Monday, December 17, 2012

Seeing the Newtown Tragedy from God's perspective.

I would like to add a voice to the Tragedy that came upon the small quiet community of Newtown Connecticut on December 14, 2012. So many questions arise after such a painful event: Why does a good God allow such things to happen? How do these families go on from here? How can schools and society prevent this senseless violence in the future? How do we as a society intervene with those who are showing signs of "mental illness?"

I'd like to zero in on one aspect of the myriad of questions that has arisen: that of the nature of man.  I'd like to look at the nature of man; from a theological perspective, which is another way of saying from God's perspective. We can't understand the nature of man unless we examine his nature from the perspective of the creator.

Let's lay out the foundation for this position. Man is a created being, he did not evolve nor is he continuing to evolve. The declaration in Genesis 1:26-27 is that man is created, and carries all kinds of implications as opposed to man being a product of chance (evolution). Here is the foundational text for man being a created being:

26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

In the New Testament the gospel of Matthew records the words of Jesus our Lord confirming this teaching in the Old Testament:

"Haven't you read," He replied, "that He who created them in the beginning made them male and female"
Matthew 19:4.

Adam and Eve were created innocent and had direct communion with their creator, but after they had disobeyed God; now for the first time they hid from God, trying to avoid God cf. "Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden Genesis 3:8.

Why did they hide from God? The gospel of John tells us why both Adam and Eve hid from God cf. "Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed" John 3:20.

This is the problem with man. Man hides from his creator; because of a conscience that convicts and condemns. Man has fallen out of fellowship or relationship with his creator. Man is out of harmony with his God and with his fellowman. 

So how do we understand  Adam Lanza? We must see a human being that was not in fellowship with his creator and as a result he was disjointed and out of harmony with his fellowman. Now we know that there were many contributing factors that feed into this already dysfunctional way of living (out of fellowship with God), and they are starting to come out only a few days after the shooting. But keep in mind that all of these other factors are peripheral and ancillary when we understand that the root problem of man is that he has lost his way and lives in spiritual darkness. So the violent games, movies, bad family life (divorce), being social withdrawn, and even depression or as modern psychiatry calls it mental illness are all secondary to the real problem of man being out of relationship with his creator.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Falling off the moral cliff!!

While I realize that the United States of America is not a theocracy; however, we are most definitely a country that was founded on a natural law. I don't think that there would be too much debate that our country has been drifting steadily toward a deadening moral decay.

The other day I read this report by the CDC: "More than 40 percent of all babies born in the country last year, the report said, were born to unmarried women."

While there are many social and moral harbingers that our country is on a moral downgrade I think that  this one statistic stands out. You might be tempted to ask why? out of all the signs of moral decay, why this one?

Personally I've worked with youth and have witnessed first hand the pain and anguish of young boys who grow up without a father in their lives. God's blueprint for the family is found in the first book of the Bible and gives us his plan for the building block of society, and it is the family, one man and one women.

I've always said, "as the family unit goes, so society goes." There is nothing that the government can do through legislation or policy to fix the breakdown of the American family. Think about the moral decay and the debauchery of  those in congress; just the other day it came out that CIA Director  David Patraeus was caught up in a scandalous adulteress affair that most likely has compromised U.S. security.

The question to be asked is, can congress legislate morality? the short answer is no. We tried that through the moral majority movement in the 1980's and found out that morality goes deeper than a piece of paper signed by members of congress and the executive branch of government.

However, I do believe that the government has a role to play in passing laws and upholding justice, but the revolution of society will always and only start with the family unit. The role of the government will be for another post.

So what is the hope for a country that is on the path of falling off the moral cliff? what is the answer for our moral decay? I believe that the answer is spiritual. I believe that only the God of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob has the answers to our countries continued moral decay.

The great Apostle Paul gives us the answer in 2 Corinthians 5:17 where he writes, "If any man be in Christ he is a new creature....We need new creations, we need the power of the gospel to transform and bring radical change to the heart of man. No government proclamation can change the heart of a man, no human institution can make a man a new creature, but the Gospel is the power of God that leads to salvation Romans 1:16.

