I’m a Bear-liever


I found this picture on my phone as a screen shot from December 3, 2017. To be honest, I’m not sure why I took the screen shot. Something about it struck me. As I was going through my photos on my phone to see what to delete and what not to (I’ve gotten kicked outta the cloud because I have too many photos on my phone) I came across it. But it struck me about believing in something bigger than yourself.

You see, if you are a fan of a Chicago sports team, you get used to being broken hearted. Yes, the teams win sometimes. And sometimes they’re just down right great. (And other times they hit the pylon five times and once when you needed the three points to win the playoff game…but I digress). Sometimes the Chicago sports team of your heart wins (like the Cubs did with their first World Series win since 1918) and most of the time they lose. Like big time lose (ah-hem… Jay Cutler era).

Regardless, Chicago sports fans are die hard fans. They go to games in the freezing cold at Soldier Field, which is an outside stadium. They dress up in regalia that shows their support. They yell and scream for their team. They are die hard and will fight you if you say the Cubs are awful or that the Sox are better than the Cubs (This is from personal experience y’all). There’s something about being at the new Comiskey Park (actually US Cellular Field, but they have a statue of Charles Comiskey there).

Bears logo

From Wikipedia

When you go to a game for a Chicago sports team, there’s a fervor there. All people wearing the same team logos are your friends for life for those next few hours. Everyone gets along who are of the same persuasion of their team of choice. It’s beautiful how people get dressed up, get excited, get into the groove and are filled with joy and awe as their favorite players hit the field or  court. And they comfort one another when their team eventually loses. (Again, the “doink” of the ball on the pylon…we comforted each other then).

There’s something religious going on here. Something amazing happening. It’s almost what church is supposed to be all about. Yeah, I said it, almost what church is supposed to be all about.

Don’t tell me these people aren’t having a religious experience out there.

This goes beyond just Chicago sports fans. This hits hard when you watch any sporting event. When something goes well and great, people who don’t know each other are high-fiving one another, hugging each other, patting each other on the back. And when things go badly (and they do), they console one another. They talk to one another. They express themselves to one another–“Did you see that when they did…” “I can’t believe that just happened…” It’s church all around. Just not with a steeple. Just not with pews. Just not with Jesus. Ouch. Jesus Juke I think.

The church needs to get past itself. It needs to learn something from these sporting events. It isn’t about the music. No one goes to a sporting event to hear the music. It isn’t about the announcers at the stadium or the color commentary on the TV. You can turn off the sound at home and still be enthralled in the game. You can go to the game and still be into it despite what’s going on. No. It’s about the connections to the team. It’s about the connections to the fellow fans. It’s about being one together cheering on Da Bears or whomever you choose to cheer (though I do feel bad for Lion’s fans).

Church is supposed to transcend music and preachers and buildings and preferences. It’s about being the people of God, the body of Jesus Christ, in the world together. It’s about supporting one another during the good and the bad. It’s about developing bonds with one another through the power of the Holy Spirit. It goes beyond the event of Sunday morning and continues into the week.

I will admit, I have my Bears Jersey, my Bears sweatshirt, my Bears T-shirt. I have my regalia to dress up in support of my team even in the off season, even when they aren’t playing in the play offs or have a bi-week. How often do we as members of the body of Christ do this during the week? How often do we go past Sunday with when we wear Christ on our sleeves but not so during the week?

A sporting event can be compared to a religious experience. So should church. But more so, church should move forward in being better than a sporting event and a religious experience. How can we as the church, the body of Christ, do better in being the church so that we can become as enthusiastic about daily worship and devotion as those at these sporting events?

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Worry and Walking into Spiderwebs

Back in April of 2014, I wrote a blog post which has become the most highly read blog post on Spiritual Musclehead. It was a silly post. A post that I didn’t think would gain much traction. It was based on the No Doubt song Walking into Spiderwebs. And the post itself became popular because people keep searching for “the spiritual meaning of walking into spiderwebs” or “spiritual significance of walking into spiderwebs” or “I just walked into a spiderweb, what the heck does that mean for cryingoutloud.” (You can read full the post itself here). Some have been grateful for my blog post, others have said that not everything has to do with Jesus (I did remind them that this blog is called Spiritual Musclehead after all). Either way you look at it, it’s one of my highest read blog posts. Kinda cool.

