The “War”

It seems as though it never fails…every season…someone is outraged by something a corporate entity does or doesn’t do relating to Christmas. I remember working for RadioShack and we were instructed to say “Happy Holidays” to our customers. This wasn’t about religion. It was about making money. The company took the position that they were serving clientele from many different cultures and traditions and therefore wanted to ensure that everyone felt a type of “season’s greetings.” Once again…this was not theological…it was financial. If someone felt welcome and comfortable in our stores then they were more likely to spend money and return to do the same next time. However…for some reason…many within the Christian subculture have decided that it’s the responsibility of the various corporations to spread the message of Christ’s advent…and I find this a bit bizarre… Continue reading

Hidden

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Years ago, there were allegations that the King of Pop, Michael Jackson, had taken indecent liberties with a young boy. I remember when this story came out and I remember how appalled the public was. Michael Jackson, even with all of his eccentricity, had become a household name due to the proliferation of his music. Eventually, the case was settle privately…but he would forever live with that accusation. Most of us didn’t seem to want to believe it was true…it was too shocking…too dark. Some years before that happened, televangelist Jimmy Swaggart had been caught with a prostitute…and I remember the shock that the public showed over the affair. It’s amazing to see how the public reacts to things of this nature…and very telling of something that we must all consider… Continue reading

Standing Our Ground

 

 

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Recently in the news, there have been many stories about Kim Davis of Kentucky and her refusal to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. There has a been a firestorm of judgments about this, and on social media it seems that there is a stark division between the two sides of this discussion. I’m not going to try to tackle this issue so much. Her options are to either issue the licenses or stand by her convictions and that choice is hers. If she stands by her convictions, she will likely face more legal punishment, but once again, she has to be the one to make that decision…and that’s what I want to discuss right now…standing by our convictions, or the way have heard it referred to many times, “standing our ground.”
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Put Down Your Sword

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I’ve always heard the expression, “fight fire with fire,” but up until a few years ago, I didn’t know what it really meant. There are a few different ideas on this, but I witnessed something very interesting once that gave me some insight on this. The area in which I live is inundated with silvergrass. It’s very sharp, very tough, and when it dries…VERY flammable. It was a dry summer and someone let a flame get out of control and before we knew it, much of our neighborhood was in danger from a huge brush fire. When the forest service arrived, they used a bulldozer to make a trench that the fire could not cross and then they really surprised me…by setting more fires. Continue reading

What People Think Of Me…

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I’ve mentioned before that I struggle with insecurity…and deeply connected with that concern is a fear of what others think of me. In recent months, I’ve written about some very serious social issues, but I’ve done so with a great deal of anxiety. The reason for my anxiety is that I don’t want to be dishonest about my beliefs or disrespectful to my faith while also not wanting to alienate those that don’t share the same view. I guess if I’m really and totally honest, my fear is that I would be lumped in with a particular segment in our culture that is seen as a very close-minded or even ignorant group. (I’m not saying they are close-minded or ignorant, but just that they are viewed that way.) So…what happens next is that I have a conversation with someone…or stand up to preach a sermon…or sit down to write an article…and then I begin to struggle through all of the possible outcomes to the various things I could say or write. This can be paralyzing to some people…people like me… Continue reading

Christianity And Homosexuality: The Main Thing

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This past week, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that all states in the Union must acknowledge the legality of same sex relationships (it’s much more complicated than that but for the sake of brevity, that’s how I’ll summarize it here). As I looked on Facebook to see the general response from those I know, it was no big surprise to see our culture totally polarized. Everyone seems to have a strong opinion on this issue. Over couple of days following, the rhetoric online was a virtual tidal wave of anger and judgment from both sides of the equation. Those against same-sex marriage were outraged and angry and those that supported it were outraged and angry that anyone would be outraged and angry about it. Continue reading

Christianity And Homosexuality

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I have long dreaded addressing this topic…but it is one that is becoming more and more volatile…so it is with great caution that I wade into these waters. I truly want to insure that no one is offended by my remarks so understand that I acknowledge that I get a lot of things wrong. I am no expert on this subject by far. I am not a psychiatrist, psychologist, sociologist, medical doctor, scientist, or trained counselor. I’m just a pastor of a small church with no real credentials to speak of…and I really try…albeit with great failures…to follow the Jesus of the Bible. Having said that… Continue reading

