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Archive for the tag “ministry”

What I learned in San Francisco.

This last week I took a trip with the family to San Francisco. If you know me, you know that I’ve typically considered California – particularly that part – the equivalent to Sodom and Gomorrah. So I went and I kept a wary eye open. Here’s what I came away with.

While I was running around the Bay Area and Northern California I saw no rainbow stickers on cars.  Of the other car decorations (Darwin “fish”, “Coexist” stickers) that typically cause me to bristle, I saw less in San Fran than I see in Ft. Worth. What I didn’t see: drag queens, a bunch of gays doing open PDA, hippies, or angry libs.  I also didn’t see some things I usually see in Texas. I didn’t see strip clubs. Nor billboards advertising strip clubs on every freeway. In Texas, if you travel any US or interstate highway for at least 60 miles you’ll drive by at least one “porn shack” (adult video store/theater). I didn’t see any of those either.  Also in Texas, if you go in a mens’ restroom (especially in public parks) you’ll find men who leave their phone numbers and sexual requests written on the bathroom wall. I never saw any of that either in Cali. The fact is, I see more flaunting of pornography, strippers, and homosexuality in North Central Texas than I did in Northern California.

The Bible belt appears to be less sexually moral than San Francisco.

I was really expecting someone to comment about my accent (especially as I realized how many times I say “fixin’ to.”)  Everyone I did talk to was friendly and helpful. Those that weren’t originally from Texas seemed cool with Texas. Whether in Tahoe City, San Francisco, or the wine country. The only person conscious of my accent or my home state was me.

It made me think of how things are in my Bible Belt town and Bible Belt circles. People that go to various churches in my town can’t even get along with other people from the other churches. That’s why we have 3 Southern Baptist churches that are all pretty much the same format. People within the churches can’t agree on what should be considered “proper” worship music. Think of some of the most controversial topics in evangelical circles:

Contemporary style vs traditional.
Hymns vs praise songs
Arminianism vs Calvinism
Cessationism vs Continuationism
Freewill vs Election
Once saved always saved vs Losing salvation
Us vs Them

All of these – All. Of. These. – are all different views that can be supported by Scripture and argued against by other Scripture. We consider ourselves the bearers of “real truth,” fortifying our doctrine with select verse and interpretations. Meanwhile we’re snuffing out our own light trying to throw water on the other side of the argument. None of those topics I mentioned are without flaws, holes, and misinterpretation. Yet we’ll stand our righteous ground like a Texan holds to his opinion about San Francisco without ever actually having gone there. And, like I was, we probably know we’re not really “right” but we can’t convince ourselves of that.

Am I making sense here?

Often what causes a negative opinion is a bad experience. Some people throw out spiritual gifts like healing and prophecy because they’ve seen them misused by charismatic churches. I’ve heard people who favor traditional worship dismiss contemporary worship because praise songs are repetitive.  Another cause of a negative opinion is when we read something that sounds agreeable then filter our Bible reading based on our new ideas. Then we feed ourselves only stuff we agree with, thinking our way is the ultimate truth. If the definition of “doctrine” isn’t “my opinion about what God says, as incomplete as it may be,” it probably should be.  After I’m done studying for this test for work, I think I’m going to pick an author who I usually wouldn’t and read one book of theirs.

Since when is it a good idea to develop a doctrine about the Bible, then try to place what is eternal and the very definition of life into our little doctrine box? Instead of tossing the pendulum back and forth, can we not just put it in the middle and leave it there? Or maybe, just maybe, we need to realize that the real Biblical truth lies somewhere in the middle of our polar views.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t know what we believe. We just need to realize that these hot buttons aren’t the complete picture and we need to quit hanging our faith on them. Just like it was completely silly for me to be so judgmental about another city’s culture. As I found out, where I’m from actually had the bigger plank of the place whose speck I ridiculed so much.

What’s dissolving the influence of Christianity in this country isn’t just Hollywood or liberals. It’s Christians trying to fit church and Jesus around what they want, and not what actually ispendulum.


The Church’s Response to….(Dare I say it?)

I really trYellowHeart2y to avoid controversial subjects on this blog. Avoiding is hard to do when I keep seeing stuff in the media that grates on me. It’s even harder to do when  professed followers of Christ act like their faith is a footnote to their way of thinking.  About 2 months ago I started writing this post. Because I want to stir the pot?  No. Because I believe what I said needed to be said.  Here’s the article:

5 Ways the Church Needs to Respond to Gay Acceptance

Few issues of our generation have been more heated and divisive as gay rights. When I say gay rights, I’m not referring only to legal rights. I am really addressing the entire idea of gay acceptance by our society. To see evidence of this divisiveness, all one needs to do is look at the comments section of any online news article on the topic. Name calling, insults, accusations, and personal defamation are the norm.

