Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Capitol Hill Follies
An Expensive Deal
The day after the November elections, on this very program, I said the following:
"If you are hoping that yesterday's election results will make that much of a difference, you hope in vain. certainly don't have the votes to enact any massive government spending cuts. . . And, besides, neither they nor the Democrats are leveling with the American people about what is needed to get our fiscal house in order."
Well, today, six weeks later, I won't say "I told you so." And I do not claim to be a prophet. But last week, the Congressional Republicans sure made me look like one. They arranged a deal with President Obama to extend Bush-era tax cuts in exchange for another stimulus program.
In all, the deal could add more than a trillion dollars to the . As Charles Krauthammer wrote in his scathing Washington Post column, "Obama got the Republicans to offer to increase spending and cut taxes by $990 billion over two years. Two-thirds of that is above and beyond extension of the but includes such urgent national necessities as windmill subsidies."
Folks, this is a national Christmas tree with expensive gifts hanging on every branch for everybody. Madness! Washington follies in the extreme.
It's crystal clear now, as Ezra Klein wrote in the Washington Post, nobody in Washington really cares about the deficit. got their stimulus, and the Republicans got some tax cuts. And the rest of us get it in the neck.
I've been saying, friends, for two years that this country cannot continue this reckless, grossly immoral course of deeper and deeper deficits. We will go bankrupt. And then watch it all break loose in the markets, in the banks, and eventually in the streets. We will, indeed, become Greece.
Look, I don't want to pay higher taxes any more than anybody else does. But I would certainly rather pay higher taxes than betray my kids and grandkids.
I can't help but think of a New York Times column written several years ago by David Brooks. The point of the column was the importance of self-control and deferred gratification-classic Christian virtues. Brooks described a famous experiment conducted by psychologist . Mischel left a bunch of four-year-olds in a room with a bell and a marshmallow. If a kid rang the bell, Mischel would come back and the child could eat the marshmallow. But if they waited for him to come back on his own, those kids could have two marshmallows.
Well, some of the children couldn't wait one minute and rang the bell. Some held out a little longer. They each got one marshmallow. But those who waited for the professor's return got two.
Brooks then pointed out that according to independent studies, the kids who deferred gratification did better later in life, scoring higher on tests, having a much better life outcome as adults.
I suppose the others who couldn't wait must have been the ones elected to Congress.
Because Congress, despite the overwhelming message sent just a month ago at the polls, is ringing the bell again and again: More spending, more debt.
What can you do? Call your congressman and Senators. Tell them, "Stop acting like four-year olds. Instead, hold the line, shrink the deficit. Kill this bill. Enough is enough."
Monday, December 06, 2010
Today I want to write about a friend. A humble friend, and humble people are uncomfortable when people say good things about them. They know themselves, know their goodness is only by the grace of God, so accolades can be kinda scary.
But for the past few hours, I have not been able to get this friend out of my mind, and hopefully he'll forgive my intrusion on his life.
I got a treat today, I was home sick. Okay, so that's not normally a treat, but today my friend Paul Stankowski finished 9th at Q-school today, the most gruelling event in golf. And I got to watch it on TV. Okay, so I didn't see much of Paul's golf (I may have to fire off a cranky letter to the Golf Channel, doggoneit), but I did get to see the interview with Paul after he finished, after his 2011 Tour card was secured.
And it was priceless for me.
I first met Paul about 20 years ago, when he and my brother Daron were hanging out at UTEP. Daron was one of the FCA leaders, and Paul had gotten involved too. They were great together, it seemed. Daron even caddied for him some out on the Cali mini tours, amazing considering Daron's bad knee. The fact that he would subject himself to carrying a guy's golf clubs around on that knee says something about their relationship, and something about Paul.
Later, when Daron was leaving El Paso, Paul and I started hanging around. I was pastoring, Paul had just gone through Q-school for the first time. It was around that time that I beat him by a stroke in a round of golf at Cielo Vista Golf Course in EP. Yes, you read that right. Of course he had given me a stroke a hole; I shot 81 and he shot 65. He once tried to get me to switch to playing golf left-handed because he said my swing was more natural. I just think he thought I might beat him again...
When I was working for FCA, Paul came back to El Paso every year for the FCA Paul Stankowski Golf Events. We did scrambles, skills competitions, skins events, and one year a full-blown pro am where Paul got 17 professional golfers to come to El Paso for the benefit of FCA. He gave generously, and it sent many kids to camp and helped us start huddles.
I still remember his first Tour win. He outdueled Brandel Chamblee coming down the stretch to win in Atlanta on Easter Sunday. And proceeded to solicit an "amen" from the crowd during his post-win interview on national television.
Now I live around the corner from Paul and his family, and get to see them, but not enough. As virtually anyone who knows him will most likely attest, he's a blast to be around. Maybe the greatest thing about Paul, other than his faith, is his authenticity. I've never known the guy in 20 years to be anything other than what you see, whether it's on tv, in church, or on the golf course. He is exactly himself, all the time. He's seen success, struggled through injury, accomplished many things. If his career had ended this season, and he'd gone on to the next thing God had for him, it would have been a good career.
But it was what he said today that I can't get out of my mind. The interviewer had called him a "veteran" (hard to believe it's been 17 years Pablo) and noted that Paul still had passion for the game, passion to succeed. Paul said something to the effect of "my kids were both born after my last win. I want to see them running out onto the 18th green one of these days."
I know that I will cry when that day comes. Shoot, I cried when he said it today. It still gives me goosebumps just typing it.
