Trucking’s $89.6 Million Dollar Wake – Up Call.

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Recently a jury awarded $89.6 million dollars to the plaintiff in a civil case over an accident in which two people suffered brain injuries, one child a quadriplegic and one dead. The troopers at the accident declined to ticket the truck driver as they felt he was not at fault. The driver of the pick up truck lost control, crossed the median and was then struck by the Werner Enterprises truck going the opposite direction. Later a law suit was filed against Werner for unsafe practices. The lawyer representing the plaintiff argued that Werner demonstrated “systematic disregard for safety and training policies”.  So how did the jury come to the decision to levy such a judgement against Werner if the troopers on scene did not find the driver at fault?

To begin you have to understand the merits of the case were not argued solely on the incident cited. The law firm in question argued that Werner not only neglected safety in this instance, but had a culture of neglecting safety. The argument was that due to black ice conditions the Werner driver should not have been on the road at all according to the drivers manual in over 40 states. These states instruct drivers to slow down and find a safe place to park and wait for road conditions to improve. They showed the driver was traveling over 60 MPH in these conditions and was traveling over 50 MPH at the time of the incident. To make matters worse other Werner employees testified that the driver was not allowed to use a C.B radio or external temperature gauge. When the National Weather Service issued an update on the winter storm informing of freezing rain the company never relayed the message to the truck.

To make matters worse this was a student driver who had a trainer with him. Due to this being an expedited, just-in-time load the driver trainer was not in the front seat with the student driver, leaving him unsupervised. As any driver trainer can tell you many companies utilize the truck as a team truck forcing one to sleep while the other drives. The argument went on to claim if the student driver had parked the truck like the states drivers manuals instruct, or had slowed down significantly he would have not been where he was when the pick up lost control and crossed the median.

Now, this is not the first settlement Werner has had to pay out ( to be fair this one isn’t paid and likely will not be until the case is appealed. ). Other companies that hire and train a lot of student drivers are dubbed “driver mills” by many in the industry because they go through so many students. Not to mention the amount of property damage they cause, injury and death to others. These companies include names like Swift, PAM, CRST, CR England and many others. Everyone in the industry knows the student drivers they put on the road are severely under trained and a safety hazard to us all.

The FMCSA assembled a group to address training standards and what they came up with was an absolute joke and maintained the same level of unsafe behavior by these companies as before. It was so bad that some experienced drivers left the panel once they realized how absurd it had become. What the general public doesn’t realize is the FMCSA does very little to improve safety, despite safety being their primary oversight responsibility and these driver mill companies turn drivers loose with only three weeks training behind the wheel. Most of that time they were unsupervised as their trainer had to sleep due to the truck being utilized as a team truck.

These practices are grossly unsafe to everybody, but they persist favoring profit over safety to the motoring public. Other companies have had their share of multi-million dollar settlements over unsafe behavior. Celadon told their drivers to use cruise control as much as possible regardless of weather conditions to save on fuel. A driver lost control in a snow storm, hit a passenger vehicle causing death and permanent injury. The driver admitted to law enforcement that he was using cruise per company directive. That settlement was what it took for Celadon to change their practices. Prior to that they didn’t care about the dangers involved, only the few gallons of fuel they might save.

All through the industry companies and drivers struggle with image. Hollywood and the media have portrayed truckers as irresponsible and reckless unproffesionals. The more this image persists the harder it becomes to find people willing to get into trucking. Drivers want treated as a proffesional by the trucking companies, yet many try to avoid being proffesional. To change the image the industry has and to get the all around treatment a proffessional rates things must change in both camps. Drivers have to take responsiblity for the truck and make judgment calls on what is safe and not safe, refusing what is not. There are more jobs than drivers, if you are fired for refusing to be unsafe you will have a job by the end of the week.

The companies need to invest more in training. They need to be much more selective of who they elevate to driver trainer status and then train them to be trainers. Selecting someone who has 4 months experience trucking without wrecking is not a suitable candidate to be a trainer. The training standards for student drivers needs to be longer than three weeks and much more stringent than it is now.

Due to the FMCSA, Congress and these training companies failing to do what is prudent and responsible it is now sadly the courts influence that is needed to bring about change. Some say this award against Werner Enterprises is extreme and without merit. I say just the opposite. These companies know what they are doing and will not stop these unsafe practices until the monetary punishment is so severe that they have no choice but to change their behavior. Regardless of how the appeals process plays out we can only hope that these big box driver training companies are swayed into reforming their practices to avoid similar law suits.

Andy

Is the truck driver shortage a myth or reality?

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There’s much noise coming from some in the transportation industry about a driver shortage. There’s another camp that claims there is not a shortage, just a very unhealthy driver churn that’s called turn over. There is die hard adherents to both claims, but the truth is in the middle as it always is.

The claim of a driver shortage is perpetuated by the American Trucking Association          ( ATA ), its member companies, industry media outlets that survive on advertising from said companies and other trade groups representing the “mega carriers”. One thing we have to keep in mind is nothing is as the ATA claims it is. They are a lobby group for their member companies that are front and center in a lot of the problems plaguing the industry. As a result they use their wealth to lobby congress & the FMCSA to get regulations and rule making that favors them.

In an article in USA Today, titled “Truck Driver Shortage is raising prices, delaying deliveries” , the ATA claims that in 2018 we are short 51,000 truck drivers. They go onto claim that in four years, 2022, we will be short 106,245 truck drivers. The ATA has also stated they draw these numbers from statistics from their member companies and the Bureau Of Labor Statistics. The solutions the ATA is looking to include federal minimum age hiring standards for interstate drivers be lowered from 21 to 18. They claim that we allow 18 year old’s to operate heavy vehicles in the military so they should be able to do so on our highways. They are also eyeing autonomous trucks.

