When a Movement Fails to Mature, it Doesn’t Have Long to Live

When a Movement Fails to Mature, it Doesn’t Have Long to Live

“When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things.”   I Corinthians 13:11

If you have a child you can clearly identify childish behavior.  It’s not pretty.  But you understand and tolerate such behavior because you know that as that child matures, and he learns from instruction, his tantrums, pettiness, selfishness, and other childish behavior will become less and less prominent.  And as he grows into adulthood, he will likely become well adjusted.  He will respect others.  He will learn that to achieve his goals, he must often help others achieve theirs.  And ultimately, he puts away childish behavior.  

I was present at the inception of the tea party movement, having founded the Chattanooga Tea Party in April 2009.  It wasn’t my first rodeo, but the challenge of organizing and leading a grassroots movement was new.  So I came of age so to speak with this movement.  And I met a lot of wonderful people.  Many of those people are dear friends today.  Those who joined the movement were ordinary Americans who simply loved their communities and nation, and were worried that their future was gray and bleak.  And the facts and stats affirmed their concerns.

The tea party movement accomplished a lot in its early years, when enthusiasm was high and strategy was limited.  But as the years wore on, it became obvious that strategy and thoughtful deliberation would become more important.  No longer could the movement sustain itself on raw emotion, anger, or passion.  Rather, to succeed, it would require that we learn from our mistakes and failures.  Sadly though, nearly ten years later, the movement continues to struggle with the same blunders. 

As is the case with most elections, there are often several candidates who could be split into various tiers.  The first tier is the “perfect” candidate who might have a near unblemished track record, and his/her fidelity to tea party values is unquestioned.  

The second tier includes candidates who, while their voting record may not align perfectly with tea party values, and there may be other “complaints” some in the movement will lodge, they do have redeeming qualities.  Ultimately, if elected, they would advance many values the movement supports.  

Then there are the third tier candidates.  These are the ones who are so offensive or wrong in their policies, affiliations or track records, that most tea party members would likely never support them.  What we find though is that the candidates in Tier 1 are typically underfunded and thus not electable, while Tier 2 & 3 often have sufficient funds to mount a credible campaign.  

These three tiers expose one of the greatest flaws of the tea party movement: its unwillingness to coalesce together.  Independent elements, personalities, and egos are rampant in the movement, and unwillingness to tolerate the slightest variance from “perfection” is the norm.

Sadly, many tea party members are unwilling to consider anyone outside of Tier 1.  Because of this reality, what invariably happens is that other credible and acceptable candidates in Tier 2 are maligned and rejected.  Additionally, because Tier 3 candidates not only have sufficient funds, but they typically garner the establishment Republican voters, Tier 1 & 2 voters split all the other remaining votes.  Consequently the Tier 3 candidate often wins.  In every case this has been the worst case scenario for the movement, our state and nation.  We saw it with Romney in 2012.  And in Tennessee, we saw it with Governor Bill Haslam.  And Lamar Alexander.  And Bob Corker.  And others. 

Now again in 2017-18, tea party members in Tennessee are repeating the same old mistake.  The fidelity by many to their “perfect” but unelectable candidate is blinding them from the reality that there may be another “acceptable” candidate who is both credible and electable.  

Let me digress for a moment to state that there are times when one may not, for conscience sake, be able to vote for anyone in Tier 2 or Tier 3.  If that is the case, I would never attempt to judge someone else’s conscience.  At that point, it’s a deeply personal decision and no one should ever question someone’s deep rooted beliefs when they enter the voting booth.  

But in the absence of a moral reservation, the movement is missing another opportunity to help influence, and ultimately select, the next Governor in Tennessee.  It may require some to select what they consider to be a Tier 2 candidate.  But if they do, they will be selecting a candidate who can actually win, and they would be revealing a maturity that heretofore has been missing in the movement. 

Growing up requires that we oftentimes sacrifice perfection for good.  Maturity understands that we don’t always get what we want.  Honesty enables us to look into the future and predict what will likely occur and use our best efforts to influence that future.  Conversely, dishonesty keeps us glued to our own narrow-mindedness, trapped in our own little echo-chambers.  

Sadly though, if a movement never grows up, it ceases to be relevant.  And once it’s no longer relevant, it doesn’t have long to live. 

