Thursday, December 31, 2009
We'll be hearing much about the passing of 2009. In some cases, it'll be easy to review the history, see what happened, and draw some conclusions about why and how something happened as it did. In other cases, reasons might elude us for some time to come - perhaps we'll never really know.
For many, 2009 was a very difficult year. Careers, finances, home ownership, health, relationships...you name it, many were hit very hard. If you are among them (and I am), this is not a revelation to you. I hope it is of some solace to you that you are not alone, both from the perspective of shared suffering and spiritually.
But what about 2010? There's nothing really magical about tomorrow's date per se. Our calendar is of our own making and there's no cosmic event tied to it; the New Year could just as easily have begun in August, as it does with a new school year, or on February 14, 2010 (The 2010 Chinese New Year). The date isn't special, but our attitude toward it can be.
What will 2010 hold for each of us? What will be our attitude toward 2010, beginning right now, and how will it change throughout the year? As I've asserted in previous posts, what we take in starts the following cycle:
Thoughts --> Words --> Actions --> Habits --> Character.
I would assert further that those with the strongest character, are the most successful (by measures that matter...NOT necessarily financially). We watched in amazement this year as so many celebrities, politicians, and business leaders came tumbling down due to character flaws. What will we actively do, starting now, to positively effect this chain of events? What will we read, study, learn, dwell upon, and do that will positively shape our character, make us better parents, mates, friends, servants, and leaders? Growth aside, at a minimum if we can avoid the pitfalls of the character flaws we watch in the public forum, this sort of investment would be well worth the time, wouldn't it?
I'm reading a good, short book on my Kindle right now: God's Timing for Your Life, by Dutch Sheets. Dutch speaks of the different words in the Bible for time: chronos, the general process of time or chronological time; kairos, the "right" time, the opportune or strategic time; and pleroo, the fullness of time. As we read both Old Testament and New Testament stories, we see a pattern emerge over and over again. The Jews of the Old Testament had times of chronos, leading to kairos, then back to chronos (read Exodus). Learning to rely upon God and His timing proved difficult for the Jews. In the New Testament, Jesus' growth through childhood was a period of chronos before his ministry began (kairos), leading to his crucifixion, and ultimately his resurrection (pleroo). The disciples and the early Christian church went through these periods as well. News flash: we all go through them...it is the nature of life.
I don't want to sugarcoat this notion: periods of chronos can suck, big-time. Sometimes we've put ourselves in difficult situations where everything seems to be moving backward or sidways and the lessons are difficult to swallow. In other cases, times like these have been thrust upon us through no fault of our own. We are all in different phases of our lives, for different reasons - on different calendars. By studying the path that got us here, we might be able to determine whether we are in a state of chronos, kairos, or pleroo. If we are in chronos, let's not miss the opportunity to prepare for kairos. We are where we are and we need to face reality; but we need not stay here forever. The sooner we learn the necessary lessons and prepare for kairos, the sooner it will come.
We have reason to hope, but hope itself is not a strategy. We need to show up and actively participate with The Holy every day. Let's feed on the good stuff.
Philippians 4: 4-8
8Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
Blessings my friends,
Sunday, December 27, 2009
After laboring to load the Ford-a-saurus (Excursion) with the 2 1/2 tons of Christmas presents for the kids, two German Shepherds, and half of our worldly possessions required for the 3-hour trip, we were finally on the road. Bladders were empty, beverages were handy, sun glasses donned. Now for some tunes. What's the radio doing? It's "seeking". Randomly. Hmm. Clearly the sort of thing I can diagnose while piloting the world's largest SUV down the highway at 73 1/2 MPH.
