May 20, 2013
We have a winner!
People in Zephyrhills, Florida are on the lookout this morning for a person trying to suppress a smile. A Publix supermarket there sold a Powerball ticket that is now worth $ 590.5 million (if taken over time; most winners elect to receive a lump sum – in this case, $ 370.9 million – so they don’t have to trust the agency’s promise for long-term payout).
Big money. The cameras haven’t found the winner yet, but they will. America loves a winner… especially when the “win” carries a pot of gold. The envy is already building; it’s waiting to be unleashed on an unsuspecting person. Relatives who didn’t give him/her the time of day will come out of hiding with thinly-veiled appeals to share the windfall. Local car boutiques will line up shiny sport models awaiting the arrival of the starry-eyed cash buyer. Life is about to change for someone, forever.
A good financial advisor could offer some conservative counsel: take the annuity-styled long-term payout. Just put yourself on a budget of a few million a month so you don’t burn through the whole pile in 24 months and end up like most of the winners who came before you.
What would you tell the winner? Here’s my take: The best thing that ticket-holder could do is head straight to church, with checkbook in hand… and listen to the familiar – but powerful – words of Jesus:
“Someone in the crowd said to him, ‘Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.’
Jesus replied, ‘Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?’ Then he said to them, ‘Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.’
“And he told them this parable: ‘The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, “What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.”
“‘Then he said, “This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, ‘You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.’”
“‘But God said to him, “You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?” ‘This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.’” (Luke 12)
Jackpots are things of legend, but Americans are numb to the cultural environment that presumes the right for a jackpot, for everyone. It’s called “retirement,” and it’s hard to find anyone – including the churchgoing Christian crowd – who hasn’t embraced it as an earned and deserved permanent vacation.
Work for 20/30/40 years (20 is the union or government-job qualifier; 40 is the person who owned the enterprise), and you get to check out and take life easy, eat drink and be merry – the daily agenda decried by Jesus, but promoted by retirement destinations.
Jon Piper, an influential church leader from Minneapolis, has this counsel for people who still have time to avoid the trap: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=60_TmQdxkcI
The paradox of life in a fallen world: the winners become losers… and, the people who didn’t seem to be winners end up on top. We shouldn’t find that curious: “But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.” (Jesus, in Matthew 19)
The best plan, for life: use your time to create something of value. In the present world, trade that value for money. For the coming world, create the value anticipating an eternal reward. If you don’t need any more money, keep creating value. If you trade for money, convert it to eternal investment that will be waiting for you one day, just the other side of this life…
May 13, 2013
We should have seen it coming.
“President Barack Obama called Jason Collins on Monday to express his gratitude after the NBA player publicly announced that he is gay, two sources familiar with the call told The Huffington Post. A White House official confirmed the call, saying that the president wanted to ‘express his support’ and tell Collins that ‘he was impressed by his courage.’… Several politicians have applauded Collins’ decision to come out as well. First Lady Michelle Obama tweeted her support, while former President Bill Clinton – whose daughter went to school with Collins – offered a statement exalting his courage.” (Huffington Post)
Courage used to be the stuff of heroes: people who sacrificed their self interest and risked personal injury or death to protect values or the safety and security of others. Courage earns medals and launches parades; it secures speaking engagements and affects name selection by new parents. Courage?
Concerning his profession of Christian faith, Collins self-describes: “I take the teachings of Jesus seriously, particularly the ones that touch on tolerance and understanding.” (Sports Illustrated)
Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error… Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.” (Paul, in Romans 1)
“ ‘He (Tim Tebow) seems like a great guy to have on a team, and I’d be tempted to bring him in as our backup,’ one NFC head coach said. ‘But it’s just not worth dealing with all the stuff that comes with it.’ An AFC head coach said, ‘You don’t want to put up with the circus.’” (Sporting News)
Just one year ago, Time Magazine posted their annual 100 Most Influential list… and only one NFL player made the cut: it was Tim Tebow. In the explanation for his selection, Jeremy Lin – also a Christian, from the New York Knicks, wrote: “He is unashamed of his conviction and faith, and he lives a life that consistently reflects his values, day in and day out…” Most influential… and unemployable because of his “stuff” and the “circus?”
