Author: codyhaar

Lion Chasers & Giant Slayers

You find yourself in a pit with a lion. And it is snowing. What do you do? Benaiah found himself in this situation. He chased the lion down and eliminated the threat. As far as I can tell, he was either crazy or an incredible warrior. Or maybe a little (a lot?) of both. 

We find ourselves in tough situations all the time. Maybe not “in a pit with a lion on a snowy day” tough, but tough all the same. How do we know what to do? How do we learn what steps to take? Personally, I make a habit of learning from characters described in the Bible. Benaiah is one of those guys that I look at, especially when I need encouragement during a difficult time. Benaiah reminds me that we are to be leaders of character and leaders in the battle. We were designed to take on significant challenges.

Benaiah was an incredible warrior and one of King David’s Thirty Mighty Men. He was the kind of guy that people would tell stories about around the campfire. He was an honorable man and a distinguished leader. He defeated the strongest and most imposing enemies by hand. And he once chased a lion into a pit on a snowy day and killed it. Who does that? 

The story of Benaiah is a story of character as much as incredible feats of strength. While we don’t have many details, Scripture says he was more honored than his counterparts. King David recognized his trustworthiness when he made Benaiah captain of the king’s bodyguard. King Saul recognized his loyalty when he made Benaiah the commander-in-chief of the entire army. Benaiah demonstrated self-sacrifice as he attacked the fiercest foes while clearly being the underdog. 

And yet, I keep coming back to the story of the lion. Why did he pursue that fight? Why did he pick a terrible weather day? Why did he fight the lion in the pit? We’ll likely never know the details of that day, but I speculate that this was simply Benaiah’s lion to deal with. Just as in the battles when he defeated the giants, this was his battle to fight.

We have battles of a different sort today. Our enemy is not flesh-and-blood, but evil and darkness (Ephesians 6:12). 1 Peter 5:8 says, “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” The probability is extremely high that you have had encounters with this lion. Maybe you’ve been attacked already. Maybe you’ve heard the roar. Maybe you’ve seen the evidence of him hiding the grassland around you. 

And yet there is no reason to fear. The enemy may roar, but don’t pay attention to that. He’s already been defeated. Be ready. Stay alert. Be on the lookout. And when he shows up, don’t be afraid of the fight. Instead, fix your gaze on the Victorious One, the one who defeated the enemy through the cross, the one who saw the beginning and the end, the one who calls us to follow him.

Stand firm and stay alert. This means living with Godly character and teaching the next generation to do the same. 

Engage your giants. Don’t be afraid of the fight if it is the right fight. These are your lions to chase and these are your giants to defeat.  

Fight the right fights. There are so many things competing for our attention and so many distractions to lead us off course. We must learn to stay focused so we can do what matters most. 

You are a conqueror. 

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” Romans 8:37 (NIV)

Spiritual Health for 2021

This article will appeared in The Sheridan Press as a part of a series on health in 2021.

What comes to mind when you think of spiritual health?  As with physical health, we tend to think of inward activities – prayer, meditation, devotion, and the like. We would do well to prioritize these inward-focused disciplines. However, spiritual health also involves being outward focused.

As a Christian, I can’t ignore all that Jesus and the Bible said about being outward focused. The Bible instructs believers to consider others above oneself.  Here are a few examples: “Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other” (Romans 12:10).  “Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others” (Colossians 3:13).  “Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions” (1 John 3:18).  And a final example from Jesus, who so plainly and directly said, “This is my command: Love each other” (John 15:17).

The reason we should develop inward-focused health is so we can have an outward-focused impact on the world around us.  What good is it to know all of Scripture if those around you have never heard it before?  What good is it to amass great wealth if it perishes at the end of your life?  What good is salt if it has lost its flavor?  You were created to be in relationship with the Father and to love others.

Not long before the crucifixion of Jesus, some religious leaders tried to trap Jesus with a question, “What is the most important commandment?”  Jesus replied with two commands that are intricately woven together and inseparable.  Quoting the Old Testament, he said, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40)

Spiritual health in the first century – and now in the twenty-first century – must center on these two commands.  Love the Lord and love others.  

