Saturday, July 26, 2014

Peter Principle

Dear friends, don't be surprised or shocked that you are going through testing that is like walking through fire.

-- 1 Peter 4:12
The Peter Principle was a hypothesis introduced in 1969 by Dr. Laurence Peter and Raymond Hull. It proposed that in a hierarchy--such as a large corporation--every employee tends to rise to his or her level of incompetence. Dr. Peter also observed that work in an organization is actually accomplished by those employees who have not yet reached their level of incompetence.

If you've ever been a cubical dweller in Laddercorporate America or a fan of the comic strip Dilbert, you know that Dr. Peter was on to something. On the other hand, many people have legitimately worked their way through the ranks and earned their way to the top. But once they made it, it wasn't anything that they expected. Challenges arose, problems materialized and the limelight of prestige began to burn. That once sought-after corner office quickly became a hopeless place of tension and anxiety.

If opposition and distraction are what many people face once they reach the "top" (as the world defines it), what's it like for Christ-followers who strive for life's real measure of success: faithfulness to God? For the Lord's perspective on the matter, let's consider what we might call the 1 Peter Principle.  

The Bible teaches that those who have accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior can also expect their fair share of opposition in this life. In fact, they can count on it. The key to enduring the onslaught while experiencing inner peace is learning how to recognize the opposition, and then turning it to an advantage while placing our hope in God.

It's important to understand that the opposition will always bring added challenges. But the life-long habits we develop as Christ-followers--such as consistent prayer and Bible study--will prove themselves worthwhile many times over. It's like a long-distance runner whose car has broken down in the middle of nowhere. That's a desperate situation for many people. But for those who have trained and prepared, that 5-mile jog to the nearest gas station is a mere inconvenience.

The challenges that Christ-followers face are also sure to bring testing. Maybe it's in the form of a layoff at work, an illness in the family or an unanticipated, budget-busting expense. Whatever it is, we can respond by either giving up...or by placing our faith in our Creator to see us through the storm. Real faith and hope will stand strong till the end. But what's false is bound to fail. As the Bible puts it, "blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him."

Is your faith-journey's ladder to the top shaky or rock-solid? And are you finding that the view from the top isn't what you expected? If so, maybe it's time to talk to The Boss:  

"I give you peace, the kind of peace that only I can give," Jesus reminds His followers. "It isn't like the peace that this world can give. So don't be worried or afraid."

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Pride Before the Fall

When pride comes. then comes disgrace. but with the humble is wisdom.

-- Proverbs 11:2
Do you like to DIY (Do It Yourself)?

Rather than hiring a licensed carpenter, plumber, landscape architect or other expert, you relish the challenge of fixing a leaky bathroom faucet or installing a terraced garden. No professionals are needed--or even wanted--in your construction zone. And if that's Hammeryour perspective, you're hardly alone. Millions of viewers tune into the DIY Network, HGTV and similar programming, and there are countless home improvement websites and magazines out there to help you begin your next project and wow the neighbors.

There's definitely a certain pride factor when you do it yourself and do it right. After all, who can deny the satisfaction from showing off that polished old school muscle car or lush, manicured lawn? And that goes double when you put extra hours of hard work into your efforts. The folks next door are impressed. So yes, you should be proud.

Or should you?

Maybe taking pride in a job well done is OK to a point. But as Christ-followers, we must understand that PRIDE is actually a hazard that can hurt us badly if we don't watch out. 

It turns out that misplaced pride really IS a big deal to God. That's because pride can be a crippling disease with some very nasty side effects. First, we see it in others but not in ourselves. And eventually, we get to the point where we think we can do it all--and all while forgetting that God is the true power and source of our successes. We become arrogant, vain, stubborn and defensive. What's more, we may develop a strange sense of satisfaction when others (sometimes even our friends) face difficulties or tragedies in their lives. These symptoms last for a while. But only up to the point where God finally lets us crumble and fall flat from some unforeseen situation or circumstance.

It's called the pride before the fall. And it's only then that we come back to our senses and come back to God.

What's the prescription for curing this infection called PRIDE? It's not about adopting a permanently-low level of self-esteem or a false woe-is-me attitude. Instead, it's a focus on replacing self-confidence with God-confidence. Our best strategy is to always put God first in our lives and remember that we can do nothing without Him. Let's always give Him the credit for our blessings and successes. And then let's never forget that God chooses and uses humble people to do great things in the world.

The Bible sums it all up with some solid advice: "Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up." 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Passing the Test

The blameless spend their days under the Lord's care, and their inheritance will endure forever.

