You see it clearly, don’t you? You know why it’s there, what’s wrong with it, why you like it or don’t. It’s obvious to you. What you see is the truth, and no one can convince you otherwise.

But if you’re looking at your object through a camera lens, what you see may be distorted. It may appear farther away than it is, smaller. Or maybe you’ve enlarged it to look for a few details that don’t appear at a quick glance. But seeing only those particulars doesn’t give you an accurate picture of the whole. The old saying claims, “Seeing is believing,” but sometimes that leads us to believe something that isn’t true.

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Trevor DeVageComment

Nobody tells you in Bible college that some church people are just not nice. But I quickly learned how difficult they can be in my first ministry as youth pastor at a small church a little way from the school I was attending in Illinois.

I remember one time in particular. I had just gotten home from a night class I needed to finish up my degree. It was 11:30, and when I checked my email, I discovered a rant from a guy complaining that the decibel level of the music in our student gatherings was too high. (The youth group had swelled to about 60 in a church of 170, and he wasn’t the only one threatened by the growth.)

No sooner had I shut my computer than I got a phone call from a 15-year-old kid in the group who said, “If you can’t get here in the next 20 minutes, I’m going to kill myself.” And I was 40 minutes away from her.

I stood in a corner and said out loud, “God, I didn’t sign up for either one of these things.”

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Trevor DeVageComment

drove my daughter Ella to Cleveland last weekend where her high school golf team was competing with 21 others in a tournament that involved 122 girls. Ella was the sixth player, the alternate on her team that could play only five.

Saturday when we got to the course, she pulled out her clubs and started hitting practice balls along with all the other players who were getting ready for the tee.

“Why are you doing this?” I asked her. There was no need to warm up since she wasn’t slated to play

“Because we’re a team, Dad,” she answered, a little indignant that I had to ask.

Just then her coach called me over. “Ella’s playing,” he said. Because one of the teams for the tournament didn’t show up, hers could field six golfers, even though Ella’s score wouldn’t count for her team’s total.

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In some circles today it’s cool to criticize the church. Search social media and soon you’ll find someone upset because they say the church has failed them. Some have even walked away. In fact, most readers of this blog know at least one person who has decided to leave church altogether.

Obviously, the critics are not totally wrong. Attend church long enough and you’re sure to bump up against adultery, jealousy, lying, or just general unpleasantness among folks who are supposed to be redeemed.

I get it. Sometimes someone will say to me, “It must be wonderful to work at the church, doing God’s work all day every day.” Well, it certainly is gratifying to partner with God in his activity on earth. But it’s not for the faint of heart. Spiritual healing is like physical healing: sometimes it means cleaning messy wounds, draining ugly infection, watching for many months (or years) while disabled people slowly hobble along until their brokenness has mended. 

So I could tell you plenty of reasons to criticize the church. But I’m committed not to join the critics, for at least three reasons.

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“It’s time for him to be all-in or all-out.”

That was the ultimatum Oakland Raiders general manager Mike Mayock announced Sunday in the wake of repeated protests and walkouts by Raiders wide receiver Antonio Brown.

The issue? Brown wants to keep the helmet he’s been using for 10 years instead of moving to a new helmet, one required by safety standards that weren’t in place when Brown entered the league. There’s a chance he’ll retire from the game rather than make the change.

The whole affair is both sad and enlightening to me, and that’s why I’m writing this week.

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Trevor DeVageComment