve been here 7 years, and it’s the only software development job I’ve ever had. I started here as a complete newbie, a total beginner. I had to learn a lot, and the company was gracious to pay me while I did so. I’m grateful for that. But now that I’ve been here for 7 years, I know that I am very valuable to the company…I can do things here that almost no one else knows how to do. It’s just something that happens when you’ve been somewhere this long. And the company knows that my value lies in doing those things. When they decide to start new development on exciting, cutting-edge projects, they don’t ask me to work on them. They give them to the other developers, the ones who were hired with more experience than I had when I started (but not necessarily more experience than I have now). They assign me to doing the rote, everyday, not-as-fun, and definitely not-as-exciting work.

What’s more, I’m starting to notice a pattern. These projects that the newer people are working on are getting wrapped up, and leadership moves the developers on to new projects right away. But what they just worked on ends up having some issues (we call them “bugs), and someone needs to go back and fix them. Since the others are already on new projects, guess who gets assigned to clean up the mess left behind….  Yep, you guessed it.  Me.  It’s happened on 4 projects over the past year.

So, I’ve come to realize lately that I’m still on the B-team. I’m the junior or senior who gets passed over for varsity, and is then told to wash the team uniforms and towels after the game. I won’t lie…it’s hard on my ego!

So what are my options?

Well, I could whine about it. (I do this a lot….)  I could complain about it to leadership, and hope something changes. I could leave and go somewhere where I’m more respected. I’m totally free to do any of these things.

Want to know what I’ve decided to do? I’ve decided to do nothing. I’m going to keep being the B-team player who gets assigned the jobs no one else wants. You know why? Because I believe that God can receive glory in that. If I will continue to do my job to the best of my ability – doing it as unto God (Col. 3:23) – God can use my seeming obscurity for great things…things I may not even realize are happening. That’s my hope.

David was a B-team brother who became a king. Most of the apostles were B-team nobodies that Jesus empowered to change the world. I keep reminding myself of this, and asking Him to use my B-team status for something great.

 

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Getting all political and stuff…

I try really hard not to get into politics. Well, I should say, I try really hard to not get into discussions with people about politics. I guess we all get in to politics to a degree, as long as we are alive in this crazy society we’ve created for ourselves. But talking about people’s political views? That’s a touchy subject.

I once heard someone say that there are 3 topics you never discuss: sex, religion, and politics. Well, this is, technically, a “religion” blog (I know, I know…it’s about relationship, not religion, don’t blast me in the comments). So I already talk about religion. I’ve already crossed the line there. I won’t talk about sex, because…well…yeah. And here I am, about to talk about politics.

I checked my Facebook feed this morning, and much of what people are posting about is the Iowa caucuses that took place yesterday. Apparently Ted Cruz “won” the Republican caucus by a small margin. And while I don’t consider myself a Ted Cruz backer (or any other candidate right now, really), I’m also not upset about the fact he “won.” Mainly because I know things are still early. We’ll just have to wait and see how things play out.

So seeing all the hubbub (is that a word?) about the results didn’t upset or surprise me. What did upset me was one person’s ignorant take on some words Cruz used in his “victory” speech. This is what he posted on FB:

“Our rights come from our Creator.” Ted Cruz victory speech.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” First Amendment

And that’s about the time I made this face:

 

face-you-make-robert-downey-jr

Seriously? You’re going to pull out the first amendment because of a comment Ted Cruz made in a speech? Allow me to list all the ways this Facebooker was wrong:

  1. Ted Cruz is running for president. While he may currently be a member of Congress, he is not attempting to make any law regarding the establishment of religion. He’s just speaking something he believes (I assume) to be true. Therefore, first amendment doesn’t apply here.
  2. Wait, actually the first amendment does apply here. It’s called freedom of speech.
  3. Another pretty important document in U.S. history actually backs Cruz up here: the Declaration of Independence. And I shall now quote from said document:

    We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights…

Yowser! It’s Thomas Jefferson, 1, ignorant Facebooker, 0.