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness , for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Jesus, in Matthew 5)
So… the culture wars have been in live-fire forever. Is the conflict finished – like the Cold War – or is it ubiquitous, and never-ending? What are we supposed to do: go on strike? March in protest? Form a new political party? Isolate? Is there a strategy for living in a world-gone-nuts?
The First Century was crazy-making, as well: Roman culture embraced hedonism with fervor. Moral boundaries either did not exist, or were not enforced. Paul was a Roman citizen, a world traveler… and an effective ambassador of a better way. His counsel still stands: “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse… Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone… If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord. On the contrary: ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 13)
May 6, 2013
He was the greatest man ever born.
If that was a grand-prize game show question – on a Christian network – you would come up with “the answer”… and you would be wrong.
“Jesus!” you say. Good guess… but, wrong. “Says who!” you ask. “Says Jesus,” I reply. If you’d like to debate him on that point, have at it.
“Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist…” (Matthew 11:11).
That’s a pretty amazing commendation, considering the source: Jesus’ regard for John was extraordinary. Though family – Jesus’ mother and John’s mother were cousins – He was objective in his assessment. What was it about John that made him stand out in such a remarkable manner?
There isn’t much written about him in the four gospels; the writers’ primary focus is the life of Jesus, and the cast of other characters come into the story only insofar as their life experience weaves into His. But, there are some key observations that probably fuel Jesus’ proclamation.
There were two amazing births noted in the New Testament: Jesus and John. Both involved angels visiting prospective parents with divine messages. Zechariah – John’s elderly, childless father – heard about Elizabeth’s unexpected pregnancy with this nuance: “He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord,” (Luke 1:14-17).
John – we add “the Baptist” to distinguish him from “the Beloved” – had historic, biblical responsibility: he would be associated with the most prominent of Israel’s prophets – Elijah – in the role he would play in the introduction of the Messiah.
Three things stand out about John. First, he was filled with the Holy Spirit before birth, and from that time forward, supernatural capacity was available to him. Second, his mission – what we would know as his Calling – was articulated before he would be old enough to ponder his purpose. He was the guy who would get Israel ready for Jesus. The reason for his earthly life was, for him, crystal clear.
The “best in class” description by Jesus was triggered by a message sent from John to Jesus, through John’s dedicated followers: “When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples to ask him, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?’” (Matthew 11:2-3). John was in Herod’s prison, from which he would be martyred; Jesus was in Galilee, in the midst of His prime ministry months. At that critical moment, John’s question is intriguing: “Hey, Jesus, are you the real deal?” (Shank paraphrase).
The greatest man ever born of woman – he had met Jesus, had heard about his miracles, had never known a day without the onboard affirmation of the Holy Spirit – and he still was subject to doubts when he found himself in a dark place.
John’s continuing bouts of humanity give me great comfort: I don’t have to be 100% certain, 100% of the time, to be playing in the League of Kingdom Leadership.
In fact, Jesus’ applause toward John included reference to you and me: “Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he,” (Matthew 11:11). Did you see us? “…least in the Kingdom.”
Anyone this side of heaven will have moments of doubt. Even the Great Ones do; John did.
God doesn’t expect doubtlessness from us; just faithfulness, in the face of doubt…
April 29, 2013
You're not putting enough away for tomorrow.
While our leaders in Washington are trying to get the air traffic controllers back in the towers and the airline flights back in the air, the long term issues go begging.
Debt? Not to worry. The President, to George Stephanopoulos, last month: “We don't have an immediate crisis in terms of debt. In fact, for the next ten years, it's gonna be in a sustainable place.”
