Does Richard Dawkins Exist?
Using much of Dawkins own logic this spoof begs the question as to why anyone should believe in Richard Dawkins. If you understand the arguments this is hilarious.
Email To Self
I asked our crowd today if any of them write emails to themselves. I got a lot of weird looks and very few hands went into the air so I suppose I'm all alone on this one (or the only one brave enough to admit it). I've been writing emails to myself for years. No, I don't write "Dear Tally, you're handsome and smart and cool. If I were a woman and you were not married, I'd want to take you out for dinner." ::Cough Cough:: No... not that kind!
I write myself reminders. (side note: Jott works better)
Anyway, the other day I decided to go ahead and do a forward that my family was sending around. I NEVER do these things and normally I delete them as fast as I get them but as I saw my family complete them they all had a common answer for one of the questions: "Who is least likely to respond to this?" They all put "Tally". Hey, at least I'm consistant right?
Well, I decided to respond and among the rest of the answers (mostly tounge-in-cheek), I was presented with a serious question. "What do you want to do before you die?"
Wow. Good question.
So I thought and wrote two main things (more than two but I summarized).
"1. See my son come to know Christ as Savior.
2. Develop a successful business which will free me up to grow a successful church which will allow us to decrease poverty in a significant way in Hampton Roads which will allow me to multiply that in cities across the U.S. as a model starting with Baltimore. Along the way I'll likely run for significant state or federal office."Wow. I actually wrote it out. That's my heart's desire. That's the mark I believe God has called me to leave on the planet. I'm certain there will be more to it as my life unfolds but man there is a lot I honestly want to see accomplished in my lifetime.
So I wrote myself an email. It was as simple as this. I copied what I considered was my life's goal into the body and I wrote in the subject line: "Just do it then."
It's become cliche but honestly... Just do it. Just start moving forward with the conviction and faith that what God has called and equipped you to do will come to pass.
Do you want to know what my greatest fear was when we started Focal Point? It wasn't a fear of failure. Not at all. I honestly have never worried about what people would think if we failed. My greatest fear in the first year was a fear of success. What if people actually show up? What if we send out mailers and hundreds of people flood in to hear what GOD has to say through little 'ol me?
Let me ask you this. What is holding you back? Is it fear of failure? Fear of success? Fear of rejection? Lies you've believed since you were young? Inferriority complex?
Find whatever that hangup is in your life preventing you from articulating the call of God on your life and overcome that hurdle. God has a plan for your life to change the world but it will only happen when you come to grips with it and begin moving forward.
Go ahead. Write that email to yourself.
Today my local Barista (possessive vocabulary... why do we do that?) anyway... MY Barista and I were talking about her introducing me as "The Pastor" or "Reverend". We talked about how I hate the title b/c it comes with crazy connotations depending on One's past experience. I reminded her that I don't call her "The Barista". We joked a little more about that but moved on.
Later in the day I had a great conversation with a guy who's flipped the switch of church "off" in his life. He seems to be cool with the bible and the Christ of the bible but the church has screwed him over. When he made mistakes in the past the church was quick to pounce. He said pretty emphatically that he's done with the church. We talked more and I suggested that he treat his church experience like a crazy relative. You know you're related but you don't have to hang out except for the off chance of a family reunion. You just kinda accept family that you wouldn't enjoy hanging with. We all have that crazy relative (and they probably consider us crazy to be fair).
Ultimately though I've wondered to myself. Is the church just straight up Delusional?
I think the answer is yes. Most churches appear to be delusional.
On one hand we have the church mindset which we "young bucks" consider to be the traditional church. We're just as screwed up but I'll get to that in a second. The younger generation looks to the traditional church and their judgemental behavior and we say "You guys would be better if you accepted people like Jesus did and demonstrate love and compassion to those who are involved in sin. Don't make people get fixed before meeting Jesus!" Rightly so many churches fit the stereotypical traditional caricature. Rightly or wrongly a LOT of people in society have been hurt at their weakest moments because while they were open to God the church kicked them for not living up to their 'holy' expectations.
But then we must look at the modern church plants and "younger" churches. We're just as delusional albeit for different reasons. Many of the average sized (under 100 attendee) churches I've come across have a delusion as well. They're pretty accepting... they have found some sort of freedom in this new way of doing 'church' but they're delusional about two things.
First they are so centered inward on having found this cool Jesus that they turn Him into nothing more than a rallying cry for a social club. I mean we get a group of 70 people together and we've got just enough people to fill a small room so it "feels" like church... then we turn off the outreach arm. It is comfortable, we're all accepted and non-judgemental... and not too much is expected of us because after-all Jesus is inclusive. So we stop growing.
Secondly another issue comes up. We become pretty weak in doctrine. While I completely agree with the argument of making sure our churches are "DOING" the gospel... I am afraid many of our smaller churches (including ours) gets stuck in a rut of feeling good about "doing" the gospel but we don't know much about why we do it. The leaders do for sure... and the leaders have a pow-wow about how cool it is to see their members serving like Jesus and being compassionate. Prayer circles are formed and things seem to be lining up with scripture but again while we're patting ourselves on the back for having a church with the compassion of the girl scouts we still end up ignoring the world as people die and are seperated from Christ. After all there are a lot of compassion groups that meet physical needs and they feel tingly inside. The difference is supposed to be that as the church we want to see lives changed and not just changed based on what zip code the person can live in or if they have a roof... but changed because of the power of Jesus Christ in their lives.
We're delusional. We're missing the boat. Not everyone... but many.
This is why it's wise for those of us not hitting home runs to continue to be open to those who are. We must quit making excuses and start soaking up the passions of men like Driscoll, Noble, Grochell, Batterson, Furtick, Stanley, Young, Jakes, etc. These ministries have found some balance somewhere that the rest of us aren't hitting (at least maybe not yet).
This may end up being a challenge just to myself but I believe it's time we stop being delusional and realize that if we're not seeing people come to Christ on a regular basis and seeing our cities flipped upside down...it's not God's fault. It's not like He's sitting back on his blessed assurance. He's done all the work He needs to do until His return. I think he's looking for us to swallow our pride and admit where we're not seeing things clearly and get back on track.
I know our church is in need of a passionate desire to seriously reach the lost. We have a great vibe week to week but we're looking at the same faces and it's time we stop. While we absolutely must love those we see every week we need some leaders to get some righteous anger about not seeing people like my friend at the coffee shop coming to Christ on a regular basis. Let's not only be open to those who are far from God but lets be sure they hear the clear and concise message of Jesus Christ so we join as many people as possible in the glorious future known as eternal life in Christ.
You Majored in What?
I'm convinced that the life of faith requires a double major. Two major things we will need to embrace are logic and miraculous works of God.
