Read More Looking Up

Read Upward Glances

Welcome!

I really hope this column will bless you. You can read the most recent column below and previous columns at the archive.


If you need a raise at work, don’t worry – you can do all things through Christ who gives you strength.

If you want a new car, don’t worry – you can do all things through Christ who gives you strength.

If you want to play in the NFL, don’t worry! You can do all things through Christ who gives you strength.

If you would rather sprout wings and fly, rather than dealing with traffic, don’t worry. You can do all things through Christ who gives you strength!

We love Philippians 4:13 because it seems to claim we can do anything we want, because Jesus himself will give us supernatural ability to fulfill our heart’s desires.


There are some Bible verses everyone knows.

John 3:16, for instance, everyone knows. Jeremiah 29:11 is another.

This verse finds its way onto graduation cards and Instagram bios with notable frequency. It’s a great verse, and it makes us feel really good.

Its popularity is no wonder – who wouldn’t like for God to tell them, “’For I know the thoughts that I think toward you,’ says the Lord, ‘thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.’”

It is so lovely to know that God thinks good thoughts toward us. What a comfort!

God wants what’s good for us, so logically it seems like he’ll do what’s good for us. Rather, we think, he’ll do what seems good to us.

So, with this hope – based on something God didn’t actually say – we put “Jeremiah 29:11” on our social media posts, congratulatory cards, or a necklace we wear, without ever actually looking at.


“Inconceivable!”

The mysterious masked man had not fallen to his death, once again defying Vizzini’s expectations.

This was the fourth time he had proclaimed the man in black’s actions were "inconceivable." Inigo’s response in the 1987 cult classic “The Princess Bride” has become one of the movie’s most recognizable lines: “You keep using that word — I do not think it means, what you think it means.”

“The Princess Bride” remains one of my favorite movies. It’s a sick-day staple in my house, and it seems like when either of my girls so much as coughs, Princess Buttercup magically appears on the television screen in my living room.

On one such day, I was scrolling through Instagram as Inigo Montoya uttered his most memorable line again.

The profile I was looking at cited Jeremiah 29:11, and the line took on a different and special context: “You keep quoting that verse. I do not think it means, what you think it means.”


One-hundred-fifty-four years ago, people of color in Charlottesville, Virginia, were prohibited from having their own church. Charlottesville, as a city, took a step forward in 1864 when that law changed.

Progress, since, “Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.” (Colossians 3:11)

One hundred years ago, Paul Goodloe McIntire funded a city park in Charlottesville. It was named Lee Park because its central feature was a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee mounted on a horse.

In June, in deference to people who found the monument and park name offensive, the park’s name was changed, and conversations began about removing the statue at the park’s center.


Tragedy struck a family in my church.

The father, husband and primary breadwinner nearly died. He was in the ICU.

I walked into the room to see the face of a wife who loves her husband desperately, a mother concerned about what to tell her children, and a woman whose life was falling apart, who didn’t know if she’d be able to make ends meet.

I genuinely do not know what happens to other families when this sort of thing happens to them, but let me tell you what happens to our families in the church.

It all happened on a Friday. I visited his hospital room on Saturday. On Sunday, we announced in the main morning service, “One of our own needs help. If you want to contribute, mark it on your gift in the offering, and we’ll make sure it gets to them.”

On Monday, there was hope. The bills would get paid. We collected more for the family that week than for our general fund. I say good. That’s how the church SHOULD work


I confess — I’m the one who keeps moving the flag at church.

I don’t think it’s an appropriate thing to have in the sanctuary, because I believe in separation of church and state, the same way the founders did.

In 1977, Madalyn Murray O'Hair, an atheist activist and the founder of American Atheists, sued the city council in my hometown of Austin, because they opened their meetings in prayer, offending her deep commitment to the separation of church and state.

She filed nine other suits in the name of “Separation of Church and State” during her activism career. She made some really big wins, even winning a case in the Supreme Court.