At the personal level, people – across the age spectrum – have a nagging awareness of their own unfunded or underfunded future. Even if they want to keep working, there will come a day when they will live without a paycheck. Confidence in the security of Social Security is waning; 401(k) plans have no more certainty than the markets in which they're invested. Boring savings accounts sit with 1% earnings while the costs of health care – now government controlled – skyrocket. Feeling good yet?
The pros in financial planning help clients do the tough math. Variables like age-at-retirement, projected lifespan, continued lifestyle expenses, future inflation: all come into consideration in finally finding “the Number:” How much will you need to amass for a comfortable, confident future?
Let me jump past your memorial service, and into the domain where death has no place, but you do, being prepared by Jesus Himself. If making – and, acting on – plans for a couple decades of retirement makes sense… doesn't having a plan for millions of years of resurrection make sense?
Your investments will affect your quality of life in tangible ways during your retirement season on Earth; have you considered the fact that your investments – made here, but placed in the Kingdom – will affect the quality of your life in tangible ways during your resurrection season in Heaven?
As you manage your retirement funds, you choose between high return/high risk and low return/low risk options. As you manage your resurrection funds, the choices are even better: the Kingdom has some incredible high return/low risk options that can accelerate the accumulation of other-worldly balances that will be waiting for you in the first days following your last breath!
Some great eternal investment advice: “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth which is so uncertain… Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.” (1 Timothy 6:17-19) Wealth in this world is uncertain; wealth transferred to Heaven becomes a treasure we can count on.
Most Americans aren't prepared for their retirement; in the same way, most Christians aren't prepared for their resurrection. Those are long-term realities; may I help you with one of those?
Every year, we use our Golf Challenge event to raise money that is dedicated to the launch of new groups of participants in The Master's Program. Through TMP, Christian leaders explore, expose and exploit their Kingdom Calling. They begin a life of enhanced Kingdom Initiative through TMP; they change the world and build God's Kingdom as a result of their discoveries in the Program.
Every new group in TMP costs about $20,000 to launch; we hope to start 8-10 new groups this year. Our ability to continue recruiting new participants, forming new groups and opening new cities depends on the funding raised next Monday – May 6th – in the Golf Challenge.
I'm asking – shamelessly – for your help. The pledges this year have been slow in coming, but I'm counting on friends like you to be part of a last-week surge. Would you click here and see the options for you to be part of this effort? Our continuing ministry depends on the results of this effort.
Join us to be part of the winning team! We'll help you lay up some treasure in heaven!
April 22, 2013
It’s a tough time to be rich in America.
Radical Islamic Terrorists (RIT) get softer treatment – in political circles, and in the national press – than those treacherous Rich People (RP). RITs can always point back at the Crusades (11th-13th Centuries) as justification for their actions. RPs have no excuse; they’re just thieves in designer duds who ripped off their victims and then retreat to the Hamptons to gloat.
It’s a good thing we’re not among either of them, huh? “Rich” is the club that everyone wants to join… but no one wants to admit they’re in. What does it take to be among ‘em?
“The question of how much people need to feel rich has been studied for ages, and just about every study comes to a similar conclusion: people need twice their current net worth or income to feel wealth. The findings are remarkably consistent, no matter the wealth or income level. People worth $10 million say they would require at least $20 million to feel wealthy, while those with an income of $40,000 a year inevitably say they would feel wealthy with $80,000.” (Robert Frank/CNBC)
Ken Stern wrote in the current Atlantic Monthly about the relationship between one’s place on the income/asset ladder and participation in philanthropy, based on his new book, With Charity for All. The world separates into segments using money as the measure, and the numbers don’t lie. “In 2011, the wealthiest Americans – those with earnings in the top 20% – contributed on average 1.3% of their income to charity. By comparison, Americans at the base of the income pyramid – those in the bottom 20% – donated 3.2% of their income. The relative generosity of lower-income Americans is accentuated by the fact that, unlike middle-class and wealthy donors, most of them cannot take advantage of the charitable tax deductions, because they do not itemize deductions on their income tax returns.” (Stern)
He revealed that the 50 largest charitable gifts in 2012 – given by those top-tier folks – told an interesting story: none went to causes serving the people who are down-market. Thirty-four went to educational institutions like Harvard and Berkeley; the rest went toward fashionable causes like the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Rich folks’ giving benefits their niche on the pyramid, mostly…
Use God’s metric: the “rich” are people who have more than they need to fund their reasonable lifestyle, today… and are then faced with decisions about what to do with their “wealth” – the surplus. Spend it? Hoard it? “Give it” to perpetuate the privileged? Any counsel on that point, Jesus?
