Apr 9

balance or metrics?


Why are there always pleas for BALANCE when talking about any issue that has “two sides”, especially in moral issues? Personally, I can’t stand the word “balance.” I don’t see it in Scripture and I don’t see how it helps clarify anything. I’m not saying that wisdom is not warranted – because I think it is. However, wisdom shouldn’t mean mushy, spineless, or “safely conservative.” If we see things by the right standard, we can confidently walk by faith – despite how others may disagree.

There are those with their head in the sand who only take it out long enough to get air but still hate what they see in the light. Then there are those standing so tall on the highest mountain peak claiming to see danger so powerful and imminent coming ahead, there is only doom and fear to be declared (and loudly).

I don’t think it’s a matter of balance so much as it’s a matter of metrics. How do you measure the world – by what standard?

With true metrics, a true measurement can be taken. We don’t have to close our eyes or freak out because we know the truth, and the truth sets us free.

For example, what we eat is more and more a topic of conversation these days. What are you eating? Do you know where it came from? Why are you eating what you are? These are questions that are we are often asking each other – whether directly or indirectly. However, I think there’s a subtle error that we often make when asking these questions. We talk about “eating right” as though there was a “do eat” and “do not eat” list sent down from heaven that we are trying to follow. No, the point is to eat in faith. If you cannot do it by faith, don’t do it. Eating a “balanced diet” or eating “right” is not the answer – though there may be some truth in that advice. Our measure must be Christ.

But we must not stop with only taking measurements – we must also take ACTION. Without action we are only hypocritical fatheads with all the data but no plan of action. If we don’t do it, it’s not in us. If IT is not in us, something else is. Our fruit will betray our true identity.

Let’s be those who bear fruit in keeping with repentance. Those who don’t over-react to the blind, bold statements of those in the dark. Those who can ably handle the arrows coming right at us – not merely defensive but also on the offensive. Let’s stand with our heads up – not in the sand or in the clouds. Let’s leave the balancing act for those who are ok with “truth gymnastics.” Let’s MEASURE by the right standard, PLAN with wisdom, and ACT with clarity and decisiveness, taking God at His word that He blesses faith-filled obedience.

More needs to be said on this for sure, but hopefully it’s a step in the right direction…


Sep 27

down to the bottom

Our human nature is to reduce principles of righteousness that we believe to be true, to equations that put us on the winning side of the arithmetic. For example, many of us would like to believe that we are healthy simply because we don’t inhale nicotine on a regular basis or live on a strictly McDonald’s diet. In other words, we think we are healthy because OUR positive nutritional habits outnumber what we consider to be poor ones. For many, the failings of others is at least a fallback argument for why our lack of exercise and nutritional discipline are not all that bad after all.

Or perhaps in regard to raising our children, we fall to the deception that our children are simply not catching on to our godly habits as quickly as we would like them to be. We think “doing the right things + discouraging bad behavior = happy, righteous kidlings.” The part we can’t figure out is why all our goodness isn’t being transferred to our children like copying a digital file to a hard drive. We plugged in the right numbers but didn’t get the results we wanted. We “know” that we are “doing all the right things” and “raising them right” but yet there they are, throwing themselves on the floor in a tantrum that leaves you embarrassed and your audience astounded (or so you assume).

The truth is that we fall prey to this subtle lie of slanted addition and subtraction because we prefer to save the shortcomings for others. Depending on how our mind works, we might make the equations more complex but somehow it ends up with someone else needing to step it up a little. Whether it’s those people we know “killing their bodies”, or our children who just need to hurry up and “listen to what I’ve been telling you all along” – we are pros at laying the blame at the feet of our neighbor.

I am proposing that we far too often tip the scales of righteousness in our favor, rather than acting upon the assumption that the heart of the matter is deeper than mathematics can discern. We somehow assume that because we have the answer on paper, we understand it down to the bottom. We cling to our paper and hope the we’ve absorbed the spirit of it. The arithmetic is simply an easy way for us to keep track of our standing before God. At the end of the day, it’s a lot easier to count tally marks than examine our heart motives.

