Lessons From Lance Armstrong We All Need To Remember

The story of Lance Armstrong’s fall should not surprise us. Fundamentally, it is a story about a struggle against sin. Though the details change from person to person, his story is an old one and is often repeated.

Oprah Interviews Lance Armstrong

Genesis 3 describes Adam and Eve in the garden. To greatly simplify how the events of the “original sin” unfolded, it went something like this: they saw the fruit, they wanted the fruit, they took the fruit, and then they desperately tried to hide the fact that they had taken the fruit.

That’s how the story of sin goes… we see, we want, we take, we hide. None of us escapes it.

As we wrestle with sin in our own lives, we would do well to keep these five things in mind:

1. Sin is Alluring

We all know that when sin begins to draw us in, we’re not exactly thinking straight. We might know something’s wrong, but sin whispers in our ear until we find a way to rationalize and justify our actions (James 1:14-15).

2. Sin is Never Secret

We would like to think that we can keep things hidden, but sin has a remarkable way of being uncovered and discovered. It’s better to just assume that it will. Even ‘secret’ sins will not remain secret forever (Luke 12:2-3, 1 Cor. 4:5).

3. Sin Affects Self

Sin carries a heavy burden. It causes separation in our relationship with God. We miss out on God’s presence and power in our lives. It traps us in guilt and shame and immobilizes us from ministry. It numbs our hearts, steals our joy, and robs us of abundant life.

4. Sin Affects Others

My sin cannot be isolated from you and your sin cannot be isolated from me. There is always a direct and/or indirect effect of our sin on others. Alexander Maclaren says it well, “… no man’s sin terminates in himself.”

5. Sin Has a Solution

Jesus went to the cross to rescue us from our sin. His grace is amazing because he offers us the forgiveness none of us deserve. He lovingly fixes, redeems and restores everything we made a mess and “makes all things new.”

What other lessons have you seen or learned about our shared struggle with sin?

The Secret to Anxiety Free Decision Making

People make thousands of choices every day. While most are fairly trivial, all of us occasionally face decisions that carry greater weight. The pressure to make just the “right choice” often results in a deluge of negative emotions including anxiety, fear, and even paralysis in making the decision.

Decision Dice

Many times, the pressure is actually self-induced based upon an untrue assumption. What is the assumption? Perfect knowledge.

It’s stating the obvious, but the truth is, human beings are not omniscient (all-knowing.) That means we do not have perfect knowledge and we will never entirely understand the myriad of factors related to any situation. This is why Proverbs 3:5 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart… do not lean on your own understanding.”

So, take into consideration any wisdom that God has given that relates to your decision and make your choice. You may or may not make the perfect decision, or even the best decision, but that’s okay. Why? Because of the secret to anxiety free decision-making… grace.

God’s grace is not only sufficient to cover our sins, His grace is sufficient to make up for any and all of shortcomings that come as a result of our sinful condition of imperfect knowledge. (Even our most self-assured decisions are guarded by His grace.)

Don’t have all the facts? It’s okay, you have grace. Afraid you might make the wrong decision? Don’t fear, rest in God’s grace. Feeling anxious over what’s best? You shouldn’t. Remember the unfailing power of God’s grace that is completely and totally sufficient to make up for any imperfections in your decision.

What decision are you facing right now that you need to trust God’s grace for?

The Social Media Sham

Social media has a lot going for it. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and all the others have a place and a purpose, but they also come with a warning.

A friend shared a story about his recent visit to the “happiest place on earth.” As they stood in line waiting for a ride, he noticed two brothers nearly killing each other, only to be interrupted by their mother who told them to stop and smile so she could post a picture to Facebook.

Thus the danger or social media… it’s not reality.

When it comes to social media, we capture the highlights, not the humdrum. We capture the meal, not the dishes. We capture the smiles, not the tears. We show the world our best moments and conveniently leave out the rest.

Sure, a trip to the beach includes smiles and sunshine, but it also includes packing, driving, trudging through sand, sunburns, malicious seagulls bent on destruction, individuals oblivious to their body-to-bathing-suit ratio, and sand stuck in various cracks and crevices. Those things rarely make it in.

Not Reality

Why does it matter? The things we see and read in the world of social media don’t accurately represent life. We only get the highlights.

If we use what we see on social media as a means for comparison, we run the danger of being discouraged and disappointed with the reality of our own lives. My marriage won’t measure up, my kids won’t measure up, my church won’t measure up, my friendships won’t measure up… nothing in my life will measure up.

Yes, we should capture the smiles and share them with the world. But, we should also find contentment in the ordinary and the mundane that makes up a great majority of our lives. Stop comparing. In the ‘unreal’ world of social media, you’ll always come up short.

For the Better

With the exception of some deeply religious hypocritical leaders, people really liked hanging out with Jesus. And it wasn’t just because of the cool miracles.

Plenty of people really liked having Jesus around because he always made people and situations better. Funerals and wedding parties… better. A trip to the well by a licentious women… better. Worship in the temple… better. A party with drunks and prostitutes… better. Walking down a dusty road… better. Fish fry at the lake… better. Every person, every situation, every moment was better because Jesus was there.

