Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Black Lives Matter

Black Lives Matter!


NO! All Lives Matter!


Blue Lives Matter!


You don’t understand!


No, You don’t understand!


When we fight over which lives matter, aren’t we behaving just like Jesus’ disciples who constantly argued over who was the greatest or who would sit next to Jesus in the kingdom?




This doesn’t need to be so complicated. If someone suggests to you that their life matters, regardless of how their sentiment is phrased, why can’t you just agree with them?

If, as some say, “all lives matter”; then black lives matter. Why does that need to be a point of contention?



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*I'm choosing not to make all the disclaimers I think I need to make because I'm trusting that we can all be adults and recognize that this is not a comprehensive treatment of the issue and general truths always need to be applied with wisdom and flexibility, right?

Sunday, July 24, 2016

How Often Do You Glance At Your Spiritual Dashboard?


“if Christ is in you... your spirit is alive”

Cause and Effect

Causality is one of the simplest scientific principles to understand. Everyday, all the time we see the idea of “cause and effect” at work. We exercise (cause) to get into better shape (effect). We discipline our children (cause) to help them grow into better adults (effect). We avoid sharp objects (cause) because we know they will cut us (effect).
Even our spiritual lives are subject to "cause and effect"
The law of cause and effect holds true in our spiritual lives as well. If, through faith in Jesus, you have become a new person (cause); your life will look different (effect). Often people misunderstand this concept and mistakenly believe the effect comes before the cause. They believe if they start living a different life, then they will become a new person.
This is no more effective than painting stripes on a horse is effective in changing the horse into a zebra. Only Jesus can make your life new.

Jesus Causes Us To Live A New Way

According to Romans 6, once we have received this new life from Jesus; we will experience a radical change in our thoughts, desires, and behavior. Paul says in this passage that we have put to death the old way of life. We are now alive to a whole new way of living.
Later in Romans, Paul explains that the Holy Spirit empowers this new life. He writes:
You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.
The Holy Spirit living in us is the catalyst for our new life in Jesus. When the Holy Spirit is working in our lives, we experience a true metamorphosis of character. Over time, the priorities which once drove our life become distant and unimportant as we embrace the values and principles of Jesus. This radical life-change is the precise type of fruitful life Jesus referred to when he told the parable of the different soils.
Jesus suggested the change in a person’s life was so radical it was equivalent to reproducing fruit 30, 60, and 100 times. Have you ever considered how to measure the amount of fruitfulness the Holy Spirit is creating in your life?

A Spiritual Dashboard?

We may never buy a General Motors minivan again. Several years ago, we purchased a Pontiac Montana, and while the engine was reasonably reliable; we experienced an unbelievable amount of problems with the “extras”. Our rear window wiper didn't worked for years, our electric locks went in and out, our CD player stopped playing and the stereo's volume button never worked like it should.
Most frustrating, though, was our gas gauge. According to our dashboard, our van was always either full of gas or empty. The inaccurate measurements led to a few unscheduled roadside stops, and a few more close calls. We eventually learned, that we needed to get gas approximately every 300 miles. Once the odometer hit 300, we stopped for gas and reset it to zero.
What good is a broken dashboard? Not much. A dashboard is designed to measure something. If the measurement is not accurate, significant problems might result. Sometimes, as Christians we are tempted to use inaccurate gauges to measure our spiritual growth. We might compare ourselves with someone else and determine we are more spiritual. We might create a list of actions (going to church, reading the Bible, etc) and decide we are doing fine as long as we check off each box on our list.
Broken dashboards can’t give us a true measurement of the Holy Spirit’s work in our life. Remember, fruit is an evidence of life change, not a means by which to implement life change. Our fruitfulness comes, not through our own efforts, but as we open ourselves to the work of the Spirit in our life. The disciplines we undertake are designed to help us open ourselves to the Spirit, but they do not on their own bring fruit to our lives.
Galatians 5 is a familiar passage which contains a well-known list of the “fruit of the Spirit.” This list of nine character traits can serve as an accurate dashboard to help us determine the extent of the Spirit’s work in our life.
Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control are listed as the evidence of a new life. They are contrasted with immorality, impurity, debauchery, idolatry and witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, and more which are all evidence of the old life.
Just like a dashboard doesn’t cause you to accelerate, it just tells you how fast you are going; these fruits don’t change your life, they just tell you if your life has changed.
A spiritual dashboard enables you to measure your growth
Understanding the differing character traits in these two lists helps to provide a simple framework by which you can evaluate the fruitfulness of your life. The following series of questions, can guide you as you seek to measure the work of the Spirit in your life:
  • Which list do the thoughts, attitudes and actions in my life right now reflect?
  • Am I right now living by the Spirit or by the “old way?”
  • What have I been doing recently to open myself to the Spirit? What have I been doing recently to open myself to the “old way?”
  • How can these measurements convict me to take action in my life?
You would never drive a long time without glancing at your dashboard. Knowing your speed, your fuel level, your car’s temperature are all important pieces of information to help you reach your destination. In the same way, you should never try to live the fruitful life without occasionally take time to glance at the dashboard provided in Galatians 5.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Are You Willing To Join A Quest To Grow Your Spiritual Life?

