Thursday, January 27, 2011

anything i can do We can do better

Are we truly that simple? There is this commercial on TV that perhaps you seen depicting a Chinese classroom about 40 years in the future talking about the fall of great societies, the United States is listed as one of them. The commercial has some eerie overtones, as it is aimed at the American public. The clip ends with the teacher proclaiming that they (the Chinese) now have Americans working for them. The goal of the video is to try to initiate chance of public policy to assure that the U.S. maintains it’s dominance in the world market.

Sarah Palin utter that we are in a “Sputnik” scenario, where America is about to be beat by other nations in advancement and we must rise to become greater. Her words are used to push us to invent, engineer, and respond to crises.
The news reported that the Muslim population in the span of 40 years will have doubled making up one fourth of the world’s population. As a Christian, I have an immediate urge to have more children and raise them up in a Christian home.

Other Churches are creating more converts than our church, and my gut reaction is to discover their secret agenda that they are (obviously in an immoral way because how could they fairly do better than our church) doing.

So my question is, are we truly that simple? Is the only way to inspire greatness through competition? From Vince Lombardi on the football field, to Winston Churchill and FDR on the global war effort we have heard that competition inspires greatness out of everyone. I believe that if most of us were honest we must also admit when our position is threatened, or when competition heightens we try to step up out game.

While competition is certainly entertaining for sports, must we always have competition to inspire the best out of people? We may even ask if using competition is always right, or is there a better way or more moral approach? Can nations achieve great innovation and exploration without competition? Can organizations build impactful companies without competition? Can we as individuals push ourselves to great accomplishments without competition?
First of all competition creates problems because it limits our success. If our goal is simply to be better than our competitors, then we limit our achievements by the competency of our competition. Should we not as people push and strive to become better even when we have far surpassed everyone else? If competition is our only motivator, than we as an individual, a company, or country could push ourselves to achieve great amounts of work and betterment, but if we fall short of our competitor that ultimately means we fail.

The big problem with competition is that it limits our success and amplifies our failure. We see this in each other today. The only time we feel successful is when we do better than someone else, and that is fearfully limiting. Competition causes us to only measure ourselves against other people. Success in competition does not depend on greatness; it simply depends on being better than those around you. In a world of competition rats become giants compared to fleas, and the intellectually average become geniuses compared to fools.

Secondly, competition isolates and limits cooperation. If we are simply looking to be better than others, than we would be hesitant to reach out and works with others. We see competition preventing progress all too plainly in our American, and global politics. Unfortunately we see this between companies and even our churches.

The goal and purpose of competition is to be better than the other person, when our goal in life should be to be better as a people. As long as we keep measuring ourselves against others we will fall short from God’s desire and we isolate ourselves from others.

Competition can be fun and exciting, but it should not be how we ultimately conduct our lives.

3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. 5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: - Philippians 2:3-5

This is the kind of mindset that we are all called to exhibit. By seeing others better than yourself in love we not only strive to make ourselves better, but others better with us. By working with an attitude of humility we always see the need to join with each other in fellowship, work, politics, and ministry to accomplish that which is beyond our individual self. Our motivation than is not to be better than everyone else, but to make the world better for everyone else through the love of Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

a window, not a mirror

Someone the other day asked me if I thought the world was more evil when God brought the flood over the whole earth than it is today. After I thought briefly I had to answer “no.” Not that I could effectively gather any quantitative evidence suggesting the world is more evil or at least as evil today than it was during the time of Noah. Just looking around in the last week there have been shootings of police officers, kidnapped children, terrorist bomb going off in a Russian airport, and other tragedies headlining the news. No doubt theses are terrible atrocities plaguing our world. However, I see these acts of evils not as the root problem, but symptoms of the disease.

While there are many problems to point to and not enough fingers to point, I believe a big issue we are dealing with is community. We no longer have communities or tight knit support systems. Our neighborhoods have broken down, our families have broken down, parenting, marriage and siblings have been broken down, we are only left with weekly clubs and court ordered parental visitations. We have glorified the self to such a degree that if anything or anyone opposes our self we cast them off. In such a world in which the self rules we have plenty of self-identity, but no one to identify with. Our relationships have been broken at a very fundamental level. Parents are now too burdened by the needs of their children that they cast them off. Children are burdened by the demands of their teachers, so they cast them off. Teachers are burdened by a system, spouses are burdened with sacrifice.

He have focused on self and pursuing only the single dream of wealth that we have thrown away our leaders, heroes, role models, loves, companions, mentors, mentees, parents, children and friends.

Living on the Westside of Indianapolis working at a church I have seen too many of our children at age 5 deal with absent parents, dispersed siblings, physical wounds, and deep emotional scars. Before many of the children know how to write their name they have been taught that people are selfish and look out only for themselves.

