Monthly Archives: February 2015

Breeding Leadership in the Absence of Commitment

If you look at a book like Jeremiah—which is one of those Old Testament books filled with God’s judgment and intervention—you will see that God keeps saying things like, “Your evil deeds have no limits, You do not seek justice, You do not promote the case of the fatherless, You do not defend the just cause of the poor; Should I not punish you for this?”

 

Continuously, throughout the Old Testament, it is as if God is saying, “I keep telling you to do things my way—but you want to do things your way.  There will be a consequence if you continue.”  In our church today, in the West, we function as if we are immune from that process.

Honestly, it seems today that we are often in the practice of excusing ourselves from the kinds of requirements God has for us, while demanding that the lost conform to our moral demands—and saying that it is ok—and that there is no consequence to it.  This is just simply the wrong way for us to function.

Martin Luther King Jr., in his famous letter from the Birmingham prison told the church that God’s judgment was on the church now as never before.  He told them that they were meant to be a cause for justice, but that they had failed.  He talked about all the spires that are across our country, pointing up to the Heavens—but he asked—“What God are you worshiping in these churches?”  King asks a very important question, and a very valid one.  We must be very real when it comes to the reality of the nature of what we are doing, but also the reality of the hope that is to come.  I fear that at the moment, we focus very much on the hope of salvation, but we often overlook reality and just what we are doing to ourselves or to the people around us.  As a result, things continue to spin out of control.

If you think about the churches in persecuted countries—places where it is punishable by death to be a believer in Christ—you will see a church that has such a beautiful focus.  They are very united.  They are very dedicated in their worship.  They love in ways you cannot imagine.  They are persecuted and beaten for all of this—and some are killed—and then they go back out to the very people that are persecuting and killing them—and  love them and serve them all over again.

I think about young people today.  Many of them don’t know at age 25 what they want to do with their lives.   Many are still the same way at age 35.  It is almost like they are waiting for someone to help them find out what it is that they are supposed to do with their lives.  We live in a culture that is willing to try anything—and give it a go—but they are not willing to commit to any one something.  A friend of mine had lunch with a British general who was in charge of officer selection in their army.  He asked the general a penetrating question:  “How do you breed leadership in the absence of commitment?”  The general told my friend that the army had no answer to this question, and they had been asking it for years.

Later that same day, my friend happened to meet a man who was recently retired from the LAPD.  He told him about the conversation he had with the general, and then asked him the same question.  The man told him,

“It’s funny that you ask that.  For the last 5 years of my career, this has been our biggest problem. We could not figure it out.  We tried desperately to figure out how to breed leadership in the absence of commitment.  We brought in consultants, motivational speakers, analysts—we spent millions of dollars trying to answer this question.  We couldn’t answer it.”

This culture is drifting.  People feel uncommitted to anything.  The reason is:  they are looking for leaders who are willing to be utterly committed and strong on the difficult issues we face in life, but also be willing to be held accountable when they are wrong.  They want someone who sees the cost, and is willing to pay all.  When we see leaders who are willing to face up to the cost of leadership, and the truth in their own personal lives, and then also corporately—whether it is in an institution like a university, a church, or in politics—it is not at the exclusion of judgment, but in the presence of it—when someone is willing to be held accountable, that wins others over.

Today, what we need are Christian leaders who are absolutely committed to the cause of Christ.  We must remember that the cost of being a Christian was never meant to be a small one.  It must cost us everything.

I just don’t know that when people look at the church in the West today, they see people whose commitment to follow Christ costs them everything.  It seems today, that Christians are willing to give just one day a week.  Perhaps, more devastating:  The church as a whole—in terms of the cost it expects of followers of Christ— is willing to just take just 10%.  It costs more than that.

This has practical implications as well.  Many feel like their Christian life just isn’t fulfilling.  In fact, 2/3rds of all teenagers who grow up in church are leaving the Christian faith altogether once they get to college.  Now, there are some other reasons for this—but might I suggest—one reason is that they are disillusioned.  For many Christians, the Christian life just doesn’t have the excitement it should.  Many feel as if there should be more—but there just isn’t.  They keep attending church, and they want more, but more never comes.

