Posts Tagged ‘Behavior’

Presidential Candidates Must Seek Wisdom

Trump - Clinton  credit NY Post

Donald Trump (L) and Hillary Clinton (R)

(Photo credit:  The New York Post)

The Democrats and Republicans have chosen their presidential candidates and, no surprise, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump both profess they are Christians.

Clinton attended a town hall meeting in Knoxville, Tn. on January 25, 2016.  The New York Times quoted her saying, “I am a person of faith. I am a Christian. I am a Methodist. I have been raised Methodist.” 

The Religion News Service (RNS) quoted Donald Trump on June 25, 2016 saying he is a “Presbyterian and Protestant,” and a “Sunday church person.”  During an interview in June, Focus on the Family founder James Dobson, who knows Trump, called him a “born again Christian.” 

This is an open letter to both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.  Let me begin by suggesting the single most important rule for Christians who are public figures—especially politicians—is they need to behave like Christians. Former slave and abolitionist Frederick Douglass once said, “Between the Christianity of this land and the Christianity of Christ, I recognize the widest possible difference.” Douglass was speaking of the institution of slavery in America, but his words still ring true when it comes to American politics today.

Christianity gets a bad rap when people claiming to be Christians don’t act like it.  Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump, you have labeled yourselves Christians. The way you behave as candidates will reflect on all Christians.  Frankly, neither of you has behaved well thus far.  You’re both given to name-calling and mud-slinging that reflects poorly on your character and your faith.  Please stick to criticism of your opponent’s policies and dispense with character assassination.

Presidents and presidential candidates must seek wisdom.  As Christians, you needn’t look far; just open the Bible. Jesus told Pontius Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this earth.”  This is great wisdom. Even if elected president, as Christians you still have a higher authority.

1Kings, chapter 22 describes a time when the King of Israel had to decide whether or not to go to war with Syria. Jehoshaphat, the King of Judah, advised him, “Inquire first for the word of the Lord” before making a decision.  Sound advice you should take to heart!  Seek God’s guidance before seeking the guidance of man.  You should also note Matthew, chapter 5, “…let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

For Mr. Trump, sir, you seem to have a difficult time keeping your mouth shut.  You frequently blurt out opinions and ideas before thinking them fully through.  Then you have to “walk them back” as the media calls it, leaving yourself open to criticism of being a flip-flopper. 

One of my old Army battalion commanders liked to remind his officers, “Engage your brain before operating your mouth.”   Ecclesiastes, chapter 5 says it even better: “Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few.  For a dream comes with much business, and a fool’s voice with many words.”   

Also, Mr. Trump, you anger quickly at comments from your opponents.  Proverbs, chapter 12 says, “The vexation of a fool is known at once, but the prudent ignores an insult.”  Proverbs, chapter 17 says, “Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.”  Don’t take your opponent’s words personally and become angry.  Instead, keep a cool head and explain clearly to the American people why you disagree with your opponent’s assertions. Otherwise you end up looking like a spoiled, rich brat.

This is for you Mrs. Clinton. You appear to have difficulty telling the truth.  This business about your unauthorized, personal email server when you were the U.S. Secretary of State has made you look very untrustworthy, as many national polls indicate. Your story has changed so many times that it I actually feel sorry for you when I see yet another version of your weak explanations. Ecclesiastes, chapter 5 says, Let not your mouth lead you into sin, and do not say before the messenger that it was a mistake.”  It’s time to admit you were wrong and ask the American public for forgiveness. We Americans tend to be very tolerant and forgiving to those who show genuine contrition.

Then there’s your problem with a string of seemingly shady deals for personal financial gain.  From receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars in speaking fees from Wall Street banks to receiving hundreds of millions of dollars pumped into the Clinton Foundation by individual investors and foreign entities seeking favors when you were the Secretary of State. By all appearances you value money over honesty and integrity.  Ecclesiastes, chapter 5 says, “He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income.” 1 Timothy, chapter 6 says, “…the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.”  Steer clear of evil Mrs. Clinton.  

In closing, I offer both candidates a final word of advice from Ecclesiastes, chapter 12:  “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.  For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.” As candidates and, if elected, as president you must answer to a higher authority.  You can do as you please for now, but your Christian faith promises there will be a day of reckoning. How will you rate?

Note:  All Bible quotes were taken from the English Standard Version (ESV).

 

Simplifying Life: the Pareto Principle

Pareto Principle

When I was working as a management consultant, one of my favorite lessons to convey to clients was the Pareto Principle, which is also known as the 80-20 Rule.  The principle was named for the 19th century Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, who observed that an 80-20 percent relationship applied to many practical aspects of life. For instance, about 80 percent of nonprofit donations come from 20 percent of the donor base.  About 80 percent of sales come from 20 percent of your client base. 

