A word on America’s Greatness

I share the following post as it encouraged me and challenged me … to be good and loving in fundamental, tangible ways and to see the goodness in others around me.

Why America is Great

By Len Moisan, founder of The Covenant Group

America Great Because She is Good

When Alexis de Tocqueville first came here, he observed a young democracy that he both admired and wrote about in Democracy in America. He allegedly said:

“Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits aflame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power.  America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.”

Unfortunately, there’s little evidence attributing this to Tocqueville. Still, Eric Metaxas finds irony here because the quote captures Tocqueville’s argument.  He calls it a “brilliant summation” of his work. “ [Tocqueville] saw clearly that it was the ‘goodness’ of America’s people that made America work. “

Regardless of who said it, the statement is packed with truth, particularly in light of Mr. Trump’s campaign to, “Make America Great Again.” But are we looking in all the wrong places to bolster “American exceptionalism?” In fact, maybe America has been great because of its Christian heritage, a heritage that the courts, schools and municipalities hope to expunge from the public square.

Is America Still Good?

Recent headlines call the “goodness” of America into question. Chicago’s homicide rate continues at a horrendous pace (631 this year). Then in one night a deranged lunatic killed 58 people and wounded 489 in a mass shooting in Las Vegas.

However, in light of recent sexual scandals among Hollywood, media and congressional elites, Chicago and Las Vegas are passing memories. New revelations of misconduct appear daily. NBC’s Matt Lauer’s is only the latest story. Should that surprise us? Not really, particularly in light of the late Hugh Hefner’s influence on sexual liberation and freedom of expression, which became euphemisms for his pornographic view of life.

As a child growing up in Catholic schools, I learned to be honorable and respectful towards women. Not that I was always a pillar of virtue. Yet, when I pushed the limits, I was ashamed. I knew my behavior was inappropriate and the rest of society agreed.

However, today those Christian voices have diminished. In fact, trashing Christian teaching has become politically correct, and as a result there is virtually no shame. The decline is something that’s applauded by the same press that wonders what went wrong.

Still A Lot of Good 

Yet, despite all of the noise, there are still good people doing good things in America. Consider that tens of thousands volunteered and donated to fundraising efforts to help hurricane victims in Texas and Florida. NFL great, JJ Watt raised over $37 million alone for hurricane relief. Beyond that there are fundraising campaigns to fund free schools, food banks, homeless shelters and much more.

Now not everyone agrees with America’s benevolence. In fact, recently I read articles that list America substantially lower than other countries for generosity. This includes Indonesia, Myanmar, Kenya and more. I’m not sure what justifies their assertions, but that just isn’t the case. No disrespect intended, but according to a CAF study, those countries aren’t even ranked in the top ten in monetary giving. Clearly giving in America is exceptional.

Statistics on Giving

Last year Americans gave $390.05 billion, or 1.44 % of their GDP. That’s nearly twice what the next closest country gave. In fact, consider this ranking of giving as a % of GDP:

  1. USA…………………….1.44%
  2. New Zealand……….0.79%
  3. Canada………………..0.77%
  4. UK………………………0.54%

Additionally, the US provides aid to 96% of all countries, which now exceeds $50 billion annually. Simply stated, American generosity is unparalleled anywhere. But why is that?

The answer goes back to the quote, “America is great because she is good.” I believe that goodness comes from America’s Christian heritage. Oh there are some who debate that concept vigorously, but the more we depart from that heritage the less goodness we’ll see.

Len Moisan is founder and President of The Covenant Group, a consulting firm that helps churches and non-profits reach their growth and funding goals.  Dr. Moisan has served as an educator, coach, manager, entrepreneur, and private consultant.

The Covenant Group  

802 Stone Creek Parkway, Suite 1A, Louisville, KY 40223
Phone: (502) 425-9810
E-mail: len@covenantgrouponline.com

Christ Died For Our Hidden Pride

by: Pastor Josh Harbin

This past Sunday I preached on humility and how it plays such an important role in the Christian life, especially as we begin to use our gifts of faith in the church (see Romans 12:1-8).

I touched on the idea that pride could be hidden in our lives. Most of the time when I think about pride my mind immediately moves to thinking more of my self than I should. However, what if pride could also be rooted in thinking too little of oneself?

