Living the Love of Christ (Even When Gay Marriage is Legal)

In light of the SCOTUS ruling Friday legalizing gay marriage in all 50 states, I found myself having to explain something to my young children that I hadn’t planned on explaining yet. It’s probably not what you think. It had nothing to do with marriage or homosexuality. What I had to explain was my own frustrated comment that “some Christians are idiots.” Of course, you know it is true and I know it is true, but I had planned on letting my children continue for a while in their innocent assumption that all who claim to be Christians actually love Jesus and love other people.

Instead, mostly because of my own frustration, I had to explain that there are Christians who are being mean to other people simply because they didn’t get what they wanted. There are Christians who are saying ridiculous things simply because things didn’t go their way. As I explained this, we were able to talk about how important it is to behave properly no matter what happens.

To be honest with you, this is where my greatest concern lies at this moment in time. I know that there are godly men and women who feel it is their burden to be active in the political arena, but that’s not me. My burden is with the church and the fact that regardless of what is happening in society, culture, government or anywhere else, we the church have the responsibility to live the love of Christ. With this in mind, allow me to share some scattered thoughts that I believe need to be understood by the Christian community as a whole.

  • Not all who claim to be Christian actually have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. As a result, much is done in the name of Christ that is not Christian at all.
  • Being a Christian is not about what you are against. Opposing gay marriage or homosexuality or any other sin does not make someone a Christian. I believe that the Bible teaches that any sexual conduct outside of the confines of marriage between a man and a woman is sin. However, I also believe that many who oppose gay marriage, homosexuality and the LGBT agenda are simply bigots and not Christian at all. Being a Christian is about following Christ. This means having faith in Him and treating others as He would treat them.
  • Contrary to popular opinion, we do not have to “take a stand” against every political or social decision that allows or legalizes sin. Biblically, we should take a stand when we are personally being asked or forced to sin. Paul and Silas would not quit preaching the gospel, but they did go to jail quietly and without resisting because that is the government’s right. They did not, however, try to change the laws to make it legal for them to preach the gospel. We should not be attempting to legislate righteousness onto an unbelieving culture, because even if we are successful, we create hypocrites and not Christians. This would be entirely selfish because it says that we value our personal comfort more than their souls.
  • The Christian’s greatest desire in regard to the unsaved world should be to see them saved. We were not called to change the conduct of the unbelieving world to make it more comfortable for us. We have been called to share Christ regardless of the circumstances. The primary sin that Jesus and Paul dealt with in regard to the unbelieving world they lived in was unbelief. Once someone believes in Christ, than we can begin to help them address all manner of sins in their life.
  • There are no biblical exceptions given for godly conduct. A true Christian is kind and loving and respectful at all times, not just when they are agreed with. The Bible doesn’t say “be kind unless they are mean” or “show love unless they are a homosexual.” I am tired of so-called Christians using Biblical truth as an excuse to be mean, nasty, jerks.  As a Christian, you should show love, mercy and grace toward all, even and especially toward those who believe and act differently than you.

Though these scattered thoughts don’t even come close to exhausting the issue, I trust that they reflect my heart’s desire to see genuine Christians live the light of God’s love in a world dark with sin. As these principles relate to yesterday’s SCOTUS decision specifically, let me say two final things. First, our attitude and actions toward the unbelieving LGBT community should reveal a greater desire to see them come to Christ than to change their lifestyle. Second, our attitude and actions toward Christians who struggle with homosexuality should be to lovingly, graciously and continually point them to the victory over all sin that is available only through Christ. In all things, I pray that we overflow with God’s love toward all mankind.

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Sunday Supper June 22, 2015

 In a feature reminiscent of my childhood in which Sunday supper consisted of a smorgasbord of leftovers and a random assortment of other foods, I bring you an assortment of random items of interest from the past week.

“The Scriptures speak of how the people of God must view sin. Sin is a terrible evil. It woos, it traps, it kisses, and then it kills. Sin whispers that it’s a friend till in the end it slaughters with a death-blow. But the Bible provides the truth that God’s people must heed to mortify sin and to guard from patterns of evil.” – Don’t Return to the Vomit!

Organized Sports on Sundays? – a timely question with a thoughtful answer. Here’s a sample: “Giving up worship for sports is not an option for Christians. In fact, to miss worship because of sports is positively wicked. Your children will not likely be converted on the field or on the court or on the diamond. In God’s house, with God’s people, they are in the most important place for their never-dying souls. They are in the place that shapes their living for the week, week after week, year after year, decade after decade.”