The Book Of Lazarus

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I was reading in John’s Gospel, chapter 12, the other day. It mentions that there was a large crowd of the Jewish people that were flocking to a town called Bethany. The reason for this influx of visitors was because they heard that Jesus was there…but also…they wanted to see Lazarus…because Jesus had raised him from the dead. I read over that verse a few times and just began to think about something…where is the Book of Lazarus…? Continue reading

Mirror

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Not too long ago…I messed up pretty bad. It was a personal thing…perhaps not something that even would bother everyone. It killed me. I went to bed, woke up in the morning, and took a shower. When I got out of the shower, toweled off, and got dressed…there I stood…I saw my face in the mirror. I looked into my own eyes…and I was angry. I hated the man I saw. He was slime. He was subhuman…but…also… He. Was. Me. Continue reading

I Don’t Get It

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I was watching a movie some years ago and it had a quote that I’ve never been able to shake. Richard Gere played Martin Vale, in the movie “Primal Fear.” He was a hotshot defense attorney that seemed to be bent on making a name for himself and getting rich. At one point, he was talking to a reporter and he said that the reason he did what he did had nothing to do with money or fame. He said that he did it because he believed in the basic goodness of mankind and that there are some very good people who do some very bad things. I’ve thought about that over and over. Continue reading

I Am A Christian Part Two: Lovingly Bold

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As I surf the web this holiday season, I have observed the inevitable tension that has been mounting for the last several years. One group viscerally says that we should say, “Happy Holidays!” while the other group responds angrily and says, “Keep CHRIST in Christmas!” I was reading some articles the other day and one of the common threads among those that do not like saying “Christmas,” was this principle that Christians should not “force” our religion upon others. I began to really consider this for a moment… Continue reading

I Am A Christian

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I meet people in all kinds of settings. A few days ago, I was in a situation in which I was in a waiting area. There was only one other person waiting there with me and she started a conversation. As we spoke, I quickly became aware that she was not a local. She eventually asked me where I was from, and I responded by telling her that I grew up just down the road. She then asked what I did for a living. I responded by saying, “I’m a pastor.” Her facial expression changed…and the conversation then went in an interesting direction… Continue reading

Not Trash

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I was speaking to a couple people recently and we were talking about pop culture. The subject of the various celebrity young ladies came up (Miley, Brittany, Lindsay, Paris, Kim, etc.) and a statement was made that struck me. The statement was in reference to one of these ladies in particular, and it was this: “She’s trash.” As I said, the statement struck me…and I responded by saying, “Well, I think she does trashy things…but she’s not trash.” I don’t know that the point landed and I also don’t think these people were trying to be cruel…but sometimes…mean to or not…humans can be cruel. Then I began to wonder about the behavior of these ladies…and I started to question if they would call themselves trash…if they were really, really honest. I guess what I want to know is how they feel about themselves. Continue reading

Two Gardens

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Most of us are very familiar with the Bible story about the Garden of Eden. God had created everything, and lastly He had created His image-bearers, humans. It tells us then that He placed mankind in a garden and gave him authority over everything He had made. The story goes on to explain the creation of woman, who was called such because, “she came out of man,” referring to her being made from the rib God took from Adam’s side. God brought her to Adam and the two “became one flesh,” referring to the union of their relationship. We don’t know how long they lived in the Garden as an innocent, sinless couple…whether it was what we would consider a year or a month, or whatever…we have no real way of knowing. What we do know is what happened next…a major transition in existence…a failure…a fall…

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Humbled

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I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my personal journey in faith. As I have walked this path, I’ve messed up so many things, and hurt some people along the way as well. I have some acquaintances that are more atheistic in their beliefs, and in many cases, are such due to the way Christians have treated them. This makes me wonder about those that I’ve had contact with over the last 16 years…about my affect on them…with my jackassery (yes that word is necessary for this description)…with my arrogance…with my ignorance. Continue reading

