Thursday, April 30, 2015

Riots, Race, Looting, Leadership, Family, Faith, Authority, Anger, Sin, Serving, Humanity, Humility

17 Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor. 
- 1 Peter 2:17

Aside from the fact that this blog post has the world's longest string of words, it is almost surely going to offend just about everyone in some way. *sigh*

Are we, as a country, anywhere close to the Bible verse at the top of this page? How about this...are we, as the Church of Jesus, anywhere close to the Bible verse at the top of the page?

Chaos & Division

That is where we are as a country. Everyone is pointing at everyone else declaring the failings that they see before their eyes. And the irony of it all is that just about everyone can make a valid case for their point of view.

If you watch CNN (and others on the left), the root of it all is "white privilege" and "unfair judicial system."

If you watch Fox News (and the few others that happen to be on the right), it is about the Democrats and the "failed poverty policies of the last 50 years."

If you watch the president, it is about America needing to deal with the problem, cops needing to do some soul searching, and always making it about race.

So, as I sit here looking at the blinking cursor, I'm sad. Sad for the country I thought I knew. Sad because my children are not going to get a better America. Sad because those of us that believe in what the Bible verse at the top says find ourselves hard pressed to see how we as a country or even as the Church in America can get there.

No one respects each other anymore. 

How do you address real problems when you cut people off, shout people down, and refuse to even listen (both ways)?

Why does everyone enjoy posting things on FB that highlight some anchor getting, "Shut down," "Stopped in his tracks," "Confronted," by some person or another. Does that show any sort of respect? Should we honor either side of that by sharing it on FB?

The title of this post has 12 words in it. Each of those words needs to be dealt with in order to deal with where we are as a country. I would love to take the time to get into each one but the reality is even if I took 1000 words for each one word people would attack and find fault. Why? Because we don't really want to have a conversation.

We just want to be right.

So, I will just give a short word about each. Sign off and let it rest. 

Riots: What do riots show? What purpose do they serve? 

On one side, they show anger, frustration, and pain. On that same side, they serve as a way to communicate because all the other forms of communication are viewed to have failed.

On the other side, they show a lack of respect for other people and their property, an animalistic sinful nature, and selfishness. On that same side, they serve the self-interests of the rioters and those with an agenda to promote.

My conclusion? Riots give an allowance for us to indulge in the actions we know we shouldn't indulge in under the cover of making a grievance known.

Race: White privilege and discrimination.

On one side, white privilege is viewed as a way to get people to understand how slanted things have been toward the majority for so long. It is a call to recognize the inherent bias of our society towards the majority.

On the other side, white privilege is the latest tactic to play the perpetual victim. It is the latest label to explain why things aren't getting any better.

My conclusion: white privilege is a racist term that has set us back 50 years as a country. It holds an entire race of people guilty for being born a certain color and growing up that color. In no way would it be OK to create alternate forms of this idea: black privilege, Asian privilege, etc. because they would be viewed as racist, as they should. Any time you hold an entire race guilty just because of the color of their skin you have traveled down a dark road of division, judgment, and hate. Race is our self-made version of the Tower of Babel. We are divided because we can't understand each other...except this time it isn't about language and it isn't God doing the dividing.

Looting: Any positive?


My conclusion: I was stunned to watch some news casts say that looting was actually justified in Baltimore. We have indeed reached a point where we call evil good and good evil. Looting is simply stealing. Stealing has always been declared wrong in the moral code and always will be. It harms other people by robbing them of their livelihood. It serves no purpose other than to satisfy an entitled, selfish, and coveting population.

Leadership: Lessons to be learned?

Leadership is hard. Leadership must be proven not elected.

My conclusion: Whether we look at news anchors, mayors, clergy, the president, governors, etc., there seems to be a shortage of true leaders. Leaders lead by example. Which leader have you seen on TV or heard on the radio lately that you would actually like to be like? I can't think of one. I'm not talking about being smart, being a good speaker, or being popular. I'm ask, "Who would you actually like to be like?" If we can't find one we would actually like to be like, then why do we think they can fix anything? Leadership is not rushing to a judgement before any facts are known and neither is it leadership to craft the facts to fit your preconceived version. Leadership is not telling other people what to believe or trapping them with details they haven't had time to process yet. We have been electing/watching/supporting people but not leaders for a long time. We have gotten what we deserved.

