Several Common Strategies That Won’t Change People or Culture

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If you’re like me and probably most people these days, you wonder what it’s going to take to actually see change in people’s actions, attitudes and our culture in general. We SO want to see things take a major turn for the better but have you noticed that so far not much is working?

Sure there are good people out there. People are trying to help us find victory over evil. But I wonder if we’re not spending far too much energy, time and money doing and saying things that may feel good, right and helpful but instead we need other directions.

Let me throw out a few suggestions about what’s not working and what might take the place of these generally well-intended strategies:

Casting more guilt on leaders, certain groups or people in general. Here’s the problem with pastors, writers, the media and other purveyors of opinion using guilt as a motivator. The people causing the challenges and committing evil acts don’t care if they are guilty. They know it and will keep doing what they do for other reasons. And those who aren’t guilty really can’t change these people anyway.

Thinking that clever admonitions, pithy sayings or creative sermons or public speeches will alter the landscape. Just recently someone quoted a pastor on Facebook who made an excellent, heartfelt point in the aftermath of the recent shootings. And while church leaders and other communicators should enlighten the good people they will do little to get those who need to change to actually be different. I’m a pastor and speaker and will keep trying to prop up and educate others with truth and wisdom but I doubt I’ll have any impact on the bad ones.They’re not listening to me for the most part.

Providing more expert analysis and overviews of the problems, people involved and what we should have done. We certainly have scores of knowledgeable, hard-working pundits, reporters and researchers who present cogent, well-said summaries of what’s going on and yet little of it matters or causes change. I listen to them, too, and learn much from their perspectives and find myself motivated to see change happen but it rarely does.

So the question is: So what WILL change the culture, what can we do to actually see a difference made in people, society, leadership and attitudes in general?

  1. Knock over one domino. What? By that I mean, make some little difference every day – through your family, job, neighborhood, school, library, etc. All it might take is for us to touch one person, make one small change, do some caring deed and many others will be impacted even beyond our lifetime.
  2. Pray. Of course real change only comes from heart change. We need to pray that God, the maker of each of us, will penetrate the deep recesses of people’s souls to bring about real transformation.
  3. Be the change we want to see. Want more integrity in the world? BE a person of integrity. Want more effectiveness in government? Consider doing your part to change it. Too many are flailing at the darkness but doing little to be the light.
  4. Vote. As the election nears, I hear too many people saying they aren’t going to vote this year because they don’t like the candidates. But the issue is not who will be the perfect candidate but rather how can we elect the person who will provide opportunity for and initiate the greatest amount of change? In addition, there are other races that need the best candidates to win. We’re the only ones who can see that those people take office.

Of course there are more practical things we can actually do to change the world. However, most of them won’t bring major change all at once. We need to be in it for the long haul, look beyond simple answers, trying to guilt people into change or demanding it through our empty calls to those who will never hear them.

Frankly, most people have likely already made up their minds and won’t change their minds unless they actually see a reason to change. Seems like the best way to see that would be to observe it in real people like US!

 

 

 

Five Things We Can Leave Out of Our Prayers

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A family was having guests to dinner. At the table, the mother turned to her six-year-old daughter and says, “Dear, would you like to say the blessing?”

“I wouldn’t know what to say,” replies the little girl.

“Just say what you hear Mommy say, sweetie.” Her daughter takes a deep breath, bows her head, and solemnly says, “Dear Lord, why the hell did I invite all these people to dinner?”

We’ve all been there at some point in our lives when we felt like we really didn’t know how to pray. Some of us have perhaps never prayed out loud or at least tremble some when we do. Jesus of course was asked about how to pray and we now have the wonderful Lord’s Prayer as his response and guideline.

However, I still hear people saying things in prayer (and I’ve done them, too) that are frankly unnecessary and if you think about them, almost silly, and yet they can be heard in the petitions of even seasoned veterans of prayer and the Christian walk. Yes, I’m confident that God won’t punish us for our misguided or unhelpful words, but perhaps we can grow by dropping some of our unnecessary terms of habit and adding richer, deeper, more meaningful thoughts and comments.

