Love and fear

In Uncategorized by Caleb Anderson

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment…We love because he first loved us.” -1 John 4:18-19

Are you facing a complex issue right now? Are there decisions needing to be made, but the path isn’t totally clear yet? I’ve been there. And just recently, I’ve witnessed wrong decisions being made in a spirit of fear. And that’s a mess, so let’s consider this simple-not-easy concept for a moment.

Love drives out fear. Think less whip or bulldozer; more peace and perspective.

If you’re feeling anxious about the circumstances, ask yourself why? Are you afraid for your life? Your reputation? Your brand? Is it about money? The unknown?

Let’s name it before anything else. If you can name it, the thing automatically loses power. Take a moment… name the fear. What are you afraid might happen? What does that mean? Why is it an enduring fear that’s still haunting you? What does that tell you?

Next, let’s measure the fear against “punishment.” (See the verse above.) Is the fear connected to punishment? Guilt? Shame? Condemnation? Rejection?

If so, and you can see it and admit it, this is an open/shut, slam dunk evaluation and you can go forward confidently. There’s no condemnation because of Jesus. None. There’s one death, one resurrection, one salvation for humanity. It’s done… and it’s yours. (And it’s theirs, too.)

“Yeah, but there are still consequences.” Yep. Got it. And so be it. There are consequences for every action. And the worst consequences might be reserved for fear-based decisions. So let’s get this right.

What “consequences” or outcomes are you afraid of? Say them. List them.

Now, recognize this: There is no fear in love. As long as you’re viewing the situation through a lens of fear, you’re not going to act in love. You might say you’re acting in some generic, ethereal “love” of country, company, or campaign, but it’s just a cover-up for self-protection… which is what it always comes down to with fear.

Let love drive out fear. Embrace ultimate and eternal peace because of Jesus. Because He first loved us! What can humans do to you? You’re eternally secure; forever forgiven; spiritually spoken for… And if you’re doing your best to choose love over fear don’t you think the God who holds all things together in His hands will honor you if love is your aim?

Don’t over think it. And don’t make paranoid, fearful decisions. Wait, actively, until love clears the way. Then walk that path.

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You can’t handle the truth

In Uncategorized by Caleb Anderson

If you’ve never seen the movie, “A Few Good Men,” or haven’t seen it in a long time, it might be worth a watch. The now legendary scene when Jack Nicholson and Tom Cruise are verbally jousting in the courtroom, and the General, played by Jack, blows a gasket and yells, “You can’t handle the truth!” is the inspiration for today.

Too many people, thinking they are ambassadors for “truth,” are really just nosey moral police who love processing controversial information to arrive at self-aggrandizing positions of moral superiority. And it’s wrong.

Their position might be right—who knows—but they are wrong, at least in approach. They can’t handle the truth, even though they are strangely confident they have a corner on the market.

In the beginning, God told the first humans to eat from any tree—except one.

“Enjoy everything I’ve provided, just show me that you trust me, and stay away from one tree.” One stupid tree, in a garden full of luscious trees, providing more than enough nutrients and enjoyment. Yet, they did what humans still do; they went straight for the one forbidden tree. The tree? The tree of the knowledge of good and evil—right and wrong.

Why was that the one tree God told them to stay away from? Because we can’t handle the truth. We weren’t designed to. We were designed to trust God and follow. Not make moral judgments on everything and everyone. Not surprisingly, our world is getting more and more confusing, convoluted, and divided—everyone with their own claim to “truth.”

All the while our human—moral—obsession with good versus evil, right versus wrong, is the original trap.

“Did God really say not to eat of that tree,” The enemy whispered? Planting seeds of doubt and setting the trap of moral pride. “He just doesn’t want you to be like him—knowing right and wrong.”

We love feeling like our own little gods. We don’t need to trust and depend on the invisible Spirit day by day, moment by moment, as long as we can pretend to be a god, ourselves. False religion is obsession with moral standards that insulate us from our need for God and His grace. It’s the original sin, and the drug of choice of many, many religious types.