Paul Stankowski. Husband, dad, golfer, friend. Passionate follower of Jesus Christ. Don't be too mad at me for writing about you. I just wanted you know that your example means a lot.
Saturday, December 04, 2010
The Christmas season is chock full of feelings: peace, want, greed, rest, love, desire, passion, joy, celebration, excitement, disappointment...hope. As Irene Cara is singing right now on Music Choice, "What a feeling!"
But what's it really all about? Growing up in a non-liturgical tradition, I never knew much about the Christian calendar in general, and Advent in particular. But as an adult the rhythm of the Christian calendar has become an invaluable tool to pull me into more intentional relationship with God.
Advent means "coming". The One who "did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped" emptied himself into human flesh, baby human flesh at that. He grew up, lived, died, and came back to life, all to redeem you and me, all to display the love and glory of God.
Last Sunday was the first Sunday of Advent, the week of promise. I've always been amazed at Gabriel's inability to keep a secret. It was Gabriel who came to Daniel and announced a coming messiah. As a kid I wondered if he got in trouble for letting the cat out of the bag 400 years too early. Then there were whispers in the ears of the prophets, especially Isaiah (see chapters 7 and 9).
And then it was Gabe who got to meet Zechariah and Elizabeth, and tell them about their soon to be born son John. The forerunner of the messiah. The archangel then headed to the little town of Nazareth, to a young unmarried girl named Mary, and spilled out the whole story. And I'm sure Gabriel was included in the millions of angels who showed the shepherds where to find this newborn child.
What does the word "promise" mean to you? We live in a day where people don't always keep their word. Vows don't mean anything anymore. Contracts can be broken. Our word is no longer our bond. Promises have to be enforced by the courts. Then many church-going people "claim the promises of God" for their lives (while there are some great promises from God, most of the people who use this phrase claim some stuff that IMHO God never promised, but it's what they want so they claim it...but that's another post for another time). Promises--real ones, ones we believe in--change our lives. They change our feelings and our behaviors (just think of when you promise your kids something that they really want). They help put hope in our souls.
Ultimately Advent is about 2 promises, one fulfilled, one yet to come. The messiah did come (1st promise) and he will come again (2nd promise). He interjected redemption once, he will come again and set the whole thing right. He is coming.
Friday, October 29, 2010
But he does use the "social justice" phrase, so he needs to watch out for Glenn Beck attacks.
Read the article on CT here.
Thursday, October 28, 2010
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Thursday, September 16, 2010
But that doesn't alleviate unwise decisions.
Recently a group of Republican leaders attended a party hosted in South Carolina by the National Federation of Republican Women that involved everyone dressing in Confederate period clothing. So South Carolina Senate President Glenn McConnell was dressed as a Confederate soldier, and some pictures were snapped of him with African-Americans dressed as slaves.
I don't know any of these people personally. My guess is that the majority of them--if not all of them--are not advocating slavery or approving slavery. It was a costume party.
But it just wasn't very smart in my opinion.
McConnell responded in an interview “ … If somebody is trying to be politically correct and use a tunnel vision on it and hook in the slavery issue, they’re on a slippery slope toward narrow-mindedness and they should extend the charity of understanding. Receive it in the spirit that it is presented.” He went on to say it was an event of "historical accuracy."
But historical accuracy doesn't make it smart. Just because people are too easily offended today doesn't mean we should stop caring about whether or not we offend them. Political correctness is not always wrong.
Some history should not be taken lightly. Taught, discussed, talked about openly, yes. Used as a theme for a costume party, maybe not. American slavery is, in my opinion, one of those things. Wouldn't it be dumb to have a historically accurate costume party of Auschwitz in 1944?
Saturday, September 11, 2010
Here's one of the best articles on the status of religious freedom from a Christian perspective I've read in the news lately. How are American Christians called to react to Muslims? In this article you'll find some great answers. Let's talk about it.
Ultimately, as the editorial says, it MUST be about neighbor love and the Golden Rule for us who follow Jesus. I have to admit, I'm a little tired of believers who are USAmericans first and followers of Jesus second. As a friend of mine wrote, it's interesting that the Gainesville pastor wanting to burn Qur'ans pointed to his Constitutional right to do so, but not a biblical justification for doing so.
The way of Jesus is not to fight fire with fire. Newt Gingrich's suggestion of no more mosques until Saudi Arabia allows churches is NOT New Testament truth, but exactly the opposite of the teaching of Jesus, Paul and Peter. We never overcome evil with more evil. Period. Evil is ONLY overcome by good. And history has shown that religious freedom is good.
On this anniversary of 9/11, I pray for the hurt evil has caused. I mourn for the loss of life. I pray for God's justice in the world.
And if I'm honest, I pray for redemption.
The evil that motivates every terrorist to kill metaphorically lurks outside my door, and literally battles inside my soul. I have not murdered, but I have hated. I have not cheated, but I have lusted. I have stolen, I have lied. I have looked out for my own interests before others. Someone I know called those things equally evil. And that evil is only defeated through the power of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. Glorious grace!
To paraphrase Frodo when Sam wanted to kill Golom, if there's no hope for the redemption of a terrorist, there's no hope for my own salvation.
Good must win. In Christ, good will win. Look to the cross of Jesus, your redemption draws near...
Thursday, July 29, 2010
But what about victims of crimes? Will someone whose house was burglarized no longer call the police because their abuela is living with them and she is undocumented? What about a woman whose work visa expired but she hasn't left the states because she has a job that provides food for her kids, and she gets raped. Will she want to report that to the police at the risk of being deported? Will an undocumented man assaulted by gang members want to report that crime?