Anyway, like I said, I try not to get into these kinds of arguments with people. It’s of absolutely no gain to anyone. Thus, I passive-aggressively posted my rant here instead of commenting on his Facebook post. But I keep seeing the first amendment used like this by non-believers, and it irritates me. There are plenty of dumb things that Christians do in this country that these people can and should be calling us on (failing to love our neighbor as ourselves, that sort of stuff). But not the Constitution – it actually protects people like me and Ted Cruz, and gives us the right to say things we believe.

Ok, rant over. For now.

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Should Women Be Pastors?

You know that moment right after you do something, and you feel like maybe you should have thought about it a little more before you jumped in with both feet? That’s how I’m going to feel in a few minutes when I click the Publish button on this post.

Because, let’s face it…the women-as-pastors issue is a hot one. It has been for quite a while. Heck, even the Apostle Paul talked about it, I believe. So that’s close to 2000 years. What more can I say today that will make any difference or change anyone’s mind? Probably nothing.

Then why write at all? Maybe I’m a glutton for punishment…..

Actually, I ran across a site for a new church being planted in my town. Honestly, it excited me a little, because my own church doesn’t always excite me. Nor do any other churches I’ve visited here. We pretty much just settled in to our current church because we weren’t sure there was anything better out there. And we recognized that it was more important to be in a church than to be 100% happy in a church. When I saw this new church starting up, though, I had the thought, “could this be an exciting new adventure we could grab on to and be a part of?”

Then I looked on the church’s About page and read the church’s blog. Yep…I read the entire blog. It’s a new church…it only had 3 posts.

The About page listed 2 pastors – a husband and wife. “Co-Pastors,” it called them.  I didn’t really think much about that at the time. But then I read the blog. The first post just talked about their goals. Pretty standard stuff.  The second was a YouTube video of a sermon. I didn’t watch it, but I’m sure it was good. The last post, though, was the wife of the Co-Pastor Duo, writing a post which she started with the question “Female Pastor?”  [You may be wondering why I didn’t just link to the post…I’ll explain later…]

She goes on to talk about being raised in a Baptist church, being dissuaded from going into any kind of ministry other than, perhaps, missions, simply because she was a woman. She talks about her experiences in the ministry (music, mainly) and the “atmosphere of gender inequality” in which they were raising their daughters. She very obviously was egalitarian, over and beyond anything else (I learned a new word recently…egalitarian…I finally found a place to use it!).

Unfortunately, there was something missing from her post. She had all kinds of emotion, all kinds of experiences, and all kinds of happy buzz-words (“uplift!”, “empower!”). What her post was missing was Scripture. She never once shared a piece of Scripture to back up her argument, that women should be allowed the same position as men as leaders in the church.

Now, I know what people are going to say. He’s such a chauvinist (yay! I used another big word!). Believe it or not, I’m not sexist. I believe in a great majority of cases a woman has the ability and right to do whatever a man can do. Heck…I’ve watched a woman give birth and go through a c-section (2 different children)…I’m pretty sure there are some things women can do that men absolutely cannot.  But that doesn’t mean that God has set things up to work that way. Perhaps God just decided that He wanted men to be pastors. Who are we to say He’s wrong? If the state sets the speed limit for 18-wheelers to be ten miles per hour less than cars, should we protest and say, “but 18-wheelers can drive just as fast as 4-wheeled cars! That’s vehiclist!!!” (now I’m making up words…). No, the state has the right to set speed limits, and if they see fit to make one type of vehicle drive at a different speed than another, that’s just the way it is. They have their reasons, we don’t have to agree, but it doesn’t change the fact that it’s the law. The same can be true here….God may have His reasons, we might not understand them, but who are we to question Him about it? If His Word is clear about something, we don’t get to change it based on how it makes us feel.

That said, I’m no expert in what the Bible says about women as pastors. I recognize that I’m making this argument purely based on my own doctrinal presuppositions. I was raised in a Baptist church, I still attend a Baptist church, and Southern Baptists are usually the most conservative denomination (including their stance on women as pastors). I admit that I could be wrong, that I’m going just as much off of my experience as this woman writing her blog post was going off of hers. The difference is this: I refuse to be changed by anything less than the evidence of Scripture.

