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.

 

 

 

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Lessons From The Bouncy House

As a parent, I see a bouncy house as a huge air inflated, germ infested, loud, injury waiting to happen. However, all my kids see is FUN!  Recently, our church had a block party complete with, you guessed it, bouncy houses.   My kids were overjoyed with excitement, particularly my 4 year old.  Joy (my 4 year old) was ready to conquer all of the bouncy houses.   She quickly ran from one to the next with excitement overload, as she couldn’t decide which one she wanted to try first.   She knew nothing of the lines of children who were politely waiting their turn. She ran right to the front of the line as if they had all been waiting just for her.  Each time I would pick her up and take her to the back of the line and instruct her that she needed to wait like everyone else.

Lesson One: Waiting Is Hard.

For some reason, my daughter thought she was entitled to the front of the line.  She thought, in her little 4-year-old mind, that it was her party and everyone else

IMG_1086was just an extra.  As a parent, most of my days are spent trying to teach my children a lesson that I am still learning.  Here is the lesson: this is not your party and the world does not revolve around you. From the time we are born we have a selfish inclination to want to put ourselves at the front of the line.  We would rather others wait than we wait.  To follow Jesus means you let others go first. The Bible teaches us to do nothing from selfishness or conceit, but in humility we should think of others as more important than ourselves.   The good thing about waiting is that if you take the time to look around, God has probably put you in line with people you can make friends with.  The wait may be better than the bouncy house.

Lesson Two: Obstacles Are Part Of Life.  Tackle Them With Excitement.

I loved watching Joy continue to get knocked down and bounce right back up and keep going.  She has always been very resilient.  She tried to climb the wall of the obstacle course and fell multiple times.  She smiled and giggled and got back up and tried again.   I know that life is no bouncy house.  Over the years I have also learned that so much of life is not about the obstacles in our lives, but about how we respond to them.  Life is really hard.  Life is better for those who can keep getting up and moving forward.  I wonder if you and I might make more progress in life if we had a different attitude towards obstacles.

Joy did not let the obstacles slow her down or discourage her, and neither should we.  We should know that on this crazy bouncy house called life we are going to fall, get knocked over and even get run over.   Get up.  Smile.  Move forward.

Lost your job, get up and find a new one.

Lost your hope, it may be right over the next obstacle.  Keep moving forward.

Friends let you down, find some new ones.

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You get the idea.

What is the obstacle of life today that is knocking you down?   Identify it, acknowledge it, make a plan and move forward.

For the Christian, the Bible gives hope and meaning to the obstacles we face.   It says, “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance.  And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.  And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.”

Lesson 3: You Might Not Want Help But You Need It

Her favorite bouncy was the obstacle course.  This was a big one with lots of little areas she had to go through and climb over.  I was nervous about Joy going on this obstacle course because she is small for her age and she has Down Syndrome, both of which Joy is completely oblivious.   I didn’t want her to get hurt as older and bigger children raced through the course.   I did what I often do.  I sent her big brother (Ty) with her to make sure she would make it through safely.

Joy is very headstrong and stubborn.   She would not quit, but there were a couple of barriers that no matter how hard she tried she wasn’t going to get over them.  She didn’t want help but she needed it.

She couldn’t quite make it over a certain wall so her big brother gave her a gentle nudge (yeah right, more like a mighty shove).  This was enough to help her make it to the next obstacle.  It does something to a father’s heart to see one sibling helping another.

There are times in our life when we all need help!

When the obstacles of life come along and we get stuck, we need a gentle push, or a helpful hand to pull us through.   Sometimes we need a mighty shove!  So many people get stuck and can’t move because they don’t have anyone to help them along.  They’ve chosen to isolate themselves and they think they can make it through life by themselves, but they can’t.

None of us can.

My little daughter with special needs will always need help, but so will all my other children.  They will all experience hurt, disappointment, setbacks, fears, and the hardship of life.  This is why family is important.  This is why a church family is important is as well.

The Bible says “Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.”

It blows my mind to think that we are more connected than ever and yet people feel lonelier than ever. The suicide rates in the US keep going up as more and more people find themselves hopeless.  We all have a deep need for the help of others but most of us are too prideful or afraid to ask.  God hardwired the need for friendship and community into every person.

If you have made it to an obstacle in life and you keep trying but keep getting knocked down, it’s time to ask for help.