Lowering the age with the current guidelines the ATA is suggesting is a disaster waiting to happen. 18 year old’s in the military do not operate heavy vehicles in the military without supervision from older, more mature and higher ranked individuals. They are not tossed a set of keys with 3 weeks training and sent on their way. It’s much more controlled and supervised. Most 18 year old’s are not mature enough to handle the responsibility of handling a tractor-trailer. Just a month ago they were eating Tide pods and two months ago doing the cinnamon challenge. I don’t know about you, but given the current cultural dynamics I don’t want people who can’t use good judgement to discern that eating laundry soap is a bad idea operating a 70 foot long, 13’6 high, 8.5 feet wide and up to 80,000 LBS vehicle down the interstate.

Autonomous trucks are a more viable solution, but the public doesn’t seem to keen on them. Insurance companies are scarred to death due to no one has determined who’s going to be liable for claims. Will it be the company that manufactured the components that failed? Will it be the truck manufacturer who assembled the whole thing? Will it be the driver who was supposed to be monitoring the vehicle? Will it be the network provider who oversees and maintains the wireless network the truck is utilizing? With the number of deaths and accidents involving autonomous vehicles I don’t think we’ll be seeing widespread use of them soon.

The mega companies see a huge turnover that other industries find totally unacceptable, but trucking finds normal. Take Werner Enterprises for example. They employ nearly 8,000 people and hired 10,000 people last year. That’s over a 100% turn over rate. All the mega carriers experience the same thing. The smaller companies see a much lower turn over rates with the largest growth in the under 15 power unit companies. They have seen around 60% growth for a few years.

The other camp is led by OOIDA and claims there is not a driver shortage, but a driver churn problem. They say that with an industry average 100% turn over rate it’s a churn and training problem. This camp also states that with states issuing around 400,000 CDL’s a month there is not a shortage.

There’s a couple of problems with both lines of reasoning. In the strictest sense if the industry has a 100 % turn over that means every driver left one company for another over the course of the year. If a company has 250 trucks and 210 drivers and 100 % of the drivers change jobs, they still only have 210 drivers and 40 empty trucks. Yes, the churn is bad, but the mega companies have created the problem that they seemingly are unwilling to fix.

The claim that there is not a shortage because states issue 400,000 CDL’s is problematic too. Out of 400,000 CDL’s how many are renewals? How many are Class B CDL’s for dump truck drivers or cement truck drivers? How many are truly new Class A issues for people driving OTR and regional? How many are mechanics obtaining or renewing a CDL for the sole purpose of test driving and relocating equipment? How many are for people driving a school bus, activity bus or church bus? How many work for the state or a city fire department that requires their engineers to have a Class B? The questions can be endless.

What we do know is there are many people with CDL’s that have no intention of driving truck in a manner that will have them away from home over night. We also know that there are drivers who show up for orientation that have 20 jobs on their 10 year work history. We also know people obtain their CDL and drive truck as a last resort until their previous job has spots open back up. In a surging economy you will see people who were in construction, mining, etc. leave trucking in favor of their former jobs.

To claim there is not a shortage is shooting yourself in the foot. On one hand the shortage is causing rates to increase. To run around insisting there is not shortage gives the industry the excuse to lower rates again using your own argument against you.

I fall in the middle of both arguments. There is a shortage, but it is not as severe as the ATA and company claim. When you look at the number of loads being offered vs. the number of trucks and drivers on the road it’s obvious there is a shortage of drivers. The truth is the shortage needs to stay. There are commodities that do not have to ship right now. They can wait awhile before being shipped. If the industry makes a mad scramble to fill all the spots needed to not have a shortage, when all the shippers and receivers are caught up with demand and the economy cycles down again ( it always happens ) there will be too many trucks and drivers. Then rates go back down, miles fall off and drivers and companies make less money. We’ve seen companies offer all kinds of gimmicks to get trucks full only to encounter a seasonal slump and loose drivers because they can’t get the miles to make a paycheck that is worth being on the road.

The other claim by OOIDA and it’s adherents is training is lacking and contributing to the churn. In that they are absolutely correct, but that is another topic for another blog. In conclusion I believe we are in a good place for drivers and companies. We are finally seeing rates increasing like they have needed to for over 20 years. We are seeing trucking companies forced into making changes to better the quality of life for drivers. Warehousing is being forced to become more efficient and driver friendly to continue to attract trucks to move their freight. All in all this is a good thing.

Andy

Really, how bad is trucking?

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I admit, I’ve been pretty critical about trucking for sometime. There are things that I view are not progress, but detrimental to the industry overall. There are times when you have long wait times to load and unload. There are those unexpected breakdowns that simply can not be avoided. Sure, at times you end up having to park in less than desirable places for the night. There are the brokers that have no relationship with the truth. Fleet managers ( dispatchers ) that have no clue about whats going on out on the road. Some of these issues can be fixed by changing who you drive for while others will require pressure from numerous carriers. But really, how bad is trucking?

The stereotypical trucker is missing teeth, sounds like the tornado witness in the trailer park being interviewed on the Weather Channel. They may have most of their teeth and look a bit sketchy while they are throwing cigarette butts out the window flying down the highway. The truth is there are ex-lawyers, former law enforcement, those with engineering degrees that got tired of the cubical, former insurance agents, welders, teachers, nurses and a host of other professionals that got tired of their previous job and decided to try the open road.

You might say that truckers are unhealthy and overweight. That is true but it’s not due to the job. It’s due to the priorities that driver chooses. If health and wellness are your priorities you will watch what you eat and easily find time to do a 30 minute work out every day. It’s not hard to find the time. Showers are available 24/7 at almost all truck stops so washing away the sweat is not an issue. Being dirty is up to you. You also don’t have to be uneducated. I have had the chance to read and study a lot on my down time. The topics vary and there are a lot of interesting things to look up.

With technology the way it is today you are never out of touch with people unless you want to be. You have time to scroll through social media, video chat with people, watch movies or any TV show you want from the truck.

When I decided to try driving I had been a shop foreman, insurance agent and car salesman ( my least favorite ). My wife and I were simply not getting along at all and I decided to give it a try. Now I do not promote this strategy if you and your spouse are at odds. It’s likely not to work so well for you, but it did save our marriage. At the time she was going through postpartum depression, but we had no idea what was wrong nor how to recognize it. When I said I was going to a driving school she asked how long I would be gone. I told her three weeks and she simply said “bye”. Yea, it was that good.

