Daddy, How Can You Be a Christian AND a Democrat?

“Daddy, how can you be a Christian and be a Democrat?”
Honest question. Thirty days later I still don’t have the answer.
I’ve read a lot of bible verses about subjects like “work” and
“looking after orphans and widows”.
I even came across this one:
“You shall not murder.” Exodus 20:13
So now, I have arrived at this conclusion:
I don’t have THE answer. I have AN answer.
Biblical truths form my belief system.
These beliefs determine my attitudes and my actions.
But it’s been awhile since I had a chat with anyone on the supreme court about abortion.
And I’m still waiting for my opportunity to weigh in on a national level
on matters like welfare and healthcare reform.
For Christians, political parties cannot define who we are.
I assume many Christians fall into a similar category; one party consistently
supports or promotes positions that are exactly
“what is wrong with our country”.
But truthfully, picking a side in politics simply dictates how we might vote.
It doesn’t dictate how we live.
My approach to political discussions resembles the exchanges I have with
someone who has a favorite sports team that I despise.
I dislike everything about the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Louisville Cardinals.
And I don’t know why or how anyone arrives at the point of being fans, but some fine
people and dear friends are devoted fans of these teams.
Our different views provide opportunities for colorful discussion, but
it can never affect our relationships.
If the guy sitting next to me in a pew (hypothetical yes, because I sit alone….
bad singing and all) happens to run for sheriff or mayor as a Democrat in Smalltown, USA
then I can’t really label him as a baby killer and assume that he will fight to the
death for anything and everything that the Democratic party stands for on
a national level.

boss hog

He could be a 4th generation Democrat that believes in the same biblical truths as me.

Perhaps his interpretation of taking care of widows and orphans differs slightly from my own.

It’s not, and cannot be made to be a huge issue.

What is the huge issue?

I believe it is this:  that Christians should be very careful how they
speak and interact with others when it comes to political differences.

It matters not if someone is Republican or Democrat.

It matters only if they are a believer or an unbeliever.

Christians must have an awareness of refusing to water down or compromise biblical truths.

But as we engage with others in interactions of a political nature we must also be

aware of the dangers of our actions and words ensuring

that unbelievers will remain unbelievers.

Live what you believe…….absolutely.

And know that political debate, while it can stimulate intelligent and entertaining discussion,

is not an effective ministry tool.  It is a good way to identify with those who believe as you do.

It may not be the best way to change the beliefs of those who do not.

And it may not be the best way to spend your time and energy.

Heaven Help Me, I’ve Become A Liberal

What the heck is a liberal?

Disclaimer first:  I don’t dig too deeply into politics.  For those of you who do, please forgive my errors in assumptions, classifications, definitions, and generalizations.

I associate liberalism with the practice of looking at that which is deemed socially or biblically acceptable or unacceptable,

and constantly re-shaping it to meet one’s own desires, habits, and beliefs.

If you can’t live with the rules, change the rules.  There is no absolute measure of right and wrong.  Just be yourself.

Adapt the truths instead of adapting yourself to truths.

Maybe a perfect example of liberal thinking happened recently in the world of college football.

Last year’s Heisman trophy winner Johnny Manziel  was seemingly in big trouble for signing autographs for money.

This is a practice clearly against NCAA rules for its student athletes.

Manziel is a kid from a wealthy family who apparently wanted something immediately that

exceeded what his budget would allow,so he knowingly broke the rules to make some quick bucks.

The alarming part wasn’t that the NCAA penalty was a whopping half-game suspension.

The disturbing part was the outcry of national media folks  defending Manziel because the “rules weren’t fair”.

manziel

He “should” be able to sell autographs for money.  Let’s change the system.

Forget the fact that he thought he was bigger than the system and the rules that were in place.

His university is making big bucks from his affiliation with their football program.

Sooooo, I mean, who can blame him?  Right?  Wrong, blame falls squarely on him.

We should….

Everybody deserves……

But it’s not fair…….

Let’s change it.  Redefine what’s acceptable so people can do what they feel is fair (my favorite word).

And so I silently stew and fuss.  Finally try to make it a teaching point for my teenage son about consequences

and the lengths that people go to to avoid facing them……

and how easy it is to enlist supporters in this quest.

Then.  Then, I wonder if I am in fact a liberal in my own church?

Maybe I’ve seen a tradition or perhaps a widely accepted view and set out to ignore it or change it?

