Some Simple Truths to Strengthen You

Elections are always very important. There is much at stake. But in truth, elections are always advertised as the most important election in human history that will change the trajectory of all things for eternity.

Here are some simple truths that strengthen me; God is still sitting on His throne. He never caught off-guard. He is not surprised or perplexed. He ALWAYS has a plan. And whoever becomes president, Jesus is still King.

As I am writing this article, the election is tomorrow. Obviously, I have no idea who will win the election. The 2016 election season was ugly, and the ugliness seems to only have increased ever since. 2020 has been a year to forget, that is for sure. By “ugly”, I’m not just talking about the political process, the political parties or the presidential candidates, I am actually referring to people in general, especially people who consider themselves followers of Christ. Social media has only amplified the ugliness and unkindness.

Political parties and candidates (all of them) will distort, manipulate, cajole, emotionalize, tug and whatever other tactics to sway our votes. Personally, I normally vote for/against issues and people, not necessarily by a political party. I follow Christ, not a political party. I’m an independent I suppose, but its more than just being independent to me. I try to be informed, be prayerful, be intellectually and emotionally honest, and then to vote my convictions. For me, Scripture is the basis of my convictions, as well as the basis of how I engage the political process.

Regardless of the outcome of this election, let me encourage us to respect our friend’s points of view, as they seek to live out and vote their convictions and conscience. I hate it when people make comments like, “How can you as a Christian vote for …” “If you were a true Christian, you would vote for …” There is no reason to demonize people who disagree with you. No political party or candidate has the corner on truth, good decisions, morality, or spirituality. There are scandals, poor decision-making, and fakes on all sides, and all political parties.

You can actually be friends and maintain a relationship with someone who disagrees with you. For those of us who are Christians, we need to agree the most significant aspects of our relationship are not our politics, our political views or our political affiliations but that we are connected together as brothers and sisters in Christ. Politics has its role, but Christ living in and through us should have the most significant role.

Our primary mission is to love God & love people, so do not allow your love for politics, ideology, philosophy or even theology to ever supersede your love for God and your neighbor, including neighbors who don’t share your politics. Biblically speaking, we are to be followers of Christ before we are Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, or any other political party.

Regardless of the outcome of the election process, it is likely going to continue being mean, dark and ugly for a while. Is this level of divisiveness, meanness, personal attacks, and violence our “new normal”? I sure hope not, but it just magnifies the fact that evil is rampant. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph 6:12).

Amidst all the chaos, let me remind us again to not forget God is still God, He is still on His throne, and Jesus is still the King of kings. For the person who does not believe in Christ that won’t make sense, and doesn’t seem to matter, but for the person who claims to have believed in their heart that Jesus is Lord, it should make complete sense, and it should be comforting too.

In a world of chaos and uncertainty, we know the One who holds the world in His hands. “He changes the times and seasons; he removes kings and establishes kings. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding.” (Daniel 2:21) “…for there is no authority except that which is from God. The authorities that exist have been appointed by God.” (Rom 13:1)

Just because you love Jesus does not mean your preferred candidate will win the election. People who are followers of Christ will vote for different candidates. If your preferred candidate wins or loses, at the end of the day, God is still on His throne, and as followers of Christ, we are still expected to be good reflections of Jesus.

We should grieve and be broken-hearted over all the stupid stuff people do and say. The political condition of America is direct reflection of the spiritual condition of America. All followers of Christ should be broken-hearted over the spiritual condition of our nation. We need a spiritual awakening. We need humble ourselves before God. No candidate can heal our land. The healing we need, the restoration, and reconciliation we need can only be done by the Spirit of God.

Someone is going to become President. We need to commit to lift our president in prayer. Pray for strength, conviction and courage. We need to pray for humility, patience, healing, wisdom, and God’s intervention in their lives.

My closing encouragement for all of us as we move forward; Be kind. Be humble. Be grateful. Avoid the drama and find things and people that make you smile. Place your trust in God regardless of who wins this election. And remember, God ALWAYS has a plan.

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Do You Understand What is Meant by “Systemic Racism”

Sometimes, maybe most times, what we need to diagnose, resolve, and overcome a problem is better understanding of the problem. One of the reasons I am engaging such a divisive topic as racism, is to help people understand the struggle black Americans face as a normal everyday part of their culture.

