Pineapples and Porcupines

Tags

, , , , , , , , ,

I’ve never been interested in being politically correct. That’s not going to change. I’d rather be a truth-teller than a people pleaser. PineappleWe live in a crazy, jacked up world where people strive to redefine reality to suit their agendas, then try to force everyone else to follow suit.

Let’s be clear… You may identify with a pineapple, but that does not make you a pineapple.crested_porcupine You can call yourself a pineapple, wear yellow and green and be super sweet, but if you were born a porcupine, you will always be a porcupine. Changing your name and appearance will never change your DNA.

You are free to change yourself and call yourself whatever you choose; however you are not free to dictate my reaction or response.Pineapple Craft If I see a porcupine in a pineapple suit, I might stare at the strange spectacle. I might even ask the porcupine why it is dressed like a pineapple. That may very well be my response, and it would be an honest one. I am neither required nor obligated to call porcupines pineapples regardless of their attire.

It is not my intention to offend any porcupines or pineapples, but I know there’s always a possibility that someone may feel offended if they disagree. That’s okay with me. I won’t be offended by their disagreement or offense. That would be insanity.

Advertisements

Through This Valley

Tags

, , , , , , , , , ,

DespairThe past several months have been a difficult season for me; so I’ve been thinking a lot about how to find faith and hope while in a place of pain and despair. Everyone goes through hard times. No life goes untouched by the hand of suffering and grief. What do you do when you trust God and believe that He’ll come through for you, but then He doesn’t? What do you do when you know that He could have prevented your pain and suffering, but He chose not to? What do you do when you cry out for help, but your prayers go unanswered? How do you deal with it? These are some of the questions I have been asking. I don’t have all the answers, but here are some things that I’ve found while navigating the rough waters of my journey.

  1. As hopelessness begins to set in, it is most important that you know God never abandons you. You may not feel or see Him, but He has not left you. He has not forgotten you. You are not alone. He is with you in the midst of whatever you’re going through. (Heb. 13:5-6)
  2. God has more confidence in your faith than you do. In His silence, He is trusting you to exercise your faith, to walk it out. Your faith is being proven. (1 Pet. 1:6-7)
  3. Growth doesn’t happen in the high places; it doesn’t happen in the good times. It is produced in the depths of the valley. You become mature, as you endure trial, hardship, and the testing of your faith. So, don’t give up! (Jam. 1:2-4, Jam. 1:12, Heb. 12:3-11)
  4. You may feel like your situation is too much for you to handle. You may feel like you can’t bear up under all of the pressure. The good news is, you’re not expected to. God wants to help carry your burden. All He asks is that you surrender to Him. (Matt. 11:28-30, Phil. 4:6-7)

Death Valley

Psalm 23:4 says, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.”

Notice that death is not in the valley. It’s only a shadow. There’s nothing to fear.

So, if you’re walking through the valley, be encouraged – God is with you. He’s with you every step of the way, and He’ll be with you as you come out on the other side of it.

 

 

 

Like this post

Sex and Christian Singles (Part 2) – Let’s Get Personal

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Two months have passed since I posted part one of this series. I’ve just been too busy, having too much fun. It is summer time, after all. Anyway, here I am with part two, my personal story. Please take a moment to read part one if you haven’t done so. It sets the foundation for all subsequent posts on this topic and also introduces why I have chosen to write about it. Now, let’s just dive right in.

I was once a carnal Christian just like the ones I wrote about in part one. It is only by the grace of God that I am changed. His love has transformed me, and continues to shape me into the person I am today. I’m going to share some things from my past that up until now, only a handful of people have known.

My relationship with God began at a very young age. I honestly can not recall a time when I did not believe. I was enrolled in Christian school at age three, and began learning about Jesus and the Bible from that time on. At age 11, I began getting more serious about pursuing a relationship with Jesus Christ. I decided to get baptized at age 12. It was at this point that my family began to follow my lead in pursuit of God. Throughout middle and high school I was very active in my church, participating in youth group, choir, drama, evangelism, and mission trips. At that time, living a life of purity and holiness was a high priority of mine.

During my senior year of high school, I began dating the guy who would become my first serious boyfriend. I’m going to refer to him as “Boyfriend-1.” I had dated a few other guys before him, but “Boyfriend-1” was my first long term relationship. Honestly, he was a great, big distraction. The more time I spent with him, the less time I focused on my relationship with the Lord. We dated for two and a half years, from the time I was 17 until age 20. Our relationship became sexual about a year into it. I was 18 years old. I knew that it was wrong, but I managed to justify my actions because I believed that we would one day be married.

