david herndon

drunk driving through the crowd

“Suspect in deadly SXSW crash charged with capital murder.”  That was the headline I read on USA Today.  I usually follow the SXSW headlines hoping to catch wind of a new band about to break or a new film I need to see.  This story stopped me in my tracks.  A drunk driver plowed through a crowd of festival attendees, killing three and injuring dozens more.  How does this happen?  How does a person get this out of control?  More importantly how do I protect myself from losing control?

He can explain himself.  He can justify it.  He can make excuses.  But it doesn’t matter.  The damage is done and the headline is written.

Drunk driving through the crowd.  Three people dead.  That’s his headline for the rest of his life.

One more drink, one more TV episode, one more word in the argument. Our all-you-can-eat buffet and reality TV society even seems to encourage a lifestyle of losing control.  Lack of self-control brings down our politicians and religious leaders.  It takes the lives of our party-hard teens.  It costs us our jobs.  It hurts our friendships.  It makes us the most obese country in the world.  It passes around STD’s.  It breaks up our families.  It ruins our lives.  Yet when life gets tough and we get frustrated, our instinct is to lose control.  

Rough day?  Have a few drinks.  

Arguing with  your spouse?  Use a few expletives.  

Feeling unhappy?  Put it on the credit card.

We might not drunk-drive through the crowd, but when we lose self-control the results can be just as harmful.

Depending on the translation, the word “self-control” appears roughly 74 times in the Bible.  Self-control is about social responsibility and personal holiness.  Paul says it is a fruit of the Spirit – evidence of Christ at work in our lives.  Self-control is the root of the Great Commandment.  We express love to God by expressing love to others.  Self-control is more than just new age self-improvement.  Self-control is about caring for others by caring for yourself.  

Self-control speaks more of our devotion to God’s kingdom than any other discipline in life.

Self-control is not just about refraining from (insert vice).  Self-control is about being human.  Self-control is about reflecting God’s image.  Self-control is about thinking of others first.  And since we really don’t have any control in life, its really about depending on the One who does.

We need self-control in our WORDS.  Mike Foster wrote a fantastic article about refraining from gossip.  You should definitely read his blog.  Ephesians 4 further encourages us to think twice before we speak.  There are many things we can say for many reasons, but the heart of the matter is why we are saying them.  If your words are not beneficial for those who hear it (including yourself), then perhaps you should stay quiet.

We need self-control in our ANGER.  The bible is clear (also Ephesians 4).  Anger is not a sin, but what you do with your anger could be.  Self-Control draws the line between reasonable frustration and savage brutality.  Knocking the chair over now relieves stress, but later you have nowhere to rest.  Yelling now feels good, but later no one is listening to you at all.   

We need self-control in our LUST.  Sexual sins carry bigger consequences because they are against your own body.  Our society isn’t doing us any favors in this area, but when we objectify others for our personal pleasure we have failed humanity.  We cheapen our own lives by devaluing others.  If we cannot exhibit self-control in our own purity, we will certainly be a pollutant in others’ lives.

We need self-control in our APPETITE.  One more drink, one more bite, one more dollar, one more rep, the newest car, the nicest restaurant – these things are not evil in themselves.  But when we begin to love things and to pursue things with a majority of our time, energy, and passion we are in a dangerous place.  Most likely the ones who get caught holding the check are those around us.

Finally, we need self-control in our TIME.  On one hand we are a society of 80-hour-work-week execs, and on the other hand we are 24/7 gamers and Netflix autoplay.  Rest too much and you’ll be constantly discontent.  Work too much and you’ll never be satisfied.  You will know when you find someone who lives the balance between work and rest.  They are productive and successful and yet they still know how to enjoy life.  They don’t have the most/best, but they have what they need… and are content with it.  A one-dimensional schedule produces a one-dimensional life.

Perhaps the problems we have in our relationships are less about how others treat us and more about how we treat ourselves.  

 If we can have self-control in these 5 areas our faith, our families, our lives, and our world will be drastically better for it.  We all have seasons of frustration, discontentment, loneliness.  The temptation is to go a little crazy until you feel better.  But God is not a God of extremes.  He is a God of control and order, and He calls us to be people of control and order.

