We might not be communicating

group-of-people-talkingFor the last several years I have made an effort to make friends who don’t look/believe/act like I do.

From racial to sexual to theological differences… I have made a lot of great friends.

I’ve spent a lot of time drinking coffee, eating sushi, and lifting weights with my friends. I’ve listened… and from time to time I’ve talked.

Over the last few years I’ve learned a few things, but perhaps the most important is something that’s been crystallized in the last few weeks.

Let me explain…

I am a heterosexual, conservative, white, middle class man. I have a set of presuppositions that I typically bring to any conversation. I have realized a problem though…

Many of my friends don’t have the same presuppositions.

If this is not taken into consideration, communication problems will ensue.

For instance, I base my decisions on what I believe God wants or doesn’t want. My friends who do not believe there is a God obviously don’t include Him in their decision making process.

Now here’s where the miscommunication happens…

In addition to being a friend, I am also a pastor. Every week I stand up and teach at Church180. I love being a pastor. I love teaching. I love talking about God and showing how His ideas work in our lives!

HOWEVER…

I make a HUGE MISTAKE if I assume that everyone in our church starts with the idea that there is a God… or that He is actively engaged in our lives. Not everyone believes this!

I’m realizing that if the church is not careful, we are going to be talking to a group of friends that have no clue about what we’re saying… because we’re not starting with the same set of presuppositions.

I presuppose that there is a God. I presuppose that humanity is made in the image of God but is broken by sin. I presuppose that Jesus was a real man who died for my sins, was buried, and resurrected to life three days later and now lives inside of those who believe in Him… empowering them to live lives of l0ve, courage, wisdom, self-control, etc.

I presuppose all of that. My friends don’t.

The result? Much of what I may say may not make sense to them… because we start with different presuppositions.

So how do we fix this?

Well, the last couple of years I have done a lot of listening. A LOT of listening.

I ask questions and then listen. I have listened to black men talk, gay men and women talk, atheists and agnostics talk… and I have learned… A LOT!

The more I learn, the more I realize I need to change my starting point in conversation and teaching from what I believe to what we believe.

No longer can I assume that everyone in the room has the same starting point as me. I must assume that many in the room will start with different presuppositions than myself. I must respect that/them, seek to find common ground, and start there.

How do I find common ground?

LISTEN! Listen to your friends who don’t believe, look, think, or act like you do… let them show/tell you what’s important to them… what they value… and start communication there!

We may be miscommunicating because we have not taken the time to listen!

To use the words of Steven Covey, “Seek to understand before you seek to be understood.”

A couple more thoughts on Christians, marijuana, and other drugs

Yesterday I wrote a blog in which I did some thinking out loud about Christians, marijuana, and other drugs.

I overlooked something that is important and need to post it; I also want to crystallize a thought I tried to express yesterday.

Ready?

For Christians, we must consider two things as we have this conversation…

1) What does the state say? (Not to be confused with “What does the fox say?”)

As followers of Jesus we are expected to live by the rules of the land. (Check out Romans 13:1-6)

This means that if, after prayerful consideration, you determine that smoking marijuana is okay for you but the state in which you live says it is illegal to smoke pot, you have one of two options:

  • Don’t smoke it.
  • Move.

Christians are called to be exemplary citizens. Quite obviously we don’t all hit that standard… but it is what our Leader, Jesus, has called us to, so we must amend our lives and decisions in an effort to live with integrity in our state.

The second question to be considered is…

2) Is this substance replacing God’s role in my life?

Honestly we should ask this question about everything we partake in.

God wants to be the one who addresses our fear, encourages our hearts, brings us joy, etc.

If we are looking to marijuana, alcohol, food, etc. to fill those roles then we are missing God’s desire for us.

Too often we miss what God wants to do for/in us because we turn to other things to do for us what God has said He would like to and is capable of doing.

Lots of people who are “anti-pot” take prescription meds to address the same issues as the guy who smokes pot. Lots of Christians who wouldn’t put their hand on a doobie won’t take their hand out of the Frito Lay’s bag. BTW, the bible is clear that obesity due to a lack of self-control is a sin. (check out this blog post from Perry Noble).

God has set up structures to help us experience friendship, participate in adventure, and know the elation of transformative decisions… all this in addition to having a happy heart, peace when you’re alone, and a sense of fulfillment when you think about your life.

So at this point I’m not ready to say one way or the other, but I am prepared to say to every Christian on this matter: Are you doing with another substance what the pot smoker is doing with marijuana?

 

Christians, marijuana, and other drugs

This one could get me in trouble.

I like trouble… so here we go.

I’ve been thinking  lot about the legalization of marijuana.