The protestant, evangelical Christian community has been spearheading the fight against gay acceptance. Through boycotts, legislation, and demonstrations, Christian conservatives have constantly pushed back against pro-gay ideals in our society.

Unfortunately, it is this push against gay acceptance that has been the gasoline on the fire of the gay rights movement. A society that screams, “If it feels good, do it,” and “YOLO,” perceives our faith community as uneducated, close-minded, and prudish. They perceive us as trying to stop others from seeking the same pursuit of happiness we take for granted. If pro-gay vs. anti-gay is a battle, like many believe it is, the church is losing.

In an article published by the University of Chicago, support for same-sex marriage has gone from 11% approval in 1988 to 46% in 2010. Younger generations support gay-marriage more than older generations (64% of those under 30 years old versus 27% of those 70+ years old). These age-related statistics are not limited to same-sex marriage. Twenty-six percent of those under 30 surveyed said homosexual behavior is “always wrong.” Sixty-three percent of the 70+ crowd shared that opinion.

Between these numbers and the saturation of pro-gay happenings in our culture, it is safe to say that the Christian conservative community is not making headway against gay acceptance. Since the pro-gay movement is not going away, how should the 21st century church respond? I have five suggestions:

Realize that homosexuality is sexual immorality. This makes it no different from looking at pornography, engaging in sex outside of Biblical marriage, or lusting after another person (1Thess. 4:2-3; Eph. 5:3; Gal. 5:19-21; Jas. 2:11, 1Cor. 6:18).

Quit arguing against homosexuality with verses from Leviticus. To do so is futile. First of all, if someone doesn’t believe the Bible to be the inspired Word of God, the verses mean nothing to the listener. Second, if we are not going to observe all of the Levitical law (such as these: Lev. 15:18, 19:27, 20:10), then how can we expect anyone else to?

Remember that homosexuality isn’t the unforgivable sin. Rebellion against God is (Matt. 12:31-32).

Learn science. Anatomy/physiology, biology, genetics – if we are debating homosexuality do it in a way they understand. Are gays really born that way? Do we know? Do they know for sure? Our scientific-minded society responds to science more so than Scripture. The Bible deems it unnatural (Rom. 1:24-32). Anatomy and physiology of the human genitalia supports that.

Do not engage in name calling. Nothing is gained by either side when names like “ignorant,” “intolerant,” or “hateful,” are used. In fact, most of those adjectives are so over-used they are misused. People have forgotten what they really mean.  Our speech is supposed to be grace-filled (Col. 3:8, 4:6).

Churches should be ready with open doors and open arms. Anyone who wishes to turn from un-Biblical ways should be able to find a place in church to be ministered to. This is not limited to LBGT individuals. As churches have opened their doors to sex addicts and divorcees, they need to be prepared to open doors for those struggling with unwanted same-sex attraction and behavior. Not for political reasons but for the people behind the movement. The church is about healing and freedom from legitimate hurts (2 Cor. 5:16-20).

Love the people no matter how ugly it gets. The goal of dispelling the myth that gay is normal/natural/okay is not to “Save America” or “Bring our country back to God.” It’s about people. People that God loves just as He loves us. It is about shining a little light into peoples’ lives so that they find the only One who can give them real Life (Matt. 5:14-16; Jn. 6:35, 11:25; 1Jn. 5:11-12).

As ministers of reconciliation to Christ we need to consider if our actions have been more of a stumbling block, than a source of light. We have spent much effort and resources saying “No. We will fight you.” We have forgotten all about saying, “While I don’t agree with you, God loves you and I do, too.” Let’s remember we are dealing with people who need to be loved. Jesus commanded us to love them and then make disciples of them.

If I didn’t make it clear enough before, let me say: I do not condone gay marriage or support gay rights. I believe it’s homosexuality is a sin just like drunkenness is a sin. Yet rarely do you hear drunkenness condemned from Christians these days. I simply do not believe the church has handled the issue of homosexuality in the most Biblical manner. The way it has been handled in the past has only pushed people who need Jesus away from Jesus.  Anybody who comes to the church for help (from unwanted same-sex desires, addictions/habits, broken marriages, depression, etc.) should be able to receive that help. The church should be equipped to deal with those issues.

Thank you for reading.

(If you’re curious about the yellow heart image, ask me.)

Overwhelmed with Vision

With everythmission&visioning that’s been going on at church, stuff I’ve been watching, stuff I’ve read, and stuff I’ve seen, I think “overwhelmed” is a good description of my head lately. And it’s a good overwhelmed.

God’s brought me through a lot, especially in the last couple of years. Now that I have some major issues no longer entangling me, I feel like I can run. Run towards what I’ve been called to do. Run further away from those entanglements. Run towards things I see that need to be done.