There is a spiritual deadness in our land! wake up America, and look to the God of all creation, His hand is not shortened that it can't save nor his ear dull that he will not hear cf. Isaiah 59:1.

Christian's we need to humble our hearts before God and realize that only he can set man free from spiritual bondage. We as the body of Christ must see the real problem as the fall---which is disobedience to God. We must remain the sign posts that point society to the cross, we must point others to the Lamb of God who died to take away the sins of the world.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Fiscal Cliff

Thoughts on today's election results:

We are truly a divided country, and we are divided over political ideology and worldview. There is no government that can be all things to all people; the United States is the most eclectic country in the world.

We as a country are doomed to failure when the government tries to sell itself by offering promises to the people. When a government becomes the genie who hands out treats and goodies to the masses, the masses become then a perpetual voting group for the party who can dole out the most freebies.

The farther down this slippery slope we travel the closer we get to accepting a government that will rule, not according to constitutional law, but by tyranny. The voice was loud and clear when our Founding Fathers warned that there is a price to liberty. The price of liberty is that we as a people hold our elected representatives’ to govern by the rule of law (our constitution).

As Benjamin Franklin observed at the founding of our country, "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." Our rights and personal freedoms are given up in exchange for the opiate of a government handout.

We are heading very fast toward the fiscal cliff, where the burden of supporting our spending will sink the whole ship. In the wisdom of Ludwig Von Mises, The idea that political freedom can be preserved in the absence of economic freedom, and vice versa, is an illusion.  Political freedom is the corollary of economic freedom." We must right, the ship and get our fiscal house in order.

The moral issues facing our nation will be for another post.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Continuing with the theme of Bonhoeffer---what an excellent topic for today, where does authority come from? Listen to Bonhoeffer (p. 141).

The difference between real leadership an the false leadership of the Leader was this: real leadership derived its authority from God, the source of all goodness. Thus parents have a legitimate authority because they are submitted to the legitimate authority of a good God. But the authority of the Fuhrer was submitted to nothing. It was self-derived and autocratic and therefore had a messianic aspect.

Note: This was part of a radio address that Bonhoeffer gave on January 30, 1933 when Adolf Hitler become the democratically elected chancellor of Germany.

The speech was titled " The Younger Generations Altered Concept of Leadership." The speech dealt with the fundamental problems of leadership by a Fuhrer (der Fuhrer in German "the leader), explaining how such a leader inevitable becomes an idol and a "mis-leader. 

Before Bonhoeffer could finish his speech it was cut off. This was the beginning of the resistance to Hitlers Third Reich. In the end it would cost Bonhoeffer his life. 

Monday, August 27, 2012

Character traits of Dietrich Bonhoeffer

I've been reading Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas. I'm on page 81 of a book that has over 500 pages.

There has been many things that have moved me and inspired me in the 80 pages that I've taken in, but today I'd like to share some of the remarkable character traits that Eric Metaxas has gleaned from Bonhoeffer's family friends, and college professors.

Now keep in mind that these character traits that I'd like to share were ascribed to Bonhoeffer when he was still just a teenager or a very young man. Bonhoeffer received his doctorate degree in theology at the age of 21. He had already decided to become a theologian as a young teen, but if you read the book you will find that God began to give Bonhoeffer a pastoral heart and eventually he went into the pastorate.

Listed below are just a few of the character traits that were used to describe a young precoucius Bonhoeffer:

1. A fellow member of the Igel-pronounced eagle-means hedgehog (this was Bonhoeffer's fraternity), described him as secure and self-confident, not vain and able to handle criticism.

2. Emmi Bonhoeffer describes her brother as "not being able to stand empty talk" now this was the description of a 13 year old boy.\

3. A fellow student at Berlin's school of theology Helmuth Goes describes Bonhoeffer as a free, critical and independent theological thinker. Helmuth tells how Bonhoeffer would go up against the then living legend of the theology department Adolph von Harnack---Helmuth says, " I had the experience of hearing a young fair-haired student contradict the revered historian his Exellency von Harnack, contradict him politely but clearly on positive theological grounds. Harnack answered, but the student [Bonhoeffer] contradicted again and again."

