Sunday, December 2, 2018

Unhappy Mirrors and Clanging Cymbals

My mirror has been a bit unhappy with me lately.

I don't know about you, but I'm so incredibly glad elections in this country are over...at least for now.  As I reflect over this past month, I must admit, I'm a bit ashamed by some if not most of what I posted on one of my most beloved idols, "ye olde" social media.

Unfortunately like many of you, I allowed my emotions to get the best of me this election cycle, and I related my opinions in a less than loving way.  My men's group kicked this topic around a bit yesterday.  So, how does one go about engaging others that you feel are truly off base in a way that doesn't lead to arguing and pointless banter?

We all are very passionate about what we believe, but when our conversations become nothing more than an attempt to win a debate, we immediately give up the high ground of sharing truth in love.  Yes, it can be complicated, but what if we approached every post or comment with a strong desire to share God's love without seeking "the win", and inevitably coming off as a know-it-all jerk face?  Yeah, I'm talking to myself here, but maybe you can identify.

 The world continues to slip down into the cesspool of moral relativism, and will likely continue that trend.  Now more than ever, Believers must stand for God's heart and do all we can to live out His life in the midst of the chaos, but that witness, must begin, end, and be bathed betwixt and between with love.  For the Lord has told us, "If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing."

I don't know about you, but I don't want to be known as a "clanging cymbal".

We've been called to reach this broken world for Christ.  The question is how does that happen?  I've been at this for a while, and I've watched God rescue souls in ways that often surprised me, but never did that happen apart from His love being expressed.  Indeed, "it is His kindness that leads us to repentance".

Remember, people living in darkness always see His truth as foolishness.  We can fuss, fight, banter, and maybe even win a grand debate with our keen intellectual prowess, but only love wins the heart.

May the Lord help me to remember that, and maybe that dang mirror will get off my back for a change!

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

I Took the Bait


I took the bait.

I think most of us believe Satan’s primary mode of attack is going after us in those areas in which we struggle the most.  Of course, we all have certain sins that seem to plague us.  Lust, greed, anger, the list is extensive, and every Believer certainly struggles with something.  And while I do believe our enemy does stalk us, waiting for an opportunity to trip us up in those weak areas, I’m beginning to realize the snake is far more cunning than we realize.  Indeed, he is an opportunist, and will certainly work with whatever foothold he can in his effort to steal from, kill, and destroy God’s beloved children.

For quite some time now, I’ve been convinced that it is my civic responsibility to fight hard as a voice for conservative values in this country.  Of course, “the fight” if you can call it that, generally consists of an endless litany of hard-nosed Facebook posts cast forth from the comfort of my easy chair.  I guess that’s how the common folk do battle in the world today for the most part.  All in an attempt to capture “the win” for “our side”.  The problem with this as you already know is that important aspects of communication such as context and tone are difficult to discern with a Facebook post.  Often times, what we say may be taken in a number of ways, and in fact, may be the complete opposite of our intended message.  Then again, there are times where these posts of ours are taken exactly as we intend others to take them, even when we know it might hurt someone, we tend to brush it off.  After all, it’s just “a post” stating our “oh so valuable” insights and opinions.  The problem with all of this is that we all know we would rarely if ever converse face to face with anyone the way we boldly do sitting behind our keyboards.  And that is the rub!  We now live in a world where “posting” our thoughts with no sense of responsibility for our words has almost completely replaced the discretion we would normally utilize with face to face conversation.

I can see him now.  Satan dropping “bread crumbs” along our path.  Yes indeed, we get online and we see those crumbs/posts and somehow become enamored by them.  Our focus moves from Jesus to those delicate little tidbits of opinion and propaganda.  And so we follow them, crumb after crumb.  It starts out with a comment, and often times quickly moves to a heated debate, an all-in attempt to “win” the argument at all costs!  Crumb after crumb, we gobble them up quickly until all of the sudden we say that which should not have been said.  We hit that “post” button, and then, ever so softly, we hear the faint sound of a glee filled chuckle.  The chuckle of the enemy who just smiles and rejoices at how easily he can manipulate the children of God.  If he can divide, he can certainly conquer.  You’d think we would not fall for his baiting schemes.  You’d think we’d learn our lesson at some point, but rarely do we.  After all, it’s just a simple “post”.