Will this law inadvertently allow for unscrupulous characters to even further exploit that without current legal status? Definitely something for consideration.
Thursday, July 22, 2010
Christians have struggled with the proper place of patriotism for oh, at least 20 centuries now. The early church was birthed in a world where Christianity was a sometimes unnoticed, sometimes illegal sect of Judaism. It developed in a world antagonistic toward it, then tolerating it, then embracing it, then promoting it (often by force), all within the space of a few centuries.
I was about to ask if there was a place for patriotism in today's Christian. But I'm going to leave that for now, (you can read my past article on patriotism vs nationalism here). The question I'm asking here is this: does relationship run deeper than patriotism?
Maybe I can ask it this way. What is the deeper connection in relationship, patriotism or spiritual life; your sense of pride in earthly citizenship or in heavenly citizenship?
It's not an easy question. There's something gut-intertwining about our national holiday that in some ways goes beyond...well, beyond religious expression for sure. We can all be at the ball game and see the fireworks and sing the national anthem and our souls feel connected around the idea of freedom, regardless of whether or not we recognize that freedom ultimately comes from God.
But how about this: are we more relationally intertwined with a pagan but patriotic USAmerican or with a Palestinian Christian? Do we care more about the stability and safety of the US than we do about the Iraqi church, which has been scattered and persecuted since the current government has taken power? Do we care more about the values of our own homes than we do the underground church members around the world who cannot provide for their families to have a decent meal because they have been labeled as infidels, heretics, pro-western, or whatever?
I don't have good answers to these questions. I'm not even sure I have the right to ask them. But my soul doesn't leave me alone about it sometimes. Somehow, someway, our relationship with the Creator supercedes our citizenship as USAmericans. Somehow, someway, a believer in communist North Korea and a believer in socialist France and a believer in capitalistic USA are more deeply related to one another than they are to their fellow countrymen/women who don't share that graftedness into the vine that is Jesus of Nazareth.
Now if we could just figure out what that looks like in the real world.
David Gushee recently published some great thoughts on this here.
Here's a quote from a book I cited in my previous blog on patriotism:
When patriotism goes to seed, becoming a jingoistic nationalism, it gives patriotism a bad name. It is the difference between gratitude and arrogant pride. Patriotism stifles the spirit of war, nationalism breeds wars. Patriotism is catholic, nationalism is sectarian. Patriotism understands and enters into the affection that others have for their place.
5 Cities That Ruled the World
Monday, July 19, 2010
Read it and provide some comments.
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
Thursday, July 08, 2010
Whose War Is It?
That's the Wrong Question
As the press reminds us daily, Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele put his size 12 foot in his mouth, calling Afghanistan a “war of Obama’s choosing” and not “something the United States has actively prosecuted or wanted to engage in.” This, no doubt, was news to the service members who served in Afghanistan between the fall of 2001 and January, 2009.
Steele’s “unusual interpretation” as it was called was quickly followed by an attempt to back off the limb he had climbed out on. He added that “the stakes are too high for us to accept anything but success in Afghanistan.”
Amazingly, all his fellow Republicans jumped all over him as the Democrats watched in glee. But party chairmen on both sides have done this kind of thing often over the years.
And actually, I think Steele may have done us a service by raising what is really the critical question: What is our goal in Afghanistan?
Last November, when the President was trying to decide what to do in Afghanistan, I, unlike many of my conservative friends, agreed with his deliberate approach and said so here on BreakPoint.
The reason for my commentary was that I wasn’t sure that the cost, both human and financial, of staying full scale in Afghanistan was justified by the Christian just war doctrine. And eight months later, I’m even less sure.
Despite the build-up in troops, the military news out of Afghanistan is grim. The vaunted Marjah offensive has failed to achieve its goal of stabilizing that region, which remains violent and ungovernable.
That brings me to my principal concern: “Success in Afghanistan” has become nothing less than nation-building. It’s about creating a central government in Kabul that is strong enough and competent enough to claim the allegiance of most of the country’s 28 million citizens.
But such a development would be unprecedented in Afghan history. Afghanistan has always been a loose confederation of local and tribal groups that rebelled against strong central authority.
Look, here is the debate we ought to be having: Is what we are doing in Afghanistan just? For this war to be just, under the Augustinian doctrine, our cause and intent must be just. We must wage war in proportion to the threat, and we must not target non-combatants. And we must also have a reasonable chance of success.
While pre-emptive military strikes to kill the bad guys are justifiable under the just war doctrine, the kind of nation-building we’re pursuing In Afghanistan is not. And here’s why: Sacrificing lives to give Afghanistan what it has never had and never desired—a strong central government—is the antithesis of the “reasonable chance of success” requirement of the just war theory.
So let’s stop the silly name-calling over whose war it is. Trying to score political points while people are dying and billions in taxpayer dollars are being squandered makes me wonder if we aren’t the ones in need of nation-building.
Maybe you could call my approach and “unusual interpretation” as well. But it’s rooted in fact and Christian doctrine and seeks a just use of our nation’s most precious resource: our men and women in uniform.
Monday, July 05, 2010
The USA had a good showing, but really needed to beat Ghana to boost the sport more in the US. Then Argentina failed to show up against the German team (as I feared would happen--Germany looks tough when they play up to their level) and now I have no one to cheer for in what I have come to believe is one of the only true world championships available.