“I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings. Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? And, if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own? No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money… What people value highly is detestable in God’s sight.” (Luke 16)
Paul Piff, a psychologist at UC Berkeley, recently pulled back the curtain with fresh research: the more you have, the more unethical you’re likely to be… and the more out-of-touch with real need you become. Isolation from real need may cause RP to have low empathy with those in real need.
“Hi, I’m Bob” (“Hi, Bob!”); “and I’m ‘rich,’ because I have more than I need.” The government would just call it my 401k, but God sees it as me having more-than-I-need, today. My cultural pull is toward stinginess; my biblical gravity draws me toward generosity. Rich Christians are more likely to be in denial than in sync…
May God find me trustworthy, by handling what I have knowing it’s really His; my attitudes and actions give evidence of what’s going on in my heart.
April 15, 2013
This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it (Psalm 118:24).
That line, from the King James Version of the Bible, was published in 1611. James – son of Mary, Queen of Scots – started his reign as James VI, King of Scotland, but was chosen by childless Elizabeth I in England from a crowded field of royal candidates to succeed her, which he did in 1603, as James I. He had written of his political philosophy in The True Law of Free Monarchies, arguing with biblical attribution for the divine right of kings, an absolutist approach to a king’s power, and that royalty were a higher order of humans. He tolerated the notion of parliamentary participation, but did not lean toward the consent of the governed. In his view, kings were the next-thing to God.
April 15th is a conflicted day for many/most Americans. This marks the 100th anniversary year of the 16th Amendment, which gave Congress the right to impose an income tax on citizens. Over the last century, a near fatalism has attached to the 105th day of the calendar year. In fact, it is repeated as if sourced in divine scripture: “There are only two things in life that are certain: death and taxes…”
Why do Americans gnash teeth on April 15th? According to a survey this month, 43% don’t trust what government will do with their hard-earned money collected as taxes, and 38% don’t believe that others are paying their “fair share” (a term that has very current political overtones).
So… this is a day that the 16th Amendment has made, and we’ll despair and be irritated in it; we’ll get back to rejoicing and being glad tomorrow. Good plan? Bad plan?
In America, we still have some say in the tax-and-spend culture of government. In Israel – back in Jesus’ day – that participative structure didn’t exist. The Roman occupation began in 63 BC when General Pompey marched on Jerusalem and made Israel a vassal state of the heathen Roman Empire. Jesus emerged with growing popularity among the Jewish subjects of Rome, after nearly 100 years of military subjugation. In Israel, every day was April 15th; the extraction of taxes – to fund Rome’s abuse – was a never-ending source of anguish for the Jewish community.
The religious leaders were at wits-end regarding Jesus’ influence over the people, so they hatched a plan to get him removed. The strategy: get him to dis Rome, and then turn him in. They sent agents, masquerading as friendly inquirers, to ask Jesus’ political opinion: “Teacher, we know that you speak and teach what is right, and that you do not show partiality but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” (Luke 20:21-22)
Snakes! “He saw through their duplicity and said to them, ‘Show me a denarius. Whose image and inscription are on it?’ ‘Caesar’s,’ they replied. He said to them, ‘Then give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.’” (23-25)
God used Paul’s letter to the Christians whose church was in Rome to anchor this reminder, in perpetuity: “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves… This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.” (Romans 13:1-3, 6-7)
Last night, we stopped at the Post Office on the way to dinner, with grand-girls in the car. It was a non-event: I dropped envelopes in the box – addressed to state and federal agencies – with checks enclosed. No trauma; no drama. I’m one of the 43% who suspect what they’ll do with it, but my orders from Heaven’s Headquarters said, “Pay the tax.”
