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No turning back!

  Today marks 30 years of walking with Jesus. May marks 15 years pastoral ministry. It is hard to fathom. Half of my saved life is invested in leading Christ’s church.

We hear tons of news of pastoral hurt (Some unwarranted according to Ed Stetzer.) We hear of only 1 in 10 pastors making it to the finish line, of 80% of 20’s walking away from church, etc. And too often, we hear of church implosions. Questions of why bother and does Christianity work come to mind. Here are some key points to why bother and why it works:

  • Jesus died for you. 
  • Jesus rose from the dead. 
  • Jesus gave us a helper, the Spirit. 
  • Jesus goes to God the Father on our behalf. 
  • Jesus forgives our brokenness that he knew before the foundation of the world, before he came on Christmas Day and before he died. 
  • Jesus gave us a happy dysfunctional family known as the church that he will one day make perfect. 
  • Jesus said he would be back and we would forever be with him. 

There’s a theme. I see only two common characteristics of those engage with church despite past hurts. 

  1. They know it’s all about Jesus. 
  2. They don’t look back. 

Knowing what I know now, I’d make the same choice I made 30 years ago and endeavored 15 years ago. Jesus rising from the dead to save people like you and I is that amazing.

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Why I believe in Santa and not to is dumb. 

  
I debated writing this as it’s no doubt controversial, but seeing some weigh in on Santa and avoiding The Clause, I must quote Charile Brown: Good grief. So, for the Scrooges who want to Grinch my Good boy from the north (Pole, not UP for my Michigan friends), here are top reasons I believe in Santa:

1) When I was a child I thought as a child. Boom. Let kids be kids and relish fantasy land. They’ll spend the rest of their lives dealing with the problem of evil in relation to he Gospel.

2) Fantasy stories lead to real stories. St. Nick was a real dude who showed chivalry to children and beat down heretics. Love kids, beat Satan. That’ll preach. 

3) imagination teaches what teaching cannot teach. Ultimately imagination turns into problem solving. Play turns into careers. Fantasy turns into hopefulness. When their ready to drop Santa they’re ready to take on some challenging concepts. Oh, and they’ll do Santa still because it’s about the fun & love of family. 

4) I believe in consistency. If you want to pull off a drive by on the big man, please inform me on: avoiding Star Wars, Disney, Left Behind Movies (I’m a Dispy, but still), and anything resembling a talking animal (Eve missed that point) or talking veggie’s. Same league as Santa. Kids act them out. I’ve done the VBS thing. Let’s get real, we do fantasy all the time teaching Jesus. 

5) I value work, even on the holidays. Elves do a great job. (Elf is annoying. Seriously, a rocket engine? For sure Santa could have something cool like a warp engine that’s powered by elvish spirit. I digress.) Churh is work not play. It’s not a club or a commodity. God made us to work, not rest & retire. There is purpose and value to serve others. 

6) I dig ministry. Set-a-part-one(that’s what Saint means) Nicholas devotes his life to blessing and serving others. Granted he’s the big man for about 30 days, then he’s at work the other 335 days. Devotion to serving others is a noble task. Noble tasks tend to bring on larger than life characters. Should we not do great things because they might become… SANTA?

7) I think we shouldn’t take ourselves too seriously. Play with your kids. Cherish the smiles, play, fantasy and cheer. Later in life you’ll have to teach them the harder lessons of dealing with heretics. So, don’t be dumb and do the Santa thing. It’s no different than sipping air tea from an empty plastic cup or answering the play phone handed you. 

The bottom line: I believe in Santa. I think avoiding Santa is dumb. I believe in childhood. I think avoiding fantasy is dumb. I believe Jesus would pop on a Santa hat. After all, he did let kids hop on his lap. Jesus is Santa’s hero.

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Hero or villain of Kentucky?

Kim Davis enters quite a few conversations or questions lately. Is she a hero? Some say yes. Is she a villain? Some say yes. Of course the question then arises: which do I think? Perhaps I don’t know is he best answer. Here’s what I mean:

We’re lawless
She is not the first government official to thwart the law. She’s just the first we’ve seen held accountable. Here are numerous cases of government officials thwarting the law. Either we’re a nation of laws or a nation run by people. The later is tyrannical, and it is what we have.

We’re clueless
Too many events that made national news come out with less than all the facts. It seems this case fits that pattern. After initial viewpoints and uproars, more of the facts came out that make people look foolish. Sadly our pride prevents us from admitting errors, so the original narrative sticks. This is a sad pattern, regardless of political viewpoint on any issue. We could all use a study on slander from the Bible.

We’re ignorant
The incident also points to a gaping problem: we the people are truly ignorant of how our government works. The president is not a king. The Supreme Court is not he final arbiter of the land. We are. There are checks and balances because each branch can be in error. The system was also set up so divisive issues get settled legislatively and preferably by states. Because of our ignorance, government became something it should not be.

We’re hated 
They killed Jesus. They killed Paul. Christians are the most persecuted minority in the world. So, to my Christian friends: Yes, Jesus was known as a friend of sinners. They also yelled crucify him. His very own scattered and left. Peter denied him three times- and he was warned about it! If they hated Jesus, they’ll hate us too. It is possible this is our “Shadrach” moment. The incident does not fit yes hero or villain mold.

The bottom line:
I don’t know if Kim is a hero or a villain. I don’t know if she acted foolishly or wisely. I don’t know if she is a Pharisee or being faithful. Here is what I do know: her actions are revealing more about us then about her. We- you and I- have some serious logs we need to remove from our own eyes before we can answer the hero or villain question, if that is even the right question to ask. So my take: I don’t know, but I do know we need to look in the mirror more.

Life & Learning

Do kids really matter?

12000854_10207475688481539_6145221748530090797_oIt may seem odd to raise this question, but it’s one I think needs to be raised. We often say “Of course kids matter!” Though I wonder if our actions line up with that. For my boyz, today is the first day of school. With the coming of the first day of school I see many parent’s excited that the kids are gone, others who don’t care, and a minority who prefer our kids at home, but are not able to do that. The first day leaves me with an uneasy feeling.

Kids aren’t pets
Throughout my years working with kids I see a sad and growing trend. If a kid is not causing trouble or being too annoying, they’re essentially left alone. Kids aren’t pets. They take work. Painstaking, drive you up the wall at times, work. As parents we are either intentionally engaged or we’re in trouble and don’t know it. I honestly think it is that clear of a binary. Kids need us to be intentionally engaged in their lives. Too often we as parents approach teachers as a hairdresser for our poodle who can do no wrong. Let us be honest, your kids nor mine are perfect.

Teachers aren’t parents
A teacher’s job is to educate our kids. Our job is to parent them. In the realm of education I see two frustrated groups: parents and teachers. What I find interesting is how much agreement there often is on the frustrations, yet they exist. Both are frustrated with the system. One party has the power to change it. That’s right, we as parents. We expect things of teachers that kids really need from us as parents, and we often question a teachers ability, when they actually agree with us on things. Teachers are professionals and they’re good and bad teachers. Growing are tapped out and apathetic teachers because…

Politicians aren’t teachers
The goal of education is the reach in retrospect the goalposts constantly changing before them. Honestly, sometimes our kids getting an education is by chance of a skilled teacher educating despite the system. We’re all affright about the status of education, and so politicians jump in to regulate. Here is an idea: why not let teachers do the job they’re trained for? Politicians are not trained educators. We would think it crazy for state legislatures to dictate how a football team should operate and play the game. Yet, we do that with teachers all the time. Why?

Empty chairs aren’t helpful
There are too many empty chairs that should be occupied by parents. Sadly, the parents who often show up are not always the ones who need to. Showing up matters. If more of us parents were informed about how things work, things would be different and better for our kids. This would make it better for teachers. We’d likelier be on the same team. Teachers may even start enjoying the job that they love again. I too often see and hear about empty chairs at parent meetings,teacher conferences, workshops, etc.

The bottom line:
Parents, we are the key. This year and the coming election cycle, can we change the discussion on education? If kids really do matter, then let us ask our politicians, ESPECIALLY state legislators, how they can get out of teacher’s way and let them do their job. If kids really do matter, let us fill those empty chairs and realize teachers are neighbors with us and not a commodity for us. We say kids really matter, then let us act on it. After all, we can.

Life & Learning, The Church, The Gospel, Theo...

The opposite of freedom is tyranny

IMG_2306I’ve had many conversations with believers who hold socialistic views from a seemingly biblical standpoint. While the marriage of church and state is disaster, it is essential for both to be in the public square. The marriage of church and state is disaster, yet too many vouch for that idea. Secularism/socialism is also disaster. What is a biblical solution to this seeming paradox? Freedom! Freedom is a consistent theme throughout Scripture. Ultimately, tyranny is the absence of God whereby humanity rejects God and is unable to govern itself. Socialism has the appearance of justice, but in the end it is anything but just.

