Authentic New Testament Solutions Uncategorized

Blaming Won’t Help You

I gave my life to the Lord in June of 1972. Since that time, I’ve enjoyed learning the Scriptures, functioning in the body of Christ, and growing in my relationship with the Lord. But to my surprise, as the years passed and I became stronger in my faith and my walk, I discovered I had inadvertently surrendered Jesus’ Lordship in my life to others.

I lived a successful life until 2006. My spiritual growth was healthy and my relationships were strong. My wife, Gayle, and I enjoyed a loving relationship, and we enjoyed raising our five children together (and continue to delight in our relationships with them to this day).

But in 2006, I crashed. When I crashed, I did what I thought was right and surrendered my family, all of my accomplishments, personal power, and influence to others. For the first time since childhood, I became totally dependent on others. Now I reflect back on that season of dependence upon others as the greatest mistake of my life. In my weakness, I hoped others would do what I was responsible to do. By resigning, repenting, confessing, and submitting I inadvertently forfeited Christ’s Lordship to people and, as a result, so many, including myself, suffered unnecessarily.

As a result, the church I now pastor, St. James Church, is thriving under the philosophy that each of us carries the responsibility to become stronger, more capable people in Christ. This philosophy is developing a unique church in a national culture that encourages blame, weakness, victimization, and entitlement. St. James Church stands apart from those who give people excuses for the failures in their lives as being the result of disappointing or dysfunctional relationships, trauma, pain, and/or past experiences. Instead, we have learned that in Christ we can be filled with the power of God and renewed in our minds, which gives us the motivation to overcome the impact of past traumas and to grow in competence and strength. As a result, we can then discover effective tools or steps that enable us to live in freedom, and to thrive and grow in the Lordship of Christ, rather than under the power of alternative lords.

For example, if I say, “My boss makes me so angry,” I am saying that my boss is lord over my emotions, not Christ. It may be true that my boss might do things that I don’t like, but I don’t have to give him or her power over my emotions, I do have other choices.

If I say, “I have an addiction problem because of a trauma I suffered 10 years ago,” I am saying that I am incapable of overcoming that trauma, that my trauma is now lord over me, and I will be identified by it and victimized by it the balance of my life.

We don’t have to be that weak. For example, it might be true that trauma has impacted us in a significant way, but that does not mean we must surrender to the effects of that trauma for the rest of our lives, making that trauma lord over us. We don’t have to be defined by our traumas. That is, we don’t have to surrender to the lordship of trauma when Jesus is, in fact, our Lord. Identifying trauma may help us understand certain behaviors, thoughts, and difficulties, but we can make choices to disempower trauma’s lordship and establish Jesus’ Lordship over us.

When I learned that a traumatic childhood experience resulted in some incongruity that I dealt with as an adult, others assumed it was an excuse, a way of evading responsibility. I never saw it that way; instead, I saw it as information which gave me the understanding I needed so that, empowered by Christ, I could overcome the effects of that trauma and live a healthy life. I’ve done that.

So my word of caution is: if you are talking to a pastor, counselor, or friend about an issue in your life and they allow you to blame your situation on another, dismiss their counsel. Then go talk to someone else who will explore your options with you. If their intent is to help you get to a better place, even with the facts as they are, then you will be empowered to make good decisions and improve your situation. You can’t control others, and you can’t change your past, but you can control, or gain control, over yourself, your choices, and your responses. And you can improve your future.

As soon as you blame others, you are acknowledging their lordship over you, and you’ll find yourself powerless and victimized.

But you always have options. The Lord will never allow you to be in a situation where there is no way of escape. He will always point us in the direction of healing.


Should Sheriff Maketa Resign?

Due Process Matters


Sheriff Terry Maketa, our previously well respected Sheriff of El Paso County, has been asked to resign by several public figures due to accusations of misusing his position. Though the sheriff and all three of the employees of the sheriff’s department accused of intimate relations with the sheriff have denied the allegations, some believe he should go ahead and resign.

