The Terrible Trio


I don’t know why, but I love trios. I look at my favorite rock bands and a large percentage of them are trios. Rush, The Police, Cream, and The Jimi Hendrix Experience occupy a big chunk of my secular music collection (of which there is not much, let me tell you). On the Christian side, I think the best live performance I ever saw was the Charlie Peacock Trio. So trios capture my imagination.

Even bad trios.

The last few weeks have found me thinking about the state of the Church on a more visceral level. Not the high-level stuff about how to better small groups or preach more effectively, but real A hellish triomeat issues that penetrate us to the core of who we are as individual Christians.

In the end, I see three paralyzing factors that stop us dead:

  • Fear
  • Shame
  • Guilt

I have an idea that this terrible trio robs more people of effectiveness, joy, and growth in Christ than nearly anything else. Start searching the roots of the modern American Church’s problems and almost all of them can be traced to this trio.

Take any issue facing the Church today and you can filter each issue through that trio and it will make sense as to why we’re not reaching our potential in Christ.

Let’s consider evangelism. On the surface, what’s hard about evangelism? A Christian tells a non-Christian about Jesus. Simple, right?

Now add the terrible trio and see what happens to our evangelistic zeal!

  • Fear – we are inadequate for the task.
  • Shame – we may not know the Scriptures well enough to answer an inquirer’s questions adequately.
  • Guilt – we don’t share Christ often enough—or at all.

Or how about being a single Christian?

  • Fear – we will always be single and will never find lasting love in this life.
  • Shame – we keep making one relational mistake after another while others enjoy happy marriages.
  • Guilt – we’ve failed to remain sexually pure.

Or how about accepting a call to the pastorate?

  • Fear – our new congregation will wither and die while we’re on watch.
  • Shame – others have been established for years in the pastorate, so why did it take us so long?
  • Guilt – no one knows that we’re just as messed up as the average guy in the pews.

See, the terrible trio of fear, shame, and guilt can be applied to nearly any situation/event/idea that rises up in the Church. You can postulate outcomes, discern motivations, and uncover hidden belief systems all by filtering reality through the lens of the terrible trio.

This may be more personal than some folks can handle, but do you recall your wedding night? The first time you and your spouse stood naked before each other? Was that a shame-filled moment? It wasn’t for me, nor was it for my wife. In fact, what struck me in that moment more than just about anything was the utter lack of shame. Not one fleck of shame intruded into our time together. I understood then what it meant to be back in the Garden, to be as God created us. Even as a sinner, I tasted what it meant to be free from shame.

Now what if we lived out our lives in such a way that we took that lack of shame with us everywhere we went? What would happen to us as Christian if we lived without fear, without guilt?

Don’t you know that’s EXACTLY how we should be living?

So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”
—Hebrews 13:6

For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.”
—Romans 10:11

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.
—Romans 8:1-2

The terrible trio are bondage, pure and simple. As Children of the Heavenly Father, we’ve been released from those chains! Are we then living as a free people? Or do we reshackle ourselves and others?

What would a Church look like that was free of fear, a stranger to shame, and unbound from shackles of guilt?

Lord Jesus, make us a people who are devoid of fear, shame, and guilt. By Your grace, extend to us that freedom so that we might live as You intended from the beginning of time. You have bought us that right. By your Holy Spirit make that freedom real in the lives of your children. In Jesus name, amen!

Lessons from a Dream Car


Click for a larger view of this DB7 Vantage Volante

Boys and girls, that’s yours truly grinning madly from the cockpit of an Aston Martin DB7 Vantage Volante. Yeah, that’s right: the car James Bond drives. All 12 cylinders of it.

As for Dan Edelen, he drives a 1993 Mazda B2600 4×4 pickup. To put this all in perspective, I’d be able to purchase a dozen of my fully-loaded $14,900 pickup new for what this lone Vantage cost new. (I’ll let y’all do the math. Yep, it’s a huge number.)

And it would be worth every dime—at least to me it would.

I’m not a car buff. Last week, a mechanic botched tightening the oil plug on my wife’s car and we lost most of the oil out of the darned thing. I had to call my neighbor over to ask him if he could help. In short, cars are akin to Chinese puzzle boxes to me.

I can talk car models…some. I can name all the manufacturers and most of the models, but that’s memory folks, not a love for cars. I hang with other guys and they start talking compression ratios and all that other stuff, and I’m lost. They’ll discuss one trick ride after another, and all I can mumble in response is “I’m crazy about Aston Martins.” Most of the time, the Mustang and Charger folks have no idea what I’m talking about.

