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Posted on May 10, 2014 in Blog, Culture, Deliberate Living, Featured, Intentional Living, Lost Virtues, repost, Responsibility

The Death of Personal Responsibility (repost from 68church.com)

The Death of Personal Responsibility (repost from 68church.com)

(I wrote this article a couple of weeks ago for our church blog, and I wanted to share it with you as well. The original post can be found at: http://68church.com/the-death-of-personal-responsibility/)

A few weeks ago, this graphic was making the rounds on Facebook. And as much as you and I may dislike memes and they way they’ve destroyed Facebook, there is a lot of truth in this one.

childhoodisnotadiseaseWhat is the truth that is in this picture? It’s really a rather frightening one. Because what it contains is evidence that we apparently live in a post-responsibility world. We live in a time where responsibility only pertains to others and how what they did has caused my current crisis – whatever that may be.

“Hang on man, are you saying these aren’t real issues and diseases?” No. Not necessarily. However, I do think we are far to quick to jump to labeling someone ADHD simply because they have never been taught the discipline of sitting still and paying attention. We are too quick to write off our bad behavior as being some sort of psychological disorder. And when we have a bad day, we think the answer is a happy pill of some kind.

Do I daydream? I do. Does that mean I have ADHD, no. It means I need to focus.

Do I snap and get angry? Sometimes. Does that mean I’m bipolar? No. It means I need to work on my temper.

Do I find myself sad or upset about things from time to time? Sure. Doesn’t that mean I’m depressed? No. Perhaps it means I need to focus more on gratitude.

Again, I’m not saying these issues don’t exist. I think they do. I have no doubt ADHD is a real thing – for some. I have no doubt that some people struggle with being bipolar. And I know people go through depression. I’m not judging or condemning those who legitimately struggle with those things.

But here’s what I am saying: we are the cause of our problems. Even if you have a true and legitimate diagnosis of one of these or the hundreds of other “disorders” that exist today, you are still responsible for your choices. There may be some who aren’t responsible, but they are the exception. Don’t hear me wrong either. I’m not saying I’m immune to this. I have these thoughts creep up from time to time. It’s much easier to look for someone or something to blame instead of taking the blame for myself.

The moment you push responsibility off your shoulders and onto the shoulders of something or someone else is the exact moment you stop growing and moving forward. As long as it’s not your fault, there’s no need for you to work on it.

Sure, that’s an easier place to be. It’s always easier to not have to work on who you are. It’s always easier to not have to have any reason to try to change. It’s always easier to stay the same and blame something for why you can’t change. But as long as your a victim of some disease, you will always be at the mercy of it. And what you’re really a victim of is the definition we read online, then looking for those things in ourselves. We read articles like “10 signs of ADHD” or “3 ways to know you’re depressed” and, magically, we see all those symptoms in our own lives. As if it’s possible to self-diagnose depression with a 3 point article that we skimmed.

Here’s the great concern for us as followers of Christ. We can’t pursue sin and Jesus at the same time. We’re either pursuing Jesus or we’re pursuing ourselves. What I hear in a lot of this discussion is an attempt to be able to justify our sins by something we can’t control so we can still call ourselves Christians. We want the promise of eternity with Jesus without having to give up what we like in this life. So we rationalize and justify our sins with psychological disorders, claiming that we just can’t change.

24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done. (Matthew 16:24-27)

But you can change. We all can. But in order to change, we have to admit that there is something wrong with us. And unless you’re willing to do that, you’ll never get past where you are right now. But, if we can all admit that we are responsible for our choices and our actions…if we can all recognize that we’re sinners…if we can all recognize that we’ve made mistakes – then we have a chance at growing and changing.

Is it easy? No. But is it worth it? Yes! I will even go so far as to say, if we don’t suffer through the change, we will never know what it means to find joy.

“…but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance;perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5) 

And you know what, the day we decide to take responsibility for our thoughts and actions and start to work on turning away from the sins in our lives could be the best day of our time here on earth. Without that day, we never become more like Christ. But, with that day, we continue to work out our salvation and become more and more like Christ a little more each day.

Please, make that day – today! 

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Posted on Feb 13, 2014 in Culture, Featured, Parenting, repost

A Love Delusion

A Love Delusion

Before you read this: this isn’t an article for parents. As you read it, you might think that’s the case. And while it definitely applies to parenting, it also applies to any loving relationship.

There is a huge delusion our culture has bought into, and it’s absolutely devastating. That delusion is if you love someone, you let them do whatever they want. You don’t say anything to them, even if you see them driving into a mine field – love doesn’t say anything.

