Archive | September, 2013

Rules, Take 2

28 Sep

I don’t like rules very much. From balking at the “right” of the government to tell me how I need to take care of myself in a car or how I need to take care of my family’s medical bills to the “inane” rules about graded material in my children’s school or my ability to question said determinations as a parent, I find myself anxious to fight those that want to put themselves in authority over me. It is a difficult thing to allow someone else’s will to take priority over mine. What this says about me as a person is another discussion, but what it says about me as a someone who chose to work with laws is this discussion.

I have been known to say, Learn the rules so you know how to break them properly. Some people think of this as career admission for attorneys. I think, however, that the it would be more accurate to say, we need to know what the rules are, so that we can take maximum advantage of their repercussions. For example, there is a law in Florida that states, a driver must have “safety belt which is properly fastened at all times when a motor vehicle is in motion.” If someone were desirous to put themselves in a position of less safety, that person could possibly find a way to fasten the belt and yet not abide by the obvious spirit of such a rule.

Moving on to issues in which I like to practice, there are nuances to every real estate contact. Knowing the precision of these laws allows someone to take maximum advantage of options. This is what we attempt to do in our practice. We like to know as much as is possible about the real estate contract, that we know when different ownership interests are most advisable, when a deed is needed, when documentary stamps must be purchased, when to time the sale for different circumstances, when a contract actually exists, and a myriad of other things that may come. When we do, we can advise you with certainty and knowledge.

We have learned many nuances and permutations about laws for all forms of real estate transactions, creating and managing land trusts, writing and reviewing contracts, prioritizing and preparing wills, estate planning and management, elder law issues, and many other related issues. We advise and instruct in all of these issues. We also seek to maintain integrity, our moral compass, and Christian ethics in every thing we do. So, then, why do we need to study the rules so well, if we are attempting to stay within that which is morally correct. The short answer is that what is morally right is not synonymous with legally acceptable.

Every decision, to be sure, should be made with that which you believe is ethically acceptable, but one’s individual moral compass is not the standard the Florida legislature uses when writing laws. If there were no questions, you would not be coming to see attorneys at all. Any decision you make upon seeing an attorney is yours, they are merely the conduits who let you know the rules that exist. Many laws are value-neutral, nevertheless knowing those laws is an important step to making an informed decision.

Informed decision is the way to go. You may dislike rules as I do, but ignoring them does not make them go away. And merely doing that which you think is right is usually a recipe for inviting trouble. Ignorance may be an excuse for some things, and you may be able to be square with God for certain actions, but Florida, or any other state in the union, doesn’t allow you to use that as an excuse. Therefore, when rules come into our lives, we are required to be aware of them when we act, or we suffer the consequences. And, in certain areas, we might be the best people to talk to before making those decisions.


Rules, Take 1

28 Sep

I don’t like rules very much. From balking at the “right” of the government to tell me how I need to take care of myself in a car or how I need to take care of my family’s medical bills to the “inane” rules about graded material in my children’s school or my ability to question said determinations as a parent, I find myself anxious to fight those that want to put themselves in authority over me. It is a difficult thing to allow someone else’s will to take priority over mine. What this says about me as a professional is another discussion, but what it says about me as a Christian is this discussion.

First, it is undeniable that we are commanded to obey authority, as every authority set before us is there because God put it there (Romans 13 tells me so). While we are clearly called to make our church leaders jobs joyful, I’m not sure how far that extends to others placed in our path. Are we, for example, supposed to Honor the President to the degree that his job would be joyful? If so, does the test continue to our children’s teachers, police officers with radar guns, parents with unwieldy requirements, or building inspectors with a vendetta?

Honoring is difficult on two fronts. First, I think it would be hard to agree with any elected official on every issue that comes up. We have a right in this country to speak out against those things with which we disagree. Nevertheless, Never confuse your right to do something with doing the right thing.

Second, at least some of the things that are done by various elected officials (the President, in our example) are against our interpretations of the mandates of Scripture. Many people leave churches where they disagree with interpretation of Scripture, and while one could theoretically continually move to another country, that is impractical or impossible for most, even if they could find a country whose leaders they mirror their own scriptural interpretation (those leaders would eventually be replaced with someone who may not anyway). Therefore, people are required to exist under the authority of those with whom they differ!

