Friday, January 31, 2014

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

7 Questions To Help You Align Your Plans With God's Purposes

I love Staples. (the store, not the small metal fastening device)

I love it because I have an unhealthy obsession with personal organization tools. I could stand in the "planner section" of Staples for hours and browse the different notebooks, forms, tools, etc. which are available. It's a sickness.

I've read all the important books about planning. I've been a fan of Stephen Covey since I was a child. I had a Franklin planner before Franklin and Covey merged. I know GTD inside and out. And I know that this paragraph makes 0 sense to most people. I apologize.

I love planning.

James 4:13-15 says, Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” 

When I make plans, if I don't align my plans with God's purpose; I've missed the mark. My plans are like a mist, but God's purposes last forever.

Proverbs 19:21 says, Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.

So how can I include God in my plans (it would be better to say, "How do I submit my plans to Him?")? Here are 7 questions I can ask each night before I make my plans for tomorrow. Think about these questions for yourself. Or maybe, create your own questions which will help you align your future plans with the purposes of God:


  • How might I demonstrate my love for God tomorrow (with my heart, my mind, my strength, or my soul)?
  • How might I contribute to the body of Christ tomorrow (by using the resources which God has given me)?
  • How might I demonstrate Christ's love to those around me tomorrow?
  • How might I influence someone else to do good tomorrow?
  • What roles has God ordained for me to fill during this stage of my life?
  • What actions might I take which will further God's kingdom rather than my own?
  • What might I do to live out the truths I've been learning from God's Word?


That was easy.



Monday, January 27, 2014

3 Questions We Should Ask About Income Inequality

Income inequality has become a talking point for political campaigns in both parties. At times it feels that this is the one of the most important issues facing our country (and perhaps the world). The more I study Proverbs, the more I'm convinced there is nothing wrong with being rich and nothing shameful about being poor. So here are a couple extra thoughts on income inequality.

1. A huge gap exists between the top and bottom earners in America. This is a fact. But I fear that painting this disparity as the main problem creates an unsolvable dilemma unless we are going to pursue "income equality" which, if you really think about it, is a practical impossibility.

2. Jealousy is never good policy. Inspiring people to action by pointing out that others have more than them will never create the type of change necessary to truly address poverty issues in our country.

Instead of focusing on the size of the income gap and asking how we can reduce that gap, I would suggest the following three questions:

1 - How might we enable the poor to improve their lives and earning potential?

2 - How might we protect against those who would gain wealth through fraud, deception or abuse?

3- How might we encourage all people to generously care for those around them?


Perhaps I am a bit to altruistic or living in the world of "oughta-be"... But that's where I sit tonight.

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.


Therefore.

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.

Right?

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.