We are a nation obsessed with sports and athletes. Here in Dallas a sigh of relief was audibly heard when Dirk agreed to a new deal with the Mavs. The US sports world is following LeBron and DeWayne and the other top free agents to see where they will land. We ask if Tiger will ever be what he once was.
We are fanatics about our sports. We love teams (mine are the Spurs, Steelers, Rangers and Stars--yes, I've given up on the Red Sox to adopt a home team, but that will never happen with the Cowboys or Mavericks). We hate teams (mine are the Mavs, Cowboys and Mavs).
But in all that, sports should not separate us. Our passion for a person or team cannot become more valuable to us than our friendships and neighbors.
What's that you say? Low hanging fruit? You've never heard of someone who destroyed a relationship over sport?
Have you ever watched parents at a little league game?
Friday, June 25, 2010
Is there anything in life better than a great relationship? The 3.5 have heard me say a bunch of times that relationship has always existed within the character of God himself (that's why we're trinitarians)--the Father, Son and Spirit have eternally coexisted in relationship to one another. We were made for relationship with God, and with each other.
So I'm planning to do a series of short blogs (would that be blogettes?) on relationship being deeper than (fill in the blank).
So help me create the list...what are the obstacles of relationships today? What attacks our willingness to spend time--real or virtual--with people?
Monday, June 07, 2010
By now everyone has heard of the deadly skirmish that took place between a boat operated by a Turkish aid organization and Israeli military forces. Everyone has chosen sides, and I have no doubt that those sides directly relate to the position that anyone held going into the event, either pro-Israel or pro-Palestinian.
The truth is this was a bad idea on both sides. The aid boat brought the kerosene, the military brought the matches, and the two were going to result in a fire. We can debate forever the "first causes" of such a situation--is it the blockade by Israel of Palestine, is it the leadership of Hamas who promotes the extinction of Israel, is it the occupied-by-Israel territory, the severe hardships of Palestinians, the millenia-long persecution of Jews, etc. etc. There are innumerable causes to return to. But do we ever get anywhere?
Like usual, I've got a few broad thoughts I want to share. None of them probably provide any solution to the current relationship--or lack thereof--between Israel and Palestinians (or most of her neighbors for that matter), but maybe they can cause us to think and act not according to our preconceived notions but according to wisdom and character.
1. No ally is perfect. Yes, Israel is our best and most trusted ally in the region. But allies make mistakes, and quite frankly it should be okay for us to discuss our mistakes with friends. I'm not saying Israel made a mistake, but I am saying that the call for unmitigated support of Israel regardless of their actions, especially from some Christian circles, is out of touch with reality. When the early nation of Israel oppressed the alien and stranger among them, God sent prophets to call them on it. Today should be no different. And if we are oppressing the alien and stranger among us, our friends should be the ones telling us "Hey, you need to do something about this."
2. This situation is not George Bush's fault, nor is it Barack Obama's fault. Stop using world politics to blame American politicians that you disagree with.
3. As the church, let's make sure that we always consider being a voice for those who have little or no voice of their own. We are not to be impressed with the places and positions of power but are called to understand, like Mother Teresa (and I guess like Jesus of Nazareth), that humble love and service and sacrifice will change the world over the long haul. The ring of power will destroy those who arrogantly think that they can overcome evil with evil. "Let us not grow weary in doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are the household of faith." Ga 6.9-10 ESV
"Let us not grow weary..."
Tuesday, June 01, 2010
Friday, May 21, 2010
• The biggest story in the world of pro-family politics was the surprising resignation of Rep. Mark Souder (R-Indiana), an evangelical and pro-family advocate. Souder had filmed a video on abstinence education policy, where he is interviewed by staff member Tracy Jackson, with whom he had an affair. The only mention of Souder's resignation among pro-family political activists came from Elijah Friedman who provides the "Millennial Perspective" for the AFA. "Sexual sin and other forms of sin can ruin a political career, but more importantly they can ruin a Christian's witness. That is a lesson that we all should take to heart," said Friedman.
This is unfortunate. I find the irony slightly funny, but on the other hand really extremely challenging. It would be easy to pile on the hypocrisy, but let's all be honest: we each have a temptation that knows just how to tweak us, those besetting sins, I think they used to be called.
Lord, remove the planks from my own eye, and keep me from sin. May I live in your grace daily!
Monday, May 17, 2010
Friday, May 07, 2010
Sunday, May 02, 2010
So in no particular order, some musings: first, my thoughts are mostly about responding to immigration in general, and undocumented immigrants in particular. Border security is important, and needs to be dealt with. But IMHO it's not the primary issue behind the AZ law, or behind most people's anti-immigrant stance. If the undocumented folks I have met are indicative of the group, then I believe the vast majority of undocumented people in the US pose zero security/safety risk. Immigration laws--and their enforcement--are also important issues, but again, not so much what I want to deal with here.
Second, I'll try to admit my biases. I think there are too many laws already, on virtually every issue, not just immigration. The problem is we don't enforce what we already have with any degree of consistency. If someone is a drug dealer or terrorist, changing immigration laws will not deter what they do. It's not like they think "Oh, now there's 2 laws against me, I guess I better stop." If someone is a drug dealer or a terrorist, they should go to jail, regardless of their country of origin or their citizenship.
I think that most undocumented persons in the US are not terrorists, drug-users or dealers, or any type of law-breaker, other than that they either came to or stayed in the US in violation of some immigration law. Again, if my experience is any indication, virtually all current undocumented people are hard-working, productive folks who are not trying to "game" the system and get free stuff. They are doing what they believe to be in the best interest of their children, and their children's children. They are working and paying taxes, albeit to SSN accounts that are not theirs, which means they will not draw social security themselves some day. They love this country and do not like being lawbreakers, but they see it as the lesser of two evils, so to speak.