I think at least part of this is training for our Christian lives. If we, for example, learn to live with a city planner who wants to tear down our house, we should be better equipped to serve in a church that requires someone to work in the nursery. Even more, it gives authenticity to our Christian witness. If we can live with governors who attempt to silence our witness, we can certainly live with leaders who want us to keep our debates about Supralapsarianism out of the public forum (incidentally, you should keep your lapsarian preferences largely private, as the discussion itself is of minimal profit). And, in so doing, we can live above the fray and bless those who are persecuting us in a way that brings honor and glory to our God.

Nevertheless, there are times to speak out, whether or not the law allows. Fortunately, our law allows us to speak out! But I think we should be careful not to confuse personal preference to legitimate sin. We’ve all met those who confuse their own preference in music style with Scriptural mandate (this isn’t to say the Bible is silent on issues of music, because it isn’t). We don’t want to do the same thing with laws. While I have a readily robust feeling on what government SHOULD do, I can’t equate that opinion to Biblical proportions of authority. On the other hand, there are times where the government makes a stand that is completely contrary to allowable interpretation, like abortion.

The very thing that makes abortion such an atrocity, that we were designed with a dignity as humans, makes the leaders who perpetrate these atrocities worthy of honor also. Not to sound too much like Jefferson Bethke, but we are trained to make enemies. We often let our feeling of their incorrectness substitute for our belief that they should be eliminated as humans themselves (or at least put in a vegetative state) so that God’s work can be done. Ah, but there’s the rub. If we truly believe God is in control (and aren’t just giving it lip-service), must we not conclude that God’s work is being done through these evil leaders?

I am suggesting that we should state our disagreement very strongly. Yet, in so doing, we must still honor those evil men and women who allow the murder of babies to occur. This is a difficult line to walk, but I think it is still a part of what we must do. As much as we can, we should honor our leaders. At the same time, we need to be able to speak into their lives. We are fortunate that someone did this for us, as we would otherwise be ambling about in our depravity. We cannot learn if someone doesn’t present us with an opposing opinion. Usually, an opinion in love is more persuasive, though I will not try to move those of you who believe in delivering any message with proper force.

So, when there are rules with which we disagree, we need to present clear, logical arguments to those in authority, so that we may persuade them. This means our objections must be well thought out and analyzed in our own minds. Therefore, we must ourselves be well-informed; likely, even study those with opposing viewpoints. All of this just to honor those God puts in authority over us? Unfortunately, yes. Which means people like me who naturally resist rules may just be in for a lifetime of study, or perhaps we could just learn, as Paul did, more contentment.

Whither are we Drifting?

13 Sep

It is seldom that a serendipitous thought of reflection stems from a Dobie Gillis episode, but this particular question of reflection was an assignment to answer by essay just before graduation. While it is doubtless that reflecting on this thought process is normal at times like graduation, I assert that there is never a bad time to consider the ramifications of this question.

As Pastor Curt looks back this Sunday, I think it is also important to consider where we are moving forward. We are installing three new deacons and a new elder this week, so that will take the church in a direction, to be sure, but when you survey the history of churches, you find that often the mistakes or downfalls are not a hard turn of those at the helm, bur rather a slow drift.

So, where have we drifted? Well, the obvious start is that we have drifted into a culture of peace. Sure, there is work to be done and there is the distinct possibility that humans can be regressive. Yet, there is no doubt that in the last decade of its existence, Orlando Grace has become a definite Redemptive community, which you may recognize as the “R” in our PRIORITIES.

We certainly are pushing to increase our commitment to Intercessory prayer, Transforming culture, and Outreach to the lost. The leadership is committed to these things, and we are hoping that that vision is both noticed and filters down. As we are continually working toward ways in which to enhance our ministry in these ways. We don’t think this “hand component happens without Servant shepherding or Intentional discipleship. So, our elders are continually praying that they will be worthy shepherds.

We certainly feel like we are committed to Reformed theology and Expository preaching. These are bedrock principles that we believe in, stake our reputation on, and advertise ourselves as. We can only continue in these if we continue with a Passion for God and Investing in spiritual gifts. These are our PRIORITIES. This is what we stake our claim on. This is what the new officers on Sunday will agree to uphold.

This is where we believe ourselves to be drifting. If you feel that we are lagging in any of these areas, you need to talk to us. We want to know if we are in fact drifting the wrong way. Let a deacon or elder know if we are falling short in any way you can, because this is our desire, our hope, and our mission.