If you want to convince me that women can be pastors, and I admit that I’m completely open to the idea, then you need to show me Scripture that says that it’s okay. Don’t tell me that it made you feel bad that you couldn’t be a pastor, don’t tell me that men have oppressed women for 2000 years simply because they’re pigs. I’ve spent too long believing that the Bible only allows men to be pastors. If you want to convince me otherwise, show me in the Bible where it’s true. I just can’t accept anything less.

That said, if you want a good place to read up on it, check out this article, which DOES use Scripture.

Okay. That’s all I have to say. Cue angry comments….

**Disclaimer: I’m not linking to the blog post I talk about here simply because I don’t find it fair to call out another believer in public without first approaching them in person. I don’t plan approach this woman in person…I doubt we ever cross paths. I’m not calling her out personally here on my blog…I’m calling out her methods of arguing for women as pastors, which is not something that is unique to her. A lot of people – men and women – are using this same method of argumentation for women in ministry, and it’s just weak. If you claim to be a leader and a teacher of God’s Word, you need to use God’s Word to argue your point. It’s the only fully authoritative standard by which we can judge the appropriateness of these kinds of things.

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My Favorite Bible Verse

Want to know what I think may be my favorite Bible verse?

Galatians 5:16

So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.

I know, I know. It’s kind of a weird verse to call favorite. I’m not sure that it’s really my absolute favorite verse…I mean, there’s so many other great verses to call favorite! But I definitely would say it’s in my top 3.

The reason is quite simple – I love how easy Paul says it is to get over sin. Just walk by the Spirit, and you won’t do sinful things.

Everyone has trouble with sin. Some people think they don’t, but they don’t realize they’re lying to themselves (“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. – 1 John 1:8). Lying is a sin (9th commandment, if I’m correct). Lying to ourselves may be an even worse sin than lying to others, since there is a sense of pride in telling oneself that I am without sin. And pride is one of the seven deadly sins (I really don’t even know what the other 6 are….isn’t that a catholic thing? Sorry…I’m not catholic…).

My own struggle with sin has kept me from having the relationship with Christ that He wants to have. I walked the aisle and was baptized at 8 years old. I’m not sure that I was truly saved at that point – I understood what salvation was, to some degree, but I wonder if at that time salvation was not much more than a get-out-of-hell-free card. Then when I was 18, I went to a Bible camp with a friend, and although I wasn’t drawn to the charismatic tendencies of that camp, I was drawn to Jesus that week. I prayed, for myself, for true salvation one night, sitting in the back of the sanctuary of that little camp. Then I went home, and less than 2 weeks later, I was back to my old self. Sin, sin, sin.

But at least at this point, I believe the Spirit in me made me hate my sin. Because when I was in it, I wanted out. And for the last 15 years that has been a good description of my relationship with Christ. I go for short while, “walking by the Spirit,” then I go for a long while, “gratifying the desires of the flesh.” It’s not always  as bad as it sounds – there were times of hate, lust, and greed. Then there were other times of just selfish ambition, lying, and pride. But each of those times would be characterized as giving in to my sinful nature.

So that brings me back to why I love Galatians 5:16 so much. I’ve spent a lot of time reading books and articles on how to pull myself out of these sin-fests that have defined my existence so long, even during the time I consider myself to be a Christian. And they’re not short books either! Hundreds of pages devoted to actions I can take to get myself out of trouble, and how to avoid temptation to sin. And in the end, it was only 17 words that I needed to hear.

So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.

Walking is easy. The Spirit is already in me. All I need to do is follow it’s lead and the sinning will stop. Maybe not forever, but if I continue to walk by the Spirit, the sin won’t take control again. And that’s not just the life that Jesus wants for me….it’s the life I want for myself.

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Feeling Bad About Feelings

Did you ever get your feelings hurt?

Of course you have. We all have. And if you’re like me, you probably feel guilty sometimes when you get your feelings hurt. Like, somehow, you’re just being silly, or over-emotional, or a little too touchy and sensitive.