The application of the 80-20 Rule I most like is that about 80 percent of the work on a project is accomplished through 20 percent of the effort.  For example, if it takes five hours to detail a car, you can finish 80 percent of the job in about an hour.  The remaining 20 percent of the tasks will take four hours to complete.  The lesson learned is that if you can accept something less than perfection in a practical task like vacuuming your house or maintaining your lawn, you can save yourself a lot of time and significantly simplify your life.

The Rev. Dr. Alexander Whyte (1836-1921), was a popular Scottish theologian in his day.  His biographer, G.F. Barbour tells an interesting story about Whyte’s encounter with a particular female parishioner who told him, “Dr. Whyte, I just love being in your presence. You are so saintly.”  Whyte replied, “Madam, if you could look into my soul, what you would see would make you spit in my face.”

While the Pareto Principle has many practical applications in everyday life, Rev. White knew that when it comes to God, giving 20 percent of yourself is not enough.  Whyte understood what Jesus means in Matthew 10:37-39 when he says, “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (ESV) 

Jesus wants all of you—not 20, or 80, or even 99 percent of you.  He makes this clear when He tells his disciples “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?” (Matthew 16:24-26, ESV)

It’s easy to give part of yourself to God.  You can attend church every Sunday, pray to Him every morning, and tithe 10 percent of your income. Outwardly you might appear saintly, as the Rev. Whyte appeared to his parishioner, but God sees inside us all.  Scottish Theologian Oswald Chambers said, “We are only what we are in the dark; all the rest is reputation. What God looks at is what we are in the dark—the imaginations of our minds, the thoughts of our heart, the habits of our bodies; these are the things that mark us in God’s sight.”  This is why, St. Paul tells us in Philippians 2:12 (ESV), “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”

God wants all of you. Therefore endeavor constantly to place Him first in every aspect of your life. And when you fail, as you inevitably will, seek His forgiveness.  As St. Paul encourages us in 2 Timothy 4:7, continue to fight the good fight.   

 

 

 

Farewell My Friend

Jesus on CrossGreater love has no one than this,  that someone lay down his life for his friends.

                                                                                                                            John 15:13 (ESV)

The digital age we live in is truly amazing. It has enabled me to land two jobs with companies I never set foot in before being hired. In both cases, I was recruited online, interviewed by phone and hired sight unseen.

I worked a total of over seven years in these positions, all the while communicating via email telephone and Skype and exchanging data through encrypted virtual private networks. I visited each company only once. When I was born in 1955, such technologies existed only in the minds of science fiction writers. Today they’re quite common.

One of the most amazing digital wonders I’ve enjoyed is having cultivated three good friendships with individuals whom I’ve never met face-to-face. I’m not speaking about Facebook friendships either. These friendships are with people whom I’ve shared things about my life and theirs of the sort that can only be shared with people you trust.

I was recently shocked to learn that one of these friends, Bob, has been diagnosed with a terminal form of cancer that will take his life in a few short months.

Bob is a good man who has spent much of his life working to make others’ lives easier.   Sadly, I know that being good isn’t enough. He has not been open to believing the Gospel message and remains to this day an agnostic.

Bob is spending his last days surrounded by family, many of whom practice the Serbian Orthodox form of the Christian faith. Please join me in praying that during this time of transition his heart might be opened to receive Christ, so that in the final hour he might say:

“The time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing”                                      

                                                                                                                                2 Tim. 4:6-8 (ESV)

Postscript August 3, 2015–my friend Bob Hall passed away peacefully on July 28, 2015.

What awaits Christians in a Post-Christian America?

The Stoning of St. Stephen by Bernardo Daddi [1324]

The Stoning of St. Stephen
by Bernardo Daddi (1324)

Over the past several days I’ve heard and read a number of Christians expressing their dismay over the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling making gay marriage the law of the land. The decision should not have come as a shock to anyone. The vote was only the affirmation of a social movement that has been quickly gathering speed for at least a decade.

What the vote did succeed in doing was to remove any remaining doubt that America has entered a post-Christian era of its history. Christians are now a minority with diminishing cultural and political influence. Whether or not we become a hated minority will be determined by our actions.

Gallup conducts a poll on American morals and beliefs each May. Polling data from the last decade indicate a significant shift to the left on a number of controversial social issues, including divorce, abortion, doctor-assisted suicide, gay marriage and human embryonic stem cell research. This shift is, at least in part, a product of the growing wave of moral relativism that has permeated the America media and many American Christian denominations at least since the free love movement of the 1960’s and perhaps earlier.

The term describes a paradigm shift from the completeness of Christian Scripture to so-called progressive revelation. Relativism insists that the Scriptures did not fully provide theological, legal, moral, scientific, medical and other knowledge from the beginning. Rather, God gradually reveals new truths over time whenever humanity is capable of receiving it.

