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Image result for leading with a limp

I have the older version with this cover.

I was in the midst of a prolonged conflict in our ministry team. Another pastor gave me a call. He had been reading Leading with a Limp: Turning Your Struggles into Strengths by Dan Allender. I noted that I’d read it before (you can read my series of blog posts from November and December 2006 in which I wrestle with the book, in a good way). Since it was an excellent book, I decided to read it again. I also gave copies of the book to our leaders.

I’m glad I did. It took me far longer to read than it did back in 2006 but it seemed that I read particular chapters at the right time. It continually spoke to my soul’s needs.

When you are in a conflict you can begin to feel very alone and not well understood. This isolation, driving by the perception of unique suffering, eats away at you like a cancer. Much of this book let me know I was not alone, I was not special in my suffering. Others have walked this road and it would be okay.

I’m still not wild about his habit of switching between male and female personal pronouns speaking of leaders. Perhaps it is because I’m reading it in the context of church leadership and project that on the text. I’m not sure. Perhaps it is just my desire for consistency (that hobgoblin of little minds). It does create some level of cognitive dissonance for me. His practice isn’t wrong, I just found it distracting.

Leadership is filled with conflict. Leaders shape, rather than simply manage, communities to fulfill mission. Shaping a group of people means changing a group of people. Change leads to conflict.

As a result I’ve seen and been a part of more conflict than I want. But I’d be unnecessary if there wasn’t some conflict.

Conflict reveals more of who you are. It reveals your weaknesses, and the dark side of your strengths.

“This is the strange paradox of leading: to the degree that you attempt to hide or dissemble your weaknesses, the more you will need to control those you lead, the more insecure you will become, and the more rigidity you will impose- prompting the ultimate departure of your best people.”

You can also experience others trying to control you, imposing rigidity upon you until either you or they depart. That doesn’t mean it is all them. We all contribute to the problem because we are all sinners- not simply in theory but also in practice. I’ve met too many theoretical sinners. They affirm total depravity and the remnant of sin. But you’d think they never transgress the law because like the Fonz they can’t say, “I was wr……”. Don’t be the Fonz!

Allender talks about the reasons we hide: fear, narcissism and addiction. Left unspoken and unaddressed they undermine leaders. This is true whether a CEO or a father.

Leaders will eventually disappoint everyone. You have to be willing to be hated, for the right reasons.But you can’t lead people who hate you, so you feel the bind (or one of the many binds of leadership). You will experience the temptation to limit the disappointment to those who matter little. You will want to court others to maintain your position.

“… us all about moving toward a goal while confronting significant obstacles with limited resources in the midst of uncertainty and with people who may or may not come through in a pinch.”

Allender reminds us that failure is not the end of life (usually) but part of how we learn and grow. All leaders will fail. This means you will fail. The other leaders around you will fail. Will you hold them to an unattainable standard? Yourself?

Into this he addresses issues tied to the three-fold office of Christ: prophet, priest and king. Leaders are prophetic. They can see the problem with the status quo and seek to create a new world. They summons people to action, to change. A priest  “is a community’s memory and its conscience.” A leader doesn’t burn down the house. There are elements of the status quo that are good, and a good leader affirms them. The king shepherds the people from point A to point B. They see the big picture, and the details.

“As leaders, we are called to be prophets who arouse desire, priests who connect people to one another and God, and kings who protect and provide for their people.”

Allender shifts to crisis which leads use into the problem of complexity. We often experience betrayal and the subsequent temptation to isolation. I experienced the confusion produced by complexity, struggling to figure out what was really going on. Did I have all the data I needed or was I missing something? I wanted to isolate myself because I was no longer sure who I could trust. Conflict plays with your mind that way. The details of the situation fed this.

“A leadership team is meant to be a community of friends who suffer and delight in one another. And to the degree there is a refusal to be friends, there will be hiding, game playing, politicizing power, and manipulating the process to achieve invulnerability.”

Allender brings us back to the purpose of leadership: forming character. Leadership is not about keeping the machine moving, but moving the machine in the right direction and maturing the people. This means we must become increasingly self-aware, understanding our story. We should also be more God-aware and other-aware as well. When we aren’t self-aware we tend to be self-righteous and turn on others who disagree with us.

This is one of the more difficult things which Allender mentions. Not all who agree to be on a leadership team realize they are committing to grow. This means there will be conflict and it should drive us to Jesus so we grow in self-awareness. When it doesn’t we are filled with suspicion, driven to self-vindication and attacks on the other person instead of working together for the good of the organization and glory of God.

That this is a book worth reading is evidenced in the amount of red ink on the pages. Okay, at one point I used a pink pen, so some pages have both red and pink ink. There are exclamation points. There are notes that remind me of particular moments in life.

Allender gets to the heart of leadership, both positively and negatively. He doesn’t present some fairy tale version of leadership. He’s honest. He’s insightful. It isn’t dated but continues to challenge and comfort.

This is not the only book on leadership you should read, but it is a book you should read if you lead.