No, I’m not talking about selling the church piano on ebay and sneaking in a bad reincarnation of Stryper to lead worship.

stryper

I am talking about people’s views on what is acceptable dress in churches.

I have silently and systematically rebelled against the notion that people have to dress in a certain manner when they enter God’s house for worship.

More specifically, it sort of itches my rear when someone expresses with words, attitutde, or looks a displeasure or disapproval with another’s choice of attire.

Modesty?  Of course.  Nobody wants to see some guy in a wife-beater just because he wants to show off his new tattoos  and big guns.

Ladies, if your skirt is shorter than my underwear,

I would have to question why you would wear that anywhere in public, not just church.

And perhaps even the sloppiest of dressers like myself should make some concessions.

I won’t wear the same shoes to church that I mow the yard in, and I have an Iron Maiden

“Trooper” shirt with blood splatters that I save for special occasions of a different type (date night with my wife-it’s her favorite shirt you know).

I think it’s awesome when people feel the need to put on their “Sunday finest” as a matter of reverence toward God.

benny hinn

But is it sometimes done for show or to meet the expectations of men?  Is it an exclusionary tradition that keeps new people away from church?

Obviously, people grasp for the closest and most convenient reasons why they can’t or won’t at least visit your church.

Most common phrase I hear is, “I don’t have anything to wear”.

Save your money and I’ll check back with you when you have enough to buy nice clothes?

I live with the philosophy that every church needs a good number of people that can honestly say,

“you can dress like me.  I wear what I’m wearing now, blue jeans and t-shirt.”

It’s not a lack of reverence, just a sign of outreach.

Let’s eliminate one reason you have for not taking the first step toward knowing Jesus as your savior.

What if I get up to preach (gasp!) in sandals and a wrinkly t-shirt?  Would you listen?

Would nicer, more traditional “preacher attire” make me a more credible

speaker of God’s word?  Gee, maybe I gave all my money to the poor and an old Stryper shirt is all I have left?

You just don’t know.

Do I honestly own nice clothes?  No.  Doesn’t matter if I can’t afford them or simply choose not to spend for them.

Do I try to poke holes in man-made traditions?  Yes.

Am I drifting into liberal waters?   Perhaps, but I’m not crossing the line of worship evolving into a casual or cool event either.

Am I attempting to change God’s commands or truths?  Absolutely not.

Bottom line.  Why do you do what you do?  Because your parents did it this way?  Because the Bible says?

Know the difference.

For a person to find find a relationship with God, somebody has to have a relationship with THAT person.

Churches need to find the ability and willingness to attract and welcome all types of people.

Besides, Stryper didn’t reach too many with their Christian 80’s hair metal.

Somebody still has to be able to reach out to the Iron Maiden and Slayer fans, right?

Don’t judge me.  Just go along with me.  Sometimes even sit with me.

Oh dear, I’m not a liberal, but I know now why I have the only one-man pew in my entire church.

Church Violence, WWE Style

It’s always tough as a parent to teach those lessons that aren’t immediately understood.
Hard to know how to react when brotherly violence suddenly erupts in a church lobby.
russian bear
I witnessed 7 year-old little brother coming up quickly behind 13 year-old big brother.
I could see what was unfolding but I was frozen in my tracks, couldn’t react.
Impact.  Little brother rammed his head at full speed into an unsuspecting big brother’s back.
Big brother responded with a quick head-slap the sent little brother head first into the floor crying.
My first instinct was to head-slap big brother.
But that is the beauty of being blessed with four children.
The experience of knowing that big brother had absorbed the swift justice of an open palm to the back of the head
thousands of times before in his career as a WWE wannabe (wild Indian syndrome) when he only deserved hundreds……
led me to the point of showing some restraint.
My second instinct was to pick up little brother and hug on him.
But I waited.
I did nothing (so hard to not protect/defend/console the little guy)….
Until he stood up and buried his face in my belly crying.
And I laid my hand on his head and said, ” are you ok?”
And of course he was.
“Would that have happened if you hadn’t done something first that you shouldn’t have done?” 
No reply, but he knew the answer.
Consequences.
It’s easy to miss opportunities to teach kids lessons about the consequences of their actions
if we aren’t intentional and consistent in our efforts.
And it’s hard to teach what we sometimes fail miserably at ourselves.
How many times do we make a poor choice and try to blame someone else when the consequences smack us in the back of the head?
Most bad results that I encounter can be traced back to
1) Something that I did that I shouldn’t have done.  or
2) Something that I failed to do or adequately train someone else to do.  or
3) Poor planning on my part.
Real life application:  when I’m racing down the road to get my son to school before the tardy bell, it will certainly be the fault of the farmer in front of me driving 25mph in a 55mph zone if he is tardy.  It won’t have anything to do with the fact that I hit “snooze” 6 times and failed to do anything the night before to prepare for the morning scramble.
Maybe once I start practicing it better, then maybe somebody will believe me when I preach it.
When we make poor choices, bad results are sure to follow.
george the animal

