Aug 212014

The Secret to a Good Decision

I have a saying when it comes to golf—”Whatever club you hit, hit it.”

Club selection is important in golf. If you choose the wrong club, you have little opportunity to succeed. It makes the role of a caddy a vital one. A caddy is called to assist a player in making a wise decision. They can talk the player out of the wrong club and convince them of the right club. (See: Stop Freaking Out)

However, many shots can be played several ways. There isn’t necessarily one right way to do something. Several clubs may be wrong, but a few clubs could be right. While a player has to pick one of the right clubs, they also have to execute the shot. Oftentimes a player will fail to commit to the shot they hit and assume they picked the wrong club. The club wasn’t wrong; the execution was.

Whatever club you hit, hit it. Execute the shot you have chosen to play.

It is true in golf and it’s true in leadership.

Decision-making is vital. It’s an often overlooked art in the world of leadership. In a day where we have more decision-making power than ever, we spend less time learning and teaching the proper way to make wise choices. (See: Dr. Seuss Said You Are Bad at Decision Making)

Yet making the right decision isn’t everything.

An important part of good leadership is also about making the decision right.

As a leader, I can look back on projects and new ventures we started which did not go as we had hoped. At times, we made bad decisions. We got so caught up in what we thought could happen that we overlooked the reality of what we were dealing with. The bad choices led to bad outcomes. Yet there are other times in which I still believe we made the right decision. Others have made the same decisions we made and experienced far better outcomes than we did. We failed not at making a right decision, but at making the decision right. We put so much time and energy into the decision-making process, but then dropped the ball on the execution of the decision we made.

It doesn’t matter what decision you make if you do not make the decision right. If you fail to execute the plan, do the work, and adapt as conditions change, no amount of right decision-making will lead to the outcome you desire. (See: Five Reasons You Make Bad Decisions)

I’ve seen many couples wisely choose a good mate. They did everything they could to make a right decision, but their marriage failed. It didn’t fail because they married the wrong person; it failed because they didn’t do the work necessary to make the marriage thrive. They made the right decision but didn’t make the decision right.

There are two ways to have a bad outcome:

1. Fail to make a right decision. Assume whatever you decide will work. Be deceived into thinking the decision is easy. Fail to do your homework, study the issues, find multiple options, and choose the right one.

2. Fail to make the decision right. Assume after you’ve made a right decision, the rest is easy. Get lazy. Fail to adapt. Stop paying attention to changing landscapes. (See: Do The Work)

In golf you have to pick the club that can give you the best outcome, but you also have to execute the shot.

What’s true in golf is true in life.

Aug 202014

Your Spouse Matters: Choose Wisely

My last semester of college I made an appointment with the President of the University. I was seeking advice regarding what graduate school to attend. After going through the various options and discussing what would be the wisest choice, the President said, “You know this doesn’t matter, right?” I was surprised by the statement. He went on to say, “All your choices are good and you are being wise to make a good decision. But where you go to school doesn’t really matter in comparison to whom you marry. She can make you or break you.”

After a decade of pastoring couples and watching marriages thrive or die, his words couldn’t have been more true.

Your spouse can make you or break you. (See: Dating to Break Up–a Unique Perspective)

It matters whom you marry.

Sadly, one of the most important decisions of our lives is often made at a time in which we are not good at decision-making, are not thinking about long-term consequences, and are not focused on the most relevant information to make the right choice.

While physical attraction is important, the looks of your spouse will dramatically change over the years.

While having fun on a Friday night is nice, going to dinner and a movie will reveal very little about whether the person will be a good spouse. (See: The Most Overlooked Characteristic of Who You Want to Marry)

While it’s appealing to have a good car and nice clothes, for most people under thirty, their cars and clothes say more about their parents than them.

Whom we marry greatly impacts our lives, yet what drives us to pick the spouse we choose is rarely related to what matters.

