God Isn’t Fixing This?

December 3, 2015

I rarely venture into politics or any type of analysis on national events. It mostly is a no-win situation with wide opinions and endless, usually unproductive debate. I love my country and feel blessed by the freedoms and privileges we enjoy. But I love my God more and realize that his kingdom is about much more than the United States of America. The truth is—that regardless of what happens here or what we become—his kingdom endures forever.

Fortified by that, I try not to be an alarmist concerning the course and future of my country. Nevertheless, I do feel concern as I see us systematically removing values and concepts reflective of God from our society. There are real and lasting consequences to this.

I see them in the latest tragic shooting in San Bernardino and its aftermath. Specifically I am thinking of the headline in The New York Daily News that proclaimed:

God Isn’t Fixing This!

The writer of the article—to me—seems to be using the shooting to mock politicians asking for prayer while making an appeal for gun control. The point? Since God is not fixing it, we need to by taking away guns.

I will let the gun control part of the article be discussed elsewhere.

My thoughts are on the headline. It creates questions for me like, “Why do we even expect him to fix it?” Or, “Why are we calling upon him now, when we have pushed him to the margins in almost every other way?”

Having pushed God out of the public arena means that we have also pushed out his values. What would an emphasis on “love your neighbor as yourself;” or “do not murder;” or “for where you have envy and selfish ambition; there you will find disorder and every evil practice;” or “hatred stirs us strife, but love covers all offenses;” or “love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you;” or “learn to do good; seek justice; correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause,” (I could go on and on—literally) do for our societal narrative and behavior? It was said long ago of another nation and people, but it remains ever true:

Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin condemns any people. 

Even if someone is skeptical about the whole notion of God, it would be difficult to deny the positive impact his precepts would have on a society who has forgotten how to treat each other with respect and dignity; who politicizes everything; who exalts and celebrates the vulgar while minimizing and ridiculing the civil; who reward the loudest and most belligerent while ignoring those with no voice; who create and foster an atmosphere of hate and then somehow is shocked when it explodes onto the innocent.

Perhaps God is trying to fix it, but we simply are not listening.

 

 

* Bible verses cited in order: Mark 12:31; Matthew 5:21-24; James 3:16; Proverbs 10:12; Matthew 5:44; Isaiah 1:17; Proverbs 14:34

 


Put Some Clothes on Already!

February 10, 2015

Yesterday I checked out one of my favorite news websites. I go there regularly to be informed about world events–unfortunately it is usually not very good news. Yesterday the bad news was accompanied by something even worse–a picture of the revealed backside of an aging pop star!  Her Grammy “outfit” (meant to shock, no doubt) was all about exposure. I don’t know if I was more aggravated by the picture or that the news site posted it.

News? Really?

Of course it is all about eyeballs on their site and clicks on their ads. Both the site and the pop star mutually benefitting from all of the “exposure.”

But when are we going to get enough of this? Celebrities spilling out of their scant clothing; publically exposing private parts; “leaking” sex tapes; etc.–all to generate a little buzz and keep themselves somehow relevant? That is all sad enough, but when it starts headlining news sites next to the latest bulletin about terror threats?

Enough. Put some clothes on already!

I have two young daughters. I really do not want them influenced by this kind of behavior. It is not to be celebrated. It is not cool. It is vulgar. It objectifies women. It is not freedom. Rather it is a symptom of slavery to sin.

I said it. It is sinful.

It is misguided. It takes the beauty of God’s creation and corrupts it.

It damages girls because they can grow up thinking this is acceptable and how they should dress if they want to be attractive. It damages boys because it trains them to view girls as little more than objects on display.

Is there a chance we can rediscover modesty?

Modesty by definition is about drawing undue attention to yourself. Certainly exposing flesh qualifies. In New Testament times it was more about extravagant dress–elaborate hairstyles and way too much bling. In that context we find this teaching:

What matters is not your outer appearance–the styling of your hair, the jewelry your wear, the cut of your clothes–but the inner disposition. Cultivate inner beauty, the gentle, gracious kind that God delights in. (1 Peter 3:3-4 MSG)

Maybe we will reach some kind of tipping point as a culture–where exposure becomes overexposure and enough will be enough. I don’t know.

