He Is Risen! He Is Risen Indeed!

So, I am sitting in Church this morning, and I start thinking about my mom. I remember one year when she came to Vancouver to visit. It was Easter, and we went to Church. The pastor was preaching about the resurrection. After the service I asked my mom what she thought. She said, how many times can He die and rise again? We giggled and then had some great food. This morning I thought about that as Pastor Don gave an excellent sermon on the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.

Here are my thoughts about today. As the Apostle Paul wrote in First Corinthians 15, if Jesus did not rise from the dead; then all of the preaching of history about Christianity is vain; and all of us who profess Christ are liars! And to top it all off, if He did not rise from the dead, then we are foolish because we should just do whatever we want to do. But the fact is, the tomb is empty. He has risen. This reality hit me in an amazing new way this morning.

I have equated some events in my past as similar to what Esau did when he came home from a hunt and was hungry. Jacob was cooking a meal, Esau was hungry and asked Jacob for some of his food. Jacob said if Esau gave him his birthright, as the oldest, Jacob would give him some food. Esau said yes, and gave up his birthright, something extremely important, for a bowl of porridge. This is one of the truly tragic stories in the Bible. There are events in my past where I have felt that I sold my birthright for something insignificant.

These feelings come and go along with life’s daily grind, however, this morning I saw how Jesus looks at those events. This is why this Easter was so different for me. I have been walking with Jesus for forty years, and this year was not another one where I say to myself how many times can he rise from the dead. He has risen, and that is why Christianity is true. He has risen, which is why I can say that no matter how many times I attempt to sell my birthright for a bowl of porridge I can find forgiveness.

My birthright has been bought by something more valuable that my life, it was bought with the life of Jesus Christ. The fact that His rose changed everything and continues to change everything! I have hope, not only in this life, but in the life to come.

He is risen! He is risen indeed! I believe that! This is a new Easter, and a new life!

And that is my thought for the day!

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Two Leaders And Two Countries

My wife and I were on vacation for a week. We were in Moab, Utah four-wheeling, hiking, and enjoying the sun. While we were there, I spent more time having fun than thinking about what to write in my blog. I am now home, and as my Uncle said to me, there is much to think and write about, and now it is time to get back to work. My first blog will contrast the leadership styles of two prominent leaders, one, who is doing good, and one who is leading his people to destruction. And also touch on two countries that are helping the world to push back the advancement of democracy.

On Thursday, Pope Francis washed the feet of the poor, including juveniles at a detention center. He did this as Jesus did to the disciples. Another example of Pope Francis’ humility is his departure from papal tradition. He will live in the Vatican, but he will not live in the papal palace, but in an apartment. Pope Francis does seem to be mirroring the example of Christ – Servant Leadership. As Peggy Noonan stated, “All this suggests the new pope’s coming approach: into the world, out to the suffering.” Francis is bringing hope to Catholics worldwide. He loves the poor, marginalized of the world. He wants to do something to help them. And many see him as a man who can deal with the problems of the church. The bottom-line is that Francis is inspiring people to do good.

The second leader is Kim Jong Eun, the young North Korean leader. He is continuing down the same road as his father, ensuring that North Korea maintains its status quo. Instead of leading the people to great freedom, Eun is ensuring that the people he is leading stay in bondage to its outdated philosophy. Kim Jong Eun has stated that he has rockets pointed at the mainland of the United States. As a result the United States has sent B-2 bombers to practice their abilities in plain view of North Korea. Yet, the rhetoric still remains.

Is Eun’s actions any different from the past? According to Julian Barnes the answer is no. “The North is running the same playbook, but using their more aggressive options. Everything they have done, they have done before.” Rather than following a similar path as Pope Francis, he is following in the footsteps of his own father oppressing his people. He is not helping to make North Korea a better place, just to maintain its level of squalor.

It appears that the Eun style of leadership is flourishing throughout the world. China and Russia is helping push back democracy around the world. According to a global monitoring group reported in today’s WSJ, that 2012 was the seventh consecutive year of democratic decline. There are many reasons for the decline, such as people becoming disappointed with freedom when prosperity didn’t occur. Russia and China are filling the vacuum created by this disappointment. Their governments are repressive, fighting to ensure their people stay in line. Putin, in particular, has done much to repress opposition. This is the exact opposite of what leadership should do.