You can’t handle the truth.

That’s why when John—close friend and biographer of Jesus—said that Jesus brought and embodied “grace and truth” (John 1:14,17), the word “grace” comes before “truth” on both occasions. We’d do well to take the order of the words seriously, and remember that even when we’re confident in our truth, we’d better lather it in grace. Because we weren’t meant to handle truth on our own. And we still “see through a glass dimly.”

So the next time you want to shout down someone with your truth, pause and make sure that in your “rightness,” you’re not wrong. Go with grace first… then offer what you hope is truth with humility.

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Two ways to grow

In Uncategorized by Caleb Anderson

All meaningful growth is simple, but not easy.

People grow in two ways. We grow when we…

• Choose to follow, with childlike faith, or

• Experience enough suffering to humble us into childlike surrender (faith).

I wish this wasn’t true, but I can’t ignore the evidence. It’s everywhere—all around me, and in my own story.

Think about kids. Have you noticed how they are sponges? They see everything, hear everything, and absorb and apply learnings quickly. The rate of growth—physically, mentally, emotionally—between birth and college-age is unparalleled the rest of our lives.

But growing up is a spiritual disadvantage.

“He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” -Jesus (Matthew 18:2-4)

Most people have to be broken before they believe, before they change. By “broken” I mean beat up, humiliated, and having their road of independence exposed as spiritual rebellion.

But, when given the choice, I hope I’ll choose the path of childlike faith and trust. It’s less painful. Maybe I should be paying more attention to the things I teach my own kids…

• If the pot’s hot, don’t touch it

• If it’s bedtime, go to sleep

• If it’s too expensive, put it back

• If it’s time for chores, get to work

• If mom made it, eat it (and be grateful)

• If it’s not yours, don’t take it

• Thank God for your toys and treats

• Be kind to everyone

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Redwood seeds

In Uncategorized by Caleb Anderson

A friend of mine gave me a Redwood seed. It’s tiny—like a flat kernel of corn.

Redwoods are the largest species of trees in the world, growing hundreds of feet high, and living thousands of years. But when you look at the seed, it’s difficult to imagine that such enormous trees have such small and humble origins. And yet, there it is… in my hand… the beginning of unimaginable growth.

Consider this: Everything that Redwood tree will eventually become (over the next 1,000 plus years) is contained on the tip of my finger in this small seed. Sure, it will need sun and soil… but…

• its DNA… check.

• its features… check.

• its strength and sturdiness… check.

• its size—height and width… check.

It’s all right here. Something incredibly big starting shockingly small.

Kind of like you.

“I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born I set you apart and appointed you as my prophet to the nations.” -Jeremiah 1:5

Not only were you made in the image of the eternal God, he also put the seed of your future in your DNA. You already have what you need to be who you were designed to be.

New trainings, sure. More experiences, of course. But it’s in you. It’s begun. It’s growing… becoming…

You won’t ruin it because it’s you. You’re not lost, broken, too slow, or disqualified. You’re you! All that’s you has been in you from the beginning and its still working its way out of you.

Be patient. Keep growing. It takes awhile to become a Redwood.

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New compass

In Uncategorized by Caleb Anderson

“We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” … Then Herod called the Magi… -Matthew 2:2,7

Magi, or astrologers, were studying the stars and found one that was out of the ordinary. They followed it all the way to Jesus.

They were also given instructions by King Herod—who wanted Jesus killed—to come back and give him more intel. But, after a face to face encounter with the tiny Son of God, they had a dream. They were to ignore the instructions of the king and return home by a different route. So they did.

My friend was praying for me recently and suggested to me that, perhaps, God wants to give me a new compass.

We follow signs… and sometimes they are helpful.

We follow kings… because they are in charge.

We follow examples… parents, friends, influencers.

But some of us need a new compass. The standards need to change. The scorecard needs to be thrown out. The structure is now too limiting.

Time for a new compass.

Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted…” Then [Jesus] said to him, “Follow me!” -John 21:18-19

Jesus: “Follow me.”