I can no longer sit by and just watch my black friends (and others) fight this battle alone. I am a nobody. I have a very limited sphere of influence, but I do have some influence. Sometimes my words will be misunderstood and twisted by others, but I do have a platform to use my words to shine a little light into the darkness of racism.

I choose to be a part of the solution by striving to be a difference-maker in my context by being an agent of peace, hope, and restoration. I choose to be light in the darkness around me. I choose to be thermostat (who changes the temperature of my culture), not merely a thermometer (who only reflects the temperature of the culture). I choose to give the rest of my life making a difference by doing good, being generous, and being kind.

What will you choose?

For today, will you choose to spend 4:23 watching this video that does a pretty good job of explaining what is meant when someone uses the term “systemic racism”.

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How Well Do You Understand “Privilege”?

You have probably heard the term “white privilege” but you may not have a good understanding of “privilege” means (white or otherwise).

I am “privileged” in countless ways. I am more privileged than many, and not as privileged as some. I had a leg up or a head start or an advantage over people born into less circumstances than me. I am grateful for the life I was born into and the opportunities it has afforded me, some by chance, some my God’s grace, and other opportunities through work ethic and perseverance.

The video below gives a very clear understanding of the basic concept of “privilege”. The video is only 4:12 long. I hope you make time to watch it if you haven’t seen it already.

The world we live in needs to change. I see things through a biblical worldview. My theology colors every topic. I think its time we recognize the systems of the powerful elites in government and the business world are a part of the problem. Government is not going to fix racism and the real systemic inequalities that exist.

I believe the change we need across our nation begins in the local church. I believe the transformation we need to see will require the power of God and the humility and obedience of people who claim to follow Him. Our love for God needs to also be evidence in our love for others, especially those who are less fortunate than us, those who are marginalized, and those who have been dealt a tough hand in life.

We need to stand up any injustice in all its forms. I’m not going to apologize for the privilege I was born into, but I/we can choose to use the opportunities given us to help others.

This video explains the concept of privilege better than anything I have ever seen or heard. Please invest the 4:12 minutes to watch it.

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Divisive Topics Stir Up Emotions

Yes, I know full-well that when I communicate on divisive topics it stirs up various emotions and responses in people, then they make assumptions about me and feel a need to express their displeasure, most times, without understanding what I am really trying to say or without trying open a dialogue with me to seek understanding and to be understood. Others will applaud and thank me for whatever I said they happened to agree with.

All of which just proves my underlying point; the root level issue is theological and spiritual. “Our battle is not with flesh & blood, but with powers, principalities, and rulers in spiritual realms.” (Eph 6:12). We need to stop listening to those who try to divide us or create fear in us or seek to leverage our differences for their personal gain or their agenda so we can begin productive dialogues that lead to reconciliation and healing. If we resolve the root level issue, the surface level issues (systemic issues, inequality, etc) we will be much more likely to be address and resolved.

The path forward requires harmonic unity and enough maturity and love to work the problem together. Someone wanting to bang the drum of their pet agenda will never be open to listen, understand, and even repent of their own hypocrisy. Just stop. Let’s stop being too arrogant to listen and seek understanding before we seek to be understood. Let’s stop allowing unkind, divisive, or accusatory words to come from our mouths. What we say reveals our heart; “Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks” (Matt 12:34).

Division, divisive rhetoric, and divisive narratives are clever tricks of the enemy mean to make wreak havoc, deepen the wounds, keep us from solving the real issues. I call it the “Divide Conquer Strategy”. I’ll explain more about that in a future article. But it works at every level of life.

We need to stop being unkind, stop personal attacks, stop allowing differences or even disagreements to make others the target of our judgement and wrath. When we allow ourselves to be unkind, to personally attack a person who we disagree with, etc, we are also allowing ourselves to unwittingly become a part of the problem. We become a feeder of the divisive culture that is tearing our nation a part.

I am going to talk about issues creating division in our nation whether it be the political climate, religious culture, community culture, or as in the current moment, racism. I have already had people thank me, and others seek to bully me into silence. Honestly, I’m not stepping up to communicate on this divisive topic for pads on the back from some people nor to create drama for other people. I am going to communicate only because I believe that is what the Holy Spirit is stirring in me. I have sat silent for too long.

I have sat by as long as I can without engaging in the dialogue in an effort to move the conversation toward a better place. I’m not going to say/write everything perfectly, but neither I am willing to continue being silent. I can’t just ignore what I see happening in our nation any longer without wondering if my silence is a form of compliance or even agreement.