This delusion plays into all of our relationships, for instance how we parent. If we really love our kids, we will let them do whatever they want and become whomever they want to be. It also plays into our “romantic” relationships. We see our spouse or the person we love the most doing something that is going to be harmful to them or to their coworkers, and because we love them, we don’t say anything.

“They’ll figure it out” we say, “just give them enough time, and they’ll finally understand.”

But, then they don’t. And this one wrong decision they make leads to another one. If they went right to this 2nd wrong decision the first time around, they would’ve said no. But because they made the first wrong decision, the second wrong decision was now within reason.

Add a couple dozen other bad choices on top of that, and they’ve created a whole lifestyle that’s paradoxical to who they could have been. And now who they become will be greatly affected by this new person they are.

Is this always devastating? No. In fact, I completely believe that God can use these stories for great thing in reaching people for His glory.

But is it best? I don’t think so.

Call me old fashioned. I don’t really care.

It’s easy as a parent to look at your child and see all the possibilities that wait for them. You can see all the potential they have. You can see the pitfalls too, but mostly what you see is potential. Does this mean what you see for them is the best option? Not necessarily. But, you have life experience to add to what you see in them, and you can help them steer away from their pitfalls and toward their possibility.

But you can’t do that if you just let them do whatever they want.

The same is true for other relationships. You can see all the potential that lies within people around you. You can see the pitfalls too, and if you can steer them toward their strengths, you can help them.

Lest you hear me wrong, I’m not advocating for manipulative and controlling relationships. I don’t think it’s our responsibility to control people around us and to manipulate them into doing what we think they should do.

But, I also don’t think we should sit silently and not offer the insight we have.

If we really love someone, wouldn’t we want the absolute best for them? Of course. Well, what if the absolute best for them will only come about if you speak truth into their life? Even if it’s hard and uncomfortable.

What if the most loving thing you can do for a person is confront them? And when did confrontation become such a bad thing?

It’s easy to say we would stop our loved ones from hitting the gas heading into a curve that could send them over a cliff. But, why don’t we do everything we can to stop them from starting down the path that can lead them to the point that they will end up in a car headed for the cliff without you in it to stop them?

“So, what are you saying Writing Man?”

I’m saying we need to love one another enough to sharpen one another. There are several passages in the bible that talk about the effects of teamwork and working together. “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” “A cord of three strands is not easily broken.”

Ecc. 4:9-10

Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up.

To me, it feels like forcing people to walk alone. If we don’t help people walk this journey, we’re forcing them to walk by themselves. If we don’t love people enough to tell them the hard things, do we really love them?

What we have been taught is love, isn’t love at all. It’s a delusion. Fake love is careful not to hurt someone’s feelings. Fake love goes out of its way not to offend.

But real love, seeks a way to share the truth in a loving way.

“Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.” – Eph. 4:15

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Posted on Feb 7, 2014 in Blog, Featured, Leadership, Parenting, repost, Responsibility

The Blame Game Danger

The Blame Game Danger

“The successful man will profit from his mistakes and
try again in a different way.” – Dale Carnegie

“I have not failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work…
Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” – Thomas Edison

I have discovered a danger that I want to share with you.

Who’s going to fix it?

When you always blame someone else, you put yourself in a helpless position. If someone else is always the wrong one, how are you ever going to get out of what ales you?

This is a concerning trend. It exists in every level of society. From the Political leaders (from all sides) & CEO’s to teenagers and the homeless, there is a trend to push the blame off to someone else. Common phrases for this are things like “I wasn’t aware of that” or “there’s nothing I can do to change it.”

But, what I’ve noticed is that for those who always push to blame for their position to an external source, there is never any growth or personal progress. As long as there is someone else to blame, no one ever owns their own junk. So, since they never own up to their own mistakes, they never grow as a result.

Lost Authority

Another effect of pushing blame is this: when you’re blaming others instead of taking responsibility, you have no authority. The perfect example of this is as a parent or in a relationship. It’s easier to blame someone else than to deal with someone you care about being mad at you.

Let’s say you have to go into work on your day off. The truth is that the boss asked if anyone would volunteer to take the time and a half pay and you volunteered. But, when you get home to tell your spouse about it, all of a sudden it’s the boss’s fault. “The boss is making me come in to work tomorrow,” you tell your spouse. So now your spouse is mad at your boss for something that was your decision. Not only is this dishonest, it takes all the authority between you and your boss and puts it all on your boss.