I'll spare you the sequence of events that followed, except the last two. Convinced that one of the buttons is stuck from the previous night's freeze, I begin to deliver a series of sharp blows in the general area of the radio to "jiggle it loose". Nope. Sigh. Pursed lips. I'm now about a pitching wedge away from pulling over and taking a pickaxe to the dashboard. Just in the nick of time, my bride determines that boxes on the floor behind the center console are pushing the rear radio controls (that I don't even remember are there). Problem solved. Whew...that was close. I was trying to imagine 3+ hours of road noise and an ever-tightening grip on the steering wheel during holiday traffic between Dallas and Austin. Like an old Merrie Melodies cartoon, I also felt my head morphing into that of a Jackass.
All the Christmas season merriment, thoughts of good will, reflection of The Holy, desire for a year of service, vanished in an instant while I obsessed about something so trivial. It's funny now, but requires some deeper reflection still. I'm having a hard time imagining those whom I admire most becoming so irritated over such trivialities. Character isn't revealed only in the big moments of life, but also in the smaller moments. Smaller moments happen more often and our character is revealed more often than we think (or perhaps would like).
Blessings my friends,
Saturday, December 26, 2009
What a shame that might be. We've spent several weeks preparing to spend quality time with those we love. We've reflected on our spiritual life, blessings, and served those less fortunate. In short, we've filled our lives with more important things, if only briefly.
I previously posted some thoughts regarding our thought life. What we consume shapes our thoughts, attitudes, and ultimately our actions. In the afterglow of Christmas, I've already endured more "cable news" than I can stand - a constant stream of hate, fear, and bad news. I wonder what next year would feel like if we just chose not to buy-in to this madness? What if we turned the tube off more often and read more? Not just more stuff, but intentional, edifying material? Is it possible that that feeding would result in more positive outcomes on several fronts?
In an effort to stay informed, we can easily get sucked-in to feeding on the madness, allowing it in turn to feed upon us.
Please join me in a concerted effort to make 2010 a more fruitful year, beginning with what we dwell upon.
Blessings my friends,
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone
Friday, December 25, 2009
We don't see all of these family members very often. As I contemplate this notion, it occurs to me that we don't have each other for very long. Beyond genes, we share a few common experiences and even fewer common points of view. Generational differences, political differences, religious / spiritual differences, different preferences of all sorts. Yet somehow we manage to come together and actively love one another every so often. It's a choice.
Come to think of it, none of us have each other for very long. We work, learn, play, run, and worship together for small subsets of our lives and we all have differences which could divide us. But we often choose to set those differences aside and share the common experience. Other times we decide to poke, push, annoy, quarrel, and judge.
What's really fascinating to me is the rationale we use for this divisive and fruitless behavior. Ever know one of those people who thinks that you are somehow accountable to them? Perhaps they'll justify it with a Bible verse about accountability. Guess what 'sport'? If you haven't made deposits into someone's life, they are very unlikely to feel even the remotest sense of responsibility to you and your view. Take your projection, judgment, opinion, and keep walking.
This season is too short. We'll be in one another's company for too little time. As much as we would like others to share our point of view, many just simply won't. Can we love them anyway? Can we keep from annoying them to death? Let's make the best of each circle we're in, make deposits with one another that matter; deposits that come from love and concern for each other, then rest in enjoyments of one another's good company with no expectation. A new year is upon us and it will be over all too quickly.
Blessings my friends,
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
I would assert that most who believe in a single God, creator of the universe, believe that God is the ultimate, absolute truth. Most would also agree that our understanding of God is far from absolute; each perspective, relationship, and experience of God is unique.
With that backdrop, let me step out onto the eggshells. I've recently witnessed a bit of a storm between different factions (yes, within my own church). Risky labels to follow: Conservative vs. Progressive. Members in each camp probably offer other labels, but I'll stick with those. The topic that caused the chasm? A group of biblical scholars was to visit our church (sponsored by several other churches in the area as well) to host a weekend seminar. This particular group was famous (or infamous, depending on your bent) for a "search for the historical Jesus" in an endeavor to reveal the Jesus of history from the Jesus of myth.
