Ok, maybe I’m a little sexist.

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love the opposite sex as evidenced by the fact I have been married to one for over 33 years.  But, NEWS FLASH, there are differences between the sexes. I know that may come as a shock to you, but this breaking information has actually been confirmed by recent studies.

There are the obvious outward differences, the different reproductive roles along with other differences which if I delved into them I would be treading on dangerous PC ground.  Suffice it to say men and women are different in many ways.

One of the ways men and women differ is what kind of marketing they tend to respond to best.  For example (Note: general statements not absolutes) the sex sells marketing strategy tends to be directed most often at men.  Most shoe advertising is directed at women.

Another example became clear when we were looking for a name for our below ground shelter business.  I originally came up with the name 6 Feet Under Shelters with the tag line of “rest in peace of mind”.  The guys loved it, but the women nixed it.  The diving line was almost without exception.

Last year Barbie picked up a magazine for me about marketing with numerous articles on how to tell your business story.  The highlighted article was about Renee Richardson who was the new global marketing manager at Caterpillar (a heavy equipment manufacturer).  She initiated a new advertising campaign showing a mini excavator maneuvering amongst expensive china and heavy equipment playing a giant game of Jenga.

My initial thoughts were that it was a somewhat cute/clever way to advertise (although personally, I bought a Yanmar excavator).  This morning as I was scanning the headlines one in particular caught my attention – “Single Company Spells Doom For Global Economy”.  The reason, the recently released devastating earnings report for Caterpillar who estimates that worldwide sales will be down 9% this year.

Now perhaps it’s too much of a reach to tie a mini excavator tiptoeing around china to music and the falling sales of heavy equipment, but then maybe I wasn’t the only one who thought the advertising was cute and clever as opposed to being really impressive – like tearing down a building.

So here is where I may be a little sexist.  If I am going to buy some makeup or perfume for my wife, I’m going to the lady sales person (not that there would be that many men in the cosmetics department).  And if I am going to buy machinery, I will probably go talk to the sales guy.  Not because I’m sexist, but because I’m not as interested in how well it can place stemware as I am in how efficient it is in digging my shelter holes.  It’s vitally important to know and to market to the right audience, and apparently even the global economy depends on it.

So go ahead, be a little sexist also, and call me a guy:)

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The Ripple Effect & Taking Spiritual Authority

There is probably no one more aware of the ripple effect of sin than me.  How can I say that you ask?  Because I have witnessed the sin of my impatient anger crop up in my own kids (I’ll never tell which ones).  I used to get on to them when they were impatient or had reactive anger and later would awake to the fact of where they learned it and if I didn’t Barbie was faithful to hold that “despised” spiritual mirror up to my face.  I have repented both to the Lord and my kids for the horrible example I set and Barbie and I regularly do spiritual battle for the redemptive power of Christ in our lives and our family’s lives.  We can never thank you enough Lord for your faithfulness to our family!

Over the years we have observed many sinful rocks drop in the pond of our lives, our kid’s lives and others.  The ripples go on and on seemingly without end and if you watch the video below, you will notice that the point of impact becomes smooth water pretty quickly while the ripple waves grow wider as they expand endlessly outward.

When our son Wesley got into using and dealing drugs we quickly noticed how it began to affect others.  At that point, with much initiation by Barbie, we went on the war path against Satan in spiritual battle as well as proactive steps in the natural – like turning our own son into the police.  That day was not a happy day.  Wesley expressed in terms I cannot repeat here the great betrayal he felt.  When further corrective efforts on our part were met with scorn, we sent out request for prayer to everyone who would listen, conducted an intervention with family and pastors and eventually took the ultimate step of kicking him out of the house when he breeched the most basic of house rules.

I am sure we have lots and lots to learn about spiritual authority since the “greater works than these” Jesus spoke of are not all that plentiful in our lives.  But with what little we did understand we fought and fought hard for Wesley with what most of you know to be a miraculous story of God answering the battle cry of prayer as the outcome.

As we have observed numerous other tragic events of sin impacting lives we have also witnessed various ways those impacted have responded to those sinful “rocks”.  Some instances have seen quick repentance and hard fought battles.  Others have seen a walk of denial or an understandable desire to be less than open about the event or person involved due to the shame it brings.  But in all the cases above the ripple effect was and/or is present in varying degrees.