Five things you might consider leaving out of  your prayers:

1.  God be with . . . . You’ve said it and so have I. “Lord, be with us as we travel,” “Be with the team as they head to Uganda,” “Be with John who is having surgery today.”  If you think about it, God is going to be there wherever it is and no matter where our friends or loved ones are headed. God can and is everywhere. Wouldn’t it make more sense to pray specifically for what you want God to DO during that trip, surgery or ministry?

2.  Telling God what he already knows.  So often our prayers are a recap of the days events, the planning of the event we’re praying about or what happened in a certain situation. God, today, we faced a very serious trial, one that is bigger than we’ve ever experienced when our friends drove down that road and were hit by a driver not paying attention. But if we have an all-knowing God, then He doesn’t need our summary and we would be better off getting to the point of our prayer.

3.  Habitual and repetitive uses of God’s name. Yes, God deserves our praise (see #4) but He doesn’t require hearing Father God, Lord, Abba or whatever twenty-five times for little good reason other than a break in our prayer. As a parent what if one of your kids repeatedly kept saying, Dad or Mommy or whatever when they talked to you?  That would become more annoying than special.

4.  Lists of requests devoid of praise, thanks and confession. Too many of our prayers, especially in groups, are merely us asking God for stuff. And thankfully, He is a God of provision but He also deserves our praise, appreciation for His many blessings and our saying we’re sorry for the times we’ve still messed up.

5.  Flowery expressions that we’ve only heard but wouldn’t say otherwise.  I know people who only use King James Version language when they pray. Others share expressions about God or Jesus that have come more from a favorite preacher’s vocabulary than their own heart or deep place. And now in the power of the unbreakable cables of Calvary love . . . .

Okay, so maybe this sounds picky and critical. But that is not my intent. If people are truly trying to connect in a meaningful way with God through prayer and still use some of these words, okay. But I just want to challenge us all to keep growing in our relationship with the Father through the use of more mature, intentional and powerful words that really represent expressions from the depths of our souls.

I think the results just might be revolutionary.

Four Things That Must Happen If Our Culture of Violence Is To Survive

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Once again today so many of us have aching hearts about the recent shootings in various parts of the country. Just this morning I’ve read numerous posts of Facebook friends who have literally been in tears, hurting for the families who’ve had loved ones shot and sensing that our country’s well-being is in jeopardy.

And while I’m not so naive to think that there are any easy answers or one place to suggest guilt I’m confident that there are a quartet of new commitments and initiatives that must be embraced and lived out if true change is to occur.

Let me suggest four:

  1. We must reject any focus on certain lives mattering more than others. I understand the impetus for comments to the contrary, but they are not true or helpful. It’s time that we regularly respond to the killing of any life, whether we agree with their lifestyle, point of view or ways of responding, as a travesty, crime and important to be addressed for what it is by government, media and cultural leaders.  It’s time to become outraged every time a life is violently and indiscriminately taken no matter the reason and have that reaction be normative in our country.
  2. There must be a coming together of the groups warring against each other with the purpose of discerning the real problems and finding solutions that all can accept and enforce. And some of the onus to accomplish this should be the role government plays. Our leaders must quit taking sides and retreating to their social, intellectual or historical corners and invite their followers and adherents to do the same.
  3. Our culture must embrace and support a new, more authentic view of tolerance. We must call out people who only seek tolerance if it supports their view rather than respect and treat with dignity those who may disagree. Tolerance does not require the acceptance of other views but instead invites conversation, dialogue and learning by both sides to understand the perspectives of the other no matter the issue.
  4. We must teach and model a higher view of life. Life has become cheapened and expendable. And of course there are many contributors to this perspective that go beyond the scope of this blog. However, if the majority of our country will help in their own way to celebrate life in homes, schools and doctors’ offices, we would see the easy taking of life at least reduced.

So before we panic or despair, perhaps we can take some initial steps in our personal world to enforce or reinforce one of the above concepts and help our culture return to a caring, loving and productive society. Pray that others will do the same. If not, the results may be worth despairing over.