Maximizing Your Privilege

I saw the police officer with the knee on George Floyd’s neck and I heard him beg for his life. I watched bystanders trying to help but they were blocked by another police officer. Slowly, that man’s life slipped away. It made me sick to my stomach. I just wanted it to stop. I felt the same way when I watched Ahmaud Arbery being gunned down. In those moments it was horrifying to see those men lose their lives on camera for the world to see. It was the same feeling I had when I watched The Passion of the Christ during the whipping scene. I just wanted it to stop.

As I hear of protests going on for now over two weeks, with no end in sight, I have seen numerous cries on social media for people to speak out against racism. I have heard people grouped together by their skin color or their profession (police) as if everyone feels the same or has the same experience. I think it’s wrong to say that all white people or all policemen are the enemy.

            I took time to pray and reflect.  I prayed Psalm 139:23 “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts.”  This is a scary prayer.  When I prayed and asked God to show me what’s inside my heart and what I need to confess and repent of, He showed me that the root of my sin was deeper than an issue of skin color.  

            I looked up Racism to make sure I had a clear understanding of the issue at hand.  Here is the definition: Racism: a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.

            As I read that definition and looked within I don’t think racism is my primary issue.  I am afraid it goes deeper than that.  

My biases and preferences go deeper than race.   

I have a number of black friends, but the more I have thought about it, they are black friends that have conformed to the way I live.  They are similar to me.  I have found that I don’t like being around people that look a certain way, smell a certain way, live a certain lifestyle, act a certain way, talk a certain way, or even dress a certain way.   It pains me to write this, but you see my biases are against anyone that is not like me. Anyone that makes me uncomfortable, I would never actively oppress them, or even be unkind (I am a pastor you know), but I would be something much more heinous…I would avoid them.  Hatred is most clearly shown towards those we distance ourselves from.   We sanitize our lives in a way that allows us to enjoy our bubble.  

            It would be comforting if this was limited to me, but it’s not.  The Bible teaches that sin is in the heart of every man.  While we may experience this at different levels we all have the same issues.  I don’t know if I know ANY self-proclaimed racists.   I’ve gone through the rolodex of my mind and I know of NONE!   I know of no one that would knowingly and actively seek to persecute or discriminate against someone because of his or her skin color. All of our biases are more subtle…they are in our hearts and our minds.

            I have heard a lot about unconscious bias and white privilege.  I looked into this in my own life as well.  I have both.  I’ve tried to list some of my privileges:

I am Caucasian.   

I grew up in a Christian home with two loving parents.

You can look at this from a couple of different perspectives.  The first perspective says that because of things I did not choose I should feel guilt and apologize to those who were born without the same privileges.  Guilt is usually a tool of Satan that never leads to positive action.   The second perspective, I believe is more constructive.  I see every “privilege” that I did not choose as a “platform” given by God for loving Him and loving others.  I see any advantage given to me as a platform for which I should make Jesus known to others.  

Every person has some level of privilege or advantage.  Here are a few more of mine.  

Male Privilege 

As I thought about my privilege I thought about how being a man must be easier than being a woman.  I ask my wife to not jog unless it’s at certain times in certain places because I have a fear she could be assaulted.  I do not fear this for myself.  

Adult Privilege 

I have adult privilege.  I can watch TV late at night and not brush my teeth before I go to bed because I am an adult.  My children cannot do this.  They are forced to go to sleep each night when I tell them to.  

American Privilege 

I was born in the USA!   Most of the people in the world do not have the freedoms I have.  I can worship freely and post all kinds of crazy things on the internet without fear of being thrown in jail or killed.  

Intellectual Privilege 

I was born with a mind that is just above average and I can coherently put together thoughts and have completed postgraduate degrees.  This is an advantage I have to people with below average IQ’s.   

Grace Privilege 

The greatest privilege in my life is one that maybe others don’t think about but it’s the privilege of Grace.  God didn’t have to choose to forgive me, but He did.  He didn’t have to call me out for salvation, but he did.  

I could go on for days about my privileges and if you took the time to really think about it you could to.  All of these privileges that I have listed were not initiated by me, but given to me!  

Are these reasons to feel guilt? Or are these gifts and platforms I have been given to exalt Jesus?

Every person has advantages and disadvantages.  

You can always find someone who has had more privileges than you and you can always find someone who has less giftings and privileges than you. Guilt never solves or helps anything. You should find ways to empathize, but instead of living in guilt for things that you did not choose it would be more beneficial to see your privileges as a platform.

Privilege implies that you are using a gift that you did not choose in order to look down on those who do not have the same advantages.  When you see your gifts that you did not choose as a platform you understand that God gives you a platform so that you can put Him on the platform.  

The Christian understanding is that we have been blessed to be a blessing.  We are called to be conduits of God’s grace in the life of others. 

We do not use our platform for promoting the latest “woke” social media fad but we use our platform to point people to the gospel.  

Justice and Peace have true rooting only in the gospel.  Apart from God and the word of God there is not foundation for justice, peace or morality. 

            Jesus gives us clarity on helping others who are hurting and broken.  I want to give you two stories that Jesus told that I think will help us all in this season.  