Or, as a parent, let’s say that the kids are really wanting to go to the park, but you don’t want to go. So you call your spouse and get them to take the responsibility. They say, “You can just tell them that I said no.” So your kids get mad at your spouse because they’re not letting them go, and you don’t have to go to the park. Everything’s peachy right? Not really, because you pushed the authority of the decision off to your spouse, now you longer have authority to make that decision in the eyes of your children.

 Why does this matter?

Because it is through making mistakes that we often learn lessons that we will remember for a life time. It is through the emotional and mental anguish we go through when we’ve screwed up that we find the power to change and do it better the next time.

When we’ve lost that, what’s left? How to we grow and change?

To be honest, I think the rate at which we make personal change goes way down without taking responsibility. I think we end up with a lot of people who are convinced they are the best version of themselves they will ever be, that they can never get any better and that all the turmoil they face in life is because of someone else.

So, where are you? Do you take the blame for your own mistakes or are you always blaming someone else? It may seem easier in the moment to push the blame off to someone else, but you are doing yourself more damage than you can possibly imagine.

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Posted on Jan 15, 2013 in Featured, Proverbious

Proverbious – Day 15 – Proverbs 3:16-18 – Tree Hugger

Proverbious – Day 15 – Proverbs 3:16-18 – Tree Hugger

They’re passionate people aren’t they? I mean, how many people do you know who love something so much they would be willing to chain themselves to it. I really like my Keurig, but not enough to risk my life for it. I can pretty much guarantee, if someone comes after my Keurig with bulldozer I won’t be using my body as a shield.

But for some reason, there are people who really love trees and are willing to risk their life to save one. I don’t want to belittle someone’s passion for trees, but these people must not have spent much time in rural America or the Northwest. From what my eyes can see, we’re not at risk of cutting down the last tree. I don’t expect to be talking to the Lorax any time soon.

They’re passionate, albeit misguided. But what about us? We may not be wanting to protect something with our lives, but we’re passionate about things. Some of which don’t really rank high on the “this matters” scale. Being passionate about your kids – 10 out of 10. Being passionate about cloth diapers 2 out of 10.

Could it be that we are just as misguided? The things we have decided that matter, in actuality, don’t matter that much. And the things that matter the most, we have relegated to the remnants of our attention.

Proverbs 3:16-18

16 Long life is in her right hand;
in her left hand are riches and honor.
17 Her ways are pleasant ways,
and all her paths are peace.
18 She is a tree of life to those who embrace her;
those who lay hold of her will be blessed.

This is one tree we should hug. Seriously. If wisdom is a tree, we should hug it. Wisdom is something we should be so passionate about, we’re willing to do what only a few will do. We should be willing to pursue wisdom with such passion people will wonder why.

Wisdom is the key to a long life, to riches and honor. When we walk in the way of wisdom our paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who embrace her; those who lay hold of her will be blessed.

We should all be Tree Huggers.

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Posted on Jan 15, 2013 in Devotional Thoughts, Featured, Pain and Suffering

Magic…Fairy Dust…Hope…

Magic…Fairy Dust…Hope…

It seems we live in a world where everything is possible. And if it’s not possible yet, it will be. We use phones that have more computing power than the computers that went to the moon with the Apollo missions. We watch movies with special effects that look so real we forget they’re not. Unless you’re watching a movie on SyFy – but that’s only what I hear (clears throat). Many of the sicknesses that used to plague the world are cured with a preventative shot. A trip across the country that used to take months, then took days and now only takes hours. And perhaps most amazing of all, this huge world that used to be round is now flat.

Magic.

And yet, many of us still face situations for which there is no easy answer. There is no cure for cancer. The economy is still in the tank and many out of work. Hurricanes cannot be stopped, Earthquakes still destroy, Tsunamis roll and people kill.

Our progress has made us more impatient than ever, even when waiting for the impossible. And yet, for some things there is no advancement great enough to conquer. We would wait for centuries, but there will never be a solution.

So we dream of all the impossibilities being absolved with one simple solution. Some fairy dust we can sprinkle that will make everything better. Three wishes. The Lottery. True Love.

And perhaps, therein, the problem doth lie. (How’d you like that new world english?) We live in a world of actual impossibilities. There are things that will never happen and no amount of advancement will make the impossible – possible. We will never be able to stop a Hurricane from forming, or the earth’s crust from cracking.

We will experience pain and suffering. That’s the reality. There is no magic that can be sprinkled to protect us from it. And even if there was, the magic we dream about is only enough to save us from one situation. If only there was something greater than magic.