Although I walk with a greater patience than ever before, I still see impatient anger raising its ugly head on occasion in my family.  And while I know Wesley’s heart of repentance and devotion to Christ, who can know those still affected today in the drug world.  I know of one couple whose marriage is stronger than ever after surviving an affair while half of their children rejected Christ in the ensuing years.  Another repentant individual is having an impact for Christ from a prison cell while almost all his children are living away from God.

Stories like mine and others are all too abundant.  What can we do when we, our kids, a friend or a spouse gives into sin, an affair or chooses a deviant lifestyle?  What can do to fight for our family, our marriages and our descendents?  Exactly that, we fight and we fight hard.  And we fight with as many others as we can muster.  I am not suggesting that you must broadcast on facebook your particular battle, but our battle is against a large host of principalities in the heavenlies and we do not want to face that battle alone.  Over the years, we have enlisted the company of close friends, home fellowship groups, our Sunday school, family and pastors to join in our hard fought battles.  The lines of authority in scripture would suggest God gives special power in particular to parents and grandparents.

We must attack the enemy from as many angles as possible with less concern about any embarrassment it might bring and a greater awareness that some brief shame on this earth should always be cast aside in preference of the vastly greater prize of an eternity with Christ because the alternative is that same eternity away from Christ.

Black lives really do matter!

In honor of MLK day, I wanted to join my voice in echo of the current trending statement that Black Lives Matter.  Yes of course all lives matter, but on a day we set aside to honor those who marched and the man who often led those marches, I felt it was fitting to give a significant nod in recognition that, perhaps more than ever the message needs to get out that, black lives matter.

I do not need to say “some of my best friends are black” in order to qualify me to speak on this subject, I have numerous nieces, nephews, and other blacks who have either been adopted or married into my extended family.  My own daughter lives and serves in Tanzania populated by 99% blacks.

I believe the black community is doing a great job of getting the message out there in order to raise social awareness of the tremendous imbalance of blacks being killed in America as opposed to all other races.  But for the most part that message seems to be aimed directly at white cops and the white community.  It is at this point I have to bring out a few facts which might almost have the power to have MLK shouting from the grave for a whole new purpose to march.

In the last decade, statistics show that 93% of the 8-10,000 blacks killed in America each year are at the hands of other blacks.  Over 52% of all murders committed in America are committed by blacks.  And whereas blacks make up only around 12% of the population, approaching 40% of all babies killed each year by abortion are black.  And even though over 50% of the violent crime in America is committed by blacks, whites are killed by cops at a rate that is almost twice that of blacks killed by cops.  These statistics are jarring and sad, but the truth also matters.

Perhaps a far more appropriate march in support of black lives mattering would be white churches or a crowd of white cops and white communities marching in the streets of black neighborhoods carrying signs and pleading the cause that Black Lives Really Do Matter.  This very white American voices his support of the value of all lives and, today, especially those who are black.

UPDATE: Sad but ironic update to this blog.  Yesterday, over 3 full weeks after it happened, a video was released of a police officer shooting another black man who had his hands up.  The only difference between the two most recent, and highly publicized, deaths of black criminals and this one was that it was a black officer who pulled the trigger.  There were no protest, no riots, no appearance by Al S or Jesse J, no burning down businesses and perhaps most telling – no public comment by POTUS.  If black lives really do matter, and of course they certainly do, then the black community needs to open their eyes to the harsh reality of their culture of ignoring black on black street violence and start working WITH the police by naming names, testifying, pointing out criminals and welcoming them into their neighborhoods.  As long as the police are viewed as the enemy there will continue to be escalating tensions, blame casting and a culture of death and distrust.

http://www.foxnews.com/us/2015/01/22/dashboard-camera-video-shows-man-shot-by-nj-police-raising-his-hands/

He can do whatever He wants and who am I to complain – but what if?

Free will vs. election, pre/mid/post tribulation, eternal physical punishment vs. annihilation, Jesus is the only way vs. universalism, tats vs. no tats, instruments vs. no instruments, tongues vs. no tongues, miracles vs. no miracles, etc. etc. etc.

There have been and are many debates, controversies, arguments and downright fights out there over the subjects listed above and many more.  What is right?  Who is right? And what is my responsibility before God in all this confusion and fog?