It might not look like it did before. You might disappoint some people and there may be discomfort. It’s going to involve caring for people who might seem like dumb sheep. You’ll likely go some places you wouldn’t have thought to go on your own.

Follow Jesus.

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Fridge friends

In Uncategorized by Caleb Anderson

Do you have refrigerator-friends? The kind that can walk into your house and help themselves to your refrigerator? And do you have friends that you feel comfortable sticking your face in their food-cooler?

Fridge-friends are important. They have broken through the formalities and polite pleasantries. They’ve been around enough and know you well enough to not have to ask. They just grab what they want because they know you love them.

Granted, some people can be obnoxious and over-stepping, but I’m not talking about the weirdos. I’m talking about the people you let into your life enough to let into your refrigerator.

Here’s a fun test: Go to Costco and stock up the fridge. Then invite some people over for a game. You need a football game or movie or backyard activity so people are moving around freely. Then watch, and wait. When someone asks for something, tell them to help themselves. If they feel awkward or uncomfortable it’s even more fun! Just tell them that they are now officially fridge-friends and can get what they need without asking.

It’s not lazy. It’s another level of hospitality. And it takes friendships to new levels, too.

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Who’s cool

In Uncategorized by Caleb Anderson

“For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.” -Romans 12:3

Remember high school? Yeah, some would rather forget. Others still cling to those glory days.

Remember the people who were super cool in high school? What did you notice about them at the 10 or 20-year reunions? Probably not so cool any more, huh?

High school’s almost-cool kids are doing better. They had to work harder and hustle more to hang with the in-crowd. Those acquired study and social skills are paying dividends in the workplace. Still, even those kids are working for the nerds—flipping the high school social ladder upside down.

Let me say it more clearly. In 2018, in the real of world culture and contribution, “nerds” are the kings and queens. Nerds started businesses in college. Nerds developed the apps that went viral. Nerds defined the algorithms that shape your digital social life.

Contrary to our life experience through college, nerds are the new cool.

Here’s the same concept, broader example… I was at a big event with a friend. He was “important” at the event—playing the role of interviewer at the side-stage. He met with all the event’s main-stage speakers. He looked cool, sounded cool, and hung out with people that also seemed cool… at that event.

Months later, I was at an entirely different event with this same guy. At this event, my friend was unknown. His clothes that seemed cool on the side-stage now made it look like he was trying too hard. Conversations were forced all night, and my friend confessed to not feeling very “cool” at all.

Cool is temporary and all about context. If cool is your goal, you’re going to spend your life chasing the wind.

The Apostle Paul wrote to high-achievers and culturally relevant Jesus-followers in the city of Rome. Here’s an accurate paraphrase of verse three (above):

“God got my attention when I was full of myself, humbled me, and changed my life for moments like this—so hear me out: Don’t chase ‘cool!’ Don’t try and impress. It’s a fool’s game. Play the unique role God has give you to play. We all have a part in the story. You’re not better than anyone else, and no one else is better than you. Use what God gives you and be where God puts you.”

Cool is a myth. Be you… do good.

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Sleep before you send

In Uncategorized by Caleb Anderson

“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry… ” -James 1:19

If James were here and doing another edition of his letter to people figuring out what it means to follow Jesus in 2018, I think he’d add, “And sleep on it before you send that email.”

Since James isn’t here, I’ll say it. I say it because I do it. And I do it because I’ve screwed this up many times.

I pride myself in being level-headed and good with words. So I’ll spend an hour crafting an email that I think is great. In my mind, it’s articulate, not too defensive; detailed, but with an appropriate economy of words. Sometimes, I get to the end and I want to get it behind me. I want to move on to something else, something that will make me feel better. So I’m tempted to just click, “send.” But that would be a mistake.

Remember:

  • everything comes across more direct and cold via email.
  • you never know what kind of day the person is having when they read the email.
  • humor, heart, and intention is often lost when you email.

So wait.

Sleep on it.

Even better, ask someone you trust to read emails before they go out. Have them read anything that is significant or contains anything negative or emotional that could be misunderstood.