There are more important issues than a person’s looks, activities, and possessions. Here are three questions which every person should ask about a potential spouse:

1. Do we share the same core values? This doesn’t matter in the moment of lust, but it matters over a lifetime. People with dramatically different core values may not struggle in the first few years of marriage, but they will struggle as time passes. These values determine how we spend our time, money, and other resources. They deeply influence how we raise children. They direct our passions and dreams. Two spouses do not have to agree on every core principle, but they better share a majority of them. Without them, life will be too difficult to face together. (See: Do This Before You Put a Ring On It)

2. Are we able to negotiate differences? Two people can have every major belief in common, but if they can’t negotiate the small, day-to-day aspects of life, those shared values may not matter. Life is far more lived in the routine of day-to-day than in the hypothetical of the big picture. Can you pick a restaurant you both will enjoy? Can you debate a political topic without one forcing their idea or the other feeling disrespected? Can you mention an annoyance and the partner hear your complaint and attempt to change his/her action? Unless a couple can navigate the small issues, marriage would be far too exhausting for them. (See: Marry a Partner, Not a Child)

3. Are we enough alike that our differences aren’t exhausting? My friend says, “At first differences attract, but then they irritate.” No couple will be exactly alike, but a couple better have enough in common that their differences do not drain each other of all strength. A diversity in talents, desires, and abilities can be a strength to a couple. But the differences must come in a way that they do not deplete the energy of one another. At times, how I am needs to match how my wife is so that our natural response is pleasing to the other. I know a lot of great women to whom I could never be married. Our differences would exhaust me. And I can only imagine that I would be exhausting to many women. Find a partner who is different than you, but make sure those differences are not exhausting. (See: This Is Who You Want to Marry)

While it matters whom you marry, making a right decision doesn’t guarantee a successful marriage. After choosing properly, a couple must continue to choose properly every day after their vows. They must do the work to make a marriage work.

However, their work will be much easier if they choose wisely from the start. Choosing a good spouse does not ensure an easy marriage because no marriage is easyBut it does ensure an easier marriage. Some marriages are easier than others and the ease rarely has to do with circumstances and far more often is the result of our choices. The first choice being the person we select to marry.

Your spouse matters, so choose wisely.

 

Aug 192014

Do the Work

For most people, reading a book on time management is a waste of time. It’s a distraction from what they should actually be doing.

A majority of people who buy a product on publishing a book are creatively dodging actually writing a book.

Nearly every meeting held in a work environment has little to no impact on moving a company or employees ahead.

Why?

Why do we dream more than we do? Why do we talk at length in planning to get work done, but actually accomplish very little work?

The answer is simple…people like to talk about work far more than actually doing work.

The difference between success and failure for the average person is the difference between talking about work and doing work.

Successful people get work done. Everyone else simply talks about doing work. (See: Three Things Every Employee Should Do)

While some are blatantly lazy and will admit it, most of us are unknowingly lazy. We find ways to make ourselves and others believe we are doing important things when in actuality, we are avoiding what needs to be done.

Consider the process: we feel as though we are working hard but we aren’t accomplishing anything.

It’s the same scenario which many people go through regarding decision-making. They have a decision to make, but instead of taking steps to gather information in order to make an intelligent decision, they worry. Worrying feels like they are dealing with the issue, but it doesn’t get them any closer to making up their mind. They feel they are working but with no progress.

So it is with how most of us work. We fill our days with tasks which look like work, but they are not actual steps to accomplishing what really matters.

We end up worn out, but having done nothing. (See: You Always Have an Excuse)

The difference between those who do the work and those who talk about doing the work is found in how distractions are handled.

No matter how well you have planned your work and set aside time to accomplish what needs to be done, you will face distractions. Those that do the work ignore the distractions; those that talk about doing work fall for the distractions.

Imagine a husband and wife on a date. As they are beginning the meal, a beautiful woman approaches the table and with a voice of seduction, looks at the man and says, “Can I borrow you for a moment?”

A wise man says, “No, I’m on a date with my wife.” (See: One Thing You Must Show Your Spouse)

But a foolish man looks at his wife and says, “She just needs me for a moment. I’ll be right back.”

