Stuff Christians Need to Stop Saying #8

February 24, 2010 by cloften  
Filed under Family and Parenting

Do you ever wonder if the producer of a series is just phoning it in?  We aren’t even trying anymore.  We just want something out there to see if people will be a part.  For example, at what point did the Police Academy people stop caring?  Would it surprise anyone that there were 7 Police Academy movies and then a TV series?  At what point did you lose track?  (Side note: Do you think Sharon Stone considers P.A. 4 to be her “big break”?)  At what point were the producers just saying, “Get that big football player, the tall lady from Laverne and Shirley, the crazy dude who likes guns, the little guy from SNL, and that dude that makes the funny noises and let’s go?” (For heavens sake, even Bobcat Goldthwait quit after the 4th)

We at never stop caring. (cue the music)

Set-up: Someone needs some kind of assistance from you personally or from the church.  They don’t seem to be “doing enough” to make their situation better.  They are looking for advice or help.

Response: God helps those who help themselves.

Attention Everyone.  Yes, all four of you who are reading this.  That is not in the Bible.  Repeat, that is not in the Bible.  Even if you disagree with everything else that is said here, at least stop saying, “You know the Bible says, God helps those who help themselves.”  You may still believe it to be true, but it is not, is not, is not in the Bible.

Anywho, some may think that this is a direct contradiction to the early SCNTSS #2, Let Go and Let God. Cloften, either we need to let go and let God do it or we have to realize that we’ve got to help ourselves and then God will help us.  It’s either/or.  However, if there is a theme to SCNTSS, it is we need to stop having an overly-simplistic approach to our faith and recognize that walking with God is more complex than any bumper sticker or series of bumper stickers that may be out there.

The Bible makes it pretty clear that the best help that God offers comes when we cannot help ourselves:

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Romans 5:6

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.  Ephesians 2:4-5

It doesn’t get much more helpless than “powerless” and “dead.”  God loved us not because of the initiative that we took toward him.  God loved us in spite of the fact that we were powerless and helpless.  Then the charge that God gives us is to love people as we have been loved.  We don’t love, serve and help people after they have done everything that they can do.  We love and serve all people, regardless.  The groups of people, widows and orphans and aliens, that seem to be most on God’s heart were the helpless in the society.  Over and over again, God calls on us to love and help them, because they are helpless.

If I were going to wait for the discussion, someone would say, but what about. . .? Then they would construct a scenario about someone begging for money and wanting a free handout.  They then take that money and buy drugs and then they come back saying that want more for milk for their baby.  He could work, but he doesn’t.  What about that?

Help that person.  Love that person.  Serve that person.  Do not withhold your support until they meet your arbitrary standard of them “helping themselves.”  Does that mean you give in to every request? No, but you are obligated to love, serve and help them.  It’s the same way we typically parent.  We don’t meet every request they have on their terms, but we work to meet every need they have.  Sometimes we need to encourage them to work, take initiative, etc.  But still that is you helping, before they are helping themselves.

We do not want to hold people to a higher standard than God holds us.  There are many relevant passages that speak against that including, “Judge not, lest ye be judged.”  (Don’t you love how some verses can only be quoted KJV).  However, by the time we get to #12, you won’t be allowed to misuse that phrase either,even though it is in the Bible.  Well, especially because it is in the Bible.

Pastors, Tiger Woods and “Privacy”

February 19, 2010 by cloften  
Filed under Family and Parenting

In the interest of full disclosure, you should know that I have been rooting against Tiger Woods for about 13 years now.  I actively watch golf, especially the major championships.  I remember him winning his first Masters and many more tournaments since then.  Why would I root against him?  At some point I will blog about my philosophy about whom I root for and why.  For now, here are two of the top principles on the list.  I do not root for the person or team that wins all the time.  I do not root for whom the media tells me I should be.  Suffice to say, if you are over-hyped and win a lot, you can imagine that I will root against you and your team.   I say all of that, because most of my friends know this and will think that this post comes from that.  It does not.

I am struck by the calls from Tiger’s defenders and Tiger himself for his desire and right for privacy.  Even listening to the radio this morning, Bob Steele on KARN was getting lambasted for even talking about it.  “This is a private matter.”  “This is between him and his wife.”  “This isn’t even news.” 

I understand some of that, I suppose.  But I look at this from a completely different angle.  I know what it is like to be a public figure.  Nowhere near to the degree that Tiger Woods does, of course.  But on a much smaller scale, I do know.  All pastors know what I am talking about.  People always recognize you.  People recognize you and you don’t know who they are.  Those same people are always watching everything.  “What is he doing over there, sitting at McDonalds on his computer?”