I think that some immigration laws are unjust, and that followers of Jesus should be just as passionate about just immigration laws as they are about just marriage laws or just taxation.
I think that the word "amnesty" is being thrown around too much by anyone who disagrees with immigration reform that doesn't deport any and all current undocumented people. If I get stopped for speeding and ask for deferred adjudication, pay a sizable fine and keep my record clean for 90 days, and in doing so have my record not reflect the speeding ticket, I did not get amnesty. So too a solution that involves fines and law-abiding life for a period of time before being granted permanent legal status but does not include deportation is not amnesty.
I don't think that everyone who opposes dealing in this way with the current undocumented folks are racists. I know some are, but I also know that there are good and godly people who believe we do need to deport all people here illegally. This gives me pause and makes me want to be even more humble and careful in how I put forth my thoughts. I don't take it lightly when godly people disagree on an issue. I also think those who disagree should not take it lightly either.
I think if there is racism rearing it's ugly head (it's certainly not dead in the US, by any stretch of the imagination), it should not be accepted nor tolerated by any follower of Jesus. Period. We the church have been on the wrong side of that issue before, and should never be again.
I think that we don't pay enough attention to history. Winners of wars get to write the laws in our world, but I find this diametrically opposed to Jesus' admonition to the disciples that they should not be the kind of leaders who lord over people, like the world does, but they should put others first and be servants of all, with him as the example of what that looks like. This is a whole other blog topic I plan to write on, and probably one of the more controversial things I muse about, so I'll try to be brief. Did winning a war 170 years ago make us right in setting the borders as we did? Have we for 200 years now practiced "might makes right" as a nation in violation of Jesus' command?
Okay, I'm stopping now. I told you this was a bunch of random thoughts, but for now it's the best I have. I look forward to the dialogue, so please feel free to comment.
Sunday, April 25, 2010
Monday, April 19, 2010
"And so, from they day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of the Lord." Co 1.9-10 ESV
Knowledge, then faith-based action on that knowledge, leads to a holy life, which leads to greater knowledge of God and his will. Paul's prayer for you is my prayer for you.
Friday, April 02, 2010
Last week John Piper announced an 8-month sabbatical. I love John Piper. He preached in my church last year during Advent, and I wasn't about to miss it. I read "Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist" years ago, and was thoroughly changed by it. I don't always agree with him, I'm not necessarily too reformed in my theology, but John Piper is a godly man and as I said, one of my heroes.
This blog really isn't about him though, and that's what I hope comes across. It's more about the reaction I've seen from others about his announced sabbatical. He's leaving because in his soul he feels there are some perhaps hidden, underlying issues in him personally and in his family relationships that God wants him to deal with. There's no obvious sin, no big confessions or anything, just that he senses he's not where he needs to be.
I think I know that feeling. I've been dealing with it lately too.
The response, at least in the circles I read in, have been awesome in support of his choice. And in my heart, I'm with them. I'm glad he has the chance to do this.
In some ways I wish I did.
Which leads me to why I really wanted to write this blog. I wanted to make a pitch for the "every-day" man or woman who cannot take an 8-month sabbatical. I wanted to say that you -- those of you who live lives and work jobs and love your spouses, and those of you who have hurting lives and jobs you don't enjoy and fight with your spouses, and everybody who lives with a grand milieu of both good and bad, love and apathy, success and struggle -- to you I say that God CAN and WILL speak to you even if you can't take 8 months off, even if you feel like you can't take 8 hours off. For those who work for hourly wages, who work two jobs, who live below the line of poverty, who are single parents, or whatever circumstance of life you're in, God CAN and WILL give you great relationships with your spouse and kids, he CAN and WILL give you wisdom and direction in life.
He will reveal himself to you, in spite of your busyness. Ask, seek, knock; he is available to you.
I'm glad for John Piper, and pray that God speaks deeply into his life during this time. If you can take a sabbatical, I would recommend you do it for sure! But if you're like me and can't take that kind of time off right now for whatever reason, don't be discouraged that you might somehow be missing something from God. God still very much wants to reveal himself to you. He doesn't love John Piper any more than he loves you.
And while I wouldn't dream of speaking for John, I have a feeling he would agree.
Friday, March 26, 2010
So, some of you have asked me what is it I actually think about HRC.
Do I really want to share this? I'm pretty opposed to blanket labeling, because everyone defines a label based on where they are on the scale. There's my friend Warren, who when we moved with 2 other guys into a house together 20 years ago, we spent the first night debating for hours whether or not the KJV was the only reliable English translation of the Bible. To him I've always been a liberal Christian. To my friend John, a newspaper editor, I was an ultra-conservative pastor. Both guys knew the same "me", they just labeled me based on where they were on the scale. That's why I hate labels, they say less about me and more about the person/group using them.
So this is a risk. I'm going to be labeling myself somewhat.
At heart, I believe I am a political and social conservative. Okay, everyone stop laughing! It's true. I believe that a small government is the best practice, that the best government is one that is exactly large enough to do what Romans 13 describes. I like free market capitalism. I am pro-life. I believe in individual responsibility.