So it is with our work. At every moment we are tempted to leave the work we are committed to and interact with whatever opportunity presents itself in the moment.

A fool gives in at every moment.

A wise man holds fast to his commitments.

This is true with both work and women.

The difference between a productive day and an unproductive day is often found in our ability to ignore the distractions.

Assuming you have determined the most important tasks of your day, here is the best way to ignore all other temptations:

1. Commit to the most important work. It sounds simple, but making up your mind to do a project at a specific time can go a long way to pushing off all distractions. Write it down, say it out loud, or tell a co-worker what you are going to do. Then when distractions come, it will be easier to remember you have already committed to a certain task. Think about how easy it is to tell a co-worker, “I have a meeting” when they are asking you to do something. They are often quick to understand. If you commit to a certain task and put it in your calendar, you can tell every other distraction, “I’m sorry. I have a commitment.”

2. Schedule pockets in your day for unforeseen work. If you have a specific time set aside for tasks which have you have not planned for, it will be easier to push those requests into that time rather than taking care of them in the moment. Get used to saying, “We can talk about this at _____” and “I’ve scheduled _____ for that task.” By having a specific place to put requests, we can avoid the temptation of dropping our important work for whatever is pressing in the moment.” (See: Stop Squandering Your Time)

3. Be helpful with people, but do not do their work for them. If we are skilled at getting work done, people will often turn to us with the hopes we will do their work for them. While it is often tempting to do so, we must avoid the temptation. Offer people advice of how to accomplish a task, but do not get in the habit of accepting assignments from those who are not in authority over you. Doing the work of others will quickly lead to more people trying to hand their work off to you.

In the end, the task is simple. Do the work. Ignore everything else and do what needs to be done.

 

Aug 182014

Empty Nest: Rediscovering the One You Loved

Marriage is full of many transitions. The honeymoon wears off and real life begins. The first pregnancy. Chasing toddlers. The School years. Parenting a driver.

But few transitions are as difficult on a marriage as the move from a house full of kids to an empty nest. While some couples thrive in the transition, many struggle, and more than too many do not make it.

What should a couple do when the last child leaves the house?

When empty nest strikes, an intentional time of rediscovery should be enjoyed in which a couple not only rediscovers themselves but also rediscovers one another. (See: Five Keys to Save Your Marriage)

The great threat to raising a family is the demands are so many that we often lose ourselves. This isn’t all bad; part of us probably needs to be lost. Yet it should never be the case that a person loses their individual identity because of family. However, that is often the case.

Not only do individuals lose themselves, couples run the risk of growing apart amidst the busyness of parenting and life. Many spouses live parallel lives through the junior high and senior high years. It’s a dangerous way to live, but the thought of growing a relationship takes a back seat to raising children and paying bills.  (See: When Marriage Feels Like You Just Co-exist)

While I would never encourage this type of marriage and would always beg couples to get help as soon as they feel they are drifting apart, many spouses do not realize the drift until the home is empty. It’s at this point that they look at each other and realize they do not know each other anymore.

Some, sadly, go their separate ways. As a pastor, I dread back-to-school because every year some couples who have pledged to stay together until the kids go to college finally hit the end of their negotiated time together. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

The empty-nest years can be some of the best and most exciting years of marriage. They can lay a second foundation upon which the rest of the couple’s lives will be lived.

Here are three recommendations of how to make the most of the empty-nest years:

1. Prepare to suffer well together. It’s sad but often true; it is not unusual for there to be an overlap of raising kids and helping aging parents. While it is not every couple’s story, it is a common story. As your kids leave the house, form a deep partnership which will allow you to suffer well together. If your parents remain in good health and need no help, give thanks. But don’t be surprised if other demands test your emotional reserves. If a couple understands the possibility, prepares for them, and works well together, their relationship can grow. (See: The Most Overlooked Characteristics of Who You Want to Marry)