If people do not resign, they are able to use the resources of the institution they are serving to ensure due process. In response to allegations, our sheriff emphasizes that a “fair and impartial investigation based on facts and law” will take place and he is insisting that everyone involved should “respect the legal process.”

He’s right. We as a civilization have worked for hundreds of years now to refine our process of determining truth, guilt, and consequences. We decided to start with the presupposition that people are innocent until proven guilty, that they have the right to defend themselves, and that their accusers have to present factual evidence of relevant wrongdoing. We continually work to refine an intricate process of determining which facts are relevant to any particular case, and who is permitted to decide if the allegations against someone are, in fact, applicable. Then, we try to thoughtfully determine the appropriate consequences we as a society should impose on those who violate the law. All of us should respect the processes we’ve established, and the continued evolution of these processes to improve them.

The press distorts this process, and the internet permanently records the distortion.

We instituted and defended the establishment of a free press believing it would protect us. The downside of a free press is that it is largely an unsupervised, unaccountable, maverick press. Because we hope their self-policing efforts are more effective than we would trust in the hands of any other institution, we in the general population read their papers and magazines, and watch or listen to their broadcasts. They influence us to the point that we wrongly believe we know enough about a subject to have an informed opinion. However, many of us who have had first hand knowledge of a situation and then contrast the facts we know with news accounts, too often, find the press inept.

Sheriff Maketa is saying, “let the process work.” The district attorney needs time to do his job. Federal officials and the county need time to establish facts. Only then, after professional investigations and legal reflection, consequences, if necessary, can be decided by appropriate authorities. Should the Sheriff resign, both he and his office would lose full participation and representation in the process.

In the midst of the media frenzy, it’s difficult to have long range judgment. But I think it’s important for all of us that Sheriff Maketa stay in office. I know from first hand experience that there will only be a fair hearing of the facts, and the facts will only have meaning, if he stays in office. Otherwise, the press and the web will spread every rumor and permanently record them, thus creating a permanent rumor-based record that will define the sheriff for the rest of his life, regardless of the facts, and without his having any due process or opportunity for response.

Let me give you a couple of examples of those who quit too soon, and those who kept going.

Judas and Peter both betrayed Jesus. Judas repented, but removed himself from any future representation by killing himself, effectively building a memorial to his betrayal in the minds of every generation since. Peter, in contrast, kept going. He also repented, but only 50 days after his betrayal of Christ, he began publicly preaching. He also wrote letters that are now in the Bible, and he became one of the best known apostles. He is now deeply revered and his betrayal has become only a small portion of his story, not the highlight. St. Peter’s Basilica is an enduring monument to his personal resurrection.

A more contemporary example might be Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton. Richard Nixon resigned, moved and California and died after Watergate, establishing the Watergate scandal as the only significant item in his life in most people’s minds. In contrast, Clinton’s scandal led to impeachment and disbarment. His offense was clearly an abuse of authority by a person in a position of trust and was followed by an official attempt to cover up, deceive the public and lie to investigators. Yet, we do not think of his violations as significant. Why? Because he kept going. He is a highly respected leader of the Democratic party and, polls show, if he could run again for president he would likely win. Bill Clinton’s scandal has diminished from the defining moment of his life to a chapter, then a page, and now a paragraph. In time, the Clinton scandal will, in effect, become a sentence.

Some of our most important American ideals are being threatened by people reading press reports and making judgments. I do not know anything about the  innocence or guilt regarding our sheriff, but if he resigns, there will be a resounding presumption of guilt. No doubt, once the facts are established, we all support accountability and justice. We have a system for that, but if we are not careful, we all might unintentionally participate in the dismantling of that system by returning to, in effect, lynch mobs. Even if the accused is guilty, shouldn’t someone protect them from the crowd until the facts are established?