The reality is, that’s pretty much how Satan works in every situation in which he is involved in a fail or a fall.  He’s got a pocket full of “bread crumbs”, and he knows our “flavor” of choice.  All eyes on the trail of crumbs, only to suddenly look up and wonder, “How in the world did we end up here?”
I’m tired of it.  Tired of taking “the bait”.  I think we all are, and yet what to do?

How do we stop taking “the bait”?

Entire books have been written on the subject.  “Five easy steps”, “Ten easy steps”, and so forth.  And yet, the answer to our dilemma remains the same today as it did with the saints of old.

Jesus.

The more we press into the King, the more He can lavish His love on us, and thus, we are transformed into people who look less for bread crumbs, and more for His presence and great love.  When we are satisfied with the only one who can satisfy, the power, His power to keep us focused on truth will dull our appetite for the stale crumbs of our enemy.

With that, I say this:  I am not suggesting trying harder to avoid controversy/arguments.  I know all too well that “trying” equates to temporary victory at best, but generally ends in defeat.  Trusting in who Christ is in us, and in what He has already accomplished for us is the ONLY path to victory.

I took the bait.  I posted my version of the truth for the sake of winning, and ended up empty and frustrated.  Truth will always be truth, but truth used to chalk up “the win” for “my side” is nothing more than vile hatred disguised as brotherly love.  And for my contribution to the social media cesspool of ideas…I am indeed quite sorry!

Bottom line:

Galatians 5:13 – “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.”

Post all you want, but before you do, make sure you’re not munching on a mouthful of bread crumbs.


Sunday, September 30, 2018

Lazy Teachers, Lazy Parents, and Farming for the Lord!



Throughout the years, I’ve talked with a lot of people about living for the Lord apart from going to a church place, and one question always seems to come up.  “Yeah, but what about your kids?  Don’t they need church?”  It’s a fair question.  After all, how will children ever learn about God, right?
Well, in this post I hope to address that valid concern.

As with most of my musings, I’d like to preface this with a simple statement that bears repeating.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  Going to a church place is not wrong.
If you enjoy going and find life, please keep going!  Most of the time, people read what I write and become stuck on this idea that I am slamming going to a church place.  I am not.  I’m simply sharing thoughts that I feel folks should consider in the grand scheme of what it means to follow Jesus, especially for those outside the walls of church buildings.

So with that in mind, read on if you care to.

As some of you may already know, I have served on staff as a youth/worship leader at several church places.  These positions kept me quite busy and unfortunately, I often neglected my duties as dad to my own four kids, especially when it came to their spiritual development.  Still, I wasn’t too concerned.  After all, we had “children’s programs” at church, and I could trust that my children were receiving the spiritual nourishment they needed…or could I?

It was on a ride home from Sunday morning services when my trust in allowing my fellow church place goers to pour good things into my children, came to an abrupt end.

Driving down the road, my wife and I began to question my oldest children about what they had learned in “children’s church” that day.  My oldest son responded, “Oh, we just planted another seed”.  “Another seed?” My wife replied.  “Honey what do you mean another seed?”  My son Will paused a moment, and then in a very matter of fact voice shared, “You know that story about the sower and the seeds.  We just did it again.”

At this point, the obvious question came into my mind.  I responded, “So son, how many times have you planted seeds at church?”  “Uh, we do it every week.  I think this is the fourth time.”
My wife and I just looked at each other with that, “What the heck did I just hear” face.

After a bit of probing, it turned out that indeed, my children had become little farmers for the Lord!  Over the course of the month, they had planted a whole crop’s worth of seeds, and the harvest was gonna be huge!  You see, every week the “children’s church team” rotated leaders, and every week they were responsible for “the lesson”.  Fortunately for these unprepared leaders who were showing up empty handed on Sunday mornings, there were plenty of seeds, cups, and dirt left over from the last “leader's” lesson.  So guess what kiddos?  Today, we’re gonna plant a few more seeds and share the exact same story you’ve heard for the past few weeks.

I felt a terrible sense of shame wash over me.  Yes, I could blame these lazy people for shirking their responsibility, but honestly, this was on me.  As head of our home, wasn’t it my responsibility to ensure that my children were growing spiritually?  Indeed it was, and I knew things needed to change.