An interesting set of behaviors and events began to emerge. Firstly, one would think that any Christian church would welcome a discussion about Jesus, his life as a man, as well as his ministry and spiritual purpose. Secondly, one might also assert that the debate that ensues would be held on reasonably high ground; after all, we're a church. We're also human, and indeed, our humanity shows more often that we would like.
The interesting thing I've found through all of this, is that the fuss actually drove me to investigate further what the fuss was all about. I'll be specific: The conservative camp did not want certain progressive concepts discussed in our church, for fear it would "lead astray those weak in their faith." Sounded like a case for dogma to me and that's all I needed. If they found it threatening, then I needed to see what it was all about. Their objection actually drew attention to something that might have gone largely unnoticed by many.
Pause. I don't want to be overly critical of the conservative camp. I've been very positively influenced in my spiritual journey through some relatively conservative apologists (Dr. William Lane Craig, Dr. Timothy Keller, and C.S. Lewis to name a few). These guys are clearly in the more conservative camp and I have a tremendous amount of respect for them. I've taught their concepts in my adult Sunday school class and continue to be fed by many of their perspectives.
But there are many people who I respect who have a different perspective. Stephen Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People holds the following as Habit #5: Seek first to understand then to be understood. Following this habit, I decided to look into some of the progressive view.
Honestly, it was a scary proposition. I fully expected to encounter points of view that were uncomfortable for me. Perhaps questioning things that I've accepted as non-negotiable, as dogma. Was I really willing to engage in this conversation? Finally, I decided that if I believed in God and I was honestly seeking Truth, then how could I not engage the questions? It has been one of the best decisions I've ever made.
To be clear, not all of the perspectives I've read thus far in the progressive camp completely square with my own experience. For example, I believe that God is with us and actually does more than just listen; He is active in our lives when we are open to Him, but it is our responsibility to seek His will and not our own. This is not a concept of God that is equally shared among all Christians. As I mentioned earlier, each of our life experiences and relationships are unique. My relationship with my two daughters are each unique, why wouldn't each of our relationships with God be unique as well? But there are some perspectives the progressives have that have been very helpful to me.
A particularly enlightening notion held dear by the progressives is the metaphorical view of the Bible. So much of the teaching that I've been exposed to early in life has focused almost exclusively on "belief" in the literal events of the Bible. In the back of my mind, some of this perspective has troubled me. Which parts of the Bible are historical accounts vs. metaphorical in nature? The parables that Jesus told are obvious standouts; clearly he's not retelling history, but illustrating a point. But what about Jonah and the whale? What about Job? In the story of Job, did Satan really go up to heaven and have this conversation with God? Does the story lose its meaning if Job was not a real person? Can't we all see ourselves in this story in different ways? What if we take it further? How about the virgin birth? The physical resurrection of Jesus? Does this change the reality of his life and its impact ours? Where does it end? Each of us must answer for ourselves, and if I may, be careful not to answer it for others.
One writer asserts that the hundreds of witnesses to the physically resurrected body of Jesus may have indeed had an experience with Jesus, but was it necessary to be the physical body to still be a true story? Could we have filmed it? I would add to this argument: Has any Christian alive today witnessed the physical body of Jesus? Yet how many feel that Christ is alive in them today in a very real way? The physical / literal nature of the story doesn't fully communicate the many, much more important lessons that the scriptures tell. If we believe that God is the creator of the universe (look into the Original Cause case in the Kalam Cosmological Argument ), then the miracles that Jesus performed pale in comparison. There is much more metaphorical meaning behind them than the events themselves. If we believe that Jesus is God with us and the knowable representation of God, then of course he could have performed the miracles, but in the bigger sense, the events themselves are not the greatest points.
Write down all of the metaphors you can recall about Jesus. Just to name a few: Lamb of God, Savior, Way, Shepherd, Word, Truth, Life, Vine. Was he literally any of these things? Much more importantly, why were these metaphors chosen and what did they represent to the people at the time? What can we glean from them today? I would assert that when we harvest the greater metaphorical meaning, they are as true today as they were then.
