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Jimmy’s Table Podcast
51 minutes | 2 days ago
Life After Our Mini Apocalypse (Post COVID) – Episode #109
Life after the apocalypse is a bit less wild than the movies Mad Max or the Book of Eli would have us to believe. At least, that appears to be our situation as we increasingly move into a “post COVID” world. But with that said, we’ve definitely seen our share of challenges, and the events that have unfolded in the past year will definitely be something we continue to deal with for years to come. In today’s podcast, I talk about life after the mini-apocalypse we’ve had the past year. I look at the good and the bad, and several areas in which our society has definitely shifted. And while things in some sense might be getting back to “normal,” there are definitely some new trends to observe that mark a break with the past. The Issue Of Collective Trauma In a podcast I listened to recently “Matt and Kevin Talk Church,” they made a great point about how we simply can’t put the proverbial Genie back in the bottle. While there is a sense in which we’ll return to “life as normal,” the truth of the matter is in this past year we’ve experienced a collective global and national trauma. And as much as we might want to just pretend the past year didn’t happen, the truth is, it did happen, and we’ll deal with the fallout of the past year for years to come. And that assumes things with COVID continue to get better. While things in America are largely getting better as people continue to get vaccinated, there are concerns not enough people will get vaccinated to create “herd immunity.” There’s also the problem that other nations are having difficulties with their vaccine rollouts, and places like India are seeing dramatic spikes in COVID cases and deaths. This could have a precarious ripple effect, and we don’t know quite how that will play out on a global scale. So while there is much reason to be optimistic about the future, especially in America, about life post apocalypse, we still need to be cautiously optimistic about how things will ultimately play out. But assuming they play out well, there are some areas our culture has experienced meaningful change. Changes In Work Work will be different. In spite of individuals like J.P. Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Daimon insisting people need to go back into the office, there’s going to remain a larger segment of the population that permanently works from home. And that’s simply going to be the free market forces at work that drive that change. Especially as remote jobs will allow corporations to recruit talent from all over the country, whereas before they were limited to recruiting talent from certain geographical hubs. “Boomers” like Jamie Daimon might lust after butts in seats, and seats in buildings with his name on them. But the truth is, for all the benefits of in-person work, there’s still going to be a lot of jobs that are most effectively done by remote workers, and people who insist on working remotely. Changes In Education School will be different. While a lot of kids will go back to school next Fall for in person learning, there’s a growing number of people who are wanting a permanent “remote academy” all over the country. The reasons for this are diverse, but the truth of the matter is, there are simply a number of students for whom earning their education online and from home is simply the best thing for them. Changes In Church The life of the church has been impacted. Crowds will be thinner. A lot of people realized they didn’t really need or want the church in their lives, as the church proved to be something other than what many people thought it was. Online attendance may swell as people become much more casual in their attendance. But even with that, a lot of people aren’t exactly rushing back to church. This past year has been a real time of testing for congregational life, as people have had strong reactions towards the church as pastors handled COVID-19, racial issues, and fallouts from the election. Many people simply aren’t happy with how their church responded to these issues, and these issues have proven to be divisive for many congregations. Many people are not only disappointed in how the church responded to all these issues, but many feel the church completely failed them. Changes In Politics The world of politics has increasingly crept into our lives, and the cult of personality and culture war issues has come to dominate the political arena. Politics is less about ideology and policy making, and more about one’s identity with a certain political party or hero. And as a result, we can expect these issues to continue to remain in the forefront of voters minds. Meanwhile, politicians in both the Republican and Democratic parties plan on spending us into oblivion. Fiscal conservatism is dead, and there’s no sense in which anyone in either party is interested in balancing a budget. People may still he-and-haw over the numbers. But at the end of the day, both parties are interested in spending money they don’t have. The only question is how much will we spend, and on what. But both sides of the political divide are committed to spending as much as they possibly can, without restraint. Changes In Eating We are going to eat out a ton. A lot of restaurants failed in the past year, unable to adapt to the new environment. But the one’s that did adapt will likely find themselves busier than ever. Over the past year a lot of people cooked from home. Some even watched the cooking videos my wife and I make on YouTube. They tried doing things like making bread, and even created a national yeast shortage in the process. But at the end of it all, people realize how much they dislike eating at home, at how much they like eating out instead. But that doesn’t necessarily mean everyone’s going to be sitting down to eat in restaurants. Just about everyone learned how to use DoorDash or Uber Eats this past year. And this revolutionized not only the restaurant industry, but it will revolutionize our eating habits for a long time. to come. Changes In Personal Relationships Personal relationships have changed. The past year caused some serious fractures among folks friends and families. I personally lost some long time friends, and I know others who have as well. We experienced a tremendous social upheaval that I don’t think we’ve quite soaked fully in yet. I think there’s a lot of hurt there, and a lot that makes us skittish about being around other people. And because of all the streaming entertainment platforms out there, because more people are working from home, because people aren’t going to church, and because we have more options when it comes to food delivery, I think our fragmentized society will leave a lot of people increasingly isolated from people they used to associate with. People are going to be increasingly lonely, and find it increasingly difficult to make new social circles.
25 minutes | 9 days ago
Are You Flourishing— Or Settling For Less? – Episode #108
Are you flourishing? Or are you settling for less in life? Is your life one marked by love, beauty, and joy? Or is it one marked by “drama,” toxic relationships, and self-destructive behaviors? I believe we all want to flourish in this life. It’s an innate desire given to us by God as part of His intent for creation. We want not only to live, but we want to live well. But so often, oddly enough, we find ourselves making bad choices, and settling for lesser things. Drinking From The Wrong Cup In the movie, Indiana Jones 3 “The Last Crusade” there’s a scene at the end (spoiler alert) in which Indiana Jones and some bad guys come across a cave full of dozens of cups pretending to be the Holy Grail. But they don’t know which one is the actual Holy Grail. But if they wish to enjoy the eternal life that the magical Holy Grail can grant them, they must choose the right cup to drink from. If they choose wisely, and pick the right cup, they can drink of waters that will give them eternal life. If they choose poorly, they will be destroyed. The bad guy, not knowing which cup to choose from, chose the one that they think that Jesus Christ as “The King of Kings” would drink from. It was a golden cup, bedazzled with diamonds. Yup… that’s the cup Jesus surely would have dined with during the Last Supper! Or so the bad guy thought. His choice ended up being the wrong one, and he instantly decayed before everyone’s eyes, being quickly reduced to a pile of dust. And as the guardian of the Holy Grail so aptly said, “He chose poorly.” The real cup wasn’t the pimped out goblet. It was the humble wooden cup that was more in keeping with something a carpenter would drink from. That cup ended up being the one that could grant them eternal life. It’s the one Indiana Jones ultimately drank from. We are a lot like the bad guy in this movie. So often, we simply choose poorly. So often we drink from the wrong cup. So often we make decisions that seem right to us, but the end of that all is death. And instead of making decisions that allow us to flourish as God intended us to flourish, we do the things that rob us of the life God has for us. Far Too Easily Pleased I believe in my heart or hearts that God designed us as human beings to flourish. And by that, I don’t mean some “God wants us to all be millionaires living in mansions” like the Joel Osteen prosperity gospel type nonsense folks preach. No. When God created the world, He created it full of abundance and beauty. And He placed us in a garden to tend to it all, to be stewards over creation, and to cultivate a world full of beauty, joy, and goodness. A world that radiated the glory of God, as the creator and sustainer of all things. Of course, we messed that all up. And we continue to mess that up to this day. We are so easily led astray. And our hearts, strangely enough, often cause us to settle for lesser things, even as we desire better things. It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased. ~C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory I really like this quote for C.S. Lewis. “We are far too easily pleased,” pretty much sums up all our stories. We could have a life other than the one God created us to enjoy, but we find our hearts going after things that only distract us and rob us of the abundant life that can only ultimately be found in Christ. Those lesser things we choose often seem good in the moment. We usually don’t willfully choose to self destruct. “But there’s a way that seems right unto man,” that ultimately ends in death, according the Scriptures. We choose things that seem good, but are ultimately less. Things that ultimately rob us of the ability to thrive. It’s like when we choose a McDonald’s burger when there’s something better out there to eat. It’s like regularly choosing to binge on Netflix night after night, when we could get out and exercise, read a book, or otherwise improve our lives. It’s like choosing pornography, one night stands, and complicated romantic relationships, over a life of sexual fidelity in marriage. We choose these things because our desires are weak. We are often happy to settle for the lesser thing, when God has something better for us in Christ. Warning: God Will Give Us What We Want We see this story play out in the history of Israel. In 1 Samuel 8 the 12 tribes of Israel approached the prophet Samuel about reorganizing their government and appointing a king over them. They simply wanted to “be like all the other nations” who had kings over them. Kings who could enact justice on their behalf, to protect them, and to fight their battles and wars. They wanted a king that would bring about the way of life they envied from other nations. The prophet Samuel grieved over this. While the desire for a king in and of itself wasn’t a bad thing, the choice to establish a king over the 12 tribes of Israel ultimately meant rejecting God as King. And in choosing to no longer have God as king, Samuel foresaw all the problems the nation would have by having a human as their king. Yet, in making this choice, God ultimately honored the foolish desires of the nation of Israel. He gave them exactly what they wanted. And therein lies the rub. God will always allow us to drink of the fullness of our ways. He will not force Himself upon us. If we want Him, we can have Him. But if we want something else besides Him, He lets us have that very thing. And the history of Israel was never the same. Making The Better Choice The ability to thrive and live an abundant life ultimately comes down to a choice. A choice that comes from the orientation of our heart. Look at your life. What are you choosing? Are you choosing the beautiful life? One marked by love and joy? Or are you choosing a life full of drama, toxic relationships, and self-destructive habits? Ultimately, the ability to thrive in life is going to come down to the orientation of our hearts and the actions we take. We must be honest with ourselves. Would we wish the drama that is our lives on other people? Or would we wish something better for them? We must ultimate make a choice. And sometimes that choice isn’t easy. The ways of Jesus can often involve doing hard things like picking up your cross and denying yourself. But in choosing to follow Jesus, I believe we are choosing to live the good and abundant life. A life marked by beauty. Let me close with a great passage from the Old Testament: “See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, and death and adversity; in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His judgments, that you may live and multiply, and that the Lord your God may bless you in the land where you are entering to possess it. But if your heart turns away and you will not obey, but are drawn away and worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today that you shall surely perish. You will not prolong your days in the land where you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess it. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants, by loving the Lord your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him; for this is your life and the length of your days, that you may live in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.” Deuteronomy 30:15-20 (NASB)
20 minutes | 16 days ago
Leading Shoulder To Shoulder (Instead Of Standing On Others) – Episode #107
Leadership. It’s a word that immediately conjures up different images in our minds. When thinking of a leader, many of us would instantly think of a CEO, a military general, a pastor, or the super charismatic individual who can convince everyone to drink the proverbial Kool-Aid. Whoever we picture, we ultimately picture an individual who is large and in charge. They are the person who calls all the shots, and in some way is responsible for telling others what to do. In the military, when your Drill Sargent tells you to jump, the only appropriate response is, “How high, Drill Sargent?” And generally speaking, I think no matter what image we see when we think about leadership, it’s hard to ultimately get away from the chain of command type leadership seen in the military. It’s a type of leadership that heavily relies on hierarchy, chains of command, doing exactly what you are told, and never disobeying a direct order. At the end of the day, it’s a leadership style that’s heavy handed, authoritarian, and dictatorial in nature. And it’s a style of leadership that’s been around since the beginnings of human civilization. Jesus On Leadership Enter Jesus. Jesus lived in a world full of this type of leadership. Leadership that was top-down, heavy handed, and bossy. Not only did this exist within the religious Jewish society that Jesus grew up in, but it was something He experienced living under the occupation of Rome and the reign of Caesar. Such a mindset Jesus ultimately spoke against. He wanted to teach His followers a different mindset when it came to the idea of leadership. And it’s a mindset that in the church we have shied away from. We pay a little lip service to the ideas Jesus spoke about in the gospels regarding leadership. But we ultimately stay away from its full implications, because even in the church, we still cling to leadership structures that resemble the things we see in the military or a large corporation more than we do what Jesus actually taught about leadership. And what did Jesus teach about leadership? Well, as we will see in the next two passages in the gospels, Jesus actually kinda frowned on the entire idea of “leadership.” That’s not to say Jesus is against the idea of leadership per say. Leadership exists whether we like it or not. But, Jesus was against all the baggage we bring to the table when we are discussing the idea of leadership. Let’s look at two passages where Jesus talked about the idea: “But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ. But the greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.” Matthew 23:8-10 (NASB) And there arose also a dispute among them as to which one of them was regarded to be greatest. And He said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who have authority over them are called ‘Benefactors.’ But it is not this way with you, but the one who is the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like the servant. For who is greater, the one who reclines at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at the table? But I am among you as the one who serves. Luke 22:24-27 (NASB) For Jesus, the idea of “being a boss” is something completely foreign to the idea of what it means to be a leader. Yet it’s the thing we usually think about most. We think of leadership, and we think of the person who ultimately calls all the shots. Instead of being a boss, Jesus calls us to be servants who wash one another’s feet. A servant doesn’t get to tell others what to do. A servant is one who exists to help someone else accomplish their goals. Servant Leadership? Or Servants? Jesus calls on leaders to be servants. And by that, I don’t mean the tired out cliché from the 1970’s, “the servant leader.” For as good and as well intentioned as the phrase “servant leader” might be, I have yet to meet anyone who uses that term without really just meaning to use the word, “leader.” They use the phrase “servant leader,” just as the word “leader,” but as of the nicer variety of leadership. Instead of saying the phrase, “servant leader,” we just need to learn to start saying the old fashioned Biblical word, “servant.” And indeed, this was the preferred description that “leaders” like the apostle Paul used to describe themselves. The apostle Paul always opened his letters by identifying himself as a “servant,” and never as a leader. For so long as we think of ourselves as leaders, there will always be the temptation to think of ourselves as a boss, and to think of ourselves as someone who is an “authority” figure. And, once you start thinking of yourself in authoritarian sentiments, it’s not long before you will in someway start possessing the very attitude that Jesus condemned. Who’s In Charge? In our society and in the times of Jesus, we tend to think of leadership in primarily hierarchical and top down relationships. This is the opposite of what Jesus wants us to see. Jesus sees everything regarding leadership flipped upside down and flattened. And, instead of pyramid structures of leadership, Jesus sees things in terms of a us serving a common brotherhood. For Jesus, leadership looks more like people standing shoulder to shoulder in a circle as brothers, rather than some massive, top-heavy bureaucracy. I’m not a boss. And Jesus doesn’t call for there to be any bosses in the kingdom of God. There’s One that’s ultimately in charge of everything, and that’s Him. And even with Him being officially in charge, Jesus empties Himself of everything that has to do with being in charge, to be among us as a brother, and as one who serves. I’m Not A Boss We must do everything we can as Christ followers to stamp out the heavy handed authoritarian tendencies in our heart. No matter what official capacities we might find ourselves in, whether it be in government, work, home, or the church. Even if we find ourselves “in charge” of something, we must never think of ourselves as “the boss.” For example, as a man, I might be the “head of my house,” but I am to never think of myself as the “king of the castle.” Instead of thinking I can boss my wife and theoretical future kids around, and that everyone in the house must do as I say, I need to look at my calling as the opportunity to be a fountainhead of love and joy for all others in the home. As a result, I don’t “lead” my home, as much as I exist to equip and empower others in my household to be the people God has called them to be. Instead of “laying down the law,” God has called me to be a living example that inspires others to embody a certain way of life. Instead of ruling by an iron fist and exercising brute force, God has called me to kind and gentle persuasion, and to serve others by means of sacrificial love. And in saying this I concede that, yes, there might be instances where I have to draw a line in the sand. But, such instances should be exceedingly rare. For if you get to the point where you have to use a stern rod of correction, this would only be for moments where relationships have become irrevocably broken, and where both parties are ultimately destined to going there own way. What Do I Get Out Of It? Since serving is always about what others get out of my service instead of what I personally get out of it, then I need to stop looking at my service as an opportunity to feed my ego, or otherwise doing something that ultimate benefits me. Instead of seeking after positions of power and prestige that are in the lime light, we need to always be on the lookout to identify opportunities to serve others in whatever capacities we have to serve, even if that’s in small and forgotten places that are far away from any stage. That includes doing things we don’t necessarily like, and sometimes even things we aren’t always even good or particularly talented at. It’s been my experience over the years, even when I’m not very good at doing something, so long as I do it as one serving the Lord, there’s always a special kind of grace that comes along in that moment to fill in for the areas I’m deficient. It’s always easy to see the stage and say “I want to be up there!” But in serving others, it’s not about me, and “what I get” out of serving. Whether or not you get jollies or a sense of purpose out of doing what you do is irrelevant. You may even feel your time and talents have been wasted in whatever capacity you served. And if that’s you, then welcome to the idea of being a servant! For servants are often individuals who do things behind the scenes, and do things that go unnoticed and uncelebrated. They don’t see much in the way of kick backs for their service and the things they’ve done. Their only reward is the outcome of their labor. But in being a servant, your time and talents are never a waste. For when we serve, we ultimately do our service as unto the Lord, and not men. And what we do, we do as brothers standing shoulder to shoulder with our other brothers, and not as individuals standing on top of other men.
