Sweet Land of Liberty

On this fourth of July, I find myself incredibly grateful to live in this great country, even though we may not all agree on the decisions that our leadership makes.  However, that is one of the things that makes it so great.  We have a voice and we are able to express the things that we disagree on and we are allowed to weigh in on what we think might make it a better nation.  After watching this video from a TED talk that was filmed back in March, I realize that we still live in the greatest nation on the planet, even though we are not all on the same page.  Check this out.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Noah and Marriage

Noah's Ark - Stained Glass

It is interesting that the rainbow is the symbol that seems to be stuck in the middle of this argument about marriage.  A lot of people get bent out of shape when they see the rainbow now because they feel like it has been stolen from a “biblical” point of view but maybe it helps us have at least one thing in common in this constant debate.

For people of the Christian faith, the rainbow is a symbol of grace, love, redemption and faithfulness.  God created the rainbow as a symbol that the flood that was visited on the earth, in ancient times, would not happen at that magnitude ever again.  When we see the rainbow, it reminds us of the God of grace.  It reminds us that when judgment should be visited on us, we get a beautiful rainbow instead.  All grace, no hate.  All mercy and no “getting what I deserve.”  The rainbow is a beautiful thing.  It reminds us of God’s faithfulness to us, despite what our response is to Him.

For a lot of people, the Supreme Court decision on marriage has caused a lot of anger.  It has sparked a lot of good and bad conversation in the last week.  I’ve read quite a few blogs on it and have been both proud and ashamed of a few of our Christian brothers and sisters for their commentary on it.  Marriage should be held in high regard and I do believe that God created marriage to be between a man and a woman.  However, like many situations in life, how we react in times like this will reveal the true nature of our heart (Luke 6:45), so we need to be careful how we respond to others.  Here are a few thoughts that I had about the issue.

1) No one can redefine marriage for you -If you believe that God defined marriage as a life long union between a man and a woman, as I do, don’t back away from that opinion (Genesis 2:18-24).  Don’t shove that opinion down everyone else’s throat, as if they HAVE to believe as you do.  That isn’t loving.  But if you are asked about your opinion, express it plainly and lovingly.  Make it clear what your opinion is, in a loving way, and then speak kindly to the other side of the argument.  Express love for them and speak to them as friends because they are.

2) Love is still the key identifying factor for us – Many people think the Bible says “They will know we are Christians because we have better and more logical arguments” or “Because we are right!!!”  What it really says is “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35).  Of course love is not telling people what they want to hear nor is it simply accepting someone.  Acceptance is a part of the deal though.  Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t acceptance of that person’s opinion necessarily.  It is accepting that person as a friend or someone that you can love.  Love also involves truth.  I am well aware of that.  (Ephesians 4:15).  That’s why I said in the previous section to speak what you believe to be true but do it lovingly. However, extending judgment to someone where we could have extended to them mercy, as God shows us mercy, is unacceptable (Ephesians 4:32).

3) Freedom of Religion is a Good Thing – Freedom of religion is something that this country was founded on.  Let me clear some things up before I continue with this point because some people are already mad after reading that statement.  Yes, I believe our kids should be allowed to pray in school.  Yes, I believe that freedom of religion means that children who are Jesus followers should be able to express their opinions, in a loving way, just like everybody else.  However, let’s speak honestly with one another.  We are living in a post Christian society.  Christianity is still the largest religion represented in America but the values of America no longer reflect Christianity.  So when the majority of people in America are not Christians, which is slowly happening, I want to be free to express my belief in Jesus as I see fit.  If we don’t have freedom of religion, that might not happen in the future.  Our founding fathers were pretty stinking smart.

4) Christianity Thrives as an Underground Movement – We don’t have to be in the majority to make an impact.  God, on average, uses a remnant of people who are faithful to Him to make an enormous impact on others.  See also Gideon, Daniel, the 12, and the early church.  Sure in Acts there is an enormous movement that occurs that catapults the numbers of church goers and the spread of Christianity.  I think that was absolutely necessary for the movement to continue and have the strength to scatter and reach the masses all over the globe.  That being said, we cannot legislate belief.  We can’t make laws to lead people to Christ.  But we can be true to our belief, love people as Jesus loved them and tell them about the transforming power of Christ.  Which leads me to my last point.