Rescued

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Why do the stories of helpless animal rescue tug so much at our heart strings? Why do they appeal so much to us…and moreover…why do we have such an aversion to animal cruelty/negligence? I think the answers for these questions are pretty well obvious, but something more occurred to me today. This morning, I watched an online video of a man rescuing a dog from the bottom of a canyon. He seemed pretty sure that the dog (whom he named Riley)  was put there intentionally by someone, and there was no way for Riley to get out on his own. He was nearly starved to death and extremely dehydrated. After discovering Riley on his hike/rappel, he went back out, got food, water, and a towel and went back down to give Riley the immediate assistance he desperately needed. After this he went down another time to bring him out and begin the process of his recovery. This is a wonderful story of someone helping a creature that was truly helpless and pitiful… Continue reading

Swinging Doors

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Yesterday afternoon, I was trying to get some much needed relaxation, and at the same time my wife had told the girls to spend some time outside. So there I was lying on the couch, trying desperately hard to relax and unwind from a hectic week, when the first of a long series of front-door-openings occurred. This seems to be a bad habit of all children in all generations. I remember when I was young, my parents would eventually shout out the words, “In or out!.” Something about this constant in-and-out is very unnerving. After about the 20th time the door opened and closed I had to tell them to stop it…it was causing me a bit of irritation…just as I caused my parents.  Continue reading

“Tetelestai”

It-is-finishedToday is Good Friday…and there’s some debate over why it is called by this name. This is the day in which we commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth, Who is called the “Christ,” or we might say, “Messiah.” There is some debate over the name of the day in terms of whether it was originally called “Good Friday,” or “God Friday,” or possibly something else. Years ago, when I first learned of this day and its name, I felt like it was cruelly or insensitively named…I thought that perhaps it may even have been disrespectful or flippant…but I was wrong…very wrong…or rather I guess I just didn’t understand the big picture and why we can truly call it a good day…as well as a God day… Continue reading

Serious Words

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A recurring theme in my life revolves around words. The older I get, the more I realize how important and powerful words are, yet they are taken so lightly…so carelessly…so casually. Jesus spoke of the seriousness of this subject in Matthew 12:36, “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak…” I am not trying to get into the depth of what was intended by Him in saying this, but I am instead simply focusing for a moment on the intensity of His statement…and the intended emphasis about guarding our tongue… Continue reading

Not Just Roadkill…

When I was a kid, my dad and I were going somewhere together in his pickup. We drove up to the top of a hill to a stop sign, just like we had done hundreds of times before…then it happened…before my dad could do anything to stop it…a rabbit ran out under his truck and he ran over it. I remember that Dad reacted more strongly to this than I expected of him. I told him it was no big deal and that it happens all the time…animals get killed by cars…that’s the world we live in. He said the thing that bothered him most was the possibility that it would lie there and suffer until it finally died…he was just this side of shedding tears…that moment affected me deeply… Continue reading

The Most Wonderfully Terrible Day

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When I was new to my faith, I had so many questions…and as I’ve grown in my faith over the last several years…my list of questions has as well. One question that always jumped out at me was about the death of Jesus. I always wondered why it happened…or rather why it had to happen. It has always been my understanding that God is all-powerful, and that ultimately, He’s “in control.” If that is the case, then why did He create a system of existence in which He (in the Person of Jesus) had to die?

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…ssshhhh…listen…

I remember from my childhood the old saying that we have two ears and one mouth, indicating that we should listen twice as much as we speak. It was one of those things that got tucked away in the “sage advice” section of my brain (a very rarely accessed area), but never really applied. Instead, for the last 36 or so years (the time since I’ve been able to speak), I’ve flooded the world with words…often when someone else was trying to say something….something important or heavy…and I would miss it, because I was too busy rattling on. I remember some years ago I was at a gathering of friends, and was visiting with someone that I had not seen in a while but had been very close to. As I rambled on and joked and went on and on…somewhere in the conversation…my friend mentioned the very recent and unexpected death of a sibling…I wish I could say that I stopped jabbering and gave the moment the attention it deserved…I wish I could say that…but I can’t. I had been talking so much…not just there and then…but throughout life in general…that I was callous to the sensitive sounds of agony and joy around me…and I didn’t even realize it until much later that evening… Continue reading

