Monday, August 15, 2016

YOU'RE THE WORST! (Just kidding. Friends?)

My first full-time position in ministry was as a youth pastor in Indiana.  It was a great church and a great bunch of people.  Even though I didn't know what I was doing, God came through and accomplished a lot of good stuff.  One regret I have, however, is my handling of a ministry culture issue.  What the heck is that, you say?  A ministry culture is like the spiritual and emotional atmosphere of a group.  After being there for four years we had developed a pretty tight and focused core of students and leaders. The ministry itself had a good and healthy Jesus-centered focus and some good ministry was happening.  But something was wrong.  I could feel it.  Even though things looked OK, the truth was that from the top down something was broken and was poisoning what Jesus wanted to accomplish there.  Worse yet? It was my fault.

What was it?  Hidden sexual sin? Nope. (though I'm sure there was some of that... #TEENS)  Unethical handling of finances? Nope. Then what?  Ready?


Ya, that's right. Sarcasm. "What the what?!" you might say. "How could sarcasm prevent God from moving as He would wish?"  At the core, any group is a community of individuals relating one to another.  For a variety of reasons I used, allowed and encouraged sarcasm in our communication with each other and it came to the point where it actually became cutting and venomous.  We could all say the meanest of things to each other and then afterward add two small words as if it negated the damage we had just caused. "Just Kidding" was the magic words that allowed us to say whatever we wanted.  There was no speaking of life and encouraging one another as a norm.  I opened the door and the kids ran with it. Even though we genuinely loved each other, we had become fools. Proverbs 26:18-19 says

Why am I writing this?  I am concerned about what I see in the church culture today.  The current focus of my concern is the site Babylonbee.  If you are a Facebooker, you have probably seen some of the stories.  Listen, most of the articles are funny and I think it is totally appropriate for us to laugh at ourselves from time to time. Sarcasm in general is also fine and can be a useful tool in communication, but what I see a lot of these days is the mocking sarcasm that is then labeled as "Satire." In other words, mocking and then the proverbial "Just Kidding" tagged on the end. This whole satire thing is out of control.  People use it to malign and mock whoever they disagree with, but it's ok...because it's funny.  I see it from Christians who disagree with other Christians over things like doctrinal points, ministry style, size of a person's church, etc.  It's ugly and it needs to stop. It's a terrible witness and is the antithesis of John 13:35.  James 3:6 warns:

The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

I know. I'm a giant killjoy. But please run your speech through the filter of Scripture; especially the call to maturity in James 3:1-12. Helpful questions:

"Am I building up or tearing down?"
"Is this harmless sarcasm or am I mocking?"
"Am I echoing Jesus or demonic scoffing?"

Scripture (2 Peter 3:3) warns that in the last days there will be mockers and scoffers.  Walk with wisdom in these times. Be different.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Is Pastor Talking About ME?!?!

So maybe you've been in church at various points and as the pastor is preaching all of a sudden they are using an illustration that feels like they are reading your mail to the rest of the church.  "Is he talking about me?!?...Did someone tell him??"  Or maybe even worse, it sounds like he is saying something that you confided in him about previously.  Through the years I have had people come up to me after services with a variety of emotional responses because of this.  To be honest some have been quite angry at me! But what is the truth? *IS* the pastor talking about YOU??  

Before I answer, let me say this:  I always go to church with an open heart and with "ears to hear" as Jesus says in the Gospels.  I hunger to hear His voice and as such when I am listening to another pastor speak I am listening for the Spirit's voice to communicate to me.  I would hope that all of you are placing yourselves in a similar posture to hear and obey.

The answer to the question in about 95% of cases (did you know that 87.56467% of statistics are made up???) is, "No. The pastor is not talking about you" nor is he referring to what you shared with him in private.  Every man and woman of God that I know spends many hours in prayer and preparation before standing behind the pulpit to share what we all hope and pray is God's message to His people in that moment.  That's not to say that different situations and conversations with people don't spark something that will be a driving force behind a Sunday morning message. Keep in mind that the majority of the New Testament, which is God's Word to us today, is actually letters written to specific people about specific situations in their lives or in the church.  Those communications covered everything from disciplining people to commending them and through them God is still speaking to us today. I once had a lady get so offended because I wrote a blog about an issue that she had brought up to me in conversation.  It sparked something in me that I felt needed to be addressed on a larger level to other people. Though I never mentioned that conversation or the person in the blog, she soon left the church. ( #BaitOfSatan )  