God doesn't change. Learning the principles of God allow us to see a logical flow to what He tends to do. People who don't major in the logic side of God tend to expect miracles in every moment. People with this mindset are often described as "Too heavenly minded to be any earthly good." He is the Alpha and the Omega. He's not a respector of persons. For the logical mind He's great b/c He's consistant. We know where God stands in most situations.
While God is often understood in logical terms because He's consistant we must also at the same time major in the Maraculous. There are times when through the power of the Holy Spirit God will choose to do the miraculous. For those of us who are more easily tuned to the logical part of life it's important that we are sensitive to the fact that at times God will step in and alter a situation. While he is logical in the day to day we must factor into our logical mind the ability for God to show up and do the unexpected.
All of us are uniquely designed.
If you're like me you've been able to identify a part of you that outweighs the other. I'm naturally logical. I have to be certain that I stay open to the miraculous situations of life. You may be the opposite. You may say "You know, I have amazing faith and I believe God for miracles but my problem is that when I don't see miracles I tend to doubt God." If that's where you are, it's cool... just work on the logical part. Scripture is given to us to learn how God works in this world. By feeding on example after example of God's provision for his people you will soon be able to find peace in the midst of the daily grind.
No matter our persuasion we must enjoy both the journey and the view. Then and only then will we live the life we're blessed to have if only we'd receive it. Being assured of God's presence in both the mind and the miracles is a wonderful thing.
My Hot Wife
No I'm not talking about her looks... I'm referring to her birthday cake!
(But she looks hot too!)
Thanks to our friends John and Amber who had us over for dinner and a cake for my bride.
Race and Culture stereotypes
A few weeks ago when playing basketball I was told by a guy "You're the white boy no one is guarding so that's why you score all of these points."
In a gym full of African Americans and maybe 3 or 4 other caucasion guys I happened to have a few good nights in a row and it was causing problems for the opposing teams. When this guy said this to me I thought "white guy? What does that have to do with anything?" I laughed it up with him and reminded him that if I recalled there were plenty of defenders... they just weren't keeping up with me. I couldn't help but to think over the next few weeks about that comment. It was a racial comment for sure. It was one of many I've actually heard from African Americans since I grew up in Baltimore City and have always kept company with people from other races. I just have to remind myself that others don't know that. They assume that I'm a privilidged white guy who's had everything handed to me.
The other day this same guy got to pick teams and out of the whole gym he picked me. I laughed and asked him why he'd pick a "white guy" and I reminded him of the comment. He apologized and said "You know... I should't have said white guy.... I should have just said that they can't guard you." That was it... I smiled and told him I was cool and we went on to play.
Recently I read Clarence Thomas' book called "My grandfather's son". In it he addresses the problems he's had with race. Not only did he deal with racism from whites as did everyone around him during the years of his youth but he went into detail about what hurt him most. The racist treatment from blacks. He educates the reader on issues of "shades" within the black community. Thomas describes his ancestors being of a dark decent and he discusses how even within the black community his race seemed to be a target for humor. He also describes how lighter shade-blacks are picked on for not being 'black enough'.
The area where Thomas shows the most disdain is over the idea that he doesn't "think black". He said in a recent interview that he felt this was similar to slavery. "How can another man tell me what to think? I've arrived at my possitions based on the capicity to think through the issues." He went on to say that within his community he's allowed to disagree with other blacks over issues of no significance such as whether he roots for the Nationals baseball team or the Orioles. When it comes to the best approach to solving social ills however, he believes that there is still a racisim coming from blacks toward blacks who do not adopt the parties line.
I've also noticed a subtle cultural version of stereotypes. My sister was called a "Boushe" by some old friends who currently live in the city where we're from. This expression is basically a label applied to someone who moves from poverty to material wealth (loose definition) and no longer is at peace with living the old way of life. It's a slang adaptation of Karl Marx' discussion of various classes. The word play comes from the term "bourgeoisie". This term is thrown around a lot in the black community when referring to someone who has attained a lifestyle above that of the rest of their community. It's somewhat ironic that everyone wants to succeed and attain a better life but we've come up with words to defame their success.
The discussion was innocent enough but certainly reflected some of the perceptions. It's an 'ism' like any other.
While looking through new releases, I flipped through the new book by Bill Cosby entitled "Come on, people". It's effectively a work derived from the last three years traveling and meeting with African Americans across the nation. Cosby wants to challenge all races to live in the most positive way possible to get out of the cycle of murder, drugs, violence and poverty which exists in many of our inner city areas.
The opening of the book is Cosby's take on the fact that some believe he "Doesn't have his black card." He goes through a look at history identifying leaders who apparently have their 'black card' who have said the same things he's trying to say.
It's sad that because he approaches solutions for the African American community differently than those who claim to speak for the entire race of people that he's to a place where he's told that he's not 'black enough' or that he doesn't 'think black'.
Today I came across an article describing the most recent BET awards. This article speaks to the fact that two of the "Jenna 6" were presenters for the event's highest award.
I cannot pass judgement on these young men. What I understand of the case is that these 6 young men jumped and beat a white student so badly that he went uncouncious and then they stomped and kicked him more. There had been racial tension building when some white students tied nooses on a tree where white students had generally congregated at lunch previously. Apparently they were racist and hung the nooses in response to black students sitting in their area when they weren't invited.
I certainly believe that these racial tentions in this town are wrong and the white students were horribly wrong to do what they did. I am equally appauled that the black students jumped a white student and now are litterally being given a stage at the BET awards.
For me I have concern with all of these issues. Some of my thoughts are as follows:
1. Racism in all forms is wrong.
Me being singled out for being white is just as wrong as being singled out in any other race. My friend at the gym realized this and I appreciated hearing him say so.
2. Whites need to be mindful that we're only 1 generation removed from the assination of Martin Luther King, Jr.
All of the years of slavery, institutionalized racism and segregation cannot be fixed right away. It will take a few generations of equality for our society to truly balance out. It's very easy for a white man/woman to argue that the entire problem is that those of other races are lazy or ignorant. That's not only not true it is ignorant of the big picture. This country has 400 years of white examples of success. Nearly everyone celebrated in our history class was white. In comparrison we have only 40 years of "equality" in America. Is it any wonder why some of our older black friends still feel they are a part of the same story as they were when MLK was shot? We may look at it and say "Times have changed" but give some grace to the fact that the issues are fresh in their mind. Yes society may have changed but they are fighting in their view for the same thing as before. Are some taking advantage? Yes. Are all taking advantage? No.
3. African American's should consider solutions their leaders put out and look at the results of following one path over another.
Clarance Thomas, Condeleza Rice and Bill Cosby among others have the same skin tone as the rest of their ancestors children but they've found that there are alternative solutions to the problems apart from the likes of Jackson, Sharpton and NAACP. Having grown up in Baltimore City and being on welfare as a kid I am well versed in the plight of the poor and I'm extremely familiar with the challenges faced by those in that environment. Being educated I also have learned the value in personal responsibility, education and not allowing myself to buy into an empovirshed and failed mind-set. When our leaders (no matter their race) present solutions we must ask ourselves if those solutions have results that enable us to be all that we're created to be. Its sad to me that some of the most emovirshed areas of our country continue to elect the same leaders and continue to follow the same people and continue to get the same results.
