avoiding extremes

In the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon says that a wise man avoids all extremes.  What he is really saying is that you need to avoid a lifestyle in which you try to please God and also try to please yourself through engaging in wickedness.  You can’t have it both ways.

This is solid advice, no one can live a double life and get away with it for long.  People who do this end up exposing themselves.  I’ve seen people who appear to be family centered while cheating on their wife.  Their own actions exposed exposed the lie.

I started thinking more about generally avoiding extremes as a form of wisdom.  There are very few things in life that are black and white.  Everything has different ways of looking at it.  I can think of some theological tenants that I wouldn’t budge on, but other that that, it might be wise to avoid all extremes.

We live in a culture that is increasingly polarizing: liberal vs conservative, right vs wrong, republican vs democrat.

We live in a culture that is rapidly loosing a middle ground.  Here is why that is scary.

If the church divides itself into camps: liberal, open and affirming, conservative and right wing, then those individuals tend to reach people with similar ideology.  I am pretty sure that the goal of the church is to reach everyone regardless of ideology.  We tend to reach people just like us because it is easier.  So if we are polarized, and we reach people like us, then the end result is more polarization.

Unity can become a pipe dream.  If we lose a middle ground politically we will only pass laws that favor ideological positions.  When we pass laws that only favor liberals or conservatives, they will not be in the best interest of all people. If nations become ideologically polarized then crisis negotiation and communication breaks down and war becomes inevitable.

I know Christians who are formed ideologically by Glen Beck, and I know Christians who are formed ideologically by John Stewart and Stephen Colbert.  I know that these two groups of people will not be able to last in a conversation for long.

This is a threat to the life of the church.  Avoiding extremes doesn’t mean that you can’t take a stand.  It simply means that striving for unity is a bigger priority than proving your political or ideological position.

I applaud churches that take Biblical stands.  I applaud churches that don’t allow politics to overtake their ability to reach the world.

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passion

Have you ever been in an environment where people aren’t passionate about what they do?  Nothing makes me want to leave an environment more than lack of passion.  In this sense of the word I mean a deep conviction that what is said and done means something.  

Think about the people who you most enjoy being around.  What is one thing that they all possess?  It is probably an enthusiasm for life, their sincerity or their ability to really engage in conversation.  These people probably have the uncanny ability to speak into your life and say and do meaningful things with you.

Sometimes we go to a concert and we can feel the passion of the people on stage.  We sing along to every song, we shout and cheer.  We’ve all been to a sporting event where you end up throwing out the hi-five to random strangers.

The thing about passion is that you can’t bottle it.  You can’t sell it.  Passion for life needs to come from a deep love of yourself and others.  Loving yourself isn’t prideful, it’s healthy.  Being comfortable in your own skin, knowing who you are, and who you’re not are all part of loving yourself.  Pride is the corruption of a good thing.  Everyone needs to feel significance.  Pride points to yourself as the source of all significance.

If you don’t love yourself, then only you know why.  I’m not saying that it is impossible to be passionate if you don’t love yourself, I am saying that the passion you’re peddling is fake.  It is nearly impossible to really love others unless you love yourself.  If you try to love others without a love for yourself it is probably a selfish love for others, just an attempt at finding significance from the other person rather than showing them love.  Have you ever helped someone because you needed to feel good about yourself?  If we were to go deeper, love for yourself really becomes achievable in a relationship with the One who created you.

Why do we continually hang out with people, watch TV programs, go to church when there is no passion.  I feel like we should demand that of ourselves.  We need to be people who are passionate, who love ourselves and others, and draw their passion from the One who created them.

What if we only did the things that we were passionate about and forfeited the things we don’t care about?   Many of you would get fired so don’t actually do this unless your willing to lose your job.  (example: My uncle is a pilot and he is extremely passionate about flying, but what if his real passion was performing in broadway musicals and he decided to “go for it” while cruising to Hawaii at 30,000ft?  It is probably the wrong time and place to go after the dream.)

If we only did the things that we were passionate about, how would the quality of the things that we do change?  What if you decided that you would be passionate about life simply because you were wonderfully and fearfully made by a creator who intimately loves you?

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in the absence of leadership

This past weekend I went white water rafting for the first time.  It was amazing.  I love the feeling of barreling down the river hitting class four rapids.

On our last run down the river we hit a rapid that took the back of the boat under the water.  In less than a second I saw one of my buddy and the guide floating down the river.  It was amazing just how quick it happened. At this point there was four of us left on the raft.  All of the sudden, in the absence of our guide, everyone stops rowing.   My buddy and our guide were rapidly floating down the river.  I started shouting orders.  To my surprise, they listened to every word that I said.  I don’t know why they listened to me.  I think it is just comforting to feel like someone else is in charge of the situation.