2. Discover yourself beyond your partner. Your spouse is not meant to be your only friend. They cannot meet your every need and should not be expected to. Each spouse needs to develop friendships, hobbies, and activities beyond their spouse. Develop yourself and offer who you are to your spouse. (See: My Best Friend, But Not My Only Friend)

3. Reignite the intimacy of your relationship. This isn’t just about sex. This is far more than sex. It is important at this point in marriage that a couple intentionally walks toward each other lest they begin to walk away from one another. You have to rediscover one another. Forget about what you think you know. Ask questions, share dreams, find a joint pursuit, etc. Attend a marriage retreat. Start studying the Bible together. Take intentional action which draws you toward one another. Don’t hesitate to call a marriage counselor and have some refresher sessions. Develop a plan so your relationship can get better. (See: No Wonder You Don’t Love Each Other)

Empty nest can be a difficult transition, but it can also be one of the most meaningful times in your marriage. If a couple works with intention, they can rediscover the person they fell in love with and build a stronger marriage than they ever imagined they could have. Doing this is the greatest gift you can give to your adult children. It strengthens the foundation upon which their lives were built and it models for them the way a healthy couple deals with change.

Aug 152014

My Four Favorite Parental Statements

Being a parent can force you to say things you never would have expected. I often find myself yelling, “Stop yelling.” I’ve told my son, “We do not take Barbie’s clothes off and then use Barbie to hit your sister.” When my daughter was a toddler, I found myself saying, “Sweetheart, it’s not nice to ask strangers if they have a penis or vagina.” (See: No Lies/No Slang, How to Raise Healthy Kids that Make Grandparents Uncomfortable)

Parenting can cause us to say funny things, but more than anything, parenting causes us to repeat common phrases. Just as our parents said the same thing over and over to us, we often say the same thing over and over to our children.

While I’m sure there is a long list of things I say often, there are three specific sentences which are my go-to statements when I’m trying to discipline my children. I have said them so much that I’m sure my children can repeat them in their sleep. And I assure you and them that these are statements I will continue to say for as long as I have an authoritative role in their lives. (See: Parenting and Authority–Who Has te Final Say?)

Here are four statements which every child should hear:

1. “You’ve asked; I’ve answered.” I do not know who said this first, but I would happily pay them money for this line. My children don’t like it, but I love it. This is always my response to a repeated question. Instead of giving into the temptation of allowing my kids to wear me down by asking the same question, I hold strong by repeating this line. The second time I say it, my kids know they are not going to win the battle. Stop answering the same question over and over again. Simply say, “you’ve asked; I’ve answered.”

2. “Good choices lead to good consequences. Bad choices lead to bad consequences.” It’s not a law, but it is a good guiding principle. Generally speaking, good things happen when we make good choices; bad things happen when we make bad choices. While there are exceptions, I want my children to understand that making wise choices is the most likely path to happiness and satisfaction. If they make bad choices, they will eventually experience very negative consequences. (See: Why You Aren’t Getting What You Want)

3. “Are you choosing to disobey?” Obedience and disobedience are choices. One of the greatest responsibilities I have as a father is to help my children understand they control many aspects of their lives. While they may not control everything, they do control what they do and how they choose to act. When they willfully choose to disobey me, I want them not only to recognize their bad behavior but also to realize the choice they are making. If they can realize they are choosing bad behavior, it gives them the opportunity choose good choices which would result in good behavior. (See: On Throwing a Fit)

4. “Excuse Me?” It’s what I say when I do not hear something. But it’s also what I say, with a little different emphasis, if I do not like what I hear. By acting as though I didn’t hear what my child said, I give them a second chance to say what they want to say. If said in the right tone, my children understand that I heard what they said and they probably want to choose to say something different. It gives them a free chance to make a better choice without any fear of consequences. But they also know that if they do not make a better choice, consequences are likely to come.

These are not my only tools in disciplining my children, but they are my favorite four. They are fair, direct, and provide my children the opportunity to see how their actions impact their lives and others. They also empower them to make better choices and live happier lives.

