Do you ever make a commitment to do something and don’t follow through?
Last week a good friend left town for a week with his family. I volunteered to check on their house and feed their fish. I didn’t have to volunteer but I did anyway to make my friend feel good about me. Essentially, I was trying to make myself look good in his eyes by appearing ‘helpful’. The days passed and I didn’t check on their house or feed the fish. Fortunately, the fish didn’t starve to death and his little children didn’t come home from Thanksgiving vacation to Mr. Fish floating belly up. That would have devastated the toddlers.
I had to admit to my good friend what I hadn’t done for him and his family. He forgave me (Thankfully). This may not seem like a big deal but it is because it reveals a larger problem.
It’s interesting how God can gently bring conviction into a heart. Over the last few days, I have had this growing sense of God’s gentle prompting of something I’m NOT doing.
As each day has passed, my attention has been moved toward an area of struggle in my life. It is something I have suffered my whole life. It is self-induced and I must take responsibility for what I am not doing.
Two days ago, an uncomfortable reality about my own nature was crystalized in my mind and my heart grew heavy.
I AM UNRELIABLE
I make promises and commitments I will not keep to people I care about and depend on me to follow through on my word.
This is a very unsettling situation for someone who ‘prides’ themselves on personal integrity. The key word is ‘pride’. I have made huge moral and relational blunders in my past. However, by God’s grace, I have made strides toward personal integrity and living a life that honors God.
My pride has blinded me to the fact that I am completely unreliable. When I don’t fulfill a commitment or keep a promise, that makes me a liar. I must own that fact. This is an integrity issue of monumental proportions! However, it is not ‘who’ I am. I can change. I feel I must change. But I can’t be relied upon to change myself or pull myself up by my proverbial ‘bootstraps.’ Because, remember I am unreliable.
What the heck do I do when I don’t do what I commit to do?
First, I have to admit my problem. I must admit it not only to myself but to others as well. Second, I must admit my need from help. Since, I’m unreliable, I can’t help myself. I must rely on someone else for help. That brings me to the next thing. I must ask the Lord to empower me to become reliable. After all, He is reliable. Next, I must make good on my current commitments and ask for forgiveness from those I’ve let down. Finally, I must ask my spouse and friends to help me and hold me accountable to my commitments.
Do you have any unfulfilled commitments?
Do you have any unkept promises?
Make a list right now. Pray and ask God for help. Enlist a couple close friends or family to hold you accountable.
Read the headlines from around our nation. What do you see? You see anger, hostility, confusion, selfishness and violence. We are seeing riots and division. What are we not seeing? We are not seeing compassion, caring, or charity.
2800 years ago in ‘the great city’ of Nineveh, we see an evil and cruel people. The entire city was heartless and cold. The lack of love and compassion and a bent toward violence and selfishness is described as sin. Nineveh was within a hair’s breadth of experiencing God’s judgement and destruction. And who could blame Him? If you saw a city full of people filled with rage, hatred, violence and cruelty toward each other, wouldn’t you just want to end it? Why didn’t God go with the ‘nuclear option’ in Nineveh? I would have!
How would you describe the ‘tone’ in our nation today?
Would you describe it as charitable and peaceful or toxic and divisive?
We are a nation divided. The media is helping to drive the division. As a Christ-follower, I must counter this division with a comprehensive worldview anchored the word of God. I am called to think redemptively and pursue reconciliation through God’s love. Why is it so hard?
Here’s the problem. I struggle with my part. When I am constantly called names or told that I am racist, intolerant, etc. or characterized with the latest straw-man fallacy, I grow angry because I am none of those things. If I am honest, I must admit I harbor ill-will toward the people who believe I am those things. That is my sin. I must own up to it.
God was compassionate and Jonah was not!
God called Jonah to go to Nineveh. Jonah hated Nineveh (a sin) and ran from God (a sin). He eventually ended up in Nineveh (a miracle). His mission was to call for the people to repent and turn to God. In doing so, God would relent from destroying the city, a demonstration of His compassion and love for all people. Nineveh was headed for destruction but God showed compassion.
The people of Nineveh turned to God, He relented and the city was saved! Furthermore, the city prospered. When God showed compassion, Jonah was angry because he didn’t see the people how God saw them. Jonah wanted the city judged and destroyed. Essentially, he was no different than the cruel hateful people of Nineveh. I have to claim that sin for myself.
My part as a Christ-follower
2 Chronicles 7:14 says, “if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (Note: I understand the context of this passage is related to Israel. Therefore, I am not outlining a prescriptive use but a descriptive framework of how to understand repentance, prayer and seeking God when we sin – pointing to His mercy and grace.)
People’s part: People who claim Christ must humble themselves, pray, seek and turn (repent) from sin.
God’s part: He will hear, forgive and heal.
I believe Christ-followers across the nation have humbled themselves and prayed over the last year (2016). I don’t know if we are actively seeking God’s face or turning from our wicked ways. I hope we have. Have you personally confessed the anger and pride in your heart? Frankly, I am writing this to myself. It is a struggle.