We have to reject the divisive narrative so we can engage in productive conversation that leads to real reform of the real systemic and culture issues that oppress others. We have to talk about race, privilege, apathy, and complacency if we hope to build a bridge to a better future for all Americans. The equality we seek will never be attained through silence or silent bystanders. We have to get to know each other so we can talk to each other, so we understand each other if we ever want to see real progress.

So, no, I won’t say or write everything perfectly for every person. Sometimes communication is like two people standing on opposite ends on an elephant trying to describe their perspective. We have to realize there are other equally true perspectives and it is only when we put them together that we can truly understand what is in front of us.

But I will do my best to help us find a path through the chaos, to be light in the darkness, and to point all of us to the hope & peace that can only be found in Christ. I hope I can inspire you to have your own conversations with your friends and family. We each have a responsibility to stand up in the face of injustice. Wrong is wrong, even when it doesn’t happen to you or me. Someone has to stand up to defend against injustice or it will continue to go unchecked.

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America is NOT Racist. Don’t Feed into the Divisive Narrative.

I haven’t made a blog post in a while. But I just feel I need to speak out to clarify what I consider to be a position balance, challenge, and hope. This will likely be long so bear with me.

America is NOT racist. Yes, there is racism IN America, but that is not the same as “America IS racist”. The vast majority of people in America are not racist. A racist America did not elect its first African American President a few years ago. America did that. If America was actually racist, that would have never happened.

The vast majority of Americans absolutely hate racism. Stop listening to those who try to divide us or create fear in us or seek to leverage our differences for their personal gain or their agenda. Even saying “Black Lives Matter” sounds like a good supportive thing to say, BUT it is also divisive. It is a clever trick of the enemy. If you say “Black Lives Matter” you are allowing yourself to unwittingly become a part of the problem. YOU become a feeder of the divisive language.

You say “Black Lives Matter”, someone else responds “Blue Lives Matter”, someone else responds “White Lives Matter”, someone responds, “Red Headed Lives Matter”. Where does that line of divisive reasoning end? It doesn’t. It only continues to create divisive rhetoric that never ends.

A white person should believe “Black Lives Matter”. Absolutely. But please hear me; there is an organized effort in both the natural (people, politics, etc.) and the supernatural (spiritual realms) that are seeking to push their agenda to magnify and exaggerate our differences to create and leverage unnecessary division in America so it can destroy America from the inside out.

We should all stand up against injustice (racism or otherwise), even more so the kind that happened to George Floyd, but riots and destroying property is also inexcusable. Busing people in, having outside organizations organize destruction under the ruse of a “protest” is also absolutely wrong. There are some people, organizations, and the demonic, pushing emotional buttons and leveraging the anger caused by injustice to create even more injustice and destruction. And those people, organizations, and the demonic, love it when American’s lose their minds and act like criminals.

Even if the technique used by the police officer to subdue Mr. Floyd is an acceptable technique (and I’m guessing it is), how the situation was applied in that specific situation was some version of murder in my personal opinion. There is no excuse for what I saw on video. However, I’m highly confident the 99% of good police officers, would agree and they are angry too. They despise what they saw and how that makes them all look to some people. I feel that way when a member of the clergy is caught in a sexual abuse scandal. I’m guessing educators feel that way when a teacher is caught in an inappropriate relationship with a student.

Police should be able to maintain peace and safety, and when that peace and safety is destroyed, they should be able to go back in an restore it for the good over the entire community, which means they will have to match and overwhelm the intensity of the mob. They can’t just say “pretty please” to someone intent on hurting them and destroying property.

Thinking police should just sit by and watch needless, pointless, destruction and crime occur is also wrong. That is not America either. They are there to protect those people, businesses, and neighborhoods. Let me encourage you to choose a position of balance instead of allowing yourself to be manipulated by the self-serving dividers among us.

I will stand by members of law enforcement every single time. We all should. I am grateful for their service, protection, and all they manage so I don’t have to worry about “it”. But when they are wrong, they should also face consequences to match their crime. I have no issue with that either.