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Considering 3:10 to Yuma


Dan Evans is a man for whom nothing has seemingly gone right. In the Civil War he lost the lower half of a leg, creating a hitch in his step. His compensation from the government for his loss was $198 and change. He was deeply in debt to a land baron who couldn’t wait to get his hands upon it. That man had stopped up the water source so Dan’s cattle were dying. It just wouldn’t rain.

Image result for 3:10 to yumaThen there were the family issues. He bore the shame of his war wound, and his hardship. He felt the failure, sensing that even the people he loved looked down on him. Shame has a funny way of doing that. His older son did look down on Dan, and let him know it in that arrogant jerk teenager kind of way that makes us cringe when we realize we were like that once. His younger son had TB, so he was stuck in the Sonoran desert of Arizona for the boy’s health.

They said grace before meals. They spoke of God at times, so there is some background of faith. But when Dan is finally honest with Alice he says “God’s not giving me any breaks.” Like many of us defeated Dan saw God as hard and unyielding. Beneath his veneer, defeated Dan was just as hard and unyielding as Arizona’s sun-baked dirt. Others saw him as stubborn, but he saw it as a lack of options.

3:10 to Yuma PosterThe arrival and arrest of the notorious criminal Ben Wade provides the opportunity Dan thought he needed to turn his life around. At least his financial situation. He thought the money he could get from bringing Wade to Contention to catch the 3:10 to Yuma and the prison there would enable him to hold on until the train comes through and his property becomes worth something.

And so began his temptation in the wilderness. Ben is like the devil personified. He quotes the Scriptures, Proverbs in particular, when it suits him.

13 Whoever despises the word brings destruction on himself,
    but he who reveres the commandment will be rewarded. Proverbs 13 (ESV)

Others have rightly considered this movie (story) as an extended meditation upon Proverbs. Elmore Leonard, who wrote the short story, went to a Jesuit school and may have intended this as something of a morality play.

Image result for 3:10 to yuma

Ben Wade was personable, when he wanted to be. He was a silver-tongued seducer who lulled one into complacency until he strikes in deadly fashion. Sound familiar? His handgun had the nickname The Hand of God and a crucifix of sorts on the handle. As we see Wade work his way through the posse he very well could the the instrument of judgement by God upon them for their own sins. He actions weren’t just, but they were deserved. And brutal.

All the while he tested and tempted Dan. He studied him, revealing just enough about himself to get more information out of Dan. He looked for the weakness that would get Dan to let him go free. He tried to discover Dan’s price because everyone has a price.

Catch that though. While he kills everyone else, he’s looking to “save” Dan’s life. Rather than kill him he wants to bribe him. He slowly uncovers for us the struggle in Dan’s soul for people to see him differently. Dan didn’t simply want to get the money, he wanted freedom from his shame. If he got the reward money it was icing on the cake. If he could live to enjoy it … even better. The hunger in Dan’s soul was not to get rich but for his son to see him differently- not as broken down & defeated Dan whom he looks down upon.

This is all the more important because William had once again disobeyed Dan and followed the posse. To add insult to injury, it is William who snuck up on Ben Wade to prevent him from killing the posse and making off. He did what his dad seemingly couldn’t do.

Jesus was relentlessly tempted by the devil in the Judean wilderness after His baptism. Here Dan was relentlessly tempted by a devil in the Arizona wilderness. Like Jesus, Dan will have none of it. Unlike Jesus, his reasons were not pure and noble. But Wade saw a conscience, a soul and a remnant of goodness though he himself had none.

Image result for 3:10 to yumaRedemption for Dan comes at the cost of his life. This devil’s right hand man, Charlie Prince (of darkness?) cuts him down before Dan can enjoy the glory and money he has earned (with Ben’s help). And then the Hand of God strikes one last time.

3:10 to Yuma reminds us that we live in a world filled with temptation. The very things we seek may very well destroy us. While Dan thought some about his ways, he forgot that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (a common theme in Proverbs). As they hole up in a hotel room in the aptly named Contention awaiting the train, Dan and Ben see the storm clouds. Rain has come to far off Bisbee. God did come through for Dan, but he didn’t have the patience to wait. Because Dan thought he had to save himself, he never got to enjoy God’s gift. His sacrifice would bring blessing to his family, but also impoverish them of a husband and father. It was worth it to Dan, but likely not to Alice, William and Mark. Men, sometimes the sacrifices you deem worth it for your family are the ones they can least endure, a theme also explored by Breaking Bad.


Pornography is a big problem made bigger by easier access to pornography and our culture’s drift from a biblical morality. When I I was a kid pornography was often difficult to find, unless someone in your family (or friend’s family) had some. There was typically a level of shame associated with looking at pornography. It was still the early days of the sexual revolution.

As time would go by it became easier to access pornography, and a greater variety of it due to the internet. Increasingly women began to look at pornography too. People began to have porn parties as well.

