Saturday, June 15, 2013

Why we still need Superman

Superman. Man of Steel. The blue and red guy. Whatever you call him. We still need him.

Chris, what on earth are you talking about?

Well, first of all, I'm not a movie critic. Second of all, I really do like movies. Especially movies that have a point to make. It has been said that every movie preaches a sermon. I couldn't agree more, so why not approach a movie as if you were going to hear a message?

Last night, I went with some friends to watch the opening of Man of Steel. The theater was packed and the seats were at least already 1/2 full by the time we walked in 25 minutes till show time. Man of Steel had already made close to 200 million dollars before opening weekend, so people were ready to see this latest relaunch of the Superman franchise (including yours truly).

I had just read earlier that day two movie reviews which did not give the movie good marks at all. One was even a one and a half stars out of five! So....I was a little nervous the movie might actually be bad. Well, in my non-movie critic opinion, they reviewers were wrong. It was almost all I could have hoped for in a Superman relaunch (no pun intended).

So, why write a blog about it? Because Superman, from the very basis of his story line, presents the closest thing to a messiah figure out of all the superheros. What intrigued me most about this new take on Superman is the attempt to develop more of his humanity. His struggle growing up in a world that is not his own. With people who are not like him...and yet are. Who can't do what he can do...yet could do more. And a people that he has grown to love. That he desires to serve. That he desires to save.

Superman is imperfect as a perfect mirror of Jesus, but he is a great shadow. A shadow of a reality that some 2000 years ago was born in a dirty, stinking stable to humble human parents.He wrestled with what it meant to be human. To grow up in a world that He made but was not the way it was intended to be. With people who are not like him...and yet are. Who can't do what he can do...yet in His strength can do more than they ever thought. That He desires to serve. That He desires to save.

Russell Crowe did a great job as Superman's real dad. He was believable and his heart was true to his cause. Yet, it was Kevin Costner who I believe stole the show. I think Kevin is a fantastic father figure and he should spend the rest of his acting career doing such roles. He carried off perfectly the balance between strong yet humble. He raised a good boy in Superman and by good I mean moral, restrained, caring, strong, and compassionate.

The weakest points in the movie were the priest/reverend guy and his response to an extremely important question and Louis Lane. The priest's ultimate answer was good but his initial response could have been written in as better. The setting was just right and shot just right for an amazing spiritual moment...but alas the consult for such a thing in the movie was lacking. When I say Louis Lane, I don't mean her whole character. I just mean it got a bit tiresome that she happened to be anywhere and everywhere that Superman was in increasing measure towards the end of the movie.

So, Chris, you still haven't explained the title of this post. Ok, ok....first let me say that in Man of Steel, like in many movies Hollywood does, you will find an undercurrent of humanism. This false idea that humanity can rise to the cause if just given enough time, motivation, and help. But with that said, Superman stands in complete contradiction to that idea.  Superman is the capstone of superheroes. A friend of mine said that if you don't tap into his humanity, he is the most boring superhero of them all because he simply doesn't have any weaknesses except bits of his home planet which are pretty hard to come by. Because he is so powerful, he demonstrates just how weak the rest of humanity is. Man of Steel does a good job pointing out that, even it they had wanted to, there was not a single thing humanity could have done to stop General Zod (horrible bad guy name by the way) and his lackeys.

It was Superman or is was destruction. Only this one man could literally save the world. So, Superman confronts the notion of humanism and finds it lacking.

That, my friends, is the best shadow of Jesus that Superman could hope to offer. Just as the movie presents no other option but for Superman to save the day, the Bible presents that there is no other option but for Jesus to save the day. Every other god, every other worldview, every other religion falls short and is found wanting. Jesus and Jesus alone can save.

I could say a lot more about Kevin Costner and his shadow of Joseph the father of Jesus but that will be for a sermon sometime in the future.

So, yes, we still need Superman. We need Superman to remind us that we can not do it all on our own. In fact, left to our own strength, intelligence, and desires we will destroy ourselves.

We need Superman because we need Jesus.

Jesus didn't fly around saving people wearing a cool blue suit with the symbol of hope on His chest (very cool by the way) but rather was lifted up for the world to see on a cross that cost Him His life with the symbol of hope slashed into his skin. Then, He dies so that we might be saved. But the story doesn't end there, he rose from the dead that we might live with Him, and yes, indeed, my friends, He did go up into the clouds and will come again from the clouds to bring about the close to all time. He is not a superhero. He is the prototype that superheros are based on.

Superman is amazing because Jesus in amazing. May the world understand that.

We still need Superman.


Thursday, May 23, 2013

Mother Nature

Tsunami's, hurricanes, tornadoes, floods,, Mother Nature has been harsh lately.

Who in the world is Mother Nature anyway?

I find it fascinating this idea of "Mother Nature." While the reason for this post is not to analyze the name or concept of Mother Nature as much as it is to speak to the events we call natural disasters, please indulge me for a moment.

First of all, Mother implies a maternal female. So, a softer, gentler kind of image, no? Nature. The forces that swirl all around us and if not reigned in by this softer, feminine Mother capable of destroying us all.

Yet, here is the rub, no one ever really gets mad at Mother Nature. I mean we love it when she is kind and we are slightly amazed and sad when she is destructive but nobody ever really gets mad at her. I mean she's a mom could we?