4. Eric Metaxas describes Bonhoeffer as having an "open intelligence" which allowed him to think and understand the liberal historical critical method, but maintain a more orthodox position. Metaxas notes that because of Bonhoeffer's self-critical intellectual integrity and confidence he could sometimes come off as being arrogant.

5. Metaxas tells us that many who knew Bonhoeffer described him as having a bit of distance between himself and others, some even described him as being aloof. He was described as unquestionably intense and always measured in his dealings with others. He never took others lightly, even if they took themselves lightly.

6. When Bonhoeffer went to Barcelona to take a job as an assistant pastor he was struck with the huge cultural difference from the prestigious academia of Berlin university. Bonhoeffer was shocked to see such an intellectual dullness and such a languorous atmosphere that pushed hard against Bonhoeffer's hyperactive mind and personality. But Bonhoeffer knew that he must enter the lives and, to some extent, the lifestyles of the people he was charged with serving.

I thought that this was worth sharing with you today---it is always a good thing to put strong character traits out in front of us and then pursue them with great vigor.

I'd encourage you to get the book and read of a man that died at such a young age (39) by the evil Nazi regime. Bonhoeffer's life could certainly go in the Hebrews hall of faith chapter.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Three heroes at Aurora

Leadership, heroes, portraits of courage, its all found in the three young men who gave their lives so that their beloved girlfriends could live.

Here's the headline from a local Aurora, Colorado news paper: 

'Dark Knight Rises' shooting: Three heroes died in Aurora taking bullets for their girlfriends

The Daily News goes on to report:

 Three survivors of the Colorado movie-theater massacre escaped with minor wounds, but were left with broken hearts because their heroic boyfriends died saving them.

In final acts of valor, Jon Blunk, Matt McQuinn and Alex Teves used their bodies to shield their girlfriends as accused madman James Holmes turned the Aurora cineplex into a shooting gallery.

The Daily News goes into detail and describes for its readers the acts of valor in detail. For instance, we are given a detailed account of what happened by Jansen Young the girlfriend of Jon Blunk. She tells the Daily News how Jon pushed her to the floor and used his body to cover and protect her from the spray of bullets coming from the gun of a deranged mad man. 

In the words of Jansen Young's mother, "he pushed her down on the floor and laid down on top of her and he died there."

The article goes on and chronicles how each couple met and how they fell in love. Three couples who met and fell in love, and three heroic men who gave their lives for the ones that they loves and adored.

Two emotions for me are touched, one, we still have young heroes today; men who are willing to put others before themselves. As tragic as this shooting was the nation can see that there is still a fabric in our society that is good and ideal. 

With all the self love and narcissistic behaviors that we are bombarded with on a daily basis, it is a breath of fresh air to have read what these three young men did; their acts of valor and selflessness will stand out for a long time in a culture of self love and self interest.  

My second thought was how Jesus willing laid down his life for us. I think Romans 5 verse 8 sums this up "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."

I think how our Savior being totally innocent would willing give his life for us guilty sinners. It is such an amazing thought and reality to know that Jesus "paid it all, all to Him I owe, sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow." 

This story of the shooting in Aurora has left me thinking about "sacrifice." We as a nation thank those three young men for reminding us that there is no greater gift that can be given to another than laying down of our lives for those that we love.

The thought of Christ laying down his life for me, not innocent in any way, but guilty and an enemy of the Savior, brings me to my knees. It is unfathomable to think that one would give his life for an enemy, but that is exactly what our savior did for His body---the church.






Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Leadership is influence

I recently (August 2011 graduated) decided to go back to school and get a masters degree. As I took out the school's catalog, I started to search for a major that looked interesting, (and had the least credits) and would help in the field that I was currently in (social work).

Well, I decided to take up professional leadership---a track that seemed to me  the most practical. I reasoned that in some regard we are all leaders, whether we are dads, moms, husbands, wives, students, or teachers, we all lead in some respect.

So, I concluded that I fit at least two areas of leadership, being a father and a husband. But as I pondered even further, I said, "hold up here," I claim to be follower of Jesus, so I'm a leader again, I'm doing social work, so I'm a leader again, I'm a small group facilitator, so I'm a leader again. It really struck me that leadership touches every aspect of our lives.