But what’s up with people walking into spiderwebs? No doubt it’s a bit creepy when it happens. You start looking around for the spider, you think it crawled down the back of your shirt (or worse, inside your shirt) and you start freaking out. Or what about those who searched for the significance of always feeling like you’re walking through spiderwebs?

That I can’t answer for you.

What I can do is think about what it means to people to always be waiting for the next shoe to drop, the next spider web to walk through, the next phone call to screen. There always feels like there’s something else about to happen. And when you walk through a spider web, you start looking for other spiderwebs you might start walking through. And that’s just a creepy and gross feeling to have.

But we all have it at one time or another.

It’s called worry.

Worry is where we focus on what can happen. Worry is where we create a reality that doesn’t exist and take up residency there. Worry is where we colonize calamity and claim it as our own.

This isn’t a new feeling. It’s something that’s been around for a long time. A very long time. It’s an issue that Jesus himself addressed to people almost 2,000 years ago. During what is called the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says this:

I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?” Matthew 6:25

That’s a little easier said than done if you ask me. But Jesus is driving a point home here. People worry. We all worry. This thing about worrying comes on the heels of Jesus saying that you can’t serve God and money at the same time, you can’t be a servant of two masters. And it’s said right before he talks about judging others. In looking at the Sermon on the Mount, you can see that worrying is a part of the whole of how we live life, and Jesus is saying that we shouldn’t worry.

He asks:

Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” Matthew 6:27

Jesus says to look at the birds in the air, they don’t go out shopping at the grocery store, they don’t fret about paying bills and God takes care of them anyway. Now, God doesn’t drop food into their beaks, but he does provide for them. And Jesus says look at the flowers in the field, those wildflowers. They are beau-tiful. And they will whither and die, but look at how pretty they are–No Kardashian looked prettier than the flowers in the fields do. He says that our Father in heaven knows what we need, so don’t chase after these things. He hits the point home by saying this:

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:33-34

Wow. I sometimes wish he had stopped one sentence before he did. Tomorrow can worry about itself. That’s some good thinking. That dog will hunt. But to then say that each day has enough trouble of its own. Dude. Ouch. That brings it all a little to close to home.

And that’s why people keep searching about walking into spiderwebs. They know that something’s wrong. And they worry. Each day is going to have issues. Each day is going to have its problems. Each day WILL have a spiderweb.

The thing is, is how will you react to it. Will you worry, fret, despair and all around get cranky about what’s going to happen next, or just realize that each day will have issues of its own. When we worry, we miss out on the things in this life that are happening now. Right now. When we worry, we freak out and miss out on what God is doing now.

So focus on now, not on the spiderwebs that may come, but on what is going on now and what God is doing now for you, in you, and through you.


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Learning Humility


Photo by Josh Benton

Last week I spent a full week down in the Chicago area taking a course on the theological foundations of mission. Awesome course. I had hoped to have blogged about it by now. But something else happened along the way. You see, on Saturday, the day after I came home, I fell down the stairs. I had woken up early and thought “Hey, why not spend some quiet ‘me’ time with some coffee before everyone gets us.” Well, I learned something, socks + wood stairs + walking fast =’s falling down the stinkin’ stairs.

As I lay (lie?) on the floor after taking the tumble, my knee was pinned against the wall, my head just inches from the other side of the wall, and I began to think what I should do. Honestly, I didn’t say any bad words. I didn’t even think bad words. I just simply yelled “Ouch!” No. Seriously, people’ve asked me this question if I said anything bad, but I didn’t.