Family & Faith: How do they fit it?

My conclusion: I find it ironic that all of this blows up again at the same time the Supreme Court is wrestling with redefining the family. Family would go a long way to fixing a lot of this. Family & faith would fix it fully. It is in the context of family that a person learns respect, boundaries, and kindness (just to name a very few things). If that same family is shaped by faith, then there is a solid moral foundation on which to build all the virtues a person should hold high and dear. Boys need men and girls need women. Boys also need women and girls need men. So, in the beginning, God created the perfect place for all those needs. It is called the family. A mom, a dad, and any children they might have or that they might influence. If you take mom or dad out of the picture, life become immediately...immediately....immediately harder. And as life gets harder, things slip through the cracks. As things slip, society slips. As society slips, the country slips. As the country slips, the country ends. Family and faith don't fit in the the equation...they hold it together. They hold together the very fabric of our country. Take them out and we will fall.

Authority: abuse of and submission to

"With great power comes great responsibility." "To whom much is given much will be required."

Is it possible to abuse power? Absolutely. How many of us have heard, "Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely?" Yet, we all know that if we do not have a system of authority that we all agree to submit to, then we will have chaos. At least I thought we all knew that. Our founding fathers knew that, which is why our government has checks and balances. It is why our judicial system moves painfully slow sometimes because there are processes to try and minimize corruption and abuse. 

My conclusion: the occasional abuse of authority does not give us the right to refuse to no longer submit to authority. To do so invites more chaos than the abuse creates. For those of us in the Church, we are called to submit regardless. In America, we have options at our disposal to protest the occasional abuses. We are blessed to live in a country with such realities. Rioting and looting are not those options. It is much harder (not impossible but harder) to find yourself under an abuse of authority when you are living a life of submission to authority. 

Anger & Sin

My conclusion: People are obviously angry. And anger is not necessarily a sin. But anger that involves destroying other people's possessions, hurting other people's bodies, and losing all self-control? That is sin. Reasoning with a person or group of people in such a state is not possible. Anger arises from sense of being offended. In America, we have ways of making our offense known without resorting to violence. This move towards violence is a display of the sinfulness of man, the lack of respect for your neighbor, and the abandonment of love.

Serving: What about cops?

My conclusion: My uncle was a cop for 20 years. I watched him ride off time and time again to go help someone or stop a crime. He was the highest example of serving others. When we rob cops of their right to be viewed as heroes and servants, when we rob our children of the image that a cop is the person you run to if you are ever in danger, when we reach a point as a country where cops are the bad guys, then we will soon slip into anarchy and terror. My daughters both love policemen. Their eyes light up when they see a policemen in a restaurant. Why let a few who abuse destroy the image, effort, and sacrifice of the many? 

Humanity & Humility

My conclusion: "None of us are righteous. No, not one." Yet, I perceive that we are increasingly thinking that we are. We rush to judgement. We are quick to condemnation. And we reject anything that doesn't fit our agenda. We are a society that, like Pilate some 2000 years before us, is asking, "What is truth?" Facts are no longer viewed as such. We deny what we don't want to believe. Our trust has been shattered by those in the highest offices of our land over the last 50 years with few exceptions. Our current TV and movie lineup is full of movies that speak to distrust, deception, and corruption. We are surrounded by bad examples of bad people doing bad things. We have forgotten the One who came down and did not consider equality with God something to be grasped. 

Wow...this was really long! Sorry about that, my faithful reader. As you can see, we are in a very complicated place. 

I am a 37 year old male, white, husband and father of four young children. I am also an ordained minister in the Christian faith and an American citizen. In our fragmented society that means I am:

- inexperienced and naive
- sexist
- a beneficiary of white privilege
- against gay marriage
- unable to relate to single parents
- not driven to succeed in my career
- religious
- against immigration

Sadly, that is how our society is beginning to see each other. 