17 minutes | 23 days ago
When You’re Broken And Out Of Sorts – Episode #106
In the Bible there was a man named Jacob. He was a real piece of work. Self-assured and tricky, he always seemed to weasel his way through life. He was cut-throat, conniving, and always seemed to find a way to get the upper hand and come out on top. If Jacob would have known of social media, I believe his favorite hashtag would have been #Winning. When We Are Broken But eventually Jacob met his match, and was shaken to his core. He was on a journey with his caravan when his scouts alerted him to the fact that his brother, Esau, with whom he had a checked past, was approaching, armed with 400 soldiers. As Jacob made camp the night before the encounter, he was worried and afraid about a possible armed conflict. He realized he was in a situation where he couldn’t win. Jacob wrestled with God throughout the night. In the midst of wrestling with God, the Lord dislocated Jacob’s hip, and Jacob walked with a limp the rest of his life. Because of this encounter with God, Jacob was a changed man, and instead of conflict with his brother Esau, or pulling some sort of stunt, Jacob made peace with his brother. What changed Jacob’s situation? A little bit of brokenness. Humble Confidence Thinking about Jacob, I can’t help but think of self-esteem. It’s good to have a healthy sense of confidence. A confidence that comes from knowing what you’re made of. But that self-esteem will manifest itself in a cocky arrogance if you aren’t careful. I think for our sense of self-esteem to be healthy, as individuals we must be tested, and put in situations where we know we’ve lost control, where we know we are swimming in the deep end, and way out of our league. What we need is a humbled confidence. And I don’t believe that humble confidence is something that we will ever learn unless you know what it means to be stretched, emptied, and broken. Until we know what it’s like to be at our wits’ end, and to fail miserably, we’ll always be a bit too self-assured. God Giving You More Than You Can Handle It’s often said that, “God will never give you more than you can handle.” Such is a cute and well meaning saying. But, I believe it’s mostly said by individuals who don’t know what it’s like to hit rock bottom. Such a saying simply doesn’t hold up to the witness of Scripture, or the common experience of mankind. In 2 Corinthians 1:3-10, the apostle Paul wrote: “3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5 For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ. 6 But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; or if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is effective in the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer; 7 and our hope for you is firmly grounded, knowing that as you are sharers of our sufferings, so also you are sharers of our comfort. 8 For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; 9 indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead; 10 who delivered us from so great a peril of death, and will deliver us, He on whom we have set our hope. And He will yet deliver us…” The apostle Paul knew what it was like to be “despaired even of life.” That is, to experience a suffering which is greater than our ability to endure, and more than we feel we can possibly handle on our own. Many of us know what this sort of suffering is like. We know what it’s like to suffer, and to suffer deeply. To be robbed of the will to live. To suffer loss for which there is no healing. To be shaken our core. The truth is, God will allow us to be faced with more than we can handle. God does this because He wants us to hand all of our burdens and cares over to Him. God wants us to see that if we must suffer in this world, we don’t have to suffer alone. He wants us to realize we are not enough in ourselves, and that we are in need of salvation. And not just salvation from sin or hell, but a salvation from all the things that weigh us down in this life, and threaten to destroy us. Shattered or Shaped The dark moments of life can either shatter us or shape us. What comes out of those moments will often boil down to how we choose to receive and respond to our circumstances. Will we choose to self-destruct, fester in our misery, and to be full of self-pity? Or will we allow the things that could possibly destroy us to shape us into the people that God yet wants us to become? We all want to make sense of our sufferings, and the pains we experience in life. If we must suffer in this life, we don’t want to suffer needlessly. We want our sufferings to be redemptive in nature. That is, if we are going to suffer, we want a payoff for that suffering. We want to cash in, and for the good to outweigh the bad. And while there are some pains and aches in our soul that I believe we will sometimes experience in this life that have no clear payoff, and nothing of apparent redemptive value, sufferings that can’t be rationalized or explained, I believe such tends to be rare. We Have Hope I believe there are tears that will not be wiped away on this side of eternity. There are sufferings we will experience that will forever leave a mark on us. But that is why we must always be filled with hope. For as Christians, we know upon whom we have set our hope. We don’t merely have wishful and positive thinking about the future events that may or may not work out as we like. Rather, our hope is in the person of Jesus Christ, who promises us a new heaven and Earth, in which sorrow and sadness must forever flee. And in this life, no matter what pain we may suffer, and no matter how pronounced our limp might be, though we walk with a limp, we will walk. And we will do that because of the hope that we ultimately have in Jesus Christ.
41 minutes | a month ago
I’ve Changed Jobs! (Career Advice) – Episode #105
It’s been an eventful couple of weeks for me. I recently found out at work that my position at work was more or less being “repurposed” (for lack of better term). I was still going to have the same job, but with a very different focus, and utilizing a very different skill set and knowledge. About the same time, a recruiter reached out to me through LinkedIn to ask me to consider a new opportunity. And I did. Several in fact. Over the past several weeks I’ve had multiple interviews, with multiple companies, with multiple job offers. After much prayer and counsel, a few sleepless nights, and a bit of soul searching, I accepted a new job opportunity. This past Friday was the last day I worked for what I have often referred to on this podcast as the “Big Bad Bank.” The past 10 years have been an amazing and transformative time for me. It’s been one of the greatest blessings God has ever given me. I’ve been stretched in ways I never dreamed, and was given a lot of opportunities to learn new things, to excel, and do hard and even deeply rewarding work. And along the way I have been blessed to work with some truly amazing and talented people over the years. While not everything was always sunshine and lollipops, I will always look back at my time with the “Big Bad Bank” with fondness. The job literally changed my life. But now I turn my attention to the new opportunity that awaits me as an underwriter for a smaller mortgage company, but one that is rapidly growing. I start there this week. I am excited about the opportunity that it represents in my life. And in today’s podcast, I simply want to provide some reflection on navigating your career. Hopefully this will better help you shape yours. 1. Always Look For Another Job When is the best day to start to look for your next job? The first day on your new one. Whenever I take a job, I always setup a new job search, and keep a lookout for my next opportunity. I’m always looking to grow. And even though I always plan to be in a new position for several years, by keeping my eye for what’s next, I can determine what direction the winds are blowing, and seek to use my current job as an opportunity to gain the skills necessary to grow my way into the next position. 2. Have A Servant’s Heart I’ve never had a job where I didn’t seek to constantly take on new responsibilities and opportunities within my current position. I try to come to every job with a servant’s heart. My job isn’t just about me and collecting a paycheck and trying to get what I can out of a position. I’ve always looked at myself as the guy that says “yes” to just about anything he’s asked to do, and I always discuss with management ways I can do more. I want to do more than what the default job description says. Be careful with this though, some employers will seize this opportunity as an opportunity to give you the responsibilities of another job without actually paying you more. But, more often than not, such will be short lived, as you will usually be able to take those additional skills and use it to obtain another position that pays better. Make yourself so valuable that if your current employer isn’t willing to pay you more or give you a promotion, someone else in the marketplace will see your value and pay you accordingly. Remember, whatever isn’t growing withers and dies, so, always seek out new responsibilities within your current job. Think bigger than your job description. 3. Door Knocking In my career, there are time’s I’ve had to literally pound the pavement and knock on every door in order to find my next opportunity. One time I spent a weekend making custom resumes for over 100 different jobs. Sometimes you will have to pound on every door to find the next opportunity. But not always. Sometimes, and such situations are rare, but you’ll have people pounding on your door seeking you out. Always be sensitive to what environment you are in, and always keep your resume and LinkedIn profile polished and up to date. For you never know when it will be necessary to knock on doors, or when someone is about to knock on yours. 4. Don’t Just Chase Money Money is important when it comes to a job. It’s perhaps the number one reason we get up every day and go to work. We all have bills to pay, and work is the means by which we do such. But if you can afford to do so, don’t make your career about simply chasing after the top dollar. The Bible is full of warnings about chasing after wealth, and selling your soul for some mammon. Wealth is a fickle thing, here one moment and gone the next. And chasing after money may require you make some compromises that harm your life, your relationships, and your health. Don’t jeopardize those things. Your life has more value than what a dollar represents. Make sure whatever job you take, that you consider the nature of the work, it’s impact on your life, the type of company you will work for, and the culture at that corporation. Will this job make you into a better person, or will it just fill your bank account? Before taking a job, talk it over with your spouse, your parents, and whoever else is important in your life. If they don’t support your career decision, you should probably consider other opportunities elsewhere. 5. Building A Reputation One factor that weighed on me heavily as I considered changing jobs is the impact that this would have on my reputation. Your name is worth more than silver and gold according to the book of Proverbs. And if you’ve been in a company or industry for any length of time, you’ve liked developed a reputation. At the “Big Bad Bank” I worked for, I had certainly developed a reputation. I was spoken of very highly by many. In changing companies, I’m going to be something of a “Johnny-Come-Lately.” I will have to likely spend a couple years rebuilding my reputation with this new company. Gaining folks trust, becoming a go-to guy, and being invited to participate in larger projects takes time. So, before you jump ship, be conscious of what you are losing by doing so, and what you will need to do to make a splash at your next job. 6. Avoid Knee Jerk Reactions— And Press On Sometimes a job can really stink. I’ve had some great jobs, and not so great one’s. I’ve had jobs that I went to every single day that I really didn’t care for and felt like I was suffocating. If such is you, it may be necessary to find another line of work in the future. But I would encourage you, before jumping ship, press on through whatever adversity you are facing at work. Sometimes the best lessons in life and the greatest opportunities for growth are found in deeply painful moments. Moments that can not only define your life, but also your career. So if you are working somewhere that you really don’t like working, give it time. Don’t simply job hop from one job to the next, and looking for greener pastures. Avoid knee jerk reactions, and focus on persevering. Don’t run from a job, instead, always put yourself in a position to run towards something else. Make pursuing opportunity, not escaping, your constant aim. 7. Think Long Term Sometimes we have to take a job simply because we need to take a job. Our opportunities are not always the best. But with that said, whenever possible, don’t just look at having a “job.” Instead, focus on having a “career.” Before pursuing a new job, think seriously about what you are leaving behind, and what opportunities exist elsewhere. Don’t just think about your next job, think about the job after your next job. Will the new job lead to new opportunities to grow? Have you hit the ceiling at where you are at? And even if you aren’t overly ambitious and feel like you could do your next job for the rest of your life, sometimes that won’t always be something you can control. Layoffs happen. People get fired. Family issues may require you to make some pivots in your career. And while sometimes we just want a paycheck, we always need to take a step back so we can see the bigger picture. We need to be able to ask, what’s next after this? 8. You Job Is Part Of Who You Are I think the subject of “identity” is very important with where you work. Like it or not, our jobs are simply a part of who we are. Some jobs, like a doctor, minister, teacher, or lawyer, might carry with them a certain “image” of how you see yourself and how others see you, and the responsibilities associated with those lines of work may impact how you behave in public and private. And who you work for may impact how people ultimately perceive you. For example, the “Big Bad Bank” I worked for had gone through a terrible public scandal that made not only the bank I worked for look really bad, but it also put me in an “awkward” situation whenever I introduced myself to people. That wasn’t always the case though. Before the scandal, when I said I worked for the bank, people would always look at me with a very positive impression. “Oh wow!” But after the scandal, those oh wow’s became “Oh… umm.” Eventually I got to the point when introducing myself I just said what I did for a living, and not necessarily who I worked for, so as to avoid such moments. At the end of the day, whoever you work for, you will need to be comfortable living in that skin. How other people perceive you as a result of what you do and where you work will ultimately impact how you think about yourself. Sometimes this is a good thing, other times it can be bad. So before choosing a job or career, think about how that line of work will shape your sense of self.