Again I’ll ask, how bad is it really? Let us look at the upside to this career. I have met some of the friendliest and most interesting people you will ever find. The number of truly intelligent and down to earth people who chose to drive never ceases to amaze me. Keep in mind, to drive and stay out of trouble with the law you have to be familiar with the federal statutes in a 200 + page regulation manual plus the state and local laws where you will be traveling. You have to know how to adjust weights so you don’t have one axle overweight. You have to know where to tell the loader to set the load to be legal weight on all axles. You have to know how to figure travel time from point A to point B, factor in mandatory rest breaks and fuel consumption so you don’t run out. It’s not a job for dummies despite the stereotype.

I have met people from all over the world who came to America for a chance to live the American dream. Some were truck drivers in their home country, others came here and got trained. They bring a color to the industry and different ideas and values. Some good and others….well never mind. I’ve met people from India, Egypt, China, Korea, England, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Ukraine, Russia, Norway, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Guatemala, Honduras, Iraq and others that I can’t think of now. Each one brings stories that they are more than willing to tell if you will only listen.

Food, I have had some good, interesting and disgusting food all over the country. The best pizza I had was in a bar near Williamsport PA. I’ve had fresh gumbo and boudin in LA, TX style BBQ in several places in TX. I’ve ate BBQ in Kansas City and through the South East. Some of the best Mexican food I’ve ever had was in Arizona from a roach coach. You want a killer sandwich hit up the little sandwich shop by the Philadelphia port. Where else will you be paid to travel to different cities and get to eat local cuisine?

I’ve seen the prairies, the rocky’s, the Guadalupe Mountains, the Atlantic Ocean in every state from Maine to Florida. I’ve seen the Pacific Ocean in two states and visited Canada on more than one occasion. I’ve seen the Gulf of Mexico from all the Gulf states and I’ve seen Mexico from across the Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California borders. I’ve seen the hot air balloon festival in NM heading south through the state. I’ve traveled across the Appalachians in every state they run through and seen all the great lakes.

I’ve left Texas while it was 100 and by the next day I was in Illinois where it was 10 degrees and snowing. I’ve been in snow storms where I could barely see the end of my hood and rain so hard my wiper couldn’t keep up. I’ve seen the sky so clear that you could see 30 miles in any direction. I’ve seen farm land and all the major city centers in America. I’ve witnessed some of the most amazing sun rises and sun sets ever and to top if off I’ve seen the Northern Lights.

I’ve hauled loads as simple as Roman Noodles and high dollar loads like cigarettes and computers. I’ve hauled sheets of ply wood and equipment worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. I’ve been able to haul things from deep water ports, steel mills and military bases. I’ve been able to see how product gets from one place to another until you have the final product.

We have been blessed with the income this job has provided us. My wife has had the opportunity to stay at home and raise the kids, not having to worry about having a job outside the home. I have made enough that she could concentrate on being mom. Our family has been blessed for it. Sure, things have been tight at times, but not so tight that she has had to go to work.

My conclusion is, that despite the complaining and critical comments about trucking, it is not that bad. All in all it’s really not a bad way to go. Not every body is destined for college and not every body should. If trucking is something you have contemplated, jump in and give it a try. The worse thing is you’ll decide you don’t like while you get paid to see the country.

Andy

Chosen by birth or chosen by decision?

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The “by birth” or “your choice” argument over anything other than being heterosexual has been argued back and forth for a while. But, before I go any further with this I’ll tell you this will anger and offend people on both sides of the debate. To be honest I fully expect at least one social media platform to remove this post, if not this platform itself.

The LGBTQ…. community and it’s supporters make the claim that an individuals sexuality is determined by birth. They say the person did not choose to be “gay”, but they were just born that way. The same is said of all 70+ gender identifiers, they are born that way, it’s not a choice the person made. This argument doesn’t hold water when they come out later and say a person can, and will, change their mind about what they are. Even to the point that they may decide they are heterosexual after all, but it’s hateful and discriminatory to help them through counseling to fully embrace this new decision. That line of reasoning tells me it’s a choice. For whatever reason the individual decided to embrace that.

Now, on the other hand I do believe they are born into it. This is where I seriously anger and offend the orthodox Christian and the LGBTQ community all at the same time. I firmly believe you can be born into being “gay”, bisexual, etc… How can someone be born into this when the Bible clearly says other wise? It’s really a very easy explanation and not hard to grasp if you know scripture.

In the NLT of the Bible there are 14 references to a “sin nature” in Romans that is in all of us. This nature is a natural tendency to do things that are not of God. In evangelical language we call those actions sin. These can be anything that is against what is in scripture. Some examples are lying gossiping, gluttony, withholding tithes and offerings, theft, any sex outside of marriage between a man & a woman and the list is long. Each person has a tendency, or bent to, a particular sin. For some it’s anger, others it’s porn, it may be homosexuality, lust, placing idols before God, etc… We were born with these tendencies, we didn’t have to learn them, they came natural to us. For those in the LGBTQ ( etc.. ) life, they were chosen by birth due to a sin nature that we all share. It’s not in our physical DNA, but in our dead spiritual DNA.

Even though I say they were chosen by birth that doesn’t give permission to defy God’s law by willfully choosing to act on those desires. We all have the knowledge of right and wrong, good and evil. It’s innate in us to sense when something is wrong. It’s that guilty feeling or feeling of shame when we are doing something we know flies in the face of our creator. Perhaps this is what is driving the push to force normalization on society.

Someone who has an addictive personality has the choice to either be an addict or live in holiness through the power of the Holy Spirit and refrain from giving into the flesh’s ( the body ) desires. The same with a lustful person. They have the choice to refrain from acting on those impulses through the power of the Holy Spirit or to use the ” that’s just the way I am ” crutch to justify the behavior.  The same for the individual who embraces one of the 70+ gender identifiers and the actions that go with that. They have the choice to embrace holiness through the power of the Holy Spirit or follow emotions and popular teaching of the day and give into the bodies desires.