Control Freak 101

Man, life is tough being married to a control freak!
Just kidding.  Some of you kept reading, waiting for the boom.
“Man, is he really gonna blast his wife like that?  She’ll kill him!”
Riding down the highway one day with a friend who shall remain nameless,
he sensed that his driving made a little antsy.
When he asked if his driving made me uncomfortable, my response was,
“I’m not as comfortable as I’d be if I was driving”. 
 control freak
I guess I am more guilty of being a control freak than I realize or want to admit.
Always wanting to control, not only where I’m going, but how fast (or slow in my case) I get there,
and every turn along the way.
Not really a good trait when combined with a perceived possession of a crystal ball and an appetite for instant gratification.  Translation=
I look at situations and think I know exactly what result my involvement will bring,
and I choose to do nothing if that result is not an immediate positive one. 
People who find themselves in a bad place over and over due to bad decisions……..I’m not gonna do anything to help,
they’ll just screw up again.
Or that person who has no interest in church or a relationship with Jesus……
their family has done everything they can and prayed relentlessly for them over the years.
My actions surely won’t make a difference.
But it’s a terrible mistake to act only when we can safely predict an immediate favorable result.
God’s timing is not our timing.
The action that I take or fail to take today may be only the first step or the last in a long process.
My actions could be the beginning of an answered prayer on someone else’s part.
I don’t have to be able to see the end!  I just have to know Who will be there for every step.
God’s intervention can happen whenever His people act in faith and trust Him with the results and the timing of those results
……..instead of playing control freak and fortune teller.
Keep praying, don’t give up, and be ready to move even when it doesn’t make sense.
And stop stomping your foot in search of that passenger side brake…..it’s not there.
Trust.

Proverbs 3:5

5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;

Just Shock Me- Do Something Right

DSC00215Expectations of others?
We all have discussions about it.
The frustration of other people letting us down.
Disappointing us with their actions or lack of action.
I once passed on this geniunely moronic strategy to my wife,
“I just have low expectations of everyone, and that way people never let me down or disappoint me”. 
True but crazy I guess.
We have people in our lives that we have to be able to depend on to do the right thing.
 And there are people whose actions or directions we have a degree of responsibility for -children, supervised co-workers, athletes that we may coach,etc.
(wouldn’t dare touch on the subject of spouse here).
In those cases, it’s vitally important to clearly state our expectations.
The wrong approach, the wrong perspective will constantly pound away at us
by manipulating one big thing that poisons our days,
‘Our level of irritation”. 
If I need someone to do something a certain way, then I better lay it out clearly.
Beyond that, it takes a good look in the old mirror.
What can I do to prevent poor outcomes?
How can I protect against my own bad reactions and responses?
How can I prevent allowing my moods to be at the mercies of others’ actions?
A good start is to raise our own standards,
our expectations of ourselves,
to never give others a reason to lower their opinions and expectations of us. 
We all have some person in our lives that we never want to disappoint, never let down.
Not because of fear of punishment or consequences,
but simply because of a level of respect and admiration that is earned over time.
Wouldn’t it be great to become “that person”?
Show me a person who not only knows God’s word, but obeys it and lives it.
Selfless, merciful, kind, hard-working, honest, patient, forgiving.
Able to tame their tongue and their keyboard.
A person of integrity, character- seemingly always doing what is right (by God’s standard) regardless of personal cost.
That’s the person I need to be like…..Christ-like. 
Change in others starts with change in me.
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Change our faulty perspectives to match those of our Lord.
Pray, read, pray, listen……submit.
I bet if we work toward becoming that person that others don’t want to disappoint,
then we don’t find ourselves quite so disappointed in others.
Honest assessment of self tends to leave us with a new way of looking at others.
Yes, it does become necessary to adjust our expectations of others sometimes.
But I walk only in my own smelly shoes.
I better keep them walking in the right direction.
Someone might actually be following me or just watching me as I stumble.
Identifying and being affected by the stumbles of others is just a distraction from keeping myself on the path that God calls me to.
Seek a desire to please God, to not let Him down, to seek Him and His word.
His expectations of me.
Wow, that’s like an all day, everyday thing.
A closer look in the mirror.
No distractions.