Socialism is government codified legalism
Are you for or against legalism? The answer is obvious, a whole book of the Bible decries the false gospel of legalism. Why then, if for freedom’s sake Christ set us free, would we yield to a governmental structure that is legalistic? The common thread I am hearing from “christian socialists” is not congruent with biblical thought. This is often couched in the “tax the rich” or “universal healthcare” discussions. For, those with more should help those with less. Such is a true biblical principle, but not when mandated. Forced outward conformity does not produce inward change. Besides, there are selfish socialists too. Further, people can covet power as much as money.

Socialism is stealing not generosity
“Tax the wealthy to lower interest rates for college students.” If one were to take money from a wealthy person to pay for a nobel thing such as education, one would be in jail for stealing. The money was not theirs. If one could get the government to tax that money away, which is still not theirs, such is considered ‘noble.’ This coercion may give the appearance of generosity, but lacks the heart change God is concerned with. It is forcibly taking one’s private property and giving it to another. The justice of this is questionable at best.

Self interest is not selfishness
The problem with “christian socialism” is the merging of self-interest with selfishness. The acquisition of wealth to leave an inheritance is wise. Being stingy and lacking generosity is unwise, especially concerning the poor, as one is to love their neighbor. If by coercion we take what is not ours via the government, how then does a person have the resources they desire to help their neighbor, friends, and family? When you or I are forced by coercion our compassion decreases, not increase.

Ponder this…
Write down a couple of people or families you wish you do more to help. With that in mind, about 40-50+% of our money earned goes to taxes. Moving more towards socialism means more will need to be taken from you. Pretend you’re rich, and in the name of justice the government takes more of your revenue, inhibiting your ability to help your neighbor. By having less of your money, you’re ability to build a business to employ others is diminished. Ask this question: How do African-American families, who have been gravely wronged from past sins of our country, build up generational wealth? It is in the self interest of our families to build wealth and security. It is also in our self-interest to be generous with our wealth to those in needs. Socialism inhibits both.

The Big 10
The Bible teaches private property. Do not steal, and do not covet make little sense without such. People have equal dignity or do not murder, the Sabbath, and not bearing false witness makes little sense. God will judge, or the first couple commandments make no sense. In his judgments both nations and people are included. The core is actions based on an inward belief system. If we become a “christian socialist” nation, does our outward performance match the nation’s heart or will our nation be judged for taking that which was not ours? Will we be judged for ruling as the gentles do?

Acts and all things in common…
Acts describes sacrificial generosity, not socialism. The church started with nothing and holding to “the way” was socially unacceptable. The radical sacrifice from a changed heart, not governance, allowed the church to be established. Because of this Gospel a greater concern- people’s salvation- was at heart. Now whether a prisoner, slave, workman, employer or rich, the issue was mutual respect under the equality of the Gospel AND to use one’s station in life as a platform to share the Gospel.

The Gospel is shrewd
In the Gospel and becoming more like Jesus, the issue of slaves submitting to their masters and teaching on contentment is not an endorsement on slavery to the neglect of freedom. It is a keen shrewdness centered on heart change. Submission to government is not a blind thing, but rather a shrewdness of “overcoming evil with good.” Why? Ultimately the Gospel is the truest source of freedom. And the promotion of that freedom doesn’t come from claiming rights, but rather in loving submission. Not blindly, but with wisdom and shrewd living. In the Gospel we have freedom. In that freedom we willingly set aside rights and property to spread the Gospel. Not by compulsion, but as free people.

The bottom line:
Freedom is an efficient mess and tyranny is inefficient graveyard. Only God can rule justly, and given our fallen state, only freedom can pragmatically counterbalance our propensity to tyranny. Socialism, as a Christian choice for governance, is essentially codified legalism. It may give the outward appearance of justice, but it fails the heart. The inefficient reality of socialism will ultimately lead grave injustice. In the name of justice, socialism will erode our ability to love our neighbor, and act in the self-interest of our family and friends. Let’s be a voice for freedom.

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Is “3% of Planned Parenthood” a big deal?

Based on reading comments defending Planned Parenthood I guess…

Nazi Germany was compassionate because, in their view, they were doing a service to the world.

Nazi Germany did great good by advancing medicine, because after all they undesirables were going to be killed off anyway.

Nazi Germany was an ok regime. After all, we shouldn’t judge.

Nazi Germany should choose what they do with those in their own country, so the slaughtering of one ethnicity is their choice and we should be fine with that.

Nazi Germany’s choice doesn’t effect us, so why should we care?

Nazi Germany was correct that no one wanted the Jews and other undesirables, so getting rid of them is ok. After all, the chance of them having a good life is poor and we should worry about those who we can help here and now.