With these principles in mind, here are three simple steps to improve your spiritual health:

  1. Be disciplined in your personal habits.  Prayer. Mediation. Study.  Take care of yourself and cultivate your faith.  You won’t have much to share if you don’t have much.  And yet, whether you have little or much, you can still be a blessing to others.
  2. Take small steps.  In most cases, the smallest actions have the biggest impact. Be alert to opportunities to serve others.  Help a neighbor with a chore.  Pick up the tab for someone’s lunch.  Collect the trash left behind or blown by the wind. The sum of these small actions will literally change the world.
  3. Focus on people.  If the best of actions are completed in a vacuum, there is no point.  I’m all for anonymous kindness, but that kindness should be directed to real-life people.  Use whatever resources, talents, and abilities you have to minister (a word that means “to serve”) others. If you are having trouble identifying who to help, extend a hand to those closest to you.

In conclusion and in the words of the Apostle Paul, “Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.”  (Colossians 3:16-17)

Strong Opinions and Thankfulness

I certainly have opinions about everything that is going on these days.  I’ve shared a few of my thoughts privately with close friends.  I’ve refrained from going public with all these thoughts for a variety of reasons but mostly because I’m not totally convinced of my own opinions.

Today that changes.  I would like to share a few thoughts and opinions.  However, I want to do so in a different way than I’ve been seeing recently.  Yesterday morning I woke up and couldn’t shake the question, “what are you thankful for?”  So I’m starting a list.  In light of everything going on I would encourage you to do something similar.

  1. Friends and family.  I’m grateful for friends and family that have the same opinions as me and I’m grateful for friends and family with different opinions.  While I sometimes struggle to see the opposing viewpoint, I know that it is good for me to hear their side more than it is good for me to shout my own viewpoint.  I smile when I think of the diversity of my friends.  It makes me think that I’ve done a good job being a civil human being.  (In full disclosure, I’ve hidden a few friends in my social media news feeds, not because I disagree, but because I cannot tolerate their tone.  Friends aren’t abusive.  I have no room for abuse.)
  2. Technology.  Just a few years ago we wouldn’t have been able to carry on like we have during a crisis.  Churches like ours are still meeting – and growing – even though we had a season of not meeting in person.  (I’m convinced that those who say all this is persecution against the church are really just dealing with their own insecurities.)  Schools are still operating, thanks to creative teachers and parents and the use of technology.  
  3. Medical professionals.  There has never been a better time for a health crisis.  We’ve never been better equipped for something like this.  We have incredible technology, incredible knowledge, and incredible people all working together to solve this problem. Wealthy individuals are pitching in.  Governments are contributing.  I don’t agree with or understand every decision they make, but I also know that they are putting everything they’ve got into this and eventually it will no longer be a “crisis.”
  4. Men and women in uniform.  Some of the friends and family I mentioned in the first category serve and I’m grateful for their service.  I did a ride-along this past winter with a friend in our local PD.  I was super impressed with the quality of his work and with the ethics in which he operates.  Honestly, I already knew he was a great guy and yet he exceeded my expectations.  I see him and so many others serving with the same diligence and excellence every day.  They are doing their jobs and doing them well.
  5. Conspiracy theorists.  They rarely see themselves as such and the name I just gave them might be worded too strongly.  However, I am grateful that they are digging for truth and trying to hold people accountable.  More than that, I’m grateful we live in such a place as this that respects (generally) the right to say what we want, whether or not it makes any sense whatsoever. Additionally, we can freely and openly agree or disagree with that outrageous statement.  The thing we need to remember is that other people don’t have to support our sentiment.  If they choose to “take it down,” well, they have just as much right to do so as we have a right to speak it to begin with.  Find another way to communicate your beliefs.  Be careful of what you demand of others.
  6. Balance of power.  The timing of balance tends to mess with people.  It takes time for everything to level out.  In a storm with waves crashing all around, it takes even longer.  I have quite a bit of faith in this system.  It has a long track record of working.  Also, there’s not a better alternative to what we have.  So flaws and all, I’ll take it.
  7. Jesus.  I want to make sure I communicate this clearly and simply.  This category exceeds all the others.  In fact, none of the other things I’m thankful for matter in comparison to Christ and his work in me and around me.

“Yes, we know that ‘we all have knowledge’ about this issue. But while knowledge makes us feel important, it is love that strengthens the church. Anyone who claims to know all the answers doesn’t really know very much.”

1 Corinthians 8:1b-2 NLT

Tuesday Morning Coffee & Word

In the second video of this new Tuesday project I offer five tips to help us walk out the promises Jesus made in Matthew 11:28-30.

What are your go to practices? How do you stay confident and strong during any uncertain times?

Also, what do you think about these videos? I’d love to get your feedback!