This philosophy is splitting many mainstream Christian denominations today through a continual reinterpretation of the scriptures that increasingly waters down God’s word to the point it becomes socially irrelevant. Moral relativism enables the social justification of anything and everything, from immodest clothing and casual sex to the extremes of abortion, euthanasia and even pagan religions.

I would caution advocates of social change in America, on the left and right, to remember that freedom is not the ability to do whatever you please. That is the definition of anarchy. Freedom is the ability for people to coexist by following a set of rules based upon an accepted moral code. If morals in America are not to be based upon Christian beliefs, then on whose beliefs will they be based? This discussion has barely begun.

Justice is turned back, and righteousness stands far away;
for truth has stumbled in the public squares, and uprightness cannot enter.
Truth is lacking, and he who departs from evil makes himself a prey.
                                          Isaiah 59:14-15

The Rev. Franklin Graham has expressed concern that the Supreme Court ruling will lead to Christian persecution. Perhaps he is correct and perhaps not. Christians wishing to know why the table has turned against them so quickly need look no farther than their own houses. It happened, as God says in the first chapter of the book of Haggai, “Because of my house that lies in ruins, while each of you busies himself with his own house.” Christians should get their own act together before worrying about what the Supreme Court is doing.

We Christians are free to blame anyone we choose for American society’s woes, but we should start by taking a good look in the mirror. We bear a good deal of the blame. Many of today’s social and cultural problems could be reduced and in some cases eliminated if Christians would just start living like Christ taught us.

Once a person accepts God’s gift of salvation by placing faith in Christ as his personal Savior, something important happens. Like it or not, that individual becomes a walking billboard for Christ to all of the unbelievers he knows. What unbelievers see in this Christian’s behavior serves to either honor or dishonor Christ. Does the Christian strive to be more Christ-like, as the Bible teaches, or does he simply fall in and conform to the secular world’s pursuit of wealth, position, power and other forms of self-gratification? A Christian’s behavior should reflect the Gospel to unbelievers—actions speak louder than words.”

The persecution of Christians in America might come someday. To some degree I suppose it has already begun. I’ve spoken with numerous Christians who say they dare not mention their faith at work for fear of losing their jobs. Christians, if we don’t change, could someday become a hated minority, just as the Jews were hated in Nazi Germany. Some will inevitably shrink away in public; hiding their faith and becoming sort of “closet Christians.” Others might ignore Christ’s example and turn militant.

As I wrote last October, Christianity has historically endured its greatest tests and proven strongest and most effective when operating from a position of weakness within society as a whole.  Jesus was the perfect example of this. The son of God allowed Himself to be crucified, and in so doing took all of the sins of mankind upon himself. In all of history there is no greater example of love than this.

What Christians in America have today is an opportunity—not an opportunity to debate or reverse the court’s decision. It is an opportunity to show love. We can follow the recent example of many of the family members of victims of Charleston Emanuel AME Church shootings; they publicly forgave the shooter. It is not a time for erecting barriers. We should be reaching out in love to those who disagree with us. We can do this without sacrificing our beliefs or principles.

Around 312 A.D, during the reign of Emperor Constantine, Rome recognized Christianity as a legal religion.   This remarkable feat, going from persecuted underground church to a legal religion recognized by the Empire, was accomplished not through violent revolution, but by years of adhering to the tenets of the faith while suffering terrible persecution.

“Truth forever on the scaffold, Wrong forever on the throne—
Yet that scaffold sways the future, and, behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above his own.”
                         ―James Russell Lowell

Did Jesus laugh?

Laughing Baby

I recently listened to a program on Christian talk radio debating whether or not Jesus ever laughed. After all, doesn’t the book of Isaiah tell us that Jesus was a “Man of Sorrows?” Does that imply that He was serious all the time he walked on the Earth?

Many non-believers view Christians as a solemn, dull bunch of people. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I grew up a Southern Baptist. A big part of Baptist culture, especially in the south where I lived, centers on shared meals—not just eating but reveling in the joy of sharing a big meal with a group of fellow believers. These gatherings tend to be loud, happy events full of smiles and laughter.

When I was growing up, Sunday afternoons after church frequently consisted of friends and family gathering at my grandparent’s house. Most of the ladies teamed up to prepare a grand southern feast while the rest of the folk conversed, shared family news and stories, discussed the weather and politics, told jokes and simply enjoyed being together. Of course there were many smiling faces and much laughter. It was a noisy, joyful place to be as a young child.

If we accept the Biblical accounts of Jesus life as a fully human child, we must at a minimum concede that He smiled, even though the Bible never mentions it. Following His conception Jesus grew in Mary’s womb, as any baby grows and He was born in a normal fashion. Anyone who has cared for a baby knows that babies smile. High resolution sonograms have shown that some even smile while in the womb.

