Culture

Lane-Locked

So locked in you can’t see beyond

I do a fair amount of driving and there are a few routes I take pretty often in and out of town. While driving I’ve observed a common behavior. At first, it perturbed me but then gave way to some pondering.

I noticed how people would line up in a lane, sometimes miles before necessary, to exit onto another road or offramp. This seems to hold true for right or left-hand turns. This impedes traffic and causes unnecessary congestion along the way.

A similar pet peeve I have about drivers are those who insist on driving in the fast lane—you know, the farthest left lane (in America) intended for traffic that moves faster than those in other lanes.

These drivers hold to their speed and resist moving over regardless of the speed limit or line of cars backed up behind them.

When it’s time for their turnoff they drive across two or three lanes of traffic to get in the right lane—where they should be already!

But this is not a post about traffic habits nor a rant about frustrating drivers. It’s an observation on life — and faith.

An observation

It’s easy to get so locked into where we’re going we don’t see any other possibilities than what’s straight ahead in our view of things.

Continue reading this on Medium—click here– Lane-Locked

Wise Counsel

What is your source of wisdom?

How can anyone resist the pull of peer pressure? It’s easy to say, “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything!” But resisting the influence of others is not so easy.

At times, the forcefulness of other people intimidates us. Some people sound so convincing when they present an opportunity or plan as an adventure or a sure bet we need to get in on.

Sometimes, we don’t want to be left out of a group of people who seem to have something special. These are some of the ways we get pulled along in a way we should not go.

Here’s where wise counsel comes in but where to find it? God’s design is for parents to be a source of wisdom and guidance for their children. But not all parents are suited to do this nor do all children have parents present to do so.

The Proverbs of Solomon provide one source of wisdom, often given as a father to a son or in the figurative sense of a woman calling out to anyone who will listen. Here is a father’s admonition to an older son—

My son, listen to your father’s discipline, and do not neglect your mother’s teachings,

Continue reading this post on Medium—click here— Wise Counsel

Got Integrity?

Photo by  Chris Lawton  on  Unsplash

Photo by Chris Lawton on Unsplash

The news media feed off scandals and scares. So do we who watch it. Good news doesn't sell. It's nice to hear but gossip, rumor, and scandal win out over heart-warming stories.

Ever notice how the feel-good stories come at the end of a broadcast? It's not an afterthought, it's about priorities.

Virtues like honesty and integrity are nice but boring, at least our American pop culture values seem to declare this. It causes me to ask myself, "Got integrity?"

Scandals galore

I use to enjoy watching those year-in-review programs as one year ended and a new one began. But not anymore. I'm tired of hearing a review of the disasters, expose's, and alleged scandals, as viewed through the bias of whichever media presents it.

This past year alone (2017) we saw sex abuse scandals rock the entertainment industry, Olympic sports, political figures, and businesses. How about the Equifax data breach covered up for two months while affecting millions of people?

Our nation has become more and more polarized with hate and intolerance over the years and it doesn't seem it will subside anytime soon. And the world around us seems to get more corrupt and dangerous each day.

Last year I heard the sad story of the pastor of a large church who plagiarized another man's sermons and passed them off as his. It happens too often. Of course, there are also plenty of sex and money scandals involving pastors and church leaders.

I see it as a lack of integrity—a lack of character. It has a corruptive effect beyond the individual because of the influence and impact each of our lives has on others.

Lack of integrity and character corrupts us and others around us

A change is needed

Something needs to change but how can it happen? Who will take the lead? How do we mobilize change for good instead of the current mobilizing of one faction in opposition to another?

It's easy to generalize and demonize people we don't agree with but this accomplishes nothing, other than increase hate and polarization. At the center of it all is us—people.

Each one of us has our own will—a self-will that is fiercely protective of whatever we consider most important for our self-preservation.

You can appeal to the intrinsic goodness of man but this is a deception at best. In truth, it's hypocrisy. Humankind is not evolving into a better, nicer homogenous race. The evil and injustice in the world are human-caused. There's no self-less or external cause.

It's not the result of a few bad choices but the ongoing, cyclical effect of selfish human nature. If we want to escape hypocrisy and hyperbole, we need to pursue integrity. Integrity for ourselves and choose to be with others who seek and value integrity.

If you want to escape hypocrisy and hyperbole—pursue integrity

From the inside out

The change needed must begin on the inside and work its way outward. This doesn't happen through psychological reorientation, a new philosophical mindset, or increased religious zeal. It requires a genuine change of heart and a continued commitment to integrity.

We can settle for blaming others, even God, but that's a bitter way and a dead end. It doesn't resolve or change anything for the better. We are neither locked into some fatalistic destiny nor should we hope humanity will eventually evolve into a higher moral consciousness.

William Shakespeare is often credited for saying there's "nothing new under the sun," but this was written long ago by King Solomon of Israel in the book of Ecclesiastes (Eccl 1:9). This book appears to mirror the current cynical outlook of many but it has a deeper message and a better perspective (Eccl 3:11-14).