At first all I thought I did was bruise my ego a bit (something apparently not to joke about at urgent care). But after a while, I hurt too much that I spent two hours at urgent care. After x-rays and pokes and prods and bending of the ankle and knee, I was given crutches and splints for knee and ankle. Joy.

Now, this isn’t the first time I hurt my knee or ankle. In fact, I broke my ankle back in 1991 playing football (long story). And then I broke my knee back in 2011 hiking in the Badlands of South Dakota (another long story). So, now I am limping along, having to use crutches (sometimes just one crutch) and depending on others for help, like my loving wife.

To be honest, It’s hard to allow others to do things for you. It’s hard to allow others to help you out. I’m used to helping others out. It’s what I do. But now I must depend on others for help.

This involves humility.

I’m not good at humility. No, seriously, I’m not. I like to toot my own horn from time to time. And to be honest, that’s great to do. It’s good to be proud of things you do. Now, humility is not the opposite of pride. Hubris is the opposite of humility. It’s okay to be proud of things, but to have hubris, that’s a whole ‘nother story. I’m not trying to say I’m not hubrisitic (or however you might say it). I have my moments. My delusions of grandeur. They are far and few between like a normal person, but still, they’re there.

Learning humility is about learning to let others help when you’re a helper. Learning humility is learning to let go of things you can’t do and know that there are things you can do but only with the help of others. Humility is seeing yourself not lowly but seeing yourself as one who is in need of help. Not a victim, but a servant.

James writes:

Humble yourself before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” James 4:10

Jesus speaks about being humble as well. He talks about placing yourself low in order to show respect to others. He speaks about not gunning for the top position but instead coming before God as a child. He speaks about being a servant not one who came to expect to be served. All of this is humility. All of this I’m still learning.

Crutches help with this. I’ve noticed that as I’m on crutches, I am lowly and in need of help. People are more apt to hold the door open for me, willing to grab something for me, do something for me. And it’s hard to let them do that. But by placing myself lower, I’ve learned that God lifts me up.

The humble learn what it means to be true before God. Jesus himself, didn’t see equality with the Father as something to be grasped but humbled himself to the role of a servant, obedient even unto death itself (check out Philippians 2). And we’re to have this same attitude.

And it’s tough.

It’s tough, but doable by the power of the Holy Spirit.

So, as I limp along with my crutches this week, I will keep asking God to continue to teach me this humility I greatly need to learn.


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Is it ADD or the Holy Spirit?

holy spirit2

From more-cliparts.net

Richard Foster, in his book Celebration of Discipline speaks on how imagination is the doorway to doing God’s work. In other words, God can use our imagination to spark a desire to do something different and new for God. God is at work. He calls us to join Him in His work. And, as Foster points out, God can use our imagination to spark that desire to serve him in a unique way. And that’s awesome.

ADD/ADHD is interesting. I have ADD/ADHD (though I think they just now call it ADHD). According to WebMD, some of the symptoms of ADD/ADHD is lateness and procrastination to the extreme. Sometimes it includes jumping for one project to another without completing the prior project first. Another symptom is impulsivity. That is, jumping into things without fully thinking it through. Combine these two together and you sometimes get crazy adventures (at least in my family) or big blow ups (sometimes also in my family).

This morning during my devotions and prayer, I was reading John 4 with Jesus and the Woman at the Well. My mind began to wander. An idea that had been bouncing around in my mind for the last month or so popped up again. It was an idea to start doing discipleship with a group of men that I’ve gotten to know. But the problem is, is that I began to wonder if it was ADD or the Holy Spirit. I have so much going on right now. I’m working on my DMin (Doctor of Ministry) and I have a class next week in which I’m behind on my readings (a big undertaking, another sign of ADD sometimes…I impulsively signed up for the class). And I have a lot of other things going on right now. So, I began to wonder as I wandered: Is this the Holy Spirit or is it just my ADD again.

Six years ago I did an experiment on whether it was ADD or the Holy Spirit at work. Long story short, I wound up in Kansas at a Waffle House. It was an interesting experience to say the least. But I never did decide if it was the Holy Spirit at work or just my ADD. It became frustrating. How did I know if the Holy Spirit was at work moving and guiding me or if it was just me being impulsive and starting yet another project. I just didn’t. I never resolved the issue.

