Election Reflections

Hey Everybody –

Well, it’s finally over. There are a lot of thoughts swirling around in my head, as I’m sure there are with you too. I’ve tried to weed out all my emotions (which is hard to do!!) and give you my reaction to the outcome of the election. I’ll start with what I believe is the bad news, and then give you what I think is the good news.

First, anyone who knows me knows that I’m not a doomsdayer. I have been and will continue to always be optimistic about everything, even irrationally so! However, it would be a little naïve to ignore the fact that the outcome of this election presents increasing challenges, especially in the area of religious liberty as our country lurches more to the left. This post from Ed Stetzer, a hero in our church planting circles, illustrates it well. However, here are several things that deeply concern me:

  1. The legalization of same-sex marriage. We know that President Obama supports same-sex marriage  and with his reelection the path to further legalization of it becomes that much easier. Also, for the first time, several states approved legislation allowing same-sex marriage at the ballot box, not merely in the courtroom. At this rate it’s only a matter of time before other states will adopt similar laws, which will have all kinds of unforeseen consequences. One of them is in the area of clergy, you know, guys like me. Could I be sued for discrimination if I refuse to perform a same-sex wedding? What if I speak out against it on a Sunday morning in church? Will that be considered “hate speech” as it was accused of being so in Canada? After Tuesday, for the first time I can honestly see us going down that road, maybe not right away, but we’re getting closer.

    What about our men and women in uniform? One high-ranking military chaplain I spoke with less than two weeks ago told me he and other chaplains are concerned they will soon be forced to perform same-sex weddings. If that happens, he says, then you can expect to see a great exodus of Christian chaplains from the military, as they will not violate their consciences. So elections have consequences.

  2. The implementation of the new health care law will present another set of challenges that have already hit both Christian and Catholic organizations. My alma mater, Biola University, is suing the federal government because the law will force them to provide abortion-inducing drugs. The Catholic Church is suing the federal governmentbecause they will be compelled to provide birth control, something they are theologically opposed to doing.

    The point? Once again, we see the long arm of the federal government regulation infringing on religious liberties. This is an inarguable fact. What will that mean for churches? Could we be in a position where we are forced to pay for medical procedures and drugs that violate our convictions? We don’t know yet, because so much is unknown about this law. But, elections have consequences.

  3. New economic realities. While I’m not a CEO, I have sat at the helm of two non-profit organizations over the past ten years and have carried the burden of the bottom line. I say a little “thank you” to God (and sometimes breathe a sigh of relief!) at each payroll because I know our employees are able to make ends meet and build a life that is rewarding and fulfilling for themselves and their families. That is a beautiful thing.

    The vast majority of business owners out there are trying to simply succeed and have enough to continue doing what they love. But when it’s all on your shoulders you learn pretty quickly that a dollar is a dollar, and the less of it you have the fewer people you can hire, the less you can advertise, and the less generous you’re able to be. Money doesn’t fall out of the sky, not even in churches! That’s why I’m concerned about reports of pretty significant tax hikes coming down the pike that I see will prevent businesses from expanding, and I fear many people will remain unemployed. My heart aches for you if you’re in that spot, and I would hope that these new economic realities do not continue to contribute to your hardship.

So that’s the doom and gloom part. Here’s the good part:

  1. Christians have an amazing opportunity to display the beauty of Jesus and living in the Kingdom. I don’t think anybody woke up yesterday on either side and said, “I want what’s WORSE for the country!” Most of us want justice, peace, and love. We just have different ideas of getting there.

    Take the folks who voted to legalize pot.  I don’t get that, but I bet those people said, “Well, I just want to get the peaceful feeling of the good weed without worrying about the cops.” Okay.

    But our peace is better! Our peace is found in the Kingdom of God, where he rules over our anxieties, our conflicts, our anger, and our stress! The bottom line is, the Kingdom of God is more beautiful than pot!! And if they’re both going to be legal, then my job is to try to stay out of your second-hand smoke, but get near enough to show you a greater beauty!

