Tag Archive: Christian leadership

The wrong perspective

I sometimes find myself judging a book by its cover.  I live in a little town and like most little towns, we may not all know each other, but you see everyone.  I can’t speak for all little towns, but he there are a handful of, shall we say, less than attractive, at least by modern standards, people.

When I lived in a city of over 100,000 I didn’t notice, or perhaps because I didn’t go to “that” side of town, I don’t know.  But it reminds me of something Jim Rohn used to say “You can say people shouldn’t judge you by how you look.  But here’s a hint, They Do.”
On the other hand God judges people by how they look, the difference is that God looks at the soul.  He loves all of His creation, but he sees the horror and repulsiveness of the soul that is wrapped in sin.  God looks at these souls kind of like a dentist looking at a decaying tooth, and doesn’t think tear it out.  He loves with a depth that I can not begin to comprehend.  A love that is overwhelming in its depth, breadth, and intensity.  And God sees? Beauty? Potential?

Worthy of Love, and needing it

So how can I not see the soul of the person in front of me at the grocery store?  How can I not look at the heart, perhaps scared, torn beat-down, and not simultaneously ache & see the beauty of one formed by God.  One who Is loved so much by the Creator, that God’s desire is to hold, heal, help.  How can I not see the beauty God has created in someone?  I struggle, but none the less I try to see the beauty thru the eyes of the Creator.  What’s more I need to not just try to see the soul loved by God, but to also feel and act as the one who created them does.
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Is there a win?

English: John the Baptist baptizing Christ

English: John the Baptist baptizing Christ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“We that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves.” Romans 15:1-3


As a Christian what is the ethic?

I have a responsibility to others to live a life that encourages.  Not that risks discouraging a brother in the faith.
Am I free to consume alcohol as I choose, providing I am not drunk?  Yes, I see no teaching or precept in the Bible that requires abstaining.  Nothing that says I can’t enjoy a cigar now and then.
But what about what is does to those around me?  What if someone around me can’t handle seeing me with a bourbon in my hand?  Should I care, or change my lifestyle because of what it might do?  How does this tie into the lifestyle of Jesus?
Jesus was reviled because he associated with publicans and drunks.  On the other hand people also took issue with John the Baptist who led a life of abstinence   So it is obvious that outsiders will find fault no matter what we do.

So what do we do?

The best we can.  If you have an issue with having a glass of wine then don’t.  If on the other hand it doesn’t prick your conscience then don’t worry about it.  Because trust me someone will find fault no matter what you do.  If it is your church leadership, then be willing to be humble and submit to their authority.  But otherwise use your mind, seek great council from the people around you.
And above all pray.
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Our Side

English: Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth Presid...

English: Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth President of the United States. Latviešu: Abrahams Linkolns, sešpadsmitais ASV prezidents. Српски / Srpski: Абрахам Линколн, шеснаести председник Сједињених Америчких Држава. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“We should not pray that God is on our side, but rather that we are on His.”  Abraham Lincoln

Right to bear arms, abortion, welfare.  So much dividing our country right now.  I wonder if anyone is praying as President Lincoln, not that God was one our side but that we are on His.  As Christians are we assuming too much?  Some who dare to call themselves by the name of Christ, presume to know the mind of God, but I wonder how much time has been spent seeking God’s will before taking action.  Or do we just jump in with what we think is the correct Christian ethic, never stopping long enough to seek God’s will.

neither for or against

Back before the children of Israel entered the promised land Joshua is standing near Jericho.  I wonder if he is thinking about the battles to come.  Is he contemplating the lives that will be lost fighting?  I don’t know and it doesn’t say.  But then he sees a man standing with his sword drawn.  And Joshua asks him “Are you for us or for our enemies.”, and what’s the response?  “No, but as captain of the host of The Lord I come.”  Is God for Israel?  It seems to me God saying, I don’t do this for you, I do it for me.

Are we thinking God is on our side and forgetting that we need to be on his?  Until we get on his side we are not doing it for his glory, but for ours.

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“We hold this truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal”

Is it any wonder so many atheists would have this country fundamentally changed.  The very essence of our founding is anathema to their core beliefs.  No atheists could have, would have ever written the words above.