In my head I wasn’t in charge of anything, I just started shouting, “right side, left side, all forward.”  I’m not even sure that these are correct commands.  I just started to shout.  We ended up getting our guide and my buddy back on the boat.  They had a few intense seconds under water and a few minutes floating free.

This little incident was a good reminder that in the absence of leadership, people freeze.  Not only will people freeze but also they will listen to any moron (like me) who’s willing to shout out commands.

Here are three things I learned about leadership this weekend:

Prepare for leadership in your absence: If you are the leader of a church, business or a non-profit, train your staff to take over in the event that you get swept off the back of the raft.  Our river guide prepared us very well for leading in his absence.

Train your staff to listen to the right people: In the raft, I was the only one shouting out orders.  I was not the right person to get us all the way down the river.  I do alright in chaos situations, but we needed our experienced guide back for true success. In churches and non-profits there are plenty of people willing to take your organization off its mission.   This is where it becomes so important for every staff member to keep focused on the vision.

Prepare for your boss’ absence: As a staff pastor of a church I always ask my senior pastor what he would do in situations that come up.  I want to glean information from him because I would like to be a senior pastor one day, and when he is gone on vacation I want to be able to make calls that are wise and that he would make as well.  I want to be able to lead well in his absence.  When you take this step, your boss will be able to enjoy a sabbatical or go on vacation very easily.

Can you keep your head in all situations?  Enough to lead others in the right direction, only if it’s just for a period of time?

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male modeling

I was listening to a sermon this Sunday night at Ethos.  The speaker was Pastor Paul Swanson.  He said this, “Fathers, you have to model the kind of person you want your daughters to marry.”

POW! That hit me like a ton of bricks.  Emma isn’t really thinking about marriage yet, but one day she will. That means I need to treat my wife the way I want some dude to treat my daughter one day.

I want my daughter to be able to pick out the scumbags.  I want a guy to provide for her and treat her well.  I want him to adore her like I do.  I want someone who will be so excited that he married my daughter.  Moreover, I want my daughter to look for guys like that.  I want her to seek out someone who loves her like her dad loves her mom.

I need to be that kind of dad.  I need to be that kind of husband.

This one statement that Paul made started to make me re-think stuff.  How will my attitude, my response to situations, and my life show my daughter who she should marry?

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who killed davey moore?

I was in Fishers, Indiana killing time in my hotel room when I stumbled across the court-news channel.  That day they were covering a capital punishment case.  I remember being disgusted at the crime and equally disgusted at how much people wanted this guy to die.

He had killed someone, he wasn’t a good guy.

I began to question what was alive in me.  What was alive in the hearts of people who were involved in this trial and in the hearts of America?

People wanted justice.  Justice equaled death.

But I’m not quite convinced that justice was served.  Those who were killed were not brought back.  The families didn’t feel better.  There was supposed to be closure but that is a myth.

I was left with a deep sense that somehow I was responsible for the man who died at the hands of another state so far away.  I was responsible because I kind of wanted the guy to get executed.

I began thinking of this song by Bob Dylan called, “Who Killed Davey Moore?” This song is high on the list of my favorite Dylan songs. The song exposes the responsibility of society in the death of famous boxer.  The song begs the question, “Is there somehow a corporate responsibility for murder?”  Did I have a role in the death of that murder because I wanted him to die?  Am I part of the public opinion that wanted blood?  Do I have blood on my hands because of an opinion or vote?

Think about it, when the public wants blood they gets it…We wanted Bin Laden’s head, we got Afghanistan.  When the general public wants blood that’s exactly what we get.

I wonder if the American public has shifted to much into individualism.  Maybe it was the cold war and the war against communism.  I’m not sure, but whatever it is,  individualism is not the way people operated for centuries.

To stand out would have been tantamount to shaming your community.  Communities all believed the same thing.  They took cooperate responsibility.  Now we want to know, “who’s a$$ to kick.”  Who do we hold responsible for everything? The reality is, it is us.

I’d like nothing more to get really mad and confront one guy from BP for this oil spill, on my way there I’d get my oil changed and fill my car with gas, drink from my plastic water bottle and realize that I am the guy who needs his butt kicked by the president.

In fact we all are, but that’s just one example.

So what if you were to analyze your voting record, your opinions that you’ve voiced, your blogs, and your facebook posts?  What is that all contributing to?

I wonder if war and the death penalty teach the youth of America that violence is the way to solve our problems.  Hitting back is good.   Do you proliferate the myth that violence can be redemptive?

I’m just left wondering, who killed Davey Moore?

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