Saturday, September 27, 2014

Are More Rules The Answer To Our Society's Bad Behavior?


I took this photo recently at a Staples store because it reminded of the scripture in Romans 5:20, The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase.  The photo is a great illustration that rules have a way of making us want to break them.

I read a post in the Harvard Business Review this week claiming NFL owners can’t manage their players without better rules.  Their answer to the criminal behavior of players is to add more rules!  Do these players not know that beating your wife or driving while intoxicated is wrong?  Are more rules the answer?  

I would think that adding more rules is like putting a Band-Aid on cancer. It may give the league a feeling that they are doing something, a feeling of control, but it doesn’t solve the problem.

The Pharisees during Jesus' time had a similar solution to problems.  They were the religious policemen of the time and they made sure the hundreds of laws and rules were obeyed.  But Jesus knew that their pious actions were a smoke screen to hide their depraved hearts. Jesus didn't mince words. "Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean." Matthew 23:26

We learn in the New Testament that without God's grace and transformational power to change us, the law commands without supplying a motive to obey. In fact, it creates a feeling of rebellion within and we are compelled to break the law for no reason.  Adam and Eve disobeyed God's first commandment and humans haven't changed.  We are still breaking rules and disobeying laws.
  
The two ways we maintain a society of law and order are to either instill a morality from within or impose a set of rules and regulations from the outside.   So a person will either act in a civil manner because of what they have been instilled to believe (from inside) or because of the fear of punishment if they are caught violating the law (outside).  

Our society tries to change people from the outside by creating laws because government has no power to transform the inner life. So we learn to conform from the outside. All we have to do is to put on the facade of obedience, just like the Pharisees. We learn to talk alike, act alike, think alike, keep the outside clean! We find ways to break the law without getting caught.  If we don't get caught, keep the outside looking good, we must be okay, even though we have enmity in our hearts!

More rules without dealing with the root cause is only a bandaid solution.  It could actually make the problem worse. Until we can change the inner man, we will be struggling with the same bad behavior over and over. And as Paul tells us, only the law of the Spirit can overcome the law of sin and death.  Faith in Christ is a much better antidote than more laws.  Unfortunately, our authorities have pretty much abandoned this solution so I guess we are stuck with more rules.  


Saturday, September 20, 2014

A broken society? How does the church respond?


The recent headlines and picture of child and spousal abuse from NFL football players has everyone talking.  The old debate about corporal punishment which has gone on for a few decades has resurfaced.  I find it interesting how a picture can incite us to demand justice or change our behavior when we know that the picture is just the tip of the iceberg. Both incidents actually represent the consequences of much greater ailments in our society, that of broken families, out of wedlock children, and fatherless children.  

What is worse, a father who disciplines his child to the point of abuse or a father who is totally absent from a child's life?  It doesn't make headlines when men abuse their children by abandoning them because we don't see the heart rending pictures of this abuse. Yet, I would think it is far more destructive to our children than over zealous discipline.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if our society would get as upset about the failure of men to be responsible in raising their children and being a good husband and father?  What will it take for us to realize that our society is only as good as the families that are in it?  


How does the church respond to a broken society? For over 4,000 years, our values and standards of right and wrong have been fairly consistent.  And the primary method of instilling those values has been through the family and church or synagogue.  This has led to an orderly, productive and safe society, especially in the western world and the United States. Things are changing faster and more significantly than ever before. We are losing the family and the institution of marriage is on the rocks. The media and our public education system have replaced the family as the instructors of values and morals.

And now there seems to be a deathly silence from the Christian community. Does the church have so little influence anymore that it has become insignificant in shaping our society's values and morals? What do you suggest the Christian response should be?

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Rethinking the idea of our "Calling"

I am all about living out my "calling" as my blog title infers. So I would like to share a perspective on living out our calling that maybe somewhat different than the general idea that I was taught when I was first getting into ministry.  This is not gospel, just observations on my part that I think will help us to live out our calling with freedom, joy and passion. 

I was brought up to believe certain things about finding my "calling". Looking back now I see that they were a flawed or limited view of the idea of God's calling in one's life.  