23 minutes | a month ago
Knowing Christ Crucified – Episode #104
“I determined to know nothing among you except Christ and Him crucified.” ~ 1 Corinthians 2:2 (NASB) When we think of ministry, much of preaching is focused on certain topics. Some major in heaven, others major in hell, yet others focus on comforting people and speaking to “practical” issues in folks lives and society. Yet, he apostle Paul said his focus was always to make sure people knew Jesus Christ was crucified. The Cross Is the Revelation Of God To Paul, the crucifixion of Christ wasn’t just a fact of history, a doctrine, or creed. It was essential to know who God in fact was, for the preaching of the cross of Jesus Christ was the means by which God fully revealed Himself to all of humanity. And without the preaching of the cross, it is impossible to know God as God. Without preaching the cross of Jesus Christ, Christianity would be nothing more than a collection of platitudes fit for broken fortune cookies. It is only in the cross that our faith finds any meaning, and it is by the cross that the wisdom of God is ultimately demonstrated, and the world and all its forces conquered. Dead Messiah’s Aren’t Messiah’s… Are They? The cross was foolishness to the Jews and Greeks of Paul’s day. And indeed, at first glance, what good could possibly come from a crucified messiah? Who wants that? Messiah’s are supposed to rescue, conquer, and plunder. They are supposed to raise up armies, vanquish the enemy, and make everyone wealthy. Messiahs are supposed to flex their muscles, kick butt, and take names. And in that context of what most people want out of messiahs, a messiah that’s been crucified sounds like the greatest of all ironies and jokes. Dead messiahs are supposed to be the laughing stock of history, a sign that they were anything but a messiah. Yet for Paul, a crucified messiah was part of God’s ultimate plan to right all things. A crucified messiah was a demonstration of God’s wisdom was greater than the wisdom of men, and that those “in the know” were in fact, fools. Everything Turned Upside Down God’s wisdom in the cross of Jesus Christ turns the world upside down. It robs the world of it’s ability to boast and to flex it’s muscles. For in the cross, the poor, the rejects, the powerless, and the hungry can overcome and conquer all the powers that oppress them. And instead of looking down on such people, the cross embraces failure, weakness, vulnerability, obscurity, and poverty. This is the exact opposite of our Christianity. Especially our nationalistic American version of Christianity, where we are always trying to live our best life now, to obtain riches, honor, glory, political power, might, and success. We want to compete with the world on the world’s terms, instead of preaching and embracing the cross. We love the “happy clappy” version of Christianity where we sing about victory and overcoming all of life’s challenges. We love the Jesus that caters to the needs of upper-middleclass soccer moms, affluent business leaders, and the nuclear family. That Jesus makes us feel so good about ourselves. We Don’t Want To Die But such isn’t the Jesus Christ that was crucified. People largely reject that Jesus. Instead of the cross being the symbol of our faith, we want an arrow that points up towards the sky. We want all the power and all the feel goods of our faith. There is simply no room for a cross. Don’t get me wrong, I want all the victory that Jesus promises us. I want that “resurrection power” that helps me face the troubles of life. But as the late Art Katz used to say, “The cross always precedes the resurrection in the plans of God.” There’s Nothing Left Of Me But we don’t like crucifixion. And, understandably so. Crucifixion involves suffering, and dying. It ultimately means that, once the process has run its course, there will be nothing left of you. It’s as A.W. Tozer used to say, “You know one thing about a man carrying a cross outside a city— he’s not coming back.” And that scares us to death. For in the cross we are vulnerable, weak, and treated as failures. On the cross, all hope is cut off. The only thing to look forward to is certain death and destruction. And it is something you suffer alone, as a punishment for upsetting all the wrong people. Yet it’s this cross that Jesus Christ embraced, and it’s this cross that He calls upon all of us embrace in our identity with Him. In the cross He embraced death and all the threats and furies of hell and everything this world could throw at Him. God Reigns Through A Tree In the cross the greatest of ironies played out. God was crucified, and the Creator of all things became a spectacle to the very world He created. Yet in this moment God showed all of humanity that no matter what the world did to Jesus, it is through this cross that Jesus Christ would ultimately conquer and overcome the world. The early Christians used to say that “God reigns through a tree.” Which is the polar opposite of how things normally work. People usually reign by sitting on thrones, utilizing political power, bossing people around, by making a lot of money, flexing their muscles, and showing themselves mighty with much pomp and circumstance. You get none of that with the cross. With the cross, if someone harms you, you can’t fight back. It means emptying yourself of seeking after political power so you can come out on top. “Winning” isn’t a game you try to even play. The cross means not pursuing wealth, fame, fortune, status, and all that comes with it. It means you don’t get to continue on the same path you were on before. The cross brings an end to all that. And it brings an end to all that so that we can find true life, a life that is only available to those who are willing to lay their life down. A life that comes only from the power of resurrection. And it’s a life that is available to all, whether rich or poor, powerful or weak, noble or those of no nobility. But it’s available, only by picking up the cross, and waiting for God to breathe new life into that which has died.
28 minutes | a month ago
You Don’t Always Need A Budget (But Sometimes You Do) – Episode #103
A budget can be a very good thing. It helps you track your expenses, find out areas where money is mysteriously vanishing, plan for the future, and to reduce waste. There are, in fact, times I highly recommend you make and plan a budget on a monthly basis. But if I might play the role of the financial heretic here, I believe there are times when you don’t need to make a budget! Of course, such sounds heretical because we are used to personal financial advice from the Dave Ramsey’s of the world who dispense one-size-fits-all approaches to personal finance. Such gurus have a lot of good advice, but they forget that, above all, personal finance is PERSONAL finance. Not everyone is in the same financial situation, and everyone has different short and long term financial goals in mind. A detailed monthly budget may be absolutely necessary for some people. But for others, maybe completely optional. Let’s look at when you do need a budget, and when you don’t need a budget. When You Need A Budget If you are living paycheck to paycheck. If you are first starting out in your career, and/or don’t make a lot of money, I highly recommend you make a budget. You are new to the world of personal finance, and you have no idea how much it truly takes to live. The only way you’ll ever be able to navigate the complexities of life in your situation is if you budget. Otherwise, suddenly, every little financial “surprise” becomes a crisis. You must get control over your personal finances by budgeting so that you can start saving towards the future. If you have a lot of consumer debt. If you are trying to get out of debt, and paying off things like credit cards, auto loans, and medical debts, you probably need a budget. Whether you are attempting to get out of debt using the “debt snowball” or “avalanche” methods of getting out of debt, you’ll never get off the hamster wheel unless you are carefully tracking your spending so that you can maximize paying down your bills. Otherwise, you risk only paying the minimum monthly amounts, and never getting out of debt. If you are highly dependent on variable income sources, such as tips, overtime pay, bonuses, or commissions, you need a budget. Since your income likely has very large peaks and valleys throughout the year, and is highly dependent on income that greatly fluctuates from month to month, budgeting is a must. The only way you’ll navigate your bumpy financial life is if you wear a seat belt. In this case, your budget will be that seat belt. If you have some aggressive savings goal in mind for a big ticket purchase in the near future, you need a budget. Are you having a baby in the next few months? Need to buy a car in the next year or so? Is the roof on your house starting to look bad? In cases like these, you might need to temporarily and aggressively start diverting money you normally spend in one category and putting it towards these. If you lack financial self-control, you definitely need a budget. You know you. Are you naturally inclined to spend, or save? Does the Amazon Prime delivery driver know the name of your dog? If you are a little out of control, and are prone to frivolously spend and regularly engage in impulse shopping, a budget is the only way you’ll probably control your spending. Otherwise, you’ll lie to yourself about where you are financially, and you’ll likely find yourself regularly living beyond your means instead of below your means. When You Don’t Need A Budget If you are no longer living paycheck to paycheck, and have 3-6 months of monthly expenses stashed away in emergency savings, you probably don’t need to make a budget. If this is you, you aren’t living on the edge. You have a pretty good financial cushion, and can easily absorb most of life’s random happenings. If you are regularly living below your means, and your monthly income regularly outstrips your average monthly expenses, you probably don’t need to make a budget. And why would you? You clearly have self-control, and make more money than is needed to pay for your rent/mortgage, utilities, groceries, etc. These expenses tend to be rather static from month to month, even if they fluctuate a little bit from one season to another. If you are operating from the principle of “paying yourself first,” then you probably don’t need a budget. If you’ve easily taken care of your short and long term savings goals, have automated those, and are on goal to meet your retirement goals, then you are at the point financially where your financial life is on auto-pilot. Sure, a budget could be useful tool to crank out a few extra dollars every now and then. But, at this point, you don’t need to sweat the small stuff, and it won’t matter if you have a $5 a day Starbucks habit. If you have software that tracks your expenses, you probably don’t need to make a monthly budget. There are a ton of free to cheap apps you can install on your phone capable of tracking your expenses. Most major banks have a tool on their website or app that will automatically classify most of your monthly expenses. Unless you are in a bad situation financially, there’s not a need to make a line by line budget that tracks in detail everything you are spending your money on. This financial technology, while not always 100% accurate, can give you a pretty good “at a glance” view of your monthly spending habits. If you are in a good place financially, this is probably all you need to make sure you haven’t gone off the rails financially. It should take you no more than 30 seconds to look this up on a monthly basis.
17 minutes | 2 months ago
The Wisdom Of “I Don’t Know!” – Episode #102
We live in an age where everyone has an opinion about anything and everything. The fact that we know little to nothing about complex subjects like international trade relations, virology, or national security has yet to stop us from having at least one or more strongly held opinions about such issues just the same. We love being a people who are “in the know,” or at least, pretending like we are. There is not a subject matter in the world that we aren’t afraid to play a little arm-chair quarterback on every now and then. Indeed, the less we know, the more likely we are to double down on rhetoric where we pretend otherwise. Social scientists have called this the “Dunning Kruger Effect.” Because, to us, the worst of all possible things in the world is not us b.s.’ing our way through a subject we know absolutely nothing about. Rather, it’s us living in a state of vulnerability. We’d rather pretend to know something about something than actually admit we know nothing. The thought of not knowing, or at least pretending to not know, is something that scares us to death. Socrates Knows Nothing The ancient Greek philosopher Socrates (pronounced: “So-Crates” for you Bill & Ted Fans out there) was put on trial for “corrupting the youth of Athens.” His mere crime? Simply asking too many questions. In the end, Socrates lost his trial and was forced to commit suicide by drinking poison. During his trial, Socrates recalls a fantastic story about how the infamous “Oracle of Delphi” remarked that Socrates was the wisest man in all of Athens. Socrates found this highly improbable and did not believe it. Because Socrates considered himself an average man of no particular wisdom, confessing he didn’t know much of anything about anything. Socrates set out to prove the Oracle of Delphi wrong, and went on a mission in which he questioned the individuals considered the wisest in Athens: The politicians, the poets, and the artists. Socrates talked with each of these individuals. And he questioned them at great length about all the things they knew. Or at least, all the things they thought they knew. Socrates would rigorously question all their answers, and got to the point where he was asking questions about the most basic and fundamental assumptions that all their complex answers had been built upon. And in the end, Socrates made a lot of these individuals mad, for they realized that they didn’t know how to answer even the most basic of questions regarding what they believed and why they believed it. Socrates eventually concluded that so many of the individuals believed to be “wise” in his day didn’t actually know what they were talking about. But they pretended they did just the same, being completely unaware of their own lack of understanding regarding things they were supposed to know. And because of this, Socrates ultimately came to believe the Oracle of Delphi was right. For all the wise men of Socrates day professed a wisdom that they did not actually have, which is no wisdom at all. Whereas Socrates on the other hand, claimed he didn’t know anything about anything… except that he was aware of the fact he didn’t know anything. As a result, this is what made Socrates the wisest man in all of Athens. For unlike the other highly regarded men of Athens, at least Socrates was wise enough to not pretend to know something that he in fact did not. And for this, Socrates was made to kill himself by drinking a goblet full of poison. Know What You Do/Don’t Know So what is my take away from this little history lesson today? Be like Socrates. Don’t feel like you always have to have an opinion on anything and everything. Just because Facebook and Twitter exist doesn’t mean you have to chime in on what everyone else is chiming in on. And before you get a little too big for your britches, stick to commenting on the things you truly know and understand. Not simply the things you pretend to know or understand. For such is just foolishness at the end of the day. As the old saying goes, “Stay in your lane!” Keep an open mind. Try to learn. Be inquisitive. Ask questions, and then ask questions about your questions. And when trying to learn new “things about things,” be sure to ask questions of people who truly are in the know and have something to share. Don’t simply ask your favorite talking head on Fox News thinks about a topic. Ask questions from people who are happy to have you ask questions, who can stand a little scrutiny, and who can share their understanding of things with you. And listen, carefully. Listen so as to not form an opinion, but to come away with understanding. And if you don’t know something, don’t be afraid to simply say, “I don’t know!” For knowing that you don’t know is the beginning of so much wisdom.
29 minutes | 2 months ago
I Am Not A Denomination – Episode #101
This past week, the prominent Southern Baptist minister, Beth Moore, announced she was leaving the Southern Baptist Convention. Beth Moore’s departure is welcome by many of her critics, yet for many others, it is cause for grief. Some have said that her departure should serve as a wake-up call for the denomination, which has seen several prominent leaders leave in the last couple of years, as it battles over controversies regarding politics, race, sexual abuse, and the role of women within their churches. This controversy has me thinking about how partisan and tribal we can be in Christianity. Our history is filled with people picking sides, forming their own little tribes and clans, and battling with one another over whatever the controversial issue of the day has been. We love forming denominations around our favorite pope type figures, heroes of the faith, and theological thought leaders. And, Beth Moore leaving the Southern Baptist Convention is but another of a million such stories of Christians going their separate ways because of denominational tensions. We Love Our Sects There are an estimated 2.6 billion Christians in the world today. It is no surprise that there are divisions among us. As an old joke goes, wherever you have 2 rabbi’s, you’ll have 3 opinions. Christians have proved to be no different in our mindsets. Among these billions of people, Christianity can be broken down into primarily 3 different groups: Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestant. From these three branches there are roughly 40 different other major organizational schools of thought, that further splinter off into many other hundreds, if not thousands of sub-groups. . Denominational organizations form around these groups. And that’s not always a bad thing. Denominations can be useful in the sense they provide a network of churches with similar theological convictions and practices with a means of associating and collaborating with one another. These concerns often arise out of very pragmatic issues. No church wants to feel like they are going at it alone, and as they look to expand their particular flavor of Christianity, they wish to organize with other like minded individuals so that they can accomplish more, together. “A cord of three strands is not easily broken,” and good and fruitful things often happen as a result of these joint efforts. But it’s not all pie in the sky. Things can turn sour, and unhealthy and destructive mindsets can be created. Where things become unhealthy is when individuals within those denominations start to form tribal like identities that pit their particular branch of Christianity against other branches of Christianity. They become unhealthy when Christians start making war against other Christians, as they begin to draw lines in the sand, and “earnestly contend for the faith” against one another. Often, instead of trying to win lost souls, they try to win each other to their particular denomination. Petty fights break out, factions form, unkind words are exchanged (especially on social media), and before you know it, people start jumping ship. From this mess, new alliances are often formed, pet doctrines become codified, new churches are established, and the process repeats itself over and over again. This is in essence the history of Christianity for the past 2,000 years. Is God Even There? A brief story from my life… One Pentecostal denomination I was involved with for several years, and went to Bible college for, had much of this tribalistic mentality. The denomination was pretty new as far as denominations go. It had only been around about 100 years. And as such, there were members within those churches who could trace their spiritual and biological heritage back to the origins of the denomination. Some would say rather proudly, “I am third generation church of God!” Sometimes this was said out of genuine joy and celebration over their family and the rich spiritual heritage passed on to them by their families. But, there were others who wore that badge as it were a royal scepter, to be used to knight or smite whomever they pleased. For these individuals that claim was used to establish a hierarchy and social pecking order within the church. And for Johnny-Come-Lately’s like me, it soon became abundantly clear that there wasn’t much room for me within the ranks. I can recall this time I went with my former fiancee to a church down the street from her. It was from a rival sister denomination, that more or less had 99% of the same theological convictions and practices our denomination had. She had never been to this church. And she was hesitant to go, because she wondered “Will God even be there?” when we meet. She was “2nd generation” Church of God, and she had spent her entire life within her particular denomination. As funny as this may sound, she was as serious as a heart attack. She really thought there was the chance that God would not be at this particular church we looked to visit simply because it was a slightly different denomination from the one she grew up in. So we went. And to her surprise, she felt God present at that church. I Just Want To Be A Christian Ever since I became a Christian in my late teenage years, I’ve always looked for a place to belong in the church. I found out though, that at times, that can be a pretty rough road to travel. Not everyone is interested in you belonging. I remember a time when my wife and I were looking for a new church shortly after we got married. We visited around to several churches, and had mostly good experiences. But, I do recall this one church we went to in which the pastor “warmly” welcomed us. After service was over, the pastor pulled us aside into his office to talk. He wanted us to make it crystal clear to us that his church was a Southern Baptist Church, and that from within that denomination, they ascribed to a certain theological persuasion within that denomination (they were Southern Baptists of the dispensational school of thought, not the Reformed). And that was pretty much the essence of our conversation. Needless to say, we never went back. Such can be a pretty heartbreaking thing to experience. And as one untimely born, I’ve just never been able to understand it. While I don’t mind the church organizing itself into larger umbrella organizations and networks outside of the local church, I’ve just never been able to buy into the entire denominational thing. And by that, I don’t mean I’m over here rooting for “non-denomination denomination.” I just don’t get the rampant tribalism. I know it’s a story as old as Christianity itself. Even in the apostle Paul’s day, there were factions forming, with some saying they were of Paul, Barnabas, or Cephas. Some even claimed to follow a group of “Super Apostles,” as if the apostles Paul, Barnabas, and Cephas weren’t quite spectacular enough in their own right. There’s always been Christians who want to only be associated with other types of Christians. I just can’t do that. I don’t want to have my identity tethered to a certain denomination or sect within Christianity. I am not a denomination. I simply want to be a Christian wherever other Christians are. And why? Because I find Jesus in them all. And if the Spirit of God can richly dwell within the heart of someone else that just so happens to have a different sign outside their church door, I’m happy to join them in loving fellowship. For it is the bond we have in the Spirit of God that ultimately unites us. We have one Lord, one faith, and one baptism. And, we often forget that. This entire issue with Beth Moore leaving the Southern Baptist Convention makes me realize how much forgetting we often do.
28 minutes | 2 months ago
I Did It All On Purpose (Milestones and Legacies) – Episode #100
100 years from now, your great grandchildren will probably struggle to remember your name. Except for some internet archive somewhere, a picture of you probably won’t even exist. And, just about everything that you worked hard to produce in your toil under the sun will have long since vanished. Kinda depressing to think about to some degree. And it’s depressing because we want our lives to matter. We want our lives to be filled with a sense of purpose. I think we all want to leave some sort of stamp or impression on this world that long outlives us. We want to be remembered, and to “leave a legacy.” Some of us may have the opportunity to do things for which we are remembered. But for the vast majority of us, as one preacher I heard say once, 15 minutes after our bodies hit the ground, someone is going to ask someone else to pass the bucket of fried chicken. And that will pretty much be it. Such is the destiny of probably just about everyone that’s ever been born. And if you dwell on this long enough, it might just create an existential crisis in your life. So, how do we leave a mark on this world? How do we do things that last? How do we leave a legacy? Accomplishments Devoid Of Meaning First, let’s talk about the Guinness World Records. Their world records they’ve recorded are numerous. According to Guinness, they have recorded over 40,000 world records! Which sounds amazing to think about at first glance! But as you skim through most of what is considered a “world record,” you kinda notice a common theme. Most of these “world records” are just stupid, and don’t really mean all that much. For example, consider Otto the skateboarding bulldog who broke the record for skateboarding through the longest human made tunnel, consisting of… WOW… 30 people! Good job Otto! You really did it! A-mazing! (Sarcasm) Or consider Ashrita Furman, who holds the Guinness World Record for breaking the most Guinness World Records. He’s broken 600 world records, but presently only holds 200 of them! He’s noted for a huge breadth of categories and an assortment of talents, varying from expeditions up the side of Mount Fuji by pogo stick, to ambitious pursuits like spinning insanely large hula hoops around his body. Cool stuff. And undoubtedly impressive. There’s something transcendent about it all. Maybe even something a little inspiring. I guess?/!?!?! But in the grand scheme of things, I’m not sure any of these milestones means all that much, and nobody really cares all that much about any of them. Why? Because they are devoid of a greater purpose. They involve categories and world records that exist for no other reason than to have “the most” of something in that particular category. Accomplishments Infused With Meaning Accomplishments mean nothing unless they are attached to a sense of purpose. For example, if I went outside and dunked a basketball, that would be quite the accomplishment. Especially considering I’m only 5’10” and am a bit on the husky side. It would be a YouTube worthy video, and something I’d probably talk about for a while. In the grand scheme of things, me dunking a basketball wouldn’t mean all that much of anything. But give the same basketball to a Michael Jordan type figure, and all of a sudden dunking a basketball means something, and takes on a greater significance. And why is that? Because if I dunk a basketball, it wouldn’t have any greater purpose in my life. It’d be nothing more than a magic trick, or an act of showmanship. But, Michael Jordan dunking a basketball is something more than magical. It’s done with a greater sense of purpose. Michael Jordan dunks basketballs in order to help win basketball games and championships, and to make a lot of money selling shoes for Nike. And in the process, he changed how a game was played, and how business was done. Here’s but a few of Michael Jordan’s many accomplishments: Ten scoring titles — an NBA record and seven consecutive matching Wilt Chamberlain Retired with the NBA’s highest scoring average of 30.1ppg Rookie of the Year Five-time NBA MVP Six-time NBA champion Six-time NBA Finals MVP Ten-time All-NBA First Team Nine time NBA All-Defensive First Team Defensive Player of the Year 14-time NBA All-Star Three-time NBA All-Star MVP 50th Anniversary All-Time Team Hall of Fame inductee Along the way, all those slam dunks and those shots added up to something. It meant accomplishing scoring titles, being showered with awards, and winning champions. People remember those dunks, not only because they were amazing demonstrations of athletic prowess such as had never been seen before, but because it moved the proverbial needle. It changed everything. Therefore, every milestone behind his legendary career in the NBA means something, because it took place in a greater context. It was something more than just an individual achievement. Leaving A Legacy That Lasts There’s a lot of talk these days about “leaving a legacy.” And much of it, I simply feel like rolling my eyes at. Many who use this phrase use it because they are arrogant men who want to build monuments for themselves. They’ve done everything they can to build an image of themselves for people to worship, and they want people to continue to worship that image long after they are gone. Such is not the type of legacy I’m talking about. Real legacy isn’t about you. It’s about the gift you leave behind to be passed down to future generations. Consider the man who invented the wheel. Or, the person who discovered fire. And, then there are the people that discovered farming. Can you tell me their names? Who were they, and when did they make these amazing technological leaps that forever changed mankind? We don’t know. History long ago stopped whispering their names. Yet the gifts they left behind for all of humanity to share in has not been forgotten. Their legacy— THEIR GIFT, their contribution, continues to endure. And why is this? Because their accomplishment meant something in a greater context. What they did went beyond setting personal goals for themselves and achieving something worthy to be kept in the Guinness World Records book. They were like Michael Jordan, they changed the way the game was played, and the world was better for it. (Self Reflection: The Milestones Of This Podcast) With today being my 100th podcast episode for Jimmy’s Table Podcast, I got to thinking about the issues surrounding purpose, milestones, and legacies. I’ve been reflecting on my own accomplishments with this podcast, and what that means in the grand scheme of things. I’ve been looking to foster conversations about the intersection of faith, life, and culture. My hope is to create content that is thought provoking, and that shines some light of understanding on issues that I care about. Issues that I hope you will also care about, and that in sharing my thoughts on these issues, you’ll find ways to transform your life and the life of those around you. 100 episodes in, this podcast has been downloaded over 3,600 times. That’s not much as far as podcasts go. I’m probably never going to achieve a Joe Rogan level of following. And while this podcast doesn’t have a lot of downloads, this podcast has been listened to in over 50 countries around the world! (See Stats) Jimmy’s Table Podcast Download History Which I think is pretty cool. It’s most downloaded in United States, but I have quite a few folks that listen from Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Germany. And interestingly enough, it’s even listened to in places like China, and former Soviet Union states. The reach may be small, but it is certainly broad. My podcast is mostly a monologue, however, in the last 100 episodes, I’ve managed to interview 10 different people with unique perspectives on the world. Among them was my friend and former coworker, Bill Fehr, who came on this podcast to share his life story and his career as a bike messenger in Charlotte. Shortly after recording the podcast about his life, which has now been downloaded almost 500 times, Bill Fehr passed away unexpectedly due to some unknown health issues. I was able to take his life story and present it as a gift to his wife and family. What will these little milestones mean in the grand scheme of things? I’m not personally sure. Like you, my name will probably ultimately be forgotten one day. And, probably even sooner than I’d like. But one thing I do know, is what I’ve been doing with this podcast has been done with a sense of purpose, and on purpose. And one day all of this may be forgotten. It will be but probably a small grain of sand floating in a a desert full of sand. My hope is that when it’s all said and done, I will have done something that moved the needle, just a little bit. And, while I’m unlikely to invent the next wheel, maybe this labor of love will be transformed into a gift that endures. And long after my name is no longer whispered, hopefully my voice will in some way be at least a distant echo.