He also said, “Don’t forget God.”
April 8, 2013
"I know it is coming, and I do not fear it, because I believe there is nothing on the other side of death to fear." – Roger Ebert, Life Itself.
“Roger Ebert was explicit about his lack of religious commitment. In his 2011 memoir Life Itself, he comes clean: ‘No, I am not a Buddhist. I am not a believer, not an atheist, not an agnostic. I am more content with questions than answers.’” (from the column written by S. Brent Plate, Visiting Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Hamilton College). His personal bias need not be presumed; in a column he wrote for the Chicago Sun-Times in 2009, he said that “people who believed in either creationism or New Age beliefs such as crystal healing or astrology are not qualified to be president.”
Roger Ebert had an intriguing life as a movie reviewer, and S. Brent Plate is an intriguing person to review Ebert’s life. Plate’s role as a specialist in religious studies calls into question the foundation of belief from which he presents. From his home page: “My teaching, public lectures, and writings focus on the question: What does it mean to be human? This is tightly bound to the question: What makes humans religious? My answers increasingly come back to basic physical experiences: eating bread, smelling incense, looking at images, listening to music, and touching other bodies. These are all symbolic, meaningful activities that engage religious people. They always have been and, most likely, always will. Far from ideological arguments that pit theism against atheism, or science against faith, religion happens primarily in the sensual encounters of the human body. My teaching, writing and lectures explore how human sense perceptions affect ways of being religious, and how the operations of religious traditions impact our sensual encounters…”
All of us have opinions – about many things – but some among us have been able to elevate their opinions to a value that makes the sale of their opinions a lucrative and lifelong profession. Ebert had that status; he was regarded as best-in-class in his critique of the cinema. He was the first film critic to win the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism, which he did in 1975.
We run into trouble when we assume the transferability of expertise between unrelated fields. Did Ebert’s refined objectivity concerning the entertainment industry – as art – establish his credentials to evaluate and validate matters of faith?
Ebert – and, Plate, his eulogist – both bring their assessments concerning religion onto the stage; the event of Ebert’s death raised the curtain before the national audience who would hear them present their conclusions regarding the credibility of religion, and the mystery of reality beyond the grave. “I believe there is nothing on the other side of death to fear” (Ebert). Is he the most credible voice to offer certainty about what happens on the other side of death?
They weren’t giving out Pulitzers or Nobels when Jesus was here, so you have to come to your own conclusions regarding his notability. Here’s Jesus, on heaven:
“Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven – the Son of Man.” (John 3:11-13)
If I may paraphrase: who are you going to believe, concerning what’s out there, beyond life: the person who hasn’t been there yet… or the person – the only person – who has come into this life from heaven, and can speak from firsthand knowledge?
We spend most of our days “living,” disconnected from the question of life-beyond-life. The professor of religious studies says it’s about sensuality. The movie critic said there was nothing to fear. Jesus says that his opinion was the only one that was founded on truth. Who are you going to believe?
April 1, 2013
It’s time to place your bets.
I don’t spend any time at race tracks, but there’s a moment when the speculation and conversation are past, and the serious gambler has to step up to the window and declare the winner… before the race begins.
Last Sunday, the Los Angeles Times’ lead article in the Business section was shocking: “MARIJUANA INC.: Entrepreneurs, hoping to cash in if pot becomes legal nationwide, pitch their ideas to potential investors. Wall Street can smell profits.” Guys with little to no moral constraints are placing their bets on the big upside that could be awaiting the emerging legalization of pot.
Yesterday, crowds of people around the globe assembled based on an impossible concept: they claim that 2000 years ago, a common man with an uncommon appeal to disadvantaged people was put to death on trumped-up charges by the Roman occupiers in Jerusalem… and three days later he was reputed to have walked out of his grave and through locked doors to the shock and celebration of his friends and followers. To date, billions have placed their bets on the veracity of that resurrection claim, with confidence in his promise to make the same thing happen for them subsequent to their inevitable encounter with death.