Do Look Back

In a family of six, there are so many days when the kitchen sink is stacked with dirty dishes, just waiting for their turn in the dishwasher as it completes its cycle.  In the name of speed and efficiency, cabinets are arranged over time to allow for quicker unloading operations.

Most important part of this particular system is storing all drinking glasses in the cabinet just above the dishwasher.  This works pretty well as long as the unloader is wise enough to swing the cabinet door into its fully opened position.  But it’s easy to forget when your mind is jumping ahead to the next five things that need to happen as soon as you tame the dirty dishes.  When inattentive dad (me) raises up at full speed with glass in hand from the bottom rack and finds the partially opened cabinet at full-speed, the impact of a bald head on the corner of the cabinet door is a painful experience.  Not sure what Yosemite Sam words came out of my mouth, but I did momentarily fear losing consciousness.

Remain standing, no blood, only a small bump.

As I regained my wits, I began to wonder how each of my  four kids would react if they walked into the kitchen to find me crumpled in the kitchen floor beside my best friend, the dishwasher.

My oldest daughter, 17, would certainly kneel down beside me and put her hand on my shoulder, “Daddy, are you ok?”  (COMPASSIONATE)

My youngest daughter, 15, would quickly assess the situation, “Hit your head on the cabinet, didn’t you dad?  You ok?”  (ANALYTICAL)

My youngest son, 7, would just start searching around on the floor for the wasp that his dad surely leaped up and swatted off the ceiling.  (ADVENTUROUS)

My oldest son, 13, would straddle my lifeless body to put a dirty bowl in the sink instead of the now empty dishwasher and say, “Hey dad, I think I wanna pre-order the new Black Ops.”  (OBLIVIOUS)

Four children, raised in the same home by the same parents, with such drastically different personalities.  How could this be?

Obviously, parents love and cherish the uniqueness of their children.

I feel fortunate to have had an understanding in the early stages of parenting to avoid at all costs the disastrous approach of the “why can’t you be more like your sister!” mentality.  I’m blessed on the flip side of this with the “error in someone else’s ways” approach where you can remind a child who witnesses a sibling’s misdeeds.  “Don’t ever repeat the words that you just heard your brother use!”

Confession:  I have trouble loving the uniqueness of God’s other children. 

I set others up to fail by setting unattainable and unfair expectations.

I expect others to behave in certain ways or perform certain tasks that I perhaps think they should have the awareness to do without being asked.

Maybe most of us share in this dark secret:

We allow our opinions of others to be based on “who they are not” or on actions that they fail to take. 

We expect every co-worker to be as hard-working and dependable as that lone overachiever……but we fail to do anything to encourage them toward better performance or help them find success.

We expect our spouse to notice the exact same unfinished tasks, messes, behavior problems, and hurt feelings, and to place the same value on them as we do .  We expect them to share in the same level of patience, problem solving efforts, and discipline.  But we fail to share with them our views or feelings.  Fail to plan together……….and we silently stew when they don’t choose the paths that we think they should have.

“Were you just waiting for me to unload the dishwasher……AGAIN?” (because you knew I might kill myself in the process?)

At our churches?  Maybe we fail to praise and encourage those who selflessly serve, while we’re too busy noticing or commenting about someone else failing to do something that we silently expect them to do (nobody ever told them or asked them…….they should just know, right?).  Maybe we unfairly compare someone in a particular role to the person who held that role previously.  They should “just know” all that is expected of them, right?

Forming opinions. Setting up people for failure in our own minds.   Judging people for who they are not, for what they are NOT doing.

I can tell you what I’m not……..enough like Jesus.

God loves me anyway.

God’s hope really is that all his children would be like His greatest , the Son of Man.

To be more like Jesus with each passing minute, this is our Heavenly Father’s desire for us.

To be transformed into the chracter of Jesus Christ our Saviour?

A tall order, I know.

A journey with no destination on this earth.

A path.

At what point others have reached on this path, we do not know.  Nor do we know the speed with which they travel.

But we do know that we make a choice to help them or hinder them on that path.