Once again, for the record, the apologetic arguments that Dr. William Lane Craig and others make surrounding the historicity of the Bible speak to me. But to make my entire spiritual life revolve around "believing" the actual events vs. moving past the events to the bigger truth they tell seems like a relatively impotent faith; it's a "belief of the head" and not faith of the heart and is not very transforming.
Believe what you must regarding the historicity of each event and story. The Bible is full of rich stories of both early Jewish and early Christian struggle to understand and commune with The Holy. Let's not miss the greater point:
36"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" 37Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.'a]">[a] 38This is the first and greatest commandment. 39And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'b]">[b] 40All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."Blessings my friends,
Confession time: “It’s been seven weeks since my last blog entry.”
Much has changed since then and I really wish that I had made time to blog during recent events to honestly capture my thoughts and feelings throughout. Instead, I buckled-down and focused on moving ahead. Now that some dust has settled, let me get back to it.
On the morning of Friday, July 24th, I received a call from my boss informing me of a lot of changes in our company. Rumor had it that there was going to be a major blood-letting elsewhere in the company, but most thought that the sales team would mostly be spared. The news? Our Senior VP of Worldwide Sales - gone. Most of his VP’s - gone. All but one Director - gone. Now...wait for it...”I’m going to have to RIF you too.” That means “Reduction In Force” for the non-corporate types out there. By noon that same day, I was meeting with human resources, turning in my laptop, cell phone, badge, etc. and receiving my “package”. I was done there.
Many others were in line as well. Some had been recruited to come to our company less than one year prior (some very talented people) and they were also summarily dismissed. Hasta la bye bye.
This was a new one for me. I had done the best I could with the territory I was given and had been continually reassured that I was on track and doing what they expected of me. Now this? I’ve been through four mergers and acquisitions, three start-ups and all sorts of commercial silliness during my professional life. I’ve got a Masters in Business Administration from a good school. All this to say that I’ve always prided myself on my ability to “read the tea leaves” and see what was coming. This one caught me completely flat-footed.
The last paragraph represents the story I had been telling myself. In retrospect, everything I just said seems laughable and describes the arrogance so many of us carry around in our human struggle. Do any of us really know what’s coming? We try our best to predict, prognosticate, forecast, and plan. But it takes a nanosecond for anyone’s life to change. Accidents, illness, even bankruptcy can be thrust upon us due to circumstances beyond our control. We’re delusional if we think we’re more in control than we really are. None of this is to say that we aren’t supposed to do our best every single day with what we’ve been given, but that’s all we can do (read Ecclesiastes in the Bible for some heavy examples).
Sales people in particular should understand this concept, but many still believe it’s “all them”. I’ve won and lost deals that I’ve poured my life, heart, and soul into. I’ve won deals that flew into my life with almost no effort and almost closed themselves. I’ve gotten promoted when I was mediocre at best and I’ve gotten smoked when I’ve done some of my best work. Enough already. I’ll just do my very best every day. The rest will to take care of itself and shouldn’t be my concern (Matthew 6:25-34).
So there I was, “my services no longer required” by my last employer. I won’t kid you - it sucked. But I had no time for sulking. My family needed a breadwinner, so I started getting the word out. The past six weeks have been full of 12-16 hour days on the phone, two trips to Dallas, one trip to Houston, many interviews and a few opportunities.
I’ve been praying for the past three years about my career. I’ve been through a lot of turmoil and had decided to “keep my head over my own knitting” and let Him lead when it’s time to serve elsewhere. Things get pretty clear when you get smoked in a layoff - no choice here, move on. But where? Again, prayer to close the doors that I don’t belong walking through and to illuminate and open the door through which I am to pass.
While on a run last Thursday morning, a Bible story popped into my head from the book of Luke:
The Calling of the First Disciples
1One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret,[a]with the people crowding around him and listening to the word of God, 2he saw at the water's edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. 3He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.