Myth # 1 God will always communicate your "calling" in a dramatic, supernatural or clearly spoken way.
Many have responded to a sermon or an altar call to go into the ministry and believe that is the way it generally happens. God tells me what I'm to be or do and I say yes. But, I don't believe one has to hear an audible directive from God to have a "calling".  All believers have a "calling", and I believe as Ephesians 2:10 says that God has already prepared the way for us to do good works. But discovering that calling comes about in all kinds of ways, often developed through our unique experiences in the church and through ministry and life in general.  
I got very involved in the church during my high school and jr. college years. I never intended to go into the ministry but was involved in ministry as a volunteer even while I pursued a career in broadcasting. I followed the doors God opened for me and eventually switched careers. I can look back now and see how God was laying the foundation for my "calling" in my teenage years.  There is no cookie-cutter method of discovering our calling. The process of finding my 'calling' was unique to me. God works differently in each person's life. If you wait for God to tell you just what to do in the way that others have said will happen, you may be missing out on what God has prepared for you. 

Myth #2  I must have a career in the ministry if God has "called" me.  
When people hear someone say they have found their "calling" in life, they automatically think of vocation. That I believe is a limited view of "calling". A better perspective is to view a "calling" as the same as our purpose. Another way to define "calling" is the means in which we live out our purpose and mission in life. I like to view our "calling" as both the vision and the means. Our primary calling is God's purpose for our life and our secondary calling is our occupation. Our occupation (secondary calling) is the means by which we fulfill our primary calling.  So we could be a pastor, children's coordinator, doctor or whatever job that gives one the opportunity to live out his or her primary calling.  There are a myriad of ways to live out your "calling" other than being a minister. But many theologians will argue that you must have a specific "call" from God to be a pastor, that it is much like the priesthood of the Old Testament.  My denomination holds to the "priesthood of the believer" doctrine developed from 1 Peter 2:4-10, that all believers are priests in Christ.  Yet even in our denomination many believe the uniqueness and difficulty of the pastorate demands a specific call from God. I'd love to hear what you believe.  

Myth #3. God will always call us to go and do things that we would never want to do.  
I find it interesting that we say, I have "surrendered" to God's call, like I'm going to prison or off to a lifetime job that I'll hate for the rest of my life.  God's "calling" should allow us to serve Him with a passion and joy, doing something that we love.  I expect to sacrifice material and physical things and go to places I may not choose to go on my own. But my calling is lived out serving with the gifts of the Holy Spirit, doing what God designed me to do well. Yes, he often pushed me out of my comfort zone, challenged me to do things I didn't think I could do, but I never dreaded following God's leading.  Following His call should be a great adventure, experiencing God in incredible ways as God helps us overcome the trials and disappointments of life to glorify Him. 

Myth # 4. Once you are called, you are called to do this for life.  
I was told that if God called you to be a youth minister, you were always to be a youth minister, that you were abandoning your call if you changed ministry positions.  I don't think this was the prevailing thought but many believe a call is to a lifetime sentence. This thinking happens when you mistake your primary calling with your secondary calling.  As I stated in Myth #2, our primary calling is our purpose and our secondary calling is our occupation.  Your primary calling (purpose) will never change, but your secondary calling, the way you live out your primary calling, may change many times over the course of a lifetime.  
A friend of mine was a high school football coach for years until he retired and then moved to Ireland to serve as a missionary. His job allowed him to use his skill to fulfill his "calling" to reach kids for Christ.  Now he is using those same skills in Ireland, to reach young men for Christ. He is still pursuing his "calling" but now in a different setting.  

I love this quote from Brian Schroller;  There is a glorious life and we merely need to grab hold of it and help others do the same.  Give a man a clear sense of the larger story, (primary calling), help him determine his uniquely created role to play (secondary calling), and teach him to walk in conversational intimacy with the Father.  Now you've really got something!

As we seek to find the best pathway to living out our calling, we discover that God will provide the opportunities and direction if we seek Him first. The best way is to seek God in everything we do.  Jesus then becomes our life, our passion, and He uses our unique abilities to accomplish His purposes in His Kingdom.  

How to choose the right path

“This is what the Lord says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and ...