The Good Samaritan –  (Luke 10) Jesus was illustrating to a privileged group of religious people how they were to love their neighbor.  He chose to illustrate this with a racially charged story.  He told about a man (presumably Jewish) who was beaten and left for dead.  Two religious leaders who could and should have helped the man walked right by him, justifying their actions with religious jargon.  A third man came by, a Samaritan.   This was the people group that the Jews hated the most.  The Samaritan had compassion on the man and helped him.  Jesus said we are to be like the Samaritan.  We have compassion and we help those in need, even if they are different than us.  We love our neighbor when we help our neighbor.  Now is a great time to do that!  There is no doubt that my black brothers and sisters feel broken and hurt.   It’s a time for those who can to pour salve on the bitter wounds of years of mistreatment.  This doesn’t mean we all need to be bullied into following the latest fad on social media.  It’s more helpful to have actual conversations with people who are different than us.  Hear their stories.  Empathize.  Really care.   Help our children be better than we are.  Run to Jesus. 

The Parable of the Talents – (Matthew 25) Jesus tells a parable of about three servants who were entrusted with three different sums of money (talents) that they were to invest for the master while he was gone. One was given 5 talents, one 2, and the other servant was given 1 talent. Each talent represented a large sum of money. When the master returned from a long journey the first two servants had doubled their money and pleased the master. The third servant buried his one talent and blamed the master. If you think about the talents in the story as “privileges” or “platforms” which a person was born with then the idea is to use them all to please the master. If we make our life’s work about complaining about how we all didn’t get the same amount of talents then we are essentially burying our talent. Use the gifts you have been given to please Jesus. If you have “white privilege” then use it to pull others up.

In summary: 

We all have wicked hearts marred by sin and full of prejudice.  

Jesus is the only one who can fix our wicked hearts. 

We should use whatever privilege we have as a platform to love God and love our neighbors so that we will please the Master (Jesus).  

The black community is hurting right now and needs compassion.   

“Go Sterilize Yourself”

Sometimes the world can be cruel but the Internet takes it to the next level.  I’ve tried to make it a practice not to get involved in debates on social media.  In my younger days I would engage in conversation and it almost never helped anything.  Online debate never goes well and people are usually cruel.  Online debates are like two toddlers fighting over a toy with no parent to moderate.

I think Twitter is perhaps the vilest of the social media world.  Recently on Twitter I broke my own rule and tweeted back at a political figure when I probably should have just scrolled on or better yet delete the app.

But alas there are certain hot buttons that make my anger rise up.  Abortion is the main one.  This politician said we should elect more women who will make sure women get the ‘reproductive healthcare’ they need.  She is an outspoken advocate for abortion and her name rhymes with Billary.   I gave a two-word response tweet, “Let’s not.” That was it.  It was snarky and perhaps I shouldn’t have done it but the fury that ensued was enlightening.

My two word reply gained dozens of responses.  I was told to ‘go sterilize myself.’  I was told that I was a weak man who was afraid of women.  I was told I hated women.  Many of the responses said that they felt sorry for my girls that I was their father.  And on and on it went.

As I looked at a number of the accounts of the people that were saying super cruel things I noticed that most of them didn’t have real names and many of them were accounts set up in a way that you couldn’t know the people commenting.

The Internet really allows people to say what they feel.  Maybe there are good reasons we don’t always say what we feel.  Maybe that is why we filter our words and choose them carefully before we fling them into the world.   If we always said what we felt most of us would be unemployed and divorced.  Social media creates a troll society in which people hide behind keyboards and say whatever they want.  It’s like a drive by shooting in which they can injure others with their words and move right on by.  Every person knows that old nursery rhyme is NOT true, “Sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me.”   So many of us have recovered from attacks by sticks and stones but words that were said decades ago still reverberate in our subconscious.

Screen Shot 2019-06-20 at 8.05.06 AM.pngI imagine if I met these keyboard warriors who were saying incredible things about me online they would probably be less brutal face to face.  In fact I would guess that we would probably get along and they might not find me as atrocious as their comments would indicate.  We could probably even be friends.  I have been all over the world and encountered people who look different than I do, dress different, smell different, and believe different that I do.  In all the people groups I’ve met I’ve always found common ground with people when I took time to listen to their story and engage with them on a personal level. People are amazing!   Social media strips people down to the naked root of their worst moments. 

Again, this is a problem with social media.  We think we know people based on a few things that the Internet says about them.   We find out their faith and political preference and we assume that’s all we need to know to sum the person up.

I would warn that it’s so important to be kind online.

I think perhaps the only way to be on social media is to be kind.

Part of the staff culture at the church I work at is something we say, “Don’t email hard stuff.”   I have just found that there’s so much room for misinterpretation through written emails that if there’s something going on that could possibly be misinterpreted through a text or email we ask our staff to pick up a phone or go to talk to someone face to face.  This usually makes the margin of misinterpretation much smaller and we are almost always more kind through face-to-face interaction. 

While social media has done amazing things in connecting the world, like money, it’s a tool that can be used for good or for evil.  Be very careful with your words on social media.  Don’t assume you know the person you don’t know.

If you’re a Christian remember that you never have the privilege of being unkind.  Don’t be like me and engage in fruitless debate and make snarky remarks.  You have better things to do with your time.  Bake a pie. Read a book.  Go on a walk.  Talk to your family.

If you must stay on social media engage in one simple rule.

Use your social media to encourage others.