Before I look at some resources, here are some stats from Fight the New Drug (9/30/19):

1. 64% of young people, ages 13–24, actively seek out pornography weekly or more often. [1]

2. Teenage girls are significantly more likely to actively seek out porn than women 25 years old and above. [2]

3. A study of 14- to 19-year-olds found that females who consumed pornographic videos were at a significantly greater likelihood of being victims of sexual harassment or sexual assault. [3]

4. A Swedish study of 18-year-old males found that frequent consumers of pornography were significantly more likely to have sold and bought sex than other boys of the same age. [4]

5. A 2015 meta-analysis of 22 studies from seven countries found that internationally the consumption of pornography was significantly associated with increases in verbal and physical aggression, among males and females alike. [5]

6. A recent UK survey found that 44% of males aged 11–16 who consumed pornography reported that online pornography gave them ideas about the type of sex they wanted to try. [6]

7. Porn sites receive more regular traffic than Netflix, Amazon, & Twitter combined each month. (HuffPost)

8. 35% of all internet downloads are porn-related. (WebRoot)

9. 34% of internet users have been exposed to unwanted porn via ads, pop-ups, etc. (WebRoot)

10. The “teen” porn category has topped porn site searches for the last six years (Pornhub Analytics).

11. At least 30% of all data transferred across the internet is porn-related. (HuffPost)

12. The most common female role stated in porn titles is that of women in their 20’s portraying teenagers. (Jon Millward.) (In 2013, Millward conducted the largest personal research study on the Porn Industry in the U.S. He interviewed 10,000 porn performers about various aspects of the business.)

13. Recorded child sexual exploitation (known as “child porn”) is one of the fastest-growing online businesses. (IWF)

14. 624,000+ child porn traders have been discovered online in the U.S. [7]

15. Between 2005 and 2009, child porn was hosted on servers located in all 50 states. (Association of Sites Advocating Child Protection)

16. Porn is a global, estimated $97 billion industry, with about $12 billion of that coming from the U.S. (NBC News)  

17. In 2018 alone, more than 5,517,000,000 hours of porn were consumed on the world’s largest porn site. (Ponhub Analytics)

18. Eleven pornography sites are among the world’s top 300 most popular Internet sites. The most popular such site, at number 18, outranks the likes of eBay, MSN, and Netflix. (SimilarWeb)

19. “Lesbian” was the most-searched-for porn term on the world’s largest free porn site in 2018. (Pornhub Analytics)

20. The world’s largest free porn site also received over 33,500,000,000 site visits during 2018 alone. (Pornhub Analytics)

Not a pretty picture. There are plenty of other disturbing stats. Here are some found on Enough is Enough.

Resources vary in quality and perspective. Some use the disease model of sexual addiction. On the other end of the spectrum is the sin or idolatry model. How you view porn addiction determines how you will begin to address the porn addiction.

God has made us body and soul. Porn use and addiction affect us both body and soul, not only in body (disease model) or soul (sin model).

Hooked: New Science on How Casual Sex is Affecting Our ChildrenTo understand the role of biochemistry you should read Hooked: New Science on How Casual Sex is Affecting Our Children by Joe McIlhaney, Jr., and Freda McKissic Bush MD. While focused on sex itself, these chemicals are at play in sexual addiction including using pornography. The science on this is slightly dated (published in 2008) but depends on brain scans. Porn usage has a biochemical effect on people which means that our bodies are affected while we sin. We experience the effects of a disease that progresses as we give ourselves over to a sin. This is not a large book, but you will get a good picture of how God intended sex to bond us to another person, and how we mess it up with promiscuity and pornography.

A book I haven’t read but that applies this subject to men and pornography is Wired for Intimacy: How Pornography Hijacks the Male Brain by William Struthers. Surely it hijacks female brains too. It is important to reckon with the physiological realities as well as the spiritual realities. It is not either/or but both/and.

Image result for breaking free by russell willinghamBreaking Free: Understanding Sexual Addiction & the Healing Power of Jesus by Russell Willingham leans toward the disease model and yet also speaks much of spiritual and emotional deficits at work in sexual addiction. He comes very close to saying it is a disease and sin but doesn’t explicitly say it. Here is his understanding of sexual addiction:

Sexual addiction is an obsessive-compulsive relationship with a person, object or experience for the purpose of sexual gratification. Whatever the type or amount of the behavior, it is damaging spiritually, physically or both. The addict has repeatedly tried to stop the behavior but at the same time is terrified of stopping. What drives the addiction is inadequate spirituality and deep unmet childhood needs that are valid but are mistakenly thought to be sexual needs. The behavior usually starts in pre-adolescence and tends to shape the orientation and personality of the individual. Genuine recovery is possible only with outside intervention and divine help.

There are unmet needs that are sexualized. He spends time addressing those unmet needs or lack of nurture as a child. A large part of his therapy is seeking to have those needs met in one’s relationship with Christ. He doesn’t say “union with Christ” but it comes across that way. While the therapist will re-parent ultimately the person is pointed to Jesus to nurture them so they grow and no longer try to meet these needs with pornography. His approach ends up being relational in nature.

The focus on unmet needs doesn’t mean he falls into a victim-mentality. There is plenty of focus on taking responsibility for yourself, your actions and your sinfulness.

There is an appendix entitled “What is a Wife to Do?” They will also struggle with a lack of nurture because immature men can’t husband very well. Wives of sexual addicts need help too. Increasingly we will find husbands of porn addicts in need of help as well.

Harry Schaumburg has two excellent books. The first is False Intimacy: Understanding the Struggle of Sexual Addiction. He has since published Undefiled: Redemption from Sexual Sin, Restoration for Broken Relationships.