Our words, our actions, and our love can make their next step clearer and lighter.

God empowers us!

If someone is apparently sitting still, maybe we are the answered prayer to help get them moving again in the right direction.

We don’t want to miss that wonderful opportunity because we are busying our minds with thoughts of what they “should” be doing.

I can’t make Him love me less.

But I can please Him more.

God does not want us to fail.  He sets us up for success in every way.  And sometimes success God’s way requires us to enter the uncomfortable world of surrender.

I can talk behind your back about what you’re doing wrong or failing to do at all.

Or I can approach you and trust God to help us find a better way together.

On that same path, moving at different speeds………..I’m thankful for my brothers and sisters who were willing to wait for me, to patiently help me find the next step.

Glad that others didn’t give up on me and leave me behind.

This is one instance where it’s ok to look back.  Might be leaving somebody behind.  Do not give up.

                MATTHEW  19: 25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?”

                                           26 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Might want to look up also.  Might be a sharp object waiting for you.

Or you might find a patient, loving God…..waiting for you to trust Him enough to take the next step that He has prepared for you.

Please Pile One More Thing On My Back

work overload

I took a personal oath to not use these phrases:
 I’m tired (I’m tarred or plum wore out….are acceptable in extreme cases)
I’m stressed
I’m overwhelmed
I’m so busy
But today, in a moment of weakness, I let my guard down.  My wife called me at work and could tell I was struggling, asked how I was doing.  Without thinking, I responded with the queen mother of all dirty words……
“I feel defeated“.
I knew better.  But… it was out of my mouth and I couldn’t take it back.  Fudge!
The spirit of the rule is to stay in motion to conquer those days (pretty much every day) where life pulls you in too many directions.  Work, parenting, crazy schedules, difficult people, sickness and physical pain, family and relationship problems, taking care of a home.  That last nerve often dangles on a thin thread.  It leaves little margin for error and things can run downhill in a hurry when things don’t turn out as planned (or especially when we simply fail to plan).  Maybe there is an unspoken fear or just the voice of experience that tells us the walls might cave in if we stop moving and stop getting things done. That familiar feeling of having too much to do and not enough hours in the day to get them done.  It’s a hard feeling to shake off day after day.  We get fooled into thinking that our peace and our happiness depends on accomplishing everything that we fool ourselves into thinking we have to accomplish.  We become prisoners of our circumstances and our tasks. and maybe even tell ourselves that we will serve and trust God a little more as soon as we get our head back above water.
Fear and stress can bring you to an abrupt halt and your state of mind only worsens.  Paralized with fear or defeat.
“I can’t do this.”
You pray.
For what?  For God to do your work for you or to fix the mess you made by not planning well or working hard.  Pray and wait?  No…maybe….sort of.   Pray for peace, guidance, and strength.  Pray for the wisdom of growing in the understanding of God’s ways each day.  And get your butt moving.  Day after day, time after time, the to-do list is done, the work is done, and God lends peace from a better perspective of seeing more clearly the worthlessness of worry.
Matthew 6:27 ” Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”
When we pray, we don’t know God’s timing, and we do have to wait.  But I don’t think we really need to sit still while we wait.  We’re not doing it ourselves because we don’t trust Him.  We’re simply making a choice to not ask Him to carry us out of a rut that he has given us the ability to walk out of.
It’s usually not until the end of the day that realize that I have “won” yet again.  I always do because my hope is in Jesus.  Why couldn’t I see it that way when that feeling of defeat hit me?  Perhaps because I failed to pray previously for His strength and guidance?  Or maybe I did pray and I just failed to listen for an answer; an answer that could have been something as simple a reminder of where my hope lies.  Sometimes it’s a reminder from an event or a person that lets me know I need to serve and glorify him through life’s storms, large and small……not just before or after the storms.   But on those crazy days where I charge BLINDLY ahead
“I GOT THIS”
like I can conquer this day on my own, it doesn’t seem right to ask Him to carry my burden once I have dug in so deeply in the wrong direction.  Finally realizing my own weakness and stubbornness, turning to God in prayer, my load sure got lighter when I asked him to walk with me………..once I stopped griping and started moving again with HIM.
Of course He was there the whole time, I just turned my eyes and thoughts in the wrong direction.
So go ahead.  Pile it on.
“WE GOT THIS!”

Philippians 4:13  (NCV)

13 I can do all things through Christ, because he gives me strength.