Often, when I lay my pillow on the bed at night I think back to the moments in the day in which I’ve used one of these phrases and I can’t help but think, “Is my Heavenly Father asking me a similar question about some aspect in my life?” (See: A Father’s Primary Role)

What is a favorite sentence of phrase of yours as a parent?

 

Aug 142014

You Don’t Have to Scratch Mine

“I’ll scratch your back if you’ll scratch mine.”

This phrase of reciprocity often makes the world go ’round. None of us can make it through life without the help of others. We need others and others need us.

It’s a way of life I often follow. I shop local before going to national stores. I eat at restaurants owned by friends. I refer others to people I know and like. They help me so I am quick to help them. (See: Jesus, Leadership, and the Courage to Serve)

There is nothing wrong with this way of thinking. It is a healthy way to do business and live life.

Yet what if we removed the second half of the phrase?

Instead of looking for people who can help us and then going out of our way to help them, what if we just helped other people?

What if we lived by a “I’ll scratch your back” mentality? (See: Leadership, Leaves, and Why We Should Never Give Up)

The problem with reciprocity is that if we aren’t careful the only reason we give is to get. Service becomes a transactional relationship. We are constantly looking out for ourselves. Even when serving others, we are doing so with ourselves in mind.

This is not the nature of love. A truly loving act is one which is done for the benefit of another without expectation of getting anything in return. It focuses on the well-being of another so that oneself is not of consideration.

Consider: if the only time I scratch a back is when someone will (or might) scratch mine in return, who am I most likely to help? I help those who are equal or more powerful than me. I help others who I think can help me in return. So for me to help, someone needs to have something I want or some ability I need. I look toward others for what I need and then help them with the hopes of getting something from them.

It’s the way of reciprocity, but it is not the way of love.

Love does not serve others as a means to get something for self. It is not self-seeking because love is not self-seeking. Love so focuses on the object of its affection that it loses all sense of self. Love does not serve to get, but serves to serve.

When every action is lived in the mindset of reciprocity, we are not truly loving. We are simply playing a game of advancement under the guise of sacrifice. (See: Read This Before Your Die)

This is not to say reciprocity is inappropriate. It is often acceptable and wise to scratch someone else’s back if they will scratch yours. However, if that is the only reason you ever get out your back scratcher, something is wrong.

Reciprocity should be the exception, not the rule. The rule should be love.

Imagine if we began to serve people without any expectation of reciprocity. What if we went out of our way to serve so that the recipients of our service wouldn’t even know whose back they were supposed to scratch in return? What if we assisted others no matter their ability or inability to scratch back? What if we simply met every need we had the power and opportunity to meet no matter what we got in exchange for our service? (See: Never Try to Prove Yourself)

What if we simply scratched every back that itched rather than only scratching the backs who could scratch mine in return?

This is the way of love—to scratch every back we can reach no matter if they scratch ours in return.

Aug 132014

You Don’t Know How Bad You Are Until You’re Married

The single life gives room for deception. When you are single, it’s possible to think you are better than you actually are.

Marriage and parenting removes the deceit. There are no questions—you are highly flawed.

If you are single, when you get tired of people, you can find alone time. Rarely are you seen at your most vulnerable. If you are wise, you can learn the times in which you should remove yourself from circumstances or situations which might tempt you to act in ungodly ways.

When you are married, not only do you not have the opportunity to escape, the people in your life will actually force you into potentially sinful situations without you even asking to be there. (See: You Won’t Change Until…)

Nothing reveals the sinfulness of humanity like marriage and parenting.

Before I was married, I knew I was broken. But I had no idea the extent of my brokenness until I had a family of my own.

The gift (and the curse) of family is that you can’t fake it with them. We can fake kindness, generosity, mercy, and forgiveness with others because we only have to fake it for a set period of time. However, with my wife and children I could never fake those emotions because I would have to fake them for an infinite amount of time. My wife and kids are always there. I can’t run to an empty room and hide—they will find me. I can’t take a day off and say, “I’m not going to be your husband or father today.” The roles are 24/7 and so they see my true character.