I look for the day when people like Clarence Thomas (only the 2nd black man to hold his position) would be viewed as the fruition of the Civil Rights Movement. I also look for people like Senator Obamma not to be criticized for being light skinned or from true African decent. It'll also be nice when people who live in the city don't look with contempt on those who have advanced themselves in life. It seems odd to me that we continue to pull down those who have succeeded. Let's start lifting one another up.
Being a Man: Lesson 2,397
You cannot teach a man anything. You can only help him discover it within himself.
Somewhere our society decided that men: "Don't ever talk about their emotions."
That has got to be one of the dumbest pieces of "wisdom" I've ever heard.
About 3 years ago at C3 that I heard Rob Bell speak. In the middle of an illustration he said "And I was telling my counselor..."
The audience (of mostly male Pastors) started laughing.
The problem? Bell hadn't paused. He was in the following sentence when he realized what just happened. He stopped his train of thought and came back to that point. He said something to the effect of "Why are you laughing? It's funny to talk to a counselor? The truth is that if more Pastors talked to counselors, more Pastors would be fit to lead their congregations and deal with the burdens they carry of their church members. Everyone in this room should see a counselor. It'd be good for you."
That was about all he said but it was one of the biggest points of his talk that stuck with me.
I've noticed that men everywhere are afraid to talk to counselors. I've had couples who wanted me to marry them but I wouldn't because the husband to be wouldn't do marriage counseling.
I think the problem stems from two extremes.
On one side we have a generation of men raised by men who were verbally abusive and downright ignorant on how to raise a boy into manhood.
They tried to emulate masculinity in the only way they knew how... work hard, party hard, carry a big stick. That was manhood. Conquer and make people submit... what a man you'll be! What ignorance.
Then on the other side of the coin are men who were not raised by a father at all.
Dad simply bailed and wasn't there to show his son how to become a man and talk through his emotions and problems. In some cases they had a dad at home but emotionally he was absent. As that boy turned into a man the daddy was physically present but emotionally he could have been halfway around the world.
So we have a generation of men who can't handle their emotional side. Our culture for a while got to where anything dealing with emotion was called our "feminine side". Call it what you want... we're emotional beings as much as we're physical and spiritual. Learning how to process and deal with our emotions (in all of their forms) is not only healthy but its also wise.
About a year after hearing Rob Bell speak I found a Christian counseling center in our area.
I went in and was relieved to meet a person who was straight up and logical (I'm that way). After a while the counselor asked "Why are you here again? You have no problems and you have a pretty solid grasp of everything... and your perspective is right on." I compared my visits as guard rails on the road. I wanted to visit every now and then to be sure I'm keeping my life balanced and my mental and emotional life on the road. The counselor smiled and said "I wish every Pastor in America would have that mindset. You guys have to deal with everyone's problems. I can't imagine keeping all of that bottled up. That's not healthy."
For a while I went about once every 8 weeks or so just to check in. The cost wasn't bad at all and frankly I felt much more positive in dealing with the daily grind because I gained good logical perspective on stuff that would come up from time to time.
Let me give you another illustration of why you too should line up a visit:
Do you change your oil only when your engine blows up? Absolutely not. You understand that it's far more wise to change your oil along the way when things are fine than to find yourself on the side of the road with smoke coming from your hood. Well that's what I want for your life as well. I want you to have a solid grasp of your life and the way your mind works so that you have less experience with the big blowups. You will be able to have someone who is trained ask you the questions that need to be asked so you will be cautious of any problems ahead.
The title of this post specifically calls out men but I believe this lesson extends to everyone. I firmly believe that apart from visiting a counselor now and then, married couples should go to conferences to gain wisdom and push "pause" on life once in a while. If you're considering marriage I'm emphatically in support of a marriage counselor who walks you through the common areas of problems in marriage. Do you realize most couples spend thousands of dollars and nearly a year planning for the wedding DAY and they spend next to no money or time investing in the rest of the marriage that happens AFTER that day? Invest in your marriage, not just the wedding!
The Nuts and Bolts:
For those of you who are wondering, most visits on the average health plan run about the same as your deductible for your regular Dr. visits. If you're worried about your privacy, pay with cash. The only paper trail is then what is kept in the office with your counselor. Additionally many Christian counselors offer a 'sliding scale' through a non-profit arm of the practice. There really isn't much of a reason for you not to get the help you need. Don't rely on people who have no degree to give you all of your advice. Treat it like an oil change or tune-up. It's not as scary as you may think and frankly I think it's the weak man who refuses to keep his mind and emotional life in balance.
I've personally found this to be invaluable to me in my ministry, marriage and personal life. Do yourself, your family and your church a favor... go talk with someone.
I'm offended..... that you're offended.
The idea of offense is out of control in our current culture. It has invaded the church and ruined the very definition of the word "offense" which is used approximately 73 times in the bible for varying things.
In our present day it seems that society has equaled "being offended" with some form of crime or sin. The theory works like this: "Simply because I'm offended... you must be at fault."
People are offended at everything and they expect those who've "offended them" to crawl to them on all fours and apologize for living.
A few examples:
Example 1: "I'm offended when someone reads their bible in public."
This is one I've dealt with recently. The solution proposed is that we eliminate all forms of religion from the public square. Atheism and Agnosticism don't count. They are philosophies, not faiths. Yeah... and I can jump the Grand Canyon.
Listen up world. If you're offended at me reading my bible in Starbucks, turn your chair and mind your own business. I don't subscribe to any of the philosophies found in the books surrounding the Christian section at Barnes and Noble but I don't care if someone wants to read them. If you want to believe that your holy underpants make a difference... go right ahead. Why should I be offended over that?
Example 2: "I'm offended because you said___ or did ____ and you're a Pastor."
This one is fun. A lot of Pastors in recent times (last 50-100 years) have subjected themselves to this to the point that it may as well be theology in some circles. Listen. Your Pastor doesn't have to apologize to you because you think his hair is too long, he grew a gotee or because he wore a hat into the church building. Just because you're "offended" at something that isn't sin doesn't mean He has to live down to your level of Spiritual Maturity. Get a bible, read it and next time bring it with you when you believe there should be an offense. Don't bring your immature attitude about scripture or about what actually took place (when you hear it through the gossip mill in the parking lot). Just because you wouldn't do something doesn't automatically make that thing sinful. If so, that'd make you God and frankly that's a scary place to put yourself. I think Christ already has that title on the door.
Example 3: "Ann Coulter... I'm offended you'd say that.... c'mon... you're educated."
This one was recently on national television. See the YouTube video.