Neither could an evolutionist worth his salt who would dare to be honest about the implications of his beliefs.  If we have evolved from the primordial ooze, how could we be endowed with anything?  Where is the intrinsic value of man, or even nature if it is simply the result of chance+matter+time?
However what if man is created.  If we are instead the result of the actions of a supreme being, then man has been endowed with that worth.  And nature, all of creation is of value.
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I read an article last week from Sacred Struggler, titled “Apologetics: I hate it!” that really struck home.  Now I don’t consider myself an Apologist when compared with Ravi Zacharias or C. S. Lewis but I have a strong interest in the subject.  That said I certainly get where Sacred Struggler is coming from.  Apologetics sounds like such a big impressive word, and I am sure there are some who call themselves apologists who are really more like argumentative-ists.

But what is it really?

Apologetics has really gotten a bit of a bum-rap.  Having an interest in the subject I was recently asked to give a study on the subject to my church’s men’s group at our weekly prayer breakfast, we finish up on Thursday.  Apologetics is not to go around saying “I’m sorry” all the time.  Neither is it to have an argument, or act as some high-powered attorney in a Supreme Court case.
Acts 22:1 “Hear my defense(apologia)which I now offer.”  1 Peter 3:15 “be ready to give an answer(apologia) to every man that asketh you a reason for the hope that is within you.”
Apologetics is not about winning an argument but rather a way to show those we have contact with at home, work, with friends, family, or co-workers that we have thought about the big questions and as Christians have a different answer.  Michael Spencer at ccapologetics.wordpress.com  does a great job of using this approach.  You can find his podcast on iTunes under apologetics.
I see apologetics as really having three components:
1- To explain Christian ethics and thought.  It amazes me what some people think it means to be a Christian. For a sample see this survey from the UK of self-identified Christians and see what some people think makes them a Christian.
2- To give opposing thought and reason to the worlds philosophy.  Such things as the idea that man has intrinsic value because he is created vs. Darwinism which holds a boy, is a dog, is a pig, is a pollywog.
3-  To explain why we (Christians) are different.

Why do we act different then everyone else.

Sure part of apologetics is defending, but some of it is to show a different way to live.  All of it is to give hope.  Apologetics is not evangelism, but more a way to hopefully start a conversation that will lead to the opportunity to show someone Jesus.  We want to create a curiosity and a desire on the part of the person we are talking with to want to know more.
If you want to see my study on apologetics email me at cognitivefaith@hotmail.com and I will be happy to email you a copy of the study guide and notes.
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At least a little part of it..

This is not about some pie in the sky lets all hold hands a create some workers paradise.  Or heaven on earth or any of these completely unrealistic expectations.  After all, “You will always have the poor” Jesus of Nazareth

Let’s just get past that we are not going to get rid of poverty and its impact.  Can we reduce it? Of course and should we as individuals look for ways to ease the suffering around us.  But how do we do that?   Our ethics as Christians mandate that we love our neighbor as ourselves.  Our Christian ethics expect, I would say even demand that we be involved.

What are some, if not easy, at least not hugly painful steps?

