Monthly Archives: March 2016

The Realities and Struggles of Being in a Relationship with Humans (and How to Survive Your Own Humanness!)

The Realities and Struggles of Being in a Relationship with Humans (and How to Survive Your Own Humanness!)

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What was God thinking?

From the very beginning He gave us a free will—the ability to choose right or wrong—and from the start until now, we humans have chosen poorly. Consistently. (But that doesn’t have to be the end of the story. More on that in a bit.)

The first human couple blew it, badly, and then their son murdered his brother. Not a proud parent moment, but failure was in his nature because of the fall.

Fast forward to Abraham, the great patriarch of faith for three religions (count ‘em, three, Islam, Judaism, and Christianity). He truly was an amazing man, but he had plenty of moments during which he was anything but great. There was that time he lied about his wife, Sarah, and forced her to tell Pharaoh she was his sister. There was that time he slept with his wife’s servant Hagar (not God’s idea or a good relational move). There was that time he gave Sarah permission to mistreat Hagar. And then there was that time he listened to Sarah and sent Hagar and Ishmael off into the desert to live alone. Abe was awesome, but he failed often.

Then there’s the prophet, priest, and king named David. Like Adam, David started well but failed miserably. Eventually, David had a change of heart and repented, but he was far from perfect, and he blew it on more than one occasion. Don’t even get me started about his son Solomon, the wisest guy ever, but he ended up in a mess too.

Have you read the book of Judges? God’s people (the Israelites) were a band of nomadic screw-ups. They wandered from God on a regular basis. Frankly, if the chosen ones were consistent at anything, it was failure.

How about Peter, the rock, who denied Christ? Or Paul, who wrote nearly half of the New Testament and his sidekick, Barnabas, with whom he had a nasty blow out that didn’t end well.

Believe me, I could go on all day.

News flash: You’re a human in relationship with humans, and all humans fail. All. We mean well and try hard, but sin is ever crouching at the door, and we open that door way too often.

So what can we do?

  • Don’t despair. God is merciful, patient, and kind. He gets that we are but dust.

Of course, sin matters. Certainly, we are to cooperate with God in the development of spiritual maturity. However, we must keep our eyes fixed on the only One who is perfect and not wallow in hopelessness when we blow it or someone close to us fails. Whether it’s personal sin or the sin of someone you love, don’t let depression consume you. Put your confidence in the Author of hope.

  • Don’t give up. The reason for your hope is simple: God is more committed to your ultimate success than you are, and He has the power to transform you.

He will never give up on you, or me, or the ones we love. I love that the Word says, “God, who began the good work within you, will continue His work until it is finally finished (Phil. 1:6).” And Jude wrote that “God is able to keep you from falling away.”

Here’s the destructive pattern for most humans: We fail (or watch others fail). We get discouraged. We quit.

Not so with our Father. What He started, He will finish. God is able even when we humans are not. Our part is to stay the course and not to throw in the towel.

el sol se asoma entre las nubes

  • Don’t stop repenting. What matters most is that rather than run from God, we run to Him with contrite and humble hearts every time we sin. Remorse and regret without repentance only results in hopelessness. Repentance alone leads to life.

Unfortunately, it’s our nature to run from God and hide. How long will it take to figure out that the answer to your sin problem is not denial but confession and repentance?

God is not angry with you. He will never reject you no matter what you’ve done or how many times you’ve done it. You can, in fact, approach Him with confidence because that’s where you find His mercy and grace.

Here’s the pattern God expects: We fail. We confess. We repent. We grow. We fail again. We confess again. We repent again. We continue to grow.

Jesus on the cross blur background

Understanding what God wants and accepts changes the way you deal with your personal sin. It also changes the way you treat others when they fail. Rather than pretending that you’ve got it all figured out, you extend the grace you have received from God. Rather than treating others with self-righteous contempt, you show mercy as God has shown mercy to you.

Failure is only fatal when we succeed at failing.

By that I mean, when we neglect to handle our shortcomings and sin through confession and repentance.  Make God both your hero and the answer to your fallen nature.

