Sunday, January 31, 2016

30 Questions To Help You Choose Leaders

Our process of electing leaders has devolved into voting against the person we can tolerate the least. The next nine months we will be inundated with reasons NOT to vote for the 'other guy' (or gal). Fortunately, scripture gives us another option. 

Most people assume we live in a democracy - and they would be wrong. We live in a republic. But few know that the idea of a republic is rooted in scripture. The founders used Scripture to argue for a republic and write it into the Constitution.

“Select capable men from all the people—men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain—and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens.” - Ex. 18:21

This passage reveals three questions we should ask about our prospective leaders:
Is this person capable of holding this office?
Is this person seeking and following God?
Does this person hate dishonest gain (Do they play fair)?

When the disciples needed to staff a food pantry/visitation ministry, they said to choose leaders “who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom.” - Acts 6:3

If those are requirements for individuals who serve food to widows, our leaders should have those same qualities. But how can we tell if someone is "full of the Spirit"?

Paul wrote, “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” - Galatians 5:22-23

That gives us 12 additional questions:
Does this person display wisdom? Do they make wise decisions?
Is this person full of the Spirit?
Is this person loving?
Are they joyful?
Are they at peace?
Do they have patient endurance?
Is this person kind?
Can you describe this person as a good person?
Are they faithful?
Are they gentle?
Does this person display self-control?

In our overly sensualized culture, we need to unpack what it means to be loving. The church in Corinth needed help defining love, so Paul wrote them a letter. 

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” - 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

This gives us 15 more questions:
Is this candidate patient?
Are they kind?
Are they envious?
Is this person boastful and proud?
Do they dishonor others?
Are they self-seeking?
Is this person easily angered?
Do they hold grudges?
Do they find joy in hurtful or evil things?
Are they concerned about seeking truth?
Can you say that they ALWAYS protect, always trust, always hope, and always persevere?
Does this person follow through?

Sometimes as we choose leaders we try to compensate for our weaknesses. 

We've lost our voice in this culture, so we choose the loudest candidate. We feel we've lost almost everything that makes us great, so we choose someone who promises to make us great again. We feel that we are part of the 90%, so we choose someone who will give us everything the 10% take for granted. We feel we've been lied to and we hate "nuanced" answers, so we find someone who "shoots straight" and says the first thing that pops into their head.

I Samuel reveals what happens when people reject God's wisdom and choose a king using their own set of qualifications. It was disastrous. But their fate doesn't have to be our fate. We have a choice.

Word of caution: no one is perfect. Don't be discouraged if you can't find a candidate who successfully navigates all of these questions. But you should be able to find someone who comes very close. 

And don't reject a candidate who made one decision you disagree with. Those who crave political power often use one controversial decision to divide and conquer. Even if all the power-seekers accomplish is to convince you to stay home and not vote, they've won.

You probably don't agree with every opinion your spouse has. You don't agree with every decision your pastor makes, or every choice your boss makes. But would you walk away from any of them, if you agree on every other choice or opinion?

In a republic we elect people to make decisions on our behalf. You and I choose who makes those decisions. The pundits, and polls, and talking heads, can not force us into predetermined conclusions. The choice is ours not theirs.

Face your fears. Reject choosing the popular candidate simply because they are popular. Hold your favorite candidates up to these 30 questions. If they fare well, you can be sure that they will represent you well.

If your candidate does not line up with biblical guidance, maybe you should reconsider. If they aren't qualified to even serve food to widows, why would you trust them to make decisions on weightier issues?

The choice is yours ... choose well. 

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Think About Such Things

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” - Philippians 4:8 NIV

Just wondering ... why is this even a command, and why is it so hard to do? When we think of excellent things, and lovely things, we feel good. When we we focus on what is true, and pure, and admirable, it gives us joy and peace. 

It seems that our tendency to indulge in pleasurable things would make this a normal state. We should be addicted to the way we feel when we put Philippians 4:8 into practice. 

Instead, we focus on fear, and doubt, and the "what-ifs" in life. Our news diet is almost exclusively about what went wrong, or what we should be afraid of. We never experience "good" gossip. 