Our Re-Election of President Obama

After President Obama’s re-election, pontification in extremis saturated the airwaves and print media. Some claimed the election was determined by the economy, others, changing demographics. Social media, government payouts, racism, and innovative get-out-the-vote efforts have been thrown into the mix. Others simply say Obama communicated a more appealing role of government than Romney. I don’t think any of these were the dominant reason the election went the way it did. And now that emotions have calmed and this discussion is yesterday’s news, I want to give you my view and why I believe it.

I think Obama won the election primarily because his culture was more appealing to most Americans. Obama communicates fun thoughtfulness, empathy with a smile, strength with a hug. His family would be the Focus on the Family model if they were Republicans. Since President Obama beat the odds of being raised by a single mom and grandparents, and still became the President of the United States, he models American opportunity. When he was younger he smoked, drank, used drugs, and enjoyed the girls, while at the same time excelled in school. Many people relate to some portion of that, and some admire it. He’s competent and hip, both at the same time. He’s just as relaxed speaking to a joint session of congress or to a foreign leader as he is to David Letterman, Jon Stewart, the ladies on The View, or Conan O’Brian. He’s pleasant.

Romney, on the other hand, avoided the pop culture media outlets for good reasons. He and his message were way too serious to be discussed in those formats, and he doesn’t connect with the culture of those shows. He doesn’t watch them. He doesn’t drink Coke, coffee, smoke, drink alcohol, or lust. We’ve all had pastors, teachers, or principals who were responsible like Romney in our lives. These are our authority figures who are concerned about how our decisions will negatively impact our future. They are right, but we are not so relaxed with them or smile so warmly seeing them. Having to talk to them at the supermarket is slightly awkward, and it would actually seem mildly gross to see them shirtless on a beach.

But not Obama. He comes across like a friend. He bothers people who are too serious. He makes us Republicans appear grumpy. He would be loads of fun to vacation with, is relaxed on the beach, but can kill, without hesitation, the Osama Bin Ladens of the world. I’m not discussing his specific political philosophies or governance decisions here, because I don’t think they were the determining factors in the election. I’m talking about the way he connects as a person. Obama coming to a barbeque at the house would be fun. If Romney were coming, we would have to paint, clean, upgrade, and improve. They communicate different auras. I believe this subjective intangible is what determined the election.

We Republicans were convinced that no one could win re-election with the unemployment rate, excessive government spending and national debt all sky high. We thought the ties to left-wing socialists and the sluggish recovery made a wholesome responsible businessman like Romney a sure winner. We drone on and on about particulars that don’t matter to many. Those specifics feel like “make your bed,” “brush your teeth,” and “do your homework” so your future will be bright, facts. These facts don’t feel relevant to daily American life because we are not having to pay back our debt right now, and the food stamps and unemployment checks spend just like real money.

I am sensitive to the reality that facts don’t really matter in certain situations because of the misrepresentations to the general public of my 2006 scandal. They said I spoke weekly with President Bush. I didn’t. They reported that I was a hateful preacher. I wasn’t. They said that I was a televangelist. I’m not. They said I had an adulterous “relationship.” I didn’t. They reported that I was a political activist. Never. I could go on and on but it would bore you because. . . facts don’t always matter. I was not innocent of wrongdoing, but it was the imagery and drama that stirred emotion, drew attention, landed my story on the front page and formed opinion. I had to accept the reality that the facts of my story were not necessarily relevant because I had become a symbol in people’s minds. The information that conflicted with the accepted story line felt like irrelevant minutia. I actually had a journalist tell me he didn’t want to talk to any primary sources in my story because it might influence his reporting.

I do not believe this last election was determined by hard realities, but by symbolism, world-view, philosophy, feeling, and culture. This realization is important to all of us in church leadership. Church growth experts tell us that 90% of Americans who choose to attend a church do not base their decision on the core message of the church, or its creed, but rather on the way the church makes them feel. The culture of the church is the dominate factor. I think we probably choose our spouses, grocery stores, hair salons, malls and athletic events based more on culture than we realize . . . and I believe, this is what resulted in our re-election of President Obama.


I Love Hostess CupCakes!