We won’t solve this by simply trying to add more complex equations. The problem is that we think that we are understanding God’s law when really we are more like one of our children that can’t sit still and are just grasping at the first two words we hear. If we want to please our Father, we have to be committed to hearing him out and listening to the whole story. As Doug Wilson says, “It’s not enough to be right. We have to be right in the right way.

So let’s start by assuming that we still have a long way to go. Let’s start by throwing our arithmetic out the door and getting down to the roots of the tree of righteousness. Let us live in a way that focuses less on what we like to call things and more on what God calls things. I think we will find that there is more joy and more peace down there where the love of Christ has supremacy over the letter of the law. So let’s get down to the bottom.


Aug 22

a vehicle for change

I’ve recently been reading a couple different books related to business, one of which is My Life and Work, the autobiography of Henry Ford. His story has inspired me in many different areas related to how I fundamentally think about work and business. He was a man that always thought big and wasn’t afraid of what other people might think of his crazy ideas – which I’ve found inspiring and intriguing. He had this big dream of making a car that would serve the majority of the general public by being a reliable, affordable and easily maintainable mode of transportation. He did not set out first to make money. He set out first to come up with a way to best SERVE the people by means of the automobile industry and the money eventually followed.

In our society we have become so good at compartmentalizing our lives that when we enter different arenas, like the business world, we tend to think that different rules and standards apply. As a consumer, we want to be served in a manner that makes us feel valued and our opinions respected and every whim to be treated as a priority. However on the other side of the coin, we often don’t see our jobs as an opportunity to serve people – we think we are working for a paycheck and to appease those who determine our paycheck.

Henry Ford understood the role of a business within society – service. It is not only a means of serving the consumer but also the employees and society at large. He saw the bigger picture and refused to listen to those who told him to stick to making custom “pleasure cars” for the wealthy because he was set on making something great that would serve the general populous. He knew that he had to devise not only a solid vehicle design, but also methods of manufacturing and metals of proper strength and weight. All of that was standing in his way but he knew where he was going and he was set on service.

So many people want money but they don’t want to serve. The truth is, no matter who it is or what it is, compensation follows service. Ford understood this basic principle and was truly motivated by devising ways of serving the people better. Businesses often think strictly in terms of the bottom line when service should be the guiding principle. A business that serves well is a business that will last.

This principle of service, however, necessarily must include a solid business model with quality, visionary men onboard with the company and all the necessary financing and strategic business solutions put into effect. A business that has a “good heart” but poor financial intelligence and does sloppy work will not be of good service – to their employees or to the public. Their employees will not have a job for very long and will likely earn a minimal wage and the consumer will be unhappy with the product or service they are receiving.

I am only starting to think about this and am excited to see how I can apply this at my own place of employment and even as a consumer. Everyone wants to be served. We want to be served. So why don’t we do unto others how we ourselves want to be treated? Oh right, because at the very core of our being is a nature that is fundamentally opposed to that concept.

So let’s live out a radical form of life – serving every person we encounter – whether you’re making a customer a coffee for the 5th time (because, “It’s too sweet!”) or being patient as a consumer with a stressed out employee. Let’s serve like others don’t and how we ourselves want to be served. We just might be surprised what happens in return for genuine, all-out service. Like Ford, service just might be our vehicle for change.

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Jun 23

a house worth keeping

A topic that has had a recent resurgence of popularity in the evangelical cyber-world is that of women’s swimsuits. While I realize that swimsuit modesty is not a popular topic among men, I do think we should have something to say about it especially as husbands and fathers. This brings me to why I am even talking about this – often what we say regarding matters like this has little thought behind it. If we are trying to build multi-generational faithfulness, ham-handed treatment of issues that pertain life and godliness (which is everything) is not the way to go.

I think the swimsuit issue serves as a good example of this sort of thing. We buy into the reasoning that goes something like this – the modesty and thus godliness of a swimsuit is a simple calculation of skin to cloth ratio. If there is more skin than cloth, Jesus isn’t happy with us. We even appeal to the history of the swimsuit as though there was a holiness that existed in the past that we ought to somehow return to. Now granted, it may be a good thing to return to something of the past but let’s not assume it’s age makes it the better choice.