Hope.

Some rights reserved by Pol Sifter

Some rights reserved by Pol Sifter – Creative Commons

There are wrongs that cannot be overcome with good. Wrongs we will never understand, nor be able to explain to our kids. But there is hope.

Perhaps this is why we find Jacob hoping for salvation in Genesis and Paul hoping for a clarity yet to be seen in Corinthians. (Along with many other references for hope in between.) Hope is one of just a few universal continuities. Every one hopes.

This is the hope that we have. Hope is the real magic. Magic solves the problem for me…hope, for all mankind. Magic is temporary…hope, eternal. Magic can be undone…hope, permanent.

Hope is what we have. It does not put food on the table, money in the bank or a 401(k). But, we can hope that things will change and that there will be a day in this life where those changes take place. But, even beyond that, we have hope.

We have hope for an existence beyond now where this now we live in will make sense. We will see clearly, know fully and be completely. It may never make sense now, but we have the hope that it will. We have the hope that all injustices will be undone. We have the hope that all hurt and heartache will be gone.

Hope. There are greater things, but hope ranks in the top 3. It certainly out-ranks magic.

Where is your hope?

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Posted on Jan 13, 2013 in Featured, Proverbious

Proverbious – Day 14 – Proverbs 3:13-15 – Old Trucks and Weather Stations

Proverbious – Day 14 – Proverbs 3:13-15 – Old Trucks and Weather Stations

I’m going to be very honest with your to start this edition. There are a couple of things that I’ve really wanted in my life that are proving to be the proverbial indian head penny. They are things that I’ve wanted for quite a while, but every time I start to get close to being able to get them, something happens.

The two things are a cool old truck that I can actually use to haul stuff and a weather station. I’m not talking about the kind of weather station you can pick up at Radio Shack. I’m talking about the kind that can measure pretty much every weather event we experience.Proverbious-250

I especially want to be able to measure the wind. Where we live, we have winds pretty regularly. And pretty strong winds at that. I have been able to find some people not to far from me who have weather stations and share their readings on line. (Yes, I could hear you say just how cool you think I am.) The thing is, one weather station – the closest one to us – has wind measurements that are way lower than others further away. This station doesn’t measure wind as regularly as the others do, so I think it misses the strongest winds.

So, I want a weather station that will measure the winds regularly enough to catch the strongest winds. And I want a cool old truck that I can use to haul wood and tools in. I don’t care if it’s beat up pretty bad. I just want it to be reliable and something I can work on. And old enough to be EMP proof. (I just keep revealing more and more coolness…)

Anyway, I’ve done a lot of research on these items and know which ones I would get if I had the money. The thing is, every time I think we might be able to do one or the other, something happens and the dream gets pushed aside.

And that’s what our proverb for the day is about. Not about the weather station or cool old trucks (but how cool would it be if there were a book of proverbs about that!), but about searching. And not just looking for something once, finding it and moving on. No, we’re talking about the kind of searching that gets deep within us. The kind that drives us to go to great lengths to find the thing we were looking for. Like Benjamin Gates in National Treasure. That’s the kind of search we’re talking about.

But the reward is much more than a truck or weather station. It’s even much more than Silver, Gold or precious rubies.

Proverbs 3:13-15

13 Blessed is the one who finds wisdom,
and the one who obtains understanding.
14 For her benefit is more profitable than silver,
and her gain is better than gold.
15 She is more precious than rubies,
and none of the things you desire can compare with her.

There is a song that you probably used to sing at church that is based on this verse. The song takes this verse and applies it to the Lord, which is a good thing. However, I’m not sure it’s the best use of this verse. The reason I say that is because I think it gives some of us the wrong impression about wisdom. What I mean is that it makes us feel weird to think about wisdom in this way because the it feels sacrilegious. We feel like this verse is supposed to be about loving God and when we think about it in terms of wisdom it feels wrong.

The thing is, it’s not wrong. It’s biblical. We are supposed to be in pursuit of wisdom in the same way we would be pursuing silver, gold and precious rubies. In fact, none of the riches we could seek can compare with the blessing we will find when we obtain wisdom.

My goal for myself and for you as we go through this series together is that we will have a passion and burden to seek wisdom. My hope for us is that we will have such a strong desire to know the way wisdom wants us to go and to go in it. Can you imagine the impact that would have on the world we live in? I am getting just a glimpse, and I can already see that a wise person plays a very important role in their world. My question is, will you be that person?

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