I choose, however, to do what I can to love God and my neighbor and to...

17 Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor. 
- 1 Peter 2:17

Please pause and just pray for our country for a minute. We all need a good bit more of that.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Digging New Ruts

Do you remember the way the roads looked in those old western TV shows or Little House on the Prairie?

Kinda like this:

They all had these wagon wheel ruts in them.

As I was discipling a couple of ladies last night, we began to talk about what I had written in my last post (see my "Faith" post). During our conversation, one of the ladies asked me, "But how do we have that kinda faith? How can we just look past people's offenses?"

As we continued to discuss her questions, I felt the Lord impress on me the mental image of wagon wheel ruts. If you know anything about addiction and what it does to the human brain, then, you probably have heard that addicting behaviors literally carve pathways into your brain's physiology. As a person continues to feed the addiction, those pathways deepen over time making it harder and harder to not give in and do something different.

These pathway carvings are like wagon wheel ruts. Over time, the ruts get deeper and deeper. Trying to pull a wagon wheel out of one of these ruts could often lead to a broken wheel. Also, choosing to not follow the ruts and dig new ones was tremendously difficult and risky because you ran the risk of falling back into a rut and again breaking a wheel.

Along those same lines, I believe any serious shift in the way we do things can be compared to this image, even shifts in our spiritual lives. The answer to the lady I was discipling's question is not a pat, easy answer. It is one that is difficult and bears a fair amount of risk.

We must dig new ruts.

Just as the person breaking free of an addiction must learn to carve new pathways (most successfully with God's help), we must learn to think about faith/trust in a new way. The first step is getting the wheel out of the rut. This is often a huge effort (depending on how deeply engrained the something is that we are trying to change) and can be painful and scary as we try to let go of the way we have always thought or done something.

In regards to faith ("How do we have that kinda faith?"), I think the shift becomes less about having the faith/trust in Jesus to deal with a situation and more about having the faith/trust to see Jesus behind/past the situation. This is a big shift. One focuses on dealing with it. The other focuses on letting it go.

After the wheel has gotten out of the rut, we now have to tread over uncharted territory. The road less traveled Frost would tell us. The territory deals with the the how to's ("How can we just look past people's offenses?"). I think the answer lies solely in the One to whom we are looking. As we look past the offense or fear and focus our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, we find ourselves focusing much less on what we must do and much more on who He says we are to be.

We can look past people's offenses because the King in in control and that same King has adopted us as His children, and if we are His children and He is total absolute control, what offense or fear could possibly harm us without His sovereign hand directing, protecting, and sustaining us through it all?

*I doubt very much that that long sentence is correct grammatically but it works for me :-)

So, I am testing out this new ground. Is it kinda scary and hard? Sure. But not because of God. It is scary and hard because it is new. But nothing stays new. Eventually, it becomes a part of what we do. But I am a long way from that.

I've gotta dig some new ruts.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Do you understand faith?

Ted Dekker.

If you have talked to me about books in the last 5 years, then I have probably mentioned Ted. Hands down he is my favorite author. Maybe ever.


Because I have learned a tremendous amount about my faith and what it needs to look like in this world from reading his books.

But, rather than launch into all of that, I want to focus on the title of this post.

Do you understand faith?

I mean the word. Faith. What does it mean to have faith. To really have it?

I just finished Ted's latest work, A.D. 30. This is his first overtly Christian book, and I was excited to see how he wrote Jesus after reading shadows of Jesus in his other books for the last 5 years. I was not disappointed, but what struck me even more was a theme he first introduced in Water Walker.

Faith = Trust

If I claim to have faith in Jesus, why then do I still fear people or things? Why do I still take offense at what people or this world do or say to me? Why do I get anxious? Stressed? Etc.?

I experience all those things because I struggle with faith. I struggle with trust.

If my faith was strong, if I really trusted Him with all my being, if I gave myself over to him completely, all my hopes, dreams, desires, and goals and trusted, then what can stand against His will and His purposes for me?