In the meantime, let’s work to emphasize the value of what God delights in by demonstrating and teaching that gracious, gentle inner beauty to our young people.

Yep, I am getting older and this bothers me.

What is ironic is that the pop star with the missing material in her costume is exactly my age. She should know better.

Put some clothes on already!

 

 


Sex and Food

December 2, 2014

The little first generation church in the ancient city of Ephesus was (to borrow a current not-so-ancient phrase) a “hot mess.” Unhealthy leadership created the situation. They were promoting “controversies rather than God’s work” according to the Apostle Paul. He was well acquainted with this church and her leaders (see Acts 19-20) and sent his “son in the faith,” Timothy, there in an attempt to repair the damage brought on by those who “have wandered away” and “turned to meaningless talk.” We can read all about it in 1 & 2 Timothy.

Part of the mess these “certain men” created included unhealthy ideas about and manipulative use of two of our most human desires–sex and food. “They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods” is exactly how Paul stated it (1 Timothy 4:3). Their motive in doing this–as detailed in 1 Timothy–is likely not surprising. They sought power, control and… money (which brings power and control). What might be surprising is that they used unhealthy approaches to sex and food to gain it.

Or maybe not.

Upon further review there seems to be quite the pattern within just the New Testament alone of sex and food being used to create other messes in both the Jewish and Christian communities. Just run these (not exhaustive) references: Matthew 12:1-2; 19:3; Acts 6:1; Romans 14:2-3; 6; 1 Corinthians 5; 6:12-13; 18-20; 7:1-40; 8:1-13; 10:23-33; 11;17-33; Ephesians 5:31; Colossians 2:16;21-23; 2 Peter 2:13-14; 18 & Jude 4.

While each of these contexts certainly are different they do illustrate how sex and food have repeatedly been the targets of folks (as we say in the south) “up to no good.”

Sex and food. Both are powerful human desires. Both were created by God as healthy and good–blessings for us to enjoy. Yet both remain targets of corrupting influences that appeal “to the lustful desires of sinful human nature” (2 Peter 2:18) rather than to God’s wonderful design for these gifts. According to God:

  • Sex is to be fully enjoyed and explored within the context of marriage (Hebrews 13:4). It is how a man and woman become “one flesh” in the sight of the Lord (Matthew 19:4-6).
  • And food? All food is to be viewed as a gift from God. We are to accept it with thanksgiving (1 Timothy 4:3-5; 1 Corinthians 10:25-26).

If you did run those earlier scripture references then you already know this was not the sex and food message many heard in those early churches. In somewhat of an oversimplification-both were either overly restricted or overly indulged. Neither approach helped anyone–except those “certain men” using them for their own agendas. They prospered in the messes they created, but the churches did not. (If you think Paul had nothing for them–check out what the Apostle Peter thought in 2 Peter 2. Wow.)

Sex and food? How is that going for us now? Anyone still out there trying to control and direct our attitudes and actions toward them? Do they continue to be used to further ungodly agendas? What kind of messy consequences continue as a result?  Anyone profiting from these consequences? And just what kind of reception does God’s message on these two get?

Sex and food. Most of us are not going without them and our desire for both can lead us to enjoy them in God’s healthy context or consume them in our own lusts.

I guess it all depends upon what sex and food message we are hearing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Anyone Tormented Lately?

August 28, 2013

But that good man Lot, driven nearly out of his mind by the sexual filth and perversity, was rescued. Surrounded by moral rot day after day after day, that righteous man was in constant torment (1 Peter 2:7-8 MSG).

Move over Lot, you should be having company.

Contextually, Peter was referring to Lot being in those notoriously wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. How wicked were they– say compared to the present time? I cannot say. A conjectured comparison is not what this post is about.