And it is often ugly. (See: Blessed Are the Married Who Mourn)

But this is the gift of marriage. Our true natures are revealed and we have the opportunity to truly change our hearts. The problem with faking life is that we can deceive ourselves into thinking we aren’t that bad. However, unless we know the depth of our problem, we can’t truly change. Marriage and parenting provide us the opportunity to change because it reveals to us our great need for change.

There are many areas where marriage and parenting reveal our need, but three specific areas are the most common. (See: Why We Are Afraid to Change)

Marriage and parenting reveal our:

1. Pride. We are so prideful we don’t even recognize the amount of pride we have. It’s impossible for us to fully appreciate its magnitude unless it is revealed to us. Marriage and parenting require a level of humility which clashes with our pride showing us how arrogant we are. (See: Pride, The Only Enemy of Marriage)

2. Selfishness. We want our way. Even the most laid-back, easy-going person desires to have things done their way. Marriage requires us to submit our desire to another. Parenting requires us to put our children’s best interests before our own. Both will reveal a depth of selfishness within our own hearts which we did not even know existed.

3. Insecurities. We are needy people. We are broken and because of our brokenness we attempt to protect our hearts. Yet marriage and parenting require us to invest our hearts. We can’t keep them hidden and be an effective spouse or parent. Both marriage and parenting show how insecure we are. No matter the aura we give at work or the reputation we have among others, we are all insecure people and the intimacy of marriage and parenting reveal those insecurities. (See: Never Try to Prove Yourself)

Marriage and parenting can reveal many things about us which we did not know, but our pride, selfishness, and insecurities are the most obvious. When these things are revealed, we have the opportunity to change.

Aug 122014

Five Principles for My Daughter’s Teacher

For the first time in three years, Ella will have a new teacher as school starts this year. Having repeated one grade and having her teacher move up with her for another grade, the last three years have been spent with the same instructor. But this year we get to break in a new one.

Ella has Down syndrome. To learn more of her story, you can read:

What I Prayed the Night Ella Was Born

Down Syndrome Is Not My Problem

What Down Syndrome Teaches Us All

Ella on Kicking a Teacher, Telling a Knock-Knock Joke, and a Pre-dinner Prayer

In light of a new school year, here are five principles we hope Ella’s new teacher follows:

Don’t feel the need to be an expert about Down syndrome, but do take time to learn more. You can’t be an expert on every condition that every child in your class might exhibit. Not only is it not practical, it’s not even possible. I’ve studied Down syndrome for almost a decade and I don’t consider myself an expert. I know what Down syndrome has meant for my daughter, but I don’t know what it means for other people. You don’t need to be an expert, but I do want you to always be in a state of learning. Not only will your learning help my daughter, it will also benefit you and other students. Understanding is always a good thing and understanding can only come as you learn more about the experience of another.

Demand obedience, but give her time to process your commands. Down syndrome is not an excuse for rebellion. Ella is fully capable of obeying those in authority. However, it will take her more time to process what she is being told. Because of her cognitive delay, understanding takes time. To expect her to obey as quickly as everyone else is not reasonable. Make commands, but give her time. Be willing to repeat commands because her hearing is not good and on many occasions her attention is in other places. Yet do not accept willful disobedience. It’s not good for her and won’t be good for other students.

Be fair, but keep your expectations high. As her parents, one of our greatest struggles is defining fair expectations for Ella. We must be fair, but since no one knows the true ceiling to Ella’s ability—including Ella—we want to keep our expectations high. Assume she has the ability to learn concepts even when they are hard and she is struggling to do so. Believe a day will come in which all your hard work will pay off. Decide that this is about the big picture and not about winning the day. If you consistently work with Ella, she will be better for it. I know she isn’t like the other kids, but we don’t fully know what she can and can’t do so let’s keep our expectations high.  (See: Children, Disability, and Abortion)

Help her, but don’t be manipulated by her. Like many kids with Ds, Ella is skilled at manipulation. She is quick to use her condition to get out of work she does not want to do. Learn the difference between manipulation and need. And also understand there will be times in which you will confuse the two. Sometimes Ella will win. That’s okay. If we are never fooled then we are not being compassionate enough, yet if we are always being fooled we are not truly doing what is best for her. Be kind, lend a hand, but make her do her work.