So, the only reason I struggle, I fear, I fret, and I worry is because I choose to not trust. I choose the things of this world, the agendas of my heart, and the "reality" of my situation rather than faith in Jesus.

If I truly trusted, then no one can hurt me (physically, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually) unless He allows it. Not one hair on my head can be affected without the Lord of the Universe granting it to be. And if He allows it, this One who is perfectly good, steadfastly loving, and immensely kind, what does it matter the outcome? He is in control and He is with me through it all. It is in Him and His goodness that my faith is placed...not the storm in my life, not the fear of being mocked, not the uncertainty of my next paycheck, etc.. My faith, my trust, should be in the One who is above all things, controls all things, and knows all things.

That kind of faith is like that of a child. A child who does not know to fear or take offense because they trust the One who holds their hand. That hand means safety. It means peace. It means joy. It means confidence. Not because of who I am...but because of the One whose hand it is.

And that kind of faith? It can tell a mountain to move...and it will.

Do you understand faith? I'm still learning...


Can I hold your hand?

Thursday, April 23, 2015


Hello blogging world. It has been a long time again, but I have some time over the next two weeks.  As I have said before, blogging for me is kinda like journaling for others. It just has a cooler more masculine feel to say blog instead of journal...anyway...

It's been over seven and a half months since I left my first and only full time pastoral position.

Seven and a half months.

I know that doesn't sound too long. I know that it shouldn't feel so long, but it does.

Seven and a half months of feeling...well...useless.

I realized that is what I have been feeling just yesterday while listening to Jan Karon's newest book, Somewhere Safe with Someone Good, on the CD's I rented from Cracker Barrel. I have read/listened to quite a few of her Mitford books and find that I like Father Tim a good bit. But I was surprised to hear him (Jane Karon really) express what has been in my heart as clearly as I heard it yesterday.


It really is an ugly word. Nothing about it communicates value or worth. It just sits there. Pitiful. Painful. Useless.

As I mulled all this over today while doing some yard work for my dad, the Spirit's voice was quick to jump into the conversation. I really didn't want Him to jump in...I was just fine enjoying my wallowing. But He is the Lord and when He wants to jump in He just does so...*sigh*

So, I began to listen.

Useless, my son? In what way?

Are you useless as you disciple a group of ladies every Monday night and they tell you frequently how much they appreciate it and how much they are growing?

Are you useless as you disciple four other people individually each week? Are you useless as you watch them grow each and every week and see them becoming more of who I made them to be?

Are you useless when you receive a surprise and much needed check in the mail just to say thank you for devoting that time each week?

Are you useless when you receive an anonymous extra gift to support you and your family's ministry from the church you attend?

And speaking of that church, are you useless when you preach once a month? Are you useless when you teach the youth Sunday school and see them think about things they hadn't thought about before?

Are you useless when you are becoming more consistent and stronger in longstanding areas of weakness in your marriage? Are you useless as I draw you and your bride closer together than you have ever been?

Are you useless when you invest your time with each of your children and all of them in ways that most dads never have the time or chance to?

Are you useless when you help your parents out with things they can not do physically any more during this season?

Are you useless as you plan and work out your strengths and giftings while not being sidetracked by the many duties of a pastor?

Tell me, son, how exactly are you useless?

And thus I was rebuked. And so, I am trying...trying to focus on how He is using me here and now instead of on what I think I should be doing. I am trying to grow in patience as He works out the next phase of ministry for me and my family. I am trying to trust. Trying to trust that He knows the plans He has for me and that my lot is to wait in grateful expectation.

I have found that waiting is hard. Waiting is harder when you are living with you parents. It is harder when you have a wife you want to provide for. It is harder when you have children that you want to give their own space to. It is harder when you want to shepherd a people again.

Waiting is just hard.

Yet, I wait.

    Teach me your way, O LORD,
        and lead me on a level path
        because of my enemies.
    Give me not up to the will of my adversaries;
        for false witnesses have risen against me,
        and they breathe out violence.
    I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the LORD
        in the land of the living!
    Wait for the LORD;
        be strong, and let your heart take courage;
        wait for the LORD!

(Psalm 27:11-14 ESV)