Life is one continuing trip to the wager window; we’re constantly considering the odds of our choices, determining how much we want to put at risk… and then putting our money where our mouth is, waiting for the end of the race to see if we won.
Every year at this time, we open the betting window at The Master’s Program. Between now and May 6, we’ll be inviting friends like you to consider betting on a winner that has a history of big returns. Are you up for a tip on an opportunity that offers a huge eternal windfall?
In TMP, we serve leaders in a three-year process in which they discover ways to explore, expose and exploit their Kingdom Calling. Since 1997, men and women have gone on from that experience to leverage their newfound focus to pursue Kingdom initiatives that were not a part of their pre-TMP approach to life. They’ve moved from church volunteers to Kingdom entrepreneurs… and are seeing God work in/through their lives in unimagined ways.
On May 6th, we’ll be staging our annual Golf Challenge in Palm Desert. Between now and then, dozens of Friends-of-TMP are approaching folks to sponsor them/us in the 100-holes-per-twosome event. It’s not about the 100 holes; that’s just the marathon effort we use to attract the charitable contributions we’re soliciting – shamelessly – from our friends.
Where does the money go? All the funds pledged to the Golf Challenge underwrite the launch of new cities, new groups and new participants for The Master’s Program. Last year, we formed six new cohorts – in Charlotte, Denver, Dallas, Phoenix and two in Newport Beach – with the proceeds from the 2012 Golf Challenge.
This year, we're working on new group launches in Philadelphia, Charleston, Minneapolis, Chicago, Denver, Houston, San Luis Obispo, San Diego and two in Newport Beach. Ten groups: our ability to initiate those efforts in 2013 is completely dependent on the results on May 6th.
Ten groups; in them, hundreds of leaders whose influence for the Kingdom will be multiplied through their time in and after TMP. Between now and May 6th, Kingdom entrepreneurs will place their bets on the future potential of the leaders whose callings will change the world and build God’s Kingdom.
This is my first “ask;” it won’t be my last. The mission Jesus launched with his resurrection the first Easter is the agenda that drives us forward, today. Click here to see how you can be part of the 2013 Golf Challenge! It’s time to place your bets,
March 25, 2013
This thing is going to hell in a handbasket.
No one knows who first used that “alliterative locution” (thanks Wikipedia) to describe a situation headed for disaster or without effort or in great haste.
Sometimes, you can see a train wreck coming (think: Sequester). Other times, it’s a tsunami-like experience that comes on you without warning and wipes from the map things that looked like they were set for the century.
There are other times when the “insiders” see the future, while the majority live in the grand delusion of the moment, clueless concerning what’s just over the horizon. Often, the multitude prefers to live in their bubble and not be confronted with the inevitable. The dumb tax is collected at the door; once paid, the party can become the anesthesia against the pain associated with reality.
If you turn to the politically-conservative media outlets, the daily headlines – for years, now – have been some version of Hell in a Handbasket – with details at the top of the hour.
Had you been around Jerusalem about 1,980 years ago, you might have been on the fringes of an incredible moment in Jewish cultural history. John wrote about it, decades later, when he recalled: “The next day the great crowd that had come for the festival heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, ‘Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the king of Israel!’” (John 12:12-13).
Get some pundits and scholars and cultural trendists together around a table and ask them what was going on, back then, in real time; they might have struck an optimistic tone and imagined that the long-awaited political messiah awaited by the Jews and feared by the Romans might have just appeared. This Jesus fellow had been building a movement for over three years, and he might just be coming into the swelling capital city during the biggest holiday period of their cultural calendar to present his agenda for Israel’s reemergence of independence.