Why are there no 12-step plans for people who focus on the good, beautiful, and praiseworthy? To turn a phrase, if it feels good, why aren't we doing it?

Is it possible that "the fall" in the Garden really is the best explanation? In Genesis 1 we read of seven "days" of good - "and it was good!" All that was known was good. But when Adam & Eve ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, suddenly they knew both good AND evil. Good AND bad. Good AND heartbreaking. 

Thoughts? What do you think?

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

National Day of Prayer - Thursday, May 7

We are really no different from them.  We are no different from the children of Israel with their backs to the sea and facing certain annihilation at the hand of Egyptian charioteers. Fear grips us. There is no way to avoid devastation. We cry out to God and He replies, “The Lord will fight for you, you need only to be still.” (Exodus 14:13-18)
We are no different from God’s people who had rediscovered the Word of God and experienced the weight of guilt. We mourn the years our nation has lost to hate, anger, and disobedience. We cry out to God in grief over how things could have been and He says, “Be still and understand my boundless grace.” (Nehemiah 8:9-12)
We are no different from the song writer who sees evil advancing and righteousness melting away. Anger overwhelms us. The headlines paint a picture that says drugs, and terror, and murder, and corruption are invincible. We cry out to God and He says, “Be still and wait patiently for me. Know that I am God, and I will be exalted.” (Psalm 37:7 and 46:10)
We are no different from those who felt like God had abandoned them. We wonder if God cares about what’s happening in our lives and our community. We wonder if He thinks about us at all, or if He even exists. We cry out, hoping He is there and that He hears us. And He answers, “Be still. I am coming, and I will live among you.” (Zechariah 2:10-13)
We are no different from those having a mountain top experience with Jesus. We want to camp out and build permanent ecstasy into our lives. We want to avoid the pain in the valleys of life. We try to ignore the call to sacrifice our plans and desires so that others can find new life. We cry out to God and He gently answers “Be still. This is my Son. Listen to Him.” (Matthew 17:1-5)
From the founding of this nation, our leaders, both political and spiritual, have called us to a time of prayer.  Sometimes a call to humiliation and repentance. Other times a call to prayer and thanksgiving. John Hancock, Samuel Adams, James Madison, John Adams, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, and even the Continental Congress all called for days of prayer.
The National Day of Prayer belongs to all Americans and is not sponsored by any one group. Every American, regardless of religion, is encouraged to celebrate his or her faith through prayer. On Thursday, May 7, 2015 at 6:30 p.m.Christians from all denominations are encouraged to gather at First Baptist Family Life Center in New Castle for a time of prayer and worship. 
We are really no different from people of faith through history. We cry out to God on behalf of our families, our schools, our communities, our neighbors, our state, and our nation. And God will answer, “Be still … hear what I am saying.”

Thursday, April 9, 2015

It's not about "them", it's about us

In the church, and in civic leadership, we cannot point to our leaders and blame them for all of our problems. Nor can we elevate individuals to hero-, or Savior-, status and expect them to deliver us.

Our problem is not partisanship or ideology. It is not "right" or "left". It's not even arrogance in our leaders or lack of integrity. 

Our challenge is personal and individual. 

We must aggressively drive out apathy and re-instill a sense of personal mission and destiny. This will only happen if we reignite our personal passion for God and our sense of gratitude and appreciation for the gift of liberty and the responsibility of freedom. 

Short of this, we are destined for disappointment, and failure, and in jeopardy of losing what we claim to prize the most. 

More on this later ...

Monday, March 16, 2015

Mr. Spock Is Dead ... And We Greive?

Mr. Spock is dead and we grieve. It’s odd. We grieve the “death” of a fictional character more than the actor that brought him to life.

Leonard Nimoy was 83 years old when he passed away. In addition to being an actor for T.V., stage, and movies, he was a producer, photographer, writer, director, and singer. Most people didn’t know Leonard Nimoy, but almost everyone felt like they “knew” Spock.