Recently though, that statement by Peter crossed my mind and prompted me to consider if anyone is feeling today what Lot felt then?  Has there been any torment going on in our souls about the moral rot that surrounds us?  This is what this post is about- morality or lack of it.

I realize this is not a popular discussion. It is loaded with all kinds of loaded opinions and passionate presuppositions. Post-modernism does not easily lend itself to any kind of moral conversation. it seems to break down too quickly into divisive rhetoric which then becomes counterproductive to any constructive dialogue.

But even with the challenges– shouldn’t we be having this conversation?

Do we really want Miley Cyrus (who is just the latest performer to “shock” us) and the pervasive entertainment industry to define the moral standards for our culture? (To a large extent- they are, BTW) We cannot run or be afraid to address what is playing out before us. If indeed the moral rot embedded in our culture bothers us– then shouldn’t we feel compelled to speak out?

But not with signs, picketing, angry shouts, hate-fueled language and slander. Go back a couple of paragraphs to the counterproductive point. I don’t think that has really gotten us anywhere. So what to do? Here are my thoughts:

  • “Be shrewd as snakes”- This quotation is from Matthew 10:16. Jesus gave this advice to his disciples before he sent them out on a mission to “the lost sheep of Israel.” Jesus not only gave this advice, he lived it (as well as the equally important second part). Christ engaged people where they were without creating unnecessary barriers. He did not use hate-language or angrily confront the lost sheep. He sought opportunities to dialogue and present kingdom alternatives to prevailing morality (see John 4:1-42). He told penetrating stories that made people think and reconsider choices they had made.  Make no mistake– he spoke truth, but in love. Also make no mistake- our moral failures tormented him. That is why he became flesh and why that flesh was bruised and pierced.  This is how he became personally engaged in our conversation. We can learn volumes from him on how to become personally engaged in our current cultural conversations.
  • “And innocent as doves”- Hypocrisy undermines any credibility Christians have in a discussion of morality. Moral rot my torment our soul, but if we participate in it– we simply have no place in the conversation. There was no guile in Jesus. He had no hidden agenda or secret sin. He did not posture or manipulate. He was authentic, compassionate, and innocent. So must we if we are to have any voice in the overall cultural discussion.

It also has to do with those kingdom alternatives. We simply cannot just rail against and not offer something healthier. Authentically and joyfully living out Jesus is that healthy alternative. The Sermon on the Mount; heaven’s values revealed in the parables; the heart of Christ embedded in his people; these will go a long way to counter moral rot.

I guess it could be worse, though. What if this moral rot is not tormenting our soul? What if it doesn’t bother us at all?

 

 

 

 

 

 


Divided We Fall

August 22, 2013

Seems many of us these days have forgotten the “united” part of the United States.

I cannot ever remember a more divisive time than the one in which I now live.

Everything has been politicized– race; gender; sexual orientation; reproduction; health care; marriage; personal income; religion; education; gun ownership; retirement; even the weather.

A desire to work through issues with constructive dialogue and mutual respect has been replaced by angry accusations, pandering and partisan politics, irrational and irresponsible behavior and sometimes, violence.

It has become all about “getting mine” regardless of the long-term consequences.

It is increasingly dividing us as a nation– and divided we will fall.

More than ever then, it is to God and his kingdom to which I seek refuge.

Those who trust in the Lord are like Mt. Zion, which cannot be shaken but endures forever. As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people both now and forevermore.- Psalm 125:1-2

 

 

 


Post-Christian

October 27, 2011

This is the label now used to describe our times. Where once our culture was framed by a general allegiance to Christian values and ethics-  it no longer is. This is probably not a shocker to most of us.  The evidence of this surrounds. Headlines blurt it out daily.

Now I could launch into a discussion explaining how this might not necessarily be as great a negative as it appears. I could explore the strong and growing similarities between our century and the first one and then point out how the church flourished in that pre-Christian era. That is indeed an interesting discussion.