This blog is not going to answer any of those questions, but rather offer a perspective to consider as it relates specifically to a couple of the more weighty ones.  I’m not so sure my or your eternal position will be determined by whether either of us speaks in tongues, believes in miracles, plays instruments or has a tattoo.  And, although perhaps more weighty, I not sure if my belief in when the rapture happens (if there even is one) will have any bearing on when it actually takes place.  I will even go so far as to say that when I get to the pearly gates and find out the it was free will instead of election that got me there, or the other way around, I’m not going to argue at that point which one should have been right.

There are a couple of the “vs.” above that are perhaps more important relating to eternity than the others.  Very popular movements in mainstream Christianity today are the rejection of an eternal physical punishment in hell and a significant nod towards universalism being embraced because of our abundantly merciful God.

I have my views and opinions on both of these subjects which I will only give in brief.  On the idea of eternal physical punishment in hell I will only say that the same Greek word for eternal is used for both the eternal punishment the goats are sent to and the eternal life the sheep are promised.  In faith believing I am one of the sheep, I am definitely interested in the kind of eternal life that is actually forever.  On the subject of Jesus is the only way or maybe not so much, simply put, I have chosen to follow Jesus as the only way and I try to do it the best I can.

Now, ultimately, God is going to do what He wants to do.  If that means sending sinners to the isle of perpetual tickling, totally annihilates them or gives them a pathway to redemption, who am I to say anything against that.  I may not like the idea that I worked in the fields most of the day and someone who comes after dark and after the work is completed still gets the same reward, but then I am not the land owner and I still got what was promised to me.

The bottom line for me is that He is the Owner, Master, Potter, Creator, King of the universe, He is EVERYTHING and I recognize all those attributes and no matter what His plan or what He ultimately decides to do – I’m all in with my devotion to Him no matter what the outcome.  Why?  Because of all those titles I listed at the beginning of this paragraph.  He gets to call ALL the shots no matter what, when or how.  He can change His mind even if I have long understood that He doesn’t change.  HE IS.  And because of that, I will chose and promote scriptures most “conservative” points of obedience, devotion and commitment for the simple reason of “what if?”.  In other words, what if there is an eternal physical punishment in a lake of fire, what if Jesus really is the only way and what if He really is as holy, merciful and intolerant of sin as described in scripture.  Since it is eternity we are talking about, which is a really, really long time, I am not taking chances and I’m going to encourage others not to take the ultimate risk of being wrong when there is so much at stake.

PS – inspired by a comment by my daughter Jayme – If our desire is to be understanding and compassionate, is it really compassionate to promote a certain philosophy which ignores the possibility, no matter how small, of an eternal consequence?

Nothing new under the sun!

Some things never change and there are a couple of stories which are about 4000 years apart as examples of this truism.

2000 BC – Everyone will remember the story of Lot, Sodom and Gomorrah.  When the men of the city came to Lot and asked that he allow them to have sex with the men who were staying with him, Lot refused.  The men of the city went into a rage and accused Lot of being judgmental towards them and lashed out at him threatening him with great harm.

Modern day – a new reality show (My Husband’s Not Gay) which is starting next week is being attacked as judgmental towards the homosexual community.  Why?  Because the new show is about 4 men who are attracted to men but have committed to live heterosexually (think Dennis Jernigan) with their wives and family because of their conservative religious beliefs.  The argument is that those men are not being allowed to let their “true” feelings out and are being judged and “forced” by society into a “traditional” box.  Almost 100,000 have already signed a petition for the show to be canceled and not allowed to air because it is so offensive and judgmental to the gay community.

Clearly Lot wasn’t judging those men by declining to give up his guest and clearly this new show is simply highlighting a handful of examples of men with religious convictions choosing traditional values over an alternative lifestyle.  Basically both of these are stories offer no judgment, no attack on the gay community, no indictment of the homosexual lifestyle.  No judgment of any sort is/was offered by Lot or this new TV show any more than someone deciding not to have sex before marriage as their life choice.  But the mere refusal by Lot to entertain their request or any suggestion of an option to an alternative lifestyle is perceived as judgment by the gay community.  Some people are very comfortable with the lifestyle choices they have made and then there is a huge community of people who, by their reactive, vehement and defensive actions, may be displaying a significant insecurity in their own lifestyle choices – which raises a whole new set of questions not to be discussed for now.