I will tell you this—you will not get out of any relationship that which you are not willing to put in up front.  If you want all, you have to give all.  If we are only willing to give God 10% of ourselves, we shouldn’t be surprised that our Christian faith doesn’t seem to take over all our life.  Either we will have to reconcile ourselves to a very mediocre form of Christianity, or we will give ourselves over wholly to him.

A guy named Mark Davies, who used to run covert operations for the SAS (the British version of the Navy SEALs—after retirement—got involved with an Christian evangelistic organization named RZIM.  He explained to them that he wanted to give the same level of commitment to Christianity that he gave in the Special Forces.  So—after some training, he was allowed to travel into some hostile countries with some of their top evangelists.  These are countries in which sharing the gospel of Christ results in having your head removed from your body.  It is a very effective deterrent.  There are no repeat offenders.

Upon arriving in one specific country that is hostile to Christianity, the leader asked him, “Have you been here before?”  To this, Davies, replied—“Yes, but I have never had to show a passport.  I came in by a HALO parachute insertion.”

9 days later, when they left the country, the leader asked him, “What did you think?  Is this what you were looking for?”  To this Davies welled up with tears and replied,

“I am part of a church that is arguing about what type of music we should sing, how long the service should last, and what color the carpet should be.”  He continued, “When I was in the SAS, there was no hardship we weren’t prepared to endure, no price we weren’t willing to pay, no cost we weren’t prepared to contemplate.  We believed wholly in the mission we had been given by our government.”  He continued, “Now I have come to Jesus Christ.  The mission he has given me is more important than anything any government has ever asked me to do.  My fellow servicemen and women live all around the world.  We have the same calling—the same mission.  But where is the commitment, where is the sacrifice, where is the willingness to pay any price?  I don’t see it.  All I see is bickering about aesthetic preferences.  Today, after being around those willing to give all, so that one person could hear the gospel, I suddenly feel alive in a whole new way.”

Our churches today are forgetting the mission, the cost, the willingness to pay all.  They are forgetting that it costs everything to be a follower of Christ.  This is not reserved to the members.  It pains me to say that it is a self-indictment of many pastors as well.  As a result—we are leaders in the absence of true commitment.   We are breeding Christians who are not committed to Christ.

We have no intimacy with Christ.  No intimacy means we have no capacity for his Spirit in our lives.  Without the Spirit, we lack any authority in the culture.  I fear that we are producing many Christians who aren’t willing to respect themselves, much less win the respect of—and influence anyone else.

We need to look very different.

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Abortion, Morality, and Common Sense

One of the questions that is incessantly asked today by the young and old alike is, “Can I afford to be moral?”  To Christians the answer should be simple; however, if you used today’s entertainment as your guide, the answer would be “No way!”  Just this morning, I read an article on a movie coming out in a next few days.  In a 100 minute movie, it offers nearly 30 minutes of explicit sexual content.  To make matters worse, the trailer for this film has made its way to the advertisements between your child’s Saturday morning cartoons.  The reason you see movies like this and the reason that the cost of morality is too high for many is because they have a warped view of what freedom is.  Many feel that freedom means being able to do whatever you want whenever you want however you want to do it.  This is wrong.

Do you remember 9/11?  I am sure you do.  Juxtapose that with the Enron debacle.  After the Twin Towers fell, the stock market crashed.  It was revived only days later.  When the Enron scandal happened, on the other hand, it devastated the world economy for much longer.  Apologist Michael Ramsden is correct when he notes that,

“Stock markets fell further and faster after the Enron and WorldCom scandals than they did after the terrorist attacks of September 11, telling us that what the market fears most is not a terrorist attack from without but a moral corruption from within.”

True freedom is a moral concept.  When you remove moral standards you have a collapse of virtue.  In a immoral society—where people do whatever they want, whenever they want, however they want to—you have anarchy.  And societies which are ruled by anarchy are marked out by a loss of freedom, not an increase of it. Benjamin Franklin was right when to say,

“Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become more corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.”

 

So to the question, “Can I afford to be moral,” I would answer simply that the cost of compliance is high, but the cost of failure is catastrophic.