Getting Personal

At many points in my life, I have allowed self-loathing thoughts to creep into my mind and wreak havoc. These thoughts include, but are not limited to: “These people don’t need me, they are just fine the way they are”, “I just have accepted that I can’t…and I’m ok with that”, “I’m fine on my own”, “No one understands”, “There is no sense in trying to do it again, I don’t need that kind of pain in my life”. There have been days that I was so worried about whether or not people thought I was enough, that I just wanted to stay in bed. These thoughts have been painful, and have even lead to depression.

How are these thoughts prideful though? I am certainly NOT thinking more highly of myself. In fact, I’m thinking just the opposite. I am thinking LESS of myself. But is that the point of humility?

The Rule of Opposites

You see, I think we often over-simplify life and follow the rule of opposites. For example, the antonym of kindness is mean-spirited, therefore if kindness is helping someone across the street, then tackling them to the curb would be mean. Right? UNLESS you were saving them from being hit by an oncoming car.

Same with pride, we often think that in order to combat pride (thinking more highly of ourselves) we should do the opposite (think less of ourselves). Now while this may seem like a good idea on the surface, it is predominately unhealthy. C.S. Lewis, in his book “The Screwtape Letters”, reminds us that this type of thinking is often the starting point for a more pride-filled life, “Self-contempt can be made the starting-point for contempt of other selves, and thus for gloom, cynicism, and cruelty.”

Pride hides in the shadows of self-contempt. This inward turning is not only unhealthy; it is sin against God. We were not created to worship ourselves; we were made to worship God. To do anything other than our intended purpose is against the creator’s plan. Our hearts are “idol factories” and they are always seeking something to idolize. When we become self-deprecating, self-loathing, or even generally inwardly focused, we begin the process of making an idol of self.

Worship is the Antidote.

Scripture calls us to idolize Christ (Exodus 20:3-5). He is worthy of our idolization (Psalm 145:3). God worship is the antidote to our desire problem. Pastor Louie Giglio states that “Worship is our response both personal and corporate, to God for who He is and what He has done; expressed in and by the things we say and the way we live”. The worship of God should be the sound track of our lives. We live, eat, breathe, sleep, work, and play for something every day, and that something is Jesus Christ. We find our value and our worth in him (Gen. 1:27; 1 Cor. 6:19-20). Worship isn’t just something we do (like singing); it’s a posture we have. In every activity we engage in we must be fully submitted to Christ. This posture is total dependence on God, seeing every moment as a gift from above. There is no room for self-loathing in from a position of sold out God-worship. Self-pride and worship of God cannot co-exist; one always trumps the other.

Our worship of God is magnified by the reality that Christ died for our pride. God did not want to be separated from us. He knew that our self-critical, self-deprecating, self-exalting, self-focused souls needed renewal. He knows that we will never find joy by looking inward, but gave us a way to look upward. But first, Christ would take all of our pride upon himself, and carry it to the cross, dying with the weight of our sin on him. This act of love is the representation of true humility. It is now by the blessing of the Holy Spirit that our minds can be renewed, our boasting can turn to the cross, and our joy can be found in Christ. God is the author of all good things, and He loved and valued us so much that he calls us his sons and daughters. We are made in the image of the most high God. As beloved creatures of an almighty God, we have access to forgiveness and glory through the cross. Christ died for your hidden pride. Lay it down and recognize your value. 

Practical Application:

Meditate this week: Isaiah 26:8 “Yes, Lord, walking in the way of your laws, we wait for you; your name and renown are the desire of our hearts.

Sing to Lord this week: Find a quiet place and sing to the Lord the song of your heart. Don’t think about anyone but him. Give it all you got!

Pray & Remember this week: Remember that Christ died for your pride. He died so that your pride could never separate you from God. Get on your knees and spend time thanking God for this mercy that you get to live out.

Share this week: When God is doing something in your heart, don’t hide it. Find someone to share it with this week. Strike up a conversation with a co-worker, a friend, a teammate, or even a stranger. Let your love for Christ pour out fearlessly. He is why we live. To God be the glory!

 

 

Join the Conversation: Good Grief!

(our summer series inviting conversation and connection. Share your thoughts on Facebook or Twitter)

My mother died on July 14. A week later, I visited my father’s graveside in Ft. Logan National Cemetery for the first time since he passed. A dear friend just returned from a graveside visit to a mentor who passed in a tragic car accident. One of our church-family members just lost her grandmother. Death and grief are a part of life.