I don’t know what Francis will do over the next few years, but I do know that if he truly follows in the footsteps of Christ he will be a good leader. I hope Francis is able to stay true to what Jesus is calling him to do. I have more hope for Francis than I do Eun, Xi Jinping, and Putin.

And that is my thought for the day!

 

 

Walking With Jesus For Forty Years

I, like most of the world, is fascinated with Francis, the new Pope. With 1.2 billion Catholics throughout the world, and a new leader who intends to lead with humility, I predict there will an impact on the world. I don’t know what it will be, but there will be one. However, what I have been thinking about is the brief discussion concerning his past in Argentina. Here is a man who has served his religion for many years, and has risen to its pinnacle, which has led to high levels of scrutiny. This is what got me thinking.

I have been walking with Jesus for forty years. I have always looked to March, 1973 as the month I asked Jesus into my life, but I am beginning to think it was a little later than that, probably somewhere around July. I am little fuzzy on the detail right now. However, I know for a fact that it was 1973, thus forty years.

My BC life was a bit troubling. Arrested several times, lots of alcohol and drug consumption, it was the 60’s, and meandering through life. I married young, had great kids, and eventually divorced. However, the pivotal point of change was that moment I received Christ in my life.

As I reflect on forty years, there are many positive and many negative events. Many long-term relationships have been formed, and many have been lost. Walking with Jesus is filled with pleasure and pain; both of which I have experienced over forty years.

There was a point in time when I felt called to the ministry, eventually moving my family to Washington State to follow that call. The pleasure of that move cannot be discounted. I know for a fact that is what I was supposed to do. I brought a wife and two daughters to the Northwest, and began a trip that continues today. After a year of living in Vancouver trying to fit in a particular Church, I had heard that Pastor Bill Ritchie had traveled to California to meet Chuck Smith, the Pastor of the Church where I got saved. Shortly thereafter, I and my family started attending Crossroads Community Church. It was 1978, and I spent many good years there. I would like to think that Bill and I developed a friendship, although he and I had disagreements over the years. I would still consider him a friend.

One of our disagreements involved the starting of a Church in Ridgefield, Washington. Looking back, maybe Bill was right, but I was driven. This event was filled with pleasure but much pain. The Church is still going today, although I am not the pastor. It has moved to downtown Vancouver, and has been successful for many years. However, this event led to my eventual divorce, which was the second defining moment in my life. Since that time, I have grown very close to my son, but am estranged from my daughters. This is very painful for me, but yet I trust God to work it out.

The journey continued as I reestablished myself at Crossroads, starting a ministry called Pathfinders. It was a single parents ministry, and it was where I met my wife, Pauline. This is the third defining event in my life. Because of her, I went back to school, and eventually becoming a professor. I now have two additional daughters that I enjoy, and a wonderful granddaughter, Gracie, who is my sunshine. I am truly amazed at where God has taken me, probably not where I would have chosen to go.

Over the years, I have offended people, I know. I hope they will forgive me for my selfishness. Over the years, I have served people, and for that opportunity I am very thankful. Over the years, I have made many friends, and hopefully few enemies. But forty years is not the end.

I look forward to the next twenty-plus years, Lord willing, to serve and experience His grace. My prayer is that I reconcile with my daughters. I pray that I get even closer with my two other daughters and son. I also, pray that my wife and I enjoy each other as we grow old. And I also pray for vibrancy as I walk with Jesus in the twilight of my life.

And that is my thought for the day!

College Education And Wages In Portland!

I was in a meeting today with other Faculty when I heard about an article written by Betsy Hammond in the Oregonian. The article starts, “The Portland metro area’s young college-education white men are slackers when it comes to logging hours on the job, and that’s one reason people here collectively earn $2.8 billion less a year than the national average.” Hammond’s article discusses conclusions resulting from a new study released today by local business groups, as it seeks to explain why Portland’s per-capita income has fallen 5% below the national average.

It appears that Portland has a high-share of humanities majors, and “a notable lack of business majors.” This, according to the study, leads Portlanders to pursue lower paying careers than business. The article then quotes Scott Dawson, dean of the business school of Portland State University, “major in accounting and finance and you’re almost sure to find high-paying job.” He also states that “Portlanders are not thinking of IPOs and making millions of dollars. They want to aim their business mind-set at social problems.”

