Archive | November, 2013

Teaching Others Things We Should

23 Nov

How does learning occur? It’s a simple question, yet it comes with a nuanced answer. If we look back at our own lives with an honest scope, we know that there was no singular way that knowledge was acquired. It was important to go to school and listen to lectures. Clearly, we learned things from such an event, though the success of Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader displays that we may not have learned (or at least retained) everything that was delivered.

As the Foxworthy-hosted game show exhibited, we do not merely achieve adulthood by retaining the information that was dumped upon us in elementary school. I would submit that we would achieve similar results if we asked questions from middle school, high school, or whatever education you received. I think this would even apply to classes that deal with industries we work with every day.

For example, I teach a real estate class for those attempting to get a real estate license in the state of Florida. This class is taught to people that want to get a real estate license. Upon teaching it, the students need to pass a couple of exams. Yet, if you polled the 100 most successful real estate agents, who have been in the industry for ten years, there would undoubtedly be portions of the test with which they struggle. (I use real estate as an example, but I believe, though I cannot prove, almost every industry would have similar results). Does this mean that those successful agents haven’t learned anything?

The reality is that we have a formal education and we have a functional one. There is certainly overlap, and I believe formal education is very important, but I would submit that book learning without any introduction to normal life can lead to situations like Adam from Blast From The Past finally understanding the rules for baseball he learned decades earlier. There must be a presence of a formal education, but that education is best enhanced when combined with real-world experiences that give it meaning.

That paradigm doesn’t cease to exist when we talk about the gospel. We must present the gospel, and we should do so succinctly and clearly. However, that presentation should be accompanied by a life that has focus, liturgies, actions, piety, and holiness that points them to that gospel. I think this is what is meant by the Francis of Assisi-attributed quote, “Preach the Gospel at all times. When necessary, use words.”

Our lives are always preaching to those with whom we live, work, and play. It’s a sermon that they hear loud and clear. When that sermon matches what we are saying with our lips, it produces an unmistakable message. It is the way most of us were educated. We had school teachers who poured into our lives. Then we had someone (or multiple someones) who took that knowledge and showed us how we could turn it into a career. Just as the lack of a formal education makes one look incompetent in general, despite his potential excellence elsewhere, so can a great life fall short if you never know or explain why you are the way you are.

The fact that my primary identity does not come from things I do is revolutionary when understood in my life. By the same token, the fact that our lives are coming to reflect that sanctified reality is a gift. We get to play a part in God bestowing that gift to others. My good friend, Bob Collins, used to say, “God uses the church to bring others to Himself! We get to be a part of it!” I think that doing so involves our focus, liturgies, actions, piety, holiness, and lives, in addition to our words.


The New Normal

20 Nov

My life is not the same as it was. This is completely obvious from a maturity standpoint. I have grown up to the point where my parents are no longer actively parenting me on a day-to-day basis. They are still more than willing to help and advise me, but I am in the uncomfortable position of having become an adult.

I am in a stage of life that I find strange. Now, it seems that from out of nowhere, I have become a parent for which I feel woefully unprepared. I certainly am hoping to always be a better parent, but then these philosophical questions come up that seem much easier to answer when the children in question are not my own!

For example, a fellow parent and I were discussing a mutual friend that really provides an enjoyable experience of camaraderie, yet their children are such trouble makers that they give our children a hard time or when they have a “good” time with our children, we fear that our children are becoming more like them, and the net effect is a negative one. Philosophically, I can easily say to avoid that person. In life, I struggle to actually do it.

My life is not the same as it was. This is completely obvious from a physical standpoint. In high school, I played sports and never minded running just because someone asked. Others talked about how I had boundless energy. Now, people talk about how I am quite capable of sitting down for hours at a time. There have been numerous times where I did something that my brain felt would be innocuous and my body cried in complaint for a few weeks.

My life is not the same as it was. This is sort of obvious from an educational standpoint. When I was young, I studied (or at least pretended to study) what other people told me I had to study. As I gradually got older, I gradually had more input on what that was. Now, I never study things about which I do not care, and I never study for a “test” and am solely concerned with getting the knowledge I might use in the future.

Why is this even worthy of a discussion? Well, other than seeing that I hardly ever write about my physical digression, I see that time is marching forward. While that causes me to become nostalgic, I understand that it just isn’t that time is moving, but rather that life is changing. For example, my broken foot is making me adjust to walking in an entirely new, slower, more painful way. I fear it may be my new normal.

I watched Ahmad Brooks get fined for a hit that I’ve been thinking should have been a clean play all week, when Jake saw it and commented on how obvious a foul it was. The difference between a foul in football is not important, but the fact is my son has grown up in a different world than I did. He knows the new normal.

I grew up in a school where in high school I spent ten minutes a week on the computer and was considered one of the best computer people in my class. I now teach in a high school where if students don’t spend ten minutes a week online checking their homework and emailing me, they are penalized. This is the new normal. My mom grew up in a world where abortion was illegal. When she looked up pregnant help in yellow pages before my birth, she was shaken into the reality that abortion was now out front and normal. That is the new normal.

My friend and administrative pastor, Mike Graham, pointed out to me that WinAmp is being done away with. This was a way to listen to MP3’s in college, a way to distribute homework in grad school, a way to stream my radio show to 7 stations later, and a way to stream my son’s favorite radio station into his bedroom. As we move into the future, WinAmp will not be the “normal” way to do any of those things. This is the new normal.

Aaron Carpenter talks about how the “anti-fundamentalists” are, in a way, becoming the new fundamentalists. The culture now has this new normal. The world today has many things that are far better. For those things, I am quite glad that my children get to experience a new and better normal. Unfortunately, there are also many things where culture has become appreciably worse, and I feel sorrow that my children have to live with that.

Yet, the one thing I keep coming back to is that none of it is taking God by surprise. God is still sitting on the throne and making it all happen in this world. The world is not what it was. While we could all bemoan one thing that has changed (or complain about something that hasn’t), the fact is that the world will never be the same again. We need to move forward with life, hoping that we adapt, yet never normalize sin in our own lives. I continually feel inadequate to do all the things expected of me in this new normal, but if I can do all this, my life will not be the same as it was!

Looking for a Few Good Men in Southeast Orlando

16 Nov

This originally was posted on my church’s website.

There are many services a church provides, and I am happy to be a part of a church that takes all of them very seriously. While every church touts that it teaches, and to some extent they all do, we have a church that attempts to be intentional about its teaching. We have a church that aims to benefit its members and parishoners through everything it does, including the teaching. While this shows up in many ways, many of which you are certainly aware if you attend, I think the most recent example of this is our men’s retreat.

We had a fantastic retreat last year, and that teaching certainly benefited us, and hopefully our men have improved in the area building solid foundations and finishing well over the past year. As we are building on on that foundation, our elders thought the men in our congregation could benefit from putting aside bad habits and replacing them with good ones in a few specific areas.

Three of our leaders have been tasked with teaching in areas, where our habits tend to be bad. We learned tonight how to better handle anger, and we will learn tomorrow how to establish better habits in sexual sins and laziness. We value the fact that each of these things is based in something that can be positive. Being righteously indignant, for example, is a way in which we can mirror the God in Whose image we have been created. Rest is something that God did after he created the world. We do not want to continue to abuse these things, but rather, we want to juxtapose them with good habits.

This is a very practical way that our leaders have decided to give our men a time of fellowship, intimacy, and teaching in the same environment. I’m not sure if everything was planned to turn out the way it did, but up to this point, the setting combined with it being all family has spurred good conversation and many teachable moments. I am tremendously excited about what is happening here. I hope that those of you at home are praying for us.

I know that those who are here are growing closer together, and I pray that we continue to do so. I know we are more unified in our vision. I am thankful that this is something we value, and that our church is so intentional. I again propose, since this annual conference leads us to a greater desire to serve and grow the church, that we should do it every year.:)

Revocable vs. Irrevocable Trust

6 Nov

After learning the basics of a trust, a person typically needs to determine a variety of factors about the trust they are establishing. The one that seems to have the biggest long-term effect is whether the trust is revocable. While many of us know the definition of the word, that is not quite enough to grasp the nuances between those types of trusts.

A revocable trust, sometimes called a living trust, is almost always created for the entire purpose of allowing someone to help pass his assets outside of probate, yet allow that person to retain control of the assets during his lifetime. It is more flexible in that it can typically be dissolved at the will of the person given the authority to dissolve it. A revocable trust usually is only “revocable” during the life of the creator/grantor or whomever it names as the person holding the power to revoke the trust.

When creating such a trust, there are no legal restrictions on who is allowed to be a trustee or a beneficiary. The terms of the trust vary as commonly as trusts themselves exist. Many people try to retain complete ownership and control over the trust during their lifetime, yet there are certain risks associated with doing so, and even some lose a homestead exemption.