NASCAR Must not Become Myopic

12 Sep

The race last Saturday was phenomenal drama. In fact, it may be the best race I have seen in several years. Going into the race, where five spots were available for the playoffs and about 10 people had a shot, is a great storyline. The fact that the two guys most directly battling for one spot (Kurt Busch and Jeff Gordon) started together on the front row was astounding (not to mention the defending champ, who had only a “puncher’s chance” of getting in was starting third). It was, quite possibly, the most far-reaching drama in a single NASCAR race ever.

Then, the spin-out happened. My immediate reaction was that I thought it was just a little too coincidental that the person to benefit the most was the teammate of the guy who caused the caution. I also noticed (which I think was more coincidental, but still kind of ironic) that the man who was most harmed was Jeff Gordon, whom Bowyer seems to have it out for. At any rate, the thing that made this race special was not the race itself (it was exciting, but nothing ultra special), but rather the intrigue of who would make the Playoffs.

I understand that, on one hand, looking at improper action in this race, when much of it happens every race is seemingly nearsighted. On the other hand, the improper action was not based on this race. There wasn’t a concerted effort to allow someone to finish better in this race, because this race was so special. The effort was to improve the standing in this race so as to effect the entire season standings. Therefore, looking at just the results of this race is too short sighted of a view to take when establishing a punishment.

First of all, I am excited that NASCAR did something. I halfway expected them to ignore the issue, and the fact that they acted was very good, in my opinion. While I believe the 50-point penalty was good, as we sit right now, here is the situation. The penalty was given to three teams. One of the teams has a driver who isn’t even running for Sprint Cup points this year (the 55 team of Vickers). One of the teams has a driver whose points are getting reset so the negative to him is completely unfelt (the 15 team of Bowyer). The Truex penalty was huge, but, by the same token, a 1-point penalty would have been just as big to him in net effect.  So it wasn’t the size of the Truex penalty that made it effective, but rather, that there was a penalty at all.

When two of the three drivers don’t even notice the penalties, are the penalties effective? This is why NASCAR needs to change the rule from a penalty-driven sentence to one of logic. If you manipulate points to get into the playoffs (it probably only matters in the last race), you aren’t in the playoffs. End of rule. No exceptions. And the punishment shouldn’t allow denials to matter. When in-car audio juxtaposed with crazy hand movement makes it obvious to an average fan with a driver’s license, then he should be punished. Parenthetically, it is crazy to me that Bowyer denies that it is on purpose, yet felt the need to call Ryan Newman to apologize.

To me, I’d rather see Jamie McMurray and Paul Menard in the Chase, then have Clint Bowyer with a shot at winning after what he did. Yet, consider this. Martin Truex, Jr got a penalty, which put Ryan Newman into the Chase Playoffs. Now, that the evidence seems to be that Joey Logano received unfair help, NASCAR could be in a weird situation. Imagine they decide to penalize Logano something between 2 and 10 points. Then, all of a sudden, Jeff Gordon would be in, but Joey Logano would be the wildcard and Ryan Newman would be out. That’s a crazy scenario. And to let Penske go when Michael Waltrip Racing was punished so severely doesn’t seem like a good idea either.

This is why NASCAR needs to look at the manipulative drivers as something to punish in a different way. They need to not try to treat the race before the Playoff cutoff (or the final race of the year) differently. You cannot treat this race as if it is another race, when the preceding 25 races are nullified in some ways because of it. There’s a reason why pass interference on the last play of a “Hail Mary” game is a different call than a ten yard out in the second quarter. An NBA Finals game has a different setup than my high school conference tournament. When eyeballs are watching, action needs to be taken in different ways! NASCAR must make a decision that doesn’t treat this like just another race or else the next time a race comes with this much intrigue, people will lose interest, and that is what happens when they become too myopic.

Do I Need to Write a Will if…

11 Sep

I recently solicited questions and there are a variety of questions about someone writing a will. Most people will answer this question with a definitive yes (or a definitive no) and even if that is the answer you think should be given, I feel it prudent to delve into the answer to this question and WHY that is the answer.

First, one must understand what a Will is. A Will is a legal document containing instructions as to what should be done with one’s money and property after one’s death. So, a will is only needed by those who plan on dying. If you are not planning on dying, you need to come to grips with your own mortality and understand that you will, in fact, one day cease to exist on this planet.