This article attempts to paint a negative picture of liberal arts education. “I’m not going to say that liberal arts majors are bad, all college education is really, really, good.” It finishes with the comment, “we’ve got to get more strategic to get more people with finance, management, science, technology, engineering, and math.”

On the contrary, combining liberal arts with business is the best of both worlds. What are the biggest complaints of employers when discussing college graduates? Usually their complaints are around the topics of writing and critical thinking. What are the main reasons for a liberal arts education? Critical thinking, writing, philosophy, and science are all academic endeavors that help prepare students for future careers, especially business.

A society is made up of many different types of people. Some are business people, some are teachers, others doctors, etc. To say that we need to focus on one group of another misses the point. Diversity is a wonderful thing, leading to a healthy culture.

The referenced article is disturbingly short sighted. There is nothing wrong with wanting to use business skills for the good of humanity. If fact, I think it is the right use of business skills.

And that is my thought for the day!

Lessons From The Hawthorne District And Jeb Bush

Yesterday was a pretty full day. Played golf in the morning, yard work after that, and then a wedding. That evening we were going to attend a play at Warner Pacific College, but I had read the times incorrectly. I was with my wife, granddaughter and two of her friends. We arrived an hour early for the play. Waiting an hour for the play to start was not an option, so we went to an establishment called Swirl. It is a Fro-Yo store in the Hawthorne District in Portland. As we were walking around I saw this amazing commercial area made up of small and middle size businesses that seemed vibrant. I want to know more about this area.

I mention this because I think this area is an exemplar of the Economy at large. I would love to observe this area and watch how it changes, what stores open, which ones close, who shops there. I need to structure this research a bit more.

I agree with what Jeb Bush wrote in yesterday’s WSJ. “Americans have a sense that the economy is fragile, that its rewards are unfairly tilted toward the few, and that the greatest prosperity in this century will be enjoyed by people in other lands and not by our children.” But he goes on to say how there are many positive things happening in our country. I found this article very interesting. From my visit to the Hawthorne area, and reading this article, I think that as big business, community entrepreneurs, and government find a way to work together we just might see a vibrant strong economy instead of the façade of one.

Bush describes what he thinks are the core conservative principles: “greater individual responsibility, more personal freedom, and smaller and more effective government.” These he feels “are the only principles that empower people to rise to the top, to raise a family, and to be free.” So far, I have not read anything in this article from Bush that I disagree with.

What I saw in Hawthorne last night, were small businesses created by people to provide value to customers while making a living. I am assuming that is what is occurring there on this main street. These entrepreneurs are attempting to keep the social mobility axiom alive. Bush states, “First, America needs a government that allows both small people to rise and large businesses to fail. Government has a role in regulating, but its role shouldn’t include picking the winners and the losers.”

As my wife and I looked out the window at Swirl we saw a very eclectic world pass by us. Gay, straight, families, rich, and poor all passed by us during this short time sitting in the restaurant.

Bush addressed this, “Today, the sad reality is that if you are born poor, if your parents didn’t go to college, if you don’t know your father, if English isn’t spoken at home – then odds are stacked against you. You are more likely to stay poor than at any other time since World War II.” I find those words sad, and enlightening. Bush’s response to this need, “the country needs to equip every child with the best tools to rise – a quality education.” Our country spends “more per pupil than any other country in the world,” but our students continually rank middle of the pack. “America needs an education transformation based on standards benchmarked to the best of the world, a system of no-excuses, accountability that refuses to accept failure and rewards excellence. The country needs a culture based on empowering parents with the abundance of choices and deep understanding of the transformative power of digital learning.” I have to say I am ready to sing “I’m proud to be an American.

Bush’s last three points are very good. First, we need to begin to think that success is a good thing. Second, America needs a forward-thinking immigration system, “that replaces the failed status quo, meets the country’s economic needs and honors its immigration heritage and the rule of law.” Third, recognize the value of limiting the size of government.

As I read this article, I reflected on the new Pope of the Catholic Church. He has just challenged Catholics to remember the poor. The poor and marginalized need help, but there needs to be a balance between government and local people in meeting this huge need. Bush states, “We need to be out in our communities helping neighbors, mentoring children, and demonstrating that generosity, compassion, and human potential are immensely more powerful than a thousand government programs.”