I would suggest that the first step is to get our thinking right about what are the causes and then workable solutions, not just throwing money at the problem.
I believe that there are two beliefs that we, yes even those of us in the church have bought into that are not just false assertions, but counter productive to impacting the issue of poverty.  First that work is some sort of curse and that to care for the poor is to care for the need instead of providing a way for people to provide for their own needs.
Let’s look at the first, work is a curse.  If your mind set is that work is a curse, where did that come from.  In recent years finding ones purpose has become a bit af a mantra.  But what does that mean?  The purpose of man is to work, to create to provide, for himself his family and community.  Paul in his letter to the church at Thessalonica made it pretty clear “If a man will not work he shall not eat”. Each of us has abilities and skills.  Maybe the ability to program a computer, or fix a car, or maybe just to make change, count money, or load groceries.  If your skills don’t provide the opportunity that you want then perhaps using the skills you do have to finance the training to develop the skills you want is where you should be looking.  But Russ what about the unwed mother, the man born blind, the cripple or the mentally handicapped?  Are you really going to tell me you haven’t heard of Helen Keller, Chris Gardner, or any of the other thousands if not millions who have come to this country unable to speak the language, with no connection, little or no education, etc and have by working, turned into successes?  Are there those that cann not do for themselves?  Of course, and I am not for an instant suggesting we as the Church should ignore or despise those.  But there are far to many that either will not work in which case see above, or those that don’t for lack of opportunity.
So what about the way?  Should we as a society just give those without, a hand out?  I would say no.  Leviticus 19:10 speaks clearly to what those who have should do for those that are in need.  And it’s not a handout.  It’s giving them an opportunity to learn a skill, to make their own way.
This is not a zero sum game.  Look around you wealth and abundance are everywhere and they are there for the earning.  Will you become rich or wealthy?  Well I am a firm believer that in this country it’s still possible for anybody willing to do the work to become if not rich at least comfortable.
Economics and the spiritual must focus on both in order to help reduce poverty and to allow a path that provides a way for those who will to move out of poverty and then able to provide and show the path out.
To see some much deeper thoughts and ideas on this read some of Father Sirico of The Acton Institute .
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So I was thinking about Christianity, and how so many people think its all about the love, then how do you explain Christ’s statements about this ( Matthew 10:34-36 ) I came not to bring peace but a sword, to set brother against brother mother against daughter.  Is this a conflict?  It would seem on the surface that this runs in direct opposition to the direction to love our neighbors, bless those that curse you.

Maybe the first is simply a statement about what is happening in general, after all Christ did bring about a lot of division, and in fact his teachings are still causing quit an uproar.  I’m trying to make sense of these two opposing and yet related ideas.

Love your enemies

The idea of loving my enemy speaks to the Christian ethic, but do we ignore a key part of this teaching of Jesus?  Christ says “love your enemies, bless those that curse you”, but he doesn’t say make everyone your friend, or ally.  Are we doing the wrong thing trying to turn our enemies into our allies?  Now I’m no expert on the Bible, but I don’t recall a single instance of Jesus trying to woo his enemies.  Instead he called his enemies a brood of vipers, and a lot worse.  Did some of the religious elite become followers, even disciples of Christ?  A few but it doesn’t seem to be because Jesus went to them, but rather they searched him out.
Should we as disciples of Christ accept we are going to have enemies?  Should we stop trying to find an accommodation with everyone?  What would happen if we, you and I, stopped searching for common ground with others & just showed Jesus.
Don’t get me wrong I am not saying we should look to be confrontational for the sake of making a point.  We are told to be gentle, 2 Timothy 3:24, but gentle does not mean weak.
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Right now there is a flurry of debate regarding what makes a marriage.  One man one woman, two consenting adults, something else?  And I am not here to define one way or the other, although if you have read anything else on this blog you should have a pretty good idea where I stand, but we can get into that later.

Here is my question.  Marriage was created by God with a defined application.  But the church willfully and deliberately gave up its authority on who and what determines what a marriage is or is not.  Was it because it was easier to let someone else define what marriage is rather than church leadership be primary?  Or was it too hard to hold people to a standard that at times may not be easy?  Where was the church leadership taking the moral high ground holding husbands responsible to take care of their kids, even when they walked away from their commitments to their wives?

Christian ethics dictate we take responsibility.

I would suggest that if the church had done the heavy lifting way back when, the govt. would never have gotten their foot in the door.  Instead far too many leaders abdicated authority by shirking responsibility.
Far too concerned with their personal privilege and antagonistic about taking the responsibility, we(yes we) focus on our rights, our authority, to concerned with our little bailiwick we spend to much time on the wrong things.
If we really want to have the authority we need to start taking responsibility without worrying about offending people.  A perfect example is to look no further the Christopher Hitchens rant in “God is not great” about the Catholic Church’s position regarding divorce during the drafting of the  Irish constitution.  The Catholic Church was pushing to eliminate the option of divorce, to which Mr. Hitchins responded that the church was going to force a woman married to an abusive, alcoholic, adulterer to a life of pain, and abuse with no chance of escape. My question is where was the church saying that isn’t the point, our position is that we want to educate everyone even thinking about getting married to take responsibility to know who and what the person your thinking about marrying is all about.  If they had really wanted to get serious about the sanctity of marriage they would have pushed for marriage to only be available thru the church not the government.
Marriage is an institution, a structure set up by God for man, not by government for citizens.  Instead we have moved marriage from being a covenant established by God to a contract defined by the government.  It is not just marriage, but also the care of orphans, widows, the poor, that you and I have failed in our responsibility.  Did we start the collapse?  No but we can take back responsibility.
When the early church at Rome was feeding 1500 hungry on a daily basis it was the Government that was embarrassed and began to emulate the Church.  I suggest that the Church needs to return to that dynamic.  We have abdicated our authority by not taking responsibility.  We need to start taking responsibility.  Responsibility first for our poor, widows, orphans, marriages.  We can only lead from the front.  We have already been given authority from the one who established and created all of this.  Now is the time to start taking responsibility.
Just one resource for ideas of where the church needs to take back responsibility, this is a place to start.
Where else has the Church, Christians abdicated authority?  Where do we need to start taking responsibility to make society better?