And now I’m back at it again. I have grand ideas. Okay, some good ideas (I think they’re good anyway). But is it, as Foster says, God opening up the doors to do something for Him or is it just my ADD acting up once again?

I’m medicated. Been medicated for a number of years. And the medication helps me focus. Usually more in the morning than in the afternoon and night. But still, pretty focused (hence why I’m blogging in the morning rather than the afternoon, of course i have a lot of other things to do right now too…anyway). So I wonder as I wander, is it just ADD or the Holy Spirit moving.

I once heard someone say that a lack of immediate obedience to God’s leading is disobedience. Not acting right away is not fully trusting in God’s leading. At the same time, it is good to test the spirits (as Paul writes). But he also says not to quench the Spirit’s fire. So what do I do? Do I step forward and test to see if it is the Holy Spirit at work or just once again my ADD acting up?

The Holy Spirit is interesting. He’s the third Person of the Trinity. He moves and guides us. He enables Jesus to live in our hearts. We who are followers of Jesus are living temples to the Holy Spirit. As a community of believers we make up the body of Christ, a temple of to God, powered by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit gives gifts to His followers of Christ, spiritual gifts. Good gifts for the benefit of the church and God’s Kingdom. We can’t see the Holy Spirit, but like the wind moving in the trees, we can see the affects of the Holy Spirit in our lives and in others. He guides us by prompting us in our hearts and souls. He makes our hearts break for what breaks His heart, the heart of God.

So, is it ADD or the Holy Spirit at work here? I guess I might have to do another experiment.

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Bohemian Canonicity


From Amazon.com

Among my vinyl collection is  a two record set of Queen’s greatest hits. With the movie Bohemian Rhapsody coming out soon, I started to really think about the music of Queen and the vocal and musical talent of Freddy Mercury and the group as a whole. Between Another One Bites the Dust, Fat Bottom Girls, We Will Rock You, and the famous Bohemian Rhapsody, the range of this group is amazing. To be honest, if you were to just listen to one song and compare it to another you may not even know they were by the same people.

Now, this being Spiritual Musclehead, I started to think spiritually about all of this. I started to think about how the Bible is put together. The Bible is a combination of 66 books. You have traditions on how the collection is put together–the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Bible. Each is from a tradition of putting together the Bible. The Hebrew Bible is arranged by the Law or Covenant History, the Prophets, and the Writings for the Old Testament (or simply the Hebrew Bible of First Testament depending on scholarship). On the other hand, the Christian Bible is organized differently with the The Law, the Histories, the Prophets, and The writings. Each organized in a different way.

Over the centuries, many have argued who wrote what. Some people say that there are two people who wrote Isaiah. While others say there’s three (they call the third Deutero-Isaiah). And then there’s Paul. Paul is the most prolific writer of the Bible and of the New Testament. In fact, the majority of the New Testament is made up of his writings. Yet people doubt if he wrote all those letters or if they were just attributed to him.

The reasoning behind this all is that they are different. He uses different words and ideas in different letters he writes. Some argue that because of this, he really didn’t write 1st and 2nd Timothy and other letters. That is was someone else whom they call “The Pastor.” Because they are so different from his other letters such as Romans and Ephesians they must not be from him.

Yet they are.

And what does this have to do with Queen and their greatest hits? A lot.

Freddy Mercury on vocals and piano. Brian May on guitar. It was a match in musical memory that created a phenomenon that can’t be beat today in many areas of music. Yet, who wrote what music? They did. They did as a group together. In fact, toward the end of Freddy Mercury’s life the group attributed all works to Queen as a whole.

When looking at the New Testament, it is important to note how it all pulls together. Luke writes about Paul’s journeys in the Book of Acts. He writes about the places where he and Paul went and where Paul went when Luke wasn’t with them. Paul’s letters were preserved and passed around to other churches in the areas. Paul wrote in different ways to different churches for different reasons.