I think the Astons possess a combination of elegance and raw power that just grabs me. The DB7 is universally considered by auto experts to be one of the most beautiful cars ever built. Pair that with the sensation of riding in a leather-seated cannonball, and perhaps you’ll understand the appeal.

Aston Martins are rare in this country. Only 19 states have a dealership. (Ohio’s is in Dublin, headquarters of Wendy’s.) Needless to say, I’ve never seen an Aston in person. I’ve been told that even at international auto shows they keep them behind glass—look but don’t touch.

My wife and I have been part of a small group for about six years. That’s where I met Tom. Now Tom’s a British car buff and drives a Lotus himself (and yes, he’s taken me for a spin in it), but I don’t think even he connected with my fascination with Aston Martin.

But this last Friday, on a picture perfect day, Tom dropped me a morning e-mail telling me to expect to see a DB7 at small group that evening.

I had to read the e-mail about five times. An Aston Martin in our fair city? Never. How would it be possible?

I spent all day Friday with goosebumps waiting…waiting.

When we pulled in that evening, there it sat, smiling at me with that gorgeous Aston grin. Solid. Confident. Refined. Flawless. Gleaming. And a Volante (convertible) to boot!

Words can’t describe how amazing this car is. It’s one of the few things I’ve ever experienced that lived up to the hype.

We all just stared at this incredible car until Tom finally said to me, “Well…?”

And we were off.

There’s something about being in a car that weighs nearly 4200 lbs with a top speed of 185 mph, 435 hp and a mind-blowing 410 ft/lbs of torque that verges on ecstacy. Tom floored it going up the entrance ramp to the major highway nearby, and I felt as if my ribcage was going to implode from the acceleration. We blew past a BMW 650i convertible and it boggled my mind that we were in a car that cost twice as much as that wickedly expensive BMW. (I think I even taunted the BMW’s driver—just a little.)

Tom and I talked (and used a normal speaking voice, even in a convertible—amazing) and he told me he’d borrowed the car from a former law partner. Ralph had only received the car a few weeks before.

Now the part about this that tore me up came when I asked Tom, “Did you do all this just for me?” He looked me in the eye, and with a big grin on his face, simply said, “Yes.” I had to glance away to the setting sun so he wouldn’t catch my eyes welling with tears.

That’s lesson one.

Of course, most of the folks at the small group wanted a ride, including my wife. With a gleaming smile, she said she needed to understand me just a little bit more, and what better way than to ride in one of those “Aston Martin cars you always talk about.” She jumped in the passenger seat and Tom came round to drive. I said to them both, “Now I’m doubly jealous.” At this Tom sauntered over to me and dangled the key. “Drive,” he said.

Now there’s something about me you all need to know. I do an excellent job of seeing all the things that could possibly go right and wrong in life. Sadly, I do a better job envisioning the wrong portion of that equation. In that second, my heart just about stopped when I pondered the possibilities: a rock tossed up by a truck cracks the windshield, my foot jams between the brake and the accelerator and it’s Audi 5000 time, or a car of joyriding teens making their way to the high school nearby gets caught up in the joyriding and misses a stop sign, WHAM, right into a British supercar that costs as much as a house. All those scenarios crashed in my brain.

It’s not my car. It’s not even Tom’s car. Our friendship would never be the same if anything happened to the DB7. I’d never live it down if something happened.

With my adrenal glands pumping out enough juice to wire an elephant, I waved him off and watched him drive away with my wife.

On walking back to the house, my heart still fluttering, I was greeted by the rest of the small group. “Tom offered to let me drive,” I said, “but I just couldn’t.” A cadre of incredulous faces greeted me. I asked, “I’m a moron, aren’t I?” “Yes” was the group consensus.

But it wasn’t right. It was too much responsibility! I have enough of a dilemma driving a friend’s car, but a friend of a friend’s? A plethora of gruesome possibilities for error and damage rose up again. Bankruptcy! Debtors’ prison! The worst possible outcome of a Dickens novel! Little Nell! Oh no, Little Nell!

How could I possibly handle it?

Did I mention this car costs as much as a nice house?

Yet I walked down to the curb and stood there, sweating. A few minutes later, they returned, and I nervously waved Tom out of the driver’s seat and hopped in. Carefully, I took my dream car, my gorgeous wife at my side, for a very short spin within the subdivision. All told, I think we drove less than a mile.