All of that for this: The one sticky from all my courses that has permeated my every fiber is that leadership is "influence." Plain and simple, leadership is plain old "follow me as I follow Christ"---I thinks we heard that somewhere before.

Now, I don't know if I needed to spend buku dollars to learn that, but that is beside the point. Maybe for me it took four years and (36 credits) for that sticky to sink into my thick skull, but I think I got it.

Everything that we do, every word that we speak, is going out and influencing those around us. This influence can be either negative or positive. Influence goes both ways: it can be good or bad.

Leader, let your influence first come from you yourself being influenced by the God of the Scriptures. Let every being of your personhood come under the influence of the Holy Spirit. Allow the Word of God to sanctify your heart, mind, and soul.

Then go out after having been in the presence of God and influence those around you for the glory of God. Allow your influence to preach the gospel of grace to others. Let your Godly influence shout out and proclaim the God you serve.

Well, you got this for free, it is a simple message, but it is foundational to the christian life. Influence is the foundation for all leadership teaching---you will find influence taught in all leadership books whether secular or Christian.

So christian, go and be the light and salt to the world.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

A Few Thoughts on the Trayvon Martin Case

A few thoughts about the Trayvon Martin case. On March 26, 2012, Trayvon Martin was killed in a gated community in Florida. The black teenager was shot by a neighborhood watch volunteer, George Zimmerman, who was not arrested by the Sanford police because he claimed self-defense.

Since then, the case has caught fire on a national level and has become a lightning rod for social justice, prompting protests and rallies across the country calling for Zimmerman's arrest.

USA Today / News did a story called "Trayvon Martin's Case Turns Into Brand"---"From the T-shirt and hoodie sales to trademarking slogans like "Justice for Trayvon." Websites are hawking key chains bearing Trayvon Martin's likeness. His parents have bought two trademarks, saying they hope to raise money to help other families struck by tragedy. Trayvon clothes, bumper stickers, buttons and posters are up for grabs on eBay.

We even had a sitting U.S. Congressman who came to the house floor wearing a hoodie to make a point about racial profiling---he was removed from the floor. We have Al Sharpton and Jessie Jackson exploiting this case for personal reasons---notice that I would not give either one of these race baiters the title of Reverend.

When all the smoke clears and it will, the facts will come out , and again we will see how the main stream media and the Jackson's and Sharpton's have exploited this young man's death for their own political narrative. 

I think back to April 18, 2006, when  three white members of the Duke University Mens Lacrosse Team were arrested for sexually assaulting a female exotic dancer during an off-campus party. Do you remember how the main stream media had these three boys convicted of the crime even before all the facts were in, plus the district Attorney Michael Nifong twisted the case to garner votes from the African American community for his up-coming reelection.

As Americans we must hold our leaders to a high level of accountability, but we must not, we can't take the law into our own hands and allow our emotions to lead us, we must allow the facts to come out in this case and allow the judicial system to take its course. We have a main stream media that has a narrative that must be filled and they will, and do twist the facts to fill their narrative.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Lenin, Stalin, and Hitler

I've just recently started reading a book by Robert Gellately, Lenin, Stalin, and Hitler and was struck with the adjectives that the author used to describe the leadership styles of these depraved, debased, and debauched men.

The author described these men as visionaries, men who were relentless in the pursuit of their goals, never allowing their mission and vision to be compromised.

Gellately characterized these men as always being smart enough to get the "right people on their team," surrounding themselves with people who would support their mission and vision.

Lenin, Stalin, and Hitler were all marked by a dogged determination to fulfill their dreams, these men would let nothing stand in their way; their passion and drive carried them to complete their goals.

So, these are the kind of character traits that I've read about in every leadership book that I've ever read. These men exhibited the same leadership traits that many of us strive to emulate---we all want to be visionaries, we all want to possess dogged determination, we all want to have the "right people on our team" etc.

When we look back at the legacy that these men left behind we know that something was missing in their leadership arsenal. Take a look at one stat on the people who were killed under the regimes of these brutal men:

 Hitler - about 11 million
Lenin - 2-3 million
Stalin - 27 million.