What if it wasn't Mother Nature who dictates the weather patterns of the world? What then?

So, now for the meat of this post.

If the natural disasters of the world aren't caused by Mother Nature, then, what/who is the cause? I mean isn't that an important question? If we knew the cause, then, maybe somehow and in someway, we could alleviate the happenings of these disasters and live in a much more peaceful world.

*I'm not sure anyone actually believes that by the way, but it is kinda like an unspoken false hope.

And for those on the backside of a disaster it would answer the why question.

The options:

1) God does it.
2) Satan does it.
3) Because of pollution, population. and technology, humanity does it.
4) Total randomness with no rhyme or reason brought about by the evolutionary process.

So, what is the Biblical option?

I have heard many people defend option #1. EX: "Hurricane Katrina was God's judgement on a corrupt and offensive New Orleans." Sound familiar?

I have heard option #2. EX: "Satan is the ruler of this world, so until Jesus comes back he will destroy as he sees fit using the elements. This view can be held with or without a view on the sovereignty of God over Satan right now.

I certainly have heard #3. Just turn on NPR the week after a big natural disaster and you will hear it.

I have also certainly heard #4. Just do the same as #3.

But where is the truth? Is it really the judgement of God every time one of these disasters happens? Does Satan really have that much power in the world today and that every bad storm is a destructive tool of his? Have we really ruined the world so much through our living on the planet and our inventions that these things happen? Is it really all just completely random?

I say none of these options by themselves but shadings from each...shadings.

Does God use natural disasters as tools of judgment? Sure He does. You don't have to go too far into Genesis to get to the global flood during the days of Noah (Genesis chapters 6-9). God swallowed the Egyptian army in the red sea (Exodus chapter 14). He opened up the earth and swallowed up Korah and 250 other for their pride and rebellion (Numbers chapter 16). And that is just within the first four books of the Bible. The book of Job details that God is the master of all things in the natural world. The book of Psalms detail His dominion and control over the elements. Jesus demonstrated that he could calm a storm with three small words (The Gospel of Mark, chapter 4, verses 35-41). Revelation tells of the end of the world and the judgments that will fall some of which will be as natural disasters.

There are many others I could list but this just illustrates that, yes, God uses natural disasters because He has total dominion to do as He sees fit.

Does Satan use natural disasters to bring about death and destruction? I would land on the side of yes even though the direct examples from Scripture are not as specific. What we do know is that Satan is called the "Ruler of this World (the Gospel of John, chapter 12, verse 31)" and "The Prince of the Power of the Air (Letter to the Ephesians chapter 2, verse 2)." 2 Corinthians even calls Satan "the God of this World" in chapter 4, verse 4. We also know from the Gospel of John, chapter 10, verse 10, that Satan "has come to kill, steal, and destroy." So, yes, I believe some natural disasters are brought about by the hand of Satan himself as the Lord grants Him sway to do so.

What about the presence of humanity and our "toys"? Without a doubt, I believe that we have done some damage to the world in which we live. We have not been the stewards that God called us to be at creation in the "tending of the garden" and have instead done exactly what we please in our focus on "subduing creation." There are some things we have done which can not be undone. Ex: extinct animals and overusing certain natural resources.

What about the #4? I believe there is a certain random-ness to some disasters today in as much as it depends on our point of view. As the Lord has said, "For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. (The Gospel of Matthew, chapter 5, verse 45), " so I believe some things just happen in this world of ours. I do not believe in macro-evolution so the end part of number 4 is a non-issue for me and would be a completely separate discussion.

But while there is validity in each of these, it is the common factor that drives my post. What is it that unifys all four of these options?


1) God does it.
- because of sin
2) Satan does it.
-because of sin
3) Because of pollution, population. and technology, humanity does it.
-because of sin
4) Total randomness with no rhyme or reason brought about by the evolutionary process.
 -because of sin

You see, the great answer (by great I mean big not fantastic) to the great question of why did Katrina happen? or Why did the tornado destroy parts OK just this last week? or Why did the tsunami kill thousands of people? should not be answered by trying to decide if it was God, the Devil, humanity, or mere chance's fault. All of those reasons, while partially valid in their own right, when used to answer the why question, are simply creating a scapegoat like we, as humanity, have been doing from the beginning in the days of Adam and Eve. It was Adam that said, "The woman whom You (God) gave to me... (the book of Genesis, chapter 3, verse 12) and by doing so tried to take the blame off of himself and put it onto God.

The answer to the why of natural disasters is actually very simple. Humanity rebelled against God and by doing so sinned. The effects of that sin and the punishment God brought upon the earth (Genesis chapter 3, verses 17-19) have been felt in ripples ever since. So, the answer to the why question is sin. No one is to ultimately be blamed or scapegoated other than us because we are the cause of it all, you and me and the sin I was born with, the sin you were born with, and the sin we have each committed throughout our lives times billions and billions of people.

Does God use natural disaters as a form of judgement? Yes. Sometimes. Because of our sin.
Does Satan use natural disasters as a form of seeking to kill, steal, and destroy? Yes. Sometimes. Because He hates us and he reviles in our sin.
Have we, by our lives and our toys, added to the reality of natural disasters? Yes. Sometimes. Because of our pride and selfishness, both of which are sins.
Are some of the disasters "just because" events? Yes. Sometimes. Because this world was cursed and is fallen because of our rebellion and sin.