A formula like the one above might be a convenient way of calculating your standing with God but it simply isn’t a true measure. There’s nothing wrong with contending that we really ought to consider what we wear, why we wear it and even promoting principles and guidelines to help direct people. But reducing principles to rules and formulas only makes the issue messier because the ones keeping the rules feel holy and the ones who don’t share those convictions often have unnecessary guilt or imposed convictions that lead to a searing of the conscience. If we take this thinking in the above example to it’s furthest extent, we are really being quite modest in our reformation – a burka would be the MOST pleasing to God.

My point in addressing this issue is to point out how we can so easily adopt convictions regarding traditions, clothing, and culture that are built on foundations of sand. We often mix just enough of a knee-jerk reaction to the world’s standards with a little bit of conservative zest to make it palatable to the Christianese culture. As Doug Wilson says “It’s not enough to be right. You have to be right in the right way.” – or something to that effect.

In other words, it is easy to use the right words but put them in the wrong order. We know the evangelical vocabulary list and so we pull a random selection from it, throw some verbs and other connecting words in there along with some Bible verses (if we really want to make our point) and that is what we use to support our choices. (And notice, I am not excluding myself from this folly.) Part of the problem is, though our reasoning may “work” for us and our kids for now, that sort of haphazard thinking will not last. If we want to lay a foundation that we can pass on we must build on principles that will outlast our present situation.

So men, let us be vigilant in how we approach things and how we lead our families – even thru the most trivial of things. We show what we really think about God in our everyday decisions and interactions. So let’s lead with convictions and articulate our decisions with principles that won’t be sold at the posthumous auction with the rest of our worthless goods. Let’s build a house worth keeping.

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Jun 22

death and dirt

A thought struck me the other day as I was meeting with a group of guys, talking about the topic of humility. Humility is something that we rarely ever talk about but yet most, if they were asked directly, would admit that they aspire to at least to some form of it. We rarely talk about humility probably due to the fact that (1) most of us are not really too excited about being known for humility – because it often appears weak – and (2) we are afraid of appearing “holier than thou” (as though holiness were something to avoid). Though many of us may get excited about the honor that is directed at the humble – we just want the honor, not the humility.

We are often disgusted at those “fakers” we see who go through the motions but obviously have selfish motives. Though we may despise others for insincere motives we have no problem with it when it comes to our own practice of it. We find avenues to display what have been labeled “humble actions” to avoid having to do anything that might look weak or spineless in others’ eyes.

Whatever our rationale is for our aversion to humility – whether that be to the idea of it (which we may be fond of) or to the actual practice of it (which is on completely different level) – the truth is that humility could not be more opposed to our fleshly nature. Being that Christ is the ultimate example of humility we might say that to aspire to humility is to aspire to holiness. And it is at this point that we realize our dramatically distorted concept of humility is only echo of the true form.

We would much prefer the veneer of humility that we have adopted because it only requires going thru the motions of sacrifice but lacking the necessary death and dirt that is associated with true humility. True humility does not seek to maintain a squeaky-clean reputation as we commonly esteem “cleanliness” because it is more concerned about the one being sacrificed FOR and not itself. Christ taking the form of a man and being crucified like a criminal seems silly if the point was to keep a squeaky clean image. He displayed the true essence of humility in bearing our stripes and going to the grave.

We, however, are afraid of the dirt of sacrifice because we’ve spent a lot on building our wardrobe of humility. We act as though humility can be assembled with all it’s necessary parts like an outfit we pick out for the next day. If we simply put on these clothes, we can still maintain a good image and no pain or dying is necessary. If people recognize our “humility clothes” and associate those with humility our only remaining task is one of laundry, not heart change. Chances are, if it is true humility in action, on-lookers won’t be complimenting your outfit, they’ll be laughing at it.

True humility is only possible because of Christ’s death on the cross and resurrection. It only makes sense in his economy. Let’s not settle for the cheap stuff. Look to him as the example by and for which to live that example. If we are aiming for true humility we must not be afraid of dirt and most importantly the necessity of death. Because it is only when we die that we will find true life.

So in all our “doing”, men, let’s be known for humility. Let’s lay down our lives for our families and for one another and be the type of people worth following and hanging around. Stop gawking at others humility outfits or encouraging a culture where pride is a masculine necessity. If we are not striving for humility, the default of pride will most certainly take over.