He wrote to the church in Rome about his desire to do missionary work in Spain and needed a base of operations and financial and spiritual support from them. He wrote twice to the church in Corinth because they had written him first and had questions. That and they were a totally messed up church (think Jerry Springer messed up). He wrote to the church in Colossi, though he didn’t found it, to encourage them in the faith. He wrote two letters to his student Timothy who was pastoring a church. He wrote to another student, Titus, who was pastoring a church in Crete. He wrote to the Philippians about one thing and the Thessalonians about two other things. But he was the same person.

Queen’s music evolved and changed over the years. Their greatest hits shows this. Yet they are the same group. They are the same people. Their music varies and changes yet they are still the same. They changed and evolved over time as a group as their music did. Paul was Paul. He wrote in many different ways to many different people.

The Bible as a whole is a compilation of different people writing together or separate. They are put together as a whole to make one giant claim. God is the God of nations and Jesus is the savior of the world. It is put together as one complete whole, including the different works of Paul.

So, as you read through the Bible, notice the different authors. Notice how Paul writes differently to different people. Enjoy the differences. Enjoy the canon that is the Bible, and read it with joy.

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Trusting God when it’s Hard to Trust

Tree by the water 2

Art by Josh Benton

The readings for my devotions this morning came from Psalm 20 and Jeremiah 17:7-8. I’ve been using A Guide for Prayer for all Who Walk with God as my devotional readings for the last few years now. It, for the most part, not only follows the church calendar, but it also sets up themes for each week. This week’s theme is trust. Psalm 20 is a powerful Psalm about calling for the king of Israel to trust in God and not in chariots or warriors. A Good thing to know. Not to trust in things, that is, but to trust in God alone.

It’s the passage from Jeremiah that was a bit harder for me to read through.

But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” Jeremiah 17:7-8

Blessed is hard to accept when it’s hard to trust in God. The word in Hebrew for blessed is בָּרַך (barak) and it has the idea of God giving this blessing. It is a blessing given by God to the one who trusts in Him. Not just that, but trusting in God creates a steadfastness that is every supplied by God’s sustaining power. The Hebrew for trust is בִּטְחָה (biteha). It has the idea of safety, confidence, and trusting. It’s a reliance upon someone else.

And in today’s world, reliance upon someone else is hard to do. We’re taught from an early age to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps. Society has a way of looking down on those who can’t or are unable to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps. It’s a virtue (not always a good one, but still seen as a virtue) of the American way. We are individuals and we can make it if we try.

And so it’s hard to trust in others. It’s hard to be reliant upon others and find safety in doing so. But that’s the thing, in trusting in God, it is a trust that is reliant upon God, a safety found in God. And in that trust, in that reliance upon God, there is a promise of being sustained.

But trust is hard. It is hard to trust in God when you don’t always see Him moving or at work. Yes, there are those mountain top experiences that people have where everywhere they look they see God at work. But to be honest, those are few and far between. And when we don’t see God working like we think he can, we begin to lose trust in what He is doing and able to do.

This is where faith comes in. The Apostle Paul says it this way:

For we live by faith, not by sight.” 2 Corinthians 5:7

Simple to say, hard to do. But faith is being certain of what we hope for and sure of what we do not see (see Hebrews 11:1). This involves trust. This involves a reliance upon the unseen. In the mountains, it is easy to trust in God because you can see Him moving every which way you go. But we don’t always live on the mountains. We live on the plains and in the valleys. We live in the mundanity of life and in the broken hallelujahs of pain. This is where trusting in God is most needed. This is where reliance upon God is needed. This is where we need to be sustained like a tree planted by the waters.

And it can be hard to trust in God. But when it’s hard to trust in God, that is where it is needed the most. It is when we need to lean hardest on Him when we’re the most frightened to lean. It is easier to say than to do, that I agree upon. But still, when it’s hard to trust in God, that is where you need to trust in Him the most and allow Him to sustain you in those plains of mundanity and the valleys of broken hallelujahs.