Rethinking America: The United States lack unity

Posted by Kyle on July 22, 2017

The formal name of our country is the United States of America.

Names are important.

North Korea is in the news lately.

Their formal name is Democratic People's Republic of Korea, but we are learning, more and more, that they are neither democratic, concerned about “the people,” nor a real republic.

They don’t live up to their name. This is not a criticism of North Korea though.

I’m not entirely convinced we live up to our name any better lately.


A few years ago, a pair of Mormon missionaries arrived on my doorstep for the first time. I am naturally pretty curious about everything. I had lots of questions, and they had lots of answers. But after a little while, it became apparent to me that while we were using a lot of the same words, those words meant something very different to each of us.

I left the encounter pretty confused and with even more questions. I wondered if, as a Christian, there were any words that my faith redefined the way the Mormons had. This week, as we celebrated Independence Day, I realized that “freedom” is one of those words.


Rethinking America

Posted by Kyle on July 1, 2017

I have been a patriot for both Texas and the United States for most of my life. I am an Eagle Scout, and I was involved in many honor guards. I did flag ceremonies on the Texas Senate floor, for the governor and for US Senators and even a first lady. I love the United States.

But then I met Jesus. As the Holy Spirit began to reshape my thinking, I started thinking about history through a biblical lens, and my patriotic fervor began to wain. I am still very thankful for the freedoms we enjoy and the prosperity God has blessed our country with. But while our country and state were founded by a group of men that included several professing followers of Jesus, I began to see that they did not found our country with entirely biblical motives.


America is not a Christian nation

Posted by Kyle on June 17, 2017

Al Fadi is an former Muslim from Saudi Arabia, and he now works as a Christian apologist.

He recently gave his testimony on a YouTube video with fellow apologist David Wood, and he made an interesting comment about the Saudi perception of America.

He said the people of Saudi Arabia hate America, because they hate Christians, and they think of the United States as a Christian nation.

Then, they see our movies and television, and they hear our music, and conclude that Christians, and Christian doctrine, are immoral.

Obviously they’re wrong.

Not about the immorality — all Christians are sinners — it’s a prerequisite to being one.

They’re wrong about the United States being a Christian nation, but they can’t be faulted.


American Kerygma: Why we share the Gospel

Posted by Kyle on June 10, 2017

If I told you I had something new in my pocket, you would immediately begin to wonder what it was. If I just left it at that, you would probably ask to see it, wondering what it was. It’s just common sense.

But the American church violates this common sense pretty regularly. There’s a famous verse. It’s near the top of every “Top Bible verses to memorize” list. AWANA children know it by heart. If you start it, lots of Christians can finish it: “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)


Most pastors salivate when they read the second chapter of Acts.

Everything we could possibly want for our church is described there. In Acts 2, the Holy Spirit moves powerfully, the church grabs the attention of the city, there’s good preaching and there’s peaceful fellowship among believers. Most attractively, it says, “and that day about three thousand souls were added to them” (Acts 2:41) and “the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:47)


I just got some new stuff. I love new stuff because I’m an American, and we have a special affinity for new things. When it comes to a new digital audio recorder for my YouTube channel, new things aren’t so bad. When it comes to the way we relate to God, new things are harmful.


American Kerygma: Only Jesus can fix things

Posted by Kyle on May 13, 2017

Our world is broken.

Most what we see day-to-day forces us to agree that our world is broken. When we disagree, we disagree on the degree, the cause of and the solution to the problem we all recognize. In America, though, the variety of solutions we all fight over has a theme, “Do your best to change and behave according to my group’s definition of good.”


There is a question that befuddles believers and unbelievers alike, “What is the gospel?”

Pastor Bob Beaver of Christian Church of San Angelo was the first person I ever heard say, “That’s not the gospel.” I was in the middle of personal crisis and mental health problems, and the best help he offered me was identifying the root cause of my trouble. I was trusting in something that was not the “Power of God unto salvation” (Romans 1:16). He was the first person I clearly remember to tell me exactly what Jesus’ main message is.