If you’re a parent, God wants you to know He has entrusted YOU with the responsibility of raising up your children in the faith.  Are there great children’s programs out there with amazing people leading those programs?  Absolutely!  Has God charged them with the task of ensuring your child grows up with a solid Christian worldview and a mature faith in Jesus?  Absolutely not!  Sorry parent, but that’s your job!  In fact, I would challenge you to find anything in the bible that would suggest that is not the case.

I’m not saying these programs can’t be an asset to your child’s spiritual growth, but to allow them to be the sole source of what children learn about the faith is quite reckless and completely irresponsible.

The truth of the matter is most parents know little about the people teaching their children at church, and even less about what is being taught or how it is being presented.

Question:  If your child came home from school sharing that the teacher had taught the exact same lesson for the past month, wouldn’t you be a bit concerned?  Sure you would!  Yet, for some reason we rarely question what is going into the hearts and minds of our kids attending these programs that churches provide.  Again, I’m not saying all programs are bad.  What I am saying here is that we as parents must take up the mantle of responsibility God Himself has given us as THE spiritual shepherds of our children.  To do less is to abandon our kids to whims of who your church has deemed suitable to instruct your child.  And as we know, most of the time finding teachers in church boils down to, “Who can we get to do this job for us?”  Not the greatest way to go about raising up the next generation in the faith.

Bottom line:  Parents are called by God to bring up their own kids in the faith.  We alone are called carry the responsibility of ensuring our children learn, grow and mature.

Yes, there are seeds that need planting, but maybe it’s time we pushed up our sleeves and assumed responsibility for our own fields!

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Do Not Forsake Assembling...On Pews?

Special thanks to Wayne Jacobson's blog "www.lifestream.org" for helping me to put together what I was struggling with on my own.

Question:  Should Hebrews 10:25 be used to demand that Believers go to what many people call “church”?

Short answer:  Nope!  Longer answer:  Keep reading.

Hebrews 10:25 New King James Version (NKJV)
"Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching."

What is this verse really saying?

My opinion merged with Wayne's thoughts:

Believers gathering together for worship can be an important part of our life together, but in my view, the relationships we maintain throughout the week are far more important and in most cases, far more genuine.  It is my opinion this verse in Hebrews is speaking of how we assemble our lives together in relationships that support and encourage one another.  Considering these early Believers had no concept of what modern church gatherings would eventually morph into, it is highly unlikely the writer is speaking of how/when we would meet.

Also consider these thoughts:

Early Christians did not go to church, they were the church; they did not attend "church services", they impacted their culture as the people of God. They assembled not as the end goal, but as a way to equip themselves to be the people God intended them to be and do the work God intended them to do.

There’s nothing in the New Testament stating or commanding us to join in a formal “get your best church clothes on” service on Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night.

There is ZERO precedent for this thing we call a “service” found anywhere in the New Testament.  Nowhere in the New Testament is there “Sunday school” followed by a “Call to Worship” followed by singing/standing up and sitting down several times for various reasons/listening to one guy give a monologue/more singing/whatever else is thrown in for good measure, (altar call, etc.)

In fact, this is completely contrary to 1 Corinthians 14:26-33 which states,

“Well, my brothers and sisters, let’s summarize. When you meet together, one will sing, another will teach, another will tell some special revelation God has given, one will speak in tongues, and another will interpret what is said. But everything that is done must strengthen all of you.
 No more than two or three should speak in tongues. They must speak one at a time, and someone must interpret what they say.  But if no one is present who can interpret, they must be silent in your church meeting and speak in tongues to God privately.
 Let two or three people prophesy, and let the others evaluate what is said. But if someone is prophesying and another person receives a revelation from the Lord, the one who is speaking must stop. In this way, all who prophesy will have a turn to speak, one after the other, so that everyone will learn and be encouraged.  Remember that people who prophesy are in control of their spirit and can take turns. For God is not a God of disorder but of peace, as in all the meetings of God’s holy people.”

So how does sitting on pews side by side facing a guy on an elevated stage qualify as a great way to “exhort one another”?  When you gather with friends for dinner, do you sit that way?  When you go out for coffee to share time with friends, do you sit that way?  Nope!  You sit that way in classrooms and concerts.  The focus is on the show up front, not each other.  Some might say, “Well we’re learning from the speaker.”  Maybe you are picking up tidbits from the guy up front, but if you’re confused or have a question, can you stop the show to inquire of the guy speaking?  You could, but you’d be considered rude and disruptive.  So, when a student has a question in class, is it rude or disruptive for them to raise their hand and inquire of the teacher?  Goodness no!  That’s the way it’s supposed to work!  In fact, any teacher that never allows their students to ask questions would be considered a fairly crappy teacher!

