The Right Question

Originally Published in Star News. A monthly publication for Law Enforcement personnel.

Watch your thoughts; they become words.
Watch your words; they become actions.
Watch your actions; they become habits.
Watch your habits; they become character.
Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.

As law enforcement personnel, you have the privilege of seeing behind the curtain of bad decisions – the results of a life of compromise – that eventually ends in arrest, incarceration, or even death.

What a privilege it is, to see on a daily basis what does not work – return to the place and people you call home – and in that place, do the right thing!

I believe that one of the major reasons certain individuals ride the plastic is because they live by a question that, in the moment asks; “What is best for me?” They are not people whom we consider people of character because their focus is on self, not others. When it comes to their lives, they are asking the wrong question.

While we are–for the most part–people of higher character, I would say that many of us are asking the wrong questions as well. When we approach an important decision, because we have asked the wrong question, our character (and our life) is not all it could be. We ask better questions than those in our back seats, but not necessarily the best question. We ask ourselves things like:

Is it legal?
Can I afford it?
Will it hurt anyone else?

While good questions, they are not the best questions. There is a better question, one that will help us live lives marked by impeccable character. The question is:

Is this the wise thing for me to do?

The Apostle Paul in Ephesians 5:15 says; “Be careful how you walk, not as foolish men, but as wise, making the most of your time for the days are evil.”

It is not illegal, or harmful to anyone else to walk on the edge of what is right and wrong, balancing on the side of what is right. But, it is not the wisest thing to do.

It is not illegal, or harmful to anyone else to get an interest only home loan, to see how far we can go with a relationship without slipping, or ignore the small details of a report or investigation, but it is not the wise thing to do.

It is not illegal or harmful to anyone else for us to make entry alone, without backup, but it is definitely not the wise thing to do!

There are many compromises that we can make in life that do not qualify us as bad people, but they disqualify us from being “wise” people. We only need to be wrong once and our character will slip, or in the case of poor tactics, our lives could end.

Most of us would benefit greatly if we asked ourselves with every decision we make; “Is this the wise thing for me to do?” It’s that simple.

It is a question that will allow us to do what is best for ourselves and others every time. We live in a world of compromise. It is a world that says; “Just this once!” We must live above that standard.

“Teach us to make the most of our time, so that we may grow in wisdom. Psalm 90:12”

[Note: “Ride the Plastic” refers to the plastic seat in the back of the police car]

The Old Man and the Sea

You may or may not know this, but I am a borderline workaholic (some may say there is no border to be seen). I am rarely to bed before midnight and I am always up early to start the day. After a full day of work, I spend the evening with my family, and then once everyone has gone to bed it is back to work. The only thing I let interrupt this evening work time is study or a good book. I read many books, and from time to time I will share something about them with you. I love the classics.

This week’s book was Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea. It is a tale of… you guessed it… an old man… and the sea. Really, it is a book about perseverance and struggle. You see, the old man, though his history was one of fishing fame, was ridiculed in his Cuban town because he had not caught in 84 days. He was considered unlucky. He didn’t care, catching fish was all he knew and he used to be the best at it.

How long has it been since you caught a fish?

He was determined, and believed that he would catch the biggest fish ever. HE DID. The fish he catches, he catches with great struggle and pain. In fact the struggle nearly kills him. It drags him to sea for several days of sleepless battle, taking his boat into uncharted waters. He watches as the island of Cuba disappears from view and he fears he shall never return. But, it is acceptable that he should die as long as he catches the fish. He respected the fish, and in that respect desired to kill it.

“The fish is my friend too,” he said aloud. “I have never seen or heard of such a fish. But I must kill him.” Then he was sorry for the great fish that (like him) had nothing to eat and his determination to kill him never relaxed in his sorrow for him. “How many people will he feed, he thought”

If you do not see what I see in this paragraph, allow me to comment. If we are to be fishers of men then we must struggle to do so. We may go 84 days without leading another to Christ (I hope not). But, we must keep looking for the big fish. We can catch numerous small ones, and that is good. However, the fish that comes with struggle, although we may be dragged beyond what is familiar and comfortable, when landed has the potential to feed many. We should even be willing to lay down our lives for it. It may in fact mean that we need to ruin their life as well. What I mean is that their life will have to change.

