Focus On What Matters

A few weeks ago I was reading the liturgy for the day, and the NT reading came from Paul’s first letter to Timothy, the first chapter. I was so taken with it! For the past five years or so, I have immersed myself in the four gospel accounts, and it has been richly fulfilling and needed. Therefore, reading Paul again was fresh to me. And this letter to his guy Timothy resonated with me deeply and immediately.

Here’s verses three and four from the New Living Translation which really struck me:

When I left for Macedonia, I urged you to stay there in Ephesus and stop those whose teaching is contrary to truth. Don’t let them waste their time in endless discussion of myths and spiritual pedigrees. These things only lead to meaningless speculations, which don’t help people live a life of faith in God.


In this age of information overload, I am so often bombarded, it feels, with invitations to meaningless discussions. As my daughter Gabriela says, “It’s driving me to the nuts!” I can’t do it. Life is too short. There’s too much meaning in the universe to take the time to talk about ridiculosity that does not lead to love, to God.

I like how one commentary on I Timothy states, “The danger seems at first a simple one: wasting time. Avoid godless chatter, he says, and focus on the really important things, such as the gospel of Jesus Christ…What exactly is ‘godless chatter?’…Godless chatter is talk that doesn’t have as either its content or goal the promotion of the gospel of Jesus Christ. In other words, what Paul is recommending is that our talk be ‘partisan’ in the best sense of the word–that we never waste time in simple critique of false teaching, critique that doesn’t go anywhere. No, Paul wants us always to talk in terms of the gospel.”

So with regard to talk of a spiritual nature, let’s make sure it has a point, and that that point is the gospel of Jesus Christ, of living a life of faith, the promotion of love, of God Himself. If you wanna talk baseball stats, I can talk all day long. No rules, no worries there. But if we’re gonna talk religion on any level, I’m gonna hold you to gospel purity.

I’ve had a friend who likes very much to criticize the same Christian author over and over, year after year. Stop. Enough. It’s pointless. It’s boring.Yawn fest. Who cares? Not this guy. Or some I know at the gym and elsewhere who love to go off politically. Let me tell you something, you do that with me and I will always ask you two things: 1) How’s your prayer life, and how much are you praying for these politicians you love to slam? and 2) What do you feel God is personally calling you to politically? In other words, what is God calling you to do about what you’re complaining about, because I have a sneaky suspicion that it’s not to complain about it.

Pray and do something.

Ok, that’s enough for today. I may spend some time over the next weeks unpacking some of I Timothy because I love doing that, and there’s much to glean and understand from this letter.


On Charlottesville

Romans 12:15

Celebrate with those who are celebrating, mourn with the mourners.
[New Testament for Everyone]

There’s been much on my heart this week. The Spirit has directed me to Paul’s first letter to Timothy, which I look forward to sharing with you soon. A close friend has been in the hospital. Our daughters went back to school, and that was joyful to the nth degree for them. A friend’s daughter took her own life last Saturday….

Yet what is on the forefront of about everyone’s mind are the events of Charlottesville. Personally, I have so many jumbled thoughts, that I feel it best to let someone else speak. My friend Jermayne Chapman wrote “An Open Letter to Pastors” this past Sunday that is beyond worth sharing.

So thank you, Jermayne, for sharing so freely, my brother.

Here is the post in its entirety:

An Open Letter to Pastors this Sunday Morning, August 13, 2017

Good Morning,

I hope you are well this Sunday. I’m sure you are caught up in last minute prep for Sunday morning.

In light of the events that happened in Charlottesville, VA, I wanted to challenge you this Sunday morning. I wanted to challenge to not remain silent this Sunday morning on what just happened in our country.

Somewhere in the service, preferably towards the beginning, you need to acknowledge what happened in Charlottesville. You will need to call out racism and denounce white supremacy. That’s not a political thing, it’s the right thing. You will need to weep with those who are hurting, both physically and emotionally. Not based on whether or not you fully understand why someone may be hurting. You need to do this even if everyone in your congregation looks like you. Because everyone in your congregation will need to hear how they should respond when they observe racism or when a co-worker, a friend or a neighbor suffers from the pain of a racist experience. You will need to pray for healing and peace.

This is a lot to ask, so I’ve taken the time to write out what you can say in case you have no time to prepare.