When we focus on the why did this happen question, we miss the bigger and more important question.

Why don't natural disasters happen more frequently given the total mass of sin living in the humanity of the world today?

And that question is answered by only one great and glorious answer:


It is His patience, His love, His goodness, His grace, His kindness, His compassion, and His mercy that stops all that we truly deserve from coming upon us.

So as we watch a horrible thing like what happened in OK happen in front of our eyes we should think two things:

1) I was a part of why that happened to those people. My sin contributed to that horrific event.
2) I am so overwhelmingly thankful that the Lord is good to us and that we haven't all been wiped out yet. Thank you God for staying your Holy hand from judging us all, right at this very moment.

Natural disasters are hard things to understand. But we shouldn't be shocked when they happen.

 And please, please....stop pretending as if "Mother Nature" had anything to do with anything. It is time to grow up and start taking responsibility. Adam and Eve would have served us all well if they had done that from the very beginning. Let's not follow in those footsteps.


Friday, May 17, 2013

The Coming Lightening Rod

So far in my ramblings, I have tackled politics and equality and a couple of side growth issues.

I know that all of you (whoever you are) are excitedly wondering, "What is this renowned scholar/blogger going to write on next????" :-) Well, the answer is The Order Salutis.

Why on earth am I picking that? Well, over the last few months, as is reflected in my blog, I have been working through some really healthy concepts of what does Biblical communication of the Gospel look like to those around me. Obviously, since I am a pastor, I see it through that lens, but I have had great conversations about the same thing through the lens of regular "Joe Christian" engaging the world around us.

I decided to revisit the Order (I haven't thought much about it since my ordination) because I'd like to try to communicate each part of the Order, through the medium of a blog, with the goal being to be as clear and straightforward as I can, while communicating grace and speaking truth in love.

Many of you, I imagine, have never even heard of the Order before (unless you just Googled it and read Wikipedia's version) and so this will be a good opportunity for me to communicate foundational Christian stuff to an audience who is unfamiliar some or all the parts of it.

As our culture moves more and more towards pragmatism, syncretism, and tolerance there has been an overwhelming backlash against truth, consistency, and doctrine. I am greatly troubled by two things:

1) The ongoing confusion/lack of distinction between theology and doctrine within Christian circles.
2) The abandoning of and irrelevance towards doctrine in an effort to get away from the divisions caused by theology within Christian circles.

I am greatly disturbed by this because if Christians abandon doctrine then:
1) there is no truth to communicate to the dying world around us.
2) there are no safeguards in place to distinguish between truth and error.
3) there are no distinctives to be held up between faiths, religions, and/or spiritual worldviews.

So, I thought I would spend some time looking at The Order to show the dividing lines between doctrine and theology, to highlight why we need doctrine and must allow grace in theology, and to show the distinctiveness of authentic Biblical Christianity.

Please remember that I am intentionally writing my blog with two main goals in mind. 1) to work out my own views on certain things...kinda like an online journal 2) to communicate as if everyone reading this blog does not know Jesus but is willing to read a Christian's ramblings and see if He is worth believing in.

Lastly, please allow me to detail how I view myself when it comes to faith:

Christian (Defined by Biblical Doctrine)
-  Evangelical (Shaped by Biblical Doctrine)
--- Protestant (Came about to appeal for [protest for] Biblical Doctrine)
----- Reformed (a theology that flows out of Biblical Doctrine)
------- Presbyterian (a form of church government and theology that flows out of Reformed theology that flows out of Biblical Doctrine)
--------- Evangelical Presbyterian ( a denominational partnering that flows out of a form of church government and theology that flows out of Reformed theology that flows out of Biblical Doctrine)

Even as I finish writing the above flow chart, I can imagine different people from different viewpoints taking issue with different parts. It is my hope that, as we journey through The Order together, you will begin to see why this is how I view myself. I am not saying that I am 100% right in this view or that I am above changing  it some at some point but this is where I am right now. The items at the top are shaped by Biblical Doctrine and are thus much more important than the ones at the bottom.

So, for those that are interested, let's explore The Order together. I'm looking forward to it.


Equality #5

I, Jesus, am unchanging in my stance.

This last statement is simply a reflection of the Churches long held understanding that Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

As it relates to equality, I am simply stating that as much as our culture, society, government, or even institutions of faith feel like there is some wiggle room and an ability to change as it relates to certain issues, Jesus remains UNchanging.

Would it make things easier if we could just give a little on certain issues sometimes? Well, I supposed it depends on what you mean by easier.

If by easier you mean more comfortable, then, yes, I suppose it would. But we are not called to be a people of comfort. There was nothing comfortable about what Jesus dealt with on the cross. Nothing comfortable about the lives the apostles lived. Nothing comfortable about the life and ministry of Paul. Nothing comfortable about what the early Church went through. Nothing comfortable about the lives the countless martyrs have given for the spreading of the Gospel of Jesus. No. We are not called to be comfortable.

If by easier you mean that people might be more open to what we say if we weren't so rigid and could give some, then, yes, I suppose that might happen. But let me ask you, "Where would the giving stop?" See, by buying into the idea that we can just "give a little," we open ourselves up to the false idea that truth can bend and adapt. That, my friends, is simply not true. Methods. Methods can bend and adapt but the message and goal of those methods can never bend or the very message or goal we were seeking to communicate becomes like sand instead of rock.