Image result for john mayerHis thesis is revealed in the title of the first book. It is an attempt to experience sexual satisfaction without risking disappointment, rejection and the pain of a real relationship. Musician John Mayer has said he prefers pornography because it is easier than a real relationship. Sex addicts think and plan their lives around sex, even if they aren’t actually engaged in sexual activity. Everything spins around sex. He has a chapter on other addictive behaviors in addition to pornography.

While discussing the medical or disease model, Schaumburg advocates for a biblical model of addiction (a bit more all-encompassing than the simple sin model). He sees it as a result of the Fall of Adam. There is an accompanying relational emptiness that drives this particular addiction. He points out some secondary factors like lack of nurture and early sexualization.

Most of the help he offers in False Intimacy is about faith and repentance. He wants people to begin to seek real relationships, honest relationships and take risks as well as receive help from others. He doesn’t get to any biochemical aspects to sexual addiction.

He has a chapter on Responding to Your Sexual Addicted Spouse, another on the Recovering Marriage and Preventing Sexual Addiction in Your Kids. There is also a chapter on Women and False Intimacy focusing on the different dynamics at work in women. There is helpful material in this book, but he does cover a wide range of topics making this a good introductory volume. I’ve recommended this book to quite a few married men who struggle with pornography.

Undefiled is broader in scope than sexual addiction. It is more about our fallen sexuality and the way it expresses itself. Broken and sinful, we can begin to wonder if there is any way back. He believes there is, and this is the focus on the book. He draws on Scripture and his counseling practice. He has chapters for men and women.

Harvest USA has put out two devotional resources; Sexual Sanity for Men:Recreating Your Mind in a Crazy Culutre by David White and Sexual Sanity for Women: Healing from Sexual & Relational Brokenness by Ellen Dykas. I have only read the former. They share a similar format.

The book for men has 4 sections: Life in Exile, The Conquering King, A New Brotherhood, and A Transformed Life. It is in a devotional format with 4 or 3 weeks of devotions for each section. Each day has a few pages of material to read and some questions to process and apply it to your life. It can be uncomfortable, as you might imagine. But we see life with out Christ and with addiction, material about Jesus, new relationships in Christ and then sanctification.

It doesn’t pull any punches. For instance:

“What you do with your penis matters- it is a demonstration of your spiritual allegiance.”

Like Schaumburg it leans toward the sin model of addiction and redemption. The material is helpful, but there is a gap in dealing with the biochemical realities that accompany our spiritual problems.

Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave: Finding Hope in the Power of the GospelAnother book I’ve recommended to people is Addictions: A Banquet in the Grace by Edward Welch. The second subtitle is Finding Hope in the Power of the Gospel. He embraces the sin & idolatry model. He has a workbook entitled Crossroads that I’ve gone through with some men.

We do need to engage our theology of sin, but also our anthropology. Recognizing disease is a part of our understanding of the fallen person as a part of a fallen creation. The curse, and our fallen nature, affects all of us. That’s all I’m saying. Our bodies like our addictions and are instruments of satisfying it. We should know the full damage, and take that into consideration when we engage in the battle against our sins.

Welch does a good job of helping people out of the grave by God’s grace. He brings us to the gospel in far more than a superficial way. There is hope because Christ has died for us, bearing the curse, and conquering our enemies as well. We need to explore the Cross and our union & identity to Christ.

Image result for addiction and graceA change of pace is Addiction & Grace: Love and Spirituality in the Healing of Addictions by Gerald May. He utilizes an attachment model and talks much about the wilderness (or was that his book on the Dark Night of the Soul. Probably both). He has a mystical bent, which will appeal to some people. He addresses mind, body and soul so in this respect he is more thorough than some other books. He is far more integrationist and this will rub some people the wrong way.

Image result for faithful and true mark laaserOne of the more popular books in the 90’s on the subject was Faithful & True: Sexual Integrity in a Fallen World by Mark Laaser. There is a workbook available as well. In his first chapter he says sexual addiction is a sin, and a disease. He has a chapter on different forms of sexual addiction (it often looks different in women, and is often more acceptable- particularly how we consider exhibitionism). There is a chapter on sexually addicted pastors. The second section deals with the roots of sexual addiction including lack of nurture and abuse of various kinds.

Since he speaks of addiction as sin and disease, it is a bit surprising to find the third section called Healing the Wounds of Sexual Addiction. He takes a 12-step approach to therapy. He does address shame, despair, rituals and how people act out. There is far too little on addressing the abuse. He does have a chapter on recovery for couples. There is also one for congregations who have a pastor who was sexually addicted.

The issue of abuse does loom large in sexual addiction. If there has been abuse it should be addressed as one of the areas of neglect or lack of nurture. Unaddressed abuse like behind a variety of sexual dysfunctions and depressions.

Healing the Wounded Heart: The Heartache of Sexual Abuse and the Hope of Transformation Allender, Dan B. cover imageIn the Wounded Heart: Healing for Adult Victims of Childhood Sexual Abuse and the Wounded Heart workbook author and therapist Dan Allender addresses pornography.   While an integrationist, Allender has a solid anthropology and doctrine of sin. This is one of the standard volumes on the subject.He explores the dynamics of abuse, the damage of abuse and the prerequisites for growth. It is no wonder that people reach out for pornography in the face of their shame, helplessness, betrayal and ambivilence.