Man and Woman SilhouetteIf I could only use one word to describe my relationship with “Boyfriend-1,” the word would be “volatile.” When things were good, they were very good; but when they were bad… well… I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. It became glaringly obvious that “Boyfriend-1” was not the man I wanted to marry. I tried to break up a few times, but he always managed to talk his way out of it and convince me to keep trying to make it work. It wasn’t until the day he took me to look at diamond rings that I was finally able to break it off. I couldn’t let him buy me a ring. I knew that there was no way I’d ever willingly choose to spend the rest of my life in that relationship.

I spent the year that followed the break up (1996) in self-destruction and self-sabotage. I had so many conflicting feelings. Pain and sadness, mixed with relief and the joy that it was over. I had felt so trapped and suffocated for so long and I finally felt free. I also felt like I had wasted the past two and a half years. All my life I had been so cautious; and now, I wanted to be reckless. So I resolved not to think so much. If I felt like doing something, I would act first, think later. As I’m sure you can imagine, this mindset led me to make some very poor decisions. I became caught up in the party lifestyle. I was drinking heavily, occasionally experimenting with drugs, and at times, having casual sex. I felt that since I’d already messed up by sleeping with “Boyfriend-1”, it didn’t really matter what I did anymore.

This reckless lifestyle led me to place myself in some unsafe situations. One resulted in date rape. I’m not going to go into too much detail about that, except to say that it wasn’t a date. It was a guy who I thought was my friend and nothing more. I believed I was safe with him; but I was wrong. I said “NO” and he forced himself on me anyway. Even so, I blamed myself. It took quite a while for me to understand that I was not responsible for his actions. At the same time, I know that if I had not been living the way that I was living, I would never have been in that situation in the first place. So, I take responsibility for my part.

I quickly grew tired of the party scene. All of this “fun” I was having was shallow and unsatisfying. I was unhappy; and when I thought about the last time I was truly happy, I remembered the joy that I felt when I was actively pursuing a growing relationship with the Lord. I missed that, and I wanted it back. But something happens when you turn your back on everything you believe and spend a year living like an entirely different person. You start to forget the things you once knew; and you begin to lose sight of who you really are.

I remember thinking, “I want to return to God, but I’m such a mess. I need to fix myself up first.” I also thought, “I will NEVER forgive myself for doing these things!” As soon as that thought entered my mind, I heard the voice of God for the first time in over a year as He lovingly rebuked me by asking the following question: “Who do you think you are to not forgive yourself – when I have already forgiven you?” It was a question that exposed my selfish pride and reminded me of the merciful love that He had already extended me. That was it for me. It was all over. I gave my life back the Lord. No more running. No more games. It was the beginning of my journey to restoration.

I’d like to say that as soon as I returned, everything was set right; but that’s not how it works. It’s a process. God received me back immediately, but I still had to work through the effects of that year on my life. My mind and emotions bore the greatest consequences. I didn’t know who I was anymore. I was broken and full of shame. I felt completely worthless. I had also developed some terrible habits that needed to be broken in order for me to follow Jesus with a clear conscience. It was a long and difficult process, but God gently and faithfully dealt with me. He reminded me of things that I had forgotten, lessons learned, and experiences we had together in the past.

He looked inside of me and showed me things that he saw – beautiful, wonderful things that I could barely believe were in me. Things that I thought had been lost for good, like my innocence, were still there. I had never lost them. I had only believed lies that they were gone. He called me beautiful, lovely, innocent, holy, pure, treasured, faithful, strong, mighty woman of God. I had a hard time receiving it, because that’s not who I saw when I looked at myself. So He said it over and over again – until I quit arguing. He said it over and over again – until I started to believe Him. “Beautiful. Lovely. Innocent. Holy. Pure. Treasured. Faithful. Strong. Mighty woman of God. This is who you are.” He said it over and over again – until I began to understand my value again.

 

To Be Continued. . .

