Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Finding the Life God Intended

Today, I realized something about myself.  It’s not something I’m happy about.  I find that I’m settling for what is all too often and not fighting for what’s best.  I see crazy things all around me and I’m not stepping towards being part of the solution.  I’m holding back instead of coming out swinging.  I’m doing too much talking about making a difference instead of being a difference maker.

It’s easy to sit back and watch isn’t it?  Name the issue and we can persuade ourselves that it’s beyond our influence.  We really are narcissistic people for the most part aren’t we?  It’s all about us.

Why are we mad at Congress? I’m thinking that basically it’s because their inability to act keeps us from having what we want.  It has very little to do about the inspirational fiber and fabric of our life together I don’t think we want Congress to do what’s right if that means we might have to think and act differently. Do we?  We want every law, every movement to benefit us.  We don’t want them to be brave at our expense. We are the entitled ones.  And when we don’t get what we want when we want it we throw our own little hissy fits in the hopes that, once again, it will be enough to carry the day.

I wonder if we will ever live noble lives as long as we only think of ourselves.  At the heart of all that plagues us these days is good old fashioned selfishness.  It’s all about us. And that’s what we fight for.  Our wants, perceived needs, our mistaken goals, and culturally saturated interpretations of religions creeds, writings, and traditions. 

And we are people who play it safe.  We allow the talking heads on TV and radio (secular and religious) to think for us and then we parrot that particular party line to others who listen to and watch the same vacuous personalities who care not a whit about noble causes or goals.  And we never put skin in the game ourselves. Or not enough skin that makes it necessary to trust God.

I’m struck by how much the scriptures of the Christian faith are a ‘call to action’.  They call us to live on the edge of adventure and to use power and influence on behalf of those who have less.  And that means going to bat for millions who have no voice and who would be satisfied with 5% of most of our net worth.  But selfishness keeps us in safe places, tithing to ourselves, playing safe little religious games and critiquing anyone brave enough to dive into the deep end of the pool.

At the end of the year 2011 I’m surprised about how I’ve allowed the status quo to shape me even when I know better.  It’s amazing (in each and every setting I’m in) how much I’ve quieted my voice.  Have I forgotten how God long ago asked me to step up and out for the sake of the kingdom?

We’re facing 2012 in the face.  I’m asking God to point out to me what’s standing in the way of being the man He wants me to be.  Do I need more courage?  Is sin robbing me of effectiveness?  Bad habits?  Laziness?  Indifference?  Whatever it is I want to be cured of it. 

What about you?  Ask God what’s standing in the way of being the man/woman he wants you to be.  Listen.  Listen again.  Ask others to listen with you.  And when you hear the voice of God act on it.  He will ask you to shed some things and he will adjust some attitudes.  Then ask the good God for a vision of how he wants you to live your life.  Listen hard to this one.  For if you are entitled you will find your life being challenged.  Honest.  Guarantee it.  But jump into the vision for it’s there you will find your life. That’s my aim, by the way.  To recapture the life God intended for me.

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Sunday, December 11, 2011

I'm Voting For

I've been following some of the national election coverage and keeping an eye on local developments  It's a bit discouraging.  National trust in elected officials is at an all time low.  Its understandable. If the election were tomorrow I'd choose to vote for candidates who believe that:

1. People matter.  All people. White people, black people, brown people, straight people, gay people, citizens, immigrants (legal and not) the young, the old, the rich and the poor.

2. Some of those people might need more help than the others.  Sometimes it's their own fault they need help.  More often it's not.  Bob Pierce, the founder of World Vision, once said that "our hearts should break over the thing that break the heart of God".  From my vantage point I want to err on the side of grace, not judgment.  I'm not suggesting we abandon the law but when the law turns its back on those in need we disobey God.

3. Sound byte answers aren't really answers.  They sound silly too.

4. Waste and mismanagement is killing us and it can't continue to happen.

5. It's possible and desirable to find common ground with the other party. This is a no brainer I think.

6.The discouraged majority is looking for high road leadership.

7.  The courage to make tough decisions is desirable.

8. Signing a pledge is not a leadership strategy. In fact, it limits your creative options.

9. You don't have to have a ready answer for everything. And anyone who thinks you should doesn't understand the complexity  of the issues before us.

10. The problems we have will require a shared sacrifice to fix.  That means the average voter is going to have to realize that we are going to have to be part of the solution.  That solution is going to cost us all.

11. A moral compass should be acquired.  There is a higher authority who is available for consultation.

12. We're not playing games.  The economy, terrorism, corruption , entitlement issues (the most entitled seem to be those of us who have much), global hunger, disease, sex trafficking, a crumbling infrastructure, health care, etc.  are not issues to be trifled with.

What's on your list?  What are you looking for in your next alderman, state rep, congressman, senator, and president.  Do you really know? If not, why? For if we don't know what/who we want we can only blame ourselves for the mess we'll find ourselves in.

As a person involved in Christian leadership I feel a deep obligation to talk about the issues of our day. You'll notice in this post that I'm not asking you to cast your vote for a particular party or candidate.  That isn't my role.  I am asking you to care deeply enough about the elections coming up that you will approach it prayerfully and thoughtfully.  Many people are giving up on the political process.  Not this time around ...please. Your list might be different than mine.  That's fine.  I'm OK with that.  I'm not as OK with people who are  allowing some political commentator, religious programmer,  or cynical punditainer make their choices for them. That's not why God gave us a brain and a heart.  We are called upon to make informed choices rooted in a clear understanding of the issues and the variety of options before us. To make uninformed choices seems to be a waste of the giftings God has given us.

Sunday, December 04, 2011


Have you ever been pursued.  Have you ever been pursued by someone meaning to do you harm?  I have.  It was in high school, freshman year.  Two friends and I were chased by a car load full of guys who were tanked. These guys had a reputation for being mean spirited and always liked to pick on people they considered to be weaker. The chase wasnt long. We were on foot.  They were driving.  We zigged when we should have zagged and ended up cornered in an alley where the guys proceeeded to beat on my two friends.  When it was my turn someone recognized me and realized his father and my father were friends.  I got a reprieve.  But my palms were sweaty and my fear was off the charts.When youre afraid the pursuit can create quite a bit of an anxiety.

During Advent we talk often about the child Jesus being forced into exile by Herod the Great.  He saw the child as a threat to his throne so he pursued him. I can imagine that leaving Israel for Egypt was anxiety ridden for Mary and Joseph.  When you stare danger in the face thats part of the equation.

I wonder if Herod would have been as quick to pursue if he understood completely who this child really was. Lets go to the book of Revelations (19) and take a back of the book sneak peak at the child in the manger in full throttle Godness.

In the scriptures we get many glimpses of Jesus.  Perhaps none is more dramatic than this passage in Revelations.  The child pursued by the evil king Herod ultimately reveals Himself as the King and Lord of all. This picture of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords is stunning in its portrayal of strength and ultimate victory.

Would Herod have been so brazen if he knew he was chasing God? 

It's almost inconceivable that any earthly power would attempt to stand against Jesus if they had the full picture ...right?

As improbable as it sounds  people do.  We do. You have. We will. History is littered with the stories of men and women who dared to think they were beyond the reach of God.  People who, like Herod, made war on God by attacking His creation.

As human beings we have this amazing ability to delude ourselves.  

A few months ago we were at a conference on Coronado Island near San Diego.  We were there when the Navy Seals finished their pursuit of Osama Bin Laden.  Since the Seals are trained on Coronado we decided to go down to an Irish Pub for dinner the next day, where Navy Seals hang out. I remember looking at those guys ...cut, fit, big, big necks, square heads.  And I said to Anita, You know whats scary?  Every year, probably several times a year, a group of guys get liquored up somewhere and someone brazenly says I bet those Seals arent all that tough without all their guns and knives.  Lets go find out. And so they do. My bet that 100% of the time that they were right. That the Seals arent as tough as they thought they were fact, they were tougher.

Its mind numbing isn't it ... how were willing to take on what we know we shouldnt and often shy away from taking on what we should.  How many, by word and deed even today, show the same kind of disdain Herod did  for God?

If I had been in charge of the coming of Jesus I think I would have been inclined to have sent him on his white horse all tatooed up and forget the baby stuff. To have Him come in power and not hidden. I would have had Him look the powers of this world in the eye and dared them to come against Him. For good reasons God didn't choose me to orchestrate His entrance into the world.  Instead of a show of power he came to continue his pursuit of us cloaked in humility and vulnerability. As improbable as it sounds ... He comes under cover. No white horse.  No army. The Scripture even tells us:

There was nothing attractive about him,
  nothing to cause us to take a second look.
He was looked down on and passed over,
  a man who suffered, who knew pain firsthand.
One look at him and people turned away.
  We looked down on him, thought he was scum.
But the fact is, it was our pains he carried
  our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us.
We thought he brought it on himself,
  that God was punishing him for his own failures.
But it was our sins that did that to him,
  that ripped and tore and crushed himour sins!
He took the punishment, and that made us whole.
  Through his bruises we get healed. Isaiah 53

The improbable choice of God was to identify fully with us. It was from what looked like a place of weakness that he would continue his pursuit of us.  He chose to meet evil with improbable strategies . To play the game without exercising divine prerogatives.  

The strategy of God was to walk among us as one of us, inviting us to embrace our true mission and identity.

And what does He say to us?  My understanding of the good news tells me that hes saying something like this.

When I made you you were good and created to do good.  Sin damaged you and tainted all of creation.  Nothing is as I intended it to be.  I'm here to heal you, redeem you and  restore you.  Im here to invite you to join me in the  ongoing work of healing and restoration that will release the creation from the bondage it is in. Will you join me?

In that invitation is the gift of Christmas.