That was me this morning. Someone made a comment at work about how they were going to fix something that I had worked on. They basically insulted my work and made it seem like I was incompetent. And it really hurt.

As a man, I don’t always go straight for the hurt-feelings emotion. I sometimes go for the anger, indignation, and bad mood before admitting that I was hurt. But for some reason this morning, I realized right away that I was just hurt. I wasn’t angry (well…not that angry)…I was just hurt. I literally felt that same feeling I remember feeling as a kid right before I started crying. I’m not saying I almost cried (I am a MAN, after all…), but there was a definite feeling of sadness and maybe even a slight sense of betrayal.

I’m sure this isn’t uncommon in workplaces across America. Everyone deals with getting their feelings hurt at work at one point or another. But I wonder how many people are like me, and actually feel bad about it afterwards. Like it’s our fault, we probably had it coming, so we just need to get over it.

I believe deep down that I’m good at what I do. I’m not the best, and I know there are others around me in my own workplace who far exceed my skills and abilities. But that’s okay with me. I get the job done, and I know I do my best. I take pride in what I do. So when someone comments on something negative about my work, I think it’s only natural to be hurt about it. What I don’t know is if it’s natural to feel bad about feeling bad.

Anyone else have these kinds of experiences?

 

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Children of Promise

I recently took a series of surveys as an exercise assigned by my church, as a part of the new members’ class. One of those exercises was a spiritual gifts analysis, and as I already knew, I came out very strongly…I hate to say “gifted”…I’ll say “pre-disposed”…toward knowledge and truth and what the survey called “teaching.” In other words, I like learning new things from Scripture. And because of that, apparently I’d make a good teacher. I don’t know about that, but we’ll leave it as-is.

One of the downsides to being someone who revels in new knowledge and deep truths is that sometimes you tend to look for the depth in things when in reality the crux of that truth is as simple as can be. I think that describes me to the letter. Yet, as I continue to walk with the Lord, or maybe more appropriately described, as I begin to attempt to walk with the Lord a little closer, one of the things He is teaching me is the value of simplicity. And that truth was no less evident today than in days past (or is it passed? IDK…).

Today, my devotional reading was from Galatians 4, specifically versus 12 through 31. The goal of my reading was to identify the concerns of Paul, especially the illness he speaks of in verse 13. And while I followed the instructions (I’m a rule follower…), it was a different verse and a different theme that really popped out at me. In verses 21 through 31, Paul makes an analogy of Abraham’s sons and us as believers today. Here’s a general overview of what he says:

Abraham had 2 sons. One was from Hagar, a slave woman, and the other was from Sarah, his wife. The son from Hagar, Ishmael, was the son born when Abraham attempted to take matters into his own hands, after having already received the promise of a son through Sarah. The other son, Isaac, was the son born as a result of the promise of God. So Paul says that we, today, can be children of either son – children of slavery, like Ishmael, or children of promise, like Isaac.

And Paul tells the Galatians in verse 28, “Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise.”

If you study Galatians, you’ll see that they were struggling with a heresy called legalism, in which they attempted to earn the favor of God by following the Law of Moses (like being circumcised and participating in rituals). But Paul tells them, “Look, you were saved by grace through faith…what makes you think you should now live by Law? No, continue to live by faith!” And in the culmination of him telling them this, he says “C’mon! Don’t you realize that you are children of promise? Quit returning to slavery!”

So what does this have to do with the value of simplicity?

The phrase “children of promise” stood out to me, because I realized that I’ve added way too much depth to the definition of faith. To me, faith has been this complex thing that is one part belief in God, another part trusting Him (even the demons believe…so there must be more to faith than belief), and another part mystical spirituality that can’t be described in words. Because the Bible says that faith and works are not compatible, I always thought that faith had to be something completely abstract, or else it could be construed as something we did and therefore would be works. And our works are like filthy rags before Him, yet our faith pleases Him. So to me, faith was something deep that I couldn’t put into words.

Then, I studied Galatians.