So what constitutes that Hebrews 10:25 has been fulfilled if going to church is the standard?  Is Sunday morning enough, or must I attend Sunday night and Wednesdays to be considered in alignment with those who say this scripture is fulfilled by church service attendance?  How much “attendance” is enough?  Also, how many people need to be together to ensure we’ve properly “gathered”?  5, 10, 15, 100, 200?  What’s the number?  Jesus said, “If two or three are gathered together in my name, I will be in their midst.”

If this is true, how can a church service be “the way” we fulfill Hebrews 10:25?  If there’s only two of us, it’s going to be a busy morning for us come Sunday.  Somebody’s going to have to lead the worship, teach Sunday school, take up the offering, hand out bulletins, greet people (of course, there's only two), preach the sermon, etc.  Not to mention all the other jobs like running the sound, adjusting the lights, serving Communion, etc.  Can you imagine two folks running around a room trying to make sure they are properly fulfilling all that mess?  I surely cannot, but would love to see it!  It would be hilarious!

The reality is, there are thousands and thousands of people who go “to church” every week, sit on pews, do all the stuff, and never ever experience anything that would even remotely feel or look like what God indeed calls us to in Hebrews 10:25.  That being exhortation.  Which in its most basic form simply means to encourage one another.  And the last time I checked, encouragement can take on many forms, but often is best received from dear souls that we can look at eye to eye/heart to heart, and know they truly care for us.  Who knows?  Maybe our Lord actually knew what He was talking about when He spoke of gathering with two or three other folks.

Bottom line: If you feel true heart to heart exhortation sitting on the pew, by all means keep doing what you're doing.  It's not wrong.  Just don’t assume your standard of what you feel works for you is "God's way" of doing things.  It may work fine for you, but for many, it is an empty pursuit and completely devoid of life.

Again, before you leave me a "snarky" comment, please know I’m not saying going to a church is bad, wrong, or a waste of time for SOME people, but if you push the idea that going to a local church service is “the way" to fulfill what’s being shared in Hebrews 10:25, you are unfortunately quite incorrect and likely quite religious.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

What the Heck Did I Just Do?

Are you an "Evangelical"? In a recent article, Christianity Today provided four defining characteristics to help you to know. Today I’d like to focus on the second defining characteristic.  Number two states:

"It is very important for me personally to encourage non-Christians to trust Jesus Christ as their Savior."

Based on that one, I might be in trouble!

Truthfully, that one scares me a bit, but not in the way you'd expect. I am not afraid to tell anyone about Jesus. That's actually pretty easy...and often completely ineffective and in my view, mostly pointless in today's post-Christian culture.

When I was a "church guy”, one of the things we were often challenged to do was to “share” our faith. That basically meant, get out there and ask people, "If you died today, where would you spend eternity?" This was followed up with a bit of "You're a sinner", "You're going die and go to Hell", and finished with, "Now, pray this prayer and ask Jesus into your heart so you won't split Hell wide open"...and it NEVER really produced any real fruit.

Oh yeah, I had a few "lucky"souls pray that prayer, but looking back, I wonder what in the world were we really doing? Honestly, I have to believe anyone we "reached for Jesus" had to be left with a large dose of "What the heck did I just do?"

So, what do you think?  Is that really what it means to “encourage non-Christians” with the Gospel?  I just don’t think that was ever our Lord’s plan.

It all reminds me of some kind of twisted arranged marriage.  “Okay my daughter, we’ve decided we know what’s best for you, so here’s the boy you’re going to spend the rest of your life with.  The wedding is Saturday…congrats!"

I’m just not convinced that’s a recipe for life-long marital bliss.  Where’s the romance?

Indeed, I’d say the same thing of our approach to “winning” people to Jesus…what about the romance?

I don’t care how many or few steps your particular method of evangelism uses, if there’s no romance, there’s no love!  No love…no relationship…no relationship…NO ANYTHING!