 

 

Sex and Christian Singles (Part 1)

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Back in February, I did a bunch of research on single Christians, sex, purity, and the lack thereof. I planned to write about it, but ended up speaking on the topic at church instead. After speaking about it, I still wanted to write, but sort of chickened out. I felt that there was too much to write about for just one post, and I would probably need to do a series to cover everything that I wanted to say. I hadn’t blogged in close to a year, and really didn’t want to kick off my return to the blogging world with a series on sex. I was also kind of afraid that if I did, I might become known for the topic – like some kind of Christian sexpert or something – and I’m single, so how appropriate would that be? I know it’s silly; and I’m not concerned about any of that anymore. The truth is, I am single, and I can speak with authority on this topic because I have a past. I have made mistakes and I can draw from those to share what I have learned about the transforming power of the love of God. His love has changed me, purified me, and made me completely new. I will share some of my story in a later post. In this one, I’m just going to share what prompted me to research this topic in the first place.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt all began in the end of January with a conversation I had with an acquaintance – a girl in her early twenties who professes to be a Christian. We started talking about new year’s resolutions and she told me that her resolution was “to not have sex for three months.” She seemed proud of herself and said, “That’s pretty good, don’t you think?” I responded with blunt honesty and told her, “No I don’t think that’s good. It would be good if you were not having sex until you’re married.” She then proceeded to tell me that she’s young, so of course she’s going to be having sex – “everyone is doing it.” I told her that wasn’t true. “Everyone is not doing it. I’m not doing it, and my single friends are not doing it. We’re choosing to submit to God – and the Bible is very clear about sex being reserved for marriage.” She then asked, “Haven’t you ever made a mistake?” I said, “Yes, I have,” then asked if her question was meant to imply that sex before marriage was a mistake. She said, “Yes.” So I asked if she was still planning on having sex in three months when she was done with her break. Again, she said, “Yes.” Then I asked, “So you are planning on making a mistake in three months? Do you think that’s a good decision?” Silence. . . End of conversation. . .

In mid-February, I posted a link to an article on my Facebook timeline. It was an interview with a Christian guy, Matt Moore, who struggles with same sex attraction. I thought it was great. He spoke candidly about his struggles; and it was apparent that he valued his relationship with Christ more than his sexual desires. This is why I chose to share the interview on Facebook. As a result, a lengthy discussion ensued in the comments between a couple friends and myself – a discussion about the Bible, nature, identity, and love. They insisted that Matt “hates himself” and that he is “repressing his true nature” by choosing to abstain from homosexual relationships in order to follow his convictions and commitment to Jesus Christ. They also emphatically stated that the only way Matt will ever find “authentic love” is with another man. I asserted that Matt does not believe that his struggle is his identity, but instead he identifies as a Christian, as a child of God. Therefore, it is his nature to follow God and the guidelines revealed though the Bible. Doing so is an act of love, not only for God, but for himself as He lives out his beliefs and follows his convictions despite the pressures from many for him to do the opposite. We had a pretty good discussion; however, when it became apparent that my viewpoint would not be swayed, it turned a little bit ugly. It was suggested that I either must be struggling with my own sexual identity, or I am just sexually frustrated as “an older adult female” that is yet unmarried. Ridiculous? Yes, but not surprising considering who it came from – a homosexual man that professes to be a Christian.

These are two separate conversations that added to a growing frustration I’ve had with the blatant carnality in today’s Christian culture. There is a famine of truth in much of what calls itself the church. Messages that expose sin and call for holy living are unpopular and have become a rarity. The sanctuary has become seeker sensitive and has so diluted even the most basic principles of Christianity that they have become unrecognizable. All too often there is no distinction between the lifestyle of a Christian and that of an unbeliever besides a belief in God. As Christians, we are called to be different. We live in this world, but must not live by its principles. Our lives should reflect the character of God to such a degree that the world around us is impacted and changed. (See 1 Peter 2:11-12). We are called to set the standard. Instead, many Christians have been conforming to the world’s standards. I’m tired of hearing about professing Christians living with their boyfriends or girlfriends; and I’m tired of hearing about them getting pregnant and having babies before they get married. This is becoming more frequent, and it serves as a stark reminder of the idolatry that has pervaded the church. The worship of sex and self has replaced the worship of God. It is time to send these idols smashing to the ground!

It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister. The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before. For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, anyone who rejects this instruction does not reject a human being but God, the very God who gives you his Holy Spirit. (1 Thessalonians 4:3-8)

 

Like this post

Concerning Fallen Pastors and Restoration

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

In recent years it has become a rather common trend to hear about pastors being removed from leadership due to exposure of hidden sins. Scandals involving church leaders caught in sexual or financial misconduct have been making local, national, and even international news. All it takes is a quick internet search to read all about it. I spent a couple of hours the other night doing exactly that, and the results were appalling. I began with a limited search of incidents within the past five years, but soon learned that the time frame was too broad, yielding too many results. So, I narrowed my search to those within the past year. After a few hours of reading about pastors involved infallen adultery, rape, statutory rape, child molestationsexual batterysodomy, incest, child pornography, assault and batteryembezzlement, conspiracy to commit murder, and Reckless HIV… I had to stop reading. It was just too much… too disturbing, too sick, too sad. In only a few hours time, I had read through 26 separate accounts of horrendous pastoral abuses that had made news within the year. I couldn’t stomach any more; so I quit reading. I’m curious how many I would have found if I hadn’t quit. Using this research alone, one could conservatively say that pastors are falling at a rate of 2 per month. It has become epidemic.