I have my goal for the rest of my life. It is to prepare students to meet this challenge. My goal is not creating conservative idealists who think only about personal initiative. I want to create students who see the value of free enterprise, and how taking initiative and being successful is a good thing. I want students who are not relying on government to do something for them, but to work hard at whatever they choose do with their lives. But most of all, that as they are successful, they never forget the poor and disenfranchised. I want them to step up and help those individuals develop the skills they need to breakout of the societal and self-imposed prisons.

And that is my thought for the day!

The America That Works!

Some of the folks I talk to feel the Economist magazine has drifted too far to the left, while others view it as a magazine that is too conservative. I see it as an outside perspective, the magazine is published in London, with which to use in analyzing and thinking about our current actions. The title of this week’s publication is “The America That Works.” Within its lead article the magazine describes two America’s one that is dysfunctional and broken and the other that is working and finding solutions.

As the author of the article states, there is an America that Chinese leaders are laughing at, and other nations are despairing.  But the fact is, our “debt is rising, our population is aging in a budget threatening way, our schools are mediocre by international standards, our infrastructure is rickety, our regulations dense, our tax code byzantine, our immigration system harebrained, and we have fallen from the first position in the World’s Economic Forum’s competitive rankings to seventh in just four years.” You know it is bad when America’s main businesses are sitting on $2 Trillion in cash because they are afraid to invest; they don’t trust the Hatfield’s and the McCoy’s in Washington D.C. to fix anything.  This is the bad part.

The Economist also describes the good part, the part that is working. “Yet there is another America, where things work.” The describe this by stating, “recent numbers from the jobs market and the housing sector have been quite healthy. Consumer balance sheets are being repaired. The stock market has just reached a new high.” What is the reason for this? “Beyond the District of Columbia, the rest of the country is starting to tackle some of its deeper competitive problems. Businesses and politicians are not waiting for the federal government to ride to their rescue. Instead, they are getting to grips with the failings Congress is ignoring.”

There is an entrepreneurial energy that is reaching a fever pitch. Research and development is at the record level of 2.9% of GDP, the same level as during the space race during the cold war. “America is home to 27 of the 30 universities that put out the most-cited scientific research – and it is still good at developing those ideas.” New energy and old energy is being developed, while working out environmental hazards. All of which is being accomplished despite the roadblocks set up by Washington.

I don’t know if there is a connection or not, but NPR reported today that 30 states are run by Republican governors. But one thing I do know that states are finding creative ways to deal with their cash flow problems. Creative policy making, adopting sweeping reforms to attract investments to their states, and developing new ways to raise cash for rebuilding infrastructure. Louisiana, Nebraska, Ohio, and Illinois are finding a new can do attitude. A little different than what we find in D.C.

Even decrepit education systems are changing. “The states are giving America’s schools their biggest overhaul in living memory. Forty-five of them [states] are developing new curriculums. And teachers are being held accountable. All of this leads to better competitiveness, if the Federal government stays out of the way. “The manufactured crises in Washington will possibly undermine the things that work. Better schools and cheaper energy are wonderful, but if Mr. Obama and Congress do nothing to curb the unaffordable growth in health and pension spending, America will still be going broke. By 2037 such entitlements will chew up 17% of the GDP – an unsustainable amount.”

The Affordable Care Act, 1000 pages of regulation, is a great example of what can happen. It was just discovered that companies that ensure employees will have a $65 tax to help pay for Obama care. For the Boeing Company, who insures about 405,000 people, its part of the bill will add up to $25 million per year. Another brick in the wall!

I think we should listen to the outsiders and what they are saying about us. Something is dreadfully wrong in D.C., we could say there is something rotten in Denmark. But there is an immense amount of good that is happening. More can happen if we creatively work together to solve our many problems.

And that is my thought for the day!

 

 

I Finally Feel Good Enough To Write

It seems like I haven’t written my thoughts downs for months, but it has only been a week. I have this yearly Bronchial problem that when I get a cold, it migrates into my lungs. I then have to take antibiotics to get rid of the virus. Ah, the results of developing asthma. Such is life and we move on. Finally feeling like my old self. I might even take Lucy for a walk this morning before school.