You and everyone around you is broken at some level. Get over it and stop expecting perfection. Learn how to deal appropriately with the reality of the human condition, and I promise, you’ll experience far more joy.

“Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven,

whose sins are put out of sight.”

Romans 4:7 (NLT)

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2 Responses to The Realities and Struggles of Being in a Relationship with Humans (and How to Survive Your Own Humanness!)

  1. Yes, human failure is unavoidable, but certainly not the last word when it comes to God’s book. He is growing us, little by little, perfecting us more and more when we trust and obey Him, repent of our sins and forgive others.
    Blessings, Kurt!

What If Pastors Were Like Some Politicians?

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Nar B W Chlld Covering EyesGenerally, I avoid politics. That’s not to say I avoid voting or my civic duty. In fact, since I turned eighteen about a hundred years ago, I have always voted (though not always for a candidate you might expect).

As a pastor, and the leader of a church with Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians and probably an anarchist or two, I’m careful not to take sides. And for those wondering, I’m not making a political endorsement now either.

However . . .

Does truth matter?

Absolutely.

Is it okay that we live in a “post-truth political world”? No. Not at all.

Truth and trust always matter. And for the record, it seems that candidates from both major parties seem to have a problem with telling the truth.

What? Politicians lie?!

Uh . . . yeah.

And so do preachers from time to time.

But no one wants a lying wolf for a pastor. No one sane.

Because they are leaders in the Church, we hold pastors and priests to a pretty high standard, and we should.

Polics Lying Poli

Most of us would never tolerate a pastor who . . .

Is a liar

Is rude and crude

Is mean and divisive

Is image rich but character poor

Is focused on himself and his needs (a narcissist)

Most of us would fire a pastor who . . .

Acts like a bully

Swears on a regular basis from the pulpit

Shifts his theology to suit the crowd

Has a weak moral compass

We expect a certain level of moral character from our spiritual leaders, and rightfully so. But perhaps we should hold politicians to a higher standard since they lead everybody.

Some will say, “We aren’t electing a pastor-and-chief!” and I would agree. But our commander-and-chief has more influence and power than any pastor on the planet.

Maybe his or her character matters too?

Politics Lie Truth

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9 Responses to What If Pastors Were Like Some Politicians?

  1. PERFECTLY said…it is a struggle to prayfully ask who the best candidate is… I DID agonize ALOT over this when it was time for our turn to vote couple weeks ago.. This shouldn’t be hard right??? In the grand scheme of things.. but I still voted.. & I prayfully hope I made the right choice

  2. It’s sad that our country has strayed from our Christian roots and fundamentals. The country and the world has become lovers of themselves as Jesus predicted. All we can do is pray and try our best to bring people into the body of Christ, and let our light shine everyday! Thank God that Jesus is coming back soon to fix everything! 🙂

  3. Having served in political office in the Idaho Legislature I can tell you that most people who go into political office do it for the right reasons because they want to make things better but the system corrupts people if they do not have a strong moral compass that drives them, must be biblical based and believers who will not deviate from the truth of scripture and the call to be a servant to God and the people.

Words Matter (And why we should be careful who we listen to if we truly want to make America great again.)

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Words matter 1Words are potent.

They inspire us to love. “Greater love has no one than this . . .” ~Jesus

They intoxicate us with passion.  “I dare you to let me be your one and only . . .” ~Adele

They challenge us to selfless sacrifice.  “Ask not what your country can do for you . . .” ~JFK

Yet words without action are of no value. To be awakened or provoked is not enough unless we are motivated to do something. Perhaps the most pathetic demonstration of hypocrisy is to say we feel moved while we are sitting and doing absolutely nothing.

Words Without Action

Many times someone has said to me, “I loved your talk today!” or “I really enjoyed your book!” or “Great blog!” and I wonder, Did my words matter? Did anything I said or wrote result in any measurable and lasting changes in that person’s life?

If I were to think about it too long, I’d probably get discouraged, but then I remember that most change is incremental, not instantaneous. There’s a good reason why the Bible contains 66 books—we need to read truth (or hear it) again and again.

It’s like staining a deck: the more applications, the deeper the color. The more we read or hear something, the deeper the impact.

Words Change

Is it human nature to be thick-skinned? Scientists undoubtedly will discover someday a “dimwitted and stubborn” gene (yes, I have it). This tendency requires repeated exposure to inspiring and challenging words to rouse us to growth and change.

What this means for you and me:

  • We should be careful to choose wisely when it comes to who we listen to and what we read. If words matter, and they do, then negative, foolish, or harmful words damage our souls. (For example, do you honestly feel better after watching most of the current political debates? I fear they are doing nothing to “make America great again”.)

  • We should invest time every day in listening to and reading that which facilitates healthy spiritual development and accelerates positive personal growth. I want to be better. It’s why I read the Word every day. It’s why I listen to gifted teachers. It’s why I read books that make me think and provoke me to change.

In a time of hollow political sound bites, worthless Twitter tweets, and way too much idiocy on the idiot-box, be sure to take in something every day that is worthy of your time.

Words matter.

Words Worthy

PS: I don’t do this enough, but thank you for reading my blogs. I am honored that you find my posts worthy of your time, and I hope that at least a few of my words fall into the category of practical wisdom in your life.

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11 Responses to Words Matter (And why we should be careful who we listen to if we truly want to make America great again.)

  1. Boldness of speech and words can divide or bring others together. May we all learn the magnificent gift of unity that God has passionately desired unto all!

  2. As I always remind myself, “garbage in – garbage out.” Our words and the words of others DO matter, and we should immerse ourselves in the ones that uplift and inspire us, not the ones that drag us through the mud.
    Blessings!

  3. Kurt, no matter what we say, relationship is the most important, it is not about who is right and who might be wrong. We earn our place by loving and caring and forgiving. Have a great day and I do appreciate your words though I do not always say so.

  4. Not just in the political setting and what we watch on tv, or our own thoughts about things-but how we speak to each other, our spouse, our children. Toby Mac’s song Speak Life comes to mind. Our words can destroy a spirit and put them on a very dangerous and painful trajectory, or an empowered, impactful one. I hope I speak life and not death. Left to our own resources, I think we tend to speak death. It’s when we choose to be fed in the Word, good teaching and positive music that we have life we can speak to others.

  5. One of the struggles I have with social media is, while I can quickly respond to a concern, it is also so easy to be shallow. All I have to do is “like” something a person said or do a so sad emoticon, then head back to the basketball game and feel I have done my good deed. I’m not sure that is what Jesus meant by compassion.

Out of Africa (And Four Lessons I Learned)

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A Boys smilingThe children move me. Eyes wide open in wonder of the gray-bearded white man, and always full of joy and laughter, they seem unaware, or at least, unbothered by their poverty and limited opportunities.

The little ones speak to me in Kinyarwanda, and I do my best to say hello (muraho) in my terribly western way. They giggle. So do I.

Rwanda is a crowning jewel on the African continent. It is not as resource rich as some other African nations, but the country is clean and orderly and operates with strict moral and political standards regarding corruption. Everywhere you go you see construction and progress. As I walked the streets, besides being stared at by everyone, I felt completely safe.

There is, however, a somberness among the relatively young adult population. Rwandans are well aware of their darkest days. In 1994, over one million people were brutally killed within one hundred days. “The genocide” is spoken of often by the surviving elders with a solemn promise; Never again.

A Kivu LakeFor most of my life, I’ve dreamed of going to the African continent. Every kid who’s ever watched Tarzan has dreamt about what it would be like in the jungle surrounded by exotic flora and wild animals. As a boy, if I closed my eyes I could almost hear the strange sounds from the land across the sea.

When I was invited to be a part of the All African Pastors Gathering in Rwanda, I accepted the invitation with great delight. I knew the opportunity might not provide all that I had imagined as a child, but that didn’t matter. I was going to Africa!

And Africa did not disappoint.

I was in awe, from my first breath as I debarked in the capital of Kigali to the three-hour drive north to Kivu Lake a day later, and right up to my heart-wrenching farewell at the end of eight days. The land, the people, and even their hopes and dreams are now a part of me forever.