“Then he was sorry for the great fish that had nothing to eat and his determination to kill him never relaxed in his sorrow for him.”

We all know people, that if we bring them to Jesus, their lives will necessarily change. Certain comforts must go. We can feel sorry for them, but knowing that a life with Jesus is the priority, we determine to allow Jesus to redirect their lives. We kill their “comfortable life” so that they and others will live. It is worth it! There really is no choice in it!

Connected

I just accomplished in four minutes and fifty-three seconds what ten years ago would have taken days. Why, because I am connected. You see, the information that I needed for this afternoon’s meeting was easily found with a web search and a few clicks. The system that we call the internet has transformed culture, increased efficiency, and made me a much better researcher. That’s what efficient systems do.

Consider the bigger question: How would you develop such a system? Imagine it’s you in 1969, sitting at the table, and someone posits the question: How can we put the entire corpus of human understanding into one place, and access anything we want in under five minutes? Every needed component was there in 1969, but to conceive of, articulate and begin to build the system would have been quite impossible. Systems as transformational as the internet build with time. I would hope that if I had been in that meeting in 1969, I would not have tried to envision the modern understanding of the internet. Rather, I hope my response would have been smaller; something like, “Hey John, you have a computer at Stanford right? I do too, let’s see if we can get those things connected over a wire!” That’s exactly what happened. On October 29, 1969 Stanford and UCLA connected computers for the very first time. It was the “great first connection” known as Arpanet.

The internet sprang from that first connection, and as powerful a force as the internet has become, if we all turned off our computers at 12:01 GMT tomorrow, the internet would instantly cease to exist. It is only alive because of connections.

We have all taken part in the increased dialog about church planting. We have heard that the church planter is the top of the food chain and that all of our organizational structures exist to support them. However, let us suspend all thoughts about the church planter for now, and consider the system that we hope to create. Systems cannot exist in a vacuum, and the more focused a system is the greater chance it has for success. If we look at the entire system, like the discussion of the internet, it is overwhelming and non-realistic to think we can grasp its scope. However, if we search for the “great first connection” the system will form itself and it will be healthy and stable.

Back to the church planter…

Many of you are vested in church planting. Some of you have the ability to arrange funding for those church planters. Think before you act, it may not be the healthiest option to open the financial dialog first. The healthier path may be to formulate the connections. Many of you have heard my soapbox schpeel already, but for those who haven’t, here it is:

The church planter out there, although you may never meet them, they are top priority and we exist for them. This philosophy must carry through in all that we do. It is our responsibility to care for him and his family, perhaps not directly, but in our actions and systems. We have fooled ourselves into thinking that throwing money at something means that we care. On the contrary, it seems disingenuous. If we care we must move deeper into building connectedness. Ask questions like:

• In what local supporting pastor does this family find their spiritual covering and accountability?

• Does that same church support them financially?

• Does this family have the skills or connections for some level of self generated support?
(If a planter cannot raise some support for himself, do we really think he can plant a church?)

• Does he have financial support from other local churches, the association or state convention?

If the local field, friends, and sending church do not support him, why should you? He may be a risk.

Now, don’t misinterpret my thoughts. If the end goal is health and longevity of the planter and his family, we undermine the work of the church planter if we fail to ask these questions. Think resolutely on this: If you provide funding without the connectedness, helping the church planter formulate those connections will be more difficult. If you fund immediately, other partners will abdicate their responsibility. However, if you walk with him through the other connections, your funding can be icing on the cake. The healthiest churches in America will be those that another church has connected with and planted. If our state and national agencies can work to support the local partners, the church planter and his family will be protected.

One final note: You are key to his success. If in your thinking, planting a church means filing paperwork to get funding for a church planter, you are derelict in your duties. Invest yourself in that family, walk them into their first great connection, make it a local one, and watch as other partners connect into the great system that is a church plant. That system will transform the culture, increase efficiency, and make that man a better church planter.