This spiritual battle in the person that pulls them between a natural tendency of the flesh and the nature of Christ is lost on those who do not know Christ and those who are false teachers. You have one camp that says God loves you the way you are. They are right, but also wrong. He does love them. So much so that Jesus voluntarily came and died a violent, degrading, gruesome death to make another way for you, not so you can keep doing what you want to do.

The other camp says if your gay your burning in hell. The more extreme say you deserve it, you are getting what you deserve. To be truthful we all deserve it, not just the homosexual, not just the drunk, all of us. That’s the beauty in God’s grace. He made it possible for us to not suffer a deserving fate. That being said, constant harping on the “your going to hell and deserve it” platform is counter productive and shows no understanding of human nature. Any fool knows when you tell someone they can’t do it they will just to show you they can. Your anger and shouts are driving them further into the life that we want to see them leave. Chill out and read the book of John. Learn a little about grace and love. Jesus embraced the sinners, loved them, told them the truth and didn’t judge them. The judging a person comes later, we aren’t there yet.

Ostracising them is not the answer. Letting them serve openly in the church is not the answer either. The Bible is all about moderation and balance. There is a balance on how to deal with this issue. Paul gave us clear instruction on how to handle a member of the body who continues to knowingly live in sin, unrepentant and unwilling to change. There are clear steps to take before removing them. In order to do that we must be certain the person is a professed follower of Jesus.

What we have to keep in mind is when Paul said ” you were these things ” ( 1 Corinthians 6:9-11), he was not saying the desire for these things would just disappear immediately. When he said “were” he meant that now you are a new creature in Christ, the blood of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit covers that and empowers you to not give into that anymore. It also means God no longer sees those past sins. They are covered in a cloak of righteousness and cleansed by the blood of Jesus so you don’t have to pay the penalty.

How many people thought they were saved when they left church, struggled with sinful desires, someone told them to read this passage and said you aren’t that anymore, but because they still struggled with that desire they think they really aren’t saved. Maybe they think they are unworthy to come to church or approach the throne because they struggle with these desires. Remember that the desire is a temptation. That is not a sin. Jesus was tempted, but used scripture to rebuke Satan. In not giving into temptation and taking part in the sin He remained without sin. It’s the action of taking part in the thing you were tempted with that is sin.

What’s interesting is the bible speaks far more on sins like false gods, idols, gluttony and adultery than it does homosexuality. He didn’t elevate that sin above the others. The consequences are more sever as sexual sin is a sin against your own body ( 1 Corinthians 6:18 ). Lets keep that in mind the next time we are inclined to rant about anything related to LGBTQ. The only sin that is elevated in severity is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit ( Mark 12:31 )

So there you have it. A person can be born into it by virtue of their sin nature and they made a conscious decision to embrace it and act on it. We don’t need to shun and ostracize them, but pray and show them mercy and grace. We are not the Holy Spirit. There is only one and He uses us, not to condemn and bring guilt, but to speak truth and be salt and light.

Andy

Content or discontent, which tent are you in?

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Content or discontent, which tent are you in? It’s a hard question to ask yourself. Several years ago my wife and I were talking about something and our daughter looked at me and asked “dad, which tent are you in content or discontent?”. This stopped us both in our tracks. Now, she didn’t come up with that question on her own. I think she was listening to Damon Thompson and heard him say this, I’m not sure. We can’t remember anything other than this question.

Discontent is seemingly the American way. Companies spend billions of dollars in marketing campaigns to keep us wanting the next greatest thing. The more they advertise the more we want it. The better they make it seem the more we think we deserve it. The desire to want everything new is driven by greed, jealousy and pride. All three lead to being discontent with what you currently have.

Being discontent leads to depression when you can’t afford to get what someone else has. The more advertising we see the more we want and the more we spend the less we can afford. I’ve heard people lament on how depressing it is that they can’t have what someone else does. I’ve heard others say they will not stop until they have earned enough to get whatever it is they think they deserve.

People become discontent with their families when they focus on what their coworkers family looks like or the families portrayed in magazines, T.V. and movies. They become discontent with their spouse after watching porn. They see what they don’t have and compare it to the reality of what they do have. They often don’t stop to consider that what they are seeing in media is not reality.

Men have said if their wife only looked like this they would be happy. If their kids only made these grades, had these stats in sports, had this kind of job, was built like so and so they would be happy. Wives have said the same thing. Both have said if only they did this I would be happy or if we lived here and drove this we would be happy.

The truth of the matter is none of these things will make you happy. No change in your situation to reflect your current desires will make you happy. You are not happy because you are not happy with yourself and you have not learned to be content. Until you learn to be content everything you get will eventually seem old and inadequate in favor of something new. The moment of satisfaction is fleeting.

Scripture tells us to in Philippians 4:11 ” not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned that whatever state I am, to be content.”

1 Timothy 6:6-9 states ” Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it. So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content. But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction.” 

Hebrews 13:5-6 states ” Don’t love money; be satisfied with what you have. For God has said, “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.” So we can say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper, so I will have no fear.What can mere people do to me?”

Where do we find this kind of contentment? It’s only found through a close relationship with Christ. When you are more concerned with doing His will then your desires you lose sight of all the foolish things that distract us creating useless wants and desires. When you are content with what the Lord has given you, you become a threat to the enemy. He wants you discontent chasing useless things and accumulating staggering debt that prevents you from having true freedom. There is an old proverb that says the borrower is a slave to the lender. If you don’t borrow you can’t be a slave to Visa, Master Card, Discover, Amazon, GMAC, etc…

Discontentment is from the devil. It makes you complain about what the Lord has given you, not appreciating it. It causes division and discord in churches, work places and families. To get the devil to leave you, you must draw near to the Lord for him to leave you as taught in James 4:7. The devil won’t flee, won’t leave you alone if you just say no. It only works if you draw near to God. Drawing near to Him and being thankful for what you have, what he gave you is where you will draw contentment and happiness.

