Thoughts From Pastor Tim – Week of August 12-18

Note: The following is a copy of the weekly email that hits the inboxes of everyone who attends Compass Church and who don’t mind reading my bunkum.

The theme of this “thoughts” installment is: Deadlines – A love-hate relationship. After lots of thinking, typing, rethinking and retyping, today I hit the “send” button on the first draft of our “Reach 101” class that will kick off our Life360 initiative. Life360 is our Spiritual Development Pathway – our intentional effort of making disciples (you know, turning atheists into missionaries, agnostics into apologists, and skeptics into martyrs!).

Well, I can tell you this: without the deadline it wouldn’t be done… some other priority would have gotten in the way. I’ll admit, there were times that I thought, “This is an artificial deadline… arbitrarily set by our staff. Who cares? What are they going to do, fire me?”

But we all know it’s so-called “little things” that matter. In fact, it really comes down to credibility, which, as these guys put it, can be defined as: DWYSYD – Do What You Say You Will Do.

Credibility is a powerful trait – I like to think of it as integrity in action. When you do what you say you will do, you bring peace to the soul of everyone you encounter. How’s that? Well, because they know that at the end of the day you’re going to show up. You’re not gonna flake, you’re won’t bail, be late, make excuses, “forget,” or do anything else but exactly what you promised, for better or worse. That brings substance to your word and stability to your life and the lives of those who depend on you.

In Proverbs we’re told, “A person who promises a gift but doesn’t give it is like clouds and wind that bring no rain.” (Prov. 25:14). Our word is a gift promised, and we should be careful before offering it.

So this is where deadlines come in and where morality can tend to get fuzzy – at least for me. You see, in a real sense, credibility is service to those in our lives, and in an indirect way it is love. It’s fighting our own laziness, distraction, and complacency so that someone else can enjoy the benefit of our word, rather than experience the disappointment of us not living up to it.

In saying this I run the risk of sounding self-congratulatory. After all, the whole idea came up because I met a deadline and I made no bones about reminding everyone that I am awesome. But the truth is, sadly, I think I surprised myself; and the feeling of satisfaction that I got from not only being done but, really, honoring my word, was enough to make me want to write about it.

So who’s counting on you this week? Is there an opportunity to surprise them (as I may have undoubtedly surprised some of our staff today) by delivering, exactly the way you said you would? Can punctuality and follow-through be free gifts to those who are relying on you.

So you’ll be at Compass this Sunday, right? Good. I believe you.

Blessings,

Pastor Tim

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A Little Back-to-School Kick in the Rear

It’s that time of year again for millions of children nationwide: the dreaded “school” night, followed by waking up late, chasing the bus, downing mystery meat in the cafeteria, and plowing through homework.

So if you’re a kid, a parent, or just a plain old adult, now would be a fine time to kick in a little motivation! Thus, a few pearls to inspire you to git-r-done:

1) No more excuses! I like Proverbs 22:13 – “The sluggard says, ‘There is a lion outside! I shall be killed in the streets!'” We can always find reasons to avoid doing what we should. This guy is saying, “Hey, I don’t want to go out, I could get killed by a lion!” But lions need to be tamed. What is the “lion” that’s keeping you inside? What is your excuse? It could be fear, laziness, pride, lack of money, time, or just a little imagination. We’ve got too many things to keep us distracted “inside” all day long… get rid of those excuses and go out and make it happen!

2) Don’t “take it easy.” When I was in a residency at Dallas Theological Seminary, working on my doctorate, I roomed with a guy named Ed Choy. Ed and I hit it off right away, which meant we were already making fun of each other just hours after meeting. One morning I was facing an entire day in the library doing nothing but research. While leaving the dorm, I said, “Take it easy, Ed.” He responded with, “Okay, work hard Tim.”

I had never heard a reply like that before. I mean, honestly, when has “work hard” been acceptable way of saying goodbye?  But Ed’s reasoning was pretty good: “Everyone always says ‘take it easy,’ as if that’s some great value. Why should I encourage you to be a slacker?”