Connected (LASD)

Adapted for a Los Angeles Sheriff Department Publication

I just accomplished in four minutes and fifty-three seconds what ten years ago would have taken days. Why, because I am connected. You see, the information that I needed was easily found with a web search and a few clicks. The system that we call the internet has transformed culture and increased efficiency. That’s what efficient systems do.

Consider the bigger question: How would you develop such a system? Imagine it’s you in 1969, sitting at the table, and someone posits the question: How can we put the entire corpus of human understanding into one place, and access anything we want in under five minutes? Every needed component was there in 1969, but to conceive of, and build the system would have been impossible. Systems as transformational as the internet build with time. I would hope that if I had been in that meeting, I would not have tried to envision the modern understanding of the internet. Rather, I hope my response would have been smaller; something like, “Hey John, you have a computer at Stanford right? I do too, let’s see if we can get those things connected over a wire!” That’s exactly what happened. On October 29, 1969 Stanford and UCLA connected computers for the very first time. It was the “great first connection” known as Arpanet.

The internet sprang from that first connection, and as powerful a force as the internet is, if we all turned off our computers at 12:01 GMT tomorrow, the internet would instantly cease to exist. It is only alive because of connections.

These realities apply as much to our careers as they do to the internet. For those of us who are charged with public safety, connectedness is extremely important. Making connections is what gives us the ability to be protected and have another’s back in the field. Being spiritually connected allows us to have that moral center that keeps us balanced and allows us to make ethical decisions. The connections that we have with family are what drives us to make it home each night. You may not realize it, but personal connections are the most transformational influences in your life.

Let’s face it, life and career require far more than just showing up, writing reports, and doing your duty. Ask yourself; “How can I make that ‘first great connection’ to change the life of another?”

Do you have a trainee that needs an introduction to the guys who are getting it done? Does the battered woman from last night’s call need to be connected to a local minister or shelter? Does that coworker who is on the edge need support from ESSB or the Chaplains? Do your kids need to know that you love them more than anything else in the world? The world gets too complicated when we try to figure out the big picture. Seek something smaller by looking for one great connection.

Silver Lining

Times are difficult. Churches are reducing staff and trying to figure out what to do to avoid collapse. Fear is building and pessimism is the flavor of the month. Still, when I look at the horizon I see great things. Then again, I have never been one to despair. Sure, I have had troubles. I have made bad decisions. Yet, the mistakes that have been most detrimental are not mistakes that I have overtly made. Without exception, all of my greatest mistakes occurred when I moved too slowly in a given situation. In other words, they were mistakes of inaction.

If one had the tools, one could capitalize on the times for future prosperity. If I had $200,000 burning a hole in my pocket, I tell you what I would do. I would put a down payment on ten new homes, buying them as rentals and sit on that investment until the market turned around, making the most of market opportunity. However, most of us do not have $200,000 burning a hole in our pockets. We do have skill sets however, and to sit idly by—in this market—and do nothing to invest in the church is a grave error. Why, because you have the tools and the market is right.

There is no question that the game has changed for your people. The attention that was so readily given to your church is now given to worries, opportunities for income, longer hours and just making ends meet. In a perfect world—you know as well as I—our people would not forget their first love for their troubles. The reality however, is that they do. I want to share with you three priorities for your church that I think need to be considered immediately so that you do not make the mistake of inaction; strategies for driving growth, priorities for managing talent, and ideas for improving relationships.

Our best churches will do far more than just survive this difficult time, they will flourish. Your people are hurting and questioning everything from their financial stability to their faith. The question is, will you respond in a way that increases their confidence, or drive them away by your inaction?

Strategies for driving growth:

Our best pastors will recognize the unique opportunity that the financial crisis affords. Many have served in fear of initiating change for worry of backlash. Now is the time! Our people—more than ever—may be ready for change. Our boards, committees, ministries, strategy groups, whatever one calls them these days, see the crisis and desire for something to be done about it. This is where you, pastor, can seek the face of God and find out how you can bring the change that He wants to your ministry. The fields are ripe for change. Be a catalyst. Spark new ideas as you convey what Father is placing in your heart. A bunker mentality may serve to get you through, but not to prosper. There are souls to be won and the need for effective change is an urgent one.

Priorities for managing talent:

Remember the days of soccer practice (fill in your sport). You would drop off your kids, catch up on some shopping or whatever small tasks you needed to do, and then pick the smelly kid up and take him home.

Two questions. Why didn’t you stay for the practice? And, what factor enabled you to leave? The first answer is “because you didn’t have to stay.” The second answer is “responsible adults were there to watch and train you kid.” Now, I want you to think of the one person who was not the coach, yet was always there. Who was she and why did she never miss a practice or a game? She was the Team Mom, and she was there because she was given the “responsibility” to be there. Bingo!

In this difficult time, you cannot afford to do it all yourself. Your people love you and will live to your expectations of them. “Ask and you shall receive.” There is great talent out there, ready to help your church prosper, but they are out “doing those little tasks.” I bet, if you empower them with kindness and reward their efforts with recognition, you will have a team mom that shows up to all practices, all games, and makes the team better by far. You can only truly manage a few tasks well. Empowering others and building leaders offers a replicable process that creates speed and flexibility in the church. If you do it well, you will get things done.

My final thoughts are ideas for improving relationships.

Define the crisis. Not the global crisis, not the church crisis, but the individual’s crisis. You are the pastor and your people need you. When was the last time you sat with your members, or (as stated above if you have a large church) empowered leaders to sit with your people, and respond to their crisis. Hear this! Your people will return to the fountain that provides water when they are thirsty. In the past, we would lose people to other churches. In a sense, while that was unfortunate, at least they were not leaving “church.” In these times we are losing people all-together. They are leaving the church because they are finding nothing there to help their crisis. I am not going to give you ideas on how to remedy that, that solution is as individual as your people, your geography and your church. But I will tell you one thing, if I was losing members because they are losing jobs, I would surely be irresponsible if I did not build relationships by having a job fair, or retraining ministry.

Yes it’s work. But hard work will prove for some to be the difference between a new future and closing the doors.

Passion and Uranium 238

Understanding why we should invest in first generation converts as future church leaders.

What!?
If this was your reaction to the title, put your thinking cap on and continue reading. This article was birthed from a conversation I had with a pastor friend of mine. There are people who add value to my life, and he is one.

Remember physics? You learned all sorts of information that left you scratching you head as you pondered Strong Force, Gravitation, Mass and various other weird and wonderful things. Personally, I needed an apple to fall on my head and wake me from my dreams of a distant tropical shore. One thing I do remember, however, is that the half-life of Uranium238 is about 4.5 billion years. After all these years I have finally found a use for what seemed then to be useless information.

Half Life Explained
A half-life is the fixed, invariable amount of time it takes for an original sample of a radioactive substance like uranium, radium or carbon-14 to break down (decay). This decay happens nucleus by nucleus. For instance, the half-life of Uranium238 is roughly 4.5 billion years, which means that at the end of 4.5 billion years, a one-pound block of the stuff will weigh only one-half pound. In another 4.5 billion years, it will weight in at one-quarter pound, and so on.

Have I Lost You?
Back to my conversation with my friend. We were sharing the immediate need for fearless Christians in our churches. The need to excite and mobilize Christ-Followers and the difficulties associated with stimulating the complacent. I shared with him that when I accepted Jesus I was transformed by His power. Fearless! That exuberance has not diminished in 22 years. I love Him, He is mine, and I am His. Something reminiscent of what Buber called the “I-Thou.”

I verbalized my concern; that I don’t see a “take-up-you-cross” kind of Christianity in our churches, except among the youth. I shared how I see many of them as fearless. They seek more than complacency from their relationship with Father. They want to change their world!

Moment of Insight
So he looks at me and says; “It’s not the young, it’s the first generation Christian.” BAM! He was right. It is that first generation Christian that is fearless and ready. They have not grown complacent due to familiarity. Their nuclei have not yet decayed. They have not reached their half-life, half of what they were, decaying by the moment.

Something happens when a life is transformed. Like a child growing up poor appreciates the gift of hard labor and moderate success while the child of abundance looks upon it with disdain. Such is the church. This leads me to ponder if the half-life of Christian passion is equal to one generation or if second generational Christians could ever understand what transformation means. Can the child of abundance identify with the child who knows nothing but need? This is why we must invest in those of the first generation.

Leadership Farming
Where do we go from here? Paul warns us in 1 Timothy 3:6 of the dangers of placing individuals in places of authority too soon, so I am not advocating taking leaders from the waters of baptism, handing them a towel, and saying “Let’s Go!” This is not a “time” thing, it is a “passion” thing. As leaders, we must, in a focused manner, spot those whom the Holy Spirit has transformed and excited, father them, and help to transform them into what God would have them to be. No small task, but the rewards will be huge.

Back to Uranium238
Everything dies: people, trees, metals, galaxies, and even atoms. Only one entity is eternal and He is the source of an eternal future. All that decays is slowly dying: people, trees, metals, galaxies and even Christian passion. It all has a half-life. I only wish the half-life of Christian passion matched that of Uranium238.

Leadership Soapbox

Where are the standouts, the ones whose countenance drips with the overflowing presence of the living God? Our leaders have failed us. They have told us that an acceptance of Christ—and no more—is sufficient. They have lied. Where are the leaders, the ones who have not compromised their faith to build an organization? The fact is, the church lives in a state of compromise. Whether it be the fear of man, apathy, or a failure to internally reconcile a depraved life with a spirit that understands the requirements of the Holy, our lives fail to appeal to those who have no hope. We have placed more than one foot in the world. In his book The Christian Ministry with an Inquiry Into the Causes of its Inefficiency, Rev. Charles Bridges illustrates this very point.

It is but too plain, that we have lost that distinction of “Servant of Christ,” which it would have been our honor to have preserved; that our Christian prudence has degenerated into worldly cowardice; and that our conversation with the world has been regulated by the fear of man, fleshly indulgence, and practical unbelief of the most solemn warnings of the gospel.

And again.

We should endeavor to make religion agreeable; but not to make ourselves agreeable by leading our company to forget religion. We should ‘every one of us, please his neighbor for his good;’ but not so ‘please men,’ as to fail in the character of ‘Servants of Christ.’

Leaders who find themselves in a situation where change is needed are left powerless by many churches to initiate the change. The church has become too comfortable in their “method” of worship and if one seeks to change it, they will die upon the sacred alter of complacency. At this point, the weaker leader will simply give up, another disillusioned leader, beaten into submission by fear. Things really must change. It starts with education.

Today, the average church member—pardon the generalization—is either too involved (locked into their own comfortable method) or too removed from the process of healthy church life. Those that are too involved rule the roost, viewing a pastor as an employee and not a called man of God. Those on the other end of the spectrum are simply anonymous Christians, punching in and punching out, doing their “hours” that qualify them at the entrance gate to an eternal “E-Ticket” ride. Meanwhile, the middle—the ones who understand that an abiding relationship with Father and the evangelistic sharing of His grace is paramount—is shrinking. Personal revival and corporate church repentance and growth are rare today. We have grown far too selfish. If you mention to the first group that the method to reach others must change, the leader will face formidable obstacles and may even lose his “job.” To the later, if you start changing things around, they will simply move on, not understanding what it means to be called to a body of believers. What is the answer?

The answer lies in a deeply relational, educating of the masses to understand the heart of God. Just as we see God’s method changing over time, so must we change. Even the disciples and the writers of the gospel changed their methodology for their given audience. Think of how Matthew’s appeal to the Jews takes a very different form that Luke’s appeal to the Gentiles. As leaders, we must specifically tailor everything we do for our personal context. If I had one wish for young leaders, it would be that they throw away every “church growth” book and discover what—precisely—Father wants them to do. That leader must understand that he was hand chosen for the work God has prepared for him to do, and only he can do it. He has an obligation to seek the will of God until he finds it. To jump early, or to lead according to the dictates or expectations of man is sinful. That ministry will not last. Nor will such a ministry result in the level of praise to the Son that Father desires for it to give. We must be very calculated and careful in our attempts to lead the church. The leading is at Father’s direction and not by the dictates of the masses.

Each of us will find ourselves in this piece, however, we must look carefully at who we think that we are. The pastor who reads this and insists; “Yeah, those church members are strangling me in every attempt to lead the church” must first ask himself if has truly sought the Lord’s direction in where he is leading. That the direction in which he seeks to lead his congregation has been intimately, directionally spelled out by Father. Likewise, the congregant who says; “My pastor is changing everything. It’s arbitrary and destructive and he needs to go” must tread lightly as he plays with the call of a man of God. Many a struggle with Godly leaders is not a human struggle at all, but a revolt against the very will of God at the calling of that man to lead. Tread lightly. The beginning of an answer to all of these struggles is the prayerful, patient seeking of Father’s specific will and direction for the cultural context in which he has placed all parties. Until that primary foundation is laid, nothing fruitful can be constructed. The leader in today’s church does not have an easy road ahead. It is one of great struggle, but also of great reward.

John Maxwell states the following in his book, Developing the Leader within You.

Leaders can never take their people farther than they have traveled. Like leader, like people … God’s gift to the leader is his potential. His gift back to God is what he does with that potential.

Leadership by Example

Once again, I was asked to write a short for STAR News, a magazine for Law Enforcement Personnel. Here it is…

Leading by example is nothing new. For thousands of years individuals have looked up to their superiors. When the example of integrity and excellence was present, they were inspired and challenged to be more than they themselves thought they could be. When it was not, the lack of example has led to frustration and even disdain for the superior. This interesting quote comes from Onasander, a Greek philosopher from the first century A.D., and shows that even 2000 years ago men wrestled with these very issues.

“Most men are distressed when placed under the command of ignoble individuals. For no one voluntarily puts up with submitting to a master or a leader who is inferior to himself.” (Onasander, The General 1.17)

My challenge to you is two-fold.

First, be an individual marked by excellence. It changes your environment as well as the people around you. The level of professionalism will rise and you will be responsible for it. Live a life of excellence in everything you do. Remember, Family, Faith, Country and Department. Each need true men and women of excellence to set the tone for tomorrow.

Second, be careful whom you allow to be your example. Our vehicles have backseats filled with individuals who failed this test. Even on the department, be wise. The example you follow sets the path for your future. There are so many quality men and women in our department who do it right! Find one, and learn from them. Excellence is learned, and while you are learning others will learn from you.

In the Hebrew Scriptures, the Psalmist (3000 years ago) states that God has led him into a life of excellence by witnessing the examples that had been set for him. God’s mercy and grace had led him to a life of being an example to others. With that, he is able to confidently say in Psalm 71:7:

“My life is an example to many, because you have been my strength and protection.”

One final note: On this job and in life, everyone is a leader. If you started this article thinking that it only applies to your superiors you are wrong. You are a leader. All of us are. There are many people looking to you for quality decisions and a life of excellence. Read that again: There are many people looking to you for quality decisions and a life of excellence. Don’t let them down. Fulfill the roll.

It’s Good to be Home

I was asked to write an encouragement piece for Star News, a law enforcement publication. This article was run shortly after the death of a Los Angeles County Sheriff Deputy and became an important piece. The only article from which I received direct feedback from the Deputies.

Take it from a road warrior; it is good to come home. Don’t misunderstand, there will always be excitement in the journey, but even the journey gets old. Each of us in the human species has needed a vacation from our vacation. As I write, I am in a hotel longing to see my wife and kids. Even Dorothy said; “There’s no place like home” as she tapped her ruby slippers together and grabbed Toto for the journey.

Why is it so good to be home?

Home is familiar. It is safe. Home is a place of security where the unknown gives way to the familiar and love is felt. There are many reason this is so: from the security of the family to the relationship with the neighbors, the support of friends and colleagues, and the unseen protectors who guard our security.