Do I deserve privacy?  Do I deserve to be able to walk around Wal-Mart anonymously?  Do I deserve the right to have a life that is private?  What right do people have to know what is going on in my life?   With my wife, Heidi?  With my daughters, Maylee and Lauren who are 12 and 9 and are prominently pictured on the front page of my website?  Do people have the right to critique my parenting skills about which I blog on a regular basis and use to encourage other people?  (Hopefully, you by now, see the ridiculous way this is going)

I gave up the right to anonymity when I made the choice to enter a profession that put me in the public view.  I give it up even more when I talk about my life in a sermon.  I give it up further when I publish parts of my life and then post links encouraging people to read what I have written.  My livelihood depends on my reputation.

So what happens when a celebrity, sports figure, or pastor fails?  Do we get to invoke the privacy card?  The very same reputation that I need to have to do what I do is now gone.  Is it unfair that people would judge me?  Celebrities, sports figures, and yes pastors don’t seem to mind as long as they hear the cheers and cash the checks, but when it turns…?

Are we a celebrity-obsessed culture?  Yes.  Do we have too high of expectations of the sports figures we love?  Yes.  Do most pastors live in an unhealthy fishbowl also with unreasonable expectations?  Yes.  However, the time to complain about it is not when it starts working against us.  If this is not what we want, get out.  Better yet, don’t fail.  Be in your private life who you say you are in your public life. 

(That’s good advice, even if you are not a celebrity, sports figure or pastor)

****addendum, post Tiger’s prepared statement

There was a lot in that statement.  As a public speaker, I analyze things very differently.  He is not a great public speaker, so it would be unfair to read too much into his inflection, tone, body language, etc.  I am tempted to say a lot here, but I want to keep it on the topic addressed in the post. 

He did not make a desperate appeal for his own privacy, which is good.  He did make a passionate appeal for the privacy of his family.  Again, not reading too much into his tone, his appeal was angry.  Humble would have been better.  “I have failed, they don’t deserve this.  Please, leave them alone.  Harass me, but please give them some space.  They need that.”  He is right in saying that he has protected them from the public eye, mostly.  They are a part of his image, and he did bring them out.  He is their protector and defender.  He brought them into the spotlight, and it his responsibility to protect them.  Every paparazzi picture and salacious article is his fault, fair or not.  Now, humbly ask for help and support from the media.  Then we will turn against the media, and this can die slowly.

  I give the whole thing a C+,kinda what I expected.

Stuff Christians Need to Stop Saying #3

February 10, 2010 by cloften  
Filed under Family and Parenting

So after an overwhelming successful first episode and a moderately successful second, what do you to keep the franchise going in episode 3?  Most franchises will just wrap up the story.  Done well–Lord of the Rings, Return of the Jedi.  Done not so well–Back to the Future, Revenge of the Sith (My brother and I disagree on both of these).  You can also just overwhelm your 3rd episode with every conceivable villain and destroy the franchise– Batman Forever (The verdict is still out on Spiderman 3. It did the same thing.)  You can give up and let monkeys write the script–Superman III (Part of me wants to put Godfather III here but I kinda liked it).  Finally, you can introduce Mr. T to the world and dominate–Rocky III.

What does this have to do with this post?  Nothing.  Let’s move on.

Set-up:  You or another Christian have been exposed in some way as hypocritical and not living up to the ideals of Christian living.  (Or you could simply be looking for a cutesy, quippy (it’s back!) bumper sticker or cross stitch pattern)

Response:  Christians aren’t perfect.  They are just forgiven.

It’s hard for me to really imagine that someone would actually say this out loud.  I know that I have seen the bumper sticker, but surely no one has actually said this.  What is the context?  What argument were you trying to win? What point are you trying to make?

Let’s break this down.  First of all, there is really nothing theologically wrong with either part of the statement.  Christians are not perfect–agreed.  Christians are forgiven–agreed.  So it is a true statement, but the question is why do you say it?  If you are saying this to yourself or a Christian friend, in order to protect yourself or your friend from the trappings of perfectionist legalism, then OK.

However, it would seem that it is used more as a “Get Out of Jail Free” card to innoculate Christians from criticism when we fail morally.  “Well, we never claimed to be perfect.”  That is all well and good unless we are conistently condemning the world around us for not living up to our standards, and then if we fail, we start waving the “forgiven card” around as if that makes our failings OK. 

What we should say should if we are the ones who have been busted is something along the lines of “I’m sorry.  I’m embarassed.  Will you forgive me?”  If it is some public figure, “I’m disappointed.  I hate it when we don’t live up to the standards God has for us.”  We are not perfect, but our forgiveness is not license or a pass.  If you want to say something quippy say, “Be patient, God isn’t finished with me yet.”  At least there is some implied humility in that statement.

(Deep breath)  Listen, I don’t want anyone to feel they have to be perfect, or worse, pretend to be perfect.  However, God is calling us up to be better, to be more like His Son.  The forgiveness he offers always gives us one more chance, but we should not, can not take that lightly.  We certainly can not view it as a license or permission for sin.  Instead, let the grace and love that he shows us motivate us to have a heart of gratitude and to be people that hear him say, “Well, done, good and faithful servant.” Matt 25:14-30