The change we need must begin on the inside and work its way outward

GIGO

The expression—"garbage in, garbage out" or GIGO—was coined by computer programmers to explain why a computer would not process information correctly. If it wasn't programmed with good input, then it couldn't generate good output.

It's pretty much the same for the human mind and heart. If we take in faulty reasoning or untrue or inaccurate information, it directly impacts our life—our thoughts and actions, our attitude and behavior.

The book of Proverbs, also written by Solomon, is filled with sayings, metaphors, parables, and couplets of wisdom for daily life. The opportunity and choice to pursue foolishness and evil are always present but a wise person chooses differently and pursues a life that is right, just, and fair (Prov 2:9 GW).

Pursuing integrity

Back to the question—How can things change in our world? It begins with us. Each one of us.

Caught up in a student protest over the Vietnam war, I was stopped short by a simple statement from one of the school staff. She simply pointed out, "Until change comes in your heart, nothing will change in the world."

Looking back, I believe she was a humble, genuine Christian believer. At that time, I was wandering in the chaos of the culture around me. But what she said went straight to my heart and remained.

What does integrity look like? The dictionary gives us descriptions such as—soundness, completeness, incorruptibility, character, uprightness, decency, honesty—in other words, people of character who are considerate and respectful of others and are worthy of respect.

What does integrity look like?

Getting started

I'd like to share three things that can help with the pursuit of integrity—3 things to keep in mind. They're not the end-all-be-all but a start in the right direction.

  1. We are not in control of the world around us or others, nor should we be. But we can and do have influence in other people's lives. Remember the lives of Rosa Parks and MLK Jr in the US, and Mother Theresa in India and beyond. Consider people who have a good influence in your own life, they're probably people of character and integrity
  2. We are responsible for our own life choices, attitudes, and actions. Blaming others and holding on to unrealistic expectations is useless. We need to accept accountability for ourselves and realize the impact of our life example—for good or bad. As Jesus wisely said, "Why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own?" (Matthew 7:3 NLT)
  3. Our life on earth is not forever. It's short and valuable and will come to an end. Whether you think the end of life on earth is a "fade to black" end or you hope in life or something else beyond this life, accountability for our lives is a reality we all face sooner or later. Often times, we are and should be held accountable in life along the way.

Just start the pursuit

As said before, change needs to start on the inside and work its way out. Once we start pursuing integrity for our own life, we need to continue in a commitment towards integrity and a rejection of hypocrisy and hyperbole. This will likely include a change in other life pursuits.

Change takes time. Real change requires an investment—a continuing commitment on our part. Think of it as a seed that grows into a tree. It starts out with the seed dying, then sprouting and taking root. It grows into a tree over a period of time.

Real change requires an investment and a continuing commitment on our part

Got integrity? None of us have it all together or have a corner on it all but we can all start the pursuit. The words of an ancient prophet ring true in this regard—

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8 NIV)

Got integrity?

Go! Get Out of the Bubble!

Bubbles_Juneau
Bubbles_Juneau

No doubt you've heard the phrase, living in a bubble or something similar. It was coined a few decades ago, based on the movie of a boy with an underdeveloped immune system who had to live in a bubble-like environment.

This made-for-TV movie came out in 1976 (The Boy in the Plastic Bubble), combining the life stories of two boys with rare diseases. Of course, the movie dramatized the story (added some fiction) and a romantic theme far from reality.

But the concept of living in a bubble—like an incubator—caught hold as a cultural expression. In real life, these boys were unable to venture out of their bubble-like environments without fatal consequences. And yet, their great desire was to live outside the bubble.

Imagine what it would be like to live in a sterile environment without physical human contact. 

Living in a bubble

It wasn't long before people applied the phrase living in a bubble to other situations and people. For example, the office of the U.S. presidency is bubble-like, with the 24/7 Secret Service guard, and screening of people with whom the president will come in contact.

Today it could apply to people focused on their cell phones, gaming, and social media in a virtual bubble. The phrase came to describe anyone isolated from the world around them.

Living in a bubble can describe anyone isolated from the world around them

Sadly, this describes many Christian believers.

Many Christians live in an insulated Christian world surrounded by other Christians and locked into Christian-oriented media and music. And, many Christians like it this way. They don't want to leave this protective bubble—their faith bubble.

And so, the world around them is untouched by their Christian beliefs and values. Why? Intentionally or not, we've constructed an ivory tower of faith.

Not as Jesus intended

This is not what Jesus had in mind when He spoke of the Kingdom of God on earth. Not at all.

This bubble-like isolation isn't reflected in Jesus' teaching about the kingdom of God. What Jesus intended for His followers is seen in several parables and other teachings.

In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus sent out twelve disciples to "preach the kingdom and to heal the sick" (Luke 9:1-6). Later, in the last year of the Lord's ministry on earth, Jesus sent out seventy others in the same way (Luke 10:1-12).