In convincing the Galatians that they should refrain from legalism, Paul twice uses this word “promise.” In Galatians 3, he tells them that the promise God made to Abraham 400 some odd years before the Law was given still stood even when the Law was given (and still stands today!). And that promise was that Abraham would have a son (with Sarah), and that all nations (even the Galatians…even us today!) would be blessed through that bloodline. Of course, on this side of the cross, we know that blessing was Christ himself, a direct descendent of Abraham and his son Isaac. But at that time, it was simply a promise of a future blessing. And Abraham believed (faith!). And God credited it to him as righteousness.

The other time Paul uses the word promise is when he tells the Galatians that they are children of promise…which really means they are children of faith. Faith is really nothing more than taking a promise given you and saying with all sincerity, “I believe you will fulfill it.” When I was married, I promised my wife I would not cheat on her or beat on her, among other things. And she believed me. That’s faith. In the case of God’s promise…He promised to bless everyone in the world through His son, and anyone who believes Him can be said to have faith. And it is that faith that is credited to us as righteousness still today.

So faith is really quite simple. It is belief. It is trust. But it’s not mystical, and it’s not an action. It’s simply a decision to take God’s promise and say, “I believe you will fulfill it.” And as is often the case, simplicity is more beautiful than the depth of a thousand oceans.

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A New Perspective on Wasting Our Lives

In the opening chapter of John Piper’s book, Don’t Waste Your Life, he talks about his father who was an evangelist. He says that he recalls times traveling with him and hearing him preach, and how his father’s message, in his own words, “struck me as absolutely blood-earnest.” He then goes on to tell of a man who came to Christ at one of these times:

For me as a boy, one of the most gripping illustrations my fiery father used was the story of a man converted in old age. The church had prayed for this man for decades. He was hard and resistant. But this time, for some reason, he showed up when my father was preaching. At the end of the service, during a hymn, to everyone’s amazement he came and took my father’s hand. They sat down together on the front pew of the church as the people were dismissed. God opened his heart to the Gospel of Christ, and he was saved from his sins and given eternal life. But that did not stop him from sobbing and saying, as the tears ran down his wrinkled face — and what an impact it made on me to hear my father say this through his own tears — “I’ve wasted it! I’ve wasted it!”

The remainder of the book talks about the wasted life, what it looks like, and how to avoid it. I haven’t finished it yet (I’m close!), but it’s had a definite impact on me already.

I’ve laid in bed several nights thinking about that man lamenting over the fact that he had wasted his entire life. He had spent all those years living for the glory of himself, which amounted to absolutely nothing. Of all the tragedies that afflict humankind, few are as awful as the thought of your entire life amounting to nothing. This man’s tears were completely understandable, at least to me.

But then, as I was doing my morning Bible study today, I had a revelation that perhaps puts a twist on this whole idea. My study right now is in Galatians, and I’m still working through the first couple of chapters. In Galatians 1, Paul spends a significant amount of time building his own credentials, probably to defend against that which had been said about him by false teachers who were ravaging the Galatian churches. As a part of those credentials, Paul gives his testimony in Galatians 1:13-16:

For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers. But…God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles… (emphasis added)

My devotional bought up an excellent point that I had never considered. Paul was most likely around when Jesus was active in His ministry. He undoubtedly could have been called as an apostle by Jesus before His crucifixion. So why wasn’t he? Why did God choose to wait to call Paul until later, and until after he had done some of what he considers his worst sins (persecuting the church)?

The answer is that God did it when He “was pleased” to do it. It all falls back to God’s plan and His own timing. My devotional put it this way:

Have you wept over your past and been, in a sense, tormented in your thoughts because you didn’t come to know Jesus earlier? Rest, beloved child of God, for God saved you when it pleased Him. His promise is there to comfort and assure you that the Sovereign God — the God of all flesh — is able to cause all things, even your “before Christ” days, to work together for good. He will use them to make you like Jesus.

So while in that moment when one comes to Christ it is right to express grief over the fact that we were wretched before we did so, as it points to the repentance in our hearts, it is not necessary to continue in that sorrow. As we grow into a fuller understanding of the nature of our God, and how even Paul’s life was foreordained by Him who knows all, past, present, and future, we can take comfort in the knowledge that God was pleased for it to happen just as it did.

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