I think if we ever want to improve our society we need to focus on family, marriage, and friendship. We need to focus on community and relationships. We have to learn what it is to be selfless. Certainly this starts all with Jesus Christ. Jesus lived not for himself but for others to the point of laying himself down.

It is not that our self does not matter, but our self only matters in community for community under Jesus Christ. Our need to restore our relationships is a long goal, but a worthy one. So the question is how do we do it? How do we turn away from our desire and look to the desire of Christ. How do we turn away from our needs and look at the needs of our spouse, our children, our siblings, our neighbors, our countrymen, and our world? How do we begin to pave the way for a new generation surround by selfishness and self seeking morality? How do we become examples, and how do we begin to lay down new teaching?  How do we learn to look away from the mirror, and out the window?

Friday, January 21, 2011

When our Pride gets Drenched

Imagine walking through the mall minding your own business (literally minding your own business). Imagine you are so much minding your own business that you are looking down and texting on your phone that you do not even mind the fountain several paces in front of you. As you are about to finish your text and press send you are tripped by the ledge of the mall fountain and go in for a splash. Despite begin covered in water you are perhaps more concerned that you are drenched in embarrassment. Despite hurting a little physically your pride is going need to need major surgery, so you jump up immediately, look around to survey the amount of people who witnessed your slip and slide escapade, and then you try to figure out how to get home without turning into an icicle.

I hope this is not too hard for you to imagine. Anyone who texts on a regular basis will have to admit to texting and walking in a store or mall at times. This event is easy to imagine because it truly could happen to almost any of us. Therefore, when this happened to Cathy Cruz Marrero it was no big deal, except when she became an internet sensation.
I must admit it is unfortunate that nothing in our lives can remain private. It is a shame that the security guards put it on youtube, but at the same time it is pretty funny. No one besides herself and close family would be able to recognize the woman in the video. No harm, no foul. But not so fast. In America you do not need to be harmed; you do not even need a crime to wage a lawsuit against any company for your own embarrassment. Because malls tend to have money, Ms. Marrero has decided to get a lawyer and well $$$ in.

So why write about such an incident? Well first of all it is hilarious only because of the fact that she wasn’t hurt, and I could easily see myself in the fountain. Second, I think it is time we open our eyes (or maybe just advert them from our texting machines). We have become so blinded by our sense of self importance that any time we feel embarrassed or hurt we think the world owes us justice. Why do we think we are so important, why do we think we deserve the world yet refuse to have to work for it? Why is every inconvenience in our life a gross injustice by someone else?

Remember the story of Peter trying to walk on water? Peter sees Jesus pulling off this neat aquatic miracle and asks Jesus if he can give it a try. With Jesus’ permission Peter steps out and viola he is walking on water, for about 5 seconds. After 5 glorious seconds Peter falls in the water soaked and yelling for help (quite a funny thing to witness, Peter an experienced fisherman yelling out in fear of water). This was quite an embarrassing story for Peter. Luckily for Peter there was no youtube back then so people just wrote it down in a book that has happen to be the longest bestseller in history (luckily for Ms. Marrero we won’t be talking about her for the next 2,000 years).

Can you imagine the next day Jesus gets a wakeup call from Peter’s lawyer informing him that Peter could have been hurt? Imagine the other 11 disciples are being sued because they only laughed and did nothing to help. No, none of this happened, Peter dried himself off and life carried on. I recommend when life pulls you down to do the same thing. God still loves you, he hasn’t left you, he just thought you needed a splash of cold water.

With God we can do great things, just know along the way you may get wet.

Update:  It seems that Ms. Marrero has droped the charges against the mall according to  It seems she has dropped the charges only after it has been brought to light that she has a criminal past of retail and identity theft.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Jesus and a gun

The event that is being called the “Tucson Tragedy” has sparked a fiery debate over where to spread the blame beyond the suspect who committed the crimes. Many have seemed to suggest that violent imagery and rhetoric in political campaigning is to blame. Many have proclaimed that the words and metaphors national leaders use needs to have less violence. Thus many have deemed a “war on words.” The “war on words” is quite the ironic title since it advocates the limitation of violent imagery by using violent imagery.

While I could never argue against the use of violent language (Jesus said our words are simply the result of what is stored up in us Matt 10:34-37). However, if we could only get rid of one element that helped lend to such a violent attack it should not be words, but guns.

I know there are a whole group of people who get wildly upset over the idea of getting rid of guns. I know it is the second amendment, but it doesn’t mean it makes sense. Let’s face it the killer is the first and foremost person to blame, but I think if we are going to tag an accomplice it would be guns.