As the church, what does this say about us? These are our leaders? Seriously? Are you kidding me? When our pastors are living secret double lives, it is a symptom of a much greater problem. We (the church) must be sick. There’s no other explanation. If these are our leaders, than we must be sick. After all, as Christians, we are all parts of the same body (Rom 12:5). We’re not removed from any of it. In saying this, I am not absolving the pastors of any blame or responsibility for their actions. They must be held accountable for what they have done; and those who have committed crimes should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. The fact that these men were pastors should not grant them any leniency or special privileges (see 1 Tim 5:19-21). Pastors are to be held to a higher standard. They should be an example to the people they lead (1 Pet 5:1-4). When a pastor falls into sin of this magnitude, there are consequences for his actions. Removal from leadership is the most basic and obvious of consequences.

Oftentimes, when a beloved pastor is removed from leadership under these circumstances, the congregation doesn’t know how to handle it. They are stunned. They feel hurt, betrayed and confused. Their teacher, their counselor, the person who they were looking toward for spiritual guidance and advice has been exposed as a fraud. This is a deep violation of trust. Some become disillusioned and turn away from the faith, never to step through the doors of another church. Others leave and find another congregation to join. Some choose to stay and work through the remaining chaos, helping to rebuild what has been broken. Others stay in hopes that their pastor will return and soon be restored to the place of leadership he once held.

How does a pastor recover the trust of his congregation so that he can be restored to his former post? Bluntly put, he doesn’t. He has forfeited his position of leadership, and has been disqualified from his former post. Does that sound harsh? I don’t think so – especially when a pastor has engaged in criminal activity. But what if his crime was adultery? affairTwo consenting adults? That’s not so bad, is it? Surely, the pastor guilty of infidelity, if he is repentant, should be able to return after taking some time off, right? Wrong. He, too, has been disqualified from his position of leadership. Do you think I’m being too hard on these pastors? After all, they’re only human. Well, let me ask you a question. Is it unreasonable to fire somebody from a job if he has shown himself to be unqualified for the position? I don’t think so. Do you think this is any different? You’re right. It is different. Being a pastor or church leader is much more than a job. It is more than just standing in front of a group of people and encouraging them weekly with cute stories and entertaining sermons. It is life or death. Peoples souls are at stake.

Church leaders are spiritual shepherds who tend to God’s flock. A shepherd is not just a guide. He is not only responsible for leading; but also for feeding, protecting, correcting, and nurturing the sheep in his care. He is entrusted with their spiritual growth and well-being. This isn’t a distant role like a king who is “above” the people he serves. No, a shepherd’s place is right in the middle of the sheep. He is supposed to take care of thier needs to the point of even laying down his own life. That is so much more than a job. When somebody is found unfit for the position, it is serious. It should not be taken lightly. The pastor and his family are not the only ones affected. An entire congregation has been betrayed – hurt by the person entrusted to nurture and heal. When church leaders have abused the people in this way, they are no longer fit for leadership. They should not be reinstated under any circumstance. They no longer meet the required qualifications for the job and they never will.

How can I say “never”? Because there are certain things that can never be reversed or taken back. Let’s look at the Biblical requirements for church leaders. The apostle Paul provides a list of guidelines in 1 Timothy 3:1-13 and again in Titus 1:5-9. Both passages have much in common. Notice that the first requirement in both passages is that they must be above reproach or blameless. This doesn’t mean that the church leader is sinless. It means that their lifestyle is marked with the kind of purity and holiness that results in a blameless reputation. It means they do not bring shame to the gospel of Christ by committing any actions deserving of reproach (see Phil 1:27). The second requirement in both passages is that he must be the husband of one wife. This isn’t simply forbidding polygamy, although it certainly applies. It’s about faithfulness and commitment. He is married to one woman, and faithfully stays married. He does not cheat on his wife, or divorce her in order to marry another. The fact that these two requirements are listed first shows their great importance. Also, notice that when Paul lists these qualifications he uses the word must – not can or should – but must. This indicates that the leadership requirements are unconditional. They are not up for debate.

