Reflections on a Red Nose

26 05 2017

Yesterday was one of those cool days.  People around the country donated over $33 million to help children in need.  Next year I am sure they will be able to raise even more.

Last week I had the opportunity to attend the Regional Task Force on Homelessness Governance Board meeting.  One of the presenters made the point if San Diego truly worked together we could get homelessness to functional zero in five years.

Currently our city has an estimated homeless population just over 9,000.  That population grew from the previous year despite thousands of people doing random acts of kindness, wearing red noses and shopping at Walmart. (Recent Walmart ads say they contribute to feeding the poor when you spend money with them.)

There is a price to our individualism.  The significant issues in our world are handled ineffectively while we feel satisfied because of our individual efforts to make the world a better place.  It is like putting out a forest fire by each of us taking our own little cup of water and randomly throwing it into the flames.

Last Sunday I had the opportunity to attend two different churches.  One had smart people and was well resourced.  The other was not well resourced but had people who truly were in need.  The two churches are not connected even though they have the same beliefs.  Each had their cup of water as the forest fire raged.

Deuteronomy (24:19-22) and Ruth show ways in which the Nation of Israel established a system of care for those in need.  The New Testament shows the Church being a collective body caring for those in need.

The Church has a strategic opportunity (as it always does) to be a unified force impacting our world.  Lets ask harder questions of ourselves and our leaders.  Issues like homelessness and child poverty can be complex but we have really smart people sitting in our Churches every Sunday morning.

Are we going to let corporations and governments outperform the Church?  I recently finished the book “The New Parish.”  It offered a powerful perspective on leadership.  The authors challenged us to ask the question: What is worth following?  Let that question sink in.  Then, let’s take our cups of water remembering Jesus’ words:

“When I was hungry you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink…” Matthew 25:35.





Awareness is Painful

17 10 2016

It has been too long since I posted!!  I will hopefully post more frequently but I make no promises!  This morning, as I do most mornings, I was having a philosophical debate in my head.  I have amazing discussions and solve most of the world’s problems.

This morning’s debate was about a reality I have become painfully aware of.  Race is a huge topic in our country and everyone has an opinion.  I believe most Christians hold my perspective; the church is a place for all people.  We take Revelations 7:9 literally: “After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count from every nation, tribe, people and language.”  We expect Heaven to be racially diverse.  Unfortunately, the Church in the United States is waiting until then for that to be reality.

As I prepare for life after the Navy, I checkout church websites.  Wow!!! The lack of diversity is appalling!  So, I googled multi-racial churches and…I am not sure what our definition of multi-racial is but I sure wasn’t finding it.  The ironic part is this is not new.  I remember racial reconciliation was a major topic in the early nineties with the rise of the Promise Keepers Movement.

What happened?  I think we bought into the idea of church being a “safe place.”  We sought to make people feel “comfortable” with the hope they would grow spiritually.  We fell into a trap.  We slowly settled into our own groups which meant we divided by race.

The culture says faith is a private matter.  It is something that helps people with their emotional well being.  Our safe and comfortable churches shout we agree.  When race flashed as a major issue, the church was left on the sidelines.  We were irrelevant.  Many see the white church as part of the problem.  Meanwhile, the black church is struggling to find the powerful voice it had during the Civil Rights Movement.  We sit divided just like our country.  In other words, we are no different than the world around us with our faith being a private matter that helps our emotional well being.

Racial diversity can be difficult but the Church has a powerful foundation that truly makes us salt and light.  I compare racial diversity like jogging.  Most mornings we don’t want to get out of bed.  However, when we do it consistently, we build endurance and more importantly we can run when we have to.  Somehow we stopped jogging in the nineties.  The consequence today is instead of running out ahead of our country and inviting them to consider the power of the gospel, we are huffing and puffing and falling further behind.

We have to put on our running shoes.  The Church is God’s ambassador to a world that desperately needs hope!  Let’s stop being safe and comfortable and start being relevant and engaged!  The starting point?  Take a look at your church’s leadership page.  What do you see?  If it is all one color…you may need to go for a jog.