4When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, "Put out into deep water, and let down[b] the nets for a catch."
5Simon answered, "Master, we've worked hard all night and haven't caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets."
6When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. 7So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.
8When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus' knees and said, "Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!" 9For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, 10and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon's partners.
Then Jesus said to Simon, "Don't be afraid; from now on you will catch men." 11So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.
The stand-out points for me were as follows:
Jesus told them where to cast their nets.
Simon acknowledged that they had been fishing all night and hadn’t caught anything.
But because the Master said so, they would be obedient and fish there.
They caught a bounty and were fed.
This bounty was just a precursor to a higher calling.
I received a job offer a few hours later. The only opportunity of four which seemed to be the right fit in so many ways. I start work on Tuesday and will “let my nets down here”. I am praying for a bounty. But a bounty without serving a higher calling is a bounty wasted.
May this new opportunity be a blessing not only to me and my family, but to many others as well. Amen.
Blessings to you my friends.
My last entry dwelled upon the following chain: Thoughts --> Words --> Actions --> Habits --> Character. Specifically, I discussed the people we choose to follow.
I’m pretty transparent I suppose. Anyone who knows me is has heard more than few rants of judgment about those I have worked for. Since this blog partially serves as personal therapy for me, that’s OK...I won’t apologize. I’ve learned a tremendous amount from everyone I’ve followed - some great, some good, some bad, and some very bad. But as I age and continue to pore over the experiences I’ve had, I’m struck by this one notion: Everyone I’ve followed is human and is prone to the same emotions, feelings, influences, and temptations as I. I’ve judged some of them harshly for their failures, especially when I felt I paid a price as a result of their decisions.
In my career, I’ve personally witnessed behaviors which decorum prevents me from enumerating in a public forum such as this. Let’s just say this: People are fully capable of doing things to other people that you simply cannot fathom. Larger companies try their best to put controls in place to protect the investors from renegade managers and executives. Smaller companies are often more prone to the whims of the “entrepreneur”, as he is often not accountable to anyone but himself. In the end, it’s up to each of us to decide what we’re going to do with our power, influence, and resources we’ve been entrusted with. It’s called stewardship. As I’ve already asserted, our character is a reflection of those actions and choices.
Now the hard part: How do we react and behave when we’re on the wrong side of a person’s bad choices? When we’re the victim of a person with weak character traits, how do we respond? How we respond and behave now reflects our own character, doesn’t it? Ouch. This one cuts deep into the red meat.
Are our thoughts, after the fact, those of finding forgiveness or of vengeance? Do we wish them well or do we pray for God’s wrath? Be honest.
I’ve fantasized often about personally witnessing the destruction of some of those who have done me wrong. I’ve dreamt about it in my sleep, fantasized about it while driving, losing track of time while 30 miles passed by unnoticed. I’ve had dinner and cocktails with fellow sufferers where we have cackled in delight at the prospect of the fate that must surely be awaiting the “evil SOB”. Surely their actions will catch-up to them? Surely they’ll be found out? It feels so good to dwell on vengeance.
But vengeance isn’t mine. If I’m honest, my own actions and decisions are not pure. As I confessed in a previous entry, motives for my decisions have not always been pure but are more often then not, self-serving.
I also previously posed questions we should ask about those we follow, including the following during an interview: “Is the conversation all about what you can do for them or are they interested in you as a team member as well? Do they even see you?”
Let me turn this one around - When we deal with others, do we consider our own leadership responsibility in the relationship? We are quick to judge those appointed over us, but what about our behavior with those we deal with every day, whether they are “in our charge” or not?
As a sales person, I rely upon many people to deliver the goods and services I’m selling. If I’m not careful, it can be very easy to be laser-focused on the sale and commission check and deal with these people harshly. Some deals take years to develop and close. If everyone on the team doesn’t perform well, it can cost me and my family our livelihood! I’m not getting a steady paycheck, regardless of how my company and I perform. As we say in the craft, “You eat what you kill”. If either I or the support team miss the mark, the vast majority of my income goes away...game over.