I ask you again, which tent are you in? Content or discontent?

Andy

Communicating & serving in marriage

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A few days ago I posted a picture of a book written for wives on how to communicate in a way that your husband will understand. The ensuing comments were interesting to say the least. The comments quickly veered into serving the other spouse. The comments on that showed a fundamental misunderstanding of serving one another in marriage, in particular a biblical – Christ centered marriage.

To explain this I’m going to go with two premises that could be taken as one. The first is that marriage was created by God and is to reflect the relationship between Christ and the church ( Ephesians 5:22-32 ). In this relationship one serves the other, not in the manner of slaves like in Roots, but in free men and women who are serving each other in a manner of worship. This worship is to bring honor and glory to Jesus the Christ. This is where the misunderstanding of service lies. We say it’s a great and honorable thing to serve the nation. We applaud and honor those who service the community. We lift up those who are faithful and serve the church, yet we allow our pride to get the better of us and say we will not serve our spouse.

The second premise is marriage is not about our happiness or contentment, it’s to bring glory to God and reflect the relationship between Christ and the church. Nowhere does it say that following Jesus is to bring us happiness, but that we are to bring glory to God and carry out His will.

The Bible does say to find contentment in all things ( some translations say to learn to be content in all things ). It does not say the other party has to do “x” for us to do “y”. We are to learn to be content in the marriage we are in and serve our spouse in a manner that brings glory to God before man. This means we will do things that may seem to be ignored or not appreciated. It means we will have to do things we don’t want to or don’t like. It means we will have to behave in a manner that is counter cultural. If we do not learn to be content we will always be chasing something new, eager to throw away the old and never learning how to value, cherish and maintain what we have.

Taking the hard-line that we will not serve our spouse is showing a fundamental lack of communication with God and therefore a lack of understanding His word. This has led to the bastardization of the passage in Ephesians mentioned above. Poor teaching has caused many women to view submission and serving as being the same as slavery. This has caused communication issues in marriage. If a wife can’t respect her husband, the husband will find it hard to love the wife. If the husband does not love the wife, the wife will not respect the husband. It’s interesting that serving each other is interwoven in this love and respect formula.

To say I will not serve my husband is to say I do not respect the position he holds that God put him in. For a husband to say he will not serve his wife is to say he does not love her. Both are saying they will willfully disobey God’s word. If we are not willing to serve each other, how are we going to communicate effectively? There are numerous areas where tone of voice and body language set the course of the coming discussion.

Gary Chapman wrote a book “The 5 Love Languages”. In it he discusses the five ways we feel loved. In order to find the way that speaks love to you, that makes you feel loved, by your spouse requires you two to communicate. To “speak” the others “love language” it requires you to submit yourself to the other and serve them. To not do this is selfish, immature and disregard for His word.

Dr. Emerson Eggerichs wrote a book titled “Love and Respect”. He published a video series title “His needs, Her needs”. Both of these explain how the husband and wife have different needs and hear the same thing differently. An example is the wife wants the husband to take out the trash. He thinks it’s no big deal and doesn’t so she does it, or nags him by asking a hundred times and throwing in some complaining for good measure. What he hears is every female in his life that nagged, scolded or tried to control him screeching in his ear. I know, you will say you are not doing that, but that is what he hears. If taking out the trash is so important to you explain why while not scolding him. Communicate the “why”.

The same goes when the husband is home from work and he wants to kick back for a few minutes, but the wife has the overwhelming need to dump the remaining days needs on him or start telling him about her day. His brain doesn’t work like that. One comment made was ” How many men come home from work and go deaf when they walk in the door? ” It’s not that they go deaf per say, they compartmentalized it so they can mentally transition from work to home. When they don’t have time to do that they typically shut down in response.

Those of you married to someone who is gone from home for weeks, months and sometimes a year or more should keep in mind that the routine day-to-day things of running the home does not cross their mind. They don’t have to deal with that at work, someone else is tasked with taking out the trash or mowing the lawn. Most of the routine tasks just don’t register with them. When you do ask they may not see the importance or the harm in letting it wait. Here comes the importance of communicating in an effective manner. Explaining the importance of this being done to you instead of asking 50 times should be more effective. If not, pray more and talk about it less. That is the only way to bring honor to God.

The key to marriage is effective communication and serving one another in the manner that speaks to them, not you. Just because it’s something you like does not mean they will appreciate it.

Andy

Which man do you follow?

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Man has always followed another man, or woman, since the beginning of time. The reasons vary, but the tendency to follow man in a quest to get close to God has remained to this day. In this quest the man being followed, if giving in to human nature, becomes power-hungry and authoritarian. He, or she, starts adding rules and requirements to keep power and the image that they are needed. In other instances the man is truly trying to follow God, but the people are not. For the sake of simplicity “church” and “denomination” are interchangeable, but I will mainly use “church”

In a vast majority of denominational and church splits the people follow a person, not Jesus. A person has swayed a number to his / her way of thinking and they eventually leave to start another organization. In this split they leave anger, betrayal, sadness, distrust and other baggage in their wake. It’s left with those who refused to leave and taken with those who left. This also leaves a bad taste in the mouth of those that were not even involved, but watched the turmoil and back biting.

What’s seen to a similar degree is a person, or group, leaves one church to start another. Maybe they “felt” called to help or serve in another ministry. Regardless, they were “sent out” with blessings from the old church and people who are disenfranchised where they are will follow the ones leaving in hopes that new will be better.

Then there are the revival followers. Those who travel from one revival to another in search of “IT”. That elusive feeling that comes when the Holy Spirit moves through the revival. These people never get “IT”, they just keep chasing it. They never get “IT” and keep it, feed it, cultivate it, or use it. They never take “IT” back with them and bring the revival to their home church, town and workplace. These are some of the most unstable “followers” for every revival they are off and trying to fit what’s being done there into their local church that has a different mandate, or mission if you will. In time they just fizzle out and blame it on the pastor or worship and jet off to the next revival. They never matured enough to get off milk and onto steak. They actually wind up sowing discord that acts like yeast in a bowl of dough – or a malignant tumor that is not treated. It grows and spreads throughout the congregation, sowing discord and frustration with many others. All the while undermining what is being done there.