Start with your family. If you have someone in your family that will help you, reach out to them and ask for help.

There is another family that is often stronger then blood relatives, it’s a church family.   Many times people are estranged from their own family and don’t feel they have anywhere to turn.  If you find yourself in that situation go to a local church. Meet some people.  Find a friend.   A loving church is the best place in the world to find real community.

I would love to meet you at Christ Place Church.  You can find out how to find some friends here www.christplace.com

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The Theology of Emotion

I feel like…

I don’t think it’s fair that…

I don’t feel like God would make someone unhappy…

Christians are saturated by thousands of blogs, articles, and thoughts about what is ok and not ok to do and be in our day.   One of the more dangerous false teachings I see creeping into the American Christian world is what I want to call the Theology of Emotion.

Theology simply means the study of God.   Our culture is increasingly a generation of Christians that are basing their beliefs about God more heavily on how they feel than what God has revealed about Himself through the Bible.

If you need examples of this just go talk to most young Christians and ask them if they think living together before marriage is wrong.   Or ask them if they think homosexuality is wrong. It seems that many who claim Christianity today are more concerned with how they feel about something than what God has said in the Bible about it.

Don’t get me wrong emotions are a great and powerful driver.   Emotions are the great catalyst to actions. I love so many passionate movements going on in the Christian community such as the “End It” movement to end sex trafficking.   I love the pregnancy care centers that are all over our nation that provide options to mothers who feel like they have no options. I love the push for Christian families to be involved in foster care and adoption. These are great pictures of how God uses our emotional heartstrings to rally us around causes that are close to His heart.

If we do not feel then we do not care and we are never moved to action.

Emotions are great motivators but bad decision makers.

When we allow how we feel about any certain issue to supersede what God has revealed we become our own god and no longer trust Jesus as the authority.

One recent example I read was in an interview with popular Christian author Jen Hatmaker.   I know many women in my church that love her books. Most of what she writes is helpful and beneficial. But when I read her recent comments on the homosexual community I was taken back.

Here is what she said, “From a spiritual perspective, since gay marriage is legal in all 50 states, our communities have plenty of gay couples who, just like the rest of us, need marriage support and parenting help and Christian community. They are either going to find those resources in the church or they are not. Not only are these our neighbors and friends, but they are brothers and sisters in Christ. They are adopted into the same family as the rest of us, and the church hasn’t treated the LGBT community like family. We have to do better.”

I find her statements very disturbing.   The Christian community has the biblical mandate and responsibility to love and minister to every person, red, yellow, black, white, male, female, straight, gay, confused or other. But what she says takes this to another level.   She is taking people who embrace a life and identity that God clearly defined in scripture as a direct rebellion against Him, and associates those who embrace that lifestyle as a fellow believer in Christ.

This is anti-biblical to the core.   Jesus is so clear that when we become His followers we sign away all of our personal rights. We become willful slaves of Christ.   Here are the words of Jesus, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)

Those selfish acts of rebellion no longer characterize our life.   We willingly choose to deny what may seem pleasurable and best to us in order to follow what Jesus says is best.

The Apostle Peter said it this way,

“So then, since Christ suffered physical pain, you must arm yourselves with the same attitude he had, and be ready to suffer, too. For if you have suffered physically for Christ, you have finished with sin. You won’t spend the rest of your lives chasing your own desires, but you will be anxious to do the will of God. You have had enough in the past of the evil things that godless people enjoy—their immorality and lust, their feasting and drunkenness and wild parties, and their terrible worship of idols.” (1 Peter 4:1-3)

Dietrich Bonheoffer said so clearly, “the call to follow Christ is a call to die.”

My goal is not to throw stones at Jen Hatmaker or even those who identify as LGBT. The goal is to expose a larger problem that is a bitter root in the tree of American Theology.   It is the idea that we can change our theology to match the spirit and feeling of the day. The beauty of the scripture is that it is unchanging. No matter how we feel about an issue we yield to Christ.   We do not seek to make the scripture fit our feelings. This applies to all of us!   This is no indictment on any particular sin.   It is prerequisite for all of us.   I make my kids take off their shoes before they come in the house.   We must shed ourselves of all of our sins when we come to Christ.