The tea party movement in Tennessee is at a crossroads.  It can stay on its present course and drive over the cliff, never to influence again.  Or it can take a right turn, and begin to coalesce around principled pragmatism, which is simply recognizing reality and attempting to win as many battles as possible by remaining as true as possible to one’s principles.  

Losing elections never advances one’s principles.  Winning elections with imperfect candidates can advance some of our principles.

So will the tea party movement put away childish attitudes and grow up, or simply fade away?  

Thriving in the Midst of Life’s Storms

Thriving in the Midst of Life’s Storms

“Blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit.”  Jeremiah 17:7-8

If you’re alive, troubles will come.  If you’ve been alive long, you’ve seen a lot of troubles.  Some are our own doing and some are simply a part of life, and may be completely unrelated to anything you or I have done.  How you or I prepare for and respond to those troubles though, can make all the difference in the world.  

Do you just float along, and deal with troubles as they come? 

Do you dread troubles, fearing them, as a howling storm headed your way?

Or do you understand that troubles, like the setting sun, will come?  If so, you prepare yourself properly; building your character; developing relationships; drawing close to God; cultivating that one-on-one time with the One who sustains everything by His very Word.

If you do prepare for life’s storms, you will be like majestic hardwood trees that stand strong and erect, driving their roots deep into the soil, finding the water far below.  It’s a known fact that as the wind blows against a tree, the tree responds by driving its roots deeper into the soil.  

Because of their years of preparation, these trees can and will withstand the storms that will undoubtedly come their way; winds, rain, storms, lightning.  Sure, they may bend during their times of trouble. They may sway. They may even lose branches.  But if they are tied into the very foundation that enables their strength, they will stand to see another sunny day, and grow even stronger from these storms, preparing them for the next trials that will certainly come.

Are you and I going deep in our relationship with God? Do we seek the “living water” that God offers through His Son, Jesus Christ?  Are we tied into Him daily?  Do we drink the nutrition that only He can give us, that will strengthen us like only God can do?  

When we do this, we will be prepared to not only withstand the trials that come our way, but we will thrive in the midst of life’s storms.  And as we do so, we will not only grow stronger for the next storm, but we will also be an encouragement to those around us who may not be preparing as they ought.

Go deep. Grow strong. Don’t fear. Drink Him in. God is your Hope and Confidence.

You, a Prostitute’s Son, & Overcoming Life’s Shameful Pasts

You, a Prostitute’s Son, & Overcoming Life’s Shameful Pasts

“Now Jephthah of Gilead was a great warrior. He was the son of Gilead, but his mother was a prostitute.”  Judges 11:1

Jephthah was an ancient warrior whose mother was a prostitute.  Even though his mother was a woman of the night, Jephthah still grew up with his father and half brothers.  His brothers, like so many kids, would jeer and bully Jephthah over his shameful past, eventually chasing him away from home.  

Shortly after Jephthah was driven from home by his hateful brothers, he rebelled and hung out with a lot of other low-lifes.  Apparently Jephthah was under the mistaken impression that because he had a shameful past, he needed to hang out with other shameful characters.  But others saw something in Jephthah that he didn’t even see in himself.  The elders of his community approached him about leading their army into battle against their enemies, and in exchange they would make Jephthah their ruler.

Jephthah was likely conflicted and distrusting of the very community that had caused him so many emotional wounds, but he agreed to the offer.  And in spite of his shameful past, Jephthah became a national hero by defeating the enemies of Israel.  

But if you read the entire story of Jephthah, you find out that there was a reason for his success.  It wasn’t simply that Jephthah pulled himself up by his bootstraps, or he became a “self-made” man, or he went to classes on how to overcome low self-esteem.  Rather, Jephthah was empowered by the “Spirit of the Lord” and through God’s direct intervention and guidance, Jephthah accomplished great things for God, and others were rescued and blessed. And because Jephthah turned and yielded himself to God, he overcame his shameful past.

You and I may not directly identify with Jephthah’s past, but if we’re honest, we may struggle with our own shameful pasts, some that were thrust upon us, and others that were of our own making. 

Like Jephthah, too many choose a life of rebellion.  They try to run from their past.  They even engage in destructive behaviors, thinking that such activity will soothe or remove the shame they carry.  But none of those choices will lead to freedom from the guilt that we chose to carry and embrace.  Rather, only through the “Spirit of the Lord” indwelling us, as He did with Jephthah, will we ever truly be free from our guilt and our pasts.  