depress1What about forgiveness? Doesn’t the Bible say to “restore them gently” (Gal 6:1)? Doesn’t it also say “the gifts and call of God are irrevocable” (Rom 11:29)? Hold on… One question at a time please! 😉 Don’t misunderstand me. I am not proposing the public lynching of fallen pastors. They are in serious need of healing – the kind of healing that can take a lifetime. And yes, as Christians, we are called to forgive. What I am proposing is that forgiveness is not synonymous with placing them right back into the positions where they fell. I also propose that doing so is not even Biblical. Galatians 6:1 says, “Brothers, if someone is caught in any wrongdoing, you who are spiritual should restore such a person with a gentle spirit, watching out for yourselves so you also won’t be tempted.” This passage is often used in support of restoring fallen pastors back into positions of leadership, but is that what it’s saying? That seems to be a misinterpretation. It’s pretty clear that the restoration referred to in this scripture is about correction and not position. It is about restoring a person back to doing what is right. It is about restoring them to the faith and back to walking in righteousness.

Another scripture that has been widely misinterpreted and used to support reinstating fallen church leaders is Romans 11:29: “God’s gracious gifts and calling are irrevocable.” This passage is commonly taken out of context, and many think that it means that once God calls you to be a church leader, you are always called to be a church leader regardless of your actions. In context, this passage is not about that at all. Romans 11 is all about the salvation of Israel. It describes how Israel turned away from the Lord and made it possible for the Gentiles to receive salvation. The point being made is that it is not too late for Israel to repent, to turn and be saved. Let’s look at the passage in context. “Regarding the gospel, they are enemies for your advantage, but regarding election, they are loved because of the patriarchs, since God’s gracious gifts and calling are irrevocable. As you once disobeyed God, but now have received mercy through their disobedience, so they too have now disobeyed, resulting in mercy to you, so that they also now may receive mercy.” (Rom 11:28-31) The word “calling” in verse 29 comes from the Greek word “klesis” which means “an invitation.” So, in context, what Romans 8:29 is saying is that when God extends the invitation of salvation, He will not take it back. He won’t revoke His offer.

What do we do with these fallen pastors if we’re not supposed to put them back into leadership? The truth is, I don’t really know. Honestly, I feel that this is usually handled very poorly. It may sounds naive, but I don’t think that forcing them to leave their churches is the answer. I understand that in many cases, particularly when there has been physical/sexual abuse of those under their care, that it is necessary for them to leave in order to facilitate healing in the congregation. I agree with this wholeheartedly. I just wonder about other cases… like the man who is caught with his hand in the collection plate, or the one who is trying to repair his marriage after being unfaithful to his wife. looking_over_londonI wonder if healing could better be facilitated for all parties if the former leader was embraced, rather than shunned and sent away in disgrace. If the congregation would forgive and be willing to accept him as one of their own… If they would lovingly walk with him as he travels the road of humility and pain set before him while God works on his character… If he could find a home among those he once taught – not as a leader, but as a fellow brother and friend… If he would be willing to humbly do life with them, walking side by side without agenda or expectation of rising above into a position of leadership… If this were possible, wouldn’t healing come more swiftly? Instead of running away and avoiding each other, if they could face each other and work through the aftermath together… Wouldn’t that be beneficial for all involved? It’s bound to be messy. It certainly wouldn’t be easy. But wouldn’t it be worth it?

 

Like this post

Church Scandals and Infidelities. . . This is Personal

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Bob CoyTuesday morning, I learned some shockingly sad news. It all started with a friend’s cryptic Facebook status. There was just something about it that made me curious enough to investigate. It didn’t take long for me to find out that Bob Coy of Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale had “resigned” from his role as senior pastor due to “moral failure.” Simply put, he had extramarital affairs. For those who are not familiar with Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale (CCFL), it is the second largest church in Florida and the fourteenth largest in the nation with about 20,000 people attending.

I once was loosely connected to this church, although I was not a regular attendee. I took some missions classes there which later opened a door for me to travel with CCFL to Austria. I also spent a season as a student in their college, Calvary Chapel Bible Institute. This was a long time ago, probably about 13 years or so. Despite my involvement, I never really considered Calvary Chapel my home church or Bob Coy my pastor. In all honesty, it was more of a resource to me than a church; and I’ve never really been a huge fan of megachurches. So when I learned of Bob’s infidelities, I was most surprised by my own feelings. This situation seemed to hit close to home. It felt personal, and that was completely unexpected.