But is the commercial pursuit the most important factor in my work day? If someone screws-up, that deal may indeed die, or at least follow-on business could be jeopardized. But if I blow-up and treat that person harshly, what’s the cost then? Possibly the relationship, my reputation, and depending on the other party involved, possibly much more. Unfortunately, I’m often the first person to expect those I’ve mistreated to forgive me for my slip-up, even while I continue to hold grudges toward those who have done me wrong. Scripture deals with this issue, and our behavior must change:
Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.
We have been given grace freely, despite our continued rebellion against God and our obsession with ourselves. What will it take for us to offer grace to those we encounter, regardless of the personal cost to us? The forgiveness is the hardest part, which means it’s the part most worth doing.
Blessings to you my friends.
Yesterday I explored the following chain: Thoughts --> Words --> Actions --> Habits --> Character. If we back up on step further, we discover that there are lots of things that influence our thoughts. Some influences are thrust upon us, some we freely choose to allow. Sometimes we have a choice, but we don’t see it until we’re viewing it in hindsight. Although we’re not completely in control of our environment, we have more choices today than ever before.
A small sample of the things we choose:
Activities (sports, leisure, social, etc.)
Food and diet
Mentors and roll models
Authors and books
News and media
Where we live
Financial choices (long sublist here and a whole new topic)
Attitude and approach (What? We can choose that?)
I want to consider the motivation behind these choices. Why do we choose they way we do? Will the choices we make build us up or tear us down? Will they enable us to do the types of things we are called to do or enslave us to something less?
Let me take an example near and dear to my heart: Career choices. After leaving the Navy, I worked full time and went to night school to earn a bachelor’s degree in business. After several years of working in business operations planning, I then decided to pursue a master’s degree and attend the Professional MBA program at SMU, again at night and on weekends, while married and raising two children. After the MBA was complete, I chose positions in marketing then sales and sales management.
These decisions required huge commitments of time and energy. As much as I would like to think my decisions were noble, I assure you I didn’t make these decisions because I wanted to cure cancer or feed the homeless. They were driven by personal ambition. I’m not asserting that there’s anything wrong with commerce. I’m just pointing out the motivation behind the choice. The choices didn’t end there. For now, I’ve chosen to work in sales. But whom shall I perform my services for? Whom shall I follow and why? Some have more choices than others - whether due to previous choices we’ve made or because of circumstances thrust upon us, but we all have choices to make.
During an interview, how often do we probe the values and character of the leaders who seek to hire us? How do they value and treat their team? Will they help us succeed and work on our behalf? When the team wins, the coach wins, and the owners profit. What types of questions are they asking? Is the conversation all about what you can do for them or are they interested in you as a team member as well? Do they even see you?
Confession: Doing a better job of probing in these areas could have spared me a nightmare job situation. In hindsight, I can now see that I was heavily influenced and blinded by ambition and greed. Not exactly biblical principles. But again, I digress.
What is our criteria in choosing the leaders we follow? Stephen Covey tells is in his book The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness (http://www.amazon.com/8th-Habit-Effectiveness-Greatness/dp/0684846659) that all great achievers have three things in common:
Vision --> Mind. To see what they want to achieve
Discipline --> Body. To carry it out
Passion --> Heart. Fuels discipline in achieving the vision
(Footnote: The opposite of discipline and commitment is indulgence - sacrificing what matters most in life for the pleasure or thrill of the moment - Stephen Covey)
This is true of high achievers and leaders, regardless of the type of influence they have become, whether we’re talking about Adolf Hitler, Napoleon Bonaparte, George Washington, or Mother Teresa. Their vision, discipline, and passion will attract followers. But what separates Adolf Hitler from Mother Teresa?