When we come to Christ we do not have the option of holding on to any sin.   Our identity is no longer found in our activity but in our Savior.   The sex addict can come to Christ, but he must repent and turn away from his sex addiction.   The thief can come to Christ but he is no longer a thief, he now seeks to look like his Savior. He goes from taker to giver. The idol worshipper can come to Christ but he cannot bring his idol with him. He must destroy it. The homosexual can come to Christ but he no longer identifies as a homosexual. My point is not to say that Jesus followers will no longer struggle with their sin but that they will STRUGGLE. They will embrace the internal battle that is going on inside of them. They will not give themselves over to the sins of their past. The Holy Spirit inside of them will no longer allow them to be happy in their sin.

Adrian Rogers once said, “Our feelings are the most shallow part of us. God does not do His deepest work in our most shallow part.”

If you are a follower of Christ I would challenge you to read your bible more than you read the latest Christian book.   Remember that if something has been true for 2000 years of the Christian faith then God is not going to suddenly change His mind because the culture now embraces some particular sin.   The call of the Christian life is a call of self sacrifice. It is a call to lay our sins down and lay our lives down for others.

Let’s not make a golden image of god in the likeness of the American culture of our day. The world says that we should be happy and we find happiness when we do what makes us feel good.   The word of God teaches us that we should seek holiness.   When we seek to be holy, only then do we find happiness. Happiness in the Christian life is not the goal but the by-product. It’s not found in sin but often found in service.   Happiness can be briefly experienced in the passing pleasures of sin, but that kind of happiness will quickly leave you empty again. Real happiness can only last in the conscious surrender of ourselves to Christ and His calling on our lives. Get your theology from the Bible and not from your heart.

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Sex, the God that Rules the USA 

Here is the general tidal wave crashing on the beach of our culture: “No one can tell you what you should do in regard to sexuality. The highest evil is preventing someone from having sex in any way…unless it involves children.” (Which I am sure this will soon change. I mean who are we to tell children what they can and cannot do? Apparently it is now wrong to even announce the gender of a child when they are born.)

If you are like me you have probably had your fill of seeing opinions for or against the Supreme Court Ruling on the Hobby Lobby Case.

In a nutshell here are the arguments:

For Hobby Lobby: Private companies should not be forced to pay for conscience violating birth control pills

Against: Hobby Lobby Hates Women!   Get the boss out of my bedroom.

This is such a hot button issue because it brings to light a much deeper divide in our country.   It is the same as all the other divides. It is a divide over what you believe about God.

Whether you agree or not, this country was founded on Christian values and principles.   Sure there are many examples of where our nation got it wrong (slavery, racism, etc..).   But, generally speaking since the foundation of our country the majority of individuals have believed that marriage is between a man and a woman. Sex should be reserved for marriage and marriage alone. This is the basic teaching of the Bible and of Jesus. The New Testament warns over and over about the harm of sex outside of marriage to both your body and your soul.   The Old Testament gives a number of examples of how harmful sex can be with multiples wives, partners, etc.

The culture in the USA is in a major sexual shift. We are becoming “enlightened.”   With the drugs we have today sex is freely available now more than ever.

The heart of the ideological war in our county is over SEX.

The loud voices of the media, liberal politicians, and college students everywhere are shouting, “there is no God and you should be able to do what is right in your own eyes.” Of course most don’t say it like this. In fact most would still identify themselves as Christians. But they are the type of Christians that think Jesus was a celestial nice guy that taught us how to tolerate everyone.   I guess they forget about the part that His message was so radical that they murdered Him on a cross.

The stereotype seems to be that anyone who tells you that you cannot do something, particularly in regards to sex, is evil and a religious nut. The media stereotypes Christians as those right wing nuts who eat the “hate” chicken at Chick Fila and want to take away your right to have sex. This is at the heart of the matter

Some of the most contentious issues in our Nation:

1)   Homosexuality, Same Sex marriage

2)   Abortion and Birth Control

3)   Transgender Issues

4)   Pornography

Most of the above listed issues are becoming more accepted by the country at large as permissible.

To be honest people who do not claim to be Christian should not be held to the standards of Christ. Lost people act lost. They are trying to find fulfillment in sex…however they will not find it. This will not change.   It will only get worse.   The only thing that is new is that now there are no laws to prevent all sorts of sexual deviance. The homosexual agenda has successfully, though falsely, made homosexual issues the civil rights issues of our day.   Who you have sex with is a choice and not a civil right.