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My Dog and the Holy Spirit


A blurry picture of my dog, Strawberry. Photo by Josh Benton

We have a dog. She’s a 60lbs husky/Rottweiler mix. I emphasize the husky part because she looks more like a Rottweiler than she does a husky, but she has the temperament of a husky while having the build, fur, and coloring of a Rottweiler. It just puts people at ease when I say she’s part husky. She’s a kind dog. A gentle dog. A dog that enjoys being in our company. And there are times when I lay (or is it lie) on the couch where she comes up to me and puts her head on my chest and just wants to be petted. Sometimes she puts her nose up to my cheek just to get my attention.

Now, dogs can’t speak. They don’t have the vocal chords to do so. They don’t have the aptitude to form language like we do. Yet she communicates to me in so many different ways. She whimpers when we don’t let her into my wife and my bedroom at night. She’ll whine, lick your arm, and even bark to be let outside. And when she wants affection, she’ll lick my hand, she’ll put her head under my hand, or she’ll place her head on my chest when I’m on the couch.

She’s a dog. A good dog at that.

So what does this have to do with the Holy Spirit?

The Holy Spirit sometimes feels like the forgotten God. He (and I emphasize He) is the third Person of the Trinity–Father, Son (Jesus), and Holy Spirit. He (not it) proceeds from the Father and the Son. As the Father sent the Son, so the Son sends the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit was given to us on the Day of Pentecost (check out Acts 2), the day wherein the Holy Spirit was poured out on all believers and led the people of God to move out with the gospel message to all corners of the known world.

Sometimes we confuse the Holy Spirit with a force or karma, or even The Force from Star Wars. But He isn’t like that. He is personal. He is intimate. He is powerful. He raised Jesus from the grave, and this same power resides in each follower of Jesus as the Holy Spirit lives in each follower of Jesus.

set free 3

Art by Josh Benton

But the Holy Spirit, He can’t be seen, only felt, only perceived. In John 3, Jesus uses the imagery of the wind. You can’t see the wind but you can feel it, you can see its effects on the trees and where it is blowing, but you can’t see the wind. The same is true with the Holy Spirit. Not just that, but the Holy Spirit convicts people of their sin, He teaches people what it means to be a follower of Jesus (see John 16).

The Holy Spirit is gentle, but you can grieve the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit moves in each of us, but you can ignore the Holy Spirit. He guides us, but you can choose to not follow His leading. The Holy Spirit makes it possible for Jesus to live in the hearts of His followers and be a living temple to God, but you can choose not to do so.

So, what does this have to do with my dog?

Analogies can break down very easily. What I learned is that my dog is close by. She cares for me. She is present with me. She checks in on me. She desires to be close to me. She desires my attention. And she loves me unconditionally. The Holy Spirit is more than that though.

The Holy Spirit loves us completely because God loves us through Jesus. As the Father sent the Son, so the Son sends the Holy Spirit. So the Holy Spirit sends us. So the Holy Spirit cares for us. So the Holy Spirit guides us and leads us. When we don’t know what to pray for, the Holy Spirit prays for us in groans only God can understand. As a follower of Jesus, the Holy Spirit resides in us, uplifts us, and leads us.

The Holy Spirit moves where He wishes to move. God will not take His Holy Spirit from us who are followers of Jesus. In fact, the Holy Spirit is the gift that gives gifts. As followers of Jesus, we receive gifts of the Spirit to move the church. As followers of Jesus we receive the Fruit of the Spirit to show that we belong to Jesus.

My dog is finite. She’s roughly 9 years old. She will die one day. The Holy Spirit will never leave you nor die on you as a follower of Jesus. He will always be present with you as a follower of Jesus. Remember the Holy Spirit and what He can do with you. Allow Him to move and work in your life, being ever present with you. Listen to Him, follow Him, be guided by Him, and allow Him to work in your life.

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