I talk a lot about ‘harmonic unity”. My best illustration is asking my church family during a Sunday service to raise their hands based on their favorite choice in toothpaste. Then I talk about how we could split in multiple ways over what toothpaste to use. Obviously, the Crest users can’t stand those Colgate people! Hahahahahaha But even within the Crest camp there is division between those who want to use “extra whitening” and those who want to use “the original Crest”. Hahahahaahhahahaha

Harmonic unity would be; we will never all agree on what brand of toothpaste to use, but we can 100% agree that we should all brush our teeth. And we can also agree that if a person thinks we should not brush our teeth, they are absolutely wrong.

Americans are going to disagree on countless things, but we can all agree that all lives matter. And we can that also agree that if anyone thinks some section of our population’s lives don’t matter, they are absolutely wrong.

ALL LIVES MATTER. As the old children’s song says “red, yellow, black, and white, they are all precious in His sight”. Saying “All Lives Matter” is not racist, nor does it lessen the value or importance of black lives. ALL lives matter equally. “All lives matter” raises the value on all lives to equality. “All lives matter” pushes back against the darkness of disunity and division.

Racism does exist. There is no doubt about it, but it is also wrong 100% of the time. Racism is sin. It is an issue of the heart. It should never happen, but it does because people choose against God’s way of doing things (sin). Satan has been trying cause disunity and division from the very beginning. He did it in heaven even by being able to get one-third of the angels to side with him against God. Just let that sink in. His tricks have never changed. He is still doing the exact some things, using the exact same tactics. Satan’s lie from the very beginning has been “just do what is right in your own eyes, do what feels good to you right now, be your own God”.

Satan has been a liar and manipulator from the beginning. He stirs up racism. Racism is a spiritual problem. More laws, more trainings, more diversity programing, etc. does not fix issues of the sin and heart. We, America, needs to experience the transformational power of the Cross.

We need to stop “doing what is right in our own eyes” and start loving God with all our hearts and loving other people as a reflection of our love for God. We need to start treating others as we would want them to treat us.

So please, stop debating who’s lives matters or matters most. ALL lives matter, equally. Instead, as an example of harmonic unity, let’s choose to agree that racism in all its forms is always wrong, it is evil, and it is unacceptable. Let’s choose to also agree that those who use racism to create division and manipulate people is also always wrong. Stirring up people to destroy property, break-in to stores, burn cars, buildings, and commit other crimes is also always wrong in America. Let’s agree that if someone thinks racism is acceptable, that burning and looting is an acceptable form of protest, they are also wrong 100% of the time.

Lets choose harmonic unity to bind us together over divisive, evil people, creating division to destroy us. This is our home. Blowing up our country hurts all of us, especially those living in the communities where the destruction takes place. Wrong is wrong. Regardless of the motivation, it is still wrong.

I choose to be a part of the solution by striving to be a difference-maker in my context by being an agent of peace, hope, and restoration. I choose to be light in the darkness around me. I choose to be thermostat (who changes the temperature of my culture), not merely a thermometer (who only reflects the temperature of the culture). I choose to give the rest of my life making a difference by doing good, being generous, and being kind.

What will you choose?

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My Thoughts on National Women’s Day

So people are dumb. Petty. Short-sighted. Vain. Driven by agendas. I’ll stop there 🙂 I realize there are some (on every side) who are trying to politicize every single thing they can, make issues of every thing they can, and stir up as much drama as they can, Welcome to our world. Whatever. This is not a political post. I don’t do those.

I’m not a big holiday guy. I think a lot of things like Valentines Day, Mothers Day, Fathers Day, etc are just marketing ploys or whatever. I don’t feel obligated to wear green on St Patricks Day either hahhahhahaha  So having a national “whatever” day does matter to me.

But I will comment on how I feel about the women in my life. I am surrounded by strong, intelligent, life-giving, hope-filled women. I see the power of women every single day.  I see it in my home, I see it in my community, and I see it in my church.

I pastor a great church. We are healthy, effective, life-giving, and a bright light in the darkness. I have some great men around me. Men that are great reflections of Christ, love their families, and love their church. However, there is not a single church in this world that functions without women. Women are play significant roles in every church.

CrossChurch is as healthy as a church can be. But at the end of the day, women are carrying the ball in the vast majority of areas. They lead, they serve, and they make a difference in countless ways.