Like pictures.
Leave encouraging comments.

Scroll past stuff that makes your blood boil and maybe even remove it from your news feed.

Be salt and light in our wicked culture.  Don’t be a troll.

 

 

Run It Back!

“Run It Back!” was the phrase we would hear on hot days at high school football practice.   Whether it was a drill we were doing or plays we were learning it meant that we didn’t do it right so we would do it again until we got it right.  We would practice the same drill over and over again until, for that day, we learned something.

High school football teaches you a lot about life.  Now I feel like my life is on an unending loop with my children.  I tell them the same basic things over and over again.  I even find myself quoting my high school football coaches in the process.  It’s simple stuff like cleaning a room without putting all the clothes under the bed or loading the dishwasher the right way.   The more they do it wrong the more I have to tell them to “Run it back.” This is how we learn.  We do it over and over and over again.

God teaches us the same way in our faith.   He shows us great spiritual truths about life or He gives us a spiritual breakthrough and if we grow we get to keep moving forward but if we don’t ‘get it’ then we have to run it back.

The Gospels can be almost comical when we look at the lives of the disciples.  They always have to “run it back.”  They seem very thick skulled and constantly frustrating Jesus with their lack of understanding.

They weren’t dense; they were just like we are.  Seeing yet not believing.

One particular example is in Mark 6 where Jesus fed 5000 people.   The people were hungry and Jesus told the disciples to go get them something to eat.  They were dumbfounded and completely clueless to how to accomplish this feat.   Jesus would then perform a miracle and feed the 5000 people with 5 loaves and 2 fish.  Just 2 chapters later in Mark 8, again Jesus is with a group of 4000 people with no way to feed them.  So what does He do?  He basically repeats the drill with His disciples.  Unfortunately they have the same boneheaded answer, “How can one feed these people with bread here in this desolate place?”

They had witnessed Him feed 5000 people and have 12 baskets left over but now with 4000 people in front of Him they had no clue how these people would be fed.   Boneheads!

Screen Shot 2019-06-14 at 7.59.12 AM.pngThese boneheads are just like me.  God shows me something and teaches me something about life and about His Kingdom and then I forget. 

The lessons for me that are the hardest to learn are the lessons of FAITH.

He took care of my child last time she was sick, surely He can do it now.
He got me through the last time I was anxious, surely He can do it now.
He met every need last time I was in a pinch; surely He can do it now.

God is constantly having me “run it back” when it comes to lessons of faith. 

It’s crazy because just like the disciples I have clearly recorded examples of where God has come through in my life.  He’s answered my prayers.  He’s been with me.  He’s come through.  I even keep a prayer journal with answer prayers to remember how God has come through.

Yet, here I go again. When the test comes I look at Jesus like those disciples.  I come to Jesus and say, “what are we going to do?”

Jesus is always gentle and He gets me through each trial teaching me the same lesson over and over again.  I think in heaven there must be a sigh and an eye roll of the angels and they say, “run it back.”  Rick sill isn’t getting it.

What about you?

Can you identify some areas in your life where maybe you keep coming to the same test?

What is it you need to learn?

What is keeping you from getting to the next drill?

When A Prophet Gets Political

In the Bible prophets were those who spoke a message from God to people.  Most of the time these prophets and their messages were unpopular.

Today the voices of Pastors and Prophets have been diluted to the point that they have little power. It seems that many of God’s prophets have aligned themselves with politicians.  When this happens their message becomes diluted and weak.  The last couple of presidential cycles have exposed a lot of people that used to be my heroes.  Many of the ‘men of God’ that I looked up have cashed in their prophetic voices for political points.

In America it’s sometimes tricky to know when and when not to be involved in the political process.

Pastors are called to be the voices of truth in the culture.   When something is wrong we speak up no matter whom the politician who may be in office.

We pray for leaders.
We encourage leaders.
We also rebuke leaders when the need calls for it.

Mark Chapter 6 gives us a picture of one of God’s greatest prophets, John the Baptist.   It’s a hard chapter to read because in the chapter a wicked King named Herod would behead John.

I think there are some particularly interesting things we learn about what John did.

His primary job was to prepare the way for Jesus to come.  He did this with one message he preached that was essentially one word: “Repent.”

Repent is a Bible word that means to turn away from sin and turn toward God. He called the religious and political leaders of the day snakes and told them to repent.

No matter who was in front of him he preached the same message.

If you were rich, “repent.”
If you were poor, “repent.”
If you were old, “repent.”
If you were young, “repent,” and so the message went.

I think we can learn some things about the role of a prophet that have been lost on today’s preachers and prophets.

  • Prophets have a clear message. Speaking the message is the most important job of the prophet.  John was called, “a voice.”  A prophets job is to tell the truth.  They are truth tellers.
  • Prophets stay on message. The prophet did not change the message based on the audience.   John confronted King Herod not only with the message of repentance but the personal message of what Herod needed to repent of.   Sexual sin with his sister-in-law.  This very direct confrontation would land John in jail. Eventually he would lose his head.  The pressure he faced being in front of a king would have swayed most ‘prophetic voices’ of our day.  Maybe they would have said things like, “we are not electing a Pastor but a President.”  Wrong is wrong and the prophet always says so.  Voices from God should always say what God says.
  • Prophets pay a price. Being true to the message is almost always costly and even deadly to the prophet. Do a little study of the Old Testament prophets and you will find that they were not glamorous people but usually men that had incredibly difficult lives calling people to do what they did not want to do.  Most of them would die trying. Screen Shot 2019-06-13 at 8.02.51 AM.png

Pastor and Preachers are the prophets of our day.   It would do most of us well to stay on the point of the message of the Gospel.  We are kind when we can be kind but we always tell the truth even when it can damage us personally.