Made sense to me. So don’t take it easy today! Bust your hide, seize every moment, attack that to-do list until you become an unstoppable force of kinetic energy!!

3) If you’re overwhelmed, you’re likely on the verge of something great. Most things worth doing, in my experience, usually follow a pattern:

  1. Initial Excitement
  2. Progress
  3. Frustration
  4. Standstill
  5. Total overwhelm-ment (is that a word?)
  6. Breakthrough
  7. Completion

Here’s what I’ve learned: Steps 1-4 take about 20% of my energy, while steps 5-7 take the remaining 80%! The fact is, its easy to start something; it’s the finishing that’ll kill ya. Seth Godin refers to it as “shipping.” At some point you’ve got to have that project done so its ready to ship (turn in, present, sell, hang on the wall, etc.). The secret is that just when you think you’re never going to make it, that’s when you’re right at the verge of breakthrough. Unfortunately, that’s also the stage that requires the most concentration, willpower, and perseverance. If you can hang in there when its all about to hit the fan, that’s when the tide is likely to turn and you’re closer than you think to victory.

4) Discipline not desire determines destiny. Yes, I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but I must credit my friend Ed once again for introducing me to this aphorism. Your aspirations are meaningless without action; they’ve gotta move to the present tense. I recently heard novelist Brad Thor interviewed on the Hugh Hewitt radio program. When Hugh asked him how he became such a prolific author, he mentioned that on his honeymoon his new bride challenged him to spend two hours a day writing his first novel. So here’s the question: Is your dream in your calendar? Have you scheduled an appointment with what you know you should be doing?

5) Set short-term goals. I learned this from Bill Hybels in his book, Axiom. He calls it “Six by Six Execution.” Basically, he sets six goals to be accomplished over a six week period. Setting yearly goals is great, but let’s be honest, where is the urgency? Six weeks forces you to get moving now. It might be hard to get something significant done in two weeks, but six weeks can really get the imagination going.

This also allows us to put the pedal to the metal for a while and then recuperate. If I can be a dissenting voice, by the way, sometimes living life in “balance” doesn’t get anything done. You gotta get a little nutty and extreme once in a while in order to make a breakthrough.

There you have it. All of this is based, of course, on the notion that as beings created in the image of God we have tremendous capacity that far exceeds our ability to catch up on whatever we DVR’d over the last few weeks. So tap into all that God’s made you and run like a mad (wo)man until you’re out of breath, and see what happens along the way!

What Came First, the Chicken or Chick-Fil-A?

I normally wouldn’t have gone to Chick-Fil-A today. Nothing against them, just don’t do a lot of fries and sweet tea. But if you’re gonna provoke a dishonest assault against freedom of expression and free enterprise, then it’s time for me to get some nuggets.

As a pastor, I haven’t campaigned against gay marriage. Instead, I have bit my tongue in an attempt to prove wrong all those who say that Christians hate homosexuals and discriminate against them. What I have said from the platform, repeatedly, is that our church is open to everybody regardless of who or what they claim to be. I happen to know for a fact that there are gays and lesbians who attend our church, and I have always treated them with love and respect, just like everyone else.

But then one day you realize that silence just isn’t going to work. The proponents of same-sex marriage are not merely content to express their opinions, but are rabidly and radically committed to extinguishing yours. Well, that’s not going to happen.

So let’s ask, what did Dan Cathy actually say? Did he say, “I hate homosexuals?” Did he say, “Homosexuals aren’t welcome at Chick-Fil-A?” Did he say, “I am absolutely against the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for same-sex couples?”

Nope. Here’s the article, from the Baptist Press. Read it for yourself. The quote that got him in trouble? Here you go: “We are very much supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that.”

Wow. What a hateful guy. But what also got him in trouble was a statement he apparently made on the radio, according to an L.A. Times article: “I think we are inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at him and say we know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage.” It was that statement which prompted the article’s author to label his  to an “outburst,” and later, “retrograde social prejudice.”