While you and I may never be a national hero, we can chose to embrace the same God that transformed Jephthah’s life, and in so doing, we can be a blessing to others who may be struggling with their own shameful pasts.  

“Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” Philippians 3:13-14

“So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.” John 8:36  

Statues, Conflict & WWJD

Statues, Conflict & WWJD

“Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did.”  1 John 2:6

As Americans weigh in on the latest race relations battle, I can only imagine how satisfied Satan is, knowing that he has once again fanned the flames of division, racism and hatred in our nation. It seems that these skirmishes continue to flare up, no matter how many years we move away from the scourge of slavery that marked our nation’s past. 

So as iron and stone artifacts are receiving increased focus by newspapers, cable news, and social media, what seems to be lacking, at least for those who claim to be followers of Jesus, is WWJD — as in What Would Jesus Do?

There was a time when this slogan was routinely seen on bumper stickers, wrist bands, and t-shirts. And many continue to pose the question, WWJD, to test their actions and words. But the problem with using WWJD is that too often a person’s subjective evaluation can yield multiple answers, if Scriptures are not abundantly clear.

So I’ve been searching the Bible for answers to how Christ’s followers should respond to the calls for removing statues, flags and monuments. Rather than pragmatic or even patriotic approaches, I’m more interested in what Jesus would actually do were He here physically today. But as I considered the likelihood of a subjective response to this latest American problem, I became more intrigued with WDJS — as in What Did Jesus Say?  

If you grew up never knowing your father, but he left you a book with explicit instructions on what he valued and believed, such a document would be of great value as you encountered life’s struggles. 

You and I never had the privilege that the original twelve disciples had, to not only hear the words of Jesus but to also see Him live those words out day after day. So when Jesus told them, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” and the disciples then witnessed Jesus loving and forgiving those who tortured and crucified Him, they could see that what Jesus said directly impacted what He did. 

So whether it’s Jesus or you and me, our actions are driven by our thoughts and our thoughts spill out in our words. 

If you and I profess to be followers of Jesus, and we routinely ask WWJD, then what Jesus said, and He directed others to say for Him throughout the Bible, should be of supreme importance to us as we deliberate over how to respond to statues and racism, and those who are drawing lines in the sand. 

So let’s look at what the Bible has to say about how a follower of Jesus should respond to this latest racial skirmish. 

Dealing with Anger & Conflict

“God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God.”  Matthew 5:9

“But if you are always biting and devouring one another, watch out! Beware of destroying one another.”  Galatians 5:15

“Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.”  Ephesians 4:31-32

“Again I say, don’t get involved in foolish, ignorant arguments that only start fights. A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people.”  2 Timothy 2:23-24

“If we love our brothers and sisters who are believers, it proves that we have passed from death to life. But a person who has no love is still dead. Anyone who hates another brother or sister is really a murderer at heart. And you know that murderers don’t have eternal life within them.” 1 John 3:14-15

Looking to the Good of Others

“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”  Matthew 5:44

“Don’t be concerned for your own good but for the good of others.”  1 Corinthians 10:24

“Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith.”  Galatians 6:10

“See that no one pays back evil for evil, but always try to do good to each other and to all people.”  1 Thessalonians 5:15

“We who are strong must be considerate of those who are sensitive about things like this. We must not just please ourselves. We should help others do what is right and build them up in the Lord.  Romans 15:1-2

Showing Grace, Forgiveness, Love & Unity

“If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.”  Matthew 6:14-15

“Any kingdom divided by civil war is doomed. A town or family splintered by feuding will fall apart.”  Matthew 12:25

“You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: Love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22:37-39

“Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace.”  Ephesians 4:2-3

“Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.”  Colossians 3:13

“So let’s stop condemning each other. Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not cause another believer to stumble and fall.”  Romans 14:13

“May God, who gives this patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other, as is fitting for followers of Christ Jesus. Then all of you can join together with one voice, giving praise and glory to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, accept each other just as Christ has accepted you so that God will be given glory.”  Romans 15: 5-7