The loss of loved ones grows more real and present the older I get, and it exposes a unique loneliness in me.

Each situation is laced with joy and gladness as they sleep in faith with the Lord and await the glorious resurrection. That is the good news. They truly rest in a better place (though those words are no help on heels of a loss) and I can assent to it being a goodness amidst the grief.

Yet, there are obvious aspects of grief that are very uncomfortable and hard, though maybe goodness can be found there too. An obvious emptiness and sadness attends losing people we love. It wouldn’t be sad if they hadn’t made a meaningful impact on our lives. Their departure leaves a hole.

The hole is not only their absence, but how it exposes a deeper loneliness. In the case of parents and grandparents, it is the loss of people that knew us from the beginning. They set us in motion and loved us when we had nothing to give, but a cry, a mess and a smile. They showed us our first glimpse of unconditional, life-giving love.

Their loss tears at our roots – the roots of being known, loved and connected. Certainly we can busy ourselves with more people, and we can build other significant relationships to stay connected and experience love. Building new connections is good, but it can be a mechanism to hide as well. Hiding from the lonely reality that foundational relationships are undeniably absent for now doesn’t feel authentic or redeeming to me.

I believe the loneliness exposes a root desire for deep connection. There is goodness in the grief if we face it. My loneliness exposes a desire to be known and loved at my core. Though, the people that knew and valued me from the beginning are gone. I still want all of me to be deeply known. I want to be loved and accepted for who I am. That is a lonely grief and it is hard, lest we deny it and hide from it.

Henri Nouwen says: “The task is not to escape your loneliness, nor to let it drown you, but to find it’s source. … With your heart you must search for that place without fear.”

In this sense, I see the loneliness as a gift to be opened and explored, though it is hard to sit with. I’m finding the loneliness exposes in me a relational desire that not even the most intimate earthly relationship can fully satisfy, though they are so important. I feel the pain of grief and it’s loneliness driving me to more essential and eternal things. It seems to be leading me to God – to know him more intimately. It’s calling me to trust that in His knowing me, in His love for me, in His presence, in welcoming Him into my loneliness, there is more — more healing, more hope and a more satisfying, joyful relationship that transcends what we can know on a merely human level.

There is no fear in pursuing this, though it comes with some pain and letting go (for now) of those who have loved us well. Exploring “that place” referred to by Nouwen leads us to a deeper relationship with God, a good place, and a joyful connection.

I’d love to connect, share your thoughts.

Join the Conversation: Learning to Swim

(Join the Conversation – a summer series inviting conversation and engagement. Leave a comment on Facebook or Twitter)

Learning to Swim:

As I taught my son to swim, I encouraged him to jump off the diving board into my arms. He was scared. It took a lot of coaxing. I repeated, “I’ll catch you … I’ve got you … trust me … jump in.” Finally, he leapt into my arms and a big smile came to his little face. Learning  to swim takes trust that the one who promises to catch us will really hold on, and that it will be fun and not kill us.

In John 4 Jesus invites the woman at the well to jump into the living water. She is so exhausted by her circumstances and consumed by the shame of troubled relationships she does not see the refreshing beauty of what Jesus offers.

I get this woman, even though I’ve not been married five times, I have felt overwhelmed by my circumstances. The exhausting shame blocks her from seeing and receiving Jesus love. She’s the person drowning who fights against the one coming to her rescue.

Jesus says, instead of pushing me away – if you knew me, you would ask me if you could jump in the pool with me (v.10 my paraphrase).

Isn’t it true that often our trials block us from recognizing how much Jesus has for us. We flail about attempting to find satisfaction in the plastic water bottles of the world that we miss his ocean of grace.

Jeremiah 2:13 captures the problem:

“My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.

We’re trying to swim in the world’s empty pools and reject the deep love and satisfaction of Christ. Maybe fear, shame, doubt or 100 other distractions keep us from resting in his arms and learning to swim. It’s hard to relax and swim when you’re fearful.

But faith says, I may be fearful, but He is trustworthy. His love is real and strong. We don’t have to be strong to rest in His living water, we simply have to let go of our broken cisterns and accept that he will catch us and hold us, forever.