46 minutes | 2 months ago
Why Are People Poor? (And Rich?) – Episode #99
Why are people poor and others rich? Are poor people just lazy idiots who lack intelligence, motivation, and have a bad work ethic? And are people rich simply because they are smarter and harder working than everyone else? The topic of poverty and wealth is a difficult topic. And it’s one we all probably come to the table with a lot of preconceived notions about why poor people are poor and rich people are rich. A lot of this has to do with our own personal experiences mixed with larger narratives that we’ve found helpful in explaining our own place in this world and the degree of wealth we have. Some of us have boot-strap stories, where through grit, hard work, and determination, we made something of ourselves without help from anyone else. We are “self-made” and share with others our “rags to riches” story. Many others cannot relate to this story. Try as hard as they might to work, they just never get ahead. They apply to a million different jobs but never get called back for an interview. They have transportation issues. They have medical issues. They have family issues. And all the random troubles of the universe seem to just constantly fall in their lap. Murphy’s law seems to constantly target them. And everything that can go wrong seems to always go wrong. Every day is a battle, and they are struggling to not drown. Dave Ramsey’s “Hot Take” On Government Assistance During COVID-19 Enter Dave Ramsey. I’m only picking on Dave Ramsey in today’s podcast, because I believe he makes for a good case study, and represents a deficient perspective on poverty and wealth held by many that needs to be wrestled with. Recently self help financial guru Dave Ramsey made a splash for criticism he made on Fox News about poor people needing government stimulus checks. Ramsey said if $600 or $1400 is going to change life, then you have bigger issues going on probably involving mental health, the lack of job skills, lack of character, or some other personal hang up. (See the video here where he doubles down on his rhetoric later in the day on Dave Ramsey’s own show). Obviously this rubbed a lot of people the wrong way. AS IT SHOULD. It’s a heartless, unmerciful, uncharitable, tone deaf, jerk like thing to say. Dave Ramsey should be ashamed of himself for saying such comments, not only as a Christian, but as a guy that claims to want to help people win when it comes to their personal finances. This is NOT the attitude of someone who loves Jesus and other people, nor is it the attitude of someone that plays the role of a financial counselor. Not only is Dave Ramsey’s perspective on wealth and poverty theologically deficient (as we’ll talk about more later), it’s also out of touch with a basic understanding of economics. . The Struggle Is Real: Paycheck to Paycheck Living Is The Norm Over the years I’ve known plenty of people for whom $600 or $1400 would be a huge windfall of money that would make a big and tangible difference in their lives. Heck, I’ve been that person. As I talked about in a prior podcast, there was a time in my life where I was “Lucky To Be Broke.” That is, it was a good month for me was when the bank account said I had a zero balance, as there were months it said negative. I worked 2 jobs, more than 60 hours a week, and frequently had to rob Peter to pay Paul. With all that, I didn’t even make $30k a year! At that time of my life, a government stimulus check would have had a major impact on my life. Even now, while $600 or $1,400 is no longer a life changing sum of money for me, as my wife and I live a very comfortable middle class lifestyle, I still don’t find it a trivial amount of money to sneeze at. That’s “real money” for most folks. According to reports on the issue, 63% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck, and the median household income is only $68k per year. That means a government stimulus check would be about the equivalent of an extra week of pay for a lot of Americans. With most people in our country living paycheck to paycheck, that’s certainly nothing to sneeze at. Especially for those who have careers in industries that have been adversely impacted by shutdowns related to COVID-19. At the peak of the crisis of the past year, unemployment was at 14.8%, That’s 1 out of 7 people. And while things have improved some, the unemployment rate is at 6% in America, and there are still millions of people who are attempting to recover from the economic fallout of the past year. So, whether or not you are in favor of government stimulus or bailout type programs is beside the point. I personally have mixed feelings about the entire thing. The point is there are still tens of millions of Americans for whom any windfall of money, no matter how trivial to Dave Ramsey or you find it, would still be a huge deal for a lot of folks that are really hurting. That Dave Ramsey doesn’t seem to recognize this, shows me he’s a bit out of touch with what the average person is facing (including those going through his program). He may scoff at the idea in his video that he’s out of touch. But the fact is, he’s so out of touch he refuses to recognize it. And it’s easy to be out of touch when you live in a mansion worth $15 million dollars (which is currently for sale). Dave might not have been able to pay the banks back on the millions of dollars worth of leveraged debt he had. But Dave still had a job as a successful career as a real estate agent to fall back on. Things might have been tight for Dave Ramsey, but things weren’t exactly horrific. He might not have been able to own a Jag after the bank repossessed it, but he still had the ability to make a respectable living. Dave Ramsey had a professional career that still paid the bills, just not the banks he owed millions of dollars to the banks. That’s why he was able to say in his clip that $600 or $1400 wouldn’t have been a life changing amount of money even when he was “broke.” Because the truth is, Dave Ramsey just went bankrupt. He’s never been truly “poor.” Dave wasn’t exactly working a dead end job flipping burgers and making fries, wondering how he’d ever get ahead. He was born a child of privilege, born to a real estate developers, and has never had to worry about being destitute. He’s always had a lot to fall back onto. Many of millions of other people in America haven’t been so fortunate. And don’t get me wrong, I’m not hating on Dave Ramsey for never knowing what it’s like to be poor. I’m simply saying, he’s out of touch. And, unfortunately because of it, Dave Ramsey (and many others) continue to operate from a broken world view. It’s the view that if you are poor, it’s because there’s something wrong with you. It’s the view that you are poor because you must be dumb, unmotivated, or lazy! And while there are certainly people who fit that mold that are poor, I’ve known wealthy people who were dumb, unmotivated, or lazy. Why Are People Poor? The truth is, the reason people are poor isn’t so simple. How people become poor or how people become rich are often very complicated issues. And if you truly study the issue out, you’ll find that sometimes, your personal decisions have no bearing whatsoever on why you end up poor or end up being rich. In the outstanding book “When Helping Hurts,” Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert explore the complex reasons for why poverty exists, and how people can be lifted out of poverty. I highly encourage you to read their well researched book. They explore poverty from a theological perspective, as well as economic. In their book Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert outline four basic factors for understanding why material poverty exists, and explore in great detail what can be done to alleviate poverty in all of its forms. The following are some outstanding quotes that I’d like to discuss from the book: “Poverty is the result of relationships that do not work, that are not just, that are not for life, that are not harmonious or enjoyable. Poverty is the absence of shalom in all its meanings.” That word shalom is a Hebrew word that has a variety of meanings. It can be a simple greeting, a word to describe peace, tranquility, or wholeness. Shalom is the sense of way the world should be. Poverty exists because wholeness does not. When humanity was originally created, Adam and Eve were placed in a paradise called the Garden of Eden. After their exile from Eden, they lived in a world where things were not as they should be. Poverty is ultimately grounded in the reality of a broken relationship. We no longer live in the paradise God created for humanity because our relationship with God was fundamentally broken. And it’s from this broken relationship that all poverty ultimately flows. “Stop and think: If poverty is rooted in the brokenness of the foundational relationships, then who are the poor? Due to the comprehensive nature of the fall, every human being is poor in the sense of not experiencing these four relationships in the way that God intended.” Here are the four relationships that Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert define and explore in more detail: RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD: This is our primary relationship, the other three relationships flowing out of this one. The Westminster Shorter Catechism teaches that human beings’ primary purpose is “to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.” This is our calling, the ultimate reason for which we were created. We were created to serve and give praise to our Creator through our thoughts, words, and actions. When we do this, we experience the presence of God as our heavenly Father and live in a joyful, intimate relationship with Him as His children. RELATIONSHIP WITH SELF: People are uniquely created in the image of God and thus have inherent worth and dignity. While we must remember that we are not God, we have the high calling of reflecting God’s being, making us superior to the rest of creation. RELATIONSHIP WITH OTHERS: God created us to live in loving relationship with one another. We are not islands! We are made to know one another, to love one another, and to encourage one another to use the gifts God has given to each of us to fulfill our callings. RELATIONSHIP WITH THE REST OF CREATION: The “cultural mandate” of Genesis 1:28–30 teaches that God created us to be stewards, people who understand, protect, subdue, and manage the world that God has created in order to preserve it and to produce bounty. Note that while God made the world “perfect,” He left it “incomplete.” This means that while the world was created to be without defect, God called humans to interact with creation, to make possibilities into realities, and to be able to sustain ourselves via the fruits of our stewardship. ”According to Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen, it is this lack of freedom to be able to make meaningful choices—to have an ability to affect one’s situation—that is the distinguishing feature of poverty.” And because of these broken relationships, we often lack the decision making power to free ourselves from poverty. A deficiency in any of these four relationships can have a significant impact on whether or not one escapes poverty. That is what makes the sting of poverty so oppressive for so many. It’s simply not always possible to just “boot strap” your way out of poverty. Sometimes the conditions that help foster poverty simply rob you of the opportunity to make the decisions necessary to escape poverty. As a friend of mine once said, “Some people don’t even have boots! How are they supposed to bootstrap their way out of poverty when they don’t have boots?” And as a result, no amount of “working hard” or making good choices will ever free them from their poverty. For there are sometimes bigger issues at play. Escaping Poverty So how does one escape poverty? Escaping material poverty is about people being able to make choices that ultimately allows them to thrive. And in the Christian understanding of the world, that begins with restoring broken relationships. According to Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert, “Poverty alleviation is the ministry of reconciliation: moving people closer to glorifying God by living in right relationship with God, with self, with others, and with the rest of creation.” They state in their book: “The goal is not to make the materially poor all over the world into middle-to-upper-class North Americans, a group characterized by high rates of divorce, sexual addiction, substance abuse, and mental illness. Nor is the goal to make sure that the materially poor have enough money. Indeed, America’s welfare system ensured that Alisa Collins and her family had more than enough money to survive, but they felt trapped. Rather, the goal is to restore people to a full expression of humanness, to being what God created us all to be, people who glorify God by living in right relationship with God, with self, with others, and with the rest of creation. Material poverty alleviation is working to reconcile the four foundational relationships so that people can fulfill their callings of glorifying God by working and supporting themselves and their families with the fruit of that work.” Helping people escape poverty requires us to address issues related to all four of our broken relationships. Man needs to be brought into right relationship with God. Our personal sins and shortcomings can negatively impact our lives. Choices have consequences, and sinful choices often have negative consequences that hurt our ability to thrive. Our sins seldom just negatively impact us. They also negatively impact others. They impact our friends, our families, our churches, our communities, and our governments. And when this happens, this can create systemic issues that oppress others and keep them from doing well. These systemic issues create injustices in the world that make it impossible for people to freely enter into contracts, trade, labor, and create value in the world for others to enjoy. If a tyrant is in charge and there is no rule of law, and judges take bribes, the only people that will get ahead are those that are also dealing corruptly. Issues related to freedom, slavery, immigration, theft, racism/discrimination, unjust laws, and all sorts of societal ills must be addressed by people everywhere. People can only escape poverty if they can operate freely in a healthy and high functioning system. If they aren’t able to work the system, and the system constantly breaks their knee-caps, then they are doomed to the poverty that has persisted throughout all of human history, and no amount of working hard and making good decisions will ever change their lot in life. For their prosperity is dependent on a greater system to function. And if that system doesn’t function properly, and all these relational issues aren’t addressed, then you’ll never escape poverty, no matter how many times you take Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University program.
38 minutes | 3 months ago
Rethinking The “Billy Graham” Rule ~ Episode #98
Recently a minister of international fame, Ravi Zacharias, who died last year, has been scandalized by some issues that were unresolved before his death. This includes allegations of abuse, sexual sins, and even rape. These allegations have been vetted, and a team of lawyers that was hired by his ministry to investigate these allegations believe them to be highly credible and likely true. Because of the nature of these sexual sins, this has revitalized a debate about the so-called “Billy Graham Rule.” This rule has also recently been known as the “Mike Pence Rule,” as Vice President Mike Pence, and many others in politics and business, are also said to observe this code of conduct. What Is The Billy Graham Rule? If you are unfamiliar with this rule, the “Billy Graham Rule” is an ethical code of conduct that the evangelist Billy Graham’s ministry came up with in 1948 in Modesto, California, during one of his evangelistic crusades. Believing that his ministry was doing something significant, Graham and others came up with this rule as a way to safeguard his ministry from the issues that had plagued some other well known ministries. The “Modesto Manifesto,” as it would be called, sought to guard against allegations or the actual abuse of money, sex, and power. While no formal document was put together, Graham and his fellow ministers drew up principles relating to things such as how money from offerings would be distributed, avoiding the criticism of local churches, working only with churches that supported cooperative evangelism, and using local government official estimates of crowd sizes so as to avoid exaggeration. But then there was also the issue of sex. The most famous and controversial ethical consideration that continues to be controversial today is how members of the ministry were to relate to members of the opposite sex. Under the Modesto Manifesto, it was proposed that Billy Graham and others must never be alone with a member of the opposite sex, other than their wife. From that day on, Graham pledged to not eat, travel with, or meet with a woman other than his wife, unless other people were also present. This allowed Billy Graham, who was considered a very good looking man in his day (and was often covered as such by reporters), to avoid sexual temptation while traveling abroad without his wife, as well as accusations of sexual impropriety. It is worth noting that while Billy Graham was very faithful to observing this particular practice, there are times where he said he broke the rule, and that he wasn’t an “absolutist” when it came to the rule. For example, it is recalled that he once ate with Hillary Clinton in a public venue. But whatever the case, it seems that this “rule” was something Billy Graham largely observed. And in the many decades he ministered as an evangelist around the world, he maintained an impeccable reputation regarding his personal conduct in both public and private. Criticisms Of The Billy Graham Rule There is no shortage of criticisms of the Billy Graham rule. Perhaps the most famous of these critiques is the perspective of many feminists. There would be those who