It's obvious that Donny Deutch wanted to drill down to get her to say something he could jump all over. This clip was after about 5 minutes of him trying to badger her into submission about her philosophy of writing a book. She relented and kept telling him that she says what she thinks and if you've known her since Kindergarten you'd know she's being honest.
Anyway... The very reason Donny "was offended" is that he doesn't get a basic understanding of an Evangelical Christian. That ideal is that none of us are "perfect" in ourselves. It's only through Jesus Christ that anyone is "perfected" and able to enter Heaven. Ann Coulter tried several times to explain that there is no reason to be offended. She even apologized and tried a few times to explain that "Christ died for our sins." For her to want Donny (or anyone else) to experience Salvation through Christ is not something to be "offended" by. Her faith teaches that Christ died for everyone and ANYONE can accept his free gift of eternal life. No works, no ambiguity... just heaven.
SO WHAT IS THE DEAL?
The deal is that not every time that I'm frustrated by something is that a time in which my "offense" is justified and I'm owed any apology. In fact in most cases I CHOOSE what to be offended by.
Our culture is full of hypochondriacs who need to put a helmet on and grab a pacifier. Things in life won't always go your way and at times you will see or hear things that you personally wouldn't do. It doesn't mean the world owes you an apology and no... they aren't in sin if they refuse to give you one.
As a Christian I'm offended when scripture (rightly divided) isn't practiced by those who proclaim it. We should spend our time being offended that our world is without Christ and we're doing very little about it. We shouldn't listen to the hypochondriacs who sit on their rump and want to run the church. Let's be offended by what offends Jesus. Nothing more.
Recently I've noticed anew the trend of people speaking about that which they do not know. A lot of times I hear it when I tell someone I went to LU and served at Thomas Road, Dr. Falwell's church. They almost always know nothing of the man but have heated opinions. I enjoy reading stories like this which I've known for a long time but illustrates my point:
William Willimon, former chaplain at Duke and now a United Methodist bishop, tells about the time he invited Jerry Falwell to speak. He did it on a dare, not expecting Falwell to accept. But Falwell showed up with bells on, so to speak. The Lesbian-Bisexual-Transgendered Alliance demanded Willimon be fired for inviting a man infamous for his "close-minded, racist, homophobic, self-righteous, incendiary rhetoric."
On the appointed evening, the student crowd was baited for bear. One of the first questions was, "How many African Americans do you have at your Liberty University?" "Young lady," said Falwell, "you could not have asked a question that hurts me more deeply." He went on about how hard he had worked over the years to recruit minority students and how he regularly discussed the matter with Coretta Scott King. "She told me not to be so consumed with the problem. But I can't help myself."
He finally allowed that only 12 percent of the students at Liberty are African Americans. Then he asked, "Do you know, by the way, how many African Americans are enrolled at Duke?" No response. Falwell said, "I'll tell you. Six percent. Six percent! Your endowment is 50 times bigger than ours. You have had years to work on this issue (though admittedly you spent half your life as a racially segregated school). In fact, I struggled with whether the Lord wanted me to come here tonight to a school that, though you have been given great gifts, has such a poor record of minority enrollment. I pray that you will let the Lord help you do better in this area."
Q & A with Tally: Holidays
Recently I've been asked (nicely) about my view on the holiday question and some in particular of how we'll approach the subject.
There is always a risk when you have an open blog. I'm putting myself out there. Folks who do not blog or do not blog openly about controversial issues are able to hold beliefs and let people guess where they stand. As I post my thoughts on this topic I want to make two things abundantly clear.
1. I am not prescribing that our view should be anyone else's view. Our view is based on tons of things that have made us the parents of our son and I'm not presuming that everyone else should follow our lead.
2. This isn't a debate. While most of what I blog about can become an open discussion, this one isn't up for grabs. My writing about how we will raise Caleb is not open invitation for anyone to come into our lives and try to dictate their view on us. Besides you wouldn't want to hear what I had to say.
Please take the following for what it is and nothing more.... a particular answer to a particular question to a dicey area of raising children. The only reason I'm addressing it is to allow readers into our conclusions on some of this.
The question sent to me:
"Halloween! Boy we struggle with that issue. When do you reach the point of condoning what the world celebrates and stand firm for Christ? How far do you have to go before it's a "compromise" with the world? Do you tell your kid there is no Santa Clause, because it takes away from the true meaning of Christmas? These are some of the hardest things I've faced as a Christian parent. I still don't have the answers, but I almost dread certain holidays because of the implications."
This is the great debate that all honest Christian parents would say they've had at one point or another. Some have chosen to err on the side of caution and avoid these holidays all together. Some have chosen to just let kids be kids and not get worried about it. Some take our approach and let kids be kids but educate them as they go.
As you can tell from my post the other day about Caleb's costume, we fall into the third category. We want to be in the world but not of it.
Halloween- Until he knows any different our son will see this is a fun time when everyone plays make believe and even the adults get in on the action. Not to mention he gets CANDY. What kid wouldn't want that? We're going to allow him to play make-believe with this holiday and as he's older explain to him some of the origins. The moment he takes a Spanish class he'll be hit with this (yes he will know one or more foreign languages). We'll provide him the history and biblical reasoning for why the original intent of the holiday is whacked. The Americanized version is just a silly night.
Christmas- We've decided that Caleb will never get a gift from "Santa" in his life. Why? Because I'm jealous. Similar to the way God is jealous. I want him to know who took time and energy to be a blessing to him. Some dude in a red hat didn't do it. Will he know who the character "Santa" is? Sure. But again... we'll be sure to let him know that Santa is a story. We are taking Caleb to Sesame Street Live. We speak of Elmo as if he's real. We talk of Diego as if he's alive. We view these things in the same way we'll approach Santa. They are cartoons that represent things but aren't the truth. Santa is just another cartoon. Jesus is who we worship and hold our allegiance.
Easter- Same here with Christmas. We'll teach Caleb that these are just characters. At the age he can understand he'll know.
Our reasoning is that a child's imagination is a positive thing. In fact as a person gets older and lose their imagination we find that they are less productive, less able to solve problems and more likely to just buy what's been fed to them. There is benefit to allowing a kid the freedom to imagine.
The question of being of the world or condoning the world's actions:
We've seen this as a fair question. Obviously we're to be an examples not only to believers but especially to those outside of the church. What is the best way to do that?
Where we stand is this: Even if we take away Santa, Halloween and the Easter Bunny in the name of not condoning the world or trying to 'avoid the appearance of evil' my son will still see Ronald McDonald, Barney, Diego, Elmo, Huge Cows at Chic-fil-A, Handy Manny, etc. He'll continue to be surrounded by characters who aren't real.
To hold a consistent line to be sure he was never to believe in characters that aren't real, I feel we'd have to avoid all malls or fast-food places so my son doesn't ever see a "character" who isn't real. We'd even have to eliminate "Bible Man" and most of the kids section at the local Christian book store.