His follow up Healing the Wounded Heart: The Heartache of Sexual Abuse and Hope for Transformation focuses more on the path of transformation. One of the strengths of this volume is the chapter pertaining to men.

There are a few as of yet unread volumes in my queue.

When Your Husband Is Addicted to Pornography: Healing Your Wounded HeartOne of particular relevance is When Your Husband is Addicted to Pornography: Healing Your Wounded Heart by Vicki Tiede. As you can tell, this is a book to address the difficulty a woman experiences when her husband is addicted. It is meant to be read over the course of 6 weeks, with reading for 5 days each week. The weeks cover hope, surrender, trust, identity, brokenness and forgiveness. This would be a much expanded version of her booklet on the subject.

I thought I picked up Passions of the Heart: Biblical Counsel for Stubborn Sexual Sins by John Street at the General Assembly bookstore, but alas I can’t find it. This is surely a stubborn sexual sin. This would likely be well worth reading.

This list is by no means exhaustive. It is the stuff that I’ve got on my shelf and has been helpful to me and my ministry to others. Perhaps some of this will be helpful for you and your ministry.

 


In our day and age humility is not seen as a blessing. We live in the age of the big ego. This is the dawning of the age of narcissism. Our social media usage seems to stroke our pride as we seek after likes.

IThe Blessing of Humility: Walk Within Your Calling‘m aware of the irony. I’m writing this on a blog, part of social media, hoping people will read it. But I’m hoping they will go beyond this blog post to the book I’m writing about: The Blessing of Humility by Jerry Bridges.

Jerry Bridges has written many books that I’ve found helpful in the course of my life as a Christian and a pastor. This is one of the last books he wrote prior to his death. I was unaware of its release until seeing it in a clearance sale. Good for me, but a sad reflection on society and even American church culture. This is a book too many of us need to read.

Pride is like bad breath, everyone knows you have it before you do. The struggle against pride is one that is a daily affair, if we are paying attention. Over time I’ve read a few books on the topic including Humility: the Forgotten Virtue by Wayne Mack, and Humility by C.J. Mahaney. I used Mack’s book for our Men’s study at one point.

In Bridges’ book, he looks at the Beatitudes as a description of humility. Humility is one of the twin traits of mature Christianity. The other is love.

Bridges notes that in Jesus’ day, humility was looked down upon in Roman culture, the dominant culture of the day. Before moving into the Beatitudes, he addresses some key texts including 1 Peter 5 which joins precepts and promises.

Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you,…

Humility is the metaphorical clothing we should wear as we appear in public. We are to be humble in our relationships with others and with God, in keeping with the two great commandments upon which hang the whole law. While humility seems off-putting and working against our advancement in life, God offers promises of grace and glory for those who humble themselves in this way. There is promised blessing for humility.

Bridges view of the Beatitudes is one of what a sanctified person looks like. While our failure to possess these characteristics as we should points us to Jesus who perfectly manifested them for imputed righteousness, we must not stop there. Like Mark Jones, Bridges sees this as a description of imparted righteousness in sanctification. The Beatitudes reflect whom Jesus is making us as He conforms us to His likeness. Thus we are to seek these traits and therefore humility.

“In the Beatitudes Jesus is talking about the character traits of those already in the kingdom.”

In this relatively short book, just under 150 pages, he explains teach character trait and ties it to humility. With short chapters it can be read devotionally. It contains a study guide in the back for group study or personal reflection and application of the material.

What we find is not an exhaustive book, but certainly a helpful book. It is not very technical, assuming a knowledge of the original languages or lots of theological terminology. It is written for ordinary people to study. He often connects the ideas he is exploring with hymns that express those sentiments. It is rich in Scripture and hymnody.

Humility is poor in spirit. We recognize that we are spiritually destitute and unable to please God in ourselves. Our struggle with sin is far more profound than we realize, and realizing that is half the battle. Maturity means increasing in our awareness of this ongoing struggle. Our focus shifts from our actions to our attitudes and thoughts.

It is because we are still practicing sinners that we mourn. We mourn our spiritual poverty. We aren’t simply aware of our continuing sinfulness but broken hearted about our continuing rebellion.

Meekness points us to the humility of accepting the difficult circumstances in our lives as part of God’s wise, loving providence. Following Thomas Watson (for Bridges loved the Puritans as well as hymns) he applies meekness toward other people in terms of “bearing of injuries, the forgiving of injuries, and the returning of good for evil.” We will all be subject to the sins of others against us. Humility does not retaliate but bears, forgives (!) and bestows good. This is so contrary to our prideful flesh what strikes out, bears grudges and tries to destroy the offender. Our words are often weapons we use against them.

“Meekness is a defining grace, produced by the Holy Spirit in the life of the Christian, which characterizes that person’s response towards God and man.”