argue that the rule treats women as objects of sexual lust that must be safeguarded against for fear of infidelity or false accusations. As a result, women are looked upon as people to be feared instead of respected. And because men who observe this rule make it impossible to meet with women in private, whether in the church or in politics or business, women can be inadvertently discriminated against and disenfranchised because of their sex. As a result, this results in women not having the same “access” to opportunities that men would can otherwise capitalize on simply because of their sex. There is of course also the Biblical argument. Well intentioned as it might be, the Billy Graham Rule is nowhere to be found in the Bible. Jesus is seen as deliberately violating the social norms of His day, such as In John 4, when he met alone with the Samaritan woman at the well. This would have been scandalous, not only because of her race, but because of her sex. Jesus seems to have completely flung caution out the window by meeting with this woman, and didn’t seem to care about the possible reputation issues this could have caused Him. My Personal Experience With The Billy Graham Rule I’ve been to Bible college and seminary. I’ve been involved in the church in a variety of ministry capacities over the years. I’ve been taught the Billy Graham rule, and have been involved with ministries that more or less practice it. I will say, I have mixed feelings about the rule, and generally speaking, and am not a fan of the rule. However, I don’t think it deserves the scathing rebuke or criticism that some folks give it. Such people tend to be impressed by their own levels of self-righteous “wokeness,” and, in my estimation, have never seriously had to consider their own reputations, and it’s connection to something larger than themselves. For example, when I was in my 20’s, I was engaged to a worship leader/youth pastor in a church. I also served in this church and regularly ministered in it. My fiance at the time lived right next door to the church, in a small multi-family apartment. I usually only had the opportunity to see her on the weekends or on Wednesday nights, and would sometimes park my car at her apartment instead of in the church parking lot. This was very visible. Recently, I was talking to one of the kids that used to attend that church. He’s a grown man now. He said he was always under the assumption that me and this minister were “shacked up” together and “living in sin,” because many of the times he’d go to church, he’d see my Jeep in her driveway. Even though we were not doing such, this young man was under the impression that we were living together. And apparently he wasn’t the only one that had this impression (though most did not). I didn’t know this until recently. But to know such was the impression one of the kids at the church had of us shows how even two completely innocent parties can easily develop a bad reputation, and how easy it is for clouds of suspicion to form. Clouds that linger more than 15 years later. My “Positive Take” On The Billy Graham Rule So, while I am not a huge fan of the Billy Graham rule, I gotta say, I personally understand why Billy Graham and others have adhered to this rule. And because of my own experiences, I personally respect the spirit of the intention behind the rule, even if I don’t necessarily like the rule itself. There is a very practical “street smarts” sorta mentality about to the Billy Graham rule that I appreciate. It reminds me of the common advice we give to folks about “walking in pairs” or “not walking alone” at night in a big city. We encourage such, not because we think the city we live in is full of criminals up to no good, or to shame victims, but because we understand that the world can be a difficult place to navigate. And knowing such, it makes sense that we’d attempt to make some simple to follow rules up so we can move through this life without unwanted troubles. We fundamentally understand the need to “mitigate risk,” and as such, come up with practical solutions to real world problems. These actions won’t be without unintended consequences, but these consequences are seen as less problematic than the trouble you could otherwise get in. Like it or not, we live in a fallen and broken world in which men and women’s innocent actions can open the door to not so innocent interactions. And even when those actions are all “above board,” even well meaning loved one’s can come away with the wrong impressions, and make false accusations. Reputations are important, especially when your personal reputation is connected to something bigger than yourself. At the heart of the Billy Graham rule are passages like Romans 14:13-23 that says things like, “Do not allow what you consider good, then, to be spoken of as evil.” Or “…don’t put an obstacle or a stumbling block in your brother or sisters way…” and “It is good not to do anything which would causes your brothers or sisters to stumble.” Or 1 Timothy 3 which talks about how a minister must be “above reproach” in all his conduct, and that they must have a “good reputation” with those inside and outside the church. My “Negative Take” On The Billy Graham Rule I would echo the concerns that feminists sometimes make with in regard to the Billy Graham rule. Mostly in regard to the disenfranchisement of women. When Billy Graham established his rule, culturally speaking, our world was a very different place than it now. Women were largely not leaders in the church, in politics, or in the business world. Today that is simply not the case. As a result, there is a very real chance of creating an “all boys club” environment that possibly shuts women out of opportunities that would then naturally fall to men simply because of their sex. Like it or not, such is simply the unintended consequences of this rule. Such was perhaps a far less of an issue in 1948, when women simply were not involved in things to the degree they are today. The society we live in is far different. I see the Billy Graham rule as possibly being a good thing at the time it was implemented, but culturally speaking, is simply not as wise to follow today. Theologically, I also have problems with it. Women are created in the image and likeness of God, just as men are. And as such, they should not be treated as risk and liabilities to be managed. They needed to be treated as fellow image bearers, and not as a subset of humanity that must somehow be handled with with special safety gloves. Also, I believe the Billy Graham rule creates a sort of “legalism” when strictly observed. What is legalism? “Legalism” are the rules we setup to create an extra barrier around the rules we actually want to avoid breaking. Think of legalism as the guard rails we put up along the road to avoid driving off the road. We have zero intentions of driving off the road, because we know that driving off the road would be bad. But, the government has built guard rails on the road to keep us from doing such, whether we intend to or not. And this appears to be wise. But it can create some ethically sticky issues when it comes to policing our morality. Jesus harshly criticized the religious leaders of His day for all the legalistic “traditions” they had established, where they established rules on top of rules to keep you from breaking God’s law. For example, in the Ten Commandments it is written that “you shall not take the name of the Lord in vain.” The religious leaders of Jesus’s day decided God’s name was so sacred, that it had to be protected from people even accidentally using it in a flippant manner. So they setup guard rails to prevent people from taking God’s name in vain. As a result, whenever someone would read aloud from the Scriptures, anytime they came across the name of God written in the Scriptures, they’d simply substitute God’s actual name with the word “Lord”, or simply say the phrase, “The Name,” in lieu of actually saying God’s actual name. Such seems like a rather genius move by the religious leaders in Jesus’s day. But this creates a problem. In creating these sort of guard rails to prevent God’s name from being said in a flippant manner, then it actually becomes impossible to say God’s name altogether. And instead of God’s name being held up as a beautiful thing to praise, God’s name becomes something we can no longer even safely utter. The Billy Graham rule puts us in similar theological waters when it comes to navigating the complexities of interactions with the opposite sex. The well intentioned wisdom and safeguards it looks to create ends up simply destroying something beautiful altogether. And interactions like Jesus had with the Samaritan Woman at the well in John 4 simply will not be afforded to us. Moving Forward From The Billy Graham Rule So, if not the Billy Graham rule, then what? Do we just say “screw it all” and act like there’s not room for wisdom in our interactions with members of the opposite sex? I think we need to be careful with thinking about hard and fast “one-size fits all” type rules. I worry about those who feel the constant need to come up with prescriptive legalisms like we see in the Billy Graham rule. But, I also worry about people who are totally dismissive about the navigating the complexities of human social interaction. Such complexities not only exist between individuals of the same sex, but also opposite sex. Anyone who says otherwise is too woke to live on the planet Earth, and doesn’t have a firm grasp of reality. In a word, they are fools. So with all this said, here are my suggestions of things we should be conscious of in our interpersonal interactions with others, especially regarding the opposite sex: Treat everyone as being individuals created in the image of God, and that such persons are worthy of honor, dignity, and being treated with respect. Don’t treat people as liabilities to be managed, but fellow sons and daughters of God to celebrate. Recognize that creating boundaries with other human beings is a healthy thing. We do this in regard to friends, family, work, and ministry. Nobody has the right to unmitigated access to your life. So define the type of access you will allow all individuals to have in your life, both personal and professional. If you are married, talk with your spouse about what sort of boundaries you want to create in your relationships outside the home. Decide what is comfortable for the both of you, and honor your commitments. But at the same time, recognize that flexibility may be in order. Make room for transparency when it comes to such things. If a situation demands a general rule must be broken, keep the other person in the loop. When it comes to work or ministry, create opportunities for equal access that operate within your personal boundaries, that not only safeguards you, but the people you are working with. Seek to live a transparent life. Whenever possible, avoid being “alone” with anyone. And, if such is not always possible, make sure doors and windows are open, or that you meet in public places where others are present or otherwise aware. If such isn’t possible, look to reschedule. Be mindful of your sexual and emotional attraction to others. Recognize when lust exists within you, especially if it might be guiding you into inappropriate interactions with others, or causing you to act flirtatious. If such exists, take your temptations to the Lord. And as Christ taught, if your eye offends you, pluck it out. If your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off.
27 minutes | 3 months ago
Responsible Blasphemy (Thoughts On Free Speech) ~ Episode #97
“The Mandalorian” star Gina Carano was recently fired from her acting job on Disney+ over controversial comments she made on social media. Her firing is one of an increasing number of high profile figures who’ve lost their jobs and platforms as the result of them saying things that inflamed the public. Incidents like this have brought up robust debates around the freedom of speech, cancel culture, social media, and the role of government in regulating speech. In today’s podcast, I simply want to offer my thoughts about these issues. The Freedom Of Speech Is A Human Right “If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.” ~ George Orwell To be clear up front, I absolutely and dogmatically believe in the freedom of speech as a fundamental human right, and its importance in a civilized society. People must have the ability to communicate, to come together to exchange ideas, and challenge one another. While exchanging ideas can often be contentious process and lead to warring factions, it’s impossible to achieve peace without the ability to freely dialogue with one another. We must be able to work out our differences, and we cannot do that if we aren’t free to speak our minds. Free Speech Is Always Dangerous With that said, speech can be dangerous. And this must be recognized as such. Fundamentally, the freedom of speech is about the ability to speak blasphemies. It is the recognition that what is blasphemy to one person is a divine revelation to another. And without it, it’s impossible to make progress as a society. People must have the right to challenge the orthodoxies of the past with heresy in the present. But, speech doesn’t happen in a vacuum. As the book of Proverbs reminds us, “life and death are in the power of the tongue.” (Proverbs 18:21) Words have consequences. Shout fire in a crowded theater and things are gonna happen. Lie and slander a person or corporation in such a way as to harm them and their reputation, and you’ll find yourself in court being sued for libel. Likewise, saying things that offends the sensibilities of others might cause people to get de-platformed, canceled, or even fired from their jobs. And, that may or may not be okay, depending on the situation. If you say something in a public venue that makes your employer look bad, causes them to lose money, or creates hostilities in the workplace, it’s probably best for all involved that you consider other opportunities elsewhere. “The freedom of speech of private individuals includes the right to not agree, not to listen, and not to finance one’s own antagonists.” ~Ayn Rand You might be free to speak, but that means such speech contains risks. It means other people might not like what you have to say, and may treat you with hostility as a result. You might be free to speak, but you don’t have a fundamental right to use social media, or have a job at Disney+. With that said, however, I worry that these knee jerk reactions we have in which people form Twitter mobs get together and cause people to lose their jobs is something that shows people aren’t as open minded about living in a world with diverse opinions. It shows, at heart, they aren’t okay with people speaking blasphemy. Stifling Free Speech “Censorship is to art as lynching is to justice.” ~Henry Louis Gates, Jr “Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear.” ~President Harry S. Truman “Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech.” ~Benjamin Franklin I worry about about us creating a society in which we focus on shutting people down instead of working out our differences. Instead of mutually exchanging ideas until the best idea wins, we’ve increasingly become a society that shoves ideas down others throats by force. “Winning” and coming out on top becomes more important than working through points of disagreement. As a result, we’ve become more interested in tribes over truth instead of truth over tribes. No wonder people are looking for government intervention. They need a sword to baptize others with their thoughts. For the conversations stopped a long time ago, and the free exchange of ideas is less important than using powerful forces to coerce agreement. The times are becoming increasingly polarized in America. And because they are becoming more and more polarized, as a Christian I believe it’s time we act with wisdom. Make Your Words Count For Something Jesus taught that we should be “Wise as serpents and as harmless as doves.” (Matthew 10:16) We must pick our battles, and pick them carefully. Not every hot button culture war issue is something we need to speak on. Just because it’s a headline doesn’t mean we should chase it with our lips in the marketplace of ideas. Jesus warned us, “For every careless word people speak, they will give an account for it on the day of judgment.” (Matthew 12:36) So, if we are going to have to given an accounting for every idle word we speak in this life, let’s make sure we make our words count for something! Choose your words carefully, for not only will you have to answer for them in this life, but you will have to reckon for them in the next. The apostle Peter said “Make sure none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or troublesome meddler, but if anyone suffers, it should be as a Christian…” (1 Peter 4:15-16) I don’t know about you, but if I lose my job for something I say, I don’t want it to be because I was running my yap on social media, and made a mob angry just because I had a point to prove politically or in the culture wars. That would be dumb. If I’m going to suffer job loss like Gina Carano, let it be because I was sharing something about the goodness of God. Speaking Responsibly And as someone who has caught a lot of flack over the years for things I’ve said, and upset a lot of people at home, among friends and family, at work, at church, and social media.. let me simply say, be very careful what you say. You might have the right to the freedom of speech. But you also have the right to bite your tongue. The older I get, the less I see the need to play the role of an angry John the Baptist type figure. What I need to focus on is speaking kindly and gently to others. And that’s not to throw shade on John the Baptist. But I’ve not been called to be John, and neither have you. We’ve been called to be like Jesus Christ in all things. So, if you must speak blasphemies in public, and exercise your freedom of speech, and must say something the moment demands something big be said, let me simply encourage you to do this: Blaspheme responsibly. Let me close out today’s podcast by reading from James chapter 3 in the Bible. It’s an entire passage about controlling one’s tongue.