Nazi Germany slaughtering people was the law of the land, so it is settled. People should get with the program and stop arguing against it.

Nazi Germany was correct by doing the above based off of science and what’s best for society and not some “ancient religious creed.”

The bottom line: Abortion is our holocaust. Yes, the 3% is a big deal.

Theo...

Secularism and the problem of humanity

DSC_0057I am not surprised. The news that broke this week about Planned Parenthood is a natural outgrowth of secular thought. Just as superiority of a certain ethnicity is an outgrowth of evolutionary thought. Treating aborted babies as a cash crop is consistent. Stating the alternative of just throwing ‘it’ away a dry juxtaposition on an empty system. We must realize that secularism is not morally neutral.

Religion as a whole has its problems. Though by religion in North America people usually mean Christianity. After all, the voice of the church was not loud when slavery was around, though there were Christians and churches that decried the barbarism. The ills of the past are often thrown in Christianity’s face. Such misses the point of Christianity, but that is for another day. In reality the problem is not religion specific, but of the marriage of church and state that is the issue. What is often decried as “church” was really “state” in past history.

That is the past, let us focus on recent history. In the 20th century secularism took on greater vigor. As evolutionary thought exploded and theologically conservative Christians (unwisely) abandoned centers of cultural influence, secularism blossomed with greater speed. Along with the explosion of secularism was the political movement of socialism/communism/fascism. Society formed a spectrum of tolerance whereby religion was either forbidden, ‘tolerated to a point,’ or said to only be placed in one’s private life, not the public square. The premise of this form of thought is fairness, justice, and what is best for society as a whole. Humanity paid a price.

Racism now had scientific backing, not just a mere political/colonialism one. In the name of the greater good and the shelving to outright forbidding religion the human soul was lost. Religion was no longer to “force” it’s views on morality, though morals were being forced on everyone through secular society: Conform or be labeled and destroyed. In this seemingly progressive period of history, racism fell out of favor, though the strongest supporters of secularism and racism still had cards to play: government and “best for society.”

The slavery of the confederacy was outlawed, and the KKK type things were formed. These too slowly fell out of favor, but eugenics and then the abortion issue came into vogue as KKK types lost favor. Social safety nets also formed under the nobility of the “war on poverty.” Going against the wisdom or the effectiveness of such social help programs is to be going against the poor. Going against abortion is to be on the wrong side of the war on women. Standing for morality based on a religious premise is to be like the racists of the past, except such people are not.

In the United States, slavery, the Confederacy, the KKK, Socialism, Secularism, and Planned Parenthood have one common ancestor. Globally secular and evolutionary thought pays a common price. In recent history secularism slaughtered millions. In the name of the common good or even choice a terrible price was paid: people can be less than human. And when people are less then human, discarding such lesser beings is consistent both scientifically or for the common good. Harvesting human body parts from abortions instead of dumping them in the trash is not unreasonable. The wretchedness of such a juxtaposition is lost upon secularism. Gone (maybe, doubtfully) is the racism, but the pillar of racism isn’t: that a group of people can be less than human.

Secularism is not the answer, for in it we have more people slaughtered than any event in history of mankind, minus the flood. If avoiding religion brings the slaughter of millions, and the abuse of religion brought on its own tragedies, what then is the solution? For humanity could not live up to the ideals of religion, nor could humanity live up to its own ideals in secularism. Racism is bad, that is nearly universal now, but abortion kills more African Americans than any other type of death, bar none. Our social safety nets have destroyed families and heaped upon us the problem of absent fathers. Fatherless homes have a massive impact on crime, mental health, the economy, and education. We now live in the mess created in large measure by secularism. What, then, is the solution?

The misunderstanding of Christianity is that the church is perfect. The church is not perfect, but it is about being perfected by the only one who can change us. The good news, known as the Gospel, is that Jesus showed us a better way to solve problems: Loving sacrifice. Jesus demonstrated this by dying on a cross, though he is innocent, for our sins, though we are guilty. The concept of freedom comes from God and specifically the person of Jesus. For freedom’s sake Christ set us free. Government or secularism cannot solve humanities ills, nor can religion.

Can there be good and nobel secularists? Yes. But, there cannot be a good and noble secular society. Secularism is not morally neutral and has it’s own sins to atone for. But justice and the good of society cannot come at the price of our humanity. We bear the image of God. All people of all ethnicities do. If this were not true, than why did Jesus say go into all the world and preach the Gospel? The greatest mark of equality is not by law, but by Jesus. The only answer for religion and secularism’s ills is the forgiveness that Jesus already provided. There is no other way to balance the scales of justice. Humanity’s sin is too great.