I know what you want to say, “guns do not kill people, people kill people.” I guess that is true, therefore why not let everyone have grenades, missiles, nuclear weapons since they do not harm people, it is only people who harm people. What kind of logic is that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people?” That logic does not work anywhere else. We could allow crack dealers on the street because crack does not kill people, but the people who take it kill people (themselves typically). If I knowingly drive someone to a house so they can go in and kill somebody, am I not held guilty? What if the judge said, “well the driver of hitmen do not kill people, the hitman kill people?” Would you not be outraged? I hope you would be.

Another line of “logic” we hear is that if we make guns illegal, than only criminals will have them causing more crimes and murders. Again what kind of logic is that? After all if guns don’t kill people, people kill people, than a gun cannot protect you. What if many of the High School students started to inject themselves with steroids so they could steal lunch money from other students? Would our solution really be, well I better shoot my kid up so he/she can protect themself? Are we truly convinced the only way to stop violence is violence? While I do not have statistics on this (probably because no one does) if guns were no longer made, sold, or owned, time would prove that murders would be down.

Martin Luther King Jr. had it right, Ghandi had it right, and Jesus had it right, non-violence.

Jesus told Peter to put the sword away when he tried to cut off a guard’s head and missed striking his ear. Jesus said the response to being smacked in the face is not to pull out a 9 and bust a cap, but to turn the other cheek. The image the prophets give of the coming of the Kingdom of God is turning spears and swords into pruning hooks. It was Jesus’ idea not only to end violence (with love) but to get rid of violent weapons. The longer we think we can end violence through violence the more violence will continue to show its ugly head. We must gather up our courage to throw away our weapons, to lay down our arms, to give up our rights, so that we and others may have life. Violence only breeds and gives birth to violence; love breeds and gives birth to love.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

So, You Think Today is the End of the World.

Earthquakes, Tsunamis, and even snow in Hawaii! With all these natural disaster it can mean only one thing, the end of the world is nigh. The prophets of doom will soon be shouting from their websites, blogs, and television station pinnacles about the near and coming end of the world. These Ayatollahs of Armageddon will utilize scripture, Nostradamus, and some form of mathematical sleight of hand with arbitrary numbers to show you that you need to buy their book and get ready for the end of all life. Before we go grab our sandwich board signs and join the prophetic union of demise, I think it may be helpful to pause and take a look at the landmarks to the end of the world as promised by Jesus. It will be helpful to know what to expect, and what not to expect.

#1 War Matthew 24:6 – This passage actually tells us that war is going to happen and that it is not a good sign of the end. Jesus says wars are going to happen, but the end is still to come

#2 Matthew 24:12-14 – Here we find out the gospel will be preached to all peoples as a testimony, then the end will come. Does that mean when the last person who has never heard of Jesus hears about him the end will come? This passage is not very clear about exact times and events because it is more about everyone getting a chance to hear the gospel than a timeline of the end.

#3 Matthew 24 as a whole warns of false prophets. If someone comes saying they are Jesus we shouldn’t believe them, but we can start believing the end may be approaching.

#4 Matthew 24:27 says when Jesus actually comes, you will know the end is here. The problem is that Jesus will come like lighting throughout the whole earth, and then it will be too late to put on clean underwear.

# 5 Matthew 24:36 - The truth is no one knows the end, not even Jesus. These are the type of people you shouldn’t believe when they preach about the end.

1. People who have financial gain at stake. If someone thinks the end is truly coming are they going to really write a book, sell it at a premium price, and open up a new saving account?

2. People who say they are Jesus. Jesus will come with power and we will instantaneously know it is Jesus, he won’t have to tell us or show us his social security number.

3. Someone who spoke to God in a dream. If God doesn’t tell his own son Jesus, than its pretty safe to say that the person just had some bad batch nachos before bed.

4. Anyone with a mathematical formula that predicts the end through careful calculations based on every fourth letter of the fifth word in the second paragraph of each page of the Bible. The end of the world is not a 12th grade calculus word problem. There are no hidden messages in the Bible, it is not Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon if you play it backwards you get a gnarly message from the underworld

5. Anyone. No one knows says Jesus, so that probably means no one knows. Like zilch, nada, zip, and zero. If someone tells you they know the end that means they are saying Jesus was lying, and I wouldn’t stand too close to them, especially in a thunder storm.

While there are many passage about the end, Matthew 24 gives us the best signs to get ready. So what have we learned? Wars don’t mean anything, the gospel will make a global trip, people will start saying they are Jesus, and Jesus will actually come. Jesus gives us these vague clues about the end not so that we can study them and only the really clever can decipher the end date, but so that we will be always ready. Let’s face it the end could come today, and that is the point of Jesus message, always be ready. If we love God and rest on the forgiving power of Jesus than come what may cruel world, whether now, tomorrow, or in 2012. I am heading to the same place either way, and God is still good!