The crowds were convinced of that, and the 12 men who had become a backdrop to Jesus’ public presence were, themselves, counting on it. It’s what they had traded their careers and personal agendas to gain; they saw the potential for personal power in the days just ahead. No one was clear about the details, but that didn’t matter: their dreams didn’t require line-item precision at that point. The blueprints would follow…
Everyone was upbeat… except the one who was being applauded. If you got close enough, you would see something unusual: he’d been crying. What did he have to weep about? Why, in the jubilance of the Jews, was “the king of Israel” despondent?
He could see the next few days unfolding… and he knew that this thing was going to hell in a handbasket. The term was 1,800 years future, but the path from the Triumphal Entry to the Executioner’s Cross was marked before him.
Why didn’t he just bolt? “… Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2) He was looking past the coming Friday, the weekend in death that followed, and to the real Triumphal Re-Entry into the Land of the Living, on Easter morning. Why does it matter?
“And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus… Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Hebrews 12:1-3)
You may be on the same course right now: on your way to hell in a handbasket. You have a Savior who knows what that feels like. His counsel: don’t miss Easter this Sunday. It’s the game changer…
March 18, 2013
"God doesn’t want your ability; He wants your availability."
You’ve heard that before, haven’t you? Most contemporary Christians would probably fall for the straight-faced suggestion that somewhere in Solomon’s Proverbs – or, in Paul’s Epistles – that phrase is found. And they would be… wrong.
Not only is the phrase misappropriated and misattributed, it is patently unbiblical. And, it is spouted from pulpits and reprinted in Sunday bulletins ad nauseam. The underlying premise is clear: all you need to give God is your time; your capabilities – both those proven from your life-outside-of-church and those lying in you, undiscovered, because of a lack of opportunity to see yourself as God’s created masterpiece – are meaningless. And, the whole concept is dishonoring, both to God and to you.
Ask God about that hogwash: here’s His perspective: “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever.” (1 Peter 4:10-11)
Again: use your gifts to serve. The language of “gift” is slightly different than the term “talent,” though it refers to the same reality. You have a unique combination of capabilities that distinguish you from everyone else. Everyone else. One-of-a-kind competencies; significant strengths that are not found together in another person. No one you know can do what you can do…
Where does that ability come from? If it’s a result of your human initiative, you deserve the credit… but, it’s not. It’s sourced in your soul; it traces back to your fabulous fabrication. You were made in God’s image; you were fashioned by His handiwork; you are the result of His artistic genius. That’s why the concept of “gift” is so important: gifts are received – not created – by the possessor. Your talent traces to God, and when you use your gifts/talents to serve others, “…God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory…” His magnificence is more apparent when you are at work doing what He gave you the ability to do, in service to others.
So… what does our world – and, the church – do with that?
Well, outside of the faith community, God-given talents – and, other people – are exploited for personal gain, at the expense of those “served.” The backlash against significantly gifted but clearly self-serving leaders is growing as the 21st Century civilization reacts to the profitability of selfishness.
And… inside of the faith community, we hear – over and over again – that those God-given talents don’t matter… because “God doesn’t want your ability, He wants your availability.” Bring your time; leave your talents at home; they aren’t respected when you’re “serving Jesus by serving others.”
Sounds like a great deception, introduced by the Evil One, to take the power out of the Kingdom.
In defense of the hapless harbingers of that kind of volunteer involvement, they don’t offer classes in most seminaries focused on the discovery of one’s uniqueness: not for the pastors-in-training, or for them to use on their future flocks. If gifts/talents don’t matter, why waste course credits on the conversation?
Please allow me to weigh in: God wants both your abilities and your availability to be invested in things that will matter for Eternity. The idea that He gave you gifts, and then wants you to leave those gifts at work because they aren’t appreciated in His Kingdom is foolishness of the 1st Order.
All roads lead to The Master’s Program: we help Christian leaders explore, expose and exploit their Kingdom Calling. Your Calling is the place of convergence between God’s Kingdom Purpose, your God-Honoring Passion and your God-Designed Potential. The vital core of that Potential is your ability; those strengths that came to you by God’s sovereign design.
Run – don’t walk – to the place where we can rescue you from the lame thinking of the under-informed…