Wavering truth is no truth at all.

So, in reality, the idea that "giving a little" on the truth surrounding certain issues would make things easier is simply not true. It would lead to a lifestyle contrary to the call of Jesus and to a system of truth that is no longer truth at all.

No, we must take our example from Jesus who was unwavering in what he taught and lived out. He is indeed the same yesterday, today, and forever. And if He were not...He would not be true and thus not worth serving and living for.

Equality is something Jesus brought forward as a virtue, but it must remain in its rightful place or it will become distorted and corrupted. We, as followers of Jesus, must be clear and consistent in how we communicate to the hurting world around us. The tone of the equality debate has slipped away from the tone Jesus would have us use. But with that said, we must not lose or waver on the truth of the debate. For if we do that, we help no one...not ourselves, not our neighbors, not the Church, and not the cause of Christ.

May we endeavor to hear the Spirit before we speak and then, once hearing, speak carefully, confidently, and lovingly in truthfulness.


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Equality #4

I, Jesus, am a big fan of meaning what I say and saying what I mean.

The commitment to "say what we mean and mean what we say" has served my wife and I well over the course of our marriage and as we are learning what it means to be consistent parents.

It was handed down to us by a very wise man and his wife of many, many years the Harvins. Since the night we heard it, we began to try and apply it to our marriage and then to our parenting. As time has gone by, I see more and more clearly that, while Dr. Harvin is indeed a very wise man, it was God who first demonstrated the virtue of meaning what you say and saying what you mean.

As it relates to equality and God's plan for marriage specifically, the God of the Bible has been abundantly clear. Marriage runs the full course of the Scriptures from Genesis chapters 1&2 where God created humanity and instituted marriage between the first man and first woman to Jesus and His affirming of marriage in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 19, to Paul's imagery of Christ and the Church in his letter to the Ephesians, chapter 5, to the final scene of eternity in the book of Revelation, chapter 21.

Of course there are many other places you could point to in Scripture to prove that God has been consistent when it comes to marriage. Despite what the critics say, marriage, the kind of the Bible, the kind of a holy covenant between persons, has always supposed to have been between one man and one woman. Not multiple women. Not two women. Not two men. Not humans and animals. Not between a man and a child. Not between a woman and a child. God has never strayed from this desire for man because "it is not good for man to be alone" and because it points to the relationship we have and will one day forever day (I just made that means for eternity :-) ) with God as we, the Church, are His bride and Jesus is the bridegroom.

Do we find examples of such variants in the Scriptures? Of course! We have an honest Bible full of real people that lived real lives and some of those lives and/or some parts of those lives were in direct opposition to the commands and desires of God. Does that make God a flip flopper or inconsistent? No. It makes us, as members of humanity, inconsistent, sinful, and fallen.

Perspective is everything when it comes to some things. For some, the fact that God does not in any way condone a variation on the relationship He created and called marriage makes God a tyrant. A bigot. A hater of certain people. A being to be rejected and dismissed as irrelevant and old-fashioned.


It could also be said that God is the one true constant in all of creation. He and He alone does not waver. Does not change. Does not live in inconsistencies. And, that my dear friends, should give us peace. Hope. Joy. Comfort. Security. Confidence.

There is one and only one in all that is that is firm and unmoving. He is the one who says what He means and means what He says. I for one will throw my hat in with that one. I mean...who can compare to Him?


Thursday, May 2, 2013

Equality #3

3) I, Jesus, am a big fan of equality but not at the expense of a covenant relationship between one man and one woman which I created and instituted.

So, this is the post bound to be the most divisive in the opinions of those who read it.There are obviously so many ways to take this statement. As I have already laid out, Jesus is indeed a big fan of equality. In fact, if not for Jesus, equality would not be what it is in the world today. We then looked at how the very design of creation itself calls for both equality and diversity. We looked at how promoting equality above all other virtues is actually a diminishing of this great virtue instead of a promotion. And thus we get to the topic of our day.

In our culture today, the battle over "traditional" marriage is being lost, hijacked, stolen, abused, trampled, etc. depending on your personal leanings. For others, marriage is finally becoming and moving towards what it should have been all along: a place for anyone and everyone to enter into a loving relationship with the person they love.

As a seminary friend of mine pointed out, this war over "traditional" marriage stems from the government's involvement in the issue. What was a religious ordinance has become a governmental swamp. I agree, but this is only part of the problem. You see, wrapped up in this whole topic of "equality in who has the right to get married" are a whole list of issues. Let me point out the ones I am mindful of:

1) The word marriage itself. Christians lay claim to it (via God's instituting of it) and they should have the right to define it and defend it.
2) The religious vs. governmental rights and benefits of "marriage."
3) If those who oppose anything but one man + one woman = marriage back off that stance then they are in effect giving a nod to all those other types of "marriage" as OK.
4) If you are a Christian, #3 is a major problem because not only are you giving ground on the Biblical definition of marriage (Genesis 2), but you are allowing numerous possibilities for different forms of relationships that the Bible calls sin to now fall under the definition of marriage (#1).

I realize that there are probably many other shading of the issues and problems that I am not even aware of but for the purposes of this post those are the ones that strike me as important. So what are the solutions?