    This kind of thing is going to have to translate into every domain of life. The reason I keep using the word “beauty” is because that’s what the kingdom brings. Everything God touches, he makes beautiful. He restores and brings out the best in it.  Sin, on the other hand, brings ugliness. Atheism celebrates nothingness. Secularism is bland and boring, because it has no message and can’t offend anyone. You take a Christmas display out of a government building, what do you replace it with? Nothing! You yank the Ten Commandments off the wall at a school, what do you replace them with? Nothing! It’s not the exchange of one type of beauty for another – it’s the exchange of beauty for nothing.

    So here we are, in a culture that desperately needs to see real expressions of the beauty of the Kingdom. If you always wanted to know what it is like to be a missionary, well, congratulations… you are!

  2. The local church is the hope of the world! I went to bed Tuesday night so grateful that I’m a part of the Capital “C” Church. The thing is, politics can’t produce inner transformation – only Jesus can do that! And when inner transformation occurs, life by life, family by family, street by street, then the society lifts. I mean, who wouldn’t want to govern a people who do their work “unto the Lord,” who “render to Caesar what is Caesar’s,” and who “seek the peace and prosperity” of the land they are in? What politician has ever even thought of slashing a law enforcement budget because (sorry, my police friends) we just don’t need as many officers out there – there’s hardly any crime, because people are being ruled by Christ.

    Listen, if you want to make a difference for the better (and I believe we all do, no matter what side we’re on) you should be so PUMPED you are a part of a church that really wants to help people become more like Jesus. What better vehicle could you be involved with for true cultural transformation?

  3. If there was ever a time to be a disciple, not merely a Christian, it is now! There is a difference. A Christian is anyone who identifies with the Christian faith, goes to church once in a while, and may even have a fish on their bumper. But a disciple is a follower, an apprentice, a student. They live in the shadow of God constantly. They are always asking themselves, “How would Jesus live my life if he were the one living it?”

    This might be a great time for you to decide to stop merely identifying yourself as a Christian and truly begin to be radically committed to following Jesus. As the world gets darker, you will only shine brighter.

So for those who are disappointed, keep your chin up! I think our best days are ahead of us, I really do! Don’t forget to pray for our President, that God blesses him with wisdom and the ability to make the best decisions for our country. Don’t give up on our country, and now, more than ever, let’s love our city!!


Sunday Reflections

Today was awesome at both Compass campuses. At Goodyear the worship team did a killer rendition of “As the Deer” – which to be honest I was pretty skeptical about at first. But they rocked it up and even threw in a U2 blend which was a nice complement to the song.

We talked about the “Send” portion of Life360 and our text was Jeremiah 29:4-7:

“Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” 

In the story of the Israelites we can find our story. You are where you are because that is where God sent you. In an age of mobility where you can recreate yourself in any locale across America in a matter of weeks if you’ve got the will, its hard to believe that God actually sends anyone to stay anymore.

But we’re here in the West Valley to seek the welfare of our city. That means working for the peace, wholeness, health, prosperity, forgiveness, and love of this town. By the way, for those of you who were wondering where I got the shirt, you can find it here.

I had a woman come up to me and say that she and her husband have been debating whether or not to have another baby, and my sermon today sealed the deal: they’re gonna go for it. So she sent him a text during church to say the decision’s been made. I told her to say, “You’re welcome” to him for me! You see, the Bible always says that kids are good – they bring new life and they bring old lives together. Therefore we should never be afraid of bringing more of them into the world.

That is the subject of another issue altogether. God’s first command to humans was to be fruitful and multiply, and yet we’ve come up with 1,000 reasons to be afraid of parenthood and of “filling the earth.” As to the fears of overpopulation, all you’ve got to do is take a flight from Phoenix to anywhere and you’ll see plainly that we’re not going to run out of space anytime soon. But for those who don’t trust their eyes or their common sense, there is a wonderful book by Ben Wattenberg called Fewer that will scare you to death. Basically our population is on target to level off and by the end of the century start to drop, dramatically. That might be welcome news for our ecologically-minded misanthropic friends out there, but its terrible for anyone who is interested in a tax, customer, or employment base. It’s hard to be a teacher when there’s no one to teach. It’s hard to be an orthodontist when there’s no one who needs braces. But hey, the earth would be great if it weren’t for the people, right?

But I digress. Another woman came up to me and said she was wondering whether or not she should move from the East Coast to Arizona after my heartfelt appeal to STAY exactly where you are and don’t “go” anywhere. I explained that for her we’d make an exception, and that she needs to move out here and help us create “zones of justice, peace, and love,” as Hirsch and Frost describe it, right here in our great West Valley.