CONSCIENCE--> Spirit. Inward moral sense of right and wrong, the drive toward meaning and contribution. This is the guiding force for vision, passion, and discipline.
Do we follow people who embody all four of these attributes? Do we follow them just because they’ve made a lot of money, achieved some position or notoriety, or are passionate and driven? I would assert that’s not enough.
The people we follow influence us. They ultimately shape our character. One man lived who demonstrated what our character should yield - service out of thanksgiving, not because of something expected in return.
Over the last two days I’ve quoted Aristotle and Stephen Covey. Today, let’s end by quoting the Bible. Two fantastic passages as to where our minds should be in seeking influence.
The Way to Happiness
1 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.
Rules for Holy Living
15Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. 17And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Blessings to you my friends.
In my last posting, I confessed that I am indeed a hypocrite. But how do I shake this type of behavior? I believe it will start with my thoughts and the things I allow to influence my thoughts.
Let’s talk about measurement a little. If we change the time interval over which we measure anything, our perspectives change. For instance, managerial accountants work with fixed and variable costs. Offices, factories, and land are usually considered fixed costs, while production materials are variable. But if we extend the interval of measurement, all costs become variable. I can liquidate all assets given enough time, but I need to start well in advance if I want to convert a larger asset.
The same can be said of our behavior. Over a very short interval, behaviors can appear good or bad. I can identify successes and failures on a day by day basis, or even within a given hour. But over a longer interval, what’s the trend? The trend is comprised of data points - individual events and decisions. What we do every day leads us somewhere and a trend emerges.
Aristotle said “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.” Stephen Covey said “Our character is basically a composite of our habits. Because they are consistent, often unconscious patterns, they constantly, daily, express our character.” It’s also been said (unknown source) that Thoughts become Words, Words become Actions, Actions create Habits, and Habits build Character.
So what influences this chain: Thoughts --> Words --> Actions --> Habits --> Character? Everything we are exposed to. Many of us think we are impervious to being negatively influenced - that we’re conscious and discerning. Psychologists and marketers both know otherwise. Images, sounds, smells, events...everything around us has an affect on how we think, feel, and behave, whether we are conscious of their affects or not. If we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll discover that we make decisions every day that expose us to influences that ultimately affect our character, one way or the other.
We have decisions to make every minute, hour, and day. It feels like I want to stay on this topic a little more in my next entry.
Blessings to you my friends.
Being able to laugh at oneself is a gift. Unfortunately, I’m pretty gifted in this area and have a lifetime of great material to work from. As I reread my first post, I was amused at how my best intention of providing a little personal background quickly became a rant in which I “judged the judgers”. I’m tempted to delete the entry and start over, but perhaps I should just leave it there as a reminder.
But the problem gets worse. Within hours of posting that entry, I was out for dinner and drinks with my sales team. In no time I was holding court, spewing a little venom about those who had done me wrong recently. Why? What’s driving that sort of behavior? Dr. Phil would probably tell me that I’m getting some sort of payoff for it...and he’d be right. The payoff is driven by ego and self. It’s all about me. The spike in my own eye grows larger as I complain about the spec in someone else’s.
If we believe the things we profess to believe, shouldn’t we be focused on the great blessings He’s given us? Shouldn’t there be joy and blessing on our lips instead of venom and judgment? Shouldn’t our lives and behavior be better because of what we believe? I think the answer to these questions is Yes, but there’s good news!
Timothy Keller asserts the following in his wonderful book The Reason for God (http://www.amazon.com/dp/0525950494/?tag=googhydr-20&hvadid=2410306097&ref=pd_sl_1ztm13obk6_b):
"Christianity not only leads its members to believe people of other faiths have goodness and wisdom to offer, it also leads them to expect that many will live lives morally superior to their own. Most people in our culture believe that, if there is a God, we can relate to him and go to heaven through leading a good life. Let’s call this the “moral improvement” view. Christianity teaches the very opposite. In the Christian understanding, Jesus does not tell us how to live so we can merit salvation. Rather, he comes to forgive and save us through his life and death in our place. God’s grace does not come to people who morally outperform others, but to those who admit their failure to perform and who acknowledge their need for a Savior."