This morning I read about the bakers union refusing to accept the contract offer from bankrupt Hostess. If they don’t come to terms, Hostess will close and Wonder Bread, Hostess Twinkies, Fruit Pies and Ding Dongs may be gone forever. This is a big deal in our country because Hostess’ annual sales are $2.5 billion, they employ 18,300 people, and operate 33 Bakeries and 570 Bakery Retail Outlets. But most importantly, Hostess CupCakes are the perfect snack around a fire on a campout in the cool mountains of Colorado. I am 56 years old, and I love Hostess products just like I did when I was a kid.

I think the bakers union is making a mistake. Since we won the cold war, more than 2 billion people have entered the global work force, most of them wanting exactly what a Hostess Twinkie symbolizes, the American dream. Many of those who were liberated from the lack of opportunity in their government dominated economies are now highly motivated to do whatever it takes to prosper. In their newfound freedom, they want to innovate, learn, work, sell, and enjoy the profits. Advancing their skills is the door to production, which allows them a better life. We won the cold war so more people could govern themselves, increase their own value and self-worth, and prosper. Many of them are doing it.

In his book, That Used To Be Us (2011), Thomas Friedman emphasizes two developments that have changed the world forever. One is globalization. Globalization impacts every one of us right now. The production of and the prices of the clothes we wear, the cars we drive, the electricity we use, and the food we eat are all impacted by globalization. We need to understand globalization and how to function productively in a globalized marketplace or we’ll be discouraged that the things we did before don’t work any more. If you are a Christian, I suggest you start by reading Thomas Friedman’s older book, The Lexus and the Olive Tree (1999). It will explain some of the changes you’ve seen, even in your church. In addition, The World Is Flat (2005), also by Friedman, is a must read for anyone who desires to succeed over the next twenty years.

The second development is the information technology (IT) revolution. Here are two examples of where we are going: in the future we will need fewer teachers because, increasingly, teaching is done more accurately and more effectively by computers. With every gain teachers unions make to increase funding their own members, they are providing financial incentive for the schools to replace them with computerized education. It will happen. It’s just a matter of time. Another example are the janitors in oil refineries in Baton Rouge who can’t clean toilets unless they know how to use the computer to check in, order supplies, and report problems. Do any of you remember having to talk to someone to schedule a flight, reserve a hotel room, or make a long-distance call? Not anymore. Those jobs were not outsourced. They were replaced with IT systems. On November 11, 2012, 60 Minutes reported that manufacturers in American are looking for over 3,000,000 new employees right now, but they can’t use unskilled, unmotivated workers. They need competent workers who can think critically, communicate accurately, and who can collaborate with others. Manufacturers today are not simply looking for people who will show up, but for those who can program, operate, and maintain very expensive, complex machinery.

The workers at Hostess need to be grateful to have a job at all. Europe just slipped back into recession, which is where we may be headed. For their own good, Hostess workers need to get back to work and to take every extra moment they have to take classes to prepare them for the 21st Century workplace. Every community now has tech schools that help people learn a skill. In January of 2012, for those with less than a high school degree, unemployment was 13.8%; those with a high school degree and no college, 8.7%; those with some college or an associate degree, 7.7%, and those with a bachelor’s degree or higher, 4.1%. If we want to work, we need to assume the responsibility to make ourselves competent so we can offer enough value that another is willing to pay us well.

I recently led a roundtable discussion on the east coast that was attended by a very successful businessman from Dallas who was a strong Christian. In the roundtable he said he hadn’t been to church in years because it offered no value to him. The group largely agreed. 21st Century Evangelicalism has an opportunity to do a better job increasing the value of Sunday morning worship in the lives of our hearers. Life is more than spirituality and morality. Life also requires competency, wisdom, understanding and production. I believe Christ wants everyone to be better off. I think if we will do what we have encouraged the Hostess bakers to do, stop negotiating for more money, but instead be grateful, increase our value to those we serve, and produce a better product, then we will all be rewarded.