5) The Priority is the Gospel – My bottom line in life is that people hear the gospel of Jesus Christ and have a chance to respond.  Not only do I want them to respond on some level, I want them to be changed by it.  If I am spewing venom at a person that believes differently than I do, they will never hear that message.  Not only will they not hear it but they will look at that message with disdain, having never really heard the life saving message that God loves them, wants to know them and wants their life to be radically transformed by Him.  I need to go to God in prayer and ask Him to help me speak the truth in love.  Help me to discern between the moment where people need to know what my belief about the subject matter is and when do I need to simply love that person and wait for my next opportunity.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Dangers of Silence

Charleston

For the past year I’ve been working on a project called “First Church of the Broken”.  Currently, I am in chapter four and I have about three more chapters to go.  The premise of the book is “Loving others in a world that relentlessly tears them apart.”  I have felt for some time that this book desperately needed to be written but I’ve never felt more compelled than I have the last week following the evil acts that have occurred in Charleston South Carolina.

I am pretty cautious when talking about matters of race, due to the fact that I am white and cannot understand the pain of what has happened and continues to happen in our country over this issue, so I will keep it brief.  My heart hurts for the people of Charleston and for Emanuel Church.  They have been in my prayers since this has happened and my spirit is heavy because of the hatred that perpetrated this heinous act.  I don’t understand that side of this issue either.  I don’t get what drives people to hurt others in this way and it continues to confound and anger me.

Our country and churches are hurting from the problem of racism.  It is true that the root of the problem is sin and that our hearts are desperately evil and we struggle with this evil constantly.  However, I am a big fan of calling things by name in prayer to our God so let’s join together to do that.  Let’s pray for the problem of racism and pray that God will use us in a way that will combat this problem and not accelerate it or perpetuate it.  Let’s not bicker about semantics that some people use and let’s not argue about what the real problem is.  Let’s simply call it by name and pray that God would intervene.  Let’s pray for unity in our churches and ask God that we would not be part of the problem but part of the solution.

I am reminded that as a believer, my life is supposed to look like the life of Jesus.  Jesus approached people from different cultures, genders and races without hesitation and often shattered ancient barriers that were erected by well meaning but misguided people.  See also the woman at the well, the Roman soldier, the parable of the Good Samaritan, ….and I could keep going.  My point is that when it comes to loving people, there should be no boundaries.  (Galatians 3:28).

We need to love all people relentlessly and ask God for healing and that He would use us to be a part of that process.  That is the prayer I will pray for me and my family.   I will also be praying this for you as well.  One love, one Spirit and one purpose.  (Phil 2:2)

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Seventeen Years

photo-2

Armageddon had just come out, Friends was still on television and the search engine Google was founded.  The Bulls were the NBA national champions.   Clinton was impeached.  (No comments please).  “Gettin’ Jiggy with it” was a really popular song.  Try getting that song out of your head now.  (Na-na, na, na, na-na, na…you’re turn.) You’re welcome.

The year was 1998 and it was also the same year that Jenn and I were married.  Hands down, one of the best decisions that I’ve ever made.  Outside of following Jesus, it is the decision that has impacted my life the most.  We recently went out to dinner to celebrate our anniversary and reflected on the last seventeen years of our life together.  It was crazy to think about how much time has past and how much our lives have changed.

One of the things that struck me was how much I’ve learned about the topic of love.  Going into our marriage, I loved Jenn.  There was no question about that.  It was a fledging love for sure but it was definitely love.  Based on her character and her life style, I was ready to spend a lifetime loving this woman.  But did I really know what that entailed?  Of course not.  Like many twenty somethings that tie the knot, I had no idea what I was getting myself into (she would tell you the same).  Seventeen years later, I am pleasantly surprised by how much I’ve learned from our relationship.  Here are just a few things that struck me.

