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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Find A Life Speaker

High school is a crucial time in everyone’s life as you are really navigating what it means to be a young adult and what you are supposed to do with life.  Coach Miller was one of my high school football coaches that led our FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) and every time he saw me in the hallway he would smile and say, “Hermann, you’re a winner!”  I don’t know if he meant it, but when he said it, I believed it.  He made me feel like a winner.  I have always wanted to make others feel that way.

Who is in your life that is a voice that reminds you of who you can and should be?

We all want to live life well and one of the best ways we can do that is to find someone who is ahead of us and learn from them.  This is literally what the word disciple means in the New Testament.  A disciple was someone who followed someone else.

I read somewhere that you become like the 5 people with whom you spend the most time.  Think about those 5 people.  Are those 5 people the people you want to be like?  The next season of your life may look a lot like the current season of the people you are following.

One of my high school Sunday school teachers was also one of my football coaches and he told me when I was 15 that I was going to be a preacher.  He saw something in me that I did not see in myself that sparked a dream in my life to tell others about the hope of Jesus.

Another pivitol voice in my life was my current Pastor.  13 years ago when I was just a young man about to get married he called me and said he saw something in me and wanted me to consider coming to be part of the ministry staff of the church I currently serve in.  I told him, “No.”  He did not take no for an answer and kept pursing me.  I eventually said yes and it forever changed my life.

Thoughts become things and words become worlds.  The people that you allow to speak into your life will be the ones that shape your future.

Who are your mentors?

Jesus had 12 that He invested in.  The Apostle Paul was always bringing others along the journey with him.

A mentor will tell you the truth when you don’t want to hear it.   They will try to say it in a way that you can receive it.

A mentor will encourage you when you get down.

A mentor will give you wisdom from their life that you don’t yet have.  They let you borrow their wisdom and make it your own.

A good mentor will show you how to live well.

I am blessed to serve on a team where the four men I serve with are all around ten years older than me. All of them have families that I want to emulate.  All of them are great husbands.  They are great fathers.  All of them have been faithful like I want to be.  They mentor me each week whether they know it or not.

Who is your mentor?  When you look at all the relationships in your life, find those people in your circle of influence that stand out as someone you would aspire to be.  Hang around those people.   Ask them for some of their most precious resource, their time.  If you ask them for their time then don’t waste it.

Listen to them.

Learn from them.

Live better.

Repeat.

Write down three names that come to mind of people you would like to have invest in you.  Make a plan this week to make first contact with them about potentially helping you become a better you.

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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Down Syndrome, From Gut Punch To Gratitude

Have you ever been hit really hard in the stomach?   It is a terrible mixture of pain and the lack of ability to breathe.   This is what it felt like the first time I got a good look at my fourth child when she was born.

My wife had a great delivery and I was the proud father with the camera recording.   Our new baby girl cried and the nurses quickly whisked her over to clean her off.  That’s when I saw her face the first time, that is when I felt the gut punch.  Immediately I knew in my heart that my new daughter was different.  With her little swollen face and her protruding tongue it was clear to me that she had Down syndrome.  I knew the second gut punch would be coming in just a few seconds.  The second gut punch would hurt worse than the first.  It would come when they brought my new baby back to my wife.  My wife is a nurse and I knew that right away she would see what I was seeing.

She held our sweet baby and looked at her and I saw her reaction as she felt the gut punch as well.   She said with a quiver in her voice,  “It looks like she has Downs.”  That day, over 4 years ago is still very vivid in my mind.  It was a hard day.

There are some scenarios that happen to other people but you never think they will happen to you…

And then they do.

We were now parents of a little girl named Joy who had Down syndrome.  The initial shock passed quickly and we realized that Joy was a gift from God perfectly knit together in her mother’s womb.  She was no accident.   God gave us a little treasure that would change our future and the future of our family and extended family.

Fast forward to present day.

Our little Joy is such a bright light in this world.   I look forward to her hugs and excitement every morning.  She has made us all more caring, accepting and generally happier.

She touches lives all over the world with her smile and charisma.   She is funny, happy, determined, opinionated and oh so caring.

To be real honest Down syndrome is not something we think about that much in our family.  Joy is just part of our lives.  She is just like all of our other children.  Some things take her longer to learn but every milestone she hits is a mighty accomplishment that our family celebrates.

The day that Joy was born I shed a lot of tears for the loss of the child I thought I was getting.  I cried because there were so many unknowns about the future.  I still have tears come to my eyes on a regular basis but it is for different reasons.  I have tears of Joy in my eyes.  I have such gratitude and thankfulness to God that he would entrust my family with such a precious gift.  I have tears that well up when I think about just how much love and value Joy adds to so many lives.  Who am I that God would entrust with one of His most precious treasures?

Our family wants to help the world understand that Down syndrome is not a sentence to a life of misery but a sentence to a life of love.   We want to spread awareness of the great abilities of the precious people in this world who happen to have Down syndrome.

If you have read this far then you must care about Joy and about children like her.  Today is World Down Syndrome day and I want to tell you about one little boy who has Down syndrome named Justin that you can help.

Justin is an awesome little guy who lives in an orphanage in China.  He doesn’t have a family to love him.   He does have a family that wants him.   Some very dear friends of mine are doing all they can to adopt Justin and bring him home.  They need help to do this.   International adoption is very expensive and they are trying to raise the resources to bring Justin home.   Would you consider, on this special day making a real difference in the life of one little boy who has Down syndrome.   If you can give to help with this adoption it would mean the world to this family and to Justin.  Here is the link to the Go Fund Me Page.

https://www.gofundme.com/7fvje8-we-are-adopting

Also if you could share this blog and help raise awareness for this need it would be greatly appreciated.Screen Shot 2018-03-21 at 9.00.23 AM.png

The Glamorous Life Of A Pastor

If you are considering a call of God on your life to be a pastor or Christian leader, I would encourage you to count the cost and then remember that Jesus is worth it all.

If you are wondering if God is calling you into a vocational ministry role then maybe this will help you.

I had a lot of dreams growing up of what I wanted to be. As a small child I wanted to be a professional football player.   Size and skill would not make that possible. Then, I set my sights to be an artist or a comedian. I loved to draw and make people laugh. That didn’t work out either, but there was one career that was never on my radar.

I never wanted to be a pastor.

Not that being a pastor was a bad thing, I just saw pastors as people that weren’t real people. They had to live differently than everyone else. Growing up, my pastor was well known in the community, a strong leader and a wise sage all rolled into one.  His career was not like other people who had normal jobs. He was set apart. He was my pastor. He was an honored man. The calling to be a pastor would have been like the calling to go to Mars. It just wasn’t something I saw myself ever doing. It wasn’t something I could ever see myself as worthy of doing.

It’s really interesting how God has a way of guiding your path. Growing up I went to church because my mom and dad loved Jesus and that’s just what we did. We never missed. I didn’t particularly like going to church, but when I was around 15 my Sunday School teacher, who was also one of my high school football coaches, told me one day out of the blue, “Hermann, you going to be a preacher one day.”

The seed was planted.

I had never once thought in my life about being a preacher but that little statement would be a mustard seed planted in my heart that would be watered in the coming years.

When I was 16, I begrudgingly went to church youth camp at my mom’s request.

It was at that camp that God really captured my heart.

It was during that week of my life that I gave God my “yes” to whatever He wanted from me.

It was at that camp that I heard that still small voice of God watering the seed of faith that was planted a year earlier from my coach.

I talked to my youth pastor and told him I thought God might be calling me into ministry.   He committed with me to pray about it. I spent a year praying and asking God if that was what I was supposed to do. I returned to High school with a new passion to honor God with my life. I became friends with a guy I had known all my life but never really liked.   His name was Carson. That summer Carson had a very similar experience at a different youth camp and was committed to being a pastor.   Carson and I played football together against each other and we became inseparable friends. It’s neat how God does that.   We helped lead our local Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Youth group, and we even started a morning bible study at the local McDonalds for other students to attend.

As time went by we went to junior college and Bible College together. Now I am 20 years down the road since those days in high school.   Thanks to God’s mercy, Carson and I are both still Pastors. Carson is the pastor of a church in Wrens, Georgia and I am a staff pastor at a great church in Flowery Branch, Georgia.

Ministry is not at all what I had in mind at age 16. When I said yes to the call to ministry I thought I was saying yes to be a preacher.   I wanted to boldly proclaim the word of God, like Billy Graham, and see thousands of people respond in faith to my great preaching. Well, it didn’t take long to find out that ministry is much different than what I had in mind. I have always loved to preach but preaching is a very small portion of what happens during the week.   Preaching is what every pastor is passionate about and would do for free.

The ministry is so much more than preaching.

It’s hard.

It can be brutal and not many people last.

The average tenure for a pastor in America is less than 2 years! Ministry is not for the faint of heart.

Here are some things I have learned over the years of what ministry really looks like. If you are contemplating a life of serving Jesus in vocational ministry then you should take time to read this list and see if God has gifted and wired you to represent Him in vocational ministry. This is what they never told me.

No one told me that I would have to visit the house of a 12-year-old boy whose mother had just been murdered and try to help him find some kind of comfort.

No one told me that people would appear to love me and my family but would turn to despise us because I might do something that they didn’t agree with.

No one told me that Church people are mostly loving and amazing but there is a small pocket in every church that are mean as angry snakes and they will spew their venom towards the pastor. You still have to love those people.

No one told me that I would get to name a baby on a mission trip in India.

No one told me what it would be like to preach at churches in Haiti that were overcrowded and dark and dusty.

No one told me about having to beg a customs agent to let the mission team I was leading into Canada because of a misunderstanding.

No one told me what it would be like to be in the room of a person who is dying and looking to you for comfort and words of peace.

No one told me about how hard it would be to preach the funerals of those you deeply love.

No one told how much joy I would feel when I got to marry young couples that I had known for years.

No one told me the joy of watching those couples I married start families and teach their children about the love of Jesus.

No one told me about the endless phone calls, visits and emails to try to help plug people into the church.

No one told me how ministry would affect my family. No one told me that when people spoke ill of me it would hurt my wife twice as much as it hurt me.   No one told me that my children would always have unrealistic expectations set on them by others simply because their dad was a pastor.

No one told me how hard it would be to visit a couple that I love who just delivered a stillborn child.

No one told me what it would be like to be sick in India and try to preach through sickness in a foreign country with an interpreter.

No one told me how hard it would be to see friends who you went to Bible College with become a statistic of pastors who didn’t make it.

No one told me how it would feel to know of 1000 needs and only be able to help a few.

No one told me what it would feel like to be robbed while on a mission trip in a third world country.

No one told me that my life would consist mostly of meetings to further the work of the ministry.

No one told me that my best work would not be done in the pulpit, but in the trenches of having hard conversations with people who needed someone to be honest with them.

No one told me of the heart wrenching conversations I would have with so many couples who were on the brink of divorce that were looking to me to help them keep it together.

No one told me how hard it is to deal with suicide, how hard it is to help a family that is so destroyed and broken and angry all at once.

No one told me how hard it would be to know the words to say to comfort broken people when I was the first on the scene after tragedy struck.

No one told me about the joy I would experience to see middle school students that I had the chance to invest in grow up and serve Jesus.

No one told me about the frustration and helplessness you can feel in a church business meeting.

No one told me of the joy I would receive when I would go to the hospital to meet new babies that were born.

No one told me about how much fun it would be to work together with people I love to see a big vision come together.

No one told me about the satisfying joy of seeing a family changed by the power of the gospel.

No one told me of the countless hours of study and continuing education it would take to be a pastor.

No one told me how I would wake up each day energized to go to work knowing that the Gospel I carry can change a person’s life.

No one told me that I would get to work with some of the world’s most awesome people.

No one told me how much the church would love and embrace my family and meet our every need.

No one told me how amazing it is to baptize a new believer.

There was so much I didn’t know…I couldn’t know.

I could go on and on for days about the up and downs of this hard calling to ministry.   I was told not to get into ministry unless God would allow me to do nothing else.   I was told not to do it unless I was sure I was called. The life of full time vocational ministry is not always easy, but it is always worth it!   I would not trade it for the world.

I am so grateful to be called Pastor.

If you are considering a call of God on your life to be a pastor or Christian leader, I would encourage you to count the cost and then remember that Jesus is worth it all.

I have had many people ask me, “What is it that you do during the week?” Well, come spend a week with me and I will be glad to show you.

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Why Change?

I’ve been fortunate to experience many cultures in the world. Most of the places I’ve been were on mission trips. It’s a humbling and frightening experience to go to a place a long way from your home and meet people you’ve never met before that think very unlike you.

I think the most dissimilar place I’ve been is India. The smell is the first thing you notice when you get off the plane. There is always the smell of smoke in the air (this is also true of Haiti). All the food is very spicy with tons of curry powder.   The people of India have a head bobble that is not up and down but kind of all around and it can mean a number of different things.   The people are so humble that few of them look you in the eye. Most of the people I met lived in extreme poverty. Many of the people had actual physical idols that they worshipped in their homes.   There are millions of gods that are worshipped in India. The roads are chaotic, filled with cars, bikes, people, cows and anything else you can imagine.   It’s hot, really hot.

In all of the diversity of this place the thing that stood out to me so clearly is all the things I had in common with the people of India. Finding common ground was not hard and when I met the people face to face I felt a great love for them. In order to tell them the message of Jesus I had to contextualize it.

I had to figure out a way to explain the Gospel message in a way that they could understand.