When it comes to following “man” scripture is very clear on this. You are not to follow anyone but Jesus. Jesus gave the command in Mathew 8:22 when He said “follow me, let the dead bury the dead”. In Mathew 16:24 Jesus said “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your own cross, and follow me”. In John 21:19 & 22 Jesus said “follow me”. In 1 Corinthians 1:11-13 it says ” For some members of Chloe’s household have told me about your quarrels, my dear brothers and sisters. Some of you are saying “I am a follower of Paul.” Others are saying “I am a follower of Apollos,” or “I follow Peter,” or “I only follow Christ.” Has Christ been divided into factions? Was I, Paul, crucified for you? Were any of you baptized in the name of Paul? Of course not!

People who follow others instead of following Jesus are doing a great injustice to the church other believers and non-believers. We take it so far as to prominently display the pastors name in bold letters on the sign, the marquee, the website with his picture in the newspaper and anywhere else we think it needs to be. We are showing everyone that the individual is elevated above Christ. When the outsider looks in and sees people talking about bishop so and so, evangelist so and so, reverend what ever with barely a mention of following Christ, the natural assumption is that you are following the wrong man so why should I follow him too?

The problem with church splits is that they are often not over legitimate issues. Sometimes they are and you need to leave the church. Of all the splits I’m aware of, only a couple were legitimate. The others were due to pride. Pride in that you didn’t get your way with the music. Your pride was bruised when they took out the pews and put in chairs. Your ego was bruised when you were chosen or recognized for something. Your pride will not allow you to stand and worship when something other than a hymn is sung when you clearly told the pastor you didn’t like the new stuff. New carpet was laid in the sanctuary and it wasn’t the color you thought appropriate. Pride in that you just don’t like the way the new youth pastor or associate looks. Stop and look at the stunning amount of discord between those who are supposed to be “one” and the equally stunning lack of maturity that is on display to non-believers!

In 1 Corinthians 1:10 it says “I appeal to you brothers and sisters, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with each other. Let there be no divisions in the church. Rather be of one mind, united in thought and purpose”. Furthermore in 1 Corinthians 6:1-7 it says “When one of you has a dispute with another believer, how dare you file a lawsuit and ask a secular court to decide the matter instead of taking it to other believers! Don’t you realize that someday we believers will judge the world? And since you are going to judge the world, can’t you decide even the little things among yourselves? Don’t you realize that we will judge angels? So you should surely be able to resolve ordinary disputes in this life. If you have legal disputes about such matters, why go to outside judges who are not respected by the church? I’m saying this to shame you. Isn’t there anyone in all the church who is wise enough to decide these issues? But instead, one believer sues another – right in front of unbelievers! Even to have such lawsuits with one another is a defeat for you. Why not just accept the injustice and leave it at that? Why not let yourselves be cheated? Instead you yourselves are the ones who do wrong and cheat even your fellow believers”.

The case here is laid out very clearly that you are to follow one man and that is Jesus the Christ. No other is to be followed. No revival hopping, no following the most recent sent out person because the grass is greener. These acrions show a spiritually and emotionally immature person. The reasons to leave a church are very few. One is God told you to go somewhere else. That’s not a “feeling”, that’s a directive. If you say you “feel” you are moving on emotions and those are rarely right, often proven to be foolish and erroneous. The second is the current church is no longer preaching the word of God, the cross, the blood, repentance and salvation. They are preaching things contradictory to scripture or not preaching / teaching the Bible at all. They are condoning things in the body that are directly in violation of the Bible. When this is happening it is time to go. It’s not time to take 20 others with you and cause a split. It’s not time to tell all your coworkers and friends about how bad the church is.

As followers of Jesus we gave up our rights as individuals and gave those to the Lord as a soldier gives up his rights to serve the country, thus elevating the cause and organization above himself. We assumed the role of ambassador and child purposed with representing His kingdom and His will, not our own. Our own likes and dislikes take a backseat to His will. This is why it is so dangerous to simply say you are saved by “accepting Jesus into your heart”. See my blog on misrepresenting Christianity for more on that. As in marriage, our relationship with the church is not what can I get out of it, but what can I give to it. Not what can I do to get my way, but what can I do to help ensure it grows healthy, in unity and strength. To do this you must first ask yourself this, who am I following? Which man am I following?

Andy

 

Tearing down the walls

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Walls have been in the news since the last election cycle. In fact, walls have been a part of civilization for thousands of years. Jerusalem had walls, China has a wall, Israel built another wall, castles have walls, we have portions of a wall, the Vatican has a wall, numerous other cities and nations have built walls. Not all walls were designed to keep others out. The intent of same walls is to keep some in as the Berlin Wall was designed to do ( as pictured above ).

Archaeologist have found evidence of walls in many locations as well as historical accounts of walls. One of the most famous walls in the Christian faith is the wall around the city of Jericho. That wall was so thick that people lived in it and they raced chariots on top of it. By all human reasoning there was no way for an invading army to get past this wall.

God instructed the Israelites to march around the city once a day for six days with a precise order of march. On the seventh day they were ordered to march around the city seven times. One of the instructions was to not say a word until the loud blast of the horn then they were to shout. At that point the walls collapsed and the Israelites charged into town. Some versions say charged straight into town. Others say they simply went into. It doesn’t say they climbed over ruble, it doesn’t say they had to clear the ruins of the wall out-of-the-way. It says they went into the city.

Archaeologists have found what they are certain is the city of Jericho. What is interesting is a portion of the wall is much deeper than it should be for the time period. It is as if the hand of God came down and pushed that portion of the wall straight into the ground like He held the Jordan River back for them to cross. This is the only way for there to be no ruble to impede the army, but there still be a wall centuries later to be unearthed.

A few things about this victory of a seemingly impenetrable wall and the walls in our life that seem to be a perpetual hinderance.