Self-control is about depending on God.  Self-control is about loving others.

Without self-control we are just drunk driving through the crowd.

That’s not what I want my headline to be.



a brush with greatness

The other night several of my students were being awarded Eagle Scout and I had the privilege of speaking in their Eagle Scout Ceremony.  I was cub scout myself for about two months, but once I lost at the pinewood derby I gave up altogether.  Not these guys.  These guys are amazing young men.  I was overwhelmed during the service as the workload to become an Eagle was described.  These young men have spent over a decade working towards this accomplishment, growing in Honor, Loyalty, Courage, and Service.

As I observed the award ceremony I couldn’t help but think, “These guys are better than me.”

That’s a good thing!  Its what every youth minister wants – for those you lead to become greater than you.  Its not that I had anything to do with them becoming Eagle Scouts.  They did that all on their own through hard work and dedication.  It is just so encouraging to see what great men they have become, because there have been times in our past when I wanted to strangle these kids!  I couldn’t help but take a brief walk down memory lane and think about other kids I wanted to strangle, kids that are now great men.

Daniel used to interrupt me every Sunday night during my teaching.  He would ask hard questions I wasn’t smart enough to answer.  I’m not sure he really wanted an answer.  I think he just liked showing that he was smarter than me.  Sometimes I wanted to strangle Daniel.

Daniel just patented a screw that is going to change the face of medicine and biomechanics and he’s still in medical school.  His intelligence is making the world a better place.

When Jacob came to church all he wanted to do was play Halo on Xbox (which at the time was all brand new to us).  He was so good at this game and he was sure to let you know.  I hated playing with him.  It was no fun.  Really.  And when the church programs were over and I was ready to go home I practically had to drag Jacob and his friends off of the Xbox and out of the door.  Sometimes I wanted to strangle Jacob.

Jacob became a member of the team that developed and wrote the Halo game series.  He now works for Bungie and continues to use his passion to inspire others and make the world a more fun place to live in.

Zach was a great kid with a dangerous sense of adventure.  He literally had no fear.  If a frisbee ended up on the roof, Zach would be 100 feet up a tree in minutes.  If someone thought of something ridiculous to do Zach would be the first to volunteer (and most of the time succeed).  Zach’s flirtations with danger scared me to death.  No matter how many times I asked him to stop, he never did.  Most of the time he even talked me into trying.  Sometimes I wanted to strangle Zach.

Zach is now the VP of a successful clothing line.  He and his wife just became foster parents to a young boy who needs a family.  They will forever change this boy’s life with their faith and love.  He continues to inspire me and those around him with his no-reservations sense of adventure and his fearless faith.

Daniel is better than me.  Jacob is better than me.  Zach is better than me.

I could go on and on about past students who now are amazing and are doing amazing things.  I take no credit for it (how could I?) because they have reached their accomplishments all on their own.  The lesson is that “greatness” is in everyone.

Genesis 1:27 says, “God created mankind in His own image, in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them.”  Following a long list of things God created, he made mankind last.  Mankind is the only creation that bears God’s image.

We bare God’s image.  We bare God’s likeness.  We bare God’s greatness.  Whether you see it or not, its deep down in there somewhere waiting to come out.  You have greatness in you because you were made in the image of God.

The person who cut you off in traffic this morning has greatness in him because he is made in the image of God.  The waitress that messed up your latte yesterday has greatness in her because she is made in the image of God.  The kids who drive you crazy and make you want to strangle them have greatness in them because they are made in the image of God.

Perhaps this is why Paul is so clear in Philippians 2 that if we want to be like Christ we must never “do anything out of vain conceit,” but we must “consider others as more important than yourself.”  We can’t just consider others more important – we must know that they really are.

There is no time that we are a more accurate reflection of Jesus than when we consider others greater than ourselves and then treat them likewise.

Its true.

They are greater than you…

Because they have God’s image in them.

You may be having the most frustrating experience possible with another human being, but you could be having a brush with greatness!  You could be part of the development of a real world-changer! I just thought I was working with some over-confident, smart-ass, senseless, smelly teenagers.  I had no idea I was working with world-changing doctors, technological masterminds, future world leaders, and Christ-like humanitarians.  I failed to see God’s image in them when I needed to.  I’m trying to change that.