I want you to think about this question: Does sex matter to God?

Culture in general is not evil but culture can go in evil directions.   Like an animal in heat, Christians must be SO CAREFUL not to chase after the culture in the area of sexual purity.   The Bible does not teach us that we are simply more evolved animals. The Bible teaches us that we are fearfully and wonderfully made with a purpose and a calling on our lives to bring glory to God. It is not, nor will it ever be ok for anyone who bears the name of Christ to have sex outside of the heterosexual confines of a marriage relationship. Period!

I have fears and optimism for the next generation of Christians in the US.

My fear is that, in general they are accepting homosexual behavior ok with God. Can we who died to sin continue to live in it?   May it never be! We must remember that we must hate that within ourselves that God hates, sin! We can never be ok with lusts and sex outside of what God says is ok. Sin brings death. We cannot love, in ourselves, or others that which brings death.

My optimism comes in the admission that the next generation will be more loving to homosexuals than the previous.   They do not fear or vilify people who identify themselves as homosexual.   Perhaps they will do a better job of reaching them with the Gospel of Jesus and providing them hope for freedom from a sexually perverse lifestyle.

What Does A Christian Do In Such A Culture Where Sex Is God?

 

Live Pure Lives

Don’t look at pornography or lust after someone who is not your spouse.   Do not sleep with someone you are not married too. Do not entertain yourself with sexual content (movies, shows, books that make you think of sex with people other than your spouse)

1 Corinthians 6:18 Run from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body. 19 Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, 20 for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.

Teach Your Children What God Says About Sex.

Teach them that their bodies are valuable.   Teach them that God has a plan for their sex life.   Make sure you help them understand that sex is a good gift from God. His commands regarding sex are not to keep us from sex but to keep us for sex. Teach them that sex more than a physical exchange but a mingling of souls. Let them ask you questions. Be honest. Teach them the value of purity.

Do Not Seek To Shield Them…Teach Them.

Obviously there are some things you need to shield your children from. It is inevitable that they are going to see two men holding hands or two women kissing or even a commercial that shows a wholesome family with same sex parents.   These are teachable moments. Be clear that as people who follow Jesus we love all people but God teaches us that these lifestyle choices are wrong and sinful. Teach them of the harmful physical affects caused by sex outside of marriage. When they are old enough give them the statistics from the CDC, “Gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (MSM)a represent approximately 2% of the United States population, yet are the population most severely affected by HIV. In 2010, young gay and bisexual men (aged 13-24 years) accounted for 72% of new HIV infections among all persons aged 13 to 24, and 30% of new infections among all gay and bisexual men. At the end of 2010, an estimated 489,121 (56%) persons living with an HIV diagnosis in the United States were gay and bisexual men, or gay and bisexual men who also inject drugs.” Give them facts about the harmful physical illnesses caused by sex outside of God’s plan.

Stand Firm But Remember You Will Not Shout Someone To Your Side

Express your beliefs but do not get into shouting matches or arguments that are unfruitful with those who disagree with you. This is about as helpful as posting a Facebook meme about how awful president Obama is and then expect your liberal friends to want to be conservative. Not. Going. To. Happen.

Remember, just because the government now allows certain evils do not mean we must condone or accept them.

The signs outside of the Courthouse while waiting for the Hobby Lobby verdict read: “BOSSES OUT OF OUR BEDROOM!”

This can never be said of a Christian!   Our Boss is Jesus.  We can never take God out of our bedrooms or any other area of life.   I pray that we would make pleasing Jesus our highest goal, not sexual fulfillment.   I want to warn Christians not to make sexuality the god of their lives.

While Christians are winning fewer and fewer media and cultural debates we choose whether or not will win the private purity debate in our own lives. I encourage you, if you consider yourself a Christ follower to live a pure life and stand for what you believe God says about sexuality.

1 Peter 4:So then, since Christ suffered physical pain, you must arm yourselves with the same attitude he had, and be ready to suffer, too. For if you have suffered physically for Christ, you have finished with sin.* You won’t spend the rest of your lives chasing your own desires, but you will be anxious to do the will of God. You have had enough in the past of the evil things that godless people enjoy—their immorality and lust, their feasting and drunkenness and wild parties, and their terrible worship of idols.