“Many of you may already be aware of the events that took place this weekend in Charlottesville. As we have learned from Jesus and the Parable of the Good Samaritan, white supremacy is wrong and has no place in our church or in our society. While there are those who are hurting from direct involvement, many more brothers and sisters have been traumatized by the occurrence of these events and the reminder they create of our shared history and the parts of that still persist today. The Apostle Paul encourages us in Romans 12 to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. It is in that spirit as well as that of the Good Samaritan that I would like for us to take the time to pray. Pray for all of those who are hurting. We need to pray for justice to prevail in the terrorist attack yesterday. We need to pray for the Body of Christ to continue to reject the sin of racism in all its forms and be the healing balm our society deeply needs right now. Let us pray….”

Feel free to use this or parts of this. Feel free to do something in the spirit of this. You can do many things, but one this you can not do…YOU CAN NOT BE SILENT ON THIS.

In coaching leaders, I like to give a ‘Good-Better-Best’ option. A ‘Good’ option would be to condemn what happened and pray for those who are hurting, both physically and emotionally. A ‘Better’ option would be to pray and speak from scripture about why this is wrong and how we as the Body of Christ should respond. And of course, the ‘Best’ option would be to completely redo the Sunday morning service to take the time to address this from scripture and allow people time to pray and process.

Since ‘Better’ and ‘Best’ both involve great planning and you need to preach in a few hours, I’ve offered a ‘Good’ solution. I challenge you to create a ‘Better’ and ‘Best’ option for your congregation at some point. If you need help, let me know. Thank you for how you serve and I’m praying for you today.

Where’s My Suitcase?

I just returned this week from my 13th semi-annual hiking trip out west, my third in a row to Colorado. It was magical yet again, and it seems YHWH always teaches me something profound when I am out in His glorious creation, distraction-free. Yet this trip, He showed me something before we even got out of the Denver Airport, before we got close to setting foot on a trail in the mountains.

After deboarding, we made our way to baggage claim #5 to retrieve our suitcases. There were four of us on this trip; one dude didn’t check a bag, and the other two saw their bags fairly early. (I always have this slight, back-of-my-mind feeling that my bag will be lost, but I remembered saying to the guys that it’s nice to have a direct flight since there’s very little chance of your bag going missing.)

Still waiting.


Down to two bags going round and round.

Oh man, this is happening. My suitcase is not here. I could keep staring at these two other bags go around, holding out hope they will birth mine on one of their laps, but my bag is not here.

OK, deep breath. This is alright. The guys all went to the bathroom and to check on where to go for the rental car, so I had no one to hold me at this point. I went to the Southwest office to report my bag not making it. They said I could look at the heavy bag area as sometimes they take a bit longer. And since I packed a full 96 ounces of peanut butter for the trails, my bag was kind of up there in poundage.




Besides my heavenly peanut butter, my $275 hiking boots I’ve had for eight years and seven trips were in there, as well as a myriad of other precious belongings, like my brand new hydro flask I was so nerdily excited to use. But I was psyching myself up~”I technically have everything I need on me to hike and have a good time. I will not let this ruin the trip.”

The dudes had come back by this point, and couldn’t believe my suitcase didn’t show. We could only figure someone grabbed it by mistake since it’s one of those black nondescript suitcases. And I had made the dumb mistake of putting my home phone number on the little tag as opposed to my cell number, acting like someone may find out I’m a spy or something so I better give vague information.

It had been long enough, and I decided to go back to the office and report my bag as missing, hoping it would turn up soon so I could get it before the trip was over.

Then, I had this thought: “Isn’t it possible that it got put on the wrong baggage claim carriage?” I mean, humans are prone to error. So right before walking to fill out my report, I decide to take a look over at baggage claim #4, next to the one (#5) where my bag was suppose to be.

And I see a black nondescript suitcase.

A little hopeful, I walked closer. That bag came around the turn as I approached, and it did indeed look like mine, bulging out the front from all that peanut butter. I picked up my pace, to a slow trot/gallop, and as I got to the bag that looked like mine, I grabbed that little tag to read “Robert Pallikan.” Oh glory! Elation filled my desperate little heart! So much pain and inconvenience was just averted. It was on the wrong conveyor.

And off we went…!

So, a few days later, we had a nice, slow morning. I was blessed with some time to myself in the room to meditate and pray. In reflection, the Holy Spirit spoke this to me:

What you’re looking for isn’t always where you’re looking. Sometimes it’s where you think you’re not suppose to look.

That’s one of those thoughts I can ruminate on for the rest of my days. Instead of expounding on what it meant to me, I will leave that with you to discover how it might mean something to you right now or in the future.

May our good Lord, who is full of mercy, richly bless you this day.