I have a personal relationship with many of them. Those relationships give me life, encourage me, strengthen me, and remind me I am loved every single day.  They make me laugh. They make me think. Sometimes they send me a text message at just the right time or leave me a gift or a short hand-written note in my office when I’m not there. I love surprise notes hahaahahahhaaha  Sometimes they make me shake my head too hahaahahaahahahahhaha

CrossChurch has three campuses, lots of women, and I am so grateful for each of them. I could name names and tell heartfelt stories for hours. I won’t, but I could.  My point is, I could simply not function at the level I function at without the women who surround me. CrossChurch as an organization simply could not be what it is without women who make a difference.

It is not a men vs women thing. I have relationships with men just like I described in the previous paragraph. My wife can guess what man is texting me many times because of my laugh. I actually do “LOL”, except I spell it “ahahhahahaha”  I couldn’t function without my boys either, but its not national boys days hahaahhahahaha

And I could say the same thing about children and students. There is nothing like a little kid busting my office when I am deep in some project, just so they can get a hug or tell me about their day. I have relationships people of all age groups and both male and female that are very meaningful to me.  But again, it is not national kids day or national teenager day either hhahaahahahahaa

All of us are needed to play our parts on the team, or in the family, or in the community, or in the church. But I can say there is not a single day that goes by that I am not deeply grateful for the women in my life; the little girls, the middle schoolers, the high schoolers, the young adults, those going on 29 for the 8th time, those going on 39 for the 20th time, or those proud of turning 80 soon.

I won’t use this post to gush on my wife and daughter, but let’s just say, they are irreplaceable in my life. Anything from them is life-giving to me. Just hearing their voices makes me happy (well, not so much with some specific tones ahahhahahhaaa)

In my community there are so many women who are everything from stay at home moms to business owners to young entrepreneurs to waitresses to dental assistants to nurses to school teachers to secretaries to our mayor. Think about how boring and lifeless this world would be with the smiles and energy that women of all ages give us. I cannot imagine a world without the women who have invested in me over my lifetime, or the ones who are investing in me at this moment in time.

I am blessed everyday by the women in my life. They don’t need to have a “national day” for me to recognize that.

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Be Kind. Be Generous. Be Grateful. (or Stop Being a Jerk)

Like many people, I am thinking “Its 2017 already?! How did that happen?” It is amazing how fast every year seems to fly by as it marches to the never-ending cadence of time. Time is the one thing we have no control over. It just keeps on marching along. We will blink and it will be summer. Throughout history time has continued to march on at a unrelenting pace.

2016 was a year of greatly increased social media negativity. I suppose partly due to the election process, but more due to people just being jerks. Just because you can rant doesn’t mean you should rant. Even if you were right, you were just a jerk who happened to be right.  Some people should keep their opinions on divisive topics to themselves. All their rant did was create more unnecessary drama and damage, and make them look bad in the process.

Their rant didn’t empower them, it only displayed their weakness.  It did not enhance their personhood or meaningful influence, it only lessened both.  Any dingbat can create drama. What we need are peacemakers and unifiers willing to work through hard issues together for a common good.

As we enter 2017, my plan for myself, and my wish for you in this new year is simple. Amidst the hustle and bustle of life, spend time thinking and evaluating our lives, and then that we intentionally express our gratitude and love to those in your circle of relationships. I wish you the ability to slow down enough to remember, think, and love.

As we move into 2017, I am filled with hope. I could list so many things that I see on the horizon in my personal life, my church’s life, and in the life of our community. I would not consider myself an eternal optimist, but I am filled with hope.

To boil it down to a simple thought, my hope for the new year is that we all choose to be kind, work together for the common good, and give credit to others. I hope 2017 is a kinder, more unified, more generous year.

It sounds so easy, but many in our society at the national level, and at the local level, have forgot how to simply be kind to one another. Our nation needs healing, not more verbal wounds right now. We can speak life or speak death. We get to make that choice. I hope we just remember how simple it is to be kind.

I hope we remember how important it is to get along and work together if we want to accomplish anything that matters. Those who seek to divide us are not our friends. They have self-serving personal agendas that they place a higher value on that the health and well-being of our community.

I hope we remember the importance of giving credit to others. None of us succeed without countless “others” helping us along the way. Needing credit or taking credit is not attractive. It’s actually a sign of weakness.

Get some rest. Spend time thinking, evaluating, being kind, and being generous. I am filled with hope that 2017 is going to be an amazing year!

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New Series at CrossChurch

“But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give and answer to everyone who ask you to give a reason for the hope that you have.” 1 Peter 3:15

Love Ran Red