The mighty Twitter prophets clamor for follows and likes.  They seem to be more interested in fighting with each other than standing on the promises.

We speak out against injustice, murder, sexual immorality, lies, slander and the like no matter who is in office.  Our message is the same message of John and of Jesus….Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.

Refusing Help

Sometimes I watch the Dr. Phil show.   It’s mind blowing to me how Dr. Phil can confront people with cold hard facts in an overwhelming way and they still deny the facts he’s presenting to them.  I was watching a clip from his show recently where he was confronting a lady who thought she was married to a man overseas but in reality she was being scammed for hundreds of thousands of dollars.  Doctor Phil and this woman’s family laid out all the facts and showed her evidence after evidence of how she was in fact being duped and used.  She held on to her fantasy because perhaps the truth was too painful.

This is an extreme example but I think we all don’t like to be confronted with areas of our life that are toxic. Screen Shot 2019-06-12 at 7.57.40 AM.png

In the Book of Mark Chapter 5 Jesus came to a village and set a man free of the bondage he was in. The man had been full of demons for years.  Jesus cast many demons out of this man and the whole village was in shock.

When this miracle took place instead of getting excited about it the people of the village asked Jesus to leave.  The people were afraid.  Jesus came to help these people and to set them free.  He came to offer them salvation but they would end up begging Him not to stay.

The great irony is that they were kicking out of their city the only one who could help them.
They thought they were ok but they weren’t.
They thought they didn’t need help but they did.

Have you ever been guilty of pushing someone away who was there to help?
Have you refused the good advice someone was giving you because you didn’t want to hear it?
Have you gotten angry with a friend or family member because they told you a hard truth about yourself that you did not want to deal with?

I know I have!

My wife has a way of telling me things I don’t want to hear about myself.  I usually get defensive but upon further reflection she is almost always right. The truth hurts.  I think there have been times when we have all said or done something to push the person away who is sent to help.

Why?
Why do we do that?

We do it because change is hard.
We do it because it exposes our motives.
We do it because sin is fun.
We do it because we want to stay the ruler of our own kingdom of self. 
We do it because we don’t want to admit we are wrong.
We do it because it may hurt our pocketbook.
Pride.  

Are you doing this now?

If Jesus came to your house today would you want Him to stay or leave?

It sounds simple enough but the reality is that when Jesus comes things change.  They always change.  The closer you get to Jesus the more your life will change.

He is a great big light that exposes what is in the dark of your heart.
He is the doctor that tells you that you have the cancer of sin and it must be cut out.
He is the one who pulls back the rug of your life and exposes all the dirt that is underneath.
He is the Dentist you have been avoiding that has to do a root canal to fix the problem.

Today, if Jesus came to you exposing all the junk that is inside of you would you want it fixed?

He offers to fix you but in order to fix you, you must come clean about your sin and repent. There is no other way to let Him fix you.

People hated Jesus. They wanted Him to leave their city.  Ultimately they wanted Him dead.   We never like our sin and wicked self exposed.  So much so, that we would be willing to kill an innocent man to keep it a secret.

This almost sounds silly but this is what millions of people do everyday.  They are confronted with truth and rather than live in the light of the truth they simply ignore the truth or just deny it.

You can ignore truth. You can ask Jesus to leave.  You have the freedom to make those choices.

But you can never make bad choices and have good long term results.

Eventually your sin will find you out.  Eventually you will reap the bitter fruit you planted.  Eventually you will have to pay for your sins.

It’s better to invite Jesus to have control now then for you to end your life separated from God.

Do not ask Jesus to leave.  Today, let Him come and do His work in your life.  Let Him deal with your ‘demons.’  Let Him expose your sin.  Let Him love and forgive you.  It will require some pain and change but in the end it will mean the difference in life and death.

A few steps:

  1. Listen when people you love tell you that you have a problem.
  2. Read your bible and identify what needs to change in your life.
  3. Confess your sin and repent.
  4. Get help.  Go to church. Find a small group.   See a counselor.  Get in a recovery program like this one https://www.christplace.com/chance2/
  5. Follow Jesus.   Make time each day to seek Jesus in prayer and reading the Bible.

 

 

The “What About Them?” Disease

One of the most basic principles I see over and over again that is lost on most people is a principle that Jesus taught about investing what is given.

Mark 4:24 and he said to them, “Pay attention to what you hear: with the measure you use, it will be measured to you, and still more will be added to you. 25 For to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”

I think what Jesus was saying was simple.

Pay attention –> Use what you learn –> When you use what you learn you will be entrusted with more.

He said this in a number of different ways in the gospels.  He talked about three different individuals that were given money (talents/minas) by their master. They were told to invest the money while their master was gone.  One was given 10, one 5, and one 1.   The one with 10 double his money. The one with 5 doubled his money. The one with 1 was fearful and buried his money so not to lose it.