I learned that love doesn’t stop, even when I’m suffering.  Thankfully the love that I receive and give needs to keep going.  Jennifer and I have loved through the loss of loved ones, the loss of dreams (not permanently), the loss of sanity (kids), the loss of direction in life and financial loss.  When we are able to choose that, because love isn’t a feeling it is a choice, our love grows and strengthens.  And it has done that.  (Romans 8:38-39)

I’ve also come to the realization that I need to choose to love the strengths of my wife.  She has to do the same with me.  It would be easy for us to chose to focus on the things that we aren’t doing right, that annoy us.  Okay, that would be a lot easier for Jenn to do than me.  She’s perfect.  :) But by choosing to love her strengths, and vice versa, I’m reminded of what I love about her.  If I’m doing this right, I’m shown new reasons why I love her. (Philippians 2:2-8)

Finally, something else that we’ve done right, (and we’ve made plenty of mistakes) is that we’ve chosen to love each other with the love Jesus has shown us.  We love each other with grace.  We have to come to a place where we realize that as individuals we are flawed.  We are broken.  The great thing is that God loves us despite our flaws.  Knowing that is pretty freeing.  I don’t have to earn His love.  If I know that, I’m free to love others in the same way.  I’m not setting up a paradigm where people have to earn favor with me.  I just love them. (Romans 5:8; Ephesians 2:8)

Honestly, time and space do not permit me to write down all of the lessons that I’ve learned about love over the years but these would definitely be in my top ten.  It has been a great seventeen years with my wife and I’ve been thankful and grateful to have learned them with her.  Peace out peoples.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Me and KJV

MEANDKJV

I am pretty jacked!  This Sunday I am starting a class called “Reading Your Bible”.  I am passionate about this study because my life was changed due to my relationship with God and His love letter to us.  Here’s how it all started.

Me and KJV – I remember being a High School student and making the decision, on my own without any sort of encouragement, to open my Bible and read it. I’m not sure why, but I felt guilty, I have a strong guilt reflex. I called myself a Christian (I had a cross on my Senior ring) but I knew very little about what the Bible said AND I did not have a relationship with Jesus. So I busted out a Bible that I had at home, probably KJV, and started reading…in 1 or 2 Kings somewhere. Not the best place to start reading your Bible.

When I did, I began reading passages about wars against surrounding nations. There was blood and guts. There were battles being fought and commands to wipe out a people group. I struggled with what to do with passages like that and then reconcile that with what I knew about Jesus. Which, if I’m being honest, was very little and somewhat elementary. I just knew the Bee Gee Jesus (or Jared Leto Jesus for the younger audience) that had long goldish brown hair and was white. He loved everybody and simply winked at you when you did wrong and encouraged you to do better. He was your buddy.

What I was reading didn’t jive with my limited scope of who God was, who Jesus was and what my role was in all of that. Because of my frustration, I put down my Bible and didn’t pick it up, I mean really pick it up, until four years later. When I did, it would change me for good. I’ll talk more about that at another time.  I look forward to sharing that with you at a later date.  Peace out homies.

We’ll use big words like “metanarrative” and “atonement” if that’s your thing but we’ll also cover some basic ideas about how to approach your Bible.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Accusations

Just as a refresher, I’m writing some thoughts down about the Church and how we are charged with loving others in a world that relentlessly tears them apart.  We’ve talked a little bit about how part of our problem as the Church is that we’ve targeted other people as our enemy when in fact our true enemy is hard at work and is actively seeking to destroy God’s kingdom.  That derails us from loving others as we should.  The real enemy, as you know, is Satan and one of his chief tools in tearing down God’s work is accusation.

Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, he who accuses them before our God day and night.

Did you hear that? Our enemy is known as “he who accuses them before God day and night”? Do you ever feel like that? The voices are coming at you twenty different ways 24/7 and you hear it so often that we begin to believe them. Again, we dismiss them as logic or our thoughts. I know, you can’t see the Devil so it simply seems like reality at times. Here’s another description of Satan that I find helpful in Ephesians 2:1-2

“And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.”

What a crazy title, “prince of the power of the air”! This descriptor is extremely helpful to me. You see, I can’t see Satan at work but I know he is there because I can feel that he is there, I see his effects in my life and at times it seems like his influence is wide sweeping. He is not a person, as I know a person to be, that I can identify and point my finger at but his presence is tangible and as real as someone that is sitting next to you. Much like the air or the wind.