We all need encouragement from time to time, especially when it comes to spiritual growth. What if you partnered with some of your friends to engage in a spiritual quest over the next couple months? We all need a good quest now and then, why not pursue a closer relationship with God? Below is a slide presentation outlining what "Quest Discipleship" might look like (this is an older presentation, so the contact info at the end is no longer valid!).

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

When You Choose A Leader, Character Matters

The three core components of leadership (especially “Christian” leadership) are character, courage and competence. Courage and competence are important, but without character neither matters.

In my estimation, we face a presidential election in which neither of the two leading candidates exhibit much more than a shred of character. Perhaps that is overly harsh, which is why I prefaced it with “in my estimation.”


This is neither the time nor the place to go into great details as to why I believe this. Should you wish to research it for yourself, simply listen to each candidate speak about their opponent. You’ll learn everything you need to know about either of them. Check Google, Snopes, or the Washington Post Pinocchio report to figure out exactly what is and is not true.

YOU NEED TO VOTE

I am not writing this to discourage you from voting. In fact, it is the exact opposite. I am writing to encourage you to vote, to advocate, and to get involved in the process. Now more than ever, we need people to be educated and involved at the local levels.

We need a strong Congress. We need strong state governments. We need strong municipalities.
The most effective way to combat an executive who lacks character is to use the checks and balances given to us by the framers of our constitution.

YOU NEED TO VOTE WISELY

Don’t believe the fuzzy mathematicians telling you that to not vote for one candidate is to vote for the other. This is nonsensical, illogical, and just plain wrong. Feel free to go to the polls and not vote for a presidential candidate, but please vote wisely for representatives, for senators and for state and local officials.

The President of the United States was never intended to be the most powerful man (or woman) in the world. The time has come to dispossess ourselves of that myth. The time has come for a strong Senate and a strong Congress who will be a voice crying out for virtue in the wilderness of Washington D.C.

Find the candidates whose platform coincides with your values. Find the candidates who value virtue over victory. Vote your conscience this November. Win or lose, you’ll never have regrets.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Distracted Living Leads To A Defeated Life


Have you ever been driving down the road enjoying the view when you suddenly realize the car ahead of you is stopped… and you might not have enough time to stop? You probably slammed on your brakes, considered swerving into another lane or the ditch, and breathed a big sigh of relief when you stopped inches short of the other car’s rear bumper. Then you probably swore an oath to not allow yourself to get distracted while driving again.
Distractions abound for drivers. Ringing cell phones, changing radio stations, people on the sidewalk acting strangely, animals along the side of the road, and many other things all provide opportunities lose focus on the road. I don’t know how many auto accidents are caused by distracted drivers. I would guess that most of them are. I would also guess that for every accident caused by a distraction, there are many more distracted drivers who narrowly miss accidents.
A distraction is something that seems very important right now, but when seen with proper perspective is obviously unimportant. Occasionally, a little distraction can be a good thing; but most of the time distractions keep us from doing what we should be doing, going where we should be going, or being who we should be being. They catch our eyes, occupy our minds, and captivate our souls.
The serpent was Adam and Eve’s distraction Idolatry regularly distracted the children of Israel. Bathsheba was David’s distraction. Nearly 1,000 wives and concubines distracted Solomon.

Distractions are wrong-way attractions.

Matthew 13 tells us one of Jesus' stories about a farmer who threw some of his seeds into a patch of ground occupied by thorns and weeds. The plants initially grew, but were soon overpowered and choked out by the thorns and weeds. Jesus explained the ground with thorns represented people who hear the truth, and are initially excited about it; but before long, their faith is choked out by the worries of life and the deceitfulness of riches.

We all get distracted by life.

Sometimes we are distracted more easily than other times. In the hard times of life, we are more likely to buckle down and focus. When we find ourselves facing a crisis or a deadline, we somehow find the discipline to get done what needs to get done. We don’t usually get distracted when something important is clearly on the line.
When things are going well, it’s much easier to get distracted. Driving down the road on a sunny day is prime distraction time. When business is booming, it is easy to slowly lose focus. Often we get too comfortable in relationships, and risk taking someone close to us for granted. When life is good, we are easily tempted by the distractions we think might make it even better.