When the master returned he rewarded the two servants who had invested his money and gotten a return on it. He punished the wicked servant who buried his money and the master gave the money to the one who had 10.

This is such a picture of life.  Some of us are born with many gifts and abilities some of us are born with few. The focus is not on fairness. Lots of people today want to focus on the fact that some have many talents and some of few.  The best question is not how to make everyone equal, but what am I doing with what has been entrusted to me?

When I am faithful with the gifts, talents and knowledge the Lord has given me then He will give me more.

If I take the gifts that I have been given and I don’t use them or I simply get upset because another guy is more gifted than me I waste my gifts and I dishonor the giver of my gifts.

Many people today who want more gifts but have not invested the ones they have.  They want more responsibility but have not been faithful with the little responsibility they are given.

If you want to one-day run the company then start by cleaning the toilets.
If you want to preach to 1000’s then start by leading a 6thgrade boys Sunday School Class.
If you want to have a family then start by getting a job and taking care of yourself.
If you want to run a marathon then you better start walking a little more each day.
If you want to be a scholar then spend time reading today.
If you want to have a lot of friends then find someone to be friendly to.
If you want your kids to grow up to be awesome individuals then take time today to teach them something meaningful.
If you want to be a great musician then you must practice everyday.

We all know it takes thousands of bricks to build a home, but homes never get built unless someone starts laying some bricks.  If a house builder focuses on the heat, how big the house is, and how few helpers he has then he will never lay bricks.

You will never get to the future that you want if you don’t do now what you are supposed to do.

So many people focused on others that they waste the talent that has been given to them.  They have the “what about him” disease.  This disease infects us all and over the course of our lives we must learn to eradicate it from our lives.  I see it so clearly in my children.  If I ask them to clean something up I can expect within a short period of time the question to come from one of them, “what about ____________ they are not doing anything?”   To which I always respond, “It is not your job to worry about _____________.  It is your job to do what I asked you to do!”

When you worry about others you steal from your ability to do what you have been gifted to do and you bury your talent.

What are you good at?
What do you want to be good at?

Be faithful today to do something today and you will see growth tomorrow.Screen Shot 2019-06-11 at 7.33.04 AM.png

 

 

A Different Kind of Family

What does family mean to you?

To me, family is a word that represents closeness.  Usually when we talk about family we are talking about our blood relatives, father, mother, brothers and sisters.  These constitute the closest relatives that we can have.

Families are the people that know you better than most and love you anyway.

Families are the people who show up in your life when everyone else may be leaving.

Families are the ones whom you have shared much of life and childhood with.

Families are the people who shaped you when you were a child.

Families are the people you look like and have mannerisms like.

Families are the people you go home to at holidays.

Families are the people who are sit with you when you are in the hospital.

Families are the people who give you money if you have an emergency.

Families are the people you build a future with.

Families are typically the closest group of people you have on earth.

Growing up in my home were Dad, Mom and my two older brothers.   These people I dearly love and they are my family.  God has blessed me with a spectacular earthy family of my own.  I have a wife and five children.

Not all families love. Not all families are great.

I have often heard it said that blood is thicker than water.   There are some who believe blood relationship is closer than any other earthly bond.

Jesus didn’t seem to think that blood relationships defined family.

Jesus made it clear that there was a deeper family.

When he was preaching, teaching and healing his earthly family (mom and brothers) came to Him. It seems that they wanted to shut Him up.  When asked if He would see His family Jesus gave a peculiar answer.  He said, “Who are my mothers and brothers?” And looking about at those who sat around Him, he said, “here are my mother and brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.” 

Jesus was making a point. Blood relatives are important but real family is found in the kingdom of God.

Belief is a stronger than blood.

The Kingdom is more important than kin.

This is a hard lesson that Jesus was teaching.  Jesus would make it clear that to put faith in Him would sometimes cause a huge rift in families.  It would cause a major divide.   Not everyone would trust Him.  Not everyone would follow Him.  Jesus would not apologize when He said that he would set mother against daughter and father against son.

The Kingdom of God is more important than the Kinship of man.

But to follow Jesus and be at odds with your family does not leave you without a family.  Jesus was making the point that there is a greater family.  It’s a family of something deeper than blood, belief.  It is a family of faith.

Blood, but not our blood unites the Church, the family of God.   The blood of Jesus unites us.  We hold to a common core belief that rules all other beliefs.  It’s the belief that Jesus is the Messiah.  He died for the sins of the world.

While we still have physical families we have a spiritual family and if our earthly family does not line up with our spiritual family (the church) then we must go with our spiritual family.

The strongest and most complete picture of family is when your earthly family and your spiritual family align.  My greatest prayer for my wife and children is that their first and most important relationship will be with Jesus.   When they are following Jesus and I am following Jesus we align our lives in every way.

If you did not grow up in a home with a close earthly family, God did not leave you without a family. When you follow Jesus you become part of a big family.  The Church becomes your brother and sisters.  You find a place of love and acceptance.

The church is the family of God and the hope of the world.

 

Marriage, The Fountain Of Life Or The Kiss Of Death

Marriage is a pill with the same label to everyone who swallows it, but to some it’s life giving and to some it’s a bitter poison.  I am 13 and ½ years into the best marriage I have ever had.  Ok, the only marriage I have ever had but it is the best!

Ecclesiastes 9:9 says, “Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vainlife that he has given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun.”

Marriage is supposed to be enjoyed!

I’m at the age where many of the people I went to High School and College with are going through the Facebook change.

You know what I mean. You see it.

One day you see a picture on their profile and it’s just them.  Their spouse is no longer in the picture.  I mean literally they are out of the picture.   They’ve been scrubbed out of the profile and out of their life.

As the world of social media goes, these are people whom I’m friends with but I don’t see on a regular basis.  Many of them I haven’t seen for years.  I look a little deeper into their profiles and I find out that their marriage ended.

…and I grieve for them.

…They didn’t ask me to.

…They may not be grieving…

But I am

You may be one of these friends of mine who has gone through a divorce.  Maybe you are doing well and things are going well after the divorce, for that I’m thankful.

But for me to see marriages end hurts me to the core.  Many times I feel like I grieve over marriages that are lost more than the people getting a divorce.  I know that no one gets married with the hope to someday be divorced.

I’ve been trying to pinpoint in my on heart why I’m so hurt when people I have little connection with go through divorce.  I think there are a few reasons.

I impose myself into their story and I think about if Charyl and I were ever to divorce.   This may be the root of it.  Our lives are so interconnected and our love for one another is so deep that I think for me it would be worse than death.  I think about the deep deep hurt that must take place between two people who were intimately joined together for years and now are split apart. I just can’t even allow myself to go there.

I think about the kids. Having just gone through the Holidays and experiencing the joy of everything together I couldn’t imagine how tough it must be for children to understand how everything has changed. How the very foundation of their security has unraveled and they are helpless to do anything about it.  Many times the children blame themselves.  They have to learn a new life and navigate going to different homes and having different schedules.  They have to learn a new way that their parents are interacting.  No longer as mom and dad but often as adversaries.  I don’t want that for my kids.

I think about how my friends who are divorcing may have been cheated on or cheated in the marriage.  I think about the pain of betrayal and loss of trust that must of happened.  I’m sure it must have rocked them to their very core.  To have the person you trust most betray you in the most intimate way must be a pain that is so deep.  I grieve for them to have to go through that.  I hurt that they hurt, many times through no fault of their on.

It also grieves me because I feel like the most valuable gift a person can have has been discarded. There is no greater gift than marriage. I know this may not feel true for many, for some it may feel like a curse.  But marriage is a gift from God and when a married couple loves and supports each other through life there is no greater gift.

Marriage is making a life together with someone who knows you best.

Marriage is having your best friend with you through every season.

Marriage is getting past the initial butterflies of first love feelings and finding something better, something deeper called friendship.

Marriage is laughing, crying and having someone to send GIFs to all day long. Marriage is frustrating and sanctifying.

Marriage is having someone with you to take you to the hospital and sit with you.

Marriage is exploring life and the world with your true love.

Marriage is a picture of something greater, Christ and His Church.  The real meaning of marriage is to show the world a picture of a relationship that matches God and His people.  When a marriage fails the picture is lost.

I really grieve because I feel like my friends missed out on the greatest gift.  I hate to see my friends miss out on good things.   What they wanted for a good thing became a horrible thing their lives.

I would offer a little bit of hope when it comes to marriage.

If you are not married and want to be married, make sure your marry well.   So many marriages end because they never should have started. Young couples are infatuated with each other and know nothing of commitment but marriage seems attractive to them so they jump in and pretty quickly jump out.  Before you get married you better ask yourself a few questions.

Do our values/beliefs match?

Do we want the same things out of life?

Do we have the same ideas about children (how many we want and how we will raise them)?

Have you learned to fight fair?

Do you like their family?

Do you have the same ideas about money?

Do you enjoy their friendship?  If you weren’t attracted to them physically would you still want to hang out with them?

How do they handle stress? When and if you have children the stress levels will rise.

It is surely better to wait or be single than to marry the wrong person.  Never get married without going to premarital counseling first.  Marriages are easy to get into but painful to get out of.   Get into the right marriage.  Maybe you feel like your season of youth is passing and you feel the pressure that if you don’t get married now then it probably won’t happen for you. Again, better to be single than to marry the wrong person.  Wait. Pray.

If you are married and struggling there is hope!

I have been in ministry for about 18 years now and I have seen so many marriages on the brink of collapse that have been restored and are now healthy and thriving.

Keep Trying.

Keep forgiving.

Go see a counselor.

Talk to your pastor.

Get involved in a couples group at your church.

Actually work on your marriage.

Be loving and respectful even when your spouse is not.

I have counseled many couples and I understand that not every marriage is going to make it.  One person is not enough to make a marriage work. Too many times I have seen one spouse who will literally do anything to save their marriage and the other spouse could care less.  Unfortunately, most of these marriages do not make it.  It takes two people both giving a 100%.

But when two imperfect people surrender to a perfect God and allow Him to lead their marriage there is nothing sweeter!  IMG_7543

If I can help you in some way with your marriage send me a personal message.  There are so many resources out there to help with those who really want it.

 

 

 

 

How To Have A Drama Free Thanksgiving

When should a Christian speak up and when should they shut up?

At the time of this writing it is just a few days away from Thanksgiving.  It’s a time of year we get to spend time with our family, be thankful, and argue meaningless politics over a family meal.  Whether it is at the dinner table or on social media, our culture is full of political opinions and division.

As a Christian how do we balance Romans 12:18 which says, “Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone,” with our great desire to tell everyone we know our great wisdom on who to vote for that will save the country?

My friends and family are like yours; they are passionate about political issues. As a pastor I often wrestle with when to speak up and when to shut up.  I am a person who speaks more than I listen. This can get me in trouble.

The older (and hopefully wiser) I get the more I keep my mouth (and social media account) shut when it comes to political opinions. There are no lack of pastors and spiritual leaders speaking into politics. Some even run for office themselves.
Jesus told His followers how to live but that is not the same as telling a nation how to govern. The disciples of Jesus and the crowds on multiple occasions tried to make Jesus their political leader (king). He would have none of it. He clearly showed the path to have, ‘God’s Kingdom come and will be done on earth as it is In Heaven’ was not through any political means. It would be through His disciples living differently and sharing the gospel that would be the change agent in the world. Christians would not take up arms but lay down their lives as sheep to the slaughter.

Here are a few things I am learning from watching years of endless political debate on TV, online and in person.

Political debates/arguments are almost never helpful and almost always cause further division.

Whether you believe the President is an orange buffoon or if you believe that Hillary Clinton should be locked up, or both, telling everyone probably will change no ones mind.  I know that when I put something on social media I have many friends with many different political beliefs. I don’t want to risk a greater wedge between a potential friend and myself over a fruitless argument. I would rather be a bridge builder than a wedge driver. The gospel of Jesus is by its very nature offensive. The gospel reveals our sin in order to give us the good news of repentance and faith in Jesus. Politics just divide and hurt.  I see it everyday online from all parties.

Jesus chose to stay out of explicitly political arguments and this is a great principle for me to follow.

Jesus always spoke spiritual truth. When He would address spiritual issues of the day it would often bleed over into addressing the political issues of the day. He could not have been clearer about the fact that His kingdom was not of this world. Ours should not be either.

Both Parties have flawed platforms

The fear of elevating a party and arguing its points is that you can become part of group thinking that never opposes your party.   I often disagree with policies and people on both sides of the aisle.  As a Christian, you should too.

My job is to speak Biblical truth and when that spills over then it spills over but it should not be my aim to get tied up in political arguments.

If someone really cares about my opinion about a political matter then they will ask me. If they ask me I will tell them.  For a Christian the goal of life is not to support an elephant or donkey. We have allegiance to a Lamb. We lay down our lives so that others may know Him. My political leaning could be a stumbling block for people knowing Jesus. I don’t want to be a stumbling block.

A few guiding questions:

Is speaking about politics your calling? 

God specifically calls out people to speak to certain issues.  If this is you, then go for it, but this is not most of us.

Is this helpful?

Is what you’re about to say going to help anyone or is it just sharing your opinion?  

Did you take a day to think about the repercussions?

Most of the time when share something that offends or “triggers” others it is because we did it in hast.  Whatever you share on the Internet is forever…even if you delete it. Screenshots can be made of whatever you post and can come back to hurt you later.  If you think your post might cause unnecessary division then take a night to think and pray about whether to say or post it.

Does your spouse think you should say/post it?

My wife is great at telling me what is and what is not helpful…if I would just listen to her.

Will this drive an unnecessary wedge between you and your friends and family?

Will people you love lose respect for you because of your engagement in this discourse?

One of the hardest things about the last Presidential cycle was how many spiritual heroes I lost great respect for because of how they voiced their political opinions.  In my eyes many of those leaders showed blatant hypocrisy in their politics.  These are leaders that I now no longer look up to as I once did.  I do not want what I think politically to make me lose spiritual influence with someone who may look up to me.

When it boils down to it the Thumper rule is always a powerful rule.  You remember Thumper from the movie Bambi.  His mother told him, “Thumper, if you can’t say anything nice then don’t say anything at all.”    If we all lived by the Thumper rule oh how different our world might be.

Screen Shot 2018-11-19 at 6.35.39 AM.pngSo for the most part, I will simply keep my mouth shut about things political.  I will speak for life and I will speak for issues, but I will try to stay above the drama and hurt.  There is a wise Proverb from the Bible that can really help when it comes to this area of life.

Proverbs 17:27-28 “Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.  Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.”

After looking at everything, if you are still unsure whether you should speak up or not…it is probably best to just keep it to yourself.

 

 

 

Maybe A Tweet Won’t Solve Mass Shootings

As everyone else in our country, I have been heartbroken and burdened over the latest school shooting in Florida that has left 17 dead. One of the most heartbreaking things in regards to this shooting was the lack of shock I felt. There have been so many mass shootings in the last few years that it has made me somewhat numb, almost expecting another one to happen.

To match heartbreak with frustration, enter social media. In a matter of minutes there is no lack of political pundits and celebrities chiming in with simple solutions to a complex problem. The answer to ending mass school shootings is gun control, they say.   With emotional pleas from broken hearted parents who have just lost their children they say if you just ban “assault rifles” then all of this will stop.

I wish it were that easy. I wish congress could just pass a law that bans a certain type of firearm and then all the killings would end.   However, if you grew up in the country, like me, then you know a semiautomatic weapon is what the media is referring to as an assault rifle. Pretty much every hunting rifle could fall under the category of assault rifle. The AR-15’s that the media likes to show pictures of just look more menacing because of the tactical shell in which they are cased.   Wood hunting rifles that look less ominous can carry the same magazines and shoot just as many bullets in just as fast a time. To ban ‘assault rifles’ would mean that you ban pretty much every gun but a single shot, and I don’t see that happening.   But if it would end children getting killed in our schools then I would be for it.   If that were the simple solution…but it’s not.

The problem is much more complex and the answer to solving it much deeper than a law.

Young deranged white men do most mass shootings. I am sure all of these young men have some level of mental illness, but mental illness, like a cancer to the body, can be fed and fostered in a number of ways.

I think the problem goes deeper than just these young white deranged men.   I think it flows broader into frustrated and angry young men in general. The man crisis in our culture is hitting critical mass and the fall out is not pretty.

We are reaping the harvest of a fatherless generation and I am afraid we are not yet at the tipping point.

As University of Virginia Professor Brad Wilcox pointed out back in 2013: “From shootings at MIT (i.e., the Tsarnaev brothers) to the University of Central Florida to the Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy in Decatur, Ga., nearly every shooting over the last year in Wikipedia’s ‘list of U.S. school attacks’ involved a young man whose parents divorced or never married in the first place.”

It’s not just these young white men who are struggling, they just find a way to show their angst against the world in a very public way by hurting as many innocent people as possible.

The effects of fatherlessness are epidemic in most communities in the United States.

I found this interesting, “Two of the strongest correlations with gun homicides are growing up in a fatherless household and dropping out of school, which itself is directly related to lack of an active or present father. There’s a direct correlation between fatherless children and teen violence. It’s no coincidence that, much like the number of fatherless children, the number of mass shootings has exploded since the 1960s. Throughout the entire 1960s, six mass shootings took place. That number doubled in 1970. Heck, 2012 alone saw more mass shootings than the sixties did.”

Without a father young men have no direction. When young men have no direction and purpose they move to extremes. They cut ties with what is traditional masculinity. They embrace a homosexual lifestyle or become transgender. There is a clear correlation with the rise of both of these lifestyles to the rise of fatherlessness.   They grasp for their need to fit in and they don’t know how. The other extreme is to become violent, join a gang, become a criminal, or in extreme cases become a mass shooter. When men grow up with no father for an example they fill in the gaps on their own.

Everything in culture tells these men that they no longer have a place.   In fact, for young white men the message is clear, you are the enemy. They are told that they are the problem. They are told they are part of the white patriarchy that oppresses everyone else. For fragile unguided minds that are already inclined to mental illness, they start to believe it, then they learn to hate the world, hate themselves, and hate being. They are full of anger and rage and instead of just ending their own lives they want to hurt others in the process. They want to be remembered as they feel they have been marginalized all of their lives.   So they hurt others. They hurt as many as they can.

Fatherlessness is not the only factor involved. There are a number of other factors that I think we would be foolish to overlook:

Games – Most young teenage boys (especially white ones) spend countless hours shooting people virtually in very realistic games. It becomes second nature to them to pull the virtual trigger.

Movies and Shows – Have you heard of this little thing called Netflix?   Countless hours of watching shows that have become increasingly more sickening, brutal and graphic.   Young men are drawn to these shows about death and murder. There are tons of programs out there that actually show how real crimes were committed.   Again these are fertilizers to a sick mind.

Social Media – Tells young men they do not measure up and allow them to connect with extremist groups that will fan the flame of their sickness. The rise of ‘alt’ left and ‘alt’ right groups has only increased the evil and hatred in the world.

Atheism – Atheism says you are the source for your morality. The Bible teaches that every person is born as a sinner. At our core we are not good, but evil. The cure to evil is repentance and faith in Jesus. As Christians we live in pursuit of a holy life as defined by the life of Jesus. He is our model and example. For the Atheist he is only accountable to his on set of morals, whatever he chooses.   These morals are shaped by whatever he is putting into his mind (I.E. Games, movies, shows, social media) and deems as moral. We took God out of schools and have warned teachers not to mention faith.   I imagine there are so many kids who could have found a better way, if only schools were allowed to offer it.

The devaluing of human life – We live in a culture that legally kills almost 400,000 babies a year.   This permeates a society that says the highest value is whatever I desire, even if it means taking the life of others.   If a mother can take her own child’s life then why should anyone else be limited?

Radical Feminism – This ideology teaches men that just for being born they are to be hated and despised.

This list is not meant to be exhaustive. I am sure there are a number of other factors that contribute to each mass shooting. I am sure each case has many individual nuances.

In my opinion the one big smoking gun is not the gun, it is the absence of a loving and guiding father in the home.

How do we stop mass shootings?

The answer is pretty simple, cross cultural, and long term.

This is a simple Bible answer: Don’t have sex until you’re married (this ends the need for abortion). When you are married, love your spouse.   Stay married even when it’s hard.   Raise your children to love God first and love their neighbors as themselves. Don’t leave when things get hard!

The answer may just be the family!

Screen Shot 2018-02-17 at 5.21.29 AM.pngI can remember maybe 15 years ago hearing Dr. James Dobson saying something to the effect of, “when you destroy the family, you will destroy society as we know it.” The prophesy is unveiling before our eyes.