Because of that, the voices seem simply like…your voice or the voice of your peers. Because those voices are wide sweeping and pervasive, we ignore the fact that they could be false and bent on our destruction. The moment we begin to feel that this is the voice of Satan, we think of the guy in the red suit with the horns and feel silly. The Voice has struck again! It has done so subtly without you even knowing it. The Voice is like a poisonous gas that seeps into the room without you being aware of it and kills before you even know it was surrounding you. The Voice deceives and directs your thoughts and actions quietly. Much like the air or the wind.

Accusation is only one of the Devil’s tools though.  Next time we talk, we’ll uncover a few more.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Exorcist and Voices in my head

The-Exorcist cropped

One of the most terrifying movies of my childhood was the “Exorcist”.  Just to clarify, I saw it on television and my parents were not on board with me seeing movies like this.  My cousin was watching it and I happened to walk into the room.  You know, how many stories of debauchery start.  When I walked into the room I was captivated by the tension between the characters and the suspense that was building.  The crazy thing is, I didn’t watch much of it but the 15-20 minutes of it that I did see, blew my mind.  It shot the bowl cut straight off of my head.  After watching the scene where the girl’s head rotated 360 degrees, I decided to stop watching.  Great discernment on my part.  What do you want, I was like ten??!!!

The thing that struck me most about the movie, was that I never considered too much what the Devil might be like.  This movie showed me that Satan wasn’t this guy in a red suit and horns.  He was a moving, active entity that could do a lot of damage.  FYI I’m not saying that the movie was theologically accurate because I don’t subscribe to a lot of what the movie portrayed about spirituality but it did make me think…and not sleep for like two weeks.

We have many different ideas when it comes to who the Devil is.  Some of us don’t believe he exists, that he is a boogey man at best.  The idea of him keeps us from doing too much bad and scares us into following God. Some faiths describe Satan as the brother of Jesus but there is absolutely no biblical support for that. It is simply not true. Jesus isn’t an angel and is in fact God. Satan is a created being. As to what Satan does? Well, we can talk about that in detail.

1) The Voice: Liar & Accuser

First and foremost, he is a liar. Since we’re friends, let me ask you a question, do you ever hear voices? Don’t look at me like I’m crazy. You don’t even know me, don’t judge! Okay, if you knew me you would REALLY think I’m crazy but that’s beside the point. Seriously, do you ever listen to voices? No? Have you ever set a goal for your life and then just decided, whether it is actively or passively, not to pursue it? Why did you do that? Think hard. Why didn’t you pursue a goal that you knew you should? Was it fear? Were you too fearful of the time it would cost you? Were you scared of failing? Were you fearful of what other people would think if you went after it? Maybe you feared that you didn’t have the skill set to accomplish this goal? Perhaps people told you that it was impossible or that you were too old or young?

Look, certainly there are things that you shouldn’t pursue or go after and you should listen to wise counsel. I’m talking about God given goals and burdens that He has put on your heart. Why did you stop passionately pursuing those things? I’ll tell you why, because like me you hear voices. Sorry. Go ahead and find a good counselor.

The fact of the matter is that we hear and listen to internal voices all of the time. Most of the time we dismiss them as thoughts or logic. If you are a believer, at times you are being guided by the Holy Spirit. At other times, even if you are a believer, you are being guided by a different set of voices. The voices that tell you it is only reasonable to give in to fear because it is “practical”. Think about this verse for a second though:

2 Timothy 1:7 For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.”

Sure there is a healthy type of fear. The fear that tells you not to put your hand on the stove, the fear that tells you jumping out of a moving car is stupid and the fear that keeps you from dusting off your parachute pants and wearing them out on a date. All of those are healthy fears along with the fear of God. Boy, I could unpack that last sentence for the rest of this blog but I don’t have time. However, the fear of pursuing a God given goal is not healthy, it is cowardice. Look, I’m guilty just like you are. I’ve been a coward on several different occasions and will probably be a coward again. I think that’s healthy for each of us to admit.   Let’s be honest with ourselves though, if we give in to fear and call it “being practical” we are cowards. I’ll take it a step further then. The voice that you just listened to, the one that led to cowardice is the voice and influence of Satan.

Next time we talk, we’ll discuss other ways that you might be influenced and not even know it.  See ya then.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment