What Is It About Sex, Or Is It About Sex?

June 23, 2017

The CEO of Uber is pushed out of his position, along with many of his lieutenants in part because of promoting and allowing a culture of sexual advances on women. And not just employees, customers, too. 

After years of silence, women are beginning to speak out against people in power in Silicon Valley who use their positions to force sexual activities. New allegations have become public about a Venture Capitalist.

It’s called the “bro” culture. Short for “brother” as in a fraternity. It’s like the worst fraternity movies gone wild. Men say, “that’s just the way it is.” Women on the other hand seem not to like it. 

Other news popping up relates to men (although sometimes its women, but quite rare) in positions of trust and authority forcing sexual advances on children (or perhaps girls who look adult but are still children).

I’ve read psychologists who say the root cause is not the sexual emotion itself but instead the drive to power. Although maybe it’s also adolescent boys driven by testosterone more than intelligence becoming 35 and unchanged.

This is an ancient problem. Read Paul’s letters carefully. Get past today’s buzz words, and you will discover that Paul hated giving in to our passions. Jesus said that more than the physical act of adultery it is the interior act of thinking about it.

We become what we dwell on in our hearts. We become what we think about.

Our discipline is to choose to think about the higher things. As Jesus-followers, we are also to guide other people along the same path. If we can save but one person from going down that path, think of all the lives not shattered in the future that would have been.

It Is Not Our Achievements That Matter To God

June 22, 2017

You pay your dues, work the extra hours, make the extra trip. You become president of the company or famous or a star.

Is God happy with you?

I don’t know. Depends.

Jesus moved easily from conversations with the rich and powerful to conversations with the poorest. He healed the children of Roman officials. He healed lepers.

He never seemed impressed by achievement or lack of achievement.

Jesus was always concerned with the heart.

How often did he say go and sin no more? Or your sins are forgiven?

Sin is a condition of the heart. It is where our attention is focused. Do we live our lives from minute to minute concerned about ourselves and our pleasures? Or, do we live in the Spirit–the type of person who is at peace, and helpful, and looks out for others?

It is not our achievements that matter to God. He does want us to use our talents well. What matters is what sort of person we are becoming.

It’s not what you are; it’s who you are.

The Changing of the Seasons

June 21, 2017

It is the day of change. We go from spring to summer. To my friends in the Southern Hemisphere, of course, it is the opposite, going from fall to winter.

Seasons change. We must change our disciplines. If longer daylight and warmer temperatures draw us outside more often, do we take our study and prayer outside with us?

Instead of protecting ourselves from the cold, we now must protect ourselves from heat and too much exposure to sun.

In different seasons of our lives, we must prepare our disciplines differently and protect ourselves from new and different spiritual threats.

We live differently for these three months. Let us not forget to bring along our disciplines of study, prayer, meditation, worship, and service.

Without Responsibility There Are No Rights

June 20, 2017

“I know my rights.”

“I have the right to …”

These are popular American phrases. 

Yet, a right without a companion responsibility is enslavement to emotion. It is narcissism. It is all about me without regard to others who may be affected–family, community, nation.

Having rights without responsibility leads to a culture of “us against them” and “I want mine, don’t care about the other people”. It leads to divisiveness. Argumentativeness. 

In the end it leaves us with no rights.

John Adams (one of the nation’s founders) said, “Democracy can only exist with a moral people.” 

Being moral is not a conservative versus liberal thing. It is a responsible versus irresponsible thing. Perhaps like the elder son and the prodigal son. Balance is restored when the irresponsible son comes to his senses and returns home.

Consider how many times Jesus did something and then gave the person something to do. “Pick up your mat and …” Or “Go show yourselves to the priests.” Or “Go and sin no more.” Or “Go and do likewise and you will be saved.”

Or, “You will know my followers by how they love one another.”

How well do we all live out that responsibility?

Give Us The Capacity For Extending Grace

June 16, 2017

23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

Not every person is emotionally healthy.

Not every person is responsible.

People do and say thoughtless, hurtful, things  all the time. Sometimes directly to us. Sometimes we just read about it. Sometimes the incident is so vivid that we live it vicariously.

Can we extend grace?

God extended grace to us. We did not deserve it. We have it. Dangling right there before us.  Only to be acknowledged.

Can we also as disciples of Jesus, as one of those who seek to be like our master, can we also extend grace?

It is hard.

It requires humility.

It requires being firmly in the spirit.

Can we extend grace?

To those who hurt us.

To those with whom we disagree.

To those who are different from us.

God? I Don’t Believe, I Know

June 15, 2017

Swiss psychologist Carl Jung, a contemporary of Freud who thought the “master” had gone off on a wrong track (imagine that!), was asked toward the end of his life of exploring the human inner world if he believed in God after all that.

“Believe? No, I don’t believe. I know.”

Listening to a communicator yesterday during my workout, I realized that I don’t touch on the Spirit much in these meditations.

A long line of spiritual seekers exists who wrote something of their journeys for those of us who followed. These are comforting writings for other seekers who have experienced God. It makes us feel like we are part of a large family not psychological outliers.

Some people believe in God, but deep within they are not sure.

Some people believe in propositions that they are taught–sort of like believing that (a + b = c) is the same thing as (b + a = c).

The trouble with believing propositions comes when someone you meet was taught a different proposition. Now what? Political warfare?

But if you have experienced God and attempt to live in the Spirit–well then, you are part of a community, and it changes your life, your personality, your relationships.

Training Is Oh So Valuable

June 14, 2017

Have you seen the movie Sully? It’s the story of the US Air flight that landed in the Hudson River after hitting a flock of birds that knocked out its engines?

Jeff Skiles, the first officer on that flight, spoke at the conference I am attending. I’ve heard both him and Capt. Sullenberger speak a couple of times each. They take about 40 minutes to tell the story of an event that took less than a couple of minutes.

The thing that stands out for me? Training.

Everything they did. Every communication. Every action. From the captain to the first officer to the cabin crew. Everything had been prepared for. They had been trained and drilled many times.

When the emergency happened, one or two words communicated next actions. Everyone knew what to do. They had seconds to act. (Of course, idiots spent years second-guessing them, but that is human nature, I guess.)

What about us?

Do we “become a Christian” and immediately think we can tell people how to live their lives? Do we suddenly know everything?

Paul talked many times about training in his letters. I was thinking about that, then I thought about Paul himself. He had years of training in the Scriptures and in the interpretations of the leading rabbis of the time.

Then he met Jesus.

Did he go out and start preaching? No, he was blind. They guided him to a believer who had been instructed by God to teach this famous anti-Christian scholar. And Paul studied. And he went to the desert and he studied, prayed, meditated.

He himself was training. For years. Then he went out.

I’m not suggesting we all go to seminary–after all, I didn’t. And I won’t. But that doesn’t mean that I haven’t spent a lifetime training. Then I discovered I could write. Well, a little anyway.

But like Paul’s favorite analogy, we need to train like athletes. Every day. To be prepared to run the race set before us.

What Cannot Be Measured Cannot Be Managed

June 13, 2017

My early career education consisted of engineering and management. The mantra of each was What cannot be measured cannot be managed.

I started thinking about this after several meetings and conversations about the number of churches in my county in west Ohio. The population of Shelby County is approximately 57,000. There are about 100 churches. The rural Midwest of the United States is supposed to be one of those “Bible Belt” areas where “everyone” is a Christian–or at least a church member.

So, there are about 570 people per church. There may be only three churches in the county that are larger than 400 in average attendance. Most of the rest are lucky to have 100 in attendance. Excluding Christmas and Easter, there probably are not as many as 15,000 our of our 57,000 people in church on a weekend. And this is the Bible Belt.

But–does this statistic have any meaning?

Does this relate to the spiritual life of the area?

Is there a correlation between church attendance and spiritual life?

Check out Acts 2. Humans didn’t manage the growth of the early church. It was a manifestation of the outpouring of the Spirit. People joined because “I want what she’s having.”

Maybe in the US we aren’t living the sort of life that attracts others?

Maybe we focus more on politics than on the Gospel?

Maybe our priorities are internal to our group (congregation) rather than external to others?

What if it’s not about managing and more about living a life in the Spirit?

It Takes Spiritual Strength To Be A Humble Leader

June 9, 2017

β€œIt was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels.” – St. Augustine

Take a trip through the book of Proverbs and see what God thinks of prideful people. And to what happens to them in the end.

Pride is the ancestor of all bad habits and actions.

Pride prevents us from achieving great things; for just as he is about to realize the completeness of his leadership, the prideful man and woman will be brought down in humiliation.

Pride erects a barrier that prevents personal relationships deeper than appearances.

Pride leads us down the road of bad decisions.

To be humble does not mean to be weak.

The humble person filled with God’s spirit, acknowledges their place in the universe. They lead not from arrogance but from wisdom. Wisdom comes from learning from past mistakes. Pride blinds us to our mistakes.

I searched the scriptures for examples. It’s not easy for they are filled with stories of flawed people.

King David’s story reveals a man who would move within the tension of being prideful and being humble. When he was humble and did things for God, he was powerful. When his pride got in the way, he got into trouble.

Look at Peter in the New Testament. He had to endure his personal crises to lose his pride and become a strong leader.

It is not easy to overcome pride. Just as in the 12-step programs, the first step is to stop and recognize our pride. Every day as we develop the spiritual disciplines of study and prayer and meditation we must remind ourselves of where pride has slyly insinuated itself into our lives.

It is only through prayer that we can get past our pride. God help us in our overcoming of pride before we also have a great fall.

The Light of the World

June 8, 2017

John has long been my favorite Gospel. We associate John with spiritual–perhaps the most “spiritual” of the Gospels rather than historical or apologetic–and with love and with vision. His gospel is literary weaving metaphors such as the play of light and dark, playing of the word “I am” which has rich theological tradition.

I talked about his powerful opening and how it plays like the opening of his scripture (Genesis). And how first God had to separate light and dark before he could proceed with the rest of creation. And how Jesus came (returned?) as the embodiment of light.

We can think of light penetrating the darkness. You hear something drop in the night. You grab the flashlight you always keep by your bed. You switch it on. The beam of light penetrates through the darkness exposing what was hidden.

Our conversations reveal our inner thoughts. Thoughts that if exposed to light would shame us. As “good Christians” should we be thinking those thoughts. With the light of Jesus exposing those thoughts, are we humiliated? Or defiant?

I heard a conversation yesterday. It disturbed me. I am too easily disturbed by conversations. But I have to admit that when they described someone, the thought “Darwin Award” did enter my consciousness. And it didn’t just flit in and then drift out. It stayed for a full minute or two. That’s a long time for a thought. Please forgive me for I have sinned.

We cannot stop our thoughts. We can choose what thoughts upon which to dwell. We do become what we think about. If the light of the Spirit penetrates the darkness of our soul, what is exposed?

Is it time to practice a discipline of choosing the thoughts we dwell on with intention? Time to focus on things above (as Paul puts it)?