Monthly Archives: April 2016

Pass the Pizza: Presidential Politics

This week the presidential candidates turned their focus to the State of New York and the Big Apple—New York City with its primary looming just over the horizon on April 19th. Ohio Governor John Kasich had quite a week in the Empire State. In the same week he received the endorsement of the New York Times along with Hillary Clinton (which may be good news or bad news depending on how you see it) and he flunked the New York Pizza test at Gino’s Pizzeria in Queens by eating his pizza with a fork!!

Yes, this gaff made national news from Good Morning America to Politico. You can’t make this stuff up—life truly is stranger than fiction. If you step back and look at how we choose our leaders you have to wonder what we are thinking or better if we are thinking at all.  This particular political season has been mind boggling on many levels if not nauseating.

Sadly, politicians and their handlers have turn running for office into a “blood sport” with essentially no rules or healthy boundaries. It appears candidates will say and do practically anything to try to get the upper hand by sinking lower and lower into the gutter. I am not sure we have enough character to handle a Twitter feed with only 140 characters. #thinkbeforeyouhitsend.

John Maxwell, former pastor and leadership guru rightly noted: “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” I suspect all of us have found this to true from the little league coach, manager of the local fast food joint, church planter, captain of a company of soldiers to the CEO of a Fortune 500 company.

So if leadership truly makes all the difference, the selection of leaders must be of paramount importance. In the National Football League each year the coaches and general managers host a combine for college athletes seeking to play on the biggest stage in sports. Not only do they measure the speed, strength and agility of the student athletes but they also administer what they call the “Wonderlic Cognitive Ability Test” developed by Eldon F. Wonderlic, who designed this fifty question test administered in just twelve minutes to identify one’s problem solving abilities. Score low on this test and you may not ever get a chance to score on the field.

Jim Collins, who spent much of his research career analyzing great companies and great leaders made the following observations:

Great vision without great people is irrelevant…get the right people on the bus and the wrong people off the bus…In determining the right people, the good-to-great companies placed greater weight on character attributes than on specific educational background, practical skills, specialized knowledge, or work experience.”

 Yes, character counts! I liked to call it the “Big C” when my little girls were going up and facing an opportunity dressed in the disguise of a problem or challenge. I would remind them God continually seeks to instill character into those He loves and believes in. James nailed it when he wrote: Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.” (James 1:2-4 The Message)

Before we turn our attention too quickly to criticize those in leadership, we would be wise to look into the mirror of our hearts and souls. Are we, men and women of character, or do we expect qualities in our leaders that we do not expect of ourselves? Remember what Paul said: “We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5:3-5 ESV)

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(Un)apologetic

 

A few weeks ago, while standing outside the doors of our sanctuary following our Upward Basketball Celebration, a grandfather of one of the little dribblers pulled me aside to ask a question saying, “Pastor, I need your help. My grandchild asked me the other day, why does God allow tornadoes and storms to destroy homes and take the lives of people? So what do you think and what should I say?”

I must confess I would have been a bit more comfortable talking to this grandfather of a little basketball player about the advantages of zone defense vs. man-to-man defense on the court, but I knew I needed to help him navigate one of the many spiritual mine fields we face together.

So what would you say in a conversation that would last less than fifteen minutes but could actually be the basis of a graduate theological class for an entire semester? Before I share how I replied, let me fast forward to another conversation after a recent church service where I preached on the two most important people who have ever lived—Adam and Jesus. With a big smile on his face one of our members inquired, “Where did Adam’s sons get their wives?” In this case, I smiled thinking to myself, “I don’t have any idea!”

If you have been paying attention you realize we live in a rapidly changing society. When one compares the beliefs of the “Greatest Generation” with their great, great grandchildren at times it is hard to believe they came from the same family and grew up in the same nation. For instance, 75% of the “Greatest Generation” would say religion remains a very important part of their lives and 56% attend church nearly every week, while only 40% their great, great grandchildren the “Millennials” would concur that religion is a very important part of their lives, and only 18% attend worship on a regular basis according to the Pew Research Center in 2010.

If you look at the trends on moral issues in American from same-sex unions, immigration, legalization of marijuana, and abortion one can see the “faith of our fathers” must have taken a detour at some point along the way. Take the fundamental question of “Where did we come from…did we evolve or were we created by God?” 50% of those with gray hair and a birth certificate dating back to the 1940’s at least  would confess they believe God created human beings in their present state, while 65% of those born after 1980 would state the human race evolved into its present form with or without the help of God.

Peter, one of Jesus’ closest friends, challenged the believers in the first century who lived in a world much like our own to be ready and willing to stand up and speak out for the cause of Christ saying: “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.” (1 Peter 3:15-16 ESV)

Back to my answer to the grandfather, I reminded him to never underestimate how the curse of sin has marred creation.

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