We “know” our morning weather reporters, Randy, Chuck, or Kevin; they greet us every morning before we “interact” with Robin Roberts, Matt Lauer, or our “Friends” – Steve, Elizabeth, and Brian. We develop “relationships” with them, but we don’t really know them.

Then there are the people we love to hate; the evil team owner, or coach, or quarterback that “always cheats.” The elected official on the “other side” who lies through his/her teeth and wants to destroy the universe as we know it; the President, the Governor, or the Superintendent.

We get upset when “our” people are attacked, and spew vile hatred for those that have “done them wrong.” But do we really “know” any of them? Why do we invest in these imaginary relationships? And why do we starve or poison our real-life relationships?

When we behave this way, we are at risk spiritually, and culturally.

President George Washington, identified an early threat to the nation as he was leaving office; he called it the “spirit of party”.

“The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism … the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it … It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms; kindles the animosity of one part against another … it is a spirit not to be encouraged ... A fire not to be quenched, it demands a uniform vigilance to prevent its bursting into a flame, lest, instead of warming, it should consume.”

The spirit of party, or the spirit of division, always bursts into flame and consumes those that practice it.

But for the Christ follower, there is also spiritual danger.

The Apostle John said, “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.”

Similarly, Paul told the church in Galatia, “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.”

Spock is not just dead, he never lived – he was fictional. But every person we place into the categories of “Us vs. Them” is alive. We might not like what they do, but they deserve the respect and love that belongs to another child of God. We might enjoy that they are on “our side”, but that doesn’t mean they are flawless.

Let’s do away with the “spirit of party.” Let’s use our freedom to serve one another in love. Invest in real relationships. Spend less time cultivating a “relationship” with someone who doesn’t know who you are. The choice is yours. Choose well. Live long and prosper!

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Sunday, February 15, 2015

Don't Get Immunized ... Spiritually

Immunizations are suddenly newsworthy again. Should we immunize our kids or not? Regardless of your answer, immunizations have saved hundreds of thousands of lives.

Here's how it works. You inject a physically healthy person with a weakened or dead virus. The person's body "thinks" it's a carrier of the real infection and produces antibodies. The antibodies then multiply and usually stick around long enough to fight the real virus, if it ever shows up. Instead of being a carrier, the person has become inoculated from the actual virus.

Spiritually, it usually works backward; We become inoculated from the real life God wants us to live. One common spiritual immunization is called "Giving Back".

Giving back sounds like a wonderfully biblical idea. But it's not. It inoculates us from Godly giving.

The phrase, "giving back", is fairly new and reveals a foreign idea that has invaded our thinking. Giving back almost always means giving to our community, because "the community has provided so much." Some even suggest that the community made us who we are. They think that everything we have, every opportunity we have been given, is because someone in the community gave it to us.

In a subtle way, we're worshiping our community by giving an offering to the source of our blessings. But what does scripture say?

James writes, "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows." Every gift!

Every good and perfect gift that we receive has its origin in God. It is God that has provided the ability to generate wealth, and it's God who has provided finances through our employer. Our children are gifts from God. Your spouse is a gift from God. Every good and perfect gift.

That also means that every good and perfect gift that we give someone else, doesn't come from us…it comes from God and flows through us. We are not the source of the gift. We might have given the gift, but God is the original source.

"Giving back" assumes that someone or something other than God is the source of all of the good things in our life. And it also assumes that there is a limit on the amount of "good stuff." There's only so much "good stuff"; someone gave some to us and we are obligated to give it back, spread it around.

Giving back is also bad theology because we start thinking that giving back is enough. But even giving to God, as a way to pay Him back, is off target.

Giving is an essential element of God's character. The Bible has over a thousand references to giving or tithing. It's such a central theme that many believe the church is only concerned about money. But here's the truth: God doesn't need our money.

Paul told the church in Colossae that, through Christ "all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together."

God doesn't need our money, but He desperately wants us to be people who give generously, extravagantly! When we truly understand that there is so much more than a fixed amount of "good stuff", that there is no limit, when we understand that "in him we live and move and have our being," then giving will come naturally.