An outburst? Retrograde social prejudice? You see, I’ve learned something from having children: when you have no real argument, you inject emotion, throw around accusations, and manipulate language. My kids know how to take what I say and concoct incendiary conclusions to otherwise very lucid, normal statements. The strategy is this: when you can’t fight fair, raise the temperature and twist the truth.

That is how the supporters of same-sex marriage argue, much like my children. Here’s an example: I say, “I support traditional marriage.” They reply, “You hate homosexuals.” But I don’t hate homosexuals. Come to think of it, how dare you accuse me of such a thing. Who are you to judge my character without any knowledge of my heart or my behavior?

I say, “Marriage should be between one man and one woman.” You say, “You’re an angry, narrow-minded, backward, bigot because you don’t see it my way.” That’s the same type of hysterical reaction my 8-year old has when she’s out of rational arguments and just flat-out mad.

Take another example from The Huffington Post. The author accuses Chick-Fil-A of giving $5 million to, among other things, a “certified hate group.” A what? Who “certified” them as such? What criteria was used to “certify” their “hateful” status? Are we supposed to just accept the judgement of some unknown group upon another? But this counts as fair game for journalism.

So if we’re gonna have a fight, let’s have a fair fight. I have reasons why I believe marriage should always be recognized as one man and one woman. Here they are:

1) For the record, the traditional definition of marriage is not discriminatory against anyone. For example, neither heterosexuals nor homosexuals can marry a person of the same sex, or two people, an animal, or a close relative. As a homosexual, you have no more or less rights than a heterosexual.

2) If you alter the definition of marriage, you destroy the concept completely. If it is not between a man and a woman, then its between anyone and anyone. This is because the very logic for altering it to include homosexuals can be used to include any other arrangement. Thus, it becomes nothing and it means nothing. That is an undesirable outcome for society.

3) To alter the definition of marriage creates a horrible scenario for children. Every child should have a father and a mother. Two of me would be bad news for my kids, and quite frankly so would two of my wife. Men and women bring separate elements to the table. If you deny that then we’ve lost the ability to communicate. It is as obvious as the air we breathe. Two men or two women is not the same as a man and a woman when it comes to parenting. The counterpoint, then, is: But what about all the divorces, abusive and absent parents, and single parent households? Isn’t it better to have two healthy, loving people in the home, regardless of their gender? 

Of course there are deep problems in the execution of the traditional family model. People do selfish and evil things as parents which affect their children in a variety of ways. But problems existing in the execution of the ideal does not mean the ideal should be altered to be made more inclusive. If children don’t grow up with a mother and a father, they have missed something very important, regardless of the situation. The traditional definition of marriage affirms this ideal.

4) Then there is the theological argument. Among other things, one reason the Bible says that a man should marry a woman is because both of them bear the image of God in a unique way. When two people come together in marriage, the design is that they would each complement one another in a way that provides the complete picture of God’s masculine and feminine qualities, and do so as “one flesh.” When this works as it should, there is unspeakable beauty in it that cannot be replicated any other way. You may agree with that, you may not. But to call the position “hateful” is disingenuous and, once again, adding invective to a lucid and logical argument.

It’s not hard to be “for traditional marriage” and treat the homosexual with dignity, respect, and understanding. However, what’s good for society does not always fit the desires of the individual.

For many of the proponents of same-sex marriage, especially those who brought about what may be the best day in Chick-fil-A history, there is no real attempt to win the argument, because the argument can’t be won. They can only ultimately win the battle by name-calling, intimidating, and vilifying in an attempt to silence anyone and everyone who disagrees.

It’s easy to remain neutral and say, “There are problems on both sides.” It’s hard to take a position and say, “No, I think we can see clearly on this one.” Most people don’t have the time to voice their objection to the unjust threats to freedom of speech and free enterprise lobbed at Dan Cathy. But they gotta eat, which is why the lines are out the door at every Chick-fil-A around.