What is bigger?

18 05 2013

I heard about a great website, iamsecond.com.  It has videos of a variety of people who declare “I am second” with God being first.  The videos are powerful and for those of us who are Christians they make perfect sense.  For those who are not Christians, I think the site does a great job of building a bridge and encouraging people to consider the possibility of being second.

When we look at the world, we see the ugliness of sin.  The escape of three women who had been held captive for a decade is one extreme example.  Each one of us have personal stories that make us cry or make us so mad we want to scream at the world.

That is where I found myself Friday afternoon.  I sat with a group of leaders wrestling with an ugly situation involving some of our people.  There was sorrow, anger, frustration…and the big question “why did this happen?”  Good leaders take it personal and look in the mirror to see if it was something they did or didn’t do.  They blame themselves and desperately want to fix it.

The easy answer is to tell everyone to become a Christian.  Of course the recent story of a Christian musician being accused of trying to hire a hit man to kill his wife might make some skeptical.  I prayed Saturday morning needing answers and thankfully God nudged me.

When we are focused on something larger than ourselves, we seem to get it.  If some catastrophe hits a city there are two choices.  Those who chose to focus on their community come together and great things happen and amazing stories are told.  Those who chose to worry about themselves loot.

I have a bias.  Jesus perfectly demonstrated what it meant to live a life focused on something bigger. It is amazing to mediate on the idea of God making our well being bigger.  Jesus didn’t have to die for us.  He chose to die for us.  He lived a life saying “not my will but your will be done.”  Even non-Christians are humbled by his life and point to his example.  Everyone can agree he lived for something bigger than himself.

When do Christians get it wrong? When we start worrying more about ourselves and stop caring about those around us.  When our needs and sadly often our wants become bigger.  We need to remember the one we follow.  He set the standard and promises to help us meet it.

This seems to be a universal principle.  I played through a variety of situations.  When we are focused on something bigger than ourselves, we act appropriately.  When we are focused on ourselves, we hurt others.  You can apply this to marriage, work, friendship…any area of your life.

Monday morning I will have the opportunity to sit back down with this group of leaders and offer my contribution.  It will need to be something that can be understood by everyone regardless of their faith.  It will need to be tangible.  I think I have the seeds of something good.

For those of us who are Christians, the world desperately needs to see that we are “second” and we are focused on something bigger.  For those who are not Christians I would ask you to consider what is bigger in your life.





Running for President in 2016…

12 01 2013

Not!  When you saw the title did you groan?  Are you sick of politics? We just finished being bombarded with election ads when we began enduring the drama of the “Fiscal Cliff.” In the midst of the drama tragedy struck in Connecticut. Our political leaders are now engaged in the discussion on gun control and access to mental health care. As I have been watching everything unfold, it struck me just how limited government’s power is from a human perspective. Because this is not a political blog, I will ignore the debate about the role of government. That is for others. I want to focus on the church and would offer that we have the ability to address the human dynamic.

What am I talking about? I am glad you asked. Can you legislate compassion? Can you pass a law to make someone love another person? Is there a form you can fill out that will distribute joy? While laws may be able to outlaw certain behaviors, they can never impact the underlying traits that govern those behaviors. To prove this all you have to do is talk to a person who experiences hate and bigotry even though they don’t experience any illegal discrimination.

There is a temptation to find the magical law that will solve those underlying traits. When the church goes down that road, we call it legalism. Legalism is simply the misguided belief that laws solve heart problems.

I was reading a philosophy book and the author did a classic move. He quoted a commentary about how the world was going downhill and how hopeless things were becoming. The author then asked the reader to guess when the commentary was written. It read like it was written today but in fact it was written during the time of Plato. Human problems are timeless and as old as … humans.

The Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 4:18, “Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed…”

The church operates in terms such as faith, hope and love. We are God’s instrument to bring his message to the world. We have the freedom to create healthy communities not constrained by boarders, political ideology or ethnic background.  If there ever was a time for the church to engage now is that time.

Take some time to ask yourself the following questions:

1) Am I a part of a church?  We must understand the danger of individualism that says we can do this on our own. We can’t. We need each other.