The bottom line is that the vast majority of times, it is simply the Holy Spirit talking to you because you have rightly placed yourself in an environment where it is easier than normal for Him to to do so.  And you should not only respond accordingly, but be grateful that He is speaking to you and leading you in your growth. If it happens that the pastor is using your conversation or situation within a sermon because the Lord sparked something within them that He wants spoken to the Whole, then be even more thankful.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Kim Davis and American History

I understand those that disagree with Kim Davis' actions and respect their right to do so. I can happily coexist with those that disagree with me (I am married afterall...) ;)  

My only wish is that those that disagree would at least do so with a proper understanding of the main elements involved in this case that set the framework for her actions: the Bible, the Mayflower Compact and the U.S. Constitution. 

I keep hearing things like: 
"This country was founded on the principle of separation of church and state." No it wasn't, nor was our current interpretation of this principle the original intent.
“In our society, we obey civil laws, not religious ones. To suggest otherwise is, simply put, entirely un-American.” Actually the opposite is true. The very nature of law and our concepts of right and wrong are rooted in Ten Commandments as well as the concept of judgment.
"Christians are called to always submit to the governing authorities...Romans 13, man!!"  As with all passages in the Bible you cannot isolate one from the other.  I could easily point you to Acts 4-5 as well as Christian history in defying Rome, defying the Pope and the Catholic Church and even our own brief American History where men of God and heroes like MLK, Jr. defied laws for the sake of doing what was right.  And don't forget that this nation was forged in the fires of Revolution to throw off an oppressive governing authority in order to form a "more perfect union."

Though Kim may or may not be able to articulate how the Compact and the Constitution influenced her actions, the source material for those documents, the Bible, were what guided her by faith. There is a colossal amount of resources and quotes from Founding Fathers showing how these worked in harmony and were intertwined to forge this nation and guide our path. The modern revisionist and liberal lens through which we look at current events as well as our history is one that is broken and distorted.  Ever since The Bible was removed a growing snowball of implosion has been rolling. 

Only two nations in all of history were founded in covenant with God: Israel and the United States.  We have enjoyed the blessing and favor from that. As a result of those biblically based values we have also been the most generous nation in the world funding disaster relief, missions, food and medical aid, etc. The world has been a better place because the U.S. has been in it. However, we have lost our way and though God has shown incredible patience and grace with us, we must also be prepared to embrace the consequences from breaking that covenant. On the eve of the 14th anniversary of 9/11 and seeing all that has transpired in this nation, perhaps it is time we take a good hard look before it is too late.

(Why keep posting about this?on and here? Glad you asked! Because I really believe this event as well as the catalyst of the SCOTUS decision is a pivotal moment in our country that will lead to our national demise via judgment if we (the Christian Americans) do not pray, speak up, unite, vote, etc.

A few relevant resources: 

Saturday, September 5, 2015

What Does A Hero Look Like?

You know for years I have heard people asking "where is the Church," and "where are the Christians" as they looked at the snowballing effect of what was happening in our country.  Well, here is one that did stand up and the frustrating thing is the response.  Of course the God-haters are up in arms about her actions, but as I have engage this current event online most of the pushback I am getting is coming from the Jesus-followers and the religious crowd (not the same.)  What does a hero look like?  Looks a lot like Kim Davis if you ask me.  

Like most heroes, even biblical ones, she is far from perfect and has made lots of mistakes, but in a moment that counted she made a decision to act and draw a line. Not only that, but she has held to it even though it meant going to jail.  However, the comments that I am getting from those who should be supporting her are all about how she did it wrong.  Much time and words has been spent telling how she should have done something different.  "Keep your head down!" "Just blend in!" "Don't like it, just quit!" She has been called self-righteous, selfish, hypocrite, bigot, ignorant, etc.  She has been accused of grandstanding, abusing her power, having a double-standard.  I have seen colleagues that I love and respect trying to deflate her important act of civil disobedience by creating false parallels and splitting theological hairs.  

I've seen well-meaning Christians dismiss Kim Davis' actions as unimportant because of the terrible persecution that is happening to other Christians around the world, particularly in the Middle East. To dismiss the lesser or "soft" persecution of what we are increasingly experiencing here in this country just because it is worse somewhere else, does nothing to address the problems here...which will only grow and get worse if not dealt with now.