God gave the Israelites specific instructions on how to prepare for the march and how to conduct theirselves while on the march.

God, through Joshua ( the account can be found in the book of Joshua ) told them to not say a word during the march until a specific time, then and only then could they say anything and the only thing was to shout.

Obedience was key to victory over overwhelming odds. Without complete obedience to the commands of God they would not have won.

The command to not speak is the most interesting. This speaks to human behavior. You take an army of experienced fighters and tell them to do something that seems stupid and you get a lot of grumbling and complaining. This is the language of hell, just as praise is the language of heaven. If they would have sown discord among themselves talking about how stupid it was to just walk around the city with a few people blowing horns they would have complained their way right out of faith and victory. The best thing to do was to not say anything.

The shout of victory before the wall actually fell was a shout of faith. The faith that said we will be victorious because God said we would. The wall did not fall until they shouted. The shout of faith activated God to move on their behalf and remove the obstacle of the wall from their path.

Compare their actions with yours in dealing with the walls in your life. The wall can be anything that is keeping you from what God has promised. In our filthy humanity we fall back to complaining about how difficult the circumstance is. We cry about the unfairness of the situation. We murmur and complain about the directions the Lord gives us because they don’t make sense to us. All the time we are sitting there staring at this unmovable wall that is keeping us from our promise. It wasn’t the wall that kept the Israelites from their promise. Their obedience to God and their praise is what defeated the wall.

We need to keep circling our walls in a posture of praise until God tells us to shout and GO! We don’t know what lap we are on, He doesn’t always tell us that. We just have to keep walking around it, not complaining or murmuring, but praising the one who gave us the promise. When His timing is right the victory will be His, not yours. Then you will walk into your promise.

For some of you the wall is medical. For others the wall is all in your head. Others yet face a wall that is job related. Others still have a wall that is a child that has gone off the rails while others it may be a wayward spouse. Maybe your wall is debt or no job. You know what you are facing. Do like Israel and keep marching around it praising the God who gave you a promise and don’t stop until he removes the wall.

Andy

The role of Christians and the church.

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When you read the title you might be thinking, aren’t Christians the church? Yes they are, but not all people in the church are Christians. Many think they are, but have been led wrong by bad teaching.

A young man from a church in Pennsylvania comes to mind when this topic comes around. We were visiting family there and sat in on a Sunday school class my aunt & uncle were teaching. I had met him earlier through his mother who is a retired Marine ( Marines always seem to find each other ). In this class the question came up of why do you come to church. His response was ” so I don’t go to hell “. His church experience led him to believe that coming to church made him a Christian and saved him from hell. He was in his early twenties and that was the last time we ever saw him. I hope there was follow up on the truth I shared that coming to church would not keep you out of hell, only following Jesus as your Lord and saviour and telling others will keep you out of hell. Telling others is confessing Him before men. Jesus said of you don’t confess me ( deny Him ) before men I’ll tell the Father I never knew you ( Luke 12:8-9 ).

There are others in the church that have been led to believe that simply asking Jesus into their hearts made them a Christian. At that point they could continue on with life uninterrupted and all is good. The shocking thing is the command to ask Jesus into your heart is nowhere in the Bible. I wrote a blog about misrepresenting Christianity that goes into this. It reminds me of A.W. Tozer saying ” If your Christian conversion did not reverse the direction of your life, if it did not transform it then you are not converted at all. You are simply a victim of the ” Accept Jesus ” heresy! “.

Now that that’s out-of-the-way let us get to the role the church is to play, the command we have been given. Make no mistake about it, we have been commanded by Jesus to do certain things, yet we are insistent on making excuses as to why we can’t or why this person or that is not qualified to do it.

The command is simple ” Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit ” which is found in Mathew 28:19. The other is actually two in one, ” You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it. You shall love your neighbor as yourself “. This can be found in Mathew 22:37-39.

To sum these up simply we are to spread the gospel all over the world, love God more than anything else therefor putting Him first and love your neighbor as much as you love yourself. You don’t neglect yourself so you should not neglect your neighbor. You will go through great lengths to protect your life as you should your neighbor.

What the Bible does not say is to be the Holy Spirit for your neighbor or all the world. It does not say bring conviction on them for things in their life that you feel is not God honoring. It doesn’t say to try to change them or dictate their behavior. It tells us simply to love them and share the good news with them then baptize them.

If we teach the true spiritual truths to them, if we teach the Bible with accuracy, the Holy Spirit will bring life changing conviction on them. If we live our lives with holiness and live what we claim to believe that will bring validity to scripture and open the door for the Holy Spirit to work.

When we run around and try to correct them on habits, lifestyles, language, outlook on life, the way they dress, what they watch, the people they hang out with, the way they act at work, etc… we are making Christianity look like a kill joy that wants to just say no to everything and control you. If you don’t have an established relationship with them they will not be very receptive to your words. If you persist they will eventually stop coming to church and turn their back on Christianity. If the approach to salvation is ” accept Jesus ” they can walk away from church and scripture thinking they are good.

I can’t begin to tell you of the number of people I have met that will NOT go to church, yet say they are good with their maker. When I get to know them well enough to ask what they mean by good, are you saved? The response is, yea.. I asked Jesus in my heart. When I ask why they are not involved in their church they say they are judgemental hypocrites. Invariably the thinking that they are judgemental hypocrites came from people in the church trying to tell them how to live now that they were “saved” even when those lecturing were not living how they were lecturing. This violates the first rule of leadership, do NOT expect others to do what your are not willing to do.