What might you need to let go of to enjoy the living waters? What if, in reality, you are already in the living waters and held by Jesus? Oh, then I could rest in the safety of his arms and enjoy swimming.

Twisted & Treasured

from Rob Gibson…  a midnight thought Aug 22,2016

I am undeniably broken and not in control of it. 
My need for the Savior is greater than my comprehension. My inability to rescue and reform myself is terribly obvious to me. My need to be plucked from the pit, led from temptation, and forgiven of treason is radically real. As if my mind saw black as white, so twisted can my heart be, so self deceiving and self consumed, upside down and inside out; flesh demanding to be fed when it should rather be crucified. My fate, if left to me alone would surely be total destruction and devastating damage to others. Human sin and brokenness knows no bounds, only twisted convulsions that frustrate heart mind and soul. 

But God. But for the restraining hand of God, but for the mercy of the Father who meets me in death, but for a Savior who stands in my stead, but for a Brother who keeps watch of my soul, but for a Son who laid down His life for mine, but for the King who holds the keys to my life, but for the Lord who offers forgiveness and life, I would be lost. But God, rich in boundless love, has taken me as His beloved. Broken though I am, I am consumed by His love, held as His treasure. Amazing! Unceasing love! Hallelujah what a God, what a Savior! 

What if I Rested?

by Rob Gibson  July 14, 2016

Post #10 in: Gleanings from a Sabbatical Journey…



I was sitting in Starbucks watching a baby boy fall gently asleep in his young mothers arms. He was so peaceful and secure, wrapped in her tender embrace. She gently stroked his forehead, his eyes closed, and his little body melted into her arms. He hadn’t a care, totally unaware of the concerns mom, dad and I discussed. He was safe, secure, deeply loved, and in that love he rested well.  I thought to myself, just give me thirty minutes of rest like that and I could run for a week. Do I know how to rest like that? 

My sabbatical was about rest, but rest is difficult for a workaholic fixer. With so much to fix and reform, how the heck can I rest?! It’s a skill we are born with, like this little boy, and then it seems the woes of the world can wrestle it from us with life consuming burdens. 

The burdens are many: paying the bills, satisfying customers, keeping the kids safe and on track, satisfying the boss, can’t loose this job, gotta make quota, terrorist strike again, need to connect with friends, save for retirement, people are protesting in Dallas, what about a vacation, fixing the car, mowing the lawn, a liar or narcissist is going to ruin the country, got to finish the basement or she’ll be angry, how will we afford college, insurance is killing us. That’s enough to keep me up at night.

The list has so filled my mind for years that I stopped dreaming long ago, or at least I rarely remember my dreams. I’m told I dream, but I remember less than a handful of dreams. A party with Taylor Swift (go figure), a hike in the mountains, a board game on white fluffy clouds. When I was younger, I dreamed, I walked in my sleep, then early in our marriage I talked about work in my sleep – to my wife’s chagrin. Then, until recently, things went blank – no dreams.

I have felt guilty resting. A subtle guilt if I sat to watch golf or took a ride on my motorcycle to nowhere in particular. Guilty because if I’m not moving, and moving with purpose, I have no purpose, no value. It’s a jacked up lie, but a workaholic that performs to earn value isn’t going to rest except when it’s physically demanded. I wanted to rest like that baby. I was certain I had to have it, and I was hopeful it was possible. After all, Jesus said: 

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

That sounds fantastic, but how do I access this rest? Maybe a better question is, who snatched it from me? What lying dog told me I had to carry the weight of the world on my shoulders and fix so much stuff?That little baby was resting in his mothers arms, unconcerned with the woes of the world or our troubles; he simply rested in the loving and trusted arms of mama. I want that! 

To rest, I have to continually reclaim a couple of truths, and kick some lies in the hind-quarters. The lie to silence is, “I’m responsible for everything and I have to fix ‘it’ and everyone.” That is way above my pay grade and human capabilities, and turns me into an agitated control freak. The truth I need is the doctrine of rest. It’s one you’ve probably never focused on, but it’s there. We see it when Jesus says:  

“The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.” (Mark 4:26-29)

This is so freeing because, in essence, Jesus says we can do our work (scatter seed) in the daytime, then go to sleep. Further, while we sleep stuff grows and we don’t know how! In other words, it’s not our responsibility to make it all happen. I am not responsible for the outcome. I don’t have to fix everything or everyone. I am not God and I am not in control. I know this, it’s my heart and soul that need to catch on. I do my best (and even when I don’t he gives me grace) and go to bed and trust the outcome to God. God is responsible for the growth, the result – the harvest.  