Given more time (and more skill) I would help you see the Africa I saw. My brother and his wife, Kevin and Katherine, have lived in Mozambique for six years. After just a few days in country, I emailed him: “I get it . . . I now understand your love for this continent and its people.”

A boy smile brickA Boy Brick

Sitting here now in a hot and humid coffee shop at the airport in Kigali waiting for my return flight, I have some time to reflect on what I’ve learned.

A few lessons from Africa:

  • Expect the unexpected, and don’t stress out over things you have no control over. Several of my flights were delayed. I literally had to run from one gate to the next to make my connection in Amsterdam. I made the flight, but my bag did not. Consequently, I ended up wearing the same clothes for almost four days (yuck).

I hadn’t planned on checking my bag, but KLM has a very strict weight limit for carry-ons. The size was not an issue; the fact that it was two kilograms too heavy forced me to either ditch some stuff or check my bag. I should’ve thrown away the 15 power bars I’d brought and kept the bag with me.

There were a dozen other things that didn’t go as planned. About the six or seventh time something went sideways, I decided to change my attitude and to stop stressing over a plethora of things completely out of my control.

How about you? Got a bunch of unexpected things happening in your life? What would change if you began to expect the unexpected? How would your attitude improve if you simply stopped freaking out over the things that are completely out of your control (like most of your life)?

A Man Sticks

  • Embrace simplicity as a friend because more stuff doesn’t automatically make you happier. As I mentioned and as Africa goes, Rwanda is relatively affluent. But compared to the West, most Rwandans live at or below the poverty level. I met an elderly woman who needed to borrow about $5 to buy a pair of glasses. Lots of us will spend $5 at Starbucks on our Venti White Chocolate Americano without blinking.

Owning a car is unheard of for many Rwandans. In fact, having just one small TV is fairly rare for a villager. The homes I visited in the remote areas of the country were not much more than shacks, without AC, screens, or carpet. The people don’t have pets, but if they’re lucky, they do have a cow or a goat or two.

Elana and Cows

I noticed, however, that though they lack just about everything we can’t imagine living without (like electronics or a refrigerator overflowing with food), they are happy and content.

Maybe happiness isn’t found in the amassing of stuff. Perhaps, as my spiritual mentor Noel Campbell used to say, “The more you have, the more you worry.”

A Me Lade Basket

  • Kindness is a universal language. We North Americans tend to speak just one language—English, and not all that well at times. Lots of Rwandans speak their native language (Kinyarwanda) as well as English and probably a little French.

Fear not, being tongue-challenged when it comes to languages isn’t as big of a deal when you smile, serve, make eye contact, listen, and embrace Rwandans with a genuine hug. Acts of kindness speak volumes. I got to thinking, how would all of our interactions and conversations be enhanced by selfless kindness? I hate clichés, but this one is so true: Actions speak louder than words. Go figure.

IMG_2749

  • We Westerners take too much for granted (like soft toilet paper, drinkable water, and uninterrupted power). You don’t realize how much you have until you don’t have it.

I’m spoiled (and so are you), and my relatively pampered life doesn’t lend itself to thankfulness. I tend to treat the many conveniences of my life as entitlements rather than great blessings.

When’s the last time you got a cup of cool, refreshing water straight from the faucet and said, “Thank you, Father, this is awesome!”?

I have a sneaky suspicion God has much more to teach me as I return home. My time in Africa, though short, has changed me. I will be forever grateful to my new African friends for showing me that life is much more than we Americans tend to realize.

Imana ni nziza (God is good!)

A Make Bike

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14 Responses to Out of Africa (And Four Lessons I Learned)

  1. God gives such great blessings in unexpected ways! We can relate so your experience having made two trips to So Africa, living with the “natives” and seeing God’s work literally, at hand!

    Blessings!

  2. I felt the same way when I returned from Guatemala! We have hot potable water that comes from the tap!~Amazing!
    Blessings Kurt fellow birthday boy.

  3. very cool Mr Bubna!! thank you for the wonderfully beautiful pictures. Africa is something on my current bucket list but it was very nice to look at it thru your eyes… thank you

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