Here are His final instructions to those who would lead the church after His departure—

But the Holy Spirit will come on you and give you power. You will be my witnesses. You will tell people everywhere about me—in Jerusalem, in the rest of Judea, in Samaria, and in every part of the world. (Acts 1:8 ERV)

This is echoed in all four of the gospels and termed the Great Commission. Jesus intended for His followers to be empowered and go out with His message to the world around them.

Jesus wanted His followers empowered to go into all the world with His message

Getting out of the Christian bubble

For the "Boy in the Bubble," leaving the bubble put him at risk for his life. But it's different for us followers of Christ. Our spiritual life is at risk if we don't get outside the Christian bubble!

We need to engage people who have different values and beliefs than our own. Here's a blog post by Pastor Cary Nieuwhof that addresses this— The Evangelism Conversation No One Is Having.

I've posted similar or related articles related to sharing your faith without being aggressive or overbearing. But, we still need to get out of our faith bubble to engage people who don't share our faith. How will they know if we don't share God's redemptive message with them?

Our spiritual life is at risk if we don't get outside the Christian bubble!

One simple question— 

Are you willing to get out of your own faith-bubble to engage people about faith?


What the World Needs Now!

Photo by  Mayur Gala  on  Unsplash

Photo by Mayur Gala on Unsplash

"What the world needs now—is love, sweet love..." is how a popular song in the mid-sixties went. It was sung by Jackie DeShannon and is still one of my favorite songs from the sixties. This YouTube video link of the song captures the innocent hope of the 60's for a universal love.

Another favorite song by the Youngbloods called "Get Together" became somewhat of an anthem for the peace movement of the 60's—"Come on people now—smile on your brother—everybody get together—try to love one another right now."

The 60's were a tumultuous time of expectant hope and, at first, altruistic belief in the goodness of humanity. It was a decade with a divergent mix of protests and campus unrest, an unpopular war overseas, economic change, and a moral and spiritual vacuum.

Lost innocence

A naive hope seemed to die with the close of the decade and the beginning of the "Me Generation" of the 70's. Today we're in a similar era with a divergent clash of expectations but without innocence or hope.

In fact, there's a whole lot of mud-slinging and name-calling, but it's not just political. It permeates our culture in so many ways. What the world needs now is love with humility. At the very least, some civility.

When you look into the heart of God—who is love (1 John 4:7-8, 16)—the nature of His love is humility. Out of His great love, He gave His Son for the whole world (John 3:16).

God is love and the nature of His love is humility

Jesus—love personified

Looking at Jesus we see humility. The apostle Paul pointed this out when he exhorted the church in Philippi to be unified through humility towards one another (Philippians 2:1-4). Then he points them to Jesus as our example—

Have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Although he was in the form of God and equal with God, he did not take advantage of this equality.
Instead, he emptied himself by taking on the form of a servant, by becoming like other humans, by having a human appearance. 
He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, death on a cross. (Phil 2:5-8 GW)

Jesus—the personification of God's love—said this about Himself—

Place my yoke over your shoulders, and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble. Then you will find rest for yourselves (Matthew 11:29 GW)

Looking at Jesus we see humility and love personified

Wrong emphasis

We in the American church, including evangelicals, are too often caught up in being right—doctrinally and morally. The focus of teaching and how we are to live is more on upholding moral standards and protecting our rights and freedoms.

Having good moral standards is honorable, and the great privilege of living in America is that we enjoy certain rights and freedoms (see US Constitution for more details).

But with privilege and freedom comes responsibility and true morality is not based on human goodness, but the nature of God.

Genuine morality is not based on human goodness, but the nature of God

Wrong direction

I fear we—the church—are moving faster and faster in the direction of becoming modern-day Pharisees—self-righteous and hypocritical and lacking in mercy, grace, and humility.

The Jewish leaders who longed for their messiah to come deliver Israel missed Him when He did come. They condemned Him and found a way of putting Him to death.

They were too caught up in themselves and maintaining their own sense of rightness to see that the Messiah they had waited centuries for was Jesus.

Are we—the church—moving in the direction of becoming modern-day Pharisees?

Changing direction

How can this be reversed? Can it be? If it can't, we are hopeless. Ah, but a solution exists.

Change comes one life at a time, one heart at a time. Then, and only then, lasting significant change will take place in our churches, our nation, and our world.

Jesus said, "Come learn of Me..." and called all believers—all true followers—to deny their selfish ambitions and desires, pride, and self-centeredness, die to themselves—take up their cross and then follow Him (Matt 16:24).

Change comes one life at a time, one heart at a time

The solution to world peace

He calls us into a simple, intentional, relational, and intimately personal life of discipleship. When disciples are disciple makers and people's lives are changed one at a time, the peace of God extends throughout the world exponentially.

This has always been the Lord's solution to world peace. It requires no degree or certificate or special training. It's a matter of sharing the life we have in Jesus with others. 

Really, it's that simple. But, it's an investment of life and time in the lives of others. It requires self-discipline and commitment and humility.

Are you ready for a change? Submit yourself to Jesus—the humble personification of love and the Lord of Lords.

Are you ready for a change of direction in the world around you?

It starts with you and me.