We also have a hunger and thirst for righteousness, to be personally righteous. Such hunger and thirst is not so we don’t need Jesus but so we are like Jesus and bring Him glory. Prideful righteousness, religiosity, is an attempt at self-salvation. It is in this section in particular that Bridges distinguishes between positional and personal (what he calls experiential) righteousness. If I am a Christian I need not hunger and thirst for positional righteousness. I have it! But I do for personal righteousness.

Jesus then moved to mercy, and so did Bridges. He develops the idea of mercy as compassion in action. It is not simply empathy but moving to relieve misery as seen in Isaiah 58 among other places. Part of mercy is remembering the sins of others no more. This is not forgetting but choosing not to bring those sins up against them anymore. This happens only as we see the fact that God no longer remembers our many and grievous sins.

Bob Dylan plays a guitar and sings into a microphone.Another aspect of humility is purity of heart or whole-heartedness. He ties this into the fact that we are not our own but have been bought with a price. We are property of Jesus, as Bob Dylan sang long ago. Purity of heart recognizes this and seeks to see all of life through that lens.

Conflict is regularly addressed in Scripture. When I recently preached through Philippians I was shocked to discover how much this “epistle of joy” was marked by conflict. As someone going through a prolonged conflict, I found hope as well as conviction as I struggled to preach through such a “simple” letter. Humility seeks peace, and makes peace. Peacemaking is very difficult and goes against all our basic inclinations to seek peace on our terms. In other words, there complete surrender.

“To be a peacemaker, then, means we absorb the hurtful words or actions of others without becoming resentful, retaliating, or even cutting off a relationship with the person.”

Humility is revealed in how we respond to being persecuted for righteousness’ sake. While it is appropriate for American Christians to seek protection in our earthly citizenship (Paul, as Bridges notes, appealed to his Roman citizenship at times) we should recognize that our courts system will fail us eventually. We may lose our rights as the tide rises against Christianity. While experiencing hostility, we are not to be hostile but humble. Bridges reminds to entrust ourselves to our Creator, like Jesus, and continue to do good in keeping with 1 Peter 2.

He ends with humility and the gospel. He channels his inner Jack Miller and talks about preaching the gospel to himself and yourself every day. The gospel is not simply the door we walk through to begin life as a Christian but the path we walk as Christians. Humility only grows in gospel soil.

“It is the gospel that will keep us from becoming discourage and will instead motivate us to keep pursuing humility, even when we fail so often.”

This little book is gospel-drenched. That means it is encouraging, not discouraging. Our failures are opportunities to look to Jesus, not a call to despair or simply try harder. The humble and meek Jesus is ready to pardon and help us. Humility keeps coming to Jesus as our only hope. As we do this we find ourselves no better than others, in part because we are not focused on their sins so much. Our sins, and theirs, drive us to Jesus who deals with us as a wonderful, merciful Savior.

This is a book worth the time to read and think about.

 

Considering Policy


It is election season. In all the hubbub about impeachment (for the last 3 years) it is easy to lose sight of the debates and televised town halls that have been going on for the last 6 months. The 20 has slowly been dwindling in our game of who offers the most free stuff and is most relatable.

TImage may contain: 1 person, tree, table, plant, sky, grass, outdoor and naturehere have  been plenty of policy proposals. Some of those are slightly different than current policies, and some are vastly different. Some promise “big structural change.” I won’t go into how that scares the pants off me for now.

In the September 28, 2019 edition of World Magazine, Janie B. Cheaney has an interesting piece on policy. She begins with a documentary called One Child Nation which examines the effects of China’s “one-child policy”.

In one clip, the co-director (who grew up under the policy but now lives in the states) says, “I left a country where the government forced women to abort, and I moved to another country where governments restrict abortions.” Well, some states do. She seems to think, Cheaney says, that the central issue is government attitudes toward women (hear the cries of the ‘war on women’). The issue doesn’t seem to be “human life itself.”

The people interviewed in the clips seemed to fall back on “Policy is policy.” People feel helpless in the face of government policy. They have less impact in a system like China’s. Here we can vote, and we should evaluate policy.

In China the policy was enacted by top-level party members. The expressed problem they were trying to solve was “overpopulation.” Abortion was a means of population control. The resulting unintended consequences are a demographic nightmare (not enough women because parents wanted sons to care for them in old age). They self-corrected to a two-child maybe policy where if you have a girl you can apply for permission to have a second child in the hopes of having a boy. Cheaney notes that in the future they may have to require two children to fix the problem they created with their one-child policy.

Bad policy creates very negative consequences that are often addressed by the same group of people who gave you the bad policy in the first place. They create problems and then try to fix them, often having the same level of success. The ACA tried to fix our healthcare system, for instance. At least that is what we were told before it was crammed down our throats with a series of statements that proved false. It really messed up the healthcare system because it “fixed” the wrong things (in my opinion) and in the wrong way. We elected people to fix it in 2016, and they failed to get the necessary votes (thanks to the senators from my state, both of whom are no longer senators but one ran expressly on getting rid of Obamacare). Now we have different plans proposed in these debates without substantial debate on the motives, means and consequences of the plan. We have this on healthcare, student debt, gun control, climate issues and more.

“Policy has become the end-all of politics. Bad policy caused the current mess, however we define the messiness; good policy will fix it.”