All of this of course points to the kingdom of God, which Jesus says we should seek first. Several books about mission and the kingdom that have impacted me greatly I was able to reference today. The first is called The Faith of Leap by Alan Hirsch and Michael Frost, and the second is called The Mission of God by Christopher Wright. The key quote from The Faith of Leap:

“A key issue for any group willing to embrace the risk and adventure of mission is to dare to believe that they have been sent to stay home. That is, that home might be the very best place for them to serve and that the missionary call to “Go” might still apply, but it is a going deeper, not a going away. It is being sent in to every arena, domain, and context of life, not simply geographical moves. Sentness is an identity thing.”

The key quote from The Mission of God:

“It is not so much the case that God has a mission for his church in the world but that God has a church for his mission in the world. Mission was not made for the church; the church was made for mission – God’s mission.”

There’s a lot to be said for staying in one place and letting the long term results of your labor take root for the glory of God. There’s nothing wrong with moving around (I’ve done it plenty), but I’m in a phase of life where I feel God challenging me to stay and see what he can accomplish through me, my family, and our church over time. Anyone can say they’re going to change the world – it’s a lot harder to think about changing your street. But that’s where the imagination comes in, because there are specific needs and opportunities that God might just be calling us to address.

For me, I want to draw the lines in tight for a while, focus on the place that God has called me, and see how the kingdom might flow out of me through love, mercy, justice, and peace shown to my city.

Tonight I’m headed downtown to a friend’s church to sit on a Q&A panel. Here are some of the questions I was told to prepare for:

  1. Are there venial and mortal sins?
  2. If the Mars landrover “curiosity” discovers evidence that life once inhabited that planet– does it argue against the Christian worldview that life on Earth is  unique and special?
  3. How do we as Christians believe in a Bible that has so many discrepancies?
  4. Will our pets be in heaven?
  5. God is the creator of ALL things–so why does he create things like satan, fear, anxiety?
  6. Why has the Church had a problem with women in leadership roles?
  7. In Romans what does Paul mean when he says that Pharoah was created for wrath?
  8. If the discovery of the Higgs-Bosen particle is accurate, then does that demonstrate that we no longer need to appeal to God to explain the universe?
  9. Did Adam and Eve have belly buttons?

How fun will that be?

Why I Eat Paleo

Since October 2011, I have been (almost) strictly following what is known as the “Paleo” diet (pronounced PALE-e-oh). Of course its not really a “diet” as much as a lifestyle. While there are several different definitions of what constitutes Paleo, it can be best described as a “hunter-gatherer” diet. In other words, meat, vegetables, nuts, and some fruit. Thus, your typical staple crops: corn, rice, wheat, and potatoes are off limits. The Crossfit site describes it well:

In plain language, base your diet on garden vegetables, especially greens, lean meats, nuts and seeds, little starch, and no sugar. That’s about as simple as we can get. Many have observed that keeping your grocery cart to the perimeter of the grocery store while avoiding the aisles is a great way to protect your health. Food is perishable. The stuff with long shelf life is all suspect. If you follow these simple guidelines you will benefit from nearly all that can be achieved through nutrition.

Two events contributed to the adoption this diet: a) joining Crossfit Fury and, b) reading Robb Wolf’s The Paleo Solution: The Original Human Diet.

It was surprising to walk into Crossfit Fury last Fall for the first time and read the phrase “No Sugar!” as a dietary axiom. Equally as surprising was the claim that steak, eggs, shellfish, and bacon (really?) are on the list of stuff you can eat. The folks at Fury recommended The Paleo Solution so Judi and I got a copy and read it, ironically, on a cruise ship the following week (talk about a conflict of interest!).

Since then, we have (for the most part) been “eating Paleo.” Here are my findings:

1) My intestines are no longer demon-possesed. Before going Paleo, I religiously ate a large bowlful of steel-cut oatmeal every day. No frills, by the way: just oats, salt, and raisins. That’s it. I kicked the soda habit a long time ago, and I tried to limit my red meat intake to maybe once or twice a week. I’ve been in decent shape over the past few years, doing a lot of running and faithfully hitting the gym.