This isn’t the first time I’ve had connections to a church affected by sex scandal. Christ the Rock Community Church (CRCC) in Cooper City Florida, formerly pastored by John Wagner, was once my church home. I was very involved there. I sang in the choir and danced for special events, participated in community groups, and led some community groups as well. Wedding ringsIn 2003, John Wagner “resigned” as pastor to divorce Margie, his wife of 18 years, leaving her and their daughter for his mistress, a married woman from the praise team (who he married about eight months later).

Even more shocking was the invitation I received in the mail a couple weeks later inviting me to the opening service of his new church, The Church of Abounding Grace, only a few miles away. All of this craziness happened about a year after I had stopped attending CRCC in favor of a weekly home group in Margate. Although it was still heartbreaking, I was spared much of the hurt and devastation that other members went through, because I had already moved on.

Curious about what John had to say, I went to the opening service of The Church of Abounding Grace. The place was packed, and the media was there to interview people (myself included) after the service. I remember feeling deeply saddened and disappointed. I also remember the sick feeling in the pit of my stomach when John Wagner came out and several congregants rose to their feet and applauded. It was appalling to see all the people who came to worship this charismatic man.

John taught about the woman caught in the act of adultery. I remember him saying, “I am that adulterous woman.” He then talked about how Jesus did not condemn her, but instead told the crowd, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” What was missing from this sermon, was the part where Jesus told the woman, “Go and sin no more” (John 8:11). I shook John’s hand on the way out and looked him in the eyes. This man was in no shape to be leading a congregation. I saw pain, brokenness, and shame; and I felt sorrow because there was no repentance.

I’ve seen the damage that happens when people place all of their faith in a person instead of in God. When that person messes up (and they always do), people get hurt. When his sin is publicly exposed, those who idolized and placed him on a pedestal are left devastated and confused. Relationships are destroyed as people argue and take sides. It shakes their faith, because their faith wasn’t secure in the first place. The foundation was weak. praying_on_bible_redSome people make it through the pain and disillusionment and grow closer to the Lord in the process. Others lose all hope and fall away, never to return; and that is tragic.

This brings me back to Bob Coy and what the members of Calvary Chapel are going through. This is a difficult time of grief, mourning, pain and confusion. My heart breaks for them, and I repent for my initial surprise for feeling this way because it is the wrong kind of mentality. Why would I be surprised that this feels personal? I shouldn’t be. It is personal. How could I think that I’d remain unaffected? As Christians aren’t we all part of the same body (Rom 12:5)? When something like this happens, it affects us all. That makes it personal. When one part of the body suffers, we all suffer (1 Cor 12:26). We’re family. We’re brothers and sisters in Christ (Gal 3:26-28). And we’re responsible for carrying each other’s burdens (Gal 6:2).

 

Like this post

Noah, Controversy & My Two Cents

Tags

, , , , , , , ,

The new Darren Aronofsky movie, Noah, starring Russell Crowe, opened in theaters this past Friday provoking controversy among Christians over deviations in the film from the Biblical account. As a result, there has been a myriad of public discussion and bickering about it over social media. Everyone seems to have an opinion, and that’s okay. Every movie is subject to criticism. When a film is criticized, it’s not “judgment,” it’s simply the nature of the entertainment industry. People are very vocal about what they like and what they dislike. There’s nothing wrong with that. They are entitled to voice their opinions.

Personally, it’s no surprise that the atheist director quoted as saying he made the “least Biblical Biblical film” would tell a different story than the one found in the scriptures. Even so, it’s ridiculous to assume that just because a movie is inspired by a Bible story, that Christians should be embracing it. If somebody doesn’t want to see the film because it deviates from the Biblical account, that’s totally valid. It’s no different than choosing not to see Divergent or some other movie inspired from a book because of deviations from the original story. Choosing not to see a film is not the equivalent of a “boycott” – but that word is being manipulatively thrown around in accusation of those who have chosen not to go see it. Why? What is the big deal anyway? It’s just a movie.

See it, or skip it. Embrace it, or reject it. The choice is yours. Make your decision, and allow others to decide for themselves. You don’t need to agree. In the grand scheme of things, does this even matter? It certainly isn’t something worth arguing about. It’s just a movie.

 

Like this post

Fearlessly Unapologetic

Tags

, , , , , , , , , ,

I have no interest in being politically correct. I’ve never really been interested. I think it’s silly and dishonest. What’s wrong with simply saying what I mean, anyway? I’m tired of mainstream society’s manipulative, man-pleasing insistence that people re-phrase in order to avoid potential offenses. Often times, in doing so, intention and meaning is lost in the process. I choose to continue to say what I mean and mean what I say. If somebody doesn’t like it, that’s okay. I can live with it. Offense is inevitable, because it’s impossible to please everybody. There are worse things than offending someone, and there are worse things than having hurt feelings. Sometimes a little bit of offense can be good for a person. Sometimes that uncomfortable “I don’t like it!” feeling brings one to introspection, leads one to take personal inventory, “Why am I offended?” “Why does this bother me?” and that can be a good thing.