At the end of the day, what does it really mean to be a child of God?  For me it means knowing Him, and better yet, knowing that He knows me!  Sure, I’m a card carrying “get out of Hell free” club member, but that’s NOT what holds me steady when life turns upside down and inside out.  Only His love can do that, and if all people ever experience is a cold, “Here’s Jesus, now pray to Him so you don’t burn in Hell” presentation, they will completely miss the heart of the Gospel!

Isn’t it about time we quit “encouraging non-Christians to trust Jesus as their Savior”, and instead started sharing with them His unfathomable grace and love?

Friends, the world is gagging on the "religion" of Christianity, and they’re weary of our loveless, “chalk up another one for Jesus” approach.

Bottom line:  True evangelism starts with love, ends with love, and always shares the joy of knowing the one who loves the unlovable.

So, am I an “evangelical”?  I guess that would depend on who you’re asking, Christianity Today…or Jesus.

What about you?

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Eating Mud Pies with Mr. Hyde!

Disclaimer: I am a man on a journey, a journey to walk with the King who called me to be His child, and I often lose my way. You may disagree with some or all of what I'm about to share, but that's okay. I am where I am, but...

So are you


I have no doubt; every Christian on the planet, including me, deeply desires to do the "right thing". We thirst to be the "good guys" of this world, lights shining in a dark place! In fact, it's in our reborn DNA to be holy and faithful, and yet, we all fail each and every day. Yes, the old "dirt skirt" aka. flesh is always working overtime to drag us through the mud of life, and more often than not, we are quite glad to oblige!

I have ministered to crowds of people with a genuine heart on Sunday, and then like some kind of twisted "Jekyll and Hyde", turned around and sinned my heart out on Monday. I know, that was very "hypocritical" of me, and indeed, this up and down, back and forth courtship with sin continues to drive me completely insane! Why? Why am I so easily swayed by certain sins? Why can't I just break free?

Ever been there? I'm figuring your answer is yes.

For years, I listened to sincere brothers stand behind pulpits challenging me and others to "rise up" and "defeat sin". "Do not sin!" Seems so obvious and simple sitting there in the pew, but once you're out the front door, it can be a bit "challenging".

I'm going to say something here a bit controversial, but I really believe it's true.

Honestly, I just don't think being "sinless" this side of Heaven is possible for us. I do believe we are fully accepted/forgiven, but sin is of this world, and for now we are stuck here in bodies that crave the stuff. If you disagree, I would challenge you to find someone other than our Lord that has ever lived a sinless life. Of course, you will not, and therefore I must assume I am correct. Still, does that mean we are doomed to be enslaved to our sin nature? I don't think so.

As I've searched the scriptures for a "fix", a final solution to defeat this thing called "sin" in my life, I have found only this to be true: The closer I get to Jesus, the less I sin. The less I sin, the happier I am. In fact, I have found when I am truly focusing on my Savior, I rarely even consider sin. I do still fail, but I'm able to move on quickly in light of His grace and strength.

No, I did not quote a scripture there, but there are plenty in the Book that will back those statements up.

I say all that to say this: I know sin is terrible. I hate it, and I'm certainly not condoning it in any way, BUT I know Christ Jesus has set us free from its power over us. We sin, but He is always there to set us aright with grace and mercy. Of course, we absolutely do not deserve it, but that's what makes Him so incredible! In fact, I just don't think Jesus is keeping score in regards to our failures, but I believe He hurts to see His kids struggle, and wants us free.

Can we sin less? Yes indeed! Like I said, focusing on Jesus makes that possible, but the key (at least for me) is that when we do fail, we know we will still be accepted and loved, and can walk in the freedom of knowing He does not condemn us. I know...makes no sense to me either.

Is that a free pass to sin? Well, in a way, we are completely free to sin, but if you are a believer, you know it will only bring torment, denying you of any peace or happiness. So yeah, we can eat the mud pies all we want, but they will never taste good!

Bottom line (at least for me this morning): When I sin (and I do all the time), I must continue to cling to the one who clings to me knowing I am loved and cared for despite my failings. My guilt and shame demands that I run and hide. Jesus beckons me to come to Him, and I know that is the only place of healing.

So will I sin today? Unfortunately, I think it is likely. The question is, then what? My only answer to you and to myself...put down that mud pie, and run to Jesus!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014