To an even greater degree than other trusts, consult a professional before moving your homestead to a trust ownership, because of those potential difficulties. So, when putting things in a trust, make sure the things that are desired are, in fact, the things that are accomplished. Even if one’s property is put in a revocable trust in such a way that everything post-life is accomplished, the revocable estate property is still subject to estate taxes. So, during one’s lifetime, a trust is still going to be taxed at least as much as any other entity of ownership would be.

On the other hand, an irrevocable trust typically transfers assets out of someone’s estate, but it cannot be altered by the grantor after it has been executed. While you may be able to avoid estate taxes and probate for the estate, once you establish the trust, you lose control over the assets and you cannot change any terms or decide to dissolve the trust. When putting your assets in an irrevocable trust, you are at the mercy of someone else to make sure what you want to happen, does in fact happen.

While an irrevocable trust might be preferred over a revocable trust if your primary purpose is to reduce estate taxes, a revocable trust is often preferable if you want to maintain more control over your assets. If you want to maximize the control you have, a trust might not be the most effective management tool. It’s great to take care of your estate after you go, but it is probably even more important to take care of an estate while alive! Don’t be so mindful of dying that you have to live your life in a worse way. I’ve seen people have money in a trust that they cannot touch and, therefore, be required to live a poor life.

Therefore, while putting a property in trust does in some ways remove the trust assets from your estate, it is important to know in which ways. Being relieved of tax liability on the income generated by the trust assets is nice, yet getting that money back so that you can use it yourself often does away with this benefit because the distribution does usually have income tax consequences. It may also be protected from legal action against you, which is a two pronged benefit. First, people are less likely to challenge you and second, people get less if they succeed in proving you guilty.

All other factors aside, knowing your rights to rescind or adjust the trust after creation is important when forming a trust. There is nothing more frustrating than feeling like assets, which justly seem like your own, are outside of your control to a degree where you dislike what is being done with those assets.

I Live in a Post-Reformation World

1 Nov

As I was celebrating Reformation Day yesterday, someone actually asked me if the Reformation really had any impact on our lives today. The argument went something like, “Martin Luther didn’t even really want to establish a new church when he posted the theses. The effect today is even less, as almost no one uses indulgences.”

The fact that Martin Luther did not want to leave the church when he posted the theses is true. That is why it is not called the Protestant Emergence, but rather the Reformation. There are several reasons for that, to be sure, but I am going to hypothesize about a couple of them. First, I think they understood that just because you disagree, you needn’t separate altogether. This is, I believe, a natural extension of our Rugged Individualism. Also, in a culture where the church you went to depended only on geography, to go against the church was the perceived equivalence of denying God altogether.

So, while it is true that Luther wasn’t yet advocating leaving the church, it is true that he starting a chain of thinking that led to that. In today’s culture, Protestants think nothing about leaving a church to go to one down the street. While I think we should care about that a little more, the fact remains that it is just a different world. Luther may not have left the church on that day, but he became an outcast from the church as soon as the the events of that day were understood.

This commitment to the authority of Scripture over the commitment to a church is something that I value about this post-Reformation world. The fact that before he left, he wanted to attempt to change the church where he was, is something I value. The fact that he fought for the yielding to Christ above all is something I value. The fact that he worked for decades to translate the Bible so that we all may read it in our own language is something I appreciate.

The benefits of this day are not limited to Protestants. Clearly Roman Catholics view the day differently, but even a good Roman Catholic has the benefits of a Bible in his own language. They benefit by going to a church service that doesn’t have to be in Latin, so that they may understand the homily and Scriptures being read. They benefit by having people consistently sharpen them and hold their leaders feet to the fire theologically.

Many people celebrate Halloween on October 31. While there are many elements that are not focused on Christ, we know that the nature of God is to take people and things that are completely contrary to His nature and to make them more like Himself. We see this in people all over and it has happened to holidays. I think we live in a culture that doesn’t focus on the proper things, yet we are able to point people to the proper things.

Because of the Reformation, we have Bibles in our own language where we can point people to verses. Because of the focus on education, both of the people in that conversation can normally read. Because of the Reformation, we returned to the Augustinian theology from centuries earlier. Because of the reformation, I am able to write a blog that disagrees with the theology of our leader and not fear being burned as a heretic. This is why I can proudly proclaim and appreciate the fact that I live in a Post-Reformation World.