The Lawsuit Analogy

“When one of you has a dispute with another believer, how dare you file a lawsuit and ask a secular court to decide the matter instead of taking it to other believers! Don’t you realize that someday we believers will judge the world? And since you are going to judge the world, can’t you decide even these little things among yourselves? Don’t you realize that we will judge angels? So you should surely be able to resolve ordinary disputes in this life. If you have legal disputes about such matters, why go to outside judges who are not respected by the church? I am saying this to shame you. Isn’t there anyone in all the church who is wise enough to decide these issues? But instead, one believer sues another—right in front of unbelievers! Even to have such lawsuits with one another is a defeat for you. Why not just accept the injustice and leave it at that? Why not let yourselves be cheated? Instead, you yourselves are the ones who do wrong and cheat even your fellow believers.”  1 Corinthians 6:1-8

Final Thoughts

This last weekend our nation was reminded of the priority of life, unity and cooperation as Hurricane Harvey bore down on Texas, wreaking death and unimaginable destruction for millions of our fellow Americans.  Interestingly, my blog post last week entitled “Racial Strife: Finding the Antidote to the Enemy Within” dealt directly with such catastrophic events that can bring our nation together and what the two step solution is for this division we are facing. 

While most of us have not been directly impacted by Hurricane Harvey, our hearts, minds and prayers are with those who are struggling to survive.  So as I was communicating with some friends in Texas and viewing the scenes of catastrophic destruction, the following thought suddenly struck me:  Statues No Longer Matter

When an event like a hurricane, a terrorist attack or something similar occurs, our attention is immediately brought to bear on what is ultimately important. Likewise, if we are a follower of Christ, we should understand on an even greater scale that we have opportunities to make an eternal difference in the lives around us when we chose to live as Jesus did.  

As you and I consider the controversies playing out over statues and monuments, may we remember the words of Jesus and the scriptures, focus our attention on eternity, and then adjust our behavior to align with God’s principles. 

If you think others might benefit from this post, please consider forwarding it to them, including your pastor.  And feel free to share your thoughts with me.

 

Racial Strife: Finding the Antidote to the Enemy Within

Racial Strife: Finding the Antidote to the Enemy Within

If you’ve ever watched the movie Independence Day, or one of the many other films that have been made over the years about aliens attacking the world, you know there’s one consistent theme with all of them: There is a common enemy that seeks to annihilate mankind, and this common threat brings together people of every race, background, and even religion to fight the enemy. The myriad of differences of the people no longer matter. Rather, the people become united as one because without such unity they will surely die. 

 

Abraham Lincoln once said:

“American will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”

The President who led our nation to battle the evil of racism, which resulted in the deaths of 620,000 Americans, had a front row view of the hatred that nearly destroyed our nation. And he ultimately lost his life because of that hate.  

Since the founding of our great nation, the scourge of racism has pulsated through our communities. If we are honest with ourselves though, racism flows in all directions. It is not limited to a particular race or skin color. 

But racism is not the root of the problem, any more than the spaceships of the aliens were the underlying threat to mankind. Rather, the aliens within the spaceships were driving the threat to annihilate mankind. 

Likewise, racism is merely the vehicle that carries the real threat: Hate.  We hate others because of their skin color, or their socio-economic status, or their geographic location in our nation, or the wealth they possess, or the education they were provided, or the President they voted for, or a host of other reasons. 

Pure and simple, Americans Hate. And the latest stage where we have seen that hate playing out is in the streets of Charlottesville as KKK and other white racist groups battled with BLM and other black racist groups. Sadly, if we’re honest with ourselves, hate is often present in our own hearts and lives. As we view the bloody scenes of men and women clashing in the streets, what wells up in our hearts?  Is it anger or sorrow?  Is it the desire for retribution or forgiveness?  Is it rationalization or condemnation?

Jesus said that we should be willing to forgive our brothers up to seventy times seven, symbolizing an unending flow of forgiveness. Yet, are we willing to do so?

Consider that unforgiveness is a sin that directly severs our relationship with God, as Jesus affirmed:

“If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.”  Matthew 6:14-15

Later, when asked what the greatest commandment was, Jesus replied:

“You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: Love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22:37-39

The antidote to the poison of hate is a two step process: forgiveness and love. This process requires a daily commitment on our part to insure that the enemy of mankind, hate, does not well back up in our hearts. Unless we commit ourselves to the discipline of forgiveness and love, the future of the union for which so many bled and died is at stake. But more importantly, the eternal destiny of our own souls hangs in the balance. 

Thank you for reading and if you enjoyed this post, would you mind forwarding it to a few friends?  Thank you.