Jesus said, "Whoever believes in me…streams of living water will flow from within him." One of the passages in Ezekiel He was quoting from reads, "…so where the river flows everything will live … Fruit trees of all kinds will grow…Their fruit will serve for food and their leaves for healing."

Instead of simply giving back, God wants us to be "streams of living water" that transport all of the blessings to our neighbors; blessings that constantly flow from Him. They're new every morning!

Don't just "give back"; be a carrier of unlimited blessings from the source of every good and perfect gift! Maybe it will start an epidemic!

Questions or comments?

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Saturday, February 7, 2015

Hoosiers - Let's Do It This Time

South Dakota passed one in 1984 and South Carolina passed their version twenty years ago. Last year, Indiana was poised to follow suit but was foiled in the last hour (literally) by people who file suits for a living. The Indiana Volunteer Medical Health Shield bill (HB 1145) is long past due and 2015 is the year to make it happen.

The economy of Indiana continues to exhibit strong growth. The unemployment rate has been cut by more than 28% in two years. With balanced budgets, healthy financial reserves, lower taxes, and increased funding for strategic priorities, Indiana has become the Midwest state that everyone wants to emulate.

But there are still too many Hoosiers who are trapped in a cycle of crisis, where threats to housing, health, and hunger have overwhelmed their lives. One out of every six Hoosiers are considered to have "food insecurity." That's more than one million Indiana residents who struggle to put food on their table. When these people face a decision between groceries or basic medical services, groceries will win every time.

Over time, the neglected health care for these families result in taxpayer funded emergency room visits because of health concerns that cost more, and now take longer to treat. Societal side effects include longer emergency room waits, and occasional delays in identifying real medical crises.

Meanwhile, the State of Indiana has thousands of health care workers, many of whom travel to countries around the world to provide basic health care to individuals in need. These medical workers have the utmost respect for life and have dedicated their lives to the service of humanity. Volunteering comes naturally to many of them. They would welcome the opportunity to volunteer health services in their communities, but Indiana law and the threat of litigation prevents them from helping Hoosiers.

That's where the Volunteer Medical Health Shield bill comes in. House Bill (HB) 1145 would open the door for medical professionals to volunteer in their local communities. Underserved and at-risk youth could receive free sports physicals at a local YMCA or Boys & Girls Club. Seniors on a limited income, could receive a free health screening during a visit to the food pantry.

The Volunteer Medical Health Shield would cost taxpayers nothing, while providing the cost savings realized with fewer taxpayer-funded emergency room visits for primary care needs. The State of Washington, when considering a similar bill, calculated their savings to be at least $6 million over a six month period, with other estimates totaling four times that much!

The human impact would be significant as well. With medical professionals volunteering their expertise, our communities would be healthier. Low-income Hoosiers would be able to use what funds they do have to address other pressing needs. More underserved youth with free physicals would have access to after school and summer sports.

HB 1145 costs nothing, saves millions in taxpayer dollars, strengthens Hoosier communities, and is nonpartisan. The Volunteer Medical Health Shield would be law today if it wasn't torpedoed at the last minute by a handful of individuals who would rather threaten litigation than see professional health care workers serve their neighbors and strengthen their communities. We can't let that happen again.

It's time for Indiana to help thousands of Hoosiers gain free access to basic health services. It’s time to unburden medical professionals from the law, and threats of litigation that prevent them from serving their most vulnerable neighbors. It’s time to free Indiana’s health care workers to pursue their passion to serve those in greatest need. We need the Volunteer Medical Health Shield bill.

Now is the time to contact our State Representatives and Senators and ask them to continue to make Indiana the state that others look to for leadership. Ask them to support the Volunteer Medical Health Shield bill (HB 1145):

Indiana House of Representatives – General Switchboard: (800) 382-9842 or the Office of Rep. Brian Bosma, Speaker of the House at (317) 232-9677

Indiana Senate – General Switchboard: (800) 382-9467 or the Office of Sen. David Long, President Pro Tempore at (317) 232-9416

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