…so now we can eat bacon…

One of the most interesting concepts to me in the Bible is that of dietary laws. In the Old Testament, the Israelites were given a law from God that forbade them from eating certain types of meat. For land dwelling animals, the animal had to have “split hoofs,” and “chew cud.” A cow is a very commonly thought of animal in relation to this subject. It chews cud and has a split hoof. These animals were considered clean and others unclean. A pig, for the most obvious example does not chew cud, thus making it unclean, although it wouldn’t take much thought to realize that a pig is a pretty disgusting animal anyway, comparatively speaking. The reason I’ve been intrigued by the concept of clean versus unclean animals is that God doesn’t really give a reason as to why He made this distinction. I know there are many people out there that speculate on the various reasons, ranging from health reasons to philosophical issues. However, any reason we give is speculation, because the Scripture isn’t clear as to why these distinctions are made. God never said, “I have deemed them unclean for ____ reason(s).” Therefore, we have spent a lot of time trying to figure out this mystery…but maybe we missed an interesting point in the big picture… Continue reading

Divided We Fall…

I was speaking to a good friend recently about some issue…I think it was the end-times stuff…and after I said all I had to say, he pierced me with one humble, honest question: “How is that helping you reach people with the Gospel?” If I remember correctly, when I attempted to respond, I stuttered and stammered as I urgently tried to explain how this subject was helpful in that endeavor…until I finally gave up…I said, “It’s not…and unfortunately, a lot of the subjects I like to spend most of my time discussing/debating have very little to do with making a disciple in Christ…they’re just controversial.” He then began talking to me about the simplicity of the need for solidarity in the Gospel and its proclamation, and how we spend too much time on controversy…and not enough on the clear message of Scripture.  Continue reading

Fat Cows Or Foot Washers?

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In the 8th century B.C., there was a prophet named Amos. Of his own admission, he had no particular prominence in the world (Amos 7:14)…he was essentially just a blue collar guy whom the Lord called out, placing on him a burning message. That message was a message of judgement. This was during the time period called “The Divided Kingdom,” when Israel was the Northern Kingdom and Judah the southern. He was sent to the Northern Kingdom and told to call them out for their sin and let them know of the ensuing subsequent judgment. They were guilty of many things but there seems to be one root problem…and it is a problem that is alive and well within our modern culture as well. The people had given in to the self-centered tendencies of human nature and had become very indulgent. When I say indulgent, I’m not necessarily referring to food, although that is somewhat symptomatic of the deeper and more systemic problem. To cut to the chase, in 4:1, Amos calls the women “cows of Bashan.” Bashan was a place rich with resources in which the cattle would become “fat and happy.” He goes on to speak in the same verse about how they constantly want to be served…and catered unto…and spoiled…and this was followed by a host of other injustices. Continue reading

Compromising For Connection

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I have something to admit. Sometimes (probably more often than not) I will be involved in a conversation with one or more person(s) and the subject will become…somewhat…how should I say…less than righteous. Perhaps it will be that there are off-color jokes being told, or perhaps some crude humor, or maybe even gossip…but nevertheless the conversation would not be something I would be comfortable with a lot of people hearing me involved in. It was said about the basketball legend, Bill Russell, that he did not like coarse humor or inappropriate discussions, and that when he came into the locker room, the language would clean up. So here I am…the pastor of an evangelical Christian church…and people don’t necessarily do that when I come into the room…and I wondered, “why?” Let me be clear…it’s not that I’m offended by these things usually, and it’s not that I think I’m anything special…it’s just that it makes me wonder if people are reacting this way due to the fact that they believe I’m not judgmental or due to the fact that they don’t think that I’m any different.

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judge not…except when you should…

i think perhaps the most often quoted saying of Jesus in modern culture is His, “judge not, that you be not judged.” (matthew 7:1)  anytime an absolute moral position is taken on a given subject, people are likely to throw this verse out. then we hear the Christian compliment to it…”we are called to love not to judge.” those that usually quote this verse most often do so in defense of themselves or of someone they love…or at least intend to and believe they love…but according to paul…we are supposed to judge those who call themselves believers:

But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”   
(1 corinthians 5:11-13, esv, my emphasis added) Continue reading