I've heard many Christians talking about "Separation of Church and State" as if it were a biblical principle or part of the Apostle's Creed instead of what it actually is: a principle written in a letter by Thomas Jefferson meant to assure people of the Church that the state would not interfere or establish a national church.  People keep trying to judge current events by each new normal that hits us...Problem is, everything is broken.  It is wisdom to turn back to when things were working and make that the guiding principle.  In the Bible that is known as repentance. 

I've heard Christians talking about Romans 13 and the principle (and command) to submit  to governing authorities, however you cannot isolate one part of Scripture from the rest. Acts 4 & 5 clearly present the principle of defying authority if it conflicts with God's.  I see many other cases throughout Scripture such as Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego who defied a government placed over them by God and refused a command that would have caused them to deny their faith.

All the voices of those who should be supporting this dear lady are instead saying that she should just quit.  That she is immature in her faith and has erred.  But none of them...NONE, have made a stance for their faith that has cost them their freedom. Sitting there like the 11 still in the boat watching & criticizing Peter as he gets out and walks on the water. 

So, where is the Church? Where are the Christians? Right here. And if we don't have more like her and soon, the rights and freedoms that we have enjoyed in this country are going to disappear.  

(For those who would like to Send cards of encouragement to Kim you can do so by sending them to Kim B Davis c/o Carter County Detention Center 13 Crossbar Road Grayson Kentucky 41143)

(I speak as a Christian American.  My primary citizenship is in Heaven and whatever happens to this country I am secure in my future with Christ. However, I am also a citizen of this country that I love and am engaged with my vote, with my biblical worldview and with my freedom of speech)

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Prophetic youth sermon from ten years ago

This was a devo/sermon that I gave when I was a Youth Pastor (Forerunner!) to a Lutheran High School over TEN YEARS ago at their chapel service...guess it was prophetic (and Politically Correct as always...) 

Culture Wars! 
Revenge of the Sissies 

Saw Star Wars recently. It was such a good movie. Got to see Anakin freak out, and go Sithy on everybody…I only wish that JarJar would have been one of the victims! 

Your education by nature is a preparative thing. It is constantly focusing you on your future. This is right and it should be that way…but one of the drawbacks can be that you tend to view your life as something that “will be” instead of “is.” 

Don’t settle into a wait and see. 
Your life becomes a “wait and see” thing. 

We cannot afford for you to wait and see. We need you now. We need you now young Davids and Deborahs. Just imagine if David had waited to see what his life was going to be. Imagine if he viewed life as a wait and see prospect. He wouldn’t have killed the lion. He wouldn’t have killed the bear…and as a result he wouldn’t have been ready to step up and kill the giant. 

1 Samuel 17:34-37 (NKJV) "But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep his father’s sheep, and when a lion or a bear came and took a lamb out of the flock, I went out after it and struck it, and delivered the lamb from its mouth; and when it arose against me, I caught it by its beard, and struck and killed it. Your servant has killed both lion and bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, seeing he has defied the armies of the living God.” Moreover David said, “The Lord, who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” And Saul said to David, “Go, and the Lord be with you!”" 

Right now there are culture wars going on around you. You may not be too aware of them, but you will be as you live determined to honor Christ in this life. Your faith and values are assaulted everyday, every time you turn the tv on. Every time you listen to the radio, or download songs. Some things will be as intimidating as giants to you. 

You will have people taking a stand against you, telling you that you are not to take a stand. 

You will have people tell you that the only absolute truth is that there is no absolute truth. 

You will have people assaulting you, telling you that you are cruel and intolerant because you live your life by standards. 

It’s a mess! And it is easy to live intimidated by these giants and turn into one of the sissies that refuse to govern themselves with honor and live according to the standards and principles found in the Word of God. They will tempt you to live with your knees knocking in fear like everyone else, and start saying things like “well that’s just my truth…” “everything is relative” 

What to do? Move to some remote mountaintop and eat bugs and mushrooms? Lock yourself in a church and plug your ears like much of the church today? I say the best defense is a good offense. Doesn’t mean try and be “offensive,” but it does mean live in the power and blessings that God provides us. Live with purpose. Live with peace. Live out loud and make a difference around you. God is recruiting champions, and he is looking squarely at you! 

There will be rough times ahead. Not going to deceive you. Learn to cherish them…those times are the Forge of Champions. 