16 minutes | 3 months ago
Pagans, Saints, And Hallmark (The Origins Of Valentine’s Day) – Episode #96
Every February 14th, Valentine’s Day comes around. It’s a time to celebrate love, romance, and everything that goes with it. For some, it’s a time to pull out all the stops with one’s romantic interests. For others, it’s just another day that ends with the letter “y.” Whatever your level of enthusiasm is with this holiday, in today’s podcast I want to discuss the historical origins of Valentine’s Day, and what we can learn from its development throughout the centuries. We’ll look at it’s pagan origins, it’s saintly baptism, and the sappy sentimental Hallmarkification of it all. The Pagan Origins Of Valentine’s Day Dating back to as far as the 6th century B.C., from February 13th thru 15th, there was a pagan festival celebrated in ancient Rome by the name of Lupercalia. This was a fertility festival made to celebrate Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture, in addition to a celebration of the founders of Rome. At the beginning of this festival, priests of the order of Luperci would gather at a sacred cave where the infant founders of Rome were believed to have been cared for by a she-wolf. The priests would sacrifice a goat for fertility purposes, and a dog for purification. Then, the priests would then strip the goats hide, dip those strips in sacrificial blood, and take them into town, gently slapping both women and crop fields with the goat’s hide. Women welcomed the touch of the hides because it was believed to make them more fertile in the coming year. Then, later in the day, all the young women of the city would place their names into a big urn. Later, a giant lottery would take place. The city’s bachelors would each take turns choosing a name, and would be paired for the next year with the woman they choose. As a result of this ritual, many of these pairings resulted in marriage. Baptized By The Blood Of The Saints By the end of the 5th century A.D., Lupercalia had devolved into a holiday that involved a lot of people simply running around drunk and naked. In order to clean up society and the church a little bit, Pope Gelasius I outlawed the celebration of Lupercalia, and replaced it with Valentine’s Day. The holiday has a couple different Catholic saints associated with it. One legend contends that there was a priest in the third century named Valentine. During his life, Emperor Claudius II decided single men made better soldiers than soldiers who had wives and families. As a result, he outlawed marriage for young men. Finding this law unjust, Valentine defied the emperor, and continued to perform marriage ceremonies in secret. When this was discovered, Valentine was put to death. Another legend says that there was another man also named Valentine, who may have been killed for attempting to help Christians escape from prison, where they were often beaten and tortured for their faith. Valentine was eventually caught and imprisoned,. But while in jail, Valentine fell in love with a woman who regularly visited him. Before his death, it is said that Valentine wrote her a letter signed, “From your Valentine.” The Hallmark Holiday It’s Become By the 14th century, Valentine’s Day started becoming associated with the beginning of the birds mating season in France and England. Eventually people would start sending each other Valentine greetings. The oldest known valentine still in existence today comes from 1415 when Charles, Duke of Orleans, wrote to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London. Several years later, King Henry V hired a writer to compose a valentine to Catherine of Valois. Chaucer and Shakespeare would eventually romanticize the holiday in their work, and helped make it become more popular throughout Britain and Europe. Handmade paper cards would become popularized during this time. By the middle of the 18th century, it became common for people to exchange small tokens of affection and notes. The first mass produced card was made in the 1840’s by an Esther Howland, who has been called the “Mother of The Valentine.” And by 1913, Hallmark Cards of Kansas City, Missouri began mass producing Valentine’s Day cards, and forever changed the world. According to the Greeting Card Association, it is estimated that 145 million Valentine’s Day cards are sent each year, making it the second largest card-sending holiday of the year. Christmas remains the largest. Reflection: Eros, Agape, and Sentimentality I find the history of Valentine’s Day fascinating. In it we see three different expressions of love. We see the eros , or the “erotic,” form of love built into the origins of the holiday. It was steeped in pagan fertility rituals that taps into the raw and primal nature of love. It was a holiday grounded in our most basic human desire to have sex and to reproduce. And while as a Christian I might not care for the pagan elements of a festival designed to honor a false god, or the ways women were auctioned off by a lottery system, I think fundamentally the pagan origins of the holiday were still chasing after the good thing that God gave us to enjoy. When the church attempted to baptize a pagan holiday in the Middle Ages, I appreciate what they were after. In it they turned the holiday from one focused on the eros form of love to the agape form of love. A love that is steeped in the sacrificial, and is ultimately life giving. It’s a love that ultimately exemplifies the type of love that Jesus Christ ultimately demonstrated in giving His life for our sins on the cross. And then of course, we have the thing Hallmark has turned Valentine’s Day into. And while many of us might be tempted to cynically look down on such a “Hallmark Holiday,” I think such is unfortunate. For in the depths of all that love has to offer us, whether it is erotic or sacrificial, I think that there is tons of room for the corny sentimentality that Hallmark has to offer us all on such a holiday. Yes, I love my wife with eros and agape types of love. But I also love expressing my love for her in playfully corny and stupid ways. And the Hallmarkification of Valentine’s Day offers us the chance to indulge in the playful, cheesy, and whimsical sides of love. Happy Valentine’s Day! Historical Sources History Of Valentine’s Day The Dark Origins Of Valentine’s Day
23 minutes | 3 months ago
I Want To Live Again! (Longing For Resurrection) – Episode #95
For a lot of people, this past year hasn’t exactly been the best year of their lives. Because of COVID-19 and all that has transpired, many people feel their lives have been robbed in one way or another. And, not to minimize those who have died from COVID-19, but metaphorically speaking, it feels like we’ve all died in some manner. Our lives have more or less stopped and been put on pause. We anxiously long to pick back up where we left off prior to the pandemic. We feel we can’t really move forward. And we are all waiting for things to change. We are hoping to beat COVID-19, come out of our graves, and get back to life as we once knew it. Without articulating such, and without realizing it, you and I are hoping for resurrection. We’ve been submerged in a metaphorical sea of death. And like the mythical Phoenix, we long to rise triumphant from our ashes into the sun. Existential Angst I think this existential angst we have experienced because of COVID-19 has touched on something primal in us. We realize life is short, and that ultimately, we are all going to die one day. It’s an unfortunate reality. And even perhaps a scary one. But, we must all ultimately look death square in the eye. Like it or not, we are all going to die. And deep down inside, whether we care to admit it or not, I think most of us wrestle with this fact. It’s a thought that randomly flies through our mind one way or another at times. A thought we do our best to regularly ignore or suppress. For in it we realize that our life, no matter how good or how bad we find it, is the only one we have to live. And after this? Who knows. Depending on the narrative you embrace, most of us realize that we are either going to either black out like dogs, and will never even remember our own existence,, or we are going to enter into some ghost like dream world, completely disconnected from life as we know it. So with that thought lingering in the back of our mind, this narrative shapes our approach towards life. As a result, we do everything we can to get the most out of life. We adopt a YOLO (You Only Live Once) philosophy towards life. And, we end up doing all that we can to soak up this world as much as we can. We do everything to maximize our pleasures and to minimize our pain, and to squeeze as much “purpose” as we can out of our futile existence and time under the sun. For at the end of the day, that’s all we seem to have to look forward to. And after this life is over, the lights go out. The Resurrection Of Jesus Changed Things But I believe this is a narrative that needs to be challenged. As a Christian, I believe that Jesus Christ was a historical person who lived, and then was crucified under Pontius Pilate. He suffered, He died, and then He was buried. But miraculously, after 3 days, God raised Jesus Christ up from the grave. He was bodily resurrected. He came to life again. And He was seen by over 500 people, who then began testifying to this fact that a dead man named Jesus is now alive, and alive forevermore. Of course, you might not believe any of this. And that’s fine if you don’t. But do consider for a moment that if this story is true, that Jesus Christ was raised from the grave, then such an event would be an indication that our perspective on death is wrong, and we need to change our narrative. That means death doesn’t have the final say. It means that humans live more than once. And if it means humans live more than once, then this would have great implications for our YOLO styled approach towards life. The Implications Of Resurrection Life Indeed, at the heart of Christianity is the belief that even as Jesus Christ was crucified and raise to life, so too will we be made to live again one day. This is our “blessed hope,” and was central to the teachings of Jesus. Jesus once said: “Truly, truly, I say to you, a time is coming and even now has arrived, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For just as the Father has life in Himself, so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself; and He gave Him authority to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man. Do not be amazed at this; for a time is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, and will come out: those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the bad deeds to a resurrection of judgment.” ~John 5:25-29 (NASB) Jesus promises that one day He will return, and at the blast of His voice, all of humanity will come out of its grave and be miraculously made physically whole again. Everyone who shut their eyes and entered into the world of darkness will open them again one day. We will all live yet again, and stand for judgment. Death will not have the final say. Jesus Christ, the Prince of Life, will have the final say. Knowing these things, what manner of men ought we to be? How should we live our lives? There would be those who try to downplay the significance of whatever comes next. I’ve heard many Christians trivialize the life to come and it’s significance for having any source of meaning for their life in the present. They’ve divorced their present life from their future life altogether. It might sound spiritual to say such, or even wise, but such isn’t Christian. I believe as a Christian, God has called us to be a resurrection people. We must live our lives, no longer in fear of death, or fear that we might somehow miss out on some great thing. Instead, we need to live our lives out of the perspective that you and I are going to live forever. And such should embolden and inform how we live our lives in the present. Instead of seeing COVID-19 as something that has frustrated God’s plan and purposes for our lives, we need to see that we’ve had the opportunity to truly live this entire time. Instead of wondering what life will be after COVID-19 is a distant memory, we need to think much further down the road. Instead of making plans for this year, or a 5 year plan, we need a 10,000 year plan. Instead of always trying to get all that we can out of life, making decisions only in “the now,” we must store up for ourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, nor where thieves break in and steal. For where our treasure is, there will our heart be also. (Matthew 6:19-21). Jesus said the hour is coming and now is when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God. The issue of the resurrection isn’t just about the future. But it’s about the present as well. The resurrection of the dead isn’t just a future event, but something we can experience in the here and now. The question isn’t whether or not you will hear Jesus’s voice calling you out of the grave one day. The question is whether or not you will hear that voice now? And will you live your life as one who has already been made alive from the grave?
26 minutes | 4 months ago
Watching America “Die By Suicide” – Episode #94
Just when we were having a sense of hope, and we were turning the page on 2020 and entering into 2021, something else bad happened. Violence Erupts in DC & Arrests Made On Wednesday January 6th, a “Save America ” rally organized itself outside of the Capitol Buildings in Washington, DC in order to protest what is perceived by many on the right as a “stolen” election. This was being done as the Senate was meeting in order to certify the Electoral College vote, in which Donald Trump lost the 2020 Presidential Election to Joe Biden. As the entire world knows, things turned violent. Just as Trump promised a few weeks before, the rally would be “wild.” And it became just that. Trump, in a highly charged speech insisted over and over again that that 2020 election had been stolen from him and the people, and that the Democrats were coming after him and his supporters, with promised persecution. President Trump’s speech was the moral equivalent of shouting “Fire!” in a crowded theater. In this instance, our theater was the presidential election and the balance of political power in America. It is a claim that can do nothing but incite violence. In a democratic society, if people believe they were wrongfully deprived of the fundamental ability to vote, such people will feel robbed of the power they have to determine the direction of their lives, and that of their nation. As a result, things turned ugly. Protestors infiltrated the US Capitol building, resulting in at least 5 deaths. The National Guard was eventually called in, and the city went into lockdown. Many Trump supporters have attempted to lay blame for the violence on leftist domestic terrorist groups like Antifa. However, the US Department Of Justice says there is “no indication Antifa played a role in Wednesday’s chaos at the US Capitol.” Instead it has been Trump supporters and far right-wing extremist groups who identify as QAnon as time, after time, after time, after time that keep getting arrested. Some of those arrested have even been state Republican lawmakers. Removing Trump From Everything SInce then, there have been discussions of removing President Trump from his office either by Vice President Pence and the cabinet invoking the 25th amendment, or by holding another impeachment trial against Trump. Several high ranking Trump administration officials have resigned. Since all this has happened, Trump has announced that he is conceding the election to Joe Biden, has denounced the violence, and is committing to the peaceful transition of power. However, shortly after this President Trump put out a series of statements on Twitter that suggested he might be still yet up to something, and walking back his concession. Worried about possibly inciting more violence, Twitter took swift action, along with Facebook, and has permanently banned the President from their platforms. According to reports: “Twitter said it feared Trump’s most recent tweets were being interpreted as supporting the rioters and that plans for future armed protests had already been proliferating both on and off the platform, including a proposed attack on the U.S. Capitol and state capitol buildings on Jan. 17.” ~Per CNBC Others have reported that a variety of groups are planning to violently protest Joe Biden’s inauguration on the 19th or 20th. Angered over this perceived infringement on the freedom of speech by social media companies in their crack down on Trump and others, many Trump supporters started a mass exodus from Facebook and Twitter to alternate social media sites like Parler. And just as that started happening, Google removed Parler from their Android app store, and Apple is currently looking to do the same. This has angered many over the perceived crack down on the freedom of speech by the tech giants, and the hypocrisy they show as they take sides that are much more comfortable with left leaning speech, than that of the right. National Suicide In 1838 Abraham Lincoln delivered a speech called, “The Lyceum Address” in which, after making glowing remarks about the founding of America, Lincoln gave a sobering warning about our possible demise as a nation: “Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant to step the ocean and crush us at a blow? Never! All the armies of Europe, Asia, and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest, with a Bonaparte for a commander, could not by force take a drink from the Ohio or make a track on the Blue Ridge in a trial of a thousand years. At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer. If it ever reach us it must spring up amongst us; it cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen we must live through all time or die by suicide.“ ~ Abraham Lincoln I perceive Abraham Lincoln’s remarks are something to consider at this moment in time. His words may ultimately prove to be prophetic. This past year with the coronavirus pandemic, racial unrest and violent protests, economic woes, and highly contentious election, we are living in the most divisive point of American history in the past 40 years. Conspiracy theories abound on the left and the right. People have become increasingly politically polarized. A man’s enemies are now members of his own household. It remains highly unlikely that America will ever suffer defeat at the hands of a foreign army. Our Atlantic and Pacific oceans, coupled with the physical size of our land, remain our greatest source of national defense that makes it all but impossible for another country to invade and occupy. Coupled with the fact that we are highly technologically advance, we are wealthy, we have more guns than people, and possess a stockpile of nuclear bombs that if unleashed would probably destroy the planet. We are practically bullet proof as a nation when it comes to external threats. Indeed, if we are to ever fall as a nation, it’ll be our strife from within. A strife that ultimately owes its origins to our violent and contentious founding, which historically speaking, still wasn’t very long ago. If we are to ever fall, it’ll be because our founders set up a form of government, that, for all its wisdom, can be a source of constant friction, as people with often diametrically opposed values are forced to work together to get anything done. If we are to ever fall, it’ll be because we have managed to politicize and moralize just about every interaction with one another as a war between demonic enemies, instead of a meeting of the minds between neighbors and fellow citizens. What Comes Next? I’m not sure what is coming next. My prophetic gifts are better used for understanding the current moment than they are at predicting the future. All I know for certain is that I am kinda at a lost. I believe to my bones that the next few weeks as we watch the transition of power take place, that it will not be peaceful. I feel like I’m looking into a sea of blackness. As a watchman, all I can do is look and wait. I don’t know how this will ultimately play out. I’m hoping for good things, and trusting in the Lord about the future as I normally do. I remain naturally optimistic. Things Are Heating Up But as I have conversations with people on the left and on the right, and as I see the glee and terror both sides feel, I cannot help but sense there are a lot of people planning to do some pretty stupid stuff. There is talk of civil war and violent uprising. People on the margins are really freaking out. The vitriolic language of both sides is unsustainable. Some people are taking victory laps, while others who feel like they are losing their country are preparing for war. People are becoming increasingly isolated, increasingly tribal, and increasingly radicalized. They don’t give a damn about their neighbor. Right now everyone is clamoring for power and trying to come out on top. One side is doing it through a raised clenched fist. The other is looking to conquer through a cross that’s been draped with an American flag. People are taking dramatic steps towards the edge. We are ready to drive off a cliff with whatever bus driver we like the most. And as we deal out retribution, we never stop to think what consequences our actions will have, or even bother to ask about what the possible blowback might be. We just take swift actions, and say to hell with the consequences. If there were ever a sign of God’s judgment on America, it would be this. According to the apostle Paul in Romans 1:18-32, when God judges people, God simply gives them over to the fullness of their sin. One lie begets another lie that requires another lie on top of that lie. And before you know it, you are plunged into a sea of lies, and living in a world divorced from any sense of what is real. You “fight for the truth” only to find yourself swimming in a stream of lies and conspiracy theories, entirely divorced from facts and reality. And the way I see it, both on the left and the right, we haven’t been a people who love the truth. We simply love “winning” and coming out on top. We want to dominate others, and feel a sense of control. We love our fortunes, we love our power, and we love taking sides. And everything we do is to that end. And instead of a life marked by the fullness of joy, we’ll find one marked by destruction and conquest. What comes next? I don’t know. But I feel a lot of people are becoming increasingly disconnected. They feel defrauded. They are feeling cut off. They are afraid. And people who feel cut off and afraid become dangerous. My Inside Scoop As An Evangelical Christian I’ve gone to church with some of these folks. And I can say as an evangelical Christian with deeply Pentecostal and Charismatic background, who runs in mostly conservative leaning circles. You might not like a lot of these people, but forcing them underground and ostracizing them won’t be pretty. As Christians we are supposed to be a people who walk in the love of Jesus and and make peace. Many of my fellow Christians have long abandoned such teachings of Jesus. They don’t see their enemies as individuals to be loved, and they’ve grown tired of turning the other cheek. At this point, many would prefer to baptize others at swordpoint. And with their religion being conflated with being a patriotic American, there is a very real sense that a highly radicalized faction of them just might attempt to do that, to baptize others at swordpoint. Talking with many people in these circles, I’m at the point where I realize that no amount of careful reasoning, documenting of facts, or appeals to the teachings of Jesus will persuade any of these folks. They are a danger, not only to the future of Christianity, which they have long polluted, but to America. And while I definitely have my concerns about other groups in the church and in this country, the perspective I bring today is simply that of someone who has been plunged deeply into a certain subculture of the population. I’ve been to Bible college and seminary. I’ve been active in the life of the church for 20 years. I’ve been in many churches, both small and large, rural and urban. I am well connected, and know what many people in my circles are saying. The warning bells I’m ringing come from within my own camp. Taking A Break With this podcast today, after 94 straight weeks of publishing new content every week, I’ve decided that the best thing for me to do in the coming weeks is to take a little bit of a break. Just for a couple weeks. I’m exhausted. and spent. I feel a lot of pain in our country. And I simply want to carefully watch things unfold. I want to pray. I want to grieve and lament. I want to simply seek Jesus, and find some time of refreshing. I want to step away a bit from being a voice, and just listen. I want to give all of this over to the hands of Jesus, who alone can calm this raging storm. I’ll probably still be somewhat active on Facebook and Twitter. But I’ll probably just mostly share funny memes and pictures of my food, as well as sharing this podcast episode with others. Feel free to reach out to me there if you wish. God bless us all in these difficult times.