1) Everyone who has a problem with anything other than the 1 man/1 woman definition of marriage can simply give up. Let it be defined however society decides and just keep your head down and focus on other issues. * Let equality win the day*
2) Argue for and legislate for a separation of religious and governmental marital status. Thus allowing religious people to keep their definitions and the government to have its definition. *Let equality have its day at the governmental level but not the religious.*
3) Keep fighting and hope to sway the mind of the culture. *Hold the position that this is not an area for equality to take prominence.*
4) Any one of the first 3 options and also try to focus on making the marriages that are between one man and one woman as loving and vibrant as possible.
5) Something else?

Problems with the solutions:

1) Societies definition of marriage will become the standard of the day and anyone who opposes or speaks out against it will be labeled as hateful, intolerant, and could possibly face legal and/or financial repercussions down the road. In other words, we can't simply agree to disagree. People will have to agree or pay for it one way or another.
2) While this sounds good and would the be option I would want to see happen, the ramifications to this are staggering. If we take our rosy colored glasses off, we would see that this option would lead to all kinds of chaos at all levels. Imagine 12 people walk into a church on Sunday. Now imagine that all twelve SAY they are married. One man and one woman, two women, two men,  and one man and five women. We are already heading down this road. Doesn't this type of scenario cause chaos and confusion? And that doesn't even begin to describe how messed up it would be at the governmental level.
3) The way this national conversation is going does not show love. It simply doesn't. The tone is wrong. The arguments are wrong. The methods are wrong. And the generations coming up are noticing. Thus the younger generations are more pro-non-traditional marriage than ever before.
4) The second half of this option is essential but the problems with the first half are listed above.
5) ?

So, even though this post is already really long, I simply don't have a great answer. I believe that because God's Word is true and because we are called to stand upon it that the only real option we have is #3 BUT we have got to change the tone of the conversation. We must explain marriage rather than defend it. We must support marriage rather than fight a war for it. We must encourage love according to God's definition of it rather than being seen as haters of those who simply want to love a certain person.

Marriage is not something that can be equalized OR diversified for whomever in whatever way they see fit. God created marriage not for marriage sake but for His creation to understand the type of relationship He wants to have with us and will have with us when time has ended. Marriage is more than a relationship. More than a promise. More than a commitment. It is a covenant. It is deeply spiritual and eternally foreshadowing. It is a gift and a promise of what could be and what is to come.

I must be promoted as a glorious good not a limiting OK (as it often is in Christian circles). People should marvel at marriage not mock it. The Church is losing this issue because we have been lazy in the conversation. Now, we have an up hill battle to convince not only those outside the Church of the place of marriage but also those within the Church of its wonder.

So, that is why I believe Jesus would say he is for equality but not at the expense of marriage. May God use His Church to demonstrate His love for the world through the covenant of marriage.


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Protecting the sheep or stoning the shepard?

You know...I'm just getting plain, flat out tired of all the bashing that Christians do towards each other.

Surely, I am not alone. Surely, there are more people in the family of God out there than just myself who feel this way. Why must it be that almost every time I scroll through FB, check my email, or simply talk to people at any given moment that I read or hear some bashing comment about this Christian or that Christian, this pastor or that pastor, this ministry or that ministry. I am just getting worn down with it all.

Where in the world is Jesus in all of that? "And they shall know you are my disciples as you love one another."

Oh wait, I know why it is is because we are protecting the sheep. I mean, someone has to call out the warning. Someone has to sound the alarm. Someone has to point out the false teachers. Well, in my observations there seems to be a whole lot of "someones" out there doing all the warning and not too many proven disciples doing the loving.

As a pastor, I get the protecting the flock thing. I really do. In fact, I do it! But, what I am saying is that most of the posts, comments, and conversations I hear aren't really about protecting anybody. They are quite simply gossipy, judging, and condemning communications which are doing more harm within the Body of Christ then protecting it.

I think all the snide comments should cease. The presumptive judgmental attitudes should cease. The divisive, pointless differences of opinion should cease.

The World (our culture and society) already attacks the Church on a regular basis as it is. Do we really need to be just like them in the way we talk about each other?

Finally, let me just say that for all the so-called "protecting, warning, and pointing out" that self-appointed prophets of the Church are doing, what if....just what if you are wrong?

What if the person you are raking over the holier than thou coals is actually a part of the family of God? What if they end up being right in front of you at the judgement one day? What if one day you stop being so "holy" and start really hearing? Maybe then you will see the pain your comments have caused. The confusion your comments have created. The division your comments have wrought.

It ought not to be so. Public media forums are not the place for thoughtless quips about people we don't really know but have only heard, read, or seen a soundbite about. That is not warning people. It is putting yourself as judge over another person's heart, mind and actions.

And that my dear reader, none of us have the right to do. For we are not our Creator.

And this concludes a blog entry to myself. For I have been the chief of sinners in this area. I have stumbled badly in the area. I have led by example in the worst possible way in this area. I am the audience of this post. I am one who must change.

May I love as Jesus loved, warn as Jesus warned, and listen to the Spirit with ears to hear the difference.

Protecting the sheep...but not stoning the shepherd.


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Preaching Grace

Teachable. A word used to describe whether one can learn from someone else or if they are too proud to humble themselves in the learning process.

Over the last 4 months, I have grown in many ways as a Christian, a husband, and as a man. But I also have been on a journey to understand, as someone who has been called to preach (at least on occasion), something that I did not even know I was trying to understand ...have you ever felt that way?