When I was preaching I couldn’t use the same American jokes. Those jokes didn’t make sense to them. They have a certain way to dress that is not like how I would normally dress. Our team prepared for months in advance learning little things about the culture so that we would not offend our hosts when we were there. At first it was uncomfortable to me because I had to change my preferences in order to connect with these wonderful people. I never really liked the food in India, but I ate it because our hosts, who had little to eat, gave it sacrificially. In the end, the value of the relationships I gained and the souls that were saved far outweighed the light and temporary afflictions I faced as a result of changing things that were preferential and normal to me.

This is really just what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9: 19 “Even though I am a free man with no master, I have become a slave to all people to bring many to Christ. 20 When I was with the Jews, I lived like a Jew to bring the Jews to Christ. When I was with those who follow the Jewish law, I too lived under that law. Even though I am not subject to the law, I did this so I could bring to Christ those who are under the law.21 When I am with the Gentiles who do not follow the Jewish law, I too live apart from that law so I can bring them to Christ. But I do not ignore the law of God; I obey the law of Christ. 22 When I am with those who are weak, I share their weakness, for I want to bring the weak to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some.23 I do everything to spread the Good News and share in its blessings.”

When we think of change in the context of being a missionary then it seems obvious that a change in our behavior and approach is needed. When we think of change in the context of the culture in which we live we cling to our preferences.

Why?

I can think of a couple of reasons:

First, we know that when we go on a mission trip it is usually short term so we endure change for a small season knowing we will go back to what is normal. 

Second, and maybe more telling, we don’t see where we live as a mission field.We stop contextualizing and we just live. We stop reaching out to our culture and we start cursing the culture for being lost.   We want them to be like us. We see our American Christian subculture crumbling before us. This frightens most long time Christians who’ve grown up in the south.   Because of this we see our changing culture and the people in it as the enemy instead of the reason for the church.

I don’t like change unless it’s change I like. That may sound a little funny but here is what I mean.   There are some changes I like but all the changes I like are the changes I dictate in my life. I usually don’t like change when I feel like I am losing something that is out of my control.

I have heard it said that people don’t fear change they fear loss.

I work at a church and I see this pretty often. Our church has been in a season of change and some people don’t like the changes. These are good people, many of who I look up to. These are Godly people but they like what they like and sometimes changes are just hard.

It is hard to like something and have it taken away. (certain traditions, musical style, buildings, programs, musical instruments, lighting, even names, etc…)

It is hard when the church is the central hub of your spiritual and social life and it changes on you.

It is hard when your preference is no longer the church’s emphasis.

These are all hard things, so…

Why Change?

The answer is pretty simple. We change in order to attempt to better reach people for Jesus.

Changing to chase a fad is a reckless.
Changing to copy someone else is shallow.
Changing out of personal preference is superficial.
Changing to water down the message is sinful.  
Changing to upset people is wrong.

When it all gets down to the simplest level we change in order to honor God and reach people. As a Christian when we come to Christ we enter a season of change called sanctification. It’s the process of us becoming like Christ.

Less of me, more of Him.
Less of my wants, more obedience.
Less of my plans, more of His.

This whole process is very uncomfortable. Like the caterpillar struggling to free itself from its cocoon, we struggle to be more like Christ.

We change in order to reach people but where is the line?   When is the change too much? When do we need to be afraid that the church is just becoming like the culture instead of reaching the culture? These are very important questions that church going Christian people should be asking.

I believe there are at least two simple lines.

The first is the scripture. Churches must never compromise or violate the scripture in order to reach people. The message never changes. If the church begins to water down the gospel then the church is in trouble.

The second is sin. Churches must not engage in sinful activities in order to reach sinners.Jesus modeled this perfectly.   He was constantly around sinners yet without sin. Jesus preached to all who would listen, but only those who repented in faith became children of God.  The church must open wide the doors for the message to be heard, but only those who repent and believe become part of the church.

The Apostle Paul was a man that knew about changing. He went from a Jew of Jews to a man called to reach the Gentile (Pagan) world.   I am sure he had to do things that he never thought he would have to do. His life was constantly changing as he went from one area to another.

He was willing to do whatever it took to reach people for Christ. I know he was often criticized. Paul himself said, “There is a wide-open door for a great work here, although many oppose me.”

It is hard for all of us to accept change but we must be willing to ask the question of ourselves, “Am I struggling with the change because it is a deviation from scripture or leading our church to sin or am I struggling with change because I am losing my preference?”

It is ok to be upset that you lose something of the past that was precious to you, but remember that to live in the past prevents a better future.Screen Shot 2018-02-06 at 6.16.21 AM

Let’s struggle together as we see God’s church reach more people with the Gospel.

 

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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