Grow or die!

Chaos and decay are the natural state of things.  It is a struggle to improve, it is paddling up-stream.  It’s easy to go with the flow.  An ex-girlfriend of mine used to get so annoyed because I am just not a go with the flow kind of guy.  One year while planning out a vacation to Yosemite and June lake she laughed at the fact that I had planned out most of the times and places to stop and eat.

Actions matter

A friend of mine says it’s because I’m meticulous. That ex would use a less complimentary word.  But here’s the point the planning is fine put the doing is the thing.  Now if I didn’t plan it’s far to easy to let things slide.  Don’t carve out the time and it’s almost a certainty that time reading the Bible, praying, meditating, learning will get pushed to the side.  If you’re a Christian man, a man of God, your told to be a Christian leader.  Do you really think that is going to happen all by itself?

Do nothing and life decays

It’s no different then a muscle or the mind, don’t use it and it atrophied.  So why does the idea of things getting better by themselves permeate society?  This whole notion that nature and society evolve just doesn’t make sense based upon what I see.  I see life deteriorating and society going down the path to the loss of freedom.  Families falling apart, schools getting worse, economies collapsing.  Is this really a sign of growth? Of evolution? If it is I sure don’t see it.  If we really are evolving why in a recent survey do over half of parents think things will be worse for their kids?
Do you see any indication that things get better on their own?  Or does it take planning, and a lot of hard work?
Want to make people uncomfortable, even angry? Accuse them of being religious.  Let the subject of religion, faith or belief come up & if there is more than 3 people it’s almost a certainty that one of them will preface their statement with “I’m not religious but…”
Why the fear or worse, anger over being labeled as religious?  Oh I know there are those so busy trying to walk the tight rope of “I’m not religious I’m spiritual” thinking, hoping, maybe even believing that some mamby-pamby amalgamation of oh there is this supreme being and if I try hard enough, not too hard mind you, but hard enough I’ll graduate to the next level.  Or “After all if there is a God he must love us, and he wouldn’t want to send anyone to hell, in fact I’m not even sure there is a hell.”
Having that kind of half-hearted, no real commitment type of feel good belief system is bad enough but that’s not what I am talking about here.

Who are we afraid of offending?

I’m talking about those of us who  ought to know better.  We get more worried about not offending someone then being real about who and Who’s we are.
Now before you think I’m getting all judgmental let me be clear I have fallen into this more than once myself.  But the question is what is it that drives this.
Is it because we are afraid of being labeled a bible thumper?  Maybe becoming an outcast? What?  And why do we shy away from those labels, JesusFreak, Christian, or horrors RELIGIOUS
How do we stand face to face with a God who embraced humanity, subjected himself to the shame and humiliation of being put to death on a cross, for our sakes not for his own.  Wanting nothing more than to give us a way to be able to embrace and have a real relationship with him, and we blanch at, even become defensive about, being called his.
Have we all become like the church of Laodicea in Revelations 3:14-22 no longer passionate for God.  More worried about what others might think of us, of me.  What does it really mean to be a Christian?
Maybe it’s time to be a certifiable religious nut.
Maybe it’s time to be a Jesus Freak.
Are you more concerned with what label someone else puts on you then what name Christ will call you?