Last January, I was in a conversation with a much more experienced minister than myself and he said, "We have got to reclaim what it means to preach grace from our pulpits."

I politely nodded my head and thought to myself...I wonder what exactly he means?

Since that time, I have thought about it here and there. Overall, I assumed he was kinda being a softy. One of those run from the word sin kinda guys but given what I knew about him that was inconsistent so it just kinda bugged me.

Then I had a conversation with one of our youth at the church. He was highly upset about a pattern he had seen repeated at the churches he had gone to. In general, as we were talking, I thought he was simply expressing the heartbeat of our culture.

"We shouldn't judge other people."
"Who are we to decide what is right or wrong for other people."
"Our God is a loving and awesome God. Why can't we just talk about that?"

But as our conversation went on and I was gently trying to redirect him and challenge him to think about things a little differently, I began to realize that the heartbeat of what he was saying wasn't so much culture driven as it was Gospel driven. He began asking me,

"Does tearing down someone else's faith or beliefs really move them towards the Gospel?"
"Is that what the Sunday morning sermon should really be all about or should it be about showing them just how amazing Jesus is? How much God loves them? How much they need Him in their lives?"

All of a sudden, I began to realize what preaching grace was all about.

It's not about skipping over sin. It's not about believing, teaching, or supporting the idea that all religions are equal, all worldviews are good, or that all philosophies are wise.

It's about the making much of Jesus.

And that brings me to today.

This morning, as I was beginning to wake up, the Lord and I were continuing to talk all of this over and this question came to me,

"What do I want people to be thinking as they leave a Sunday morning worship service?"

Do I want them thinking about the deep truths I unpacked?
Do I want them thinking that I really showed the differences between Christianity and ______?
Do I want them thinking that I was a good communicator?
Do I want them thinking about a certain illustration or point or application?

Honestly, I admitted to the Lord I wanted people thinking about all those things...then He said, "But is that what I (God) want them thinking about?"

I paused and rethought the question from God's perspective and came up with this answer:

As they leave, I want them thinking, "I may not believe what that pastor, church, or faith believes but what I heard, saw, and experienced today at this place with these people was amazing and like nothing I have ever experienced before. I can't wait to hear, see, and experience more next week."

As I pondered that this morning, I met with my discipler again, and this is what we studied:

1 For we know that if the tent (our bodies) that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.

11 Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience. 12 We are not commending ourselves to you again but giving you cause to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast about outward appearance and not about what is in the heart. 13 For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. 14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.
16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (Second Letter to the Corinthians, Chapter 5 ESV)

This whole chapter applies to this blog post, but can I just highlight one part? Verse 19. Specifically, "...not counting their trespasses against them..." and then all of verse 21.

How often have I held people's sins against them in a sermon? How many times have I been and have I put a stumbling block (2 Cor. 6:3) in front of people? Because if I have made a point of religion, worldview, or philosophy then I almost certainly have done so.

I have not preached grace. I have not made the presenting the wonder of Jesus my chief aim. So, I write all of this to tell you that I am endeavoring to do better. I will think more carefully. Consider more wisely. Lean on the Spirit more heavily.

I am sorry for not preaching grace as clearly as I should have. There is a time for comparing and contrasting. For upholding what is true in light of what is evil. What is right in contrast with what is false. But I no longer believe that Sunday morning worship is that time. I believe the corporate worship service must be where we, as the Church of Jesus, make much of our Savior. Oh, that the world may see and hear us do so and be struck with wonder.

Teachable. I will preach grace. Amen.


Saturday, April 20, 2013

Equality #2

2) I, Jesus, am a big fan of equality but not at the expense of design.

This statement is simply a logical next step in our understanding that, just as Jesus promoted equality but also authority, so He also promotes an overall design.

Now, I am not trying to drift into the "origins" debate with that statement but take it as you will. What I am trying to say is that there is a design to it all, and by all, I mean all. There is a design to our universe, to the creation we observe within it, down to the smallest particles which we can not see. Within all things is a design. So, we shouldn't be surprised when we read that "in Him all things hold together (The letter to the Colossians)." Indeed, Colossians also says that "all things were created by Him, and for Him, and through Him." So, if anyone was a plan, a purpose, a design then that person is God Himself.

So, if God has designed all things in the known and unknown realms, then why would we assume that he doesn't have a design that is at a more emotional, relational, and rational level? Since I believe He does have a design for every single part of creation (whether that be biology or anatomy or psychology and sociology), I would lay forth the idea that, while a fan and a promoter of equality, He would not put the virtue of equality above His overarching design.

IF God were to do so then all of creation would be different. The stars would all give off the same amount of order to be equal. Everyone's hair would grow at the exact same rate of speed, length, and order to be equal. All the dogs in the world would be able to bark exactly the same volume, eat the exact same amount of food, and run the exact same order to be equal.

Now, I have strayed into kind of ridiculous illustrations to prove the point that the diversity of design is all around us every second of every day and yet we don't seem to find fault with its reality. Why? Because it is part of the design. Even in our own attempts at creation as humans we don't create in order to promote the virtue of equality. If we did, then, every burger would have the same number of calories with the same ingredients. Every car would use the exact same amount of gas and hold the exact same number of people. Every TV would show the same number of pixels and use the same amount of energy and be the same 32 inches (and we certainly know that isn't true!).