I'm also a patriot. I think that US-style democracy is the best form of government invented by man. Actually, I'd be interested in an absolute monarchy if Jesus could be king, but beyond that, I like what we have here, albeit still in it's relative infancy compared to many other societies around the world. I would not easily want to live anywhere else in the world. Although I struggle with the value of war, I'm grateful for men and women who are willing to put their lives on the line for the sake of...well, of me. And my family. I tear up at the playing of Taps, and I get extemely irritated at those who do not respect the National Anthem and start cheering before it's over.
But I've also become passionate in recent years about the people often referred to as "marginalized." People who through little or no choice of their own have ended up in the wrong place. People dealing with oppression, injustice, unfairness, lack of access, poverty, disease, etc. Mostly because of the work and ministries I've gotten involved with over the past decade or so, I've been able to meet and get to know widows, orphans, immigrants, and more. I've been exposed to those who have been doing such ministry for years, and had the Holy Spirit illuminate how often the Scriptures talk about God's care and concern for "the least of these."
So here's my label for me: conflicted.
Which brings me back to healthcare reform. I'm very conflicted.
Do I worry about government interference on 26% of the economy? Absolutely I do. Do I think that most ideas coming out of Washington are produced by men and women who spend more time worrying about their reelection than they do the real problems in our world? Yes, I do. Do I wish that we lived in a world where the government didn't even consider this because the Church cared for all people in need? Definitely yes!
Am I glad that now health coverage will be guaranteed for people with pre-existing conditions? Absolutely I am. Do I think it is a good thing to ensure that insurance companies cannot drop someone's coverage because they get sick? Yes I do.
I could go on, but there you have it. I am both for and against HRC. I am both disgusted by it and excited about it.
Like virtually every human decision and invention in this world, it is shades of good and bad. I don't think it's armageddon, I don't think it's the end of the USA, and I don't think it solves all the problems. I don't even know that I think it's good. I'm pretty sure it's got plenty bad in it. I think it will help hundreds of thousands of people. And I know it's going to cost me money.
So call me conflicted. (Please don't call me worse, I don't want you to label yourself.)
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
1. Humility. Every one of us has issues that we are on the wrong side about. That means me, that means you. Arrogant close-mindedness is not the same thing as conviction. And when an issue has many godly people on both sides of the argument, it demands even more humility than normal if that's possible. And even if you are right, a gentle humility is still required. See Galatians 6.1.
2. Honesty. In this category falls all the caricaturizing, demonizing and scandalizing of our ideological opponents. It would also include exaggerating for effect. Both liberal and conservative news outlets are guilty of this. If you're interested I'll create a list. See Matthew 5.21-22 on angry name-calling. As I said in my Caricature Debate post a few weeks back, argue the facts, but don't resort to shouting epithets, exaggerations, or outright lies. Don't trust a news source just because they are [fill in the blank here: Christian, conservative, progressive, liberal, etc].
3. Stop equating the US with "God's Covenant Nation" status, stop identifying Western democracy as the biblical form of government, and stop believing laissez-faire capitalism is a godly economic system. I could write a book on this, but I'll try not to. My friend said in her resopnse the world hates "Jesus Christ and His children and that's not going to change." There is much truth in that. The gospel is a stumbling block to many. The humility required to receive God's forgiveness is challenging. If we are hated or persecuted for the sake of Jesus we should count ourselves worthy (Matthew 5.11-12).
But suffering because of conservative politics is not suffering for the gospel. Being hated by "liberals" because you're a "conservative" is not suffering for Jesus.
4. Be passionate both about individual morality and systemic morality, and don't be hypocritical about either. I have not yet had the chance to research this, but recently read that the most common command in the Scriptures is "Don't be afraid" and the second most common is to be kind to aliens and strangers among you. My friend said this:
There should be a balance of speaking out equally what we are for and what we are against. God tells us through His Word what He is for and what He is against and we should be a reflection of that as a whole, not in part either way.
I could not agree more. I do not believe that God anywhere in the Scriptures states being for small government, capitalism, or whatever side we are on in a war. He does say he is opposed to immorality, especially among believers. He does say that he opposes systems that oppress the poor and marginalized who have no voice of their own. He does say that those who claim the name of Jesus should be marked by their love for one another. Again, there's a lot more to be said here.
5. Be peacemakers. As far as it is possible, be at peace with those around you. Pursue peace passionately. See 1 Peter 3.11, Matthew 5.9, James 3.18, 1 Timothy 2.2, Hebrews 12.14.
To summarize, the Lord requires of us to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God (Micah 6.8)
Monday, March 22, 2010
I guess I was wrong.
And I'm not even wishing that unbelievers could display love and compassion, although that would be nice. I am, however, ashamed at the actions of those who claim the name of Jesus in their lives.
So here I am, trying to therapeutically get some words out on the screen that will at least help me cope. I'm drawn as usual to the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, probably my favorite piece of Scripture.
"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God." Mt 5.9 ESV
Certainly not blessed are the hatemakers. Or the warmongers.
And not even the peacelovers.
Let's do that.
Sunday, March 21, 2010
Here's my analogy, often used and probably not great, but I like it. The relationship between truth and "belief system" is similar as the relationship between great wine and a cup. The cup is important--tough to drink wine with just your hands. But the cup is important only in that it helps you hold the wine. Some cups are elaborate, some maybe even better than others. But the important thing is the wine.
Christians have often gotten confused, and equated their belief system with the truth. Science, slavery, equality of women, worship styles, clerical robes, liturgical languages--I could make a huge list of belief systems big and small that Christians have fought over. But much (most?) of these are not the truth, they are systems we have constructed to help us understand and communicate the truth. I've said many times, when I was 22, there were thousands of things I KNEW to be true. Now at 43, there are only a handful. That doesn't mean I still don't have strong convictions about things, only that I don't have to see my way as the true way of thinking about many issues.