I want to give a shout out to Law Enforcement personnel who add to that feeling of security at home. It is good to know that there are protectors, watching over our neighborhoods and cities, dispatchers who put them to action, and a long list of support personnel that work on their behalf to better equip and support them. Because of them, it is good to be home.

So here I sit in the hotel wishing for the comfort of home. However, down deep, in the deepest parts of my soul, I wish for my REAL HOME. I look forward to the ultimate peace of an eternity with the Lord. As we all have protectors in our neighborhood, ultimately, we all have the same eternal protector. He is a God who loves us and knows us by name. He wants to be involved in our lives. He cares. He is One who is our ultimate protection: the protector of protectors. Let us not forget about Him.

The Psalmist wrote: The Lord is alive! My protector is praiseworthy! The God who delivers me is exalted as king! (Psalm 18:46)

He wants to protect you… You know, out there… In life… May I suggest that you call upon Him from time to time. He has the ability to bring you home.

Identity… Being who I was created to be

I reread Orwell’s Animal Farm tonight and was reminded of the corruption deep within the heart of man – or pig – should you be familiar with the satire. The story goes something like this: Mr. Jones, the farmer, runs his farm in the normal fashion, that is, until his farm runs him off in a quite abnormal set of circumstances. After years of living under dictator Jones, Old Major the boar, the wisest of the farm animals, sows the seeds of revolution, inspiring a revolt which places the farm in the hands of the animals. Farmer Jones’ Manor Farm is renamed Animal Farm and the animals actually manage the farm better than Jones.

You see, the pigs had wisdom and they stepped up to the role of strategists and ran the farm with the core truth of the equality of all animals. They recognized that one gift is no better than another, they are simply different. Each gift was used in a way that benefited the society as opposed to the individual. Communism at its finest. Ahem…

But the real problem was, after the death of Old Major the boar, there were two power pigs left to guide the farm, Snowball and Napoleon. Two pigs, two visions. Therein lies the problem. While Snowball ran the farm the farm ran well. He was inventive and always thinking of the farm. Napoleon however, had self interest and was tired of Snowball’s ingenuity. In a coup of epic proportions Napoleon uses his soldiers, the dogs, to run Snowball off of the farm. He forcibly takes control. What results is inhuman animalistic behavior perfectly typical of the fallen human animal. History of the farm is rewritten, laws subtly changed to mean something different, and Snowball is systematically vilified until his memory is a symbol of evil. Napoleon, the Hitler-pig sets himself as the supreme ruler of the farm. But that’s not all…

Evil has a way of taking hold and turning one into something unrestrained. Napoleon does not simply rule with an iron hoof but begins a campaign of genocide to intimidate and prevent questioning, and by way of admiration does the most evil of deeds… He begins to act human.

The animals–at one time–had a mantra, a summation of their core beliefs, it stated; “Four legs good, two legs bad.” It was the foundational belief that helped to free them from the oppression of man. However, over time, man is exactly what Napoleon aspired to be. He learned to read, to bargain, to speak and to write. He even learned to drink alcohol and eventually walk on two legs. He changed the mantra to; “Four legs good, two legs better!” He became the object that inspired revolution in his previous master, Old Major. He became evil through self interest. He exalted self and forgot about others. In fact, the book ends with the animals peering in on a conversation between their leader, Napoleon the pig, and their enemy, the humans. They glance back and forth from pig to human and from human to pig, and in the final words of the book, it was impossible to say which was which.

Jesus called us light in darkness, light that cannot be hidden. The ones peering into the windows of our lives should be able to readily tell if we are darkness or light. They should not be pushing their noses to the window and trying to discern whether we are pig or human, sheep or goat. This world is an animal farm for sure, and I choose to be a sheep, I choose to hear “Well done good and faithful servant!”

I will be who I was created to be. I will be as good to my neighbor as to myself. I will seek humility not authority. Authority is given by God. Created a sheep, I will remain a sheep, and be the best sheep I am able to be.