Thursday, December 19, 2013

Phil Robertson Can Say What He Wants. And A&E Can Do What They Want.

That Phil Robertson sure can cause a stir. I have a couple thoughts on the whole thing, so let me briefly weigh in.

First, I think everyone should take a breath. My guess is that the Robertsons arent' too concerned about all this hullaballoo, and so maybe no one else should be either.

Second, I think we should recognize that this is NOT a first ammendment issue. Phil's right to free spreech hasn't been impinged by congress. If A&E wants to censor the content of their network, that's their call. (now, if comments like Phil's are some day deemed as official "hate speech" and he is silenced by government action; that will be a first ammendment issue)

Third, I support A&E's right to not do business with Phil Robertson based on their religious convictions.

Fourth, I expect to see consistency from organizations like GLAAD (which have spoken very strongly into this issue). I hope that they also will support the right of any American business to choose their business ventures based on their religious convictions.

For the record, I think A&E made a bad short term business decision. It will cost them millions of dollars over the next year or two. But they still hold the rights to Duck Dynasty and the majority of money they will make will be in syndication. I also think the relationship between the show and the network was already on the verge of dissolution, this just sped the process. I think A&E's decision reflects a future-minded mentality. They are posturing themselves to be acceptable to the audience they believe will be most profitable in the years to come. They don't (I don't believe) have any desire to market or pander to conservative or religious America. That's their call, and that's their right.

If you don't like the decision by A&E. Don't watch their shows or visit their sponsors. That's your right.

If you are a Christian, though. This isn't about your rights or Phil's rights. It is about what IS right. So be sure, no matter how you feel or how intense those feelings may be, take the mind of Christ.

"in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others."

Mercy triumphs over judgement.

(those last two lines are not mine, they are from the Bible)

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

How I'm Going To End the Creation - Evolution Debate

You may or may not be aware that coffee has a very quick “mold-creation” rate.  If you leave a cup of coffee sitting out for too long, it will quickly begin to develop mold spores.  In fact, I would imagine, that in just a week or two a mug of coffee would develop a bog-like surface if left alone.


I’m placing a full mug of coffee in a secluded room where it will be undisturbed.  I’m also leaving instructions in my will that in 100 years, my grandchildren are to go into that room and document the lives of all the mold creatures that have come to life.

That’ll show those silly creationists.

Monday, December 16, 2013

In Defense of Plagiarism

In recent days the evangelical internet (now there is a silly concept) has been in an uproar about the issue of plagiarism.

First, Mark Driscoll came under fire for apparently using massive amounts of other people's material without properly citing them. In some cases his books allegedly borrowed virtually word for word from other sources. I've not investigated these claims. If they are true, it's wrong.

More recently, a young female blogger reposted the writing by Rachel Held Evans, claiming it as her own. It's pretty clear that she copied and pasted with minimal changes. To her credit, the young lady apologized after being called out for her indiscretion.

Plagiarism is bad. I get it. It's theft. It's false. It's selfish. At times, it negatively impacts the ability of some to earn their livelihood.

I've heard preachers use my words and my thoughts as if they were their own. It made me angry. I had worked hard to formulate those thoughts. I had labored over those words. I wanted the credit for those thoughts. It was my right to protect my intellectual property.


But what about this? It's not apples to apples, but Paul knew about some guys who were preaching the Gospel out of false motives. They were teaching in a way that placed him in a bad light. They were using their platform to harm him.

He didn't care. As long as Gods truth was getting out, he didn't care.

Another time, some Christians were arguing about which church leader was best. Was it Paul with his dizzying logic or was it Apollos with his soaring oratory? Paul didn't care. He didn't care who got credit for the Gospel success. It wasn't he or Apollos that was doing the work, anyway. It was God.

And that's the thing.

Those words of mine that get borrowed... They aren't really mine.

That article of yours that got stolen... It's not really yours.

Those thoughts of that one guy that got pirated... They aren't really his.

If it's true, it belongs to God. All truth is His. He just lends it to us to steward. And if someone hears Gods truth from me, and then passes it off to someone else... Awesome.

