Daily Archives: November 13, 2012

The Parable of the “French Fly”

A few days ago I experienced the effects of sleep deprivation, jet lag, and a broken heart all rolled into one. I found myself aboard an American Airlines trans-Atlantic flight from Paris to Dallas. I had just tearful kissed my bride of some thirty years good-bye and was making my way back home.

During the ten-hour flight one has more than enough time to think, read, and reflect. I sat next to a young man who spoke no English and his large earphone sent the message loud and clear–“just leave alone.” In fairness I was more than willing to give him his privacy because I too found myself lost in my thoughts. About five hours into the flight I had a strange experience a fly landed on my tray table. I must admit in all countless flights I have taken over the years I have never seen an insect on a flight.

As I watched the fly move about the cabin of the jetliner, I guess fatigue got the best of me because I began to reflect upon the adventure this little creature was on. For a moment let your imagination run wild with me. Imagine what was about to happen to the “French Fly” assuming it made it to DFW safe and sound. The crazy “Frenchman” boarded the plane innocently enough not realizing that he was about to take the journey of a lifetime. As my little “French Fly” buzzed the cabin he was being propelled across the Atlantic Ocean. In less than ten hours this tiny little “Frenchman” would find himself in Texas.

Assuming our “French Fly” spoke fluent French and you imagine the shock he would experienced as he exited the plane and made his way onto the tarmac of DFW airport only to bump into a couple of Texas Cow Flies who spoke English with a deep Texas drawl. Let’s face those good ol’ “flies” would never believe his story about waking up this morning in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower!

My “French Fly” friend stirred my theological imagination when it comes to the intersection between the sovereignty of God and the free-will of the human race. Many philosophers and theologians swing back and forth between these two great theological poles. Yet my little French friend illustrated the journey of life. When one entrusts his or her life to the LORD it is very much like climbing aboard a jetliner bound for destinations unknown. Once aboard one is bound for the destination determined by the pilot. During the flight one is free to buzz about the cabin with apparent freedom yet the whole while heading for the final destination determined by the pilot. As I see it during the flight I am free to be “me” while all the time God carrying me along to my final destination.

Simply put I believe I am free and God is sovereign. Neither contradicts the other. Reality and truth reveal themselves in the tension. In the world of theology and often in life “either/or” thinking narrows the vision while “both/and” thinking broadens the horizons.

In Luke 15 Jesus tells three stories to illustrate the storyline of salvation. In the first two stories he tells of a shepherd looking for a lost sheep and a woman searching for a lost coin. His basic simple point: “God is looking for the lost.” God is the key actor in the drama of salvation. God is sovereign. In the third and final story, Jesus tells of a lost son who comes to his senses and returns home to the arms of his who waited and waited on the porch for his repentance. His basic simple point: “Salvation comes to those who chose to come home in humble repentance.” Repentant sinner is the key actor in salvation. Did Jesus’ confuse his illustrations? Or did Jesus pull back the curtain and reveal the “tension” of revealed truth? I believe the latter.

Years ago I climbed aboard a jetliner headed for parts unknown. Most of my days I think my choices are making all the difference about where I am going to end up, but deep inside I know there is a hand at work within me and all around me that guides me home. This truth calms my storms and grants me peace.

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Petraeus Affair: Hard Lessons for Leaders

The public fall of General David Petraeus sent shock waves through the nation, especially the military community. Petraeus represent for all Americans what was good and right about “citizen soldiers” of the United States. From all accounts he talked the talk and walked the walk. Then suddenly his reputation came crashing down around his feet. A lifetime of service and sacrifice for a grateful nation tarnish by incredible poor judgment.

Just days ago, Newsweek ran an article praising the general for his leadership and example. His principles of humble leadership called the readers to a higher standard. His first and foremost principle of leadership stated:

“Lead by example from the front of the formation. Take your performance personally—if you are proud to be average, so too will be your troops.”

Can you imagine how much these words–though true to the core–must haunt General Petraeus as he wrestles with the aftermath of violating his own core beliefs. I fear all of us who live in the public light and on the stage know all too well the struggles of living up to the standards and virtues we lay on the shoulders of others. Years ago during my doctoral studies I participated in a seminar on “The Private Life of a Public Person.” We dug deep into the motivations and actions of those who live in the spotlight while President Clinton lived out the scandal and shame of his moral failures in the White House.

The writer of Proverbs centuries before noted in military terms the dangers of having a lack of self-control. He wrote:

“Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control.” Proverbs 25:28 NIV

Discipline and self-control protect us from ourselves. The sinful nature stirs deep within the heart and only a fool would believe he or she cannot fall. The old Puritan John Owen warned: “Be killing sin or it will be killing you.” For years this quote hung above a study desk as a constant reminder that my enemy within and without plays for keeps.

Pray for General Petraeus and his family. His fall need not be the final word on his life and career, nor does it negate all the good he has accomplished with his life, but his fall warns us all to guard our hearts with all vigilence lest we too fall.

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