We had a neighbor named Bobby. I’ll use his first name now that he has passed on and we have no earthly  idea where his daughter is. When we first met Bobby it became apparent that he was addicted to alcohol and marijuana. He was a friendly, helpful, entertaining and honest neighbor despite his addictions and physical disabilities. He always looked out for the kids when they were outside. He always had a smile for us and would walk over to just visit. In turn my wife and daughter were always feeding him because they felt sorry for him. He was a skinny dude and would disappear at times for days and we would later find out he had been in the hospital for one reason or another. We frequently asked him to come to church with us and if he knew Jesus. He always said he didn’t want to go to church and he knew his maker and made peace with Him. One of the days when he was particularly drunk & stoned he admitted that he stopped going to church because the people always looked down on him and judged him. He went on to say that the people who said they cared for him at church never came to check on him or his daughter when she was in a bad car accident that put her in a coma and permanent disability. We asked him to let us know when he was in the hospital, but he never would because he knew the kids would want to come to see him. While we were in Texas he died and we don’t have a clue as to where his soul is going to spend eternity.

How many others are out there that the “church” has run off because they mistake their role to be that of the Holy Spirit and not the messenger of the good news? How do you interact with those who are not “churched” or different? Are you sharing the importance of making Jesus Lord & savior or just accepting Him and asking Him in your heart?

Andy

Who Is The Christian Soldier?

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The Christian Soldier is not just men like Alvin York ( Sgt. York ) who served in the military while being a Christian ( If you don’t know who he is it is well worth the time to read up on him. He was an extraordinary man.) It is all of us who profess to be a follower of Jesus. There are comparisons and references in scripture to this fact, but we do not act like it. The question is why don’t we? Why is it that so many “followers” do their own thing with no unity, direction or discipline? I have two reasons for this.

The first reason is so few in the western world, especially North America, have served in the military. The percentage of the population that carries the “veteran” designation is very small so our frame of reference as to what being a soldier looks like is limited to movies, T.V and books. As a Marine I’ll tell you this does more harm to what a “soldier” looks like then it helps.

When Paul told Timothy, in 2 Timothy 2:4 to not get entangled in civilian affairs so he might please him who enlisted him as a soldier, it was clear to Timothy living in a militarised society with soldiers and garrisons all around what that was like. They saw how soldiers lived and trained, how they fought and carried out their everyday duties. In our society when that is said we don’t have a real frame of reference for this.

In the military a soldier trains for war. They train not just to fight but to eat and sleep at the ready. They learn how to move as one in a unit. They learn their role and the team learns to trust that the one next to them is doing their job so they can focus on theirs. They learn to study, reference and read about all manner of topics that will make them a better soldier. They learn the exercises that will strengthen the body and the foods that will nourish it. They learn how to take care of their feet and boots when on long marches. They learn how to use all their weapons the most efficiently. They learn how to use the technology and tools they have to support those on the front lines. They know that nobody may know about their job, but that job is critical to the mission succeeding,

When you watch a war movie you don’t see the sailor brushing rust off the battleship and paining over the bare spot. That’s not glamorous enough for Hollywood, but it’s necessary for the ship. You don’t see the hours a rifleman sites through the sights or scope at images painted on a barrel “dry firing” round after round to get the proper sight picture committed to muscle memory. You don’t see the hours of class time and off duty time committed to studying. You don’t see the mundane inspections for the inspection before the inspection. They don’t show the countless hours of cleaning what is already clean. You might see the rank structure and the proper utilization of the chain of command, but not likely. There are millions of things that soldiers do that are not seen, but are vital to good order, discipline and unit cohesion.

The more elite the unit, the less they care about rank and more about being the best at their job and mission success. The more “on the edge” the more they look after each other and their brothers best interest, even to the point of laying down their life to ensure the team makes it back. They know they have a task and that there are a million mundane things to do over days to get ready for a mission. They just get it done.

Translate this to the church. The behavior seen in the church is the mission of the church is not important. The other activities like ball games, workouts, cookouts, the beach and T.V shows are more important than the command to the church to go and make disciples. There is no sense of mission or unity. People want to do their thing regardless of the leaderships desires. They show little respect for the chain of command as it is. The pastor, it doesn’t matter if God anointed him and placed him here, we don’t like him so we will vote to fire him and bring in someone we like. The deacons ask you to do it this way, but you do it the way you want. The schedule requires things be done and ready to start at 10:00 and you don’t show up until 9:55. Things are done haphazard as the discipline to do with excellence is lacking. You gossip behind a leaders back and sow discord because you weren’t elevated to the position you want and think you deserve.

You don’t see those traits in the military from someone who wants promoted. When one gets promoted the others who are now below him in rank obey him because of the position, not the person. That comes later. If the platoon commander has 5 NCO’s on a detail he has to pick one to lead. The others follow and obey because the one chosen to lead carries the authority of the officer who placed him in that position. When a pastor is placed in a position by God, he carries out his duties in His name. When you disrespect, disobey, disregard, gossip about, undermine him you are bringing dishonor to the one who placed him in that position. Soldiers understand this.

The second reason why people behave like this in regards to the church is due to our nature. It’s not an accident that Jesus compared us to sheep. Sheep are stupid creatures that get lost easily, will wander off then run around bleating when they realize they are alone, they basically do what they want. Then you have the goats that are more stubborn and ornery. They will actually lead a lamb off and leave it lost. Sound like anybody you know in the church?

When Paul referred to us as soldiers he wanted to convey to us the importance of being of one mind, the mind of Christ. He wanted to convey that we are not to worry about what people who are not Christians are doing, but to focus on what our commander, God, wants us to do. He wanted to show the importance of being disciplined and devoted to the gospel and “recruiting” new followers of Jesus to the Kingdom.

One of the reasons the Marine Corps has less of a problem hitting recruiting goals than the other branches is the image it puts forth. One of the reasons everyone knows units like “Airborne”, “Seals”, “Green Berets”, “Recon” and such is because they are so disciplined, so well-trained that they have earned the recognition. On the flip side no one knows about the 3rd maintenance battalion or the 14th Infantry. They do their jobs, but are not the elite, therefor unknown to most.

When we look at churches and ministries that are well-known it’s for the same reason. They didn’t just get lucky, they worked hard, trained hard, prayed hard and made sacrifices. Those that haven’t done this are not known by anyone outside the local community and sometimes the local neighborhood.

We need a body of Christ that will stand up like a united body and behave like soldiers if we have any hope of curing our societal woes.

Andy