 Author Gellately described the Lenin led Bolshevik revolution by saying "They [the Bolsheviks] put the cause before civil and legal rights." The cause for these three men was their God: truth, integrity, right and wrong never mattered, the only thing that ever mattered was "the cause."

 Christian leader, what is your cause? Is your cause to bring glory and honor to your King? Any other cause will bring about God's disapproval and anger.

The Scripture admonishes us ...that  whatever we do,  we are to do it all for the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31).

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Be Relentless

You know there is a barrel of words that can be used to describe what a "leader looks like," well, this word may have been on the bottom of the barrel, but it really jumped out for me, the word is RELENTLESS.

In Paula Broadwell's  new book All In: The Education Of David Petraeus, Broadwell describes the Four-star general-turned-CIA director as RELENTLESS.

Just the title of the book "All In," describes the General as one who was "sold out," some may be familiar with the term "All In" as a phrase used in poker meaning--- to wager one's entire stake.

There are times as leaders when we have to put the "pedal to the metal" and just "take off", be on the "attack," and just be "All In."

How about if we take this principle of being RELENTLESS and apply it to our pursuit of God; have you ever heard people testify that they “tried” Jesus but it didn’t work; something else eventually fills the gap for them?

Well the Apostle Paul never gave up in his own personal pursuit of Christ---The object of the apostle's life—that for which he sacrificed everything: country, kindred, honor, comfort, liberty, and life itself, was, that he might know Christ (Philippians 3:10).

As a Christian leader (a husband, father, mother, wife, son, daughter, manager, director,) be RELENTLESS in your pursuit of God, be "All In," wager the entire stake; which in this case is your "life."

Friday, January 20, 2012

Leadership And Narcissism

Leadership And Narcissism!

Leadership Journal (fall 2010, JR Kerr.) featured an excellent article on "Pastoral Narcissism," here are a few highlights from that article.

The main thrust of the article is that community provides the cure for personal ambition. When the "whole" is the concentration and not the "parts" then there is no room for personal ambition and self promotion.

When leaders view the church as a platform to build their own personal brand of ministry they then have lost the Biblical vision of their calling to serve the community through the use of their gifts.

Another form of narcissism that leaders in the Church face is the fear of making hard decisions so that no one ever gets offended.  Let me frame this in the context of the pastor not confronting open sin as the shepherd of the people of God. Leaders in the Church must place the purity of the "whole" above their own need for personal approval.

I want to emphasize that the New Testament letters of the Apostle Paul overwhelmingly put community above individuality. This is a tough concept to understand in our 21st century culture that places the emphasis on the "individuality of the person," rather than good of others.

While Christ died for us as individuals---it seems that the New Testament letters of Paul frame Christ's death as for the "body" (Eph.5:25; Rev. 19:7-9; 21:1-2;). 

So, the best cure for narcissism would be a renewed emphasis on the "whole" instead of the individual "parts."

Thursday, January 19, 2012

We Need More Shepherds In The Church

Most leadership models in our Churches look like this:

Taken from Gordon Fee's " Listening To The Spirit In The Text"

I believe that the Biblical model - without clergy at all, but with identifiable leadership, consists of leaders who are part of the whole people of God

The New Testament presents leadership more in terms of shepherding and tending to the household of faith, than it does to ruling and  dictating.

Christ is the head of the Church: "He is the head of the body, the church"—Col. 1:18.

Leaders in the Church function under Christ:  "not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock" ---- 1 Peter 5:3.

 Leaders are to function as servants: They kept in their heart what Jesus said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave–just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:25-28). 

Gordon Fee in his book, "Listening To The Spirit In The Text" tells us "that the leadership in the New Testament people of God is never seen as outside or above the people themselves, but simply as part of the whole, essential to its well-being, but governed by the same set of "rules." 

Many have been hurt by leaders in churches that have assumed for themselves an authority that the Bible never gave them.

To those who have been hurt and wounded by the arrows of vain, prideful leaders---let me invite you to come and get a fresh glimpse of our savior. Come to him and be healed by the anointing of His love.

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