Shield her, but don’t smother her. Ella is not as mature as her classmates. Her life has challenges, many of which she may never understand. While she is quick to accept people how they are, many are not as quick to give her the same courtesy. Unfortunately, neither you nor I can protect her from all of the ways that her condition can cause her to stand out. She is old enough to begin to feel some of the pain of life. Do not smother her so that she never experiences any hurts, yet on occasion feel free to shield her. If she is lonely, it’s okay to give her extra attention. If a child is treating her unfairly, it’s okay to redirect her attention so she doesn’t see. Life is hard enough; it’s okay to protect her from some of the hurts she might experience. However, you can’t protect her from all of them so don’t feel the pressure to do so. (See: What Every Parent Should Know as Kids Go Back to School)

These are five guiding principles Jenny and I try to use with Ella and they are five principles we believe her teachers can use. But what is funny about these ideas is they aren’t just true for Ella and other  kids with Down syndrome; they are also true for every kid.

 

 

Aug 112014

Don’t Tell Me Every Religion Is the Same

It sounds good. It seemingly puts everyone on the same plane and gives us all the peaceful belief that our current thoughts do not have lasting consequences.

“Every religion is the same,” they say. No need to discuss it. No need to look at the propositional truths behind each belief system. No need to take any idea too seriously.

Every religion is the same,” so I can believe whatever I wish and you can believe whatever you wish. There is no need to debate it or bother with it. Everything is just the same.” (See: Three Lies Christians Tell Themselves)

But then I read the headlines:

  • Eight Christians crucified by a Muslim terrorist group because they will not denounce Christ.
  • Children beheaded in the name of God.
  • Cars burned and a city in upheaval because a Koran is burned.

All of these happen because of religion, but that’s not the same as my religion. Those aren’t actions I find acceptable. Those do not bring glory to the God I know.

Don’t tell me every religion is the same. They aren’t. What one believes has drastic consequences in their lives, both this one and the next. They aren’t the same. When one person’s religion causes them to kill others while the other person’s religion calls them to sacrifice themselves to protect others, that’s not the same. When one headline is about the slaughter of innocent people in the name of God and the other is about a doctor risking his life to save helpless people, those two belief systems are not the same.

Don’t tell me every religion is the same. (See: The Most Confident Christians)

How can every religion be the same when:

Buddhism teaches nothing is permanent. Reincarnation is a way we can pursue toward enlightenment.

Islam teaches there is a God and we must submit to Allah to experience paradise.

Christianity teaches we have been separated from God by our sin, but God has made a way through Jesus for us to know him.

Mormonism teaches there is a God and we can know him through faith and good works.

Atheism teaches there is no God or afterlife.

Judaism teaches there is a God and one day he will send his Messiah to rescue his people.

Agnosticism teaches there is a God but we cannot know him.

Those aren’t the same. Those are radically different ways to understand the world. They have drastic consequences regarding the meaning of life, humanity, and the surrounding world. They aren’t just isolated beliefs, but instead they are the foundations upon which everything rests. And they are not the same. (See: Why I Am a Christian)

Obviously they aren’t the same so stop saying they are.

Stop cowering behind this false belief that every idea is equal.

Face it, the only reason you say every religion is the same is so you don’t have to think about it. So you don’t have to decide. So you don’t have to risk your life based on an idea. (See: Jesus Isn’t as Conservative, or Liberal, as You Think)

That’s the real issue. If one religion is right and the others are wrong, that would demand something from us. For me, if atheism is right, it would demand that I admit I have been wrong for all these years. I would have to re-evaluate every idea in my life. If Mormonism is right, it means much of what I have taught and believed is wrong.