If you have no money or property, a will is also unnecessary for you. Property includes things like children (which might lead me to have a whole diatribe on baptism, dedication, and conversion, but that is a subject for another blog). If you have no money, no property, and no children, you might need to solicit our help on changing at least the first two, so that you do have money and property, but a will is only for people who have something to give away.

Furthermore, some people have a little money and property, but they really have no concern over whether their money goes anywhere specific. Now, those of you who do not care where your money goes, I will provide you with a will, which gives all of your property, after your death, to me. If you have children, you ought to concern yourself with what happens to them after your death, and you should consult many counselors in your life to determine the best course of action.

Now, let’s say that you don’t take the time to write a will, then what happens? Well, the state of Florida (or, if you are crazy enough to live elsewhere, that state or country) has one written for you. Florida’s default will gives your property to people related to you through your grandparents (i.e., no second cousins and no one added by marriage). If you take neither the time to have a will nor the time to have relatives, then the property escheats to the state.

Many will tell you that escheating is where the state cheats you out of your property. I don’t like to put it that way, because the property has to go somewhere. And until I can convince the Florida legislature to have the property escheat to me, it goes to the state. Nevertheless, that is what happens when you don’t write a will. Therefore, anyone who is going to die, has some property, and cares where that property is going to go, needs to write a will.


6 Sep

I am self-employed. To some people, the first thing that says is I have not been able to work well with others. While others can answer the truth of this far better than I can (and probably will, if asked), I don’t believe that is the defining thing about the self-employed. Nevertheless, I realize that tendency, which I see in myself (and believe is present within us all), to adjust the board to the chips I want to play.

Recently, this line of thinking has come up in a few areas. First, I have been voted in as a deacon at my church. This means getting along with the other leaders and sometimes bending to what others think. Second, I have been asked to run Bible Quiz tournaments with people that live in different states. Some of those organizing with me have not been my choice of people to work with through the years. Finally, some people with whom I work have challenged me to set up completely new ways of accountability within the office.

Lest you believe this to be autobiographical nonsense, I assure you that there is something applicable to us all. You see, while I am relatively certain the specific ways you have been challenged are unique, I know that in this culture, which promotes autonomy so much, your autonomy has been attacked in some way recently.

You see, all of these are lessons in submission. The mere mention of the word “submission” often brings connotations in our culture which are doubtlessly negative, but we know it as a word used in Scripture, most commonly about our relationship with God. This is where I believe the word picture provided by the etymology is tremendous! Sub means to come under (as used in Subway or submarine). Therefore, the word says that we come under God’s mission! What a tremendous gift!

There are so many entities to which we must submit (the country, the church, the family, the boss, to name just a few). Our primary goal is to allow them to accomplish that mission. This is why it is important that even when my children actually do know better than I (yes, it happens to even me) that they learn to come under my mission; it’s training for the rest of their life. The other thing I like about this word picture, it comes with natural parameters. When authoritarian action frustrates purpose, then the action can certainly be outside the realm of submission and starts to become needless rule creation.

Since my wedding to Kelly, I have learned that some people don’t have the same visceral reaction to rules that I do, but attempting to follow a rule that thwarts the mission in question is not submission! For example, if a mission is “Engaging peoples everywhere to pursue ultimate satisfaction in Jesus,” then an attempt by said organization to encourage those within the organization to not engage others is anti-missional. To obey such a rule would be to go against the mission.

This is important when you consider that your call is to submit. I also have become abundantly aware of the fact that working with a group of people involves yielding your own will to come together with the group to which you are submitting. If you are submitted to an entity that you trust, then believing in it more than your own logic is normal and even beneficial. Think about this the next time someone to whom you are called to submit (our country, perhaps) passes some rule that you hate.

It is common for an employee to not grasp the decisions of a boss, but yet doing the work heartily can yield positive circumstances. It is wonderful when actions, despite dissonance, bring about fruit that the employee never imagined! Imagine if a group of people in a church so committed to the vision that they bought in and thereby yielded fruit that most never foresaw! Sometimes I think we’re like this with God. We continually question those things that don’t seem to line up with our preferences or logic, even when God is clear in His word.

This, henceforth, brings it back full circle. As I don’t have that boss who will give me assignments, understood or otherwise, I miss out on that one outlet for submission. What I have learned from being that boss, however, is that having people who submit to you, while more honored culturally is a demoralizing task itself. So, pray for those to whom you submit, then pray for yourself to make sure you are submitting to the correct entities!