Cheaney rightly notes that policy should be at the end of the discussion, not the beginning. Policy is the ‘how’ of a solution to a problem. First we have to sort out the “what” and the “why” of the particular problem. She goes back to China’s one-child policy. The stated rationale was overpopulation and therefore potential starvation of the population (obviously not the party elite, they always seem to eat). They didn’t consider the effect of their policies regarding how food was grown. They didn’t evaluate their communist system and whether it could feed that many people or not. The issue was their economic and political framework. Because they failed to examine their presuppositions, they came up with really bad policy. They also failed to consider the nature and value of human life. What matters to them is the Party.

We have the same policy problems. We don’t look at our presuppositions that drive a policy proposal. We don’t stop to think about what caused a problem. We treat symptoms instead of the disease and have bigger problems before we know it.

LenBias.jpgHere is a policy gone awry. In 1986 the Boston Celtics won the NBA title AND had the 2nd overall pick it the draft. Choosing Maryland standout Len Bias, it seemed the dynasty would be able to continue beyond Larry Bird. He flew up to his press conference in Boston, went home afterward and died overnight due to a cocaine overdose. This was high profile! This prompted policy change so “this never happens again.” The Len Bias Law, as it came to be called, increased the penalties on the local distributor of drugs. As a result large numbers of African-American men were incarcerated. Once in that system, it is amazingly difficult to become disentangled. Getting out of prison rarely means freedom. As a felon it is hard to get a job (due to policy), and other limitations and policies make it even harder to be employable. The person imprisoned by bad policy finds him or herself continuously constrained by bad policy (however well-intentioned) that continues to keep them impoverished materially, emotionally, relationally and even spiritually.

One of the great ironies is that most of these candidates are lawmakers in DC. Amazingly, they don’t seem to have proposed any of these in the form of law to this point (which if they are so awesome their colleagues should all vote for them) . In other words, they haven’t been doing their current jobs as legislators but make policy proposals so they can become President, the chief executive. They don’t really want their policy proposals seriously examined and debated until after they get in office. This is not a 2020 issue, but has been this way for awhile. Rather than electing people who have a track record of good policy, we are continually asked to vote for people on the basis of their promised policy about problems they usually helped create by voting on bad policy in the past.

Policy has its place. Let’s put it there.


This week I brought my son to Pasadena for surgery. It was at least his tenth.

Image may contain: one or more people, child and closeupHe was born with a bilateral cleft lip and palate. We knew this when we adopted him. We were “young” and foolish. By that I mean we had no clue what we were in store for as his parents.

Don’t get me wrong. We love him. We can’t imagine life without him. We wouldn’t undo this. I must mean we had no clue.

His lip was initially repaired while he was still in China. Shortly after we adopted him we had his lip revised and, more importantly his palate repaired. That wasn’t all in the first year with us. His tubes came out and had to be replaced. This was with an ENT and an outpatient surgery at the Arnold Palmer Children’s Hospital. I still have nightmares of that day. He came out of surgery as a drunken, angry sailor. They needed the room for the next patient so I was told it was time to go. I was supposed to take this drugged rage machine on an hour-long car ride by myself. Seriously?!

Image may contain: one or more people and babyLater that year a fistula opened up and when the spaghetti started coming out of his nose it was repaired to prevent infection. Back were the arm restraints and the instruction that he wasn’t supposed to be active for about a week. Yeah …. right. Not this human dynamo.

Amazingly, though I was between jobs that year we survived all those surgeries without going into debt. I still don’t understand, but I’m thankful.

During that first year he started speech therapy. The first therapist, working with an active 2 year-old boy, said “No one will ever understand him. You’d better teach him sign language.” Thankfully we weren’t willing to give up and listen to him. There was soon a new speech therapist.

After we moved to AZ in 2010 we discovered there was no cleft palate team in our city. We considered a team in Phoenix but ended up in LA. So far he’s had 5 surgeries there including his bone grafts, P-flap surgery and the removal of teeth from his palate.

In 2012 he had a tympanoplasty to repair the hole in his ear left by the tubes which wasn’t healing.

Image may contain: one or more people, people sitting, grass, outdoor and natureAll this time there has been speech therapy. The last 6 years we’ve been in the local schools reading in lobbies and hallways while he had therapy. It is still rough, but the boy speaks and people understand. At times it is tough because he mumbles like all teenaged boys. Those surgeries have slowly helped him properly make the sounds he needed to make so we can understand him. He’s getting there, no thanks to that first speech therapist.

Is there a point here?

There are a few, actually.

I cry every time I’m in the room with him preparing for another surgery. I see how Adam’s sin has broken my son. It seems like it will never end. We helpless in light of all this.

Sometimes it is hard to see, or recognize, the effects of Adam’s sin for what they are. My son’s condition makes it clear to me. It breaks me.

Little by little he’s being restored. There is progress but it is slow and incremental. Just like our sanctification. His speech gets better. His teeth are getting straighter. He’s growing and maturing.

I’m astounded by God’s mercy to us. And His provision. In all of this we haven’t incurred debt. When I stop to think about it I’m astounded. Ten surgeries and 12 years of speech therapy. Oh and the extensive orthodontic work. If you had told us about those surgeries and length of therapy we would have been overwhelmed and wondered if we should adopt him. But we would have missed out on so much.