20 minutes | 4 months ago
The Model For Becoming A Better Human Being – Episode #93
I think all of us feel a sense of wanting to be better than we currently are. Such is why we often set lofty goals for ourselves, and make New Year’s Resolutions. That’s why a lot of people go to church or special conferences, buy books from self-help gurus, or listen to podcasts. I think most of us feel this inner drive to somehow better ourselves. We realize there is something about us that doesn’t quite add up. Taking inventory of our hearts and lives, we recognize unhealthy thoughts and actions, shortcomings, and sins that just seem to continually fester. So we dream about who we want to become, make resolutions, will to change… and then fail spectacularly. We take 2 steps forward and 3 steps back. And we seem to be caught up in this vicious cycle that often leaves us disappointed in who we’ve become. We Need A Model I think we are in need of something more than just becoming a randomly better version of ourselves. Of someone who tries really hard to change one or two random things about themselves, with no definite end in mind. Such is the equivalent of trying to build a house by completing a random room at a time, with no idea of what the final outcome will be. We are in need of a model. A human blueprint. Someone who we can fashion ourselves after. In an episode of Parks & Rec, the character “Ron Swanson” hilariously tried to give a group of kids what he believed to be the ultimate model of humanity needed to follow. Namely, “The Swanson Pyramid of Greatness.” Ron Swanson might be an interesting model to follow. But I believe the ultimate model that God has given us is that of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ Is Our Model The Bible teaches that we are all created in the image and likeness of God. But through the sin that entered this world and plunged humanity into a great fall, that image has been marred. Jesus Christ came into the world to be a second Adam, to restore what was lost in the fall by the first Adam. In His incarnation represents a new humanity, that He call all of us to participate in. Jesus Christ is our prototype, a model of what God wants us to become. By modeling ourselves after Him, we become daily renewed into the image and likeness of God, the very likeness of God as demonstrated by Jesus. Scriptures Referenced In Today’s Podcast Romans 8:28 “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers.” Galatians 5:22-23 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”
44 minutes | 4 months ago
Prophecies For The New Year (And Why I Ignore Them) – Episode #92
At this time of year, it’s pretty common for people to make predictions about the New Year. This happens in the world of business, politics, and even the church. Some of these predictions are based on deep analytical number crunching, but others are from people claiming to hear from Jesus and having visions from God. And while I live in a world that makes room for both practices, I don’t put too much stock in any predictions made by anyone about the future. In today’s podcast, I talk about the past year in retrospect, the “prophecies” made about the future, and how we live in a world of uncertainty. We often attempt to remove this uncertainty by divining the future one way or another. We do this either through complex algorithms that project that past into the future, or stuff that involves a little more “hocus pocus.” Unfortunately, whatever the method, both prove to be unreliable. The truth of the matter is, we live in a world full of uncertainty, and no matter what our methodology, our ability to predict the future is going to fail us. And instead of being a person who obsesses about the future and things yet to come, I believe we must focus on being a people of character who make right choices in the present moment. We must act right, right here, right now. We are called to be a people who dig our roots down deep into the life giving source that we need to weather whatever storm we ultimately face. And in doing such, we will flourish no matter what season of life we eventually find ourselves in. Ultimately, I don’t need to worry about my future. My future is in the hands of God, who calls me to live out the present moment. And when I focus on being the person God has called me to be, I’ll make my own future. And I’ll be free from the tyranny of business analysts and prophets who make all manner of predictions, many of which ultimately never come to fruition. Scriptures Cited In Today’s Podcast: Jeremiah 17:7 Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord And whose trust is the Lord. 8 For he will be like a tree planted by the water, That extends its roots by a stream And will not fear when the heat comes; But its leaves will be green, And it will not be anxious in a year of drought Nor cease to yield fruit. (NASB) Psalm 1:1 How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers! 2 But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night. 3 He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, Which yields its fruit in its season And its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers. (NASB) Matthew 6:25 For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? 27 And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? 28 And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, 29 yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! 31 Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ 32 For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34 “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (NASB) Related Podcast: God Still Speaks Today – Episode #42 Casting Lots (And Making Hard Decisions) – Episode #76 It’s The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine) ~ Episode #85
81 minutes | 5 months ago
What Is Christian Nationalism? (And Why It’s Bad) – Episode #91
What is “Christian nationalism?” And why is it bad? Christian nationalism isn’t a new thing in the history of the world. It is an ideology and mindset that has existed in one form or another since the days of Roman Emperor, Constantine the Great. But it has recently made a strong resurgence in America over the last few decades, and has become all the more prominent under the presidency of Donald Trump. In today’s podcast, I sit down with my guest Mike Schwiebert to discuss the issue of Christian nationalism in America. We talk about this topic ultimately in light of the recent “Jericho March” rally that took place in Washington, DC a couple weeks ago. At this march, tens of thousands of Christians marched on Washington, alluding to the Biblical narrative about how the Israelites marched around Jericho for 7 days before conquering the city. During the Jericho March on Washington, many prominent conservative Christian voices spoke at length about the need to take the country back for God and to prevent demonic forces from stealing the election from God’s anointed President, Donald Trump. The march featured conservative Christian voices and personalities such as Eric Metaxas, retired Lt. General Michael Flynn, the “My Pillow” CEO Mike Lindell, Roman Catholic Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, Jonathan Cahn, Cindy Jacobs, and many others. Mike and I talk in length about the problematic lense that Christian nationalism in America operates through, and how it ultimately manifest itself. We also discuss the dangers it poses to the church at large, and the implications that it has in our witness for the gospel of Jesus Christ. Talking Points From Today’s Podcast Beth Moore recently tweeted “I do not believe these are days for mincing words. I’m 63 1/2 years old & I have never seen anything in these United States of America I found more astonishingly seductive & dangerous to the saints of God than Trumpism. This Christian nationalism is not of God. Move back from it.” In response to this, Dr. James White responded “OK, just what is this new phrase, “Christian nationalism” all of a sudden?” So which is it? Is Christian nationalism one of the greatest dangerous to the church? Or is it something that doesn’t even exist? In today’s podcast, I am sitting down with Mike Schwiebert to discuss the issue of Christian nationalism. This discussion has been brought to the forefront because of the recent demonstration in Washington DC in which there was a “Jericho march” where a large group of Christians got together to attempt to manufacture a miracle on behalf of Donald Trump for the election. Rod Dreher response to Jericho March: https://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/what-i-saw-at-the-jericho-march/ Christian nationalism rises above mere patriotism. Nationalism is the belief that one’s country is superior to most, if not all other countries. Christian Nationalism is the belief that God has called Christians to create a Christian Nation. Christian nationalism is a sense of identity that one’s nation has been chosen by God for a special unique purpose, and that Christians must support certain political actors, policies, and parties in order to carry out those divine purposes. Otherwise, one might find themselves opposed to God’s ultimate agenda, and will be unable to keep back the dark Satanic forces that want to take the country (and the world) over. Thus we have to “fight for the soul of America” and “turn our nation back to God.” This goes beyond simply living in a society where one tries to persuade others of certain policies based on certain values, or to simply evangelize your neighbors on the teachings of Jesus and its implications for broader society. Christian nationalism is built on the idea that America is a “Christian nation.” As manifested in America, Christian nationalism sees the founding of our nation as being overtly based on”Judeo Christian Values,” with the founding fathers largely being devoted Christians, instead of Deists full of Enlightenment values, mixed with some Christian perspectives and ideas. You largely hear ideas like this propagated by the likes of David Barton. In all fairness to guys like David Barton (though there is much room for criticism), you do see things like this among some of the early American settlers. This is seen very early in American history. The Massachusetts Bay Colony believed God had raised them up to be a “shining city on a hill” that would serve as an example to England and other nations how a Christian society could be organized. Since the days that experiment (and others like it) collapsed, you’ve probably heard regular calls for Americans to “turn back to God.” Much of the preaching of the “Great Awakenings” in the 18th and 19th centuries was infused with this thought. Thought which has continued to exist in mostly conservative circles, especially circles that have historical connections with the great historical Christian “revivals” seen in America. Dispensationalist thought, in which the nation of Israel is seen as having divine purposes for the last days and Bible prophecy, is seen as very important among Christian nationalist thinking in America. God blesses those who bless Israel, so if America wants to live in prosperity, America has to support the nation of Israel in everything she does. This has been pretty standard teaching by guys like Jack Van Impe, John Hagee, Rod Parsley, and pretty much a lot of the more famous TV preachers on networks like TBN. Such teaching is not questioned by many in fundamentalist Christian and Pentecostal type churches. That’s not to say all hold such views. They don’t. But you’ll find them pretty commonly accepted by many sincere Christians. This is a question of Bible interpretation. When we approach the Bible from a skewed lens, we end up in a skewed place. This is about how Christians read and understand the Bible. Christian nationalism attempts to force a marriage between the church and the state. Christian Nationalism is both anti-America and anti-Christian. In some circles today it is popular to talk about exercising “dominion” over spheres of culture and society, where the church dominates or leads. This phenomenon isn’t uniquely it’s American. It’s existed elsewhere. Historically it goes back to the conversion of Rome to Christianity. I think you definitely see it in the Edict of Milan and the official acceptance of Christianity by Rome under Constantine. We see it in the establishment of “The Holy Roman Empire,” which eventually crumbled. But even though it crumbled, it still found root in England, Germany, Greece, Russia, and any other nation that deemed itself officially a “Christian nation.” Chiefly, it seems to be thriving in America, and has flourished under Donald Trump. What exists in America then, is simply the fruit of the complex history of the world as Christianity seeks to live out the life and mission that Christ called it to. What connection does Christian nationalism have with racism in America? Christian nationalism is really white-christian nationalism. Book recommendation: The Color of Compromise Jemar Tisby How do we rid ourselves of this heresy? I believe we need a new sense of identity, and an understanding of our place in this world and how we relate to it. 1 Peter 2:9 “But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;” Joshua 5:13, 14 “Are you for us or for our enemies?” “Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come.” Acts 10:34, 35 “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.” Philippians 3:20 “our citizenship is in heaven.” A proper understanding of the Kingdom of God is the antidote. About Today’s Podcast Guest: Mike Schwiebert Mike Schwiebert Mike has been married 31 years to his wife Rose, and they have a daughter named Ashley. Mike grew up a pastors kid, and has had a life-long love affair with the church and God’s people. He has served in vocational ministry for the past 30 years. He’s currently the Creative Director of Grace Covenant Church, in the Lake Norman area, just north of Charlotte, North Carolina. Grace Covenant is one of the largest Four Square Pentecostal churches in the country. He has a blog at TechnicallyThinking.org, which is about the intersection of church with technology. He enjoys cooking, has strong feelings about Texas style barbecue, and enjoys hiking and tech related stuff. Mike can be reached on Twitter @mikeschwiebert Related Podcasts The Battle Cry Of A “Politically Homeless” Christian – Episode #26 The Politics Of Jesus – Episode #43 Turning Our Hunger For Power Upside Down – Episode #46 In America (But Not Of America) ~ Episode #66
71 minutes | 5 months ago
What Makes A Christmas Movie Great (Or Bad)? – Episode #90
We all have our favorite Christmas movies that we love, and those we love to hate. But what makes the Christmas movies we love so great? And why do some Christmas movies just never connect with us, or slowly fade away? In today’s podcast, I sit down and talk to a children’s librarian (my wife Meagan Humphrey) about some of the greatest Christmas movies of all time. We talk about the elements of what makes each Christmas movie great, and why they continue to endure as favorites year after year. Likewise, we talk about why some of these Christmas movies never quite make it, or are only popular for a short period of time. Meagan & Jimmy Humphrey Popular Christmas Movies Discussed On Today’s Podcast Elf A Christmas Story It’s A Wonderful Life Scrooged Home Alone National Lampoon Christmas Vacation Hallmark Christmas Movies Miracle On 34th Street A Charlie Brown Christmas The Polar Express The Santa Clause Jingle All The Way Gremlins How The Grinch Stole Christmas Die Hard Related Podcasts Christmas In July (Saving Money) – Episode #15 Our Story: God Blessed The Broken Road – Episode #20 9 Reasons I “HATE” Christmas Festivities Before Thanksgiving – Episode #33 Celebrating Christmas Before Thanksgiving – Episode #35 Why I Love A Materialistic Christmas – Episode #37 Spending The Holidays Alone During The Pandemic (9 Tips) – Episode #87
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