Speaking of morality…

Here we are 41 years after the egregious Supreme Court case, Roe versus Wade, and the World Health Organization reports that as of this moment for the year 2015, there have been 2,468,131 abortions worldwide. I have written elsewhere about the logic of the pro-life vs the pro-abortion position, and there is no need to rehash that here.  What I want to do instead is just offer the sobering numbers.  Abortion is the most common medical procedure performed today.  It has become, as one journalist referred to it, “As American as apple pie.”

The first thing to ask is, “What counts as an abortion?” An abortion is the termination of a pregnancy by the removal or expulsion of an embryo or fetus from the uterus, resulting in or caused by its death. Abortion as a term most commonly used- and in the statistics presented here – refers to the induced abortion of a human pregnancy, while spontaneous abortions are usually termed miscarriages.

Each year, according to the WHO, there are nearly 40-50 million abortions. This means that each day there are approximately 125,000 abortions each day. 

What about the USA? In our country, almost half of the pregnancies that occur are unintended.  Of these unintended pregnancies, 40% are terminated by abortion.  Each day, there are about 3,000 abortions in our country.  Of all pregnancies in the United States (not including miscarriages) 22% end in abortion.

Nancy Pelosi, just the other day, said:

“The fact is what we have said. The life and the health of a mother is what is preeminent when a decision is made about a woman’s reproductive health…It isn’t an ideological fight…It’s a personal health issue. This is up to women — their conscience, their god their doctor, their health, their fate, survival.”

One of the frequent reasons for abortion that is commonly presented is that there are cases where abortion is necessary to save the life of the mother.  The other one typically  used is, in the case of rape or incest.

  1. Everett Coop, the former Surgeon General said this of his experience with protecting the woman’s health:     “In my thirty-six years in pediatric surgery I have never known of one instance where the child had to be aborted to save the mother’s life.” I guess his experience is not worth our taking serious?

Coop went on to say, “When a woman is pregnant, her obstetrician takes on the care of two patients—the mother-to-be and the unborn baby. If, toward the end of the pregnancy complications arise that threaten the mother’s health, he will take the child by inducing labor or performing a Caesarian section.”  In continuation, Coop noted that in this situation the doctor has the intention to, “ Save the life of both the mother and the baby.”  Now of course, if this occurs, “The baby will be premature,” but even then, “The baby is never willfully destroyed because the mother’s life is in danger.”

What is most troubling is when a doctor knows that a child could survive (a natural birth or a botched abortion), and that the mother’s health is in no way threatened; but cowing to societal pressure and the demands of the mother, they admit to performing abortions because it is what the patient wants them to do.  Even our current president, Barack Obama, four times before he was elected president, voted not to save a baby that was born in the wake of a botched abortion.  Because the mother intended abortion, if the abortion fails and the child survives, the legislation Obama supported makes it legal to kill the baby.  How is this not murder?  Do the wishes of a mother override the rights of a living, breathing, human being?

When it comes to abortion, there are only a few logical situations possible.

The first is that either the fetus is a person or it isnt a person.

There are two possibilities about whether or not a fetus is a person.

  1. Maybe you know that it is a person.
  2. Maybe you don’t that it is.

To this, there are two possibilities—either you are right or you are wrong.

So—from here ,there are four logical outcomes:

  1. The fetus is a person, and you know it. You’re right.
  2. The fetus is not a person and you know that. You’re right.
  3. The fetus is a person and you don’t know that. You think it’s not. You’re wrong.
  4. The fetus is not a person and you think it is. You don’t know the truth. You’re wrong.

Now these are the only possible scenarios (Like a Pascal’s wager, two chances of being right, two chances of being wrong).

The question is, what would you call abortions in each of these instances? These are the only four possible situations logically. What are they? Murder is case number 1. Manslaughter is case number 2. Criminal Negligence is case number 3.

In reality, only the fourth case justifies abortion.

That is the thing about abortion.  If the fetus is a human being, abortion is wrong.  If it is not a human being, then it isn’t wrong.  When my daughter is behind me and says, “Daddy can I kill this,” my response is dependent on what “this” is.  If “this” is her baby brother, the answer is “No!”  If “this” is a cockroach, the answer is, “I will do that for you!”

