Power vs Poverty

•August 20, 2009 • 6 Comments

I must admit that I know very little about the reasons for poverty or its solutions.  What is even sadder is that I have not even begun to apply what I already know.  As I begin to read about poverty and how Jesus interacted with the poor and rejected, I am also searching my heart to find both why I haven’t gotten involved before and how I should begin.

I am also learning that it is easy to “help” with the wrong motives and with broken results.  For instance, at a macro scale, aid money given to poor countries is sometimes used as a way to control that country.  I will give you this money to feed your people if you will stop x (producing a certain product, harboring so and so, etc.).  In the same way, aid money is rarely given for the purpose of helping a country achieve economic wealth.  More often than not it is simply a drop in the bucket that makes the donors look good but does little to alleviate the REAL problems.  This cycle is difficult to break because is allows those with power to look good while avoiding the risk that another power will arise.

On an individual level, we are just as guilty of using acts of charity for our own interests.  It makes us feel really great to give 5 bucks to the homeless guy on the corner, but that gift has little impact and does more to boost our own egos than to bring about change in his life.  What is more, the gift may well given be out of a desire to be relieved of guilt than to care for that person.

When we toss money at people who are hurting, we assume that they have no power, no voice, no value.  We must stop giving as a means of self-aggrandizement or a way to exercise power.  If we were instead to love the poor much in the same way Jesus did, then we would talk with them and find out their real needs.  We would sacrifice to see them made whole.  We would see them as valuable and give them opportunities to contribute to alleviating their own need and becoming productive members of their communities.

Have you seen instances of people helping to care for the long-term needs of individuals, valuing them and walking along side?  Please share.

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Meditation

•August 13, 2009 • 1 Comment

I’ve always been drawn to and scared of by the idea of meditation.  There is something profound and true about the idea, but it is equally daunting.  Perhaps it is so frightening because it is unknown, like death.  It’s easy to get the idea that you never know what you might find staring back at you when you enter in.  Some say it is the secret to a spiritual life.  Others decry it as a gateway to demon possession or eastern mysticism.

Let’s be clear.  Jesus meditated.  The Psalms implore us to meditate.  The prophets no doubt spent countless hours in meditation.  What then is the big deal?  The problem is that our modern concept of meditation is distorted by the New Age worldview.  It is seen as psychedelic and mushy.  Our concept is also shaped by the Eastern concept that nothingness and everything are one and the same.  The goal of meditation in that culture is to empty the mind and to become one with the cosmic forces.  Richard foster shares, “Detachment is the final goal of Eastern religion.  Christian meditation goes far beyond the notion of detachment. […]  No, detachment is not enough; we must go on to attachment.”  We clear out the rustling around us and in our minds so that we can give ourselves to God freely.

For a follower of Christ, meditation is crucial.  It is not psychological manipulation.  It is not simply a means to conquering fear or centering one’s thoughts.  It is time focused on God and God alone.  It creates space for God to shape us.  Have you experienced this kind of meditation?  What was it like in practice?

TV vs Radio

•August 4, 2009 • 2 Comments

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I am by most standards a moderately conservative modern; however, this post could be evidence that I am a liberal luddite. First, I deem radio programs to be far superior to television. My two favorite entertainment shows are radio shows (“This American Life” and “Radio Lab“). Because of the restrictions of radio (no visuals) the creators must be especially clever.

I also choose to get my news on the radio because it is concise yet thorough. Which brings me to my next point. I listen to the news programs that run on public radio, like “The World” and “Fresh Air.” When I tell this to my conservative friends they often make me feel like a traitor for listening to “liberal radio.” I find these radio programs to be the most balanced news sources among all sources video, audio, print or otherwise. Furthermore, I find Rush Limbaugh and Michael Savage to be among the least balanced, least thoughtful people in all of the world. Yelling and name calling are in no way akin to presenting a logical argument.

So the whole point of this post is this:
1. Friends, please give radio a chance.
2. Conservative comrades, please step up your game. Please find a way to use the media of your choice to share a credible, compelling story that represents our values.

Following Jesus

•July 30, 2009 • 13 Comments

I am reading a book by Dallas Willard called “The Great Omission” and it is causing me to search my own heart. See, I have been content to be a believer and neglected to follow, leaving everything behind. In Christ’s time, he called others to leave their occupations and families to travel with him and learn from him. This was not uncommon for a rabbi (teacher) to call disciples to leave behind their former lives for the privilege of learning. In our time, we are not in the same position since Christ is not physically walking the cities teaching. However, we are not called to a lesser sacrifice. We must follow Him with regard for nothing else but becoming like him. That does not mean we should not care for our health or our families. On the contrary, when we are chasing him we are more acutely aware of our need to care for our bodies and love our families.

I have somehow bought into the lie that it is good enough to believe in Christ, to accept his free gift of salvation, and then go about life as usual. Someone may object: “But you know Scripture, you are a seminary student and a pastor. Plus, you are a man of morals.” You must know that all of these things come easy to me. I know Scripture because it was taught to me as a child. I have studied in seminary because I love to learn and I am a pastor. The people I find in my close circles value morals. My father is a pastor. This is the life I know. The same can not be said for many.

For most, the life you see on the external of my persona is very difficult. However, being a radical follower of Christ is equally difficult for all. It requires true desire and sacrifice. Believing in Jesus and trusting him to forgive me is one thing. But isn’t it impossible to trust Christ for salvation, but to neglect trusting him with my entire life and being?

I trusted Christ as my savior when I was very young. I am just now learning to trust him as my rabbi.

Song of the Year

•July 23, 2009 • 1 Comment

Regina Spektor has been writing excellently thoughful and dry songs for a while now. It is hard to imagine how she could possible top herself after this latest album which includes what I consider to be the masterpiece of the year: “Laughing With.” Please listen carefully and think critically about the content:

http://hypem.com/track/858618

Leadership Tip

•June 1, 2009 • 2 Comments

The data used to make a decision are not always the same as the data used to explain a decision. For instance, you need to confront an individual about an issue that has become known to you as you investigate several red flags. It is not necessary to list out each of the red flags. This will only lead to an argument over inconsequential side issues. Instead, identify the one main problem and confront the issue with some focused data. Of course, before doing anything like this, search your own heart to purge any hint of pride, fear, or anger.

Gothic Architecture

•March 28, 2009 • 1 Comment

I’ve always loved Gothic architecture. It breathes and soars. It seems to grow up out of the ground. Today I learned that my very favorite piece of architecture is the Palazzo Ducale aka Doge’s Palace. Here are a few photos that I hope will inspire you.

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