Category Archives: Ambition



At one of the memorial services for Dallas Willard a USC colleague offered a wonderful eulogy: Dallas was a man whose hearing didn’t get better when praise was thrown his way.




This was originally posted on May 30, 2013, but there sadly is a need to get some things clear in our collective conscious!

Since Anthony Weiner is back (again!) in the news, I thought it good to reflect some on his undoing.

Let’s get things clear from the get go.  I find Weiner’s behavior inexcusable and to employ a word I have not yet heard: sinful.

It is a good thing Weiner resigned from the Congress.  The spectacle that preceded it was unfortunate.  It only seemed to underscore the very problem that got Weiner into trouble to begin with, namely his narcissistic tendency toward self-promotion.  As some preachers I’ve heard proclaim, “Sometimes we have got to repent of our repentance.”

It is interesting to hear the commentary by the media and members of Congress, but not so much for what has been said.  Rather, it is what was left unsaid that has been striking.

For example, why are so many up in arms over what Weiner did?  If there is no God, as Dostoyevsky famously declared, then all things are permissible.  I imagine there are several in the media and in Congress who find the “fear of the Lord” a quaint maxim of a bygone era.  Nevertheless they are quick to pronounce absolute judgment on Weiner.  No one seems troubled by this inconsistency.

For those of us who do believe in the “fear of the Lord” it is crucial to do some honest soul-searching.  Sure, our sins may not be public.  They may also occur in more socially respectable areas of life: food instead of sex, gossip instead of hubris, and lying instead of lying.  Wait a second.  We are more like Weiner than we care to admit!

As a Christian, I believe God can redeem anyone.  The death and resurrection of Jesus takes the hideousness of sin and the hope-filled reality of a changed life seriously.  The Bible is loaded with unsavory characters who found redemption.  King David was a murderer and adulterer.  And yes, King David also lied.   He outdid Weiner on many fronts.

One’s understanding of redemption in the Christian sense starts by recognizing our real problem: sin.  Failure to appreciate our own sin results in simply casting stones at fellow human beings.  Instead of seeing redemption as a real possibility we gladly cast the pariah to the margins of society.  With the offending party gone from our midst we are freed from having to ponder our own compulsions, dysfunctions, hubris, self-satisfaction, arrogance, and what can be the umbrella term for all: sin. 

When a society loses the language to depict the realities of sin, it has lost more than it can possibly know.  When sin is gone from the scene, so is redemption.  And when redemption is gone, where does that leave us?


Thomas More wore a “hair shirt” underneath his fancy garb.  The discomfort of the shirt reminded him to not be enamored with all the fancy trappings of man. 

Though Christ fully atoned for our sins and we hardly need a “hair shirt,” there are warnings in Scripture to not be enamored with the various ways the world seduces us. 

Two passages in this regard which have meant a lot to me over the years are Isa. 2 and Prov. 23:1-3.

You may not have anything approximating a “hair shirt,” but what truths in Scripture help you keep your eyes on Christ and not the enticements of the world?






A.W. Tozer famously said, “So many are caught up in the work of the Lord that they have forgotten the Lord of the work.”  The disciples of Jesus were amazed at the power God was giving them for ministry, but our Lord reminded them where their true joy should reside: having their “names recorded in heaven.”

Anthony Bradley has offered an important critique of a new type of zeal, especially among younger evangelicals, which at times can be misplaced.

It is unwise to assume any of us have the proper balance on this issue, but I do think Bradley makes some critical points…points that this middle-aged evangelical, who has done street preaching in places like Berkeley and Boulder, yet now lives in the suburbs trying to make sense of the Christian life appreciates.

I have lived both errors: “zeal with not enough knowledge” and “plenty of knowledge with flickering amounts of zeal.”  I don’t have it figured out, but I do appreciate those who offer an alternative perspective to new trends within evangelicalism.  And we evangelicals are prone to trends.  This is not all bad as we want to be always open to “reforming the church” when those reforms are truly called for.  The danger is to get enticed in a direction simply because it is novel and then becomes popular.

I am glad for the zeal and intensity of purpose among many younger evangelicals.  But since every strength can also be a great liability, I do think Bradley’s words ought to be carefully considered.  Much more needs to be said, but the conversation needs to take place.

So read Bradley and consider whether his push back on a new sort of “legalism” has any merit.

I would love to hear what you think!



If there is no God, we Christians are truly most to be pitied.
We missed out on so much potential for worldly success.
Our silly beliefs shackled us to a stupid fear that we were wasting our time making loads of money.
Go on You Tube and watch people like Tony Robbins.  Seems a lot happier than many
Christians I know.  Perhaps he is right…
Pretty depressing, huh?


We need to be discerning who we listen to and why.  Too many assume that the one with the microphone is the expert.  Americans have had a love affair with celebrity that goes back at least to the Jacksonian period.  Alexis de Tocqueville wrote about it in the 1830s.

Perhaps there are quieter voices who don’t have a microphone, but have loads of wisdom to impart…if we will just be less enamored with the dreadful din of celebrity.