I have to admit I was fascinated by the retirement of Pope Benedict XVI, something that hasn’t happened in modern times, and the subsequent choice of the conclave. The Cardinals have chosen a Jesuit from Argentina, the first Pope in history to be from the Americas, although his family is from Italy. The new Pope will be called Francis after St. Francis of Assisi, a champion for the poor. Years ago I read some wonderful books about Francis and his humility. Pope Francis wants to take the church on a “Path of love. After so many scandals, so many souls who have abandoned the faith, here is a chance for a cleansing of the Vatican stables, a root-and-branch reform of the Curia and Papal administration, and a radical new emphasis on the core mission of the church; to reach out to the world.” The WSJ described the new Pope as someone who stayed true to his roots. It appears that the Cardinals want to return the church to its simpler roots of dedication and pilgrimage. It will be interesting to see how the Healing and new direction congruent with the gospel of Jesus Christ will play out with 1.2 billion diverse Catholics.

I want to shift gears, leaving a discussion about heaven to one about hell. The opinion piece that caught my eye this morning was “Escape From Spending Hell.” The article ends with this comment, “Paul Ryan budget: $4.6 trillion of spending cuts and no new taxes beyond the fiscal-cliff increases. The Patty Murray budget: a $975 billion spending cut and a $975 billion tax increase.” Talk about a huge divide. Maybe congress should be watching the Catholic Church to see how not to, and how to, do things. This is not a compromise in the least sense. Here we go again.

The Economist Alberto Alesina, a Professor at Harvard University, and several other Economists over the last 10 years have studied how economies have recovered from recessions. According to the WSJ their conclusion is our spend-more solution is the opposite of what we should be doing. “There is a general agreement on at least two things about the current U.S. economy. It is emerging from the deepest recession since the great Depression, and its debt level is unsustainable.” Alesina echoes this by saying, “The path-back to stronger growth is a combination of significant, permanent cuts in public spending and relatively small tax increases, if any.” Interesting advice from an Economist who teaches at a university not know for it conservatism.

President Obama and our congress have lost so much credibility over the last five years because they cannot agree on anything. Thus, our level of public debt continues to grow because of our insatiable appetite for spending more than we make. This has to change.

By now you are probably thinking, why did he mention a religious group and the government in the same blog? There is a reason. At the end of Acts chapter two and chapter four there are some interesting words from Dr. Luke. In chapter two under the heading “A Vital Church Grows.” In verse 44 it states, “Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.” In chapter four starting in verse 32 Luke states, “Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common.” The community looked at the Church being the church and grace was on them all. They took care of one another.

This was not a government taking money from its people, this was a group of people who recognized how much they were given and therefore had much responsibility they had to serve. The early Church stepped up, recognizing the social problems of their community, and did what they could.

The reason I have been thinking about this is because of a team I am on discussing education of religion majors. In light of the changing environment how do we prepare the students for future ministry? We are a Christ-centered institution, that is Urban and diverse, with a foundation in Liberal Arts. And Social Justice is an important part of our ethos. With all that on our plate, as Francis Schaeffer stated, “How then should we live?” This discussion included a discussion at lunch on Acts two and four, that I can’t stop thinking about it.

Can we as successful people tell the poor that all they have to do is pick themselves up by the bootstraps and they can pull themselves out of poverty? If they just take initiative and follow true north they can make it? I do believe this, but I also have seen so many young people with potential that get beaten down by the established systems that they give up and go back to what they know, whether it is a Rez or inner city. Much of our government spending goes for marginalized and disadvantaged people. If we cuit that spending, how does that need get met?

Church, we need to step up and do the work of the Church. Peter said at one point in time, “Silver and gold have I none, but what I do have I give to you, in the name Jesus Christ stand up and walk.” Somewhere along the line we have lost our focus, and I think it is time to recapture our love for service. It does not mean we change our political systems, but it does mean that if we cut spending the need that is there must be met some other ways. We that have should give. We that have been given resources should recognize God’s grace in our plenty and share with others. But we should also create systems that support initiative and innovation, so instead of creating a system that hurts when it helps, it creates self-dependency and autonomy.  Creating a system that does not hurt people by just giving handouts, because this creates oppressive dependency, but creating a system that develops the desire to grow and contribute within marginalized people. It is time to stop relying on government for these handouts and be the Church.

And that is my thought for the day!