Between helping with Disciple Now at my church (which focused on apologetics) and stuff I saw about the Ken Ham – Bill Nye debate (no I didn’t watch it but I did watch this) I saw a need.  The upcoming generations need to know how to give a well-reasoned answer and defense to why they believe what they do.

I recently read two great books (here and here) that all speak about purity and teaching children the way they should go in regards to purity. One of them also addressed how the church has been lacking in teaching an important marital issue. There are needs that need to be addressed in the church. The controversy surrounding Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty and the Coca-Cola Super Bowl commercial added to my sense of urgency.

All of these have also helped me focus on what I need to be addressing here on Freedom.Truth.Marriage. Also, they’re helping me know where I may need to focus when I go back to school for my graduate degree.

I’d like to share these ideas with you. I share them, asking for your prayers on 1) if they are God’s will, and 2) if so, me being sensitive to knowing how He wants them executed.

  • Teaching scientific and creationist apologetics in our home school co-op classes.
  • Continued work with Freedom.Truth.Marriage.
  • A marriage book for men I’m slowly cobbling together.
  • Which graduate program to enter into, and God’s provision for funding it.
  • Opening up my full testimony for these purposes.
  • Ministry to children who’ve lost one or more parent tragically.
  • Starting a local freedom ministry where people can come to learn about freedom from habits, addictions, problems; receiving healing in those areas; so they’ll be able to run with freedom as well.

Thank you to all of you who read this and have provided support and encouragement. It’s felt and appreciated.

Which “kingdom” are we fighting for?

This is an issue I wanted to avoid getting into. You know the scenario: Famous person says something anti-gay and people throw a fit on both sides.

I’m referring to A&E’s dismissal of Phil Robertson.

As extensions of Christ, we’re not told to be battling for our country, for morals, or against a group of people. We’re told to be salt and light (Matt 5:1-16). Wage the war against Satan’s schemes – not the people deceived by them (2 Cor 10:3-4).

We must maintain an eternal perspective in situations like this. What’s at stake isn’t America. It’s the eternity of those who haven’t yet been saved. In the end Duck Dynasty, Phil, A&E, conservatives, liberals, and America itself will be gone. The Kingdom will stand forever. How much time and energy do we spend:

  •     In deep prayer over the GLBT community that the veil of deception be lifted (Matt 5:44).
  •     In deep prayer for ourselves that God may show us how to love our neighbor as we would love ourselves.
  •     Learning apologetic and scientific arguments of why the Bible is true. So that when the skeptics make fun of our Book (as they are today), we can refute their skepticism with something other than “I just believe.”
  •     Learning scientific, biological arguments to why homosexuality isn’t natural or normal. If someone doesn’t believe what the Bible says about anything in the first place, throwing a verse out of Leviticus isn’t going to change their mind. (Check out NARTH for more information)
  •     Getting indignant over the sheer state of lostness of this world; of people in the U.S.A. Not because they have views we don’t like, but because what’s at stake is much bigger than a nation.
  •     Seeking the Kingdom of God first in our own lives, before anything else going on in our lives.

I don’t agree with A&E’s decision either. Phil, and the rest of us, have a right to speak about our beliefs.  I really don’t agree with how the Body of Christ spends so much concern on America and our culture when we’re to be about the already existing and unstoppable Kingdom of God.

Ministers a.k.a. People

We found out today that the pastor of our church for the last 15 years is leaving to do God’s work elsewhere. My wife brought it to my attention that for almost all of our married life Russell has been at that church. He came there as a music/youth pastor a year after we were married. Later, when the first pastor moved on, he slid in to the role as pastor.  Even though we weren’t members there we both had family there so we knew him and he knew us. When we moved back to the area in 2007 he welcomed us back even though we attended church elsewhere.

A few years later we were still attending a different church when my mother-in-law became terminally ill. During those few months Russell was helpful and easy to open up to. One month later when my grandfather, a long time deacon of that church, died he was there again. We eventually moved back to that church and a large selling point was Russell. He also later helped us through some of our own personal and marital turmoil.

I have a lot of respect for him because he carries himself like a normal guy. He’s what a pastor should be: just a person doing what God’s got him doing. No robe, no self-aggrandizing title of “Dr,” no mundane theological sermons. While he has a unique and unenviable role in the Kingdom, he realizes that he is still just one part of the whole. He’s not the church, the church body is the church and he’s here to help and lead. I like that. It forces me to realize that I’ve got a ministry role somehow too. And I need to be doing that.

The “truth” takeaway from this: Pastors and ministers are a lot of things to their people. And they are also people. The difference between them and us is that they’ve surrendered their life and livelihood to further God’s Kingdom. The thing is, we’re all supposed to do the same thing.

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