This truth gives me the opportunity to lay down my work and rest. It sets me free to breathe deeply, relax, connect to my heart and begin to trust God. This truth welcomes me, at 54, to rest secure as a child in the tender loving arms of my Savior. It invites me to know I am deeply loved, safe, and able to dream again. 

The Illusion of Control

Do you ever wake up in the middle of the night overcome by fear? I don’t mean the kind of fear that somebody’s breaking in and trying to kill you. I can fight that fight, or send Margaret to do it. What I mean is the kind of fear that goes deep in your soul. The fear that I could lose my job and not be able to care for my family. The fear that I have not planned appropriately, social security is crashing, and my resources won’t be enough to take care of me in my old age. The fear that if I don’t get busy, get the job done, cover all the bases, save twice as much as I’ve been saving, spend half as much as I’ve been spending, get smart, don’t mess up, run faster and harder, I’m screwed – but that probably won’t be enough either. This is my version of a paralyzing fear that life is coming apart and I can’t control any of it.

It doesn’t happen to me often, but recently at 3AM, while on sabbatical in Colorado, I woke to such a terror. It was triggered by a conversation with a guy that seemed to have it all together. He seemingly saved wisely, planned thoroughly, made good money and was expecting a very healthy retirement, in my opinion.  He similarly wasn’t sure he could live on what he had saved, but it seemed sufficient to me. At 3AM that night I was pretty freaked out; certain my financial ship was too little and the waves too big and everything was way out of control.

If you’re reading this and you’re under 40, this may not resonate with you financially, but it may in other areas of life, like your career, family, worn out cars, or other things that seem out of control. Regardless of the issue, it’s the fear that you’re really not in control of your life. Fear that you cannot protect your children from harm, fearful that things aren’t working out in your world. Fear that terrorism, money, relationships, work, the future is beyond your control.

Of course, things are not ordinarily way out of your control, because you can plan, save, lock your doors and protect your family as best you know. You do your best, forget the rest and normally that seems to work. But still you make mistakes, and stuff happens. And if you think about the bad stuff that could happen, or the good stuff that may not, or when unexpected stuff happens (you can insert a shorter S word here) sometimes it’s messy,  painful, and frightening. We face the reality that we are not in control.

The reality is, beyond the best application of our wits and wisdom, the best application of our gifts, the best planning we can fathom, and the realization we are not always at our best, things are really not in our control. You and I are but one person among nearly 7,000,000,000 humans on the planet and in addition to them, there are 700 billion variables including astroids, atom bombs and even weather anomalies that can take us out in the blink of an eye.

So if you weren’t terrified, maybe you are now. Welcome to my 3AM experience. Misery loves company, let’s freak out together. Or let’s let go of our illusions together.

The truth is I am not in control, and neither are you. The illusion of control is a lie of the enemy. It is a lie meant to steal our joy by filling us with fear and anxiety.

Jesus said: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy;

I came that you may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)

If the enemy can convince us that we are in control, or must strive to be in control, then he’s convinced us that we need be our own god. The lie from the beginning (Gen. 3) is, Turn from God, be your own god, take control! If we buy the lie then we grab at a task that is far too great and burdensome. The job will wreck us; it is a weight we cannot bear and a burden well beyond our capacity. But if we demand to be in control, our joy will be stolen and our peace destroyed. Joy will be replaced by anxiety as we seek to manage things beyond our control; subtly, slowly and frantically we become aware that things will not go well under our control. To depend on self, to cling to self and illusions of control will kill us.

The alternative is to lay down our illusions and live, accepting that we are not in control and that’s ok, God is. To walk in the light of the love of Christ, trusting he is in control and for our good (Ps 118:1; 1Cor.1:8-9; Phil 2:13; Heb.10:23). This feels vulnerable and out of control, because it is a vulnerable place of trust. It is a choice to rest in the safe, strong arms of our Sovereign Father.  It is a choice to live abundantly as His beloved child, not our own master.

“He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it” (1Thes 5:25).