Revenge of the Sith was kind of a dark movie. Saw people walk out all bummed and some even crying at points. Life will be like that. It will seem like the Hand of God has left you, hope will seem a distant memory. But do you know that just like with this last star wars movie…I know how it all ends. You see I saw the other movies…I know Anakin gets “saved” (if I can use that term), I know Luke and Laura go through some trials, but they emerge strong and victorious. 

Do you know I’ve read the end of this book too! I know how thing turn out for those that hold on, and persevere. I know the King is coming back. I know that in this life God’s hand of favor rests on those He calls His own. I know that when they do go through tough times and trials that it isn’t meaningless, it isn’t empty, we’re not alone! I know that there is destiny on God’s kids, we can live like champions, and one day at the finish line…we get the Grand Prize!

Monday, August 17, 2015


All of us have a public face. It's our best face. It's the face that we want to be judged by since that is the one we use for good deeds, religious activity, facebook, etc. We even start to judge ourselves by that face compared to other people's.  We think we are "pretty good."  But there's a problem.  That's not our true selves...our true face. Our true face is the one that keeps popping out at inopportune times. It's the one that needs healing and is often ignored in fantasy or medicated into silence. Our true face is the one that is a broken sinful mess and is longing for acceptance. Our true face also happens to be the only face that God will deal with.  He doesn't engage our veneers. He doesn't engage who we wish we were, but rather who we really are. He says "there's the real you...the one that I love and want." 
"But the cost...," we say as we think of our mess and cling to our security blankets (idols) of entertainment, unhealthy relationships and the rat race to get more stuff. He acknowledges our mess and points to the cross. And then it is decision time...again.  Will we shrink back into the darkness or will we finally embrace His gift through faith and turn away from everything that has failed us so many times? For those who choose life and freedom, all of a sudden our true face becomes our best face because we are whole, loved and redeemed. 

"Then Jesus spoke out again, 'I am the light of the world. The one who follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.'"

Friday, June 26, 2015

SCOTUS, POTUS & the Gay Marriage Decision

President Obama in his comments about the SCOTUS decision today announced that "justice has arrived like a thunderbolt"  It is significant that Baraq in Hebrew means "lightening". (Though I disagree with the video maker's initial conclusion click here to watch a video of the meaning of his name)

For close to a decade Christians and the majority of the people of this country have voiced their dissent of gay marriage with votes on the state level.  Over the years the federal courts have slowly and steadily taken away the voice of the people by overturning rightly elected constitutional amendments and referendums. All the while as the decisions were made the new kept reporting how "gay marriage is now legal in ____" They would also report how opinion polls were shifting in support when I really think it was the people giving up the fight since they felt powerless because their voice had already been stripped away...opinions without the power of vote are powerless to affect change.  Today POTUS succeeded in his agenda to legalize gay marriage in this country.  You say SCOTUS is the one who handed down the decision, but with POTUS' obvious bias throughout the years and his nomination of two Justices to the court, do you really think that he didn't have that conversation with them before nominating.  

So now gay marriage is the law of the land, what do we do with that as Bible-believing Christians?
A few thoughts in 2 different areas:

1.  We continue to offer a reasoned respectful voice in the marketplace of ideas as to what the Gospel is and what God's Word says. 
2.  We continue to show (true) love and kindness to all people, including those who self-identify as homosexuals or any one of a number of different possibilities currently.  
3.  We continue to pray and vote according to a biblical worldview
4.  Continue to teach and show your children what God's plan is for a family and how He reveals His nature through His design (as well as grace and forgiveness when we come to Him when we blow it) 
5.  Study God's Word so that we can not only know and love God more, but also be able to give a reasoned defense of the faith which will likely come under greater attack

We must prepare for what is likely coming.  This decision is unlike others in the past.  Another horrible reality that is the law of the land is the right to kill unborn babies.  However, doctors have the right to not perform abortions due to conscientious objections.  As we have seen in the past several years the gay agenda isn't just about the "right to marry," rather it is a well-funded, well-documented agenda to force acceptance and approval of gay (in all its forms) practices as normal, healthy and right.  Right now in CA and soon in VA children are being taught in preschools and elementaries about "gender fluidity" and "gender spectrum" with the inability of parents being able to opt out their children.  What this continued agenda likely means for the church is that you will have gay couples setting pastors up for lawsuits upon being told by the pastor that they will not perform a wedding for two homosexuals.  It is very likely that it will mean the end of tax exempt status for churches which result in many churches closing.  It is also very possible to see pastors fined and even jailed for their refusal according to broadening definitions of "hate" crimes.