I’m trying to view people – not for who they are – but for who they can be.

I hope you will too.

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thou shalt drive a hybrid

Its been a while since I posted a controversial blog.  I know you’ve all been waiting for one, so here you go:

With gas prices soaring and global warming heating up, everyone from Woody Harrelson to Rob Bell has something to say about “going green.”  It is a real issue and the state of the environment is something we all need to seriously think about.  It is also a movement that is on the rise within Christianity and the Church’s voice on the matter gets louder every day.  As an avid outdoors person myself, I am a big supporter of the “go green” movement.  That being said, I do have some concerns with the way it is being presented in Christian circles.  It seems that the Christian view is being taught that if you are a believer, yet are not environmentally conscious or active, then you are committing a sin.  In some ways “go green” is being taught as the Eleventh Commandment (thou shalt drive a hybrid), and as usual I have a little different view on the spiritual side of this discussion.

The question that keeps popping up in my head as I hear green sermons and have green discussions with people is this: What is God’s perspective on “going green?”  Is it really as big a deal to Him as it is to us?  How concerned is God with our environment?  If Jesus traveled by jet, would he buy a carbon offset?  It is often taught that God is green and that being environmentally aware is vital to our spirituality.  I’m not so sure.

The most famous scripture quotation would come from Genesis 1, in which God gives man authority over the earth, the vegetation, and the animals with the command to subdue to the earth and be fruitful and multiply.  The interpretation is often that God’s command for man to “care for the earth” is really a command to “take care of the earth,” that our responsibility is to do our best to preserve it and protect it.  But is that what God is saying?  He could be saying, “I’m giving you the earth – do with it whatever you want -it’s yours.”  In Isaiah God talks about how the grass will wither and the flower will fade, but the word of the Lord will stand forever.  I interpret this as God saying, “Don’t get too invested in temporary things, but invest in what is eternal.”  He presents the earth as being a temporary thing – a material thing, if you will.  It will not always be here.  God’s word is eternal.  It will always be here.  It will always stand.  It is the only thing worth truly investing in.  Biblically speaking, no matter what we do environmentally, no matter how green we get, the earth is eventually going to be destroyed anyway.  It was never meant to last forever, so how concerned should we be in preserving it?  In Genesis 6, God himself decides to flood the earth and start over (talk about a global warming crisis).  He doesn’t seem too concerned there about “going green.”  He does seem concerned with preserving righteousness.

The truth is, I just don’t find much in the bible that presents a strong spiritual argument for “going green.”

One day someone asked Jesus what the greatest commandment is.  Jesus did not say to recycle or install solar panels on your house or to drive a hybrid.  He did say this: “you shall love the Lord, your God, with all of your heart, soul, and mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: you shall love your neighbor as yourself.  All of God’s laws hang on these two commandments.”  It seems Jesus’ priority was less in how we treat the earth and more in how we treat the creator and the people of the earth.

Before you get too angry with me and misinterpret what I’m saying, let me be clear:  As humans, we should try our best to be good stewards of the earth.  As Christians, we should be the front runners in this movement.  I’m not telling you to start throwing all of your trash on the side of the road or to start burning down forests or to start killing bunny rabbits or anything.  Out of respect for our Creator, we should respect His creation.  I just think we’re going about things the wrong way.

Instead of opening the newspaper and seeing articles about how to care for the environment, I would be delighted to see articles about how to care for people.  Instead of seeing a movie star on TV talking about being green, I would like to see a movie star talking about being loving.  Instead of governments imposing pollution taxes, I would like to see governments imposing uncompassionate taxes.  Instead of Nobel prizes being awarded for environmental accomplishments, I would like to see Nobel prizes for evangelical accomplishments.

I think if we as humans became consumed with loving people, then our environment would be in a better state.  Our world is going to great lengths and spending incredible amounts of money in the interest of the environment.  What would our world look like if we went to such lengths and spent as much money in the interest of loving people?

The grass will wither.  The flower will fade.  The earth is temporary.  God’s word and God’s ways will stand forever.  You tell me which is more important.

I look forward to your comments.

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