Timothy Keller also asserts "The church is a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints." You don’t often find healthy people rushing to a hospital for service.
So my confession to you today is this: I acknowledge my need for a savior, I am thankful for what He has done for me, and I accept the grace and forgiveness that has been freely offered. Perhaps I can work on accepting others, regardless of their behavior, as I have been accepted.
Blessings my friends.
Originally posted July 8, 2009
Let me start with a little perspective as to where I’m coming from these days. Once upon a time...forget it, long story.
To the chase: I grew up attending some pretty conservative churches. My wife and I finally decided to try something a little different. It wasn’t that our theology was changing, but the messages that we were receiving didn’t jive with what we thought scripture was telling us. Why so much anger? Why all this focus on gays, alcohol, abortion? Do we really need to hear how bad our sin is every Sunday? Pretty sure we got that message a long time ago...enough already. Where’s the love, service, feeding of the sheep part? WHERE’S THE PEACE AND THE GRACE? Time to look around.
Michelle and I visited Canyon Creek Presbyterian Church in Richardson, TX and our lives were changed forever. The conversations were different and people engaged us in very different and real ways. We saw facades come down and ministry at work.
Although we have since moved to Georgetown, TX (in the Austin area) and now attend a different church, the seeds that were planted in us at that church continue to grow and shape us.
Over this July 4th weekend, my family and I gathered with friends at my in-law’s lake house in East Texas. I had the opportunity to watch more than a little national news...for hours. Not just the prime time stuff, but the 24-hour variety with the requisite crawl across the bottom. Discussion ensued among those watching. All of us present were Christians, but some of the views were worlds apart.
How is it that we’ve convoluted His message so much that we find ourselves arguing amongst one another over so many things? The Body of Christ is certainly not working as one cohesive unit. The pharisees missed the boat completely, buried in the details of the law, but missing the point and the spirit of the law. It would appear that there are modern day pharisees among us. And we are them.
Which brings me to today’s topic: Red Letter Christianity. Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about Red Letter Christians:
Red-Letter Christians believe that Evangelicalism has been exploited by both right-wing and left-wing political movements, and they endeavor to create an Evangelical movement that focuses on the teachings of Jesus Christ, particularly in regard to social issues. "Red-Letter" refers to New Testament verses printed in red letters to emphasize the actual words that Jesus spoke without the use of quotations (see Red letter edition). While many Christians have defined themselves as such over the years, a mass-market movement was initiated by authors Tony Campolo and Jim Wallis who felt the religious right spend too much time on two issues: abortion and homosexuality. They believe Christians should be promoting biblical values such as peace, building strong families, the elimination of poverty, and other important social justice issues.
The social issues valued by Red-Letter Christians include taking care of the poor, spreading the Gospel (see also the Great Commission), and loving one's enemies. They believe that these are the issues that Jesus spoke of directly, and therefore these issues should be political priorities. Other issues such as homosexual rights, abortion, and war are viewed as important but over-emphasized by both liberals and conservatives.
On the reason for creating Red-Letter Christians, Tony Campolo said, "The purpose of this gathering was not to create a religious left movement to challenge the religious right, but to jump-start a religious movement that will transcend partisan politics.". Campolo has released a book to help explain this, called Red Letter Christians, A Citizen's Guide to Faith and Politics (Regal Books, February 2008).If we say we are followers of Jesus Christ, it’s time to return to the spirit of His teachings and drop the pharisee-esque behavior of judgment and condemnation - that’s simply not our place. Jesus spoke much about feeding, healing, serving, and loving. Not so much about war, casting out those not like us, tax policy, etc. What did he say about hatred? He was against it.