Perhaps, this is my call to the people of God. “Hey church, we bent our knee in humility and prayed. Maybe God is relenting and showing us his compassion. Now, we must be obedient and see this through. We need to seek God’s face and turn from our hatred and divisiveness. We must not boast but reach out in humility and love to a people God loves. And we must act right now! Forget what people say about you, act redemptively and in the spirit of love immediately!”
If we demonstrate God’s love through how we love others, who’s to say how God’s spirit may move upon the people of our nation?
The king of Nineveh said, “Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish.”
“When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it.”
What is my response? Is it an unrelenting anger, like Jonah?
God is compassionate and we are not!
You see Jonah really struggled with getting on the same page as God. We all do.
The last sentence in the book of Jonah ends with a question, “And should not I (God) pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?”
Please allow me a bit of liberty to apply the final verse if I may.
And should not I (God) pity America, that great nation, in which there are more than 320 million people who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much wealth?”
I am convinced that we are being tested and challenged. We have the greatest opportunity in generations to reach our nation with the love of Christ.
Please note, this post is a message to Christ-followers (aka, the Church). I do not expect non-believers believer or understand this. But, a believer should consider it and mediate on what God has to say in this cultural moment.
Reference: 2 Chronicles 7 and the Book of Jonah
I am the quiet voice of the homeless living in the camps within your cities.
I am the one you see on the sidewalk as you walk to work or take your kids to school. You are afraid to make eye contact with me because you think all I want is your money. So, you turn your gaze away. In doing so, your heart turns cold.
I see your cars with political stickers. I hear your conversations outside the coffee shop. You complain about this country. You rage against politicians. You rage and gossip and tear each other apart with words as sharp as knives. Yet, you look on me with disdain. Is my life not worthy of mention?
From the street, I see angry people raging against each other and setting the city ablaze.
Throngs of angry youth push past me and trample on my only possessions screaming about unfairness and equality. Am I not equal?
You don’t really care about people like me. Sure, you say you want to ‘end’ homelessness and other ‘social ills’… But, all you do is talk. You never actually sit with me and ask what its like to experience homelessness. No, you’d rather people like me be gathered up and removed from your sight. You’d rather I not exist! Do you disagree? Then, why do you act like I don’t exist?
Wisdom’s voice calls from the streets! I may be without a home but I am no fool. After your raging and rioting, you have homes to return to. You have families and friends to share life with.
Rage at what? What does your rage accomplish? How does your rage help people like me? My home is the streets and you have the audacity to leave your comfy dorms, houses and apartments to spill into my home on the streets and cause destruction? How dare you!
Do I storm your campus or property to rage against something I don’t agree with? No, I eat what you throw away and accept the turning of your gaze away. You can’t even look me in the eye. Am I not human? Am I not worth a smile and a kindly nod?
Perhaps you could repurpose your rage to take a step toward me? You have nothing to be afraid of. I have a name and a story. I was once a child who loved playing, just like you. I love ice cream and a beautiful sunset just like you. I have hopes and dreams just like you. Repurpose your rage and greet me in the streets with a kindly light. You will always have me among you.
I’m not looking for a handout, I’m looking for someone who cares more for me than a cause.
Author’s Note: This essay is a simple plea to my countrymen to pause for a moment and consider taking the energy expended against political opponents and applying that same energy to serving those experiencing homelessness. Please consider finding a local organization in your city to serve those experiencing homelessness. It will change you and improve our communities.
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The US Elections are one for the history books. Here is my analysis. Please bear with me as I draw on chords that lead to what just happened in the US last night. Please understand, I’m making broad observations above politics.
A good friend of mine in Montreal Canada posted a comment on Facebook this morning. He and I are on different sides of the political spectrum. Let me provide a backdrop to our friendship.
Alex and Me – Friends from opposite ends of the political spectrum
In 2004, Alex booked me for a gig at StereoBar in Montreal. I stayed with him and his family. We all enjoyed a home cooked meal as the snow fell on the city. It was a record snowfall. GW Bush was in office. We had a lively political debate and I so enjoyed their company, I remember it fondly to this day. We tolerated each others differences and embrace each other in friendship. Both of us lost our fathers way to early. We share that loss, vigorous debate at times and a love of house music.
Alex’s Facebook post this morning (after elections):
“Urgh. Brexit, Trump – This is what happens when you continuously talk down to people who already feel that they have nothing, and are angry about it. In 2016, working class beats smirking class.”
Alex is spot on in his analysis. Remember, we are from opposite ends of the political spectrum but we find agreement here.
Regardless of race, gender, ethnicity or faith, I believe most people just want to work, enjoy family and be generally left alone. For the past 20 years, the establishment has trespassed into the lives of normal folks trying to live quiet normal lives. Trump and Sanders are what you get when the establishment starts exerting its will on everyday folks. I think ‘the Bern’ phenomenon speaks just as loudly as Trump. There has been a shift in American political culture.
I think the turnout in the US will be a study into the anthropology of a cultural shift.