“From thinking highly of myself, it’s only a short jump to thinking and speaking lowly of others. Of course I sin occasionally, but where do all these other people get off being so selfish and lazy and immature?” – Are You Too Focused on Other People’s Flaws?

How Email Became the Most Reviled Communication Experience Ever – interesting look at the history of, our issues with and psychological connection to email. [some inappropriate language]

“Technology is a means through which we can carry out the very purpose for which God created us.” – So You Got Your First Smartphone. Great thoughts on Christians and technology – certainly not just for newbies.

“Time is the currency with which I purchase the right to say, ‘My son, my daughter, give me your heart.’” – 4 Ways to Reach a Child’s Heart

 

Enjoy this random collection of stuff and be sure to let me know what you’ve been reading or watching that is interesting, enjoyable or helpful.

Just Like Dad

Recently, I did or said something (can’t remember what, exactly) that stopped me in my tracks. My wife looked at me as I started laughing and I said, “Oh man, I am so my Dad.” This happens more and more often lately as I find myself doing and saying things that I remember him doing or saying in similar situations.

Truthfully, this doesn’t bother me at all. I have been blessed with a dad who is a tremendous man of God, wise teacher, and incredible example of what it is to be a pastor, husband and father. I have learned so much from him, but in honor of Father’s Day I thought I’d share some of the more humorous bits of wisdom I’ve picked up from my Dad.

  • Dad taught me that there is no childhood injury that cannot be fixed by offering to amputate.
  • Dad taught me to acquire a taste for foods and drinks that my kids don’t like.
  • Dad taught me to not get angry, but to just drive faster.
  • Dad taught me that communists don’t like watermelon.
  • Dad taught me that anything I don’t want my kids to do just so happens to be pagan.
  • Dad taught me that if you can laugh at your own jokes, there’s no need for them to be funny.

More importantly than any of these, Dad taught me to love God and His Word, to make family a priority, to work hard and to live a life that is pleasing to the Lord. I am grateful today for a dad that cared enough to not only model these things, but to cultivate them in his children. To my dad, my brothers and to all you men out there sacrificing for your families, I say Happy Father’s Day!

Communicating God’s Character

In his book The Knowledge of the Holy, A.W. Tozer asserts that “the most revealing thing about the church is her idea of God… She can never escape the self-disclosure of her witness concerning God.” As I considered this statement recently, I thought of Jesus’ declaration that “What you say flows from what is in your heart (Luke 6:45).” It is clear that we do and say the things we do because they are in our heart. The flip side of this statement is that these words and actions reveal the reality of what is in our heart.

This progression of thought makes its way back to Tozer in that the best medium for the church to communicate its beliefs about God is actions. After all, we know that “actions speak louder than words.” All of this begs an important question: Based on our behavior toward them, does the unbelieving world get the right message about God?

We’ve all likely heard of Westboro Baptist Church and their hate-filled protests that proclaim “God hates [gays],” “God hates America,” “God hates Jews,” and God hates pretty much everything. While most Christians recognize the hypocrisy of this and are revolted by their hatred, these extreme examples are not the only way to misrepresent God’s character to a fallen world. Each of us can do this in our own daily lives as we interact with the lost around us. With that said, we also have a tremendous opportunity to accurately portray our great God in those same daily situations. We need to consider what our actions – particularly our responses to social issues – are saying about God and make adjustments as necessary. Here are some questions to help in this endeavor: Do my words and actions…

  • Present God as holy and just? Though unpopular, we must speak truthfully about sin. God hates sin and it violates His very nature.
  • Present God as the standard for righteousness? In condemning sin, I must lead people to God not merely to my own opinion.
  • Present God as forgiving? While it is true that God cannot tolerate sin, it is equally true that He provided a solution to our sin problem. I fail the unbelieving world every time I condemn their sin without offering them Christ as the means to forgiveness.
  • Present God as loving? God loved us while we were yet sinners, not after we quit being sinners. I’m afraid that what the church most often communicates is that God will love you only once you think, look, believe and act like us. That’s garbage!
  • Present God as welcoming? We must never forget that God “wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth (1Tim 2:4).” Make sure that what you say and do is always an invitation to Jesus and not a roadblock to Him.

What do you think? Are the public actions of the Christian church a fair representation of God’s character? Are there other aspects of God’s character we should communicate through our actions and words?

Sunday Supper June 14, 2015

 In a feature reminiscent of my childhood in which Sunday supper consisted of a smorgasbord of leftovers and a random assortment of other foods, I bring you an assortment of random items of interest from the past week.