The most popular "Christian" children's program could be argued as "New Age" because personification has taken over vegetables. Larry and Bob are given a free pass on many of these questions because they are endorsed by Lifeway and Family Christian Stores. ;)
We see no substantive difference between allowing him to be exposed to American societies false characters and those of the "Christian" variety. To our knowledge no cartoons are saved by the blood of the lamb so we don't believe in "Christian Cartoons", only Christian messages. So the main point for us isn't what character he's believing but rather "What message is my child receiving?" That is where we've decided to draw our line. It is our job to instruct and teach our child to follow the life of Jesus. That's the message we care most about. We're not concerned with the appearence "Christian People" have of his participation in holidays... we're most concerned with where our child is spiritually according to his age. While it's easier to wrap him in bubble-wrap and cover his eyes and ears... we're going to take the harder road of equipping him as we go.
Taking it one step further I want my son to be able to develop the skill of seeing behind a facade in life. I don't mind him going through the brain development of learning that not everything is what it's cracked up to be. Larry and Bob aren't real and my veggies don't talk to me. The funny thing is that Caleb has never once shown signs of cannibalizing Bob or Larry. He has been able to separate just fine the idea that they are characters and are not real-life.
I want him to learn that not everything is as it seems.
Santa merely represents Christmas to a lost world, a Bunny merely represents Easter to a lost world, etc. As he grows I want him to learn that not everything is what it seems but the one thing that is... is Christ. I then want him to be able to give people who believe in these myths the truths of the gospel. I believe he'll be better served if he's at least familiar with the customs and language of the country in which he's likely to be a missionary.
With my string of reading lately dealing with government I believe a book by David McCullough is now on my radar.
In passing I saw the book "1776" in a special edition format. The newly illustrated version of the book was in a collectors case. The case felt similar to a hardback cover of a book and it was decorated with powerful American imagery.
What was so ironic about it?
As I attempted to get a grasp of this book by reading everything written on the sleeve and back I noticed in small gold font across the bottom "cover printed in China". How fitting. A book written to sensationalize the power of our independence wasn't able to make it to a printer in the United States of America.
I'm about 3/4 of the way through my latest book this week called "Miracle at Philadelphia". It's a look at what ultimately became known as the Constitutional Convention. Fifty-five messengers from the original states (Rhode Island boycotted) came to Philly to basically rework the Articles of Confederation. They weren't there to write the document which has become the supreme law of our land but that's ultimately what they did.
I'll likely write a full review later but I grabbed this book the other day because I was interested in the foundations of what is known as federalism. As I eluded to in a previous post on "The Theme is Freedom", I'm in the camp that believes federalism is a good thing. Federalism is basically the idea of a limited Federal government with the goal being to allow states and (ultimately localities and individuals) to make the most amount of decisions possible. The federal government basically makes the decisions we all live by and each state retains its right to govern on issues that do not concern the whole of the union.
Unfortunately nearly every issue today is resolved at the federal level. It's sad. We've lost the idea of personal responsibility and most of the politicians running for president are spending their time telling us how they would like to run the USA like the old USSR. Taking pages from Plato's "Republic", most of those running for our nations highest individual office are making promises to wipe every one's nose and hold every ones bedpan.
While the idea of a proverbial nurse for life sounds appealing, I'm concerned our country is in for a wake up call when our nurse declares us senile and no one wants to listen to our desires for our own lives any more. After all... we have a nurse to look after our best interest.
And when we were sane we asked for it.
Ever since our family trip to Myrtle Beach over the summer, Caleb has had a fond facination with anything resembling a Pirate. If he sees a Parrot he goes nuts and if he sees someting that looks like a pirate he says "Pirate... arrggggh!"
Kristy found this cute costume for him and we decided to let him try it on the other night.
Disclaimer -non- Disclaimer:
Yes Caleb will wear this for Halloween. Yes we'll allow him to participate in trick-or-treating. No we will not call it "Fall Harvest". Yes we are aware of the Pagan beginnings. We are also aware of the pagan ties to Christmas and Easter as well. We've decided that we'll raise Caleb to understand all of it instead of lying to him about some holidays being sanctioned of God and others sanctioned of Satan. He'll be an informed kid as he gets old enough to understand the history behind all of the holidays in which he participates.
Hot Air America at it Again
Apparently Air America, the far Left's crumbling answer to conservative thought in America, is now trying yet another formula... Atheist Radio.
Is it any wonder that conservative Christians vote in mass with the Republican Party?
Another example to me of the tie between creating a secular society and the agenda of socialism creeping up in our country. Christianity pushes for freedom of every person while socialism makes the government supreme.
A godless and socialist philosophy being propagated is basically this:
Instead of relying on God and personal responsibility for your provision we believe people should rely on the state which is a collective of the best humanism has to offer. The state in effect becomes god.
Link to the Left's latest undertaking:
“The unexamined life is not worth living.” Socrates spoke these words to the jury in the court of Athens in the year 399 BCE (before the common era) after he had been found guilty of heresy and sedition. Heresy, a crime that threatened the established religion, and sedition, that threatened the state. (http://www.granpawayne.com/courses/EXAMLIFE.HTM)
- Devotion to Truth:
- Even after he has been convicted by the jury, Socrates declines to abandon his pursuit of the truth in all matters. Refusing to accept exile from Athens or a commitment to silence as his penalty, he maintains that public discussion of the great issues of life and virtue is a necessary part of any valuable human life. "The unexamined life is not worth living." (Apology 38a) Socrates would rather die than give up philosophy, and the jury seems happy to grant him that wish. (http://www.philosophypages.com/hy/2d.htm)
For as long as I can recall I have been an introspective person. I think through everything. I can't help but to consider not only what enters my mind through my senses but also the philosophies which make up the actions of others, the business models companies use, the problems that must have been solved by systems I observe, the self-esteem issues people may have based on their actions, etc. I also spend a decent amount of time in any given day considering eternity in light of my present circumstances.
I really believe that there is a season for everything. There are times when a person should just have as much fun as possible. There is also however a time when I believe it serves that same person well to take their thought-life several layers deep and be challenged by people who know better arguments. There are times when we should be quiet and do what we're told and there are times when we need to speak up regardless of the outcomes.
In life we can either take the tough road of figuring all of this out or we can try to avoid making our head hurt.
There are many things in life that get me scratching my head.
- Doing a job for the sake of a job with little to no connection to eternity doesn't make sense.
- Accepting beliefs without thinking them through doesn't make sense.
- Avoiding challenge for the sake of comfort doesn't make sense.
- Blaming my life on others or my past doesn't make sense to me.
- Believing lies about myself brought on by others who are insecure doesn't make sense.
- Ignoring logic just to hold my opinion doesn't make sense.
- Having to experience something in order to believe it doesn't make sense.