Again, by our own efforts we clamor and strive for diversity as well as equality.

I propose that we do so because we are not only wired to be imitators of our creator but because it is what we see and understand from all that is around us. So, when I say that Jesus is a big fan of equality but not at the expense of design it is because to say otherwise would be to not only reject everything that is around us but to simply live in a constant state of denial.

God is a designer. He has a design. The design is all around us. Equality is a part of the design. It is not the chief virtue, goal, or root of the design.

The same could be said of humanity.

Humans are designers. We have designs. The designs are all around us. Equality is a part of the designs. It is not the chief virtue, goal, or root of the designs.

Notice the key difference between humanity and God. We have many designs with many purposes. God has one design with one purpose.

So, let us not kid ourselves into thinking that equality is the virtue that must be striven for over all else. To believe that is to deny all of creation. It is to deny the One who holds all things together. It is to deny the One who gave us the ability to design in our own way.

It is to deny God. And that is quite simply the most foolish thing of all.


Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Veil

12 Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, 13 not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. 14 But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. 15 Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. 16 But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord(or reflecting the glory of the Lord), are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:12-18, ESV)

Yesterday, during my discipleship time, I was asked this question by my discipler as it relates to the above passage.

"What veil do you have over your face that stops the world from seeing the glory of God?"

At first, I answered the world. By that, I explained, I meant that often times we, as followers of Christ, don't look very different from those that don't know Jesus. We like the same movies, the same foods, the same clothes, the same music. We walk like the rest, talk like the rest, and act like the rest in almost every way. Now, this is kinda a blanket statement but if you strip out cussing, alcohol, and horrifically R rated movies then it is basically true.

I could spend a good bit of time there but I didn't. My discipler was starting to move on, but I was still back on the veil question. I have struggled with identifying with the world for a long time now and I wondered if it was a cover for a deeper answer. I kept re-reading the above passage as he was talking until I finally just said that I think the biggest veil over my face is that I simply don't believe and understand the Holy Spirit like the early followers of Jesus did.

And that became the answer I couldn't escape. I mean...I've read Francis Chan's The Forgotten God (great book) so why wasn't I more like those early followers?????

I shared that some of the guys I had been discipling had asked that if the early church could pray for people to be healed and they were healed then why didn't we, as Christians, just go to the hospitals and pray for the people inside of them? I had always responded to the guys that while I believe we could...we should wait until the Lord moves us to do so.

I still believe that my counsel is correct....but...

the Spirit showed me that in most of my Christian life, as opposed to the early disciples, I tend to ask for permission or denial from the Spirit instead of guidance. What do I mean by that? Let me explain.

When faced with a choice, I believe most of let me just speak for myself...I KNOW that when faced with a choice I ask the Spirit, "Do you want me to....(do x, y, or z) or (do this or do that)?" 

This is good, on one hand, since I am seeking the counsel of the Lord and in my life He has been very faithful to answer those prayers. On the other hand, I very rarely, if at all, ask the Spirit THIS question,

"What do you want me to .... (do, think, say, etc.)?"

Can you see the difference? One question is a question choices...that I present. Now, I don't always have good clear choices but they are still choices. Take the hospital example. I am relatively comfortable asking, "God, do you want me to go to the hospital and pray for people?" The choice is there because I have laid out the parameters for all the options. 

The other question is one of total abandon. Whatever you want me to do today...I will do. "God what do you want me to do (with these few minutes, this morning, today, next month, next year, etc.)?" In that question I have no parameters. In that question, I am not in control...I am only in obedience or rebellion.

I don't like that kinda question. But then again....I am wearing a veil. 

Did the early disciples set out the parameters or did they live with abandon? History records that they were a "peculiar people." That they "set the world on fire."

So, maybe I should be less consumed with my question of how can I be different than the world and more focused on living without parameters. 

Then, I might one day look up and find that I am bold (verse 12), living in freedom (verse 17), and transformed (verse 18).

How can I do that, God? Do I trust you enough? Can you offer me something to cling to?

"Sure, Chris, how about this...

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. (2 Cor. 4:7 ESV)
But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. (2 Cor. 4:7 NIV84)

...Is that good enough my child?"

Yes, Father...thank you. Please remove the veil so that others might see I am yours and yours alone.


Friday, April 12, 2013

Equality #1

1) I, Jesus, am a big fan of equality but not at the expense of authority.

What would Jesus mean by such a statement? Well, for those that have ears let them hear this: No other faith...NO other faith has done even close to the same amount towards raising every human being...EVERY human being to a place of honor and respect and equality as Christianity. It's just a fact. Go and study it for yourself. Don't take this ol' history major's word for it, but know that it is a simple fact.

In Jesus' day, women were second class, children were to be seen (sometimes) and heard only when spoken to or old enough to have the right to speak. And slaves...yes there were tons of slaves. Slaves from war, slaves from economics, slaves based on race...tons of slaves. Racism? Absolutely. Elitism? Without a doubt. Class warfare? Of course. And then one day there was the sound of a baby crying and the world began to change.

In our day, we hold up the virtues of tolerance and equality as our ultimate goals. We as a culture honestly believe that if we would just be tolerate of everyone and everything and if all people in all places would be allowed to be equal in every way possible then we will reach some sort of utopia and peace will reign forever and always.