“Life is full of difficult circumstances. Life inevitably involves circumstances that we would never have chosen on our own. Yet, the Bible assures, God does not work his grace in his people despite circumstances, but right through the middle of them.” –Every Test and Every Temptation

Here is a very practical list of 15 Ways to Improve Your Preaching or Teaching.

“God’s providence is the single greatest hindrance to the floods of sin that would otherwise gush out of our sinful hearts. If it were not for God’s care and preservation, even we Christians would be far more sinful than we dare imagine.” – When God Interferes With Our Plans

Staring at Dementia, Fighting for Joy is a touching, personal and very God-centered look at dealing with family affected by dementia.

Ron Edmondson provides a practical list of 16 Often Unknown Roles of a Pastor.

3 Things Really Great Churches Do on Social Media provides some guidance for those churches who want to have a social media presence.

Some thoughts on Christian fasting – “How Should Christians Fast?”

Enjoy this random collection of stuff and be sure to let me know what you’ve been reading or watching that is interesting, enjoyable or helpful.

Lasagna Forever

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In church this Sunday, our pastor delivered a great message about the need for change (You can listen to it here or watch “A New Recipe” here.) His sermon challenged us to view change as positive and to embrace the changes God has for us. It also brought to mind a recent personal experience that proves his point well. As all good stories should, this one involves lasagna.

I love lasagna! It’s my favorite food. Last week, as we were moving into our new house, someone brought us some wonderful lasagna for dinner. It was amazing! I had an extra helping for dinner and even had some more for breakfast the next day. It was so good that for a couple of days, I had some of that incredible lasagna at least once (sometimes twice) a day. By the 4th day – though it was just as good – I decided I had to have something different for breakfast. I loved the lasagna, but needed a change.

Change is a normal, natural and even necessary part of life. Most of us realize that when it comes to simple things like eating, we need to change it up from meal to meal. However, when it comes to significant areas of life, we are often unwilling to make necessary changes. Maybe we are just too comfortable with things the way they are. Maybe we are fearful of what impact change might have. Maybe we are too prideful to admit that things should change. Maybe we’re just plain lazy and don’t want to put in the work to make changes. Whatever the case may be, it is important to remember that if we do not change we will eventually be in opposition to God.

Change is God’s method for growth and blessing. When we resist changes that God wants us to make, than we are resisting God himself. His Word is filled with commands to grow, build, increase and other such directives that are filled with connotations of change. To have a life that is pleasing to Him, we must be willing to change. As I thought about Pastor Joel’s message, I came up with several areas in which God may want us to change.

  • Sinful behavior or attitudes. If there is sin, God wants us to change it. I include it, though, because there are many subtle sins that we resist giving up.
  • Opinions – as we mature, God often calls us to change how we think about people, issues and practices.
  • Methodology – God often requires us to change methods because the world around us changes.
  • Preferences – we all have things we like, but God often calls us to leave the comfort zone of our own preferences for the greater good.
  • Financial or social status – too often we see money and possessions as our own rather than as a gift from God. He may very well want you to change income levels, giving, and/or spending habits for the sake of His mission.
  • Geography – our homes and families are precious to us, but God could call us to change where we live so that we can reach more people for Him.
  • Desires – drawing closer to God often means that we sacrifice our own desires and exchange them for His.

As I consider these areas in my own life, my prayer is that I would always be open to change. I never want to sacrifice God’s best for simply good. Though change might be painful, I hope to always embrace it with God’s help.

What about you? Have you had to change in any of these areas? Are there other areas in which God has called you to change?

 

 

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/38465931@N00/1044696560″>The 25 Pound Lasagna</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

 

The Priority of Preference

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I was recently reminded of a quote by Thom Rainer in regard to dying churches. He has researched and written a great deal on the topic and has this to say: “When the preferences of the church members are greater than their passion for the Gospel, the church is dying.” In my experience, this is an extremely accurate assessment of the pervasive attitude of a church that has drifted off course.

To be clear, we aren’t talking about core theological positions. We’re talking about preferences as to how we do church. Generally these preferences are in the realm of music style, schedule and number of worship services, building design, activities and programs, and expectations of ministers and staff. Whatever the specific preference, members of dying churches generally prioritize their preferences over everything else, including God’s Word.