What cultural shift?
Let me draw on some historical chords that stand out in my mind. I’m not positing moral equivalency here. I am simply ‘thinking out loud’ for the sake of discussion.
The Woodstock Flower-Power generation challenged the established authority and found unity in disrupting the status quo. They activated for racial equality, freedom of speech and expression, sexual freedom and anti-war. Somewhere along the line, this movement was subverted by an insurgent movement emanating from the academy (universities). 30-40 years later, the anti-authority Boomers became the established authority in America. They eventually violated their original cause. They undermined the very freedoms they fought for in the 1960s. That was one cultural shift worth noting.
In 2010, the world witnessed a populist uprising against the establishment in a few countries in the Arab world. This is still unfolding six years later. But, its worth noting, it began with everyday folks rejecting the establishment.
This year, the UK surprised the world when it held a referendum to leave the EU. The people voted to challenge the establishment. This is still unfolding.
Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump
As an anthropologist and student of culture, I don’t know what is more interesting, the Bernie phenomena or Trump’s victory. If the Bernie would have been allowed to run against Trump, I think he would have won handily (not by a landslide but handily). However, the DNC establishment wanted none of it. I know Sanders supporters who voted Trump because it’s not a left vs right thing anymore… it’s a establishment vs the people thing. Bernie brought that to light and Trump played that chord. It resonated with the people.
Bernie and Trump supporters are at opposite ends of the left vs. right spectrum. Yet, they are in agreement in their challenge to the political and economic establishment and power structure. Their means are different but they both are convinced the status quo must go.
So, here we are on the first page of a new chapter in history. As the ink spills and fills the future pages of this book, it is worth noting ‘what the heck just happened’ is not a political shift but a cultural shift. Politics and legislation are lagging indicators of the culture. The anti-establishment movement is the new establishment. Hopefully, it does not succumb like past movements.
As the Zen Master once said, “We’ll see what happens….”
Several years ago, I decided to do my first triathlon. It was a sprint distance course which is the shortest distance. For a rookie triathlete, a sprint may as well be an full Ironman.
For years, I had been a hard partier. I drank, smoked and partook in various extracurricular activities (ie. drugs). In high school, I was a varsity swimmer, I wrestled and played lacrosse. In my first two years of college I was an athlete, a swimmer. However, the party animal lifestyle is what I pursued.
Somewhere along the line, I stopped being an athlete and pursued being a party animal.
I became what I pursued. We all do. Most the time were are unaware of the change until we look back and have an ‘ah ha’ moment.
Training for my first triathlon revealed the damage of my pursuit of partying. My lungs didn’t work properly, my swim sucked and I could not run more than a few miles.
After my first race, I realized something had changed. I had become a triathlete. Today, I enjoy longer races, like the half Ironman. I can run a marathon, swim two miles and bike 60+ miles if I want.
Finally, I was transformed from a broken-down partier to an athlete because I became what I was pursuing.
- If you want to be a good father or mother, you must intentionally pursue it.
- If you want to be a good spouse or friend, you must pursue it.
- If you want to know God, you must pursue him.
However, if you pursue worthless things, you will become worthless. If you pursue material things, you will become lifeless, just like material things.
In Jeremiah 2, Israel pursued lifeless idols of money, sex and power (Baal). All of it was worthless. They became worthless. Today, people pursue idols of self-gratification, self-deification, money, sex and power. Not much has changed.
What or who are you pursuing?
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Last night, I found myself reading about the Edward Snowden. He is the NSA guy who broke the news that the US Government has been gathering massive amounts of electronic data on US citizens. Snowden has currently found asylum in Russia. I find the unfolding story intriguing. Everything from phone calls and emails to text messages and other forms of private communication have been swept into NSA data bases. Suffice to say, the NSA knows a lot about millions of Americans. It got me to thinking this morning after reading Proverbs 8.
“For the ways of man are before the eyes of the Lord, and He pondereth all his goings.” (Proverbs 8:18 KJV)
Not only are the actions and deeds of a man (or woman) known by God but, God knows a man’s thoughts and motives. Nothing can be hidden from God.
We are prone to hide anyway. Whether it is the tantalizing lustful fantasy or desire of a sexual nature or pride wrapped in the robes of radiant humility, ALL is known by God.
Perhaps its the good deed done in hopes of recognition by the world? ALL is known by God.
Only the regenerate, reborn, remade, redeemed heart can be pricked by the blade of the Holy Spirit; capturing and dragging the motivation in chains to the cross. This is where Christ puts it to death and renews a man’s spirit with His Grace and love.
The rebellious unregenerate heart will be ruled by passions and motivations.
In the final analysis, a man has a choice. He can remain in bondage to a cycle of base impulses like sex and self. Alternatively, he can capture his thoughts and put them to death and freedom is achieved.
What are the characteristics of the thoughts running through your mind?
The answer will reveal whether you are in bondage or freedom.
While you may be able to hide from the NSA, the ways of man cannot be hidden from God. ALL is known by God.