Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The one thing we want most from our leaders is missing

I voted yesterday. Yes, neither of the candidates is my first, second or third choice. Through the whole process I've wondered if God is playing a joke on us or maybe just giving America what it deserves.  I know many people share my concern for our country and are really dismayed by our choices for president.  The reason is pretty simple but I haven’t heard many express it.  The one characteristic that people want most from their leaders is lacking from both candidates for president.  A survey of thousands of people around the world found that the characteristic they most desired in their leaders is integrity.

So we have two candidates, one who has a record of habitual lying and corruption of power and the other who comes across as a pompous, impetuous billionaire with a reputation as a womanizer.  If we want candidates with integrity, candidates that are honest, moral, principled, stable and virtuous, all words to describe integrity, how then did we end up with Hillary and Donald?

Perhaps this is an indictment on the people of America, that we have chosen candidates with the least quality we want in leaders. Maybe we don't really value character and integrity.  Perhaps we have fallen so low as a nation that we want leaders who get things done by whatever means possible more than persons of integrity.  So we are left with two candidates who specialize in getting their way; Hillary with a history of manipulation and down right criminal actions and Donald who has mastered the art of negotiating and making good deals by whatever means possible.  

I long for the time when I supported a candidate I really admired and liked personally.  Unfortunately I don’t have that choice in this election so I seem to be left with voting for policy over personality.  I’m left with deciding which candidate will help bring to fruition the type of country in which I want to live and the government in which I want over me.

So my second observation is this:  As I see it, Trump and Clinton, personalities aside, are extreme caricatures of the government types they represent.  There is Hillary the consummate politician who has used and abused her government power to gain wealth and even more power. She distrusts business and the free enterprise system and relies on government to “fix" the country.  So in her administration there will be more regulation, more taxes and controls on businesses.  There is also a distrust of the regular American citizen to make decisions for themselves. So there will be more and more government intrusion into the lives of American citizens, more thought police, rules and more government control. The government's role in Hillary’s administration will be to make life more equal for those who don’t have as much as others and safer for those who are abused by the capitalistic system.  

Then there is Trump, the outsider with no government experience, the capitalist who has used the economic system to gain wealth and power. His side distrusts government and wants to limit the power and control that the government has over business and the individual.  He will reduce regulations and make policy that will help the American business owners prosper which in turn will mean more jobs for Americans and theoretically a renewed economy and more opportunities for all people.  As I see it, these are our choices.  It’s all a matter of which country in which you want to live.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Integrity? What is it and how do I live it?

With the crazy election and all of the accusations, I’ve thought a lot recently about integrity and what it means to live a life of integrity.  So I’d like to dig a little deeper into what that life looks like in the next few blog posts.  

One of my favorite quotes is from James Michener:
The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his information and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he’s always doing both.”

I am a relational person who seeks to have fun in whatever I'm doing, so this quote really resonates with me.  When my faith, work, and play intermix and harmonize, I feel as much alive as ever.  An integrated (whole) life is one major aspect of living a life of integrity.

Yet this is not easy because most of us live our lives compartmentalizing work, play, family, and religion, especially those of my generation or older.  I can easily act one way for my family, another at work and play and wear another suit on Sunday and this feels as natural as eating and drinking. It is not even something I consciously do but is a built-in defense mechanism to keep certain beliefs and relationships separated from one another so they don't conflict.

That is why there is this perception of hypocrisy in the church. People see believers out on the town on a Friday or Saturday night partying it up and then in church on Sunday morning hearing about the evils of what they partook on Friday. It's the reason a pastor can preach on the sin of lust while having an affair or a business man who uses unethical business practices to make a bigger pay day and then sit with his family on Sunday morning listening to a sermon on integrity.  Living a compartmentalized life is living a life of hypocrisy and sin. 