Unfortunately, this dangerous shift in thinking often goes unnoticed and undiagnosed until the end is inevitable or worse, the doors have already closed. In order to prevent this tragic scenario, we must be able to recognize this self-centered attitude before it takes over. Toward that end, I’ve made some observations that should help us recognize if our preferences have become our greatest passion. Your preferences may have taken over if…

  • You discourage people with different preferences than yours from attending your church.
  • You get angry at those who do not prioritize your preference.
  • You view change as bad and those promoting it as the enemy.
  • You would rather lose members than give in on your preference.
  • You put more energy into your preferences than into evangelism.
  • You believe your preference is scriptural and opposing views are sinful.
  • You will sin to ensure you get your preference.

As I said before, these are simply observations. In my experience they are accurate, but they may not be complete. The root of this problem is selfishness, so it can manifest itself in a variety of ways. We would each be wise to pray that the Lord would reveal our own blindness in regard to our attitude toward our preferences. Beyond that, we should also seek to practice the admonition of Paul to “do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:3-5).”

 

 

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/46861107@N00/212341751″>Church 4_3</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

Sunday Supper June 7, 2015

  In a feature reminiscent of my childhood in which Sunday supper consisted of a smorgasbord of leftovers and a random assortment of other foods, I bring you an assortment of random items of interest from the past week.

 “In nothing does Providence shine forth more gloriously in this world than in ordering the occasions, instruments and means of conversion of the people of God. However skillfully its hand had molded your bodies, however tenderly it had preserved them and however bountifully it had provided for them; if it had not also ordered some means or other for your conversion, all the former favors and benefits it had done for you had meant little.” – John Flavel, Mystery of Providence. Read more of this quote and some other great thoughts about When Your Testimony Just Isn’t That Good.

Finding Your Calling raises some good questions about our perceptions of meaning and significance. Here’s a sample: “We must allow kingdom thinking to produce kingdom values and kingdom emotions… No matter where you are in this life or what you do, I pray that your sense of calling will celebrate ‘the strange glory of ordinary things.’”

Some simple and practical thoughts in this list of Seven Concerns About Christians and Tipping

“The reality, however, is that sin is not primarily something we need to be sheltered from, but delivered from.” – The Duggars and the Evil Outside. Another response to the Duggar family’s recent revelation of abuse is a thoughtful consideration of how we should respond to similar situations of Sexual Abuse Among Us.

A Pastor’s Response to the Death of a Childhood Abuser – A very emotional look at the conflicting emotions involved with forgiveness and a desire for justice.

To the Other Woman’s Embrace – challenging thoughts on discontentment, idolatry and sin as observed in Sarah’s giving of Hagar to Abraham.

“I believe that it is anti-Christian and unholy for any Christian to live with the object of accumulating wealth… To live with the object of accumulating wealth is anti-Christian.” – Charles Spurgeon as quoted in the excellent article 5 Errors of the Prosperity Gospel.

Don’t Assume Anything in the Pulpit – Great observations for preachers.

Here is a great reminder of the importance of giving thanks for our food. – Don Whitney, “No, I Won’t Bless the Food.”

 Enjoy this random collection of stuff and be sure to let me know what you’ve been reading or watching that is interesting, enjoyable or helpful.

Singing in the Pain

A brief glance at headlines these days can be a little disturbing. You will read of devastating earthquakes, riots, terrorist attacks, plan crashes, political scandal, social controversy and much more. Given the fact that these events always impact believers in one way or another, I have given a great deal of consideration lately to this issue of trials in the believers’ life.

One story the Lord has used to address this issue in my life is found in Acts 16:25-34. Paul and Silas had been arrested, beaten and thrown in jail for casting a demon out of a slave girl. Their response reveals two important truths about the way we should understand trials in our lives.

  •  Suffering is an opportunity for worship. The Bible records their response this way: “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing praises to God, while the other prisoners listened.” It is dangerously easy to miss the simple power of what this story actually reveals about these men. They had been beaten. They were in jail. And they were praying and singing! Rather than feel sorry for themselves or try to fix their problem, they just worshiped.
  • Blessing is an opportunity for service. When God did deliver them, they didn’t high tail it out of there. They weren’t thinking only of themselves. No, they turned to the jailer – one of their persecutors- and had pity on him. They saved his life physically, and then shared the gospel with him. Paul knew nothing of the kind of Christianity that looks out for one’s own comforts and conveniences first. His priority was sharing the Gospel and he took every opportunity to do so.

I am convinced that for most Christians, a biblical understanding of trials will require a changed perspective on life in general. We must begin to see both our problems and blessings as opportunities to worship and serve others. If we continue to see life as all about “me,” trials will always be a frustration. God has a better plan. He wants me to look away from myself and turn my attention to Him and to others. This new perspective can keep any believer singing through their pain.