Please do not misunderstand me. I am not condoning walking around acting like a big, abrasive jackass (Does that word offend?) totally trampling everything and everyone in your path. Treating people with kindness, respect, and consideration is very important. Chained up I just don’t believe that’s the actual goal behind the push toward political correctness. Under the guise of anti-discrimination and social consideration, the insistence upon politically correct speech is really about limiting free thought and silencing anyone whose opinions do not conform to the objectives of “the powers that be.” It is reminiscent of Orwellian Newspeak. For now, I will say no more about it, because if I travel further down this tangent I might not return to the topic at hand.

You may be wondering, in lieu of adopting politically correct speech, what am I encouraging you to do? What am I promoting here? I have a simple answer: I am advocating speaking the truth in love, fearlessly and unapologetically. Be loving while being honest. Easy peasy, right? When you really love someone, you are more concerned about them and their well-being than about yourself. You are more concerned about their condition than about self-preservation from any potential backlash. You are more concerned about what is good for them than about “saving face” or protecting your reputation. Do not allow the fear of offending someone to hold you back from speaking truth and from standing up for what you believe.

I know that my beliefs and my lifestyle are sometimes offensive to those with differing beliefs. I rarely see in “shades of grey.” Most of the time, especially concerning moral issues, I see in “black and white.” I believe in “absolutes” and in “right and wrong.” Some may find that offensive. That’s fine with me. I have no desire to conform to what mainstream society believes about morality, because I believe that mainstream society is blatantly becoming increasingly immoral. If this offends somebody, I’m okay with it. I believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God, and I choose to live according to the standards set forth in it. The Bible also happens to be very “black and white.” You can spend a lot of time searching for “grey” in it, but you won’t find much, if any at all. The Bible speaks very clearly about sin, naming specific things; and I believe everything that is written within its pages. Is this offensive? If you’re a Christian, it shouldn’t be.

If you are a Christian, it should not offend you to know that I believe in sexual purity, that sex outside of marriage is sin, and therefore living with your boyfriend/girlfriend is also sin. It also should not offend you to know that when I use the word “marriage” I am speaking exclusively about the lifelong commitment made between a man and a woman. As a Christian, you should not be surprised or offended that I believe homosexuality is sin, pornography is sin, abortion is sin, or that (apart from situations with abuse or adultery) divorce is sin. Yes, I know, the Bible mentions many other, less obvious sins, like pride and greed. I purposely picked on sexual issues, because our culture has become sexually permissive; and many who call themselves Christians have chosen to adhere to the morals (or lack thereof) set forth by culture rather than adhering to what God has set forth in His word. I personally find this offensive and believe that God finds it offensive too. The good news is that no matter how you’ve sinned, forgiveness (for what you’ve done) and grace (empowerment for holy living) are available if you repent (turn away from sin, stop doing it) and allow God to guide you in your future decisions.

I want to be like Jesus. He is the perfect example of someone who walked in truth and in love. Jesus loved people, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that He pleased them. In fact, when I read about his interactions with others, it becomes apparent that Jesus was unconcerned with man-pleasing. He was passionate about the things of God. He uncompromisingly stood for truth and in the process offended many people, including His disciples. When confronted by the offenses of others, Jesus was fearless and unapologetic. He was more concerned with God’s desires than with the opinions of man. Jesus was compassionate, but He never condoned sin. Does that make him unloving? No. Quite the opposite, actually. In everything He did, Jesus was compelled by love.

I want to live that way.

I want to love that way.

Fearlessly.

Unapologetically.

Like this post

The Burning

Tags

, , , , , , , ,

Our God is an all consuming fire! His white hot flame burns away every impurity. It burns away all that corrupts. It burns away every hindrance, and anything that sets itself up as an obstacle between you and Him. So, what are you holding onto? Can it withstand the heat of His Presence? Will it disintegrate into oblivion when the Fire falls? Can you open up your hands and let it go? Are you willing? Will you choose to stay in the Fire, no matter how much it burns? Or will you run away, fists tight, clutching the ashes of a delusion you will not discard?

What happens if you stay in the Fire? What will remain after the burning? What remains after the Fire has come, is only that which is lasting and eternal. What remains has been refined. What remains is pure and holy. It has been perfected, purified, and shines with the glory of God. The fire of His Presence changes us – it transforms us – and we are radiant! We glow with evidence that we have been in His Presence; because when we see Him, we are like Him.