While I have not completely arrived at a conclusion, I’d like to think out loud with you on this blog.

Let me tell you two things about me and Mary Jane (aka “marijuana”).

  • I do not partake and have not in over twenty years.
  • In the past, I have partaken greatly.

The following are my jumbled thoughts, some of which subject to change upon further thought and more information:

Drugs made in factory and sold over the counter are okay, but drugs grown in a field (or a special lab) are not? Have you read/heard the side effects of much of what we give to our kids and our sleep deprived, overweight, highly stressed selves?

I have yet to meet, though there may be some, a highly motivated individual who is smoking marijuana. BUUUUTTTT… I’ve also seen over-prescribed prescription meds drain initiative from kids and adults.

Marijuana as a pain killer? Maybe a legitimate point. People take prescription pain killers every day that are addictive in nature and which can lead to some really destructive behavior. I can’t imagine how marijuana would be any worse.

I’ve heard that it’s a “gateway drug”, and I can point to plenty of people as anecdotal evidence that it is. However, I smoked marijuana every day for several years… and never did anything more. (My bride says I may have roasted out some brain cells in the process). So I, for one, am evidence that smoking marijuana does not NECESSARILY lead to other drugs.

Now some more thoughts…

Marijuana as stress relief = not a good idea. Neither is alcohol or any other drug. God wants to be that for us (Ephesians 5:18, et. al.). He wants us to draw peace and joy from Him and the community of friends we surround ourselves with.

The arguments for marijuana that suggest we stand to gain tax dollars and lower incarceration rates… eh. They don’t hold a lot of weight with me. I don’t want to go into detail on these two here, but neither one of these is a game-changer for me… at this point.

Gonna get a little controversial here…

Christians who vehemently oppose the legalization of marijuana should ask themselves this…

Do I self-medicate with food? Is my lack of self control with chocolate milk and Little Debbie’s causing me to need prescription drugs that I take without a second thought while criticizing the cancer patient who is looking for pain relief that does not come from a pharmaceutical company?

Where in the Scriptures can I justify the claim that “smoking marijuana is wrong”?

How’s everybody doing out there? Good? Ya’ll mad? I’ll bet the pot smokers and prescription drug takers aren’t, but how are the rest of you? 😉

OK, let’s have some dialogue here! A couple of ground rules first though…

  • Be nice. If you are mean I’ll delete you. And I MEAN that. 😉
  • Be thoughtful.
  • Don’t tear other people down on my social media space.
  • Be willing to listen to what each person says.

I haven’t drawn any hard conclusions yet, but I think we need to think through this together.

Ready? Go!

Stop “playing small”

“Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.” Steven Pressfield

Oh my! How liberating those two sentences are! It’s okay to be good! It’s okay to be REAL good! It’s okay to be the best! No need for shame. No need to be embarrassed. It’s okay to do well.

Of course the best are even better served when they are the best AND humble… but still… it’s okay to be good!

Don’t let the lowest common denominator in your circle of peers set your standard. Don’t let broke people determine how you feel about your savings plan; obese people determine how you feel about your diet; unhappy couples determine how you feel about your marriage; etc.

Don’t be arrogant… but for crying out loud, don’t be shy! Don’t slink away. Don’t be small on purpose!

Stop regretting and apologizing for what you have developed through hard work. Do what you do with pride, determination, and purpose and you might even find that your colleagues soon come along!

Your prescription might not be your solution

“You need to take                                     (fill in prescription name). That will take care of your                                       (fill in issue).”

I understand that there are times for prescription drugs… but I’m concerned that we have allowed a good thing to corrupt what we believe about ourselves. Let me explain…

This morning I read from St. James this instruction:

“Your anger can never make things right in God’s sight. So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives….” (James 1:20-21 NLT).

“Get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives” says James… and this is my concern!

I’m concerned that we have bought the idea that the filth and evil in our lives is something we can do nothing about. It is a sickness… a disease… and we are its victims. The best we can hope to do is manage it through medicine and squeak through its periodic eruptions.

My concern is that we see ourselves as helpless bystanders in the story of our lives… helpless to do anything about what is going on… incapable of action or attitudes that will decrease and eliminate the filth and evil in our lives.

I’m concerned that we see ourselves not as owners and builders but as slaves… slaves to the irrational and exhausting demands of the various sources of filth and evil in our lives.

James says, “Get rid of them.” We say, “I can’t… this is who I am.” And this concerns me.

What hope is there for people who believe themselves helpless to control their own lives? Little to none.