Everybody loves him. I haven’t met a person who didn’t like him. He’s creative, if timid. I wasn’t sure was ever going to swim, but now he loves it. He makes all kinds of things with Legos and K’Nex: guns, crossbows, planes etc.

He’s the toughest kid I know. He’s not wild about having surgery and it intimidates him. But he often avoids pain meds (he hates opioids). He bounces back quickly. In some ways he’s a hero to me. He’s endured so much but isn’t bitter.

With his peach fuzz and new hair styles he’s slowly becoming a man. There will still be bumps in the road, but I’m so amazed how far he has come.

The One who has been faithful so far, will faithful be.

Update: 3 days after surgery and said “I found my S.” I was a bit confused so I asked what he meant. “I can make my S sound.” He has struggled with the S for years. He then proceeded to say a number of words with a clear S sound. “Is that because they removed those teeth?”

“Yes.”

“Are you glad you had the surgery?”

“Yes, it’s like an early Christmas.”

And my heart broke again. In a good way. God is good.

Image may contain: 5 people, including Steve Cavallaro, people smiling, closeup

 

 


Last night the Red Sox were officially eliminated from the playoffs. They are an 80-something win team after a dominant 2018 season that saw them win over 100 games and the World Series by beating the Yankees, Astros and Dodgers.

What in the world happened????

Red Sox President of Baseball Operations David Dombrowski (23655867925).jpgMuch of this falls on Dombrowski, which is why he is no longer employed by the Red Sox. I didn’t say all, but much. There there is much for which he is responsible. He didn’t play, but he didn’t get the right players for them to defend their title.

He did have salary restrictions, but the problem was how he handled those restrictions. While the Sox ain’t broke, they don’t want to experience increasing sanctions, like draft picks for exceeding the cap.

The Bull Pen

Dombrowski let both Joe Kelly and Craig Kimbrel walk. I understand, they wanted more money and the Red Sox couldn’t afford them. They didn’t have great seasons. Kelly had an ERA over 4.60 this season. Kimbrel held out and has probably spent more time on the IL than on the mound. I had my doubts about him last season. He was starting to give me heart trouble by putting guys on.

The problem really is that Dombrowski didn’t replace them. He used “internal” options, meaning guys who had experience as a closer. Oh, and success. Unless you want to include the junk heap guys who spent most of the time in the minors.

The result? Only the Baltimore Orioles had a lower save percentage. Too often saves were blown, leads lost and comebacks squandered. It doesn’t how many runs your offense puts up if your pitching gives up more. This was the sad tale of the 2019 Red Sox.

The Rotation

One of the two signings by Dombrowski was to re-sign Nathan Eovaldi after his impressive post-season saving performance. He has a long-term record of injuries and inconsistency to go along with that fastball. He gave the Sox plenty of both, and they should expect to see more since they signed him for 4 years and there are 3 to go. This doesn’t bode well, and is a big part of the hole that Dombrowski dug moving forward.

So, the Red Sox entered the season with 4 starting pitchers who had recent histories of injuries. What happened? E-Rod who has battled injures and inconsistency finally became the pitcher we wanted him to become.

The aforementioned Eovaldi, Price and Sale spent large portions of the season on the IL instead of the pitching mound getting outs. Their inability to perform wore out a bull pen that wasn’t very talented to begin with. Porcello was healthy but had probably his worst season ever.

All that falls on Dombrowski who mismanaged the offseason. They have tons of money tied up in starting pitching that has proven to be largely unreliable. They will have to replace Porcello. Hopefully whomever they pick can do better than his 5.56 ERA at considerably less money. But they will need depth in the system which they didn’t have this season.

Dombrowski’s other “big” move was to bring back Steve Pearce who ended up with a whopping 89 at bats this season. His injury made way for Michael Chavis who provided some power when he played. Chavis was a bright spot much of the time.

The Offense

The offense was potent once again. Betts was less aggressive, and regressed significantly. There were only glimpses of his greatness at the plate. This was countered by Rafael Devers’ emergence as a force to be reckoned with going forward.

The Future

The problem is J.D. Martinez has a player option and will likely opt out. There is a good chance he’s wearing another uniform next year. JBJ is set to be a free agent as well so you need an outfielder who can at least hit .250 and provide some above average defense. Perhaps no one else wants a .220 hitter with superior defense and he’ll come back for a discount.

But Betts …. with one year of arbitration he’s likely a trade chip for pitching or gone as a free agent in 2021. This is the primary reason Dombrowski was let go. As a “lame duck” with one year left on his deal, he wasn’t the guy to handle this key off season.

The key players the Red Sox seem to have in their system seem to be infielders. While they do need a first baseman and second baseman, they are well set at third and short. But they have significant needs in the outfield, the rotation, bullpen and possibly DH. This is a problem that Dombrowski helped create, and like a politician he probably won’t be able to fix the mess he made.

This is a significant off season that will establish whether or not they will be competing with the Yankees or the Orioles for the next decade. We know who won’t be making these decisions, but we don’t know who will.