Most of the 3.5 of you who read this know that I personally would count myself within this group--the 2nd kind as Skye defines them--although as a family we still attend the more institutional version of church too (in fact Matt Chandler's church The Village, who Skye has a video of in this article). But it's a great discussion to have.
In some ways I fit into all 3 categories of authentically de-churched. Relationally I agree that most institutional churches today are really large gatherings of a bunch of churches in one place. Missionally, I'm amazed at what smaller, organic churches can do, like my friend Keith Giles' church in Orange County, which gives 100% of tithes and offerings to the poor. And finally I wholeheartedly agree that the best, deepest and truest transformation happens in groups of people who are relationally living life together, not by listening to great sermons or singing great music.
It's nice to know that there are many things Al Mohler, Richard Land and I agree on. Mohler called Beck's comments "nonsense." They both agree that social justice is a right and good goal for believers, but that we will disagree on how to get there.
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Thursday, March 04, 2010
But when I read the article (find it here) I had a question pop into my head: what should offend believers? I think that this is an important question in our culture today. What should I find offensive? I'm not sure I have any definitive answers, but here's my first thoughts:
1. We need to remember that the gospel is inherently offensive to many of those enslaved by sin. It should not surprise us when others are offended. The Bible tells us it will be.
2. God is perfectly capable of defending himself. And the Bible. He does not need us in this regard. That's not to say he doesn't use us, cuz he does. But there seems to be a huge number of Christians who feel that if God or the Bible is attacked, it's time to "fight fire with fire."
3. Call me ungodly if you need to, but I just don't see how holding picket signs in protest--no matter how true their slogans--makes a dent in the power of sin on people's lives. When you hold up a sign saying that "Jesus loves atheists" it doesn't feel like demonstrating love to atheists, it feels like political protest. I'm pretty sure the atheist group didn't look out at the believers and think "man, those people love us."
So, I'm thinking that being offended over...
a. people being silly...
b. lost people acting like lost people...
c. people desperate for attention or looking for fame...
d. just about anything we disagree with...
...is just not a good idea. One of the most amazingly attractive things about Jesus is that he never seem to get offended at people, especially at people's "junk." Their sin never surprised him, never made him stand, mouth agape, dumbstruck that someone would act that way. He knew people. He understood sin, even though he had none himself. He never had to hold up a "I love sinners but hate the sin" sign.
He just loved on people. He never compromised the truth. But he never seemed to feel he had to join anyone at their gamesmanship in order to confront them.
So I'm thinking, Christians, don't be offended so easily. Just a thought.
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
I recently read an article that lamented the departure of James Dobson from Focus on the Family, calling him one of the last great "watchmen" of true American Christianity.
Follow me as I digress. I vividly remember the first time I heard Dr. Dobson and the Focus radio broadcast. I was still in college, in my early 20s, driving home to El Paso from a Fellowship of Christian Athletes event in Dallas. I was, I think, like a lot of Christian guys then -- wanting to be holy, struggling with the temptations and sins of a single college student. It was an unholy trinity of sins: lust (because I wanted to be desired by a girl), spending too much money (often because I wanted to be desired by a girl) and drinking too much alcohol (because somehow I thought girls liked that). Maybe that's why the Book of Arnie, chapter 1, verse 2 read "The love of women is the root of all evil." (Yes, I once wrote my own book of the Bible, but that's another topic, and we've already got too many. And it also places too much blame on girls -- the downfall was mine alone.)
Dobson spoke about men being fathers, good fathers, and I was moved to tears. I desperately wanted to be a godly man, husband and father, and I want to publicly say "thank you" to Jim Dobson for teaching me many things about how to go about that. The man is no doubt a godly man, and God has used him greatly.
I do, however, think that he wasn't on his best game when he started commenting more on political issues. Not that believers shouldn't do that -- we absolutely should -- but somehow the IMHO pettiness of partisan (read "conservative" not Republican, although you might could make the case for both) politics that seemed to taint Dr. Dobson's comments and actions on certain issues turned me off. I'm simply a believer that sin abounds in the hearts of men and women, and no amount of political wrangling can change that. Again, IMHO, he often seemed to project that changing laws would make the US a more moral, godly nation, and with that I disagree.
I hope his new radio program with his son is a success, and it builds the kingdom. I pray he continues to have an influence over young men and women in how they love each other and their kids. God know we need godly families.
The writer of the article goes on though to lament the lack of "watchmen" in the American church. The watchmen term, for those who don't know, comes from a section of Ezekiel 33 where Zeke the prophet is called the watchmen who warns Israel of the wickedness among them. Here is a quote from the article, where the author is quoting something he's written previously:
"In order to defend true Christianity against the encroachment of error, people must be active in finding the wolves that dwell amongst the flock." (from "Another Watchman Falls Off the Wall" by Todd Stranberg, found here)
There is an undeniable challenge in taking Old Testament commands, stories, laws, etc and applying them to today's world. We no longer stone disobedient children, make women stay outside for a week after their period, or avoid catfish and shrimp for dinner. We have examined and determined that certain laws are not meant for us to follow today. There are entire chapters of seminary hermeneutic textbooks dedicated to this, and we don't have the time here. But there aren't any believers today that I know of who follow all OT commands.
So I submit that we need to relook at this watchman idea -- what the author defines as being active in pointing out wolves or false prophets within the church.
First, we clearly need to be on the lookout for those who would mislead us. Jesus tells us in Matthew 7.15ff that there will be false prophets. We will be able to recognize them by their fruit, by the way their lives display a faith and trust in Jesus and his Way of life. This is not the same as adhering to correct doctrine, although that is clearly important. It is primarily about how our lives adhere to the Way of Jesus, because of our faith in Jesus (see Matthew 7.21-27). There will be people on the day of judgment who will say "Lord, we believed and practiced all these things in your name" but they will have missed out because they never knew Jesus. All of this demands that we study the life and teaching of Jesus and in faith get to know him and his Way of life.
Second, we need to be very clear on what is and is not our role to play in pointing out false prophets. Jesus tells a parable (Matthew 13.24-30) that gives us clear teaching on this. To summarize, a farmer plants wheat, an enemy comes and throws a bunch of weed seeds into the soil, and when the plants start to grow, the "fruit" of each plant is clearly either wheat or weed. The servants ask the farmer what to do about it -- should they pull up the weeds? No, pulling the weeds will damage the wheat. At the time of the harvest, the reapers will gather and separate and save the wheat but burn the weeds.
So let me make my point, because this post is growing too long. Our primary task as it relates to "weeds" or false prophets among us is to cultivate good fruit, in ourselves and in the church. It is not to cut down or pull out the weeds. That will be done at the time of harvest, but right now it damages good plants' opportunities for growth and fruit production. To put it plainly, to spend an inordinate amount of time focusing on attacking false prophets will do more harm than good. Many people on their way into the kingdom will be damaged by others' sincere attempts to destroy false prophets. Much care should be made to heed the teachings of Jesus.
The article above goes on to say "Sadly, 'apologetics' has become a dirty word." I will respectfully disagree. Apologetics means to give an reason for the hope that is within you with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3.15). May we all be apologetics for hope in the gospel of Jesus.
Tuesday, February 09, 2010
I started a new job last week as Executive Director of World Vision North Texas. World Vision is an amazing organization, confronting the root causes of poverty and injustice, especially as they impact children. WV has been on the ground in Haiti from before the quake, and many of you have supported their ministry to those at-risk kids and families displaced by such destruction.
These two events to me though have more in common than just my new employer. They outline how incredibly important it is to be humble. This is something that we USAmericans struggle with.
We are the biggest and the best. And especially the smartest. And even more especially the closest to God.
I have been humbled over the past few years as I have been more and more exposed to other cultures, to other socio-economic strata, to issues that affect people in ways my suburbasexualness has a hard time comprehending.
I have been humbled by people I have met, who have made do for years on what I blow through in a month. People who have only 1 Bible, if they are lucky, and they know it better than me.
I have been humbled by their thoughts on God, politics, ministry, and futbol (yes, I spelled that correctly).
I have often said that when I was 22, I had 4, 083 things that I KNEW to be either black or white, either true or false. Now, at 43, I have 3 or 4. At most. Humility means that we be willing to live life knowing that we do not have all the answers, that our way is not necessarily the best way or right way. Humility honors those that might think differently and genuinely considers what others are thinking and feeling, without immediately dismissing them.
Humility considers others as more important than selves.
I think I've read that somewhere.
Friday, February 05, 2010
Wednesday, February 03, 2010
Yesterday many in the US celebrated Groundhog Day. Well, I shouldn't really use the word "celebrate" because no one really knows what the holiday means anymore. The liberal media and our leaders in congress and all the false prophets out there have distorted the true meaning of Groundhog Day.
You see, there was a time when GD was not about some magical talking rodent (magic is clearly defined as being evil in the Scriptures, so any talking animal is a sign of Satan), it was about Jesus coming out of his tomb (like a burrow) and not seeing his shadow (since he was now an exalted version, and everyone knows they don't have shadows, kind of like vampires don't cast shadows, another evil distortion of a biblical truth [side note: "Twilight" is evil too]), which meant that the winter of sin was over and now the spring of new life had arrived.
So let's get back to the real meaning of Groundhog Day. Let's remember the reason for the season. The burrow is empty. Winter is over. Let's sacrifice the fatted woodchuck and celebrate!
Let's take back Groundhog Day.
Friday, January 29, 2010
Thursday, January 28, 2010
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
But hey, since I cross post to Facebook, I'm sure at least one or two will read this. And it's a quick way to get the changes announced.
In many ways, my time since September of last year has been some of the best of my life. I spent more time with family, got more things done, played more golf than I had done in a long time. In November, I got a temporary contract from a friend to do some consulting work, assigned to help Dallas Christian College with their capital campaign. I will be forever grateful to Pat and to the president of the college, Dusty, for their support of me.
Last Friday I was offered the position of Field Site Director of World Vision's ministry here in North Texas. When I told the president of the college this, he offered me a permanent position as VP of Advancement. Talk about your difficult choices!
After a weekend of discussion and prayer (even had that extra day this past weekend) I have accepted the position with World Vision, and will begin that job on February 3rd. I can't tell you how excited I am to be involved with an organization that works to alleviate issues of poverty and injustice all over the world. If you're not familiar with World Vision (I have known of them for years, but honestly didn't know they worked domestically until I heard about this open position), check out their website at www.worldvision.org. Right now they are neck-deep in Haitian support and ministry.
Hopefully all of this change being behind us will mean more blogging. At least I hope so. I'm looking forward to how God will continue to work and use the Adkisons in 2010 and beyond. God is good!