But that was enough for lesson number two.

Now what does it all mean?

I think that a lot of us don’t understand what Christ has done for us. What a friend we have in Jesus! My friend Tom heard that his former partner had just bought an Aston Martin and I’m sure he thought right away, “Dan would love this.”

God the Father looks at you, His child, and says, “Oh, you are so going to love what I have in store for you.”

Who here isn’t crying with joy? Do we know how much we are loved? The cattle on a thousand hills! The empowering of the Holy Spirit! Eternal life purchased by the blood of the One who loves us more than anything!

But some of us get handed the keys of that Kingdom and we back off. It’s too much. Too many things might go wrong! How can we handle the responsibility?

So we shrink away and miss grabbing onto that Kingdom of unrelenting joy and going to the unimaginable places the King intended us to go.

Something about me grew last Friday. Because of an amazing car. Because that car stood proxy for something priceless. More than anything, it stood for someone who loved me enough to go to extraordinary lengths to fill my life with joy. More than anything, it stood for the willingness of that someone to trust me to drive what he’d labored to secure for me.

Do you get it?

Now take the keys and drive.


(Thanks, Tom. You’re a true friend who loves at all times. Thanks Ralph, for making one dreamer’s dream come true. And to Eric for the nicely Aston Martin-ized Cerulean Sanctum banner modification.)

That Saved a “Wreck” Like Me


My post last week on “Two Halves of the Whole Gospel” has generated some interesting conversations. I was originally intending to do a week of posts about my work, the reason this blog exists, and some tidbits about me. However, I feel the Lord tapping me on the shoulder about expanding the “Two Halves” post.

One of my concerns for the American Church is that we’re carving the Gospel up into disparate chunks, then loving our favorite chunk to the exclusion of the rest. I believe that terrible misunderstandings and errors grow like pernicious weeds because we do this. We end up missing the Lord’s best for us.

I want to begin my point here by having you all imagine a giant junkyard filled with one wrecked/junked vehicle after another for as far as the eye can see. Rusting heaps, useless, and destined for destruction.

One day, a master mechanic pulls into the junkyard behind the wheel of his rescue vehicle.Totaled for all eternity? He hauls some vehicles away to his garage, works on their engines, then fills them with his special fuel. A couple pumps of the accelerator and that once dead engine sputters to life.

In time, the master mechanic details each vehicle. Any portion of that vehicle that doesn’t work, he repairs. He removes all the rust, patches the holes, and primes, paints and buffs the results. The vehicles begin to look as they should. In fact, they begin to look a lot like the mechanic’s own rescue vehicle.

But the master mechanic is even more wise. He knows that each one of his vehicles exists for a reason. So he equips each with specialized parts that run off his unique fuel. To some, he gives wings to fly so they can journey to distant parts of the junkyard as his representatives. To others, he gives crane arms to lift other vehicles out of ditches should they run off the road. Each vehicle receives what it needs to serve. He makes each vehicle into exactly what he desires of it for his good purpose. Some are fast, some durable, some multi-functioned, some exceptionally good at a specific task, and many even help the master mechanic retrieve more wrecks from the junkyard. In the end, those once worthless vehicles become what the master mechanic intended for them to be in the first place. They fly, roll, and sail in tune because of the master mechanic, his rescue vehicle, and his special fuel.

Perhaps it’s too simple an illustration on some levels, but I believe that’s a decent explanation of the Gospel at work.

Sadly, too many of us live as if the Gospel stops once the master mechanic retrieves a few vehicles from the junkyard, tunes them up, and fills them with his fuel. If they do they little else than sit around the master mechanic’s lot, that’s fine.

But that’s a terrible error.

Those vehicles have a purpose and that purpose is as much a part of the Gospel as anything. If we fail to understand the truth that those vehicles have a destiny as tools for the use of the master craftsman, then we’ve missed Gospel truth. The equipping for service is part of the Gospel, too, for what was once useless now lives up to the reason for which it was made! That’s the Good News as much as not resting forever in a junkyard is.

What’s frightening is what happens when the vehicles on the master mechanic’s lot do nothing but hang around the lot all day. In time, the lot begins to resemble the junkyard: plenty of parked vehicles failing to do what they were created for. Eventually, those retrieved vehicles begin to sputter for they would rather hang out in the lot then go to the garage where the master mechanic can fuel and equip them for the purpose for which they exist.

It’s not enough to no longer be a wreck. If that’s what we think, then we don’t understand the whole Gospel.