Anyway... Philosophers have excited me. Not just philosophers who sat around on their rump and talked a good game... but those who would follow through. Socrates was willing to die before he was willing to stop thinking. He was willing to die before he was willing to stop examining.
Every time I examine life I end up learning more about my Creator. I want to examine this life every opportunity I get because "For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen."
Examining this life in light of God's glory to me is spiritual maturity. It's not about separating secular from sacred. It's about viewing secular through the lenses of the sacred.
Being assured of who I am in Christ
I believe people make terrible decisions when they aren't fully assured of who they are in Christ. I'm very glad that I have that confidence in Him.
My wife and son
Kristy and Caleb are the most important people in my world. I love being with them.
My extended family
I enjoyed spending last weekend with them.
Confidence in the task God has given me
Just like being comfortable in my skin it is equally important to have a goal set before us. I'm humbly expectant of what lies ahead.
I'm thankful that I have been fortunate enough to learn and appreciate serving others. I'm honestly glad that my lot in life hasn't been to simply be a critic.
The people with whom I do ministry
Co-laborers in Christ who 'get' you are a good thing.
Without them I wouldn't be tested. If I sought comfort as my cheif end, I'd live a mediocre life. I enjoy facing obstacles and overcoming. In my weakness He is made strong. That's a cool thing.
My unique make up
In my life I've been able to experience diversity in nearly all of its forms. I enjoy being able to discuss geopolitical events as well as the Raven's last game. I enjoyed how yesterday I had discussions about Fred Thompson's campaign strategy in the morning and discussions about basketball last night at the gym with 20 guys who know me only as "T".
The people who've invested in me
I could (and probably will) do a series of posts on this but I'm thankful for the people God has used to mentor me in my life. From factory workers to VP's of Universities I have been blessed with people all along my path who have spoken words of truth into my life. I'm humbled that they took time to help shape me into who I am and who I'm becoming.
I'll do more later... but for now these are what makes me thankful today.
... get deleted without consideration.
Hypothetical Church- A story
Before we launched Focal Point I kept folders and files of notes and ideas I called "Hypothetical Church". Today I'm going to steal the name and share a story of a church I'm calling Hypothetical Church. This isn't our church but it is one in which I'm familiar.
Our Hypothetical Church (HC for short) is a church that was a church plant of over a dozen years. Like many churches of this era HC was doing alright but had settled in and after garnering the Holy Grail of building and land they started into somewhat of an average mentality. HC (knowing they wanted to "Reach people for Jesus") went and hired new staff. Everything was great. The new staff did their job and brought a new and exciting vibe to HC. HC hadn't had this type of energy in quite some time. Things were going good. A little too good.
You see, HC had grown on the back of the Pastor being a pushover. HC's Pastor was an unassuming smooth talker who spent over a dozen years trying to get everyone to get their way. If everyone got their way he thought, God would be glorified. After all, this is America and every voice (no matter how sinful) matters.
HC began to have some rocky times. HC's new staff who helped the church grow dramatically and started to see many come to Christ noticed some things about HC's Pastor. His leadership was suspect. He deceived people. He didn't show much of a backbone except to try and keep peace by telling the staff not to say anything to those doing wrong. As HC's staff understood the situation they uncovered years of HC's Pastor doing things that were blatantly unbibilical just to hold on to the "vision" of the church. Ironically when asked about the "vision" the HC Pastor wasn't able to articulate that.
One occasion of craziness came when due to the growth of HC, some older members decided they were going to play hardball. They had reason to. They weren't actually members, they were "stock-holders". You see... HC wasn't ready to take on a building and land when they did. But the Pastor did everything he could to succeed. Even if it meant borrowing half a million dollars from retirement and savings accounts of the parishioners. Not for free... at interest. So now that the older group was getting ticked off about 'all these new people' and 'loud music' they wanted to leverage their "stock". They demanded their finances.
HC's Pastor waffled. He called in mediators, he took advice from other leaders and he asked his staff for help. Some suggested that he acknowledge that it was a poor idea to even have borrowed money from church members, confront them on their behavior and use this time to get them in line spiritually. Instead HC's Pastor decided to ignore that advice and do whatever it took to satisfy the crowd. No matter how sinful their behavior. You see it wasn't just about the money. These folks were on a which hunt. Attacking the staff, calling for meetings and sending out mass emails. All because they weren't involved in as many decisions now that HC had grown and brought on some staff who were able to take more of the leadership roles. Did I mention that HC also had an un-biblical model of church governance? Yeah. Did I mention that the lessons found in Timothy and Titus weren't applied for those placed in leadership positions? Yeah. Do we wonder why things would get out of control when we ignore God's word? No, not me.
So HC which was blowing and going and had basically doubled their attendance in a short amount of time ended up giving in financially to the mob by taking out yet more debt against their building. Since some people weren't in power anymore however they decided to leave. Good? Yes. Problem solved? No.
The problem wasn't solved because HC's Pastor hadn't learned anything. In fact HC's Pastor tried over and over to get those same people to come back. Not get them to repent... no... get them to come back as they were before and ignore those little pesky sin issues.
More time goes by and HC faces troubles. While there are salvations and modest growth occuring HC wouldn't be the same. Their leadership had buckled under pressure. HC's Pastor couldn't articulate a direction for the church. HC's Pastor wasn't bold enough to call sin sin. HC's Pastor wasn't faithful enough to believe that God would replace those whom left... no... he said openly in leadership meetings that it was important to get those who had left to return.
For nearly two months or more the staff was put through countless meetings over countless emails. Staff were forced to come to meeting after meeting long into the night. Morale was beaten up and the Pastor couldn't see what was going on. The enemy had gotten in... the focus wasn't about souls anymore. It was about finances.
For most of the next 10 months HC was a shadow of it's glory the previous year. Meetings upon meetings... even meetings ABOUT meetings. HC's Pastor didn't even take the lead in these meetings... he just tried to get everyone to get along. By attempting to hold onto everything on his own power he had lost it all. After half a year with modest success and worries about money HC's Pastor thought "maybe those people who were angry are right. Maybe its my new staff that messed it all up." Division swept in. Money dominated conversation. HC's Pastor who was down to speaking on occasion and not providing any direction began to get paranoid. Finances were tough... he had to do something.
Staff morale was in the toilet. But that wouldn't be the worst of it.
HC's Pastor needed money and quick. He decided he would build a building.... well sort of. HC's Pastor decided he'd meet with a fund raising guru and as money came in for this new 'building' he would use the funds to pay off old debt (remember those pesky sinners who were actually stockholders?). Sure the church would push some dirt around and make the site look busy but they'd "Believe God" to bring about the funding for the actual building... they'd just use their fund raising to keep out of the current mess. Ahh... the wisdom of man when his focus isn't Christ.
"Well that idea was struck down. I got it... how about we just quit posting the dollar amounts of giving... I mean our people are getting discouraged. Let's just tell the people that we actually need less than we do for old debt. Then it won't look as bad. If we reduce what our people think we owe then they will be confident in their giving." Sad. More deception.