And if I don't get credit, that'll be okay.

I think that's what Christ would want. I think he wants me to give up my rights rather than fight for them. I think he wants me to seek his fame, not mine. I think he would rather me be generous and gracious than tight-fisted.

I know it's more complicated than this. I don't think you should copy my work and claim it as your own. But, ultimately, that's on you... And if it does the kingdom good, well then good for me.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Your Next Step is Your Most Important Step

Colossians 1:10 pops up in the middle of Paul’s prayer for the Colossians.  In this mid-thought verse he says, "so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God."  The easy observation from this verse is that Paul identifies three specific results of walking rightly:

  • our lives will be pleasing to God
  • our lives will be full of the fruit of good works
  • we will be increasing in our knowledge of God (both relational knowledge and factual knowledge)
But can you take a break for a minute and think about the idea of walking?  This isn’t the first time the idea of our life as a walk is discussed in the Bible.  It’s not even the only time Paul uses the analogy.  "Walking" is a common and helpful illustration of the Christian life.

Proverbs talks about our walk a lot.

  • Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.
  • Blessed are they whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the law of the LORD.
  • The man of integrity walks securely, but he who takes crooked paths will be found out.
  • He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.

The New Testament writers also had something to say about how we walk:

  • When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
  • If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth.

When you consider the words “steps” and “path” to be synonymous to “walk”, you find more.

  • A simple man believes anything, but a prudent man gives thought to his steps.
  • To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.
  • The path of life leads upward for the wise to keep him from going down to the grave.
  • Listen, my son, and be wise, and keep your heart on the right path.

Obviously, all these examples have wonderful truth of which we need to be regularly reminded.  However, they are just a small portion of the many proverbs and teachings we have about the idea of our “walk”, “path”, or “steps”.

Clearly, God is very concerned about WHERE OUR LIFE IS GOING.

Part of the Bible’s stress on walking is that we need to be super-careful about the people with whom we are walking. The people we walk with will impact where we go.

When Marianne and I used to walk our beagle, we would let Emily walk in front of us.  Even though she was securely leashed I think she felt like she was leading us.  The truth is, she didn’t go anywhere we didn’t want to go, and we never ceded directional control to her.  Had we let her set the direction for the walk, we would have never gotten past the fire hydrant in our neighbor’s yard.  Even though she was walking with us, and in front of us, she never influenced where we were going.

One thing to consider when thinking about walking is who is in control of your direction?  If you claim to be walking with God, are you walking where He is going?  Or are you trying to convince Him to go where you want to go?  Why would you ever ask God to “be with you” if you haven’t first surrendered complete control of your life’s direction to him?

One other thought from walking with my wife...  We both went one step at a time.  That seems obvious, but it’s really important.  When you try to take steps that are too big or too fast, you fall down.  When you try to take two steps at once, you fall down.  When you aren’t content to move one-step-at-a-time, you’re cruising for pain and suffering.

The direction God wants you to walk is only one step away.  As Christ said in Matthew 6, "Don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring it’s own worries…"  Of course he said that within the context of teaching his friends that they need to "Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need."  Jesus’ point was that our worries, cares, and concerns often drive us off the path of righteousness because we believe we need to take care of ourselves.  Our Heavenly Father will handle the details, He just asks that we stay on the right path.

Paul prayed that his friends would continue walking on the right path.  He prayed that they would not be distracted by temptations, worries, or anything else; but rather that they would keep taking the NEXT STEP along the same path that Jesus has already walked for us.

5 Things We Learned From Liverpool's Thrashing of Tottenham

Forgive me for stepping outside my normal content genre and posting a bit about my favorite football team...

I had to DVR today's game, so I didn't finish it until a little bit ago. It was an absolute joy to watch. I may bask in the afterglow of this 5-0 thrashing for quite a while. From beginning to end, it was a thing of beauty to watch.