The spirit of this world is the same as it was from the beginning, always ready to accuse. We must continue to be on guard, watch and not grow weary.

The cost of conviction?

In modern Christianity convictions or standards are becoming less like immovable boundary stones, as they were intended, and more like modeling clay which never dries out or becomes even the slightest bit rigid – ever changing and conforming to the latest “everybody’s doing it” practice.  Of course the truth is that, at first, not everybody is “doing it”, whatever “it” is, but rather some small minority of those professing Christ who at the same time have found enjoyment and self satisfaction in practices which have long (some 2000+ years) been understood from scripture to be prohibited and/or worthy of judgement/death (see Rom. 1:21-32).

One of the more controversial convictions held by Barbie and I is the very painful and heartbreaking conviction of not “hanging out” with those who profess Christ while they are at the same time are openly and unrepentantly engaging in sexual sin.  Here is the scripture from which we hold this conviction. I Cor. 5:9-11.

In my letter to you I told you not to associate with people who continue to commit sexual sins. I didn’t tell you that you could not have any contact with unbelievers who commit sexual sins, are greedy, are dishonest, or worship false gods. If that were the case, you would have to leave this world. Now, what I meant was that you should not associate with people who call themselves brothers or sisters in the Christian faith but live in sexual sin, are greedy, worship false gods, use abusive language, get drunk, or are dishonest. Don’t even eat with such people.

I say painful and heartbreaking because it is one of the hardest convictions to obey for several reasons.

#1 is because we find ourselves in the great minority of believers who hold this particular conviction.  We know other God fearing Christians who will not practice this form of discipleship.  There may be some deeper explanation as to why but the only reason we have been given to date is something along the lines of “surly a loving God wouldn’t command this”.  And depending on your view of what authority the Bible brings to bear on a given situation, I will concede it was Paul who actually commanded this particular action and not Jesus or God directly and perhaps therein lies the difference.  And if that is your view of the authority of scripture, I would have to respectfully disagree and continue in my conviction.

Below is a link to a sermon by John Piper addressing this specific issue of shunning the unrepentant sexual sinner.

http://www.desiringgod.org/sermons/how-satan-saves-the-soul

#2 is because of how awkward it makes it when there is a gathering of believers who do not hold this conviction which also include those professing Christ and yet are practicing sexual sin.  It has actually becomes necessary for us to be the ones to bow out of gatherings like this.

#3 is because, in some rare situations, we become the ones who are reverse shunned because of our convictions.

#4 is because in our progressive “accepting” society, more conservative convictions such as ours are perceived as archaic, judgmental and harsh and being perceive that way is not fun.

This is not some hypothetical or metaphoric conviction.  We have very dear friends who profess Christ and are either fornicating or engaging in homosexuality openly and without repentance.  We have met with them all and challenged them, offered loving rebukes accompanied by scripture and our ultimate decision to not “hang out” with them because of their decision to continue in sin.

There are lots of different scriptures listing various situations in which to shun certain sinners, errant teachers, bad leaders, etc.  It always involves those professing Christ who at the same time openly disobey scripture or dishonor the Christian faith.  It is made clear we are not to reject them, but to lovingly rebuke and only as necessary to disfellowship.  The cumulative reasons for the ultimate step of shunning are very specific and powerful.  It is so that the offending party feels publically ashamed (hopefully to the point of repentance and re-instatement), the rest of the church is warned and other believers who may be considering following in similar fashion are challenged to not do so.

As Barbie and I have grown in the Lord we have found it pretty easy not to lie, cheat, steal, murder, etc. etc. but this whole shunning conviction is pretty tough, maybe one of the toughest.  But our understanding of scripture affords shunning the worthy goal of being a sacrificial service to those in deception rather than some practice which benefits us.

Is it fun – absolutely not!  Does is make us feel all warm inside – not in the least!  Do we feel rewarded or blessed when obeying this conviction – not so much!  Do people thank us for doing it – not yet.  Have some people gotten mad at us for shunning – you bet!  Do we get “brownie points” in heaven for it – I sure hope so!  Has there been any “up-side” to walking out this conviction (along with all the other “easier ones”) – actually a non-believer (familiar with scripture) recently expressed his respect for our Christian faith because we don’t “pick and choose” which scriptures to obey. Did that make us feel any better about it – yea, maybe a little.

Yes, some convictions cost more, much much more, than others.