"I know... what we can do is sit our staff down and tell one of them in front of the other that if things get bad we're going to fire YOU first." Yeah. That's how you lead a team.
"Well, maybe I can just liquidate my life's savings and dump it into the church budget. That should hold us over... for a few months." Wow. Desperate men with no faith really will do anything.
Then it all hit the fan. Some meetings took place with trustees and elders plotting to get rid of staff in an effort to cut funding. At the top of the list was a part time staff member who made all of $100/wk. Yeah... way to cut the budget. Another staff member was one of two secretaries who would get canned only to tell the other secretary to do 200% of the work for the same pay. Then... since one staff member could handle the music.... we'll just have that person cover two jobs for the same pay as well. We'll keep the Pastor who only speaks twice a month and provides no leadership but we'll undercut basically everyone else who's done anything positive over the last two years. Now THAT's a plan.
On and on the schemes kept coming. It got so bad at HC that a part-time staff member resigned. This staff member didn't want to rock the boat though. Being the good soldier, this person resigned and refused to talk about the problem.
Another staff member began openly looking to walk away. Visiting other churches and actively looking to find a better gig. Being a good soldier this person also just wanted to keep a low profile and let the ship sink on its own.
Another member of HC's staff began to be asked by many people in the congregation what was going on. Being a good soldier.... got this person fired.
If the writing hadn't been on the wall before... it now had neon arrows pointing to it.
Ultimately the situation isn't fully resolved at HC but I can hear the fat lady coughing in the green room.
This is just a short hand version of the HC story. Sadly it's a deadly cycle. Churches all over our country fall apart this way.
You know what hurts me about this situation? Not only all of the problems that lead up to now. Not only the terrible leadership and wimpy Pastor who lives life as a people pleaser... what honestly troubles me most is that some great people refused along the way to stand up for truth.
We are supposed to be representatives of a Living God. I read so today in 1 Timothy 4.
So if we are to be leaders in the church of the Living God and if that Church is supposed to Re-Present Christ in this world... why then do so many "godly" leaders keep silent when lies, deception, dishonesty, malice and all sorts of ungodliness invades the church? Why do so many leaders believe the best thing to do is to ignore the problem and just look out for their own interests? Why is it a more honorable thing to cover your own rear instead of standing up for truth regardless of the consequences. Why do we propagate a gospel of comfort as if comfort is the chief end of God's people on this planet?
HC has some leaders making choices right now. To my knowledge some quit a long time ago but are just drawing a check. Yeah they perform their duties but they quit on the church. Somehow that's admirable. Somehow it's admirable to look at leaders who are living in sin and manipulating people, decieving and lying without doing anything about it.
I know... some reading this will feel that it's better for good men and women to walk away quietly even if they know that the church is being led by blatantly dysfunctional and disqualified leadership because "At least I won't be the one who destroys the church." Can someone help me here.... What would YOU be able to destroy again? And would that be the goal? Isn't that a defeated mentality? What happened to the idea that if something wasn't biblical we address it and sought scripture together WITH A GOAL OF RECONCILIATION? We have a generation that doesn't know how to stand up for anything.
God isn't powerful enough to work the situation out? Is HC the entirety of what we know as the "church"? Does the church of the living God not need men and women full of integrity to make a stand and make the truth known? Have we lost our footing? What are we in this for?
What do we build our churches on? For some the church seems to be as good as the paycheck. It's not something worth fighting for. It's easier to quit and run away. Standing up for the cause of Christ to rescue a city goes only so long as one can draw a check and get insurance.
I'm also concerned that at HC the person fired will have to make the terrible decision of keeping silent for the sake of money and health insurance or standing up.
If things were above board what do I think would happen? I think this church would realize their leadership hasn't been relying on Jesus instead plotting and scheming in his own power to keep things under control. I believe God was doing a great work but when man takes credit for it and compromises for the sake of harmony... we get this. I also believe if people who are led by the Spirit would let the truth be known... this story would end differently.
Sadly it probably won't. It will end like many churches end. And the world will look at us as fools. Of course all of this is hypothetical.
Book Review: "My grandfather's Son"
Today I finished reading "My Grandfather's Son" by Clarence Thomas. Today I swept through the book and could not put it down. On page after page I could see so much of myself in his words. Not every experience was identical but much of it was similar.
What I appreciate most about this book is that he presents himself pretty raw for a man sitting on our Nation's highest court. He has a history of saying what is on his mind and standing on principle. This cost him the ability to form a 'constituency' but he was after no fame. Where his principled life, molded by the calloused hands of his Grandfather, got him was a seat at one of the most powerful tables in the land. Along with just eight other people he represents a full 1/3 of our Federal Government. While he is a graduate of Yale Law School and he certainly is wise enough to have skirted some parts of his past to present himself as pure and near perfect, he doesn't. The reader gets a real portrait of a man that inspires us not to be perfect but to be pure in heart.
What comes from "My Grandfather's Son" is an exposition into the mind of only the second black man (or African American if you're PC) to have ever held the title of "Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court". In spite of being only the second of his kind, Justice Thomas demonstrates how he faced most of his opposition from the very people who supposedly stood for racial equality and the advancement of his race. From policies designed to help his race, to subsidies, to Congressmen, Justice Thomas shows how the very institutions and people set up to help him actually is what caused much of his pain. He does not pretend to be blameless however as one of the main themes of his work rests in personal responsibility. As you read this book you see how he holds others to a high level of personal responsibility and he pulls no punches when discussing his failures to uphold these standards as well.
Some of myself I saw in Justice Thomas' story are:
- First in the family to go to college.
- Yet I too have considered myself an underachiever often bored with my educational pursuits.
- I studied law before theology whereas he studied theology before ending up in law.
- His father walked out on him.
- In his twenties he felt a powerful call to solving issues of social justice.
- He enjoys leisurely debate about philosophy and things such as 'Natural Law'.
- His faith ultimately is what grounds him and what has got him through everything.
I have many other thoughts about this book but I wish to process them first. I've recently heard Justice Thomas say that he hoped this book would inspire at least one person. I'm most certain that his life story has succeeded his ambition many times over.
Book Review: "The Theme is Freedom"
I'm currently reading two books. The newest of which is Justice Clarence Thomas' work entitled "My Grandfather's Son". I've just started and I'm pleased.
Today's review however is on the book entitled "The Theme is Freedom" and is available new for around $13 but is available online at Amazon.com for as low as $3 for a used copy.
"The Theme is Freedom" http://www.amazon.com/Them
This book takes a look at the history of Christian thought as it relates to politics and government. More specifically the author, M. Stanton Evans, dissects the commonly held liberal view of freedom and its origins. Evans argues that it is faith (specifically the Christian variety) that secures freedom, not the government. As individual faith grows in a people, freedom is the byproduct.