Sleep on it.

Read it again in the morning. Does it still do what you want it to do? Is there any way you could have this conversation in person or on the phone instead of emailing? You’re not in that big of a hurry. Value the relationship over your need for speed and task-oriented validation. The person is worth it.

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Jacob’s ladder

In Uncategorized by Caleb Anderson

“He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.” -Genesis 28:12

Jacob had a dream after he ran away from home. In the dream, a stairway—or ladder—connected heaven and earth. The stairway was “resting” on earth, which I think means it’s always there. But this was the only time Jacob saw it—in his dream.

The dream was also full of promises. God promised that Jacob’s descendants would be as many as the sand of the seashore. Which is a lot, and probably more metaphoric than literal. Still, Jacob didn’t live to see that. He had a dozen sons, but that’s far from seashore status.

The point is, the dream was only partially realized in Jacob’s lifetime on earth. And, as far as we know, he didn’t run stairs with angelic athletes, either.

There’s a machine at the gym called “Jacob’s Ladder.” But it doesn’t stretch to heaven. (Hell, maybe.) I think they call it Jacob’s Ladder because you just keep climbing. You climb and climb and the wooden ladder bars keep rotating through… endlessly… until you get off the ladder machine.

The last time I was climbing on Jacob’s Ladder I thought about this passage from Genesis—Jacob’s dream. I wonder what it was like to have such a moment—such a definitive signal from God and hope for the future—but then not see it again. Jacob had other profound experiences, but I wonder how often he looked toward heaven, begging for a sign… desperate for a ladder that mattered. I wonder if he got frustrated knowing there’s more out there while he was limited in his current reality.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I feel like I’m on Jacob’s Ladder—climbing, sweating, and breathing hard… but going nowhere. When I feel that way, I’m learning not to be discouraged. Even though the machine is cycling wooden ladder bars around and around and it feels like an exercise in futility, good things are still happening—below the surface.

I may not be moving very far, but my heart is getting healthier. My metabolism is speeding up. My muscles are strengthening. I’m building discipline and endurance. There are no trophies or accolades for climbing Jacob’s Ladder, but that doesn’t mean good things aren’t happening all the time.

Heaven is always touching earth. Angels are continually on the move. Hope is still rising. The revolution is still on.

And YOU are still making progress. Keep climbing.

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A certain place

In Uncategorized by Caleb Anderson

When he reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones there, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep… When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.”  -Genesis 28:11,16

Jacob was the grandson of the famous “Father Abraham”—hero and origin of the Jewish nation. But in his youth, Jacob was a rebellious troubler-maker.

After manipulating his older brother (Esau) and lying to his father (Isaac), Jacob ran away from home. He needed to put some space between himself and his family until things cooled down. It was on the run, in the middle of nowhere, that he stopped for the night, fell asleep, and had a famous dream.

The dream was about a stairway to heaven, but I want to talk about the place. “A certain place.”

You see, in Jacob’s day, people associated their faith system with their land. “In our land, we worship the god of this territory. He protects us and cares for us if we do the right things. If another army comes and destroys us, then their god is stronger than our god and he is taking over our land.”

Geography defined their experience of life—including their understanding of “the gods.”

So, when Jacob was outside “his land,” and was met there by his God, he was confused.

“God is here, too? In this place. And He’s been here all along?” We’re still learning this lesson, thousands of years later.

There is One God. He’s the God of the Universe that He created. He’s not just the Jewish God. And He’s not just the Christian God—as if a religious designation or denomination could claim or limit their Creator.

God is everywhere, for everyone. He’s always been and always will be. We intentionally, or unintentionally, try to box Him in, but He’s box-less.

He won’t be your genie in a bottle, waiting on your next command. He won’t be your religious trump card for winning debates. He’s not all than into rituals or rules that attempt to earn his favor. He’s bigger than that.

But He’s also more personal and more present than that. It seems THE GOD of our universe is always looking to remind you and me that He’s here… and He’s been here all along.

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