So have we, in our day, reached the point that Jesus' birth was pointing to? Have we arrived on the edge of the great change that His life, ministry, death, and resurrection all pointed towards? No. We have not.

We do not just hold up tolerance and equality as goals. They are our modern day gods. It is they that we seek after with all of our hearts. And in so doing we take a good and make it an evil (as C.S.Lewis so rightly notes) by placing it above the giver of the good.

We must understand that equality as Jesus saw it, lived it, practiced it (see the woman at the well in the Gospel of John chapter 6), and taught it (see the woman caught in adultery, also in John chapter 8) did not in any way eliminate or compromise authority. Jesus said "Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's." Why? Why didn't he just say, "Keep for yourself what you make because Caesar is no better than you. He is no less than you. He is your equal. All are equal in every possible way before God." Jesus didn't say that because it wasn't what he was about. He wasn't negating authority. He was establishing equality.

Whee we try to equalize all people at the expense of authority, then we undermine all of society. When we try to force authority at the expense of equality then we undermine society. Jesus understood this (I mean He is God so that is understandable) yet we struggle with getting this balance right. In Jesus' day, equality was not a virtue is was a vice. It was a weakness. It was a failing. Jesus and the followers of Jesus after His resurrection changed all that. Equality became a virtue of the Church. Once someone becomes a follower of Jesus. Their very self worth becomes equalizes with every other follower of Jesus. There is no person that is better than any other person in the family of God (See Paul's letter to the Galatins chapter 3 verses 27-29).

Yet within the equality that Jesus has paid for on the cross remains authority. It is God and God alone who is the supreme and final authority but under His rule God places people, gifts people, calls people to different levels of leadership, different styles of life, different occupations and jobs. To not have this sense of authority within the contexts of Christ bought equality is to not understand the reality of sin. For Jesus did not come to die on a cross to make us all equal. He came to deal with sin and the author of sin. And it is sin and its author that longs for authority to be supreme and equality to be destroyed. Such a corruption God would not and will not tolerate but neither will he tolerate a society in which all authority is stripped away because it is not God that would be destroyed in such a society. It is humanity.

Humanity would fail because equality without authority is unsustainable without the power of God at work through His Spirit in the people He has redeemed and equalized. There is grace and there is sin. If grace does not reign in peace then sin will reign in destruction. There is no ideal world of equality and tolerance without the "confines" of authority. Such a world would be doomed from its creation because sin and the author of sin would doom it.

What is my Biblical proof for such a statement? Genesis chapters 1, 2, and 3. In the beginning God created the place we all long for. It was good. There was a man and a woman and they lived together in a most wonderful world in a most wonderful relationship with a most wonderful God. A God that walked in fellowship with them. And then the author of sin came as whispered, "Why don't you simply become just like God?" And thus sin entered the world as Adam and Eve sought to become equal with God and deny His authority. So you see, we don't have to look very far in the history of humanity to find that equality without authority is a very dark place. And, if we are real honest with ourselves, we know that on our own we have the same craving of authority and control our ancestors did.

So let's stop kidding ourselves and pretending that we have advanced to some new and great place. We aren't in the days of Jesus anymore but our day isn't a whole lot further along.

Jesus is a big fan of equality but not at the expense of authority.

Let the comments begin...


Saturday, March 30, 2013


Telling me I can't use the Bible to support my beliefs is like telling a butterfly it can't use its wings and it still has to crawl around on its belly.

So a lot is happening in the halls of the Supreme Court of America this last week of March 2013. Those of us on FB have seen all kinds of versions of the "=" being posted. Some are mocking (like the bacon one) and others are more thoughtful in protest (like the baby feet one). Without a doubt, this is a sticky/tricky issue. So, why wade into it? Would Jesus?

Hmmmm.....good question. I want to believe he would. Would he do it better than I am about to? Almost certainly, but I believe there are moments when we, as disciples of Jesus, should be not just His hands and feet but also His voice. In order to do that, we must have a working knowledge of His Word and not be ashamed to use it and let it inform our thoughts, perceptions, beliefs, and actions.

So, what would Jesus say about the current "equality" debate? I believe Jesus would say  the following:

1) I am a big fan of equality but not at the expense of authority.

2) I am a big fan of equality but not at the expense of design.

3) I am a big fan of equality but not at the expense of a covenant relationship between one man and one woman which I created and instituted.

4) I am a big fan of meaning what I say and saying what I mean.

5) I am unchanging in my stance.

Obviously, I am not adequate to fill such big shoes, but over the next few weeks, I will humbly attempt to express what I believe Jesus would want expressed on this wildly divisive topic of equality. I am planning on taking one point for each post. But be warned! In order for me to do this justice, I will be using the Bible. If you find yourself reading this and that fact immediately turns you off, let me ask you something:

Would you rather I just spout yet another opinion on the matter or do my best to show you want the God of the Bible has to say on the issue?

Once you work through your answer to that question, check back in with the future posts. You might find them interesting...


A restart

Well, I was wondering why no one jumped all over my blog back last fall only to find out that somehow my FB privacy setting has been switched to basically no one but my wife! So, I am relaunching. It is really ok since I haven't written anything since the last fall anyway. :-)

I am hoping to be much more consistent in the weeks ahead. I don't see myself ever really being a once a day blogger, but I am aiming for once a week.

If these posts are interesting to you, please let me know. I am looking for a place to share and journey together. If that interests you, come with me!