The Christian faith demands love and respect for one another and embraces the idea that each individual is inherently valuable. When we compare the Christian faith with socialism of Marx and Stalin we see that it is faith that breeds freedom while socialism (or strong unchecked state control) always leads to bondage on people. Evans argues that the liberal lesson of freedom [basically began during the ancient times and was abolished during the Medieval time period only to rise again with the birth of our nation] is a farce. He argues that this false history lesson is propagated through government entities that control our health, education and evermore touches nearly all aspects of our lives.
"The Theme is Freedom" is a good book for someone who wants to see a well articulated and documented take on Christianity and its impact on history not only in America but in all countries around the world.
Thus far this book has caused me to meditate on two levels.
1. My faith:
I've been challenged to consider the aspects of my faith that require I look to offer Freedom in all its forms to the greatest amount of people on the planet. They are my neighbors and they deserve to enjoy life as I have been blessed to. Freedom from addiction, slavery, fear, poverty, etc. What am I doing to spread the joy of freedom to people as close as my neighbor to as far away as war-torn South Africa?
Politically speaking our government has lost its bearings when it comes to Federalism. Federalism is a word that doesn't aptly describe its own definition. Actually federalism is the system of varied level of government. Basically the goal of federalism is to give the people as much freedom as humanly possible while maintaining order and defense of our nation. The theory is that the individual knows what's best for himself and his/her family. The goal is to have limited government at every level. What can be done by the individual, what can be done by the community, what laws must be handled at the state level and what laws MUST be handled only at the federal level? These are questions that used to matter.
We used to solve problems in our country by pushing the law making ability down closest to the individual as possible. For instance if one county wants to ban smoking, fine. If another doesn't, fine. However in our country power is becoming more and more centralized with the national government. We find ourselves in every way accountable to the federal government for how we live our lives. States rights are almost a joke in many cases because there is usually an over-arching national law that prohibits states from making decisions on their own. I'm sincerely intrigued at how we can revive the concept of personal freedom and a Federalist mindset.
I read a biography on George Washington where he is described to have been ticked off at the Continental Congress when they came up with Federalism. I'm glad he lost that argument. At the same token I'm also glad he had enough courage to only stay for two terms and do things like swear an oath on the bible. These things weren't required but they became tradition and ultimately law. He knew that centralized power wasn't always the best thing for a republic.
If you're into freedom and you have a survey understanding of government and history you will enjoy "The Theme is Freedom".
Men who live to avoid pain disgust me.
My last post led me to thinking about men who live to avoid pain.
I was playing basketball a few weeks ago and observed some of the guys talking about getting fired from fast-food places because of a bad drug test. They were talking about how to avoid getting caught doing drugs. A few of these young men also have children who they don't see daily because the kids are with their babies 'momma'.
My first thought was "That's so sad. They don't have purpose." Then my mind revolted against that thought. I realized that they do have purpose. Their purpose (like many men) is to live and die while avoiding pain in any form possible.
The absense of pain is never the Christian's goal. At least a Christian who reads the bible.
The avoidance of pain leads to several things in a man's life:
1. Avoiding the pain of education. Education means you will be challenged intellectually. There are big words and concepts that are hard to grasp at first glance. Avoiding this pain leads to men who are ignorant and able to be fooled by the schemes of the enemy and his cohorts. The newspaper is written at an elemntary level and I can't tell you how many men can't or wont' read even that. It's shameful how many men avoid reading books because it hurts their brain. Basically we've ended up with a culture of men educated no more than they were at 17 and gaining experience from other men who are also as educated as your average pimple-popping adolescent.
2. Avoiding the pain of exercise. It's easier to sit around and stay out of shape. Avoiding this pain makes you weak and feeble, unable to keep up with your children around the house or playing at the park. Do you want to be a man who can't run around in a field throwing a ball with your son? I never respected blatantly overweight or out of shape coaches.
3. Avoiding the pain of confrontation. I know of one man in a former church who avoided confronting a dude making out with his teenage daughter in his own driveway for a half hour. The kid had no respect and I'm positive this man's daughter lost respect for him as a father. Even if she enjoyed the tonsil hockey at the moment.
4. Avoiding the pain of work. Paul said if a man won't work he shouldn't eat. We are at minimum the protectors and providers. If you won't get off your but to better youself and do whatever it takes for your family you're a shameful man.
5. Avoiding the pain of responsibility. A man owns up to his mistakes and flaws. Avoiding responsibility of your own actions is not manly. It's sheepish and cowardly. Men accept blame when they are at fault. Salvation itself is dependent upon men (and women) to start by being humble enough to admit they are sinners by nature. Admit your faults, accept proper responsibly. Don't be known as a weasel who avoids the pain of owning your own problems.
6. Avoiding the pain of emotional problems. Real men understand that they have emotional baggage. By ignoring it or refusing to talk about it because you don't want to seem week is in itself weak. Some of the strongest men I know became strong in my mind when they admitted an emotional problem or an addiction. Men who think they have to wear a cape and a mask are usually some of the most pathetic men at their core.
There are plenty more... this may becoming an ongoing post. Please challenge yourself to become a man who's more than a blimp on the radar screen of life. If you're married to a man please give him the permission and prayer he needs to be something more than a man who avoids pain. He'll be a better husband, father and citizen for it and Christ will be honored.
I had a great meeting this morning with a guy from our church. We meet at 6 a.m. at Starbucks each Thursday for straight bible study and prayer. It's a very refreshing part of my week.
He's a 26 year old military officer whom I'll have the honor of marrying (to his new bride) this spring. I've really enjoyed the time I've gotten to know him because he's so open to growing and loving Christ.
Today he asked some good questions. I love talking to someone like this b/c they make me put words to my theology. Sometimes we've learned a lesson and have applied it so well that we forget the basic core that lead us to our present actions.
Here are a few of the questions:
1. What is humility
2. How do you know that you're being humble without being walked on?
3. Why are American men not taught that view?
4. How do you instill boundaries into a child as they grow?
5. How do you and your wife handle disagreements with parenting styles?
6. What are 'good works' (Titus 3 was our study today).
As you can tell these were some great questions from a young man wanting wisdom from someone he trusts in the faith. I'm humbled that I get to work with men like this. Men who want to live lives of victory and joy while leading a revolution. men who do not want to be satisfied with a quiet and hollow desperation. Men who want to worship the risen Jesus of Revelation 19 (see below) in a world of the Renaissance-inspired dead portrait of Jesus where he looks frail and feeble.
I love mornings like this when the souls of men are stirred to become Godly examples of true masculinity to their families, children and communities. Where men are living not to avoid pain but to conquer the mountains of fear and plots of the enemy that have emasculated generations before.
Ohh that God would see fit to grant me the honor and joy to lead a church of men who look more to this calling than any other. Living to avoid pain is weak and unfulfilling.