We also know that “Jesus wept” (John 11:35). The shortest passage in the Bible is an account of Jesus becoming overwhelmed by emotion while standing before the tomb of his friend Lazarus, who had recently died.

Jesus also displayed anger. John 2:13-17, describes Him becoming outraged at the moneychangers and those selling animals in the courtyard of the temple. John describes how Jesus improvised a whip and went on a rampage, overturning the tables of the moneychangers and chasing away those selling the animals.

How could anyone with such normal human traits not laugh? Just look at some of those who Jesus chose as his first disciples. They included a bunch of roughneck fishermen, a conniving tax collector, a hot-headed Zealot and a manipulative liar—a motley crew if ever there was one! It must have made Jesus chuckle when he considered what the Jewish leaders must have thought about this unlikely team.

How He must have laughed when hearing some of his disciples debating which one would hold the most honored position in heaven. I can just see our Lord turning to them and saying, “Are you kidding me? I can’t believe how dense you guys are. Please start paying better attention.”

To put things in a modern perspective, imagine that Jesus had come today instead of two thousand years ago. If he had appeared in the area where I live near Pittsburgh, Pa., I imagine he would have chosen a few mill workers to be on his team of disciples. I can almost see Him walking into a neighborhood taproom, going up to the bar, and speaking to a couple of local fellows sitting there enjoying a few bottles of Iron City beer.  Follow me!

Unlikely disciples perhaps, but not so different from some of those he chose two millennia ago. It makes me smile just thinking about it. I pray that Jesus can find a little humor in the way I live today. I hope I can make him laugh now and then.

Click the link to listen to Thomas Rhett’s “Beer with Jesus.”

Wounded Hearts

 Sorrow

“Here bring your wounded hearts, here tell your anguish; 

Earth has no sorrow that Heaven cannot heal.”   —Saint Thomas More

                                                                                        

If you’re a movie buff and haven’t yet made it to the theater to see “Into the Storm,” please read on.  This is not a spoiler.

Fans of disaster flicks will love this movie.  When it comes to special effects, it’s Twister on steroids. Because of the awesome special effects, which include a trip into the “eye” of a monster F5 tornado, seeing Into the Storm on the big screen is a must.

The movie has several story lines and shifts frequently from one to another. A common thread is woven throughout several of them—people in dire circumstances who are overcome with sorrow because of bad personal relationships with loved ones. All are emotionally wounded to the core as they find themselves facing almost certain death.

A teenage son laments that his last words with his deceased mother were harsh. The deceased woman’s husband looks back on the way he has raised his sons after her death and wishes he could start over.

A teenage girl, buried in rubble, is sorry she lied to her parents about where she was going when she left home that morning.

A single mother caught in the midst of the storm, is sorry she has allowed her work to get in the way of spending more time with her small daughter.

The sorrow displayed by these storm victims goes beyond simple regrets over situations and relationships in their lives that went wrong. Regret is what many male politicians display when the media catches them having an extramarital affair. They aren’t truly sorry about their deplorable behavior. They’re sorry they were caught.  Rather than being sorry for the damage they have inflicted on themselves and others, theirs is a self-centered, worldly response.  It’s a sorrow stemming from knowing they will have to deal with the public and private consequences of their transgressions.

In contrast, the sorrow displayed by the characters of Into the Storm is the sorrow of repentance—selfless sorrow acknowledging that one’s transgressions have harmed others.  It is a repentant sorrow that says, “I understand my actions were wrong; I am truly sorry for the pain and hurt I have inflicted myself and others; and I want to change my bad behavior and way of thinking forever.”

This selfless sorrow is what 2 Corinthians, chapter 7 calls godly sorrow.  “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.”(NIV)  Godly sorrow brings healing and life.

The Parable of the Rich Fool in Luke 12:13-21 tells the story of a wealthy man who lives a life of plenty.  He has all that he needs in this world—so much wealth and so many possessions that he believes he can simply “eat, drink and be merry,” for the rest of his days.  But at  the precise moment the man is gushing pride and personal satisfaction, God tells him he will die that very night.

What if you knew that today was the last day of your life? Would you regret that you haven’t done enough for yourself, or would you feel godly sorrow because of the way you have managed some of your personal relationships? More importantly, how would you feel about the way you’ve managed your relationship with God?

Today truly is the first day in the rest of your life.  Seize the opportunity to start setting things right today and embrace the family members, loved ones, friends and acquaintances who really matter in your life. You’ll have no regrets!

3Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. 5In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: 6Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; 7rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!  —Philippians 2:3-8 (NIV)

Also see: Recalling Some Life Lessons.