But for now- here are some brief and general thoughts on how we got to be “post-Christian.”

  • We have surrendered our identities as Christians. No, we still wear the tag Christian, but in reality there is not much that separates us church-goers from those who don’t. Brad J. Waggoner in his book, The Shape of Faith to Come: Spiritual Formation and the Future of Discipleship speaks of “cultural seepage” within the church- basically dumbing down our  commitment to living and sharing kingdom principles. The lines have simply blurred. We look and act too much like surrounding culture to be taken seriously as a penetrating voice for Christ in the cultural dialogue.
  • Related to that is the moral ambiguity among us. We all know about scandals in high places among churches and church leaders. This has not helped, but what further hurts our attempts to share the joy of Christ is the failure of many Christians to faithfully live out godly virtues. We are simply failing to put these (see 2 Peter 1:5-9) on and wear them with any consistency. Instead (and again) we do not look much different than unbelievers. This actually disqualifies us from being a credible witness to Christ (1 Corinthians 9:27).  And then, when we do speak we open ourselves up to criticism of being judgmental and hypocritical.
  • Our message has become too politicized.  God’s kingdom transcends any nation or country. Our call regardless of our nationality is to be salt and light to that nation. God’s kingdom can transform an earthly one, but not by becoming equal partners with it (2 Corinthians 6:14). When “God issues” become pawns in political debate designed only to pander for votes- it then hinders our ability to make a difference in that culture by sharing the overall life-giving message of Christ.
  • There is simply too much general apathy in our churches. Where now is our passion for evangelism? Where is our zeal to truly live a life worthy of our calling? Where is our commitment to Bible study and worship?
I am speaking in generalities here. Praise God there are exceptions. There are also solutions. God provides them (start by reading the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7. This is indeed a heavenly resource for penetrating any culture with the message of Christ). Ultimately it comes back to me. Am I being salt and light? Does my life- while imperfect- genuinely reflect godly values in a consistent way? Am I fueling my soul through God’s Spirit and with the Word of God? Am I passionately in love with Christ? Do I verbally share the joys of my faith?

I am not afraid of living in a post-Christian culture. God still reigns. He just wants us to demonstrate that reign in our lives.

Feel free to agree or disagree and add your thoughts to the discussion.


FYI

March 7, 2011

All kinds of compelling mission, ministries and other kingdom work happening right now. Here are a few links,  events and thoughts you might be interested in.

I’ll start with news about the Lithuanian mission ministry (Thanks to my friends at the Christian Chronicle for giving us a shout out in the latest issue).

  • The little kids session of Lithuania Christian Camp will return, God willing, in the summer of 2011! Last year this ministry was reduced to just one session but because of the generosity of many the younger session (for kids 8-12) will return on June 27-July 3. If you are interested in learning more about the camp go here or here. For more about the little kids session go here, here and here.
  • Speaking of Lithuania missions- We are excited about an upcoming April trip which God has made possible for Richard and Jeanna Lynn May. Through their marriage ministry- What God Has Joined– they will be blessing couples and families in Vilnius and beyond by offering marriage coaching for couples and seminars for everyone.  This is a greatly needed ministry focus there. Please pray for them.

Other news:

  • Our friends at Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas have been dealing with some unwanted publicity from hostile media sources as a result of decisions made about a web zine published by current and former gay students.  It seems to me that the university acted in a manner consistent to its published student handbook and explained  themselves accordingly. Some of the reports I read from various media sources were simply unfair in comparing HU to Westboro Baptist Church. 
  • The USA Today reports that a larger percentage of teens and young adults are virgins than in the past.  This- from a Christian ethic perspective- is a good trend.
  • I recently discovered a great blog for preachers and church leaders.  It is by Dan Bouchelle- Confessions of a Former Preacher. Go check it out sometime.
  • I am looking forward to soon going and participating in Elderlink in Atlanta.
  • Another great annual event among Churches of Christ is the Tulsa Workshop. You can check out its schedule here.

Have a great week serving our amazing God!