So, when does life begin?  We know what progressives tell us (with not a speck of evidence mind you).  They say that life begins at birth, or when a child becomes aware of its surroundings, or when it can anticipate pain.  Even Peter Singer and Richard Dawkins say that a newborn baby is less viable than a baby pig.  Most Zoologists and biologists will say that life is a continuum from fertilization until the organism dies. They apply this to birds, dogs, snakes—every organism.  Why should it be different for a human?

I love what Ravi Zacharias says concerning the beginning of life:

“Vice-Presidential candidate Al Gore was debating Vice-President Dan Quail. They were arguing on the abortion issue. Dan Quail, a very committed man, was very devoutly committed to the preservation of the unborn and risked his entire political career on that…At a moment, Gore really pinned him with his back to the wall… And Gore was very sharp, he was brilliant. They teach you in debate ‘if you can’t give your own answers, learn to question the opposition.’ And Gore looked at him, eyeball to eyeball, and says “Sir, Dan, would you repeat after me that ‘a woman has the right to her own body’. Would you repeat that after me, Dan? That ‘a woman has the right to determine the destiny of her own body’.” Three times he slammed him with that comment, “Repeat after me, Dan…”

Ravi continues,

“And of course poor Mr. Quayle could not really come back at that kind of an approach. He came up with a very meaningful answer but did not satisfy the taunt.  He said “Well, every time you abort a baby you stop a beating heart.

What I think would have been an ideal response would have been something like this, I think.  Senator Gore had already said he was personally against it but politically he felt it was the right of the person to make the decision. So the response should have gone something like this, I believe: 

Senator Gore, would you first repeat after me that ‘the life within that mother’s womb is a human life.’ Would you repeat that after me? Because if the answer to that is yes, what are you doing obliterating life? If the answer to that is no, why are you personally against it? If the answer to that is ‘I don’t know’, how many more decisions are you going to make on an agnostic platform?”

 

Many on the side of abortion say that they are pro-choice politically, but they are personally opposed to abortion.  You might hear it put this way:  “I am against abortion.  I would never have one.  On the other hand, I do not feel like the government should make a woman give birth.  For that reason, I am pro-choice.”  Such a statement sounds fair enough.  The problem is, when you really think about what they have said, you realize just how evil that is.

Here is the question:  For what other reason could someone be opposed to abortion besides their compulsory belief that a fetus is more than just a blob of cells—but a life?

How have we gotten a place where the medical community allows itself to be pushed by social planners into being both caregivers and executioners?  Mark my words, an abortionist is an executioner.  What about infanticide in ICU units?  This is murder as well.  The slippery slope keeps going too.  One day, what prevents societal pressure and political correctness from demanding that the doctor become the executioner of the elderly?

The immediate access to abortion is horrific as well.  A husband has nothing to say regarding the matter now.  A husband cannot legally stand up for the life of his unborn child.  All choice is given to the mother.  When it comes to minors who want to have abortions, their parents have no right to say anything.  A child can have an abortion without the parent’s approval, but cannot go to the mall and get her ears pierced without parental consent.

Of course, to look at the story of the incarnation of Christ gives us reason to pause.  The story of Mary becoming impregnated with the Son of God leaves no room for doubt.  The angel told Joseph, “That which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.” From the moment of conception God had entered human life. The soul that I am has also existed from the moment of conception.

We have to be educated.  We have to talk to our friends and family about the origin of life.  Even before a woman knows she is pregnant, 21 days into it, the baby demonstrates a heartbeat.  By the sixth week the adrenal gland and the thyroid are functioning. A child’s fingerprints are indelibly in place by the twelfth week. Abortion kills a developing human being! No matter how old or how large the organism is when he/she leaves the womb, that emergence—by whatever means—is still a birth.

If the developing fetus isn’t a human being, then what is it?  A dog, a pig, or something else?

What is wrong with forcing a woman who seeks an abortion to look at the sonogram of her baby?  Why shouldn’t she have to wait a period of 24 or 48 hours after giving consent for the abortion?  If it is really about informed choice, why not give her all available information so she can make that choice?  Show her the data.

The left doesn’t want her to know the truth.  It doesn’t want her to think it over.

What will come next?  I think it is arguable that we are horribly close to being in 20th century Germany—here in the United States of America.

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