On the other hand, James apparently believed that there was something that could be done to decrease and eliminate the control that our trashy side has over our lives! He tells us to “get rid of the filth and evil” and then tells us how…

Get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the message God has planted in your hearts, for it is strong enough to save your souls.  And remember, it is a message to obey, not just to listen to. If you don’t obey, you are only fooling yourself. For if you just listen and don’t obey, it is like looking at your face in a mirror but doing nothing to improve your appearance.  You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. But if you keep looking steadily into God’s perfect law– the law that sets you free– and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it. (James 1:21-25 NLT)

Look, I don’t mean to be simplistic, but I think there’s an answer here… and it’s not another prescription. It’s a decision.

A decision to read and act on God’s best ideas for our lives… found in the Bible.

There seems to be a direct correlation between personal growth and learning. The more you learn and do what you learn the more you evolve as a man/woman and the less control that filth/evil has over your life!

My concern, simply stated, is that we have believed that we cannot do anything about our lives… except manage the “filth and evil.” But maybe there is another way… make a decision to learn and begin doing what you’ve learned!

One of my favorite quotes on this matter comes from Henry Cloud, “Learn that you can learn and the fear of the future will diminish.”

As you head into 2014 maybe it’s time to take a good look at your life, believe that you can learn, and set about taking control of and eliminating the trash from your life that keeps you down!

Hungry… but not by choice

I just ate. I’m still hungry.

But for me this is a choice. I am preparing for a Physique Show in 5 days. Though I have not eaten much, I have already eaten three times today (it’s lunch time now), and I have eaten well at each meal. The quality of my food is not in question; it is safe for consumption, and the quantity is there should I choose to permit myself to eat more.

I was thinking this morning about how hungry I am… and then I thought…

I am hungry by choice. There are, however, millions of people around the world who are hungry and not because they choose to be.

Today, in a moment of clarity my heart goes out to the hungry around the world and my prayer goes up to my God for them that they may soon know the pleasure of a nourishing meal.

As I reflect on this I realize, I am blessed and unaware.

I have so much goodness in my life that I take for granted:

  • The warmth of my wife’s body at night as we sleep together.
  • The happy squeals of six girls.
  • A refrigerator packed with food (and another one in the garage in case the first one gets too full).
  • Clothes that are clean thanks to a nice washer and dryer.
  • A car that is never too hot or too cold when I climb in first thing in the morning. That’s because it has it’s own house (aka a garage).
  • Friends who are honest with me.
  • A church where I can worship my God with no fear of humiliation or persecution.

I could go on and on… so could you.

The point I suppose of this whole blog post is to say “Thank you” to my God for those things I have grown accustomed to and regularly take for granted.

It is also to breathe a prayer for those who have less than what they need and even ask my God, “What can I do to help?”

Re-thinking “entitlement” thinking

entitlementThere’s a huge conversation taking place these days revolving around the idea of “entitlement.”

I’m sure that if we sat down and had this conversation, there would be a divergence of views on this subject… see I have liberal and conservative friends (imagine that) who are all over the place on this topic.

HOWEVER, this morning while reading in the Bible, I came across an idea that would completely resolve the matter of entitlement thinking.

Let me give you some background.

Paul, the apostle, was getting ready to leave his friends in the city of Ephesus. He was headed to Rome where it was probable that he would be imprisoned and even put to death for his teachings about Jesus. He, and they, knew that this would be the last time they would see one another.

After reminding them of his style of leadership and ministry, he says these words which indirectly address the contemporary matter of entitlement (the bolding was done by this Paul… not that Paul).

I have never coveted anyone’s silver or gold or fine clothes. You know that these hands of mine have worked to supply my own needs and even the needs of those who were with me. And I have been a constant example of how you can help those in need by working hard. You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’

 Paul identifies three factors that would completely dissolve the problem of entitlement thinking:

  1. He did not covet the possessions of others.
  2. He took responsibility for himself by working hard.
  3. He took responsibility for others by being generous.

Imagine in our country if everyone STOPPED demanding equal results without equal input. Covetousness is a sin (it’s in the Ten Commandments – “Do not covet” – see Exodus 20:17).

Imagine if everyone STARTED working to provide for their own needs and desires.

Imagine if everyone STARTED making sure that their needs were met… and then looked over the fence to make sure their neighbor’s needs were met too!

It would be a different world!

Rather than wanting and whining but not working… we’d have men and women who worked to meet their own needs, and then cared for those who weren’t able to make ends meet!

Taxes would decrease, government regulation would be rendered irrelevant, people would be cared for, people would experience the satisfaction that comes with assuming responsibility AND the joy that comes with generosity!

Imagine that!

And guess who’s idea this is? St. Paul said it… but who was he quoting? If you forgot, go back up and read the indented portion of this post again!