More exciting than the win, though, is the lessons which I think were learned today. Each of which bodes well for the future. Here they are:
1. These guys are good. For real. They're good. This wasn't a team fighting to avoid relegation and the game wasn't at home. This is a team playing European football, they were on their own turf, and they were well beaten (even before the deserved red card). 
2. Right now, Luis Suarez is the best football player in the world. Period. 
3. Ironically, an injury to Steven Gerrard, and his resulting absence, may have revealed that this could be the year Liverpool finally win the league for their beloved captain. 
4. Jordan Henderson is coming of age before our eyes. He may be rightful "heir-apparent" to Gerrard's throne. 
5. Raheem Sterling has arrived. He was creative, daring and unstoppable. His mark was on this game from the first moment. Most importantly, though, his physicality caused problems for Tottenham all day long. This is the Sterling we need if we are to make a run at the league championship.
I could go on. Joe Allen was splendid, Young Jon played the part of a cagey veteran. Coutinho's playmaking was scintillating. Did I mention Luis Suarez is the best footballer in the world? This I know, Brendan Rodgers is the right man for the job right now, Champion's League football seems right around the corner, they youth of Liverpool are coming of age, and more money is sure to be spent in January. It is a good day to be a Liverpool supporter.

It is a good day to not walk alone!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

How to Create "Raving Fans"

Twice a month I send out an email to everyone in our church who is in some kind of "leadership" position (and anyone else who asks to be on the list...). Here are the thoughts I sent them last week:

I'm a big fan of Ken Blanchard, so one evening when I had a few spare minutes at Barnes and Noble, I grabbed one of his books and read the first couple pages. The book is Raving Fans: A Revolutionary Approach to Customer Service. The basic gist of the book is:

Having raving fans means that you have achieved the kind of
service excellence that turns a customer into lifetime customer.
A raving fan is an advocate of your products or services in the marketplace.

As I read, I thought about how the ideas Ken was sharing might apply to church leadership (s a church leader, I often do this). I realized that all of us are trying to create "raving fans"; and every church is a reflection of what kind of raving fans their leaders have sought to create. Here is a list I created of some of the ways we create "raving fans" in churches:

Some have created RAVING FANS OF THEMSELF. Too many pastors have bought into the unbiblical myth that the primary role of the pastor is to be a charismatic leader, and that if the pastor is simply a good enough leader, the people will follow and the church will be healthy. Essentially, the pastor behaves so the people will fanatically follow him.

Many have created RAVING FANS OF THE CHURCH. Churches today are branding themselves and working hard to be innovative and unique so that they stand out from the other religious institutions in their country. Their goal is to bring people into their church and then convert and disciple them. This is not all bad, but this can be severely out of balance in many churches. Basically, the pastors act in such a way so that the people become fanatical followers of their brand of church.

I've observed some pastors and people who "do church" in such a way as to create RAVING FANS OF PROGRAMS. Programs are great ways to accomplish wonderful things, but if they become something that promotes division in the church, they have outlived their purpose.

Some create RAVING FANS OF THE BIBLE. Don't misunderstand me, the Bible is a good thing, and I'm a fan. But I've seen some churches where the Bible is so revered that I sometimes wonder if the written words haven't become an idol. I believe the Bible is the most authoritative document ever written, but I never want to be a person who uses my knowledge of the Bible to beat people over the head.

And by now, you've probably guessed where I'm going.

What would it look like if our churches only priority was to create RAVING FANS OF JESUS? What if you were committed as a leader to do everything in your power to influence people to be RAVING FANS OF JESUS? How would that commitment change the way you lead this week?

Friday, December 13, 2013

Are You Leading Or Are You Just Up Front?

If you're up front, it's because someone put you there.
If you're leading, it's because people are following.

Leading means knowing where you're going.
Being up front means reacting to circumstances.

A leader communicates a compelling direction.
Up front... a confusing direction.

If you embrace hard questions, you're leading.
If you seek easy answers, you're up front.

Leading = Pulling.
Up Front = Being Pushed.

Leaders call for sacrifice sometimes.
People up front promise satisfaction all the time.

You lead because you can do nothing else.
You move up front because it looks attractive.

When you lead, you engage the tension.
When you're up front, it paralyzes you.

Leaders are value-driven.
Up-Fronters prefer polls.

What else?