The consequences of distracted living

Joe Gilliam Jr. was just the third African-American to play quarterback in the NFL. He was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1972, and became the starting quarterback in 1974. Joe Gilliam died in 2000 at the age of fifty. He had spent much of his life drifting between homeless shelters and trying to recover from drug addiction. Joe won two super-bowl rings with the Steelers, but ended up pawning them to finance his drug habit.
Life was good for Joe Gilliam Jr., but he got distracted by life.
If you spent too much time pursuing the distractions of life, what initially feels like a warm fuzzy hug will slowly become a deathly choke-hold. Jesus said that many people who hear the truth will be distracted by the cares of life and the deceitfulness of riches.

Find an eternal perspective

Following Jesus is the greatest investment we could ever make, but the cares of life threaten to distract us from that pursuit. We might be distracted by the toys we could accumulate or the money we could earn. We might be distracted by relationships we are pursuing. We might be distracted by a promotion or a new promising job. We might be distracted by pleasure or the pursuit of pleasure.
Distractions are anything that seems important right now. Many pursuits in life seem more important than following Christ, because the return on following Christ is not immediate. When you view distractions with the proper perspective, though, they always reveal themselves to be a bad idea. If you assume an eternal perspective, anything that keeps you from pursuing Christ with all your heart is most definitely a bad idea.
Distractions are always a bad investment, and often lead to extremely heavy losses. Don’t be distracted from the most important pursuit of your life!

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Strongly Held Opinions Rarely Lead To Positive Solutions


My friend Kevin recently shared some of his thoughts on the several tragic deaths we've all witnessed in the past week. You can read it here.
More than anyone else I know, Kevin has earned the right to speak into these difficult days. He has poured his life into the ministry of racial reconciliation and he demonstrates Christ's love in difficult situations better than anyone I know. He converses truthfully and graciously even when he disagrees. He is an elder in his church and his organization, Pursue Scholars, is doing amazing things to provide opportunities for young people (I support this organization and highly recommend it. Click here to learn how you can give)
Kevin is spot on when he writes:
Stop believing the narrative that says if you are against one thing that you also can’t be against something else... Stop letting people tell you that you can’t be both. Stop being boxed into what Fox News or MSNBC or Franklin Graham or Jesse Jackson tells you is the only opinion you can have. Until we become people who are more nuanced and thoughtful, we will continue to talk at each other and refuse to listen to each other.
Kevin's point is one that has been voiced by many in recent days. I think it's worth hearing. We don't need to pick one side or the other, in fact we don't need to "pick a side" at all. I want to add on to Kevin's thoughts by putting some feet on the ideas he's proposed. If I truly want to see all sides, I have to think about how my behavior changes and how my words change.

Nothing Good Happens When We Assume

If I support law enforcement AND I am opposed to police officers who abuse their authority than I must not rush to conclusions and there is no need for me to assign fault or blame every time I hear about another tragic confrontation.
Every time I hear about a confrontation that ended poorly, I cannot immediate assume the police officer was justified in his behavior.
AND
Every time a video surfaces of a police shooting, I cannot assume the police officer's actions were motivated by racism.
In fact, why do I need to assume at all?

Can You Refrain from Social Media?

Let me make a suggestion (this isn't something I've done, but I am going to try to make this my new practice)?
What if we all waited a week to voice our opinion the next time there is a public tragedy. 
Can you distinguish the difference between talking about something and sharing your opinion about it? This is really important!
These People Are Not Interested In Helping You Or Anyone
Instead of letting the the media cram an unhelpful conversation down our throat, let's follow James' advice to be slow to speak and quick to listen. Go ahead and express your grief. Express your condolences. But refrain from the temptation to assign fault or even to explain the reason these things happen.
Conversations are good and they can be helpful, but perhaps they would be more healthy and more productive if they happened after we've processed the grief and sorrow and after we've had a chance to better understand what actually happened.

Find A Friend and Talk To Them

Soon it will be a week since the Dallas shooting (as well as the shootings in Louisiana, Minnesota, Tennesee and Missouri). Find someone who comes from a different background than you or someone that you know has a different political bent than you. Buy them coffee and have a conversation. Don't seek to change each other's minds. Instead, search out the truths upon which you can both agree and then decide what you can each do as a result of that agreement.
You won't solve the world's problems, but maybe you can identify your next step.