 

Like this post

A Time to Choose

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , ,

It’s the end of January and I’m finally going to write about something that has been on my heart and mind for a few months now. I shared some of this at our New Year’s Eve service, but will expound a little bit more, right here. Anyway, as 2012 was coming to a close and the time to cross over into 2013 was quickly approaching, I was sensing a real urgency about the season at hand and there was one phrase that I kept hearing very strong within my spirit. “It is a time to choose.”

I’m still hearing it, as strong as ever. “It is a time to choose.”

NOW is the time to choose. The time is now. People of God, it is time to rise up. It is time to be vigilant about our faith and start walking out what we have been preaching. No more compromise. There is no place for gray. It’s time to choose. Black or white? Light or dark? There is no room for anything in between. A line of demarcation has been drawn that can not be straddled. You have to pick a side. You have to make a choice.

What has God called you to do? Are you doing it? Refusal to choose, is still a choice. It’s time to step it up. If God has called you to be part of a community, then it’s time to invest in the people because there is no community without relationship. If God has called you to a ministry, then it’s time to commit to the work that He is doing there and submit to the leadership that He has appointed. What has God told you to do with your time, your job, your money, your health, your body, your personal relationships? Are you allowing Him to lead you in every single area of your life?

ChooseDelayed obedience is the same as disobedience. It’s time to go all in. No more excuses.  I’ve been studying the different kings in the Bible, and recently read a passage that had such an impact on me that I’ve been thinking about it ever since. “Now before him there was no king like him, who turned to the Lord with all his heart, with all his soul, and with all his might according to all the law of Moses; nor after him did any arise like him.” If I had read that outside of the context of the surrounding scriptures, I might have thought it was written about David. He was a man after God’s own heart, after all (1 Sam 13:14, Acts 13:22). However, that verse isn’t about David, it’s about Josiah. (2 Kings 23:25 NKJV)

Josiah was eight years old when he became king over Judah after his father, Amon,  was killed. Amon had been an evil king. Manasseh, Josiah’s grandfather, was the most evil king to ever reign over Judah. He seduced the people of Judah into all kinds of evil idol worship. Scripture also tells us that he shed much innocent blood. In fact, it was Manasseh who provoked God to such anger that His wrath came upon Judah and they were eventually delivered as captives into the hands of their enemies. You see, Josiah was born into an evil idolatrous system. Then at the very young age of eight, he was made ruler over it. It was the only lifestyle he knew, and he didn’t know there was anything wrong with it.

Eighteen years into Josiah’s reign, the high priest finds the Book of the Law in the temple of the Lord. A scribe takes the book and reads it to Josiah. Upon hearing the words of the Lord, Josiah tears his clothes and weeps, because he knows that God’s wrath must be upon Judah due to the disobedience of their fathers. He sends the high priest and four others to inquire of the Lord on behalf the people of Judah concerning all that was written in the book. The prophetess, Huldah, prophesies that God’s wrath will not be quenched and disaster will come to Judah. She also prophesies that it will not happen during Josiah’s lifetime because his heart was tender, he humbled himself before God, and God heard his cry.

Josiah then gathers all of Judah and reads the book to them. He makes a covenant before God and the people that he will follow the Lord and His commands with all of his heart and soul. Then all the people take a stand for the covenant with him. Josiah restores true worship to Judah. He completely gets rid of and destroys everything associated with idolatry, and executes all the idolatrous priests. Passover had not been observed in Jerusalem, since the days of judges, not even under any of the kings of Israel or Judah. Now, under Josiah, in the eighteen year of his reign, the people celebrate Passover. This is why it is written that “neither before nor after Josiah was there a king like him who turned to the Lord as he did – with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his strength, in accordance with all the Law of Moses.” (2 Kings 23:25 NIV)

Josiah knew it was a time to choose when he heard the words of the book. Instead of choosing to follow in the evil footsteps of his fathers, he chose to follow God. He chose to turn away from everything that he had ever known in order to wholeheartedly follow after the Lord. Josiah reigned over Judah for 31 years, but it was this choice in the eighteenth year of his rule that characterized his entire reign. The way that Josiah completely turned his life around to pursue God was more radical than any king that came before or after him, including David. That’s amazing! How would you like to be remembered that way?

Now is a time to choose.

What will you choose?

__________________________________________________________________

Recommended reading: 2 Kings 21:1 – 23:30

 

Like this post