-- Psalm 37:18
In a scene from the 2009 blockbuster movie Star Trek, Star Fleet Academy Cadet James T. Kirk (played by actor Chris Pine) must undergo a computer-simulation exercise called the Kobayashi Maru Test. Designed by Mr. Spock, the test places Kirk in a no-win scenario as the commander of a starship facing the overwhelming force of aggressive Klingon warbirds.

Kirk remains calm while the imaginary Star TrekKlingon spacecraft open fire. He munches an apple from the comfort of the captain's chair as his exasperated crew wonders aloud if their leader will take action amid the chaos. Star Fleet Academy observers even question if the cocky cadet takes the situation seriously. But just at the protective shields of Kirk's vessel are about to give way, the Klingon attack grinds to a halt. Then, the impossible happens: it's the Klingons' shields that begin to fall. And with a few well-aimed photon torpedoes ordered by Kirk, the enemy ships are quickly destroyed.

The Kobayashi Maru Test was meant to gauge Kirk's response to impending defeat in an unwinnable situation. But since he had secretly reprogrammed the simulation and re-written its conclusion, he could remain confident in the midst of circumstances that no previous cadet had overcome.

"I don't believe in no-win scenarios," Kirk later explained. And why should he? After all, he already knew the story's outcome.

Maybe Earth isn't under attack from a squadron of Klingon warbirds. But a quick check of the headlines reveals a world surrounded by turmoil, confusion and hopelessness. So thank God (literally) that we don't have to rely on our own cleverness to overcome it. The good news is that our Creator IS in control--regardless of the bankruptcies, unemployment, disease and corruption that plague mankind. And maybe that's hard to believe these days. However, God's Word (the Bible) explains that He had it all figured out thousands of years ago--even before the world was formed. He knew which of us would be His followers. And He knew that His creation would need a perfect Savior to deliver us from the dire consequences of our misdirected lives.

But the timing had to be perfect. And so it was. Centuries after the Old Testament had promised His arrival, Jesus was born in an obscure village called Bethlehem...exactly as predicted. Later, prophesy after prophesy would be fulfilled during His ministry through His remarkable words and deeds.

How does this relate to Christ's' modern-day followers? Throughout our trials big and small--and when our world seems to be crumbling around us--we can rest assured that God's plans are always trustworthy and on schedule, even if we don't quite understand them. We usually can't see things through His perspective. But since He wrote life's first chapter, last chapter and everything in between, we can be confident that God already knows how our stories will turn out. And He's the author of happy endings for those who love Him and trust in His Son. 

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Worth Every Penny

"Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn't she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, 'Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.' In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents."

-- Luke 15:8-10
Few things are as disappointing as buying a product or service that fails to live up to expectations--especially if it was expensive. For example, maybe you heard about a new gourmet restaurant that piqued your taste buds. You probably went online and checked out the menu, read some online reviews and even asked your friends and coworkers for their opinions. But when you finally arrived at the restaurant and were seated at the table, you quickly saw through the hype. The dining room was dingy, the waiter was rude and that $50 entrée was greasy and overcooked.

What a costly letdown!

Let's now contrast this unpleasant Pennyexperience with the anticipation of an expensive overseas vacation (maybe a cruise to the Greek islands). You first fell in love with the idea after watching a show on The Discovery Channel. Next, you visited multiple travel websites and spoke with some friends who had been there. Buying your high-priced ticket meant doing without on other purchases, but everyone promised you that the trip would be worth it. 

Finally, the day came when you boarded the ocean liner and reached your exotic destination. The islands were more beautiful than you ever imagined, the cuisine was superb and you even made friends throughout your adventure! Yes, the trip put a dent in your bank account. But the experience was worth so much more than mere dollars and cents.

Although the Bible offers us savvy advice about money management, it also reveals that some costly purchases are warranted. For example, there's Jesus' famous story about the Prodigal Son, where a loving father welcomes back his wayward--and totally undeserving--child, who had burned through his entire inheritance with outrageously wasteful spending. Christ also told His disciples about a man who sold all of his possessions to buy a field. And not just any field, but one that held buried treasure. Although the cost to buy the land was staggering, the man did whatever it took to gain the prize.

These stories are vivid illustrations of how God shows His love for us. The lesson here is that He'll go to any length to bring you and me into His family. Perhaps the most famous passage in the New Testament (John 3:16) tells us that God loves the world so much that He gave His only Son (Jesus) so that those who believe in Him will have eternal life. God let Jesus suffer and die on the cross to pay for all our wrongdoings--past, present and future. But unlike Christ, who lived a perfect, sin-free existence, we all rightfully deserve the death penalty for our lawlessness. But God's extravagant love instead offers us forgiveness and a fresh start if we're only willing to accept it.

Jesus willingly paid the ultimate price to save us from ourselves. And it was worth every penny.