I remember a skit that was done in one of the many summer youth camps I helped lead.  The skit was about a teenage girl hanging out with Jesus (a boy playing the role of Jesus) in her room. The girl gets a call from a friend inviting her to a party. She excitedly accepts the invitation and quickly gets ready and starts to walk out the door.  “Jesus” starts to go with her.  She turns around and tells him, “you must stay here”.  She turns to walk to the door again and Jesus continues to follow her.  This time she turns and adamantly proclaims, “I’m sorry but you can’t go! You don’t belong at this party, stay put!” The point was clearly made. There are places and areas of our life where we don’t exercise our faith, where we would rather not have Jesus taking part.
How well do you live an integrated as opposed to a compartmentalized life?  Consider how you keep your religious life separate.  Think about how much your faith has spilled over into other areas of your life.  Have you kept your faith life only for Sundays or do you take Jesus everywhere you go? If not, how can you better integrate your faith in the other areas?

More on living an integrated life in next week’s blog: the good news about the millennial generation and the church’s response. 

Monday, October 3, 2016

America's greatest problem few talk about

Photo curtesy of
My wife had cataract surgery a couple of weeks ago on one eye and she has been declaring what a difference her now "repaired" eye is from the other.  She'll look at an object and remark how much brighter and colorful it looks viewing from her surgically repaired eye minus the cataract as from her other eye which also needs cataract surgery.

I was thinking just how her experience with new vision is like how our lives can also become distorted, discolored and in need of some sort of operation.  Our culture is much like a cataract which slowly forms over our spirit and blinds us from the true life God has called us to live, the abundant life that we were created to experience. This distortion makes it difficult to see the world clearly and so we can easily be enticed to live a fraudulent life of death and destruction.

So many young adults have been deceived into believing that the good life is one of drugs, alcohol and sex.  One study indicated that 23.5 million Americans are addicted to alcohol and drugs. That’s approximately one in every 10 Americans over the age of 12 – roughly equal to the entire population of Texas.  And that is only those who have admitted to having a drug or alcohol problem, perhaps only the tip of the iceberg.

I'd say we have a serious problem - an epidemic.  I have personally felt the impact of this problem indirectly. I am close to seven couples, some friends and some family, who have young adult children struggling with drugs or alcohol. All of these young adults, men and women ages 18 to 37 have had children out of wedlock, that they are not able to take care of because they are not capable or just don't want the responsibility.  And much of the problem stems from their addiction to drugs or alcohol. And so this problem is not just one that affects the addicted person but it also wrecks havoc on the lives of their parents and has a great chance of being passed on to their children.

We have a lot of problems in our country but I can't think of anything that does more harm to the individual, families and to society than this.  None of the presidential candidates are discussing this problem. There are no demonstrations or protests. I think many families keep these problems hidden so we don't really understand the scope of the problem. You may hear people complain about the drug culture being an inner city problem but this goes much farther than the inner city.  We have a rotten culture nationwide which leads to broken lives of drug and alcohol abuse and it is an epidemic in all areas of our nation.  And its tentacles reach into all areas of society.

Faith based rehab facilities are our best solution now to this problem.  They serve much like cataract surgeons. These facilities remove the addicted person from the destructive culture that has so discolored their world view, so they can begin to see clearly, that there is another world full of color that is available to them.

However, only a small percentage choose to check into rehab and there are not enough facilities to handle all those addicted if they did. The Church is best positioned and has the potential to not only treat and heal but be the key to winning the war on drugs. Celebrate Recovery and identity groups are ways the church has addressed the problem but many churches aren't equipped or even want to do the messy work needed. Ironically ministry to those struggling with addiction may be the church's best opportunity for evangelism and life transformation. 

Only until one admits there is a problem and gets treatment will he or she be able to see the difference.  Then they can begin to understand their true purpose, their identity and the role they can play to make a difference in the world.  Then they will see a world of color and potential and hopefully be more inclined to choose life over death. God said "This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live!" Deut. 30:19 It is much easier to choose life when we see clearly the choices before us.

Perhaps we should take a look at our culture that promotes and encourages this life of death and destruction. Maybe if we dealt with the root issue, to understand that we do have a culture of death that permeates our society, then we could prevent so many broken and wasted lives.

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