But while I looked fine on the outside (not fine as in hot, but fine as in decent), the truth is my insides were a mess. Without going into too much detail, let’s just say I had an extremely fast metabolism. I was going to the bathroom all the time, and in between trips I basically felt like I had swallowed Mt. Vesuvius. I’m a little ADD, Type-A, and whatever else attempts to explain hyperactive behavior, so I figured that my intestines were just an expression of my life. But since I’ve switched to the Paleo diet the volcano has gone dormant, my digestive system feels great, and I can assure you everything is functioning as it should!

2) My vitals are good. Heart rate, blood pressure, cholesterol, and weight are all good. I’m hovering around 150 lbs., 30 pounds lighter than I was back in my early thirites when I wasn’t working out and eating lots of fries. I’m 15 lbs. down from where I was before I started eating Paleo and doing Crossfit, and I’ve gained muscle.

3) You don’t have to “roll me out” of a restaurant anymore. Our family went to IHOP recently and I ordered the bacon wrapped steak fillets. Most people would say that’s committing suicide by IHOP. However, I walked out feeling full yet not stuffed. Compare that to a stack of pancakes lathered with whipped cream and strawberry topping, hot chocolate and hash browns. Talk about a sugar coma. I’ve done that before, and all I can do afterward is lament the gluttony as I struggle to take a breath!

4) Sugar has lost it luster. I don’t “crave” sugar like I used to. Soda holds no power over me, nor does pasta, bread, or most desserts. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll have a piece of cake at my kids birthday party, and self-serve yogurt is a great “cheat” once in a while. But when I go to Starbucks, I have no desire for a mocha or a Frappucino (an occasional sip of my kids’ will do). Give me black coffee, no cream or sugar – just as God intended!

5) I still eat some dairy because I’m actually trying to gain weight. Super-strict Paleo frowns upon milk and cheese (eggs are okay, but not too many of those either). Milk is a rarity for me, but cheese, especially on a Protein-Style Double-Double (or the “Flying Dutchman”) from In-N-Out, is a must!

6) Breakfast can be interesting when you eat Paleo. I have a lot of bacon eggs for breakfast, but the experts warn to not go too crazy on either. They also recommend cage free Omega-3 eggs and all-natural bacon free of hormones. But there are other options I’ve learned to love: salad, chili (there are some great paleo chili recipes), and whatever was left over from last night’s dinner. I know, it sounds awful at first, but I’ve learned to love it!

7) My recovery time is quicker between workouts. When you’re eating clean you’re not housing all that processed material in your body. While Crossfit sometimes just beats my 38-year old body up, I’m doing myself a favor by feeding it stuff that helps my muscles heal and grow (well, at least heal!)

8) You don’t have to be an evolutionist to embrace the Paleo diet. My research and common sense prevent me from believing in the “goo to you by way of the zoo” view of life. So I’m not out to live like a caveman. God told Noah after the flood, “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything.” (Genesis 9:3). Then, in the New Testament, God gives Peter the Apostle the freedom to eat that which had been called unclean by the Law of Moses. Further, my Christian worldview provides the reasoning for improvement of all areas of life, including our understanding of nutrition. If scientific research supports the Paleo diet, that doesn’t mean my great grandma to the 100th power was a knuckle-dragging mouth-breather.

7) Here are some Paleo-friendly options that fit with a busy lifestyle:

  • Chipotle – I get the bowl, double meat, substituting vegetables for rice and beans.
  • In-N-Out – As mentioned above, protein style (meaning no bun)
  • Cobb Salads – most run of the mill restaurants have them.

So there you have it. Because the only thing unchanging in all the universe is God, I expect our understanding of nutrition to ebb and flow as the years unfold and research persists. But as a believer in man’s ability to discover truth, hopefully the swaying pendulum will lead us closer to the center of what is best for us, so we can feel better, live longer, and most importantly, bring glory to God in all that we do.

A New Day, A New Blog

On vacation and finally got inspired to kick off a new blog. Thoughts, pictures, and other stuff to come soon. My byline is a reflection of the above picture, taken at my graduation from Dallas Seminary last year. I’m off to the far right, in the dark shirt.

Our human nature draws us to extremes… to have either a delusion of grandeur or wallow in self-pity. This picture reminds me to avoid both. I’m not the center of the universe, but I am part of the complete picture.