Jesus was there, so life was there. Hope was there. Love was there. Encouragement was there. Peace was there. Truth was there.

What about us?

There is never a time or a moment where our presence does not have the potential to have an effect on the people we come in contact with.

How do conversations shift when you join in? How does your home change when you walk in the door? How is work different because you’re there? How does your presence in your faith community change? How is your neighborhood or community affected because you are there?

If we’re anything like Jesus, they’ll all be better.

Are You Listening?

I had a disappointing phone conversation recently with a local government leader. The heart of my disappointment came from having something to say, but not being heard. I can’t cast judgment though, because I often find myself on the flip-side of the situation.

It’s a common occurrence simply due to supply and demand. The amount of time leaders have to listen is usually disproportionate to the amount of people who have something to say. The key is not necessarily hearing everything from everyone, it’s how you make them feel.

I have no advice for leaders who don’t want to listen, but for those who genuinely do, here are a few practical suggestions:

1. Affirm that you want to listen.

Validate the other person by telling them that you do want to hear from them. This could be as simple as, “I really want to hear what you have to say.”

2. Explain why you can’t listen.

Unless you work for the CIA, most leaders can divulge why they can’t talk at the moment. Again, something as simple as, “I’ve got a busy schedule this morning…” or “I’m sorry, you caught me at a bad time…” goes a long way.

3. Offer an opportunity to listen.

Instead of just brushing someone off, tell them when you do have time to hear from them. “Can I call you back in 10 minutes?” or “I have a 30 minute window in my schedule next week.” Most people will be understanding of your limitations and will appreciate what you can offer.

“…let every person be quick to hear…” James 1:19

Who I Am

The Leadership Lie You Need To Stop Believing

Leaders often make the mistake of assuming other people dislike the same work they do. Because of this, they are hesitant to ask for help or to delegate in the areas of their weakness, assuming other people dislike it as much as they do.

But it just isn’t true.

Here is the simple fact: The thing you hate doing is the exact same thing someone else loves.

One of two things happens when leaders fail to recognize this: 1) The leader continues doing things they despise and therefore the thing is done poorly or 2) They never do the thing at all.

Either way, everyone on the team suffers (as well as the organization.)

Don’t assume everyone else hates the same things you hate. Ask, delegate, look around. Start with the assumption that someone else is sitting around unfulfilled, waiting to do the same thing you’re avoiding.

When you get people doing the things they love, you will be happier, others will be more fulfilled and the whole team will benefit!

Are you doing (not doing) something right now that someone else might love? Who on your team might love doing it?

Getting What You Didn’t Earn: An Olympic Illustration

I love watching Olympic competition. I’m one of those guys that chants, “USA, USA” even though I’m cheering for an event that ended hours ago, 5,000 miles away.

One of my favorite Olympic moments is the medal ceremony. I’ll admit to getting a little choked up when an athlete stands on the podium, medal hanging around their neck, beaming with pride as their flag is raised to the playing of their national anthem. That moment represents the culmination of years of hard work, hours of rigorous training and significant sacrifice.

The rewards of being the best in the world are many. Sure, there’s the shiny piece of metal, but there’s also the pride of accomplishment, your name in the record books, accolades from heads of state, lucrative endorsements, and the admiration of a nation.

But what if you were given all these things and you didn’t deserve it? How would you feel if someone else did all the work and you got all the reward?

The Bible describes just this kind of situation.

To state the issue as simply as possible, our sin makes us guilty and deserving of punishment. We need to be made right with God, but unlike an Olympic athlete, no amount of effort, hard work or determination can earn it… but Jesus did.

When we place our faith in what Jesus did on the cross for our benefit, the results are staggering. Romans 5:1 says, “… since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Part of peace come through forgiveness. Forgiveness is when I did something bad and deserving of a consequence, but the consequence doesn’t come. I’ve been forgiven. I’ve been pardoned.

While forgiveness is great, the work of Jesus does much more.

The benefit of forgiveness is that my guilt is removed and I’m not held responsible for what I’ve done. But, forgiveness only brings me back to neutral. That is, it only brings me back to where I started before I did something wrong.

Being justified takes things a step further and adds a positive… it adds righteousness.

Righteousness is a performance record… a really, really good performance record. It’s a record that says, “You’re the best! You made it! You have what it takes!”

When we place our faith in Jesus and are “justified,” the performance record of Jesus is given to us. Jesus is the one who does the hard work of living a sinless life. Jesus is the one who makes the sacrifice of His life, boldly defeating sin and death.

Then He does something amazing. Jesus gives us His record of accomplishment. He takes the prize that He earned, places it around our necks, puts us on the podium and says, “Enjoy all the benefits!”

Is it hard for you to believe that Jesus offers you all the benefits of His hard work? Do you appreciate being justified as much as you do being forgiven?

Responding to Chick-fil-A Antagonist

I hesitated to venture into the Chick-fil-A skirmish, but it seems as though the discussion will continue for a while, so here I go.

A few preliminary thoughts:

Chick-fil-A makes amazing food. Healthy? No. Delicious? Yes. Enough said.

In addition to food, Chick-fil-A does a lot of other great things. This includes business leadership training, college scholarships, 11 foster care homes, many local charities and educational toys in their kids meals!

While those things may be true, let’s recognize that…

Christians have unfairly targeted homosexuals. It’s always easier to focus on other people’s sin and ignore your own. This is why Jesus said we should notice the log in our own eye before we point out the speck in someone else’s eye. Christians often ignore their own more “acceptable” sins of gluttony (e.g. fat pastors), pride, greed, etc.

Christians have failed to love homosexuals as Jesus commanded. All human beings are made in the image of God and therefore have immense worth. Because of this, they are worthy of being loved, regardless of their morality. There are many followers of Jesus who need to do a heart check because of their lack of love.

Having said those things, here is my response to Chick-fil-A antagonist:

1. Your accusations of hate are hateful.

Dan’s Cathy’s original message has been greatly distorted. His words are far less hateful than what many are implying. He said Chick-fil-A supports the “biblical definition of a family.” Not very hateful.

While some gay marriage proponents have responded with civil-discourse, many have responded with the same mean-spirited “hate speech” they falsely accuse Cathy of. It is greatly inconsistent (dare we say hypocritical) to hatefully call others hateful.

2. Your tolerance is intolerant.

The definition of tolerance is “a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward opinions and practices that differ from one’s own.”

The problem with your tolerance is that while you want people to be tolerant of you, you refuse to be tolerant of others. If you’re going to raise the banner of tolerance, it has to go both ways.

3. Your allegation of discrimination is discriminating.

Just like people, companies have values. Some value ecology. Some value innovation. Some value greed. Some value the “traditional family.” You don’t have to agree with them and you are not obligated to buy their product or to use their service. That’s called discretion.

Discrimination is different.

When the mayors of Boston and Chicago vow to not to allow Chick-fil-A in their cities, that is discriminatory. Cities/mayors can’t prevent or throw-out businesses from a city when their values differ from those of a company. What if a conservative mayor were to ban pro-homosexual companies from their city? Again… greatly inconsistent.

4. Your accusations of narrow-mindedness are narrow-minded.

Chick-fil-A antagonist say that Cathy’s statements are a reflection of a person who has yet to discover the truth, that he is speaking from ignorance or basing his opinion on an archaic book (the Bible) that no longer has relevance in modern society.

The problem with such a view is that it assumes you have found perfect knowledge. When I think I have perfect knowledge, anyone who disagrees with what I think, therefore, has imperfect knowledge. That’s a good definition of being narrow-minded.

Tim Keller says it well, “To reject the Bible as regressive is to assume that you have now arrived at the ultimate historic moment, from which all that is regressive and progressive can be discerned. That belief is surely as narrow and exclusive as the views in the Bible you regard as offensive.”

Those are my thoughts. What are yours?

The One Thing Children Don’t Need To Learn

Not a single child in all of history has ever needed to be taught to be foolish. Folly just comes naturally.

I was speaking at a camp for middle school students this summer just outside of our town. My wife and nine-year old son decided they would like to drive out and join us for the evening. They didn’t know if they would make it in time for the evening meal, so Shelly told him to pack a meal to go.

They made it to camp in time for dinner so the packed meal remained in the bag it was brought in. Later that night, I opened it up to see what was inside and discovered the following contents.

While his dinner maybe missing a couple essential food groups (or all of them), he does get high marks for color and consistency.

We see similar examples of folly all the time in children. Running with scissors and not looking before crossing the street are due to folly. It’s why a child will eat donuts until they throw-up. Nearly all trips to the principal office are folly related. Folly is why teens surf on cars and jump from buildings without thinking about the importance of landing.

What can we attribute all of our “seemed like a good idea at the time” moments to? Folly. Folly prevents people from considering the outcome of their actions.

Proverbs 22:15 tells us, “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him.”

Children do not naturally gravitate toward wisdom because their hearts having something stuck to them that prevents them from making good decisions. So parent’s have been given the responsibility to “unbound folly”… to drive it far from them through the use of discipline. We might say our job is to be “folly extractors.”

Discipline removes folly and replaces it with wisdom. This could be through verbal warnings, time-outs, loss of privilege, spankings (given in love), or other forms of discipline. Correction should always begin with the least severe method and increase only when the more gentle method fails to bring about change. We know that forms of discipline must change as our children grow older, but the mission remains the same.

But have to stay the course. We must remain vigilant. Unlike wine, uncorrected folly doesn’t get better with age. The stakes get higher and the consequences become more severe.

No parent enjoys discipline, but we cannot allow folly to bind their hearts. To not discipline is to not love. Sparing our children from the potential consequences of foolishness is the most loving thing we could do for them.

How have you seen this relationship between folly and discipline in your own childhood, as a parent with your children or with other children/parents?

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