2) Is my church safe and inviting? In other words, is it a place anyone can come to seek God, get help or simply receive prayer?

3) Is my church healthy? I understand this question is subjective. It will require both a gut check and time in prayer asking God. That is okay. Remember there is no rule that you will be able to pass that will make it healthy. It is a question focused on the human dynamic and our relationship with God and each other.

If you identified growth areas for your church, what are you going to do about it? Often times when we see shortcomings it is easy to pass along blame or make sure a rule is passed to make everyone become like me. We need more than that. We need ownership, responsibility and a deepening relationship with God.

Politicians will continue to debate. Discussions are already underway about who will run in 2016. Laws will be passed that may help within their limited capacity.

My prayer is the church will stand up and be counted. We will operate in our currency of faith, hope and love. We will stay true to Jesus and avoid the dangers of legalism. We have answers to the human condition. Just like Abraham we are able to hope even if there appears to be no reason to hope.





Humility as a verb

19 01 2012

Being humble is still regarded as a worthy attribute.  In fact, Jim Collins wrote an excellent article called “Level Five Leadership” in which he highlighted that truly great leaders have the combination of deep personal humility with intense professional will.  Basically, they focus on doing what is best for the organization to succeed (professional will) and they have the ability to look to others for reasons things go well and look at themselves when things go wrong (personal humility).

Being humble takes a lot of confidence.  We have to be okay with who we are and what our strengths and weaknesses are.  Humility takes us one more step in that process.  It allows us to look at our weaknesses through someone else’s strengths so we can grow and mature.

A practical example:  I admit I am sick and I go to the doctor.  That is a start.  Humility steps in when I actually submit to the doctor’s recommendation and prescription.  I know I made some of you smile.  How many times has a doctor advised us to do something but we felt we didn’t need to listen to her and we did our own thing?

There are two opposites of true humility.  One is pride and arrogance.  We assume we are smarter and don’t need to submit to another person’s strengths or ideas.  The second is when we devalue ourselves and have a low view of ourselves.  This one looks similar to humility but actually is a form of arrogance.  We believe we are of so little worth that not even God could step in.  Therefore, to sink that low must mean we have more power than God.  (It is not so humble when we look at it from that point of view.)

The reason humility is a Christian virtue is because it is rooted in two basic truths.  One, we are human and therefore we will fail and have shortcomings.  We sin and hurt others.  Two, God is a good and loving God who has the strength and ability to transform our lives.  As Christians, we can look at our weaknesses through God’s strength and we can grow and mature.

Jesus was the ultimate level five leader.  Philippians 2:8 says “he humbled himself and became obedient to death.”  His focus was on the wellbeing of creation and wanted what was best for humanity (professional will is only a shadow of this).  He knew submitting to his Father’s will was the only way this would work (personal humility).

Please understand Jesus had great confidence in who he was.  He knew he was the only one who had the power to face death and conquer it.  Many people “lose their life” but it is not through obedience like Jesus but because they do not believe their life has value.  Jesus was focused on his Father’s will and our best interest.  He was relying on strength that only comes from God.  That is true humility.

We are invited to view life in the same way Jesus did.  Philippians 2:5 says “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.”  We need to have true humility.

I invite each one of us to look at our lives and find areas where we have the opposite of humility.  Maybe there is an area of pride and we are limiting ourselves by shutting out others who have strengths that could help us.  Maybe there is an area that you are ashamed of.  You can’t even look at it and are covering it up with false humility.

Once you have found an area, look to God.  Look for God’s strength and view your weakness through it.  This may require you to talk with someone you trust and open up about the struggle you are having.  It may require that you ask for forgiveness because of arrogance.  Yes, you will need to ask for forgiveness if your arrogance means you think so little of yourself that not even God can transform you.  This is about true humility.

The great thing is God truly is the best leader.  I have always respected leaders who say “do as I do, not just as I say.”  God is not asking us to do anything he has not already done.  I want to view my weaknesses through his strength.  I want true humility.  How about you?