That is why people say every religion is the same. Because if each one is the same, nothing is required of them. It doesn’t matter what anyone does.

But believing every religion is the same doesn’t make logical sense. Either there is a God or there isn’t. Atheism is either right or wrong; it can’t be in between. If it is wrong, and there is a God, then either we can know him or we can’t. Agnosticism is either right or wrong. If we can’t know him, then all other religions are wrong. But if we can know him, then agnosticism is wrong. If there is a God and we can know him, how can we know him? Either Islam is right or it’s wrong. Either we can purify ourselves enough to be accepted by God or we can’t. If we can, then Christianity is wrong. We have no need of grace if we are good enough to make ourselves right with God.

Christianity is either right or wrong. Either we need God’s grace or we don’t. (See: What I Mean When I Say ‘You Are a Sinner’)

Every religion cannot be the same.

Because of this, we must investigate, debate, and make a decision about each perspective on life. We cannot excuse them by saying they are all the same. They aren’t.

And we can’t say that every person who claims a certain religion is actually living out that religion. As a Christian, I’m very aware that people can do evil things in the name of Christ. While they claim the name of Christianity, their actions do not resemble the teaching of Jesus. The same is true with every other religion.

Consider the precepts, compare them with what you experience in life, and decide if an idea is right or wrong.

Aug 102014

Tony Stewart Did Not Kill Anyone

Nearly every headline reads the same, “Tony Stewart Hits, Kills Driver.” It’s provocative. It’s attention grabbing. And it’s false.

The headline may be smart in today’s click-thirsty culture, but it’s reckless journalism and it must stop.

In a tragic accident, dirt-track driver Kevin Ward Jr. was killed when he was hit by a car driven by Tony Stewart.

Ward died, but Stewart didn’t kill him. The car killed him. The impact of the crash killed him. The coroner will be able to give in excruciating detail what killed him. But Stewart didn’t kill him. (See: No Words Are Perfect)

Language matters. While we loosely throw around words without any understanding of consequences, our words have a lasting impact. To take a tragic accident and place total blame on one person is neither wise nor useful. It’s damaging to everyone involved.

This isn’t to say Stewart is completely innocent. Over the next few weeks, investigators will have to understand every detail of the situation. It is very possible that Stewart’s actions may have contributed to Ward’s death and it is possible Stewart should face criminal charges. More than likely, the details will lead to a tough judgment call by the prosecutor and District Attorney. It is doubtful Stewart took any deliberate action which led to Ward’s death. It is possible Stewart made some reckless choices which led to the accident. Clearly by exiting the car and putting himself in danger, Ward made some poor choices which allowed the accident. However, Ward’s actions were not that different from many other drivers over the past few decades.

In all probability, the death was simply an accident.

However, whether Stewart is culpable or not, the fact remains—Tony Stewart did not kill anyone.

Unless prosecutors unearth facts which show an evil intention to purposely run over Ward, Stewart didn’t kill him. While Stewart is accountable for his decisions and actions, those actions led to an accident, not a murder. (See: A Forgotten Sign of Adulthood)

If we aren’t careful, we can add unnecessary grief to Stewart by poorly choosing how we describe the accident. If I were Stewart’s pastor, I would refuse to allow him to say, “I killed him.” I would continually correct the language by Stewart or anyone. “The car killed him.” “The accident killed him.” “A broken neck killed him.” I would tell Stewart, “you did not kill him.”

Most airline accidents are caused by pilot error, but we do not routinely say, “the pilot killed the passengers.”

In every fatal car accident, someone made a mistake, but we rarely say “one driver killed the other.”

With previous on track deaths, we have not said one driver killed the other.

We always say it was an accident. Unless there is more evidence then what we have seen, this was an accident.

Our words matter and the more tense a situation, the more important our words. Report the story, but report it accurately. Tony Stewart did not kill Kevin Ward Jr.

For more, see:

Use Hard Words Not Harsh Words

Top Ten Communication Posts Your Co-workers Should Read

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